UK needs urgent response to online fraud, says NAO

Online fraud is the most common crime in England and Wales and needs an urgent response according to the Parliament’s public spending watchdog.

Online fraud is the most common crime in England and Wales and needs an urgent response according to the Parliament’s public spending watchdog.

While tackling online fraud is complex, the Home Office’s response is not proportionate to the threat, according to the National Audit Office (NAO).

Although the City of London Police is the national lead force for online fraud and runs the Action Fraud national centre for reporting fraud, police and crime commissioners and chief constables are responsible for policing in their local areas.

Despite the fact the face of crime is changing, the NAO’s report said police forces take different approaches to tackling online fraud and for some it is not a priority. Only 27 out of 41 police and crime commissioners refer to online fraud in their most recent annual police and crime plans.

“For too long, as a low value but high volume crime, online fraud has been overlooked by government, law enforcement and industry,” said Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office.

“It is now the most commonly experienced crime in England and Wales and demands an urgent response. While the Home Office is not solely responsible for reducing and preventing online fraud, it is the only body that can oversee the system and lead change.

“The launch of the Joint Fraud Taskforce in February 2016 was a positive step, but there is still much work to be done. At this stage, it is hard to judge that the response to online fraud is proportionate, efficient or effective,” he said.

In the year ending 30 September 2016, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimated that there were 1.9 million estimated incidents of cyber-related fraud in England and Wales, or 16% of all estimated crime incidents.

Online fraud includes criminals accessing citizens’ and businesses’ bank accounts, using their plastic card details, or tricking them into transferring money.

“Hidden” crimes require new and different responses yet, despite the level of economic crime, statistics suggest police forces remain more focused on traditional crimes, the report said, highlighting that in 2016, one in six police officers’ main function was neighbourhood policing, while only one in 150 police officers’ main function was economic crime.

According to the NAO, the Joint Fraud Taskforce set up by the Home Office to raise awareness of online fraud, reduce card not present fraud and to return money to fraud victims is a positive step. But the report said the Home Office faces a challenge in influencing other partners such as banks and law enforcement bodies to take on responsibility for preventing and reducing fraud. The report said £130mis held in banks that cannot accurately be traced back and returned to fraud victims.

In addition, without accurate data, the report said the Home Office does not know whether its response is sufficient or adequate.

Measuring the impact of campaigns and the contribution government makes to improving online behaviours is challenging, according to the NAO.

According to the NAO, the growing scale of online fraud suggests that many people are still not aware of the risks and that there is much to do to change behaviour. In addition, the report said that different organisations running campaigns, with slightly different messages, can confuse the public and reduce the campaigns’ impact.

While educating consumers is sensible, the NAO said government and industry still have a responsibility to protect citizens and businesses. The report said the protection banks provide varies, with some investing more than others in educating customers and improving their anti-fraud technology. The ways banks work together in responding to scams also needs to improve.

Although there are examples of good practice in protecting people against online fraud, such as Sussex Police’s initiative to help bodies such as banks and charities identify potential victims, the NAO said there is no clear mechanism for identifying, developing and sharing good practice to prevent people becoming victims.

The government wants the police and judiciary to make greater use of existing laws, but the NAO found that stakeholders had mixed views on the adequacy of current legislation. The international and hidden nature of online fraud makes it difficult to pursue and prosecute criminals because of the need for international co-operation and an ability to take action across borders, the report said.

So if you want to save yourself stress, money and a damaged reputation from a cyber incident please ring us now on 01242 521967 or email [email protected] or complete the form on our contact page NOWContact Cyber 139

 

WannaCry biggest incident to date for National Cyber Security Centre

The WannaCry ransomware attack that started on 12 May 2017 is the biggest single incident that the new UK National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has faced.

The WannaCry ransomware attack that started on 12 May 2017 is the biggest single incident that the new UK National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has faced.

Although the global ransomware attack that heavily affected the NHS was unwelcome, it has provided an opportunity to test systems and raise awareness on key issues, according to Alex Dewdney, director for engagement and advice at the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC).

“If you wanted to mount a national communications programme to make people sit up and take notice, you couldn’t have designed one better than this,” he told the Security Innovation Network (Sinet) Global Cybersecurity Innovation Summit in London.

“I never thought I would hear so many ministers using the word ‘patch’, which has now become part of everyday conversation, so we need to take that opportunity and to build on that.”

Dewdney emphasised that the NHS was not targeted specifically, although NHS networks were affected significantly in the UK. Other UK organisations were affected, but the diversity of victim organisations was much greater in other countries around the world, including Russia.

Although the spread of the ransomware has slowed, it spread initially very quickly by using a specific vulnerability in the Microsoft file sharing protocol sever message block known as SMB to propagate in and between networks.

“In March 2017, Microsoft issued a patch for supported operating systems, and following the attack they issued emergency patches for unsupported operating systems as well,” said Dewdney, noting that while these patches prevent the spread of the infection, they do not help organisations to get back encrypted data.

Dewdney confirmed that the attackers behind the ransomware are still unknown, but he said the level of sophistication is well within the reach of “criminal entities” requiring the NCSC to work at an extremely high tempo. “It is easily the biggest and most complex cyber incident the NCSC has had to manage so far,” he said.

In response to the attacks, the NCSC’s incident management function was called into action. The initial focus was on understanding the technical characteristics of the attack, how it was spreading, and who the victims were.

The incident management team was also working to establish who was behind the attack and what the initial attack vector was, but these questions remain unanswered to a high level of confidence five days after the attack.

The NCSC also started looking at ways to protect victims and potential victims in terms of publishing advice on how to immunise against the ransomware and contain its spread, as well as what to do if already a victim. The NCSC was also working directly with some victim organisations to help put guidance into practice and help remediate.

The incident underlined the importance of partnerships for the NCSC, said Dewdney, including partnerships that were formed to scale the response and make inroads into this problem in a way that the NCSC could not have done on its own.

“We are still working very closely with the National Crime Agency (NCA), which has staff embedded in our teams. The NCA was able to deploy on the ground with victims at scale. They are also a vital source of information and forensic data, as well as analytic and investigative effort,” he said.

The NCSC is also still working with NHS digital and Care Cert. “The size and complexity of the health sector meant that we needed that central docking point to work with, and they did a fantastic job under very difficult circumstances,” said Dewdney.

The role of the NCSC’s industry partners was also absolutely critical, he said. “I cannot emphasise enough how grateful we are for the extent to which our partners in the cyber security industry really leaned in to help and pool the information they were gathering.”

According to Dewdney, the Cisp cyber information sharing platform “really came into its own”, both as a platform for sharing information and for discussion. “We need to build on that as a really key way of getting stakeholders to have live discussions about this kind of problem,” he said.

There was an international aspect too, said Dewdney, including the information that was provided to the international computer emergency response network and collaboration with the US.

At the same time, he said it was a truly national response, with the NCSC quickly establishing contact with authorities in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland.

Dewdney also highlighted the importance and the challenges of the media. “I think we did pretty well at pace in briefing senior politicians to speak, preparing ourselves directly in broadcast media, and using our web presence and social media to get the right messages across at the right time.

“LinkedIn proved to be a really important and useful platform, but we didn’t really engage in that, and that is an important lesson for us,” he said.

Overall, Dewdney said the NCSC bringing various organisations together under one roof also really proved its worth.

“There was a lot of consistency in what government was saying – officials, ministers and across our platforms. We achieved a greater consistency and therefore a greater sense of authoritativeness in what we were saying than we would have achieved before the NCSC was set up. We were able to get the messages out quite quickly and provide the assurance that patients’ confidential data had not been stolen,” he said.

However, he admitted that producing specific, usable and helpful guidance was a challenge. “How do you get messages across that are sufficiently technically detailed to be of practical use, but also easy to understand and follow.”

The NCSC decided therefore to publish a set of guidance for enterprises and another set for small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and consumers, which is continually being refined and updated in response to feedback from those communities.

“We are really in the market for feedback around how we are getting those messages across and how they can be improved and made more useful,” said Dewdney.

One of the key lessons learned, he said, was about the power as well as the limitation of advice and guidance.

Dewdney said people are continually told to patch and update the systems, “but the fact is that people don’t always do it, so what we have got to realise as cyber security practitioners is that advice and even instruction is much easier to give than it is to follow”.

“We have to recognise that in the real world competing pressures and hard choices can easily get in the way. So we will continue with those exhortations, but as we mobilise campaigns to really make this happen across government, business, critical infrastructure and for consumers, we need to find the right mix of the ‘stick’ on the one hand and help to overcome those hurdles on the other,” said Dewdney.

So if you want to save yourself stress, money and a damaged reputation from a cyber incident please ring us now on 01242 521967 or email [email protected] or complete the form on our contact page NOWContact Cyber 139

ICO reports record number of data breaches and fines

The UK Data Protection privacy watchdog reports that it has dealt with more data breach reports and issued more fines in the past year than ever before.

The UK Data Protection privacy watchdog reports that it has dealt with more data breach reports and issued more fines in the past year than ever before.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has dealt with a record number of data protection incidents, nuisance marketing cases and individual complaints in the past year, according to its latest annual report.

The ICO’s annual performance statistics for 2016/17 also reveal that the regulator received more reported data protection breaches and fined more companies for unlawful activities than any previous year. The rpory can be found at: https://ico.org.uk/about-the-ico/our-information/annual-operational-reports-201617/

It seems that from a hacker perspective, many organisations are still leaving the front door open and the windows unlocked. Failure to protect and handle data correctly can also result in punitive actions for companies participating in the digital economy.

Wake up and get the knowledge to heep your data protected.

The record numbers are in part ascribed to the fact that the ICO’s free telephone helpline, live chat service and online reporting tool all helped make it easier for the public to report their concerns to the regulator, and the fact that audits and new self-assessment tools helped increase organisations’ awareness of their responsibilities.

The statistics show that data protection complaint cases rose to 18,354, around 2,000 more than the previous year. Some 2,565 self-reported data breaches resulted in 16 civil monetary penalties totalling £1,624,500 for serious breaches across a range of public, private and voluntary sectors.

The ICO received more than 166,000 reports about nuisance calls and texts. The ICO issued a record number of 23 fines in this regard, totalling £1,923,000, and issued nine enforcement notices and placed 31 organisations under monitoring.

More than 5,400 freedom of information (FOI) cases were received and 5,100 closed during the year, with 1,351 decision notices, which was “broadly similar” to the previous year, the ICO said.

“We have continued to monitor compliance and raised the threshold for our intervention, taking action if fewer than 90% of their FOI responses fall in the statutory timescale,” the ICO said.

The statistics show the ICO received more enquiries about the legislation it deals with than in the year before.

“Although calls to our helpline were slightly down on last year at 189,942, this was more than made up by new channels including our live chat service, which received 18,864 contacts. Letter and email contacts remained similar to last year,” the ICO said.
People at heart of ICO, says deputy commissioner

The ICO expects its work to intensify next year in the run up to deadline for compliance with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) on 25 May 2018.

The GDPR introduces a more rigorous data protection regime and stricter penalties for breaches of up to €20m or 4% of annual global turnover, whichever is greater.

Deputy commissioner Simon Entwisle said: “We have advised and educated organisations to help them work within the law and we have taken action when they’ve fallen short of the mark.”

People will continue to be at the heart of what the ICO does as it looks to the future, he said, with the GDPR giving people greater control over their own data.

“We are working closely with organisations to help them understand their obligations and be ready for the new rules,” he said.

Entwisle said ICO staff at every level deserve credit for the contribution they have and continue to make. “Information commissioner Elizabeth Denham’s programme to strengthen the team – in both numbers and expertise – will equip the ICO to meet the challenges ahead.”

Testifying to the House of Lords EU Home Affairs Sub-Committee in a hearing on the new EU data protection package, Denham planned to expand the ICO’s staff to deal with the extra work burden to be imposed by the GDPR.

This includes plans to recruit 200 additional staff to take the total number to around 700 in the next three years, with the most pressing staff needs being in relation to the increased duties imposed by the GDPR and the need to educate people about the implications of the regulation.

Denham said Brexit had also added work for the ICO’s policy staff to ensure they can give advice to government and to parliament about what the various impacts would be of different regulatory arrangements post-Brexit.

In addition to the new work related to the GDPR and Brexit, Denham said the UK is increasing the work it is doing internationally regarding data protection enforcement.

“The ICO is one of the largest regulators globally. We have 35 years’ experience in this space and we have a newly developed international strategy,” she said.

“We are going to continue to lean in and engage deeply in work with our European colleagues on the implementation of the GDPR, but at the same time we are engaging in global enforcement work beyond Europe, which involves building bridges with other regulators around the world.”

So if you want to save yourself stress, money and a damaged reputation from a cyber incident please ring us now on 01242 521967 or email [email protected]ber139.com or complete the form on our contact page NOWContact Cyber 139

How cyber warfare is escalating- machines v hackers

There is a gaping hole in the digital defences that companies use to keep out cyber thieves.

There is a gaping hole in the digital defences that companies use to keep out cyber thieves.

 

The hole is the global shortage of skilled staff that keeps security hardware running, analyses threats and kicks out intruders.

Currently, the global security industry is lacking about one million trained workers, suggests research by ISC2 – the industry body for security professionals. The deficit looks set to grow to 1.8 million within five years, it believes.

The shortfall is widely recognised and gives rise to other problems, says Ian Glover, head of Crest – the UK body that certifies the skills of ethical hackers.

“The scarcity is driving an increase in costs,” he says. “Undoubtedly there’s an impact because businesses are trying to buy a scarce resource. And it might mean companies are not getting the right people because they are desperate to find somebody to fill a role.”

While many nations have taken steps to attract people in to the security industry, Mr Glover warns that those efforts will not be enough to close the gap.

Help has to come from another source: machines.

That is a problem when the analysts expected to defend companies are “drowning” in data generated by firewalls, PCs, intrusion detection systems and all the other appliances they have bought and installed, he says.

Automation is nothing new, but now machine learning is helping it go much further.

The analytical power of machine learning derives from the development of algorithms that can take in huge amounts of data and pick out anomalies or significant trends.

These “deep learning” algorithms come in many different flavours.

Some, such as OpenAI, are available to anyone, but most are owned by the companies that developed them. So larger security firms have been snapping up smaller, smarter start-ups in an effort to bolster their defences quickly.

Simon McCalla, chief technology officer at Nominet, the domain name registry that oversees the .uk web domain, says machine learning has proven its usefulness in a tool it has created called Turing.

This digs out evidence of web attacks from the massive amounts of queries the company handles every day – queries seeking information about the location of UK websites.

Mr McCalla says Turing helped analyse what happened during the cyber-attack on Lloyds Bank in January that left thousands of customers unable to access the bank’s services.

The DDoS attack generated a huge amount of data to handle for that one event, he says.

“Typically, we handle about 50,000 queries every second. With Lloyds it was more than 10 times as much.”

Once the dust had cleared and the attack was over, Nominet had handled a day’s worth of traffic in a couple of hours.

Turing absorbed all the information made to Nominet’s servers and used what it learned to give early warnings of abuse and intelligence on people gearing up for a more sustained attack.

It logs the IP addresses of hijacked machines sending out queries to check if an email address is “live”.

“Most of what we see is not that clever, really,” he says, but adds that without machine learning it would be impossible for human analysts to spot what was going on until its intended target, such as a bank’s website, “went dark”.

The analysis that Turing does for Nominet is now helping the UK government police its internal network. This helps to block staff accessing dodgy domains and falling victim to malware.

There are also even more ambitious efforts to harness the analytical ability of machine learning.

At the Def Con hacker gathering last year, Darpa, the US military research agency, ran a competition that let seven smart computer programs attack each other to see which was the best at defending itself.

The winner, called Mayhem, is now being adapted so that it can spot and fix flaws in code that could be exploited by malicious hackers.

Machine learning can correlate data from lots of different sources to give analysts a rounded view of whether a series of events constitutes a threat or not, says Mr Tavakoli.

It can get to know the usual ebbs and flows of data in an organisation and what staff typically get up to at different times of the day.

So when cyber thieves do things such as probing network connections or trying to get at databases, that anomalous behaviour raises a red flag.

But thieves have become very good at covering their tracks and, on a big network, those “indicators of compromise” can be very difficult for a human to pick out.

Hackers follow the money too

Deepthroat suggested during the Watergate investigations to “follow the money”- for Nixon then, read hackers now.

Deepthroat suggested during the Watergate investigations to follow the money- for Nixon then, read hackers now.Now hackers are going after law firms for exactly the same reason. This month, US prosecutors charged three Chinese traders with securities fraud, saying they had made more than $4m trading on information allegedly stolen from two of the US’s best known law firms.

Though prosecutors did not identify the firms, the descriptions of them and the work they had done match Cravath, Swaine & Moore and Weil, Gotshal, two firms routinely hired by Fortune 500 companies to help run their big deals. Both firms have declined to comment.

Though prosecutors did not identify the firms, the descriptions of them and the work they had done match Cravath, Swaine & Moore and Weil, Gotshal, two firms routinely hired by Fortune 500 companies to help run their big deals. Both firms have declined to comment.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission said the hackers targeted seven firms known for their mergers and acquisitions work, hitting them with more than 100,000 attacks over a three-month period. They then struck gold with two

They then struck gold with two organisations. After installing malware on each law firm’s computer network, they gained access to their IT departments and from there broke into the files and emails of senior M&A lawyers. They ended up stealing nearly 60 gigabytes of data related to at least 10 potential deals.

In several cases, the information bore fruit — the hackers gained early word of Pitney Bowes’ 2015 offer for ecommerce group Borderfree and Intel’s 2015 purchase of Altera, and were able to trade ahead of them.

“This case of cyber meets securities fraud should serve as a wake-up call for law firms around the world: you are and will be targets of cyber hacking because you have information valuable to would-be criminals,” said Preet Bharara, the US attorney for Manhattan.

Other professional services firms should take note- your reputation and organisation are at risk from hackers.

This is not the first time the industry has been hit by hackers who specialise in what is becoming known as “outsider trading”. Last year federal prosecutors charged nine people in the US and Ukraine with trading ahead of earnings press releases that had been provided to Marketwired, PR Newswire and Business Wire. That case inspired other Ukraine-based hackers to try their luck with law firms, according to intelligence firm Flashpoint, which put out a warning in March.

Accounting firms that provide tax advice on mergers, boutique advisory firms, and consultants who weigh in on synergies and downsizing plans are almost certainly on the criminals’ hit list. Retailers, telecoms groups and internet companies, including Target, TalkTalk and Yahoo, have already had to pay the price for weak defences.

But in some ways, they got off easy. Most of the stolen passwords were old and the account details rarely included immediately usable information. At most, the hacks involved theft of credit card numbers, which come with fraud defences. So customers have rarely felt much need to hold hacked companies accountable. Yahoo, for example, seems to have suffered very little drop off in customer loyalty after announcing the first of two giant hacks, although the jury is still out after the second one.

Professional services firms will not be so lucky. Banks and companies pay extremely high prices for outside advice. They expect professionalism and confidentiality in return. Getting hacked by a bunch of Chinese traders is hardly a strong recommendation of either.

Faced with a choice of five law firms that invested in cyber defences that were strong enough to withstand a pointed attack, and two who did not, which would you choose?

So if you want to save yourself stress, money and a damaged reputation from a cyber incident please ring us now on 01242 521967 or email [email protected] or complete the form on our contact page NOWContact Cyber 139From: https://www.ft.com/content/f52f6fee-ccf4-11e6-864f-20dcb35cede2

Yahoo confirms one billion users have had data hacked

Bob Lord, chief information security officer at Yahoo, admits details of the breach in a blog post.

Bob Lord, chief information security officer at Yahoo, admits details of the breach in a blog post.“We believe an unauthorised third party, in August 2013, stole data associated with more than one billion user accounts. We have not been able to identify the intrusion associated with this theft,” he said.

Speaking to Computer Weekly, Jonathan Care, a research director at market watcher Gartner, said Yahoo’s lack of clarity on this point was troubling.

“The implication is that Yahoo has overly focused on deploying protective technologies, and has not put in place effective analytics, detection and response systems and processes,” he said.

“From what we do know, the attackers made use of cookie masquerading, pass-the-hash and a state-sponsored actor. This gives strength to the importance of a strong detection plan.”

The incident came to light after US law enforcers shared files with the company that a third-party claimed contained Yahoo user data.

“We analysed this data with the assistance of outside forensic experts and found that it appears to be Yahoo user data,” said Lord.

Yahoo admits that staff knew about the data breach two years before it was confirmed publicly, and that the incident could affect the $4.83bn sale deal with Verizon.

“For potentially affected accounts, the stolen user account information may have included names, email addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth, hashed passwords (using MD5) and, in some cases, encrypted or unencrypted security questions and answers.”

“We are notifying potentially affected users and have taken steps to secure their accounts, including requiring users to change their passwords,” he said. “We have also invalidated unencrypted security questions and answers so that they cannot be used to access an account.”

Which suggests that many personal questions have been hacked as well.

This latest breach comes several months after Yahoo revealed details of another historic attack on its systems, dating back to 2014, which led to the personal details of at least 500 million users becoming exposed.

At the time, the incident was reported to be the largest publicly reported breach of its kind, but the August 2013 one is understood to be considerably bigger.

After news of the 2014 hack broke, Yahoo confirmed some staff knew about it several years before details were publicly disclosed, and acknowledged that it could lead to Verizon withdrawing its $4.83bn bid to acquire the company.

In light of its latest disclosure, questions are now being raised about how the news may affect the deal, given Verizon went on record in October 2016 to say the previous breach could pave the way for it to drop its bid.

“It also emphasises the importance of purchasers understanding the security risks of target businesses and building in contractual mechanisms to adjust the price, or even allow them to walk away from the deal if breaches like these come to light before completion.”

“Clearly, the upshot of this is that we need to realise that it’s no longer a case of ‘if we’re targeted or unlucky’, but that we are all targets.”

Camelot’s National Lottery accounts are hacked

It could be you- as tens of thousands of online lottery Camelot players’ accounts are hacked.

It could be you- as tens of thousands of online lottery Camelot players' accounts are hacked.National Lottery operator Camelot says the login details of thousands of people who do the lottery online have been stolen.

There are 9.5 million national lottery players registered online, but Camelot said only around 26,500 accounts were accessed. It added that fewer than 50 accounts have had suspicious activity, such as personal details being changed, since the breach.

The company said it unearthed “suspicious activity on a very small proportion of our players’ online National Lottery Accounts” during its online security monitoring on 28 November 2016.

It added that there has been no unauthorised access to core systems. “In addition, no money has been deposited or withdrawn from affected player accounts,” said Camelot.

“However, we do believe that this attack may have resulted in some of the personal information that the affected players hold in their online account being accessed.”

The company said it is now trying to find out what happened, but it believes that “the email address and password used on the National Lottery website may have been stolen from another website where affected players use the same details”.

The affected accounts have been suspended and Camelot will contact the account holders to re-activate them. Camelot added that it is working with the National Cyber Security Centre on the incident.

Are you an online lottery player?

If so, just crossing your fingers is not enough. To mitigate risks in the short term, account holders should update passwords and avoid using the same password across multiple sites.

Yahoo hack effects Sky and BT emails as well

The world’s largest hacking of Yahoo also effects BT and Sky email users.

The world's largest hacking of Yahoo also effects BT and Sky email users.Yahoo wasn’t the tech giant in Silicon Valley that it used to be, but the news that half a billion user details were stolen from it over two years ago in 2014 should still concern everyone.

It now transpires that both BT and Sky used Yahoo’s email system and labelled it as their own.  Which is particularly ironic given that Sky’s parent company Fox has had to pay out hundreds of millions to people it had itself hacked it’s customers.

What is even more worrying is customer inertia- that’s because stubborn user behavior and the economics of darknet markets mean the chances of a serious breach at another major internet service increase dramatically with each hack.

The user behavior part is that people like to reuse their passwords—a lot.

One estimate, from Cambridge University’s Security Group, puts password reuse as high as 49%.

That is, we use the same password for every two accounts that require a log-in.

When a big cache of hacked passwords ends up traded on darknet markets, it often gets added to password databases. These databases can be used by corporations to ensure their users don’t use previously published, insecure passwords—or more maliciously by hackers, who will try to find passwords reused on other services.

It’s the equivalent of trying millions of different keys on a particular door, except it’s all automated and can be done in days, as the password cracker Jeremi Gosney has detailed for Ars Technica.

Password reuse and marketplaces for stolen data mean that password databases grow larger and more robust with each major breach. For example, LinkedIn was hacked in 2012 for more than 100 million user accounts. Parts of those stolen credentials wound up in darknet data dumps.

One of those log-ins belonged to a Dropbox employee, who apparently reused a password, allowing a hacker to enter the file-sharing platform’s corporate network. This led to the theft of 70 million Dropbox user passwords, which the company confirmed in August. One massive hack leads to another, forming a daisy-chain of insecurity.

The Yahoo breach is five times the size of the LinkedIn theft. That’s a lot more data to add to password-cracking lists.

The only thing we internet users have going for us now is to hope the “state-sponsored actor” that Yahoo says is behind the hack doesn’t dump the data in public, or sell it for profit. When that happens, we’re due for a password reset.

You can check if your email has been hacked and touted online at: https://haveibeenpwned.com/

UK organisations not taking ransomware seriously

UK organisations are still not taking ransomware seriously enough and continue to fall prey to low cost, low risk cyber extortion.

UK organisations are still not taking ransomware seriously enough and continue to fall prey to low cost, low risk cyber extortion.Cyber criminals simply have to infect computer systems with malware designed to lock up critical data by encrypting it and demand ransom in return for the encryption keys.

The occurrence of ransomware attacks nearly doubled, up by 172%, in the first half of 2016 compared with the whole of 2015, according to a recent report by security firm Trend Micro.

Ransomware, the report said, is now a prevalent and pervasive threat, with variants designed to attack all levels of the network.

Ransomware is typically distributed through phishing emails designed to trick recipients into downloading the malware, or through app downloads and compromised websites.

The business model is proving extremely successful for cyber criminals, as many organisations are not prepared for it, and paying the ransom is often the best or only option open to them.

Two separate studies have revealed that universities and NHS trusts in England have been hit hard by ransomware in the past year.

A freedom of information request by security firm SentinelOne revealed that 23 of 58 UK universities polled were targeted by ransomware in the past year, but all claim not to have paid any ransom.

In a similar study by security firm NCC Group, 47% of NHS Trusts in England admitted they had been targeted, while one single trust said it had never been targeted, and the rest refused to comment on the grounds of patient confidentiality. Only one trust said it had contacted the police.

While ransomware writers were sometimes careless in the past so there was often a way to retrieve files,  that is seldom the case now, making preparation even more important.

Security firm Sophos has developed a whitepaper advising businesses on how to stay protected against ransomware.

Here are a list of best practices that businesses and public sector organisations should apply immediately to prevent falling victim to ransomware:

  • Backup regularly and keep a recent backup copy off-site
  • Do not enable macros in document attachments received via email
  • Be cautious about unsolicited attachments
  • Do not give users more login power than they need
  • Consider installing Microsoft Office viewers to see what documents look like without opening them in Word or Excel
  • Patch early, patch often because ransomware often relies on security bugs in popular applications
  • Keep informed about new security features added to your business applications
  • Open .JS files with Notepad by default to protect against JavaScript borne malware
  • Show files with their extensions because malware authors increasingly try to disguise the actual file extension to trick you into opening them