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Panda Security

Meltdown and Spectre, behind the first security hole discovered in 2018

The security flaw affects virtually every operating system, in particular those based on Intel, AMD and ARM processors.

2018 could not have had a worse start from a cyber-security perspective as, yesterday, a major security hole was found in Intel, AMD and ARM processors.  The critical flaw discovered in the affected computers’ architecture and operating system has rocked the technology industry, and developers around the world have rushed to roll out fixes.

The vulnerability, leveraged by the Meltdown exploit on Intel systems, is particularly worrying as it can lead to exfiltration of sensitive data such as login credentials, email messages, photos and other documents. It enables attackers to use a malicious process run at user level on the affected workstation or server in order to read other processes’ memory, even that of high-privileged kernel processes.

The flaw can hit home users and virtually every company, as Spectre affects all kinds of computers: desktops, laptops, Android smartphones, on-premises servers, cloud servers, etc. The more critical information handled by a potential victim, the greater the risk to suffer the attack.

Microsoft and Linux have already released updates for their  customers security. We’d like to inform our customers and partners that the tests carried out by Panda Security show that there are no compatibility conflicts between our endpoint security solutions and Microsoft’s security update.

At present, there is no evidence of public security attacks leveraging the flaw, but judging from past experience, it is not at all improbable that we may witness an avalanche of Trojans and spam campaigns attempting to exploit the vulnerability.

How to mitigate the vulnerability

Newer generation processors are not affected by the flaw, however, replacing all vulnerable systems is not a viable option at this time.

For that reason, the only possible countermeasure at this stage is to mitigate the vulnerability at operating system level. Microsoft and Linux are working on or have patches ready that prevent the exploitation of this hardware bug, with Linux being the first vendor to release a fix.

Microsoft, which initially planned to include a patch in the security update scheduled for Tuesday January 9, released a fix yesterday that is already available on the most popular operating systems and will be gradually deployed to all other systems. For more information, please visit this page.

It is worth mentioning that Microsoft’s security patch is only downloaded to target computers provided a specific registry entry is found on the system. This mechanism is designed to allow for a gradual update of systems coordinated with security software vendors. This way, computers will only be updated once it has been confirmed that there is no compatibility issue between the patch and the current security product.

Technical Support

For more information, please refer to the following technical support article . There you will find detailed information about the Microsoft patch validation process, how to manually trigger the patch download, and the way our products will be gradually updated to allow the automatic download of the new security patch just as with any other update.

We’d also like to encourage you to find detailed information about Microsoft’s security update and the potential impact it can have on desktop, laptop and server performance.

Finally, Microsoft, Mozilla and Google have warned of the possibility that the attackers may try to exploit these bugs via their Web browsers (Edge, Firefox and Chrome), and that temporary workarounds will be released over the next few days to prevent such possibility.  We recommend that you enable automatic updates or take the appropriate measures to have your desktops, laptops and servers properly protected.

Cyber-Security recommendations

Additionally, Panda recommends that you implement the following best security practices:

  • Keep your operating systems, security systems and all other applications always up to date to prevent security incidents.
  • Do not open email messages or files coming from unknown sources. Raise awareness among users, employees and contractors about the importance of following this recommendation.
  • Do not access insecure Web pages or pages whose content has not been verified. Raise awareness among home and corporate users about the importance of following this recommendation.
  • Protect all your desktops, laptops and servers with a security solution that continually monitors the activity of every program and process run in your organization, only allowing trusted files to run and immediately responding to any anomalous or malicious behavior.

Panda Security recommends all companies to adopt Panda Adaptive Defense 360, the only solution capable of providing such high protection levels with its managed security services. Discover how Panda Adaptive Defense 360 and its services can protect you from these and any future attacks.

Customers using our Panda Security home use solutions  also enjoy maximum protection as they feed off the malware intelligence leveraged by Panda Adaptive Defense 360, as shown in the latest independent comparative reviews. The protection capabilities of Panda Security’s technologies and protection model are demonstrated in the third-party tests conducted by such prestigious laboratories as AV-Comparatives.

How do these vulnerabilities affect Panda Security’s cloud services?

Cloud servers where multiple applications and sensitive data run simultaneously are a primary target for attacks designed to exploit these hardware security flaws.

In this respect, we’d like to inform our customers and channel partners that the cloud platforms that host Panda Security’s products and servers, Azure and Amazon, are managed platforms which were properly updated on January 3, and are therefore protected against any security attack that takes advantage of these vulnerabilities.

What effect do these vulnerabilities have on AMD and ARM processors?  

Despite the Meltdown bug seems to be limited to Intel processors, Spectre also affects ARM processors on Android and iOS smartphones and tablets, as well as on other devices.

Google’s Project Zero team was the first one to inform about the Spectre flaw on June 1, 2017, and reported the Meltdown bug before July 28, 2017. The latest Google security patch, released in December 2017, included mitigations to ‘limit the attack on all known variants on ARM processors.’

Also, the company noted that exploitation was difficult and limited on the majority of Android devices, and that the newest models, such as Samsung Galaxy S8 and Note 8, were already protected. All other vendors must start rolling out their own security updates in the coming weeks.

The risk is also small on unpatched Android smartphones since, even though a hacker could potentially steal personal information from a trusted application on the phone, they would have to access the targeted device while it is unlocked as Spectre cannot unlock it remotely.

Apple’s ARM architecture chips are also affected, which means that the following iPhone models are potentially vulnerable: iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPhone 5 and iPhone 5C. Apple has not released any statements regarding this issue, so it is possible that they managed to fix the flaw in a previous iOS version or when designing the chip.

As for the consequences and countermeasures for AMD processors, these are not clear yet, as the company has explained that its processors are not affected by the Spectre flaw.

We’ll keep you updated as new details emerge.

 

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Have scientists just invented a vaccine against fake news?

The issue of fake news hasn’t been far from the headlines since Britain voted to leave the European Union, and Donald Trump was elected the 45th President of the United States. These unexpected outcomes have been blamed, in part, on “fake news” circulating on social media sites like Facebook.

There are two problems with fake news. First, it is almost completely untrue, like claims that Pope Francis had endorsed Donald Trump for President. Second, these fake stories aren’t seen by everyone – just the people who the Facebook/Twitter news algorithms identify as the most likely to read them.

The real problem is that not everyone can tell the difference between fake and real news. Surprisingly, young people growing up in the Internet era seem least able to spot a fake news story.

Scientists think they may have an answer

Having investigated the phenomenon, researchers believe they may have developed a ‘vaccine’ against fake news. Their experiments found that people who are shown real news, followed by a fake news story were much more likely to accept the lies they saw second.

But if the “true” news story referenced fake news and warned about its untrustworthiness first, fewer people were tricked when they came to read the second. The research team now believes that by calling out fake news first, people won’t be fooled when read lies at a later date.

No protection is fool-proof

Obviously there are a few problems with this proposed vaccine. First, story writers must be aware of the details of fake news stories before they can write their own. Which makes writing news even harder than it already is.

Second, the exact same “vaccine” can be used by used by fake news outlets to make their own stories even more credible. Presenting a fake story and discrediting the truth in it could have a similar effect on readers – particularly if they encounter the lies first.

Don’t trust everything you see on social media

The proposed vaccine may help to limit the spread of fake news, but it will never eradicate it completely. Instead we all need to take some responsibility for training ourselves to spot the lies that are published online. We can start by being more sceptical about the popular stories appearing in our timelines until they are checked against a reputable news source.

In fact, Facebook published 10 tips for spotting fake news – and they work very well. By learning to verify the news we read ourselves, the vaccine may become irrelevant.

It is also worth remembering that fake news is often about more than fooling people and influencing their thinking. Fake news sites have been known to host malware that infects computers, stealing personal information, or demanding a ransom after encrypting their data.

Fortunately there is a proven vaccine for fake news-related malware – Panda Security Antivirus. This comprehensive anti-malware kit may not stop you being fooled by fake news – but it will stop your computer being infected.

Download your Antivirus

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2017 in Figures: The Exponential Growth of Malware

2017 was especially hectic for cybercrime, especially when it comes to malware and its offshoots. The increased number of attacks and, above all, the professionalization of the techniques used by cybercriminals has been at the root of malware’s exponential proliferation. In 2017 alone (according to data collected up to September 20), PandaLabs registered 15,107,232 different malware files that we had never seen before. But the total number of new malware is much higher — up to 285,000 new malware samples every day.

It makes perfect sense that the top 10 of malware files in our cloud includes names like WannaCry, the ransomware that caused havoc in business networks around the world, and a version of CCleaner, installed by more than two million users. But in addition to the trends that have been making headlines everywhere, what conclusions can we draw about the state of malware in 2017? We discuss the essentials in PandaLabs’ Annual Report.

Malware’s Attempt to Go Unnoticed

Upon reviewing the figures, we see that of the 15,107,232 files registered, 99.10% have been seen only once. That is, 14,972,010 files. We have only seen 989 malware files on more than 1,000 computers, 0.01%. This corroborates what we already knew: namely, that aside from a few exceptions — such as the abovementioned WannaCry or HackCCleaner — most malware changes every time it infects, so each copy has a very limited distribution.

This year’s data makes it clear that although there are many more types of malware, each of them infects only a few devices individually. By attacking the minimum number of possible devices, each specimen reduces the risk of being detected and fulfils its purpose: to go unnoticed and ensure the attack’s success.

In any case, the total number of new malware samples (15 million) is not so relevant when it comes to calculating risk. What really affects us is the frequency with which we can individually confront the malware itself. To evaluate this risk, PandaLabs measured only those malware infection attempts that were not detected by signatures or by heuristics.

Recommendations for a Malware-free 2018

Following these tips will help reduce the risk of becoming a victim of malware:

  • Think before you click: do not access links sent to you by strangers.
  • Avoid downloading applications from unreliable sources.
  • Do not wait until tomorrow — keep up with system updates.
  • Use strong passwords to protect your identity.
  • Choose an advanced cybersecurity platform.

Our protection technologies improve and are updated as the amount of malware grows, which is why we are able to detect the threats that other solutions cannot. Panda Adaptive Defense is keeping up with threats and offers the market the services and tools needed to face whatever awaits in 2018. We’re ready to take on the new year!

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Small business cybersecurity risks for 2018

About 99.8% of all businesses in the USA are considered small businesses. The Census Bureau and the Small Business Administration define small businesses as private companies having fewer than 500 employees. Roughly about 50% of the US workforce in the US is employed by small businesses. While this is a significant chunk of the US economy, this is arguably the most fragile one. Only one-third of the newly formed small businesses will survive ten years or more.

Being a small business in the sea of thriving competition means that you have to be spotless in everything you do as chances your business won’t last long are high – only about half of all new small businesses make it past the 5-year mark. Small business owners wear many hats and are known to be the most optimistic businessmen in the world. Even though the risks are there and your business could cease to exist in a blink of an eye due to a cyber-security issue or a lawsuit, being a business owner is probably the only way for you to get a piece of the American dream. So many people jump on the train!

While optimism is an integral part of being a leader, leaders do not rely on luck, they are cautious and always prepared. It has been estimated that half of the small businesses that suffer a cyber-attack go out of business within six months as a result. And your business could be the next victim.

Here is a top five of the biggest threats to small firms in the US for 2018.

Phishing attacks

The first, and probably the most common problem seen in small businesses, is seeing them falling for phishing scams. Those types of scams are as old as the internet, and you can avoid becoming a victim by educating your employees about the dangers on the internet, and by restricting their rights accordingly. Make sure that even if they want to harm your company devices, they won’t be able to succeed.

Ransomware

No one is safe; ransomware attacks happen all the time and companies from all sizes fall victims every day. Ransomware attacks could be easily avoided if all company systems are kept up-to-date, and they have quality anti-virus software installed. Always make sure that you regularly make backups of your company’s files and be very careful with the data that you open on your computer – use your anti-virus software to confirm that they are not malicious. Make sure you run regular educational cyber security seminars with your employees who have access to company devices.

Cloud storage

The cloud computing services are genuinely changing the ways how small businesses operate and are becoming an option of choice for small and medium-sized companies. Cloud storage services ease the lives of many business owners as they come with defense measures and timely security updates. While cloud storage might seem like a great idea you never know if your cloud storage provider is as secure as you want them to be, make sure that you are using reputable service providers.

Attacks affecting websites

Web-based attacks will continue to change small businesses in 2018. Very often small business websites do not have multiple layers of security and hackers make their way in so they can execute malicious activities right from your company website. This could have a disastrous effect on your branding as such websites get quickly penalized by search engines such as Google and Bing. Not changing your passwords or not updating your company website WordPress plugins may cost you a lot.

Compromised and stolen devices

Laptops, cell phones, tablets, computers, and Macs – they all contain company information that could be useful for cybercriminals. Make sure that you highlight to your employees that company information should only be stored and accessed by verified and adequately secured company devices. The information on stolen or compromised machines could be used against the interests of the company that you own or represent.

Small business will be a target in 2018!

However, cybersecurity should not be of concern if you have multiple layers of security on all your systems, backup up your company’s files often, and you regularly update your systems. Do not ignore those update-notifications – they are released by service providers to improve processes and security. Your chances of becoming a ransomware victim, or seeing your company website being taken over by hackers significantly decrease if you build a habit of updating your systems and have anti-virus software solutions capable of handling the cybersecurity needs of your company.

Check out our 2018 Cybersecurity Trends Report

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Global smartphone use: 2018 trends

Figures quoted by the TechRadar technology news website suggest that nearly one-third of the people on Earth now use a smartphone. As you would expect, well developed countries in North America and Europe have the highest overall levels of ownership. Globally, Denmark leads the way; more than three-quarters (77%) of the general population own a smartphone.

So what does 2018 hold for the smartphone market?

Here are 5 things to keep an eye out for:

1. Screens will get larger

When the first iPhone was released in 2007, smartphones all looked very similar – most had screens around the 3.5” mark. As people have begun to use their phones for watching videos and browsing the web however, screen sizes have increased dramatically. The latest iPhone X has a 5.8” screen, while the Samsung Galaxy Tab has a massive 6.3” wraparound screen.

During 2018, we expect to see more people choosing devices with larger screens. We also expect more manufacturers to follow the trend for edge-to-edge screens.

2. The developing world will see the largest growth in ownership

Pretty much everyone who wants a smartphone in Europe and North America now owns one. The market has effectively reached saturation point, so the only sales of new devices go to people upgrading or replacing their existing device.

Future growth will come in developing countries like India, China and Vietnam. eMarketer is predicting sales volume increases of nearly 20% in these countries during 2018.

3. More people will get online for the first time

The cost of smartphones continues to fall, making low-end handsets available to even more people – which is why there will be massive market growth in 2018. For most new smartphone owners in developing countries it will be the first time they have ever had direct access to the internet.

The smartphone will be these peoples’ primary computing device too – most will not have a home computer, laptop or tablet. Everything they do online will be using their phone.

4. AR will finally take off

The release of ARKit with Apple iOS11 is set to revolutionise the way we access information about our surroundings. Known as ‘Augmented Reality’ (AR for short), apps can use the smartphone camera to overlay graphics and data on your screen, providing a digital ‘layer’ to your surroundings.

The technology has been around for a few years, but with Apple’s support, AR will go mainstream very quickly. Some apps, like Pokemon Go, have already been updated to show game characters interacting with the world around the players.

5. We will see more mobile malware in the wild

Although a boost in the number of smartphones is good news for the people using them, it also means that cybercriminals will ramp up their attacks on mobile platforms. There have already been a number of mobile malware related incidents in 2017, and we expect to see them increase in frequency over the next year.

No matter where you are located, or how many years you have been using a smartphone, we strongly recommend downloading a security app like Panda Mobile Security that can protect you against mobile malware. The low annual fee is a useful insurance policy against attacks.

Ready for more in-depth predictions? Check out our 2018 Cybersecurity Trends Report.

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Daniel Lerch: “Steganography is a Tool of Great Interest to Cybercriminals”

Elliot Alderson hides secret information in audio CD files. However, the technique used by the fictional hacker protagonist of “Mr Robot” is far from being a TV whimsy. This is just one of the many steganography techniques used by hackers and cybercriminals to evade security systems.

From the Greek steganos (hidden) and graphos (writing), steganography is a method of hiding data. To analyze how to best handle this surreptitious threat, we spoke with Daniel Lerch, who has a PhD in Computer Science from the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC), and is one of the top steganography experts in Spain.

Panda Security: How would you define steganography? How is it different from cryptography?

Daniel Lerch: Steganography studies how to hide information in a carrier object (an image, an audio file, a text or a network protocol). While in cryptography the intention is that the message sent cannot be read by an attacker, in steganography the goal is to hide even the fact that any communication is taking place.

The two sciences are not mutually exclusive. In fact, steganography usually uses cryptography to encrypt the message before hiding it. But their objectives are different: not everyone who needs to protect information, also needs to hide it. So steganography would be an additional layer of security.

PS: Who would benefit more from steganography: cybercriminals or security providers?

Daniel Lerch

DL: Without a doubt, cybercriminals. Those responsible for the security of companies and institutions do not need to hide their communications. To keep them safe, cryptography is enough.

Steganography is a tool of great interest for different types of criminals, since it allows communication without being detected. Typical examples are communications between terrorist cells, the dissemination of illegal material, the extraction of business secrets, or their use as a tool to hide malware or the commands that remotely control the malware.

PS: How has this technique evolved in recent times?

DL: Depending on the medium by which steganography is applied, the evolution has been varied.

The medium that has evolved the most is steganography in images. They are so difficult to model statistically that it is very easy to make changes to them without anyone noticing. For example, the value of a pixel in a black and white image can be represented by a byte, that is, a number between 0 and 255. If that value is modified in a unit (hiding a bit) the human eye cannot perceive it. But the issue is that it’s not easy for statistical analysis of the image to detect this alteration either. Images are an excellent way of hiding data, such as video and audio.

Another medium that has received a lot of attention is steganography in network protocols. However, unlike what happens with the images, network protocols are well defined. If we change information in a package it is noticeable, so there is less wiggle room when it comes to hiding data. Although they may seem easy to detect from the outset, these techniques can be effective because of the difficulty of analyzing the large amount of traffic in existing networks.

One of the oldest media carriers, and one which has evolved least in the digital age, is the text. However, steganography in text could make a significant leap thanks to machine learning. In the techniques developed in recent years, the process of hiding information is tedious and requires the user’s manual input to generate a harmless text that makes sense and carries a hidden message. However, the current advances in deep learning applied to NLP allow us to generate more and more realistic texts, so it is possible that we will soon see steganography in text that is really difficult to detect.

PS: What applications does steganalysis have in the field of computer security? What techniques are usually used?

DL: From the point of view of business security, the main applications are the detection of malware that uses steganography to hide itself and the detection of malicious users trying to extract confidential information.

From the point of view of national security agencies, the main applications of steganalysis are the detection of terrorist or espionage communications.

Although most of the steganography tools that can be found on the Internet are unsophisticated and could be detected with simple and known attacks, there are no quality public tools that allow us to automate the process, detecting steganography in network protocols, in images, in video, audio, text, etc.

Maybe this is not possible yet. For example, in the field of steganography in images, the advanced techniques with which it is currently being investigated can hardly be detected using machine learning. If, in addition, the information is distributed among different media, significantly reducing the amount of information per carrier object, its detection with current technology becomes practically impossible.

PS: What role do you believe that steganography will play in the coming years? Will it be used more as an attack weapon, or a defense tool?

DL: Steganography as a defense tool would be unusual, although there are examples, such as the extraction of information by activists in a totalitarian country.

The main role of steganography in the next few years will be seen in its application as a tool to hide malware and to send control commands to the malware. This is already being done, although with fairly rudimentary techniques. The use of modern steganography techniques to hide malicious code will greatly hinder detection, forcing security tools to use advanced steganalysis techniques.

PS: What advice would you give to a computer security professional who is thinking of using steganalysis?

DL: He would probably be interested in detecting malware or exfiltrating data. The first thing is to keep good track of everything, to know what tools exist and when and how to use them. Then, it comes down to practice. Test and validate the technologies that we implement using a wealth of data.

If you use machine learning to perform steganalysis, you must be careful with what data you use to train the system. The model has to be able to predict data it has never seen. It would produce an error if, to validate the model, it were to use data that was used to train it. In machine learning, it is often said that a model is as good as the training data. So if our training data are not complete, the predictions that our model will make will not be reliable. The more data we use to train the model, the less likely it is that it will be incomplete. Otherwise, we run the risk of ending up developing tools that only work well in the laboratory, with our test data.

PS: What role will artificial intelligence and machine learning play in business cybersecurity strategies?

DL: An example would be the automatic detection of security flaws in the software. Also, replacing antivirus software that detects the signatures of known viruses with an artificial intelligence system that identifies viruses based on common characteristics and behavior.

PS: In an environment in where there are more and more connected devices, what security measures should be adopted to protect the privacy of data at the enterprise level?

DL: Security measures in IoT devices have to be the same as those applied to other devices connected to the same network. It may seem strange to have to manage the security of the office thermostat at the same level as a PC, but from the point of view of an attacker, this is as good a point of access to the network as any other.

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Facebook Messenger Kids: Is it safe?

Facebook has always required users to be aged 13 or older before signing up for an account, placing services like Messenger and Instagram out of reach for most middle school children. Laws regarding data collection and advertising to children means that Facebook cannot easily make money from youngsters – so it has always been easier to simply block access.

Despite having more than 2 billion users worldwide, Facebook has struggled to get more people to sign up. More concerning still, for (Facebook management anyway) has been the fact that young people are deserting the platform for alternatives like Instagram and Snapchat. Something had to be done to help bring younger users back into the ecosystem.

Facebook Messenger Kids makes an appearance

In the last few weeks we have seen the roll-out of Facebook Messenger Kids, the first product ever aimed at “under age” children. Facebook claims the app is to help families and family friends stay connected, providing a safe space for group chats and video calls. (It’s also a very useful way to bring people into the Facebook platform younger).

The app is very much like the standard Facebook Messenger platform, and under-13s will now be able to chat with other users – with a few restrictions.

Facebook Messenger Kids does not require a full Facebook account for instance. You don’t even need to supply a phone number. Instead a parent downloads the special kids’ messenger app onto their child’s tablet/smartphone and logs in with their Facebook account to create a profile for the child.

Once set-up, parents will see a new bookmark in their own Facebook account that shows contacts associated with Facebook Messenger for Kids.

A reduced risk of grooming

Importantly Facebook Messenger Kids is a “closed” network, so random strangers cannot contact them – they do not appear in Facebook searches for instance. Instead, every new contact must ask permission to connect – and only parents can approve the request. Each request will appear on the parent’s Facebook account, so they can immediately block strangers or anyone who looks suspicious.

It is impossible for anyone you don’t know to message – or even find – your kids on Facebook. The chat network also uses intelligent content filtering to identify (and block) inappropriate content, adding a further layer of protection for your kids.

Parents still need to be alert

Although parents must approve every contact request, there is a very real risk that strangers and criminals may create fake profiles with the specific intention of gaining access to your kids. You should check each and every connection request very carefully to ensure that no imposters sneak through. You should also talk with your children as they use Facebook Messenger Kids to ensure they know what to do if someone says something inappropriate, or which makes them feel uncomfortable.

The other consideration is how Facebook use your personal data. It is claimed that Facebook Messenger Kids does not collect information from your chat sessions for profiling purposes. They may use other data however, particularly about your contact list, to begin building a profile for use in advertising campaigns. That way when your kids do reach 13 and upgrade to a full Facebook account, the network can start targeting ads more effectively from day one.

Ultimately, parents need to decide whether they want the hassle of checking every contact request – and whether they really want to bring their younger children into the Facebook ecosystem. Although Facebook Messenger Kids is undoubtedly safer than other unfiltered messaging apps like Kik and Snapchat, parents may feel that plain old SMS text messaging and iMessage are just as good.

Facebook Messenger for Kids is available for download from the Apple App Store now.

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Is the GDPR an Opportunity for Cybercriminals?

With the entry into force of the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in May 2018, the requirements for companies that handle data involving Europeans’ personal information will become more stringent. The same goes for organizations and public institutions. Recently, we explained the fundamental changes brought about by the application of the GDPR and the most popular myths that have been spread in the media. On this occasion, we will analyze how cyber attackers could profit from this new regulation.

Resorting to cyber blackmail

According to a survey by Crowd Research Partners, 30% of organizations are not ready to comply with the GDPR and will have to make substantial changes to their security policies and technologies. Companies must take into account that this regulation involves paying special attention to data management within the company, requiring a very thorough treatment of customer information. Failure notify the authorities on security incidents could result in some seriously heavy fines. In addition to preparing for the GDPR, organizations must also keep in mind that cybercriminals may see it as an opportunity.

How can they take advantage of the new regulation? The most direct way: seeking even higher ransoms.

The GDPR requires organizations to keep their employees’ and their clients’ data under wraps. Violations of Personally Identifiable Information (PII) is the primary target of the new framework. When cybercriminals realize the value of PII, they can sequester it and subsequently threaten to report the security breach to the compliance authorities. If the cyber attackers do not receive the ransom, they will proceed to leak the data and the companies will be in dire straits. On the one hand, the applicable fines that come with a breach, as well as the possible compensation claimed by the victims, could be substantial. On the other hand, the reputational damage to the business itself, especially if it comes into light that the company was attempting a cover up (as was recently the case with Uber) could be sever. So companies will most likely pay the ransom — in any case, the sum will probably be smaller than the potential fine itself, which can amount to millions of euros and may be more than the company can afford. But the fact that there is no guarantee that the data will be returned, or that you will not be blackmailed in the future, may still dissuade companies from caving in.

The right to be forgotten and the obligation to notify

The new regulation gives European citizens the “right to be forgotten”. This means that, at any time, a consumer may request that their information be delete from a company or other institution’s database. Failure to meet this consumer request could result in some very severe consequences. For example, a cyber blackmailer could seek payment from a company if he or she manages to access a database containing data that should have been erased.

Although the obligation to notify on a security incident in less than 72 hours begins when the company becomes aware of it (and not necessarily at the moment it actually occurs), the notification could be like a time bomb for the company. If it has to do with leaked personal data, organizations will have to choose between paying the ransom or the fine… and, given the urgency of the decision, they could end up facing both.

Preparation as a defense strategy

As we pointed out in our cybersecurity trends report, 2018 will be the year of attacks on companies. And one of the reasons for this will be the GDPR. This not only means that we are going to see a greater number of attacks, but many companies that, in a pre-GDPR time, would cover their security breaches, will now be obligated by law to make them public.

The best response to this situation is to be adequately prepared and protected. To that end, we have prepared “Preparation Guide to the New European General Data Protection Regulation” to facilitate the transition and help you to understand both opportunities and threats that the law will bring to light. Companies that rely on Adaptive Defense have an advantage, since they will have all the necessary prevention tools to protect the company — not least of all being the new Data Control module.

The GDPR will mark a before and after in data protection policy. As of May 2018, defending the data of your company’s customers will go from being an ethical duty to a legal obligation.

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Alteryx: a new massive data leak

The Data of More Than 120 Million American Households Left Exposed Online

Researchers based in California reported that the information of 123 million US households had been found exposed on the internet. Every single person with an Amazon Web Services (AWS) account and the correct URL has been able to access the leak. The exposed data contained general information about almost every American household in the US.

The leak is known to have included addresses, phone numbers, family interests, household income, the number of children who live in the property, and the amount of money owed on mortgages. The data was unintentionally left up-for-grabs for anyone interested, by marketing analytics company called Alteryx. On their website, Alteryx say that the data “includes consumer demographics, life event, direct response, property, and mortgage information for more than 235 million consumers and 113 million households.” After the leak was discovered the marketing analytics company took action, and the information is no longer available for public view. The data has been collected and sold to Alteryx by Experian.

Social security numbers, full names, DOBs, and credit card details are not known to have been exposed. However, experts say that hackers would have been able to quickly cross-reference the information with previous leaks such as the massive Equifax leak earlier this year. Having access to such information could have been the missing part of the puzzle for hackers wanting to break through their victim’s security questions or build profiles about their potential victim.

While the information has already been shared with the world, it is your responsibility to make sure that no one takes advantage of it. Keep in mind that when setting up new online accounts you have to make sure that the answers that you add to the security questions parts of the accounts setup are not easily guessable. Never choose the ‘city where you were born’; ‘your favorite sports team’; or ‘your favorite color.’ With the information from leaks like this one and the vast amounts of digital prints people leave nowadays, such answers could easily be guessed by cybercriminals. Sadly, leaks are happening all the time so do not forget to install antivirus software and change your passwords at least once every three months. Having an additional security layer is crucial for your family wellbeing.

You have to remain vigilant and keep an eye on your credit report and regularly check your banking statements for suspicious activity. If you see something that doesn’t feel right, report it immediately.

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Are The Christmas Elves Going to Lose Their Jobs Soon?

The predictions are that in a few years the e-sales in the US alone may top the mesmerizing $600 billion mark. The economy is growing, people have longer and healthier lives, and online shopping has become as easy as Sunday morning. The odds are that demand is not going to slow down and the number will continue to grow in the years to come.

Etailers such as Amazon are starting to use the help of robots in order to cope with the demand and keep the prices reasonable. It may sound like science-fiction, but sometimes, when you finally hit the buy button on Amazon, you make a hardworking robot buzz around a warehouse that is sometimes located hundreds, and in some cases, thousands of miles away from you. While there is nothing wrong with online shopping the odds are that Santa’s little helpers may soon have to start considering a career change. While this may cause a few waves of economic turbulence, this is not necessarily a bad thing.

As we recently discussed, robots could sometimes be evil, but this is not the case with the ones that prepare your online orders. In fact, they could sometimes be considered as a better solution when compared to human co-workers – warehouse robots are proving to be significantly cheaper and deliver better ROI. Lower handling costs have a direct impact on the prices that you pay for the goods that you purchase online. It is true that automation could be considered as the most significant nemesis of low skilled workers, but historically things have proven always to turn out well. For example, back in the 1700s in the US, about 90% of the people were employed in the agriculture sector. This number is now around 1.5%. Technology advancements are here to make people’s lives easier.

Where do robots fall short?

While humans are not perfect, neither are the machines. Automation and AI will be playing a significant part of the future of humanity. While engineers are striving to make machines as autonomous as possible, the type of robots used in modern day warehouses are not ready to fully take over the shipping and handling jobs. Apart from the fact that they will always require maintenance, robots are not yet good handlers. Nothing can compare to a real human finalizing an order. So even though that the engineers will eventually find a reasonably priced solution for this problem, robots are not yet ready to entirely replace the humans.

Who else will be affected?

Researchers say that advanced countries will be the ones that will be most impacted by the advances in the automation and AI fields. People employed in the logistics and transportation industry will take the biggest hit. Low-skilled food workers may also want to reconsider their careers as things are not looking bright there either. While this is terrible news for people in these industries, it is good news for everyone else as automation will most likely decrease the expenses of the average people. But hey, technology helps people – mining cryptocurrency sounds much more appealing than mining coal – welcome to the 21st century.

Emerging technologies are here to stay, and we are pretty sure that Santa will find a way for the Christmas elves to remain as part of the process. Perhaps automation will allow them to be home with their families instead – it must be exhausting to work every Christmas tirelessly!

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