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Security myths debunked

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Think your enterprise mobile devices are secure? Think again. The devices your employees use for work purposes are treasure troves of sensitive information, writes DOROS HADJIZENONOS, Country Manager of Check Point South Africa.

Think your enterprise mobile devices are secure? Think again. The iOS and Android devices your employees use for work purposes are treasure troves of sensitive information, and it only takes one compromised device to put your business in a perilous predicament.

A 2016 survey of IT security professionals showed that 40% of organisations make BYOD available to all employees while 32% make it available to select employees. Workers use these same devices to download personal apps and emails – exposing your network to phishing scams and malware infections.

More than one billion Android mobile devices are not safe – and may never be. iPhones and iPads aren’t immune to risk either. In fact, there is a 50% chance that an organisation with more than 2,000 mobile devices has at least six infected devices.

Here are the five most common misconceptions about mobile security and how you can secure your mobile workforce.

1.       Mobile isn’t a big problem

Firewalls and security infrastructures that protect PC desktops and laptops do not provide enough protection from mobile attacks.

Mobile attacks come from three primary sources: network attacks, infected apps and system exploits. While testing mobile security for prospective customers, Check Point regularly finds 5% to 20% of enterprise devices are already compromised. It takes only one compromised device to penetrate your security perimeter.

Discovering a breach takes an average of about six months, and a response to fix the breach another three months. This means that once a breach is detected, the damage is already done. Remediation can be costly, as is containing the damage to brand reputation. Even if the damage is under control, your company may not know vital trade secrets were compromised until your competitive advantage is suddenly lost.

2.       MDM is enough

Many companies rely on basic mobile hygiene policies using mobile device management (MDM) or enterprise mobility management (EMM) solutions. Some augment these solutions with a hodgepodge of point solutions that offer incremental and often rudimentary enhancements.

These solutions help control damage inflicted by compromised devices and address many known threats, but are unable to detect recently created malware or new vulnerabilities in networks, operating systems and apps.

For example, gaining root access to a mobile device (also called “rooting” on Android or “jailbreaking” on iOS) enables cybercriminals to make a broad range of customisations and configurations to serve their objectives. MDM and EMM systems detect the existence of certain files in a system directory that enable root access by employing several methods, including static root indicators. However, free tools for Android and iOS devices are available for avoiding this type of detection. By changing root access indicators continually, cybercriminals can evade detection, and even deny root check requests from the EMM or MDM system, disabling detection entirely.

3.       Secure containers are safe

Secure containers for data management platforms provide security inside the enterprise perimeter. However, mobile devices often access systems and apps like Salesforce, Oracle or SAP outside the perimeter. While these systems and apps have their own protections, network spoofs or man-in-the-middle attacks eavesdrop, intercept and alter traffic. Everything a user does, including entering passwords, could be intercepted by criminals, and used to breach the perimeter and to steal financial and personnel information.

Attackers often trick employees into logging into malicious sites. While users believe they’re interacting with a known and trusted entity in the cloud, the attacker takes over their device, copying credentials, snooping on instant messages, or stealing their sensitive information.

Corporate executives and employees sometimes save critical documents and sensitive information outside the secure container – using a cloud storage service to easily access while travelling or share with partners. Once compromised, attackers intercept these communications and access these important and sometimes confidential documents.

4.       iOS is immune

Apple’s iOS is not immune to threats. Some organisations using MDMs unwittingly distribute infected apps to iPhones and iPads. Apps from unauthorised, unreliable app stores may also harbour viruses, and hackers even compromised Apple’s development tools, sneaking malware into new apps without the developers’ knowledge.

Check Point recently discovered a vulnerability found in iOS that exploits a loophole in the Apple Developer Enterprise program. The program lets organisations develop and distribute apps for internal enterprise use without publishing them on Apple’s App Store. These apps typically distribute quickly and directly to devices.

However, malicious apps can use this same method and enable criminals to stage man-in-the-middle attacks and hijack communications between managed iOS devices and MDM solutions. This type of exploit gives criminals control of the devices, the data that resides on them, and even enterprise MDM services.

Flaws in Apple’s enterprise app installation process allow the introduction of unverified code into the iOS ecosystem. MDM systems could end up being the distribution systems for the very malicious apps they are defending against. Without an advanced mobile threat detection and mitigation solution on your iPhone, you may never suspect that any malicious behaviour ever took place.

5.       Mobile antivirus is all I need

Mobile antivirus solutions are limited compared to their PC cousins. They can uncover malicious code in apps by looking for unique binary signatures that identify known malware. However, criminals have found new ways to obfuscate those signatures, making them useless in the detection of mobile malware. Even a slight change in the code, such as adding a simple line that does nothing, changes the app’s signature and the new version of the malicious app will slip by undetected by the antivirus program.

Signatures are not available for “zero-day” (newly created) malware. To catch and block a virus, your antivirus program first must know that it exists. Even if updated daily, antivirus programs still couldn’t keep up with the onslaught of these attacks.

Secure your mobile workforce

Mobile devices require a new, intelligent approach to threat prevention. MDM and EMM protection and secure containers are not enough, and antivirus products cannot cope with new malware found every day. Even iPhones are not secure. The continuous, rising wave of attacks puts your company at serious risk.

You need a solution that continuously analyses devices, uncovering known and unknown vulnerabilities and criminal behaviour, by applying threat emulation, advanced static code analysis, app reputation, and machine learning.

Stop malware before it communicates with criminal servers, and detect threats at the device, app, and network levels. Always have an accurate picture of the threats and devices on your network and detailed information about risk mitigation.

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Earth 2050: memory chips for kids, telepathy for adults

An astonishing set of predictions for the next 30 years includes a major challenge to the privacy of our thoughts.

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Buy 2050, most kids may be fitted with the latest memory boosting implants, and adults will have replaced mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought.

These are some of the more dramatic forecasts in Earth 2050, an award-winning, interactive multimedia project that accumulates predictions about social and technological developments for the upcoming 30 years. The aim is to identify global challenges for humanity and possible ways of solving these challenges. The website was launched in 2017 to mark Kaspersky Lab’s 20th birthday. It comprises a rich variety of predictions and future scenarios, covering a wide range of topics.

Recently a number of new contributions have been added to the site. Among them Lord Martin Rees, the UK’s Astronomer Royal, Professor at Cambridge University and former President of the Royal Society; investor and entrepreneur Steven Hoffman, Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner, along withDmitry Galov, security researcher and Alexey Malanov, malware analyst at Kaspersky Lab.

The new visions for 2050 consider, among other things:

  • The replacement of mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought – able to upload skills and knowledge in return – and the impact of this on individual consciousness and privacy of thought.
  • The ability to transform all life at the genetic level through gene editing.
  • The potential impact of mistakes made by advanced machine-learning systems/AI.
  • The demise of current political systems and the rise of ‘citizen governments’, where ordinary people are co-opted to approve legislation.
  • The end of the techno-industrial age as the world runs out of fossil fuels, leading to economic and environmental devastation.
  • The end of industrial-scale meat production, as most people become vegan and meat is cultured from biopsies taken from living, outdoor reared livestock.

The hypothetical prediction for 2050 from Dmitry Galov, security researcher at Kaspersky Lab is as follows: “By 2050, our knowledge of how the brain works, and our ability to enhance or repair it is so advanced that being able to remember everything and learn new things at an outrageous speed has become commonplace. Most kids are fitted with the latest memory boosting implants to support their learning and this makes education easier than it has ever been. 

“Brain damage as a result of head injury is easily repaired; memory loss is no longer a medical condition, and people suffering from mental illnesses, such as depression, are quickly cured.  The technologies that underpin this have existed in some form since the late 2010s. Memory implants are in fact a natural progression from the connected deep brain stimulation implants of 2018.

“But every technology has another side – a dark side. In 2050, the medical, social and economic impact of memory boosting implants are significant, but they are also vulnerable to exploitation and cyber-abuse. New threats that have appeared in the last decade include the mass manipulation of groups through implanted or erased memories of political events or conflicts, and even the creation of ‘human botnets’. 

“These botnets connect people’s brains into a network of agents controlled and operated by cybercriminals, without the knowledge of the victims themselves.  Repurposed cyberthreats from previous decades are targeting the memories of world leaders for cyber-espionage, as well as those of celebrities, ordinary people and businesses with the aim of memory theft, deletion of or ‘locking’ of memories (for example, in return for a ransom).  

“This landscape is only possible because, in the late 2010s when the technologies began to evolve, the potential future security vulnerabilities were not considered a priority, and the various players: healthcare, security, policy makers and more, didn’t come together to understand and address future risks.”

For more information and the full suite of inspirational and thought-provoking predictions, visit Earth 2050.

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Pizoelectrics: Healthcare’s new gymnasts of gadgetry

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Healthcare electronics is rapidly deploying for wellness, electroceuticals, and intrusive medical procedures, among other, powered by new technologies. Much of it is trending to diagnostics and treatment on the move, and removing the need for the patient to perform procedures on time. 

Instruments become wearables, including electronic skin patches and implants. The IDTechEx Research report, “Piezoelectric Harvesting and Sensing for Healthcare 2019-2029”, notes that sensors should preferably be self-powered, non-poisonous even on disposal, and many need to be biocompatible and even biodegradable. 

We need to detect biology, vibration, force, acceleration, stress and linear movement and do imaging. Devices must reject bacteria and be useful in wearables and Internet of Things nodes. Preferably we must move to one device performing multiple tasks. 

So is there a gymnast material category that has that awesome versatility? 

Piezoelectrics has a good claim. It measures all those parameters. That even includes biosensors where the piezo senses the swelling of a biomolecule recognizing a target analyte. The most important form of self-powered (one material, two functions) piezo sensing is ultrasound imaging, a market growing at 5.1% yearly. 

The IDTechEx Research report looks at what comes next, based on global travel and interviewing by its PhD level analysts in 2018 with continuous updates.  

Click here to read how Piezo has been reinvented.

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