Cyberattacks are a real and dangerous threat to businesses of all sizes. Criminals don’t care whether you’re a one-person outfit or a multinational, if you have vulnerabilities, they will seek to exploit them. So, how do you improve security and do it inexpensively? In this post, we‘ll look at a range of ways to make your business more secure without having to spend a small fortune in the process.
1. Keep informed about security issues
Security intelligence is essential if you are going to stay one step ahead of the criminals. If there are new and emerging threats out there, you want to know about them early so that you can put measures in place to protect your systems.
For this reason, you should make sure you subscribe to security updates from your hardware and application vendors and make sure that you read them. This costs you nothing but time but can give you vital information about vulnerabilities you may have and how to protect your company against them, such as patching or reconfiguration.
2. Keep software up to date
Vulnerabilities are found in software all the time. Hackers constantly look for new ways to break in and, in response, app developers release updates to close the security holes. If any of the apps you use have an update, therefore, it is absolutely crucial from a security aspect, that they are updated as soon as possible. The longer you leave them, the greater chance you have of becoming a victim.
Luckily, many applications can be configured to update automatically. From operating systems on your employeesâ€™ laptops to website plugins, setting up automatic updates means youâ€™ll never have to manually manage the process and your system will be secured as soon as the updates are released. If you have a managed IT solution, such as with shared, VPS, dedicated and cloud hosting, your hosting provider will take care of your OS updating and patching for you.
3. Manage wireless networks securely
Many companies use wireless connectivity and it is particularly important for those who have customers who want Wi-Fi connections whilst on their premises, for example, hotels and shopping malls.
One of the first security measures you should put in place is to set up different Wi-Fi networks for business use and customer use. You cannot guarantee that all your customers are going to use the internet in a secure way; keeping the separate networks means if a customer downloads a virus, it canâ€™t spread to your business operations.
The other key factor in securing wireless networks is password protection. Ideally, business networks, whether wireless or not, should be protected by multifactor authentication, using things like smart card access control technology. You should also have robust password policies in force for all staff.
For separate customer networks. Make sure strong passwords are used. Ideally, you should change these passwords regularly, but many customers prefer it if their smartphones connect automatically every time they visit and this has advantageous uses for marketing and data gathering for the venues. For this reason, you need to enforce strong passwords.
For those offering remote access to the businessâ€™ network, One of the most secure things you can do is set up a VPN and to ensure that, where possible, data is encrypted.
4. Keep employees trained
The most fundamental staff training is induction training for new staff who need to learn about the way IT is managed and kept secure within your enterprise. They need to know about the threats you face, the measures you have in place and their obligations in maintaining a secure environment. This includes everything from spotting dodgy looking emails, stopping the kids playing games on a company laptop, to more serious matters about handling personal data. As new threats appear, update sessions should be provided to keep them informed of developments.
Further up the chain, IT staff and managers need to be aware of what their roles are and what procedures need to be followed in order to comply with security regulation and what to do in case of a breach.
5. Use the best tools
Using the right tools is one of the most important aspects of keeping your network safe. This includes using correctly configured firewalls, malware and vulnerability scanning, remote backups, SSL certificates, email encryption, and email spam and virus filtering. If you accept online payments, you should also be PCI compliant or use a service provider with a PCI compliant hosting service. If your network is hosted by a service provider, the majority of these tools should be available as part of their service, either as part of your package or as an add-on.
The need for security is more important than ever. The selling of hacking tools on the dark web means that the number of criminal gangs getting hold of them has grown significantly over the last few years and new threats are discovered every day. Hopefully, the measures we have shown you here will enable you to keep your systems more secure without you needing to spend a fortune in the process.
Digital transformation and enterprise risk management can be thought of as parallel highways. That’s because any transformation effort will introduce new risks and change to the organization’s overall security posture.
As organizations continue their digital transformations, the transformation of security and risk management must be an integral part of that journey. Organizations must integrate security and risk management into DevOps and Continuous Delivery (CD) processes. The ultimate goal is to have resilient systems that can not only withstand cyber attacks, but also carry out mission-critical business operations after an attack succeeds.
Taking the analogy further, imagine that each of these highways has three lanes: one for people, another for process, and a third for technology.
People in an organization form its culture. For digital transformation to succeed, many organizations will need to transform the culture around risk. That might include inculcating respect for personal information, and organizations consciously building digital services with privacy in mind. The workforce needs to be adept in using digital tools such as cloud, APIs, big data and machine learning to automate and orchestrate the management of a digital security threat response.
Process relates to how an organization overhauls its business processes to be agile and yet secure at the same time. This might involve moving from ITIL behaviour to DevOps or other proactive operational approaches. Prevention is important, but the ability to respond to manage digital threats is much more relevant, as this proactive behavior coincides with DevOps principles.
Technology can present new risks, but can also help address risk. Many top technology companies, for example, are using technologies to automate processes in a way that’s secure. Some common best practices include building loosely-coupled components wherever possible on a stateless/shared-nothing architecture, using machine learning to spot anomalies quickly, and using APIs pervasively to orchestrate the security management of digital entities in a scalable manner.
From a CIO’s perspective, each new digital entity and interaction adds risk: Who is this user? Is this device authorized? What levels of access should be allowed? Which data is being accessed?
Leading organizations will securely identify these users, devices and other entities — including software functions and internet of things (IoT) endpoints — and they’ll do so end-to-end in an environment where services are widely distributed.
We use passwords everywhere. We need them to log in to our websites, apps, online accounts and even the devices we access them on. Unfortunately, cybercriminals have discovered increasingly clever ways to find out what they are. To keep you up to date with their growing sophistication and to put you in a better position to defend your business and private accounts, here are seven of the most common ways hackers can crack your passwords.
1. Phishing attacks
Phishing attacks are the most common way that a hacker will attempt to get access to your passwords. They involve sending some form of electronic communication, typically email but also SMS or other forms of message, that contains a malicious link. Clicking on the link will result in malware being downloaded onto your device which will silently collect your usernames and passwords and send them to the hacker.
2. Social engineering attacks
Social engineering attacks are a specialised form of phishing that has been used heavily in recent years, particularly against businesses and their customers. The attack begins with the arrival of a seemingly legitimate email from a reputable company informing you that there’s an action you need to take. A link will be provided for you to carry out that action and when you click on it, you’ll be taken to a website and asked to sign in.
The website you are sent to is a scam site, often a clone of the genuine site with a URL that is not too dissimilar to the original. When you log in, that scam site records your username and password for the hacker’s use.
Another version of social engineering involves sending employees legitimate-looking emails that pretend to be from the company they work for. They often appear to come from people they know and trust within the organisation. These too will ask for an action to be carried out (e.g. your password is about to expire, please click here to update) and, once again, logging in will result in the login credentials being stolen.
Spidering is a form of investigative hacking in which cybercriminals seek to build relationships with their victims as a way to steal passwords. In a way, it takes phishing and social engineering to a new level but the depth to which it goes to often provides better results. Hackers will often pretend to be potential clients or contractors and will ask for information about a company in the hope of gaining insights into its systems and networks. Any information it receives will then be analysed to help it find vulnerabilities to attack.
4. Password stealing malware
Our day to day use of the internet makes it possible that we can unwittingly click on malicious links or visit compromised websites. If you do, there’s the potential for malware to be downloaded to your device – especially if you do not have antivirus protection. There are specific types of malware which are designed to steal passwords, usernames and other personal information. The most common are keyloggers and screen scrapers, which record the keys you press on your keyboard or take screenshots of your activity.
5. Brute force attacks
A brute force attack is when a hacker will make multiple attempts to try and guess your password. This may look like an impossible feat, but it isn’t. Cybercriminals can cheaply purchase databases containing billions of stolen usernames and passwords from the dark web. These are then fed into password cracking tools that make use of AI and machine learning so that the guesses made, rather than being random, are algorithmically generated. The speed at which these tools make login attempts means that a password can often be cracked within minutes.
6. Rainbow table attacks
Systems generally encrypt stored passwords which means it’s impossible to discover them without having the right encryption key. Sophisticated hackers keep directories of stolen passwords and their associated encryption keys, helping them cut the time needed to break in. A rainbow table attack, meanwhile, uses an encryption algorithm to generate a list of every potential plain text password. These are then compared to the encrypted passwords on an organisations system to speed up the discovery of the right version.
The enormous number of possible passwords in a rainbow table means they can be terabytes in size. As a result, cybercriminals are making increased use of the cloud to help them process the data during an attack.
7. Network analysing tools
Network analysis tools enable cybercriminals to intercept data sent over a network and steal any unencrypted passwords they contain. To carry out an attack, hackers need physical access to the network or the use of malware.
SSL and other forms of encryption are the best defence against this type of hacking, together with VPNs. Companies can use network analysis tools themselves to discover if they have plain text passwords unwittingly being transmitted.
The growing number of sophisticated ways hackers can find passwords means organisations have to continually find better ways to protect themselves. Today, there are numerous defences you can use: encryption, SSL, email signing certificates, firewalls, antivirus, intrusion protection, email filters, logical access control, multi-factor authentication and biometric authentication, for example. Additionally, the training of staff and the implementation of rigorous security policies and procedures can also help.
Generally, when it comes to computer security, people often misunderstand terms of cybersecurity and information security for the same meaning. But do both of these terms mean the same though? Well, let’s proceed further to find out!
What is Cybersecurity?
While cybersecurity and information security may seem synonymous to users, both terms are theoretically different in the concept of security. Cybersecurity is the amalgamation of processes, technologies, and practices, chiefly designed to protect data, systems, networks, and programs from unauthorized access and cyber-attacks.
Organizations transmit sensitive and confidential data across networks and to other devices for business purposes on a daily basis. This is where cybersecurity plays the role of securing information and systems used for process or storage from various types of attacks in cybersecurity.
As ever-evolving cyber-attacks are rapidly on the rise, implementing cybersecurity solutions helps in safeguarding the data related to confidential and financial records of the company. Employee security awareness, training tools, incident response tools, email authentication protocols, brand monitoring tools, etc. are some types of cybersecurity solutions.
What is Information Security?
Cybersecurity explained above states the focus on the security of process and technology. However, information security is entirely a different concept. Information security plays a role in ensuring that both digital and physical data is being protected from unauthorized access, exploitation, recording, disclosure or modification.
The abbreviated term of information security is “infosec” and is also referred to as “data security”. It aims to keep data secure regardless of digital or physical form. Moreover, information security is a set of practices to keep data secure during scenarios where it is being stored or transmitted from one device or place to another.
While information security remains to be a primary focus in protecting the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data, maintaining organizational productivity is equally an important concern. This is why information security offers guidance, security policies, industry standards in passwords, antivirus software and information security awareness to provide best practices.
So, if cybersecurity and information security work on the same goal of safeguarding an organization’s data, then what differentiates both terms? Let’s find out with the difference stated below!
Cybersecurity Vs. Information Security: 5 Key Differences
Before continuing to learn what differs both terms, it is important to understand that cybersecurity is basically a subset of information security. You can consider information security as an umbrella with cybersecurity coming underneath it along with other security standards.
Now let’s read further to figure out the differences between these two terms:
Security of data and information in digital or electronic form.
Protection of data from cyber frauds, cybercrimes, cyber-attacks, and law enforcement.
This focuses on securing the cyber resilience of an organization including personal data present on the digital and electronic platform.
The advanced step to combat persistent cyber threats that are imminent.
Deals with cyber threats like phishing, ransomware, risk of removable media, cyber scams, vishing, and smishing.
Security of information assets, existing in both physical and digital form.
Protection of information from unauthorized access, disclosure, modification, misuse or destruction.
This focuses on securing information assets of an organization like integrity, confidentiality, and availability.
The foremost step in the foundation of data security.
This deals with all sorts of security threats to ensure that proper security protocols are set in place.
From the above-given table, now we can easily differentiate between both the terms. While information security mainly concerns protecting data of organization from any sort of unauthorized access, cybersecurity ensures that an organization’s electronic data is secure from cyber threat actors. Cybersecurity is a broad practice of ensuring that servers, networks, and email channels remain protected and accessible to only authorized users that fall under the realm of information security.
Although, the information is not the only area of concern for cyber threat attackers. Some hackers are keener about uncovering the user’s login credentials and gaining unauthorized access to closed networks. Their purpose to do so is to manipulate the data and website or hamper the essential functions.
To prevent hackers from attempting such malicious activities, patching up existing vulnerabilities in networks and devices is a must. Doing so leaves no room for hackers or cyber threat actors to make any possible interaction between the computer device and network or server.
This is why we have certain types of cybersecurity solutions that hold a wide scope right now. Moreover, the experts in this field will have high demand over the next decade too due to the introduction of new technology trends.
The Parallel-ground Between Cybersecurity & Information Security
After all these differences, you might wonder if there is any parallel-ground between cybersecurity and information security or not. Well, the answer is yes! Both cybersecurity and information security are the foundation to information risk management.
While cybersecurity professionals are mainly concerned with safeguarding electronic data from cyber risks and data breaches, they still perform physical security practices. Just like information security professionals keep a cabinet full of confidential information locked, cybersecurity experts require physical security measures to keep adequate data protected. It is impossible to physically lock a computer device, but having security protocols in place, one can easily prevent unauthorized access.
Both cybersecurity and information security are crucial aspects of technology in this evolving 21st century. Organizations looking forward to data security must understand the importance of these two aspects of technology. Every security administration of an organization must stay one step ahead of the ever-evolving security threats.
They are needed to provide and implement the best security awareness training practices and as well as analytical tools to monitor phishing and fraud activities taking place on the online platform. With constantly developing technology and the IT world, security professionals must stay updated to tackle down the evolving security risks and prevent future cyber threats.
On one hand, while the world is struggling with the pandemic COVID-19, another struggle is going on. Offices are now vacant and people are working from home. Employees do matter and so does the business. This is the reason behind the worldwide active adoption of ‘work from home’ culture.
However, work from home culture has its own drawbacks. Offices are secured with strong cyber security infrastructure along with a dedicated security team that monitors suspicious activities. Even after such stringent monitoring, cyber attacks still occur on organizations. One can imagine how vulnerable cyber security becomes when employees work from home.
In research conducted for the month of February and March, it was realized that there was a whopping 600% increase in cyber threats related to the COVID-19 pandemic. 40% of companies which enabled work from home policy for employees reported an increase in cyberattacks.
Employees must be provided with the knowledge to identify cyber-attacks such asawareness against phishing emails, risks associated with the use of public Wi-Fi, to ensure the security of the devices being used for work.
2. Secure medium of communication
Always use a secure medium of communication for official purposes. Make sure that security protocols such as DMARC are set in your email domain to secure it against any attempt of spoofing or abuse.
3. Deploy a phishing incident response team
In such a critical time when businesses are being hit hard, neglecting security can be an extremely dangerous situation for any organization. Every single effort matters and each form of vulnerability has to be taken into consideration. Since the majority of cyber attacks occur via emails. Therefore, a Phishing Incident Response tool is the need of the hour. A single vigilant employee can save the entire organization. A phishing incident tool empowers employees with the capability to report suspicious emails.
4. Deploy a VPN
Deploy a VPN for secure data transfer between the core system and work systems that employees are using remotely. It adds on as an additional layer of security by encrypting data while travelling.
Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) allows employees to work in a virtual environment as if they are connected to company’s local network from any place, at any time and from any device that is connected with the Internet. With VDI, data is stored on a server rather than the individual system. Not only does it significantly lower down risks to data but also, a lesser amount of bandwidth is required to store it.
6. Encourage employees to use cloud services
Encourage employees to use cloud services like doc, spreadsheet, etc. since this minimizes the risk to data as it is not stored locally.
7. Deploy an MDM solution
Deploying an MDM solution helps the organization in retaining control over business-related sensitive data. The solution allows administrators to remotely lock the devices and wipe all the data in case the device gets stolen. This prevents sensitive data from falling into the wrong hands.
Do You Want to Keep Your Organization Secure?
We are providing a 30-day free cyber health checkup for your organization. This will consist of free cyber security consultation and solutions including:
SaaS-based email authentication and anti-spoofing solution KDMARC
Before cloud computing came into the picture, many companies used traditional servers to carry out operations, processes and data storage. Eventually, it became challenging and costly to completely rely on other companies later, for computing, data processing and storage. But thanks to the big giants today, for creating advanced cloud computing services for making computing and storage more convenient and manageable.
Cloud computing is a leading edge technology that stands for the delivery of high-demand computing services including applications, storage, and power processing, entirely over the internet. It means that instead of using external computer hardware and software, cloud computing offers the entire computing and data storage and processing service over the internet only.
In simpler terms, cloud computing is the practice of using a network of remote servers that are hosted on the internet. The purpose is to store, manage and process data effortlessly rather than relying on a local server or personal computer system.
For decades computer industries used to work by storing data and running programs from the hard drive. But ever since businesses have adopted the cloud computing service, with the help of online connection, it has become flexible to manage resources anytime and anywhere.
Cloud computing gives users easy access to use online services that are available through any device with an internet connection. Users don’t require to be in a certain location to utilize this service as ‘The Cloud’ is almost everywhere these days. In fact, here are some examples of companies that provide their services online through cloud services:
Understanding How Cloud Computing Works
Here is a layman’s guide to how to understand cloud computing works. Basically, cloud has two main sections: the front-end and the back-end. These sections are connected to each other through the internet network. The front-end is the user or client-side of the computer whereas the back-end includes ‘The Cloud’ section of the computer system.
The front-end that consists of the client’s computer enables the user to access data stored in the cloud with the help of the internet browser or with a cloud software. Although, all cloud computing systems do not necessarily have to use the same user interface.
On the other hand, the back-end of the cloud technology system is responsible for storing data and information securely. It includes servers, computers, data storage systems, and central servers. The central server uses a certain set of rules called protocols to facilitate operations. To ensure seamless connectivity between computers or devices that are linked through cloud , it uses middle-ware software.
Apart from these two main section components, the cloud computing services fall under three broad models:
Infrastructure as a Service(IaaS):
In this most basic service model of cloud computing, where the user can rent network connectivity, IT infrastructure resources like data center, servers, storage networking hardware and cloud computing securitycompliance from a cloud service provider. The enterprise can use the IaaS and customize it accordingly so as to build a cost-effective software offering.
Platform as a Service(PaaS)
This cloud computing service offers an on-demand environment to develop, test, deliver and manage software applications. The PaaS is designed for developers to make it easier for them to promptly develop websites or mobile applications without having to worry about the setup or management of underlying infrastructure resources.
Software as a Service (SaaS)SaaS is the largest model in the cloud market that is growing rapidly today. This model uses the web browser to deliver applications to clients that are managed by the third party vendor. Whereas, its interface is accessed to the client side. Most of the SaaS applications do not require to be downloaded as these directly run from the web browser but some plugins are required to be installed.
The Virtualization in Cloud Computing
Just like its name, cloud computing is very vast as it holds various processes, operations, and management. Similarly, it involves a process of cloud computing virtualization. The cloud computing virtualization allows a user to utilize the same server to run multiple applications and operating systems, thus providing an efficient utilization of resources as well as reducing costs.
There are four main cloud computing virtualization types:
The application virtualization helps users to have remote access to the application from a server. The server stores the personal information and other application characteristics but still holds the potential to run on a local workstation with the internet connection.
It is the ability to run multiple virtual networks that individually have a separate control and data plan. Network virtualization provides the facility to create and provision virtual networks such as logical switches, routers, firewalls, VPN, and workload security, either within days or even within weeks.
This desktop virtualization enables users to emulate a workstation load in place of a server. It allows users to access their desktop remotely regardless of any location by a different machine. It offers the benefit of user portability, mobility, effortless management of software like installation, updates, and patches.
This is more of a technique to mask server resources. Server virtualization stimulates physical servers by altering their identities, numbers, processors and their operating systems. This spares users from the burden of continuously managing complex server resources.
How does Cloud Computing Benefit an Organization?
Cloud computing is just not about trendy applications that people use for storing photos and videos online. It plays a major part in the business model nowadays and has taken the world by storm! With the help of cloud servives, businesses are not only getting the benefit of storing and accessing data but also the benefit of operating businesses innovatively.
Following are the advantages that cloud computing benefits organizations with today:
It has been really expensive to run, manage, and deploy local systems for a long time and not to forget how much capital it has cost. With cloud computing, a user doesn’t require going through monthly expenditure of maintenance as everything is handled by the service provider itself.
Managing resources becomes quite easier with cloud computing as one has to simply pay for the resources that are being used each month. It offers the ease of process and operation as the Cloud storage providers offer flexible packages in which one can add or reduce the amount of storage that one pays to use.
Cyberattacks can destroy a huge amount of data if everything is stored in physical servers and hard drives. As a result, it will not only lead to data loss but also to customer trust in the organization. With cloud computing, these issues are less likely to happen and even if it happens, there are massive storage locations where the data will always be safely present as a copy at another location.
With cloud hosting, your organization is always protected against hacking and internal data thefts. It offers a robust firewall technology that offers features like intrusion prevention systems and in streaming virus protection.
Phishing attack is basically the most common but dangerous cyber-attack vector that is capable of exploiting the entire data of an organization with one click! It is a fraudulent attempt to gain user’s sensitive information and financial information for the vicious intent. This attack is deployed via email or by creating any illegitimate web page or site of an official entity to dupe users.
It is the most successful social engineering technique that is used for deceiving users into handing over their confidential data. Cyber threat actors usually target users by the medium of communication as they pretend to be from legitimate sources. These sources can be websites, banks, IT administrators, government agencies or auction houses, etc.
In technical terms, it is an online theft where cyber frauds trick users to steal and exploit their data present online. This cyber theft practice is attempted through email, instant messaging, voice calls, fax, etc. These attacks are divided into two categories:
A platform to trick users into providing sensitive details on the data harvesting sites by compelling them through email or SMS communication.
Fraudsters lure users to install malware by clicking on a download link that seems to have come from a legitimate source.
Currently, businesses are the most affected targets of phishing attacks. Reportedly, today phishing attacks have accounted for more than 80% of security incidents and a loss of $17,700. Whereas, according to the survey, around 94% of emails consist of malware and malicious attachments. 56% of the IT decision-makers believe that phishing attacks are the biggest cybersecurity threat to organizations as almost 32% of data breaches involve phishing.
How to Protect Against a Phishing Attack?
Phishers become empowered during any public crisis, regardless of the severity of the situation. They become opportunistic and search for advanced ways to deploy cyber attacks. In fact, they have squeezed out of every opportunity to such an extent that today these cyber threat actors are misusing the COVID-19 pandemic for fraudulent practices.
In this fast-growing influx of COVID-19 phishing attacks, cybercriminals are deploying email scams and are creating fraud website domains to misguide people, especially employees working from home. According to security research, over 16,000 new domains related to Coronavirus were registered from the beginning of January 2020 and the number has been multiplying rapidly ever since!
Moreover, among these Coronavirus-related website domains, most of the pages or sites were found to be malware loaded. No wonder how these phishing attacks are getting more sophisticated day by day and very unprecedented in nature. But, if taken proper preventive measures and implemented better phishing attack solutions, one can avoid falling victim to it.
Here are the following ways to protect against phishing attack:
1. Check for SSL certificate
Always check and verify the site that asks for your personal or even general information. Some URLs might begin with http:// and others with https://. The only difference is having ‘s’ on the web address. In order to verify the authenticity of a website, always check for https:// and the closed lock icon on the web address.
The ‘s’ basically stands for secure which means the website is safe to use. Also, if you click on an email link that redirects you to a website then make sure to verify the site’s SSL credentials first. The SSL certificate ensures secure and encrypted data transmission over the internet.
2. Lookout for grammatical errors
When it comes to creating a look-alike website or email, phishers can be good with coding but are often bad at writing content. Professional copywriters always ensure the quality of the content and make certain to send well-tested content with almost no error or flaw. One can detect a phishing email or website by checking the quality of the content. For example, poor grammar, illogical content flow, etc. is most likely done by inexperienced cyber scammers or frauds.
3. Phishing attack simulation training
As cybercrimes are on the rise today, organizations are expected to buckle up and train their employees for unpredicted future security threats. The best way is to educate employees about the importance of cybersecurity in an organization and what preventive measures they should take to mitigate cyber risks. Also, seeing how employees are the most vulnerable resource in any organization, it is important to train them with the help of phishing attack simulation. There are tools that offer the training of phishing attack simulation for employees in order to make them proactive in identifying phishing websites and emails.
4. Pop-ups are not always friendly
Avoid entering your personal information in pop-ups that appear on insecure websites. These pop-ups use Iframe technology to capture the user’s information and send it to a different domain. Although renowned and reputed websites will never ask for personal information on pop-ups, forged domains and spoofed sites can easily trick users into handing over their sensitive information.
5. Phishing incident response tool
Not every email landing in your inbox is a legitimate email because according to a survey, there is always 1 email out of 99 emails which is a phishing attack. Similarly, every 1 in 25 branded emails is a phishing email. Therefore, it is important to verify emails to check their authenticity and to do so, there are various advanced email security solutions available today. In case you find an email suspicious and fraudulent in nature, make sure to report it to a phishing incident response tool for the verification. Such tools provide real-time service to report, verify and resolve email-related issues.
6. Stay cautious of shortened links
The best way to trick any user into clicking on malicious or fake links is by sending shortened links that do not expose the real name of a website. Hackers use these shortened links to redirect users to fraud websites and obtain their personal information easily. To avoid becoming a target of such scams, always place the cursor on the provided short link to check the redirecting location before clicking on it.
7. Update all security patches
Keeping all the security patches up-to-date will not only mitigate the chances of cyber attacks but will also offer a cyber-resilient working environment. Hackers and cybercriminals majorly look for vulnerabilities in systems, software or applications to gain unauthorized access and exploit user’s data. For the best practice, always keep your system and web browsers up to date with the latest versions. The main purpose of this is that all these recent updates are released in response to security loopholes that hackers and cyber attackers seek for.
8. Avoid unexpected alarming emails
One of the best techniques phishers use is sending panic-creating emails that contain alarming content. These emails are popular with subject lines such as Alert, Deadline, Urgent Request, etc., to provoke users to respond.
It is always better to avoid such emails and specifically the unexpected ones that ask for urgent data submission or requests for downloads. You must always get such emails verified by the IT security administrator of your organization before taking any action to revert.
9. Double-check the sender’s email address
The first step to identify whether an email is legitimate or not is to always check the email address of the sender. Cyber thieves create spoofed email addresses to dupe users into thinking that the email has come from a legitimate source. Moreover, without giving a second glance, victims directly reach for email attachments. It is important to understand how the mindset of phishers works and how vulnerable we are left due to our negligence.
An organization’s reputation is very important on a digital platform as today most of the business comes from online resources and researches. Your brand represents your reputation online so it is essential to monitor activities taking place online in the name of your firm. Cyber fraudsters have now become more advanced and are using more complex methods to trick users for their malicious intent. Phishing websites are one of the widely used methods to dupe and diverge customers from the legitimate website of an organization to a look-alike fraud page. Security admins must implement an anti-phishing, fraud monitoring & takedown tool to monitor phishing and fraud activities taking place in the name of the organization. Once tracked, these fake domains can be instantly taken down the web browser to stop copyright infringement online.
Secure Code Review is the process to check the code in the development phase so that there are no vulnerabilities left in the code. It involves manual and automatic testing of the code, which helps to review the loophole in the code that can later affect the organization. It is a process to identify and patch coding errors in the development phase before they turn into a high-level security risk. Reviewing security codes helps an organization to minimize the overall maintenance and development cost by enhancing the effectiveness of the code lines and eliminating any kind of early-stage risks.
Major Focus Pointers for Code Review
The injection is a flaw that allows the application to accept the inputs to enter shell commands, enter the database, or operating system, which makes the application vulnerable for injection attacks.
The flaws like Meltdown and Spectre are caused due to inconsistent and vulnerable code, which ends up compromising the information and data present in the primary memory.
Sensitive Data Exposure:
When due to the vulnerability in the program code, an attacker can gain sensitive information like the credit card details, private data, passwords, etc is known as the sensitive data exposure.
The cross-site scripting is similar to the injection attacks. In this, the malicious scripts are embedded in such a way that the user’s PC trusts the malicious site by using the cookies as a legit site. This involves the browser side scripting and compromising the user.
Principle of Secure Code Review
The principle of secure code review or the peer code review is that after this process, there should be no short-comings, security loose ends, code structure loopholes, and inconsistency in the code. It is done for the quality assurance of the code and thus, the code is read and rewritten mitigating all the possible vulnerabilities.
Purpose of Secure Code Review
Secure Code Review is an important step during the development process these days. It allows the code to be free from any kind of risk. It is important for the application to have consistency. It should be free from any security vulnerabilities and data discrepancies. The code should have a proper structure and ways to manage the data.
How is the Code Reviewed?
There are 6 steps to secure code review: –
The reconnaissance is the process where we see the code and try to figure out the basic threats and risks in it.
Threats and risks are categories and scope is decided for the same. This scope helps us to follow a path in the next processes. This is known as the scope assessment.
Based on the scope the code is checked using various tools. These tools automate the process following the checklist. Thus, this makes the process automated.
After using the tools in the automation step. The code is manually checked to find out the issues if any. The left vulnerabilities are removed manually.
Confirmation and POC:
After the code is reviewed by an automated and manual process, it is sent further for the confirmation and proof of concept (POC). Thus, this step checks that the code is good to go and can be sent for compilation.
Once all the processes are done and are confirmed, the report is made for all the steps taken. This report contains the vulnerabilities that were there in the code and suggestions to mitigate them. This final report covers all the information on the secure code review process.
Attacks Summary Due to Lack of Secure Code Review in 2019-2020
Malware is short for ‘Malicious – Software”. The set of code or software that are made intentionally to harm and infect the endpoints in the network are known as malware. The cyber attackers use this malicious software to infect and attack the devices. The malware is of many types and is categorized based on the way they function. We will be explaining these later in the blog.
These days, malware is not directly installed on the victim’s device. Instead, it is sent and installed on the endpoint device using some techniques and by exploiting loopholes. Thus, these are the scopes that are to be mitigated by the security professionals when deploying cybersecurity.
Various types of malware threats are:
When an attacker manipulates the user to extract sensitive information for personal gains, it is known as social engineering. Sometimes the malicious links or malicious files are sent to the victim during social engineering. As soon as the victim clicks on the malicious link or downloads the malicious file, the malware gets installed in the victim’s device.
The attacker sends lucrative emails that tempt the user to click on the link provided in the email. As soon as the link is clicked, the malware gets downloaded itself in the background and infects the user’s PC.
Malware tampers web cookies. Thus, when you open a genuine site, this malicious cookie triggers and redirects you to the malicious sites. Thus, these sites may extract information or can download the malware into your system.
Planted Removable Medias:
Sometimes the attacker intentionally plants the removable media with malware loaded in it to tempt the victim to check its data. As soon as you will plug it in your system, the malware will be automatically installed and will end up infecting your device.
Types of malware
As told earlier in the blog, the malware is categorized and named based on the way they infect the system. Some of them are as follows:
Worms exploit your operating system. These types of malicious software use your network bandwidth, steal your data, and send it to the attacker. It has the property to self-replicate and thus, it copies itself through the network.
Trojan Horse is that comes attached to a normal file. Trojan malware disguises itself in the necessary files and then sends the data of your device to the attacker.
This extracts important credentials of data from a user’s device and sends it to the attacker. This kind of malware exploits the vulnerabilities in the software.
This is a kind of malicious software that infects the victim’s device by encrypting its data. The data can only be decrypted with a key that is provided by the attackers once you pay the ransom amount to them. Thus, it is advisable to keep backup of your data.
Adware is a kind of malicious software that is injected into the victim’s device using the advertisement pop-ups of needful software. Pop-ups of urgent requirements of antivirus, malware remover, etc. are embedded with the malicious link. As soon as the victim clicks on the link, the malicious file is downloaded in his/her system and infects the device.
This is a kind of malicious software that steals information and credentials of the user. The virus is also sometimes used to make the victim a bot. It can self-replicate itself but it cannot be transferred to the other device without human intervention. It can be attached to a document, mail attachments, scripts, etc.
6 Prevention tips from malware
Never click on not so secure and lucrative links as they may end up infecting your system.
Always keep your PC’s operating system updated.
Do not click on any link unless provided by the trusted source.
Change your passwords in the necessary interim intervals.
Avoid opening emails and attachments from unknown resources.
Do not pick up USBs found lying unguarded in public spaces.
Carrying an industry record of developing 100% hack proof applications come with a responsibility and a baseline guarantee that none of the digital solutions developed under our name would face security breach. As a way to achieve that, Anteelo’s Quality Assurance team are familiar with all the possible security risks which an app can face. Knowing the risks makes it easy to ignore pitfalls and write secure apps. Helping us be on top of the game when it comes to assuring security is having complete knowledge of OWASP secure coding practices (Open Web Application Security Project). It is an online community of security specialists who have developed free documentation, learning materials, and tools for building secure mobile and web applications.
Along with other things, they have also compiled a list of OWASP Mobile Top 10 security threats in mobile applications.
While the OWASP security practices document is fairly clear, it can sometimes be difficult for businesses to connect it from real-world cases.
In this article, we will give you a basic overview of Top 10 mobile security risks and give examples of the real world disclosed vulnerabilities for each of them. It will give you an insight into what we prepare for at Anteelo when we work on your application.
Before looking into the risks, let us look into statistics.
NowSecure looked into the apps on Google Play store and App store identified that over 85% of apps violate one of the risks.
Of these applications, 50% have had insecure data storage and somewhere the same number of apps were working with insecure communication risk. Here’s a graph showcasing the percentage of occurence of the OWASP Mobile Top 10 risks
List of 10 Most Common Threats to Mobile Applications and the Best Practices to Avoid Them
M1: Improper Platform Usage
The category of OWASP security testing consists of the misuse of a device functionality or the instance of failure when using platform’s security controls. It can include platform permissions, Android intents, misuse of the TouchID, Keychain, etc.
Three iOS apps: “Fitness Balance app”, “Heart Rate Monitor”, and “Calories Tracker app” came into light for bypassing Apple’s Touch ID. They were asking users to use their fingerprint to get fitness information, while they were using it to charge money from the App Store.
Best Practice to Avoid:
The developer must not allow Keychain encryptions through server route and keep the keys in one device only, so that it’s impossible to get exploited on other servers or devices.
The developer must secure the app through Keychain to store the app’s secret that has a dedicated access control list.
The developer must take permission to limit which apps are allowed to communicate with their application.
The developer must control the first of OWASP Mobile Top 10 list by defining the explicit intents and thus blocking all other components to access information present in the intent.
M2: Insecure Data Storage
OWASP consider it a threat when someone gets access to a lost/stolen mobile device or when malware or another repackaged app starts acting on the adversary’s behalf and executes action on mobile device.
An insecure data storage vulnerability usually lead to these risks:
External Policy Violation (PCI)
Dating apps like Tinder, OKCupid, and Bumble have time and again been scrutinized for their insecure data storage practices. The security lapses present on these apps vary according to feasibility and severity and feasibility, can expose users’ name, login details, message history, and even location, in addition to other personal account activity.
Best Practices to Avoid:
For iOS, OWASP security practices recommends using purposely made vulnerable apps like iGoat to threat model their development framework and apps. This will help the ios app developers understand how APIs deal with the app processes and information assets.
The Android app developers can use the Android Debug Bridge shell for checking the file permissions of targeted app and DBMS to check database encryption. They should also use Memory Analysis Tool and Android Device Monitor to ensure device memory doesn’t have unintended data.
M3: Insecure Communication
When devising a mobile app, data is exchanged in client-server model. So, when the data is transmitted, it should first traverse the device’s carrier network and the internet. The threat agents could exploit vulnerabilities and intercept sensitive data while traveling across wire. Here are the different threat agents who exist:
Adversary who shares your local network – a compromised Wi-Fi
Network or Carrier devices – cell towers, proxy, routers, etc.
Malware on the mobile device.
The interception of sensitive data via communication channel would end up in a privacy violation, which can lead to:
Rapid7 security company disclosed several vulnerabilities attached with kids’ smartwatches. Those watches were marketed as ones used by parents for tracking their children and sending them messages or making calls on their smartwatch.
The watches were supposed to be contacted by approved contact numbers through the mode of a whitelist, but the company found that the filters were not even working. The watches even accepted configuration commands via text messages. It meant that a hacker could change the watch settings and put children at risk.
“You can identify where the phone or the child is, you can gain access to audio, or make phone calls to children,” said Deral Heiland, the IoT research lead at Rapid7.
Best Practices to Avoid:
Developers should not only look for leakages over traffic communicated between app and server but also device that holds the app and other device or local network.
Applying TLS/SSL for transporting channels is also one of the mobile app security best practices to consider when it comes to transmitting sensitive information and other sensitive data.
Use certificates given by trusted SSL chain verifications.
Do not send sensitive data over alternate channels like MMS, SMS, or push notifications.
Apply separate encryption layer to sensitive data before giving to the SSL channel.
M4: Insecure Authentication
The threat agents who exploit authentication vulnerabilities do so via automated attacks which makes use of custom-built or available tools.
The business impact of M4 can be:
Unauthorized Access to Data.
In 2019, a US bank was hacked by a cyber attacker who took advantage of the bank’s website flaw and circumvented the two-factor authentication that was implemented for protecting accounts.
The attacker logged into the system through stolen victim credentials and upon reaching the page where PIN or security answer had to be entered, the attacker used a manipulated string in the Web URL, which had set the computer as a recognized one. This enabled him to cross the stage and initiate the wire transfers.
Best Practices to Avoid:
The app security team must study the app authentication and test it through binary attacks in offline mode for determining if it can be exploited.
The OWASP web application testing security protocols must match those of mobile apps.
Use online authentication methods as much as possible, just like that in case of web browser.
Do not enable app data loading until the server has authenticated the user sessions.
The places where local data us eventual, ensure that it is encrypted through encrypted key derived from users login credentials.
The persistent authentication request must also be stored on the server.
The security team should be careful with device-centric authorization tokens in the app, since if the device gets stolen, the app can get vulnerable.
Since the unauthorized physical access of devices is common, the security team must enforce regular user credential authentication from server end.
M5: Insufficient Cryptography Risks
The threat agents in this case are the ones who have the physical access of data which was encrypted wrongly. Or where a malware is acting on the behalf of adversary.
Broken cryptography generally result in these cases:
Intellectual Property Theft
Sometimes ago an alert from DHS Industrial Control Systems’ Cyber Emergency Response Team and the Philips advisory warned users of a possible vulnerability in the Philips HealthSuite Health Android app.
The issue which was tracked back to inadequate encryption strength, opened the app to hackers who could get access to users’ heart rate activity, blood pressure, sleep state, weight and body composition analysis, etc.
Best Practices to Avoid:
To solve this one of the most commonly occuring OWASP Top 10 Mobile risks, developers must choose modern encryption algorithms for encrypting their apps. The choice of algorithm takes care of the vulnerability to a great extent.
If the developer is not a security expert, they must refrain from creating own encryption codes.
M6: Insecure Authorization Risks
In this case, the threat agents are able to access someone else’s application typically via automated attacks which use custom-built or available tools.
It can lead to following issues:
The Information security specialists at Pen Test Partners hacked Pandora, a smart car alarm system. In theory, the application is used to track a car, cut off the engine if stolen and lock it until police arrive.
On the other side of the coin, a hacker can hijack the account and get access to all the data and the smart alarm functionalities. Additionally, they could:
Track vehicle movements
Enable and disable alarm system
Lock and unlock car doors
Cut the engine
In the case of Pandora, hackers got access to everything that was talked about inside the car through the anti theft system’s microphone.
Best Practices to Avoid:
The QA team must regularly test the user privileges by running low privilege session tokens for the sensitive commands.
The developer must note that the user authorization schemes go wrong in the offline mode.
The best way to prevent this risk is to run authorization checks for permissions and roles of an authenticated user at server, instead of the mobile device.
M7: Poor Code Quality Risks
In these cases, untrusted inputs are passed by entities to method calls made in the mobile code. An effect of this can be technical issues which can lead to degradation of performance, heavy memory usage, and poor working front-end architecture.
WhatsApp last year patched a vulnerability that hackers were taking advantage of for installing surveillance malware called Pegasus Spyware on smartphones. All they had to do was place a WhatsApp audio call on the targeted phone numbers.
Within a simple few steps, hackers were able to get in the users’ devices and access it remotely.
Best Practices to Avoid:
According to the OWASP secure coding practices, the code should be rewritten in the mobile device instead of fixing them at the server side. The developers must note that bad coding at the server side is very different than poor coding at client level. Meaning, both weak server side controls and client side controls should be given separate attention.
The developer must use third party tools for static analysis to identify buffer overflows and memory leaks.
The team must create a third-party libraries list and check it for newer versions periodically.
Developers should see all the client input as untrusted and validate them irrespective of whether they come from users or the app.
M8: Code Tampering Risks
Usually, in this case, an attacker exploits code modification via malicious forms of the apps hosted in the third-party app stores. They might also trick users into installing an application through phishing attacks.
Best Practices to Avoid:
The developers must make sure that the app is able to detect code changes at runtime.
The build.prop file must be checked for the presence of unofficial ROM in Android and to find out if the device is rooted.
The developer must use checksums and evaluate the digital signatures to see if file tampering has taken place.
The coder can make sure that the app keys, code, and data are removed once tampering is found.
M9: Reverse Engineering Risk
An attacker typically downloads the targeted app from the app store and analyzes it inside their local environment with a suite of different tools. Following which, they are able to change the code and make the app function different.
Pokemon Go recently faced the security breach glances when it was found that users had reverse engineered the app to know the vicinity of the Pokemons and catch them in minutes.
Best Practices to Avoid:
The best way to safeguard an app against the risk, according to OWASP mobile security, is to use the same tools as the hackers would use for reverse engineering.
The developer must also obfuscate the source code so that it gets difficult to read and then reverse engineer.
M10: Extraneous Functionality Risk
Usually, a hacker looks at the extraneous functionality inside a mobile app in order for discovering the hidden functionalities in the backend systems. The attacker would exploit extraneous functionality from their own systems without any end-users involvement.
Real-World Case: The idea of Wifi File Transfer app was to open port on Android and allow connections from the computer. The problem? An absence of authentication such as passwords, meaning, anyone could connect to a device and get its full access.
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