The latest Security Flaw: Wifi KRACK

Sounds scary and technical, another vulnerability, another frightening acronym KRACK, makes one think what is the risk and how does one overcome this concern?

It’s been everywhere in the news, social media and blogs for the past week and this article will aim to try and simplify the technical side and answer some of the questions one has.

What does KRACK stand for?

Discovered and named by Marty Vanhoef a Belgian researcher, KRACK stands for Key Reinstallation Attack. This in effect is a security flaw which allows a hacker (attacker) to break the internet communications between a router and a device. For the weakness to be exploited though the hacker needs to be in close physical proximity of the access point of the communications.

What does this mean for an individual or a business?

It means there is a potential for a cyber security incident where the attacker can capture or interrupt the flow of information from your communications or they can use the weakness to potentially inject and manipulate data.  For example, this may mean an attacker injecting ransomware or other malware into websites.

What is at risk?

Like all vulnerabilities, the risk is the loss of sensitive information such as credit card numbers, passwords, emails, photos, and documents.

What is the most likely scenario for a KRACK attack?

This is difficult to say as there are potentially so many situations, however, one potential target is those organizations that provide wifi access without a lot of IT resources.  An example of this would be your local coffee shop.

Is changing passwords the best way to protect myself?

Changing passwords regularly is a basic security measure that is recommended, however, this will not prevent or mitigate an attack. In fact, the key element to protect yourself includes ensuring all devices are up to date with the latest updates. This includes ensuring the firmware on your router is updated.

A simple tip is to ensure you have automatic updates turned on which will help ensure you have the latest versions and protection installed.

Until you are sure that your device has been updated limit your usage of public networks especially with phones utilizing the Android operating system.

Only transact with websites that have an SSL certificate meaning that the sites URL will start with https instead of HTTP.  This in effect means the site is using encryption which therefore makes it difficult to see what data is being transferred.

Conclusion

Keep yourself informed and be sensible with your usage of public wifi if in doubt do not connect and turn the wifi option off on your device. If still uncertain contact us and ask for a KRACK risk assessment.

Basic Cyber Security

Many customers we see during our daily work (and rescues) don’t even have the most basic cyber security measures in place. The author intends this article for the non-technical business owner or manager, to assist and educate the need to protect their business and computer users against ever-evolving cyber threats.

Cyber security threats are continually evolving. Viruses, worms, Trojan horses, Spyware, Phishing, Adware and Scare-ware have all been around for a long time. Lately, one particular form of malware known as Ransomware has been creating havoc with businesses and organisations worldwide.

Ransomware, when detonated works by locking up your files using encryption. The cyber criminal then demands a ransom from the victim in bitcoins. In theory this ransom gets a code that allows the unlocking of your vital files. However some cyber criminals are not very honest in this respect. They just take your ransom and you don’t get a code.

Ransomware

In all cases we have seen, humans detonate the ransomware package at an endpoint in the network. Ransomware mostly arrives in email as either an attachment or as a link to a malicious or compromised website. Ransomware spreads also from software downloads, websites and advertising delivered over online ad networks.

What can you do?

Educating yourself and your employees are the #1 defense against cyber criminals.

  • Three years ago, in the olden days, we used to say don’t open an email or attachment from someone you don’t know. These days that rule still applies, however, we have seen cases of ransomware being “redistributed” to everybody in the victim’s email address book, so it’s not just people you don’t know that you can’t trust.
  • Think about that attachment or link you are about to open. Common sense applies. Were you really expecting an invoice from your mother? Were you really expecting that traffic ticket from the police? (Think – how did the Police ever get your email address?)
  • If in doubt about an email then phone the person up and ask if they just sent you that attachment. Better to be safe than sorry.

The most basic cyber security needed on your computers and network.

  • Every endpoint in your network (Cell-phones, Laptops, Desktops, Servers etc.) must have up to date and functional business grade Anti-Virus software.
  • Apply Operating System patches. Manufacturers like Apple, Microsoft and others regularly release patches and updates to fix vulnerabilities that have been discovered (mostly by cyber criminals) in their operating systems.
  • Apply application patches. Products like Office, Adobe, Chrome to name but a few, all have vulnerabilities and exploits. As these exploits get discovered patches are released by the manufacturers to remedy the situation.
  • Always use the latest version of the operating system available. Whilst Microsoft’s Windows 7 is still around and a good operating system, Windows 10 is inherently much more secure.
  • Restrict administrative privileges. Only log in as the administrator to perform administrative functions. Your regular login (and your employees) should only have standard user rights. Why? This makes it harder for malware to be installed, as installation usually requires administrative privileges.
  • Backup your data daily. This needs to be business grade and not to a shared drive on the network. Why? Most ransomware will spread to every “share” it can find – too bad if that is your backup. With regards to ransomware the phrase “Backup or Pay up” springs to mind.

Beyond basic – The next level of cyber security measures.

Once the basics are covered off, we can then talk topics like firewalls, VPN, cloud virus and spam pre-filtering of emails, changing settings in software, 2-factor authentication, and an application that detects and stops unauthorized encryption etc. These will give a much more comprehensive solution beyond basic, however “comprehensive” is probably beyond the scope of this document titled “Basic Cyber Security” and would make it rather long and too technical.

How can Computer Troubleshooters help?

  • Businesses without their own IT resource will often need assistance in implementing these basic cyber security measures. As an IT department for the small and medium-sized businesses, Computer Troubleshooters can be your IT resource.
  • We are able to deploy a management system to your computer(s) and network that keeps a track of your Anti-Virus, Patching, and Backups etc. This system reports to our service desk when things are going away.
  • We are able to assist with your staff training, with a presentation and booklets etc.

Technical Stuff/Further Reading

NZ Government Communications Security Bureau – NZ Information Security Manual Download Page

 

Protecting a Business against Ransomware and Scams

Every day, every month there is a new threat to being able to conduct business effectively and efficiently. How do you protect a business from the threat of disruption whether it is a scam, virus, ransomware or simple network or internet failure?

Dr Hossein Sarrafzadeh, director of the Centre of Computational Intelligence for Cyber Security at Unitec Auckland said ransomware affected tens of thousands of people and is estimated to have profited the criminals to the tune of US$1 billion in 2016.

The majority of cyber-attacks in New Zealand still go unreported, though figures released by New Zealand’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) this year showed that attacks have more than doubled since 2011.

Scams continue to become more sophisticated using modern technology to make fake emails, invoices, and websites appearing legitimate to even the most astute business person. These scams have devastating effects on businesses by eroding the investment they have made in their reputation, increasing operational costs and in certain cases crippling the business from operating.

 

This article looks at how a business can avoid becoming a victim of a scam by ensuring they have the right support and systems in place to minimise the risk of disruption.

Why does size matter?

Larger organisations have the resources, time and budgets to invest in ensuring they are not subject to an attack. As the headlines indicate even with this effort they are not always successful in defending themselves.  The reality is that as smaller organisations are hampered by the amount of money and resources they can spend on IT, means that these organisations are an easier target for the cyber criminals.  The cyber-criminal finds it easier to get in and often it takes longer to detect meaning more havoc created.

Smaller organisations are often a means to access and breach larger organisations. Why? Because the smaller organisation is often the weakest link (security wise) in a supply chain relationship thereby providing an entry point to the larger business partner.

What are the key elements to protect Business Continuity? 

One must ask if the IT environment something that can just be left alone or does it need to be looked after? The answer is obvious it needs to be managed and looked after, it needs somebody who is accountable and responsible for ensuring that the risk is minimised.

For smaller organisations this leads to either employing a resource or developing a relationship with an IT Service provider who is accountable. It makes sense to develop a relationship where the provider is on the front foot and is monitoring all key elements and maintaining an organisations systems in advance of something going wrong. This is commonsense as it is about protecting against a major disruption to a business.

The key components that need to be looked at are:

  • Data back-up/ Business continuity
  • Security of endpoints
  • Network configurations, performance and access
  • Email access and security
  • Software up to date
  • Patch management (ensuring your users are up to date on all updates to the operating system or the Anti-Virus software is the latest.)
  • Website performance and content filtering
  • Password management
  • Monitoring

The key element for a business owner is to understand how this approach shifts the nature of the relationship with your IT provider from being reactive to proactive. It means the IT provider is preventing breakdowns instead of reacting to a break down. This means a monthly fee for the maintenance rather than a call out figure. It means the provider is monitoring and using tools to remotely manage and perform maintenance activities.

What does this cost?

The key thing to remember this is an investment in ensuring a business is not disrupted. Some providers will charge per device; others will charge a monthly figure based on complexity of what they are managing; others will charge based on per user.

As a business owner understand what is included and what is not and what service agreement does the provider use. For instance, at Computer Troubleshooters we provide a 100% guarantee. Contact us now for more information.

Final Thought

Change is hard to accept for anybody and in the case of IT management it is hard for people to see the monthly outlay as an investment in their future. But this is exactly what it is. It is a strategic investment that allows a business to minimize the risk of disruption and ensure it can continue to grow and develop.

Sources of information for this article:

Watchguard: The Cyber Crime Guide for small and midsize business

Datto: WannaCry the ransomware Crisis explained

Stay Smart Online  Small business guide Protect your business in 5 minutes

Cert NZ Petya Ransomware Campaign

Counting the True Cost – Cyber Security Breach

Cyber security breaches are in the news every single day of the week. Yet every day I hear another story about a small business that has had a cyber security breach. When talking to the owners, the anger, frustration and disbelief is evident to see. The shock is expressed in the following words; this is costing me so much, it’s the inconvenience, it’s the damage to my reputation and worst of all I am losing customers and I know they will not come back.

What is the cost for small to medium business?

  • The statistics on the cost to small business are hard to establish but one can only suspect that if big business is $142 per compromised record (Ponemon Institute Research report 2016) that is something similar for small to medium business.
  • From my personal experience, I know a podiatrist whose business incurred a breach of their booking system that took three months before their business was back to normal. Even after this time they continued to lose customers. The Ponemon Institute Research Report 2016 clearly indicates that the loss of business customers is the largest financial consequence for an organisation that experiences a data breach.
  • A breach becomes more costly to resolve the longer the breach remains undetected.

Is a small to medium business subject to fines?

All businesses no matter what size are subject to privacy laws. Currently our NZ Privacy Act which went into effect in 1993 contains breach-related penalties from $2,000 to $10,000. New Zealand’s privacy commissioner is now recommending new civil penalties against companies of up to NZ $1,000,000 for a “serious” data breach to keep NZ up with sterner penalties adopted by Australia and the European Union. Ultimately there is significant accountability on businesses to keep customers’ private information secure or face potentially large fines as well as bad publicity and damage to their reputation.

Why is small to medium business a target?

This may be obvious but every cyber- criminal is looking for a soft target, in effect every small to medium business has more information (data) to target than an individual consumer and, because of resource restrictions and lack of knowledge they have a less secure environment than a larger organisation. This is not only in terms of software but also in having security policies that are effectively implemented. For example; user training, passwords, network access, usage of personal devices and external storage devices such as USB sticks.

Too often small business owners are not proactive because they do not believe they have anything worth stealing.  This is not the case as every small to medium business holds customer credit card information, customer personal details such as bank details and emails.  Every bit of information is useful to a cyber-criminal who can make money, for instance, by selling an email address.

Are the hackers and cyber criminals becoming more sophisticated?

The short answer to this question is YES. In the 12 months to June 2016 the NZ National Cyber Security Centre reported a 78% increase in cyber security incidents over the previous year. Our Australian neighbours (Australian Cyber Security Centre Threat Report 2015) identified that the number of cyber criminals with capability will increase, that the sophistication of the current cyber adversaries will increase making detection and response more difficult, ransomware will continue to be prominent and there will be an increase in electronic graffiti such as web defacements and social media hijacking. All this is occurring because every day no matter what size business you are there is a greater reliance on technology to run and conduct a business. The cyber-criminal is aware of this.

How to minimise and protect your small to medium business against a cyber security breach or attack?

Suggested guidelines for protecting your business are:

  • Complete a risk assessment so you are aware of the areas you are most vulnerable. The suggestion would be to complete this with an IT expert, or use the NZ Government sponsored Connect Smart for Business SME toolkit as a starting point.
  • Educate your staff about the various types of scams such as ransomware. Ransomware is a piece of malware that is often sent via email and when executed it kidnaps your machine via encryption that blocks the user from accessing their machine. The kidnapper then demands payment for the decryption key. Ransomware is often referenced as Cryptolocker, Cryptovirus or Cryptotrojan. Examples include NZ Police notifications, Courier and Post deliveries, Inland Revenue Office, Microsoft support etc.
  • Ensure you have policies that are enforced around passwords.
  • Use up to date security systems such as anti-virus software, ensuring firewalls are in place, proper controls around network access.
  • Ensure you are backing up your data and protecting sensitive data in accordance with the privacy laws of New Zealand.
  • If you have limited IT capability and resources, consider the proactive approach of engaging an IT service provider on a managed services contract.
  • Have a remediation and recovery plan for a cyber security breach.
  • Take insurance against a security breach.

From a technology viewpoint aim for the following:

  • End user security – workstations, laptops and mobile devices all have anti-virus malware protection, scheduled back up and regular preventative maintenance.
  • Centralised user control and back up – critical company information and local files need to be protected and still require regular back up, preferably with offsite duplication to the cloud.
  • Unified threat management and content filtering – can offer maximum external threat protection and enhanced business productivity to your internal network.
  • Disaster recovery and data restoration – business continuity can only be guaranteed with adequate backup and recovery procedures in place

The four key elements in thinking about preventing cyber security breaches are to know your environment, to secure your environment, effectively control your environment and proactively monitor your environment.

The best approach is to make sure that the challenge of cyber security is at the forefront of the business owner’s mind and that of employees.

References:

Bank Info Security

National Cyber Security Centre

The Privacy Commissioner’s Office

Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network

Ponemon Institute; IBM sponsored 2016 Cost of Data Breach Study Australia

How to protect your family from cyber threats?

Do you have young children who risk being exposed to pornographic or inappropriate websites?

Do you feel you should control the type of applications your children use and the amount of time they spend on the internet on websites such as social media?
Are you worried your children are using gaming, gambling, or in-app purchasing applications?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions you are part of a growing movement of concerned family’s’ who are struggling to control their childrens’ exposure to the internet.

Why is access to internet content so hard to control?

There are 3 main reasons why internet consumption by children is hard to control:

  1. Multiple Access – The internet can now be accessed in a variety of different ways. Traditionally the home network was the only access method for most families. Now we have access by mobile data access via 3G & 4G networks, plus the increased availability of free Wi-Fi public access networks, then the additional opportunity of roaming as guests on other private Wi-Fi Networks. Internet access is now available everywhere so managing access through gatekeeping devices such as routers is increasingly ineffective.
  2. Multiple Devices – With internet access everywhere comes the proliferation of multi device access with many children now using a range of smartphones, tablets, laptops, and workstations. Internet access is now available almost anywhere on any device, so managing access of devices is increasingly difficult.
  3. Knowledge – Our children are developing skills and shared methodologies that can circumvent traditional control network mechanisms (such as routers) and device profile user management (such as Windows Parental Control).

With anywhere anytime internet access from multiple devices, is it still possible to regulate internet access to our children?

Thankfully development of cloud technologies has enabled user management to be lifted above the physical network layer and enables user profile management to be delivered across multiple access networks and devices. Effectively the cloud allows an additional layer of control above the traditional approach to user management and content control.

Here is what a cloud based portal can enable:

  1. Block porn and adult content
  2. Restrict access to social media
  3. Restrict access to YouTube and gaming content
  4. Limit access to mobile games and apps
  5. Limit app downloads and in-app purchases
  6. Disable device features including cameras
  7. Set restricted access periods and sleep times across devices
  8. Cover devices in and out of home.
  9. Managed from a single cloud based portal

Given all this is possible, how it is achievable?

As a business who has been help protect Australian and New Zealand families for over 20 years we have watched the evolution of different internet security software and hardware struggle to keep up with these changes. In our view, if families wish to take control of how internet is consumed they must consider using a cloud based portal to provide comprehensive protection.

To the best of our knowledge the most comprehensive and accessible product for family internet management is called Family Zone. Family Zone is a new generation cloud based product that allows for all these changes in technology from anywhere access from multiple devices.