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.
Social Engineering is the art of manipulating, influencing, or deceiving you in order to gain control over your computer system. The hacker might use the phone, email, snail mail or direct contact to gain illegal access. Phishing, spear-phishing and CEO Fraud are all examples.
Hoes does it work? It is often as simple as an email asking you to view an invoice, check out suspicious logins on your account, or even update your password. Cyber criminals will make these emails look as legitimate as possible, and then use social engineering to convince you to carry out the action without second-guessing the action. In more advances attack, such as spear-phishing, the emails may even appear to come from within your organisation. All of this is to convince you to do something that would allow hackers to infect your PC with ransomware or other forms of malware. Often, criminals will attempt to convince you that their email is ‘urgent’, and that something bad will happen if you do not click the link, such as you being locked out of one of your accounts. This tone of urgency is a classic social engineering ploy, and is big factor to look out for when you suspect an email may not be legitimate.
Remember: Always Think Before You Click
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 It utilised a vulnerability in the outdated Windows protocol Server Message Block (SMB) v1, and Microsoft even developed a patch for Windows XP to help defend against it.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.
Data transfer between the EU and US had come under fire in the Irish courts, due to a dispute in the clause Facebook Ireland uses to send data back to its international parent, Facebook US. EU data protection and privacy laws are among the strongest in the world, and as such, any data pertaining to EU citizens cannot be transferred outside Europe without strong assurances in place that the data will be processed under EU-compliant terms. While the US data protection laws are considered inadequate for European data, many international tech companies circumvent this using a model known as “standard contractual clauses”, whereby the parent company (Facebook US, in this example) enters into a contract with their EU subsidiary (Facebook Ireland) which pledges to meet the EU’s strict rules. Ireland is home to the European headquarters of 9 out of 10 of the of the world’s largest social media companies, and standard contractual clauses have been considered legally acceptable by the EU since 2001.