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Tax Season: Cyber Security Defenses to Make (and Keep) Your Returns

tax season cyber security tips

It’s that time of year again the time of the year where winter coats are abandoned, flowers are in full bloom… and everyone starts to rack their brains for how to deal with their taxes from the last fiscal year. Tax season is a stressful time for most and, whether you hire an accountant or decide to tackle the numbers yourself, it’s no time for haphazard calculations. Every single cent counts in order to get the best return possible. But could your hard work go down the drain with a single click? According to a report from the Federal Trade Commission, of the half a million complaints registered in 2015, nearly half were tax fraud-related, and these frauds are increasingly conducted online.

Cybersecurity and tax fraud are two ideas that people don’t usually look at side-by-side. After all, the IRS will never send out an email to contact you (if they do, it’s probably a scam), but with the rise of the digital age, many accounting firms have seen the benefits of having taxpayers fill out necessary forms online, facilitating the process for both the taxpayer and the agency. However, digitizing the process has opened up a Pandora’s Box in the realm of cybersecurity.

Now, by no means does this mean that taxpayers absolutely need to revert to the pen-and-paper method of tax filing. Electronic forms are an enormous load off everyone’s burden during tax season, but here are some tips to keep in mind as you file your taxes so that at the end, you do make returns and keep them. Here are our top five tips for making your tax season a little more secure:

Get it out of the way

Did you know that employers are by law required to provide W-2 forms to their employees by the end of January? Some may give their forms out earlier, and the IRS officially began accepting 2016 tax returns on January 23, 2017.

While it may be tempting to push it off until April, there are benefits to being an early bird. Not only do you get to be stress-free for Spring, but filling early means you 1) give the IRS time to immediately process and check your return, 2) avoid the peak period when hackers fish for victims in March and April. The latter part of tax season is when potential victims tend to be a little more scatterbrained, not utilizing as much discernment as they should in their securing their tax returns. Hackers are less likely to be looking for prey in January or February.

Watch out for phishing scams and links

As mentioned before, the IRS will never, under any circumstances contact you via emails, texts, or phone to demand money. They will always send a postmarked notice to “kindly” remind you to pay your dues. However, because this is a rather unknown fact, many fall prey to the phishing and pharming scams that hackers love to execute.

Especially in emails or text messages, be careful not to click on any links or attachments. Although it may be tempting to see what the IRS could want, these seemingly harmless links could trigger malware, and viruses could get installed on your devices to infect entire systems. The IRS encourages users to forward any emails you suspect of being fraudulent to phishing@irs.gov and delete it permanently from your inbox.

Keep your devices and connections clean

Updates are cumbersome and might take more time than you are willing to put in. However, an update could be the difference between a vulnerability and a strong defense against a loophole. Software, browsers, and applications should have the latest updates and any unnecessary software is best deleted to avoid cluttering your system.

Additionally, when filing your taxes, make sure to use a secure wireless connection. Public Wi-Fi is not your safest bet (read about our research on public Wi-Fi networks here), and hackers may be able to take a clear look at your sensitive data if they intercept your wireless connection.

Use Encryption

When sharing information with your accountant, make sure that your information is well-encrypted to ensure that a hacker will not be able to see the contents even if they do succeed in interception. Along those lines, double-check to make sure your online tax-filing agency is using SSL, which applies encryption to sites. Look for “HTTPS” in the URL, with a lock icon signifying a secure SSL connection. While an agency may claim to be “easy filing,” you don’t want that to mean “easy access” to your financial information.

Be careful of your… social media???

While social media may seem to be the furthest platform from your tax returns, many hackers have been utilizing a social engineering method called “social sleuthing,” where they will stalk a high-level executive to see if and when they go away on holiday or travel during these chillier months. Then, impersonating the executive, they may reach out to a lower-level employee back at the office, asking for help with paying taxes, or for sensitive information that they conveniently “forgot.”

Although hackers work year-around to try accessing our data, tax season is ripe for harvest when it comes to getting sensitive information, making it much more lucrative for hackers. The sad reality is that though the IRS may do their best to put preventative measures in place in terms of your W-2 or through public service announcements warning of fraud, the consequences that you may potentially encounter are solely your responsibility. At the end of the day, taxes are owed to the IRS, regardless of the situation.

But remember, many prevention tips are simple to implement it just takes a bit of awareness and effort. Remember, no one enjoys tax season (except hackers), especially if there are any heavy consequences that may await in case of any loss, damage of data, fraud or scam.

Data breach on laptop with warning sign

Majority of Companies Are Not Disclosing Their Data Breaches

Data breach on laptop with warning sign

It is a common misconception to think that companies absolutely must disclose details of any internal breaches they may have suffered. In reality, the majority of data breaches go unreported, and details of the leak are rarely revealed to the public. Recently in the media, Yahoo came under fire and heavy scrutiny for late disclosure of two major data breaches of user account data. The Internet service company suffered two massive breaches in both 2013 and 2014 – resulting in the largest discovered data breaches in the history of the Internet – but this situation was only made public during the latter part of 2016.

This begs the question, should companies be forced to disclose data breaches? As we shall soon see being PCI compliant is only the beginning to assessing the security practices of a company.

False sense of security protection

Just because a company is internationally known it doesn’t automatically mean that your data is safe. Many users have a false sense of protection, simply because they trust the brand. But when it comes to these companies’ cybersecurity practices, quality security measures may not be a top priority since most are typically sales-driven. For example, besides the recent Yahoo breach, there have been numerous cyberattacks that have made headlines like Dropbox’s 68 million users’ data leakage that remains engraved in the minds of the public.

Part of that reason that so many attacks go unreported is because most companies simply do not need to disclose that sort of information in the first place. There is no current law requiring corporations to reveal when customer data has been compromised, so it makes sense that data breaches go unreported. A hacking incident could tarnish the reputation of the brand and instill mistrust among customers, which is never something corporations want. Even if large corporations choose to disclose data breaches, the extent to which data has been compromised are probably not revealed in full and downplayed.

For instance in the case of credit card breaches, customers will simply receive email reminders to change their account passwords or the bank will issue new cards to mask the data breach. Cases like this provide a sense that nothing is wrong and it is simply “routine procedure.” So, what can you as the customer do?

PCI Compliance?

If you are engaging in online transactions, ensure that the company is PCI-DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) compliant.

Below is a clear definition of this industry standard:

The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, or simply PCI DSS, is a set of security standards designed to ensure that ALL companies that accept, process, store or transmit credit card information maintain a secure environment.

With most brands moving their businesses online, there is a growing concern for the security implications of online transactions. When a corporation is not PCI compliant, there is a higher chance of data leakage – but even this industry standard is purely a minimal requirement. Just like how it is not a law for corporations to reveal internal data breaches, PCI compliance is just a security standard for online transactions – but not the law. That means businesses can continue to sell products online without the proper security standards intact. Furthermore, research by Verizon has shown that seven in ten businesses who achieve PCI compliance fail to maintain this compliance for a minimum period of one year.

Because corporations do not differentiate between what it means to “be validated” and to “be compliant,” this finding is extremely daunting especially in the light of recent data breaches. To be validated specifies a precise point in time when a business chooses to be assessed for compliance. This assessment is therefore a snapshot in time and says virtually nothing about the business during the rest of the year. For example, a company that suffered a data breach may reveal to its customers that they were validated for PCI compliance within the past year, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they were compliant at the time of the actual data breach.

In fact, according to one of the authors of the Verizon report, “…data from the past 10 years shows, that not a single company that suffered a data breach was compliant with PCI requirements at the time of the incident.” PCI standards set a strong baseline protection for any business but at the end of the day it is just the “minimum bar” to entice competitors to reach that same level of security simply because customers expect at least that much.

But is it enough? In many cases, no.

For example, Home Depot, who was PCI compliant, suffered a massive data breach in 2014. Many questioned how this breach could have occurred to such a huge retailer especially when it was supposedly certified to the security standards associated with credit card transactions. However, according to CIO, Home Depot’s data breach stemmed from using outdated Symantec antivirus software, not monitoring the network continuously for suspicious behavior, and performing vulnerability scans irregularly at only a  few of its stores. Stolen customer information also went unnoticed for several months. This is a perfect example that demonstrates that there is more to being secure than being PCI compliant.

Security beyond PCI compliance

A larger company like Home Depot can certainly afford to hire a security team but because security was not prioritized, it was too little too late when they were struck with a massive data breach. Adhering to the PCI standards sets the minimum bar but there is more to security – to start off, companies should be incorporating a Web Application Firewall (WAF) to their security platforms. Not only does a good WAF do much more to protect your website against external threats including DDoS and data leakages, the best part is that they also do not require a special security team to operate and manage the system.

With the rise of cloud services, WAF-as-a-service has also become popular since it doesn’t require additional hardware.Only minimal technical knowledge is needed involving a simple DNS configuration to register websites under WAF protection. Cloud WAFs manage all inbound and outbound traffic and are able to automatically detect and filter malicious attacks. This is huge for businesses who may still be starting out and cannot necessarily afford specialized security teams. For example, Cloudbric, a cloud-based WAF service, offers easy to understand web traffic analytics and allows users with little to no IT-security knowledge to manually look at their web traffic data in search of any inconsistencies.

The reality is that hackers can gain access to confidential information with relative ease so data leaks will likely continue to prevail. It’s important to keep in mind that just because it doesn’t make news headlines doesn’t mean that data breaches are not a common occurrence. We can have a false sense of security believing that entrusting our sites to well-known and successful companies can keep our information secure. But while following standards like PCI DSS is a great start, when thinking about the best security practices it’s best to think about the long-term and how to implement a solution that has you covered any time and anywhere.

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.

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Reflection Attacks and Amplification Attacks

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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.

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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.