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There was a 50 percent decline in cyberattacks against U.S. retailers in 2014, but a whopping 61 million records were taken in the data breaches that did occur, according to a recent IBM Security report. In 2013, there were 4,200 recorded daily cyberattacks, and that number dropped to 3,043 in 2014.
Cybercriminals are perfecting their craft and using newer, more sophisticated techniques to compromise retailers. Despite increased concern that criminals would target Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but they instead waited it out and are carefully choosing how they launch attacks.
"The threat from organized cybercrime rings remains the largest security challenge for retailers," said Kris Lovejoy, GM of the IBM Security Services, in a press statement. "It is imperative that security leaders and CISOs in particular, use their growing influence to ensure they have the right people, processes and technology in place to take on these growing threats."
Cybercriminals are finding new methods to compromise corporate and government networks, and are increasingly spending more time doing reconnaissance without being detected. These longer-lasting operations are difficult to prevent with many corporations focusing on perimeter-based cybersecurity defense, not considering the idea that criminals may already be inside.
Companies such as Sony Pictures, Home Depot, Target and other major corporations are first breached using spear-phishing attacks or stolen third-party user login credentials - and the problems only get worse from there. Cybersecurity experts recommend creating protocols so companies are able to identify who is accessing data, from where, and how they are interacting with the accessed data. If a cybersecurity audit is completed, then following through with recommended improvements should also be carried out as quickly as possible.
"We are beginning to realize in some cases that the situation is far worse than we realized," said Stephen Hulquist, chief evangelist at RedSeal Networks, in a statement published by Dark Reading. "In some cases attackers have been inside networks for months and even years without being discovered."
Malware threats garnered major media attention throughout 2014, but cybersecurity experts are concerned that casual users and business decision leaders aren't going to proactive enough to prevent breaches.
There will be more attention directed towards ransomware, which typically begin with a successful phishing attack. Ransomware demands monetary payments for criminals to turn over control of systems and data back to the victim, and evasion techniques used to deliver payloads are becoming increasingly sophisticated.
"In 2014 we saw a number of significant wins against malware with the dismantling of several major botnets. This type of takedown will be much harder in 2015 with malware becoming stealthier," said Andy Avanessian, VP of professional services at endpoint security company Avecto, in a statement published by Forbes. "In the coming months, we will see increased use of p2p, darknet and tor communications, forums selling malware and stolen data will also retreat further into hidden corners of the internet in an attempt to avoid infiltration."
Password length, complication and changes are something that many companies, news outlets and IT whizz-kids often drum into the general consumer. One of the best ways to prevent yourself falling victim to your 'general hacker' is to keep your passwords fresh, long and complicated.
iDict is a basic password-guesser that has just been pushed to GitHub. Containing a list of 500 passwords in its library, it will try to guess your accounts password based solely upon the list it has at hand. If your password looks anything like those of this list, we suggest you change them immediately for all services and never look back.
These types of simple passwords are often seen in the 'most popular password lists', with password1 or 12345 often ranking quite highly.
Remember how children these days are taught not to 'joke' about security when in an airport? The same should go for online mediums. Homeland Security blogger, David Garrett Jr., spent his new years day being questioned by the FBI - thanks to an apparent joke in which he 'threatened' CNN, posing as a GOP member and leading the FBI to believe the threats to be real.
Thankfully for Garrett, this was poised as a joke and he 'came clean' straight away. In a statement to Fusion, Garrett claimed that a FBI investigator wisely told him "in the future, it's a good idea not to pretend to be someone they're investigating."
In the end everyone has come out unharmed with the only cost being a waste of the FBI's time. Take note kids, sometimes the feds can press charges and make arrests even for what you might think is a joke - luckily in this case, Garrett was let go without prosecution.
Cybersecurity experts believe 2015 will be another busy year, as sophisticated attacks against users and businesses continue. Criminals will rely on working attacks to compromise victims, while also working to advance their weapons, making them harder to spot.
"Hackers are a diverse bunch, from lone wolves, to nation-state cyber warriors and organized cybercrime rings," said Joe Caruso, founder, CEO and CTO of the cybersecurity Global Digital Forensics (GDF) firm, in a press release. "But one thing they all have in common is they are more than willing to let it ride on a winning horse until it quits paying off. SO expect the favorites, phishing and spear-pshing, RATs (Remote Access Tools), ransomware, watering hole attacks and other third-party compromises, to keep getting ridden hard in 2015."
Numerous point-of-sale (POS) data breaches and the cyberattack against Sony Pictures should serve as painful reminders as to the importance of proper cybersecurity - but won't lead to decision makers acting urgently enough, many security specialists warn. As such, companies need to become proactive in conducting cybersecurity audits, and then following through to improve security protocols - in an attempt to make it more difficult for successful attacks to occur.
Sony Pictures Entertainment was compromised in a big way by the Guardians of Peace hacker group, and there is uncertainty if the hackers were properly removed from the company's network. SPE could be back to enjoying a fully operational network within the next two months if security holds, but would face lingering problems if hackers still have backdoors into the network.
"It took me 24 or 36 hours to fully understand that this was not something we were going to be able to recover from in the next week or two," Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton said in a statement published by the Wall Street Journal. The company began using an old fleet of BlackBerry smartphones to communicate and conduct day-to-day business, following the data breach.
Since being released on Christmas, "The Interview" has collected more than $18 million in digital and box-office revenue - and has proven popular among Internet pirates. However, Lynton and other executives continue to apologize to movie actors and other industry bigwigs following leaked email conversations.
The FBI wants skilled and qualified cybersecurity experts to help lend a hand in cyber-based investigations. Interested candidates must be skilled in computer science and similar fields, while also passing a fitness test, medical exam, extended background check and a polygraph test, according to the FBI.
A brief look at the FBI Cyber Careers page indicates a number jobs for cyber special agents, computer science specialists, information technology forensic examiners, and qualified candidates for cyber internships. The FBI is increasingly helping companies following major data breaches, cyberattacks from hacker groups and suspected foreign states, cyber forensics, and other roles following a major incident.
"Cyber agents will be integrated into all the different violations that we work," said Robert Anderson Jr., FBI cyber crimes branch executive assistant director, in a recruitment video. "So whether it's a counterterrorism or counterintelligence investigation, they could be the lead agent in the case."
Fast food restaurant Chick-fil-A reportedly suffered a data breach at retail locations in the United States, confirming "potential unusual activity involving payment cards" at restaurants in Georgia, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Texas and Maryland before the holidays in December. Up to 9,000 customers could be at risk following the incident, cybersecurity experts confirmed.
"We want to assure our customers we are working hard to investigate these events and will share additional facts as we are able to do so," according to Chick-fil-A, in a statement sent to Krebs on Security. "If the investigation reveals that a breach has occurred, customers will not be liable for any fraudulent charges to their accounts - any fraudulent charges will be the responsibility of either Chick-fil-A or the bank that issued the card. If our customers are impacted, we will arrange for free identity protection services, including credit monitoring."
Trying to compromise retail locations, collecting payment information from point-of-sale (POS) machines, continues to be a popular target among cybercriminals. Despite many of the records being safe from attack, as banks and credit card companies are faster to disable accounts and reissue cards - breaching POS systems has proven easier than direct attacks.
Cybercriminals are having a field day targeting US companies, financial institutions and government agencies, with numerous campaigns in recent years. However, some frustrated victims, instead of solely focusing on improving cybersecurity defense, are interested in trying to get vigilante justice on hackers.
It doesn't matter the motives behind revenge hacking, it's still illegal - and the FBI is investigating a report by J.P. Morgan that target Iranian servers following a 2012 cyberattack. As the FBI improves its ability to determine what country or group could be responsible for attacks, they don't want banks and other victims to try their hand at launching attacks.
"Right now the situation is that companies are on defense," said Bloomberg News reporter Michael Riley. "They have to try and keep hackers out of their networks, and the hackers only have to win once. They are incredibly frustrated, they are incredibly vulnerable, and they are looking for other options, and some of those options may be going after the hackers."