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A Barrage of Breaches Later, Cybersecurity Requires a Rethink

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Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity needs an upgrade.

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It’s a good time to bet against cybersecurity when everyday headlines are made of breached dating websites; stolen federal employee records; pilfered private health care records of patients – all of which affects millions of people. It’s time, perhaps, that fundamental cybersecurity policies in corporations, the government and other predictable targets vulnerable to hackers, requires a rethink.

An example as recent as the $100 million insider trading ring involving Wall Street traders and Ukrainian hackers looking into corporate press releases addresses the vulnerabilities in no uncertain terms. In an age where companies can distribute information through corporate websites, social media outlets, and mailing lists, one might assume newswires are outdated and offer little value. Still, newswires are necessary. Companies are mandated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to put out press releases in the interest of fair disclosure. Hence, PR agencies are predictable targets for opportunists and hackers for their ill-gotten gains.

press releasesThe FBI dismantled the illegal insider ring and released their own press release, claiming the accused had stolen approximately 150,000 confidential press releases since 2010. It’s baffling that, with such massive stakes, PR wire agencies and companies aren’t investing in a better cybersecurity infrastructure.

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Rick Spurr, Chairman and CEO of Zix Corporation – an email encryption services provider, says that companies and services that are not prioritizing the latest security measures risk embarrassment and are jeopardizing customer trust.

“Anyone in security shouldn’t be surprised by incidents like the hack of newswire services. Data breaches are common and have occurred for years, but often they’ve gone undetected,” Spurr told Hacked.

“These incidents show that all companies – both public and private – have valuable data that is vulnerable to theft and, therefore, require data protection.”

While certain industries like healthcare and finance adopted security solutions early, a majority of the rest were slow to implement protection, adds Spurr.

The Greatest Vulnerabilities Are Also the Most Obvious Ones

The reality is that no corporation, government or person is truly secure against the threat of hacking. Mitigation strategies and cyber-defenses are routinely the focus of cybersecurity experts, and yet the biggest vulnerabilities in companies remain its employees.

“Employee behavior risks” remain the greatest concern as a vulnerability facing companies, asserts Spurr. Social engineering scams such as email and phone spear phishing,  lack of encryption binding sensitive data sent outside the corporation and other routine errors contribute to failing cybersecurity.

There has been a concentrated focus on embracing encryption by trendsetting tech giants recently. The U.S. Govt recently mandated that all federal websites are required to adopt HTTPS encryption by Dec 31, 2016. At the time of writing this, only 29% of federal websites are compliant with the mandate. Small business owners have also expressed concerns about current cybersecurity and encryption measures.

The other significant vulnerability stems from the “interception of unencrypted data as it travels across the public Internet,” Spurr contends.

There are many insecure channels of communication being used to send confidential information. Unencrypted email and file sharing services are the first that come to mind. Communication via mobile devices should also be a concern for business executives.

Immediate Solutions for Curbing Threats

The human element in any situation always represents the probability of error(s), and it is no different in companies. Even the best employees will inevitably make mistakes, explains Spurr. The best course of action would be to embrace and prioritize automated cybersecurity systems that are further elaborated upon here and here. Email encryption is a necessity and recommended because it is automated to scan instantly and secure data in real-time.

Furthermore, Spurr notes that it is imperative that employees are educated about the dangers of targeted spear phishing schemes. Regular training routines are also recommended to understand and be vigilant against social engineering schemes that will always better the best-automated security and encryption possible.

The Bigger Picture

While HTTPS encryption and better cybersecurity practices will help with greater safety, the means to combat or even resist the threat of state-sponsored hacker groups is a far more daunting task. For instance, the latest State of the Internet report (Q2 2015) indicates the originating source for the highest number of DDoS attacks is China.

State-sponsored hackers from China have long been suspected and accused of targeting U.S. institutions by breaching records of over 30 million federal employees; infiltrating universities; stealing airline manifests by hacking United Airlines; performing cyber espionage on Forbes among other clandestine operations.

It isn’t all one-way, either. Edward Snowden revealed that the U.S. targeted and hacked Chinese Universities and mobile phones. In what is essentially a high-stakes game of cat and mouse to preserve their self-interests, the subject of cybersecurity, state-sponsored hacking, and cyber espionage were discussed at length during bi-lateral talks between the two nations earlier this year.

It has to be reiterated that every security system, company or government can be hacked. However, better standards of cybersecurity will ensure that the privacy and confidential information of millions that are stored online are better preserved. Otherwise, it’s one long and open season for malicious hackers.

Images from Shutterstock and Pixabay.

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  1. Samburaj Das

    August 28, 2015 at 11:24 am

    For those interested, here’s a real-time map of cyber-attacks taking place around the world. Disclaimer: It looks notoriously similar to a Star Wars shooting gallery. http://map.norsecorp.com/

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Breaches

Uber Is Paying Hackers to Keep Quiet

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Uber Technologies Inc. has reportedly paid hackers to delete scores of private data stolen from the company in a security breach that was concealed for over a year. The revelation provides further confirmation that, when it comes to cyber security, crime does pay.

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Massive Data Breach

According to Bloomberg Technology, hackers retrieved the personal data of 57 million Uber customers and drivers at some point last year. Nobody heard about it because the rideshare company paid the hackers $100,000 to keep quiet. A purge at the front office of Uber also ensured that the massive cyber breach was kept under wraps.

The compromised data was from October 2016 and included the names, phone numbers and addressed of 50 million Uber riders globally. About seven million drivers had their personal information accessed as well.

At the time of the cyber attack, Uber was inundated with a slew of legal issues stemming from alleged privacy violations. Rather than shine even more negative spotlight on the company, Uber executives decided to pay hackers to stay quiet.

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“None of this should have happened, and I will not make excuses for it,” Dara Khosrowshahi, who took over as CEO in September, said in a statement that was published by Bloomberg. “We are changing the way we do business.”

Hackers have done a masterful job infiltrating companies and governments in recent years. As a reminder, recent cyber attacks levied against Yahoo!, Target Corp and Equifax Inc. dwarf Uber’s 57 million compromised accounts.

Various reports indicate that cyber attacks are bleeding the global economy dry. One report, issued by the World Economic Forum, suggests that cyber crime cost the world economy $445 billion in 2016. If cyber crime were its own market cap, it would exceed Microsoft Inc., Facebook Inc. and ExxonMobil Corp

The Fall of Uber?

Uber revolutionized the ride-hailing business over the span of seven years by giving more power to the consumer. Several missteps later, the company finds itself in legal hot water, with its future appearing less certain than it did just one year ago.

The rideshare company faces at least five U.S. probes ranging from bribes to illicit software and right up to unethical pricing schemes. According to another Bloomberg report, Uber is under investigation for violating price transparency regulations, not to mention the alleged theft of documents for Google’s autonomous cars.

Some governments are sensing weakness in the ride-hailing service, and are moving toward banning the Uber app entirely. London is the most prominent example of a city that has taken definitive steps to outlaw the service over a “lack of corporate responsibility.”

Even with its legal troubles, Uber is a revolutionary technology that has influenced a bevy of other innovations aimed at improving the human experience.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock. 

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Ethereum Notches Two-Month High as Bitcoin Offspring Triggers Volatility

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Digital currency Ethereum climbed to a two-month high on Monday, taking some of the heat off Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash, which have slumped since the weekend.

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Ethereum Forges Higher Path

Concerns over Bitcoin created a favourable tailwind for Ethereum (ETH/USD), which is the world’s No. 2 digital currency by total assets. Ether’s price topped $340.00 on Monday and later settled at $323.54. That was the highest since June 20.

At its peak, ether was up 10% on the day and 70% for the month of August.

The ETH/USD was last down 2.2% at $315.02, according to Bitfinex. Prices are due for a brisk recovery, based on the daily momentum indicators.

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Fractured Bitcoin Community

Bitcoin and its offshoot, Bitcoin Cash, retreated on Monday following a volatile weekend. The BTC/USD slumped at the start of the week and was down more than 3% on Tuesday, with prices falling below $3,900.00. Just last week, Bitcoin was trading at new records near $4,500.00.

Bitcoin Cash, which emerged after the Aug. 1 hard fork, climbed to new records on Saturday, but has been in free-fall ever since. The BTH was down another 20% on Tuesday to $594.49, according to CoinMarketCap. Its total market value has dropped by several billion over the past two days.

Analysts say that a “fractured” Bitcoin community has made Ethereum a more attractive bet this week. The ether token has shown remarkable poise over the past seven days, despite trading well shy of a new record.

Other drivers behind Ethereum’s advance are steady demand from South Korean investors and growing confidence in a smooth upgrade for the the ETH network. The upgrade, which has been dubbed “Metropolis,” is expected in the next several weeks. Its key benefits include tighter transaction privacy and greater efficiency.

Ethereum Prices Unaffected by ICO Heist

Fin-tech developer Enigma was on the receiving end of a cyber-heist on Monday after hackers took over the company’s website, mailing list and instant messaging platforms. The hack occurred three weeks before Enigma’s planned Initial Coin Offering (ICO) for September 11.

In addition to defacing the company’s website, the hackers pushed a special “pre-sale” ahead of the ICO. While many users realized it was a scam, 1,492 ether tokens – valued at $495,000 – were directed into the hackers’ cryptocurrency wallet by unsuspecting backers.

The irony in all this is that Engima is a cryptography company that prides itself on top-notch security protocols. The company issued a statement that its servers had not been compromised.

ETH/USD (Bitfinex)

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Ethereum Prices on Track for 35% Monthly Drop

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It has been a difficult month for ethereum. The world’s No. 2 digital currency has lost a third of its value over the past 30 days following a series of cyber breaches targeting vulnerable wallets and ICOs.

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Ethereum Struggles to Regain Momentum

Ethereum (ETH/USD) was trading near $197.00 Sunday at 6:30 BST, according to Bitfinex. That represents a decline of around 5%. At current values, ethereum’s market cap was $18.4 billion.

The ETH/USD exchange rate has struggled throughout July, with prices briefly falling below $160.00. The decline, which amounted to a 60-day low, lured bargain-hunters back into the market. After surging back toward $250.00, the ETH/USD has consolidated below the $220-mark, which continues to offer strong resistance. On the opposite side of the spectrum, major support is located at $180.00.

A price recovery may prove elusive in the short-term, with the Relative Strength Index (RSI) and Stochastic indicator signalling weak underlying momentum.

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Despite its recent decline, ethereum’s value has surged more than 2,200% this year.

Cyber Attacks, SEC Weigh on Market

The ethereum network suffered a large-scale cyber breach earlier this month resulting in the loss of tens of millions of dollars. A community of ethical hackers quickly banded together to “rescue” hundreds of millions of dollars worth of tokens.

Blockchain-based trading platform Coindash was also hijacked during an initial coin offering (ICO). The breach exposed Coindash’s ether wallet address, resulting in the loss of $7 million worth of ether.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has also taken an interest in the ethereum-based ICO market. Last week, the regulator concluded that a certain multi-million dollar token sale last year violated securities law. Although ICOs have been compared to crowd-sourcing, the SEC maintained that some tokens were in fact securities.

Analysts say the SEC ruling could impact the future of ICOs, although it remains unclear how the regulator is pursuing this market. The SEC’s July 25 press release cautions investors about ICOs in general.

ETH/USD (Bitfinex)


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