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Ransomware revisited: As attacks worsen, tried-and-true defenses falter

1 month 3 weeks ago

Beef? Beef?!

It’s come to this: a ransomware attack has come between me and my Wendy's quarter pounder! As much as I'd like to say that there's nothing to this problem for my favorite fast food lunch, I can't. A ransomware attack on the world’s largest meat processor, JBS, forced nine US beef plants to close their doors on June 1.

It’s not a laughing matter. If major companies such as JBS and Colonial pipeline can get hammered by ransomware, there's nothing stopping a low-life hacker from using Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) to take your business out.

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Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

Patch Tuesday: The rules of updating Windows (and Microsoft apps)

1 month 4 weeks ago

Patch Tuesday week is that time of the month when I get verklempt, — excited,and in a tizzy over the release of this month’s raft of security updates. Will we get fixes for remote code execution attacks? Fixes for privilege escalations? Will we get…? Oh, you don’t get verklempt, excited, and in a tizzy? You actually dread Patch Tuesday?

Let me help you out. When you install updates from Microsoft there are some fundamental rules to keep in mind.

First, when patching you should never ever lose data. Several years ago, when Microsoft rolled out the feature release version of Windows 10 1809, some users reported losing files and folders during the process. The problem caused Microsoft to pause the feature update to investigate what was triggering the issue. As it turned out, the root cause was not the update — it was the timing and rollout of a feature in One Drive. As Microsoft noted in a blog post at the time, the culprits involved three different scenarios with Onedrive — in particular, a setting called known-folder redirection. Although the issues were not widespread, the damage and loss of trust in the Windows update process was immense; even now, users remember that issue when updates arrive. Microsoft revised the 1809 release to deal with the problem and loss of data did not recur afterwards.

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Susan Bradley

Note to IT: Google really wants its privacy settings left alone

2 months ago

The biggest difference in business models between mobile giants Google and Apple is that Apple sells hardware and software whereas Google sells information. So when Apple makes a big play out of protecting privacy—such as pushing back against encryption backdoors and government subpoenas—it's relatively easy for them. That's not primarily how they make money.

Google, though, has a business model that truly hates privacy. To Google, enterprise data privacy, along with consumer data privacy, is just something that deprives them of raw material that they can sell. In short, Google has to publicly say that it protects its customers' privacy while privately doing whatever it can to keep leveraging that data.

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Evan Schuman

The missing context around Google's Android privacy fallout

2 months ago

If you've read much tech news lately, you might be feeling a slight sense of shock right now.

A series of newly publicized documents related to an Arizona lawsuit reveals that Google's had some complicated systems for collecting location data across Android over the years — and that, according to the info, the company at one point tried putting a catch-all location toggle into the software's Quick Settings panel but saw a substantial increase in the number of users who took advantage of it with that more prominent positioning in place.

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JR Raphael

When is a cybersecurity hole not a hole? Never

2 months ago

In cybersecurity, one of the more challenging issues is deciding when a security hole is a big deal, requiring an immediate fix or workaround, and when it's trivial enough to ignore or at least deprioritize. The tricky part is that much of this involves the dreaded security by obscurity, where a vulnerability is left in place and those in the know hope no one finds it. (Classic example: leaving a sensitive web page unprotected, but hoping that its very long and non-intuitive URL isn't accidentally found.)

And then there's the real problem: in the hands of a creative and well-resourced bad guy, almost any hole can be leveraged in non-traditional ways. But — there is always a but in cybersecurity — IT and security pros can’t pragmatically fix every single hole anywhere in the environment.

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Evan Schuman

To secure your remote workforce, lock down ‘your’ computers

2 months ago

I know some of you are still convinced you'll soon shepherd your flock of workers back into the comfortable cubicles of the corporate office. Not going to happen. I've been following the working from home revolution closely, and, trust me, your people like working from home. A lot.

According to a FlexJobs survey, 58% of workers currently working remotely said they'd "absolutely look for a new job” if they're not allowed to continue remote work. 

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Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

Android 12's quietly important privacy progress

2 months 1 week ago

This year, for the first time in a long time, it's easy to glance at Google's latest Android effort and focus mostly on the surface.

Android 12's most striking element is without a doubt the overhauled look and feel it brings to the operating system (even if realistically, Pixel owners are the only ones who'll reap the full benefits of that change). We haven't seen such a dramatic reimagining of the Android interface in many a moon — since 2014's Android 5.0 (a.k.a. Lollipop) release — and this progression stretches past the core software itself, even, with effects set to reach the experience of using apps within Android and eventually also Google apps on the web. The same principles will apply to Chromebooks, Smart Displays, and Wear-based wearables before long as well, making this a true Google ecosystem evolution.

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JR Raphael

5 free ways to get better business security

2 months 1 week ago

Ransomware to the left of you, malware to the right—what's a small business stuck in the middle to do?

We all know that securing your company isn't easy or cheap. As Christopher Krebs, former director of the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), and Matthew Masterson, former CISA Senior Cybersecurity Advisor, both recently pointed out: we're "now in the midst of a new normal of cyber-enabled malicious activity."

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Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

Apple's Mac security warning shows that closed beats open

2 months 2 weeks ago

Apple’s software engineering chief Craig Federighi recently told us that Macs aren’t yet as secure as iOS devices, but does this mean Mac users need to worry?

What Federighi said

Apple’s software lead was appearing as part of the interminable Epic v Apple trial (which today involves Apple CEO Tim Cook taking the stand). Federighi was arguing that by maintaining a highly controlled third-party app environment on iOS, Apple has been able to build an extremely secure platform.

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Jonny Evans

Firefox previews site-isolation tech in move to catch up to Chrome

2 months 2 weeks ago

Mozilla on Tuesday announced that a years-long effort to harden Firefox's defenses can now be previewed in the browser's Nightly and Beta builds.

Debuting as "Project Fission" in February 2019, the project was also linked to the more descriptive "site isolation," a defensive technology in which a browser devotes separate processes to each domain or even each website, and in some cases, assigns different processes to site components, such as iframes, so they are rendered separately from the process handling the overall site.

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Gregg Keizer

Here's what you can do about ransomware

2 months 2 weeks ago

Last week, people in my neck of the woods, North Carolina, went into a panic. You couldn't get gasoline for love or money. The root cause? Colonial Pipeline, a major oil and gas pipeline company, had been hit by a major ransomware attack. With four main fuel pipelines shut down, people throughout the southeast U.S. lined up at gas stations for every drop of gas they could get.

You may not believe that ransomware is a serious threat. But I and most everyone else in the southeast? We believe.

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Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

For Windows users, tips on fighting ransomware attacks

2 months 2 weeks ago

Ransomware.

It’s one word that strikes fear in the minds of many a computer user, especially given the near daily headlines about companies affected. It makes us wonder why this keeps happening to users and businesses, large and small.

But there’s plenty you can do to protect yourself or your business.

Be wary of what you click on

Most of the time, ransomware that affects an individual happens after someone clicks on something they shouldn’t — maybe a phishing-related email or a web page that installs malicious files. In a business setting, the attacks often come from an attacker going after open remote access protocol, either using brute force or harvested credentials. Once inside the network, they can disable backups and lie in wait until the best time to attack.

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Susan Bradley

Google makes a big security change, but other companies must follow

2 months 2 weeks ago

In a wonderful cybersecurity move that should be replicated by all vendors, Google is slowly moving to make multi-factor authentication (MFA) default. To confuse matters, Google isn't calling MFA "MFA;' instead it calls it "two-step verification (2SV)."

The more interesting part is that Google is also pushing the use of FIDO-compliant software that is embedded within the phone. It even has an iOS version, so it can be in all Android as well as Apple phones.

To be clear, this internal key is not designed to authenticate the user, according to Jonathan Skelker, product manager with Google Account Security. Android and iOS phones are using biometrics for that (mostly facial recognition with a few fingerprint authentications) — and biometrics, in theory, provides sufficient authentication. The FIDO-compliant software is designed to authenticate the device for non-phone access, such as for Gmail or Google Drive.

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Evan Schuman

Browser updates are back for the May's Patch Tuesday

2 months 3 weeks ago

With 55 updates, three publicly reported vulnerabilities and reported public exploits for Adobe Reader, this week's Patch Tuesday update will require some time and testing before deployment. There are some tough testing scenarios (we're looking at you, OLE) and kernel updates make for risky deployments. Focus on the IE and Adobe Reader patches — and take your time with the (technically challenging) Exchange and Windows updates.

Speaking of taking your time, if you're still Windows 10 1909, this is your last month of security updates. 

The three publicly disclosed vulnerabilities this month include:

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Greg Lambert

Social engineering, fake App Stores, hit iOS, Sophos warns

2 months 3 weeks ago

I didn’t entirely mean to focus on Apple device security for most of this week (see here and here), but new Sophos research should interest any enterprise working to enhance security awareness.

Breaking bad

The research looks at 167 counterfeit apps used to scam iOS and Android users. Those that impact Apple’s mobile OS particularly stood out, as they show the increasing sophistication of malware authors.

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Jonny Evans

Jamf adds zero trust security to the Apple enterprise

2 months 3 weeks ago

Apple enterprise management company Jamf has announced its pending $400 million acquisition of zero trust cloud-based security company, Wandera.

Apple security with zero trust

Security remains of critical concern to the many enterprises deploying Apple equipment during the time of COVID-19, and as the mobile device management (MDM) services industry becomes more competitive, many providers are attempting to bolster services with security protection.

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Jonny Evans

Enterprises need to get smart about iOS security

2 months 3 weeks ago

The XcodeGhost malware attack that allegedly affected 128 million iOS users is an excellent illustration of the kind of sophisticated attack all users should get ready to defend against as platforms become inherently more secure.

Designer label malware

XcodeGhost was an intelligent exploit that presented itself as a malware-infested copy of Xcode made available via websites targeting Chinese developers. Developers in the region downloaded it because it was easier to get than the real code because local networks wereunreliable.

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Jonny Evans

No matter the size of your business, you must take security seriously.

2 months 3 weeks ago

I recently wrote about using passwords correctly, and a reader replied: "I've been getting told this for years, but who's ever going to attack my 12-employee business?"

This isn't the first time I've heard remarks like that. The answer is: "Who won't attack you!?"

Hackers don’t care whether your annual revenue is in five figures or nine. They will target you. Indeed, if you're on the smaller size, you're more likely to be vulnerable because, chances are, you're an easier target. After all, as BullGuard CEO Paul Lipman said: "Small businesses are not immune to cyberattacks and data breaches and are often targeted specifically because they often fail to prioritize security."

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Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

Patch Tuesday preview: Time for a 'measured' approach to updates

2 months 3 weeks ago

It’s time again: with Patch Tuesday in sight, I always recommend pausing or delaying updates, and this month is no different. But the second Tuesday of May also brings to an end support for Windows 10 1909. If you want to receive updates for Windows 10 after May 11, you’ll need to make sure you’re running Windows 10 2004 or 20H2.

So my first request on this Patch Tuesday week is that you check to see what exact version of Windows 10 you have installed, so you know you are still supported.

Typically, there is a window of time when we can safely defer or delay updates and when businesses can test patches before rolling them out. The days of worm attacks where we had to immediately patch systems have long since passed. These days, attacks are typically done using phishing lures to gain access to a system; the weakest link isn’t necessarily software, it’s us,opening Office docs or other files that harvest credentials. If you are even a slightly savvy user, give yourself time to ensure that there are no patching side effects.

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Susan Bradley

Getting passwords right for you and your business

3 months ago

Chances are you've never heard of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Special Publication 800-63, Appendix A. But you've been using its contents from your first online account and password until today. That's because, within it, you'll find the first password rules such as requiring a combination of a lowercase and uppercase letter, a number, and a special character — and the recommendation of changing your password every 90 days.

There's only one problem. Bill Burr, who originally set up these rules, thinks he blew it. "Much of what I did I now regret," Burr told the The Wall Street Journal a few years ago.

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Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols
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About SecurityFeeds

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Tim Weil is a Security Architect/IT Security Manager with over twenty five years of IT management, consulting and engineering experience in the U.S. Government and Communications Industry.  Mr. Weil's technical areas of expertise include IT Security Management, Enterprise Security Architecture, FISMA Compliance, Identity Management, and Network Engineering. Mr. Weil is a Senior Member of the IEEE and has served in several IEEE positions.