Security: Emerging Trends and Threats for 2013

Security continues to be the number one challenge for BIT due to the fact that our state’s data and technology systems are an attractive target to organized crime. We must secure these targets from criminals, hostile foreign governments and malicious cyber attacks. BIT studies the attack vectors to better understand their operations and to better defend state resources.

In a continued effort to educate state employees on cyber security awareness, each month the BIT blog will feature at least one security article. Below is a brief round up of some of the emerging trends and threats ahead for 2013, listed in no particular order, but items that we all need to be aware of.

Mobile Devices
As the use of mobile devices grew in 2012, so too has the volume of attacks targeted to them. Every new smart phone, tablet or other mobile device provides another opportunity for a potential cyber attack. Many enterprises have incorporated these devices into their networks. In some cases, organizations are allowing employees to “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) or in state government we refer to it as the Remote Access Device (RAD) policy. This increases the cyber security risks for an organization particularly if it does not have control over the employee’s personal mobile device. Risks include access to corporate email and files, as well as the ability for the mobile device apps to download malware, such as keyloggers or programs that eavesdrop on phone calls and text messages.

Social Media
The use of social media sites has grown beyond just sharing personal information, such as vacation photos and messaging. These sites are used for advertising, purchasing and gaming. For 2013, attackers will look to exploit this volume and variety of data being shared to credentials or other Personally Identifiable Information (PII), such as social security numbers.

Spear Phishing Attacks
Spear phishing is a deceptive communication, such as an e-mail, text or tweet, targeting a specific individual, seeking to obtain unauthorized access to personal or sensitive data. Spear phishing attempts are not typically initiated by "random hackers" but are more likely to be conducted by perpetrators seeking financial gain, trade secrets or sensitive information.

Ransomware is a type of malware that is used for extortion. The attacker distributes malware that will take over a system by encrypting the contents or locking the system; the attacker then demands money from the victim in exchange for releasing the data and/or unlocking the system. Once payment is delivered, the attacker may or may not provide the data or access to the system. Even if access is restored, the integrity of the data is still in question.

Attacks carried out as cyber protests for politically or socially motivated purposes, or “just because they can” have increased, and are expected to continue in 2013. Common strategies used by hactivist groups include denial of service attacks and web-based attacks, such as SQL Injections.  Once a system is compromised, the attacker will harvest data, such as user credentials, to gain access to additional data, emails, credentials, credit card data and other sensitive information.

Advanced Persistent Threat
Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) refers to a long-term pattern of targeted hacking attacks using subversive and stealthy means to gain continual, persistent exfiltration of data. The entry point for these type of espionage activities is often the unsuspecting end-user or weak perimeter security.

What Can You Do?
By using sound cyber security practices, users and organizations can strengthen readiness and response to help defend against the myriad of challenges and mitigate potential impacts of incidents:
  • Enable encryption and password features on your smart phones and other mobile devices.
  • Use strong passwords that combine upper and lower case letters, numbers, and special characters, and do not share them with anyone. Use a separate password for every account. In particular, do not use the same password for your work account on any other system.
  • Do not use your work email address as a "User Name" on non-work related sites or systems.
  • Be cautious regarding all communications; think before you click. Use common sense when communicating with users you DO and DO NOT know. Do not open email or related attachments from unknown sources.
  • Do not reveal too much information about yourself online. Depending on the information you reveal, you could become the target of identity or property theft.
  • Be careful with whom you communicate or provide information on social media sites.  Those ‘friends’ or games might be looking to steal your information.
  • If the device is used for work purposes, do not share that device with friends or family.
  • Please contact BIT staff for additional questions or concerns on state government cyber security policies.
Stop. Think. Connect. Three simple actions that will help keep you safe in cyber space. The state's website on cyber security also provides information on computer and mobile device security, updates, alerts and advisories as well as security newsletters, educational resources and federal, state and local government resources. Take some time to check it out:

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