The week in security: Old malware continues onslaught as new devices found vulnerable

A broad study of equipment firmware found poor security practices are rife, with weaknesses presenting new opportunities for hackers to exploit the emerging 'Internet of Things'. Seemingly confirming their fears, a hacking contest found 15 new router vulnerabilities while others warned that the emergence of the 'Heartbleed' OpenSSL bug this year highlighted more severe underlying issues in hardware design.

The UK government-backed Cyber Security Challenge UK was trying to do something about all of this, with a plan to teach UK students aged 12 to 18 better cybersecurity skills in a rebadging of the US Cyber Patriot program. The Certificate Authority Security Council backed tighter SSL server rules to take effect from November 1, although it wasn't enough to save US supermarket chain Supervalu as it became the latest large company to suffer a major data breach.

There was strong movement in the identity and access management (IAM) space, with IBM purchasing Lighthouse Security Group for its identity capabilities and Microsoft's own strategy showing a strong basis in cloud services. Kaseya, for its part, was also buying big in better IAM, with the purchase of longtime partner Scorpion Software bringing new authentication capabilities to Kaseya's products.

As if to confirm the thrust of their investments, US based Educational Testing Service shared how it centralised its IAM and extended it into the cloud. Amazon was protecting its virtual desktops using two-factor authentication, while Google was refining its strategy for fighting targeted phishing attacks in its Gmail service and warning users of downloads that appear benign but aren't. And none too soon, as the new Kovter police blackmail Trojan spread its wings and raised concerns that old-style ransomware is back in fashion and the new Gameover Zeus (GOZ) botnet continued its own growth.

Other malware never left fashion, with reports that a longstanding vulnerability exploited by Stuxnet, Flame and other malware is being used to attack millions of Windows XP users around the world – four years after it was patched. Contractors' home networks were being flagged as a security threat – perhaps highlighting a built-in market for a home-network intrusion-prevention system – while others warned that the NSA's MonsterMind cyber-retaliation program is a bad idea that will lead to innocent parties being targeted.

UK government agency GCHQ was revealed to have scanned for vulnerable systems it could exploit across 32 countries, according to a German media report. Yet a tighter all-round focus on security may help justify the security of electronic voting, with the NSW Electronic Commission weighing in on the controversial (in Australia) practice. Also on the government security front, the Australian Signals Directorate granted AirWatch Secure Content Locker for iOS devices accreditation to PROTECTED level security status and the Australian Bureau of Statistics shared its experiences and its broader internal use of agile methodologies.

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