What happened recently in Security?

During the past few days, there have been at least two notable events in security. One was the attack on South Korean banks and TV networks. The other was the “Spamhaus incident”. I will talk about these two more in detail further down that post.

Besides that, it was interesting to observe that iOS and OS X seem to become increasingly the malware targets of choice.That is not surprising, however, since there are masses of iOS and OS X devices out there. Thus, the platform is far more attractive than in the past. Combined with the fact that Apple’s patch policy still is not convincing, this results in an increasing number of attacks. When I count the platform related news of the past two weeks in my CNET RSS feed, then 5 out of 6 articles were related to the two Apple operating systems. That just confirms what I have been saying for a long time: It is not that much about whether a platform is secure or insecure; it is about reaching a critical mass to become a target of choice for attackers. They will always find weaknesses, because complex systems never will be perfect. By the way: It would only be fair if the castigators of Microsoft Windows security from the past would act the same way now regarding Apple. Microsoft has learned a lesson. Has Apple already learned its lesson? I doubt that.

One other interesting news article was about Java updates. According to a new Websense report, 94% of endpoints running Java are vulnerable to at least one exploit. This shows that Java Updates do not work well as of now. One of the issues clearly is that Java runs on a variety of devices. While updating PCs is straightforward, other devices – especially the ones where Java is deeply embedded – are hard to update, due to a lack of a simple, standardized approach for patching these devices. From my perspective, Oracle should concentrate on adding sort of “patch support by design” capabilities to all future Java versions. While many people criticize the Microsoft Update concept, it is – from my perspective – by far the best approach that is currently in place across the entire industry.

South Korea vs. North Korea

Last week, some South Korean companies – TV broadcasters and banks – were hit by a massive cyber-attack run by a group that calls itself “Whois Team”. There were clear signs that the attack was part of the ongoing “cold war” between South Korea and North Korea, which currently is escalating again. Despite the fact that it is still unclear where the attack originated, I think that this is another indicator for the emerging risks of cyber-attacks in conflicts between nations.

The “Spamhouse incident”

Finally, a cyber-fight between Spamhouse, a spam-fighting organization, and a group of attackers even made it to the TV news over here in Germany and in other countries. This attack is reported to be the largest DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack ever. It reportedly affected the whole Internet, especially in the U.K., Germany, and the Netherlands (Spamhouse is based in the Netherlands). There are two lessons we can learn from that. One is that the Internet, despite its distributed nature, is not immune to attacks. The second is that obviously cyber-criminals are well prepared to counter attacks against them, having large botnets on hand to place such DDoS attacks.

Physical Attacks on Critical Infrastructure

What I also found interesting were some articles about the Egyptian police arresting three men that tried to cut through some cables for Internet connectivity owned by the Egypt Telecom network. Some days ago, other cables of the Seacom network, being a part of the Internet connecting various countries under the Mediterranean Sea, were destroyed. The Egyptian police arrested the divers that tried to cut through the cables of the Egypt Telecom in action, from what was reported. I have not read anything about the motivation of these attackers. However, this clearly is another indicator of the massive risk for Critical Infrastructures these days.



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