The week in security: Are you the next Target?

The compromise of US retailer Target became increasingly worrying as investigations into its genesis revealed more details about it. Experts had already pegged the attack as a deep hack into the company's systems, well before it confirmed that its point of sale terminals had been hacked with an in-memory Trojan that was stealing transaction data from under the company's noses.

Reports suggested the hackers would have trouble selling the estimated 40 million credit-card records they had captured, even as it was revealed the card data had been sent to a server in Russia. Target announced it would invest $US5 million on an education campaign to teach the public about cybersecurity dangers, but its overall handling of the incident came under fire.

In the wake of attacks on Target, Neiman Marcus (which apologised for its own breach while arguing that sensitive birth date and social security number details remained safe) and six other retailers found to have been breached, some were talking up the merits of higher-security debit and credit cards, while researchers identified other POS-based malware written in VBScript.

Indeed, malicious software of one sort or another may be present on every network, as a Cisco Systems analysis found. Others pointed out that it had now become possible for snoopers to steal data just by listening to the radio signals coming from a target computer. And Japan's Fujitsu has figured out a way to search large quantities of data even when it's encrypted.

That capability poses a new threat despite the efforts of initiatives like PCI DSS 3.0 to boost overall security of sensitive information. Little wonder Asia-Pacific companies are expected to be spending big on IT security technologies this year. Yet it was Google raised eyebrows after spending more than $US3 billion to acquire home-automation startup Nest, with some concerned about the privacy implications. Google, however, had other problems after it was targeted by spammers that modified links on the company's hospitality listings. Google also appealed against a French privacy authority's fine over its privacy policies.

Researchers reported that SD cards can be hacked, although one executive warned there were a lot more security problems facing mid-market companies. Potential targeting of smaller, less-secure companies that are part of larger supply chains is one of them. The move from Windows XP is another, although Microsoft said it would continue to provide antivirus updates for the soon-to-be-deprecated operating system until July 2015.

Cisco Systems promised it would fix a backdoor exploit in some of its routers, while Asus simplified its router configuration to fix a problem with its handling of external hard drives. And Juniper, for its part, was warned to reconsider its switching and security products after observations that they are underperforming.

A high-security phone, called the Blackphone and based on Android, is expected to debut at next month's Mobile World Congress, while mobile messaging startup Wickr is so confident in the security of its app that it has offered a $US100,000 bounty to anyone who finds a serious vulnerability in its code. Symantec identified a spam campaign that is targeting three Web services at once, while Twitter now requires encrypted API communications.

Even as some security experts voiced concerns that the NSA's advanced security-busting tools would find their way into hackers' hands eventually, hacker group the Syrian Electronic Army hijacked two Microsoft Twitter accounts and Kaspersky Lab warned of a Trojan banking tool that is alleged to enable attacks on any bank in any country.

With some experts forecasting the increasingly regional nature of cyberwar campaigns, US senators were questioning some recommended changes to the NSA's surveillance programs – recommended by US president Barack Obama – on the basis that they would impede counterterrorism efforts, and also put the blowtorch onto car maker Ford over its driver-tracking programs.

Obama broadly praised the NSA even as he issued an intelligence directive designed to hone the NSA's intelligence-gathering mission. The limited call for reform left many disappointed with the NSA reforms, particularly given his failure to address the NSA's work to weaken encryption standards and force the addition of backdoors into IT products. The proposals got mixed reviews overall and underscored the difficulties facing the Obama administration as it fights to balance national security needs with legitimate privacy concerns.

A hackathon was geared toward the 'liberation' of data from public PDF documents, while the Starbucks mobile app was singled out for a “wakeup call” given its weak protection of customer data (Starbucks quickly updated the app to fix the problem).

Online-storage service Dropbox was hit by an outage but denied it had been hacked, while a number of gaming sites were hit with a new type of DDoS attack even as reports suggested a growing role for mobile devices was leading to new types of DDoS attacks.

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Targetsecurity

More about CiscoCiscoDropboxFujitsu AustraliaGoogleJuniperKasperskyKasperskyMicrosoftNestNSAStarbucksSymantec

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by David Braue

Latest Videos

  • 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

  • 150x50

    IDG Live Webinar:The right collaboration strategy will help your business take flight

    Speakers - Mike Harris, Engineering Services Manager, Jetstar - Christopher Johnson, IT Director APAC, 20th Century Fox - Brent Maxwell, Director of Information Systems, THE ICONIC - IDG MC/Moderator Anthony Caruana

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts