Social Engineering

What I Did To Protect My Credit Card Information from a Small or Medium Business

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I was never too comfortable having my credit card information stored by small and medium businesses.

Here is why: I thought to myself, what kind of information security measures and procedures would a small flower shop take to protect my information? Where are they storing my credit card info? How long do they store it for? Yes there is PIPEDA here in Ontario, but what if they are out of the country or in another province. How do I know they follow the guidelines? I don’t see anything on the website. These are questions I would probably never get the answers to – but I need to order flowers right?

A flower shop’s specialty is flowers, not IT right? The McAfee and GeoTrust badges they show on their website aren’t any comfort to me either. Reason being is it doesn’t speak to the human equation when it comes to information security. An employee can easily copy my number down over the phone or an employee could unwittingly download a piece of malware and their computer could become a mecca for credit card info to whomever controls that piece of malware.

Another situation I wasn’t too comfortable with was when I realized a popular bike rental service here in Toronto was storing my credit card info – I was allowed to log in to their website and edit my information. I can’t leave it blank, but luckily I could fill in random numbers.

In the case where you can’t fill in random numbers and are forced to enter a valid credit card, I recommend getting one of those pay per use credit cards and charge it up with $5. This way, if the online retailer were to be compromised, your credit can’t be affected because the hackers would have the wrong info and a credit card that’s not really tied to your name.

Small and medium businesses are low hanging fruit for anyone in a criminal enterprise. The majority of small and medium businesses don’t have to worry about state sponsored attacks because they have nothing to gain from them, unless its a small boutique shop offering designs in nuclear reactors. Small and medium businesses would have access to credit card and bank account information, which is what would attract many criminal enterprises.

Apple Battery Hack Could Lead To Ransomware

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I just read about the ‘Apple Battery Hack‘ where by specially crafted code could brick an Apple laptop battery.

Luckily the author who discovered the hack provided Apple with the information so they can fix it. Hopefully soon.

Imagine if hackers created a virus that took advantage of the bug and infected your laptop, threatened you to pay a ransom or else they render your laptop inoperable?  You are probably saying to yourself, ‘Apple doesn’t get viruses’, which is completely false. Just look at what happened with ‘Mac Defender‘. Websites were created in order to trick people to download and install the software, because the software looked legitimate. Lo and behold it was a virus. Hats off to those of you who can’t be tricked, but there were many who were duped.

As of July 28, 2011 an Apple laptop batteries costs $129 USD. How many times are you willing to replace the battery before you give in to the hackers demands?

I’m not saying it’s the end of the world either and freak out. Nothing can be done until Apple releases a fix. Until then, you need to stay vigilant and be aware of what you install on your computer. Someone else would have to discover how the vulnerability works and then create a conceivable way of delivering it and infecting a user with it. By then, Apple will have likely released a fix for it. It’s up to you apply the fix.

The moral of the story is, keep your operating system software up to date. Be it MAC or Windows. As the article pointed out other laptops weren’t tested, and they could conceivably be affected by the same type of issue.

 

Don’t Announce On The Internet Where The Recipe to Your Secret Sauce Can Be Found

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I recently saw a post on Twitter where someone extolled their love for the password manager software they use. They also mentioned the information that was stored in it, the type of information that is the secret sauce to a person’s identity: user names, passwords and banking information.

While I think the use of password management software isn’t entirely a bad idea (as long as you have other defenses in place), I do believe it’s a bad idea announcing WHAT YOU USE to store the recipe for your secret sauce, particularly when it’s on a social networking website, for everyone to see. That’s akin to announcing to the whole world the name and model number of the safe I use at home, what’s stored inside and where it is. But I’m still using a safe, so I’m secure right? No!

Posting critical information like that to a social networking website will make you a likelier target for hackers. It will be easy for them to build a profile of people based on their blog, Twitter and Facebook accounts, then plan a social engineering attack. The attack may come in the form of gaining your trust, then sending you a malicious file for you to execute. A general search of 1Password or Keepass on Twitter, will show you lots of users who are using the software.

While the secret sauce maybe encrypted, if a computer is infected with a trojan horse that has key logging features, the encryption no longer protects you and it becomes a moot point. If you don’t keep your operating system up to date, use anti-virus and a firewall that just makes you even more susceptible to your secret sauce being revealed.

The other question to ask yourself is, where do you store this information? Is that encrypted file on a laptop or desktop? What if the laptop is lost or stolen? Hopefully there is a back up. And a back up of that back up.

Rule of thumb: The more information you reveal about your computer’s defenses, the more vulnerable you become.

What concerns me, is how easily this lack of knowledge is spread via Twitter, and it will give people who aren’t as technically savvy, the wrong idea. I can guarante a lot of people will try out the password manager but forget to do everything else, like update their browser, anti-virus, operating system and install a firewall. If that’s the case, they will have all their eggs in one basket, and be ripe for the picking.

Video: How ATM Card Skimming Works

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Has Your ATM Card Been Skimmed Before? This Is How It’s Done!

Information security is important even when you aren’t in front of your own computer or using your smart phone.

Remember, ATMs are computers as well, except you have no control over them.

In the video you’ll see a before and after picture of the ATM. Notice any differences?

When you are out and about, always try to use an ATM that is owned by an established bank and not the random machines you see in convenience stores etc. Try to be familiar with the location of the ATM as well.

You should really use your own bank’s ATM machines, so you avoid the unnecessary charges.

The video comes from the US version of the show ‘Real Hustle’, as it originally started out in the UK, much like many other TV shows.

Keep in mind, its not just ATM machines that are compromised. ATM pin pads are also affected by thieves attaching a device that is connected to the pin pad, reading all of the pertinent information as you enter it.

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