It looks as though the United States will not only get its first Chief Technology Officer (CTO), but according to the Agenda for Homeland Security, the Obama administration also plans to hire a new national cyber advisor. The report, which was released on Wednesday, lists several goals for combating terrorism, including ways to protect information networks.
Chief among the goals of protecting information networks is to "declare the cyber infrastructure a strategic asset and establish the position of national cyber advisor who will report directly to the president and will be responsible for coordinating federal agency efforts and development of national cyber policy."
Other related goals listed in the report include initiating a safe computing R&D effort, protect the IT infrastructure, prevent corporate cyber-espionage, develop a cyber crime strategy to minimize the opportunities for criminal profit, and mandate standards for securing personal data and require companies to disclose personal information data breaches.
Remember Microsoft's rare out-of-band security update from last October, MS08-067? Microsoft warned us then that Windows XP, Windows Server 2003, and Windows 2000 SP4 were especially vulnerable to being attacked. Windows Update probably took care of patching your home computer. However, companies and individuals that were slow to patch their fleets of PCs with KB958644 could find their computers now infected by a nasty worm called Conficker, Downadup or Kido.
How big a deal is Conficker/Downadup? According to F-Secure, the number of infected machines went from 2.4 million to 8.9 million in just four days as of last Friday. Panda Security now estimates that as many as one in every 16 PCs may be infected. F-Secure wraps up its analysis by saying "The situation with Downadup is not getting better. It's getting worse." Panda compares the outbreak with the legendary Kournikova (2001) and Blaster (2003) outbreaks.
How does Conficker/Downandup spread, and what can you do about it? Join us after the jump to learn more.
Back in November, Microsoft announced plans to discontinue its fee-based Live OneCare subscription service by June 30, 2009 and replace it with free security software the company claims "will provide comprehensive protection from malware including virusus, spyware, rootkits, and trojans." Microsoft's plans could spell bad news for security vendors who sell comprehensive security suites, but at least three companies are already looking forward.
It remains to be seen how Microsoft's Morro will compete will full fledged third-party applications, but according to Windows communications manager Brandon LeBlanc, competition won't stand in the way of ensuring everyone's security apps work with Windows 7.
"Microsoft has been actively working with security partners to help them get their applications ready for Windows 7," LeBlanc said. "Three security developers have taken the build we released to developers in October and have developed solutions available today that work with Windows 7 Beta."
Hit the jump and tell us what effect you think Morro will have third party security software.
Credit card payment processor Heartland Payment Systems, which is based in Princeton, fears that its card data might have fallen in the wrong hands. On Tuesday, it formally warned credit card holders about it and advised them to vet their card statements exhaustively and to report any abuse.
The company has revealed that its computer network was found to be infested with malware. They are nearly convinced that the cardholders’ names and numbers have been stolen. The company hasn’t divulged any technical details of the malware attack.
So, you've decided to log into your bank's website to figure out if you can afford the newest techno-bling shown at CES. Your bank gives you the nod, and you open up another browser tab (or window) to cruise over to your favorite tech reseller. After doing a few price and stock checks, a pop-up window appears: your bank session has timed out - and if you want to double-check your available credit or account balance, you need to log in again. Should you click and go?
To learn how it works, and to learn how to protect yourself, join us after the jump.
Some 40,000 followers of Rich Sanchez's Twitter page may have been led to believe that the CNN anchor had a drug problem after a tweet appeared saying "i am high on crack right now might not be coming into work today." No, Sanchez wasn't really high on crack, nor was he cracking a joke (see what we did there?), but he was the victim of a hacker who took control of his account while he was away doing rehab (for his knee, not for drugs).
Around the same time this occurred, a password stealing phishing scam has been gaining steam by disguising itself as a private message leading to a fake Twitter log-in screen and targeting various celebrities, such as Britney Spears, the account for Fox News, and president elect Barack Obama. The ordeal had Sanchez scratching his head, but Twitter has now revealed this incident had nothing to do with the recent phishing scam.
"The issue with these 33 accounts is different from the Phishing scam aimed at Twitter users this weekend," Twitter wrote in a blog post. "These accounts were compromised by an individual who hacked into some of the tools our support team uses to help people do things like edit the mail address associated with their Twitter account when they can't remember or get stuck. We considered this a very serious breach of security and immediately took the support tools offline. We'll put them back only when they're safe and secure."
The falsly incriminating tweet has been removed, and we hear Sanchez made it work that day, sober and all.
It is common knowledge that smartphones are fast emerging as a dainty prey for malware proliferators. But a recent press release by IT security firm ESET, which spelled out some of the potential threats in 2009, might have iPhone and Android users worried in particular.
ESET warned in the press release that it expects both the iPhone and Android to become more vulnerable to malware. The company also expects both the smartphone platforms to fall prey to mobile browser exploits that might target their WebKit-based browsers.
The security firm has prognosticated an increase in fake antivirus extortion in 2009. “Some of the major antivirus companies have seen their websites spoofed over the last couple of months,” according to David Harley, Director of Malware Intelligence at ESET. The real threat lies in the fact that internet charlatans are leaving no stone turned in their bid to appear as credible as possible.
According to a recent security study, low assurance digital certificates have become a new gateway for hackers to get to your personal data, by means of a man-in-the-middle (MITM) attack.
The MITM attack consists of a hacker putting themselves between two parties in a dialogue, such as a person and their bank. Once in place they effectively control the conversation to get login credentials or other, far more valuable information.
Generally, untrustworthy certificates will be halted by error messages or warnings that throw up red flags for potential problems, at least to the more internet-savvy. However, more crafty hackers will often add a legitimately issued certificate to the mix, making even the most secure browsers continue on their merry way, as if nothing has happened.
So how can you keep yourself safe online? Well, at time of press there isn’t any kind of listed fix, but just watch yourself and your information. Acting supremely paranoid can’t hurt, can it?
Since 2002, CastleCops has been among the leading antimalware research websites, offering a Wiki, blog, malware removal and prevention tips, and much more. CastleCops founder Paul Laudanski went to work for Microsoft's Live Consumer Services team in mid-May of this year, and CastleCops, which was volunteer-driven, did not survive the transition. CastleCops' last day on duty was December 23, as the farewell message relates:
You have arrived at the CastleCops website, which is currently offline. It has been our pleasure to investigate online crime and volunteer with our virtual family to assist with your computer needs and make the Internet a safer place. Unfortunately, all things come to an end. Keep up the good fight folks, for the spirit of this community lies within each of us. We are empowered to improve the safety and security of the Internet in our own way. Let us feel blessed for the impact we made and the relationships created.
With respect to the server marathon, by March 17 2009 CastleCops will refund contributions made through PayPal that were specifically designated for servers. Unfortunately, server donations made via check cannot be returned because we do not have the addresses for the donating entity. Unless instructed otherwise, CastleCops will re-allocate these funds as a donation to the Internet Systems Consortium (ISC.org). This organization sponsored our hosting environment for approximately the past 2 years. Please contact us [cc at laudanski dot com] before March 17, 2009, if you would like a return of your server marathon donation. Otherwise, we would like to thank the ISC for their unfettered support.
We thank everyone in creating our unique footprint and memories in time.
Love, Best Wishes and Happy Holidays, CastleCops PST 23 Dec 2008
If you've depended upon CastleCops' databases and forums as a resource for fighting malware, now what? Join us after the jump for new resources, and for your chance to suggest your favorite anti-malware websites and tools.