The week in security: Security concerns as Australia moves towards data retention

Consumers are more concerned about credit-card security than they are about their own health, a new survey has concluded. Take it as an indictment of our consumer culture or an indication that our overall health is good, but with California alone reporting a six-fold increase in data breaches the threat is getting bigger all the time. With cybercriminals having developed a tool to optimise their use of stolen credit cards, things are likely to get worse before they get better.

Data retention came back onto the agenda as the government introduced a bill requiring Australian telcos to preserve metadata from customer usage sessions, raising concerns by some about the security of that information. Swedish authorities did the same, threatening an ISP with a SEK 5m ($A772,000) fine. And Germany wasn't far behind, with plans to retain data about personal air travel as an anti-terrorism measure. Even the US was interfering in air travel, with legal support for the idea that international travellers' electronic devices can be examined even when there is no suspicion of wrongdoing.

US telco Verizon Wireless was introducing its own metadata, manipulating the strings of customer HTTP requests in a way that allowed them to be tracked for advertising purposes; little wonder users are coming to trust their mobile devices less and less over time.

Such moves raise questions about the individual right to control their Internet experience – a point that is set to be further explored as European Europe's highest court prepares to rule on whether IP addresses are personal data. Yet there is no question about the need to protect corporate data, particularly as Australian instances of services like Microsoft's Azure debut and companies are reminded that the cloud is not a cure-all for corporate governance.

Cyber-criminals are using the Shellshock vulnerability to build botnets by exploiting unpatched Bash installations – highlighting the ever-present ingenuity of online hackers. Equally successful was an Eastern European gang managed to steal £1.6 million ($A2.92m) from dozens of ATMs across the UK using specially designed malware. And, continuing the theme, a keylogger called ScanBox was targeted at groups including Uyghurs, a US think tank and the hospitality industry while BlackEnergy malware was being used to infect industrial control systems.

Analysts warned that a vulnerability in a widely-used utility for investigating malware could create its own problems. Such ongoing issues had some warning of the need to plan for a security emergency, particularly since the combination of broad Drupal exposure, Shellshock and POODLE vulnerabilities had created challenges for systems administrators in enforcing IT security.

Indeed, whether it's such security issues or deficiencies in the enforcement of internal file-sharing practices, the CISO role is evolving steadily – as is the role of security vendors. A coalition of such vendors, for example, banded together to clean 43,000 malware infections used for cyberespionage. Microsoft released a protective Internet Explorer fix for the POODLE vulnerability, while others were warning that Australia's world-leading appetite for cloud services was creating new risks from the proliferation of privileged user accounts.

Even as thousands of Internet users launched a petition against what they call 'spyware' in Apple's new OS X 'Yosemite' version, there were actual issues emerging as Microsoft noted an 800 percent increase in attacks by ransomware that demands $US1000 before files will be decrypted. Users play a role in good security as well, with a report suggesting that even automatic Windows updates were being thwarted because users weren't helping complete the update process.

Such inaction leaves vulnerabilities that can be exploited for various means – and so does leaving entire networks unsecured, as the White House found when hackers targeted such a network in recent weeks. The hack was confirmed by White House officials.

This article is brought to you by Enex TestLab, content directors for CSO Australia.

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