Mar 24 2010

8 tips for safer online shopping

Category: Information SecurityDISC @ 6:14 pm

By Microsoft.com
Online threats today come in the form of attacks on you and attacks on your computer. Here are eight (8) ways for you to have a safer online shopping experience:

1. Keep your computer software up to date.
Keep all software (including your web browser) current with automatic updates. If you are not already running Internet Explorer 8, the latest version of our web browser, click the button to the right to get it.

2. Defend your computer.
Use firewall, antivirus, antispam, and antispyware software. For an added layer of protection on your PC, you can download Microsoft Security Essentials for free or find other antivirus solutions.

3. Avoid phishing scams and malware.
By default Internet Explorer 8 runs SmartScreen Filter to help block and warn you of malicious software or phishing threats. SmartScreen Filter alerts you if a site you are trying to open has been reported as unsafe and allows you to report any unsafe sites you find.

4. Protect yourself from emerging threats
Cross-site scripting attacks are one of the increasingly sophisticated methods online criminals use to get your personal information. By default Internet Explorer 8 helps protect you against these attacks with a built-in Cross Site Scripting (XSS) Filter that is always on.

5. Identify fake Web addresses.
Internet Explorer 8 helps you avoid deceptive websites that can trick you with misleading addresses. The domain name in the address bar is highlighted in black to make it easier to identify a site’s true identity.

6. Browse more privately.
When you’re using a public computer to check e-mail or you’re shopping for a “surprise” gift on a family PC, it’s a good idea to use InPrivate Browsing—a feature that helps prevent your browsing history, cookies, and other information from being retained on your computer.

7. Make sure payment websites use encryption.
To confirm that a website uses encryption when processing credit card information, look for:

■ An “s” after http in the Web address—it should read https:

■ A tiny closed padlock in the address bar, or at the lower-right corner of the window.

■ A green address bar—Internet Explorer 8 uses this to indicate a trustworthy site.

8. Never respond to unsolicited requests to update your account information.
These e-mail messages might be scams for stealing your identity. Most legitimate companies never send unsolicited e-mail or instant message requests for your passwords or other personal information. And remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Tags: cross site scripting, Internet Explorer, Internet Explorer 8, Malware, Microsoft Security Essentials, phishing, Web browser


Feb 01 2010

Google attack highlights ‘zero-day’ black market

Category: Information SecurityDISC @ 2:40 pm

Beck at Yahoo! Hack Day
Image by Laughing Squid via Flickr

By Jordan Robertson, AP

The recent hacking attack that prompted Google’s threat to leave China is underscoring the heightened dangers of previously undisclosed computer security flaws — and renewing debate over buying and selling information about them in the black market.

Because no fix was available, the linchpin in the attack was one of the worst kinds of security holes. Criminals treasure these types of “zero day” security vulnerabilities because they are the closest to a sure thing and virtually guarantee the success of a shrewdly crafted attack.

The attackers waltzed into victims’ computers, like burglars with a key to the back door, by exploiting such a zero-day vulnerability in Microsoft Corp.’s Internet Explorer browser. Microsoft rushed out a fix after learning of the attack.

How did the perpetrators learn about the flaw? Likely, they merely had to tap a thriving underground market, where a hole “wide enough to drive a truck through” can command hundreds of thousands of dollars, said Ken Silva, chief technology officer of VeriSign Inc. Such flaws can take months of full-time hacking to find.

“Zero days are the safest for attackers to use, but they’re also the hardest to find,” Silva said. “If it’s not a zero day, it’s not valuable at all.”

The Internet Explorer flaw used in the attack on Google Inc. required tricking people into visiting a malicious Web site that installed harmful software on victims’ computers.

The attack, along with a discovery that computer hackers had tricked human-rights activists into exposing their Google e-mail accounts to outsiders, infuriated Google and provoked a larger fight over China’s censorship of the Internet content. Google has threatened to shut down its censored, Chinese-language search engine and possibly close its offices in China.

Pedram Amini, manager of the Zero Day Initiative at the security firm TippingPoint, estimated that the IE flaw could have fetched as much as $40,000. He said even more valuable zero-day flaws are ones that can infect computers without any action on the users’ part.

Zero days refer to security vulnerabilities caused by programming errors that haven’t been “patched,” or fixed, by the products’ developers. Often those companies don’t know the weaknesses exist and have had zero days to work on closing the holes.

In this case, Microsoft actually knew about the flaw since September but hadn’t planned to fix it until February, as companies sometimes prioritize fixing other problems and wait on the ones they haven’t seen it used in attacks.

Microsoft often fixes multiple vulnerabilities at once because testing patches individually is time-consuming and costly, said Chris Wysopal, co-founder of security company Veracode Inc.

But criminals know how the patch cycle works, and Wysopal said the Google attackers may have realized their zero-day flaw was getting old — and thus struck in December just before they thought Microsoft was going to fix it.

“They likely thought the bug would be fixed in January or February,” he said. “They were right.”

Microsoft certainly could have fixed the bug earlier and prevented it from being used on Google, but security experts caution that an adversary that is well-funded or determined could have easily found another bug to use.

“Zero days aren’t difficult to find,” said Steve Santorelli, a former Microsoft security research who now works with Team Cymru, a nonprofit research group. “You don’t have to have a Ph.D. in computer science to find a zero-day exploit. It really is a factor of the amount of energy and effort you’re willing to put in.”

In fact, such exploits are widely available for the right price. VeriSign’s iDefense Labs and 3Com Corp.’s TippingPoint division run programs that buy zero-day vulnerabilities from researchers in the so-called “white market.” They alert the affected companies without publicly disclosing the flaw and use the information to get a jump on rivals on building protections into their security products.

There’s also another, highly secretive market for zero days: U.S. and other government agencies, which vie with criminals to offer the most money for the best vulnerabilities to improve their military and intelligence capabilities and shore up their defenses.

TippingPoint’s Amini said he has heard of governments offering as high as $1 million for a single vulnerability — a price tag that private industry currently doesn’t match.

Little is publicly known about such efforts, and the U.S. government typically makes deals through contractors, Amini said. Several U.S. government agencies contacted by The Associated Press did not respond to requests for comment.

One researcher who has been open about his experience is Charlie Miller, a former National Security Agency analyst who now works in the private sector with Independent Security Evaluators. Miller netted $50,000 from an unspecified U.S. government contractor for a bug he found in a version of the Linux operating system.

Whether to pay — and seek payment — is hotly debated among researchers.

“I basically had to make a choice between doing something that would protect everybody and remodeling my kitchen — as terrible as that is, I made that choice, and it’s hard,” Miller said. “It’s a lot of money for someone to turn down.”

Companies whose products are vulnerable generally won’t pay outside researchers for bugs they’ve found. Microsoft said offering payment “does not foster a community-based approach to protecting customers from cybercrime.” The company declined further comment on its practices and the timing of the fix for the flaw used in the Google attack.

On Thursday, Google announced that it will start paying at least $500 to researchers who find certain types of bugs in its Chrome browser, calling the program an “experimental new incentive.” That mirrors a reward that Mozilla has been offering for critical bugs found in its Firefox browser.

Computer vulnerabilities are so dangerous that one day private companies such as Microsoft might be pressured into buying from the black market to prove they’re doing all they can to keep customers secure — especially the most critical ones such as the military and power companies.

“I think it’s only a matter of time,” said Jeremiah Grossman, founder of WhiteHat Security Inc. “Something really bad has to happen first, and it hasn’t yet. When a virus runs through a children’s hospital and causes loss of life, it’s going to matter a lot.”

Tags: china, Chris Wysopal, Google, Internet Explorer, Microsoft, VeriSign, vulnerability, Zero day attack


Nov 17 2008

Harmful Spyware and their stealthier means

Category: Information Security,MalwareDISC @ 2:55 pm

Dozens of pop-up ads covering a desktop.

Spyware is utilized to gather information about a person with or without their consent and it intercept or record personal/financial information. Some spyware are capable of sending information back to another computer (originator of the spyware).

Characteristic of Spyware

• Compromise user machine without their knowledge
• Use vulnerabilities in the software to push a spyware code on the machine
• Install Trojans to gather data
• Gather personal and financial information to send it to attackers

Spyware are used to gather different kind of information which includes but not limited to advertising, corporate monitoring, child monitoring, governmental monitoring. Besides their legal use which is based on company policy or regulations monitoring spywares can be used for spying on a person without their consent. More common types of spywares are adware (serve advertising) and key-loggers (record keystrokes)

How you can get spyware on your machine: Spyware can be installed on your machine in many ways.

Below are some of the common ways to deliver spyware.
• Spyware can be installed on a computer via a virus or an email Trojan.
• Spyware can be installed on a computer by taking advantage of security flaws in Internet Explorer.
• Spyware sometime are included in the shareware program. User agreement for the shareware may make a reference to grant permission to allow the recording of your internet use
• Pop-up downloads are becoming a preferred method of installing spyware and adware. Pop-up download windows ask the users to download a program to their computers.
• Another popular way to distribute spyware is a drive-by download. It installs itself on the computer without user knowledge. It can be installed by simply visiting a website.

Windows Defender is software that helps protect your computer against pop-ups, and security threats caused by spyware and other unwanted software by detecting and removing known spyware from your computer. Most popular antivirus products now include adware and spyware scanning. You can find more adware and spyware removal tools at the Spyware Protection and Removal guide. This Web page includes links to popular spyware removal programs, as well as a number of useful articles. Also in Internet Explorer 7 (IE7) you can turn on/off the pop-up blocker. IE7 -> Tools -> Pop-Up Blocker. There is a pop-up blocker setting where you can allow exceptions for some sites and setup pop-up filter to high, medium and low.

Anti-Spyware, Registry Cleaner & PC Optimizer

Computer users particularly need to watch out for bogus spyware removal programs. They are dangerous because they punish the user for doing something right. Victims think that this will remove the spyware, instead in some cases computer users are paying to install a spyware.
Checkout the Rouge Anti-Spyware Products table

How to Protect from Spyware
httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_w-DZNbq66I&feature=PlayList&p=18F23434175F964D&playnext=1&index=26

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Tags: adware, bogus spyware, drive-by download, financial information, Internet Explorer, keylogger, Pop-up ad, rouge anti-spyware, Security, shareware, Spyware, trojan, virus, Windows Defender, World Wide Web