Sandra@F-Secure

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latest posts from Sandra@F-Secure

Welcome Mat Key Security

If you're in business, you have enemies -- and they're trying to get into your network. For-profit malware authors after baking information or files for extortion want in. Script-kiddies want in because mayhem is their game. And if you're large enough, criminals seeking data about your customers  for espionage want in too. "For instance, if you're a law firm," F-Secure Labs Senior Researcher Jarno Niemelä said in a recent webinar, "your clients might be interesting." And it's not just the clients of lawyers, who may be "interesting". He noted companies that specialize in car rental, car leasing, cleaning and catering all have customers that are attractive targets for your enemies. In order for an attack to be successful, the attacker must first get information about his or her targets. And the worst part is we may be letting our enemies in. Here are the 5 most common methods that is done: 1. Email. Spam is designed to hit anyone and only needs to work a tiny fraction of the time. A spear phishing attack was designed to get you. 2. Hacked websites. Like a lion hiding in a savannah, the best attackers infect a website you're likely to visit -- naughty and not naughty -- and wait for you to become their prey. 3. Search Engine Poisoning. Criminals target a specific search term and tries to drive an infected site up the Google rankings. 4. Traffic Injection. These more advanced attacks hijack your traffic and send it to a router controlled by the enemy. Once you've become the victim of a man-in-the-middle attack any web site you visit could be infected just for you. 5. Social engineering. What your enemy lacks in technical savvy, s/he could make up with the ability to fool you. 6. Affiliate marketing. Some criminals -- and intelligence agencies -- simply buy their victims in bulk. Jarno calls it "the digital slave trade". Of course, these aren't the only ways into your network. Jarno also explained how offline attacks through external drives, for instance, can provide access. But these are the six most likely ways your enemies will find their way in your network. And you should have some idea what they're up to, since their success depends on your mistakes. Cheers, Sandra    

May 19, 2015
business security cyber defense

This is the first in a series of posts about Cyber Defense that happened to real people in real life, costing very real money. A rainy, early spring day was slowly getting underway at a local council office in a small town in Western Poland. It was a morning like any other. Nobody there expected that this unremarkable day would see a series of events that would soon affect the entire community... Joanna Kaczmarek, a Senior Specialist in the council’s Accounting Department, rushed into her office a little late, but in a good mood nonetheless. Before getting down to work, she brewed herself a cup of coffee and played some music on her computer. Several days earlier, she had finally installed a music app on her PC so she could listen to her favourite tunes while she worked. This had taken some effort though, as she had needed administrator’s access to her computer. It took a lot of pleading and cajoling, but after a week the IT guy finally gave in. Joanna had no idea that she was opening a dangerous gap in the council’s IT system. That morning, Joanna launched, as she had countless times before, a government issued budget management application. With a few clicks, she made a transfer order for nearly twenty thousand zloty. The recipient of the money was a company that had won the contract for the renovation of a main road in the town. The whole operation took seconds. Two days later, the owner of the company phoned Joanna, asking about the advance he was supposed have received. “I can’t get the work started without that money”, he complained in an annoyed voice. Joanna was a little surprised and contacted the bank. The bank confirmed the operation, saying that there was nothing suspicious about it. Joanna, together with the Head of the IT Department, carefully ran back over the events of the day of the transfer. They found nothing out of the ordinary, so started checking what was happening on Joanna’s computer around the time before the transfer date. They soon found something: nearly a week prior to the date of the missing transfer, Joanna had received an email from the developer of the budget management software. For Joanna, the message hadn’t raised any red flags; the email contained a reminder about a software update and looked very legitimate. It contained the developer’s contact data, logo and telephone number. Everything was in order… Everything except for a change of one letter in the sender’s address. Joanna hadn’t noticed – a “t” and an “f” look so alike when you read quickly, don’t they? Unaware of the consequences, Joanna followed the link that was to take her to the update website. With just one click of her mouse she started a snowball of events that ultimately affected each and every resident of the town. Instead of the “update”, she downloaded dangerous spyware onto her computer. In this way, the cybercriminals who orchestrated the attack learnt that the woman was a Senior Specialist in the Accounting Department and was responsible for transferring money, including EU funds. The thieves lured Joanna into a digital trap, tricking her into installing software that replaced bank account numbers “on the fly”. As she was processing the transaction, the hackers replaced the recipient’s account details with their own, effectively stealing the money. Joanna would have been unable to install the fake update if she hadn’t obtained the administrator’s rights she’d needed for her music app. All she had wanted was to listen to some music while she worked. If only she had known what the consequences would be... After the attack was discovered, the Police launched an investigation. Joanna was just one of many victims. Investigators discovered that the malware infection was likely to have targeted computers used by local government workers in hundreds of municipalities across Poland. Law enforcement authorities haven’t officially disclosed how much money was stolen, but given the fact that losses may have been underreported, the estimated figures are in the millions of zlotys. On the top of that, Joanna’s town had to wait months for the completion of the roadwork. This was one of the largest mass cyber-attacks against local government in Poland. It certainly won’t be the last one... For small and medium sized enterprises, the average financial loss as the result of a cyber security incident is on average 380 000€. The risk and the lost is real. Don’t be an easy target. We help businesses avoid becoming an easy victim to cyber attacks by offering best in class end-point protection and security management solutions trusted by millions.

May 13, 2015
mother's day privacy online boundaries

Much -- but not all -- of the world celebrates Mothers' Day on the second Sunday of May. If you're celebrating and your procrastinating offspring (or their procrastinating dad) hasn't picked up a present yet, here's a simple -- and FREE -- thing to ask for that will give you peace of mind all year long: online boundaries. We recently released a series of suggestions for age-appropriate digital safety tips for parents that start with a simple truth about kids born in this new millennium: "They switch between devices, applications, and social media throughout the day without even noticing. For them, 'digital life' is just 'life'". If you were born before 1969, you're older than the internet yourself. But your kids are probably younger than the first iPod, which was released in 2001. Advertisers and governments are already tracking their digital footprints, and likely have been for years. And online criminals may be too. You can't prepare your kids for every situation they will face online. You probably can't even imagine every situation they'll eventually face online. But you can save them from numerous difficulties by establishing some basic boundaries. And the younger you begin, the better. Start by setting a reasonable limit for screen time hours that will not overwhelm schoolwork or real life. You can enforce these limits with the help of parental control software. We advise blocking access to social media sites for younger children. If you're going to do this, explain why. This lays the foundation for graduating into approved sites with your permission as they get older. Youthful brain chemistry often prohibits recognizing that time will continue on indefinitely and what you post on the internet will be there forever. Make this clear that what they post could be made public, even if it's in an email, and impossible to delete. And establish how important the privacy of passwords and other identifying data, possibly by using a simile like "Giving that  information away is like giving a stranger a key to your life". Tell your child if she or he can agree to one fundamental guideline -- "Tell an adult if something makes you uncomfortable, scared, or confused" -- it will be almost as nice as some new perfume or shoes. Almost. Cheers, Sandra  

May 6, 2015
kids laptop remote working take your kids to work

In the United States, Australia and Canada, April 23 will be Take Our Sons and Daughters to Work Day. But given our changing economy and workplace, is one day enough to improve the bonds between parent and child? Originally created to give girls a chance to "shadow" their parents in the workplaces women have so often been excluded from, Take Your Kid to Work Day, as it's often called, was expanded in 2003 to include boys as a way to help all kids see "the power and possibilities associated with a balanced work and family life." It's a nice ideal, but it isn't much of a reality, at least in many industrial countries. Americans spend an average of 1,788 hours a year at work. Most parents with full-time jobs will spend almost two-thirds of their day working and sleeping, leaving little time for anything else. Hopefully your country is a little better at balancing work/home. Finnish workers, for instance, spent 1,666 hours on average at work in 2013 that's 122 hours or 3 full weeks less than their American counterparts. Don't be jealous: German workers only averaged 1,388 hours at work in 2013. Chances are wherever you live your kids already see you at work. A 2012 survey found that 60 percent of Americans are email accessible for 13.5 hours a weekday with an extra 5 hours on the weekend. Given the extraordinary demands work makes on us, perhaps you can make a demand on your work to be a bit more flexible. Given that we're nearly always accessible, why can't parents plan around their kids' schedules and get some work done? Activities like sports, dance, karate and other arts offer parents a chance to be an active observer of their kids while getting some work done on a mobile PC or device while their children are being supervised by another adult. Given that 70 percent of millennial use their own devices for work, it's likely that younger parents already do this to some degree on their phones and tablets. But they're likely not thinking about potential data leakage that can occur, especially when using public Wi-Fi built on old technology that could expose your identity and possibly even your email. But with security and a virtual personal network -- like our Freedome VPN -- you can be about as secure in the office as you're out in the world seeing how your kids work, as they get another chance to see you. Cheers, Sandra [Image by Wesley Fryer | Flickr]        

April 21, 2015
MikkotalksCeBit

"Securing the future" is a huge topic, but our Chief Research Officer Mikko Hypponen narrowed it down to the two most important issues is his recent keynote address at the CeBIT conference. Watch the whole thing for a Matrix-like immersion into the two greatest needs for a brighter future -- security and privacy. [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VFoOvpaZvdM] To get started here are some quick takeaways from Mikko's insights into data privacy and data security in a threat landscape where everyone is being watched, everything is getting connected and anything that can make criminals money will be attacked. 1. Criminals are using the affiliate model. About a month ago, one of the guys running CTB Locker -- ransomware that infects your PC to hold your files until you pay to release them in bitcoin -- did a reddit AMA to explain how he makes around $300,000 with the scam. After a bit of questioning, the poster revealed that he isn't CTB's author but an affiliate who simply pays for access to a trojan and an exploit-kid created by a Russian gang. "Why are they operating with an affiliate model?" Mikko asked. Because now the authors are most likely not breaking the law. In the over 250,000 samples F-Secure Labs processes a day, our analysts have seen similar Affiliate models used with the largest banking trojans and GameOver ZeuS, which he notes are also coming from Russia. No wonder online crime is the most profitable IT business. 2. "Smart" means exploitable. When you think of the word "smart" -- as in smart tv, smartphone, smart watch, smart car -- Mikko suggests you think of the word exploitable, as it is a target for online criminals. Why would emerging Internet of Things (IoT) be a target? Think of the motives, he says. Money, of course. You don't need to worry about your smart refrigerator being hacked until there's a way to make money off it. How might the IoT become a profit center? Imagine, he suggests, if a criminal hacked your car and wouldn't let you start it until you pay a ransom. We haven't seen this yet -- but if it can be done, it will. 3. Criminals want your computer power. Even if criminals can't get you to pay a ransom, they may still want into your PC, watch, fridge or watch for the computing power. The denial of service attack against Xbox Live and Playstation Netwokr last Christmas, for instance likely employed a botnet that included mobile devices. IoT devices have already been hijacked to mine for cypto-currencies that could be converted to Bitcoin then dollars or "even more stupidly into Rubbles." 4. If we want to solve the problems of security, we have to build security into devices. Knowing that almost everything will be able to connect to the internet requires better collaboration between security vendors and manufacturers. Mikko worries that companies that have never had to worry about security -- like a toaster manufacturer, for instance -- are now getting into IoT game. And given that the cheapest devices will sell the best, they won't invest in proper design. 5. Governments are a threat to our privacy. The success of the internet has let to governments increasingly using it as a tool of surveillance. What concerns Mikko most is the idea of "collecting it all." As Glenn Glenwald and Edward Snowden pointed out at CeBIT the day before Mikko, governments seem to be collecting everything -- communication, location data -- on everyone, even if you are not a person of interest, just in case. Who knows how that information may be used in a decade from now given that we all have something to hide? Cheers, Sandra  

March 23, 2015
Best Protection 4 Years in a Row, AV Test, F-Secure

What smells so good? Could it be history? On Tuesday, F-Secure's corporate security team traveled to Dresden to pick up its fourth straight Best Protection award from AV-Test.org. We are now the only vendor in the history of the award to win the honor four years in a row. “Since 2011, F-Secure's security product has been a guarantee of high protection in corporate environments,” says Andreas Marx, CEO of AV-TEST. That's four years straight of the industry's best protection in a solution that provides the technology that's the basis for all of our security solutions. Success like this doesn't just mean we're good once in a while. It means we're the best every day, as the award goes to the solution that provides the most consistent protection throughout the year. We blocked 955 out of 958 real-world threats -- a 99.67 percent blocking rate --  and 112,059 out of 112,090 wide-spread malware with an astounding 99.97 percent blocking rate. That means we're about 2.67 - 2.97 percent above the industry standard. All this means if you don't use F-Secure, you could be exposing your business to thousands of more possible infections every month. You can compare these results to our competitors here. How do we do it? It's kind of like building the perfect sandwich. F-Secure Client Security layers antivirus on top of firewall on top of antispyware on top of rootkit scanning. We slather on the browsing protection to block dangerous websites. But it's not enough to block the threats we know about. That's where the secret sauce comes in. Our DeepGuard engine provides protection that reads criminals minds. As AV-Test's Andreas Marx said, “F-Secure is secure, innovative, and straightforward.” Excuse us. This is making me very hungry. We need to take a bite. Cheers, Sandra      

February 19, 2015
Ransomware, malware, CTB-Locker

F-Secure Labs is detecting a sudden flurry of new infections from the CTB Locker ransomware. This sort of malware literally hold your files for a ransom, demanding a payment for their return by a certain time. This particular variety is spreading through email spam and demands $650 USD or $575 Euros. "There is no known way to break the encryption used by CTB-Locker," Artturi from the F-Secure Labs writes. "Therefore the only way for a victim to get their files back is from back ups or by receiving the decryption key from the malware operators. However, you should never pay the ransom, as you'll only help finance the criminal activities of malware operators! There is also no guarantee paying the ransom will actually get you your files back. That's entirely up to the trustworthiness of the criminals." Catch those subtle last few words? "...trustworthiness of the criminals." That's who you're relying on. There's no becoming Liam Neeson and tracking these guys down. If you don't want to put yourself at the mercy of lawbreakers, here are the three basic things you should do now. 1. Ensure you are running an up-to-date antivirus solution. F-Secure Labs already detects this threat along with attachments that have spread it. 2. You should also take care to not open executable files received as email attachments. (Yes, it's 2015 and we still give this advice because some people obviously haven't heard it yet.) 3. Most importantly, you should make regular back ups of all your data. If you want to get into the technicalities of this threat or are the administrator of a network, read the full Labs post. Cheers, Sandra

February 9, 2015