Tuesday, April 14, 2015

How Fast Can a Hacker Snag Your Data?

You have one minute and 22 seconds to stop all communications with the Internet from you computer once you open that malicious attachment in your email. Otherwise, attackers will start exfiltrating the data from your computer.  This is according to an annual report conducted by Verizon that analysed data involving nearly 80,000 breaches contributed by 70 different organizations including law enforcement agencies as well as government and industry computer incident response teams worldwide.

Everyone thinks that they will never be fooled into opening that suspicious attachment. We feel confident that we can spot those emails from Nigera offering to transfer millions to our bank account. Sorry to burst your bubble of email bliss.  Verizon noted that 23 percent of recipients open nefarious messages containing malicious attachments or links. Even so, simply opening an email won’t necessarily install malware on your computer. Ever more dangerous are the 11 percent of recipients who go so far as to click on malicious attachments. Attackers have become experts at creating convincing emails that appear to be from a trusted source. There are malicious emails concocted for mass distribution and those that are cleverly targeted and thereby appear trustworthy. In security professional terminology the difference is between "phishing" emails and "spear-phishing" emails. 

"Spear-phishing is a more targeted form of phishing", according to Kim Zetter in her article "Hacker Lexicon: What Are Phishing and Spear Phishing?" published in Wired Magazine. "Whereas ordinary phishing involves malicious emails sent to any random email account, spear-phishing emails are designed to appear to come from someone the recipient knows and trusts—such as a colleague, business manager or human resources department—and can include a subject line or content that is specifically tailored to the victim’s known interests or industry. For really valuable victims, attackers may study their FaceBook, LinkedIn and other social networking accounts to gain intelligence about a victim and choose the names of trusted people in their circle to impersonate or a topic of interest to lure the victim and gain their trust."

And, it's not just email we need to worry about.  The same techniques can be used by hackers using social media sites like FaceBook, Instagram, SnapChat, and so forth. The attacker just needs you to open a file, photo, music recording, or video.  If you have a one in ten chance of getting fooled in opening a malicious file and your anti-virus only has a 55% chance to detecting the malware, eventually some hacker is going to gain access to your computer. Clearly, the security methods and tactics that worked in the past are simply not as effective today. It's time for products to be redesigned with added security and we need to move away from putting all our digital goodies in one basket.