Category Archives: Symantec

Choosing Backup and Recovery Solutions for the Virtual Environment

One of the least popular action words in computing – perhaps not the runaway leader – but it’s up there – backup. 

One of the most expensive undertakings in computing – perhaps not the most expensive – but it’s up there – the painful crisis following a system failure without a – backup.

There’s no need to remind regular readers of the inevitability of a hard drive crash and of the necessity of running with a proactive backup strategy – they get it (I think   Smile  )

But, given the accelerating pace of change in the small business market – most particular in the use of  virtual machines, small business owners may well need a quick refresher in how to implement a strategy which ensure both physical and virtual environments are actively protected.

Here’s a timely guest article from Michael Krutikov, a Product Marketing Manager over at Symantec, in which Michael explains how to get it right.

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imageIn a virtual environment, each host server has the potential to become a single point of failure for business-critical applications. Because of this, businesses need to invest in practically invulnerable backup and recovery solutions that have been specifically designed for the virtual environment – as well as the physical environment.

You could, of course, use one backup and recovery solution for your physical environment and purchase a second for your virtual environment, but that can introduce a whole host of problems that you may not have the time or resources to handle, like the need to manage a second interface, the disruption to your team – who has to learn it – and the cost for a second set of backup hardware and licenses. Instead, most experts recommend streamlining your backup and recovery needs by finding a single solution that protects both environments and will:

  • Provide granular- and application-level recovery. To ensure that you can restore what you need, when you need it, make sure that your backup and recovery solution offers all levels of recovery, including full virtual machine, individual virtual disks, virtualized application & database servers, as well as files, folders and even individual emails. That way, you can get your most critical business components back up and running quickly.
  • Deduplicate (data deduplication is a specialized data compression technique for eliminating duplicate copies of repeating data), across both physical and virtual environments. When you deduplicate data across both the physical and virtual environments, you’re able to not only save large amounts of disk space as compared to compression or single-instance storage, but you can reduce backup storage costs and backup window times, as well.
  • Include storage efficient backup. This improved form of data backup will exclude deleted blocks from a backup to increase your storage efficiency.
  • Automatically convert physical backups to virtual machines. By choosing a backup and recovery solution with this feature, you’re able restore physical servers to virtual machines, and it eliminates the need to have an already-configured, physical server ready to go in case of a failure.
  • Offers physical server and multi-hypervisor support. Because many organizations are running multiple hypervisors, finding a solution that supports them all will simplify your backup complexity, and management – and help reduce your licensing costs.

To ensure that your backup and recovery solution keeps even new virtual machines protected, be sure to look for one that will automatically detect new machines as they come online. That way, your team won’t have to spend time and energy searching for new machines – or editing backup up policies when new applications move to different hosts.

Michael Krutikov is a Product Marketing Manager, supporting Backup Exec since joining Symantec in 2007. With a 14 year career in IT, he now works on marketing partnerships and programs built from thousands of meetings with partners and customers in a constant learning mission to deliver Symantec solutions that can better address their needs.

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Filed under Backup Applications, Guest Writers, Symantec, System Recovery Tools

Are You A Sixty-Nine Percenter?

imageHopefully, you are not a member of the sixty-nine percent club. If you’re not, then you have not been a victim of cyber criminals – unlike the two thirds of online adults (69 percent), who have been a victim of cybercrime in their lifetime.

According to the United Nations telecommunications agency (January 2011), the number of Internet users now exceeds the two Billion mark, worldwide. It’s easy to see then, that cyber criminals have a virtually unlimited playground in which to ply their trade. And, they do just that – with a vengeance.

Symantec, in it’s recently released Norton Cybercrime Report 2011, makes the point that every second 14 adults become a victim of cyber crime – which translates into one Million+ Internet users who are duped by the detestable sleazebag members of the cyber criminal community – every day. Let’s take it a step further – if we annualize this number, we end up with a shocking 431 Million cyber crime victims.

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Graphic courtesy of Symantec

The sheer number of victims is appalling, but the hard monetary costs involved are stunning.

Global cost of cybercrime – from Symantec:

With 431 million adult victims globally in the past year and at an annual price of $388 billion globally based on financial losses and time lost, cybercrime costs the world significantly more than the global black market in marijuana, cocaine and heroin combined ($288 billion).

At $388 Billion, cybercrime is more than 100 times the annual expenditure of UNICEF ($3.65 billion).

I’ll borrow a concept from the Real Estate industry for a moment, and that is – the concept of, “highest and best use”. The use of money can also be described in this way, and the following graphic illustrate how cybercrime can impact this concept at a societal level. It’s rather telling, what those diverted dollars, if employed elsewhere, could accomplish.

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Graphic courtesy of Symantec

It’s important to understand that cyber criminals are not selective – it doesn’t matter where you reside – the entire Internet community is fair game.

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Graphic courtesy of Symantec

While an installed Internet security suite (or a stand-alone AV application), won’t eliminate all cyber crime risks, it is effective in reducing risk exposure to manageable, and acceptable levels. One has to wonder why 41 % of those surveyed (as illustrated in the following graphic), connect to the Internet while running out-of-date security software.

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Graphic courtesy of Symantec

It’s common practice for members of my group to query clients on the state of Internet security, the protective measures they have instituted to ensure both their own safety, and the safety of their systems, while connected to the Web – so, I’ll not take issue with the statistics in this graphic. Except to say – they may be underestimated.

Within my group, we find that a significant percentage of polled clients have little interest in Internet security, and fail to understand the vulnerabilities and issues that surround computer system security.

Common responses to queries include:

Security applications are too confusing and hinder my “fun” by slowing down system response time.

I didn’t know I shouldn’t click the ‘YOU ARE A WINNER!!!!’ banner.

My anti-malware application has let me down – how was I supposed to know I was downloading a bad program!

I’m not sure how my machine got infected – it just happened.

I like to download from Crack sites and Peer-2-Peer networks. So what?

I got a popup saying I was infected, so I clicked on it. What else was I supposed to do!

I didn’t know I was supposed to read the End User License Agreement – I don’t even know what that is.

I thought I had Windows update activated.

What do you mean I should update ALL my applications?

What’s a Firewall – never heard of it?

On the face of it, it might appear as if these types of responses are somehow not very typical. Unfortunately, these responses are not only typical, but characteristic of the majority of the home computer users’ my group comes into contact with every day.

Given this abysmal performance  the following is worth considering –  “In the past, the Internet consisted, mostly, of smart people in front of dumb terminals. Now, the reverse situation dominates”. It may seem a little facetious – but is it, really?

More and more it’s obvious to me, that relying on computer users taking responsibility for their own security and safety, is a non-starter. It’s just not happening. Personally, I hold out little hope that this will ever happen.

In the circumstances, it’s well past time that the “controlling interests” develop a rational approach to the underlying security issues surrounding the Internet – failing which, cyber crime will continue to flourish, and successful attacks on computers over the Internet will continue to proliferate.

Equally as important, in my view – we need a concerted effort from law enforcement, at every level, to actively pursue those who continue to cause havoc on the Internet.

Despite the fact that cyber crime could not be a more pressing problem – one which gives rise to significant human and financial costs – the naysayers, and the “can’t be done” proponents have the field, for the moment. But, only because we, as a society, allow it.

It’s time you demanded a much more aggressive response to cyber crime from those who are charged with ensuring your safety and security – whether it be in the “real” world, or the “virtual” world of the Internet. It’s time that you let your voice be heard. It’s time to emulate Peter Finch and state – “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”

If you’re interested in the full Norton Cybercrime Report 2011, it’s available here in multiple languages.

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Filed under Cyber Crime, Cyber Criminals, cybercrime, Malware Reports, Norton, Reports, Symantec, Tech Net News

Don Gunshot – The Hitman With A Heart e-Blackmail

imageI sometimes wonder if it isn’t a prerequisite that Nigerian scammer wannabes are required to graduate “comedy school”, before they get their scammers license and are set free to practice their newfound skills on the marginally intelligent.

In a new twist on an old theme (the infamous 419 scam), Nigerian scammers have upped the ante in a variant of their usual email scam nonsense – the hitman, “I’m gonna kill you” email. These fear-provoking emails (at least they’re intended to be scary), contain a threat that the recipient will be murdered by – are you ready for this – “Don Gunshot”.

But, Don is not your ordinary run-of-the-mill “I’m gonna blast ya out of your shoes” hitman. No, Don it seems, has a big heart. For a measly $5000, Don will take you off the list of his current projects. Just in case you might think that Don is no gentleman, he’s gone the extra mile and politely signed off on the email, with a kindly – Regard(s). Too funny!

Hitman emails are not a new threat – they’ve  been circulating on the Internet since at least early in 2007. They come; they go, and come and go again.

So it’s hardly surprising to see that Symantec has just identified a new wave of hitman emails currently making the rounds. Although there are many variations of this email, here’s one example:

Click graphic to expand to original size.

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Graphic courtesy of Symantec.

On a more serious note:

Don’t act fast as Don suggests. Don’t send $5000. Do contact the Police – this an attempt at extortion.

This scam illustrates the lengths to which these crooks will go to entrap the unwary and gullible. Unfortunately, the description “unwary and gullible”, is easily applied to substantial numbers of Internet users.

As an experienced and cautious Internet user, it’s safe to say that you will not be deceived by this type of clumsy attempt to defraud but, you might be surprised how often reasonably intelligent people are.

So, be kind to your friends, relatives, and associates, particularly those who are new Internet users, and let them know that there is an epidemic of 419 scams on the Internet. In doing so, you help raise the level of protection for all of us.

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Filed under Cyber Crime, Cyber Criminals, Don't Get Scammed, email scams, Humor, Internet Security Alerts, Online Safety, Symantec, Windows Tips and Tools

Fake URL Shortening Services –Spammers Latest Weapon

imageAccording to Symantec’s May 2011 MessageLabs Intelligence Report, released several days ago, spammers are now employing their own fake URL shortening services to redirect users to the spammer’s Web site. It’s hardly surprising that this new technique has directly contributed to rising spam rates.

MessageLabs Intelligence reports that “shortened links created on these fake URL-shortening sites are not included directly in spam messages. Instead, the spam emails contain shortened URLs created on legitimate URL-shortening sites. These shortened URLs lead to a shortened-URL on the spammer’s fake URL-shortening Web site, which in turn redirects to the spammer’s own Web site.”

Key findings from the May 2011 report include:

Spam: In May 2011, the global ratio of spam in email traffic from new and previously unknown bad sources increased by 2.9 percentage points since April 2011 to 75.8% (1 in 1.32 emails).

In the US 76.4 percent of email was spam, 75.3 percent in Canada, 75.4 percent in the UK, and 73.9 percent in Australia.

Viruses: The global ratio of email-borne viruses in email traffic from new and previously unknown bad sources was one in 222.3 emails (0.450 percent) in May, a decrease of 0.143 percentage points since April.

Endpoint Threats: The most frequently blocked malware targeting endpoint devices for the last month was the W32.Ramnit!html, a worm that spreads through removable drives and by infecting executable files.

Phishing: In May, phishing activity was 1 in 286.7 emails (0.349 percent), a decrease of 0.06 percentage points since April.

Web security: Analysis of Web security activity shows that approximately 3,142 Web sites each day were harboring malware and other potentially unwanted programs including spyware and adware, an increase of 30.4 percent since April 2011. 36.8 percent of malicious domains blocked were new in May, an increase of 3.8 percentage points since April. Additionally, 24.6 percent of all web-based malware blocked was new in May, an increase of 2.1 percentage points since last month.

The May 2011 MessageLabs Intelligence Report provides greater detail on all of the trends and figures noted above, as well as more detailed geographical and vertical trends. The full report is available here.

Reading this type of report (or at least the highlights), can be a major step in expanding the sense of threat awareness that active Internet users’ require.

Symantec’s MessageLabs Intelligence is a respected source of data and analysis for messaging security issues, trends and statistics. MessageLabs Intelligence provides a range of information on global security threats based on live data feeds from control towers around the world scanning billions of messages each week.

About Symantec:

Symantec is a global leader in providing security, storage and systems management solutions to help consumers and organizations secure and manage their information-driven world. Our software and services protect against more risks at more points, more completely and efficiently, enabling confidence wherever information is used or stored. More information is available at www.symantec.com.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

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Filed under Cyber Crime, Cyber Criminals, cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, Email, email scams, Internet Security Alerts, MessageLabs, Online Safety, spam, Symantec, Windows Tips and Tools

Symantec Says “Facebook Applications Accidentally Leaking Access to Third Parties”

From the Symantec Blog:

Third parties, in particular advertisers, have accidentally* had access to Facebook users’ accounts including profiles, photographs, chat, and also had the ability to post messages and mine personal information. Fortunately, these third-parties may not have realized their ability to access this information. We have reported this issue to Facebook, who has taken corrective action to help eliminate this issue.

Symantec has discovered that in certain cases, Facebook IFRAME applications inadvertently leaked access tokens to third parties like advertisers or analytic platforms. We estimate that as of April 2011, close to 100,000 applications were enabling this leakage. We estimate that over the years, hundreds of thousands of applications may have inadvertently leaked millions of access tokens to third parties.

Read the rest here.

* Accidentally – Occurring unexpectedly, unintentionally, or by chance.

Facebook has a long history of breaching user confidentiality, and it seems to rely on the “accidentally” excuse more often than not. The cynic in me sees it differently. Facebook may well be driven by a more convenient philosophy –  nothing is illegal until you get caught.

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Filed under Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, FaceBook, Internet Security Alerts, Online Safety, Point of View, Social Networks, Symantec, Windows Tips and Tools

March 2011 MessageLabs Intelligence Report – Rustock Goes Down, Bagle Botnet Picks Up The Slack

imageThere’s been much more discussion recently as to whether infected computers should be allowed unrestricted access to the Internet. Despite the fact we’ve been around the horn on this question for years, there’s still little consensus on this thorny issue.

Since infected computers, linked together in botnets, form the backbone of spam distribution networks – according to the March 2011 MessageLabs Intelligence Report, botnets sent an average of 88.2% of global spam during 2010 – this question needs to be taken off the back burner and dealt with much more aggressively.

Frankly, I’m tired of making excuses for people who are too damn lazy, too damn stupid, too damn inconsiderate, ………. to take the time to learn the basics of computer security. And, as a consequence cause me, and you incidentally, to have to deal with volumes of spam that are beyond the pale.

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Graphic courtesy of Symantec (Click to expand to original)

According to the March 2011, MessageLabs Intelligence Report (released yesterday), the recently taken down Rustock botnet “had been sending as many as 13.82 billion spam emails daily, accounting for an average of 28.5% of global spam sent from all botnets in March.”

A little math suggests, that during March enough Spam was emailed that conceivably, every person on the Planet received 7 spam emails EVERY DAY! Since every person on the Planet is not connected, the abuse takes on another magnitude. I can’t think of another finite resource – and the Internet is a finite resource – that could be continuously abused in this way, without some kind of strong kickback.

Are we making any headway against botnets and the cyber criminals behind them? Not according to the MessageLabs Intelligence Report we’re not. Sure, Rustock has bitten the dust (at least for the moment), but the Bagle botnet has stepped into the breech, bumped up its output, and is now sending 8.31 billion spam emails each day, mostly tied to pharmaceutical products.

Report highlights:

Spam: In March 2011, the global ratio of spam in email traffic from new and previously unknown bad sources decreased by 2 percent (1 in 1.26 emails).

Viruses: The global ratio of email-borne viruses in email traffic from new and previously unknown bad sources was one in 208.9 emails (0.479 percent) in March, an increase of .134 percentage points since February. In March, 63.4 percent of email-borne malware contained links to malicious websites, a decrease of .1 percentage points since February.

Endpoint Threats: The endpoint is often the last line of defense and analysis. The threats found here can shed light on the wider nature of threats confronting businesses, especially from blended attacks. Attacks reaching the endpoint are likely to have already circumvented other layers of protection that may already be deployed, such as gateway filtering.

Phishing: In March, phishing activity was 1 in 252.5 emails (0.396 percent), a decrease of 0.065 percentage points since February.

Web security: Analysis of web security activity shows that an average of 2,973 websites each day were harbouring malware and other potentially unwanted programs including spyware and adware, a decrease of 27.5% since February. 37 percent of malicious domains blocked were new in March, a decrease of 1.9 percentage points since February. Additionally, 24.5 percent of all web-based malware blocked was new in March, a decrease of 4.2 percentage points since last month.

Reading this type of report (or at least the highlights), is certainly educational, and can be a major step in expanding that sense of threat awareness that active Internet users’ require.

The full MLI Report is available here in PDF.

Symantec’s MessageLabs Intelligence is a respected source of data and analysis for messaging security issues, trends and statistics. MessageLabs Intelligence provides a range of information on global security threats based on live data feeds from control towers around the world scanning billions of messages each week.

About Symantec:

Symantec is a global leader in providing security, storage and systems management solutions to help consumers and organizations secure and manage their information-driven world. Our software and services protect against more risks at more points, more completely and efficiently, enabling confidence wherever information is used or stored. More information is available at www.symantec.com.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

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Filed under bots, Cyber Crime, Cyber Criminals, cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, email scams, Interconnectivity, MessageLabs, spam, Symantec, Windows Tips and Tools

Spam Falls To ONLY 33.5 BILLION Spam Emails Daily – January 2011 MessageLabs Intelligence Report

imageIf you haven’t gotten an email lately for a “performance” enhancer like Cialis, or Viagra here’s why –

According to Symantec’s MessageLabs Intelligence Report for January, 2011, pharmaceutical spam recently dropped to 59.1% of all spam – down from it’s all time high of 85% of all spam, back in May 2010. Still, that’s small comfort when you consider that spam currently accounts for 75.7 percent of all email traffic. What a waste of the Internet’s finite resources.

The report points out that “the decline is the result of both a halt in the spam-sending activities of three botnets – Rustock, Lethic and Xarvester – and also unrest among pharmaceutical spam-sending gangs following the closure of pharmaceutical spam affiliate, Spamit”.

This respite however, is likely to be short lived. MessageLabs Intelligence Senior Analyst, Paul Wood pointed out ‘”there are likely other factors at work, such as consolidation and restructuring of pharmaceutical spam operations ……….  we expect to see more pharmaceutical spam in 2011 as new pharmaceutical spam brands emerge and botnets compete for their business.”

A snapshot of the threat landscape over the last month:

Spam: In January 2011, the global ratio of spam in email traffic from new and previously unknown bad sources was 78.6 percent (1 in 1.3 emails), a decrease of 3.1 percentage points since December.

Viruses: The global ratio of email-borne viruses in email traffic from new and previously unknown bad sources was one in 364.8 emails (0.274 percent) in January, a decrease of .03 percentage points since December. In January, 65.1 percent of email-borne malware contained links to malicious websites, a decrease of 2.5 percentage points since December.

Endpoint Threats: Threats against endpoint devices such as laptops, PCs and servers may penetrate an organization in a number of ways, including drive-by attacks from compromised websites, Trojan horses and worms that spread by copying themselves to removable drives. Analysis of the most frequently blocked malware for the last month revealed that the Sality.AE virus was the most prevalent. Sality.AE spreads by infecting executable files and attempts to download potentially malicious files from the Internet.

Phishing: In January, phishing activity was 1 in 409.7 emails (0.244 percent), an increase of 0.004 percentage points since December.

Web security: Analysis of web security activity shows that 44.1 percent of malicious domains blocked were new in January, an increase of 7.9 percentage points since December. Additionally, 21.8 percent of all web-based malware blocked was new in January, a decrease of 3.1 percentage points since last month. MessageLabs Intelligence also identified an average of 2,751 new websites per day harboring malware and other potentially unwanted programs such as spyware and adware, a decrease of 21.5 percent since December.

Reading this type of report (or at least the highlights), is certainly educational, and can be a major step in expanding that sense of threat awareness that active Internet users’ require.

The full MLI Report is available here in PDF.

Symantec’s MessageLabs Intelligence is a respected source of data and analysis for messaging security issues, trends and statistics. MessageLabs Intelligence provides a range of information on global security threats based on live data feeds from control towers around the world scanning billions of messages each week.

About Symantec:

Symantec is a global leader in providing security, storage and systems management solutions to help consumers and organizations secure and manage their information-driven world. Our software and services protect against more risks at more points, more completely and efficiently, enabling confidence wherever information is used or stored. More information is available at www.symantec.com.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

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