Cyber criminals are increasingly focused on exploiting vulnerabilities and installing malicious software for profit, with underground trading places providing tools to make cyberattacks easier. To make matters worse, there is an increasing number of criminals willing to modify malicious code - or rent their services - to groups willing to make payments.
Most organized hacking seems to be traced back to eastern Europe and China, but recently major exploits tend to indicate criminal groups in Spain and other parts of western Europe. However, some previous malicious code revealed code writers were intentionally trying to leave bread crumbs that would make authorities waste time searching elsewhere.
Hackers and cybercrime used to be a rather solitary effort, the ability to work as a team and share thoughts and ideas leads to more sophisticated attacks reaching the wild even faster.
Following former NSA contractor Edward Snowden's disclosure of widespread spying by the U.S. government, there has been a massive push to develop privacy-centric software and hardware. During the 2014 RSA Conference, which begins on Monday in San Francisco, data security and privacy solutions will be demonstrated at a frantic time in the industry.
In addition to the "Blackphone" being publicly unveiled, Google Android apps to better protect smartphones and tablets from sophisticated malware will also be shown off. Software security company AVG plans to release a "privacy fix" to identify what information companies can easily find about individual users.
The RSA Conference 2014 begins on Monday in San Francisco and has quite a bit of controversy and confusion heading into the event. In addition to increased security interest following former NSA contractor Edward Snowden's disclosures last year, the RSA brand is under fire for reportedly accepting payment to create a backdoor for NSA snooping.
RSA is expected to focus on mobile and cloud security, customer privacy, and better strategizing future security efforts. Large tech security conferences also tend to be a good location for corporations to look at technology created by smaller companies, with a flood of acquisitions expected in 2014.
Companies searching for new methods to keep networks safe and defend against cyberattacks are increasingly turning to strong authentication and one-time passwords, according to market research firm Frost & Sullivan.
Strong authentication is the technique used by banking and financial institutions, while one-time passwords are single-use passwords that better protect against phishing and other security breaches.
Smaller boutique security vendors have popped up to help fill the void in a booming security market. Since more companies and consumers are scrambling for security solutions this will lead to a market of acquisitions as larger companies gobble up smaller, niche security firms.
Cybercriminals are successfully using malware to steal customer debit and credit card information, company customer lists, and sensitive data seemingly at will. Underground forums have become a popular destination for criminals buying and selling stolen personal information, with analytics used to detail credit limits and which banks have more lenient security procedures in place.
In one underground forum, for example, a list of 10,000 e-mails - broken down by age, gender, and geographic location - for just $79 for purchase, and there are plenty of similar offers available. Key logger software can be purchased for $35-$50, and customizations can be added for a slightly increased fee.
After the recent Target data breach, which affected more than 70 million in-store customers, more Internet users are becoming aware of cyber threats. Banks have already paid more than $200 million in costs related to the breach, and that number is only expected to increase over the next few months.
In an attempt to attack North Korean nuclear facilities, the South Korean government wants to develop cyberwar weapons to target critical infrastructure. Similar to the Stuxnet software aimed towards Iran, South Korean wants to use software to disrupt its neighbors to the north, even with military analysts hesitant to condone significant attacks.
Earlier in the month, U.S. and South Korean officials held continued meetings regarding cybersecurity efforts to protect both nations from prying eyes in China, North Korea, and other locations. There is continued concern regarding North Korea's nuclear ambitions, and excluding an actual military strike, cyberattacks are believed to be the next option as diplomatic efforts have struggled.
The South Korean government also plans to increase funding for home-grown startups, with software and cyber development expected to be a major effort. The United States and western allies would be able to share information with South Korea, offering a unique perspective into functional cyber weapons.
However, there will be mounting concern that a physical cyberattack could harm infrastructure that wasn't initially targeted.
Mobile app infections in the Google Play app store have increased almost 400 percent from 2011 to 2013, according to online security group RiskIQ. Just three years ago, there were around 11,000 malicious apps available in the store, but that drastically increased to at least 42,000 by 2013, with Google trying to continue to fight back.
Around 12.7 percent of apps in the store are said to be compromised, with less than a quarter of the apps removed. The following categories were targeted the most: personalization, entertainment, education/books, media/audio video, and sports apps, according to RiskIQ.
"The explosive growth of mobile apps has attracted a criminal element looking for new ways to distribute malware that can be used to commit fraud, identity theft and steal confidential data," said Elias Manousos, RiskIQ CEO, in a press statement. "Malicious apps are an effective way to infect users since they often exploit the trust victims have in well known brands and companies they do business with like banks, insurance companies, healthcare providers and merchants."
The Android OS has seen continued adoption on multiple smartphones and tablets - but security issues have given security companies the opportunity to release next-generation security platforms.
The recent security breach at Target stores across the US has certainly hit consumers hard, but the real pain is being felt at the banks and financial institutions who hold the accounts of those consumers. A new report is suggesting that the damage done to Banks is upwards of $200 million and counting with no end in sight.
The security breach saw more than 40 million credit card numbers stolen, and only about half of those cards have been replaced by bankers, leaving the other half still venerable to fraudulent use. This means that that $200 million estimate could grow to more than a half billion dollars before this is all over. In total more than 110 million customers in the US were affected by the breach and saw not only their credit card numbers stolen, but other personal information such as names, mailing addresses, email addresses and more. Target has began offering affected customers a year of free credit monitoring to help ease the pain some.
The Syrian Electronic Army is back on its hacking spree, this time taking one million user credentials from Forbes.com. The hacking group posted multiple messages to its Twitter account, where it claimed responsibility for the attack.
The SEA even posted a screenshot of the site's publishing system, showing off that it had accessed a Forbes employee's account to do so. Forbes has acknowledged and confirmed the attack, asking users to change their passwords and be aware that there could be an increase in targeted phishing attacks.
The site itself has returned to normal, with Forbes in contact with law enforcement agencies to find out exactly what happened.
Hackers are targeting nursing homes in an attempt to compromise electronic medical records and payment information, according to a recent report, with a focus also on hospitals and individual doctors' offices.
A recent investigation by the Wall Street Journal found information from the Bronx Center for Rehabilitation & Healthcare center, Campbell Hall Rehabilitation Center and Glengariff Healthcare Center, all in New York, where hackers reportedly uploaded information about how to access each facility.
One facility saw passwords from 2007 posted, which were changed after a new database was implemented, while the Bronx Center previously migrated to a new security vendor. Even though it looks like older and outdated information was posted, it's still a chilling wakeup call to all companies trying to protect patient confidentiality, especially as more records are stored off-site in the cloud.
Hackers find older citizens to be an easy target, as many don't frequently check banking or credit card statements, have available cash on-hand, and can be easily manipulated to steal information.
Recent costly data breaches targeting brick and mortar retailers have led to an uptick in insurance coverage focused on data breaches, including when customer data is lost or stolen. Almost one in three companies have some form of insurance coverage to aid in cyber threats - and cyber insurance policies jumped 20 percent in 2013, according to a New York insurance company.
However, the increased insurance prices will lead to higher consumer prices, even if it doesn't lead to an easier time for customers with stolen information to work through the layers of bureaucracy. The insurance policies help cover data loss costs, including Target's decision to hire forensic investigators, along with providing credit monitoring and public relations efforts to salvage public perception.
Following the Target breach, in which more than 70 million customers were affected, there has been a drastic increase in cyber insurance, according to industry officials.
Google recently acquired an Israel based startup called 'SlickLogin', which indicates that the company is making plans to replace passwords and even two-factor authentication methods with an inaudible sound unique to your phone and Google login.
SlickLogin has a patented technology where your passwords and two-factor authentication setups can be replaced with a unique and inaudible sound. Once enabled, the website's login page would typically listen to this inaudible sound via your phone and then granting access to your account. This could solve a lot of problems and overcome the possibility of your email account being hacked by someone. All you have to do is hold your smartphone near your PC with the website's login page, and the access will be granted.
Following recent high-profile security breaches of U.S. retailers, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) plans to host a roundtable discussion next month focused on cybersecurity. As cyber threats become more common place, lawmakers also are concerned a standardized customer notice system isn't in place for retailers to follow.
Retailers and financial institutions argue over which side should be held responsible for fraud activity on customer accounts. There are now trade groups teaming up to try and help work through the issue together, though cyber money crimes contribute to a booming multi-billion-dollar industry.
Following the Target and Neiman Marcus breaches specifically, consumers are increasingly frustrated by sometimes lackadaisical security practices. The Obama Administration recently released cybersecurity guidelines for select industries, though didn't make it mandatory to implement any of the ideas.
American attorneys were caught up with the NSA's global surveillance program, as an unnamed U.S. law firm representing an overseas client currently in a bitter legal battle with the U.S. government. Specifically, the Australian and U.S. governments agreed to share information on a law firm that was retained by the Indonesian government - and information protected under attorney-client privilege was likely included.
Attorney-client privilege isn't protected from NSA eavesdropping, though the American Bar Association demands attorneys to "make reasonable efforts" so confidential information isn't shared with others.
There has been growing concern that governments conducting spying and surveillance could breach attorney-client privilege with little recourse.
The controversial NSA surveillance program has shown frightening sophisticated practices, with U.S. residents, foreign citizens, government leaders, and others being spied on. Former NSA IT worker Edward Snowden, currently in Russia on temporary asylum, has greatly informed the public of spying behavior in the digital age.
The CyberPatriot VI tournament, designed as a youth cyber defense competition, will host 26 teams of U.S. high school students alongside two middle school teams in March. The schools are broken down into certain categories, such as public and private schools, Junior ROTC units, and other go through a series of tests for the groups to compete against one another.
"We don't teach hacking, we don't teach offensive techniques, but we very much teach defending against those things - that's the whole purpose of the competition," said retired Brig. Gen. Bernie Skoch, commissioner of the CyberPatriot effort, when speaking to the Air Force Times.
Skoch also added that he believes there will be around 330,000 unfilled cyber security jobs worldwide in 2015, despite a higher payday and job availability.
There is increased interest in continued improvement of cyber security efforts, especially for government agencies and critical infrastructure. The Obama Administration recently released security guidelines for utilities, banks, and other select industries, though the recommendations aren't necessarily a set of requirements that must be followed.
The United States and South Korea have mutually agreed to send sensitive information with approved vendors only, while avoiding the use of hardware made by Huawei over spying concerns. There has been increased talk among both countries after increased concern that Huawei-made hardware could lead to easier spying activity from the Chinese company.
"While the United States has expressed concerns in the past, these decisions were made by the Republic of Korea and the Republic of Korea alone," a U.S. State Department spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal.
No Huawei technology will be used on U.S. military bases in Korea, according to the State Department, as almost 30,000 U.S. military personnel are located in the country. South Korean decision makers also reportedly showed concern using Huawei hardware, and the final decision was made by the host country, though officials remain quiet about the "confidential and private business information."
Target management received numerous warnings related to the company's cyber security issues, with at least 60 days notice before hackers stole information about millions of accounts. Despite concerns from security experts, Target may have ignored security warnings in favor of installing a new system and making sure it was in place prior to Black Friday 2013.
Target, along with other major retailers, received memos written and distributed by security companies and the U.S. government warning of potential security concerns. Furthermore, a Target security analyst wanted to take a closer look at the company's point-of-sale and other payment, though it doesn't appear that took place.
Fallout from the Target breach continues to ripple throughout the industry, as several other retailers have also been affected from data breaches.
Companies receive a large number of security warnings, so it can be difficult to try and realistically figure out which ones to take seriously.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has filed a lawsuit against Pres. Obama's administration and the National Security Agency (NSA), drawing headlines in his attempt to disrupt the NSA and its controversial data snooping efforts. The class-action lawsuit from the potential Republican president candidate is a curious move, as Paul is banking on U.S. citizen anger to gain headlines.
Besides Obama, NSA Director Keith Alexander, FBI Director James Comey and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper were also named in the lawsuit. The class action lawsuit could represent "hundreds of millions" of U.S. citizens, and has received 386,000 signatures on an online petition Paul shared on his website.
If this story isn't weird enough already, apparently Paul and Cuccinelli are under fire from constitutional lawyer Bruce Fein, as Fein wrote the lawsuit but his name was replaced by Cuccinelli. Not only was the lawsuit "stolen," but Fein also said he still hasn't received full compensation from Paul's political action committee, and clearly isn't pleased.
Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden was able to gain access to classified information using a co-worker's login credentials, which led the employee to lose his security clearance and later resign.
Snowden reportedly tricked an employee to use his login credentials on Snowden's computer, and while he was unaware of Snowden's intentions, still didn't "comply with security obligations."
A U.S. lawmaker added: "Unbeknownst to the civilian, Mr. Snowden was able to capture the password, allowing him even greater access to classified information."
In addition to the former NSA civilian contractor, a current active duty U.S. military member and another contractor lost NSA access privileges. The U.S. government is trying to accurately identify how Snowden collected so many documents which were shared with international reporters - and to prevent a similar incident from taking place again in the future.
The Obama administration wants to help utilities, banks and other important industries better defend themselves from cyber attack, launching voluntary cyber security guidelines as reference. The White House didn't want to offer direct requirements in an effort to allow companies to determine what would work best in their own business environment.
"While I believe today's framework marks a turning point, it's clear that much more work needs to be done to enhance our cybersecurity," said Obama, in a statement from the White House. "Our critical infrastructure continues to be at risk from threats in cyberspace, and our economy is harmed by the theft of our intellectual property."
Although the Obama administration worked on the recommendations based on analysis and industry-offered input, it's unlikely to be effective in preventing future attacks.
The US government and military learned in recent years that cyber threats cannot be ignored, especially with many criminal groups operating out of China, Russia, and other political rivals.
You would expect the president of one of the largest financial institutions in the US to have a very robust personal security plan in effect to ensure that his identity or financial information was not stolen, but it appears that is not the case with PayPal's President, David Marcus. This morning Marcus revealed that one of his credit card numbers was stolen during a recent trip to Europe and then used on a large spending spree.
Marcus says that he thinks that his card was skimmed at the hotel he was staying at or at one of the several merchants he swiped the card in question at. Marcus said that despite the card having an EMV chip that is supposes to make it more secure against this sort of attack, the EMV technology did nothing to prevent his card's number from being stolen and used on a fraudulent spending spree. Marcus did take the opportunity to inject a little promotion for PayPal, saying that if the merchant had accepted PayPal then none of this would have happen as PayPal's payment solutions do not share any credit card numbers with the merchant excepting payment.