Archives For October 2014

NCSAM Week 4 Recap

John Knights —  October 24, 2014

Last week’s Twitter chat (#ChatSTC) was on “Cybersecurity for Small and Medium-Sized Business and Entrepreneurs.” During an hour-long chat on Twitter last Thursday, organizations and individuals join together to discuss the top concerns and shared tips on addressing them.

What was apparent is that many of the same threats and challenges that large corporations face each day are applicable to small and medium businesses. Actually, these are issues that all organizations face, even in higher ed. If you’re interested in learning more about what was discussed, stop by the StaySafeOnline.org Blog (link below) and read some of the highlights from yesterday’s discussion.

Students, as you go on your coops or prepare to graduate and begin your careers, it doesn’t matter what field or discipline your in. Cybersecurity affects all organizations and as part of the NCSAM campaign, we’d like to remind everyone that cybersecurity is “Our Shared Responsibility.”

Join next week’s Twitter chat on “Preventing and Recovering from Cybercrime.”

Link to StaySafeOnline.org Blog – “Cybersecurity and the Risk to the Small Business Owner

Link to National Cyber Security Awareness Month information page.

 

Internet of Things jpeg

By Wilgengebroed on Flickr [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Last week, as part of NCSAM, there was a Twitter Chat on the widely-used term and concept of the “Internet of Things.”

So what does the “internet of things” really mean? There are a lot of different perspectives one could answer this questions from. The term or concept came up, it seems at least, as a way to label the proliferation of devices that were being developed and introduced into the market that connect, in one way or another, to the internet. More succinctly, it can be used to refer to all our interconnected devices. These devices range from refrigerators that can see when you are low on milk and send you an email, to lightbulbs that are connected to your smartphone through an app to help you conserve energy.

So why would this be something to talk about as part of a cybersecurity awareness discussion? Simply to increase awareness. As covered in the chat, “[a]ccording to Cisco, there will be 50 billion Internet-connected devices by 2020.” If this prediction comes true, that would be 3 times the devices today. The more devices that connect to the Internet, the more devices that need to be kept up-to-date and protected against the threats we face on the web.

Here are a few things to consider to better secure all your “Internet of Things” devices:

  1. Understand what your device is capturing and what it shares. Many devices collect information and then upload it to a service that your associated app then connects with. Read and make sure you are looking out for what information is captured, what if any is shared with a third party, and how securely is the information transferred/stored between the device(s) and the service provider.
  2. Keep your device software up to date. Like all your “smart” devices, make sure that the application it runs on is kept up to date with patches, fixes, updates, and upgrades from the manufacturer or trusted application provider. The more devices out there, the more vulnerabilities that will eventually be found, so keep them current.
  3. Use separate networks at home. If you have multiple devices at home that are interconnected through your wireless router or access points, consider running a separate, dedicated network for those devices. This way, a compromised lightbulb or treadmill will not propagate malware or otherwise compromise devices on your other network where you would connect your laptop, smartphone, or tablet. Reasoning is that the devices you may store sensitive data on, smartphone or laptop. These “smart” devices are made with the main focuses being interconnectivity and ease of use, which means there may be some security tradeoffs.

Feel free to comment with any of your suggestions.

#ClickSmart Twitter Chat

John Knights —  October 15, 2014

As part of National Cyber Security Awareness Month, there are Twitter chats taking place throughout the month of October on various topics. The topic of yesterday’s chat, was on the #ClickSmart awareness effort spearheaded by Intel.

#ClickSmart aims to promote best practices when faced with links, whether in an email, on a blog, or sent to you via text messaging. Understanding what these best practices are crucial to avoiding attacks against your system and will help you to protect your data. A great resource available from Intel is their  “Should I click this link?” flowchart. While you’re there, take the #ClickSmart Challenge and tweet your score.

For a transcript of yesterday’s chat, check out this blog on staysafeonline.org. To learn more about this month’s NCSAM Twitter Chat series, visit http://stopthinkconnect.org/get-involved/twitter-chats/. To join the next chat, use #ChatSTC on Twitter.

Recently, there’s been some news coverage regarding a vulnerability found on USB devices. The vulnerability involves the small computer chip on USB devices that allows the attached device, usually a computer, to detect the type of USB device that was attached and then connect it for use. This is done rather quietly and in the background on your computer. The small embedded computer ship onboard these USB devices has an operating system (a small version that has a set of information and instructions to facilitate the detection and connection) that is referred to as its firmware. The vulnerability involves this firmware, more specifically that this firmware can be changed or updated on some USB devices.

What does this mean for you? Well, this means that the firmware on USB devices can be altered with potentially malicious software that can harm your computer or expose sensitive information. This malware, using the fact that USB devices are allowed to automatically run the onboard firmware on your computer, can infect a vulnerable machine without needing any additional interaction from the user (plug-in and auto-execute malware).

There is a silver lining to this vulnerability. It takes a vulnerable machine to be infected by a compromised USB device. So make sure you keep up with operating system and application patches and updates for all your devices. (See yesterday’s blog for more on the importance of keeping your machine up-to-date with patches.)

In addition, we would like to share some good advice from Symantec and McAfee (security software providers) as covered in an article posted on Mashable.com on how you can avoid being a victim of a BadUSB attack.

  1. Only use USB devices from reputable retailers. Make sure you are purchasing new, sealed devices.
  2. Avoid using “pre-owned” or used USB devices.
  3. Do not leave USB devices, and computers, unlocked and unattended in public places. It is always a good practice, regardless of whether a usb storage is vulnerable to this attack or not, to  keep external storage in a secure location.

Learn more about BadUSB at the linked articles below.

“BadUSB” – what if you could never trust a USB device again?: https://nakedsecurity.sophos.com/2014/08/02/badusb-what-if-you-could-never-trust-a-usb-device-again/

BadUSB – now with Do-It-Yourself instructions: https://nakedsecurity.sophos.com/2014/10/06/badusb-now-with-do-it-yourself-instructions/

How You Can Avoid a BadUSB Attack: http://mashable.com/2014/10/03/how-can-you-avoid-badusb/

It is week two of National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM). This week’s topic is “Secure Development of IT Products.”

So, what is involved in the secure development of IT products? Security is not something to be considered after a product has been engineered or software has been written. In fact, adding security after development can be costly. Despite all efforts to educate developers and product engineers, security is still not considered during the development phase. There have been studies conducted to determine the benefits of incorporating security in the development over bolting on security after development.  (See below for reference article.)

Screen Shot - BrowserCheck Results

Truth is, sometimes even with the best efforts to incorporate security in the development of hardware and software, there are occasional flaws found and exploited. Therefore, it is our advise that you make sure to keep software up-to-date with the latest patches, fixes, and versions, whenever possible. To make sure you are surfing safely, utilize tools to quickly analyze your computing device to make sure you’re running the latest browser and plug-ins. One such tool is BrowserCheck from Qualys. (Image to the right shows results from a quick scan.) This tool checks for most common plug-ins, office suites, OS versions, and browser versions to ensure you are running the latest software. Give it a try  – it’s free – at: https://browsercheck.qualys.com.

 

Note for Java users: Although we would prefer that everyone run the latest version of Java, some software does not work with the newest releases of Java. If you need to use Java-based software, try using a different, dedicated, browser for applications that require Java. This way, you can disable Java on the browser you use for browsing the web and another, dedicated, browser that has Java enabled for use with the application(s). Just make sure that the separate, Java-dedicated browser is only used for the application that requires it to limit your exposure to potentially malicious Java software.

Reference: “Estimating Benefits from Investing in Secure Software Development”, from https://buildsecurityin.us-cert.gov/articles/knowledge/business-case-models/estimating-benefits-from-investing-in-secure-software-development.

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Celebrated every October, National Cyber Security Awareness Month was created as a collaborative effort between government and industry to ensure everyone has the resources needed to stay safer and more secure online. As an official Champion, Wentworth Institute of Technology recognizes its commitment to cybersecurity and online safety.

Throughout the month, we will be sharing cybersecurity tips and best practices that you can use at home and at work. We encourage you to follow us by subscribing to our Information Security Newsletter, on Twitter @InfoSec_WIT, and visiting us on the web at http://www.wit.edu/dts/security.

For Wentworth faculty and staff, we are proud to announce the launch of our Information Security and Compliance Training program. For more information on this new service, visit us on the web at http://www.wit.edu/dts/security/training-awareness/training/index.html, where you can sign in through the link provided with your Wentworth credentials (username and password used for LConnect and email).

For more information on NCSAM, visit http://www.staysafeonline.org/ncsam.

Join us this month and be a Wentworth Cybersecurity Champion!

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