Christmas has just gone and here it is my personal way to wish you a Happy New Year: the second part of my personal chart (first part here) of Main 2011 Cyber Attacks covering the time window from August to November 2011 (December is not yet finished, and featuring remarkable events, so expect an update very soon). This memorable year is nearly over and is time, if you feel nostalgic, to scroll down the second part of the list to review the main Cyber Events that contributed, in my opinion, to change the landscape and the rules of the (information security) game. Many events in this period among whom, IMHO, the most noticeable is the one carried on against Diginotar. Since then our trust in conventional authentication models is not (and will not be) the same anymore.
Of course this is my personal selection. Suggestions are well accepted and if you need more details about the cyber events in 2011, feel free to consult my 2011 Cyber Attacks Master Index. As usual after the page break you find all the references…
The second half of November has confirmed the trend seen in the previous report covering the first half of the month. The period under examination has confirmed a remarkable increase in Cyber Attacks from both a quality and quantity perspective.
Although the month has been characterized by many small attacks, several remarkable events have really made the difference.
Among the victims of the month, Finland deserves a special mention in this unenviable rank: the second half of the month has confirmed the emerging trend for this country, which suffered in this period two further breaches of huge amounts of personal data, for a global cumulative cost, computed on the whole month, around $25 million.
But Finland was not the only northern European country hit by cybercrookers (maybe the term cyberprofessionals would be more appropriate): Norwegian systems associated with the country’s oil, gas and energy sectors were hit with an APT based cyber attack resulting in a loss of sensitive information including documents, drawings, user names and passwords.
But once again the crown of the most remarkable breach of the month is placed upon the head of South Korea which suffered another huge data dump affecting users of the popular MMORPG “Maple Story” affecting theoretically 13 million of users, nearly the 27% of the Korean population, for an estimated cost of the breach close to $2.8 billion.
The list of affected countries this month includes also 243,089 Nigerian users, victims of the hack of Naijaloaded, a popular forum.
Microsoft has been another victim in this November, with a phishing scam targeting Xbox Live users. Details of the scam are not clear, although each single affected user in U.K. might have lost something between £100 and £200 for a total cost of the breach assimilable to “million of Pounds”.
November will make history for showing for the first time to information security professionals the dangers hidden inside the SCADA universe (and not related to Nuclear Reactors). The echo of Stuxnet and Duqu is still alive, but this month was the the turn of SCADA water pumps, that have suffered a couple of attacks (Springfield and South Houston), the first one allegedly originated from Russia and the second one from a “lonely ranger” who considered the answer from DHS concerning the first incident, too soft and not enough satisfactory. My sixth sense (and one half) tells me that we will need to get more and more used to attacks against SCADA driven facilities.
The Anonymous continued their operations against governments with a brand new occurrence of their Friday Releases, targeting a Special Agent of the CA Department and leaking something like 38,000 emails. Besides from other some sparse “small” operations, the other remarkable action performed by the Anonymous collective involved the hacking of an United Nations (old?) server, that caused personal data of some personnel to be released on the Internet.
November Special mentions are dedicated (for opposite reasons) to HP and AT&T. HP for the issue on their printers discovered by a group of Researchers of Columbia Univerity, which could allow a malicious user to remotely control (and burn) them. AT&T deserved the special mention for the attack, unsuccessful, against the 1% of its 100 million wireless accounts customer base.
In any case, counting also the “minor” attacks of the month, the chart shows a real emergency for data protection issues: schools, e-commerce sites, TVs, government sites, etc. are increasingly becoming targets. Administrators do not show the deserved attention to data protection and maybe also the users are loosing the real perception of how much important is the safeguard of their personal information and how serious the aftermaths of a compromise are.
As usual, references for each single cyber attack are reported below. Have a (nice?) read and most of alle share among your acquaintances the awareness that everyone is virtually at risk.
- November 2011 Cyber Attacks Timeline (Part I) (paulsparrows.wordpress.com)
In these days many people are asking me what they can do to stop an Advanced Persistent Threat. Although security firms are running fast to develop new technologies to thwart these attack vectors (sophisticated SIEMs and a new breed of network security devices, the so called Next Generation IPSs), unfortunately I am afraid the answer is not so easy. I might spend thousands of words to figure out the answer, but I would not be able to give a better representation than this cartoon I found a couple of days ago in the Imperva Blog.
Intentional or unintentional the human error is always the first vector an Advanced Persistent Threat exploits to enter the organization: as a matter of fact all the APT attacks recorded in 2011 (and unluckily examples abound in the news), have a point in common: the initial gate which allowed the attack to enter, that is the user.
The last resounding example is not an exception to this rule: on Friday November, the 17th Norway’s National Security Authority (NSM) confirmed that systems associated with the country’s oil, gas, and energy sectors were hit with a cyber attack, resulting in a loss of sensitive information. If we look at the information available for this attack, it is really easy to find all the ingredients of a typical APT Attack: virus spread via malware-infected emails sent to “selected individuals”, sophisticated malware designed to avoid detection by anti-virus solutions, and, last but not least, sophisticated malware designed to steal information from the victim’s computer: documents, drawings, username and password.
So at the end which is the key to face an APT, before the technology itself is able to catch it? The answer (and the technology) spins around the user which is the first firewall, IPS, anomaly detector, who can stop an APT. Of course exactly like security devices must be configured to stop the intrusion attempts, analogously users must be
configured educated not to accept virtual candies from strangers, hence acting as unintentional gates for the threats to enter the organizations. This often happens because of shallow behaviors or also because of behaviors in clear contrast with the internal policy (yes the infamous AUP). I use to say that security is a mindset, quite similar to distrust: you have it since you are naturally born with it, or you may simply be educated to embrace it.
Keep in mind the central role of the user inside the security process since 2012 will be the year of APTs… Would you ever buy (and heavily pay) an armored door for your home and give the key to people you do not trust?
- Are You Ready For The Next Generation IPS? (paulsparrows.wordpress.com)
- Advanced Persistent Threats and Security Information Management (paulsparrows.wordpress.com)
- 464,104 hits since November 2010
08/13/2011 - My Post on Android Malware Mentioned on Engadget.
04/14/2011 - The Article Smart Grid: L'ultima Frontiera del Cybercrime published on ICT Security Magazine May 2011.
03/14/2011 - Security Summit 2011: Paolo Passeri guest at Round Table "Mobile Security: Rischi, Tecnologie, Mercato"
02/14/2011 - The Article Gears of Cyberwar published on ICT Security Magazine January 2011.
About This Blog
In this blog I express my personal opinion, which does not necessarily reflects the opinion of my organization, about events and news or interest, concerning information security, winking to mobile world and, why not, to some curious personal event.
Every information is reported with its source.
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