Malware is becoming more sophisticated, actively resisting traditional detection technologies. This development is posing new challenges to security companies. According to independent test organizations, almost one out of ten malware attacks succeed.
One in ten – sounds like a lot, but what does this mean in practice?
One of our product managers illustrated the significance of a high threat detection rate with a practical example. On average, an employee faces two malware per year (depending on the Internet usage profile of the users and the other layers of the protection, of course). In a company of 500 employees, with a detection rate of 92%, 80 infections in total will pass the traditional malware protection. If the detection rate is 99%, only 10 attacks out of one thousand will succeed. A minor difference in percentage points can make up a major difference in practice.
With this in mind, we believe that detection rate is a key factor in the value of security.
With businesses spending sizable sums of money to clean up damage from malware, high malware detection rates take on greater importance. Have you ever wondered how much it costs to have your business down for one day? Companies are not only spending for malware cleanup, but costs are also incurred as a result of lost productivity, loss of data (such as trade secrets, intellectual property and private customer data), investigation, and post-incident management. And how about your company’s reputation – how much is it worth? Add all these together, and malware that has gone undetected can have serious ramifications to a business. And that’s exactly why even a one percent higher detection rate can save thousands.
Recent examples of attacks with possibly multifold consequences include the patient records of an Australian medical centre held to ransom, as well as Internet advertising network NetSeer suffering a hack that also affected any Web page that included an ad served from NetSeer’s servers – among others several high profile Web sites and news agencies. And these are only a tiny fraction of all the examples out there.
Cyber attacks are not only costly to large enterprises, but also affect small and medium sized businesses (SMBs). Small firms are increasingly popular targets for attacks, as they are not as likely to be adequately protected. In fact, according to Verizon 2012 Data Breach Investigation Report, 79% of data breach victims from the past year were targets of attacks mainly because they were found to possess an exploitable weakness rather than because they were pre-identified targets. In addition, the same study states that victims don’t usually discover their own incidents, but they’re typically discovered by third parties only weeks or months after the initial instance – when significant damage has already been done.
To stay on top of the latest threats, we are launching F-Secure Client Security 10 that provides proactive protection for corporate desktops and laptops. It offers enhanced security with DeepGuard 4 threat detection technology that has been tested by AV-TEST with top-notch scores against new malware. In these independent tests for preventing new “zero-day” malware attacks, DeepGuard 4 performs at 98 to 100%, while the industry average hovers around 90 percent.
So why does detection rate matter? The answer is simple: even a single incident can be one too many.
And that’s why our aim is to “Protect the Irreplaceable.”
Ordinary people here in Finland have been confronted with yet another cybersecurity acronym lately, DoS. And this does not mean that retro-minded people are converting back to the pre-Windows operating system MS-DOS that we used in the eighties. Today DoS stands for Denial of Service. This case started on New Year’s Eve when customers of the OP-Pohjola bank experienced problems withdrawing cash from ATMs and accessing the on-line bank. The problems have now continued with varying severity for almost a week. What happens behind the scene is that someone is controlling a large number of computers. All these computers are instructed to bombard the target system with network traffic. This creates an overload situation that prevents ordinary customers from accessing the system. It’s like a massive cyber traffic jam. The involved computers are probably ordinary home computes infected with malware. Modern malware is versatile and can be used for varying purposes, like stealing your credit card number or participating in DoS-attacks like this. But what does this mean for me, the ordinary computer user? First, you are not at risk even if a system you use is the victim of a DoS-attack. The attack cannot harm your computer even if you try to access the system during the attack. Your data in the target system is usually safe too. The attack prevents people from accessing the system but the attackers don’t get access to data in the system. So inability to use the system is really the only harm for you. Well, that’s almost true. What if your computer is infected and participates in the attack? That would use your computer resources and slow down your Internet connection, not to speak about all the other dangers of having malware on your system. Keeping the device clean is a combination of common sense when surfing and opening attachments, and having a decent protection program installed. So you can participate in fighting DoS-attacks by caring for your own cyber security. But why? Who’s behind attacks like this and what’s the motive? Kids having fun and criminals extorting companies for money are probably the most common motives right now. Sometimes DoS-victims also accuse their competitors for the attack. But cases like this does always raise interesting questions about how vulnerable our cyber society is. There has been a lot of talk about cyber war. Cyber espionage is already reality, but cyber war is still sci-fi. This kind of DoS-attack does however give us a glimpse of what future cyber war might look like. We haven’t really seen any nations trying to knock out another county’s networks. But when it happens, it will probably look like this in greater scale. Computer-based services will be unavailable and even radio, TV, electricity and other critical services could be affected. So a short attack on a single bank is more like an annoyance for the customers. But a prolonged attack would already create sever problems, both for the target company and its customers. Not to talk about nation-wide attacks. Cyber war might be sci-fi today, but it is a future threat that need to be taken seriously. Safe surfing, Micke Image by Andreas Kaltenbrunner.
Since news of the now infamous "Sony hack" broke, some experts have been skeptical that the government of Kim Jong Un was directly behind what appears to be the "worst hack any company has ever publicly suffered." Before the hackers dumped emails designed to humiliate the company then posted a note on Pastebin threatening the release of the "The Interview" with the ominous line “Remember the 11th of September", our Security Advisor Sean Sullivan posited a theory. He suggested that "the attack was an attempted shakedown and extortion scheme." Few companies are as vulnerable to public acts of humiliation -- thus as vulnerable to extortion -- as a global media company. But nearly every company risks potential massive financial damage from the exposure of confidential data. So what does that mean for you and your business. Here are five simple takeaways that may seem obvious to you but may not have seemed so clear to Sony: 1. If your business' network is going to be breached, it's probably going start with an employee clicking on an email attachment. "It’s interesting that, while the array of tools is diverse, the basic methods of gaining access to a victim’s environment are not," Verizon noted in its most recent Data Breach Investigations Report. "The most prolific is the old faithful: spear phishing. We (and others) have covered this ad nauseam in prior reports, but for both of you who have somehow missed it, here goes: A well-crafted and personally/professionally-relevant email is sent to a targeted user(s), prompting them to open an attachment or click a link within the message. Inevitably, they take the bait, at which point malware installs on the system, a backdoor or command channel opens, and the attacker begins a chain of actions moving toward their objective." With the wealth of information available about executives online, targeting an infected email attachment to a specific user remains the most reliable method of penetrating a network. Most of us have been using email long enough to know that a message with a file included that reeks of unprofessionalism may be dangerous. But if the email seems crafted and personal, we still may be fooled. Security education will never cure the plague human error, which is why your IT department is working overtime to break the "delivery-installation-exploitation chain". Still the basic caveat applies: Never open an attachment you weren't expecting. 2. Don't store your passwords in a folder called "Passwords". Seems obvious. But it appears Sony may have done just that. Verizon reports that credentials are the number one hacker target. With 62 percent hacks not discovered until months after a network has been hacked, the intruders will have plenty of time to poke around. Don't make it easy. 3. Plug the holes. Keep all of your system, application and security software patched and protected -- especially browsers. Don't use Java plugins. Or get protection like F-Secure Software Updater that keeps you patched seamlessly. 4. Links in email can be as dangerous as attachments. It turns out that years of indoctrination have has some effect. Users are more skeptical of attachments than of links in emails that can lead to "drive-by" web attacks and/or phishing scams -- but not skeptical enough. About 8 percent will click on an email attachment while "18 percent of users will visit a link in a phishing email. Users unfamiliar with drive-by malware might think that simply visiting a link won’t result in a compromise." 5. Remember that email is forever. Dance like no one is watching; email like it may one day be read aloud in a deposition. — Olivia Nuzzi (@Olivianuzzi) December 13, 2014 Cheers, Sandra
“Sorry for the inconvenience, I'm in Limassol, Cyprus. I am here for a week and I just lost my bag containing all my important items, phone and money at the bus station. I need some help from you. Thanks” Many of you have seen these messages and some of you already know what the name of the game is. Yes, it’s another type of Internet scam, an imposter scam variant. I got this message last week from a photo club acquaintance. Or to be precise, the message was in bad Swedish from Google translate. Here’s what happened. First I got the mail. Needless to say, I never suspected that he was in trouble in Limassol. Instead I called him to check if he was aware of the scam. He was, I wasn’t the first to react. Several others had contacted him before me and some were posting warnings to his friends on Facebook. These scams start by someone breaking in to the victim’s web mail, which was Gmail in this case. This can happen because of a bad password, a phishing attack, malware in the computer or a breach in some other system. Then the scammer checks the settings and correspondence to find out what language the victim is using. The next step is to send a message like the above to all the victim’s contacts. The victim had reacted correctly and changed the Gmail password ASAP. But I wanted to verify and replied to the scam mail anyway, asking what I can do to help. One hour later I got this: “Thanks, I need to borrow about 1000 euros, will pay you back as soon as I get home. Western Union Money Transfer is the fastest option to wire funds to me. All you need to do is find the nearest Western Union shop and the money will be sent in minutes. See details needed WU transfer below. Name: (Redacted) Address: Limassol, Cyprus you must email me the reference number provided on the payment slip as soon as you make the transfer so I can receive money here. Thank you,” Now it should be obvious for everyone how this kind of scam works. Once the scammers get the reference number they just go to Western Union to cash in. Most recipients will not fall for this, but the scammers will get a nice profit if even one or two contacts send money. But wait. To pull this off, the scammers need to retain control over the mail account. They need to send the second mail and receive the reference number. How can this work if the victim had changed his password? This works by utilizing human’s inability to notice tiny details. The scammers will register a new mail account with an address that is almost identical to the victim’s. The first mail comes from the victim’s account, but directs replies to the new account. So the conversation can continue with the new account that people believe belongs to the victim. The new address may have a misspelled name or use a different separator between the first and last names. Or be in a different domain that is almost the same as the real one. The two addresses are totally different for computers, but a human need to pay close attention to notice the difference. How many of you would notice if a mail address changes from say Bill.Gates@gmail.com to BiII_Gates@mail.com? (How many differences do you notice, right answer at the end?) To be honest, I was sloppy too in this case and didn’t at first see the tiny difference. In theory it is also possible that webmail servers may leave active sessions open and let the scammers keep using the hacked account for a while after the password has been changed. I just tested this on Gmail. They close old sessions automatically pretty quickly, but it is anyway a good idea to use the security settings and manually terminate any connection the scammers may have open. I exchanged a couple of mails with this person the day after. He told that the scammers had changed the webmail user interface to Arabic, which probably is a hint about where they are from. I was just about to press send when I remembered to check the mail address. Bummer, the scammer’s address was still there so my reply would not have reached him unless I had typed the address manually. The account’s reply-to was still set to the scammer’s fake account. OK, let’s collect a checklist that helps identifying these scams. If someone asks for urgent help by mail, assume it’s a scam. These scams are a far more common than real requests for help. We are of course all ready to help friends, but are YOU really the one that the victim would contact in this situation? Are you close enough? How likely is it that you are close enough, but still had no clue he was travelling in Cyprus? Creating urgency is a very basic tool for scammers. Something must be done NOW so that people haven't got time to think or talk to others. The scammers may or may not be able to write correct English, but other languages are most likely hilarious Google-translations. Bad grammar is a strong warning sign. Requesting money using Western Union is another red flag. Wire transfer of money provides pretty much zero security for the sender, and scammers like that. Many scammers in this category try to fake an embarrassing situation and ask the recipient to not tell anyone else, to reduce the risk that someone else sees through it. These messages often state that the phone is lost to prevent the recipient from calling to check. But that is exactly what you should do anyway. Next checklist, how to deal with a situation where your account has been hijacked and used for scams. Act promptly. Change the mail account’s passwords. Check the webmail settings and especially the reply-to address. Correct any changed settings. Check for a function in the web mail that terminates open sessions from other devices. Gmail has a “Secure your account” -wizard under the account’s security settings. It’s a good idea to go through it. Inform your friends. A fast Facebook update may reach them before they see the scammer’s mail and prevent someone from falling for it. It also helps raising awareness. And finally, how to not be a victim in the first place. This is really about account security basics. Make sure you use a decent password. It’s easier to maintain good password habits with a password manager. Activate two-factor authentication on your important accounts. I think anyone’s main mail account is important enough for it. Learn to recognize phishing scams as they are a very common way to break into accounts. Maintain proper malware protection on all your devices. Spyware is a common way to steal account passwords. The last checklist is primarily about protecting your account. But that’s not the full picture. Imagine one of your friends falls for the scam and loses 1000 € when your account is hacked. It is kind of nice that someone cares that much about you, but losing money for it is not nice. Yes, the criminal scammer is naturally the primarily responsible. And yes, people who fall for the scam can to some extent blame themselves. But the one with the hacked account carries a piece of responsibility too. He or she could have avoided the whole incident with the tools described above. Caring about your account security is caring about your friends too! And last but not least. Knowledge is as usual the strongest weapon against scams. They work only as long as there are people who don’t recognize the scam pattern. Help fighting scam by spreading the word! Safe surfing, Micke PS. The two mail addresses above have 3 significant differences. 1. The name separator has changed from a dot to an underscore. 2. The domain name is mail.com instead of gmail.com. 3. The two lower case Ls in Bill has been replaced with capital I. Each of these changes is enough to make it a totally separate mail address. Image by Yumi Kimura