A Scary Incident of a $21.5 Million Successful CEO Phishing Fraud

Phishing is a scam usually executed via email or text messaging. The perpetrator usually poses as someone you know and they induce you to send them money. The incident explained below could also be called spear phishing or whaling, in [...]

A Scary Incident of a $21.5 Million Successful CEO Phishing Fraud2018-11-28T16:13:51+00:00

A three bullet summary of your current e-mail threats

Proofpoint Threat Operations and Research recently published their quarterly threat report for July - September 2016, which includes key findings such as: 

  • Volume of malicious emails rose to their highest levels ever
    New campaigns bearing varied attachment types broke volume records set in Q2, peaking at hundreds of millions of messages per day. JavaScript attachments continued to lead these very large email campaigns, growing 69% this quarter.
  • Ransomware variants grew tenfold
    In particular, 97% of messages with malicious document attachments featured the popular ransomware strain Locky, while CryptXXX was the dominant ransomware delivered by exploit kit (EK).

Download the full report. Please let us know if you have any questions related to this report or how Alvaka Networks can protect your people and data from attacks.

A three bullet summary of your current e-mail threats2016-10-24T13:44:00+00:00

What is Phishing, aka Social Engineering, and How Do I Avoid It?

I recently warned of a very large recent upsurge in ransomware.  Now I must warn you to beware of new successful social engineering exploits.  What is social engineering?

Wikipedia has a good definition:

Social engineering, in the context of information security, refers to psychological manipulation of people into performing actions or divulging confidential information. A type of confidence trick for the purpose of information gathering, fraud, or system access, it differs from a traditional "con" in that it is often one of many steps in a more complex fraud scheme.

In other words, phishing, the internet term for social engineering scams is simply a way to trick you into doing something so that you reveal vital information like bank account info, tax return info or send money unwittingly to a devious person.

Let me tell you about social engineering exploits in three recent real world examples.  In the first case, City of Hope in Duarte, CA (City of Hope employees fall victim to phishing attack) had three employees targeted by a phishing scam. They unwittingly revealed protected health information (PHI) which by law must be kept confidential. In the other two cases, the loss of data was much more vast. Both Seagate Technologies (Seagate Phish Exposes All Employee W-2’s) and Snapchat (Snapchat falls hook, line & sinker in phishing attack: Employee data leaked after CEO email scam) had an employee get tricked into providing W2 information on all past and current...

What is Phishing, aka Social Engineering, and How Do I Avoid It?2017-09-18T00:27:31+00:00

I Am a Non-Technical Executive… What Seven Things Should I Be Asking My IT Guys About IT Security?

Irvine, CA - Overseeing IT and security is a daunting task, even if you are an IT professional. If you are an executive to whom IT reports, then the task becomes near impossible. The list of following questions is designed to empower you to have a meaningful discussion with your IT team so you can be an informed and responsible manager pursuing your due diligence role in protecting the assets of your firm. If you are an IT professional, these are questions you should be prepared to answer.

1.       Q. When did we last do a risk assessment? Please share that document with me. I would particularly like to see the Risk Assessment Table.

A.      Make sure your IT team is periodically assessing the risks to your IT systems.  They should be recommending upgrades and new solutions for you from time-to-time, and you should be listening.  They need to be able to express the threat in operational and economic terms in order to justify the expenditure.  If your team can’t give you a clear and coherent answer on when and how they last did this, send them off with a task and a deadline.

2.       Q. When did we last do a Vulnerability Scan? What were the results of that scan? I would like to see the report.  Who did the remediation? When is our next scan planned?...

I Am a Non-Technical Executive… What Seven Things Should I Be Asking My IT Guys About IT Security?2017-11-13T07:21:50+00:00

What 12 Security Things Should I Focus on to Be Defensible in 2016?

Here is a sneak-peek and what is likely my most important blog for the upcoming New Year.  This is just a partial teaser....

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Irvine, CA - I was recently asked by a roundtable of CEOs to advise them on network security.  They had a lot of questions and a lot of misinformation.  I was surprised as this was a group of technology company CEOs and what I quickly found out is that they did not know much more than my non-tech company CEO clients.  From that discussion they asked me to come back and present to them a short list of actions they should take in 2016 to better secure their systems.  Initially I wanted to present them with a list of 10 things they should focus upon.  For anyone that knows, it is easy to create a list of 100 things that should be done to secure a system. However, I decided in order to make the list actionable and not overwhelming I needed to focus on the 10 things I have seen in the past year or two that have caused the most real-life grief for our new and existing clients.  I wanted to keep the list to 10 items, but I had to fudge a bit and expand to 12 core items. Then I added three bonus items for those who are over-achievers and another three for those in regulated businesses like healthcare, financial services and Sarbanes-Oxley.

This list is not complete nor absolute.  It is a list I have created largely in order of my perceived importance based upon the real-life hacks, breaches and other maladies related to failures of network security to keep the bad guys out.  You will need to assess the requirements that are appropriate for your firm.  If you are looking for a good place to start, I offer up my suggestions below.

1.       You need to do a vulnerability assessment or security assessment.  It is impossible for you to know what actions you should take to properly secure your systems without first doing an assessment.  Assessments are common practice at many firms, yet completely ignored at others.  It is fairly easy for you to order a vulnerability assessment and the best part is that it takes very little time and participation from you and your IT staff.  The cost for this service ranges from a few thousand dollars for a very small firm to several tens-of-thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars for larger enterprises.  These should be done at least once per year just like your financial audit.

2.       Patching for Software Security Updates is perhaps one of the most overlooked and under-rated security measures you can implement to better secure your systems.  I maintain that good software patching measures are in some ways more important than your firewall.  A firewall is a formidable device that once it gets set-up has a number of ports opened up so that your firm can transact business.  That is where it gets weak.  Through these legitimately opened ports attackers will send nasty payloads that compromise your system, often without you knowing.  Imagine a hardened castle all buttoned up, but the draw bridge must be opened in order to conduct commerce.  Through that legitimately opened bridge come the sneak attacks, the scammers, crooks, mischievous and spies....

What 12 Security Things Should I Focus on to Be Defensible in 2016?2015-11-12T03:10:52+00:00