Monthly Archives: February 2013

Cybercrime 2.0: It’s All About The Money

Malware creator and hacker “business model” has shifted from high volume toward high yield, Websense study finds. IT must educate users accordingly.

Michael Endler | February 13, 2013 10:20 AM

Whether they’re attacking the Department of Energy, simulating a zombie apocalypse, hacking journalism’s biggest names or getting called out by President Obama during his State of the Union address, cybercriminals have been a fixture in recent headlines. Indeed, the preceding litany of examples is drawn from the last two weeks alone.

What’s been driving all the activity? Though hacktivist campaigns and denial-of-service attacks get a lot of attention, a new study by security firm Websense finds that money remains the motivation behind most cybercrime. More crucial to IT departments, the report also found that malicious hackers are becoming increasingly adept at finding holes in enterprise defensive efforts.

In an interview, Charles Renert, VP of research and development for Websense Labs, said that the cybercrime “business model” has shifted from “high volume toward high yield” over the last few years. Hackers have been widely deploying phishing emails and similar tactics for years, indiscriminately hoping to collect financial information from anyone trusting enough to open a suspicious attachment or click a random link. These tactics are still in play, but Renert said methods have shifted toward preselected, high-value targets. He cited data breaches at the New York Times and Washington Post as examples of this tendency and mentioned 2011’s RSA hack, estimated to cost parent company EMC more than $66 billion, to illustrate how costly such attacks can become.

[ What can you do when hackers take over? See Besieged By Hackers, OpenX Will Close Open Ad Platform. ]

Renert said that many cybercriminals use social engineering strategies to lure specific targets into compromising their online security. Whereas virus-laden emails have traditionally been marked by awkward grammar and other telltale signs, modern iterations are products of research. Renert said attackers might monitor a would-be victim for months, accruing and mining data until they’ve devised a personalized lure so individually “irresistible” that even a high-level executive or government official might be goaded into a mistake.

Websense’s report found that cybercriminals prefer to attack through Web browsers. The company found a 600% increase in such techniques over the last year, with 85% of the activity coming from legitimate sites that have been injected with malicious code.

The whitepaper also found that hackers have tailored their strategies to snare mobile users. Stating that smartphones are used to access social media 50% more often than to make phone calls, the report argued that this abundance of on-the-go sharing has encouraged users to feel nonchalant about links accessed on mobile devices. Websense believes that hackers are exploiting this casual attitude; the report notes that 32% of social media schemes used shortened urls to make their malicious links less suspicious.

Websense found Facebook secure in and of itself but nonetheless “a rich target for cybercriminals who use lures containing links to malicious Web content.” Twitter, however, was such attackers’ favorite prowling ground.

The report noted that jail-broken phones and email are among the other avenues hackers use to bypass security, but Renert said it’s important to consider not only the attacker access points but also the techniques they uses once they’re in. To illustrate, he explained that most malicious software “calls home” to the attacker within minutes of being installed. “If you’re looking at it heuristically,” he said, “this is very suspicious behavior” that security programs might detect.

In contrast, trickier malware implementations wait longer before taking action, increasing the likelihood their activities will fly under the radar.

Renert said the growing ubiquity of exploit kits has contributed to the upsurges in both the number of hacking incidents and the sophistication of attacks. Such kits give less-skilled attackers access to more elaborate tools and techniques. Renert said they “are a big piece of the equation” and mean that hackers don’t need “to be all PhDs out there.”

He recommended that CTOs educate executives and other high-level parties about cybercriminals’ shifting tactics. Attacks “might not look like the spammy attacks they’re used to, and that they’ve built controls around,” he said. “There needs to be knowledge of that risk, and an assumption that controls are always inadequate.”

Additionally, businesses should “inspect the areas where data has been allowed to flow” into and out of the company, he said. These points are the most vulnerable, and Renert advised they be continuously monitored.

Given Websense’s business, such advice isn’t surprising — but for the security-minded, it’s nonetheless important to weigh the benefits of these aggressive tactics. Security analysts have advocated proactive approaches for months, arguing that attackers are too sophisticated to be passively blocked, and that CTOs must push for security’s place within tight IT budgets.

Wily attackers are using shape-shifting malware to fool your defenses. Are you ready?Also in the new, all-digital Malware’s Next Generation issue of Dark Reading: The shift in hacking requires a new defense mindset. (Free with registration.)

Retrieved from InformationWeek

Identity fraud in U.S. reaches highest level in three years

Identity fraud in U.S. reaches highest level in three years

Survey puts the total number of identity theft victims in 2012 at 12.6 million, but merchants and banks absorbed much of the losses

By Jeremy Kirk | IDG News Service

U.S. consumers experienced the highest level of identity theft in three years in 2012, although much of the fraud losses were absorbed by banks and merchants, according to a new survey.

Incidents of identity fraud affected 5.26 percent of U.S. adults last year, according to a survey of 5,249 people by Javelin Strategy and Research. That’s up from 4.9 percent in 2011 and 4.35 percent in 2010. The company put the total number of identity victims in 2012 at 12.6 million.

At least half of those victims did not bear the cost of the fraud, Javelin said in its report. Of those who did, the mean cost rose to US$365 in 2012, from $354 in 2011. The bulk of the fraud was absorbed by financial institutions, merchants and other businesses, Javelin said.

One of the largest spikes came in new account fraud, where criminals collect personal data and then open, for example, a new credit card account. New account fraud climbed to 1.22 percent of adults last year, from 0.82 percent in 2011.

More than half of the new account fraud involved applying for general-use and store-branded credit cards, Javelin said.

New account fraud “poses a growing threat to consumer identities and private industry’s bottom line — especially as the total fraud loss has doubled from 2011, to $9.8 billion,” Javelin said.

Data breaches were a likely source for Social Security numbers, issued to all U.S. citizens, and a key piece of information often required for opening new accounts. Consumers who knew their SSN had been breached were 14 times more likely to be a victim of new account fraud, Javelin said.

Javelin said it also found a large jump in account takeover incidents, which increased from 0.36 percent in 2011 to 0.60 percent in 2012. Fraudsters likely obtained account details through data breaches or through malicious software attacks.

“By changing consumer contact information, fraudsters can limit the consumer’s ability to be notified of fraud while redirecting any newly requested payment cards,” the report said. “The misuse of store-branded cards could allow fraud to go undetected longer, as these accounts are less likely to be reviewed or used than general-use credit cards.”

The most financially damaging fraud in the account takeover category was ACH (Automated Clearing House) and wire transfer fraud, which had the highest mean fraud figure at $5,138 per incident.

ACH is a widely used but aging system that is used by financial institutions for exchanging details of direct deposits, checks and cash transfers made by businesses and individuals. It is overseen by the National Automated Clearing House Association (NACHA), a nonprofit association.

Javelin’s survey was sponsored by CitiGroup, Intersections LLC and Visa, although those companies were not involved in the analysis in order to maintain the project’s independence and objectivity, Javelin said.

Retrieved from InfoWorld