money

3 Devastating Cyber Attacks on Banks That Show How Vulnerable Our Money Is

When it comes to online banking, there’s no room for tolerating sloppy data security. You might not lose any sleep if your (hopefully unique) Adobe password is leaked and you may only experience a few minutes of rage if your Dota 2 game is DDoSed. But if your bank goes offline, better hope it’s only for a few minutes and that your money is safe.

These 3 Cyber Attacks on Banks Had Devastating Consequences

Whether we’re talking about large banks or scrappy new fintechs, any financial companies that do business online are vulnerable to security risks, just like anyone else. Here are three major incidents w

here online banks had their security compromised.

1. American Banks Targeted With Extended DDoS Campaign

Starting in early 2012, a wave of malicious traffic swept over several American banks, targeting banking web applications one at a time. The attacks affected Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Capital One, and HSBC, among others. Rather than targeting customer data or stealing money, the hackers used DDoS attacks to overwhelm online banking websites and prevent actual customers from accessing bank services.

A group called Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Cyber Fighters took credit for the attacks, dubbed Operation Ababil, claiming it was retribution for an anti-Islam video. But due to the sophistication of the attacks, the US government suspects the group is just a front for the Iranian government, seeking their own retribution for American cyberwarfare attacks.

The campaign was the largest cyberattack in history (a record since surpassed many times). Attacks were carried out in three phases, the final launching in March 2013. More than just a nuisance, a successful DDoS attack costs banks an estimated $100,000 per hour. Worse, any server, web application, device, or IoT device compromised by a botnet can be used in such a DDoS attack.

 

money

Terrorists acting on their own or state-sponsored warfare. Whoever they were, they weren’t after this stuff.

2. South Korea’s Banking Industry Hit By Massive Coordinated Attack

On March 20, 2013, South Korean citizens were rattled by a far-reaching cyber blackout that froze computer terminals and paralyzed ATMs and mobile payments. At two banks, Windows and Linux computer systems were affected and entire hard drives were wiped. Others such as Woori Bank reported intrusion attempts but claimed they fended off the hackers. The attackers also managed to disrupt broadcasts of three major TV stations.

The South Korean government accused North Korean operatives of orchestrating this cyberwarfare campaign from China, where the attacker IP was traced. It is possible either a North Korean cyberwarfare unit was active in China, or they hired a China-based mercenary botnet that had already compromised South Korean targets.

This attack was carried out by a relatively unsophisticated malware program known as “DarkSeoul,” and could have been prevented had adequate cyber security measures been put in place. Despite the disruption to services and deletion of data, it is clear the attack was mainly intended to disrupt business and cause chaos. The total cost of the carnage, both through denial of service and data loss,  was calculated at $725 million.

 

wild west bank

This is what our banks will look like in the future if we don’t start taking cyber security seriously.

3. Russian Hackers Pull Off World’s Biggest Bank Heist

A cybercriminal gang has been attributed to a crime spree that launched a diverse repertory of well-planned attacks against as many as 100 banks across 30 countries. The group, dubbed Carbanak by Kaspersky Lab, is believed to consist of Russians, Ukrainians, and Chinese, with their targets being located primarily in Russia, followed by the US, Germany, China, and Ukraine. Their crime spree began in early 2014, peaking in June, and went unaddressed until February 2015.

The hackers used botnets to send out malware-infected e-mails to bank employees, a tactic called spearphishing, and were able to infiltrate many employee accounts. This allowed them to steal many different kinds of sensitive information, including customer data, secret keys used by ATMs to confirm PINs, bank video surveillance, and information on security systems and anti-fraud measures. They could also manipulate account balances and create fake accounts to move stolen money around. Each attack took around two to four months.

One bank was robbed of $7.3 million when the hackers reprogrammed its ATMs. Another bank’s online platform was accessed and the thieves made away with $10 million. Some of these attacks could have been prevented had employees only updated their Microsoft software. The thieves were able to make off with as much as $1 billion, and authorities have been unable to catch them.

bank robber

No, Carbanak is not like your granddaddy’s bank robbers.

These three incidents show hackers with varying motivations and means, using differing techniques to achieve their own unique goals. Whether disrupting service or stealing money, or cybercrime or cyberwarfare, cyber threats cannot go unaddressed. And rather than going after only the biggest banks, hackers are increasingly targeting smaller fintech startups with fewer resources and less experience with cyber security. We must cooperate to secure the Internet from these actions, or we’ll pay the price in the end.

cloudbric website protection

Your Guide to the 3 Layers of Website Protection

Of course, it’s difficult to talk about completeness when it comes to information security. Even the professionals need serious resources for comprehensive protection, from architecture to operation, and even then, perfection still isn’t guaranteed. There are no standard web security measures, so every individual builds security depending on their own unique situation. Web security solutions need to fit each company’s IT system. This begins with understanding how a company’s IT system is structured.

 

Cloudbric free website protection

What’s the shortcut to website security?

The Three Layers of an IT System: Network, System, Application

Generally, an IT system consists of networks, systems, and applications. Each of these three layers need their own unique level of protection. The networks layer at the bottom of this stack deals with data transfer, while the systems layer (what we know as operating systems such as Windows or Linux) works as a platform that enables the applications layer to operate. The applications layer itself offer protocols and services with many features. Many kinds of server systems are just like this structure, so securing the server means all these three layers are safe.

IT system layer structure

IT system layer structure

Don’t Overlook Web Application Security

Despite the importance of web application security, most companies spend 10 percent on web application security compared to network security. The reason is simple: companies don’t know what to do about web application security. The application layer is technically more complicated and the kinds of applications also vary.

Most security professionals find it difficult to set up a security policy and apply security measures. What we think of as the ‘web’ actually consists of applications. Websites and mobile apps are all applications, and attacks on these also take advantage of the vulnerabilities of applications.

Web attacks such as SQL injection or XSS also target the vulnerabilities of website applications. Malicious code called a ‘web shell’ also consists of a type of web application. The Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP), famous in the web security industry, named 10 web vulnerabilities, all of which are web application attacks.

More than 90% of web attacks target web applications. A web application firewall (WAF) is what protects your website from unwanted visitors. Its role is like a fence. It monitors traffic, detects web attacks and protects your website. What’s important is that it prevents vulnerabilities from being exposed. From the outside shell, it limits access from malicious traffic. Also, it hinders malicious code from being uploaded to your web server.

 

cloudbric website protection

A Web Application Firewall blocks all sorts of web attacks

If you look into web application firewall solutions, there is a comprehensive yet free solution called Cloudbric. Cloudbric is the most advanced web application firewall, with algorithms that progressively learn from past experience. Go to the top of this page and click to get started with Cloudbric protection for your website!

startup CEOs

3 Web Security Services for Startup CEOs

startup CEO

Startup CEOs should secure their business

In 2013, Target, a massive retailer in the US, suffered a major web hacking incident that stole thousands of customers’ credit card information. After the event, Target was negatively affected as news leaked and company shares dropped by 1.5% the following year. These kinds of web attacks prove that nobody is completely safe from web hacking.

Now, we know that web security is not a hot topic that drives a conversation every day. However, as a startup CEO, it is imperative to have a basic knowledge of what web security options are available, so that you can do your best to protect your clients’ private information. Here are 3 options to help you better protect your company’s sensitive data.

Web Application Firewall (WAF)

Web Application Firewalls help monitor your incoming and outgoing HTTP/HTTPS traffic to your website. You can almost think of a WAF as a security scanner that we see at the airport. People with the right credentials will get past through the gates, but any visitor that may have malicious intents will be barred from entering your network. WAFs use specialized rules or patterns to help identify whether a web visitor or traffic is dangerous. WAFs can be the essential first line defense for any website owner to help protect your website from the network perimeter.

Malware Scanners

Having a WAF is a great way to protect for your web security. However, it won’t help your business much if you are already infected. Therefore, it will also be helpful to help you search for malicious programs already residing in your servers.

Infected sites can be a major turn off for customers, especially if it can infect their computers. This is a double edged sword because not only can you affect your customers, but once Google gets wind of this then you can also be SEO blacklisted. It can detect websites that have been infected by malware and warn customers away. So having a protected and clean website is not only good for the customer but also for business. Using a malware scanner for your internal network can help keep your website safe. For optimal security, one should always maintain a routine scan on servers. Better to be safe than sorry.

Database Encryption

Encryption is the process of transforming the data in a database into undecipherable data. An encryption program uses a series of complex algorithms and possesses a master key to turn the data back into its original form. Your database is where all the data of your business, such as specific customer banking information, is stored. It is one of the core elements of any online business; therefore, malicious hackers are always looking for a way to get their hands on it.

One of the world’s most popular database management systems called MySQL is open source, so it can be highly vulnerable to attacks. Many CMS frameworks like Drupal, Joomla, and WordPress all use MySQL as their default database. It is critical that you take every precaution to protect yourself from any would be attackers. One way to do this is to utilize a database encryption software. This can bring a third layer of protection in case any savvy web hackers get into your internal system.

The recent increasing number of startups has made these businesses attractive targets to hackers to exploit. Customers entrust their information to businesses and they should feel obligated to keep that information safe from hackers with malicious intents. One can’t be too careful when it comes to security. Get more in tune with your website and its security by installing these 3 great security solutions!

dark web

Which Industry Is Most Vulnerable To Hacks?

dark web

The Dark Web is a hacker’s playground.

Previously, we discussed the different industries that are targeted for DDoS attacks. Below, we’ll begin by pointing out some interesting industry facts… like which industry is the most vulnerable industry when it comes to hacking attacks. Then we’ll take a look at some examples of how hackers like to get creative with their revenue strategies.

Which Industry Is The Most Vulnerable Industry?

Research performed by a Korean media company last year suggests that corporate CSOs and security managers believe the finance industry needs information security the most. This is also supported by the fact that previously, financial institutions received the most cyber attacks compared to other industries.

Yes, we can all agree that financial firms are a valuable target to hackers. Credit card information, bank account information, etc. can result in money takeovers, thus resulting to secondary damage such as phishing and/or spam. However, many institutions that aren’t in the finance industry, and many small businesses in general, fall under the impression that they’re not a target at all for hackers and are not vulnerable.

ComputerWorld mentioned that a study performed just last year by Ponemon Research showed that a staggering 90% of businesses reported their organization’s computer had been breached at least once or more within the past 12 months. This study involved 583 businesses ranging from small organizations of 1-500 people to organizations with employees of up to 75,000.

Below are some more examples of how the finance industry shouldn’t be the main industry who try to protect themselves from cyber attacks.

Hackers: In It For The Money

The direct purpose of hacking is, of course, an exchange of money for data leakage. Recently, Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center were demanded to pay $17,000 by malicious hackers using the ransomware hacking technique. After the hack, the hospital was forced be taken offline. They had to revert to using old-fashioned documentation techniques such as hand-writing patient details and surgical events.

Ransomware is usually a three-step process and begins in the email inbox of anyone under the use of the server being targeted. Often, the email will appear to be a legitimate bill. It provides a link that the reader will click out of curiosity.  The link leads to a Word document and once the readers clicks the “enable content” button, its game over and the hack is activated. It’s only able to be unlocked by a key that the hacker holds.

Not only did the hacker cause normal operations to stop, the hacker held valuable patient information and medical records. Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center ended up paying the ransom, but fears of this happening again has escalated drastically.

Because a back-up plan and proper security precautions were not taken in the first place, this hospital now suffers from patients changing hospitals due to a questionable reputation.

Hackers going after financial value of the information are oftentimes involved with international crime groups, as it needs structural approach. That’s why their hacking method is daring and bold, and the damage can be easily numerically calculated which becomes big news on the media.

The Dark Web Market

In addition to ransomware, another financial incentive for hackers is the ability to sell information via the Dark Web. The Dark Web is essentially the black market of the internet. This environment is created through extremely sophisticated encryption and specific software only accessible to shared networks.

For example, when Korea’s Education Broadcasting company EBS’s database was leaked, one fourth of customer data was breached. Still, many didn’t appear to be too intimidated because EBS seemed calm due to customers’ SSN still being safe. Those victims thought that their information on education sites should be less dangerous than their information on bank sites. However, these individuals received spam messages such as ‘getting a quick degree’ or ‘attendees for new semester’ from private institutions and educational companies that may have purchased customer information via the Dark Web.

Another example would be when the Japan Pension Service got hacked and 1.25 million cases of personal data was leaked. This was due to one of their staff members improperly accessing an external email virus. The system’s president apologized for the leak that included names, identification numbers, birth dates and addresses. What’s interesting is that the police investigated hospitals, pharmacies, and pharmaceutical companies. Although the hacker was not identified, the police’s directions to investigate were smart. The leaked data could have been received by a hospital or pharmacy, and since past disease information can be seen, it’s possible to sell personalized medical products or run specific ads. Or, they can even find a relevant target audience for new medicine. Unlike credit cards, that can be unsubscribed or changed, medical records cannot change, so medical records are popular among hackers.

There’s No Such Thing As The Most Vulnerable Industry

Hackers sell the value of potential customers. Like the Korean Education Institution case, hackers were not interested in the SSN from the beginning. They went after the classes people took, their scores, interested subjects and other personal information. They wanted to know what these people’s interests were.

Although some information seems negligible, that information means a lot to some people who can gather a story from it. The hotel that someone stayed in, or the placed that someone ordered food can seem nothing. But it could be significant for related businesses. This is why small business that are very closely related to people’s daily lives are even more vulnerable, since these businesses hold very specific taste of users.

So be careful and stay safe no matter how big or small your business is. No matter the industry, we’ve seen evidence from 2016. It’s been an eye-awakening year for cyber security and personal data.