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Midyear Security Report: Exploit Kits and Ransomware Get Creative

The modern online adversary is out to make money, not simply hack networks for the fun of it. In the Cisco 2015 Midyear Security Report, there’s yet more evidence that criminals are using tools with ever-increasing sophistication to steal valuable personal or financial data and sell it, coerce users into paying ransoms for their own data, and generally reap financial rewards for their exploits.

The Angler exploit kit continues to lead the market in terms of sophistication and effectiveness. As explained in the Cisco 2015 Midyear Security Report, Angler packs a significant punch because it uses Flash, Java, Internet Explorer, and Silverlight vulnerabilities to achieve its objectives. Angler is very effective, in part due to its ability to compromise users by using multiple vectors: Cisco found that 40 percent of users who encounter an Angler exploit kit on the web are compromised, compared to just 20 percent of users who encounter other widely used exploit kits.

Angler successfully fools users and evades detection with several innovative techniques. For example, as we discuss in the report, our researchers believe Angler’s authors use data science to create computer-generated landing pages that look normal enough to pass muster from heuristic scanners. In addition, Angler has recently started using “domain shadowing” to dodge detection—the exploit kit authors compromise a domain name registrant’s account, and then register thousands of subdomains under the legitimate domain of the compromised user. While domain shadowing isn’t new, we’ve monitored growing use of this technique since last 2014: according to our researchers, more than 75 percent of known subdomain activity by exploit kit authors since that time can be attributed to Angler. Read More »

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Announcing the 2015 Midyear Security Report

Our 2015 Midyear Security Report (MSR) is out this week, and it’s been a bumpy year when you consider the innovative, resilient, and evasive nature of the global cyber attacks we’ve seen in recent months. Our team continues to see adversaries who rapidly refine their ability to develop and deploy malware that evades detection. It is sobering to note that our MSR confirms that the security industry is just not keeping pace with the attackers.

The MSR is our follow-up to the Cisco Annual Security Report (ASR), which we publish in January. The 2015 MSR updates you on what we’ve seen in the first half of 2015, with analysis and insights about the latest attack trends and advice on what to do about them.

Some of the top troubling trends in this year’s six-month update include: Read More »

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The Best Defense is a Good Offense? Why Cisco Security Researchers Attack Cisco Technologies

This week, Cisco provided comments on the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) proposed cybersecurity regulations. These comments reflect the realities of how Cisco looks to protect both our customers and our products. They also emphasize the critical role that security researches, access to tools, and qualified talent have in cybersecurity.

Cisco has hundreds of dedicated security engineers and researchers throughout the company and around the globe, who use the latest and greatest tools and techniques to test our technology. We proactively attempt to break into our own products, our own services, and our own networks, in order to close identified weaknesses and vulnerabilities as soon as possible and to develop better protections against attack. Many of these same people are responsible for investigating reported vulnerabilities or compromises of our products and running these reports to ground with absolute certainty. In doing this, we have resolved countless bugs and vulnerabilities and continue to improve the security of our products with what we learn. Along the way we have discovered many interesting and creative adversaries and certainly learned that there are some very resourceful people out there.  Read More »

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Cisco extends market leadership for Unified Access with revolutionary ASIC

Cisco innovates in the industry’s largest product line

Cisco Unified Access is about converging wired and wireless networks to improve scale and quickly launch new services with new levels of security and compliance.

When Cisco launched the Catalyst 3850 and WLC 5760 Controller in January 2013, it stood alone in the market for truly converging Wired and Wireless networks. Over the course of the last 2.5 years, Cisco has progressively extended its lead with more platforms and features based on the revolutionary ASIC which makes this rich convergence possible. And just this month, Cisco delivered Multi-gigabit Ethernet (or mGig), which enables the move to higher Wireless speeds based on the IEEE 802.11ac Wave 2 standard. Let’s start by clearly articulating why the home-grown ASIC is so fundamental to successfully integrating Wired and Wireless networks in a seamless way.

The foundational ASIC which Cisco developed is called Unified Access Dataplane (UADP). It cost well over $150M, and took several years to develop and refine. It delivers Hardware performance with Software flexibility and comes with many unique innovations. The defining characteristic of this ASIC is the true full-featured convergence of Wired and Wireless traffic together with its flexible forwarding engine.

Read More »

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Digital Payments Lack the Framework for Success…And That Needs To Change

Co-authored with Mark Kovarski

In an era of constant technological evolution, our utilization of different technologies, including mobile devices, has had massive impact on the financial services industry. As a result, the industry is facing major disruption as new technology translates into new ways of exchanging value (money). In fact, digital payment concepts are constantly developing, with technology advances changing the payment universe as we know it. Disruptive innovations, such as Apple Pay, continue to gain scaled acceptance globally. Contactless payment solutions could take us a step further towards getting rid of the security and convenience shortfalls of traditional credit and debit cards, but it’s important that a capable, secure network is put in place before digital payments can truly flourish.

The Changing Payments Landscape

The first official currency was introduced in Turkey in 600vBC and, around 1661 AD, coins evolved into bank notes. In 1946, the first credit card was introduced and since the start of this century technology advances have disrupted the world of money more than once. In 1999, European banks started offering mobile banking while in 2008, contactless payment cards were issued in the UK for the first time. Now, driven by mobile and Internet technologies, we are in the early stages of fundamentally changing how we perceive the concept of money. Financial control is no longer only in the hands of the financial industry. Today, entrepreneurial minds are connecting us to our (and others) money in new and innovative ways.

Smartphones and tablets have recently become common devices with 79.4 million U.S. consumers who shop online. According to (source) 51% of U.S. digital buyers are expected to make purchases using a mobile device. New services like Apple Pay and mobile payments (M-payments) are becoming increasingly common in financial services. The questions we must begin to consider are, who will be the key providers in the financial services market in the future and what sort of payment ecosystem will emerge? Read More »

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