The week in security: Home Depot's $26m mistake; Apple fights FBI on iPhones, ransomware on Macs

It was judgement day for US cybersecurity-breach victim Home Depot, which agreed to pay up to $US19.5 million ($A26.5m) as a remedy for the data breach it suffered in 2014. Its high-profile exposure will already be a case study in prudence for any business executive, with new figures suggesting that security and privacy concerns dominate concerns over cloud capabilities even as the technology sorts itself out.

Even as new Locky ransomware showed signs of rapid growth, Apple leaped into action as the first-ever confirmed ransomware attack against Mac users – piggybacking on the popular Transmission BitTorrent client – was deployed. Analysis suggested the ransomware was a port of previously known Linux ransomware, while others identified flaws that might allow for the recovery of files without paying the ransom.

Cyber criminals were having a field day as they launched phishing campaigns against Big Four bank customers and targeted new generic top-level domains that have often been overwhelmed by dodgy domains. Facebook was fixing a bug that let hackers take over any account, while Google was patching remote execution flaws and a lingering MediaServer flaw in Android. Google was also being proactive, publishing a questionnaire that companies can use to evaluate vendor security.

The dispute between the US FBI and Apple took to the op-ed pages, with one executive warning against turning back the clock. One US congressman, by contrast, was warning on the need to balance “security” and “security”. Some experts believe the FBI is overreaching based on the antiquated law it's using in the case, arguing that Congress is the answer to the current dispute instead. Meanwhile, the US Department of Justice lodged its own court filing slamming Apple even as it appealed a New York order that backed Apple in refusing to extract data from an alleged criminal's iPhone 5s. Microsoft founder Bill Gates believes a balance has to be found to resolve the issue, even as forensic investigators contemplated a tricky alternative for extracting the phone's data.

Ongoing disparities between business and CISO priorities reflect a perpetual “state of compromise”, according to one technology CEO. Others were meditating on the difference between CSO fact and CSI: Cyber fiction, even as US privacy groups tried to mediate between those extremes with a call for clear rules about how ISPs can track their customers. The US Federal Communications Commission wants ISPs to get opt-in customer permission before sharing details, while the US Federal Trade Commission was also clamping down as it dug into audits of companies' payments-processing security.

Tools for such tracking, and more broadly for monitoring companies' security experience, progressed significantly recently with the launches of myriad new threat-analytics toolkits. Also proliferating was the Let's Encrypt project, which offers free digital certificates online and reached the 1 million mark within its first three months of operation.

The incoming CTO for security-troubled Juniper Security said the company would be implementing an open framework for software-defined network security, while the security head of Cisco – which was busy patching serious flaws in its cable modems and home gateways – was offering guidance on how to beat back the complexity of security systems.

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