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

Hackers Feel Like Slivers in Your Derriere!

The following true story is courtesy of my youngest brother Luke. I feel a little guilty

When I was a young teenager, my brother’s friends would ‘toilet paper’ my yard. Little did they know the problems their playfulness caused. You see, my dad would make us gather it all up in brown paper bags, and he placed the bags in the bathrooms and removed all other TP until we finished with everything in the paper bags. This presented a very painful and unpleasant bathroom experience, because we had several evergreen bushes in our yard. No matter how hard we tried, we could never find and remove all the stickers, prickly leaves and thistles wedged in the TP.

hackers sliversFree toilet paper seemed like such a blessing to my dad, but it came with scrapes and bruises that have left a lifetime of unforgettable, miserable memories. Just like the toilet paper in this story, developers have designed an awesome website with all the bells and whistles, but have also left their websites susceptible to vulnerable holes that allow online hackers to easily ‘stick’ us with very unpleasant consequences – much more severe and lasting than a sliver in your rump.

Has your company been hacked?

Robert S. Mueller, III, former FBI director, made this now-famous statement a few years ago. “There are only two types of companies: Those that have been hacked and those that will be hacked.” But that was then, and this is now. In today’s online world, there are only two types of companies: Those that have been hacked and those that don’t know they have been hacked.

If Target, Sony, Yahoo, eBay, Sonic, Whole Foods, Equifax and thousands of other businesses would have been receiving regular security scanning services from an approved scanning vendor (ASV) certified by the Payment Card Industry (PCI) Security Standards Council and making the suggested improvements, our personal information may have been cyber safe. Instead, the world is in a panic, and the compromised companies are spending millions to try and redeem themselves. But, the hard reality is that you and I will think twice before using any of these services again.

Cybersecurity is a serious issue that affects all of us. We can no longer sit around thinking, “I won’t get hacked; that only happens to other people.” The reality is that no business is immune to online hackers’ criminal tactics. In fact, more than 30,000 websites get hacked into every single day.

Cyber-criminals use bots that they’ve created to search for online businesses that have holes and vulnerabilities they can easily exploit. Malicious bots can potentially run all night, and then when the hackers open their computers the next day the bots have found numerous vulnerable websites, servers, networks and/or POS credit card terminals to steal personal identifiable information and credit card data from.

Regardless of what kind of online business you have, your website is not safe from the outstretched hands of cyber-criminals. You should do all you can to keep your business and customers cyber safe. Act now by scanning your website, network and/or POS terminal for vulnerabilities and immediately repairing security holes found.

Trust-Guard-Seal-300x74Finally, if you are doing everything you can to protect your online business, clients, partners, online-shoppers and POS terminals, then you should NOT keep that a secret; shout it loud and clear. It should be a priority to let all your consumers and associates know that you are cyber safe. The best way to do this is by placing a trust seal by your checkout page to show the world that you are doing everything you can to stay cyber safe.

A trust seal is an easy, cost-effective solution for business owners who want to create trust between themselves and online shoppers. Third-party verification can go a long way for those who want the ease of the internet but are cautious and don’t want to be victims of fraud, theft or bad business practices. A seal takes the gamble out of online shopping, which statistically is why it significantly increases sales conversion. It’s an affordable win-win solution.

In conclusion, be caught on the news as being the ‘next’ victim that’s been hacked. Take action now. Find an ASV of the PCI Security Standards Council to routinely scan your network, website and/or POS credit card reader. Make sure that any vulnerability holes are fixed. Then let everyone know you are cyber safe by posting a trust seal for everyone to see.

Good luck at getting cyber-safe. I am an optimist by nature and I believe there is still much good in the world and plenty of good to be achieved.


Special thanks to Luke’s article found here: https://staysafeonline.org/blog/online-hackers-worse-sliver-rump/

 

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

 

You’ve Been Hacked!

You’re asleep, dreaming about all of the money effortlessly flowing into your bank account because of your years of hard work and determination to succeed as an e-commerce business owner.

Suddenly your eyes jerk open to the sound of your partner’s ringtone. He’s the only person that you let call you after hours.

You turn over to reach for your phone. Your alarm clock shows you that it’s 3:30 in the morning. You begin to get nervous, asking yourself what could possibly be so important.

You answer the phone searching for explanations when your partner, with almost palpable stress in his voice exclaims: “We’ve been hacked!”
You've Been Hacked!
Not really knowing what that means, you get him to calm down and tell you what happened. He explains that he found out earlier that night that one of your longstanding customers had her credit card information stolen and linked the theft back to your site.

He was just going to talk to you about it the next day, but then he received another notification of identity theft linked to your website, then another, and then another. This started to really scare him. Then, right before he called you, your programmer called to tell him that a hacker had taken control of your website.

That’s a lot of bad, life-changing, gut-wrenching information to take in – especially at 3:30 in the morning.

You take a minute to try to make sense of it all. Finally you respond to your partner. “So, what you’re saying is that we no longer have access to our website and that we are probably responsible for the identity and credit card theft of all of our customers.”

You hear your partner take a long, deep, concerned breath before answering with a lump in his throat “Yep.”

And to think that all of this could have been avoided by using Trust Guard’s security monitoring services.

What Victims of Identity Theft Can Do

If you haven’t heard, Equifax, one of the three big credit reporting agencies in the United States, announced that it suffered a massive data breach. More than 143,000,000 records were compromised, including email addresses, names, social security cards and credit card numbers.

If you believe you were the victim of identity theft, here’s what you can do:

  1. Close the accounts that you believe may have been tampered with or opened fraudulently. Use the government’s Identity Theft Report, which can be found at www.identitytheft.govIdentity Theft
  2. File a police report and get a copy to submit to your creditors and others who may require proof of the crime. If you have proof of identity theft, be sure to take that proof with you when you go to file your police report.
  3. File your complaint with the FTC at www.consumer.ftc.gov. The FTC maintains an identity theft database that law enforcement agencies use for investigations. Filing a complaint also helps the FTC better assist you, as the commission learns more about online theft of identities and the problems it creates.

If you are a business owner with an SSL certificate but without protection from hackers, contact Trust Guard, the leader in website security to protect you and your online visitors from hackers.

More Hackers Are Doing More Damage

If you’re concerned about cyber security these days—and you should be—reading the headlines isn’t exactly going to give you any peace of mind. Sometimes it seems that hackers just have the upper hand.

Equifax_LogoOne such headline from TheRegister.co.uk tells us that “Energy sector biz hackers are back and badder than ever before.” Cyber security firm Symantec believes that a resurgent group of hackers dubbed “Dragonfly 2.0” poses more of a threat than ever. They were apparently behind a massive attack on the Ukraine’s electrical grid, which affected hundreds of thousands of people. The group now poses a threat to the electrical grids of Western nations.

Newsweek reports that the recent attack on HBO caused the loss of seven times more data than the Sony cyber attack, which back in 2014 gizmodo.com called possibly “the worst corporate hack in history.” The losses of data include things like employee medical records, Social Security numbers and TV show scripts.

And then there is the Equifax hack that lost personal data of 143 million people—yes, that’s a million. And the list goes on and on.

It would seem a good time to take cyber security seriously by using Trust Guard. If they’re on your side, they will scan for the more than 75,500 known vulnerabilities so any hacker-inviting weakness in your computer system can be fixed before the hackers can put you in a fix.

The name of the game is staying ahead of the bad guys, and you almost certainly can’t do that on your own. Trust Guard will also provide you with a Trust Seal for your web site so visitors can see that their personal data will be protected if they make a purchase on your site.

Don’t let your business make it on the hacking headlines; let Trust Guard worry about warding off hackers so you can focus on your business.  


Sources:
http://gizmodo.com/the-sony-pictures-hack-exposed-budgets-layoffs-and-3-1665739357/1666122168
http://www.newsweek.com/hbo-cyberattack-sony-hack-leak-game-thrones-645450
https://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/09/06/energy_sector_attacks
https://us.norton.com/internetsecurity-emerging-threats-143-million-people-exposed-in-equifax-data-breach.html?om_em_cid=hho_email_US_BLST_ACT_2017_09_databreach_Equifax

 

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/.