Friday, 3 May 2013

Saudi Arabia is a top target for cyber attacks

Saudi Arabia is the most targeted country for cyber attacks in the Middle East, according to a new report.
Saudi Arabia is the most targeted country for cyber attacks in the Middle East. Fahad Shadeed / Reuters
The kingdom ranks second globally, while the UAE is the fifth most targeted in the Middle East according to Symantec's Internet Security Threat Report 2013.
The overall security threat profile ranking in the UAE has pushed the country up six places to 40.
Targeted attacks surged 42 per cent last year across the world.
The region's sophisticated internet infrastructure, high internet and mobile penetration and growing economy make it an attractive target for cyber criminals keen to make easy money without too much hassle.
Cyber espionage designed to steal intellectual property is also on the rise, with the small to medium sized enterprises (SME) the most vulnerable because of smaller amounts spent on internet security, according to the report.
Criminals are becoming more sophisticated and governments and businesses in the Middle East are particularly vulnerable.
"We need to look at security as an arms race now. Every day criminals are coming up with new attacks. Their motivations are financial and political in some aspects," said Johnny Karam, the managing director of Symantec for the Middle East and North Africa. The patterns in the region reflect what is happening globally, he said.
Last year Symantec discovered 1.6 new malicious software (malware) variants every day, one in 532 websites were infected with malware and the company blocked 250,000 web attacks each day, of which about 65 per cent were handled automatically.
The "watering hole" strategy, by which hackers wait for their targets to come to a website they have infected, is becoming more sophisticated. Once a user visits the website, the virus is unleashed and from there, they can gain access to all the information they need. Even legitimate websites can be hacked in this way.
More recently "hacktivists" have targeted social media accounts, sometimes to great effect, a trend that was likely to continue, said Mr Karam.
"All that stands between an organisation and a hacker on Twitter is a password," he said. "It will be interesting to see how Twitter responds."
Most recently, the Associated Press Twitter account was hacked into, with a false tweet posted stating that the US president Barack Obama had been injured in explosions at the White House.
Stocks plunged, sending the Dow Jones Industrial Average down by 143 points and wiping off US$1.6 billion in value. The tweet was deleted within minutes and shares recovered for a gain, but the damage it managed to inflict indicates the vulnerabilities in social media.
"These trends are likely to continue next year," said Mr Karam. "Mobile is an area where attacks are growing, spam remains as one of the key methods of attacks, as well as web pages and financial sector phishing".

Mozilla lashes out at FinFisher spyware provider

Mozilla Firefox logo
Mozilla is taking legal action against a spyware firm accused of spoofing its brand in order to dupe users.
The company said that it has filed a cease and desist order against Gamma International, makers of the FinFisher monitoring tool, on charges of trademark infringement.
Mozilla said that users operating FinFisher spyware networks have been looking to infect users with the monitoring tool by disguising it as part of the Firefox browser package. The company claims that the FinFisher spyware tool has been disguising itself on infected systems as 'firefox.exe' and has borrowed code from Firefox in order to conceal itself.
"As an open source project trusted by hundreds of millions of people around the world, defending Mozilla’s trademarks from this type of abuse is vital to our brand, our users and the continued success of our mission," said Mozilla head of privacy and public policy Alex Fowler.
"We cannot abide a software company using our name to disguise online surveillance tools that can be – and in several cases actually have been– used by Gamma’s customers to violate citizens’ human rights and online privacy."
Designed as a monitoring tool for law enforcement and intelligence agencies, FinFisher bills itself as an 'IT Intrusion' utility. Privacy advocates, however, claim that FinFisher is a de facto spyware tool and is widely used to eavesdrop on user and violate the civil rights of civilians around the world.
Human Rights group Citizen Lab claims that FinFisher monitoring networks have spread to as many as 36 countries. The tool is causing headaches for the UK government as the the HMRC faces a legal challenge from Privacy International for allowing its sales overseas.