DDoS attacks continue at a fervent pace – increased risk to organisations 0 807

  • The number of serious and damaging DDoS attacks are increasing in number and severity.
  • Increasingly DDoS attacks are used to distract, misdirect or confuse an organisation long enough to make way for other attacks such as malware, virus or ransomware infections.
  • There is a growing trend for the majority of DDoS attacks being targeted in nature, with the intent to cause harm to a particular organisation or online service – especially when almost half of respondents (49%) may lose $100000 per hour during peak periods as a result of a DDoS attack.
DDoS attacks continue at a fervent pace

The number of serious and damaging DDoS attacks are increasing in number and severity, as reported by Neustar’s 2016 Worldwide DDos Attacks & Protection Report.

More worrying is that DDoS attacks are increasingly being used as so-called smokescreens, where the DDoS attack is used to distract, misdirect or confuse an organisation long enough to make way for other attacks such as malware, virus or ransomware infections.

We’ve chosen to highlight a few key details of this report as follows:

  • Their study involved 1002 individuals worldwide
  • Most respondents were in level C positions
  • The report included investigating the financial impact of DDoS attacks
  • A whopping 73% of all organisations interviewed suffered a DDoS attack
  • 85% of attacked organisations have been subject to multiple attacks
  • Only 30% of DDoS attacks were detected in less than 1 hour
  • Only 28% of DDoS attacks had a response in less than 1 hour once detected
  • DDoS attacks were used as smokescreens for other attacks:
    • 46% discovered virus infections
    • 37% found malware activated
    • 21% found customer data theft
    • 15% suffered loss of intellectual property
    • 15% encountered ransomware
  • IoT (Internet of Things) devices increasingly being compromised and used for attacks

There is a growing trend for the majority of DDoS attacks being targeted in nature, with the intent to cause harm to a particular organisation or online service – especially when almost half of respondents (49%) may lose $100000 per hour during peak periods as a result of a DDoS attack.

Most recently the “Krebs on Security” blog was subjected to a huge 620Gbps DDoS attack originating from a botnet of routers, IP cameras and other compromised IoT devices. The site was protected by Akamai, whom noted this attack was nearly double in size than the largest attack they had seen previously.

Akamai ended up cancelling his service, causing loads of furore online. This has led to valid concerns that such massive orchestrated attacks will become the new norm.

To conclude, it’s important to change focus – communicate and plan across all areas of business and consider the following in an increasingly hostile landscape:

  • Develop a risk-based approach – nothing is 100% secure and risk mitigation is becoming key
  • Develop a contingency plan – stats show it’s not about if, but rather when an attack/breach may occur, and you need a coordinated plan to deal with a critical resource/system being affected and prioritise them
  • Ensure your risk-based model supports your contingency plan – determine the likelihood of a successful attack, such as the chances of employees being phished or someone physically damaging equipment and plan accordingly
  • Invest wisely in DDoS defences – based on your risk assessment, and within the constraints of your budget, consider adequate hybrid solutions from reputable vendors/providers
  • Communicate – cybersecurity is everyone’s problem and frequent, concise communication goes a long way towards buy-in from the rest of an organisation into a particular approach or policy.
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Play it safe during FIFA 2018 0 1272

We do realize that you’ve been caught up in the hurly-burly of the FIFA World Cup, but surely you have a few minutes to spare and peruse our roster of tips to stay safe online not only during the soccer spectacle. While you’re at it, recognize that no single player, no matter how stellar, is enough to put you on a path to success. In fact, being even one player short can be enough to trip you up. What should the pillars of your cybersecurity game plan be, then?

#1 A stitch in time saves nine

Last year went down in history for two serious cyber-incidents – the WannaCryptoroutbreak and the Equifax hack – that served up powerful reminders of the merits of swiftly squashing security bugs. 2017 also saw the highest number of  vulnerabilities reported.

So the number one player in you security team is updates. In your home settings, making sure that automatic updates are enabled for your operating system and software is an easy step to take to keep attackers away.

 

#2 Prune your team

Get rid of that disgruntled bench-warmer who ends up sapping your team’s morale. Software that you hardly ever use can become a liability simply by increasing your attack surface. To further reduce the possible entry points for cybercriminals, you may also want to disable unused services and ports, and ditch programs that have a track record of vulnerabilities.

For your browser, consider blocking ads and removing all but the most necessary of browser add-ons and plugins. While you’re at it, shut down the accounts that you no longer need and use your high-privilege, or admin, account only for administrative tasks.

#3 Practice strong password hygiene

One of the easiest ways to protect your online identities consists in using a long, strong and unique password or better still, passphrase, for each of your online accounts. It may well come in handy if your login credentials leak, for example due to a breach at your service provider – which, in fact, is far too common a scenario. Further, just as you’d never share your teams tactics with your opponents, you should never share your password with anybody.

If you’re like most people and find the need to remember many username/password combinations overwhelming, consider using a password manager, which is intended to store your passwords in a “vault”.

#4 Look before you leap

Even if you have the most complex of passwords or passphrases, be aware of where you input them.

Online, everything is just a click away, and scammers are keenly aware of that. In their pursuit of your personal information, they use social engineering methods to sucker you into clicking a link or opening a malware-laden attachment.

5 questions to ask yourself before clicking on a link are:

  1. Do you trust the sender of the link?
  2. Do you trust the platform?
  3. Do you trust the destination?
  4. Does the link coincide with a major world event like the FIFA worldcup? (Cyber criminals tend to be opportunistic this way)
  5. Is it a shortened link?

#5 Add a factor

When aiming for secure accounts, you need to up your ante by using two-factor authentication, particularly for accounts that contain Personally Identifiable Information (PII) or other important data. The extra factor will require you to take an extra step to prove your identity when you attempt to log in or conduct a transaction. That way, even if your credentials leak or your password proves inadequate, there is another barrier between your account and the attacker.

#6 Use secure connections

When you connect to the internet, an attacker can sometimes place himself between your device and the connection point. To reduce the risk that such a man-in-the-middle attack will intercept your sensitive data while they are in motion, use only web connections secured by HTTPS (particularly for your most valued accounts) and use trusted networks such as your home connection or mobile data when performing the most sensitive of online operations, such as mobile banking. Needless to say, secure Wi-Fi connections should be underpinned by at least WPA2 encryption (or, ideally, WPA3as soon as it becomes available) – even at home – together with a strong and non-default administrator password and up-to-date firmware on your router.

Be very wary of public Wi-Fi hotspots. If you need to use such a connection, avoid sending personal data or use a reputable virtual private network (VPN) service, which keeps your data private via the use of an encrypted “tunnel”. Once you’re done, log out of your account and turn off Wi-Fi.

#7 Hide behind a firewall

A firewall is one of your key defensive players. Indeed, it is often thought of as the very first line of defense. It can typically be a piece of software in your computer, perhaps as part of anti-malware software, or it can be built into your router – or you can actually use both a network- and a host-based firewall. Regardless of its implementation, a firewall acts as a brawny bouncer that, based on predetermined rules, allows or denies traffic from the internet into an internal network or computer system.

#8 Back up

A backup is the kind of player who doesn’t get much time on the pitch, but when he does get the nod, he can “steal the show”. True, we might have spoken ill of bench warmers earlier, but a reliable backup is definitely not the kind of player to spoil your team’s chemistry.

Your system cannot usually be too – or completely – safe from harm. Beyond a cyber-incident, your data could be compromised by something as unpredictable as a storage medium failure. A backup is an example of a measure that is corrective in nature, but that is fully dependent on how hard you “practiced”. Or, as Benjamin Franklin put it, “by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”. It will cost you some time and possibly money to create (time and time again) your backups, but when it comes to averting (data) loss, this player may very well save the day for you.

#9 Select security software

Even if you use your common sense and take all kinds of “behavior-centered” precautions, you need another essential addition to your roster. At a time when you’re pitted against attackers who are ever more skilled, organized and persistent, dedicated security software is one of the easiest and most effective ways to protect your digital assets.

A reliable anti-malware solution uses many and various detection techniques and deploys multiple layers of defense that kick in at different stages of the attack process. That way, you’re provided with multiple opportunities to stymie a threat, including the latest threats, as attackers constantly come up with new malicious tools. This underscores the importance of always downloading the latest updates to your anti-malware software, which ideally are released several times a day. Top-quality security software automates this process, so you needn’t worry about installing the updates.

#10 Mobiles are computers, too!

Much of this article’s guidance also applies to smartphones and tablets. Due to their mobility, however, these devices are more prone to being misplaced or stolen. It is also of little help that users tend to view security software as belonging in the realm of laptops and desktops. But mobile devices have evolved to become powerful handheld computers and attackers have been shifting their focus to them.

There’s a number of measures you can take to reduce risks associated with mobile devices. They include relying on a secure authentication method to unlock your device’s screen, backing up the device, downloading system and app updates as soon as they’re available (preferably automatically, if possible), installing only reputable apps and only from legitimate stores, and making sure to use device encryption if it’s not turned on by default.

A dedicated mobile security solution will also go a long way towards enhancing your protection from mobile threats. This includes a scenario whereby your device goes missing, so you are then able to use the suite’s anti-theft and remote-wipe functionalities.

#11 Be aware

The final team member is, in fact, you – the keeper. Stay vigilant and cyber-aware and educate yourself on safe online habits. Don’t ever say, “it won’t/can’t happen to me”, because everyone is a potential target and victim. Recognize that one click is enough to inflict major damage on yourself and others, and that breaking good security practices for the sake of convenience may come back to bite you worse than Luis Suárez did in 2014. After all, how secure we are is largely dependent on how we use the technology.

So there you have it. You may want to enjoy the soccer now.

Flaws in email encryption revealed 0 814

email encryption

A team of 8 academics have discovered weaknesses in OpenPGP and S/MIME encryption protocols which could lead to the plain text of encrypted emails being exposed to attackers. The academics have named these flaws “EFAIL”.

Insights from cryptography expert Bruce Schneier explained that “[t]he vulnerability isn’t with PGP or S/MIME itself, but in the way they interact with modern e-mail programs.”

To be able exploit the weaknesses, you would first need to access the end-to-end-encrypted email message. This could be by way of stealing it from a compromised account or by intercepting its path. Following this, the attacker would need to alter the email, adding a custom HTML code and then sending this new version onto the victim. The victim’s email client decrypts the email and is tricked by the malicious code into sending the full plaintext of the emails to the attackers. Even messages sent years ago are vulnerable.

The team said that their proof-of-concept exploit has been shown to be successful against 25 out of 35 tested S/MIME email clients and 10 out of 28 OpenPGP clients. The flaws affect email applications such as Apple Mail with the GPGTools encryption plug-in, Mozilla Thunderbird with the Enigmail plug-in, and Outlook with the Gpg4win encryption package. The academics said that, in keeping with the principles of responsible disclosure, they have reported their findings to all email providers concerned.