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News

Halloween Malware Spike Expected To Plague Social Networking

Avecto : 19 October, 2011  (Technical Article)
Business users are being warned of expected increases in the use of social networking sites around the end of October with increased risk of malware and phishing attacks
Halloween Malware Spike Expected To Plague Social Networking
Responding to a report that predicts a significant increase in malware and phishing in the weeks ahead, Avecto says that corporates need to revisit and refine their strategies for dealing with the problem – before it is too late.

According to Paul Kenyon, chief operating officer with the Windows privilege management specialist, the combined effects of the late summer warmth that the UK has experienced in recent weeks, coupled with darkening evenings, means that staff are starting to plan their evenings and weekends out much earlier in the day, and it's at this time they may start taking risks.

“Whereas before they would wait until the end of the daylight period before checking their social emails – from home – staff are now starting to check their social emails soon after the afternoon coffee break. It's all down to human nature, and with social events such as Halloween and Bonfire Night on the horizon, they will be getting a variety of fun attachments into their mailboxes,” he said.

“This is what we call a malware flashpoint in the IT security industry – the times of the year when the risk of staff clicking through onto something that they would normally avoid suddenly rises. This is exactly why our colleagues at GFI have been observing a surge in malware in recent weeks, and are predicting that this trend will increase in the weeks ahead,” he added.

Kenyon went on to say that the fact the research highlights the ability of cybercriminals and scammers to quickly respond to high-profile events and exploit Internet users' online search behaviour should send IT security professionals scrambling to review their security defence strategies.

The Internet world, with all its threats, has moved on significantly in the last 12 months to the point where scammers are using every trick in the book – and a lot of new ones too – to persuade users to `click through' on links when they really should know better, he explained.

The Avecto COO says that these issues are the reason why October has been designated National Cyber Security Awareness month in the US, and why UK private and public sector organisations will be hosting the National Identity Fraud Prevention Week between the 17th and 24th of this month.

This, he adds, is the time when the threat that the Internet poses both to consumer and business users starts to rise as the world – and his/her spouse – gets ready for the winter celebrations that culminate in Christmas. And that's why these Internet security campaigns are timed to help educate users about the real risks they are likely to encounter.

So what, says Keynon, can the forward-thinking IT security professional do to help prepare for the weeks ahead?

The solution, he says, is to plan ahead on the basis that, while your existing IT security defences will help to stop most of these threats, there is a real risk that some of the threats will be successful. It is therefore crucial to prepare an updated security strategy to account for a worst-case scenario.

This means, he adds, that IT security managers need to be able to lock down their internal IT systems and reduce the risk profile of all their systems. For most organisations, he notes, this involves reducing the risk that a member of staff will cross-infect another user or systems if their terminal is compromised.

“Put simply, this means limiting each member of staff to those IT functions that they truly need to carry out their job effectively, and locking down all the other functions, as they only serve to increase the risk of something going wrong - and for no good reason,” he said.

“This is where effective privilege management enters the frame. Good Windows privilege management means allowing, for example, IT management access to those elements of the supervisory computer systems that they need access to. Equally, the nice-to-have – but not essential – `side system' access that many IT professionals often have from their accounts should be locked down,” he added.

“Privileged account management is all about balancing the technology requirements of each member of staff with the risk that allowing access to that technology entails. This is all part of the GRC – governance, risk management and compliance - balancing act that is modern IT security management.”
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