Using up-to-date security software is pretty much at the top of recommended defense measures. Anti-virus and anti-phishing software filter out daily attacks from network communications. However, it is important that users can trust this software to intercept malicious software, harmful links, and other threats no matter who they come from. Threats may originate from criminals but also increasingly government organizations. Users also expect that data remains stored confidentially on their devices, especially considering that security software has the capability of viewing and intercepting data. Recently, the Russian antivirus company Kaspersky has made headlines for exactly this reason. US authorities claim that Kaspersky stole top-secret software from a government employee’s PC and delivered it to the Russian intelligence service. This included exploits for previously unknown vulnerabilities.
Authentication is an important part of working on a computer, whether logging on, opening encrypted data or using web services like PayPal. Usernames and passwords still play an important role, even if many experts advise against using passwords as the only authentication method. Even approaches to passwords have changed over time. Until recently, experts recommended choosing complex passwords using special characters, numbers and uppercase and lowercase letters. However, many professionals now consider that complex passwords are inconvenient for users, especially if they must be changed frequently. Phrases such as a quote from a book or a sentence which is relevant to the log-in context are more meaningful for users. Such phases can easily reach more than 20 characters and are nevertheless much easier to remember than complex, eight-letter combinations of letters and numbers.
Measures for cybersecurity are to be regulated at the European level in the future, according to the mandate of the European Commission. IT products and services may pass through a voluntary certification scheme in future under the aegis of the European IT security agency ENISA. At the beginning of this year, ENISA applied to the European Commission to extend its remit, including introducing an EU-wide program for certifying the security of IT products. This ranges from simple certification for IoT devices to complex evaluations of high-security systems such as banking applications. The significant cost differences in national certification schemes was named as an important consideration for establishing a centralized certification program.
A hacking and cyberespionage group is currently targeting industrial control systems at energy companies. According to a survey by Symantec they have broken into 27 corporate networks so far. The Dragonfly group, also known as Energetic Bear is using spear phishing campaigns and malware-infected websites to collect credentials for corporate networks. Dragonfly has been active since at least 2011 and was exposed by security analysts in 2014. Afterwards, the group seemed to go underground and has only recently emerged again in the public eye. Symantec researchers refer to the current attacks as “Dragonfly 2.0” because they replicate many aspects of the previous attacks. The attacks target industrial control systems (ICS) which belong to companies that operate pipelines, generate electricity, and other energy-related companies. The Dragongly group appears to be particularly active in Switzerland, Turkey and North America.
Sometimes it’s hard to believe the stories we read. In the case of CEO fraud incidents, cybercriminals earn double-digit sums in the millions by persuading employees that they are acting on behalf of the CEO or another senior manager. Employees then transfer the required amount to an alleged account of a partner or supplier, based only on an e-mail or telephone request without seeking reassurance. CEO fraud follows a similar method to telephone cons targeting the elderly but causes significantly higher financial damage. In mid-2016, an international network was unraveled which was alleged to have earned USD 60 million through the cybercriminal methods of Business Email Compromise (BEC) and CEO fraud. Similar attacks are now occurring on a daily basis in Germany, with similar dramatic consequences.