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Phishers Target Social Media, Are You the Victim?

Phishers target social media

Phishers are targeting social media. Your company and employees have to play their part to fight them.

Social media has been all the buzz recently. While I am writing this post, there are more than 500 million active users on Facebook, with 50% of them logging on at least once a day from their office, home, coffee-shop, school, or while mobile. Today many organizations have an active presence across LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter. Social media has emerged as an effective marketing tool to engage with a mass audience. As Natalie Petouhoff, Senior Researcher with Forrester Research, Inc., said, “Social media isn’t a choice anymore – it is a business transformation tool”.

This new and growing means of communication opens new channels for scammers to conduct social engineering attacks. Scammers have started using social media in a big way to retrieve vital information from users. They also use social networking malware for financial gains. Message or web links coming from immediate connections over Facebook or Twitter lead users to believe that they are genuine and there’s nothing wrong with clicking them. Scammers leverage on this fact and exploit human emotions such as greed, trust, fear, and curiosity to conduct phishing attacks. According to the latest Anti-Phishing Q2 2010 Report, there is a definite increase in social networking phishing attacks. While attacks were almost negligible in Q1 of 2010, they accounted for nearly 3 percent of reported attacks in Q2.

Any current hyped political situation, news stories, videos or mishaps are good enough to make the user click on the link and redirect to the desired (malicious) website.  The message is defined to pull your curiosity or it is made strong enough to create sympathy towards people affected by tragedy. It is very unlikely that you have not seen these kinds of messages on your wall or twitter box-

“Did you see how will u look like in 20 years from now? lol: http://bit.ly/gbdhuD 

“They need your help, Pls donate http://ntbnking.lnkd.it/jpn/donation 

“Hey, I am your old college friend! Just joined your company; why not reconnect? – http://biz.ty/23424 

“I bumped into some of your old friends the other day; they wanted me to send you this – http://facebooklink

The above websites could be asking for your Internet-banking credentials for donation to affected people, sensitive information about your organization or any other personal information which is valuable to scammers. By clicking on this link, the malware or virus gets downloaded your system is compromised.

Often scammers target one social networking site user account, compromise it using script, and this script gets propagated to the user’s friends’ accounts. This is called self-replicating malware, and uses application vulnerabilities such as invalidated redirects, click jacking, and cross-site request forgery to spread across multiple user accounts. For mobile users, it becomes even worse because it is not easy to verify authenticity of URLs.

I am sure you will agree that it is not easy to stop usage of social media completely even though there are definite risks involved. Organizations need to look beyond traditional technology controls, and look to continuous education and awareness to fight phishing attacks.

Organizations can take following steps to fight against phishing attacks:

  1. Establish a social media strategy. Clearly document and enforce what is allowed and not allowed to discuss and disclose in social networking sites.
  2. Conduct social media awareness programs which should include the rewards and risk of social media. It should also cover how to identify phish websites and differentiate between original and fraudulent websites.

As an employee, these best practices can help you avoid becoming prey of phishing attacks:

  1. Never click on a link or a bookmark which is associated with financial transactions or asks for any sensitive information; instead always have a practice to manually type URL in the address bar.
  2. Do not click on links which ask to download ActiveX or software on your system as they could be Trojan / malware which later becomes the control center to remotely control your and other systems inside the network.
  3. Ensure that the site is authentic and using secure layer (https) before providing any sensitive information about yourself or your organization.
  4. Report suspected links to your internal security team and the social networking site so that they can work with the hosting provider to bring down the phish website.

Both the organization and its employees have to play their part to fight against phishing risks over social media.

Aujas can help your company manage risk from phishing threats with its industry-leading Phishing Diagnostic Solution. Contact Karl Kispert, our Vice President of Sales, to learn more. He can be reached at karl.kispert@aujas.com or 201.633.4745.

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April 27, 2011 Posted by | Cyber Crime, Identity Theft, Phishing, Risk management, Social Engineering | , , | Comments Off on Phishers Target Social Media, Are You the Victim?

Security Breaches Continue to Grow

Identity TheftWhat do Tulane University, South Carolina State Employee Insurance Program, National Guard Headquarters – Santa Fe NM, BlueCross/BlueShield –Michigan, Seacoast Radiology, and University of Connecticut -HuskyDirect.com have in common?  They were just a few of the companies that reported security breaches in January 2011.

Information management is critically important to all of us – as employees and consumers. For that reason, the Identity Theft Resource Center has been tracking security breaches since 2005, looking for patterns, new trends and any information that may better help us protect data and assist companies in their activities.

In prior issues of Risky Business, I posted this brief article and supporting statistics about security breaches.  I was curious to see how the data changed.  You can see for yourself below in the last line.

The following data was collected from Identity Theft Resource Center® website idtheftcenter.org and refers to the number of total data breaches that were reported with an estimate of how many records were exposed:

2005 Breach List: Breaches: 157 Exposed: 66,853,201
2006 Breach List: Breaches: 321 Exposed: 19,137,844
2007 Breach List: Breaches: 446 Exposed: 127,717,024
2008 Breach List: Breaches: 656 Exposed: 35,691,255
2009 Breach List: Breaches: 498 Exposed: 222,477,043

2010 Breach List: Breaches: 662 Exposed: 16,167,542

You must understand that the majority of the reported breaches do not reveal the actual number of exposed records so therefore the number is MUCH larger than what is listed here.

Your call to action is to ensure your Information Risk Management Program is as secure as you think it is and as secure as your stakeholders, customers, Board of Director’s believe it to be.  Aujas is helping organizations manage risk and enhance information value with practical, innovative solutions!

January 31, 2011 Posted by | Data Losss Prevention, Identity Theft, IT security | , , | Leave a comment

HIMSS Survey of Security Pros Is Food for Thought

HIMSS security surveyThe Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) in November published results of a survey that focused on key issues surrounding the tools and policies in place to secure electronic patient data at healthcare organizations. Though your company may not be in the healthcare industry, read the results discussed below, and think about how they might compare to your organization.

The 2010 HIMSS Security Survey included feedback from information technology and security professionals from healthcare provider organizations across the U.S. Here’s an overview of respondents’ input:

Maturity of Environment: Respondents characterized their environment at a middle rate of maturity.

Security Budget: Approximately half of respondents reported that their organization spends three percent or less of their organization’s IT budget on information security.

Formal Security Position: Slightly more than half (53%) of respondents reported they have either a CSO/CISO or full-time staff in place to handle their organizations’ security functions.

Risk Analysis: Slightly more than half of respondents (59 %) who said that their organization conducts a formal risk analysis reported that this analysis is conducted annually.

Patient Data Access: Surveyed organizations most widely employ user-based and role-based controls to secure electronic patient information.

Management of Security Environment: Nearly all respondents reported that their organization actively works to determine the cause/origin of security breaches. Two thirds reported having a plan in place for responding to threats or incidents related to a security breach.

Security in a Networked Environment: Approximately 85% of respondents reported that their organization shares patient data in an electronic format.

Future Use of Security Technologies: Mobile device encryption, e-mail encryption and single sign-on and were most frequently identified by respondents as technologies that were not presently installed at their organization but were planned for future installation.

Patient Identity: Half of respondents indicated that they validate patient identity by both requiring a government/facility-issued ID and checking the ID against information in the master patient index.

Medical Identity Theft: One-third of respondents reported that their organization has had at least one known case of medical identity theft at their organization.

December 7, 2010 Posted by | Identity Theft, IT security | , , , | Leave a comment

New Trends in Phishing Attacks

Quick Introduction to Phishing

Trends in PhishingThe convenience of online commerce has been embraced by both consumers and criminals alike. Phishing involves stealing consumers’ personal identity data and financial account credentials. Social-engineering schemes use fake e-mails purporting to be from legitimate businesses to lead consumers to counterfeit websites designed to trick recipients into divulging financial data such as account and PIN numbers. Technical-subterfuge schemes plant crime-ware on PCs to steal credentials directly, often using systems to steal customers’ or organizations’ sensitive information.

Besides the obvious threats associated with phishing, other adverse effects include decreasing customer confidence in online commerce, and financial losses experienced by both businesses and consumers.

Although progress has been made in identifying threats and developing countermeasures, there has also been a simultaneous increase in attack diversity and technical sophistication in phishing and online financial fraud. Technical crime-ware resources are readily available and have been streamlined and automated, allowing for use by amateur criminals, making phishing economically viable for a larger population of less sophisticated criminals.

Latest Phishing Attacks

  • Tab Napping – Imagine you open the login page for your Intranet portal, but then you open a new tab to visit another website for a few minutes, leaving the first tab unattended. When you return to your Intranet Portal the login page looks exactly how you left it. What you haven’t realized is that a fake page has taken its place, so when you type in your authentication credentials, you have inadvertently given the fraudster easy access to your account.

 

  • Spear Phishing – This is a  rising phenomena that uses official-looking e-mails to lure people to fake websites and trick them into revealing personal information. However, unlike traditional phishing, spear phishers do not send thousands of emails randomly, but target select groups with something in common—they work at the same company, bank at the same financial institution, attend the same college, order merchandise from the same website, etc. The e-mails are ostensibly sent from organizations or individuals the potential victims would normally get e-mails from, making them even more believable.

 

  • URL Obfuscation – As users learn to detect fake emails and websites, phishers use techniques such as URL obfuscation to make phishing emails and sites appear more legitimate. This mechanism misleads the victims into believing that a link and/or web site displayed in their web browser or HTML-capable email client is that of a trusted site but are then redirected to a phishing site. For example, if the legitimate URL is http://www.login.example.com, the phishing URL may be http://www.login-example.com, thus tricking the customer into trusting the site by using an easily overlooked substitution.

 

  • Filter Evasion – This is an another e-mail phishing attack where attacker sends mail with picture images attached to malicious websites to retrieve personal details.

 

  • SMishing – Attacker uses SMS to launch phishing attack on cell phones to steal sensitive information. Scam message direct you to click on malicious banking websites or call a phone number. If you visit the link it downloads viruses into your system or if you dial the number will be asked for personal information.

 

  • Specialized Malware – Over the last couple of years, malware has been increasingly used for criminal activity against users of online banking and commerce sites. Specialized malware available today can easily be reconfigured to target information from a number of different websites. Malware also provides several mechanisms for stealing data that is then used for identity theft or stealing money from a victim’s account.

Conclusion

Though people today are more aware of phishing, countermeasures need to be designed in order to deal with the increasing technical sophistication of criminals conducting phishing scams exploiting human vulnerabilities.

Phishing awareness needs to grow to include law enforcement and employees of targeted businesses so that they are able to accurately recognize scams targeting them. It is also important to remain vigilant by developing and enforcing countermeasures, making the resources for phishing both scarce and expensive with increased policing and thereby making phishing less profitable.

The message is clear – the key to protecting oneself starts with continuous education and awareness.

The Aujas Phishing Diagnostic Assessment can help your company assess and remediate phishing risks. For more information about the Diagnostic, or other Aujas services, contact Karl Kispert, VP of Business Development at 201 633 4745 or karl.kispert@aujas.com.  

November 29, 2010 Posted by | Cyber Crime, Phishing, Social Engineering | , , | 5 Comments

Number of Breaches Going Up and Up!

Identity TheftInformation management is critically important to all of us – as employees and consumers. For that reason, the Identity Theft Resource Center has been tracking security breaches since 2005, looking for patterns, new trends and any information that may better help us protect data and assist companies in their activities.

In issue 17 of Risky Business, I posted this brief article and supporting statistics for you to read.  I was curious to see in one month how the data changed, I assumed it would go up, but by how much.  You can see for yourself below in the last line.

The following data was collected from Identity Theft Resource Center® website idtheftcenter.org

2005 Breach List: Breaches: 157 Exposed: 66,853,201
2006 Breach List: Breaches: 321 Exposed: 19,137,844
2007 Breach List: Breaches: 446 Exposed: 127,717,024
2008 Breach List: Breaches: 656 Exposed: 35,691,255
2009 Breach List: Breaches: 498 Exposed: 222,477,043
2010 Breach List (as of 10-5-10): Breaches: 533 Exposed: 13,517,866

2010 Breach List (as of 11-2-10): Breaches: 571 Exposed: 14,000,609

November 8, 2010 Posted by | Cyber Crime, identity and access management, Identity Theft, Risk management | , | Leave a comment