A hack of Sony Pictures' systems led to the leaking of pre-release versions of numerous movies as well as a massive archive of sales contracts and other data. The hack led to a high-scrutiny investigation of technical evidence – including suggestions North Korea was behind the attack due to the controversial content of one of the films.
North Korea denied involvement, while analysis suggested the malware was similar to other data-wiping programs that have previously affected organisations in South Korea and the Middle East. There were also warnings of related attacks, including an FBI warning about malware possibly linked to the attack – and reports that some Sony employees and their families were receiving threatening messages.
That hack's instigators weren't the only ones stealing sensitive information, however: hacker group FIN4 was said to be stealing insider information that could lead to the exploitation of significant changes in share prices. Some wondered whether rogue investment bankers might be to blame.
Meanwhile, a group of Iranian hackers were said to have been compromising a range of key infrastructure operators for several years. But some weren't so lucky, as 118 people were arrested at airports for using fraudulent means to acquire plane tickets. No wonder many are preferring less physically dangerous crime: warnings suggested that new point-of-sale malware was selling on underground markets for just $US2000 ($A2415).
The risk from POS security attacks was heightened in the wake of escalated shopping volumes around the 'Cyber Monday' sales, but there were also warnings that hackers are using increasingly sophisticated crimeware to empty online bank accounts. Many were apparently tapping into the mobile market, with some cheap Chinese smartphones being preloaded with 'DeathRing' malware and smartphones from Apple and Xiaomi found to be violating Taiwan's privacy laws.
Unsurprisingly, cyber security has been named as one of six hot new industries in the future. New entrants everywhere are throwing their hats into the ring, with startup TrustPipe claiming 100 percent malware detection capabilities with a novel detection technology it has been testing for two years. That could be a lifesaver for security analytics, some of whom are having trouble distinguishing industrial control system files and malicious files.
Even as 2015 looked set to become a year filled with self-destructing malware and hackers that plant furphies to divert investigators from their true identities, the coming year was also being flagged as one in which credit cards and healthcare records are likely to continue to be targeted by hackers. UK figures supported this, noting that data breaches in that country's healthcare sector had doubled since 2013 – and, with Australians now among the world's most frequent clickers of malware links, it's little wonder the attacks keep coming. Persistent vulnerabilities by mobile workers in public places haven't helped the situation either.
Aiming to prevent this by tightening identity controls, the UK government was reinforcing its commitment to an online identity assurance scheme. A hosted identity management from Verizon helped enable Australia's first fully electronic property conveyancing system, while Facebook bulked up its defences with a third anti-virus engine. Google revisited its dependence on CAPTCHAs to confirm user identities, and achieved PCI DSS certification in a move that will help developers more readily store and process credit-card data in the cloud.
This article is brought to you by Enex TestLab, content directors for CSO Australia.Read more: FBI memo warns of malware possibly linked to hack at Sony Pictures
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