Security Spotlight

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The Largest Internet Security Breach in History

The largest internet security breach in history has just been discovered. Hold Security, a small cybersecurity firm, first reported the details of the incident around August 5th, 2014. A group of Russian hackers of approximately 10 men are suspected ofLargest Data Breach - Russia the crime.

What was Stolen and from Where?

The thieves stole roughly 1.2 billion login user IDs and passwords from over 420,000 different websites as well as 500 million email addresses. The Target data breach of 70 million addresses dwarfs in comparison to this incident. At this time, the names of the affected websites are not being released in order to protect them from further attacks but many large and well-known websites are expected to be on the list. Many of these websites are still vulnerable to attack.

How was the Data Stolen?

The hackers used a “botnet” of computers to search the internet for websites that were vulnerable to attack. Once those websites were identified, they were targeted with sophisticated SQL injection scripts that gave them access to the website’s database of user information.

How to Protect Yourself

Here are several tips to protect yourself from this particular breach, as well as hacks in the future:

  • Never click on links that you suspect are unsafe
  • Immediately change your passwords and make it a habit of changing them frequently
  • Do not use the same password on multiple websites
  • Do not share your passwords with anyone
  • Create complicated passwords with numbers, upper and lowercase letters and special characters

For more tips on how to create stronger and more secure passwords, click here.

Data Security Breaches at Retailers

Eric Vanderburg

Security breaches and identity theft are becoming an increasing concern for consumers as hackers continue to target large retailers. Target, Sally Beauty Supply, Neiman Marcus, Home Depot, Michaels, Dairy Queen and Kmart are POS Credit Card Machineamong retailers recently hacked. These incidents have resulted in stolen personal information such as phone numbers, addresses, emails, and credit card information. As a result of these breaches, affected consumers are more likely to fall victim to identify theft.

The following is a summary of retailers who recently suffered a data breach. Reports suspect hackers were able to infiltrate these stores by installing malware on their point-of-sale systems. Information was then stolen when credit cards were swiped at the store during checkout. The data stored on the magnetic strip of the credit cards, such as the number and expiration date, was then used to make replicas and sold on the black market.

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Companies with Virtual CSOs get ahead without losing an arm and a leg

Virtual CSOEric Vanderburg

Security remains a complex discipline.  This ever-changing challenge grows in complexity daily as new threats emerge and compliance requirements increase.  Several regulations including HIPAA require organizations to have a person whose role is to ensure compliance within the organization.  This is why organizations need a designated person with primary responsibility for security and compliance.  This person is the Chief Security Officer (CSO).

The Role of a Chief Security Officer

A Chief Security Officer or CSO is first and foremost a business leader in the organization.  He or she sets the organization’s security vision and ensures that it is in line with other business objectives.  The CSO works with other business leaders such as the senior financial manager such as a Chief Financial Officer (CFO), business owner, senior partners, or Chief Executive Officer (CEO), senior IT executive such as the Chief Information Officer (CIO) and Chief Operating Officer (COO) to implement security and compliance initiatives throughout the company.

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Sharing is not always caring

share-dataEric Vanderburg

There are so many ways to share on social media today and users, especially the younger generation, are sharing almost everything.  The problem is that some data is not meant to be shared.  A culture of sharing is developing that can be quite harmful for businesses and the confidential information they hold.  It is even more important in this day and age to educate employees on what they can and cannot share.  Consider implementing a social media policy that specifies sharable data and data that must remain confidential along with sanctions for those who violate the policy.  Make sure that all employees are aware of the policy and why it is in place.  Lastly, make sure the policy is enforced through both technical and procedural controls.

Recent indictments reveal debit card fraud techniques

Credit Card FraudEric Vanderburg

On May 9, 2013, Federal prosecutors issued indictments against eight individuals for hacking and theft.  The case revealed the methods used by hackers to gain access to debit card numbers that were ultimately used to withdraw $45 million.

Hackers gained unauthorized access to credit card processing companies and conducted what hackers term “unlimited operation”.  Unlimited operation is an attack where debit cards account balances and withdrawal limits are removed.  In this case, attackers performed unlimited operation on several prepaid MasterCard debit cards and then distributed the card numbers and pins to groups around the world.  These groups recoded gift cards and hotel entry cards with the stolen card numbers and then coordinated withdrawals from ATM machines.

We have spoken of the increase in coordination of cyber-attacks many times and this is an excellent example.  In a little over two hours on December 22, 2012, the criminals were able to withdraw $400,000 from 140 ATMs across New York City.  A series of thefts in February resulted in the theft of almost $2.4 million in 10 hours and the group is accused of stealing a total of $45 million by following this procedure for different card issuers and locations.

The banks involved in this case might have prevented the theft by monitoring for anomalous behavior such as the excessive use of a card number or the modifications required in unlimited operation attacks.  Anomalous behavior monitoring is valuable no matter where the next attack comes from and it is useful in other industries as well.

Third party information request policies

Data RequestEric Vanderburg

The Electronic Frontier Foundation issued a report on 18 web and technology companies that routinely handle data.  The study looked at the following six security policy and practice areas related to how the company responds to requests for user information.

  • Does the company require a warrant before releasing information?
  • Does the company inform users of requests for data?
  • Are statistics published on how often data is provided to requesting agencies?
  • Does the company have a policy outlining how they respond to information requests?
  • Does the company stand firm when information requests are too broad in scope?
  • Does the company support revisions to electronic privacy laws?

Some of the results of the study are surprising.  Dropbox, Linkedin, Sonic.net and Twitter were some who ranked the highest.  Others such as Amazon, Yahoo, and Apple ranked towards the bottom and Verizon and Myspace were the lowest.

Download the EFF report

Buying or Selling? An Investigation into Craigslist Scams

Eric Vanderburg

It seems no matter where you turn, someone is waiting to rip you off.   Our inboxes drown in spam and phishing messages that attempt to discover bank account information or account credentials.  A large percentage of the banner ads on social networking sites advertise various get rich schemes designed to take money from those tempted by their fantastic claims.  It seems that everywhere we look there is a scam.  Craigslist, a popular classified advertising website, is a great resource for both buyers and sellers.  However, it has its fair share of nefarious individuals committing scams too.  This is the report on an investigation of two scams I recently uncovered on Craigslist.
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Ineffective Security Policy Adherence Results in Another Data Breach

BinderEric Vanderburg

The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) had a mobile device containing 100,000 youth and employee records stolen on January 2, 2013.  The device was unencrypted and not password protected despite a policy by the DJJ requiring both encryption and password protection on mobile devices. This latest breach further demonstrates the importance of encrypting mobile devices but more importantly, it shows that a policy alone is not enough.  Organizations and government agencies need to make sure that employees are aware and adhering to their policies.  Without this, such policies are worthless.

Do you have a mobile device encryption policy?  If so, do you know if employees are following it?  Don’t let this happen to you.