The week in security: NSA, Snowden Effect have CIOs, governments questioning everything

High-profile data theft such as that perpetrated by Edward Snowden has many CIOs and CSOs questioning their own ability to do better than the US government in protecting sensitive corporate data, in a phenomenon known as the ‘Snowden Effect’.

A review of IT-security training programs suggested seven core IT certifications are becoming increasingly popular – highlighting one potential solution – and yet even strong sentences, such as the 35 years handed down to Wikileaks accomplice Bradley Manning, may not be enough of a deterrent if the prize is big enough.

Even as Manning’s attorney vowed to fight the good fight, hackers remained undeterred – with reports Ramnit financial malware was used to target users of the Steam games service. The North American MMORPG ‘League of Legends’ was compromised and more than 120,000 credit card details, usernames and other details stolen by hackers.

Surprising some researchers, the Poison Ivy software tool used to hack RSA’s SecurID authentication tokens was reported to be undergoing a resurgence in popularity, being used by Middle Eastern ‘Molerats’ hackers among others.

Other reports suggested that other scammers were luring victims with the promise of a desktop version of the Instagram photo-sharing app. Mounting cyberattack-related losses for US banks had analysts warning that the UK banking system’s biggest problem could be a looming cyberattack, while Alpine resort Perisher shared its experiences using cloud-security tools to ensure its PCI compliance efforts mount as strong a defence as possible around customers’ credit-card details.

A survey found that most portable devices are still being secured using simple PINs, with 80 percent of devices secured for convenience. Meanwhile, QR codes are presenting their own security issues, as is a popular download-management tool that has been found to include a hidden DDoS-launching capability.

Ditto Facebook, where founder Mark Zuckerberg found his own Facebook page hacked by a disgruntled bug-finder who said his efforts to claim a bug bounty from the company had gone ignored. Another prominent Web property, Mozilla, was doing its own part to improve security-tool integration, and considered following Google by rejecting old SSL digital certificates to improve overall security.

The founder of now-defunct secure email provider Lavabit said email is far less secure than you probably want to believe. Amidst reports that the US government is boosting its operational transparency, some were concerned about a new government in facial-recognition technology on the back of a $US6 billion Department of Homeland Security cybersecurity contract, while documents showed that the NSA collected thousands of digital communications from American users in 2011.

Those revelations would assist lawsuits against the government for its surveillance activities, which a federal judge said had violated the country’s Constitution for several years. Little wonder foreign governments are getting sceptical about privacy, with the German Government increasingly convinced Microsoft planted a backdoor tool for NSA surveillance within Windows 8.

Ovum noted the growing importance of revisiting identity and access management (IAM) regimes – something even the US Postal Service is looking into after a $US15m cloud-authentication deal – while a new encryption tool offered the promise of improving security for those companies revisiting virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) rollouts. Also on the encryption front, cloud-encryption vendor CipherCloud opened its first Australian office on the back of demand so strong that the company fast-tracked its local debut to tap into potential growth.

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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.