Category Archives: COVID-19

Top Tips For Home Cybersecurity And Privacy In A Coronavirus-Impacted World

Welcome to the new normal. We’re all now living in a post-COVID-19 world characterized by uncertainty, mass home working and remote learning. The lines demarcating normal life have shifted abruptly – perhaps never to return. That’s not the worst that can happen, as we all know, but it does mean we all need to get used to new ways of living, working and studying from home. This has major implications for the online safety, security and privacy of our families.

To help you adapt to these new conditions while protecting what matters most, Trend Micro has developed a two-part blog series on “The New Normal.” Part 1 identifies the scope and specific cyber-threats of the new normal. Part 2 provides security tips and products to help address those threats.

What’s going on?

In April, nearly 300 million Americans were estimated to be in government-mandated lockdown. Even as some businesses, municipalities and states begin to relax these rules, experts have warned of subsequent waves of the virus, which could result in new localized lockdowns. In short, a lot of people will continue to work from home, while their children, also at home, attempt to study remotely from their mobile devices.

This has considerable implications for how we spend our time. Without that morning commute to work or school, more of it than ever will involve sitting in front of a desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone screen. Even the smart TV is enlisted. Dangers include

  • Use of potentially insecure video conferencing applications. The number of daily meeting participants on Zoom surged from 10 million in December 2019 to roughly 200 million in March.
  • Visits to P2P/torrent sites or platforms for adult content. In search of entertainment, bored kids or teens in your household may have more time and inclination to do this.
  • Downloads of potentially malicious applications disguised as legitimate entertainment or gaming content.
  • More online shopping and banking. June alone generated $73.2 billion in online spend, up 76.2% year-on-year. Whenever you shop or bank online, financial data is potentially exposed.
  • Use of potentially insecure remote learning platforms. Educational mobile app downloads increased by a massive 1087% between March 2 and 16. The trend continues.
  • Logging on to corporate cloud-based services. This includes Office 365, to do your job remotely, or using a VPN to connect directly into the office.
  • For recreation, streaming and browsing on your smart TV. But even your smart TV is vulnerable to threats, as the FBI has warned.

Risky behavior

Unfortunately, the increase in working from home (WFH), especially for those not used to it, may lead to an increase in risky behavior, such as: using non-approved apps for work; visiting non work-related sites on work devices; and using personal devices to access work resources. Recent global Trend Micro research found that:

  • 80% have used their work laptop for personal browsing, with only 36% fully restricting the sites they visit.
  • 56% of employees have used a non-work app on a corporate device, and 66% have uploaded corporate data to it.
  • 39% often or always access corporate data from a personal device.
  • 8% admit to watching adult content on their work laptop, and 7% access the dark web.

This is not about restricting your freedom to visit the sites you want to visit while at home. It’s about reducing the risk of exposing corporate data and systems to possible malware.

What are the bad guys doing?

Unsurprisingly, there has also been a major uptick in the volume of cyber-threats targeting home users. With a captive audience to aim at, it’s a huge opportunity for cyber-criminals to steal your log-ins and personal data to sell to fraudsters, or even to steal corporate passwords and information for a potentially bigger pay-off. They are helped by the fact that many home workers may be more distracted than they usually would be at the office, especially if they have young children. Your kids may even share the same laptops or PCs as you, potentially visiting risky sites and/or downloading unapproved apps.

There’s also a chance that, unless you have a corporate machine at home, your personal computing equipment is less secure than the kit you had in the office. Add to that the fact that support from the IT department may be less forthcoming than usual, given that stretched teams are overwhelmed with requests, while themselves struggling to WFH. One recent report claimed that nearly half (47%) of IT security pros have been taken off some or all of their typical security tasks to support other IT-related jobs. In another, only 59% of respondents said they believe their cybersecurity team has the right tools and resources at home to perform their job effectively.

It’s time to step up and take security into your own hands. Stay on the lookout for the following threats.

  • Unsecured home routers and smart devices might be hijacked in more sophisticated attacks designed to steal data from corporate networks via the home worker.
  • Phishing attacks spoofing well-known brands or using COVID-19 information/news as a lure. Google is blocking 18 million malicious pandemic-themed emails every day. The end goal may be to hijack your online consumer accounts (Netflix, banking, email, online shopping) or work accounts. Other phishing emails are designed to install data-stealing malware, ransomware and other threats.
  • Attackers may target vulnerabilities in your home PCs and the apps you’re using (video conferencing etc) to gain remote access.
  • Business Email Compromise (BEC) attackers may try to leverage the lack of internal communications between remote workers to impersonate senior execs via email, and trick finance team members into wiring corporate funds abroad.
  • Kids exposing home networks and devices to malware on torrent sites, in mobile apps, on social media, and via phishing attacks potentially imitating remote learning/video conferencing platforms.
  • Kids searching for adult/inappropriate content, and/or those that are bored and over-share on social media. Unicef has warned that millions of children are at increased of online harm as lockdown means they spend more of their days online.
  • Mobile apps represent a potential source of malware, especially those found on unofficial app stores. There has also been a reported 51% rise in stalkerware – covert surveillance apps used by domestic abusers and stalkers to target victims.
  • The pandemic has led to a surge in e-commerce fraud where consumers are tricked into buying non-existent products or counterfeit goods including medical items.

So what’s a remote worker/concerned parent to do to protect themselves and the family in the midst of the “new normal?”

Read Part 2 in this mini-series, which we’re publishing simultaneously with Part 1, where we share some best practice advice on how to keep your digital lives and work systems safe from online threats during lockdown—and where we provide tools to help you do just that.

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Top Tips For Home Cybersecurity And Privacy In A Coronavirus-Impacted World (part 2)

The past few months have seen radical changes to our work and home life under the Coronavirus threat, upending norms and confining millions of American families within just four walls. In this context, it’s not surprising that more of us are spending an increasing portion of our lives online. But this brings with it some familiar cyber-risks. In Part 1 of this mini-series, we explained how cyber-criminals are looking to capitalize on these sweeping changes to society to further their own ends.

Now let’s take a look at what you can do to protect your family, your data, and access to your corporate accounts.

How you can stay safe online

The bad guys are laser-focused on stealing your personal data and log-ins and increasingly see the remote worker as an easy target for leapfrogging into corporate networks. That’s not to mention the potential internet safety risks inherent in bored kids spending more time in front of their screens. To respond, you’ll need to create an equally focused “home security plan” governed by sensible policies and best practices. Here are some of the key areas to consider.

Protect your smart home and router

Increasingly, unprotected smart home devices are being targeted by cyber-criminals to turn into botnets to attack others. They might also provide sophisticated attackers with a stepping-stone into your corporate systems, via the home network. The home router, with its known flaws, is (after the modem) the digital front door to the smart home and the basis for your networking, so it should be first in any security strategy. Consider the following when tackling home network security:

  • Regularly check for router firmware updates and apply as soon as they’re available. (If you’re using a home gateway (modem + router) firmware updates are done by your ISP, so you won’t have the option to do this.)
  • Change factory default admin passwords and switch on two-factor authentication if available.
  • Disable UPnP and any remote management features.
  • Use WPA2 on your router for encrypted Wi-Fi. Pick passwords for access that aren’t easily guessed.
  • Put the router in middle of house if possible, so the signal is not overly exposed to strangers outside. Likewise for extenders.
  • Invest in security for the entire home network from a reputable provider like Trend Micro.

Secure your home office

Cyber-criminals are primed to take advantage of distracted home workers and potentially less secure PCs/devices. Secure this environment by doing the following:

  • Again, apply a home network security solution. This protects your work devices, while also protecting the devices you use for recreation.
  • Apply any security updates to OS/software.
  • Install/maintain endpoint security software on all machines/devices.
  • Never use work laptops for personal use.
  • Switch on 2FA for any work accounts.
  • Use a VPN if applicable whenever connecting to the office.
  • Stay alert to phishing/BEC attempts.
  • Take advantage of any training courses to stay up-to-speed on the latest scams.
  • Disable macros in Office files – these are often used by hackers to run malware.

Stay safe from phishing

Phishing is the number one tactic used by attackers to trick you into installing malware or handing over your log-ins. Emails, text messages, social media messages and more are spoofed to appear as if sent by a legitimate company or contact. In response:

  • Be cautious of any unsolicited emails/texts/messages even if they appear legitimate.
  • Don’t click on any links/buttons in unsolicited messages, or download attachments.
  • Check directly with the sender rather than clicking through links or buttons provided or entering any confidential details.
  • Invest in cybersecurity tools from a trusted vendor like Trend Micro, to spot and block scam emails and malicious downloads/websites.

Use video conferencing safely

New videoconferencing platforms can introduce risk, especially if you’re not familiar with the default settings. Here’s how to stay safe when video conferencing:

  • Check first for end-to-end encryption.
  • Only download videoconferencing apps from official iOS/Android stores and manufacturer websites.
  • Get familiar with privacy settings. Switch off camera access if you don’t want to appear on-screen.
  • Ensure you’re always on the latest software version.
  • Never click on links/open attachments in messages from unknown contacts.
  • Use a password manager to store long and strong log-ins, and switch on two-factor authentication (2FA) if available.

Stay safe shopping and banking

Next, protect your financial information and stay safe from e-commerce fraud by doing the following:

  • Install AV on all PCs and devices.
  • Always use the latest browser versions and HTTPS sites.
  • Never click through on sensational promos or ads on social media/in emails. Always visit the site directly.
  • Always be cautious: if special offers seem too good to be true, they usually are.
  • Use a secure browser, password manager, and 2FA in your online accounts.
  • Use a VPN app on any device you use to shop or bank.

Think about online safety for kids

They may be under your roof for more hours of the day than usual, but your children are also likely to be spending more time online. That means you need to have a measured conversation with them about internet safety, backed up with parental controls. Consider the following:

  • Urge your kids to think before clicking, and before sharing on social media.
  • Make sure you have installed anti-malware from a reputable vendor on all their devices.
  • Look for security products that check/update their social media privacy settings.
  • Discourage or block downloads from P2P sites.
  • Set up parental controls to block inappropriate content and/or to regulate screen time and time on certain sites or with certain apps. Then set up admin protections, so they can’t change the settings.
  • Share your concerns around sexting.

Mobile security best practices
Finally, sheltering at home has limits, particularly for restless kids. When they go to the store or out to the park, facemasks notwithstanding, they’re likely going to use their mobile devices, just as they’ll continue to do at home. Of course, you’re not exempt either from mobile threats. Ensure mobile security by

  • Sticking to the official Google Play and App Store marketplaces. Enforce this through smart settings on your children’s phones.
  • Running anti-malware on your mobile device, from a reputable company like Trend Micro.
  • Ensuring your family’s devices are using the latest OS version.
  • Ensuring your family devices have remote lock and wipe feature switched on, in case they’re lost or stolen.
  • Never brick or jailbreak the device, as this can expose it to security risks.

How Trend Micro can help

When it comes to protecting the home from security and privacy threats during lockdown, leave no stone unturned. Cyber-criminals will always look for the weak link in the chain and focus their efforts there. Network security is important, but it doesn’t replace the need for protection on each individual device. You’ll need to cover your router, network, smart devices, and all endpoints (PCs, laptops, mobiles and other devices). Here’s how Trend Micro can help:

Trend Micro Home Network Security

Trend Micro Home Network Security provides industry-leading protection against any threats to internet-connected devices in the home. The solution

  • Blocks dangerous file downloads during web browsing to stop ransomware, data theft, phishing, and other malware. Blocks remote access applications.
  • Protects all smart devices, such as smart TVs, thermostats, security cameras, etc., that don’t have their own security solutions.
  • Parental Controls and Guardian allow parents to track and restrict their children’s internet usage at home and on-the-go, which could free-up bandwidth for important conference calls.

Trend Micro Security (PC and Mac)

Trend Micro Security, available in various editions (led by Trend Micro Maximum Security), is Trend’s flagship endpoint security product for consumers. Available for both PCs and Macs, it features AI learning to stop advanced threats. Among a wide range of protections, it includes:

  • Web Threat Protection when browsing the internet, defending you against bad websites that can steal your data or download malicious files.
  • Machine Learning, to protect you from new and unknown threats.
  • Ransomware protection via Folder Shield, to stop unauthorized changes and back-up files encrypted by suspicious programs.
  • Anti-phishing and anti-spam protection for Outlook clients, as well as Gmail and Outlook webmail on the PC, and Gmail webmail on the Mac.
  • Privacy Scanner (for Facebook and Twitter), Social Networking Protection for protection against malicious links in social networks, Pay Guard for protecting your online banking and buying.
  • Parental Controls to limit which software and websites you kids may use.

Trend Micro Mobile Security:

Trend Micro Mobile Security provides endpoint security for all your mobile devices, whether Android or iOS-based.

  • Blocks dangerous websites and app downloads.
  • Helps protects your privacy on Twitter and Facebook.
  • Protects your kids’ devices.
  • Guards against identity theft.
  • Optimizes your device’s performance.

Additional Trend Micro Tools:

Network and endpoint security should be supplemented with tools that accomplish specific tasks, such as protecting your internet connections, your passwords, and your identity data. Trend Micro provides

  • Wi-Fi Protection/VPN Proxy One Mac | iOS. VPNs with an emphasis on web threat protection or privacy, respectively. The first is available on all four platforms; the second is targeted for Apple devices.
  • Password Manager. Manages and encrypts your passwords, and automates your logins, while ensuring you use unique, strong passwords across all of your online accounts.
  • ID Security. Tracks your credentials, particularly the ones you use for buying and banking, to see if breaches of any of your identity data have led to their sale on the Dark Web. Notifies you when it has, so you can take steps to protect it.
  • Premium Services. Parents working from home are not expected to be IT or Security experts, so now’s the time to ensure professional help is around when you need it by signing up for one of Trend Micro’s premium service packages for help configuring, troubleshooting, optimizing, and disinfecting your devices if they get infected.

Maintaining your family’s security and privacy on all their devices during the coronavirus lockdown above all means changing your mindset, to take into account the mix of work and play in the household during the “new normal.” Use these tips and tools during lockdown and you’ll be well on your way to ensuring you and your family’s safety from malicious viruses—both digital and natural.

The post Top Tips For Home Cybersecurity And Privacy In A Coronavirus-Impacted World (part 2) appeared first on .

Explaining ‘bikeshedding’: When trivial things waste meeting time – The Globe and Mail

Although we have more time management tools and techniques than ever, we’re still prone to a classic pitfall: law of triviality. Unfamiliarity with the term? Don’t fret. The law of triviality, also casually known as “Bikeshedding”, simply states that too much time is squandered on simple problems. Author and historian C. Northcote Parkinson, who created…

Hacked Data Broker Accounts Fueled Phony COVID Loans, Unemployment Claims

A group of thieves thought to be responsible for collecting millions in fraudulent small business loans and unemployment insurance benefits from COVID-19 economic relief efforts gathered personal data on people and businesses they were impersonating by leveraging several compromised accounts at a little-known U.S. consumer data broker, KrebsOnSecurity has learned.

In June, KrebsOnSecurity was contacted by a cybersecurity researcher who discovered that a group of scammers was sharing highly detailed personal and financial records on Americans via a free web-based email service that allows anyone who knows an account’s username to view all email sent to that account — without the need of a password.

The source, who asked not to be identified in this story, said he’s been monitoring the group’s communications for several weeks and sharing the information with state and federal authorities in a bid to disrupt their fraudulent activity.

The source said the group appears to consist of several hundred individuals who collectively have stolen tens of millions of dollars from U.S. state and federal treasuries via phony loan applications with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and through fraudulent unemployment insurance claims made against several states.

KrebsOnSecurity reviewed dozens of emails the fraud group exchanged, and noticed that a great many consumer records they shared carried a notation indicating they were cut and pasted from the output of queries made at Interactive Data LLC, a Florida-based data analytics company.

Interactive Data, also known as IDIdata.com, markets access to a “massive data repository” on U.S. consumers to a range of clients, including law enforcement officials, debt recovery professionals, and anti-fraud and compliance personnel at a variety of organizations.

The consumer dossiers obtained from IDI and shared by the fraudsters include a staggering amount of sensitive data, including:

-full Social Security number and date of birth;
-current and all known previous physical addresses;
-all known current and past mobile and home phone numbers;
-the names of any relatives and known associates;
-all known associated email addresses
-IP addresses and dates tied to the consumer’s online activities;
-vehicle registration, and property ownership information
-available lines of credit and amounts, and dates they were opened
-bankruptcies, liens, judgments, foreclosures and business affiliations

Reached via phone, IDI Holdings CEO Derek Dubner acknowledged that a review of the consumer records sampled from the fraud group’s shared communications indicates “a handful” of authorized IDI customer accounts had been compromised.

“We identified a handful of legitimate businesses who are customers that may have experienced a breach,” Dubner said.

Dubner said all customers are required to use multi-factor authentication, and that everyone applying for access to its services undergoes a rigorous vetting process.

“We absolutely credential businesses and have several ways do that and exceed the gold standard, which is following some of the credit bureau guidelines,” he said. “We validate the identity of those applying [for access], check with the applicant’s state licensor and individual licenses.”

Citing an ongoing law enforcement investigation into the matter, Dubner declined to say if the company knew for how long the handful of customer accounts were compromised, or how many consumer records were looked up via those stolen accounts.

“We are communicating with law enforcement about it,” he said. “There isn’t much more I can share because we don’t want to impede the investigation.”

The source told KrebsOnSecurity he’s identified more than 2,000 people whose SSNs, DoBs and other data were used by the fraud gang to file for unemployment insurance benefits and SBA loans, and that a single payday can land the thieves $20,000 or more. In addition, he said, it seems clear that the fraudsters are recycling stolen identities to file phony unemployment insurance claims in multiple states.

ANALYSIS

Hacked or ill-gotten accounts at consumer data brokers have fueled ID theft and identity theft services of various sorts for years. In 2013, KrebsOnSecurity broke the news that the U.S. Secret Service had arrested a 24-year-old man named Hieu Minh Ngo for running an identity theft service out of his home in Vietnam.

Ngo’s service, variously named superget[.]info and findget[.]me, gave customers access to personal and financial data on more than 200 million Americans. He gained that access by posing as a private investigator to a data broker subsidiary acquired by Experian, one of the three major credit bureaus in the United States.

Ngo’s ID theft service superget.info

Experian was hauled before Congress to account for the lapse, and assured lawmakers there was no evidence that consumers had been harmed by Ngo’s access. But as follow-up reporting showed, Ngo’s service was frequented by ID thieves who specialized in filing fraudulent tax refund requests with the Internal Revenue Service, and was relied upon heavily by an identity theft ring operating in the New York-New Jersey region.

Also in 2013, KrebsOnSecurity broke the news that ssndob[.]ms, then a major identity theft service in the cybercrime underground, had infiltrated computers at some of America’s large consumer and business data aggregators, including LexisNexis Inc., Dun & Bradstreet, and Kroll Background America Inc.

The now defunct SSNDOB identity theft service.

In 2006, The Washington Post reported that a group of five men used stolen or illegally created accounts at LexisNexis subsidiaries to lookup SSNs and other personal information more than 310,000 individuals. And in 2004, it emerged that identity thieves masquerading as customers of data broker Choicepoint had stolen the personal and financial records of more than 145,000 Americans.

Those compromises were noteworthy because the consumer information warehoused by these data brokers can be used to find the answers to so-called knowledge-based authentication (KBA) questions used by companies seeking to validate the financial history of people applying for new lines of credit.

In that sense, thieves involved in ID theft may be better off targeting data brokers like IDI and their customers than the major credit bureaus, said Nicholas Weaver, a researcher at the International Computer Science Institute and lecturer at UC Berkeley.

“This means you have access not only to the consumer’s SSN and other static information, but everything you need for knowledge-based authentication because these are the types of companies that are providing KBA data.”

The fraud group communications reviewed by this author suggest they are cashing out primarily through financial instruments like prepaid cards and a small number of online-only banks that allow consumers to establish accounts and move money just by providing a name and associated date of birth and SSN.

While most of these instruments place daily or monthly limits on the amount of money users can deposit into and withdraw from the accounts, some of the more popular instruments for ID thieves appear to be those that allow spending, sending or withdrawal of between $5,000 to $7,000 per transaction, with high limits on the overall number or dollar value of transactions allowed in a given time period.

KrebsOnSecurity is investigating the extent to which a small number of these financial instruments may be massively over-represented in the incidence of unemployment insurance benefit fraud at the state level, and in SBA loan fraud at the federal level. Anyone in the financial sector or state agencies with information about these apparent trends may confidentially contact this author at krebsonsecurity @ gmail dot com, or via the encrypted message service Wickr at “krebswickr“.

The looting of state unemployment insurance programs by identity thieves has been well documented of late, but far less public attention has centered on fraud targeting Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and advance grant programs run by the U.S. Small Business Administration in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

Late last month, the SBA Office of Inspector General (OIG) released a scathing report (PDF) saying it has been inundated with complaints from financial institutions reporting suspected fraudulent EIDL transactions, and that it has so far identified $250 million in loans given to “potentially ineligible recipients.” The OIG said many of the complaints were about credit inquiries for individuals who had never applied for an economic injury loan or grant.

The figures released by the SBA OIG suggest the financial impact of the fraud may be severely under-reported at the moment. For example, the OIG said nearly 3,800 of the 5,000 complaints it received came from just six financial institutions (out of several thousand across the United States). One credit union reportedly told the U.S. Justice Department that 59 out of 60 SBA deposits it received appeared to be fraudulent.

Securing the COVID-19 ‘New Normal’ of Homeworking

The COVID-19 pandemic has put into motion a scale of remote working never before seen. Our teams are no longer just grouped in different office locations – but working individually from kitchen tables, spare rooms and, for the lucky ones, home offices! It’s therefore inevitable that this level of remote working will reveal security pitfalls for remediation, with improvements that can be carried forward when this period is over.
Attackers are taking advantage of heightened anxiety and homeworking
Tony Pepper, CEO at Egress, provides his insight below, as well as his six tips to improve data security while working from home.

Phishing

It’s sad, but it’s no surprise that phishing attacks have increased due to COVID-19– and businesses need to be prepared. Attackers are taking advantage of an environment of heightened anxiety and disrupted work settings to trick people into making mistakes, and they’re unlikely to stop until at least the main wave of the pandemic has passed.

Research shows that phishing is a major security issue under normal circumstances. Egress’ recent Insider Data Breach survey found that 41% of employees who had accidentally leaked data had done so because of a phishing email. More worryingly due to their level of access to data and systems, senior personnel are typically the most likely group to fall victim to phishing attacks, with 61% of directors saying that they’d caused a breach in this way.

And education and training can only go so far. Of course, we must continue to encourage employees to be vigilant to suspicious emails and to do things like hovering over links before clicking on them. We also need to reduce blame culture and free up employees to report genuine mistakes without fear.

But this can only go so far. People will always make mistakes. The good news is that advanced technology like contextual machine learning can remediate the targeted attacks, like conversation hijacking, that usually do the most damage to businesses.

Productivity and Security
Even in our tech-savvy world, there are still organisations that don’t have VPN access set up or enough laptops, mobile devices or processes to enable home working. But while IT teams try to quickly sort this situation out, we’re seeing employees finding workarounds, for example by sharing files using FTP sites or sending data to personal devices to work on.

We talk a lot about ‘human layer security’ technologies, which find the right balance between productivity and security. Right now, as well as looking at technologies to help securely move meetings, events and other activities online, businesses should also check that usually easy routine tasks can still be carried out safely – such as sharing large files or sending sensitive data via email. In particular, technologies like contextual machine learning and AI can identify what typically ‘good’ security behaviour looks like for individual users and then prevent abnormal behaviours that put data at risk.

For example, with people working on smaller screens and via mobile devices, it’s more likely they might attach the wrong document to an email or include a wrong recipient. Contextual machine learning can spot when incidents like this are about to happen and correct the user’s behaviour to prevent a breach before it happens.

Human Error
People are the new perimeter when it comes to data security – their decisions and behaviours can put data at risk every day, especially at a time of global heightened anxiety.

We know from our 2020 Insider Data Breach Survey that over half of employees don’t think their organisation has sole ownership over company data – instead believing that it is in-part or entirely owned by the individuals and teams who created it. And we also know that people are more likely to take risks with data they feel belongs to them than data they believe belongs to someone else. When they don’t have access to the right tools and technology to work securely – or they think the tools they do have will slow them down, especially at a time when the need for productivity is at its highest – they’re more likely to cut corners.

Maintaining good security practices is essential – and the good news is there are technologies on the market that can help ensure the right level of security is applied to sensitive data without blocking productivity.

Six Tips to improve Data Security while Working from Home 
We can all agree that times are incredibly tough right now. For security professionals looking to mitigate some of the risks, here are six practical tips are taken from the conversations we’re having with other organisations right now:

  1. Look for security software that doesn’t hamper productivity. It’s generally the aim of the game anyway – but right now, employees are feeling increased pressure to prove their productivity. If you’re finding yourself selecting new solutions, it’s never been more crucial to select technologies that don’t add difficult extra steps for them or anyone they’re working with outside the organisation.
  2. Choose collaboration/productivity solutions that have security baked into them. The other side to the coin of the point above, really: when choosing any new solution to implement at this time, make sure that security measures are part of a product’s standard design, and not an after-thought.
  3. Automate security wherever possible. If it’s possible, take decisions out of end users’ hands to ensure the security of sensitive information in line with policy, reducing the risk of someone accidentally or intentionally not using security software.
  4. Engage employees over security best practices. Phishing is a good example of this. Some inbound risks will evade the filters on your network boundary and end up in users’ mailboxes. Effort to proactively engage employees through e-learning and other educational measures can help them to know what to do with emails they think are suspicious (for example, hovering over links before clicking on them).
  5. Look to AI and machine learning to help solve advanced risks. Use cases like conversation hijacking, misdirected emails or people attaching the wrong files to documents can now be mitigated by intelligent technology like contextual machine learning, which determines what “good security behaviour” looks like for each individual, and alerts them and administrators to abnormal incidents – effectively stopping breaches before they happen.
  6. Implement no-fault reporting. People often don’t report security incidents because they’re concerned about the repercussions. Where it’s appropriate to do so, implement no-fault reporting to encourage individuals to report incidents in a timely manner, so you can focus on remediating the problem as quickly as possible.

    How to Keep Remote Learning Pod Students Safe Online 

    learning pods

    The upheaval of 2020 has forced us all to reimagine familiar pathways, and parents are no exception. Cautious about sending their kids back into the classroom, families across the country are banding together to form remote “learning pods.”

    pod learning

    Learning pods are small groups of families with like-aged children that agree to educate their kids together. Parents also refer to learning pods as micro-schools, pandemic pods, and bubbles. According to parents, a pod environment will allow students to learn in a structured setting and safely connect with peers, which will also be a boost to their mental health following months of isolation.

    According to media reports, each pod’s structure is different and designed to echo the unique distance learning challenges of each family. In some pods, parents will determine the curriculum. In others, a teacher or tutor will. As well, parents have set some pods up so they can take turns teaching and working. Some will have a cost attached to cover teacher fees and materials. Working parents are also creating “nanny share” pods for pre-school aged children.

    Social Networking

    Facebook is the place to connect for families seeking pod learning options. There are now dozens of private Facebook “pod” groups that enable parents to connect with one another and with teachers who have also opted out of returning to the classroom.

    While parents may structure pods differently, each will need to adopt standard digital security practices to protect students and teachers who may share online resources. If pod learning is in your family’s future, here are a few safeguards to discuss before the pod-based school year begins.

    Digital Safety & Learning Pods

    Be on the lookout for malware. Malware attempts, since COVID, continue to rise. Pod learners may use email, web-based collaboration tools, and outside home networks more, which can expose them to malware risks. Advise kids never to click unsolicited links contained in emails, texts, direct messages, or pop-up screens. Even if they know the sender, coach them to scrutinize the email or text. To help protect your child’s devices against malware, phishing attacks, and other threats while pod learning, consider updating your security solutions across all devices.

    Use strong passwords. Back-to-school is a great time to review what makes a strong password. Opt for two-factor authentication to add another layer of protection between you and a potential attacker.

    learning pods

    Consider a VPN. Your home network may be safe, but you can’t assume other families follow the same protocols. Cover your bases with a VPN. A virtual private network (VPN) is a private network your child can log onto safely from any location.

    Filter and track digital activity. One digital safeguard schools usually have that a home environment may not, are firewalls. Schools erect firewalls to keep kids from accessing social networks and gaming sites during school hours. For this reason, families opting for pod learning might consider parental controls. Parental controls allow families to filter or block web content, log daily web activity, set time limits, and track location.

    Learning pods are still taking shape at the grassroots level, and there are still a lot of unknowns. Still, one thing is clear: Remote education options also carry an inherent responsibility to keep students safe and secure while learning online.

    The post How to Keep Remote Learning Pod Students Safe Online  appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

    Official Canadian COVID exposure notification app now available from Google, Apple stores

    Canada’s federally-approved COVID-19 exposure notification app launched this morning, with residents of Ontario being the first in the country to be able to use the tool aimed at limiting the spread of the virus. Called COVID Alert, it can be downloaded by anyone in the country but so far only those in Ontario will receive…

    Adversarial use of current events as lures

    By Nick Biasini.

    The goal of malicious activity is to compromise the system to install some unauthorized software. Increasingly that goal is tied to one thing: the user. Over the past several years, we as an industry improved exploit mitigation and the value of working exploits has increased accordingly. Together, these changes have had an impact on the threat landscape. We still see large amounts of active exploitation, but enterprises are getting better at defending against them. 

    This has left adversaries with a couple of options, develop or buy a working exploit that will defeat today’s protections, which can be costly, or pivot to enticing a user to help you. In today’s threat landscape, adversaries are always trying to develop and implement the most effective lures to try and draw users into their infection path. They’ve tried a multitude of different tactics in this space, but one always stands out — current events.

    In today’s world, everyone’s thoughts immediately go to COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter, since both stories have dominated the threat landscape over the last several months, but this is something that organically happens frequently on the threat landscape. So much so that organizations should include it in their threat hunting activities. This blog is going to walk through the why and how.

    Read More >>

    The post Adversarial use of current events as lures appeared first on Cisco Blogs.

    Business ID Theft Soars Amid COVID Closures

    Identity thieves who specialize in running up unauthorized lines of credit in the names of small businesses are having a field day with all of the closures and economic uncertainty wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic, KrebsOnSecurity has learned. This story is about the victims of a particularly aggressive business ID theft ring that’s spent years targeting small businesses across the country and is now pivoting toward using that access for pandemic assistance loans and unemployment benefits.

    Most consumers are likely aware of the threat from identity theft, which occurs when crooks apply for new lines of credit in your name. But the same crime can be far more costly and damaging when thieves target small businesses. Unfortunately, far too many entrepreneurs are simply unaware of the threat or don’t know how to be watchful for it.

    What’s more, with so many small enterprises going out of business or sitting dormant during the COVID-19 pandemic, organized fraud rings have an unusually rich pool of targets to choose from.

    Short Hills, N.J.-based Dun & Bradstreet [NYSE:DNB] is a data analytics company that acts as a kind of de facto credit bureau for companies: When a business owner wants to open a new line of credit, creditors typically check with Dun & Bradstreet to gauge the business’s history and trustworthiness.

    In 2019, Dun & Bradstreet saw more than a 100 percent increase in business identity theft. For 2020, the company estimates an overall 258 percent spike in the crime. Dun & Bradstreet said that so far this year it has received over 4,700 tips and leads where business identity theft or malfeasance are suspected.

    “The ferocity of cyber criminals to take advantage of COVID-19 uncertainties by preying on small businesses is disturbing,” said Andrew LaMarca, who leads the global high-risk and fraud team at Dun & Bradstreet.

    For the past several months, Milwaukee, Wisc. based cyber intelligence firm Hold Security has been monitoring the communications between and among a businesses ID theft gang apparently operating in Georgia and Florida but targeting businesses throughout the United States. That surveillance has helped to paint a detailed picture of how business ID thieves operate, as well as the tricks they use to gain credit in a company’s name.

    Hold Security founder Alex Holden said the group appears to target both active and dormant or inactive small businesses. The gang typically will start by looking up the business ownership records at the Secretary of State website that corresponds to the company’s state of incorporation. From there, they identify the officers and owners of the company, acquire their Social Security and Tax ID numbers from the dark web and other sources online.

    To prove ownership over the hijacked firms, they hire low-wage image editors online to help fabricate and/or modify a number of official documents tied to the business — including tax records and utility bills.

    The scammers frequently then file phony documents with the Secretary of State’s office in the name(s) of the business owners, but include a mailing address that they control. They also create email addresses and domain names that mimic the names of the owners and the company to make future credit applications appear more legitimate, and submit the listings to business search websites, such as yellowpages.com.

    For both dormant and existing businesses, the fraudsters attempt to create or modify the target company’s accounts at Dun & Bradstreet. In some cases, the scammers create dashboard accounts in the business’s names at Dun & Bradstreet’s credit builder portal; in others, the bad guys have actually hacked existing business accounts at DNB, requesting a new DUNS numbers for the business (a DUNS number is a unique, nine-digit identifier for businesses).

    Finally, after the bogus profiles are approved by Dun & Bradstreet, the gang waits a few weeks or months and then starts applying for new lines of credit in the target business’s name at stores like Home Depot, Office Depot and Staples. Then they go on a buying spree with the cards issued by those stores.

    Usually, the first indication a victim has that they’ve been targeted is when the debt collection companies start calling.

    “They are using mostly small companies that are still active businesses but currently not operating because of COVID-19,” Holden said. “With this gang, we see four or five people working together. The team leader manages the work between people. One person seems to be in charge of getting stolen cards from the dark web to pay for the reactivation of businesses through the secretary of state sites. Another team member works on revising the business documents and registering them on various sites. The others are busy looking for specific businesses they want to revive.”

    Holden said the gang appears to find success in getting new lines of credit with about 20 percent of the businesses they target.

    “One’s personal credit is nothing compared to the ability of corporations to borrow money,” he said. “That’s bad because while the credit system may be flawed for individuals, it’s an even worse situation on average when we’re talking about businesses.”

    Holden said over the past few months his firm has seen communications between the gang’s members indicating they have temporarily shifted more of their energy and resources to defrauding states and the federal government by filing unemployment insurance claims and apply for pandemic assistance loans with the Small Business Administration.

    “It makes sense, because they’ve already got control over all these dormant businesses,” he said. “So they’re now busy trying to get unemployment payments and SBA loans in the names of these companies and their employees.”

    PHANTOM OFFICES

    Hold Security shared data intercepted from the gang that listed the personal and financial details of dozens of companies targeted for ID theft, including Dun & Bradstreet logins the crooks had created for the hijacked businesses. Dun & Bradstreet declined to comment on the matter, other than to say it was working with federal and state authorities to alert affected businesses and state regulators.

    Among those targeted was Environmental Safety Consultants Inc. (ESC), a 37-year-old environmental engineering firm based in Bradenton, Fla. ESC owner Scott Russell estimates his company was initially targeted nearly two years ago, and that he first became aware something wasn’t right when he recently began getting calls from Home Depot’s corporate offices inquiring about the company’s delinquent account.

    But Russell said he didn’t quite grasp the enormity of the situation until last year, when he was contacted by the manager of a virtual office space across town who told him about a suspiciously large number of deliveries at an office space that was rented out in his name.

    Russell had never rented that particular office. Rather, the thieves had done it for him, using his name and the name of his business. The office manager said the deliveries came virtually non-stop, even though there was apparently no business operating within the rented premises. And in each case, shortly after the shipments arrived someone would show up and cart them away.

    “She said we don’t think it’s you,” he recalled. “Turns out, they had paid for a lease in my name with someone else’s credit card. She shared with me a copy of the lease, which included a fraudulent ID and even a vehicle insurance card for a Land Cruiser we got rid of like 15 years ago. The application listed our home address with me and some woman who was not my wife’s name.”

    The crates and boxes being delivered to his erstwhile office space were mostly computers and other high-priced items ordered from 10 different Office Depot credit cards that also were not in his name.

    “The total value of the electronic equipment that was bought and delivered there was something like $75,000,” Russell said, noting that it took countless hours and phone calls with Office Depot to make it clear they would no longer accept shipments addressed to him or his company. “It was quite spine-tingling to see someone penned a lease in the name of my business and personal identity.”

    Even though the virtual office manager had the presence of mind to take photocopies of the driver’s licenses presented by the people arriving to pick up the fraudulent shipments, the local police seemed largely uninterested in pursuing the case, Russell said.

    “I went to the local county sheriff’s office and showed them all the documentation I had and the guy just yawned and said he’d get right on it,” he recalled. “The place where the office space was rented was in another county, and the detective I spoke to there about it was interested, but he could never get anyone from my county to follow up.”

    RECYCLING VICTIMS

    Russell said he believes the fraudsters initially took out new lines of credit in his company’s name and then used those to defraud others in a similar way. One of those victims is another victim on the gang’s target list obtained by Hold Security — Mary McMahan, owner of Fan Experiences, an event management company in Winter Park, Fla.

    McMahan also had stolen goods from Office Depot and other stores purchased in her company’s name and delivered to the same office space rented in Russell’s name. McMahan said she and her businesses have suffered hundreds of thousands of dollars in fraud, and spent nearly as much in legal fees fending off collections firms and restoring her company’s credit.

    McMahan said she first began noticing trouble almost four years ago, when someone started taking out new credit cards in her company’s name. At the same time, her business was used to open a new lease on a virtual office space in Florida that also began receiving packages tied to other companies victimized by business ID theft.

    “About four years back, they hit my credit hard for a year, getting all these new lines of credit at Home Depot, Office Depot, Office Max, you name it,” she said. “Then they came back again two years ago and hit it hard for another year. They even went to the [Florida Department of Motor Vehicles] to get a driver’s license in my name.”

    McMahan said the thieves somehow hacked her DNB account, and then began adding new officers and locations for her business listing.

    “They changed the email and mailing address, and even went on Yelp and Google and did the same,” she said.

    McMahan said she’s since locked down her personal and business credit to the point where even she would have a tough time getting a new line of credit or mortgage if she tried.

    “There’s no way they can even utilize me anymore because there’s so many marks on my credit stating that it’s been stolen” she said. “These guys are relentless, and they recycle victims to defraud others until they figure out they can’t recycle them anymore.”

    SAY…THAT’S A NICE CREDIT PROFILE YOU GOT THERE…

    McMahan says she, too, has filed multiple reports about the crimes with local police, but has so far seen little evidence that anyone is interested in following up on the matter. For now, she is paying Dun and Bradstreet more than a $100 a month to monitor her business credit profile.

    Dun & Bradstreet does offer a free version of credit monitoring called Credit Signal that lets business owners check their business credit scores and any inquiries made in the previous 14 days up to four times a year. However, those looking for more frequent checks or additional information about specific credit inquiries beyond 14 days are steered toward DNB’s subscription-based services.

    Eva Velasquez, president of the Identity Theft Resource Center, a California-based nonprofit that assists ID theft victims, said she finds that troubling.

    “When we look at these institutions that are necessary for us to operate and function in society and they start to charge us a fee for a service to fix a problem they helped create through their infrastructure, that’s just unconscionable,” Velasquez said. “We need to take a hard look at the infrastructures that businesses are beholden to and make sure the risk minimization protections they’re entitled to are not fee-based — particularly if it’s a problem created by the very infrastructure of the system.”

    Velasquez said it’s unfortunate that small business owners don’t have the same protections afforded to consumers. For example, only recently did the three major consumer reporting bureaus allow all U.S. residents to place a freeze on their credit files for free.

    “We’ve done a good job in educating the public that anyone can be victim of identity theft, and in compelling our infrastructure to provide robust consumer protection and risk minimization processes that are more uniform,” she said. “It’s still not good by any means, but it’s definitely better for consumers than it is for businesses. We currently put all the responsibility on the small business owner, and very little on the infrastructure and processes that should be designed to protect them but aren’t doing a great job, frankly.”

    Rather, the onus continues to be on the business owner to periodically check with DNB and state agencies to monitor for any signs of unauthorized changes. Worse still, too many private and public organizations still don’t do a good enough job protecting employee identification and tax ID numbers that are so often abused in business identity theft, Velasquez said.

    “You can put alerts and other protections in place but the problem is you have to go on a department by department and case by case basis,” she said. “The place to begin is your secretary of state’s office or wherever you file your documents to operate your business.

    For its part, Dun & Bradstreet recently published a blog post outlining recommendations for businesses to ward off identity thieves. DNB says anyone who suspects fraudulent activity on their account should contact its support team.

     Ways to Strengthen Your Family’s Digital and Mental Wellbeing

    mental wellbeing

    There’s a lot that feels out of control right now. City and school re-openings are in limbo, and life for many still feels upended. But one thing we can control is our efforts to safeguard our family’s digital and mental health.

    Both adults and kids use television, tablets, and smartphones more these days for both school and entertainment. According to a study by Axios, children’s screen time during the pandemic is surging by as much 50 to 60 percent putting screen time for children 12 and younger at nearly five hours or more per day. Another study in the Journal of Medical Internet Research indicates people’s mental health has worsened during the Coronavirus.

    Priority: Family Wellbeing

    It’s clear this season has impacted all ages in myriad ways and put the spotlight on the importance of digital and mental health. Here are some resources and tips to help strengthen both.

    Keep structure in-tact. Experts agree that establishing a daily structure is the best way to keep family life as healthy as possible right now. Scheduling set times for learning, chores, exercise, mealtimes, screen time, and connecting with peers in online hangouts, is essential. Safe Online: Establishing structure may be easier with software that also helps limit screen time, monitor activity, and filter apps and websites.DigitalWellbeing

    Clarify the news. Kids pick up on everything, both true and untrue. They often collect bits and pieces of “news” from TV, overhearing adults, or fragments of stories from peers, all of which can increase anxiety. Safe Online: Parents can help ease the fear caused by misinformation by (age-appropriately) updating children with facts on current events and helping them understand the context of what they see online or on television. 

    Encourage connection. Social distancing does not mean social isolation. If your child seems lonely or isolated, help pull them back into the mix. If they can’t meet in a safe, socially-distanced setting with friends face-to-face, allow extra time on Messenger Rooms or Zoom to group chat with peers or relatives. Safe Online: Keep kids safe by using privacy settings in video apps and always supervise young children. 

    Keep device use in check. Yes, we’re all on devices more, but that doesn’t greenlight a device-free for all. Balance (pandemic or not) is always the aim of managing digital and mental health. Consider putting away devices during mealtime, before bedtime, and even challenge each other to go phone and screen-free one full day a week. Safe Online: Check your phone usage stats on your devices daily or use software to track it for you. 

    Get moving. Squeezing in even 15-30 minutes of exercise a day alters our biochemical and hormonal balance and reduces mood swings, fatigue, anxiety, and feelings of hopelessness. Safe Online: If you use mobile fitness apps, maximize your privacy settings, read app terms to understand how the app tracks your health data.

    Parent self-care. “You can’t pour from an empty cup,” is a simple but powerful sentiment these days. Unplugging, turning off the news, and resting or meditating can turn a stressful day around. Safe Online: Minimize scrolling mindlessly online or engaging in online conflict. Modeling balanced digital habits is self-care and is a powerful way to help your child do the same. 

    Family Resources Online

    Consider online resources. To meet the demand of families at home, most insurance plans now offer online counseling. Also, surprisingly, Instagram is becoming a mental health hub. As worry continues around finances, job loss, health, and the impact of isolation, meeting with a counselor or therapist 1-1 online may be an easy, useful solution. To get started, do a hashtag search for #FamilyCounseling #Marriage #Counselling #Therapy #Stress #Anxiety or a profile search with the same keywords. Safe Online: Vet online counselors and therapists to make sure they are licensed and not part of an online scam.

    MHA resources. Mental Health America has compiled an impressive range of resources and information for people in need of services such as domestic and child abuse, drug and alcohol issues, financial issues, suicide, depression, and LGBTQ issues. The site houses endless blogs and on-demand webinars specific to Coronavirus and family mental health issues.

    As this season of uncertainty continues, it’s important to remember you are not alone. Everyone is feeling all the feelings, and no one has things like structure and balance mastered. But, we’re all getting wiser each day simply by committing to protecting the things that matter most.

    The post  Ways to Strengthen Your Family’s Digital and Mental Wellbeing appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

    Returning to the Workplace and the Ongoing Threat of Phishing Attacks

    Guest post by Richard Hahn, Consulting Manager, Sungard Availability Services

    According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), approximately 14.2 million people (44% of the total number of working adults) have worked from home during the coronavirus pandemic. To put these figures into perspective, this number stood at around 1.7 million in 2019, representing just 5% of the total working population.

    While these statistics are unsurprising, it’s clear that the paradigm of working from home every day was sudden and significant. Few businesses can claim to have anticipated such a scenario, nor to have had the business continuity planning capabilities to contend with its consequences. For example, one of the biggest cybersecurity trends to have emerged in recent weeks is a surge in phishing attacks targeting remote workers.

    As will be described in this article, phishing thrives on isolation, uncertainty and periods of change, which have all been common characteristics of the working world recently. Accordingly, Google has reported a 350% cent increase in phishing attacks from January to March of this year. 
    Education is the First Line of Defence against Phishing Attacks
    Now that organisations are beginning to transition back to former work settings, social distancing will mean that change and uncertainty will continue to be a significant factor. During this time, it is imperative that all workers are aware not only of how phishing attacks work, but also the impact that it can have on an organisation’s reputation, it’s the bottom line, and, crucially, the continuity of the business overall. Here are some key pieces of advice for staying secure under these circumstances.

    1. Phishing Attacks are Socially Engineered
    The anatomy of an effective phishing attack is rooted more in social engineering than technology. Phishing messages try to trick individuals into taking an action, such as clicking on a link or providing personal information, by offering scenarios of financial gains or ramifications, or the potential of work disruption or playing into a personal panic.

    However, phishing messages typically have tell-tale signs that can – and should – give users pause. Attempts to obfuscate the sender, poor spelling and grammar, and malicious attachments are a few of the classic signs that the message is not genuine.

    Phishing attack messages that have the highest response rates are often related to time-bound events, such as open enrolment periods or satisfaction surveys. Some other common phishing message themes include unpaid invoices, confirming personal information and problems with logins.

    Before acting, think about what is being asked. For example, phishing attacks may take advantage of the fact that many workers are currently anticipating updates from their employers about returning to the workplace. The email may ask users to log in to a new system designed to allocate socially distant spaces within the workspace upon their return. This tactic exploits the user’s often unconscious confirmation bias, not only impersonating their employer but also taking advantage of their expectations around returning to work and acknowledgement of social distancing.
    If unsure whether it might be a malicious message, encourage staff to ask a colleague or the IT team to analyse the message (including the full Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) information).

    2. Attackers Use a Diverse Portfolio of Tactics
    Attackers often attempt to impersonate a known person or entity to obtain private information or to carry out an action. This is also known as pretexting and is commonly executed by crafting a fraudulent email or text message to execute an action that is not part of the standard process.

    One example is calling the service desk and pretending to be a valid user to get a password reset. Another ruse attackers frequently take advantage of is an out-of-band wire transfer or an invoice payment for a critical vendor. Small companies have traditionally been the targets, but larger companies are increasingly being targeted.

    Organisations must understand that pretexting is considered fraud and is often not covered by cyber insurance policies. Therefore, it’s critical that organisations design effective business processes with oversight so there are no single points of approval or execution, and stick to them. While it may be tempting to bypass processes, such as accounts payable or IT procurement, businesses can’t afford to let their guard down – especially when large numbers of workers are logging on remotely as is the case for so many today.

    3. Education is the First Line of Defence
    Phishing is often discussed within the cybersecurity space, but the conversations typically don’t involve intent and rigour.

    The common compliance measure usually involves in-person or virtual annual training, along with some other method of education, such as hanging posters around the workplace. This approach pre-dates highly connected computing environments and doesn’t address the urgency needed for the current threat landscape or pattern of working experienced by so many in 2020.

    Organisations must conduct security awareness education with the same decisiveness and gravity that other industries do with safety training. For example, it’s not uncommon for drivers in the commercial trucking and transport sector to take monthly training modules, or for managers to participate in quarterly safety meetings.

    Planning for the New Normal
    The main priority for organisations moving forward is to be more proactive about implementing, practising and testing cyber hygiene from the ground up. There’s much more in the way of fundamental change on the horizon which opens organisations up to a diverse and complex threat landscape. 

    At the same time, bad actors will constantly be on the lookout for opportunities to take advantage of the chaos. By paying attention to the signs, looking out for pretexting and emphasising regular training, companies can better fend off future phishing attacks.

    Investing time and resources into regularly training and educating staff on information security awareness and current cyber threats is critical in building resilience in the ‘new normal’ of the post-COVID-19 working world. A crippling cyberattack is always just around the corner, but by establishing plans and capabilities that reduce risk and prevent data loss, leakage or offline systems from disrupting business continuity, the chances of survival rise exponentially. 

    Mind the Gaps! The Requisite Mindset to Stay Ahead of Cybersecurity Threats

    Guest Post by Matt Cable, VP Solutions Architects & MD Europe, Certes Networks

    At the end of 2019, it was reported that the number of unfilled global IT security positions had reached over four million professionals, up from almost three million at the same time the previous year. This included 561,000 in North America and a staggering 2.6 million in APAC. The cybersecurity industry clearly has some gaps to fill.

    But it’s not just the number of open positions that presents an issue. Research also shows that nearly half of firms are unable to carry out the basic tasks outlined in the UK government’s Cyber Essentials scheme, such as setting up firewalls, storing data and removing malware. Although this figure has improved since 2018, it is still far too high and is a growing concern.

    To compound matters, the disruption of COVID-19 this year has triggered a larger volume of attack vectors, with more employees working from home without sufficient security protocols and cyber attackers willingly using this to their advantage.

    Evidentially, ensuring cybersecurity employees and teams have the right skills to keep both their organisations and their data safe, is essential. However, as Matt Cable, VP Solutions Architects & MD Europe, Certes Networks explains, as well as ensuring they have access to the right skills, organisations should also embrace a mindset of continuously identifying - and closing - gaps in their cybersecurity posture to ensure the organisation is as secure as it can be.

    Infrastructure security versus infrastructure connectivity
    There is a big misconception within cybersecurity teams that all members of the team can mitigate any cyber threat that comes their way. However, in practice, this often isn’t the case. There is repeatedly a lack of clarity between infrastructure security and infrastructure connectivity, with organisations assuming that because a member of the team is skilled in one area, they will automatically be skilled in the other.

    What organisations are currently missing is a person, or team, within the company whose sole responsibility is looking at the security posture; not just at a high level, but also taking a deep dive into the infrastructure and identifying gaps, pain points and vulnerabilities. By assessing whether teams are truly focusing their efforts in the right places, tangible, outcomes-driven changes can really be made and organisations can then work towards understanding if they currently do possess the right skills to address the challenges.

    This task should be a group effort: the entire IT and security team should be encouraged to look at the current situation and really analyse how secure the organisation truly is. Where is the majority of the team’s time being devoted? How could certain aspects of cybersecurity be better understood? Is the current team able to carry out penetration testing or patch management? Or, as an alternative to hiring a new member of the team, the CISO could consider sourcing a security partner who can provide these services, recognising that the skill sets cannot be developed within the organisation itself, and instead utilising external expertise.

    It’s not what you know, it’s what you don’t know
    The pace of change in cybersecurity means that organisations must accept they will not always be positioned to combat every single attack. Whilst on one day an organisation might consider its network to be secure, a new ransomware attack or the introduction of a new man-in-the-middle threat could quickly highlight a previously unknown vulnerability. Quite often, an organisation will not have known that it had vulnerabilities until it was too late.

    By understanding that there will always be a new gap to fill and continuously assessing if the team has the right skills - either in-house or outsourced - to combat it, organisations can become much better prepared. If a CISO simply accepts the current secure state of its security posture as static and untouchable, the organisation will open itself up as a target of many forms of new attack vectors. Instead, accepting that cybersecurity is constantly changing and therefore questioning and testing each component of the security architecture on a regular basis means that security teams - with the help of security partners - will never be caught off guard.

    Maintaining the right cybersecurity posture requires not just the right skills, but a mindset of constant innovation and assessment. Now, more than ever, organisations need to stay vigilant and identify the gaps that could cause devastating repercussions if left unfilled.

    How to Embed a Positive Security Culture in the COVID-19 Remote Working ‘New Normal’

    Guest Post by the information security experts at Security Risk Management Ltd

    If promoting a positive company-wide security culture had been a challenge before the Covid-19 pandemic, that challenge has just become a whole lot more difficult. That is because the widespread move to remote working has added another layer of vulnerability. It is not simply a question of sharing office systems across a range of settings and the fact that some are using home computers (frequently shared with personal accounts); instead, it is that individuals are now one step removed from the reach of those responsible for in-house information security, usually the Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs), and the organisation’s security protocols.

    This fact has not been wasted on ever-opportunistic hackers

    Email phishing attacks target individuals, often persuading them to check or type passwords on malicious domains that appear to be legitimate. Researchers have found a 600 per cent increase in the number of phishing emails worldwide this year, frequently using Coronavirus-related themes to target individuals and businesses. These are not always easy to spot, including email headings like ‘revised vacation and sick time policy’ or ‘important message from HR’. It is easy to see how a lone worker could fall into the trap.

    The sharp rise in this type of attack reflects what hackers already know: that the human element of an organisation’s security is the weakest link. Of course, best practice network security relies on a number of elements but perhaps the hardest to establish is a positive security culture. CISOs have, however, struggled with this, even before the Covid-19 pandemic changed business practices. A survey of CISOs by ClubCISO reported that 49 per cent felt that organisational culture was already a block to them achieving their security objectives.

    In a world where remote working has become the ‘new normal’, effectively engaging individuals is more important than ever. Understanding protocols and providing easy-to-understand training and awareness are crucial for every single user of a network system and this needs to be prioritised in the current climate. But it is equally important that employees feel able to report suspicious activity quickly and in full without fearing blame or repercussions. Without this element of positive security culture, the security policy could fail because employees will be reluctant to highlight suspicious activity, with potentially devastating consequences.

    Effective Information Security Management
    In the traditional setup, the CISO or ISM would be responsible for network security. Based on an office, they manage the protocols and policies for everything from regulatory and legal compliance to staff training and breach notification. Yet, with little time for preparation, many will be challenged, perhaps lacking the immediate knowledge or experience of how to translate these to the complexities of employees working from home offices.

    This is not necessarily bad news but presents an opportunity for positive change. Now we are becoming used to the fact that employees no longer need to be office-based, we can take a step back and ask if the CISO actually needs to be resident within the bricks and mortar of an organisation? Would an outsourced (or virtual) CISO model not be equally well suited – if not better suited - to the ‘new normal’ of remote working?

    Virtual CISOs are highly skilled professional teams, drawing on a wealth of experience, working with organisations to meet all the requirements of the CISO function. Individually assigned team members work remotely with an organisation, overseeing network security at all levels; from board-level engagement and compliance to effectively embedding a company-wide positive security culture.

    It is also worth noting that they can be used for as much or as little as required, simply advising the resident CISO on strategy or developing and implementing the whole policy. Yet this best-practice alternative does not cost the earth. In fact, it is likely to cost significantly less than the traditional model, while delivering a service which is ideally suited to remote working.

    We Are All in This Together: Responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic

     

    Global representatives of the PCI Security Standards Council recently came together, via a virtual video platform, to discuss how the Council is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as best practices for the payment industry during this unprecedented time.

    How to Keep Your Video Conferencing Meetings Secure

    Guest Post by By Tom Kellermann (Head Cybersecurity Strategist, VMware Carbon Black)

    The sudden and dramatic shift to a mobile workforce has thrust video conferencing into the global spotlight and evolved video conferencing vendors from enterprise communication tools to critical infrastructure.

    During any major (and rapid) technology adoption, cyberattackers habitually follow the masses in hopes of launching an attack that could lead to a pay day or give them a competitive advantage. This has not been lost on global organisations’ security and IT teams, who are quickly working to make sure their employees’ privacy and data remains secure.

    Here are some high-level tips to help keep video conferencing secure.

    Update the Application
    Video conferencing providers are regularly deploying software updates to ensure that security holes are mitigated.  Take advantage of their diligence and update the app prior to using it every time.

    Lock meetings down and set a strong password
    Make sure that only invited attendees can join a meeting. Using full sentences with special characters included, rather than just words or numbers, can be helpful. Make sure you are not sharing the password widely, especially in public places and never on social media. Waiting room features are critical for privacy as the meeting host can serve as a final triage to make sure only invited participants are attending. Within the meeting, the host can restrict sharing privileges, leading to smoother meetings and ensuring that uninvited guests are not nefariously sharing materials. 

    Discussing sensitive information
    If sensitive material must be discussed, ensure that the meeting name does not suggest it is a top-secret meeting, which would make it a more attractive target for potential eavesdroppers.  Using code words to depict business topics is recommended during the cyber crime wave we are experiencing.

    Restrict the sharing of sensitive files to approved file-share technologies, not as part of the meeting itself
    Using an employee sharing site that only employees have access to (and has multi-factor authentication in place) is a great way to make sure sensitive files touch the right eyes only.  This should be mandated as this is a huge Achilles heel.

    Use a VPN to protect network traffic while using the platform 
    With so many employees working remotely, using a virtual private network (VPN) can help better secure internet connections and keep private information private via encryption. Public WiFi can be a gamble as it only takes one malicious actor to cause damage.  Do not use public WiFi, especially in airports or train stations.  Cyber criminals lurk in those locations.

    If you can, utilise two networks on your home WiFi router, one for business and the other for personal use.
    Make sure that your work computer is only connected to a unique network in your home. All other personal devices – including your family’s – should not be using the same network. The networks and routers in your home should be updated regularly and, again, should use a complex password. Additionally, you should be the only system administrator on your network and all devices that connect to it.

    All of us have a role to play in mitigating the cyber crime wave.  Please remember these best practices the next time you connect. Stay safe online

    Also related - How Safe are Video Messaging Apps such as Zoom?

    How Safe are Video Messaging Apps such as Zoom?

    I was privileged to be part of The Telegraph Coronavirus Podcast today, where I was asked about the security of video messaging apps.



    'How safe are video messaging apps such as Zoom, and what should users bear in mind when using them?'

    My reply...
    Video messaging apps are an essential communication tool for at home and within businesses, especially during the COVID-19 lockdown period. They are generally safe to use but there are a few security risks which users should be aware of.

    Our increased use of video messaging apps has not gone unnoticed by cybercriminals, who are seeking to exploit the increase of use by sending phishing emails, social media scam messages and even scam text messages, with fake invitations to video messaging app meetings.

    Typically, these scam messages will entice you into either opening a malicious attachment or click a web link which directs to a malicious website. The ultimate aim of these cyberattacks is to deliver malicious software, such as ransomware which locks your PC and demands a ransom payment to unlock, scam a payment, or steal your personal information which can be resold to other cybercriminals on the dark web.

    So, never open an attachment or click on any links within any unexpected or suspicious emails, social media messages and text messages.

    The next piece of advice is to ensure your video messaging app is always kept up-to-date. Luckily most modern smartphones and computer operating systems will automatically update your apps, but it is always worth double-checking and not to suppress any app updates from occurring, as often the app updates are fixing security flaws.

    And finally, on home computers and laptops, when not using video messaging apps, either cover your webcam with a piece of tape or face your webcam towards a wall or ceiling, just in case your computer is covertly compromised and a malicious actor gains access to your computer's webcam.


    Additional
    One tip I didn't have time to say on the podcast, is always ensure your video chats are set to private, using a strong password to prevent ZoomBombingRecent reportshave shown a series of “Zoombombing” incidents lately, where unwanted guests have joined in on open calls. 

    Bharat Mistry, Principal Security Strategist at Trend Micro on Zoom advises “Although not alone in being targeted, Zoom has been the subject of some of the highest-profile incidents so far this year. Fortunately, there are things you can do to keep your business safe.

    It’s all about taking advantage of unsecure settings in the app, (and possibly using brute-force tools to crack meeting IDs). With access to a meeting, hackers could harvest highly sensitive and/or market-critical corporate information, or even spread malware via a file transfer feature.

    Hackers know users are looking en masse for ways to communicate during government lockdowns. By creating legitimate-looking Zoom links and websites, they could steal financial details, spread malware or harvest Zoom ID numbers, allowing them to infiltrate virtual meetings. One vendor discovered 2,000 new domains had been registered in March alone, over two-thirds of the total for the year so far.

    Risk mitigation:
    The good news is that there are several things you can do to mitigate the security risks associated with Zoom. The most basic are: 
    • Ensure Zoom is always on the latest software version
    • Build awareness of Zoom phishing scams into user training programmes. Users should only download the Zoom client from a trusted site and check for anything suspicious in the meeting URL when joining a meeting
    • Ensure all home workers have anti-malware including phishing detection installed from a reputable vendor
    Organisational preparedness:
    Next, it’s important to revisit those administrative settings in the app, to reduce the opportunities for hackers and Zoombombers. Fortunately, automatically generated passwords are now switched on by default, and the use of personal meeting IDs are switched off, meaning Zoom will create a random, one-off ID for each meeting. These setting should be kept as is. But organisations can do more, including:
    • Ensure you also generate a meeting ID automatically for recurring meetings
    • Set screen-sharing to “host only” to prevent uninvited guests from sharing disruptive content
    • Don’t share any meeting IDs online
    • Disable “file transfers” to mitigate risk of malware
    • Make sure that only authenticated users can join meetings
    • Lock the meeting once it’s started to prevent anyone new joining
    • Use waiting room feature, so the host can only allow attendees from a pre-assigned register
    • Play a sound when someone enters or leaves the room
    • Allow host to put attendees on hold, temporarily removing them from a meeting if necessary”

    Working from Home Cybersecurity Guidance


    Working from home comes with a range of security risks, but employees need to be educated too – human behaviour is invariably the weakest link in a company’s cybersecurity posture. In the current environment, with many more employees working at home, cybercriminals are actively looking for opportunities to launch phishing attacks and compromise the IT infrastructure of businesses, large and small. 

    Guidance on Working from Home All companies should start by reviewing the home working guidance available at the UK Government’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC). This resource helps companies prepare their employees and think about the best way to protect their systems. Crossword has been advising a number of its FTSE clients in a range of sectors, and below is a summary of the guidance given, in addition to that from the NCSC.

    Run Audio and Video calls Securely

    What is visible in the background of your screen during video calls and is someone monitoring who is on the call? The same is true for audio only calls. A team member should be responsible for ensuring only invited guests are present, and calls should be locked once started, so other participants cannot join.

    Educate Employees on Phishing attacks
    The NCSC mentions COVID-19 related Phishing attacks which use the current crisis to trick employees into clicking on fake links, downloading malware, and revealing passwords – so educate them. These could be fake HR notifications or corporate communications; fake tax credits; fake emails from mortgage providers; free meals and mechanisms for registering for them. The list is endless and cyber criminals are very news savvy and quick to adapt. Employees are likely to be more vulnerable to phishing attacks due to people rushing, fear, panic, and urgency; all the behavioural traits that result in successful phishing attacks.

    Automate Virtual Personal Network configurations (VPNs) 
    IT and Security teams may have a backlog of users to set up on VPNs, to provide secure connections to corporate networks. Do not allow employees to send data insecurely, use automation to make accelerated deployments and guarantee correct configuration. Even IT staff are fallible, and the combination of pressure of work volume and working fast, may leave a gaping hole in your infrastructure.

    Control the use of Personal Devices for Corporate Work
    Due to the rapid increase in home workers, many employees may be using their own devices to access emails and data, which may not be covered by Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies. What this means in practicality, is that employee’s personal devices may not be securely configured, nor managed properly and be more vulnerable. IT and Security teams again, may need to retrospectively ensure that employees are complying with BYOD policies, have appropriate endpoint security software installed etc.

    Stop Personal Email and Unauthorised Cloud Storage Use
    When companies are experiencing IT difficulties in setting up employees working from home, people may be tempted to use personal emails or their personal cloud to send and store data, as a work around. These are a risk and can be easy for cyber criminals to target to gain company information or distribute malware, as they are not protected by the corporate security infrastructure.

    Keep Collaboration Tools Up-to-date
    Tools such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Google Hangouts are great, but it is important to ensure all call participants are using the latest versions of the software, and that includes partners and customers that may be on calls. Employees should also only use the corporate approved tools and versions as they will have been tested by security teams for vulnerabilities, that could be exploited by cybercriminals. 

    Stuart Jubb, Consulting Director at Crossword commented: “Throughout the UK, companies are doing everything they can to ensure business continues as normally as possible as the COVID-19 situation develops. The guidance we are issuing today is a summary of the key points we have been discussing with our clients across a wide range of vertical markets. Good IT security measures are arguably more important than ever as companies become a largely distributed workforce, almost overnight. As ever though, it is not just about the technology, but good behaviour and education amongst employees as cybercriminals work to exploit any vulnerability they can find, whether that be a person, mis-configured tech, or unpatched software.”

    Coronavirus Cybersecurity: Scams To Watch Out For

    The Coronavirus pandemic has shocked the world in recent months, with many countries being forced to go into lockdown or encourage its nationals to self-isolate as much as possible. Many are trying to work out how to juggle working from home, caring for their children, managing their finances and looking after their health! But sadly, there’s one more thing you need to add to that list - staying safe online and watching out for scammers. 

    That’s because cybercriminals have decided to take advantage of the global fear, confusion and uncertainty around the world. Plus, vast numbers of people are now working from home and this usually means they are doing so with less cybersecurity measures in place than they would have in their office. 

    Malicious messages examples seen
    • email and social media messages impersonating medical expert bodies including the NHS, World Health Organization (WHO), and Centre for Disease and Control (CDC), requesting a donation to research a vaccine.
    • GOV.UK themed text messages titled 'You are eligible to get a tax refund (rebate) of 128.34 GBP
    • messages advertising protective masks and hand sanitisers from bogus websites
    So, despite this being a time when we all need to pull together and help one another out, there are still scammers out there looking to cause trouble. To help keep you safe online, Evalian has compiled a list of four of the most common Coronavirus scams happening right now, so you know what to look out for. 

    1. Phishing Scams 
    This is perhaps the biggest scam out there right now because phishing emails can come in many different forms. Most commonly, hackers are pretending to be health officials or national authorities offering advice about staying safe during the Corona outbreak. The reality is that they are trying to trick unsuspecting individuals into downloading harmful malware or providing sensitive, personal information. 

    Some of these phishing emails look really sophisticated, with one in particular being a fake email sent from the World Health Organisation (WHO), offering tips on how to avoid falling ill with the virus. Once the email user clicks on the link provided, they are redirected to a site that steals their personal information. The problem is, with so many people being genuinely worried about their health and hoping to stop the spread, many don’t suspect that these types of emails could be a scam. 

    The best way to avoid falling victim to these types of phishing emails is to look for suspicious email addresses or lots of spelling mistakes. And even if the email looks pretty legitimate, it might still be worth going direct to the sender’s website instead. For example, going direct to the World Health Organisation website for advice means you can avoid clicking any links from the email. That way you can find the information you need and reduce the risk of falling victim to a cybercrime. 

    Secondly, if an email asks for money or bitcoin donations to help tackle Coronavirus, don’t make any transfers. Again, if you wish to help by donating money or services, go directly to the websites of charities or health organisations to see how you can help.

    It’s also worth noting, that these phishing scams can also be received as a text message or phone call. If you receive strange texts or voicemails asking for donations, giving offers on vaccines or warning you about cases in your local area, approach with caution and certainly don’t give away any of your personal details. 

    2. Fake Websites
    Another common scam designed to play on fear and uncertainty is the setting up of fake websites. Cybercriminals are creating Coronavirus-related websites which claim to offer pharmaceuticals or remedies for the virus such as testing kits, vaccines, and other fake health solutions. The idea is to get anxious victims to part with their bank details or to hack their computer and install malware on their systems. 

    In these situations, there are some things you can do. Firstly, check if the website has a secure connection. You’ll know whether it does or doesn't by the padlock in the search bar. If there is a padlock in the search bar this means the site is secure, if there isn't, then it’s a good idea to avoid this site. Not only this but if the website is poorly designed and the text has a lot of spelling and grammatical errors, this could also be a big red flag. 

    Finally, it’s also important to be aware that not many sites are genuinely going to be offering these health solutions and if they appear to be selling in-demand products at an extremely low price, then it’s most likely a scam. Remember, if it seems to good to be true then it probably is. 

    3. App Scams 
    Cybercriminals are also targeting smartphones and mobile devices with dedicated Coronavirus apps. These apps claim to track the spread of the virus in your local area and with many people concerned about the proximity of the virus to their home, it’s not surprising that people are willing to download such an app. 

    The reality, however, is that the app then installs malware into your device and not only comprises your tech, but also all the personal information stored within it. In some cases, the app can lock victims out of their phone or tablet demanding a ransom to get back in, threatening to delete all the information, contact details and photos stored inside.

    4. Fake Coronavirus Maps
    Last but not least, the fake Coronavirus map scam. Similar to that of the tracking app, cybercriminals have begun circulating graphics of fake maps on which they claim to highlight where all the Coronavirus cases are in your country. These are usually sent round on social media and through email. 

    Of course, these images are not meant to educate or help you in any way. In fact, the scammers include malware in the links so that once you’ve clicked to open the image this immediately infects your device. In most cases, this has been reported to be the kind of bug that can steal data such as bank details, passwords, login information and other sensitive data stored on your device. 

    Look for the Red Flags 
    • Never open attachments or click on links within suspicious or unexpected emails, text and social media messages
    • Look for the suspicious signs; does the message convey a sense of urgency to perform an action?
    • Always remember legitimate organisations never ask for passwords, payment card details and sensitive data to be sent by email
    In these troubling and uncertain times, you’d be forgiven for falling for a scam if you thought for one second it could help to keep you and your family safe from this virus. But sadly, there are criminals out there taking advantage of people’s anxiety. So just be aware that these scams are happening and look out for the red flags we’ve mentioned above to help you stay safe online. 

    UK Payment Card Contactless Limit Increased from £30 to £45 prevent Coronavirus Spread

    The contactless payment card limit for in-store card transactions in the UK will be increased from £30 to £45 from 1st April. A good move for preventing COVID-19 spread at supermarkets and petrol stations via card payment pinpads, which are impossible to keep sanitised.

    Better still, everyone right now can benefit from secure MFA contactless payments with higher limits by setting up Apple Pay, Google Pay or, Samsung Pay on your smartphone.

    BRC Head of Payments Policy, Andrew Cregan, said: “The last contactless limit increase to £30 took two years to implement but, given the extraordinary circumstances we face today, this new £45 limit will be rolled-out from next week. Some shops will take longer to make the necessary changes, given the strain they’re under. In the meantime, most customers can continue to make contactless payments for higher amounts using their smart phone.”