Security is fundamental for any business. However, managing security can be a costly and time-consuming effort, especially today, when cloud services, “bring-your-own-device” and “bring-your-own-application” and other new approaches are spreading to the offices.
Money-wise, if you thought buying services costs a lot, you may think again. The price tag of services, bigger though it might look at the beginning, might end up being the smaller one.
Let’s make a small comparison, using F-Secure Protection Service for Business as an example:
[i] Please note the price estimate is just a fictional example based on selected services, the real price of SaaS services can vary a lot depending on the scope of services
F-Secure Protection Service for Business is a hosted security solution that provides 360 degrees protection against all threats for all devices.
Photo: Chris Meller via Flickr.com
The first day of September may go down in internet security history -- and not just because it's the day when F-Secure Labs announced that its blog, which was the first antivirus industry blog ever, has moved to a new home. It's also the day that Google's Chrome began blocking flash ads from immediately loading, with the goal of moving advertisers to develop their creative in HTML5. Google is joining Amazon, whose complete rejection of Flash ads also begins on September 1. "This is a very good move on Amazon’s part and hopefully other companies will follow suit sooner than later," F-Secure Security Advisor Sean Sullivan wrote in August when Amazon made its announcement. "Flash-based ads are now an all-too-common security risk. Everybody will be better off without them." Last month, Adobe issued its 12th update in 2015 for the software addressing security and stability concerns. An estimated 90 percent of rich media ads are delivered through Flash. Having the world's largest online retailer reject your ad format is a significant nudge away from the plugin. But it would be difficult to overstate the impact of Chrome actively encouraging developers to drop Flash. About 1 out of every 2 people, 51.74 percent, who access the internet through a desktop browser do it via Chrome, according to StatCounter. This makes it the world's most popular web interface by far. Facebook's Chief Security Officer has also recently called for the end of Flash and YouTube moved away from the format by default in January. “Newer technologies are available and becoming more popular anyway, so it would really be worth the effort to just speed up the adoption of newer, more secure technologies, and stop using Flash completely," F-Secure Senior Researcher Timo Hirvonen told our Business Insider blog. So what's keeping Flash alive? Massive adoption and advertisers. “Everyone in every agency’s creative department grew up using Adobe’s creative suite, so agencies still have deep benches of people who specialize in this,”Media Kitchen managing partner Josh Engroff told Digiday. “Moving away from it means new training and calibration.” And Flash does have some advantages over the format that seems fated to replace it. "HTML5 ads may be more beautiful, and are perceived to be more secure, but the files can be a lot larger than Flash," Business Insider's Laura O'Reilly wrote. In markets, stability can breed instability and it seems that our familiarity and reliance on Flash has resulted in unnecessary insecurity for our data. Has Flash hit its moment when its dominance rapidly evaporates? We can have hope. "I sincerely hope this is the end of Flash," Timo told us. Cheers, Sandra [Image by Sean MacEntee | Flickr]
Kaisu who is working for us is also studying tourism. Her paper on knowledge of and behavior related to information security amongst young travelers was released in May, and is very interesting reading. The world is getting smaller. We travel more and more, and now we can stay online even when travelling. Using IT-services in unknown environments does however introduce new security risks. Kaisu wanted to find out how aware young travelers are of those risks, and what they do to mitigate them. The study contains many interesting facts. Practically all, 95,7%, are carrying a smartphone when travelling. One third is carrying a laptop and one in four a tablet. The most commonly used apps and services are taking pictures, using social networks, communication apps and e-mail, which all are used by about 90% of the travelers. Surfing the web follows close behind at 72%. But I’m not going to repeat it all here. The full story is in the paper. What I find most interesting is however what the report doesn’t state. Everybody is carrying a smartphone and snapping pictures, using social media, surfing the web and communicating. Doesn’t sound too exotic, right? That’s what we do in our everyday life too, not just when travelling. The study does unfortunately not examine the participants’ behavior at home. But I dare to assume that it is quite similar. And I find that to be one of the most valuable findings. Traveling is no longer preventing us from using IT pretty much as we do in our everyday life. I remember when I was a kid long, long ago. This was even before invention of the cellphone. There used to be announcements on the radio in the summer: “Mr. and Mrs. Müller from Germany traveling by car in Lapland. Please contact your son Hans urgently.” Sounds really weird for us who have Messenger, WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Skype installed on our smartphones. There was a time when travelling meant taking a break in your social life. Not anymore. Our social life is today to an increasing extent handled through electronic services. And those services goes with us when travelling, as Kaisu’s study shows. So you have access to the same messaging channels no matter where you are on this small planet. But they all require a data connection, and this is often the main challenge. There are basically two ways to get the data flowing when abroad. You can use data roaming through the cellphone’s ordinary data connection. But that is often too expensive to be feasible, so WiFi offers a good and cheap alternative. Hunting for free WiFi has probably taken the top place on the list of travelers’ concerns, leaving pickpockets and getting burnt in the sun behind. Another conclusion from Kaisu’s study is that travelers have overcome this obstacle, either with data roaming or WiFi. The high usage rates for common services is a clear indication of that. But how do they protect themselves when connecting to exotic networks? About 10% are using a VPN and about 20% say they avoid public WiFi. That leaves us with over 70% who are doing something else, or doing nothing. Some of them are using data roaming, but I’m afraid most of them just use whatever WiFi is available, either ignoring the risks or being totally unaware. That’s not too smart. Connecting to a malicious WiFi network can expose you to eavesdropping, malware attacks, phishing and a handful other nasty tricks. It’s amazing that only 10% of the respondents have found the simple and obvious solution, a VPN. It stands for Virtual Private Network and creates a protected “tunnel” for your data through the potentially harmful free networks. Sounds too nerdy? No, it’s really easy. Just check out Freedome. It’s the super-simple way to be among the smart 10%. Safe surfing, Micke PS. I recently let go of my old beloved Nokia Lumia. Why? Mainly because I couldn’t use Freedome on it, and I really want the freedom it gives me while abroad. Image by Moyan Brenn
This is the sixth in a series of posts about Cyber Defense that happened to real people in real life, costing very real money. Chris, a very ordinary businessman, was on a very ordinary business trip when he received an urgent call from one of his business partners asking him to make a money transfer. Chris was waiting for a train at a station, but he was happy to have the opportunity to help out his colleague, so he quickly pulled his laptop out of his bag to make the transfer. The account for his company-owned mobile phone was maxed out, so he wanted to take advantage of the train station’s Wi-Fi while he had a chance. He booted up his laptop and started looking for a free connection. Fortunately, “Railway_Station_Name” was open to the public – no username, password, or registration required. “Phew! Caught a lucky break there,” thought Chris. Fueled by motivation to get the job done, Chris went ahead and connected to the seemingly trustworthy network. He noticed it was a little bit slow, and not wanting to risk missing his train, he closed all the background apps and processes, including his anti-virus software. He really wanted to use the opportunity to show his initiative to his team, and he didn’t want to risk missing his meeting or not finishing the transfer because his computer was slow. He figured that as long as he avoids opening emails or browsing the web, he wouldn’t have any problems. And just like he thought, it was all over in a couple of minutes. He completed the money transfer without any issues. He shut down his laptop and hurried off to catch his train, confident that he had done the right thing by taking a few minutes to help his business partner. “A job well done,” Chris thought to himself. Chris arrived back at his hotel later that evening and booted up his laptop again to send some emails and wrap up his day. But his computer wasn’t working properly. It was slow. Error messages were spreading over his desktop like flies on spoiled fruit. He tried running an anti-virus check, but even that wouldn’t work. He decided to take it into a computer store he had passed earlier to see if they could take a look at it for him. He only had to wait at the shop for a few minutes while the store’s staff checked his laptop. “The problem is your computer’s infected by a virus – several in fact,” said the clerk. “One of the viruses disabled your AV software, and you’ve also got a ton of spyware. We’ve cleaned it up for you so you should be good to go now, but try to be more careful in the future.” The satisfaction Chris had felt earlier was suddenly gone. Now he was plagued with doubt about whether or not his information was secure, and even worse, he was concerned that perhaps the bank account he had used earlier had been compromised. He’d heard of such things happening to other people working for other companies. He thought that maybe these other people had just been suckers, scammed by some spam emails or clicking random links they found online. But now he wasn’t so sure, so he decided to change all of the passwords for his online accounts. Chris retired to his hotel, feeling stressed, and with a lighter wallet from paying the guys at the computer shop for helping him out. He told himself that he would think twice before disabling his AV software in the future. But Chris’ doubts about what he’d done, and what kind of threats he had been exposed to, continued to linger. Chris didn’t realize that he’d fallen into a trap, and connected to a rogue Wi-Fi hotspot that a hacker had prepared at the train station. These kinds of opportunistic attacks are quite common because they capitalize on people taking Wi-Fi security for granted, and are quite easy and cheap for hackers to put together. As this video shows, it’s a small feat to trick people into connecting to public Wi-Fi hotspots that hackers can use to steal account credentials and intercept communications. [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qk2RPOBpZvc&w=560&h=315] F-Secure Security Advisor Su Gim Goh recently conducted an experiment in Hong Kong to see how many people connect to Wi-Fi hotspots without verifying that the connections are safe. He put together a Wi-Fi hotspot for less than 200 U.S. dollars, and took it to different cafes and restaurants in Hong Kong. Goh was able to determine that 55% of people automatically connected to his hotspot, which was set up to spoof legitimate connections that people want to use. “Spoofing” legitimate Wi-Fi hotspots means that the bad Wi-Fi hotspots are able to trick devices into thinking they’re legitimate hotspots that have been used before, so anyone that’s used the legitimate (“spoofed”) Wi-Fi hotspot in the past, and has their device recognize it as a preferred or safe network, will be automatically connected to the “spoofing” hotspot. Goh and many other security researchers warn people against taking Wi-Fi security for granted. “Auto-connecting is typically bad for security, so you should disable that option on your phone, or even just keep your Wi-Fi off when you’re not using it. It’s really not that hard to toggle it on/off, and it’s better than learning the hard way.”