The week in security: Australian A-G reports tapping surge as NSA slammed

With the looming onset of the Christmas break, security-industry pundits were reviewing what has been a very busy year in Internet security and product testing, with rogues' galleries of security threats focusing the spotlight on the worst offenders.

Turns out the US NSA and CIA have been watching online games like World of Warcraft and Second Life, as well as using tracking cookies to monitor the targets of their surveillance. Google, Microsoft and others weren't happy, calling for limits on the NSA's surveillance activities.

Sentiment against the NSA has gotten so bad that one US lawmaker is trying to get the organisation banned from her state, even as the NSA's director challenges critics to find a better way to do its job.

Monitoring isn't only confined to the US, however: Australia's Attorney-General released figures showing that tapping of email, SMS and phone traffic surged 16 per cent in 2013 from the previous year. The European Union put the boot into the NSA's practice of phone record collection (but remained silent on a French law allowing warrantless access to live user data), but the NSA's victims aren't the only ones dealing with security compromises: online-comments site Disqus was rushing to fix problems in its site after a Swedish newspaper used it to trace offensive comments back to the public figures that made them.

Even as warnings emerged that holiday shoppers need to remember their security in the real world as well as online, banks were being warned off of mobile SMS passcodes and some Android phone makers were contemplating the use of encrypted text messages for protection, others were considering the actual security risks of the mobile operating system – particularly as news emerged of an exploitable vulnerability in a widely used advertising framework integrated into hundreds of Android apps

The use of unauthorised digital certificates continues to be a recurring problem, with Google and other browser makers forced to revoke certificates issued by a French certificate authority attached to the country's Ministry of Treasury. Little wonder cloud-based user authentication, which puts more horsepower behind credential-verification efforts, is taking off.

Asia-Pacific privacy authorities were considering the use of privacy 'white lists' to improve cross-border action on privacy controls, while a survey of security executives revealed widespread agreement about the methods for translating IT security processes into business initiatives, while – speaking of business initiatives – a survey found that many organisations lack a plan to respond to DDoS attacks.

The US government will hold suppliers to a cyber-security 'baseline', according to a new report, while an Ernst & Young report suggested IT security was finally earning its place at the top executive tiers of business.

Malware authors were wasting no time, however, with a 64-bit version of 'Zeus' malware discovered and taken as a sign that malware authors were rushing to move their activities onto new technology platforms. And, while it was criticised for removing a feature providing tight control over app permissions in the latest version of Android, Google said it would stop blocking images in Gmail because it has developed a way to block against potentially dangerous images. Marketers, predictably, were excited about the change.

Meanwhile, one expert warned, five European foreign ministries could have contained the damage of Chinese hackers had they followed a few network security design principles. Russian police reported that they have the alleged creator of the Blackhole exploit kit in custody. There were still no leads, however, on the location of two stolen laptops containing the details of more than 840,000 American healthcare fund members.

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags security

More about Attorney-GeneralErnst & YoungErnst & YoungGoogleMicrosoftNSA

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by David Braue

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Will your data protection strategy be enough when disaster strikes?

    Speakers: - Paul O’Connor, Engagement leader - Performance Audit Group, Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO) - Nigel Phair, Managing Director, Centre for Internet Safety - Joshua Stenhouse, Technical Evangelist, Zerto - Anthony Caruana, CSO MC & Moderator

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts

Market Place