Feb 11 2010

Spam, malware proliferate in late 2009

Category: MalwareDISC @ 2:16 pm

SPAM !
Image by colodio via Flickr

Alejandro Martínez-Cabrera

Online security firm Websense has released a report on the cyberthreat landscape during the second half of 2009, and some of the findings are jaw dropping:

The firm, which scans millions of Web sites and e-mails a day looking for malicious content, found that 95 percent of all user-generated content came laced with some kind of spam or malicious link.

“The notion that the Internet could be the great equalizer turned out to be true after all; unfortunately, it’s mostly making suckers out of all of us,” tech Web site Ars Technica said.

Also surprising: Remember last year when the New York Times said a page on its Web site had been sending malware through its ad network? That was the most high-profile example of how criminals have managed to infiltrate trusted Web sites through a tactic known as drive-by downloading, in which a Web user picks up a virus simply by visiting an infected page. According to Websense, 71 percent of all Web sites generating malware in the second half of 2009 were infected legitimate Web sites.

Echoing what other research has found, the report said the number of infected Web sites went through the roof last year. Websense estimated there was a 225 percent growth in the number of malicious sites in 2009 compared with the year before.

The problem declined slightly in the second half of the year, with the decrease attributed to criminals moving away from attacks on traditional Web sites and attempting to exploit social-networking sites.

Websense also found that 85.8 percent of all e-mails sent in the second half of 2009 were spam.

More surprising is that 81 percent of all e-mail sent during the same period had some kind of malicious link. That means there was a 4-in-5 chance that a link pasted into an e-mail would lead you to download an infected file or take you to an infected Web site. (You usually don’t see all of the junk mail because it’s often filtered by your e-mail provider, browser or antivirus software.)

Finally, Websense found that in the second half of 2009, it took security vendors an average 46 hours – almost two days – to repair damage by malware after it had been identified (compared with 22 hours in the first half of 2009).

“The idea that computer users are not protected for days at a time, or even weeks or a month, may be compared with leaving your laptop in a public space for three weeks and hoping it won’t be used or abused,” the report said.

On Feb 1oth this article appeared on page D1 of the SF Chronicle

Tags: Antivirus software, E-mail, Malware, New York Times, Social network service, Spam, User-generated content, websense


Jan 22 2010

If Your Password Is 123456, Just Make It HackMe

Category: Information SecurityDISC @ 2:20 pm

by Ashlee Vance, NYTimes

Back at the dawn of the Web, the most popular account password was “12345.”

Today, it’s one digit longer but hardly safer: “123456.”

Despite all the reports of Internet security breaches over the years, including the recent attacks on Google’s e-mail service, many people have reacted to the break-ins with a shrug.

According to a new analysis, one out of five Web users still decides to leave the digital equivalent of a key under the doormat: they choose a simple, easily guessed password like “abc123,” “iloveyou” or even “password” to protect their data.

“I guess it’s just a genetic flaw in humans,” said Amichai Shulman, the chief technology officer at Imperva, which makes software for blocking hackers. “We’ve been following the same patterns since the 1990s.”

Mr. Shulman and his company examined a list of 32 million passwords that an unknown hacker stole last month from RockYou, a company that makes software for users of social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace. The list was briefly posted on the Web, and hackers and security researchers downloaded it. (RockYou, which had already been widely criticized for lax privacy practices, has advised its customers to change their passwords, as the hacker gained information about their e-mail accounts as well.)

The trove provided an unusually detailed window into computer users’ password habits. Typically, only government agencies like the F.B.I. or the National Security Agency have had access to such a large password list.

“This was the mother lode,” said Matt Weir, a doctoral candidate in the e-crimes and investigation technology lab at Florida State University, where researchers are also examining the data.

Imperva found that nearly 1 percent of the 32 million people it studied had used “123456” as a password. The second-most-popular password was “12345.” Others in the top 20 included “qwerty,” “abc123” and “princess.”

More disturbing, said Mr. Shulman, was that about 20 percent of people on the RockYou list picked from the same, relatively small pool of 5,000 passwords.

That suggests that hackers could easily break into many accounts just by trying the most common passwords. Because of the prevalence of fast computers and speedy networks, hackers can fire off thousands of password guesses per minute.

“We tend to think of password guessing as a very time-consuming attack in which I take each account and try a large number of name-and-password combinations,” Mr. Shulman said. “The reality is that you can be very effective by choosing a small number of common passwords.”

Some Web sites try to thwart the attackers by freezing an account for a certain period of time if too many incorrect passwords are typed. But experts say that the hackers simply learn to trick the system, by making guesses at an acceptable rate, for instance.

To improve security, some Web sites are forcing users to mix letters, numbers and even symbols in their passwords. Others, like Twitter, prevent people from picking common passwords.

Still, researchers say, social networking and entertainment Web sites often try to make life simpler for their users and are reluctant to put too many controls in place.

Even commercial sites like eBay must weigh the consequences of freezing accounts, since a hacker could, say, try to win an auction by freezing the accounts of other bidders.

Overusing simple passwords is not a new phenomenon. A similar survey examined computer passwords used in the mid-1990s and found that the most popular ones at that time were “12345,” “abc123” and “password.”

Why do so many people continue to choose easy-to-guess passwords, despite so many warnings about the risks?

Security experts suggest that we are simply overwhelmed by the sheer number of things we have to remember in this digital age.

“Nowadays, we have to keep probably 10 times as many passwords in our head as we did 10 years ago,” said Jeff Moss, who founded a popular hacking conference and is now on the Homeland Security Advisory Council. “Voice mail passwords, A.T.M. PINs and Internet passwords — it’s so hard to keep track of.”

In the idealized world championed by security specialists, people would have different passwords for every Web site they visit and store them in their head or, if absolutely necessary, on a piece of paper.

But bowing to the reality of our overcrowded brains, the experts suggest that everyone choose at least two different passwords — a complex one for Web sites were security is vital, such as banks and e-mail, and a simpler one for places where the stakes are lower, such as social networking and entertainment sites.

Mr. Moss relies on passwords at least 12 characters long, figuring that those make him a more difficult target than the millions of people who choose five- and six-character passwords.

“It’s like the joke where the hikers run into a bear in the forest, and the hiker that survives is the one who outruns his buddy,” Mr. Moss said. “You just want to run that bit faster.”

Tags: facebook, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Florida State University, Google, MySpace, RockYou, Security, Social network service


Dec 14 2009

Viruses That Leave Victims Red in the Facebook

Category: MalwareDISC @ 3:21 pm

5 Ways to Cultivate an Active Social Network
Image by Intersection Consulting via Flickr

By BRAD STONE – NYTimes.com

It used to be that computer viruses attacked only your hard drive. Now they attack your dignity.

Malicious programs are rampaging through Web sites like Facebook and Twitter, spreading themselves by taking over people’s accounts and sending out messages to all of their friends and followers. The result is that people are inadvertently telling their co-workers and loved ones how to raise their I.Q.’s or make money instantly, or urging them to watch an awesome new video in which they star.

“I wonder what people are thinking of me right now?” said Matt Marquess, an employee at a public relations firm in San Francisco whose Twitter account was recently hijacked, showering his followers with messages that appeared to offer a $500 gift card to Victoria’s Secret.

Mr. Marquess was clueless about the offers until a professional acquaintance asked him about them via e-mail. Confused, he logged in to his account and noticed he had been promoting lingerie for five days.

“No one had said anything to me,” he said. “I thought, how long have I been Twittering about underwear?”

The humiliation sown by these attacks is just collateral damage. In most cases, the perpetrators are hoping to profit from the referral fees they get for directing people to sketchy e-commerce sites.

In other words, even the crooks are on social networks now — because millions of tightly connected potential victims are just waiting for them there.

Often the victims lose control of their accounts after clicking on a link “sent” by a friend. In other cases, the bad guys apparently scan for accounts with easily guessable passwords. (Mr. Marquess gamely concedes that his password at the time was “abc123.”)

After discovering their accounts have been seized, victims typically renounce the unauthorized messages publicly, apologizing for inadvertently bombarding their friends. These messages — one might call them Tweets of shame — convey a distinct mix of guilt, regret and embarrassment.

“I have been hacked; taking evasive maneuvers. Much apology, my friends,” wrote Rocky Barbanica, a producer for Rackspace Hosting, an Internet storage firm, in one such note.

Mr. Barbanica sent that out last month after realizing he had sent messages to 250 Twitter followers with a link and the sentence, “Are you in this picture?” If they clicked, their Twitter accounts were similarly commandeered.

“I took it personally, which I shouldn’t have, but that’s the natural feeling. It’s insulting,” he said.

Earlier malicious programs could also cause a similar measure of embarrassment if they spread themselves through a person’s e-mail address book.

But those messages, traveling from computer to computer, were more likely to be stopped by antivirus or firewall software. On the Web, such measures offer little protection. (Although they are popularly referred to as viruses or worms, the new forms of Web-based malicious programs do not technically fall into those categories, as they are not self-contained programs.)

Getting tangled up in a virus on a social network is also more painfully, and instantaneously, public. “Once it’s delivered to everyone in three seconds, the cat is out of the bag,” said Chet Wisniewski of Sophos, a Web security firm. “When people got viruses on their computers, or fell for scams at home, they were generally the only ones that knew about it and they cleaned it up themselves. It wasn’t broadcast to the whole world.”

Social networks have become prime targets of such programs’ creators for good reason, security experts say. People implicitly trust the messages they receive from friends, and are inclined to overlook the fact that, say, their cousin from Ohio is extremely unlikely to have caught them on a hidden webcam.

Sophos says that 21 percent of Web users report that they have been a target of malicious programs on social networks. Kaspersky Labs, a Russian security firm, says that on some days, one in 500 links on Twitter point to bad sites that can infect an inadequately protected computer with typical viruses that jam hard drives. Kaspersky says many more links are purely spam, frequently leading to dating sites that pay referral fees for traffic.

A worm that spread around Facebook recently featured a photo of a sparsely dressed woman and offered a link to “see more.” Adi Av, a computer developer in Ashkelon, Israel, encountered the image on the Facebook page of a friend he considered to be a reliable source of amusing Internet content.

A couple of clicks later, the image was posted on Mr. Av’s Facebook profile and sent to the “news feed” of his 350 friends.

“It’s an honest mistake,” he said. “The main embarrassment was from the possibility of other people getting into the same trouble from my profile page.”

Others confess to experiencing a more serious discomfiture.

“You feel like a total idiot,” said Jodi Chapman, who last month unwisely clicked on a Twitter message from a fellow vegan, suggesting that she take an online intelligence test.

Ms. Chapman, who sells environmentally friendly gifts with her husband, uses her Twitter account to communicate with thousands of her company’s customers. The hijacking “filled me with a sense of panic,” she said. “I was so worried that I had somehow tainted our company name by asking people to check their I.Q. scores.”

Social networking attacks do not spare the experts. Two weeks ago, Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet and American Life Project, a nonprofit research group, accidentally sent messages to dozens of his Twitter followers with a link and the line, “Hi, is this you? LOL.” He said a few people actually clicked.

“I’m worried that people will think I communicate this way,” Mr. Rainie said. “ ‘LOL,’ as my children would tell you, is not the style that I want to engage the world with.”

Tags: Antivirus software, Computer virus, facebook, Google, Kaspersky Lab, Malware, malware 2.0, Online Communities, San Francisco, Security, Social network, Social network service, Spyware, Twitter


Nov 10 2009

Facebook, MySpace users hit by cyber attacks

Category: CybercrimeDISC @ 1:27 am

facebook
Image by sitmonkeysupreme via Flickr

NZ HERALD reported that Facebook users – already being targeted in a malware campaign – are now under threat from a phishing scam.

Security specialists Symantec report that the company’s systems have picked up fake messages that appear to be sent by the social networking service.

Users will receive an email that looks like an official Facebook invite or a password reset confirmation.

If a duped user clicks on the ‘update’ button they will be redirected a fake Facebook site. They will then be asked to enter a password to complete the updating process.

As soon as the unwitting Facebook user does this, their password is in the hands of cybercriminals.

Dodgy subject lines for the phishing emails are: ‘Facebook account update,’ New login system’ or ‘Facebook update tool’.

The malware campaign that is still targeting Facebook is also propagated via email. This time, the message looks like a Facebook notification that the recipient’s password has been reset.

It includes a zip file that, if opened, launches an .exe file, which Symantec’s Security Response centre says is a net nasty called Trojan.Bredolab.

Once a users’ machine is infected by this malware, it secretly dials back to a Russian domain and, Symantec says, “is most likely becoming part of a Bredolab botnet.”

But it isn’t just Facebook that is being lined up by cybercriminals, News Corp’s MySpace is also under attack.

Potentially dangerous email subject lines to look out for are: ‘Myspace Password Reset Confirmation,’ ‘Myspace office on fire’ and ‘Myspace was ruined’.

Symantec believes their will be another attack on MySpace in the next day or two. “We also think that social networking sites with huge user bases are currently being targeted to infect maximum machines or gather passwords for more malicious activities in future,” the security team said in a statement.

It advised users to be extra-careful of suspicious attachments, especially those including password reset requests. Legitimate websites will not send an attachment for resetting a password, it said.

– NZ HERALD STAFF

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Tags: botnet, facebook, Malware, MySpace, News Corporation, phishing, Social network, Social network service, trojan, Website


Mar 20 2009

Web 2.0 and social media business risks

Category: Web 2.0DISC @ 3:01 am

A tag cloud with terms related to Web 2.

Web 2.0 is major force and has numerous business benefits but it is posing companies to potential new risks.
Social networking sites, such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, have become the preferred method of communication for a whole generation of people and the ability to post “Status Updates” is fast becoming the new Email. Linkedin is adding one user per second and Facebook has reached 150 million users in just five years.

Some of the associated risks which organizations face as a result relate to phishing, harvesting of email addresses and of course the dangers of (relatively) simple social networking, not only to hack the employee’s present organization, say, but to the organization of losing an employee and all their leads because clients follow ‘their man/woman’ to their new job by tracing where they are at through sites such as LinkedIn. Hackers can follow the conversation on social media to identify the user problem or pain point and pretend to offer a solution which happen to be a malware to steal private and confidential data.

And then of course there is the downside of staff using bandwidth and their work time for purposes other than for which they are employed, and possibly preventing others (due to bandwidth/processing restrictions) from doing what they should. Many of these sites openly encourage people to download video clips.

The solution?
Usually the controls in ISO 27002 code of practice can be selected and applied in a manner to address the associated risks through a combination of management and technical policies, but of course this should be as the result of a risk assessment and should balance the three attributes of C, I and A.

Web-20

For clear best practice guidance on how to tackle ‘Threat 2.0’, you should download
Web 2.0: Trends, benefits and risks!




This 112-page best practice report from IT Governance separates the hype from the tangible reality and provides:


1. A workable description of what ‘Web 2.0’ is and what it means, within the business environment, complete with a glossary of Web 2.0 terms.
2. A description of the business benefits to be derived from Web 2.0 technologies, with examples taken from real-life case studies.
3. An identification and discussion of ‘Threat 2.0’ – the information security risks inherent in Web 2.0 technologies, together with latest best-practice recommendations for mitigation.

During financial crisis when companies are cutting budgets. It is imperative that information security will have some budget cut but any drastic budget cut might not be wise. A major security breach might put the organization in irrecoverable situation. In this tough economy security professionals have to do an extraordinary job to sell the security to management and show them how security due diligence can make business safe, successful and compliant.

Do you think the advantages of social media outweigh the potential risks?

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Tags: facebook, iso 27002, linkedin, Security, Social network, Social network service, Twitter, Video clip, Web 2.0


Jan 22 2009

Web 2.0 and malware 2.0

Category: Malware,Web 2.0DISC @ 5:43 pm

Web 2.0 - No one owns it
A new position paper from ENISA describes the risks associated with web 2.0 and malware 2.0. Web 2.0 includes social networking, photo sharing, wikis and social bookmarking sites and malware 2.0 is defined as a web based infection in which user can be entrap by visiting website.

Web 2.0 applications are thriving because of their dynamic contents, in which users chip into the content and interact with each other. This dynamic interaction with other users comes with new threats of malware 2.0, in web 2.0 environment user trust the information without knowing anything about the author or integrity of the source, and that’s precisely why criminals are attacking these applications and using it to circulate malware 2.0.

ENSIA survey also evaluates the methods used by people to figure out if the web page is phony. People will be suspicious of a source if it only appears once on the web, but will start trusting the source (integrity of the source) if it appears more than once on the web. Assumption is somebody down the chain might have validated the source and as the source start spreading on the web somehow people start believing in the authenticity of the content.

“Misinformation is easily propagated through syndicated news stories, blog posts, and social data, which provides few trust cues to users. This has very serious consequences such as stock price manipulation and control of botnet via RSS feeds”

There is a need to establish an independent third party on the web to validate the source of the content. Availability of the web 2.0 content has to be balanced with a fitting dose of confidentiality and integrity of the content.

Survey results

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httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NLlGopyXT_g

Tags: availabiliy, confientiality, integrity, malware 2.0, On the Web, Photo sharing, risks, RSS, Security, Social bookmarking, Social network service, threats, Web 2.0, Web page, Website