The week in security: DDoS surges, NSA creates international incidents

French authorities were irritated at revelations the US National Security Agency had been spying on French citizens’ phone calls, while German chancellor was livid that the NSA was allegedly listening to her mobile for years. They should take a number, apparently, as revelations emerged that the NSA spied on 35 world leaders in this way over the years. Other countries do it too, the EU Parliament admitted, but not as much as the Americans or British.

The UK government was considering recruiting convicted hackers for its new Joint Cyber Reserve task force even as its famous Bletchley Park codebreaking site announced a five-year sponsorship from McAfee.

Perhaps the addition of experts will stop government authorities from making mistakes like the embarrassing breach at the Ministry of Justice, which was fined for emailing prisoners’ sensitive details to several inmates’ families. Or, perhaps, direct action will be more effective – as the more than 5000 protesters against NSA activities would certainly seem to hope.

Increasingly sophisticated DDoS attacks were in the news again, with Prolexic arguing that a surge in DDoS-as-a-service usage correlated with a predominance of UDP-based attacks. Google unveiled an anti-DDos platform for human rights and media organisations, and partnered with Arbor Networks to demonstrate a tool for visualising DDoS attacks that highlighted a 12Gbps August attack originating in Australia.

Talk about increasing use of biometrics and password managers to strengthen identity protections had some people considering how to protect Twitter with two-factor authentication, and how to do the same on Facebook and Google and . Yet even that can be compromised, as a UK small business found out when a phishing attack used social engineering to [[xref:http://www.cso.com.au/article/529830/uk_sme_left_70_000_red_after_lightning-fast_phishing_attack/ protecting its bank account.

Other small businesses are being targeted through vendors and suppliers, while yet others may be vulnerable through flaws discovered in some Netgear router and NAS products. Even the massively popular game Grand Theft Auto 5 was exposed – sort of – after it was emulated by online pirates that bundled it with malware.

Even as a botnet called Mevade hit hundreds of organisations, there were signs that use of the popular Blackhole Exploit Kit was waning as the developers of the Cutwail botnet moved to a rival platform.

US government agency NIST was offering guidance for companies to improve their cybersecurity defences and was calling for public comment, while analysis of technical problems at the US’s new HealthCare.gov online health-insurance site were blamed on a lack of integration standards – as well as the questionable pasts of two of the contractors developing it.

Also questionable, according to some, as the court decision forcing Edward Snowden’s anonymous email provider, Lavabit, to turn over the master encryption key to let authorities access its data. The Internet Archive online repository, concerned about such compromises, boosted its own encryption.

Trend Micro was warning that virtualisation security was , while Microsoft and Symantec joined forces to beat malware that’s signed with fraudulent code-signing digital certificates. And there were mixed reviews for Apple’s new iCloud Keychain functionality.

Startup Lacoon has targeted malware on iOS and Android mobile devices, while Firefox developer Mozilla cracked down on the use of Java by requiring users to manually indicate when they want a Java object to execute. Also on the browser front, Apple’s Safari browser is now using sandboxing to prevent bad behaviour by Adobe Flash Player. And Mozilla, for its part, relaunched its ‘Collusion’ Web privacy add-on as ‘Lightbeam’ in an effort to crowdsource data about website behaviour.

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