Watering hole attack prevention

Watering hole attack prevention

A watering hole attack is an indirect attack on a victim. Rather than directly attacking the victim’s network, the attacker attacks a web site that the victim’s employees are likely to visit. Then the attacker attacks the victim’s network, via its own workstations, from that web site. A former colleague asked me how you protect against watering hole attacks, and I thought this was a good exercise. So here are some strategies for watering hole attack prevention.

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Common security attacks and countermeasures

As a security professional, I talk to a lot of people about common security attacks and countermeasures. I’m not always certain the people I’m talking to know what these things mean. I am almost certain they aren’t willing to ask.

I know it’s more complicated than it was when I took my Security+ exam a decade ago. The stakes are much higher now. The attacks I had to identify caused inconvenience, but someone conducting a successful smurf attack on your printer won’t get you in the headlines. Today’s attacks will.

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Patch management strategy

Vulnerability management and patch management are close relatives. In most companies, think of them as siblings who hate each other. That’s usually how it plays out. It doesn’t always have to be that way, but it takes some thought and strategy from both sides. Here are some ideas for patch management strategy.

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What can I do to improve the security of my digital information?

On Monday, March 13 at approximately 10:30 AM CST, I will be appearing on KFUO Radio’s Faith and Family program to discuss home computer security with host Andy Bates. One of the questions he’s planning to ask: “What can I do to improve the security of my digital information?”

This, fortunately, may be the easiest question to answer and the easiest step to implement.

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Simple tips to prevent ransomware

Last week at work, I noticed some odd events in an event log, and when I investigated them, I found they were part of a failed ransomware attack. This got me thinking about how to prevent ransomware at home.

Ransomware, if you aren’t familiar, is an attack that encrypts your data and demands a ransom, usually around $300, in bitcoins, and you get a short deadline until it destroys your files. More often than not, paying the ransom is the only way to get the files back, so it’s much better to prevent it.

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Unchecky is another tool to help with staying out of trouble with malware

I found a mention of a tool called Unchecky as a minor point in a story about something else entirely. Unchecky helps to solve the problem with downloaded programs including a bunch of extra junk you don’t want.

I won’t be running it myself. But the next time I fix a computer, I’ll probably install it on that one.

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Flash vs Shockwave

Bad things happen when security pros like me start asking our infrastructure brethren to patch Flash. We get better security, but the Flash upgrade fails enough of the time to cause extra workload, and it can be confusing. One of the problems is the question of Flash vs Shockwave.

Consequently, I see more Flash-related helpdesk tickets than I ever saw, even when I was doing desktop support long ago. Adobe doesn’t make it any easier by calling the plugin “Shockwave Flash.”

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Expect a rough road ahead for Flash

Adobe has patched Flash twice in two weeks now. The reason for this was due to Hacking Team, an Italian company that sells hacking tools to government agencies, getting hacked. Hacking Team, it turns out, knew of at least three unpatched vulnerabilities (also known as “zero-days” or “0days”) in Flash, and exploits for these vulnerabilities were among the things that got breached.

That’s why Adobe is having a bad month.

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The new firewall

Monthly patches and upgrades don’t always go well, but getting them down is increasingly critical, especially for applications like Flash, Reader, and the major web browsers. This week I called it “the new firewall.”

Twenty years ago, home users almost never bothered with firewalls. My first employer didn’t bother with them either. That changed in the late 1990s, when worms exploiting weaknesses in Microsoft software devastated the nascent Internet. Firewalls soon became commonplace, along with some unfortunate hyperbole that led some people to believe firewalls make you invisible and invincible, a myth that persists in some circles even today.

For this reason I’m a bit hesitant to declare anything a new firewall, but firewalls are necessary. So is protecting key software.
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