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Secret of email scams: gullibility

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The weakest link in most security defences are the people sitting behind a computer being gullible or greedy. BRANDON BEKKER, MD of Mimecast South Africa, believes companies need to keep their security systems up to date to protect both their data and employees.

The ‘Nigerian Prince’ or ‘419’ email scams we’ve all seen take advantage of the age-old premise: people can be greedy and gullible. Or to put it more positively – people are intrinsically positive about the motives of others and are not on the lookout for scammers and criminals in every email exchange.  But the sad truth is we all need to wake up to the threat in our email. To heighten our security awareness. The world has moved on and despite significant security efforts and new technologies in recent years, there remains a prolific and lucrative cybercrime industry attacking people and organizations alike. Today the weakest link in any security defences are people so protecting data and systems also means protecting people.

The recent history of cyber security shows that all too often it is the employee that opens an organisation up to attack. In most cases (despite high profile insider attacks like Snowden in the US) employees are not willingly participating in an attack. They may not even know they are the unwelcome target of a hacker’s attention and that their online behaviour might be risky. Employees have limited knowledge of the cyber security risks they face (or create). Email scams take advantage of this lack of security knowledge. The cost to an organisation of this knowledge gap is an increased security threat.

Cyber security is a constant game of cat and mouse. As people woke up to the threat from simple email scams like the ‘Nigerian Prince’ its effectiveness declined so the attackers moved onto new techniques. Phishing in its many forms has grown in popularity. Here the attacker sends email to lots of people with a malicious web link to steal credentials for logins or a malware-laden attachment to infect a machine. They know that someone will click through and activate their attack. Then there is spear-phishing, where targets are more carefully targeted to improve effectiveness and a new, and damaging, variant of this called CEO Fraud or whaling where social engineering is used to really target a specific individual within a target organisation. Individual emails are created that look legitimate, they often even get into a conversation with the target pretending to be their boss, before hitting them up for fraudulent wire transfers of cash or confidential data.

These attacks on email are on the rise and are a significant concern. Recent research from Mimecast showed that 83% of IT security pros consider email to be the most common source of the attack and 64% believing the attacks to pose a high or extremely high threat.

These attacks also work. Sad but true.  People are being duped every day. The FBI reported recently in the U.S. that losses from whaling or CEO fraud attacks alone grew by 270 percent from January to August 2015 with reported losses of $800 million in just six months from August 2015. Our own research showed that in the first three months of 2016, 67% of organisations had seen an increase in attacks designed to extort fraudulent payments and 43% saw an increase in attacks specifically asking for confidential data like HR records or tax information.

Clearly investing in up-to-date technology to defend your organisation is critical but remember that employees are the first line of defense and educating them regularly about potential cyberattacks is vital. As is telling them what to do when they spot a problem or feel they many have been duped. A culture that encourages and supports employees in being open (and fast to act) when they have made a mistake is important.

So in the battle of organizations versus the email scammers it will be employees armed with great technology that will make the difference.

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Password managers don’t protect you from hackers

Using a password manager to protect yourself online? Research reveals serious weaknesses…

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Top password manager products have fundamental flaws that expose the data they are designed to protect, rendering them no more secure than saving passwords in a text file, according to a new study by researchers at Independent Security Evaluators (ISE).

“100 percent of the products that ISE analyzed failed to provide the security to safeguard a user’s passwords as advertised,” says ISE CEO Stephen Bono. “Although password managers provide some utility for storing login/passwords and limit password reuse, these applications are a vulnerable target for the mass collection of this data through malicious hacking campaigns.”

In the new report titled “Under the Hood of Secrets Management,” ISE researchers revealed serious weaknesses with top password managers: 1Password, Dashlane, KeePass and LastPass.  ISE examined the underlying functionality of these products on Windows 10 to understand how users’ secrets are stored even when the password manager is locked. More than 60 million individuals 93,000 businesses worldwide rely on password managers. Click here for a copy of the report.

Password managers are marketed as a solution to eliminate the security risks of storing passwords or secrets for applications and browsers in plain text documents. Having previously examined these and other password managers, ISE researchers expected an improved level of security standards preventing malicious credential extraction. Instead ISE found just the opposite. 

Click here to read the findings from the report.

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MWC: Next generation of inflight connectivity to be unveiled

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Next week at Mobile World Congress, the Seamless Air Alliance will reveal progress on its mission towards enabling the next generation of inflight connectivity. This follows a significant start for the Alliance, which has seen membership increase five-fold since the first meeting in June of last year. The Alliance has a new research laboratory setup and continues progress through its three working groups, writing specifications for the technology, requirements, and operations.

These developments represent a huge leap towards the goal of making connectivity as easy and enjoyable in the skies as it is on the ground. Appearing as part of the Airbus stand (Hall 6, stand 6G34), the Seamless Air Alliance will reveal specification topics that have been completed and published to its membership.

“The passenger experience with inflight connectivity remains one of the great technology challenges. From Day One we have been determined to deliver on our mission to bring industries and technologies together to make the inflight internet experience simple to access and a delight to use,” said the Alliance’s Chief Executive Officer, Jack Mandala.

“I have been tremendously encouraged by the enthusiastic and committed response we have seen and the widening areas of expertise we can call upon as more and more companies and organisations continue to join us,” he added.

Announced during MWC 2018, the Seamless Air Alliance has since grown to twenty-three membercompanies with more than one-hundred key personnel from across the membership participating in its three working groups, with numbers continuing to increase.

The Seamless Air Alliance was created by founding members Airbus, Airtel, Delta Air Lines, OneWeb and Sprint, and quickly joined by Air France KLM, Aeromexico, and GOL Linhas Aereas Inteligentes and global technology leaders including Astronics, Collins Aerospace, Comtech, Cyient, iDirect, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Latecoere, Nokia, and Panasonic. 

Today, the Alliance is pleased to announce five additional new members: Adaptive Channel, Etihad Airways, GlobalReach Technology, Safran, and SITAONAIR.

“We are extremely pleased to have these companies join and be a part of the companies driving the next generation of connectivity.” said Mr Mandala.

The Seamless Air Alliance will enable travelers boarding any flight, on any airline, anywhere in the world, to use their own devices to automatically connect to the Internet with no complicated login process nor paywall to scramble over.

The Alliance is also announcing the release of a new research study on the economic benefit of standardization on the inflight connectivity market at Mobile World Congress. This report is available for download at https://www.seamlessalliance.com/publications/

The Alliance is moving rapidly towards an expected demonstration of the technology later in 2019 and anticipates massive interest in Barcelona from the whole communications eco-system.

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