FBI rolling out high-tech 'Big Brother' monitoring system

Thanks to the FBI, the United States government will soon have a nationwide system in place capable of monitoring and identifying “persons of interest” virtually anywhere. The Next Generation Identification (NGI) system is designed to aid the FBI in tracking down and capturing criminals.

Fingerprints have been the primary unique identifier for law enforcement agencies of all levels for a century. Even with billions of samples on record, no two fingerprints have ever been found to be alike.

Fingerprints are just one unique identifier, though, and much of the accumulated fingerprint data is not merged and easily accessible. NGI will include voice recognition, iris and retina scan data, facial recognition, DNA analysis, and more in an automated system designed to help law enforcement identify and capture suspects more efficiently and effectively.

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If you don't really need Java, get rid of it

Got Java? Even if you’ve applied the urgent out-of-band patch from Oracle, you may want to disable or uninstall Java itself. It turns out that the patch has its own flaws that make Java vulnerable to new attacks.

According to security experts, Oracle's Java patch resolves the multiple “zero-day” vulnerabilities currently being exploited by attacks in the wild. However, it also leaves open a vulnerability—which was discovered and reported to Oracle earlier this year—that could allow an attacker to bypass the Java sandbox protection and execute malicious code on the target system.

Oracle’s Java has become the new low-hanging fruit. Attackers used to target Adobe products as the weak link in the security chain, but Adobe has worked diligently to improve the security of its products, and—more importantly—the speed and predictability of its patches and updates. As a result, the focus has shifted to Oracle, and Oracle seems ill prepared to respond.

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Android users are prime target for malware

A new report summarizing the malware and cybersecurity trends for the second quarter of 2012 has been released. The report found the biggest spike in malware samples detected in four years, and illustrates the growing threat faced by mobile devices—particularly Android mobile devices.

There isn’t necessarily anything Earth-shattering in the quarterly report. The fact that it’s essentially more of the same, with slight variations on themes from previous quarterly reports, however, should be cause enough for concern. The bottom line message is that malicious attacks are a serious threat, and they’re not going away any time soon.

How It Spreads

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Protect your devices from Web and email threats

By now you should already know the basics of online security: Don’t send money to a Nigerian prince, don’t click on that picture of Britney in a bikini, and don’t run your PC without a security suite. All those basics still apply, but as technology moves forward, so do threats to your privacy and your devices. Today, we need to protect not only our computers, but also our smartphones and tablets. Fortunately, protecting yourself and all your devices can be easy with the help of some sound practices and good software. The first step, however, is to understand what threats are out there.

Never forget that your smartphone or tablet is actually a full-fledged computer in a smaller package. You can surf the web with it; check email; and use it to download and upload documents, photos, mp3s, videos, and software in the form of apps. That’s why we love handheld devices, of course, but it also means they are susceptible to attacks just like PCs are. To make matters worse, your phone or tablet can be the seed that carries an attack to all the hardware devices in your network, as well as those of anyone you email, text, or share data with.

Know The Threats

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Playing Politics with Cybersecurity

For most people, hackers and malware are nefarious entities intent on compromising their PCs and mobile devices, and perhaps stealing some login credentials or financial details. A successful attack can be quite frustrating,--or even devastating—on a personal level, but nobody gets killed and the world goes on.

When it comes to the critical infrastructure of the nation, though, the stakes get higher. The critical infrastructure is called “critical” for a reason. An executive order signed by President Clinton in 1996 defines “critical infrastructure” as: “Certain national infrastructures are so vital that their incapacity or destruction would have a debilitating impact on the defense or economic security of the United States.”

The critical infrastructure includes things like the electrical power grid, natural gas and petroleum pipelines, nuclear power facilities, water treatment plants, railways and highways. A successful attack that destroyed or shut down any of these things for a significant amount of time could wreak havoc on the nation.

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Do Authentication Questions Really Protect You?

What is your mother’s maiden name? It seems like that question has been used as secondary authentication to verify identity since the dawn of time. Over time, the authentication questions have become much more diverse. Sites now ask for things like what city you went to high school in, or who was your favorite teacher, or what was your first car.

The problem with most authentication questions, though, is that the information can often be found with a simple Google search or two. Ten years ago, or even five years ago it might have been much harder to learn the answers to such obscure questions. But, in the current age of oversharing on social networks it’s entirely possible all your intimate details are out there somewhere.

Have you ever participated in the Internet meme of answering a series of questions about yourself and then passing the results on to a group of friends? Many have. The purpose of the exercise is to share more information and get to know people better, but the fallout is that those questionnaires often target the same sort of semi-obscure information that authentication questions ask for.

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'Project HellFire' Demonstrates Need for Stronger Passwords

In the wake of news that the FBI has arrested a LulzSec hacker on charges related to attacks against Sony Pictures, a new team of hackers is making headlines. Team GhostShell has published over a million hacked records, and it promises there’s more to come.

The new attacks are part of “Project HellFire." Project HellFire is intended as a form of online protest against banks and politicians, and as retaliation for arrested hackers. Team GhostShell says, “We are also letting everyone know that more releases, collaborations with Anonymous and other, plus two more projects are still scheduled for this fall and winter. It's only the beginning."

An analysis from a security vendor suggests that most of the breaches were a result of SQL injection attacks. The attacks were aimed at consulting firms, manufacturing firms, government agencies, and banks. Team GhostShell was able to capture Admin passwords, usernames and passwords from customer accounts, and other files and documents.

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