hearts on valentine's day

Love in All the Wrong Places: the Dangers of Online Dating

online dating can result in cyber crime or scams especially on valentine's day

As February 14th creeps closer, hype over finding a valentine is at its peak. But finding a significant other does pose more difficulty in this day and age with the rise of career-driven individuals, slaving away with the chaotic schedules of everyday life. Furthermore, with the digital world just an arm’s length away, it’s not surprising that many have opted to look for a match in cyberspace. The use of online dating apps has increased nearly threefold since 2013, and social stigma for online dating has largely subsided, with mentions in popular media and even attractive celebrity endorsements. But unfortunately, like any other new phenomenon, many fail to realize the security implications of finding love online.

The oversight is understandable as the desire for love and companionship often trumps over protective instincts, but with the increase of online dating also comes an increase in cybercrime. In the UK, as many as 350 online dating scams were reported monthly, with victims handing over not only their hearts but more than £39m to false lovers in 2016. There may be those who would be baffled by the enormous amount of money handed over to hackers and scam artists, but with love – anything is possible.

The Consequences of Finding Love Online

We’ve all heard of stories of someone getting “catfished,” when unsuspecting individuals may be lured by a fake online profile. The scammer could be using an attractive picture, extraordinary details, but suddenly disappear when the time comes to meet. Worse, they could extort money out of their innocent “catfish catch,” who being madly in love will gladly acquiesce to aid their partner.

But as scary as a “catfish” exchange may be, the consequences may stretch even further and deeper in cyberspace – as information can be transmitted across the world in just seconds. In 2013, Cupid Media, a media group housing over 30 online dating sites, had 42 million passwords in plain text taken from their server. While many of these passwords were taken from inactive accounts, the millions of members that were active users now have their personal information in the hands of hackers.

When Ashley Madison, a site serving as a platform for individuals looking for extramarital affairs and casual hook-ups, was hacked in the summer of 2015, many were harassed with ransom and blackmail threats to distribute their names, credit card information, and email addresses. The threats demanded payment – the alternative? All personal information and data on website activity would be openly displayed on a public website. Some paid up, and some didn’t – citing that information had already been leaked anyway.

Nevertheless, online dating can have dire consequences on both your wallet and ego. So for Valentine’s Day this year, while you don’t necessarily need to skip the web-browsing tango, take these tips with you to have a loving, safe February 14th.

1. Watch out for the telltale signs

Avoid the “catfish” traps. Blonde, loves sunsets by the beach, and has the body of a model? If someone looks too good to be true, it’s a real possibility that you’re talking to a made-up persona. Before you reveal your deepest and darkest secrets, check for inconsistencies throughout their profile. Even if it’s not a con-artist on the other side of the screen, it’s estimated that around one-fifth of all online daters have asked a friend or family member to help them “tweak” their profile

And with more than 60% percent of web traffic comprised of bots, it is not surprising to run into “chatbots” on online dating sites and apps. These chatbots are designed to simulate real-life conversation and can convince you to click on a link or give away personal information. The telltale signs include the “bots” responding suspiciously quickly, chatting  in an unnatural way or using weird syntax, or sending links without asking you.

2. No advance fees

No matter how in love you may be, don’t fork over the cash just yet. Once an online relationship has built a basis of trust, the requests for favors may start rolling in. Perhaps a loved one is having a medical emergency, or they’re a little short on rent that month.

After a certain, most likely pre-planned, amount of time has passed, the scammer may even ask you to wire some money to purchase a plane ticket… to finally meet. While some may be wooed by the idea of finally meeting in person – perhaps a safe way to respond would be to suggest that they borrow money from a family member or the bank.

3. Find a worthy website using a WAF service and encryption

Although the examples we’ve given so far may be on the scarier side, not all online dating sites are vulnerable. Especially if a company has taken the time to employ a Web Application Firewall (WAF) or WAF service, as well as encryption for their data, your personal information has less of a chance of being compromised.

Think this is a given? Many companies will keep their data in plain text out of sheer convenience – but they might have to face dire consequences. Don’t play with fire, and bet on a company that is transparent about their security practices. Better safe than sorry, especially when your future relationship is at stake.

4. Nothing’s as good as (secure) face-to-face

“Let’s meet in real life” are the words that an online lover might be impatiently waiting to hear. However, if you’re not feeling ready about a potential meetup – then be firm and put your foot down. If meeting in-person, meet in a predetermined and public location, never at home or in your office. Consider having a friend to be a “safe buddy” so that if things aren’t going well they will be on standby to get you out of a potentially risky situation.

Some might choose to “meet” via video chat programs like Skype or FaceTime. Even then, make sure to have a secure connection, turn off any kind of geolocation settings, and be on guard to not disclose too much about yourself.

The Future of Online Dating?

The majority of people will first think of the physical dangers of online dating. However, in this day and age, cybercrime can go a long way, and even faster at that. Be smart offline and online, but to not be a downer – keep your hopes up: 5% of Americans say that they met their significant other online, and with other statistics in the cyber realm, it seems like this number has nowhere to go but up.

Perhaps love is just around the website. And hopefully a secure one.

Penta given Data Privacy Day Champion badge

Online Safety Tips from Penta Security, 2017 Data Privacy Day Champion

Data Privacy locks

Penta Security named Data Privacy Day Champion

A Data Privacy Day Champion this year, Penta Security believes that organizations, businesses and governments are collectively responsible for being conscientious stewards of personal information. For Penta Security, this year marks two decades of experience in protecting an asset valued by all: personal data.

Data Privacy Day, held annually on January 28, is a worldwide effort to create awareness about the importance of privacy, safeguarding data and reminding organizations that privacy is good for business. Penta Security has consistently been committed to the cause by informing clients and the public about basic steps in protecting personal information, through security threat reports, eBooks, infographics, and other media.

To commemorate this significant day, here are Penta Security’s top five online safety tips for improving your data privacy efforts ahead of Data Privacy Day:

Change your passwords frequently

“The Most Common Passwords In 2016 Are Truly Terrible” by the Huffington Post reveals that despite living in era of cyber threats and data breaches, people are still resorting to using ‘123456’ or ‘password’ to keep guard of their personal data online. While it’s been mentioned repetitively, here is another reminder in enhancing your passwords (adding special characters are always a good idea) and to change them frequently, preferably once a year. Furthermore, it’s best to avoid using the same password for multiple accounts as this exposes you to a greater risk of data theft should one account be comprised. Lastly, consider enabling two-factor authentication as this adds an extra layer of protection to your personal accounts.

Recognize the signs of online phishing scams

Warding against phishing scams have come a long way, but many still fall prey to scams like the Nigerian prince email. With the right social engineering tactics, phishing scams can be convincing enough to solicit your personal information and, in a worst-case scenario, provide a gateway to your financial information. That’s why it’s extremely important to know the warning signs.

Avoid clicking on links within emails from unknown senders. Basic red flags include shortened links concealing their destination URL and website banner ads advertising too-good-to-be-true offers. Clicking on these will likely redirect you to a malicious site. Emails that impersonate major banking or retail corporations to ask for personal or financial information are commonplace these days. A good practice is to always enter a website address directly into your browser to avoid ending up on spoofed sites.

Be smart when using public Wi-Fi

Public Wi-Fi should be used with extra caution since cyber criminals can use unprotected Wi-Fi networks to sniff out private credentials and other sensitive data online. While it’s great that many restaurants, cafes, retail shops, and other public places offer free Wi-Fi, these hotspots could also serve as inlets for unauthorized monitoring of your private web activity. Public Wi-Fi should therefore be reserved for basic web surfing like reading the latest news or scrolling through social media feeds. Logging into your social media accounts, making online purchases, or doing online banking should only be done over a secured connection.

Don’t ignore your computer updates

Reminders to update your current operating system or software are critical in reducing the risk of exposing your data to cyber criminals. Developers often roll out new updates not just for improved functionality but also for urgent security updates and vulnerability patches. If automatic updates isn’t an option, setting up a regular schedule to scan through all your software and operating systems to check whether they are up-to-date will help you keep up good cyber hygiene.

Consider encrypting data that matters most to you

Data encryption is no longer reserved for the techies. If you have data that is highly sensitive, then consider encrypting it. Currently, there are many tools available online that can encrypt and decrypt files either for free or at a low cost. Encryption ensures that your data is only readable by the intended recipients. This is because data encryption utilizes special keys to algorithmically scramble and unscramble data so only you and whoever possesses the right keys can gain meaningful access to your data. We also recommend that you do not store encryption keys in the cloud and leave them in the possession of your cloud provider.

By participating in Data Privacy Day, Penta Security is joining the growing global effort among nonprofits, academic institutions, corporations, government entities and individuals to raise privacy awareness at home, at work and in communities. Penta Security seeks to help cultivate a greater prudence in data-handling by educating others about online safety through our blog, press releases, and other media. If you have extra tips to share with us, follow us on Twitter @pentasecsystems and send us a Tweet with the hashtag #PrivacyAware!

About Data Privacy Day

Data Privacy Day began in the United States and Canada in January 2008 as an extension of the Data Protection Day celebration in Europe. Data Protection Day commemorates the signing of Convention 108 on January 28 1981, the first legally binding international treaty dealing with privacy and data protection. The National Cyber Security Alliance, the nation’s leading nonprofit, public-private partnership promoting cybersecurity and privacy education and awareness, leads the effort in North America. The Data Privacy Day initiative is advised by a distinguished advisory committee of privacy professionals. For more information, visit https://staysafeonline.org/data-privacy-day/about.

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.

error

Reflection Attacks and Amplification Attacks

error

Here are two types of attacks that are intended to monopolize your system’s resources.

Reflection Attacks

Reflection attacks are attacks that use the same protocol in both directions. The attacker spoofs the victim’s IP address and sends a request for information via UDP to servers known to respond to that type of request. The server answers the request and sends the response to the victim’s IP address. From the servers’ perspective, it was the victim who sent the original request. All the data from those servers piles up, congesting the target’s Internet connectivity. With the maximized bandwidth, normal traffic cannot be serviced and clients cannot connect. Any server open to the Internet and running UDP-based services can be used as a reflector.

Amplification Attacks

Amplification attacks generate a high volume of packets to flood the target website without alerting the intermediary, by returning a large reply to a small request. The basic defense against these attacks is blocking spoofed-source packets.

amplification attacks

Amplification attacks increase the amount of data passing around.

DNS amplification attacks for example use DNS requests with a spoofed source address as the target.

As you can see, an attacker uses a modest number of machines with little bandwidth to send fairly substantial attacks. This is done by spoofing the source IP of the DNS request such that the response is not sent back to the computer that issued the request, but instead to the victim. Using very simple tools the attacker can send many thousands of spoofed requests to open revolvers, and the responses — which are much lager than the request — amplify the amount of bandwidth sent to the victim.

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Holiday Cyber Security Tips – Santa, Sales… but what about Security?

From Black Friday to New Year’s Eve…

It’s that time of year again. Halloween is over and after the candy wrappers have been hidden and the costumes have gone on clearance, storefronts get ready for the holiday season. Starting with Thanksgiving and Black Friday, all the way to Christmas and New Year’s Eve, it’s a prime time to get your shopping done. In fact, statistics say that 19.2% of annual sales come from the holiday season. However, have you ever thought, “Wow, I’d really appreciate some holiday cyber security tips right about now!”…? Well, if you haven’t – you really should be.

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It’s now easier than ever – shopping can be done at the click of a mouse or a touch of the finger on an iPhone. Nearly half of all shopping during the holiday season is done online – so you might not even have to face the horrid crowds of Black Friday. However, while you’re giddy about the possible steals, hackers might be celebrating for a completely different reason.

S is for Santa, Sale, and Security

40% of annual online fraud happens during the last three months of the year, according to Rurik Bradbury, a marketing executive at e-commerce security company Trustev. It’s an easy time to take advantage of customers who are eager to grab deals and get their Christmas shopping out of the way. Sales and Santa seem much more enticing than Security, and even the most security-conscious of people are duped into being carefree with their personal information.

However, we care about your security, so here are 5 tips to remember using SANTA during your shopping trips.

S – SSL?

To shop online, one must go to a website or a web application, so when connecting, make sure that you’re connecting to a site using SSL. SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer, and it works by creating a secure connection through encryption.

How do you know the site you’re visiting uses SSL? Two steps: first, make sure that the url uses HTTPS and not HTTP (check in your browser bar), and second, see if your browser bar has a lock by the URL.

A – Ask the owner

Whether you’re shopping online or heading to some offline stores this holiday season, never hesitate to ask the owner or the site administrator about their security practices. Vendors are required to be PCI compliant if they’re handling payment of any kind – so make sure they can prove that to you as their valued customer.

N – No Wi-Fi

It might be tempting not to use any of your sacred cellular data when browsing through the store catalogs. However, make sure that you’re being careful with what network you are connecting to. Wi-Fi networks aren’t always secure and hackers can easily access personal or financial information on a public network.

T – Try Credit

While debit might seem like the safe idea to be financially savvy, to be security-savvy it’s a different issue. Credit cards are safer options because you don’t have to pay your bill immediately. This lets you as the buyer review what you’ve purchased. And fortunately many banks have fraud insurance so you’re not charged for some hacker’s wrongdoing.

A – Aim for what you know

Unfortunately, you could follow all these steps and still be vulnerable to attack. However, applying these steps and sticking to what you know can reduce your risks significantly. The holiday season isn’t the time to go to a website you’ve never visited before. It’s definitely not the right time to try a brand new payment method.

holiday cyber security deal for cyber monday by cloudbric gold signTake Charge of Your Holiday Cyber Security

It’s too bad that hackers take one of the happiest times of the year to try to wreak havoc on others’ finances and data. However, it’s best to be cautious so that your merriment won’t be disturbed.

To help your holiday season stay merry, here’s a bonus tip for you online site owners. Get a website protection service. And the great thing about the holiday season is that security companies are the most aware. They know the vulnerabilities of sites and the mischievous nature of hackers during the season.

Services like Cloudbric are offering one month of free service for its users. However, remember that it’s up to 100GB of traffic if you sign up on Cyber Monday. So take a cue and mark it on your calendar so you can spend your holidays worry free!

Happy (early) holidays!

botnet

Attack Agents and Bots

zombie computers are also botnetsOne of the critical parts of a successful DDoS attack relies on bots or a botnet. Botnets are groups of zombie computers under the remote control of an attacker via a command and control server (C&C Server). These zombie computers are highly useful as they are used to carry out commands on a whim and can be used as the front line offense to stall any web server that an attacker wants. Here is a good list of uses of botnets, other than carrying out DDoS attacks:

  • Spamming
  • Sniffing traffic
  • Keylogging
  • Spreading malware
  • Installing ads

How Does a Botnet Work?

I know you’re probably asking yourself, “how does a botnet actually work?” Well, we’re here to tell you.

1. First, a hacker sends out viruses, worms or malware to infect ordinary users’ computers, whose payload is a malicious application. This can help remotely control a computer and allow the attacker to communicate with the infected system.
2. Next, the bot on the infected PC logs into a particular C&C server. The C&C server acts as a command center for the main attacker to launch commands to the botnet.
3. Third, a spammer purchases the services of the botnet from the hacker. This actually happens fairly frequently, which contributes to the spreading or strengthening of the botnet.
4. Lastly, the spammer provides the spam messages to the hacker, who instructs the compromised machines via the control panel on the web server, causing them to send out spam messages.

Botnets frequently use DNS to rally infected hosts, launch attacks, and update their call of duties. Essentially, we become zombie armies that are ready and willing to execute any command you give them. They become martyrs to a web server attack and are used specifically to shut down or freeze the target’s system. This can wreak havoc on any website — both large and small. It’s important to not fall victim to being a botnet without knowing. Also, it’s more important to not be attacked by these botnets. Stay safe and stay tuned for more updates from Cloudbric!