The week in security: New threats drive cloud-security evolution

The week also saw the successful running of the Evolve.Cloud conference, which hit Sydney and Melbourne to bring together thought leaders in cloud security for an engaging program of speakers that addressed the overall idea that cloud providers need to step up when it comes to securing the data they're handling. Forrester Research analyst Michael Barnes highlighted the inevitability of the cloud for the future, while Cloud Security Alliance representatives shared their goals for cloud-security standardisation and certification. Others discussed the changing security landscape, including the novel demands that virtualisation places on existing security structures.

Revelations Google may not have been a completely innocent victim of its own technological prowess have led some privacy advocates to push for a re-opening of the investigation into Google's Street View Wi-Fi snooping. The report that suggested Google knew of the data collection has apparently surprised European Union regulators, who may expand the scope of their own investigations into Google's actions in response.

Figures from Symantec suggested the Flashback malware – which has become the scourge of Mac users everywhere – was netting its creators up to $US10, 000 per day. Even as Microsoft identified another piece of Mac malware that takes advantage of an old security hole in the Mac version of Office, some were questioning whether Flashback would hurt Apple's chances in the enterprise.

Others pointed out the relative risk of Mac malware compared with its prevalence on Windows systems (although Microsoft will bundle antivirus software into the upcoming Windows 8). This risk may also be attenuated further as Apple ramps up its Gatekeeper anti-malware feature for its upcoming 'Lion' operating-system release, although revelations about a dangerous programming mistake in an early build of Lion show that even the world's biggest tech company isn't perfect when it comes to security.

Yet, Flashback isn't the only malware taking liberties with previously sacrosanct information: Skype was looking into reports of a tool that purportedly collects the last known IP address of users on its network – information that is normally hidden deep inside the tool. NASA said no sensitive information had been compromised in a hack of one of its websites. And others were warning of the chance that users of Quick Response (QR) barcodes may be easily misled into visiting malware-laced Web sites. The poisoning of such previously-innocuous technologies as QR and SCADA have driven new thinking around security vulnerabilities. Even more problematic are revelations that hacked websites have for the first time been set up to feed malware to Android mobile devices.

Even as it becomes clear hacktivist group Anonymous and others are opportunistic publicity seekers rather than the type of people to plant screen scrapers on your Samsung Galaxy S III, the establishment of new mobile attack vectors has experts wondering who should be responsible for protecting the privacy of user data. And while it's not always clear what happens to the information this malware collects, one clear use for it became clear after a blackmail attempt against a Belgian bank; to consider the other uses for such information, it may be instructive to consider how online black markets of all kinds work.

Another new technology posing novel security challenges is IPv6, which requires consideration of its own when it comes to security transitioning. And social-media sites from the likes of Facebook and Google are presenting their own challenges, with a survey showing that fewer than half of users understand their privacy policies and some questioning whether the sites are too risky to allow in the enterprise at all.

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Security Awareness Tip

Incident handling is a vast topic, but here are a few tips for you to consider in your incident response. I hope you never have to use them, but the odds are at some point you will and I hope being ready saves you pain (or your job!).


  1. Have an incident response plan.

  2. Pre-define your incident response team 

  3. Define your approach: watch and learn or contain and recover.

  4. Pre-distribute call cards.

  5. Forensic and incident response data capture.

  6. Get your users on-side.

  7. Know how to report crimes and engage law enforcement. 

  8. Practice makes perfect.

For the full breakdown on this article

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Warning: Tips for secure mobile holiday shopping

I’m dating myself, but I remember when holiday shopping involved pouring through ads in the Sunday paper, placing actual phone calls from tethered land lines to research product stock and availability, and actually driving places to pick things up. Now, holiday shoppers can do all of that from a smartphone or tablet in a few seconds, but there are some security pitfalls to be aware of.