Brian Pennington

A blog about Cyber Security & Compliance


December 2012

RSA’s November Online Fraud Report 2012 including advice on avoiding fraud

RSA’s November Online Fraud Report delivers the results from RSA’s fraud monitoring centre, a summary of their report is below.

In 2011, RSA’s e-commerce authentication technology was used by many of the top card issuers around the globe to protect nearly a half a billion e-commerce transactions and their statistics for 2011 (2012 will be posted when available) are;

  • Over the course of 2011, 7% of all e-commerce transactions were identified as fraudulent, an increase of 2% in 2010
  • During the 2011 holiday shopping season (November 1 – December 31), U.S. consumers spent over $1.4 billion online, an increase of 18% from 2010
  • Identified fraudulent transactions during this same time totaled more than $82 million, an increase of 219% from 2010. Cyber Monday accounted for $2.5 million
  • Top online retailers based on e-commerce transaction volume and amounts in 2011 included three major airlines
  • The top five cities where e-commerce fraud originated over the holiday season include New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington DC and Houston

Fraud is always lurking around every corner, but is especially prolific at this time of year with so many people shopping online. Consumers can follow some very simple tips to stay safe online:

  • Tune up defenses for ALL devices. Just like you would tune up your car before driving to visit relatives during the holidays, you should ensure that any device you plan to shop with (computers, tablets, smartphones and even gaming systems) gets a tune up with the latest browsers and security patches.
  • Shop with retailers that take security seriously. Before entering any personal or payment information, you should look for the closed padlock on your web browser’s address bar and ensure the web address starts with “https” – the “s” standing for secure. Also, look for protection beyond just passwords. For example, many merchants now support the Verified by Visa / MasterCard SecureCode standards which will provide you with additional security. Finally, always make sure there is a phone number or physical address for the merchant in case there is an issue with your purchase.
  • Avoid advertisements, coupons or deals that seem too good to be true. Fraudsters use many scams to try to direct you to a malicious website to download a Trojan onto your computer.
  • Be on the lookout for phishing emails. Fraudsters will be launching countless phishing attacks this time of year trying to secure your payment account information so be on high alert. When the emails start coming in with subject lines screaming “Account Alert” or “Reactivate your account” and making claims such as “invalid login attempts into your account online from an unknown IP address have been identified,” ensure you delete it right away.

Phishing Attacks per Month

In October, RSA identified 33,768 unique phishing attacks launched worldwide, a 5% decrease from September. While attack volume has been decreasing over the last three months, total phishing attack numbers for the second half of 2012 already represent a 9% increase over first half numbers with November and December still to go.

Number of Brands Attacked

In October, 269 brands were subject to phishing attacks, marking a 14% decrease from September. A decrease in the number of targeted brands is likely the result of an increased focus of attacks on several familiar brands.

US Bank Types Attacked

Nationwide banks in the U.S. experienced a slight decline in attacks, down 3%, while U.S. credit unions saw a 5% increase in phishing attacks in October.

Top Countries by Attack Volume

In October, the U.K continued to be the country targeted by the most volume of phishing, with a total of 34%, despite a 14% drop from September’s number. Canada and the U.S. together were targeted by 51% of phishing volume in October. South Africa made a surprising appearance in October, targeted by 4% of phishing volume throughout the month.

Top Countries by Attacked Brands

In October, U.S. brands were targeted the most by phishing,– representing 34% of targeted brands, followed by brands in the UK (12%), and Australia and Canada (both 6% respectively)

Top Hosting Countries

The U.S. continued to host the majority of phishing attacks in October – with three out of every four attacks during the month being hosted in the U.S. Other top hosting countries in October included the UK, Germany, and Canada.

You might also want to read “What will fraud look like in 2013?”

Previous RSA Online Fraud Report Summaries:

  • The RSA October 2012 Online Fraud Report Summary here.
  • The RSA September 2012 Online Fraud Report Summary here.
  • The RSA August 2012 Online Fraud Report Summary here.
  • The RSA July 2012 Online Fraud Report Summary here.
  • The RSA June 2012 Online Fraud Report Summary here.
  • The RSA April 2012 Online Fraud Report Summary here.
  • The RSA March 2012 Online Fraud Report Summary here.
  • The RSA February 2012 Online Fraud Report Summary here.
  • The RSA January 2012 Online Fraud Report Summary is here.
  • The RSA December 2011 Online Fraud Report Summary is here.
  • The RSA November 2011 Online Fraud Report Summary is here.
  • The RSA October 2011 Online Fraud Report Summary is here.
  • The RSA September 2011 Online Fraud Report Summary is here.


2012 was a big year for the Data Protection Act with record fines and breaches, see the full 2012 list here.

ICOAs we are about to enter 2013 I thought it would be a good time to publish the entire list of who fell foul of the UK Data Protection Act and were punished by the Information Commissioner (ICO) during 2012.

There are three types of punishments administered by the ICO

  1. Monetary. The most serious of the actions and one normally reserved for organisational entities.
  2. Undertaking. Typically applied when an organisation has failed to adhere to good business practise and needs the helping guidance of the ICO
  3. Prosecutions. Normally reserved for individuals who have blatantly breached the Act.

Find out who got the record fine

Below is a summary of the ICO’s activity in 2012 across all three “punishment” areas.

Monetary penalty notices

A monetary penalty will only be served in the most serious situations. When deciding the size of a monetary penalty, the ICO takes into account the seriousness of the breach and other factors like the size, financial and other resources of an organisation’s data controller. The ICO can impose a penalty of up to £500,000. It is worth noting that monetary penalties are paid to HM Treasury and not to the ICO. Many argue that the ICO would be a stronger body if it had more money and penalties is a good way to generate more revenue – a self funding government department.

  • 12 December 2012 A monetary penalty has been served to London Borough of Lewisham after a social worker left sensitive documents in a plastic shopping bag on a train, after taking them home to work on. The files, which were later recovered from the rail company’s lost property office, included GP and police reports and allegations of sexual abuse and neglect.
  • 10 December 2012 A monetary penalty has been served to Devon County Council after a social worker used a previous case as a template for an adoption panel report they were writing, but a copy of the old report was sent out instead of the new one.  The mistake revealed personal data of 22 people, including details of alleged criminal offences and mental and physical health.
  • 28 November 2012 A monetary penalty has been served to Christopher Niebel and Gary McNeish, the joint owners of Tetrus Telecoms. The company had sent millions of unlawful spam texts to the public over the past three years.
  • 22 November 2012 A monetary penalty has been served to Plymouth City Council for a serious breach of the seventh data protection principle. A social worker sent part of a report relating to family A, to family B due to printing issues. The photocopied report contained confidential and highly sensitive personal data relating to the two parents and their four children, including of allegations of child neglect in on-going care proceedings.
  • 16 November 2012 A monetary penalty has been issued to Leeds City Council following an incident whereby sensitive personal data relating to a child was sent to an incorrect individual.
  • 6 November 2012 A monetary penalty of £50,000 was issued to Prudential after a mix-up over the administration of two customers’ accounts led to tens of thousands of pounds, meant for an individual’s retirement fund, ending up in the wrong account.
  • 25 October 2012 A monetary penalty of £120,000 was issued to Stoke-on-Trent City Council following a serious breach of the Data Protection Act that led to sensitive information about a child protection legal case being emailed to the wrong person.
  • 16 October 2012 A monetary penalty of £150,000 was issued to Greater Manchester Police after the theft of a memory stick containing sensitive personal data from an officer’s home. The device, which had no password protection, contained details of more than a thousand people with links to serious crime investigations.
  • 10 October 2012 A monetary penalty of £70,000 was issued to Norwood Ravenswood Ltd after highly sensitive information about the care of four young children was lost after being left outside a London home.
  • 11 September 2012 A monetary penalty of £250,000 was issued to Scottish Borders Council after former employees’ pension records were found in an over-filled paper recycle bank in a supermarket car park.
  • 6 August 2012 A monetary penalty of £175,000 was issued to Torbay Care Trust after sensitive personal information relating to 1,373 employees was published on the Trust’s website. Read the details here.
  • 12 July 2012 A monetary penalty of £60,000 was issued to St George’s Healthcare NHS Trust after a vulnerable individual’s sensitive medical details were sent to the wrong address.
  • 5 July 2012 A monetary penalty notice of £150,000 has been served to Welcome Financial Services Limited following a serious breach of the Data Protection Act. The breach led to the personal data of more than half a million customers being lost.
  • 19 June 2012 A monetary penalty notice of £225,000 has been served to Belfast Health and Social Care Trust following a serious breach of the Data Protection Act. The breach led to the sensitive personal data of thousands of patients and staff being compromised. The Trust also failed to report the incident to the ICO.
  • 6 June 2012 A monetary penalty for £90,000 has been served to Telford & Wrekin Council for two serious breaches of the seventh data protection principle. A Social Worker sent a core assessment report to the child’s sibling instead of the mother. The assessment contained confidential and highly sensitive personal data. Whilst investigating the first incident, a second incident was reported to the ICO involving the inappropriate disclosure of foster carer names and addresses to the children’s mother. Both children had to be re-homed.
  • 1 June 2012 A monetary penalty notice for £325,000 has been served on Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust following the discovery of highly sensitive personal data belonging to tens of thousands of patients and staff – including some relating to HIV and Genito Urinary Medicine patients – on hard drives sold on an Internet auction site in October and November 2010. Read the details here.
  • 21 May 2012 A monetary penalty notice for £90,000 has been served on Central London Community Healthcare NHS Trust for a serious contravention of the DPA, which occurred when sensitive personal data was faxed to an incorrect and unidentified number. The contravention was repeated on 45 occasions over a number of weeks and compromised 59 data subjects’ personal data. Read the details here.
  • 15 May 2012 A monetary penalty of £70,000 was issued to the London Borough of Barnet following the loss of sensitive information relating to 15 vulnerable children or young people, during a burglary at an employee’s home. Read the details here.
  • 30 April 2012 A monetary penalty of £70,000 has been issued to the Aneurin Bevan Health Board following an incident where a sensitive report containing explicit details relating to a patient’s health – was sent to the wrong person. Read the details here.
  • 14 March 2012 A monetary penalty of £70,000 was issued to Lancashire Constabulary following the discovery of a missing person’s report containing sensitive personal information about a missing 15 year old girl. Read the details here.
  • 15 February 2012 A monetary penalty of £80,000 has been issued to Cheshire East Council after an email containing sensitive personal information about an individual of concern to the police was distributed to 180 unintended recipients. Read the details here.
  • 13 February 2012 A monetary penalty of £100,000 has been issued to Croydon Council after a bag containing papers relating to the care of a child sex abuse victim was stolen from a London pub. View a PDF of the Croydon Council monetary penalty notice
  • 13 February 2012 A monetary penalty of £80,000 has been issued to Norfolk County Council for disclosing information about allegations against a parent and the welfare of their child to the wrong recipient.
  • 30 January 2012 A monetary penalty of £140,000 was issued to Midlothian Council for disclosing sensitive personal data relating to children and their carers to the wrong recipients on five separate occasions. The penalty is the first that the ICO has served against an organisation in Scotland. Read the details here.


Undertakings are formal agreements between an organisation and the ICO to undertake certain actions to avoid future breaches of the Data Protection Act, typically this involves, Encryption, Training and Management Procedures.

  • 20 December 2012 An undertaking to comply with the seventh data protection principle has been signed by Isle of Anglesey County Council.
  • 30 November 2012 An undertaking to comply with the seventh data protection principle has been signed by Leeds City Council. This follows a report made by the council that that a private area on the Leeds Initiative website was accessible to members of the public
  • 6 August 2012 An undertaking to comply with the seventh data protection principle has been signed by Marston Properties. This follows the loss of 37 staff members’ details when the filing cabinet the information was stored in was sent to a recycling centre and crushed.
  • 13 July 2012 An undertaking to comply with the seventh data protection principle has been signed by West Lancashire Borough Council. This follows the theft of a business continuity bag containing emergency response documents and personal data relating to 370 council employees.
  • 26 June 2012 An undertaking to comply with the seventh data protection principle has been signed by South Yorkshire Police. This follows the inclusion of personal data relating to drug offences, in response to a Freedom of Information request made by a journalist.
  • 23 May 2012 An undertaking to comply with the seventh data protection principle has been signed by Holroyd Howe Independent Ltd. This follows the release of a document containing details of employees’ pay to a former employee.
  • 30 April 2012 An undertaking to comply with the seventh data protection principle has been signed by the Aneurin Bevan Health Board. This follows an incident where a sensitive report – containing explicit details relating to a patient’s health – was sent to the wrong person. This breach was also the subject of a monetary penalty.
  • 25 April 2012 An undertaking to comply with the seventh data protection principle has been signed by Safe and Secure Insurances Services Limited. This follows the purchase of a hard drive from the Internet which contained personal data relating to the company’s clients.
  • 18 April 2012 An Undertaking to comply with the seventh data protection principle has been signed by Brecon Beacons National Park Authority. This follows two data security incidents which relate to the unauthorised disclosure of personal data on the data controller’s website.
  • 17 April 2012 An undertaking to comply with the seventh data protection principle has been signed by Leicestershire County Council, following the theft of a briefcase containing sensitive personal data from a social worker’s home.
  • 17 April 2012 An undertaking to comply with the seventh data protection principle has been signed by Toshiba Information Systems UK Ltd. This follows a web design error that created the potential for unauthorised access to individual’s personal data.
  • 11 April 2012 An undertaking to comply with the seventh data protection principle has been signed by Hertfordshire County Council. This follows the loss of an Attendance and Pupil Support consultation folder in January 2011.
  • 11 April 2012 An undertaking to comply with the seventh data protection principle has been signed by South London Healthcare NHS Trust. This follows the loss of two unencrypted memory sticks, the leaving of a clipboard with ward lists attached in a grocery store and a failure to adequately secure some patient paper files when not in use. All of the information was recovered.
  • 27 March 2012 An Undertaking has been signed by Pharmacyrepublic Ltd following the theft of a patient medication system containing the medication details of 2000 patients. The system, which was supplied by another firm, should have been securely returned to them by Pharmacyrepublic Ltd before the premises were vacated. Read the details here.
  • 14 March 2012 An undertaking to comply with the seventh data protection principle has been signed by the Lancashire Constabulary. This follows the discovery of a missing person’s report on a street in Blackpool. A monetary penalty has also been issued to the authority in connection with this incident.
  • 9 March 2012 An undertaking to comply with the seventh data protection principle has been signed by Enable Scotland (Leading the Way), after two unencrypted memory sticks and papers containing the personal details of up to 101 individuals were stolen from an employee’s home.
  • 1 March 2012 An undertaking to comply with the seventh data protection principle has been signed by Community Integrated Care, a national social care charity. This follows the theft of an unencrypted laptop containing personal and sensitive personal data.
  • 1 March 2012 An Undertaking to comply with the seventh data protection principle has been signed by Durham University. This follows the disclosure of personal information in training materials published on its website.
  • 1 March 2012 An Undertaking to comply with the seventh data protection principle has been signed by London Borough of Croydon. This follows the theft of a bag belonging to a social worker from a public house in London. The bag contained a hard copy file of papers concerning a child who is in the care of the Council. This incident was also subject to a monetary penalty which was announced earlier this month.
  • 1 March 2012 An undertaking to comply with the seventh data protection principle has been signed by Dr Pervinder Sanghera of Arthur House Dental Care. This follows the discovery of an unencrypted memory stick containing personal and limited sensitive personal data relating to patients and employees of the practice.
  • 10 February 2012 Youth charity Fairbridge has signed an undertaking committing the organisation to taking action after the loss of two unencrypted laptops containing employee information.
  • 10 February 2012 Healthcare provider Turning Point has signed an undertaking committing the organisation to take action after the loss of three service users’ files during an office relation.
  • 10 February 2012 Five local authorities have signed undertakings to comply with the seventh data protection principle, following incidents where the councils failed to take appropriate steps to ensure that personal information was kept secure.
  • 10 February 2012 Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council breached the Data Protection Act on four separate occasions during a two month period last year. The breaches included an incident in May when an individual was mistakenly sent information relating to 29 people who were living in supported housing.
  • 10 February 2012 Brighton and Hove Council emailed the details of another member of staff’s annual salary – and the deductions made from this – to 2,821 council workers. A third party also informed the ICO of a historic breach which occurred in May 2009 when an unencrypted laptop was stolen from the home of a temporary employee.
  • 10 February 2012 Undertakings have been signed by • Dacorum Borough Council • Bolton Council • Craven District Council
  • 3 February 2012 An undertaking to comply with the seventh data protection principle has been signed by E*Trade Securities Ltd. This follows a report to the Commissioner concerning missing client files. The files contained limited sensitive personal data including identification documents.
  • 20 January 2012 An undertaking has been signed by Manpower UK Ltd following a breach of the Data Protection Act where a spread sheet containing 400 people’s personal details was accidentally emailed to 60 employees.
  • 18 January 2012 An undertaking has been signed by the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, following the loss of up to 30 membership forms on a train. The organisation didn’t have a policy in place for handling personal data outside of the office at the time of the incident.
  • 18 January 2012 Praxis Care Limited breached both the UK Data Protection Act and the Isle of Man Data Protection Act by failing to keep peoples’ data secure. An unencrypted memory stick, containing personal information relating to 107 Isle of Man residents and 53 individuals from Northern Ireland, was lost on the Isle of Man.


  • 13 December 2012 Christopher Niebel and Gary McNeish, joint owners of Tetrus Telecoms, have been prosecuted by the ICO for failing to notify under section 17 of the Data Protection Act. The defendants pleaded guilty at two separate hearings and were fined £3000 which was reduced to £2000 in both cases due to an early guilty plea. Niebel and McNeish were each ordered to pay prosecution costs of £482.50 and a £15 victims surcharge. The conviction comes after Niebel and McNeish were served with monetary penalties totalling £440,000 for a serious breach of the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) after the company they owned sent millions of spam texts to members of the public without their consent.
  • 28 November 2012 A London barrister has been prosecuted by the ICO for failing to notify under section 17 of the Data Protection Act. Jeanette Hayne pleaded guilty at the hearing on 28 November 2012 but Westminster Magistrates decided to dispose of the case by way of an absolute discharge owing to particular mitigating circumstances. Concluding the hearing, the magistrate warned that those whose profession is to prosecute people for failing to comply with the law must meet their legal obligations
  • 2 August 2012 Mohammed Ali Enayet, owner of The Lime Lounge in Cleveleys has been prosecuted by the ICO for failing to register his premises’ use of CCTV equipment.
  • 30 March 2012 SAI Property Investments Limited, trading as IPS Property Services and one of its directors Mr Punjab Sandhu unlawfully obtained details about their tenants from a rogue employee at Slough Borough Council have been found guilty of committing offences under Section 55 of the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA).
  • 27 February 2012 Pinchas Braun, a letting agent who unlawfully tried to obtain details about a tenant’s finances from the DWP has been found guilty of an attempt to commit an offence under section 55 of the Data Protection Act and the Criminal Attempts Act.
  • 12 January 2012 Juliah Kechil, formerly known as Merritt, a former health worker has pleaded guilty to unlawfully obtaining patient information by accessing the medical records of five members of her ex-husband’s family in order to obtain their new telephone numbers.

The ICO is not just an enforcer, he offers advice too The Information Commissioner’s 5 Tips on how to better protect personal information .

6 Experts predict the IT security and compliance issues and trends for 2013

Everyone has an opinion on what could be around the corner, some are based on extensive research and market trends, and some are based on customer expectations and experience.

Rather than bore you with my predictions I thought I would extract the predictions of several vendors and a distributor and put them into one single post so it is easier to see trends and when we get to the end of the year we can see if they were right.

The 6 specialist predictors this year are from the following organisations:

  1. Wick Hill
  2. Websense
  3. WatchGuard
  4. Kaspersky
  5. Fortinet
  6. Sophos

Wick Hill Group’s Ian Kilpatrick delivers his top five trends for 2013

  1. BYOD. “BYOD was arguably the biggest buzz word of 2012 and is now an unstoppable, user-driven wave which will continue to make a major impact on the IT world in 2013 and beyond. Smartphones, tablets and laptops all come under this category, as well as desktop PCs used remotely from home. BYOD is a transformative technology and 2013 will see companies trying to integrate it into their networks. While tactical needs will drive integration, strategic requirements will become increasingly important.
  2. Mobile Device Management. The very rapid growth of mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets and laptops, but particularly smartphones, led to concerns about their management and security in 2012. With employees using their smartphones for both business and personal use, the security and management issues became blurred. Mobile Device Management solutions were a strong growth area in 2012, which will accelerate in 2013.
  3. High density wireless. Wireless requirements have been significantly incrementing over the last year and this trend will continue in 2013. BYOD has changed both the data transfer and performance expectations of users.
  4. Data back-up and recovery. While large organisations have always been at the forefront of back-up and recovery, data centres and big data have put significant demands on them during 2012. Alongside that, smaller organisations have been under immense pressures from ever increasing data volumes, archiving and compliance requirements.
  5. Data leakage protection. With growing volumes of data and with regulatory bodies increasingly prepared to levy fines for various non-compliance issues, data leakage protection will continue to be a major cause for concern during 2013. Companies will be looking closely at how to secure and manage their data as their network boundaries spread even wider, with increased use of social networking and BYOD, increased remote access, the rapid growth of wireless, increased virtualisation and the move towards convergence.

Websense’s 2013 Security Predictions (the link also contains a video clip explaining the predictions).

  1. Cross-Platform Threats. Mobile devices will be the new target for cross-platform threats.
  2. Malware in App Stores. Legitimate mobile app stores will host more malware in 2013
  3. Government-sponsored attacks. Government-sponsored attacks will increase as new players enter.
  4. Bypass of Sandbox Detection. Cybercriminals will use bypass methods to avoid traditional sandbox detection
  5. Next Level Hacktivists. Expect Hacktivists to move to the next level as simplistic opportunities dwindle
  6. Malicious Emails. Malicious emails are making a comeback.
  7. CMS Attacks. Cybercriminals will follow the crowds to legitimate content management systems and web platforms.

WatchGuard Technologies reveals its annual security predictions for 2013

  1. A Cyber Attack Results in a Human Death
  2. Malware Enters the Matrix through a Virtual Door
  3. It’s Your Browser – Not Your System – that Malware Is After
  4. Strike Back Gets a Lot of Lip Service, but Does Little Good
  5. We’ll pay for Our Lack of IPv6 Expertise
  6. Android Pick Pockets Try to Empty Mobile Wallets

Additionally WatchGuard believes:

  1. An Exploit Sold on the “Vulnerability Market” Becomes the Next APT
  2. Important Cyber Security-Related Legislation Finally Becomes Law

“2012 was an eye-opening year in cyber security as we saw the number of new and more sophisticated vulnerabilities rise, impacting individuals, businesses and governments,” said WatchGuard Director of Security Strategy Corey Nachreiner, a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP). “This is a year where the security stakes reach new heights, attacks become more frequent and unfortunately more damaging as many organizations suffer attacks before taking measures to protect themselves from the bad guys.”

Kaspersky Lab’s Key Security Predictions for 2013

The most notable predictions for the next year include the continued rise of targeted attacks, cyber-espionage and nation-state cyber-attacks, the evolving role of hacktivism, the development of controversial “legal” surveillance tools and the increase in cybercriminal attacks targeting cloud-based services

  1. Targeted attacks on businesses have only become a prevalent threat within the last two years. Kaspersky Lab expects the amount of targeted attacks, with the purpose of cyber-espionage, to continue in 2013 and beyond, becoming the most significant threat for businesses. Another trend that will likely impact companies and governments is the continued rise of “hacktivism” and its concomitant politically-motivated cyber-attacks.
  2. State-sponsored cyber warfare will undoubtedly continue in 2013. These attacks will affect not only government institutions, but also businesses and critical infrastructure facilities.
  3. In 2012 an on-going debate took place on whether or not governments should develop and use specific surveillance software to monitor suspects in criminal investigations. Kaspersky Lab predicts that 2013 will build on this issue as governments create or purchase additional monitoring tools to enhance the surveillance of individuals, which will extend beyond wiretapping phones to enabling secret access to targeted mobile devices. Government-backed surveillance tools in the cyber environment will most likely continue to evolve, as law-enforcement agencies try to stay one step ahead of cybercriminals. At the same time, controversial issues about civil liberties and consumer privacy associated with the tools will also continue to be raised.
  4. Development of social networks, and, unfortunately, new threats that affect both consumers and businesses have drastically changed the perception of online privacy and trust. As consumers understand that a significant portion of their personal data is handed over to online services, the question is whether or not they trust them. Such confidence has already been shaken following the wake of major password leaks from some of the most popular web services such as Dropbox and LinkedIn. The value of personal data – for both cybercriminals and legitimate businesses – is destined to grow significantly in the near future.
  5. 2012 has been the year of the explosive growth of mobile malware, with cybercriminals’ primary focus being the Android platform, as it was the most popular and widely used. In 2013 we are likely to see a new alarming trend – the use of vulnerabilities to extend “drive-by download” attacks on mobile devices. This means that personal and corporate data stored on smartphones and tablets will be targeted as frequently as it is targeted on traditional computers. For the same reasons (rising popularity), new sophisticated attacks will be performed against owners of Apple devices as well.
  6. As vulnerabilities in mobile devices become an increasing threat for users, computer application and program vulnerabilities will continue to be exploited on PCs. Kaspersky Lab named 2012 the year of Java vulnerabilities, and in 2013 Java will continue to be exploited by cybercriminals on a massive scale. However, although Java will continue to be a target for exploits, the importance of Adobe Flash and Adobe Reader as malware gateways will decrease as the latest versions include automated update systems for patching security vulnerabilities.

Costin Raiu, Director of Global Research & Analysis Team Kaspersky Lab said, “In our previous reports we categorised 2011 as the year of explosive growth of new cyber threats. The most notable incidents of 2012 have been revealing and shaping the future of cyber security. We expect the next year to be packed with high-profile attacks on consumers, businesses and governments alike, and to see the first signs of notable attacks against the critical industrial infrastructure. The most notable trends of 2013 will be new example of cyber warfare operations, increasing targeted attacks on businesses and new, sophisticated mobile threats.”

Fortinet’s FortiGuard Labs Reveals 2013 Top 6 Threat Predictions

  1. APTs Target Individuals through Mobile Platforms. APTs also known as Advanced Persistent Threats are defined by their ability to use sophisticated technology and multiple methods and vectors to reach specific targets to obtain sensitive or classified information. The most recent examples include Stuxnet, Flame and Gauss. In 2013 we predict we’ll see APTs targeted at the civilian population, which includes CEOs, celebrities and political figures. Verifying this prediction will be difficult, however, because after attackers get the information they’re looking for, they can quietly remove the malware from a target device before the victim realizes that an attack has even occurred. What’s more, individuals who do discover they have been victims of an APT will likely not report the attack to the media. Because these attacks will first affect individuals and not directly critical infrastructure, governments or public companies, some types of information being targeted will be different. Attackers will look for information they can leverage for criminal activities such as blackmail; threatening to leak information unless payment is received.
  2. Two Factor Authentication Replaces Single Password Sign on Security Model. The password-only security model is dead. Easily downloadable tools today can crack a simple four or five character password in only a few minutes. Using new cloud-based password cracking tools, attackers can attempt 300 million different passwords in only 20 minutes at a cost of less than $20 USD. Criminals can now easily compromise even a strong alpha-numeric password with special characters during a typical lunch hour. Stored credentials encrypted in databases (often breached through Web portals and SQL injection), along with wireless security (WPA2) will be popular cracking targets using such cloud services. We predict next year we’ll see an increase in businesses implementing some form of two-factor authentication for their employees and customers. This will consist of a Web-based login that will require a user password along with a secondary password that will either arrive through a user’s mobile device or a standalone security token. While it’s true that we’ve seen the botnet Zitmo recently crack two-factor authentication on Android devices and RSA’s SecurID security token (hacked in 2011), this type of one-two punch is still the most effective method for securing online activities.
  3. Exploits to Target Machine-to-Machine (M2M) Communications. Machine-to-machine (M2M) communication refers to technologies that allow both wireless and wired systems to communicate with other devices of the same ability. It could be a refrigerator that communicates with a home server to notify a resident that it’s time to buy milk and eggs, it could be an airport camera that takes a photo of a person’s face and cross references the image with a database of known terrorists, or it could be a medical device that regulates oxygen to an accident victim and then alerts hospital staff when that person’s heart rate drops below a certain threshold. While the practical technological possibilities of M2M are inspiring as it has the potential to remove human error from so many situations, there are still too many questions surrounding how to best secure it. We predict next year we will see the first instance of M2M hacking that has not been exploited historically, most likely in a platform related to national security such as a weapons development facility. This will likely happen by poisoning information streams that transverse the M2M channel — making one machine mishandle the poisoned information, creating a vulnerability and thus allowing an attacker access at this vulnerable point.
  4. Exploits Circumvent the Sandbox. Sandboxing is a practice often employed by security technology to separate running programs and applications so that malicious code cannot transfer from one process (i.e. a document reader) to another (i.e. the operating system). Several vendors including Adobe and Apple have taken this approach and more are likely to follow. As this technology gets put in place, attackers are naturally going to try to circumvent it. FortiGuard Labs has already seen a few exploits that can break out of virtual machine (VM) and sandboxed environments, such as the Adobe Reader X vulnerability. The most recent sandboxing exploits have either remained in stealth mode (suggesting that the malware code is still currently under development and test) or have actively attempted to circumvent both technologies. Next year we expect to see innovative exploit code that is designed to circumvent sandbox environments specifically used by security appliances and mobile devices.
  5. Cross Platform Botnets In 2012. FortiGuard Labs analyzed mobile botnets such as Zitmo and found they have many of the same features and functionality of traditional PC botnets. In 2013, the team predicts that thanks to this feature parity between platforms, we’ll begin to see new forms of Direct Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks that will leverage both PC and mobile devices simultaneously. For example, an infected mobile device and PC will share the same command and control (C&C) server and attack protocol, and act on command at the same time, thus enhancing a botnet empire. What would once be two separate botnets running on the PC and a mobile operating system such as Android will now become one monolithic botnet operating over multiple types of endpoints.
  6. Mobile Malware Growth Closes in on Laptop and Desktop PCs. Malware is being written today for both mobile devices and notebook/laptop PCs. Historically, however, the majority of development efforts have been directed at PCs simply for the fact that there are so many of them in circulation, and PCs have been around a much longer time. For perspective, FortiGuard Labs researchers currently monitor approximately 50,000 mobile malware samples, as opposed to the millions they are monitoring for the PC. The researchers have already observed a significant increase in mobile malware volume and believe that this skewing is about to change even more dramatically starting next year. This is due to the fact that there are currently more mobile phones on the market than laptop or desktop PCs, and users are abandoning these traditional platforms in favor of newer, smaller tablet devices. While FortiGuard Labs researchers believe it will still take several more years before the number of malware samples equals what they see on PCs, the team believes we are going to see accelerated malware growth on mobile devices because malware creators know that securing mobile devices today is currently more complicated than securing traditional PCs.

Sophos think the following five trends will factor into the IT security landscape in 2013

  1. Basic web server mistakes. In 2012 we saw an increase in SQL injection hacks of web servers and databases to steal large volumes of user names and passwords. Targets have ranged from small to large enterprises with motives both political and financial. With the uptick in these kinds of credential-based extractions, IT professionals will need to pay equal attention to protecting both their computers as well as their web server environment
  2. More “irreversible” malware. In 2012 we saw a surge in popularity and quality of ransomware malware, which encrypts your data and holds it for ransom. The availability of public key cryptography and clever command and control mechanisms has made it exceptionally hard, if not impossible to reverse the damage. Over the coming year we expect to see more attacks which, for IT professionals, will place a greater focus on behavioral protection mechanisms as well as system hardening and backup/restore procedures
  3. Attack toolkits with premium features. Over the past 12 months we have observed significant investment by cybercriminals in toolkits like the Blackhole exploit kit. They’ve built in features such as scriptable web services, APIs, malware quality assurance platforms, anti-forensics, slick reporting interfaces, and self protection mechanisms. In the coming year we will likely see a continued evolution in the maturation of these kits replete with premium features that appear to make access to high quality malicious code even simpler and comprehensive
  4. Better exploit mitigation. Even as the number of vulnerabilities appeared to increase in 2012—including every Java plugin released for the past eight years—exploiting them became more difficult as operating systems modernized and hardened. The ready availability of DEP, ASLR, sandboxing, more restricted mobile platforms and new trusted boot mechanisms (among others) made exploitation more challenging. While we’re not expecting exploits to simply disappear, we could see this decrease in vulnerability exploits offset by a sharp rise in social engineering attacks across a wide array of platforms
  5. Integration, privacy and security challenges. In the past year mobile devices and applications like social media became more integrated. New technologies—like near field communication (NFC) being integrated in to these platforms—and increasingly creative use of GPS to connect our digital and physical lives means that there are new opportunities for cybercriminals to compromise our security or privacy. This trend is identifiable not just for mobile devices, but computing in general. In the coming year watch for new examples of attacks built on these technologies.

Sophos “The last word, Security really is about more than Microsoft. The PC remains the biggest target for malicious code today, yet criminals have created effective fake antivirus attacks for the Mac. Malware creators are also targeting mobile devices as we experience a whole new set of operating systems with different security models and attack vectors. Our efforts must focus on protecting and empowering end users—no matter what platform, device, or operating system they choose”

For a retrospective view why not ready my post from last year “7 experts predict the IT security and compliance issues and trends of 2012


What will fraud look like in 2013?

UK Fraud has identified 10 key trends that will characterise the UK domestic fraud prevention market in 2013.

The forecasted trends are:

  1. With more high quality data becoming available to fraudsters than ever before, an economy forecast to contract and the UK’s benefits spend reducing, overall fraud levels will continue to increase dramatically across the UK and the rest of Europe. Fraud hotspots most likely to be affected in 2013 include: banks and card companies, insurers, online merchants, retailers and government be it HMRC, the universal credit scheme or local authorities.
  2. The types of fraud likely to see the biggest growth will be CNP (Card Not Present) card fraud, other forms of cybercrime, internal fraud, and supply chain fraud. Procurement fraud is also set to rise significantly. In contracting economies, evidence suggests that people inside this function can be put under pressure to defraud.
  3. Mortgage fraud is also set to surge in 2013, with credit rating experts pointing the finger at further rises in first-party fraud – i.e. where people misrepresent their finances whilst applying for mortgages. Once again the economic climate is a significant contributor in this.
  4. Recent spectacular mass data breaches and suspicion of cloud security in some areas will continue. An increasingly greater emphasis will be placed upon PCI DSS and other data security and integrity issues. Already, the daily number of automated attacks on bank and retailer systems runs into the millions, which means that we will continue to see major high-profile data breaches both reported and otherwise.
  5. Solutions will be based around systems for acquirers, online merchants and PSPs, who are regularly the victims of CNP fraud – where fraud is growing fast in line with the growth in internet based payments. Increasingly, solutions will move to better and newer generations of screening, scoring and risk based monitoring, such as those based upon Bayesian based fraud detection systems. These will start to pose a real challenge to older systems based on ‘so called’ Neural Networks.
  6. Most people feel that there could be a lack of unified central direction and strategy from government. The lack of a pan-European strategy will also prevail. The UK government’s response is divided between the NFA, the Cyber Crimes unit and the Cabinet Office’s FED (Fraud Error and Debt Initiative). Some believe passionately that the lack of a unified central government strategy will drive up fraud significantly in 2013. On the positive side, at least some of the civil servants who have been involved in the NFA since the beginning are starting to gain real experience of the sector and an appreciation of the enormous challenges they face. The DWP is also tendering to get some real-world fraud strategy skills into their midst too, which should prove invaluable given the changes due with the Universal Credit.
  7. The USA is increasingly ready for a policy U-turn on the adoption of signature as the CVM of choice. The US market will find it increasingly difficult to evolve in a global payment systems world without the protections offered either by PINs – or a ‘next generation’ solution. As the rest of the world is moving (or largely has moved) in this direction already, 2013 could see this U-turn as fraud increasingly migrates to the US.
  8. Major insurers will continue to develop a strong and very credible fraud prevention solution based around the ‘front end’ (underwriting stage of business) The emphasis on delivering a strong industry wide data-sharing drive will also continue to increase; although a whole re-think of the industry fraud register will be needed to address Data Protection Act requirements.
  9. There will be a major shift in the presence, position and fraud service offerings of one or more of the major data-bureaux (such as credit reference agencies), as more solutions either move ‘in-house’ or move to systems developed by a host of new players in various fraud sectors.
  10. And there will be some surprises as there always are – whether they are policemen ‘on-the-take’, another raft of politicians fiddling their expenses, or further high profile banks brought to their knees by (usually) rogue traders.

“The current economic climate is driving change and there is an evolution in the world of fraud prevention that we have not seen before,” Says Bill Trueman, CEO of UK Fraud. “However, if we are to stay ahead of the fraudster, we have to be able to read these trends and manage both our strategy and the risks accordingly. In highlighting what we see as the trends, we aim to contribute to the debate and raise awareness of the risks. By keeping this debate alive we hope that fraud prevention will shortly gain an even greater emphasis in key seats of power – be that in the boardroom or within key government departments.”

Source: UK Fraud.

New figures show spread of audacious telephone scam targeting cardholders’ PIN

New fraud intelligence released demonstrates the extent of the rise of an audacious telephone-based deception targeting British credit and debit card holders.

Figures released by Financial Fraud Action UK and The UK Cards Association show that the scam has already caused over £7.5m worth of fraud on credit and debit cards between January and August 2012. Over that time, more than 1,600 bank customers have fallen victim, with average losses per case weighing in at over £4,200.

Police are warning of an exponential rise in reported cases, with intelligence showing the estimated amount stolen through this method over the first eight months of this year was already ten times the amount stolen during the whole of 2011. The deception, undertaken by criminal gangs, tends to target elderly and vulnerable bank customers, with fraud intelligence showing that the average age of victims is 69. Particular hot spots for this crime in the UK include London, Surrey and Strathclyde.

The scam involves a person being called by a criminal posing as someone from their bank, or even the police. The caller tells the victim that their credit or debit card needs collecting and replacing following fraud on their account. Police have found that the criminal caller reassures the victim that the call is genuine by getting them to hang up and call the bank’s number for confirmation. Following this, the criminal caller stays on the line, tricking the victim into believing they are on a new call and that the person at the end of the line is their bank.

The criminal caller will then either ask the person for their PIN or ask them to key their PIN number into their telephone keypad, before sending a courier to collect the card. The victim is told that the card is going to the bank, but actually is delivered to the fraudster along with the PIN obtained during the scam.

The rapid spread of this fraud, and steep incline of losses, takes place against the background of some customers being unaware that bank staff will never request their card or PIN. New findings released today by Financial Fraud Action UK shows that 12% bank customers do not realise they should NEVER reveal their card PIN.

DCI Dave Carter, Head of the Dedicated Cheque and Plastic Crime Unit (DCPCU) said:

“This fraud relies on deception of the customer, who cases show is often elderly and vulnerable, sometimes alone in the house, and who often takes the fraudster’s word at face value. While these new figures confirm that this scam and others like it, is on a steep rise, we can all protect ourselves and our relatives by remembering that banks will never ask for either your card or your PIN The only people who will ever ask you for your PIN are criminals. If someone on the phone asks for it, hang up immediately. If you believe you have had one of these calls or know someone who has, get in contact with your bank.”

Take the following steps to protect yourself:

  1. Never hand over your card: Your bank or the police will NEVER ring you to tell you they are coming to your home to pick up your card. Never hand it over to anyone who comes to collect it.
  2. Never share your PIN: Your bank will NEVER ask you to authorise anything by entering your PIN into the telephone. NEVER share your PIN with anyone – the only times you should use your PIN are at a cash machine or when you use a shop’s Chip & PIN machine.
  3. Always speak to the bank securely: Before calling your bank, make sure you can hear the dial tone. Only ever call your bank on an advertised number.


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