3 biggest cybersecurity myths

3 biggest cybersecurity myths

No doubt cybersecurity is now part of our daily conversations – cryptocurrency hacking, election meddling, leaks and exposes, it is something that we all have learn to live with.

Unfortunately, there are still (many) people that believe cybersecurity is something “my geek nephew has to worry about, not me”.

Nathan House, a cybersecurity expert from Station X, published in his newsletter the 3 biggest cybersecurity myths and I found his insights a must-share with all of you:

 

#1 Small or medium sized businesses have nothing of value to an attacker

Many small businesses think they have nothing of value to an attacker so are unlikely to be a target, but the very opposite is the reality. I hear this “we have nothing of value to an attacker, why would they attack us?” question so often that it drives me bananas.

Small organisations are in fact perfect targets for attacks because they have weak defenses so are easily compromised.

A 2016 Government report confirms that 74% of small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) reported a security breach and that only 7% of small businesses expect information security spend to increase in the next year.

Ransomware is the weapon of choice to attack small businesses indiscriminately, using it to encrypt the victim systems and files. Only when a ransom is paid are the files unencrypted.

All small businesses have something of value to themselves and it’s their own files and systems, which can be held for ransom.

Ransomware affects both SMBs and individuals alike. The attackers are now tailoring the amount of money demanded. They do not ask for a large sum from victims they know cannot pay. To unencrypt the files, they ask for a sum of money that is significant but “acceptable” to the victim.

In the case of an individual, it might be $100. For a small organisation, perhaps $500 is enough to make a nice income for the attackers and small enough that their victims are likely to pay.

Using ransomware to attack soft targets like small to medium sized businesses is becoming more and more prevalent. So not only is this a myth, it’s an extremely dangerous myth to believe and the one that is commonly held by management.

 

#2 Cyber security is an IT problem

This is another very dangerous myth if an organisations executives believe it.

IT staff should not be making risk decisions that can affect the success or failure of an organisation. That is the role of the executives.

There is no doubt that cyber security comes largely from implementing appropriate information technical based controls to safeguard information held within an organisation.

Therefore, IT are responsible for implementing and recommending security controls. But the final choice on if risks should be mitigated or taken should be down to the executives who understand the strategy objectives of the business.

Most organisations are not in the business of security. Security is just an enabler for the business to function within acceptable levels of risk. How much risk an organisation should take cannot be determined by IT as they simply don’t have this level of understanding about the organisation. It is for executives to set the level of risk tolerance.

An example might be that it could make good business sense to launch a product, so it can reach market in time and forgo some of the security. An IT person would not be able to make this sort of call.

Security is not an absolute. Its job is to inform the business and protect it to the level that is acceptable. Some organisations need to run with high levels of cyber risk in order to be viable as a business.

The risks from cyber attacks are not a technical problem. The recent attacks on TalkTalk, Sony, Target and others have resulted in serious financial damage being done to the company itself, and so the problem is now a boardroom issue that has to be managed at that level just like any other risk to the business.

 

#3 “Make my system 100% secure”

One of the most frustrating requests you can get as a security expert is being asked to “make the system 100% secure”.

There cannot be 100% security so the requester must define what “secure” means to them and they often have no clue.

People believe that complete security can be achieved and that complete security is required by law or industry practice. Neither is correct. Both laws and industry practices require businesses to do what is “reasonable.” Complete security is not required or even realistic.

Studies show that it would require businesses to increase overall security budgets nine-fold to address just 95 percent of the threats. That increase would, in most cases, exceed the overall budget for the entire business.

There is a fundamental paradox with regard to security efforts: As security protections increase, usability of the secured systems often decreases. That is, the greater the security, the less useful the thing secured will be.

It is, for example, possible to completely secure a mobile device, such as a smartphone. All that is necessary is to:

1. put the device into airplane mode,

2. place in a Faraday case and

3. lock the device in a secure safe

While complete security has been achieved, usability has been reduced to zero. A balance must always be struck between effective security measures and usability of the data or system being secured.

There are many misconceptions in cyber security that we need to overcome and what we need to always concentrate on is reducing risk.

 

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Beware of fake and dangerous Android apps

Beware of fake and dangerous Android apps

According to the Internet machine it is estimated there are more than 2 billion (yes, billion with a b) active Android devices in the world.

Now imagine for a second that you are an evil villain straight out a Bond movie with a super magical computer that could take control of those devices… what would you do?

Well, some people are finding very creative and dangerous ways to make that a reality.

Android users (different from Apple iOS) have the ability to install apps from the Google Play store and from what’s called third party developers. This brings up some great advantages but also opens the door for the bad guys to attack devices by playing the “user” card.

Good example? Android apps that promise “unlimited movies and TV shows” or “fast credit card approval”. Also, there are many fake apps that look almost identical to the real ones like the fake WhatsApp that was downloaded more than a million times before it was discovered and removed last year.

An installed fake or dangerous Android app is something that should not be taken lightly, specially based on the cold hard fact that most of us use our phones and tablets more than our laptops. A very well crafted Android malware can steal your data, login credentials to other apps and websites, use your phone as a bot to attack other devices or for cryptocurrency mining, among many others.

How can you protect yourself? Glad you ask.

  1. Stop looking for apps to watch free movies and TV! This is the best honeypot hackers use to lure and attack your devices.
  2. Take a close look at the Search Results: when you search for an app you’ll get many results – a fake app will use the same icon as the one its trying to pose of. In this case, check the ratings and the number of downloads and you’ll see the real one has more reviews and higher downloads.
  3. Read descriptions and look at the screenshots: bogus apps might have grammar errors, low quality or non-existing screenshots, etc.
  4. When in doubt… simply don’t install the app!

Finally, if you spot a fake or suspicious app be a good user and report it. Google has the option under Additional Information; also share with your social media peeps, this is the best way to create awareness.

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SPECTRE and MELTDOWN CPU vulnerabilities – a basic understanding and what you need to know

SPECTRE and MELTDOWN CPU vulnerabilities – a basic understanding and what you need to know

December 2017 was a relatively slow month in cybersecurity, but something is for sure in this industry: nothing stays the same for too long…

2018 started with the disclosure of two security vulnerabilities that affect some Intel and AMD processors called SPECTRE and MELTDOWN. I will spare you the technical mumbo jumbo but what I will tell you is that this is a very serious issue that – if exploited and so far, it hasn’t been – can compromise virtually any computer, tablet and smartphone in the planet. Yes, you read it right… Skynet is coming for us ☹

According to security expert Aryeh Goretsky, “reportedly the issue is that programs running in user-mode address space (the “normal” range of memory in which application software, games and the like run) on a computer can infer or “see ” some of the information stored in kernel-mode address space (the “protected” range of memory used to contain the operating system, its device drivers, and sensitive information such as passwords and cryptography certificates)”. Bruce Schneier adds “They affect computers where an untrusted browser window can execute code, phones that have multiple apps running at the same time, and cloud computing networks that run lots of different processes at once. Fixing them either requires a patch that results in a major performance hit, or is impossible and requires a re-architecture of conditional execution in future CPU chips”.

What do you need to do? Since this is not a Windows-only issue, at this point there is not much. Apple recommends only to install applications from trusted sources like the Apple Store; Microsoft has released patch updates (hence the need to keep your computer’s operating system always up to date) and Google is actively posting information on updates (their Project Zero unit was among the researchers who found the flaw). Also, keep your antivirus running and updated. Other vendors are working very hard on patches that will get deployed automatically in the upcoming days.

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What is “threat modeling” and why should you care?

What is “threat modeling” and why should you care?

We live in interconnected and complicated times and the word “hack” has become a new normal in daily conversations. People are more and more concerned about hackers, data loss and cyber security in general.

Many of our clients ask, “how can we make sure we’re not hacked” and unfortunately, the answer is “you can’t” … it is practically impossible to prevent or block 100% of everything that’s out there. Here is where the term “threat modeling” comes to play.

Threat modeling is hacker lingo for determining how likely you are to be hacked: do you use the same basic passwords on everything? Is an ex coming after you looking for compromising information? The list goes on an on.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (https://www.eff.org/) recommend asking yourself these questions when threat modeling:

  1. What do you want to protect?
  2. Who do you want to protect it from?
  3. How likely is it that you will need to protect it?
  4. How bad are the consequences if you fail?
  5. How much trouble are you willing to go through in order to try to prevent those?

If the answer to any of these questions gives you the chills, then it is time to take your digital safety seriously; however, just because there are more threats out there doesn’t mean you have to simply go live in a cave.

Here are some practical and easy steps you can take towards minimizing and mitigating the effects of a cyber attack (of course these are basic but a good start nonetheless):

  • Keep your passwords safe and change them periodically
  • Don’t reuse passwords
  • Keep your software updated and download available patches
  • Implement two-factor authentication as much as possible
  • Backup, backup, backup: use an online backup service like iDrive or Carbonite that provides “versioning” which is multiple different copies of your files
  • Keep your mobile devices locked (PIN) and up to date

As usual if you have any questions about this or any I.T. or computer topic don’t hesitate to contact us!

Image: arstechnica.com

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Avoid scams when shopping online

Avoid scams when shopping online

Reading an article on a well-known cyber security website I thought it was a really good idea to post about the most common mistakes people make when buying something online and how to keep your personal and financial information safe from scammers/hackers/bad guys in general.

So let’s get straight to the meat and potatoes:

Common Mistakes/Oversights and How You Can Avoid Them:

  1. It sounds counter-intuitive but “Googling” stuff sometimes is really a bad idea; the reason is very simple: scammers are now very sophisticated and they create fake shopping pages that look very impressive, with shopping carts and checkout pages.
  2. If you shop at a brick and mortar store and want to try the online experience, go directly to the store web address instead of using a search engine like Google.
  3. Watch out for email offers and coupons that have links you’re supposed to click to that might redirect you to a fake or dangerous website. Again, if you get one of those coupons from a store you shop at and trust, simply go directly to their website and I can guarantee you at checkout you’ll have the option to enter the coupon or promo code (if it’s not, simply call them and ask).
  4. DO NOT USE PUBLIC WIFI WHEN SHOPPING ONLINE: I know using all caps is rude, but I don’t care… using public Wi-Fi is a well-known security hole you open on your computer every time you go and get your latte.
  5. Avoid using QR codes: you know those weird codes with a bunch of squares that are supposed to give you special offers? It has been reported that bad guys create those phony codes to link to a phishing or malware websites. I’d suggest applying #3 suggestion here as well.
  6. According to Malwarebytes website (which I totally endorse), Do not use debit cards to shop online. Want to give cyber criminals direct access to your bank account? Then by all means, use your debit card! Otherwise, play it safe by using credit cards or a PayPal account that’s linked to a credit card. While many banks are cracking down on fraudulent withdrawals, you’ll still have to wait for your money while they investigate the charges
  7. Make sure you have a security software installed BEFORE going online shopping. Most of current commercial antiviruses and security suites have a website protection built in and might work (or not) but it is much better than nothing – Also make sure your Operating System (Windows or Mac) is up to date.
  8. Be very skeptic of websites that ask you too much information like social insurance numbers, password reminder questions or stuff like that
  9. Check the HTTP on the URL bar (top of the browser) and make sure the shopping cart and the checkout page has HTTPS instead of HTTP; the “S” stands for secured and it has encryption to protect data transmission.

These are some of the most common mistakes and practices, I’m confident if you follow them and keep a bit objective you’ll be fine. Also remember that if you see a deal online that is too good to be true, maybe it is…

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Running a WordPress website? Make sure you keep it updated!

Running a WordPress website? Make sure you keep it updated!

WordPress, the world-famous content management system that powers around 27% of all websites in the world, is a constant (and sometimes easy) target for hackers.

Vulnerabilities like the SQL-Injection (detected by security analyst Anthony Ferrara) present a serious threat not only to the site itself but also to any visitor. Attacks under what’s known as “drive-by malware” are occurring at an increasing and alarming rate and it is the website’s administrator sole responsibility to keep his/her websites patched and secured.

We recommend some basic but effective ways to protect your WordPress website:

  • Install and properly configure an SSL certificate
  • Login to your WordPress Dashboard frequently and make sure all the Updates are being installed (WordPress core, themes and plugins)
  • Install security plugins that monitor and report your site for attacks and intrusions – we like and recommend Wordfence.
  • Host your site with a reputable and professional hosting company and make sure you ask all the questions you want about what do they do on their end to keep your site safe.

These are the bare minimum precautions any website admin should follow to keep the website secure; there are more in-depth and proactive measures but taking these first steps would definitely give you an edge and create the habit of cyber security awareness.

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