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Cyber crooks recruit from the inside

Cybercriminals are using insiders to gain access to telecommunications networks and subscriber data, recruiting disaffected employees through underground channels or blackmailing staff using compromising information gathered from open sources.

Telecommunications providers are a top target for cyber-attack. They operate and manage the world’s networks, voice and data transmissions and store vast amounts of sensitive data. This makes them highly attractive to cybercriminals in search of financial gain, as well as nation-state sponsored actors launching targeted attacks, and even competitors.

To achieve their goals, cybercriminals often use insiders as part of their malicious ‘toolset’, to help them breach the perimeter of a telecommunications company and perpetrate their crimes. The global research based on 2016 Corporate IT Security Risks Survey by Kaspersky Lab and B2B International, reveals that 28% of all cyber-attacks, and 38% of targeted attacks now involve malicious activity by insiders. The intelligence report examines popular ways of involving insiders in telecoms-related criminal schemes and gives examples of the things insiders are used for.

Compromising employees

According to the Kaspersky Lab researchers, attackers engage or entrap telecoms employees in the following ways:

·         Using publically available or previously stolen data sources to find compromising information on employees of the company they want to hack. They then blackmail targeted individuals – forcing them to hand over their corporate credentials, provide information on internal systems or distribute spear-phishing attacks on their behalf.

·         Recruiting willing insiders through underground message boards or through the services of “black recruiters”. These insiders are paid for their services and can also be asked to identify co-workers who could be engaged through blackmail.

The blackmailing approach has grown in popularity, following online data breaches such as the Ashley Madison leak, as these provide attackers with material they can use to threaten or embarrass individuals. In fact, data-leak related extortion has now become so widespread that the FBI issued a Public Service Announcement on 1 June warning consumers of the risk and its potential impact.

 The insiders most in demand

According to the Kaspersky Lab researchers, if an attack on a cellular service provider is planned, criminals will seek out employees who can provide fast track access to subscriber and company data or SIM card duplication/illegal reissuing. If the target is an Internet service provider, the attackers will try to identify those who can enable network mapping and man-in-the-middle attacks.

However, insider threats can take all forms. The Kaspersky Lab researchers noted two non-typical examples, one of which involved a rogue telecoms employee leaking 70 million prison inmate calls, many of which breached client-attorney privilege. In another example, an SMS center support engineer was spotted on a popular DarkNet forum advertising their ability to intercept messages containing OTP (One-Time Passwords) for the two-step authentication required to login to customer accounts at a popular fintech company.

“The human factor is often the weakest link in corporate IT security. Technology alone is rarely enough to completely protect the organisation in world where attackers don’t hesitate to exploit insider vulnerability. Companies can start by looking at themselves the way an attacker would. If vacancies carrying your company name, or some of your data, start appearing on underground message boards, then somebody, somewhere has you in their sights. And the sooner you know about it the better you can prepare,” said Denis Gorchakov, security expert, Kaspersky Lab.

In order to protect the organisation from insider threat, Kaspersky Lab advises the following:

·         Educate your staff about responsible cyber-security behaviour and the dangers to look out for, and introduce robust policies about the use of corporate email addresses;

·         Use Threat Intelligence Services to understand why cybercriminals might be looking at your company and to find out if someone is offering an insider “service” in your organisation;

·         Restrict access to the most sensitive information and systems;

·         Do a regular security audit of the company’s IT infrastructure.

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Cisco gives pre-owned tech a Refresh

In a market of constant upgrades, Cisco Refresh aims to keep quality product away from landfills, writes BRYAN TURNER.

When one gets a new smartphone upgrade, the old device may be used as a backup or can be used by someone else. In business environments, equipment upgrades may not be conducive to keeping old equipment around, which may send older, working equipment to landfills.

This is where Cisco’s Refresh initiative comes in. At Cisco Connect in Sun City this week, Ehrika Gladden, VP and general manager of Cisco Refresh, lifted the lid on a little-known aspect of the company’s strategy. 

“Refresh is Cisco’s global pre-owned equipment business unit,” said Gladden. “It is certified to meet the quality and engineering standards of Cisco. It is licensed for software and it’s also inclusive of a services warranty.

“Our responsibility in 80 countries around the world is tied to both the recovery of assets and the ability to leverage those assets at a lower price point. This ensures our sustainability and proper usage of the Earth’s resources while providing access to small and medium businesses. The products are typically in the range of 20-40% cheaper. The products represent the entire portfolio for Cisco in some part, the majority of that product set is 2+ years in terms of generation.”

Cisco’s Circular Economy initiative ensures a sustainable loop through businesses willing to pay a premium for the latest, cutting-edge solutions, while Cisco markets older, working equipment for resale to those who don’t require the latest solutions. This ensures far less new components need to be used in a product range.

“We are leveraging the model of remanufacturing, refurbishing, recycling, and reusing,” said Gladden. “Depending on the product set, there is a certain set of product yield that we expect. They vary from product to product, but we do have a percentage that doesn’t make it through.

“Those are always reused, meaning we will look at those products and decide to use them completely differently, leveraging the components, remanufacturing back into the overall build process. If that can’t be done, we will go into a recycle process where we melt those products down to reuse them.”

Repairing and refurbishing older products isn’t just that. Cisco is creating repair centres that are owned by third-parties to uplift local ownership.

“The repair centres, as a global manufacturer, is Cisco’s entree into local ownership,” said Gladden. “I want to be precise about what I mean by local ownership. It’s critical for us to have a localised presence, but doing that through ownership. When you look at inclusive economies, those that are participative, to be sustainable – not in the product set, but generationally.

“The ability as a global manufacturer through a local ownership model  isto create a repair centre where a product can be returned, screened, tested, and repaired, leveraging the talent that the Networking Academy is creating.”

Cisco is working closely with local governments to understand where it operates and how to leverage the skills in the market.

Gladden said: “We are also super excited about the National Development Plan and African Union statements which with we align: eradication of poverty, job creation, ownership, healthcare, education, it all fits in the model. So we were very excited to have the opportunity to come to Africa first to announce this. Over the next twelve months, we want to establish our first repair centres, and in the next 3 to 5 years, build that vision into a reality.”

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Why Data Privacy has become a Pipe Dream

If you’re active on WhatsApp, Facebook or any other social platform, you’re not as safe as you thought, writes
AARON THORNTON, MD of Dial a Nerd

As you begin to read this, let’s perform a quick experiment! How many active conversations are you engaged in – right now – on WhatsApp? When was the last time you shared a picture or video on Instagram? Is Facebook currently open and active on one of your devices? And how many internet- connected devices are you using at this moment? Chances are, you have multiple devices running multiple applications most of the time. So what’s the problem, you ask? Since when did checking in with a high school buddy in Australia via Facebook become a dangerous act?  

In reply, we say, read on if you can stomach it!  

Nation-State Hacking & You  

It might seem like a laughably long shot to say that you are a key player in the increasingly sinister and sophisticated world of nation-state hacking. Well, you are. Given that individuals, businesses and governments are now constantly connected, round the clock, consumers and businesses have become fair game in cyber espionage. And as we create and share more and more data, both the value and accessibility of that data increases. According to a report by McAfee, IP theft now accounts for more than 25% of the estimated $600 billion cost of cybercrime to the world economy.    

With data having become the ‘new gold’, nation states are naturally pouring investment and key resources into building advanced cyber warfare tools. Indeed, entire divisions of armed forces as well as the upper echelons of corporate leadership are devising ways to harness data to gain economic, political and social power. At the highest level, tools and platforms are being developed with the specific aim of perpetrating cyber espionage and data theft. No surprise then, that the consumer and business environments are rife with increasingly advanced malware, ransomware and many other malicious hacking tools and methods.  

Still not convinced? Yes, we can smell the scepticism from here! So let’s take a moment to see how this has already played out, beneath our noses.  

Remember the Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal of early 2018? For many, this was a watershed moment in the emerging war for consumer data – and the ensuing tensions between privacy, power and profit. Need a refresh? Well, in 2018, Facebook exposed data on up to 87 million Facebook users to a researcher who worked at Cambridge Analytica, which worked for the Trump campaign. In essence, the data was harvested without user consent and used for political purposes.  

Another chilling but less direct example can be found in Russia’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections. According to Politico, Russia launched a massive social media campaign to ‘sow discord’ leading up to the elections. The website reported that as early as 2014, an infamous Russian “troll farm” known as the Internet Research Agency – a company linked to Russian president Putin – developed a strategy using fraudulent bank accounts and other fake identity documents to “spread distrust towards the candidates and the political system in general.” 

When referring to the Russian hacks and their impact on election results, one U.S. Representative sagely noted: “They didn’t just steal data; they weaponized it.” 

Ignorance is not bliss 

Okay, so data is being ‘weaponized’, and ordinary people and businesses are being caught in the crosshairs of cyber warfare. A little bit frightening, but the good news is that savvy individuals like you can take steps to protect personal data and actively combat the creeping influence of juggernauts such as Facebook and Google.  

To begin with, awareness is key. As you engage with various platforms and applications at work and at home, take time to understand how your data is being used and what the terms of use are. Is your data being accessed and sold to advertisers? Have you consented to this? In addition to scrutinizing your consent, also pay close attention to how much data you share online – and the nature of the details you are divulging. Always keep in mind that hackers are employing smart social engineering tactics and using the details of your private life (birthdays, holidays, pet’s names, etc) to trick you into opening infected emails and clicking on malware. Whenever you are online, you are a target – and vigilance at all times is critical. Beyond that, it goes without saying that you must commit to following basic security protocols with your devices. So always keep software up to date and keep your data backed up so that you can reboot or wipe a device if needed.   

Now that we’ve left you sufficiently spooked, you can get back to those demanding WhatsApp/Facebook/Instagram notifications (same company, by the way)…albeit, we hope, with a slightly altered [cyber] worldview!  

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