Social networking sites like Facebook are great tools for connecting with friends and keeping up-to-date with the good and bad things that are going on in your social circles. Unfortunately, the kind and amount of personal information that makes for great social networking can be used by people with bad intentions to cause real, physical harm. Sound far-fetched? After a referee made a controversial call in a baseball game, someone with his same name received threats meant for the ref. Today’s security awareness tip is about profile management: developing habits that help you to stay in control of the information that’s available about you online, to keep you safe in the real world.
For Cyber Security Awareness Month I’d like to address patching; more specifically, verifying patches in your environment. Patching is a big part of any security policy. It’s also very important to verify that the patches and updates deployed have actually been installed. Whether you have one host or thousands, using a tool to scan your environment to verify those patches can save a lot of time and serve as a check on your patch processes.
There are some very good vulnerability scanners out there that can help locate and identify vulnerabilities and missing patches, but many are complex and expensive. I’d like to talk about two free and simple tools you can use to check that systems in your environments have secure configurations and are running up-to-date software.
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Web-based threats have never been higher and are expected to keep growing. Remember the days when viruses were spread via floppy disks, then email, then USB flash drives, and then instant messenger applications? While most of those risks still exist today, they are overshadowed by the enormous risk that casual web browsing has become. Some of the most common threats include technical problems like “cross-site scripting” and “cross-site request forgery” that cause browsers to behave in unexpected ways, often without any indication of a problem. “Phishing” and silent unintended downloads called “drive-by downloads” are also serious threats that can leave an unsuspecting user with malware that steals banking and personal information.
It’s also true that many of us have multiple web browsers installed on our computers. If not, they are easy to install. The most common choices seem to be Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, Chrome, and Opera. We can take advantage of this fact to create a very simple but effective security advantage.
Securing a large complicated network can be a daunting task with so many technologies and devices. You may be asking yourself where to start. What could I do to get the most out of the time I spend securing my network? There are three areas that you can start with that will significantly reduce your attack surface and make your network more secure in the process. It is such a simple list yet overlooked by many: patching, maintain passwords, and disable unnecessary services.
Today’s NCSAM Tip is on recognizing and avoiding the most commonly used social engineering techniques. The root of the problem is simple enough: people are too trusting of content on the Internet. There is a long promoted perception of community, information sharing, free items, help, and friendliness on the Internet that has lulled many into a false sense of safety or security. Unfortunately, the reality is that just about every “con, scam, grift, hustle, bunko, swindle, flim flam, gaffle, sting or bamboozle” known is alive and well on the Internet. When you more closely examine the social engineering techniques that are used by criminals on the Internet, you see they are often the same or variations of con games and scams that go way back, and that many people are familiar with. This too gives people a false sense of security in that many believe they can identify these malicious attempts to exploit them. But, many tests of these beliefs have shown that most fail.
Instead of looking at the complicated technical details or various techniques themselves, it is easier to see the human factors they are attempting to exploit. Cisco SIO did some research of those human factors commonly exploited in 2010, and included the findings in the Cisco 2010 Annual Security Report. What we found was that regardless of the technical details or specific techniques and variations, the attackers commonly attempted to exploit a short list of human weaknesses: