Hack Attack Continues vs. Businesses and People

While government-sponsored hacking and disinformation makes big news, don’t take your eye your eye off the ball when it comes to protecting your personal and corporate data. A report from a consulting firm, Positive Technologies, painted a dark, dark picture, saying the second quarter of 2018 showed a 47 percent increase over 2017. You need to remain vigilant, even when events are beyond your control. Nobody is immune.

As reported in Tech Republic, Positive Technologies said the most common methods of cyberattack are:

  • Malware (49%), with spyware or remote administration malware being the most widely used forms of infection.
  • Social engineering (25%) is the term for manipulating users into believing a message, link, or attachment is from a trusted source, and then infecting targeted systems with malware, stealing money, or accessing confidential information.
  • Hacking (21%) exploits vulnerabilities in software and hardware, causing the most damage to governments, banks, and cryptocurrency platforms.
  • Credential compromise (19%) targets password managers used for storing and keeping track of passwords.
  • Web attacks (18%) are online racketeering attempts to extort website operators for profit, sometimes by threatening to steal client databases or shut down the website.
  • DDoS (5%) tends to be the weapon of choice for business rivals, disgruntled clients, and hacktivists. Political events can drive attacks on government institutions. Criminals can use DDoS attacks to take websites offline and demand payment from the victims.

Attacks can be made in tandem, such as the common duo of using phishing emails to trick users into downloading malware.

Financial and healthcare institutions, retailers, and government databases remain prime targets, but higher education institutions and even school districts are being attacked. Wired reports that this past March, the Department of Justice indicted nine Iranian hackers in alleged attacks on 144 US universities and 176 in 21 other countries. They were also cited for attacking 47 private companies.

Hackers are homing in on the money. Positive Technologies said targeted attacks are outnumbering mass campaigns, with attacks directed at companies and their clients, as well as cryptocurrency exchanges. Data theft is driving an increasing number of attacks, with many criminals seeking personal data (30%), credentials (22%), and payment card information (15%). To steal this data, hackers are compromising online platforms, including e-commerce websites, online ticketing systems, and hotel booking sites.

The scary part for us is the report you can never be sure that criminals don’t have your credit card number from one source or another. Even a brand-new smartphone in a store can have pre-installed malware.

People and businesses can take steps to keep their data safe by installing updates for operating systems and application software and installing antivirus protection on all systems and endpoints and keeping it up to date.

Businesses can encrypt all sensitive information, perform regular backups, minimize the privileges of users and services as much as possible, and use two-factor authentication. Enforcing a password policy with strict length and complexity requirements, and requiring password changes every 90 days, can also help protect systems.

We offer security audits for businesses, and we can answer any questions individuals have about protecting themselves from cyberattacks. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to set up an appointment.

Behind Last Month’s Internet Breakdown

We’ve harped for years about the inherent conflict of convenience vs. online security. That conflict reared its ugly head during the distributed denial-of-service attacks, using – maybe – millions of computers to hit some of the world’s largest and most popular e-commerce and news websites.

Investigators have been able to pin part of the cause on hackers using IP addresses commandeered from millions of home devices, commonly called IoT (Internet of Things) – such as interior and exterior security cameras, doorbell and baby monitors, thermostats, etc. – that are increasingly popular with consumers. Too many people install them on their Wi-Fi networks and never bother to change default user names or passwords. That just leaves the door wide open to have their devices hijacked and used for malicious purposes.

From our point of view, it’s what happens when we get lazy and sloppy because we are so tuned into convenience. And, a DDoS attack can be the least consequential problem for you, personally. The hacker can gain control of your device and peak into your house at will – and even change your thermostat settings.

Users are not the only sloppy parties in this turn of events. The device manufacturers share the blame because they don’t require you to reset your user name or password as part of the installation process. After all, they don’t want the blame for your inconvenience, and we think that’s wrong. They can require you to reset user names and passwords as part of the installation process.

You can help prevent these DDoS attacks by making sure you change user names and passwords for the devices during the installation process. You can further protect your privacy by making sure your Wi-Fi network has a good, strong password. Too many people leave the default user name and password on their routers, too.

We should note that businesses, including professional services providers, can be just as lax as home users. We’ve had client systems hacked because their system administrators did not set up stronger log-in credentials.

We strongly urge everyone to have somebody look at their networks and IT systems and procedures once or twice a year. This may not be a comfortable analogy for some people, but even though you brush your teeth and floss every day, you still maintain better health when you visit the dentist once or twice a year for a cleaning and exam.

If you avoid the visit because of expense, it’s costlier – and more painful – to fix the problem instead of preventing it. What would be your cost for system downtime and repairing security breaches? Contact us by phone – 973-433-6676 – or email to find out what our security audit would cover for you and to set it up. In today’s world, you can’t afford to overlook any possible weakness.