The tech world was in a panic recently due to security threats that were hyped up to be digital pandemics. The first big one was a bug codenamed Heartbleed, which exposed a weakness in the popular OpenSSL cryptographic software library. The more recent threat was a bug called Shellshock, which exposed a vulnerability in the UNIX Bash shell.
These issues left IT experts scrambling for solutions to patch-up holes before it was too late. For the most part, they’ve gotten a handle on things, and vendors are continuing to rollout updates. However, these recent attacks beg the question as to whether the worst is behind us, or still ahead.
Unfortunately, it seems to be the later. With newer devices, technology and software, the threats are going to change and hackers will improve. Already we see this beginning to happen. And while Heartbleed and Shellshock were pretty serious, there are other risks that could pose even greater threats to security.
Kidnapping Mobile Devices
It may sound odd, but one danger facing company security is digital kidnapping. Attackers could access mobile devices, lock them and hold them for ransom. By hacking a user’s device, like a smartphone or tablet, attackers can render it useless, unless companies pay the fee to have access restored. Depending on the importance of the data, ransom amounts could be small, or astronomical. Worse, there’s little that can be done to resolve the problem. If companies fold and pay the ransoms, it’s an open invitation for others to follow suit.
Another serious threat that has already hit major retailers, like Target, is weaknesses in point-of-sale (POS) systems. POS systems are the point at which a customer makes a payment in exchange for a good or service.The majority of retailers rely on third-party vendor POS systems, which supply many different clients at once. Should a vendor’s system be compromised, it could infect multiple retailers and their operations.
One reason Heartbleed was so serious was it attacked the OpenSLL library used by many websites. However, there’s an even more common protocol that could be exploited. The Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP) is the most used protocol in networking technology. It’s commonly used for diagnostic purposes or error reporting. Flaws in the protocol could allow hackers to determine if targets are online and infiltrate organizations to exploit the protocol for their own needs, like data extrusion.
Many businesses are beginning to use cloud-based services. Popular services like Dropbox and Google Drive allow great convenience and collaboration because information can be shared, stored and accessed from almost anywhere. However, there are serious security issues as well. Some services only encrypt data once it reaches the cloud, but not while it’s in transit. As users access or share information to the cloud, there is a moment where information is left unprotected and extremely vulnerable.
This isn’t an insult to android or its users, but one of the most likely attacks against companies could stem from Android operating systems. Over 95 percent of all mobile malware is on Android. With companies adopting BYOD policies, and the popularity of Android devices, they’re making their way into the workplace. The problem is many of these devices are built for simplicity, making them an easier target for hackers. Even worse, once infected devices are connected to company systems through Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or tethered directly, the infection can spread throughout the network.
The most frustrating element of IT security is never knowing where the next threat will come from. Technology is always evolving, and so are those looking to cause problems. And while there is no one-and-done solution, there are many things companies can do. First and foremost, they must make IT security a priority. It’s better to have a preemptive approach and avoid problems, then a reactive one. IT departments should be applying the necessary updates from vendors to ensure they are running the latest versions and aren’t taking chances with firewalls and antivirus software. Also, companies should teach and train employees in the proper IT policies. In cases like BYOD, employees need to understand the Do’s and Don'ts of using their own devices at work, and even when they’re at home. If they follow established IT rules, they’ll avoid the danger spots that lead to compromised systems.