Security Market Segment LS
Tuesday, 21 June 2011 22:09

Shifting sands: AVG's take on emerging security trends


There are two independent, but highly connected, moves that will combine to deliver instability in what's left of SMBs' trust in the on-line world.

In a telephone interview earlier today, AVG's CTO Yuval Ben-Itzhak told iTWire that there are two very distinct trends that are undermining what little security is left for SMBs in the on-line world.

Speaking to the company's latest "Threat Report," Ben-Itzhak pointed firstly to the recent US court decision which cast strong doubt on the prevailing principle that ANY banking hack that caused monetary loss was ALWAYS the bank's fault.  Of course there are plenty of countering decisions, but this one could well be the first of many.  Many small business owners will lose sleep over the realisation that they must now be actively involved in their own banking security.

Ben-Itzhak observes, "It was the responsibility of the business, that they didn't take enough security measures to protect themselves and the bank [won] the case.  That is something that is a 'red alert' to a lot of small businesses today."

This means "It's not always the bank that takes all the losses."

This topic probably also just made its way to be number-one on the latest Auditors' check-list.

The second, and somewhat boarder point is that the "naughty-boys of the Internet" are now MUCH more interested in monetising their exploits.  According to the report, "cybercriminals are utilizing the knowledge, experience and tactics to explore 'new markets' to increase revenue from their operation. These criminals are performing even more sophisticated attacks in order to steal assets that can later be used to simplify other, more sophisticated, attacks. Although we have not seen any specific technical innovation by these criminals this quarter, we did find business innovation and creativity that are not less important for them. As we mentioned in the past, and will probably be said in the future, cybercrime is growing and will continue to grow with great financial success for the criminals operating it."

Ben-Itzhak continues.

Ben-Itzhak continues, "The main issues with small business is the awareness: there's no actual laws that require people to go to the police to report every time they've been victim to cybercrime, which is different to car accidents - everyone knows how many car accidents they have; the trends, last year, this year.  We don't know about cybercrime, people's awareness is almost nothing: it happens from time to time and they read about it in the news like the Sony case, the Sega case and believe 'this is it'." 

Apparently there's a lot of attacks below the line; no-one hears about them."

AVG's CTO then moves on to the Apple eco-system and offers some insights as to why they're becoming a viable target for the "naughty lads."

"As Mac crosses 5% market share, and around 10% (depending on what you're reading) we anticipated that the criminals will adjust their attack tools and target these users.  And that's exactly what happened in '¦ this year; one of the largest groups added to their attack software support for iOS and Mac users."

This attack took the usual line of informing users that their computer was infected and that they needed to download remedial software.  Attention Windows users: does this sound familiar?

One wonders if Mac users might be more gullible in this instance; not because of any user personality profiling, but purely because such users have survived in a happy walled garden with rainbows and butterflies and happiness and warmth; they have never had to deal with such issues.

Similarly, this has been happening via Skype-based 'support' calls.

Similarly, this has been happening via Skype-based "support" calls which attempt to convince users that their computer is afflicted with all manner of ills (yesterday, while working on a support issue on my wife's computer, such a call arrived; unfortunately I was too busy on the issue to take the call and "play with" the poor unfortunate caller.

One of the latest methods being observed is for malware to reside on users' PCs (particularly developer PCs) and capture digital signing certificates for use in later fraudulent signing of code.  Based on this, there have already been a number of instances of code being signed by well-known organisations who clearly did not develop or release said code.

From the report, "AVG Threat Lab has seen a rise of stolen digital certificates being used to sign malware before it is being distributed by hackers. We have detected 53,834 pieces of signed malware in the first 5 months of the year comparing to 39,102 during the whole 2010, indicating an increase of over 300%. Although in the last few years we have seen many faked digital certificates in use by cybercriminals, the use of stolen legitimate keys is a major trend these days.

"These stolen digital signatures are used to 'sign"'a malware application in order to trick the Windows OS security mechanism and the end users since a 'signed"'file is considered to be trusted. Stolen certificates made the headlines recently with the highly publicized Stuxnet worm that used valid stolen certificates and the RSA hack in March, which is claimed to be related to the Lockheed Martin network breach of last month.

iTWire recommends readers look closely at this report for further insights into the current state of fraudulent activity on the Internet.


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David Heath

David Heath has had a long and varied career in the IT industry having worked as a Pre-sales Network Engineer (remember Novell NetWare?), General Manager of IT&T for the TV Shopping Network, as a Technical manager in the Biometrics industry, and as a Technical Trainer and Instructional Designer in the industrial control sector. In all aspects, security has been a driving focus. Throughout his career, David has sought to inform and educate people and has done that through his writings and in more formal educational environments.

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