Millennium Post

These Phishermen are spreading their net far and wide

These Phishermen are spreading their net far and wide
Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime,’ goes the old saying. Today fishing has taken on a new form – ‘Phishing’ – where criminals are fishing with strange bait for innocent or gullible victims to make them part with their money, valuables and even their identity. ‘Phishing’ is one crime that has become part of the criminals Internet lexicon in which they literally dangle the ‘con’ bait with the poor victims becoming the fish on the other end of the line – or in today’s world, the internet network on a computer, tablet or cellphone.
Today cybercrime is touching new highs even as cybercops follow the trail and try to eradicate it with suitable measures. Phishing is just one of the cybercriminals’ numerous cyberthreats that also include credit card fraud, cyber stalking, child pornography, denial of service attack, software piracy and virus dissemination.
In one case, Mumbai police arrested a hacker named Kalpesh for breaking into a financial website. However, while the hacker failed to break into the main server of the financial institution -- which was well secured – he managed to make some addition to the home page of the financial website and added a string of text to the news module of the home page of the website. Police were able to crack the case by following the trace left by the hacker on the web server of the financial institution. The hacker turned out to be a 23-year-old computer addict with 10th std qualification, but computer training in courses like CCNA, MCSE etc, to sit on a computer around 16 to 20 times daily, where he used readymade hacking tools to hack into any website.
In another case, police arrested a student of Second Year Engineering College at Pune for duping a Payment Gateway of Rs 9 lakh. The accused initially opened a website supposedly to carry out business of web designing. Using false credentials, he then opened an account with a payment gateway situated in Mumbai and started browsing the web, specially various chat rooms and Newsgroups to obtain the credit card numbers. He then became his own client and started making payments to his own account by using the credit card numbers he obtained from the network of foreign nationals, before the Payment Gateway got suspicious and the cops nabbed him.
The latest global study revealed that 63 per cent of organisations believe they cannot stop data theft. The survey by New Ponemon Institute, which was sponsored by Websense Inc and titled ‘Exposing the Cybersecurity Cracks: A Global Perspective,’ uncovered the deficient, disconnected and in-the-dark conditions that challenge IT security professionals, with areas of focus including a deficit in security solution effectiveness; a disconnect regarding the perceived value of confidential data; and limited visibility into cybercriminal activity.
The survey, which covered about 5,000 global IT security professionals  having average of 10 years experience in 15 countries – Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, Singapore, Sweden, UK, and the USA – provided a new insight into why cybercriminals have a foothold in the broader enterprise.
As many as 545 IT organizations in India were covered in this survey where about 57 per cent of the respondents did not think that their organisation is protected from advanced cyber attacks, while 63 per cent doubted whether they could stop the ‘exfiltration’ (a term meaning: attack has happened and data has been stolen) of confidential information. Most respondents (69 per cent) believed that cybersecurity threats sometimes fall through the cracks of their companies’ existing security systems.
About 44per cent of companies represented in this research experienced one or more substantial cyber attacks in the past year. The survey also found that 59  per cent of companies did not have adequate intelligence or were unsure about attempted attacks and their impact. Further, 51 per cent respondents said their security solutions did not inform them about the root causes of an attack or were unsure.
It was found that there was a gap between data breach perception and reality – specifically
regarding the potential revenue loss to their business. Eighty per cent of respondents said that their company’s leaders did not equate losing confidential data with a potential loss of revenue.
This was in contrast to a recent Ponemon Institute research which indicated that data breaches have serious financial consequences for organisations. The average cost per lost or stolen record due to a data breach is $188 and the average cost of an organizational data breach is $5.4 million.
About 48 per cent say their board level executives have a sub-par understanding of security issues. However, Websense believes that cybersecurity awareness has most likely increased from that of a few years ago. But less than half of the respondents (41 percent) believed that they have a good understanding about the threat landscape facing their company. Only 37 per cent could say with certainty that their organisation lost sensitive or confidential information as a result of cyber attack. About 35 per cent of those who had lost sensitive or confidential information did not know exactly what data had been stolen.
‘While there are significant differences among countries for specific questions (such as availability of cyber attack intelligence), the overall analysis indicates that a majority of security professionals do not feel adequately armed to defend their organizations from threats,’ said Dr Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder of the Ponemon Institute. ‘This challenge is further compounded by a perception that company leaders do not believe that data breaches will lead to loss of revenue. Our research has shown that this is simply untrue.’
‘One way to deal with cyber criminals is: we allow hackers to attack us. And then we go after them by learning about their network as we have about 200 engineers working round-the-clock, defining and designing the way the hacker operates, and detecting threats and blocking them,’ said Manish Bansal, Senior Manager, Marketing (Mumbai) for Websense Websense Software Services India which is headquartered in San Diego, USA, while mentioning that Websense has tieups with Facebook (which has close to a billion users) in this regard.
The US and UK are the top two countries hit most by cybercriminals, with India being a close third among the hacking victims. ‘A huge underworld economy is thriving with worth around US$ 20 billion through kits that sense your machines’ software and design software to overcome it. Hackers are highly intelligent people, not working in an organisation but being independent so that it is difficult to track their footprints. However, since most of these attacks are for financial gains, its time IT teams and businesses sit down and decide what is needed.’
‘Today criminals are making more money by hacking than robbery as they are not bound by boundaries. Criminal activities are increasing manifold today due to the presence of Internet. They feed malware in social links which is then shared illegally. We detect three such malwares every second.’
‘Earlier, the focus of hackers was to stop or disturb computer activity, even though it benefited no one, except for youngsters who could boast about bringing companies activities to a standstill. However, today their focus is on how to become rich by stealing from organisations such as pharmaceutical companies (stealing date on drug molecules and selling it to competing companies). In one BPO, their internal guy was stealing details of credit cards before he was caught.’
‘It’s happening in a big way in India where multinational corporations are operating, though many companies are shy of making it public. But then, companies like Google, yahoo, Sony too have been hit abroad and made it public.’
 ‘Today, hackers are even threatening mobile internet,’ said Bansal. ‘People we spoke to were alarmed as their systems were not able to detect the threats. The hackers generally operate in several phases, the first being ‘Recon. They did this in the case of the Ministry of Finance (India) before attacking their computers. The second phase is the ‘Lure’ where they send out a ‘lure’ mail – such as a
‘free offer.’ The remaining steps include: redirect, exploit kit, dropper file, call home and then finally data theft.’
‘The complexity of the cyber landscape is becoming huge. There are many solutions in the market but periodical checks are still needed. Then, we need to know whether: the IT solutions are talking to each other? (in dealing with the cybercrimes). To reduce this deficiency/gap, IT companies need to look into this.  Depending on the value of their assets, the companies should spend money on their cyber-security solutions that are as cheap as Rs 100 to a few lakhs and crores. However, different companies have different budgets – depending on what risk they see.’
‘User awareness is one way of stopping cyber attacks. Recommendations would include: 1) eliminating uncertainty of cyber risks by investing in technologies that provide visibility and details about attempted attacks. 2) Look for access to better threat intelligence and real time defences. 3) Display an all-encompassing defence strategy incorporating web and email solutions. 4) Assess security solutions capabilities and deployments against comprehensive kill chain model to eliminate gaps and minimize excessive overlap. 5) Find effective employee security education.’
Today most IT companies may be sharing logs and reports with a third party generator, the need of the hour is technology that can ‘talk’ to each other and close the gaps/cracks in cybersecurity. Websense technology – which can talk with other computer software technologies -- has had a success rate of 98 per cent to 99 per cent in a scenario of advanced/modern day cyber attack. However, hackers are playing on human psychological behaviour and anticipation of their moves cannot be foolproof.
Dominick Rodrigues

Dominick Rodrigues

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