Cyber Security & Universities: Where’s the Disconnect?

A few years ago my university’s security was compromised by a student burglar who stole several computers, including some used by the faculty. Immediately, the campus police launched an offline and cyber security investigation, found and charged the culprit who is now serving his jail sentence.

cyber securityA spokesperson said that the burglar’s motives might have been academic, meaning he wanted to cheat on a test. Most of us may have daydreamed about doing something similarly ignoble to change our GPA to something more ennobling if we ever had access to do so.

But the university burglary motivated me think about the security of such delicate and personal information. Because of the troves of personal and financial information, universities are prime targets for online hackers – even those without access to the school’s computers.

Despite full-frontal attacks on information, an article by Alfred Ng for CNET.com shared this method of hacking that students should be aware of: malware or hacking platforms disguised as apps.

“Though most of the blacklisted apps are poorly made games [such as the ransomware programs impersonating Pokemon Go at the app’s apogee], others pretend to help you be a better student,” Ng wrote.

Risk IQ, a cybersecurity company, has been on the lookout for university connected vulnerabilities. In Ng’s article, the company gives suggestions on how students can avoid these costly tricks:

“Other warning signs to watch out for when it comes to sketchy apps are poorly written reviews and developers using public domain emails for contacts, Risk IQ said. For any educational apps, like Blackboard Learn, you should always check the sources and look for the official versions.”

With my another semester starting soon, the last thing I want to worry about, or any student to worry about, is cybersecurity. Be smart and be safe. Check to see if your school is protecting its website from online hackers with vulnerability scanning software – like that offered through Trust Guard. Otherwise, you might want to consider not sharing your personal information on the school’s website.

Major Cyber Attacks Blamed on North Korea

According to PC Pit Stop, North Korea is responsible for two major cyber attacks.  Cyber security analysts believe that North Korea has been stealing crypto-currency, bitcoins, and other digital currency by executing advanced persistent threats (APTs). Since the beginning of the internet, hackers have been gaining unauthorized access to networks to steal identities, perform credit card fraud, and cause havoc for e-commerce businesses and individuals. Only by hacking a site and server from an honest third-party vendor, otherwise known as vulnerability scanning, have business owners been able to limit the number and extent of cyber crime. Even at that, more than 30,000 websites get hacked into every single day.

Considering the value and international popularity of bitcoins have almost doubled over the last couple weeks, it’s not shocking to learn that cyber criminals are now targeting digital wallets.  However, North Korea is taking this to a new level by targeting bitcoin exchange sites and financial institutions.

North Korea Cyber Crime
Beyond stealing digital currencies, the U.S. also released a statement on December 18th claiming North Korea was responsible for the first global ransom ware attack, WannaCry.  WannaCry was a ransom ware campaign that impacted approximately 150 countries around the globe.  Collectively the attack created millions, if not billions, of dollars’ worth of damage.  When cyber crime happens, online business owners have to account for costs associated with downtime, third-party investigations, loss of productivity, design, marketing dollars, data, and reputation damage.

The U.S. government plans to establish a plan to mitigate the risk of future attacks taking place.

MSN reported,

“…the Trump administration will be calling on “all responsible states” to counter North Korea’s ability to conduct cyberattacks and to implement all “relevant” United Nations Security Council sanctions, according to a U.S. official familiar with the matter.” No definitive plans, beyond the above statement, have been disclosed to legitimately address the issue.  Therefore, it is unclear what measures the U.S. plans to take to counter North Korea’s ability to execute these cyber attacks.  For now, no serious online business owner should be without security scanning to catch their websites’ vulnerabilities before hackers do.


 

View original article here: https://techtalk.pcpitstop.com/2017/12/19/north-korea-blamed-major-cyber-attacks/?northkorea=&ad_id=505347&share-ad-id=1

CNBC: Hackers Are Targeting School Websites

According to an article from CNBC, hackers are now targeting school websites – including elementary and high schools. Universities like Harvard and the University of Louisville have been hacked. As have state departments of education, like Indiana’s. Even elementary, junior and high schools have been attacked by cyber criminals.

I guess it just took CNBC to talk about it before people realized the dangers for students, parents, teachers and admin when accessing their schools’ websites.

The article mentions that a hacking group named “The Dark Overlord,” known for hacking Netflix, has recently been linked to a series of attacks on school districts in three different states.  CNN mentioned that in a Montana school district, for example, more than 30 schools shutdown for three days. The Wall Street Journal reports that cyber-thieves have attacked more than three dozen schools. But there have been more than that.

“Schools have long been targets for cyber-thieves and criminals,” writes the Department of Education. “We are writing to let you know of a new threat, where the criminals are seeking to extort money from school districts and other educational institutions on the threat of releasing sensitive data from student records.”

'These grades won't do at all! Go to your room, hack into your school's computer and change these!'The Department of Education says the hackers are probably targeting districts “with weak data security, or well-known vulnerabilities that enable the attackers to gain access to sensitive data.” It advises districts to conduct security audits and patch vulnerable systems, train staff on data security best practices, and review sensitive data to make sure no outside actors can access it.

According to Mary Kavaney, the chief operating officer of the Global Cyber Alliance, school environments often don’t have a lot of technology resources dedicated to security, but they could have some of the most sought after personal information on people, including social security numbers, birth dates, and medical and financial information.

The Department of Education’s letter confirmed that threats like these have now been observed multiple times, stating, “In some cases, this has included threats of violence, shaming, or bullying the children unless payment is received.”

“These attacks are being actively investigated by the FBI, and it is important to note that none of the threats of violence have thus far been judged to be credible,” explains the department. In order to protect private information that can be stolen and used for extortion, the Department of Education suggests that schools conduct security audits like those offered by Trust Guard and that they train staff and students on data security best practices like secure passwords.

Cyber crime has been happening since the creation of the internet. With more than 30,000 WordPress sites being hacked on a daily basis, schools, districts, and state education departments need to start monitoring their sites for vulnerabilities on a daily basis. If you are a student, parent or teacher, visit TrustGuard.com for more information on how to keep your private information safe.


Special thanks to these two articles for much of the content in this article:
http://money.cnn.com/2017/10/18/technology/business/hackers-schools-montana/index.html
https://www.cnbc.com/2017/10/24/department-of-education-warns-that-hackers-are-now-targeting-schools.html

 

What You Should Know about the Equifax Breach

What: Data collected by Equifax, one of the three credit report giants, was hacked. “This is clearly a disappointing event for our company, and one that strikes at the heart of who we are and what we do. I apologize to consumers and our business customers for the concern and frustration this causes,” said Richard F. Smith, Equifax CEO, in a statement. 

When: In early August, Mandiant (a cybersecurity firm) was approached by Equifax to figure out what was going on, according to CNN News. Mandiant aided in the investigation and determined from May 13 through July 30 a spate of hacks occurred.

Who: 143 million Equifax customers have been affected. Their information, including social security numbers, addresses and birth dates were accessible by hackers.

Soon after the breach was announced to the public, Susan Mauldin, former chief security officer and Dave Webb, former chief information officer, retired.

How: Like many of these cases, the how is still a mystery. But Apache Struts, a tool used for Equifax’s online dispute portal, has become the scapegoat, being blamed for vulnerabilities, making the breach easier for hackers.

Apache Struts released this statement:

“We as the Apache Struts PMC want to make clear that the development team puts enormous efforts in securing and hardening the software we produce, and fixing problems whenever they come to our attention. In alignment with the Apache security policies, once we get notified of a possible security issue, we privately work with the reporting entity to reproduce and fix the problem…”

What you can do: If you believe you might have been impacted, visit Equifax’s Cybersecurity Incident & Important Consumer Information page: https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/.

Vulnerability Scanned Websites

vulnerabilityTo me, shopping on the Internet is the best thing to have ever happened to mankind since the invention of the internet itself.

According to a recent study, 51% of Americans prefer to shop online than in stores and 96% of American adults, at some point in their lives, have made an online purchase.

Impressive numbers don’t you think? That is why e-commerce is estimated to be growing at a rate of 23% every year.

The problem of website vulnerability has been a major concern for e-commerce websites.

Hackers are more and more prevalent – as seen this week in the huge Equifax data breach that saw the identity theft of 143 million people in the US, Canada and United Kingdom.

Vulnerability scanning involves the use of computer programs designed to assess computers, websites, networks or applications for weaknesses that can be exploited by hackers and identity thieves. These scans are used to discover the weak points or loopholes in website designs. Currently, Trust Guard scans for more than 75,575 of these security holes.  Unsafe websites is a very big problem for e-commerce owners because they require their customers to submit sensitive information to make their purchases. Imagine how useful this information would be in the hands of  identity thieves. From credit card information to mailing addresses, phone numbers, account details and photographs, it’s like giving these thieves the key to your home, bank account and your office.

Your customers worry about the safety of their personal information when they visit your website.

They worry about the vulnerability of your website. Ask yourself this, why should I save my money in a bank that has a massive hole on the side of its vault through which anyone can have free access? Your customers need to feel as safe using your website as they do at their bank. Look at things from the perspective of your customers. Why would they give their personal information to a website that isn’t safe?

As an online shopper, you should only shop on websites that have been thoroughly scanned for vulnerabilities by a reputable website protection company. Website protection companies like Trust Guard are able to completely uncover a website’s vulnerabilities and instruct the website owner how to fix them. How can you identify e-commerce websites that are free from vulnerabilities? Quite simple. You can check websites for security trust seals. Security scanned trust seals are an indication that the website you’re shopping on is safe.

We know that everything on the internet is hackable. However, it will take expertise and focus for hackers to attack a vulnerability-free website.


 

Identity TheftThis article was written by Emmanuel Ozigi, a biochemist in the making from Nigeria. In my spare time, I’m a science, health, and fitness blogger. I also specialize in graphic design and photo editing. I also have this insatiable hunger for information and the desire to learn new things. Visit my blog at http://sciencehealth24.com.

 

What is Vulnerability Scanning?

There are different types of vulnerability scanning as well as different software for each. But what is it exactly?

A vulnerability scanner is a software or an application developed to scan computers, networks, and even websites for possible security threats. It is responsible for the analysis of how strong or weak a computer’s or a server’s defenses are. By scanning, the users and technicians will know, or at least have an overview of, what threats or issues they are dealing with in terms of the security of a network, website, computer, or server.

Vulnerability ScanningIf you are to choose the right vulnerability scanner, then you first need to know the main kinds to understand your options better. There are at least two main categories I’d like to talk about.

Network Vulnerability Scanners

These scanners are often installed into one machine and are configured to access and scan multiple computers and networks. These are programmed to detect vulnerabilities of the devices, alerting the user or an IT person if there are mis-configured settings or if the treat is coming from either a pre-installed application or a user-installed application. The network vulnerability scanner works on anything that has to do with firewalls, networks, web servers, and system administration. They deal with high-profile information but not individual files since they are not installed directly onto the host.

Hosted Vulnerability Scanners

These scanners are installed on the host (the computer or system being scanned). These types of scanners take care of the low-profile information such as passwords, operating systems of the computers they were installed in, suspicious files downloaded, and file system checks.

Despite having technology to do all the job for the security of your computer, network, servers, and everything in the cloud, it is also crucial that you understand their limitations.

Vulnerability scanners are coded software that, at some point in time, may fail to do what you expect them to do. They are programmed to take snapshots of your system’s security status at a given time. It is highly recommended that users regularly scan their devices to get the most updated (if not the exact) security status of the systems and files therein. Trust Guard currently scans for 75,575 security holes. 


JonnaArticle written by Jonna Lindawan

Jonna is a startup VA business owner who loves helping her clients grow their businesses through her skills in writing, customer service, research, data entry, transcription, social media management, and admin support. Visit her website here.

Your Dog’s Name is Not a Good Password

Buster and Champ are great names for dogs. But neither of them make a good online password – especially when those are the names of your dogs!

Password Trust GuardOne of the most annoying things you’ll come across on the web is when a website forces you to create a complicated password. You’ve had to do it before—with capitals, and numbers, and special characters. You end up with something like “Beth@ny12”, which looks more like a 12-year-old’s screen name than a password. The worst part? Those passwords aren’t secure. Here’s why.

Dictionary Attacks

Brute force is usually what people think of when hacking comes to mind. That’s when hackers guess every possible combination of every letter and character. It’s a technique that’s used, but only as a last resort. Hackers start, instead, with dictionary attacks. These involve taking a very large and comprehensive list of common passwords, characters, and substitutions, and then using them to guess your password. So, yes, they’re going to guess “password”, or even “p@ssw0rd1”.

The problem, here, is that people pick passwords out of habit. The computers have been forcing us to when they make us turn “Scruffy” into “$CruFfy89”. We use short, familiar words because it’s the only way we can remember those ridiculous passwords. But that only makes them easier to guess for the dictionary attacks. Online bullies know all of the words we pick, and all the substitutions we’re going to use. And heaven forbid we forget our password. Then we just reset it to a password we already use somewhere else…which is another cardinal password sin.

Better Passwords

So how do we protect ourselves? The best option is to add more letters, preferably in the form of a random word (or words), as words are easier to remember than substitutions. If you have the option, instead of “$CruFfy89”, do a few random words, like “correcthorsebatterystaple”. You’ll get way more bang for your security buck that way. There are online password creation and storage companies like LastPass that can create and store unique passwords for you. That way, you only have to remember one password in order to access all of your accounts.

Online security should be a big deal for you! It seems like every other day we hear about another big company that got hacked. So before you give some online business your personal information and unique, non-personal password, make sure the website has a Trust Guard trust seal on it, verifying that it is secure.


Special thanks to writer Stephen Porritt.

Five Ways to Combat Cyber Crime

Like most theft, cyber crime tends to follow the path of least resistance.  For paid security monitoring for your website, contact Trust Guard. They’ll help you combat cyber crime by scanning your website for more than 75,500 known vulnerabilities used by hackers to really screw things up.

Here are five online hygiene tips anyone can follow, for free, to make life harder for people looking for an easy way to steal your personal or financial information – whether you’re a business owner or not.

Combat Cyber Crime1. Use multifactor authentication. This includes entering a password plus a code or a question that only you know. Google’s authenticator app is a quick download and works easily with many services including Amazon and Gmail. It’s worth checking to see if there’s a multifactor option every time a website asks you to fill out bank account or credit card information.

2. Don’t share passwords across websites. Almost everyone shares at least a couple of passwords. Don’t. There are plenty of inexpensive password manager phone apps that can help you with this, notably the open-source Password Safe and LastPass.com.

3. Refuse to give up information whenever you can. Best Buy doesn’t need your phone number. The more information you part with, the more can be used against you if the retailer is hacked. Ron Swanson from Parks and Rec didn’t have it right all of the time, but staying off the grid as much as possible is always a good idea.

4. Check your bank balance regularly. Thieves often try for a small purchase to see if the card works before they go shopping; in particular, look for easy-to-resell items like gift cards and credits on online marketplaces. When it comes to financial accounts, you also want to change the passwords to those accounts every three months at a minimum.

5. Close down services that you don’t use anymore. Do you still have a Steam account from that one time you bought a PC game all your friends were talking about? Are you sure? Is it linked to a credit card you still use? These are the easiest ways for hackers to steal in bulk, and the one-off purchase you make on impulse is probably the one you’ll unthinkingly reuse your old password on, too. For these types of purchases, it’s a good idea to get a pay-as-you-go debit card that you load from another card with only the amount you need to make the one-off purchase.

Everyone can and should do their small part to keep their personally identifiable information safe and protected. These five tips should help.


Special thanks to The Guardian for supplying much of the information found in this article.