The week in security: Malware-with-a-cause getting sneakier

Discussion over Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Protocol security hole continued, with some asking questions about its implications. Others were focused on a new breed of sneaky malware that installs itself in RAM and doesn’t create any files at all – making it hard to detect using traditional scanners.

Still others were exploring the implications of a new version of Duqu that actively tries to avoid detection by security tools, and a hack threat against pro-Tibetan activists that is being used to lure them as targets for a new attack; with figures suggesting hacktivism was the leading cause for data breaches last year

this attack vector can hardly be surprising.

Such nasties become even harder to detect without good scanning technology, which by one measure would have ruled out McAfee’s Android antivirus scanner – except for the fact that German antivirus testing outfit AV-Test has updated its rankings and “returned” McAfee to the ranks of respectable antivirus operators.

Interestingly, despite the increasing sneakiness of malware, the cost of actual data breaches has apparently fallen for the first time in seven years, according to figures from Symantec and Ponemon Institute. Some, however, question whether it’s a genuine fall or an anomaly because customers have become desensitised to data breaches; another perspective suggests the overall reporting may be down because most Web site operators don’t know how their site got hacked in the first place.

Data privacy remained as topical as ever, with regulators in the US and European Union expected to take different approaches even as a Norwegian government portal was shut down after personal data was compromised.

Little wonder that European privacy regulators were grilling Google for information about its new privacy policy, rebuffing US efforts to increase transfer of data on airline passengers, and warning that EU states need to work together on cybersecurity – a thinly veiled reference to the EU’s exhortation for Germany to get in line on data retention or face the consequences. Many of the threats, however, come from within: mid-sized European businesses are unprepared for data security risks, according to a new study.

Closer to home, IT administrators wanting to boost their security may find value in tighter controls through mobile device management [while others will take comfort in the fact that Firefox now secures Google searches by default. Google did its part, too, by boosting the security of hosted developer services. And, in contrast to opposition to a similar code in Australia, a group of US ISPs has committed to implementing a number of new cybersecurity measures that would require them to notify customers of botnet infections.

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