Archive for the ‘Home Security’ Category

The Most Important Things to Know About Internet Safety While Traveling

Saturday, November 23rd, 2013

My cousin is on his way to Germany for a week and asked for some advice on being “cyber safe” while there. In other words, how can he stay connected with people and email but not become a victim of malicious software? Here are a few tips:

– Assume that every public computer everywhere – whether at an airport, cybercafé or the hotel business center – is infected with malware and will record your every keystroke. For this reason it’s best to avoid using public computers if you can. That said, googling “the word for hospital in Arabic“ or “toxicity of tarantulas” is pretty harmless. Bouncing over to check gmail, on the other hand, can be a huge mistake. Particularly if you use your gmail password anywhere else (because once a password/user name combination is discovered by criminals, it can be easily and automatically plugged into thousands of other websites to see if it works).  Or, if you use gmail to receive account statements, internet orders or banking validation codes. Once cybercriminals hack your account, they will sift through emails seeking these things.
 – If your kids like to play computer games, and they use the PCs at the hotel do to it, remind them as well: it’s best not to check or send personal email from those machines. If they insist on doing so, at least remind them to be sure to log out when they are finished.
– Before you leave the US, consider setting new passwords for sites you will be using and then change them again when you return. (more…)

Internet Safety While Traveling – Deeper Dive

Saturday, November 23rd, 2013

A “man in the middle” or MIM attack is not particularly difficult to pull off, and it represents one of the biggest cyber security threats we face when we are traveling – or in fact, any time we consider using an unknown wireless network.

Here’s how it works: it’s rather easy to find software which will monitor or “sniff” network traffic.  It’s even easier to set up a wireless network – by example, like many business travelers these days, I carry a portable wireless hub in my purse. If the intent is to trick other people into using it, all that’s left is giving it a name which sounds legit like, “Marriott SecureWifi”. These can even be set up as far as 15 miles away from the wifi area.

As people try to connect to the criminally controlled network, the cybercriminal allows them to do so (using the same password as the real network, or no password at all). Then the cybercriminal becomes the “man in the middle” (MIM). Sample scenario (there’s a more detailed example of a MIM in my book):
1. You ask for the gmail page in your browser and type in your gmail password.
2. The MIM intercepts your request and provides you a fake gmail login page (which looks pixel by pixel exactly like the legitimate one, including “https/gmail” in the browser, which indicates that it is securely linked to the gmail server).
3. The MIM sends your password to Google.
4. Google assumes it’s talking to you, and opens your gmail.
5. The MIM passes the gmail back to you and continues passing requests and information back and forth until your session is done.

(more…)

Why We Should All Pay for Smartphone Apps

Saturday, August 24th, 2013

Suppose Josephine and Rick have built the most incredible smartphone application ever.  They offer it up to the market for a few dollars, and next thing we know they are millionaires.  Their customers not only love the app, but they also appreciate not being deluged by incessant banner ads or pop-ups.   Jo and Rick didn’t have to bring in on-line advertisers because their profit model was simple: sell the app itself to make money.   

 

But not all developers are as lucky.  Steve and Sue can’t get anyone to pay attention to their app, and darn, they spent all their money creating it.  So they will have to figure out another way to earn their money back.  The most popular way to do this is to get paid when users view ads.  Steve and Sue decide to make their app available for free, and advertisers pay Steve and Sue to place ads alongside the application.  These ads change dynamically just as they would at a (more…)

Zombies Attack Montana! (US Emergency Alert System Gets Hacked)

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

Imagine their surprise: a week ago, while Montana residents were innocently engrossed in the show Teen Cheaters Take Lie Detector Tests, they were abruptly interrupted by a broadcast of the Emergency Alert System.  The station was muted as the following voice-over message was recited by a somber-sounding fellow:

Civil authorities in your area have reported that the bodies of the dead are rising from their graves and attacking the living. Follow the messages onscreen that will be updated as information becomes available. Do not attempt to approach or apprehend these bodies as they are considered extremely dangerous.”

Meanwhile, a list of the affected counties scrolled across the screen.  Naturally, this worried a few folks.  Many called their local police. (more…)

Gordon Snow on Cybersecurity at Home

Sunday, December 23rd, 2012

I’m a military brat.  Most Americans are familiar with this term, because it is a common way we brats answer the question: “Where are you from?”  Every other answer takes too long.  You know, like explaining why being born in Italy doesn’t mean I’m Italian.  And we really don’t have enough time to talk about all the schools we went to.

According to Wikipedia, we are an entire sub-culture.  One component of this subculture is a company called USAA.  USAA is an organization which provides financial services, loans and banking to anyone associated with the military.  And in their eyes, once a brat, always a brat.  This turns out to be a good thing, because the children of service men and women have a lifetime right to use their services.

The Fall 2012 issue of USAA’s magazine features an interview with Gordon Snow.  He was formerly the FBI’s top cybercrime cop.  Naturally I was curious to read about his tips for keeping our families safe.

You can find the on-line article here, but they cut out a lot of the good stuff (nice reference to my employer though).  Here are my two favorite useful tips:

1.)  Go Long!  – Here’s a password quiz: which is a stronger password – the hard-to-remember: “H7%doss!” or the easier: “MyLazyDogRex” (note: this second one is also called a “passphrase”)?

Believe it or not, the short one will take a password cracker 6 hours to crack; the longer (but easier to remember) one will take 317 years.

(more…)

The Pitch for Paying Attention to Internet Safety

Sunday, September 30th, 2012

I’ve been busy this month giving webinars on cybercrime for my day job at Kaspersky.  Here’s a link to the latest one.  It is called “Top Cybercrime Threats 2012” and it also promised “10 tips to better internet security”.

But it could have been “Twenty Tips”.  Or even “Thirty”.  Because there are at least this many small things we could do to be more secure.  However, people don’t have infinite amounts of time to watch webinars, even if it’s about their own security.  So I’ll continue to work on slicing and dicing the information into small, consumable chunks for the non-security geeks in the world.

Here are two fun facts I want to share:

connected world

*  in the year 2000, there were 316 million people on the internet worldwide

*  in the year 2011, there were 2.3 billion

Stunning change in just a decade, isn’t it?  Never have so many people become connected and enabled so fast.  And with so much money continuing to fund this growth – high-tech as a whole, plus all the charities we support – it shows no sign of slowing down.  So how long will it be until 70% of the world is connected?

 

(more…)

The Holy Grail of Internet Security – finally, all our problems solved!

Monday, August 27th, 2012

Last week I was scouring the web and I came across a white paper on “security threats of 2011” which I hadn’t read yet.  It was a 56 page document written by a top security organization (we all publish these reports but each company has a different spin).

There on page 41 was the fix for all our security woes!    Sure it took me a while to get there, but well worth it don’t you think?  The answer was (drum roll, please): “Secure the network perimeter.”

This made me laugh!  Really?  I have to say that anyone who thinks there is a network perimeter anymore – meaning, a definable, non-permeable network perimeter – is either smoking crack or lost in a delusional Dilbert dream where IT guys rule. That would be the fantasy where IT actually gives us mobile/portable devices of their choosing along with a set of rules we actually follow.   Useful rules like, “don’t get infected.”  Ha-ha!

And the more I contemplate this idea, the more I think it was always a fantasy.  Back when I was working for NEC’s Corporate Capital group – ten years ago – my laptop went home with me every day.  I used it for everything – my (more…)

Writing Down Website Passwords versus Old-School Rules

Saturday, June 9th, 2012

There is an awful rule of basic password management which actually works counter to good security.  Yet it continues to be suggested by even the top security organizations in the world.  The rule is this: don’t write down your passwords.

There are lots of problems with this idea.  Not the least of which is the fact that if we make our passwords so easy to remember that we don’t have to write them down, well, they may well be too easy.  Or, if we decide to make it simple and use the same password for everything, that means all our banking accounts could be compromised the minute someone breaks into our gun club registry or recipe-swapping website.  And one glaring reality this rule hasn’t kept pace with is that these days we need way too many passwords: one person can easily visit 15 different sites in a few hours – all of which require passwords.

I like to write them on my mirror.

So why the dumb rule?

In their defense, this was accepted wisdom twenty years ago for two reasons.  Back then there was only one password that mattered: the one to get onto your computer.  Naturally you didn’t want that password to be in the same place as the system!  And apparently in those days people weren’t clever enough to write down passwords anywhere except on sticky notes attached to the computer.  (Duh!  At least put it in your shoe!)

More importantly – reason #2 – in those days what we worried about most of all was what we call “internal threats”.  That is, we worried about other people at our place of business gaining unauthorized access to the computer or the network. (more…)

The Zen of Internet Safety: Patience, Little Grasshopper *

Friday, June 8th, 2012
Patience!

The two best things you can do to stay safe on your PC (as long as you insist on being internet-connected) are:

a.)    make friends with your anti-virus and

b.)    cultivate an attitude of patience.

In fact, we could call this the Zen of Computer Health and Internet Safety.  Your AV is the equivalent of a security guard, a Rottweiler, and a good alarm system.  If you don’t sit back and let them do their work, you may as well save your money.

I might say that it’s really surprising that people will install AV and then argue with it.  But that would be dis-ingenuous of me, because it really isn’t surprising at all.  We are an impatient species, made even more impatient by a culture that insists on as much stimulation and instant gratification as possible (note Eric Schmidt, Google’s CEO telling college grads to “unplug” for a whole hour a day!).  I get all that, but I suggest that in the case of our PC’s AV, we fight these proclivities.

Let’s review some of the AV Commandments:

(more…)