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Is the Internet worth it?

I know I’ll be accused of FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt) with this post but here goes.
The whole world knows the Internet is used for building businesses. Some businesses rely solely on the Internet – they simply wouldn’t exist without it.
However, with all the security threats, at some point you have to ask: Is it worth it?

On November 12, 2008 the 63rd Session of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Council met and discussed the current state of cybersecurity. The event concluded with the declaration that cyber-security is one of the most important challenges of our time. The ITU Secretary-General, Dr. Hamadoun Toure stated: “The costs associated with cyber threats and cyber-attacks are real and significant — not only in terms of lost revenue, breaches of sensitive data, cyber-attacks and network outages but also in terms of lives ruined by identity theft, debts run up on plundered credit cards or the online exploitation of children.”

While I might not totally agree with the severity he states, I do agree that the situation is bleak – and apparently only getting worse.

Hackers use any method available to achieve their goal – total domination of the Internet. Okay, that’s really extreme.

Think of your own specific situation. You undoubtedly have at least one anti-virus (AV) program installed on your working computers, right? (many of you have 3-4 different security programs installed)

How many times has it actually caught a virus? If your AV is set to scan once a day, how often has it detected a virus/worm/trojan during it’s scan? If ever, you have to

During the course of the past 2 months we’ve seen the following security issues:

  • Malware delivered by infectious Adobe Acrobat files (pdf)
  • “Common” websites delivering malware (i.e., www.mlb.com, www.businessweek.com, www.cbs.com)
  • 85% of malware being delivered by infectious websites
  • Numerous content management systems (CMS) and forums having various vulnerabilities
  • “Hacking” used in a multitude of political wars (website defacements, etc)
  • More intelligent malware (blocking of AV updates, disabling security software)

In addition to the above list, more malware has been delivered via social engineering. Social engineering is the “art” of using deception to get a user to intentionally install something which turns out to be malware (definition of trojan).

Back in October we saw the keyword “costumes” being abused by cybercriminals to get people to visit malicious websites promising to offer fantastic ideas on Halloween attire. Then in November we saw numerous emails be circulated that offered various food recipes for Thanksgiving many of which resulted in webpages that contained more than recipes. They offered recipes for infection (you can use that if you want).

Along with the holiday themed malware strategies, here in the US we were also going through a Presidential election which brought about an abundance of election themed malware attacks. Then we had the year-end holidays and New Year’s each with their own malware messages and accompanying websites.

Now with the Presidential Inauguration just completed we’ve seen numerous messages “flying” around the internet touting “Obama refuses to take oath”. When any of these links are followed, they lead the unsuspecting inquisitive reader to a website that delivers more than the message they were seeking. It also attempts to infect their computer with little pieces of code that are just the beginning of taking control of the infected PC.

All of this is actual, real world reality. I didn’t make this “stuff” up. I didn’t write these viruses/worms/trojans like some of you think.

Cyber crime is something we all have to deal with.

You’re in business to solve some real world problem. Whether you’re a plumber or a rocket scientist, you solve someone’s problem otherwise you wouldn’t be in business.

I selected computer security as my profession and I believe I do it well. I try to solve real world computer security problems. If you find my work offensive, you’re free to ignore it.

I don’t work in FUD. I just merely try to educate you so you know what you’re facing being online.

Please leave me your comments on this posting.

Thank you.

 

 

 

 

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Are you really safe online?

According to a recent report by McAfee, here are some extremely interesting statistics:

  • 92% of users surveyed believed their anti-virus software was up to date, but only 51% had updated their anti-virus software within the past week
  • 73% of users surveyed believed they had a firewall installed and enabled, yet only 64% actually did
  • About 70 % of PC users believed they had anti-spyware software, but only 55% actually had it installed
  • 25% of users surveyed believed they had anti-phishing software, but only 12% actually had the software
  • 42% of businesses surveyed dedicate just one hour a week to proactive IT security management, despite the fact that 21% acknowledged an attack could put them out of business
  • 44% of businesses surveyed think cybercrime is only an issue for larger organizations and does not affect them
  • 52% of businesses surveyed believe that because they are not well-known, cybercriminals will not target them
  • 45% of businesses surveyed do not think they are a “valuable target” for cybercriminals
  • 46% of businesses surveyed do not think they can be a source of profit for cybercriminals

Interesting aren’t they?

If you’re a member of the 51% who had updated their anti-virus software within the past week, then you should read Secunia’s information after they tested 12 security suites. In their report it states that after testing 12 major security suites with 300 different exploits one suite blocked more than
10 times more than the next closest competitor – and it only blocked 64 out of the 300!

Here’s their report: http://secunia.com/gfx/Secunia_Exploit-vs-AV_test-Oct-2008.pdf

Do a Google search using “evading anti-virus”. In the SERPs you’ll see tutorials on how to make a virus, trojan or worm undetectable by current anti-virus software. There are specific steps.

Here’s an article about how one strain of worm was undetectable: http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20080408-new-kraken-worm-evading-harpoons-of-antivirus-programs.html

In the darker forums where we lurk as part of our security research, we’ve seen numerous “how to’s” on evading detection. Many of them are so simple that anyone with just a little computer knowledge could create their own undetectable virus.

Many of the cybercriminal “mobs” offer to recreate their malware if you buy it and then find that it’s detectable by anti-virus software.

If you’re one of the 64% that actually had a firewall installed, how was it configured? If you’re like most people, you have the default firewall settings and you never, ever read the logs to see how people are trying to get in. Most of the people we’ve talked with reply by saying, “My firewall has logs?”

Has you firewall ever been tested? I guarantee it has been by a hacker, but have you ever had it tested? Have you had a security scan performed on your firewall? In the security world, we believe that an untested firewall is no security at all.

If you’re one of the 21% that acknowledged an attack could put you out of business and you only spend 1 hour a week in proactive security management, I’d like to say you’ll get what you deserve but that would be rude and a little – “in your face”.

The fact is, you could be “hacked” right now and you wouldn’t even know it. Maybe an attack wouldn’t put you out of business, but I’m sure it will cost you a lot more than preventative security management
would have cost you.

In risk management, isn’t it true that if prevention costs you less than the potential problem, it becomes a no-brainer to move forward with the prevention?

If you’re one of the 44% of businesses that think cybercrime is only an issue for larger organizations, I have to ask you this, “Where do you think most of the attacks on larger organizations is launched from?” The answer: hacked systems in smaller organizations.

If you’re one of the 52% of businesses that believe since you’re not well-known cybercriminals will not target you, I will tell you to Google the term, “security through obscurity”, or “security by obscurity”. Read everything you can about your adopted security strategy.

Cybercriminals find “hackable” computers by scanning IP addresses. Yes, sometimes, they will target a specific site, but generally, they just look for computers that have openings.

If you’re one of the 45% or 46% who think you’re not valuable to a cybercriminal, answer me this, “Do you turn your back on smaller sources of income?”

Hackers hack for money. Gone are the days when they would hack strictly to create havoc. They now make money from their craft. In some cybergangs, it’s believed that the money they make from one income stream is $150,000,000 (that’s right million).

Just as you might find every email address on your list valuable, they too find every computer that they control valuable. To you, the money is in the list. To cybercriminals, the money is in their botnet (their network of remotely controlled computers). Every controlled computer, whether a server or a PC,
is important to them.

I still find that one of the easiest ways for hackers to deface or hack a website is by logging in as you. They infect as many computers as possible. Then when you login to your website, they record your credentials and then just login as you. It’s that simple. How do they find your computer to infect it in the first place?

They don’t know who you are or where you live. They just hack as many computers as they can and the odds are, with so many people starting web based businesses, that some of the computers they infect will belong to people who own one or more websites.

It really is that simple.

If you still think you’re safe online, then keep doing what you’ve always done and you’ll keep getting what you’ve always gotten – whether you know it or not.

That’s a fact.

If you disagree, please tell me your comments.