Experts worried as NSA hack spreads innovative hacking tools, exploits

Even as the Australian Bureau of Statistics hit the airwaves after its Census disaster with a campaign to encourage Australians to submit their details online, there were suggestions the general public had lost confidence in the government's ability to execute.

HEI Hotels admitted to a possible breach of payment-card information at its point-of-sale terminals, while retailer Eddie Bauer was also breached, and UK-based Cloud-accounting vendor, Sage, warned its customers that a data breach may have exposed salary and banking information from hundreds of customers.

Coincidentally, UK police arrested a Sage employee for fraud while she was at Heathrow airport – once again highlighting the dangers of insider threats.

Such breaches are becoming more common but insurers have taken their time bringing appropriate cybersecurity insurance policies to the Australian market.

Throwing its hat into the ring was Berkshire Hathaway Speciality Insurance Company, which launched a cybersecurity policy that also features direct access to Symantec's threat-response team – a sign, the company said, of the need for an integrated and multifaceted response.

Also sure to attract a multifaceted response was the reported hack of the NSA, whose specialised hacking tools were allegedly stolen and put on auction by the thief.

This can't possibly go over well at the NSA where, as suggested by notorious leaker Edward Snowden, operatives can get lazy in dealing with the servers they've hacked.

But they've done well creating their hacking tools, with experts getting nervous and those who have seen the alleged tools claiming they are extremely sophisticated.

Corroboration between earlier files released by Edward Snowden and the newly leaked files lent authenticity to the claimed origins of the NSA dump. For their part, vendors were rushing to update their tools to block exploits revealed during the NSA dump.

Questions were raised about the security of smart Internet-controllable electrical plugs, while an audit of mobile spamming found that most spam comes from network-neutral virtual mobile operators. And scammers were found to have planted a false Android security patch app that was actually infecting target smartphones.

Also proving effective was malware – including high-end banking malware attacks on Brazilian financial institutions; new tactics for spreading Locky ransomware using macro-enabled Microsoft Word documents; and and Cerber ransomware, which has earned its creators an estimated $US2.3 million ($3.1 million) on the back of a novel approach that lures unskilled hackers into a profit-sharing structure.

In an interesting potential legal precedent, a US appeals court ruled that the maker of spyware program WebWatcher can be sued for violating federal and state wiretap laws. This, in a world where many companies are still struggling to see what's going on on their own networks.

Yet technical issues are only one problem for CISOs who, guidance suggests, need to first hone their skills as managers and communicators if they want to succeed in their jobs. Meanwhile, US government security specialists will soon provide classified supply-chain threat reports to critical US infrastructure and financial companies.

Microsoft was targeting Android and iOS authentication with a new authentication app, while others were looking to tighten security in mixed cloud and on-premises environments by strategically tapping into the capabilities of highly virtualised micro-segmentation techniques.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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