Dec 28 2009

Hackers’ attacks rise in volume, sophistication

Category: Information SecurityDISC @ 6:41 pm

digital-hijack


Year in review for online security attacks – 2009 is going to be known as a year of change in tactics of exploitation, rather than creating more new tools in hacker’s community. They are utilizing social media as a tool to exploit and using built-in trust in social media to their advantage. That’s why stealing social media accounts are considered as a treasure trove in hacker’s community to spread malwares (rogue anti-virus) which helps them to steal personal and private information. This perhaps was another reason why social media community was busy in 2009 changing their security and privacy policy on a frequent basis. Do you think, as social media grow, so does the threat to personal and private information?.


At the same time 2009 comes to an end with a bang with an appointment of Howard Schmidt by Obama’s administration as a cybersecurity coordinator. A great choice indeed but why it took them a whole year to make this important decision. This indecision will cost them, no matter how you look at it. Now hopefully the current administration is going to keep the politics aside and take his recommendations seriously to make up for the lost time.

Alejandro Martínez-Cabrera, SF Chronicle

Security experts describe the typical hacker of 2009 as more sophisticated, prolific and craftier than ever. If anything, criminals will be remembered by the sheer number of attacks they unleashed upon the Web.

While the year didn’t see many technological leaps in the techniques hackers employ, they continued to expand their reach to every corner of the Internet by leveraging social media, infiltrating trusted Web sites, and crafting more convincing and tailored scams.

Although there were a handful of firsts – like the first iPhone worm – most attacks in 2009 were near-identical to tactics used in prior years, changing only in the victims they targeted and their level of sophistication.

One of the most preoccupying trends was personalized attacks designed to steal small and medium business owners’ online banking credentials. The scheme was particularly damaging because banks take less responsibility for the monetary losses of businesses than of individual consumers in identity theft cases.

In October, the FBI estimated small and medium businesses have lost at least $40 million to cyber-crime since 2004.

Attacks continued to plague larger organizations. The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday that the FBI was investigating the online theft of tens of millions of dollars from Citigroup, which has denied the incident.

Alan Paller, director of research at the SANS Institute, said criminals shifted the focus of their tactics from developing attack techniques to improving the social engineering of their scams.

“It’s not the tools but the skills. That’s a new idea,” he said.

One example is rogue antivirus schemes, which often trick computer users with a fake infection. Criminals then obtain their victims’ credit card information as they pay for a false product, all the while installing the very malicious software they were seeking to repel.

Even though these scams have been around for several years, they have become more a popular tactic among criminals because they pressure potential victims into making on-the-spot decisions.

“People have been told to look out for viruses and want to do the right thing. There’s security awareness now, but the criminals are taking advantage of their limited knowledge,” said Mike Dausin, a researcher with network security firm TippingPoint’s DVLabs.

Chester Wisniewski, senior adviser for software security firm Sophos, said social networks also continued to be an important target for attackers. Despite Facebook and Twitter’s efforts to beef up their security, it has become a common tactic for scammers to hijack Facebook accounts and post malicious links on the walls of the victim’s friends or distribute harmful content through tweets.

“We haven’t had this before – a place where all kinds of people go and dump their information, which makes it very valuable for criminals,” Wisniewski said. “It’s kind of a gold mine for identity thieves to get on people’s Facebook account.”

Using PDFs
Another common ploy was malicious software that piggybacked on common third-party applications like Adobe PDFs and Flash animations.

Although Adobe scrambled this year to improve its software update procedures and roll out patches more frequently, criminals have increasingly exploited the coding flaws in Adobe products in particular because of their ubiquity and the abundance of vulnerable old code, said Roel Schouwenberg, senior virus analyst at Kaspersky Lab.

By using ad networks or taking advantage of exploitable Web programming errors to insert malicious content, criminals cemented their presence in legitimate Web sites and made 2009, according to anti-malware firm Dasient, the year of the “drive-by download,” in which users only have to visit a compromised Web site to become infected.

An October report from the San Jose company estimated that 640,000 legitimate Web sites became infected in the third quarter of 2009, compared with 120,000 infected sites during the same period of 2008.

Damaging reputations
The trend was not only a security threat for consumers, but also stood to damage the reputation and traffic of the victimized Web sites. In September, a fake antivirus pop-up made its way into the New York Times’ Web site by infiltrating the company’s ad network.

Researchers also noted a high volume of attacks disguised as content related to popular news items – anything from Michael Jackson to the swine flu – to coax Web users into downloading malicious content. This closing year also saw a handful of notorious politically motivated online attacks, and the issue of national cybersecurity continued to gain prominence.

On Dec. 18, Twitter’s home page was defaced by hackers calling themselves the “Iranian Cyber Army,” although authorities said there was no evidence they were in fact connected to Iran. An August attack on a Georgian blogger also indirectly affected the popular microblogging site and brought it down for several hours.

In July, several U.S. and South Korean government Web sites went offline after being hit by a denial-of-service attack that South Korea has attributed to a North Korean ministry. U.S. defense officials revealed in April that hackers have stolen thousands of files on one of the military’s most advanced fighter aircrafts.

“Now it’s in the agenda of every government to pay attention to the cyberworld,” Schouwenberg said.

Security coordinator
On Tuesday, the White House announced the appointment of Howard A. Schmidt as the Obama administration’s new cybersecurity coordinator. Schmidt occupied a similar post under the Bush administration.

Even though crime continued to evolve into a more organized and compartmentalized operation this year, experts believe a new White House administration conscientious of threats and partnerships between law enforcement agencies and security firms offer encouraging signs for next year.

An example is the Conficker Work Group, an international industry coalition that joined to mitigate the spread of the Conficker worm. The group also collaborates with law enforcement agencies by providing them with forensic information.

“It’s the first time I’ve seen such partnership between countries. Typically it’s the Wild West and nobody is in charge of anything. Now it’s clear there’s a lot more international collaboration,” Dausin said.

Tags: antivirus, cybersecurity coordinator, Denial-of-service attack, facebook, hacker, howard schmidt, Identity Theft, iPhone, Law enforcement agency, Malware, Michael Jackson, South Korea, Twitter


Dec 04 2009

Five ways to lose your identity

Category: Identity TheftDISC @ 2:42 pm

beconstructive12

By Jaikumar Vijayan
The rush by shoppers to the Web makes the season a great time for online retailers. It’s also a great time for hackers looking to steal data and money from the unwary millions expected to search for great deals online.

Checkout huge savings on Today’s Hot Deals on Information Security Solutions for the holidays

The growth of holiday hackers has annually prompted security analysts, identity theft awareness groups, and various government agencies to come up with lists of precautions that consumers can take to avoid becoming a victim of online fraud. Such lists can prove a benefit to consumers, but unfortunately some people ignore it.

Below are the identity theft awareness tips which can help maximize your exposure to online fraud.

Tip No. 1: Open all attachments from strangers and click on all embedded links in such e-mail messages. Such actions remain one of the most effective ways to provide thieves with personal information and financial data. All a hacker needs to do is find computer users who instinctively open e-mail messages from strangers, even those who write in a foreign language. The action can open the door to keystroke loggers, rootkits, or Trojan horse programs. Crooks can also easily install backdoors to easily steal data without attracting any attention. Once installed, hackers gain unfettered access to personal data and can even remotely control and administer systems from anywhere.

Tip No. 2: Respond to Dr. (Mrs.) Mariam Abacha, whose name is used by many hackers who say they have close friends and relatives in Nigeria who have recently been widowed or deposed in a military coup and need your help to get their millions of dollars out of the country. Users are told they will undoubtedly be rewarded for helping to get their “well-packed trunk boxes” full of cash out of Nigeria. And to make sure to provide bank account information, login credentials, date of birth, and mother’s maiden name so that they can wire the reward directly into a checking account in time for the holidays.

Tip No. 3: Install a peer-to-peer file-sharing client on your PC and configure it so all files, including bank account, Social Security, and credit card numbers, along with copies of mortgage and tax return documents, are easily available to anyone on the same P2P network. Your personal data will stream over the Internet while you check out what songs you can download for free without getting sued by the RIAA.

Tip No. 4: Come up with passwords that are easy to crack. It saves hackers from spending too much time and effort trying to access your PC. Clever sequences such as “123456” and “abcdef” and your firstname.lastname all make fine, easy-to-remember default passwords for you and for hackers. For maximum exposure, keep passwords short, don’t mix alphabets and numerals, and use the same password for all accounts.

Tip No. 5: Avoid installing the latest anti-malware tools and security updates. Keeping operating systems properly patched and anti-virus and anti-spyware tools updated make life hard for hackers. Users can help them out by making sure their anti-virus software and anti-spyware tools are at least 18 months out of date or by not using them at all. Either way, it’s very likely that your computer will be infected with a full spectrum of malware.

For additional tips on how to shop securely on Christmas and holidays season:
How to shop safely online this Christmas
Identity theft tip-off countermeasure and consequence | DISC

Please comment below regarding any other new and emerging threat which needs to be addressed during holiday’s season?

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Tags: antivirus, Christmas and holiday season, Computer security, Credit card, File sharing, hacker, Identity Theft, Malicious Software, Malware, Online shopping, Personal computer, Security, shop safely, shop securely, Spyware, threats, trojan, Trojan horse


Oct 17 2008

SmartPhone and Security

Category: Information Security,Smart PhoneDISC @ 1:53 am

Mobile spyware is malicious software which is used to spy and control mobile devices (BlackBerry, PDAs, Windows Mobile and Cell Phones). Mobile spyware will not only intercept the message between two devices but also determine the location of the device. Basically, mobile spyware software is installed on a mobile device to spy on them.

Small businesses are usually not equipped to handle these threats. Just like laptops and desktops – mobile devices need security controls like antivirus, personal firewall, encryption and VPN to provide needed level of protection. Small businesses need to be aware of the security threats, like they might think that they are installing a game, which might very well be a key logger (logs your key strokes) or trojan software.

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Hackers on the move, WSJ August 11, 2008 by Roger Cheng – where he writes about more companies are letting employees use their personal smart phone at work and the security experts warns about the present threats in the industry. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121803418845416977.html

Tips to safeguard your smartphone
httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S64J4BCCoi4


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Tags: antivirus, encryption, hacker, intercept, key logger, malicious, mobile phone, mobile spyware, personal firewall, roger cheng, security controls, security expert, spy, threats, trojan, vpn, wsj