Connect with us

Cyber Security

Surge in Malicious QR Codes Sparks FBI Alert



QR codes have become a go-to staple for contactless transactions of all sorts during the pandemic, and the FBI is warning cybercriminals are capitalizing on their lax security to steal data and money, and drop malware.

Menus, event ticket sales, quick site access — QR codes have become a common way to interact as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. But the smart little matrix bar codes are easily tampered with and can be used to direct victims to malicious sites, the FBI warned in an alert.

QR codes are the square, scannable codes familiar from applications like touchless menus at restaurants, and have gained in popularity over the pandemic as contactless interactions have become the norm. Simply navigating a smartphone camera over the image allows the device’s QR translator – built into most mobile phones – to “read” the code and open a corresponding website.

“A victim scans what they think to be a legitimate code, but the tampered code directs victims to a malicious site, which prompts them to enter login and financial information,” the FBI alert explained. “Access to this victim information gives the cybercriminal the ability to potentially steal funds through victim accounts.”

The FBI said it has also observed threat actors using malicious QR codes to download malware giving them access to a victim’s device, where they then accessed financial data to steal money. Cybercriminals are also swapping out genuine QR codes for their own, intercepting payments, collecting cash and data, the FBI added.

QR Code Abuse Increases

Last April, Ivanti conducted a survey which found 57 percent of consumers in an international sample increased QR code usage following the March 2020 pandemic onset. Worryingly, 87 percent of respondents told Ivanti they felt secure carrying out financial transactions following QR codes. The evidence suggests that user security confidence in QR codes is misplaced.

Last summer the Better Business Bureau issued an alert that scammers were increasingly abusing QR codes in innovative ways; one elaborate scheme started with a malicious QR code and ended with sending victims to gas stations to use Bitcoin ATMs..

Purandar Das, co-founder and CEO at Sotero, said a rise in QR abuse was almost inevitable.

“Every technological advance that is a legitimate opportunity to simplify user interaction is coopted by the criminals,” Das explained. “QR codes have become increasingly popular as a way to direct consumers to business website and applications. They have been become ubiquitous in the restaurant industry due to the pandemic and the desire to not have to pass around paper menus. There are just so many opportunities to trick consumers into providing information. The cat-and-mouse game continues.”

FBI QR Code Tips

The FBI offers several tips to avoid the next QR code scam:

  • Double-check the URL of any site pulled up with a QR code to make sure it’s legitimate: “A malicious domain name may be similar to the intended URL but with typos or a misplaced letter,” the FBI added.
  • Before engaging with a QR code, check to make sure the code itself hasn’t been tampered with. The FBI suggests looking for evidence a sticker has been slapped over the original code.
  • The alert also cautions users against downloading an app from a QR code rather than the application store, which has more security protections.
  • Do not download a QR code scanner app: The FBI said, “this increases your risk of downloading malware onto your device. Most phones have a built-in scanner through the camera app.”
  • Don’t make payments to a site accessed by a QR code, if possible.
  • And, if you receive a QR code that you believe to be from someone you know, reach out to the person through a known number or address to verify that the code is truly from them.

Check out our free upcoming live and on-demand online town halls – unique, dynamic discussions with cybersecurity experts and the Threatpost community.

Source link

Cyber Security

Apple finally adds encryption to iCloud backups



Apple today introduced several new security features focused on fending off threats to user data in the cloud, including end-to-end encryption for backups for iCloud users.

Along with end-to-end encryption for iCloud, Apple’s cloud storage and computing platform, the company announced iMessage Contact Key Verification, allowing users to verify they are communicating only with whom they intend.

apple advanced security advanced data protection inline.jpg.large Apple

Apple also announced hardware Security Keys for Apple ID, giving users the choice to require two-factor authentication to sign into their Apple ID account. (Hardware security keys use devices, such as USB thumb drives or near-field communication (NFC) dongles, to enable access to a service or application.)

Calling it Advanced Data Protection, Apple said it’s expanding iCloud encryption capabilities from 14 “sensitive data categories” protected by end-to-end encryption in 23 new categories; included in those categories of protected data will be backups, Contacts, Notes, Photos, Voice Memos and Wallet Passes. Previously, iCloud end-to-end encryption capabilities applied only to more sensitive data, such as passwords in iCloud Keychain and personal health data.

The only data categories still not covered by Advanced Data Protection is iCloud Mail, Contacts, and Calendar because they’re needed “to interoperate with the global email, contacts, and calendar systems,” Apple said in a statement.

Advanced Data Protection for iCloud is available in the US today for members of the Apple Beta Software Program and will be available to all US users by the end of the year. The feature will start rolling out to the rest of the world in early 2023, Apple said.

iMessage Contact Key Verification will be available globally in 2023, with Security Keys for Apple ID available globally in early 2023.

apple advanced security security keys inline.jpg.large Apple

Through Security Keys, users can choose third-party hardware security keys create a two-factor authentication scheme.

The feature is designed for users who, often due to their public profile, face concerted threats to their online accounts, including celebrities, journalists, and members of government, Apple said.

“With iMessage Contact Key Verification, Security Keys, and Advanced Data Protection for iCloud, users will have three powerful new tools to further protect their most sensitive data and communications,” Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering, said.

Apple said the enhanced data security features for iCloud are needed “more than ever” because the number of data breaches more than tripled between 2013 and 2021, “exposing 1.1 billion personal records across the globe in 2021 alone.

“Increasingly, companies across the technology industry are addressing this growing threat by implementing end-to-end encryption in their offerings,” Apple said.

Apple, however, has been a slow follower in encryption. For example, more than a year ago, Facebook’s WhatsApp added full encryption for messenger and data backups.

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

Source link

Continue Reading

Cyber Security

US Congress rolls back proposal to restrict use of Chinese chips



The US Congress is rolling back proposed legislation that would place restrictions on the use of Chinese-made chips by the government and its contractors, after  companies argued that the measures would raise costs.

While the draft legislation still provides for restrictions to be enacted, contractors now have five years to comply with them, rather than the two years stipulated in an earlier version of the proposal, and the language of the new draft leaves room for waivers to the restrictions under certain circumstances.

In September, Senator Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York, and Senator John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, announced a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal 2023 that would restrict federal agencies and contractors from using semiconductors and chips from China’s Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC), Yangtze Memory Technologies Corp (YMTC), and ChangXin Memory 703 Technologies (CXMT).

The provision was modelled on the 2019 NDAA, which prohibited the US government and its contractors from using telecommunications or video surveillance equipment from China’s Huawei, ZTE, Dahua, Hytera or Hikvision.

The provision on Chinese semiconductor makers, however, was not included in the House of Representatives version of 2023 NDAA. In an explanatory statement issued on Tuesday, the US Senate Armed Services Committee noted that the Senate and House have now negotiated an agreement wherein NDAA restrictions on imports from the Chinese chip makers will not be enforced until 2028. After that time, waivers on those restrictions may still be issued by the US Secretary of Defense, the National Security Director and other top government officials if they deem that waivers are needed for national security interests.

“For the purposes of waivers that may be issued,” according to the statement, “critical national security interests of the United States may include protecting the Nation’s economic security and its technological competitiveness relative to strategic competitors.”

Compliance with restrictions on Chinese chip imports have been pushed back to five years.

US trade groups protest Chinese chip import restrictions

In November, a coalition of defense, tech and business trade groups had written a letter the Senate Armed Services Committee, arguing that the original Senate restrictions on Chinese chip imports were vague and would ultimately impose “tremendous compliance burdens” on government contractors without any proven benefits to US national security.

Meanwhile, however, the NDAA is not a done deal. The latest version, agreed on by the House and Senate negotiators, still needs to be voted on by all Congressional representatives, after which it goes to President Joe Biden for approval. The congressional vote is expect this week.

The issue of chip manufacturing has been a focal point for the US government in recent months, as geopolitical tensions with China have risen at a time when the US is only producing 12% of the world’s supply of chips, down from more than 30% 20 years ago.

In August, President Joe Biden signed into law the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, providing $52.7 billion for manufacturing incentives in an attempt to increase the percentage of microprocessors produced in the US by closing the cost differential with other countries such as Taiwan, South Korea, and China. In those nations, the governments are already subsidizing semiconductor manufacturers.

Chip manufacturers can begin seeking to use tax breaks and funds to offset construction and other costs beginning next year.

Speaking in October, Gaurav Gupta, Gartner’s vice president for Emerging Technologies and Trends, said that although the money, tax breaks, and other incentives in the CHIPS Act is pocket change for leading manufacturers, the incentives do demonstrate that the US government is serious about supporting the industry.

However, Gupta warned that more is needed, saying “this has to be a more consistent policy from the US government through the next decade and beyond if they’re really serious about bringing back more chip manufacturing here in the US.”

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

Source link

Continue Reading

Cyber Security

Athletic shoe maker Brooks runs down cyberattacks with zero-trust segmentation



Ransomware was again the top attack type in 2021, with manufacturing replacing financial services as the top industry in a

jon hocut director of information security for brooks Brooks

Jon Hocut, director of information security for Brooks

ssailants’ crosshairs—representing 23.2% of the global attacks remediated last year by IBM Security’s X-Force, according to the company’s Threat Intelligence Index 2022 report.

With news like this, it is not surprising that “ransomware is the threat that keeps me up the most at night,” says Jon Hocut, director of information security for Brooks, the renowned running shoe manufacturer. It doesn’t help that Brooks’ IT infrastructure “grew over time for quite a while before security became a primary issue,” he says. Therefore, the company sought a cyber security solution to address cyberattacks fast, without first requiring a complete network rebuild.

pj kirner illumio cto and cofounder Illumio

PJ Kirner, CTO and co-founder of Illumio

Brooks believes it has found this solution in Illumio Core, a zero-trust segmentation (ZTS) platform from Illumio that can be implemented in stages across a corporate network, protecting the most vulnerable areas first — like installing locks on a bank vault and safety deposit box room while leaving the customer records’ room for another time.

“Illumio’s mission at the highest level is to prevent breaches from becoming cyber disasters,” says PJ Kirner, Illumio’s CTO and co-founder. “Our zero-trust segmentation platform helps people limit the impact of those that do occur, while providing visibility and control of the entire network.”

Illumio Core: a pragmatic approach to zero trust

The “trust no one” logic of zero trust requires users to authenticate their identities whenever they request access to data or applications across the network. But “zero-trust segmentation goes further than just isolating different parts of the network,” says David Holmes, senior analyst at Forrester Research. “Zero-trust segmentation solutions isolate each participating computer, only allowing the specific connections and access explicitly declared first. This is why companies like Brooks are doing the right thing by investing both capital and technical resources into zero-trust segmentation, as it solves not just ransomware but generally any other network-oriented breach.”

Illumio’s pragmatic approach to zero-trust segmentation applies it to the most vulnerable areas first—the ones hackers are most likely to attack—and worries about the rest later. It’s an approach that works, according to a study conducted for Illumio by the offensive security firm Bishop Fox, who staged cyberattacks against an Illumio Core-protected network. Based on the results of those unsuccessful attacks, “zero-trust segmentation can be applied to effectively isolate compromised hosts during an active attack,” the Bishop Fox report concludes. “ZTS can (also) be used proactively to ring-fence entire environments and applications, drastically reducing the pathways available for exploitation through lateral movement.”

How Brooks is applying ZTS

In line with “doing what matters most first,” Brooks has applied Illumio Core to block unauthorized access to hundreds of its Windows servers and cloud resources. Most staff are not supposed to access them as part of their jobs, so proactively blocking requests for access until they can be reviewed by IT security staff is a simple, yet effective, cybersecurity solution.

“We’ve separated our users from our servers and our resources, with the goal of only allowing the minimal amount of traffic that’s necessary back and forth,” Hocut says. “Now these servers may need to talk to each other in a lot of ways on a lot of different ports. But the users from their laptops don’t need to talk across those ports, and so we stop them from doing so without explicit permission.”

It is these laptops, operated by non-IT employees with network access, that are most likely to be the targets of hackers through phishing and other such attacks. So, when it comes to making Brooks’ IT infrastructure more secure using ZTS, “the first thing to do is take those laptops that are most likely to be compromised and segment them off from everything,” says Hocut. “So that isn’t zero trust across the enterprise, there’s just less trust. You’re still saying, ‘well, we’ll trust the servers to talk to each other.’ But we will keep the most likely compromised machines away from the most valuable machines and control that traffic as much as possible.”

The Illumio Core platform documents all access requests, allowing the Brooks IT team to analyze this historical record to detect possible breach attempts, access request trends, and other potential signs of past hacker attacks. All of this data is being used to tweak the company’s cybersecurity policies and procedures and shape its approach to ZTS management and expansion throughout the network going forward.

Implementing ZTS has been relatively painless

It took only four months during the second half of 2022 for Brooks to implement Illumio Core ZTS on its network. “Today, we’re just monitoring alerts and following up on them,” says Ryan Fried, Brooks’ senior security engineer. “It’s easy to just let the alerts go by and block traffic for something like RDP, but we do our best to reach out to the user, understand why they were doing it, and then talk to them about the alternative processes that are in place.”

A case in point: In the past, a Brooks employee “might make SQL connections from their laptop to a database, which is terrifying to me,” Fried says. Now, after such an access attempt has been detected and blocked by Illumio Core, “we direct them to a safe server for us, and then we initiate the RDP or SQL connection from there.”

Ironically, the biggest challenge in implementing Illumio Core at Brooks wasn’t digital but analog. Hocut and his security team had to calm the fears of Brooks’ business executives who were uneasy about their network access being moved to ZTS before they could take action.

“Tell someone on the enterprise resource team that you’re going to mess with the firewalls around the ERP system,” says Hocut. “They’re not going to take you out for beers. They’re going to be concerned about how this is going to affect operations.” Even his boss, Brooks’ VP of Information Technology, wanted to know how the move to ZTS could be done without causing downtime, and maintained without causing issues. “I had to build trust with everyone by explaining that Ryan would set up a proposed ZTS rule set and run it non-operationally for a while to make sure it worked, before taking Illumio Core live,” he says.

Testing before deployment is essential

Doing such testing before deploying any ZTS system is a must, says Holmes. “Zero-trust segmentation is very effective but requires work up front to define the correct segmentation policy,” he explains. “Incorrect policy results in local network outages and manual tuning, adding a layer of complexity to the management of the network. Modern ZTS solutions work hard to divine the correct policy for you, but even the models that use AI aren’t 100% accurate and tuning is required.” Having done this work, Brooks’ ZTS system is working as promised, providing the company with proactive protection from ransomware and other cyber threats.

Looking ahead, Hocut plans to extend Illumio Core into other parts of Brooks’ IT infrastructure. “We’re looking to tighten the granularity of our network controls with different groups of servers so that we’re not treating all servers the same,” he says. “We’re going to be watching outbound traffic from the servers as well. Servers have very specific functions and should only be talking to the outside world in very specific ways. And we can use Illumio to learn what all those current ways are, making the assumption that those are probably all good — and block absolutely everything else.”

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

Source link

Continue Reading