I did not resist, so after publishing the summary of Security Predictions for 2012, I checked out what security vendors predicted one year ago for 2011. Exactly as I did in my previous post, at the beginning of 2011 I collected the security predictions in a similar post (in Italian). I also published in May an update (in English) since, during the Check Point Experience in Barcelona held in May 2011, the Israeli security firm published its predictions. Even if the latters have been published nearly at the half of 2011, for the sake of completeness, I decided to insert them as well in this year-to-year comparison.
Then, I included Symantec (for which this year I did not find any prediction), McAfee, Trend Micro, Kaspersky, Sophos and Cisco. I included Check Point in a second time and I did not include Fortinet, At that time I missed their five security predictions, which I only discovered later so I decided to provide an addendum for this post including Fortinet as well in order to provide a deeper perspective.
The security predictions for 2011 are summarized in the following chart, which reports what the vendors (with the partial above described exception of Checkpoint) expected for the past year in terms of Information Security trends.
But a strict side-by-side comparison with the 2012 information security predictions (extracted by my previous post) is more helpful and meaningful:
As you may notice mobile threats were on top even among the predictions for 2011. This prediction came easily true most of all for Android which suffered (and keeps on suffering) a huge increase in malware detection samples (even if the overall security risk remains contained). Social Media were on top as well: they have been crucial for the Wind of the Changes blown by the Arab Spring but in the same time Social Media have raised many security concerns for reputation, the so called Social Network Poisoning (who remembers Primoris Era?). Although 2011 was the year of the Anonymous, hacktvism ranked “only” at number 4, behind Advanced Persistent Threats, which however played a crucial role for information security (an APT was deployed for the infamous RSA Breach, but it was not an isolated case).
Also botnets, web threats and application vulnerabilities ranked at the top of Security predictions for last year (and came true). As far as botnets are concerned, fortunately 2011 was a very important year for their shutdown (for instance Hlux/Kelihos, Coreflood, Rustock). In several cases the botnets were taken down thanks to joint operations between private sectors and law enforcement agencies (another prediction came true). On the application side, this prediction came true most of all thanks to the Sony breach, the Liza Moon infection and the huge rate of SQLi based attacks and ASP.NET vulnerabilities. We have also assisted to an hard blow to SSL/TLS and XML Encryption.
But what is more surprising (and amusing) in my opinion is not to emphasize which predictions were correct, but rather to notice which predictions were dramatically wrong: it looks like that, against the predictions, virtualization threats were snubbed by cybercrookers in 2011 (and nearly do not appear in 2012). But the most amusing fact is that no security vendor (among the ones analyzed) was able to predict the collapse of the Certification Authority model thanks most of all to the Comodo and Diginotar Breaches.
If you think that Facebook’s 600,000 compromised logins per day are not enough, you’d better read an interesting paper issued by a group of researchers from University of British Columbia, concerning the capability to use socialbots, that is software driven fake identities controlled by a bootmaster, to lure real Facebook users with the purpose of stealing sensitive data, and more in general, every kind of information with a potential monetary value.
Social Networks are gaining more and more importance for everyday life, both on a microscopic and on a macroscopic scale. On a microscopic scale they influence the life of a growing number of individuals who concentrate there their personal and professional interests; on a macroscopic scale Social Networks played (and are playing) a crucial role for the Arab Spring, both on a social and military perspective, not only they were the virtual weapons for protesters to witness the events in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Syria (but also for the loyalists with actions of propaganda and misinformation), but they were also used by NATO as real weapons in Libya to identify potentially targets to strike after “strong authentication” with conventional technologies (such as satellites).
Of course this constantly growing influence is attracting attentions from governments (which are evaluating technologies to monitor and eventually counteract the streams of information) but also from individuals who look at the weaknesses of social networks (and more in general at the scarce attention towards privacy by many users) as a mean for stealing money and information, a new form of richness of the Web 2.0 era.
The idea behind this research is not completely new, and takes into consideration two well known risk factors for Social Networks: reputation and privacy. The (fake) social reputation of a malicious individual can lure legitimate users to connect with untrusted contacts, after the connection, the poor attention for privacy settings together with a superficial behavior can bring to users to reveal, through the social channel, personal and classified information. This is the reason why resounding examples of fake profiles (with human beings behind) are not new for social networks, for scientific or amusement purposes: the names of Robin Sage and Primoris Era should sound familiar to many.
On the other hand not even the possibility to develop software-based fake social personas is a completely new, at least in theory and, most of all with military purposes, if it is true that the U.S. Department of Defense is developing software personas for propaganda actions inside the Social Network Battlefield.
What is completely new is the fact that no one so far had been able to show the results of a research done with software based socialbots since, so far, only human fake profiles were used to steal informations.
So what happens when bots, a concept proper of Information Security, meet social networks?
The results, at least for Facebook are frustrating: the above mentioned paper shows that, starting with a socialbotnet of 102 socialbots (49 male profiles and 53 female profiles) controlled by a single botmaster, the researchers were able to infiltrate Facebook, fully automating the operation of the Socialbotnet (including fake accounts creation).
The average success rate was 59.1%, with peaks close to 80%, which in several cases, depending on users’ privacy settings, resulted in privacy breaches (harvested data included email addresses, phone numbers, and other profile information with potential monetary value). Even worst, collected data included also private data of users who had not been infiltrated, but were only “guilty” to be somehow connected to infiltrated users, with an average collection day of 175 new chunks of publicly-unaccessible users’ data per socialbot per day.
The infiltration turned into 8,570 connection requests in a timeframe of 8 weeks with 250 Gb of data collected. Moreover the Social Network Defenses, such as the Facebook Immune System, resulted not effective enough in detecting or stopping the infiltration as it occurs: they were effective only when users were able to recognize the fake profiles and mark them as spam. Curiously this happened only in 20 cases (nearly the 20% of the total), all related to female profiles.
From the users’ side, (an easily predictable statement) the research confirms that most users are not careful enough when accepting connection requests sent by strangers, especially when they have mutual connections (the so called triadic closure principle, one of the foundations of the Social Networks).
Personal and Professional Social Networkers (and organizations that are approaching Social Networks) are advised!
The leopard cannot change its spots and not even its tweets.
As mentioned on the previous related post, after the sudden panicking disappeareance, @PrimorisEra (in the world Shawna Gorman), the (alleged) “spy who tweeted me” (actually not me but quite a lot of Homeland Security Experts), has come back with a new identity @LadyCaesar, and, although her new avatar does not show geek-attracting pictures, it looks like she has not lost the old habits (although currently following only 413 people).
I would be very curious to find (if any) the hidden links of her digital identity with the the Roman History, Primoris Era, in Latin, should sound similar to “The Foremost Age” (yes the foremost age of Social Espionage), while LadyCaesar does not need any translation, and clearly refers to the Oscar Wilde’s poem quoted on her Bio (Ave Imperatrix).
Maybe the hidden link is easier than it seems: Caesar probably recalls military sciences, just like her PROLIFIC tweets about various missile programs for which she is the lady as clearly stated in her short Bio, even if the Primoris Era still sounds meaningless to me.
Even if the her tweets are protected (and who knows, if the digital identity hides the same previous identity), my sixth sense (and one half) suggests she keeps on following (and DM-ing) Defense and Security Expert: I noticed among her connections, some common names, by chance all dealing with military related issues. Maybe she hopes to steal the secrets of the stealth Airwolf used on OBL raid?
Lesson Not Learned: albeit the (maybe exaggerated) echo raised from the history, the leopard cannot change its spots, not even its tweets and, definitively, its followers as well.
- Social Espionage (paulsparrows.wordpress.com)
- Unfollowed: How a (Possible) Social Network Spy Came Undone (wired.com)
- Can you disappear on the Web? (holykaw.alltop.com)
- 1,406,689 hits since November 2010
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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.
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