Tag Archive | Hackers

You’re the Next President

Sounds awesome, doesn’t it?

Unfortunately, I’m not talking about getting you elected to the highest, most powerful office in the world.

No, sadly I’m talking about the likelihood that your e-mail will get hacked and pictures of you in the shower will show up on the Interwebz.

Ask yourself when was the last time you sent an e-mail that you didn’t want anyone else to see? It may have been complaints about your boss, or sweet nothings to your girlfriend. It could have been tax or financial information, or perhaps something about a medical issue.Bush

And you probably keep e-mail around forever, right?

I’ve seen people with thousands of e-mails still in their Inbox. They didn’t think to move them to another folder or delete them after they read them.

Receipts from online purchases. New account registrations and password changes. They just sit there like little gold nuggets, waiting for a miner.

The reality is, we all do it. Just like Ashton Kutcher, Sarah Palin and Lindsay Lohan, we normal people use e-mail for just about everything. And few truly think about or understand just how sensitive, or critical e-mail has become.

Until their undergiblets show up in a Google images search.

So take a moment today to manage that risk down a little. If your e-mail is compromised it probably exposes a whole pile of other things.

Make sure you have a good password. If your e-mail service offers multi-factor authentication (SMS, token, etc.), consider it. Delete e-mail that you don’t need anymore. Think about the things that you send through e-mail before you send them – if they ended up in the wrong hands would you be OK with it?

Because it may sound awesome, but you don’t want to be the next President.

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Election Day Security

I feel proud today.

Like apple pie, hot dogs and online bank fraud, nothing is more American than personally selecting (kinda) the next President of the United States. And doing it in the hometown of Uncle Sam makes it that much more special.

But lately I’ve become more concerned about the integrity of my vote.

My concern is not with the security of the voting machines. There are only a few different types of electronic voting machines, including optical scanners and direct recording machines, where voters press buttons that are digitally recorded. And both types of machines have been compromised on numerous occasions.

In one case the voting machine was so vulnerable researchers were able to install Pac-Man on it. One team member was quoted, saying that it only required an 8th-grade education and $10.50 to hack the machine.

We also know that the networks, storage and computers that the machines rely on are vulnerable. As are the people involved in the voting process.

But this is not my concern.

What I find most worrisome is, if and when it happens, how will we know?

Happy voting America.

Why Hackers are Winning

Last week’s SC Congress in New York City was short and sweet. The one-day security conference focused on emerging threats and case studies, including Barnes and Noble, Tyco and HSBC. There were several hundred in attendance. The multi-grain tunafish box lunch was delightful.

Among my favorite presenters was Mark Clancey, the CISO for the Depository Trust and Clearing Corporation (DTCC). You’ve never heard of this organization, but you use them every day. In fact, we all do. DTCC provides clearing and settlement for equities, bonds and securities for the US and 121 other countries. In 2009, DTCC settled more than $1.48 quadrillion in securities transactions. Yes folks, that was not a misprint. The number is so big that they had to make up a name for it.

In his talk he described the information security challenges they face, which are understandably different from most. Asked what he considered to be his greatest security hurdle, he responded “information sharing”. He went on to describe DTCC’s relationship with the FBI, the FS-ISAC and other information sharing organizations, and the difficulties they face. We’ve seen this problem cited countless times before, including its roots in 9-11. He closed by saying that “hackers communicate better than we do”.

Bold.

But is this why we’re losing the war on cybercrime? As I wandered off, deep in thought it occurred to me that there may be other areas where hackers are outperforming us. Perhaps it wasn’t their cunning, but rather their ability to understand business, strategy and process that was their advantage? Sitting and waiting for the coffee break I came up with the following possibilities:

  1. Hackers don’t burden themselves with compliance – It may sound silly, but there are entire industries causing victimized organizations to become distracted from the real goal. Compliance regulations have good intentions, but applied in the wrong context or culture they can be counter-productive. Hackers get the job done in the most efficient and cost-effective way, without cycles spent on annual reporting or scans.
  2. Hackers don’t rely on technology – The tools in use by today’s hackers are simple and effective and are geared towards ROI. While no doubt a successful attack my require a reliable rootkit, if the one they’re currently using doesn’t work, they’re not afraid to move to an alternative. Technology is a means to an end, not a religion. And it’s generally inexpensive to make and support.
  3. Hackers know their risks – Whether you’re a hacker, hacktivist or corporate spy, the priority is not getting caught and they put lots of wood behind this arrowhead. The numbers speak for themselves; today there are roughly three million people incarcerated in the US (it typically runs at 1% of the population). In 2011, the FBI caught (not convicted) but 17 US citizens for computer-related crimes (the total is a measly 35 globally). The value of banks being robbed by gun is dwarfed by the value of banks being robbed by computer. You do the math.
  4. Hackers don’t use default passwords – While I remember only bits and pieces of this story, the morale still rings true. The FBI, along with their foreign counterparts in Estonia were working to extradite an alleged cybercriminal, his laptops and other computer equipment. The suspect, after being worked over for weeks by the Federali, finally handed his laptop encryption password over – it was a passphrase nearly 300 characters long.
  5. Hackers don’t have sensitive data – Sure it’s true that they have an asset that they’re generally trying to protect, but if they lose it or it’s stolen they know where to get more. Besides, is it really sensitive if it’s not even theirs? In addition, there are no HR databases. No credit card transactions (not on their own cards, at least). Hackers could teach us CISSPs a thing or two about reducing our attack surface.
  6. Hackers don’t trust – Aliases. Onion routing. Offline couriers. Money mules. There is no trust in hacking. This is essential to their survival.

Now this list shouldn’t imply that there aren’t idiot hackers out there throwing up pictures of their new Porsche (complete with Russian license plates and geotags) on torrents once in a while, but we don’t hear about those incidents all that often. The reality is, when it comes to Operational Security (OPSEC), hackers are beating us like a барабанчик.

We often recommend to clients that they “think like hackers” when developing their security programs. The idea comes from Sun Tzu – in knowing their attacker, they can best develop their security measures.

Perhaps we should also suggest that clients look to hackers when developing their business plan.

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