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“‘Who controls the past’, ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.'” Part 1, Chapter 3, pg. 37
The above is all inspired by someone the other day putting up a quote about the fact they had read 1984 and couldn’t believe how bad things were back then. Which made me laugh.
George Orwell’s 1984 was a book I read at high school for my higher in English prep. I was into science fiction and that genre and this sort off ticked some of those boxes. Obviously, it was about the state watching everything that the populate did and the perceived freedom people had was really not freedom at all. Orwell based it on the communist state in 1948 and his publisher’s enforced that he change the title to 1984 to make it more sellable and not offend the communist state of Russia.
History lesson over now, I came across a comic photo of Cortana, Microsoft’s office help in Windows 10, based on their game character from their Halo franchise. She will listen to you and answer questions to help. Similar to the OK Google in Android Google NOW.
But what are these helps really doing?
In the comic photo I saw that someone was happy that Cortana was there and they could chat, until eventually they had to switch Cortana off as she was so intrusive the person’s privacy ceased to exist.
My title is that Big Brother, the state in Orwell’s book that spied on everyone, has been watching us for a long time is in fact very true. Since the Internet has been around we have been spied on and catalogued in our preferences and histories and then email allowed us to be spied on. Particularly when it went online and became web based. Our shopping habits are spied on by supermarkets and stores, again with loyalty cards, as we scan, they record. We get vouchers emailed and sent through the post that give us money of the things we buy each week and use. Isn’t it amazing how do they know?
Should we be worried and concerned?
I meet a lot of different people in my IT travels from training to techie talks with geeks like myself. They range from the extremists who are so paranoid that they don’t use a lot of the available tech and systems that are around just now, to the laid back who use everything and deal with the aftermath.
I must admit to being nearer the second type of person with some criteria on what I would and would not do. I do love the latest tech and am slightly addicted to where it is taking us.
I would suggest to you that you are kept on record on the World Wide Web at a host of locations from government bodies who use your ID and unique NI number to shops and web page stored info. (Cookies and their friends). So worrying would be a fruitless activity and probably not get you any real benefit. Paranoia is the other extreme I find and people go to amazing lengths to avoid their real data and identity getting out there. It will get out there and to be honest it already is out there, is the amazing and correct answer to that.
Of course I am not saying forget everything and lay abandon to any security and common sense, now that would be absurd, and I do meet that category of person as well.
We really need to use the latter, common sense and be aware of what we are doing.
- Not clicking on everything that pops up.
- Not filling in every form of filed that is asked of us by companies.
- Unticking boxes that want to store our info and sent us data all the time.
- Have all updates on and installed.
- Make sure we have the latest and up to date Anti-Virus and spyware/Malware kit on our machines.
- AND above all use common sense.
What are your thoughts on this and what do you do? Are you paranoid or very open?
Great to hear your comments.
Lately I have had conversations with quite a few businesses that are all adopting technology at various levels. Some are all for it and adopt the latest and greatest systems to make their workload more manageable, others keep what they see as a safe distance between them and technology.
I must admit even the smaller things, like I always used to have a pocket diary and a desk diary in the past and used them all the time. Now I have a smart phone and tablet and they hold my diary and to do list all in the cloud and they ping and pop to remind me of what the next event in my life is. A small change you may say, but a massive one for some business owners and personnel.
Other things such as keeping documents on a drive that automatically backs up and then having another backup of key areas in the cloud as well, just in case. Before that I had paper lever arch folders all along a large shelf that used to dispense them on my head as I passed by on many occasion. Less clutter I suppose.
So am I too reliant on technology or is this OK and where do you draw the line?
What brought this post on was an article on the BBC technology news page that stated that Samsung have warned against talking in front of some of their smart TV’s as they listen for commands to be voice activated and record conversations and share them to third parties. I was and am shocked that this could even be happening and I am for new technology and where it can take us. Listening, recording and sharing a conversation that I am having in my own living room is just not on. It is a stage too far. We are all told that security is all down to us and we need to take care and not share the wrong info with the wrong people and keep our passwords secure. Then I read this.
I feel that the use of technology is great and has revolutionised the way I operate and I would say mostly for the better. But I am also not keen on the larger companies trying their arm with stuff like this. No way. A rethink is needed here and I assume that Samsung and others will realise this and make changes.
Should we be frightened?
This should not scare us away from anything technological as there are problems with every method you have of working and it is not always the medium that is causing the issues. So adopt what you feel comfortable with but don’t shy away from trying new ways of handling your daily tasks and workloads. If need be get advice and move a step at a time. Years ago everything was posted and then faxed, and then emailed. Even that is getting superseded by instant messaging systems.
Who knows where we will be in a few years’ time. Breathe and move on….
On average 30,000 websites are hacked every day*, 200,000 new malicious programs/viruses are detected every day**. Google recently reported that they detect 9,500 websites/day infected with malware used for drive-by download attacks, where the victim only has to browse the site to become infected, and 4,000 of these sites are legitimate company websites. Small business have been a target for cyber criminals for a few years now, because they are an easier target due to their lack of budget and expertise. Is your network as secure as it can be from hackers? Are you sure? Or are you helping cyber criminals distribute malicious programs to your customers, friends and family, even if you’re computers are just acting as a base of operations for attacking and infecting others.
* Sophos Labs Report ** Kaspersky Labs Report
It is estimated that cybercrime costs the world’s economy between $1 – 3 trillion per year.
Many businesses around the world have been struggling financially for a number of years, but sadly the underground hacking economy seems to be alive and well. In July of 2013, the FBI charged two Russians for hacking into US Financial Institutions that resulted in the theft of millions of dollars from more than 800,000 victim bank accounts. One of the hackers and several other undiscovered criminals, were also charged with the stealing and selling of at least 160 million credit and debit card numbers, resulting in losses of hundreds of millions of dollars. According to the indictment, these losses included $300 million in losses for just three of the corporate victims not to mention the immeasurable losses to the identity theft victims, due to the costs associated with stolen identities and fraudulent charges.
Underground Prices for Stolen Credentials and Hacker Services
|Hacker Credentials and Services||Details||Price|
|*Visa and Master Card (US)||$4|
|American Express (US)||$7|
|Discover Card with (US)||$8|
|Visa and Master Card (UK, Aus & Can)||$7 -$8|
|American Express (UK, Aus & Can)||$12- $13|
|Discover Card (Aus & Can)||$12|
|Visa and Master Card (EU and Asia)||$15|
|Discover and American Express Card (EU and Asia)||$18|
|Credit Card with Track 1 and 2 Data (US)||Track 1 and 2 Data is information which is contained in digital format on the magnetic stripe embedded in the backside of the credit card. Some payment cards store data in chips embedded on the front side. The magnetic stripe or chip holds information such as the Primary Account Number, Expiration Date, Card holder name, plus other sensitive data for authentication and authorization.||$12|
|Credit Card with Track 1 and 2 Data (UK, Aus & Can)||$19-$20|
|Credit Card with Track 1 and 2 Data (EU, Asia)||$28|
|US Fullz||Fullz is a dossier of credentials for an individual, which also include Personal Identifiable Information (PII), which can be used to commit identity theft and fraud. Fullz usually include: Full name, address, phone numbers, email addresses (with passwords), date of birth, SSN or Employee ID Number (EIN), one or more of: bank account information (account & routing numbers, account type), online banking credentials (varying degrees of completeness), or credit card information (including full track2 data and any associated PINs).||$25|
|Fullz (UK, Australia, Canada, EU, Asia)||$30-$40|
|VBV(US)||Verified by Visa works to confirm an online shopper’s identity in real time by requiring an additional password or other data to help ensure that no one but the cardholder can use their Visa card online.||$10|
|VBV (UK, Aus, Can, EU, Asia)||$17-$25|
|DOB (US)||Date of Birth||$11|
|DOB(UK, Aus, Can, EU, Asia)||$15-$25|
|Bank Acct. with $70,000-$150,000||Bank account number and online credentials (username/password). Price depends on banking institution.||$300 and less|
|Remote Access Trojan(RAT)||$50-$250|
|Add-On Services to RATs||Includes set up of C2 Server, adding FUD to RAT, infecting victim||$20-$50|
|Sweet Orange Exploit Kit Leasing Fees||$450 a week/$1800 a month|
|Hacking Website; stealing data||Price depends on reputation of hacker||$100-$300|
|DDoS Attacks||Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) Attacks– throwing so much traffic at a website, it takes it offline||Per hour-$3-$5
|Doxing||When a hacker is hired to get all the information they can about a target victim, via social engineering and/or infecting them with an information-stealing trojan.||$25-$100|
*Note: All Credit Cards sold with CVV Codes
As always, there is no shortage of stolen credit cards, personal identities, known as Fullz, for sale. However, the hackers have come to realize that merely having a credit card number and corresponding CVV code is not always enough to meet the security protocols of some retailers. Hackers are also selling cardholders’ Date of Birth and other personal information. Having this additional information would allow a hacker to answer additional security questions or produce a fake identification, to go along with a duplicate credit card. VBV (Verified by Visa) data is also being sold.
It has been found that credit cards and personal identities for non-US residents continue to sell for more money than the credit cards and identities for US residents. An example of the pricing discovered for stolen credit cards, Track 1 and 2 Data of Credit Cards, Fullz, Date of Birth and VBVs for cardholders is listed in the table above.
Online Bank Accounts for Sale: Name Your Bank and Country Preference
Just as with stolen credit cards, there are hundreds of online banking credentials for sale. It has found that one can purchase the username and password for an online bank account with a balance between $70,000 and $150,000 for $300 and less, depending on which banking institution the account is located. Also one can specify the login information for an account within a specific bank and country.
Malware Infected Computers for Sale
There are thousands of compromised computers (bots) for sale by bot salesmen. The price per computer typically decreases when they are bought in bulk. The costs for infected computers (bots):
- 1,000 bots = $20
- 5,000 bots= $90
- 10,000 bots = $160
- 15,000 bots = $250
Infected computers in Asia tend to sell for less. It is thought that infected computers in Europe & U.S. are more valuable than those in Asia, because they have a faster and more reliable Internet connection.
Once scammers buy the malware-infected computers, they can do anything they want with the machines. They can harvest them for financial credentials, infect them with ransomware so as to extort money from their owners, or use them to form a spam botnet to send out malicious spam on behalf of other scammers. If you don’t think there is much money in the spam business think again. Research into one of the largest spam botnets, Cutwail, it is estimated that the Cutwail gang’s profit for providing spam services was approximately $1.7 million to $4.2 million over two years.
Malware and Exploit Kits for Sale
A variety of Remote Access Trojans (RATs) are for sale ranging from $50 to $250. Most of the RATs are sold with a program to make it Fully Undetectable (FUD) to anti-virus and anti-malware. However, there were some hackers who sold the FUD component for an additional $20. For those RAT buyers who want the seller to do all the work for them, eg: setting up the RAT’s Command and Control Server, configure the malware to be FUD and possibly infect the target, they could pay an additional $20 to $50.
Exploit Kits – One of the offerings the Sweet Orange Exploit Kit for lease charged between $450/week and $1800/month. Sweet Orange is certainly more expensive to lease than the once popular BlackHole Exploit kit. Before BlackHole’s supposed creator was arrested, the leasing rates for BlackHole were:
- 3 months—$700
- 6 months–$1,000
- One year–$1,500
Hacker Services for Hire: DDoS Attacks, Hacking of Websites, Doxing
Hacking into a Website
The cost to hire a hacker to break into an organization’s website runs between $100 – $300. Generally the higher the fee, the more reputable the hacker. What is worth noting is that most hackers for hire will not hack into a government or military website.
Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) Attacks
A DDoS is where 1000’s of computers, controlled by a RAT, are used to attack a website and bring it to a halt through sheer volume of traffic. Those customers wanting to purchase DDoS Attack Services could pay by the hour, day or week. Most hackers who provide the DDOS attacks guaranteed that the target website would be knocked offline.
The rates were as follows:
- DDoS Attacks Per hour = $3-$5
- DDoS Attacks Per Day = $90-$100
- DDoS Attacks per Week = $400-600
Doxing is when a hacker is hired to get all the information they can about a target victim. Their methods include searching public information sites, social media sites, as well as manipulating the victim via social engineering and infecting them with an information-stealing Trojan. There are a lot of Doxing services for sale on the hacker underground, A “Vouch” from customers is used to verify that the hacker providing the Doxing service is legitimate. Doxing services range from $25 to $100.
Name Brand Products, Get Them For Cheap
Another service being sold on the hacker underground is where hackers will sell popular products, below the retail price. The hackers will obtain a specified product for a buyer either by using a stolen credit card or by working a scam, where they contact the retailer’s customer service representative and pretend to have purchased the item from the vendor, and it was damaged. The customer service representative is convinced that the complaint is legitimate, and they send out a replacement to the scammer, who in turn sells the product below the retail price.
For the most part, it does not appear that the types of hacker services and stolen data for sell on the hacker underground have changed dramatically in the past several years. The only noticeable difference is the drop in price for online bank account credentials and the drop in price for Fullz or Personal Credentials. In 2011, hackers were selling US bank account credentials with balances of $7,000 for $300. Now, accounts with balances ranging from $70,000 to $150,000 go for $300 and less, depending on the banking institution where the account is located. In 2011, hackers were selling Fullz for anywhere from $40 to $60, depending on the victim’s country of residence. Fullz are now selling between $25 and only go up to $40, depending on the victim’s location. It is believed that the drop in prices further substantiates that there is an abundance of stolen bank account credentials and personal identities for sale. There is also no shortage of hackers willing to do just about anything, computer related, for money, and they are continually finding ways to monetize personal and business data.
Key Protective Security Steps
Companies should adopt a layered approach to security and consider implementing the following:
- Firewalls around your network and Web applications
- Intrusion Prevention Systems or Intrusion Detection Systems (IPS/IDS). These inspect inbound and outbound traffic for cyber threats and detect and/or block those threats
- Host Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS)
- Advanced Malware Protection Solution
- Vulnerability scanning
- 24 hours a day x7 days a week x365 days a year log monitoring, and Web application and network scanning
- Security Intelligence around the latest threats (people working on the latest threats in real-time, human intelligence)
- Encrypted email
- Educating your Employees on Computer Security. A key protective measure is to educate your employees to never click on links or attachments in emails, even if they know the sender. Employees should check with the sender prior to clicking on the email links or attachments. Client side attacks using email attachments and hyperlinks to malicious code on the web are the two major infection vectors.
The good news for SME’s is that there are some products out there that are open source and free that can cover a lot of the above. Configured correctly will help to protect the network from malicious hackers, at least make them want to bypass you and attack an easier target.
Individuals Should Implement the Following Security Steps
- Computer users should use a computer dedicated only to doing their online banking and bill pay. That computer or virtualized desktop should not be used to send and receive emails or surf the web, since Web exploits and malicious email are two of the key malware infection vectors.
- Avoid clicking on links or attachments within emails from untrusted sources. Even if you recognize the sender, you should confirm that the sender has sent the specific email to them before clicking on any links or attachments.
- Reconcile your banking statements on a regular basis with online banking and/or credit card activity to identify potential anomalous transactions that may indicate account takeover.
- Make sure your anti-virus is current and can protect against the latest exploits. Also, make sure that your anti-virus vendor has signatures for detecting the latest Trojans and that you have the most up- to-date anti-virus protections installed.
- Do not use “trial versions” of anti-virus products as your source of protection. Trial versions of anti-virus products are good for testing products, but do not continue to use the trial version as your protection for your home or work PC. The danger is that the trial version does not receive any updates, so any new Trojan or virus that is introduced after the trial version was released will have total access to your PC.
- Make sure you have your security protections in place. Patch management is key. It is critical that as soon as they become available you install updates for your applications and for your computer’s operating system.
- Be cautious about installing software (especially software that is too good to be true – e.g., download accelerators, spyware removal tools), and be conscience about pop-ups from websites asking users to download/execute/or run otherwise privileged operations. Often this free software and these pop-ups have malware embedded.
Make sure your company is not an easy target for the cyber criminals by having a penetration test by a trained and experienced Certified Ethical Hacker.
Penetration testing is the process of evaluating both your physical and digital security systems and finding all areas that are insecure and that need attention. The main goal of penetration testing is not only to find security vulnerabilities, but to attempt to exploit them as well, which can decrease the chances of data loss or allowing unauthorised persons access to secured data. Common problems discovered by penetration testing include software bugs, design flaws and configuration errors. Once these have been identified, they need to be quickly repaired in order to ensure that safety isn’t compromised for longer than necessary. Testing is vital for any business, no matter how large or small, as data has become the most important currency available to organisations and hackers.
Penetration testing should be performed by an experienced tester from outside the organisation or the service provider whom has configured the solution, website, network, etc. It is all too easy to ignore or turn a blind eye to a known issue, or to have the attitude of ‘Nobody could possibly find that flaw!’ or ‘Who would want to hack us? We’re not interesting enough!’ As this involves the security of the business, no half-measures can be taken. Security breaches happen every minute of every day, and unless you have a dedicated team for penetration testing, it may be wise to consider outsourcing the procedure. Having an in-house team is ideal, but there are many businesses that find good reasons to outsource the testing and security of their information systems.
Thanks to our Guest blogger this month
Wynn Jones ECSA/LPT CEH CHFI CVE CCA MCSE
Password protection of course.
In this post, we are looking at passwords – and what people do or don’t do with them. It was inspired by a recent report online about the most common passwords of 2013. It scares me when I see what is being used. Strong passwords are one of those things we know we need, and should be using, but tend to put little to no effort into. Then we tend to be the first to shout ‘my details were taken’ when things go wrong.
So what are the rules then? Different camps will give you different instructions, and some will claim a password is strong when in fact it isn’t.
Let’s look at the most common methods:
- Use Different passwords everywhere.
Why should we have to do this when it is so easy to use our pets name at every password prompt? Well it’s simple really. If someone guesses your pets name, and believe me they will, then they have access to every site you use. A study by an online company, called BitDefender, showed that 75% of people will use the same password for their email and Facebook. If that is then also your PayPal password, and it’s discovered, say goodbye to some funds and your friends.
- Remember the Underwear Meme
Seemingly the saying goes like this: Passwords are like underwear. You should change them often, maybe not every day of course. Don’t share them. Don’t leave them out for others to see. (No Post Its). They should also be mysterious and a secret to others. So make them something that they can’t guess.
- Avoid Common Passwords
If the word can be found in a dictionary, it is not a strong password. If you use numbers and letter as they appear on the keyboard, it’s not a strong password. Relatives names and pets names, NO. Even if you follow them with a number. Birthdays and anniversaries are just as bad sadly. Hackers will try all these things first. They actually run programs to check all these kinds of passwords, and for the love of all that’s techie, if you use “password” as your password, please just sign off the Internet right now. SplashData has been listing the 25 worst passwords for some years now, and “password” has always topped the list as the most common password. This year it was deposed by the long-time second worst password: “123456.” No, really!
So what are you tips I hear you cry!
Don’t cry, here is some advice.
Strong Password Solutions
How to Build Strength
To create a strong password, it is suggested you should use a string of text that mixes numbers, letters that are both lowercase and uppercase, and special characters. It should be eight characters, but preferably many more. A lot more. The characters should be random, and not include words, flow alphabetically, or be from your keyboard layout.
So how do you make such a password?
1) Spell a word backwards. (Example: Turn “New York” into “kroywen.”)
2) Use l33t speak: Substitute numbers for certain letters. (Example: Turn “kroywen” into “kr0yw3n.”)
3) Randomly throw in some capital letters. (Example: Turn “kr0yw3n” into “Kr0yw3n.”)
4) Don’t forget the special character. (Example: Turn “Kr0yw3n” into “Kr0yw3^.”)
You don’t have to go for the obvious and use “0” for “o,” or “@” for “a,” or “3” for “e,” either. As long as your replacement makes sense to you, that’s all that matters. A “^” for an “n” makes sense to me.
The suggested best form today seems to be creating a sentence and type it in, including spaces. It takes algorithms much longer to crack something like that than it does just for straight words – even if you have changed the letters for symbols and numbers. (Example: “I love yellow trousers”). This believe it or not is quite secure, and has the added advantage of being easier to remember. Of course, I could also swap numbers for letters and include symbols as well.
Well I hope you got the point and the Protection is definitely needed.
To finish, here is last year’s list of the 25 most commonly used passwords. I expect to hear the cries of despair as you recognise yours. It also shows their change in rank from the year before, and includes some newcomers for this year as well.
1. 123456 (Up 1)
2. password (Down 1)
3. 12345678 (Unchanged)
4. qwerty (Up 1)
5. abc123 (Down 1)
6. 123456789 (New)
7. 111111 ( Up 2)
8. 1234567 (Up 5)
9. iloveyou (Up 2)
10. adobe123 (New)
11. 123123 (Up 5)
12. admin (New)
13. 1234567890 (New)
14. letmein (Down 7)
15. photoshop (New)
16. 1234 (New)
17. monkey (Down 11)
18. shadow (Unchanged)
19. sunshine (Down 5)
20. 12345 (New)
21. password1 (up 4)
22. princess (New)
23. azerty (New)
24. trustno1 (Down12)
25. 000000 (New)
Let us know what you think, and how you cope with remembering all the various passwords you use.
Hi guys, just a quick one this time, Ubisoft the massive games distributor and creator of my favourite series the Assassins Creed brand has had a major security hack and passwords have been compromised. They have emailed all their account holders and advised them to change their passwords for Ubisoft and for others areas where they may have used the same password.
Here is what IT Portal posted on it after I had received my email and changed my password.
There seem to be a good number of these breaches to peoples details, should we be more paranoid or are these occurrences rarer than we think? What do you think?