The FBI estimates that as many as 275,000 PCs are still at risk of losing access to the Web on Monday when it pulls the plug on the DNS servers it has maintained to redirect PCs compromised with the DNSChanger malware to legitimate websites. Seriously? How much warning do people need?
Imagine you’re driving down a highway, and you see a sign on the side of the road that announced the road is closed in 10 miles, and directs you to exit onto an alternate route. Then, that same sign pops up at nine miles, eight miles, seven, six, and five miles. Then, for those who still don’t get it the sign appears every hundred yards for the remaining five miles. It’s hard to muster any sympathy for the vehicles that ignore all the signs and end up crashing when they get to the end of the road.
For starters, this is not a new threat. The DNSChanger malware itself dates back to 2007. It has been eight months since the FBI rounded up the cybercriminals behind the malware, and redirected traffic from compromised machines using surrogate DNS servers. It’s been more than two months since the FBI--and virtually every media outlet in the world--stepped up the campaign to warn people that the DNSChanger servers will be shut down on July 9.
Time flies. More than half of 2012 has already passed, and now—with the Independence Day festivities behind us—we turn our attention to the seventh Patch Tuesday of the year. There are nine new security bulletins expected from Microsoft next week, including a critical update for Internet Explorer 9.
Only three of the nine security bulletins are ranked Critical, while the remaining six are rated as Important. The fixes and updates address vulnerabilities across a broad range of Microsoft platforms and software—Windows, SharePoint, Office (and Office for Mac), and Internet Explorer to name a few.
Andrew Storms, director of security operations for nCircle, points out, “Usually, Microsoft patches IE every other month, and we just got a cumulative update in June. That's why it's so surprising to see that IE9, the 'most secure' version of IE, will be patched next week. It's pretty safe to say this bulletin will patch something pretty serious.”
Early Thursday morning, Kaspersky posted a blog entry that details a new malicious app that has made its way to both the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.
The app's name is Find and Call, and it's the first time we've ever seen a malicious app make it into Apple's App Store.
Once installed, the app asks you to register your phone number and email address. Find and Call will also ask if you want to "find friends in a phone book" before discretely uploading your entire contact list to a remote server.
It all starts with a new frontier. Then, the pioneers come to explore and exploit the frontier, followed by settlers moving in to claim the frontier as their own. That brings on the “wild west”—a period with few rules, and rampant lawlessness.
Mobile devices have reached the “wild west” stage. The frontier is there, and the developers and engineers--the pioneers--have stepped in to push the envelope and explore the new possibilities available with mobile devices. Smartphones and tablets have caught on with mainstream users--the settlers--but at this point there are few established or accepted rules. That creates a scenario ripe for exploitation by lawless hackers and malicious developers.
Set aside the melodramatic analogy for a minute. The underlying point is that average people are embracing mobile technology, but they’re ill-equipped for the potential risks. People who never figured out how to set the clock to get the VCR to stop flashing “12:00”--people like my grandmother--are storing sensitive personal information on smartphones and tablets without regard for securing or protecting it.
Among the several updates, Bitdefender 2013 debuts with a few new features:
Bitdefender Safepay: A secure standalone Web browser that automatically opens when you visit banking and shopping sites. The browser is run in what is commonly called a sandbox mode, a separate virtual environment on your PC. Since the browser is isolated, it prevents many types of attacks that malware uses to capture your sensitive activity, such as keystroke logging, phishing, and network spoofing.
USB Immunizer: Scans and cleans any malware found on USB drives and other removable media, from CDs to remote network drives. It's designed to protect you from threats like the Flame virus, and should help keep you from accidentally carrying malware and infecting PCs when you connect your USB drive or other removable media.
Device Anti-Theft: Included only in the Total Security edition, this tool will allow you to remotely lock, wipe, and locate your laptop--similar to those “find my phone” apps you may have used on your smartphone or tablet.
People don’t like it when apps surreptitiously steal personal information. Apparently Apple’s primary concern is the “surreptitious” part, though, rather than preventing personal data from being leaked or collected. New dialog boxes in iOS 6 may protect Apple, but will do little to help users safeguard their privacy.
Earlier this year the proverbial “stuff” hit the fan when it was discovered that Path--a popular social networking app--was stealing contact info from the address books of the iOS devices it was installed on. That incident was followed by other revelations of privacy infringement, and congressional inquiries demanding stricter protection for users.
Apple responded to Congress with a statement claiming that a future release of iOS would change the process so that any app wishing to access sensitive data like contact information will require explicit user approval. That “future release”, it seems, is iOS 6.
It's no secret that the Web is full of malicious content, but Google on Tuesday published some statistics that reveal just how breathtaking the scale of that danger really is.
In fact, Google uncovers some 9,500 new malicious websites every day through its Safe Browsing initiative, according to a blog post from Google Security Team blogger Niels Provos.
“These are either innocent websites that have been compromised by malware authors, or others that are built specifically for malware distribution or phishing,” Provos explained. “While we flag many sites daily, we strive for high quality and have had only a handful of false positives.”