Tag Archives: Jr.

The Greatest Cyber Threat Is….

National Security Agency seal Paul E. Lubic, Jr., a long time IT professional, and a frequent guest writer here, has just posted an article on why computer users need to be cyber threat savvy.

Find out why – Ignorance is the Greatest Cyber Threat.

Here’s a preview –

Alex Miller, a retired Navy cryptologic officer, who spent more than 33 years in the Navy, and retired in 2005 as a rear admiral while serving as the chief of staff at the National Security Agency has stated in an interview for the New New Internet Newsletter;

“I think there are many cyber threats out there: nation-state, terrorists, illegal activities, to name a few. But I’d say the greatest threat is the ignorance of the people who use computers and the Internet and their failure to realize how vulnerable they really are.

Password protection and point defense systems that we use now are very vulnerable, and they [instill] a false sense of security. Securing our computers and trying to mitigate our risk while on the Internet will be a significant issue for the foreseeable future.”

For many of us who’ve been trying to educate computer users about safe use of the Internet and best security practices, this statement isn’t “new” news. But……

To read the rest of this article, visit Paul’s Home Computing Blog.

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Rolling The Dice With Computer Security

image Paul E. Lubic, Jr., a long time IT professional, and a frequent guest writer here, has just posted an article on the odds of a typical computer users becoming infected by malware.

Malware Infection: Your Odds, is a great read, and the statistics Paul has included hold some real surprises.

Here’s a preview –

I did a little research and found that the chance of being infected by malware is astoundingly, eye-popping, breathtakingly high. According to BBC Online, a Microsoft security report in April of 2009, found that 8.6 computers in every 1,000 worldwide will be infected by malware.

If you think that 8.6 in 1,000 is pretty good odds and that you may have some wiggle room for being infected, think again…this is bad. Let’s compare these odds with playing the lottery……”

To read the rest of the article, visit Paul’s Home Computing Blog.

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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The Global Cyber Crime Marketplace

The buying and selling of hacking tools, e-crime kits, malware, and stolen credit card numbers, in a cyber crime flea market environment, may seem as if it stretches the bounds of reality. But, guest writer Paul E. Lubic, Jr., explains in this eye popping report, that this is in fact, a new cyber crime reality.

Here’s Paul’s report:

image The global cyber crime marketplace is alive, real, and growing. In a recent article, Global Cyber Crime…, I alluded to the existence of a market for renting botnets, purchasing malware, and obtaining stolen personal information.

At that time, this market of buyers and sellers existed on a small number of black hat-type websites. However, now these brazen thieves have come out in the public to exchange their criminal wares.

According to an article in the Register, Scotland Yard cuffs teens for role in cybercrime forum, a public forum of 8,000 attendees was held in London. The two teens who were involved in organizing the forum are not the story here. It’s the fact that there were vendors there, probably in show booths giving away trinkets for stopping by, that were selling hack-tools, e-crime kits, malware, and 65,000 credit card numbers.

I applaud Scotland Yard for arresting the teen organizers, but I don’t understand why they didn’t arrest those attendees and vendors who were trafficking in these crime-related tools and illegal credit card information. What is wrong with this picture? I don’t think it’s because of ignorance—Scotland Yard evidently knew laws were being broken or they wouldn’t have arrested the organizers.

Could it be that British computer laws don’t address the marketing of these products? Perhaps no one realized the gravity of the situation—they were selling Zeus, the malware that steals banking and credit card information and instructions on how to use it.

Maybe there were undercover agents making purchases and gathering evidence for future arrests. Or it could be all of the above; but the bottom line is that a lot of criminals and malware could have been taken off the street…but weren’t.

The message being sent to the cyber criminal community is that as long as the forum is in England, and you don’t get involved in the actual organization of the forum or conference, you’re free to ply your wares and sell or purchase tools with which to break laws and steal from the masses.

However, this forum, as disturbing as it might be, is just a harbinger of a much greater global cyber crime picture that concerns me. It should concern you too.

The messages we should be taking from this are:

  1. The criminals are becoming emboldened, almost unafraid of being arrested. This is because there is so much money in cyber theft that it’s worth the risk; coupled with the fact that this is a new industry and the early participants will become the most rich.
  2. The amount of cyber crime being committed is expanding at an alarming rate. Anyone is able to get into the cyber crime business for as little as a few hundred $US, and because of this, there is an explosion of cyber crime underway as we speak.
  3. The world’s law enforcement community is woefully undermanned and under educated in cyber crime. This area of law enforcement needs to be funded at a much greater level than the present “handful” of cyber crime officers in each organization today.
  4. We need to be afraid…very afraid of this problem. For all the reasons stated in items 1-3, we will remain the target of cyber crime for the foreseeable future.

Guest writer Paul E. Lubic, Jr. is a long time IT professional who has held the positions of programmer, IT Security Manager and Chief Information Officer.  His interests lie in the IT security area, but he writes on all categories of technology.

Paul is a mature and seasoned writer, with a rare ability to break down complex issues into an easy to understand format. Check him out at his Blog – Paul’s Home Computing.

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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Global Cyber Crime: The Playing Field, The Players -The Perfect Storm

Guest writer Paul E. Lubic, Jr. takes a close up look at those who are really responsible for cybercrime – organized crime syndicates. You may find some surprises here.

image In my recent article Internet: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly, I mentioned that organized crime was responsible for much of the malware and hacking now abundant across the Internet.  This article will delve into those organizations and where they’re located across the world.

It’s important to point out that the global economy and the Internet play an important part in how many cyber criminals are in business, and where they operate.

The international bestselling book The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century by Thomas L Friedman, analyzes globalization, primarily in the early 21st century.  The title is a metaphor for viewing the world as a level playing field in terms of commerce, where all competitors have an equal opportunity.

Friedman astutely points out that because of the Internet, the personal computer, and other technological advances, businesses can provide products and services to customers across the world when heretofore the cost of doing so was prohibitive.  So…what’s this got to do with global cyber crime?

The criminal element, recognizing that there was money to be made, took advantage of the “flat world” just as the legitimate businesses have.  Thus, there has been an explosion of cyber (Internet) criminal activity across the world…primarily by organized crime syndicates.

But, the recent development of these syndicates selling hacking tools packaged in such a way that an inexperienced hacker can operate a “productive” criminal business, has allowed much smaller players to enter this lucrative field.

Authentication firm VeriSign, recently reported that they studied 25 botnet herders across 3 online forums and found that botnets could be rented for an average US$8.59 per  hour on which hacking attacks could be launched.  A 24 hour rental goes for around US$64 on which could be run several different attack vectors.  We’re talking about cost similar to a flash drive or a box of printer ink cartridges!

Who are these syndicates?

As you might expect, they prefer to remain secret and as anonymous as possible in order to avoid detection and arrest.  However, we know that they are highly organized and very complex cyber crime organizations.

In recent years they have transformed from individual operations to an organized multi-layered network of cooperating syndicates.  Some of their names are China’s Gray Pigeons and Honkers Union of China; and the largest and most successful Russian Business Network of the Russian Federation.

Steven Chabinsky, deputy assistant director in the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) cyber division recently told participants of  a US government trade show that criminal hacker organizations are operating with increasing corporate-like efficiency and specialization.  He listed some of the specialized roles in cyber crime organizations:

Coders, who write the exploits and malware.

Distributors, who trade and sell stolen data.

Tech experts, who maintain the criminal enterprise’s IT infrastructure.

Hackers, who search for and exploit vulnerabilities in applications,systems and networks.

Fraudsters, who woo potential victims with social engineering schemes like phishing and spam.

Hosted system providers, who offer illicit content servers.

Cashiers, who control drop accounts and provide names and accounts to other criminals for a fee.

Money mules, who complete wire transfers between bank accounts.

Tellers, who transfer and launder illicit earnings through digital currency services.

Organization leaders, who assemble the team and choose the targets.

Where do these criminal threats come from?

ThreatExpert.com reports that the worldwide distribution of threats is as follows:

China   31%

Russian Federation 22%

Brazil    8%

United Kingdom  6%

United States   6%

Spain    4%

Germany   4%

Others   19% (Includes: Canada, India, Iran, Algeria, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, and Turkey).

As indicated above, China is the threat leader, and has been for some time.  However, security software vendor Zscaler indicates a new threat is emerging in South America; where 7 of the top 10 countries with high saturation of malware-distributing servers were South and Central American nations.

These include Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Argentina, Paraguay, Ecuador and Colombia.  My own organization’s security logs reflect this trend with increasing numbers of attempted attacks from all these countries and more…every day.

The threats referred to in this article include: malicious mail servers which send millions of phishing and ad-related spam email; viruses; keylogger bot programs that record keyboard keystrokes to collect user access Ids, passwords, and bank account numbers which are sent to the criminal controllers of the bot for use in identity theft and bank fraud; and various backdoor Trojans that allow future access by other malware.

This perfect storm of:

1. A flat world facilitating global business activity.

2. The involvement of organized crime syndicates.

3. The selling and renting of malware packages and botnets to the criminal masses has radically increased the malware, hacking, and subsequent danger present on the Internet today.

Guest writer Paul E. Lubic, Jr. is a long time IT professional who has held the positions of programmer, IT Security Manager and Chief Information Officer.  His interests lie in the IT security area, but he writes on all categories of technology.

Paul is a mature and seasoned writer, with a rare ability to break down complex issues into an easy to understand format. Check him out at his Blog – Paul’s Home Computing.

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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Internet: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

Guest writer Paul E. Lubic, Jr. takes a close up look at the Internet, and considers the impact of this potent tool in its totality. Or, as Paul puts it; the good; the bad; and the ugly side of  this world changer. See if you agree.

image The Internet is a phenomenon that has changed our world in many ways.  We communicate, conduct commerce, and obtain information globally…all good things.  However, it also has it’s dark side that we contend with too.

The Good

The use of the Internet has globalized our communication and information gathering by allowing us to email, blog, and message text with people and business partners in almost every country in the world. This has increased our productivity, and everyone’s ability to compete in the global economy.

Our schools are able to compare teaching techniques and strategy with schools in other countries, and help each other increase effectiveness.

Our businesses, large and small, have the ability to buy and sell products in countries previously not possible because of logistical restrictions.

Consumers have the ability to shop the world for goods and services previously not possible because of geographic boundaries.

Considering all the good things mentioned above, we tend to ask ourselves what we ever did without the Internet.  However, considering the “dark side” of the Internet, we wonder how long we’ll be able to  continue to use it.

The Bad

When discussing the Internets list of warts, the proliferation of pornography comes to mind first.  Despite the efforts of law enforcement around the world; you can access any genre of porn in photographs and video very easily.

Spam and Junk mail are next on my list of objectionable features on the Internet.  Most of it a nuisance, some of which is an insult to our sensibilities.  And we are inundated with a huge volume of malicious email that has doubled in the past year.

The Ugly

Another wart on the list is criminal activity in cyber space.  There are organized crime groups in many countries whose sole objective is to use the Internet to steal our money.

The cast of characters is constantly changing.  It started with the Russian Mafia, then they were joined by groups from Romania and other eastern block countries.  Next came the Koreans, Chinese and India.  And now I’m seeing a lot of activity… though on a smaller scale (they can only afford to buy some of the older, cheaper malware).

This proliferation of crime is fueled by the malware-for-sale market where a criminal can buy revenue-producing malware and rent part or all of a bot-net to run it on.

Finally, the proliferation of destructive viruses that harm our computers and cause us to lose our ability to use them until we remove the offenders.

These malicious programs are created by two categories of criminals: the hacker; a programmer who wants recognition among the growing herd of hackers…there are conventions where they meet to brag on their accomplishments and obtain new skills; and the other group is the criminal faction mentioned above.

All in all, I’d say that in spite of the list of dark side attributes, there is far more positive value we derive from the Internet.  However, the lesson we must take from this phenomenon is that we need to educate ourselves on the downside problems of the Internet so that we are able to enjoy the positive attributes safely and securely.

All in all, I’d say that in spite of the list of dark side attributes, there is far more positive value we derive from the Internet.  However, the lesson we must take from this phenomenon is that we need to educate ourselves on the downside problems of the Internet so that we are able to enjoy the positive attributes safely and securely. (All Rights Reserved.  Paul E. Lubic, Jr.)

Guest writer Paul E. Lubic, Jr. is a long time IT professional who’s held the positions of programmer, IT Security Manager and Chief Information Officer.  His interests lie in the IT security area, but he writes on all categories of technology.  Paul has a blog that caters to home computing.  Check him out at his Blog – Paul’s Home Computing.

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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