Tag Archives: cyber attack

Local Governments Cyber Security Crisis in 8 Charts

Within the past few weeks, two large American cities learned that their information systems were hacked. First, Atlanta revealed that it had been the victim of a ransomware attack that took many of the city’s services offline for nearly a week, forcing police to revert to taking written case notes, hampering the Atlanta’s court system and preventing residents from paying water bills online. Then, Baltimore’s 311 and 911 dispatch systems were taken offline for more than 17 hours, forcing dispatchers to log and process requests manually. Both attacks could have been prevented. And they are more evidence of the poor, if not appalling, state of local government cyber security in the United States.

We know this because in 2016, in partnership with the International City/County Management Association, we conducted the first-ever nationwide survey of local government cybersecurity. Among other things, the survey data showed just how poorly local governments practice cybersecurity.

Under near-constant attack, but not fully aware

Nearly half – 44 percent – of all the respondents told us they experience cyberattacks at least daily. Based on prior research, we are confident that rate is actually much higher.

The volume of attacks isn’t dropping – and in some cases it’s increasing.

But even so, many communities didn’t know how frequently they are attacked, and most didn’t count or catalog initial attacks – though more than half did track more serious incidents and breaches.

More than half weren’t able to determine who was attacking their systems.

Unprepared to respond, and with not enough support

Certainly, there are local governments that do a commendable job with cybersecurity. If previous research into government information technology systems and electronic government can be a guide, they are most likely larger, more well-funded and more well-managed governments. However, the data from our more recent survey strongly suggest that at least some, and perhaps even a large fraction of, local governments may be unable to respond to electronic intrusions.

In part this is because few local officials are aware of the need for cybersecurity. Nearly two-thirds of the respondents to the survey, who were nearly all information technology or cybersecurity officials, said that top managers understood the need. However, among other groups in local governments, awareness dropped considerably. Perhaps as a result, support for cybersecurity efforts was also not as strong as Atlanta’s and Baltimore’s experiences suggest it should be.

With most local government officials and staff unaware and unsupportive, it is not surprising that cybersecurity is so poor among American local governments. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms admitted that cybersecurity was not a high priority, although “it certainly has gone to the front of the line.”

And yet, crucial barriers remain, largely to do with how much money is allocated to cybersecurity efforts.

Getting more people in the know

If local officials are going to do a better job protecting their information assets, they’ll first need to know a lot more about what’s actually happening. The numbers of survey respondents who answered “Don’t know” to our questions was surprisingly high. No top local officials, whether elected or appointed, should be unaware of basic cybersecurity information, like whether their systems have been attacked or breached, or who’s attacking their systems and why.

Knowing these answers will only become more critical as computing becomes more deeply embedded in systems running “smart” cities. If computers control traffic lights, sewage plants and electrical grids, then the consequence of attacks is more severe than just loss of information or computer services.

Source: Norris, Donald, et al. “Local Governments’ Cybersecurity Crisis in 8 Charts.” The Conversation, 3 May 2018, theconversation.com/local-governments-cybersecurity-crisis-in-8-charts-94240.

This article was originally published by The Conversation. See here

Fight Back! How to Scam an Email Scammer

Wouldn’t it be nice if the Nigerian Prince that just so happened to email you would actually deliver on his promise of depositing that “$2,000,000 USD” into your bank account? Hopefully you know that this is just a scam to steal your financial information, however, many people around the world have fallen into the traps of these phishing emails.

“The idea is to waste their time and make it impossible for scammers to turn out a profit, it also delivers satisfying karma and allows you to scam a scam.”

These scams are so well known that they do not fool many people anymore, but it can be quite annoying when we receive these emails. If you’re one of those people that enjoy a good prank and like to humor an obvious scam, then look no further. A new service from NetSafe called Re:Scam can help you waste the time of email scammers to prevent them from moving forward to another victim. So just how does this service waste the time of “Nigerian Princes” and “UN Bureaucrats”? In the funniest way possible.

Re:Scam is a AI-powered chatbot designed to draw out the conversation and exchange as long as possible. All you do is forward an email from a scammer to me@rescam.org, the chatbot then uses a proxy email address to communicate with the crook. The idea is to waste their time and make it impossible for scammers to turn out a profit, it also delivers satisfying karma and allows you to scam a scam. Some of the funniest interactions go something like this:

Scammer: “Do you wish to be a member of the great Illuminati family? Do you want to be payment $5,000,000 weekly? Let us now if you are interested in success.”

Chatbot: “Dear Illuminati, What a wonderful surprise. I’d love to join your secret club. Do you do a bingo night?”

Scammer: There is not bingo night. Please complete attached form with bank details for your receive full payment of 5 million.

Chatbot: Terrific! But to avoid detection I’m going to send my bank account details through one number at a time.  Ready? 4.

Scammer: “This is not necessary”

Chatbot: “7”

The full video from Netsafe can be found here

The video mentions that email scamming is a billion dollar industry, and it is time to fight back with a sort of eye for eye treatment. If these scammers are going to try to waste our time we might as well waste theirs. If everyone began using this service we can help prevent them from moving forward and soon enough stop these emails by making these scams completely useless to attempt.

 

Shut Off Your Bluetooth When You’re Not Using It!

Privacy and security seems to always be on everyone’s mind today. Intuitively we are always making sure our homes are locked before we leave and that our cars when left aren’t vulnerable to any intruders. Just like our homes and cars, we keep our technological devices secure and locked with some sort of authentication, but they too have a variety of different entrances for an intruder to sneak their way in.

The most popular digital entrance into a electronic device today is through its Wifi. We have all heard of the horror stories of connecting to a wrong network in a public place and having your personal information stolen. But few people think about how their Bluetooth can be effected. Minimizing your Bluetooth usage minimizes your exposure to the vulnerabilities. Most recently, an attack called BlueBorne allows for any affected device with Bluetooth turned on to be attacked through a series of vulnerabilities. These vulnerabilities don’t stem from the Bluetooth itself but the implementation in all the of the software including Windows, Andriod, Linux and iOS. This potentially puts millions at risk.

 

The Blueborn attack starts by going through the process by scanning devices with Bluetooth on, it then starts probing them for information such as device type and operating system to see if they have the vulnerabilities it can latch on to. The Blueborn bug can allow hackers to take control of a device and access private information. This attack can also spread from device to device in one motion if other vulnerable Bluetooth enabled targets are nearby.

The best defense against this Bluetooth security flaw is to make sure your device system is always updated with the latest software and firmware. This make sure there are no vulnerabilities in the implementation of Bluetooth within your operating system. Bluetooth does many amazing things that seem almost magical and the benefits outweigh the calculated risk of turning it on. However when not in use it is best to make sure to keep your Bluetooth setting off and use it when you know you are in a safe and secure area.

Supply Chain Cyber Attack Infects 2.3 Million Users

Hacking comes in many forms, recently the trend in cyber crime has hackers going directly for the supply chain within an organization. The supply chain is a system of activities involved in handling, distributing, manufacturing and processing goods in order to move resources from a vendor into the hands of a final consumer. In reference to cyber-security, a supply chain attack involves tampering with the companies network in order to install malware that brings harm further down the supply chain.

One of the most popular supply chain attacks was data breach that occurred to the retail giant Target in 2013, Over 40 million customers credit card and debit cards were compromised after malware infiltrated one of Target’s third party suppliers and gained access to Targets main data network.

Recently, a computer cleaning software was compromised and left any user who downloaded the software between August 15th and September 12th with malware on their computer. CCleaner is an application that scans your PC for malware and junk files and cleans it up to work at maximum performance. It is an extremely popular software that has over 2 billion downloads, and ironically has caused the problem it tries to prevent. CCleaner was compromised when some unknown hackers infiltrated the download servers to the application and replaced the original version of the software with the malicious one and distributed it to millions of users for a month. The company that own the software is now recommending users to update their software to the latest version to protect their computer from being compromised.

These event have happened all to often, and can affect such a large group of users. These events are particularly a cause for concern to business owners. If your business computers are not being monitored and one of your employees accidentally downloads malicious software unknowingly, all of your important business data is now compromised. Not only is your data at risk, now your business if loosing precious hours trying to fix the problem and recovering from the cyber attack instead of focusing on your core business activities. These event could plummet employee productivity and could end up costing the business money that it simply cannot afford to lose. Be sure to always monitor end user activity and maintain backups of your important data.

 

 

Equifax Breach! Get the Facts

On September 7th the consumer credit reporting giant, Equifax, announced a cyber security incident that could have potentially impacted over 143 million U.S. consumers. The company discovered the unauthorized access on July 29th of this year and believes it may have been occurring from mid- May through July 2017. The information accessed includes names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and driver’s license numbers as well as credit card numbers for over 209,000 U.S. consumers.

Now before the panic ensues, the company acted immediately to stop the intrusion and utilized the help of an independent cyber security firm to conduct an in depth forensic review to determine the impact of the breach. While Equifax reported unauthorized access to limited personal information for some U.K and Canadian residents, the company found no evidence that personal information of consumers in other countries have been impacted. There was also NO evidence of unauthorized access to core consumers or commercial credit reporting databases.

If this issue concerns you, or you think you may have been one of those consumers effected, Equifax has launched a website dedicated to informing users if their information could have been impacted. Which can be found here.  On this site Equifax offers an opportunity to find out if your information was potentially hacked into as well as a chance to enroll in their TrustedID Premier, that the company is offering to every US Consumer for free for a year. This service includes 3-Bureau credit monitoring of Equifax, Experian and Transunion credit reports, copies of Equifax credit reports, the ability to lock and unlock Equifax credit reports, identity theft insurance and Internet scanning for social security numbers.

This incident is not the first of its kind and will sadly not be the last. It is important for consumers to protect themselves as much as they can when handling their personal information online. This breach is also a lesson to all businesses, no matter how big or small that their IT security is one of the most important aspects to their business and core activities. A situation like this can leave a bad stigma on your businesses reputation for the future. The CEO of Equifax stated, “Confronting cybersecurity risks is a daily fight. While we’ve made significant investments in data security, we recognize we must do more. And we will.”

How to Identify a Phishing Email

You wake up and like many of us today, you immediately check your phone. Scrolling through your email you see a message in your inbox that reads “Microsoft account security alert” this email then goes on to explain how someone might have accessed your account and how they may have your password and access to personal information. The email then contains a button you can click through to “recover your account”. This email looks a little something like this.

Seems normal enough right? WRONG. This email contains an abundance of red flags that to someone not so tech savvy could fall victim to. This email is meant to be malicious and ironically while it is trying to get you worried about your information getting hacked into. It is trying to hack into your information. Let’s dive into what these red flags are so that others do not fall victims to these malicious emails.

To begin with, this email claims it is from the Microsoft team, however within the email itself we see no Microsoft branding of any kind, and is overall poorly designed. The next indicator of suspicious activity is that the email keeps mentioning a Microsoft account has been accessed, but shows a Yahoo email address. The person who received this email knew that their email address was not registered with any Microsoft account, especially being that they were a Mac only user. There was also not enough characters or asterisks that reflected any email this user had.

This is just one example of a phishing email and there are many more, some are formatted well, others are blatantly a scam, but paying close attention and really evaluating each point the email is trying to make is extremely important. Be sure to be on the lookout for other signs such as:

  1.  You are asked to send money to cover expenses.
  2. The message asks for personal information.
  3. The message contains poor spelling and grammar.
  4. The email contains mismatched URL’s.
  5. The offer of the email seems too good to be true.

Finally, if something in that email just does not seem right to you, there is most likely a reason why and immediately. If an email looks suspicious and catches you off guard or does not relate to any recent activity you have done online, it is best to not act upon that email and flag it as spam and delete the email immediately. Clicking through could cause major issues to your computer system or others if it happens in your workplace. Be sure to always be attentive, be curious and ask questions and stay protected!

 

My Coffee Machine Got Hacked

In today’s world it seems like anything can fall victim to a cyber attack. We all know that a computer, wireless network, server, (etc.) can be compromised. Now imagine that you’re at work and you see a ransomware message on your coffee machine’s screen. That’s right… a COFFEE MACHINE. This may sound ridiculous but it did happen and could happen to any workplace. Bet you didn’t know ransomware is now a part of the new continental breakfast.

A chemical engineer with a degree in computer science posted this instance on Reddit and explained exactly what happened that led to this attack on their workplace coffee machine. It all began when a factory worker encountered a ransomware message on his computer, he then called the help desk to get the issue resolved and stepped out to grab a cup of coffee. The worker then noticed the same message on the coffee machine’s screen. Now, this ransomware did not just shut down the employee coffee supply and hold it for ransom (which, that would be a whole other nightmare),this ransomware spread throughout the factory and shut down factory systems. So how did this all happen?

Coffee machines are supposed to be connected to their own isolated WiFi network, the person who was installing the network made the mistake of connecting it to the internal control room network, when they noticed the coffee machine still wasn’t getting internet they then connected it to the isolated WiFi network. While a hacker was poking around in their systems they noticed that huge security fall and managed to squirm their way into the system and gridlock the entire factory network.

A coffee machine is not the only issue, practically any computer- implemented or computer enabled device can be compromised, this then leads to a wild search for what else is connected to that same network that could also become infected? Network vulnerability is like a screen door. If you do not pay attention and their is the tiniest hole in the screen somehow at least one fly will manage its way through and get into your home.

Being proactive and making sure your systems are always being monitored for any issues is very important. Implementing the right security precautions and making sure your network is sealed tight is the only way to prevent malware from grid locking your network. Finally, please make sure your office coffee machine is installed properly!