Traditionally, cyber security has been seen as an IT department’s problem. They make sure everyone has antivirus on their PCs and take care of the firewall – and as long as they’re doing it right, then everyone else is safe… right? This has lulled users and business owners into a false sense of security of late, believing that cyber security simply isn’t their area or that it’s not in their job description. However, this attitude is now being taken advantage of in a big way by cyber criminals, who have discovered that individual users are much easier to target and deceive. As a result, users often takes actions which inadvertently allows the hackers to bypass the IT security systems. Traditional antivirus is dead, and even more advanced next-generation antivirus simply can’t stop the most deadly attacks. Now, everyone in an organisation has a part to play in keeping it secure, from the bottom all the way up to the CEO.
In May of this year, the world was shook by a global ransomware attack, the now-infamous WannaCry, which is believed to have affected more than 400,000 machines. It shook the world, crippling business big and small across a wide variety of industries. It utilised a vulnerability in the outdated Windows protocol Server Message Block (SMB) v1, and Microsoft even developed a patch for Windows XP to help defend against it. How could such an attack have caught so many organisations off guard? Well, lack of patching, cited the experts, and lack of security awareness on behalf of their employees. Patch your machines now, train your staff, and you’ll be OK going forward. Then, the following month, it happened again – the world was hit by NotPetya, a ransomware strain believed to have infected a further 250,000 machines around the world. It’s worth noting that both attacks managed to affect PCs in Ireland, and that the second of the two major attacks could have been prevented if these companies had taken appropriate measures following WannaCry.
BadRabbit is the latest in a streak of mass-ransomware attacks this year, and may have been unleashed by the creators of NotPetya
As of this week, yet another strain of mass-ransomware is out in the wild, which has been dubbed BadRabbit. While it doesn’t utilise the same vulnerability as the previous two infections, its modus operandi is very similar in that it relies on both the SMB v1 protocol (which is largely defunct in 2017) and heavy use of social engineering to trick employees into clicking their malicious links. It’s an epidemic, and too few companies are learning the lessons that the cyber and business communities have gleaned from these attacks.
On Monday, it was announced publicly that Wi-Fi security, specifically the WPA2 standard, was essentially broken. The culprit is a bug named KRACK (Key Reinstallation Attack) which takes advantage of fundamental flaws in how WPA2 operates, and has exposed many shortcomings in how the industry responds to such attacks as well. WPA2 (Wi-Fi Protected Access II) is hugely prevalent, as it is the current generation of authentication used on wireless networks. That means that almost every wireless device could be affected by KRACK, as most devices use WPA2. This includes everything from laptops and phones to routers and IoT (Internet of Things)/Smart devices.
KRACK is a Wi-Fi vulnerability with a scope almost impossible to measure, and no easy resolutions. We can only learn from it going forward.
Ransomware has taken the world by storm this year, costing millions for businesses around the world. In the last 12 months alone, the number of ransomware variants spotted in the wild has more than doubled. As its prevalence has increased, so has the complexity of the attacks, and new ways to defend against them have been developed. Microsoft have been known to take the ransomware threat very seriously, even releasing a security patch for the long obsolete Windows XP operating system in the wake of the infamous WannaCry attack back in May. With the realease of the Windows 10 Creators Update (build 1703), now there are even more features built right in to the OS that can prevent and protect against ransomware. In fact, it’s so secure that Microsoft claim no Windows 10 devices were affected by WannaCry.
The Creators Update of Windows 10 is Microsoft’s most secure operating system yet, containing many anti-ransomware features
NIST is the US National Institute of Standards and Technology, and back in 2003, a password primer was written by one of its managers that put forward recommendations, many of which became the rules we have now. Special characters, mixture of upper and lower case letters, regular password changes – these have all been adopted into ‘best practice’ for password security since NIST made these recommendations. Now, however, these complexity guidelines and regular password changes have been repeatedly proven by experts to actually be less secure for companies, due to the work-arounds humans put in place to make remembering password easier. NIST thankfully have released their mistake and have provided updated best practice standards for password security. Why the sudden change of heart, you may ask? Well, over a billion passwords a year are breached by cyber criminals, and the data obtained shows that when presented with a long list of password criteria, people tend to try something basic first and then just tweak it until it fits. For example, ‘password’ becomes ‘Password1’, which may be more mathematically secure, but can be easily guessed instead.
Previously established guidelines are mostly being discarded, in favour of rules that simplify passwords for the user
No one looks forward to those mandatory password changes every few months, as it can be incredibly frustrating to constantly think of new passwords with the right mixture of capital letters, special characters and numbers. In fact, many people try to simplify the process by using a variation of their previous password – ‘Password1’ becomes ‘Password2’, and so on. In fact, the entire basis for issuing new guidelines stems from one simple fact; people can’t remember all the passwords that they have been forced to create, ultimately causing them to create less secure passwords than if they didn’t have to adhere to the guidelines in the first place. So with all that in mind, here’s a breakdown of the new best practices and why they’re easier and more secure: