What Is Deep Packet Inspection?

21 February, 2017

Deep packet inspection (DPI) can be defined as a technology that is used to scrutinize the contents of the data packets being sent and received on a network. It is a type of packet filtering that is mainly applied to verify if the data is free of Trojans, viruses, malware etc. and is being transmitted in the right format. The technique allows the users to identify, categorize, block or reroute data packets that contain a malicious code.

Deep packet inspection combines the firewall technology with intrusion detection and prevention systems. It is mainly used by internet service providers to monitor network traffic and allocate bandwidth according to the contents of the data packets.

How does deep packet inspection work?

When you share information over the internet, it is converted into a packet with a header that describes the origin, source and type of data. The content of the data packet is usually not monitored. However, when a network provider uses deep packet inspection, the content is thoroughly scanned and recorded to ensure that it is in compliance with the security protocols. This could be related to the presence of a malicious code or suspicious software.

Benefits of deep packet inspection

  • It can help to protect against denial of service (DoS) attacks, differential denial of service (DDoS) attacks and buffer overflow attacks.
  • Deep packet inspection is used by many cyber security agencies to monitor web traffic, online user activities, regulate malware threats and protect extensive local or wide area networks.
  • The ability of DPI devices to inspect data packets meticulously helps to prevent malware from breaching or manipulating a network.
  • The data provided by deep packet inspection can also be used for network analytics and bandwidth management.

Potential misuses of deep packet inspection

Despite its numerous advantages, deep packet inspection has many limitations as well. Some of these have been discussed below:

  • DPI helps to prevent various hacking attacks but it can be also be used to exploit the same vulnerabilities to breach the security of the target network.
  • It requires frequent updates and patch installations to function in an optimal manner.
  • It can be used by hackers to track user information anonymously.
  • DPI slows down the computer which affects the performance of other applications.

Centex Technologies is a renowned IT security consulting firm in Central Texas. We can help you improve your organization’s network infrastructure. For more information, feel free to call us at (855) 375 – 9654.

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How To Manage DDoS Attacks Against Your Organization

14 February, 2017

Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks are becoming increasingly common and one of the major concerns for most business organizations. There are thousands of ways in which these attacks may be carried out, the basic intent is the same, i.e. to cease the functioning of the target internet network. Safeguarding your corporate network against a DDoS attack requires a well-planned crisis management program. For this, you must need to understand how a DDoS attack is launched and the potential harm it can cause to your organization.

What Is A DDoS Attack?

A DDoS attack mainly involves flooding an IP address with traffic from unidentified sources. This, in turn, results in an overloading of the web server which makes it unable to respond to ‘genuine requests’ in a timely manner. The hacker may create a network of multiple computers, termed as a botnet, and use it as a vector for the attack. Due to overflow of data packets received at the same time, your website becomes unavailable to be accessed by the users.

Certain DDoS attacks may also be initiated on your company’s virtual private network (VPN) which prevents employees from logging into their email accounts when they are out of the office.  If your organization has been a victim of DDoS attack, here are some steps that you need to take in order to minimize its consequences:

Identify A DDoS Attack At The Onset

Firstly, it is important to identify a DDoS attack in its initial stages, particularly if you manage your own web servers. You should have a fair idea about how much traffic you usually receive and from which IP addresses. When you detect a steep increase in the amount of traffic, it may be due to a DDoS attack.

Get Extended Bandwidth

Another useful step can be getting more bandwidth for your web server than you actually require to handle the traffic. This way, even if a DDoS attack is launched, you would be able to manage the sudden upsurge of traffic before the resources get completely exhausted.

Identify The Source

If possible, try to identify the source of the DDoS attack. When you know the computers that are sending the fake requests, the IP addresses can be easily blocked. You can also form a cyber security strategy to protect yourself against such attacks in future.

For more tips on how to prevent and manage DDoS attacks against your organization, you can contact Centex Technologies at (855) 375 – 9654.

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The Risks Of Being Too Social Online

6 February, 2017

Social media is a great platform to stay connected with friends, express views and opinions on a topic as well as promote your products/services. However, a lot of people tend to post about every minor or major happenings of their lives on their social networking profiles. This can jeopardize their personal as well as professional privacy and put them at risk for various online attacks.

Here are some of the risks of sharing too much information online:

Private Information Can Become Public

It is a well-known fact that whatever you post on the internet stays forever. Therefore, it is important that you understand the term ‘Too Much Information’ and know what you should and should not share on social media. Posting your personal details, your child’s school or a holiday trip can be misused by the hackers.

Cookie Tracking

When you access your social networking account, it creates cookies to track your browsing sessions and load information faster the next time. Some tracking cookies can also pose security and privacy concerns, particularly when you are using a public computer. They can store your sensitive information, such as user name and password, which can be used by the cyber criminals to keep a record of your online activities and get access to all the personal information that you share.

Spear Phishing

The information you share about yourself on social media, such as birthday, job title, email address, interests etc., may not seem to be sensitive initially. However, it can be tactfully used by the hackers to craft a phishing email that requires you to click on a link or provide your account details. The authenticity of the information contained in the email compels you to believe that it has been sourced from a reliable entity.

How To Protect Yourself?

  • Be careful while posting anything on your social networking profiles
  • Change your passwords frequently
  • Review your privacy settings to limit accessibility of your sensitive details
  • Avoid geo-tagging your posts and images
  • Do not share your credit card or financial information
  • Be selective in accepting friends and follower requests. Make sure you connect with only those people who you know personally.

For more tips on social networking security, feel free to contact Centex Technologies at (855) 375 – 9654.

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Tokenization: Benefits For Securing Transaction Data

30 January, 2017

Tokenization is one of the most advanced technologies to strengthen digital payment security for customers and e-commerce business owners. It involves replacing the sensitive credit card information with randomly generated unusable symbols or tokens. As a result, the hackers are not able to decode the data as it passes from the user’s network to the payment gateway.

Businesses that deal in online financial transactions are required to provide a secure payment processing system to protect the customers’ data. Right from the pre-authorization stage to the processing and final payment, information should be transmitted only through secure channels. With the advancement in technology, hackers have started to use more sophisticated tools and techniques to steal online transaction data. Tokenization offers an additional layer of protection that goes a step ahead of what is achieved through PCI compliance.

How Does Tokenization Work?

When an ecommerce business employs tokenization during processing online payments, the sensitive information of the customer such as username, password, card number etc. is sent to a secure server, known as vault. Here, all the data is converted into a random string of numbers, which is completely different from the original card number. It is then passed through a validation test to make sure that the token, in any way, is not similar to the account number.

With tokenization, even if cybercriminals are able to decode the card information, they cannot gain any monetary value as the data does not reveal any information about the customer’s account.

Benefits Of Using Tokenization For Online Transactions

  • Reduces liability for customer data protection
    Tokenization does not require the customers’ card details to be stored in the computer system or network. It only consists of the random string of numbers. This minimizes a business’ liability towards protecting financial data because the information stored is not related to the customers’ primary account numbers.
  • Significant saving of time and money associated with PCI compliance
    Ensuing PCI compliance often requires the online retailers to make expensive hardware and software upgrades in their payment processing systems. Non-compliance, on the other hand, can be costlier. As tokenization does not require the merchants to hold sensitive data in the back end, PCI compliance can be made much more cost efficient.
  • Reduces the scope of PCI compliance
    Using unique tokens in place of encrypted card holder data can reduce the scope of the systems for which PCI compliance is required. Thus, you can eliminate the need of penetration testing and regular vulnerability as well as PCI scans.

We, at Centex Technologies, offer IT security solutions to business firms in Central Texas. For more information, you can call us at (855) 375 – 9654.

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Pharming Attacks: What Are They And How To Protect Yourself

23 January, 2017

Pharming attacks are network based intrusions whereby visitors of the target website are redirected to a hacker controlled web server. It may occur when a user clicks on a link or types the website URL in the browser’s address bar, which takes him to a fake portal that looks similar to the one that he intended to visit. The attack may involve compelling the user to enter his username, password or other personal information in the fake website. At times, simply visiting the website may compromise the security of the system.

How Are Pharming Attacks Carried Out?

The hackers mainly use the following two methods for carrying out a pharming attack:

DNS Cache Poisoning

In this type of pharming attack, the hacker breaches the DNS server to change the IP address of the legitimate website. With this, if the user types in the URL ‘www.abc.com’, the computer sends a query to the DNS server, which returns the IP address of the bogus website ‘www.abc1.com’. The user believes the website to be original and continues browsing.

In order to facilitate faster access, the server automatically caches the web documents to reduce page load time when the website is accessed later. As a result, the user will be repeatedly routed to the fake website even if he types the correct URL.

Hosts File Modification

The hosts file is a plain text file stored in the computer’s operating system and comprises of different IP addresses as well as hostnames. A pharming attack may involve changing the local host files on a user’s computer through a malicious code sent in an email. With this, the user gets redirected to a fake website when he types in a URL or clicks on an affected bookmark entry.

Tips To Prevent Pharming Attacks

  • Make sure you do not delay updating the operating system and software applications installed on your computer. This will fix any security vulnerabilities and prevent hackers from gaining unauthorized access.
  • When visiting a website, cross check to detect any spelling mistake in the domain name. The hackers may redirect you to a fake website that has a similar URL. For instance, web traffic to ‘www.abc-xyz.com’ may be routed to ‘www.abc_xyz.com’ or ‘www.abc.xyz.com’
  • If you are required to enter your personal or sensitive information in a website, the URL should change from ‘http’ to ‘https’. You should also verify the certificate of the website. Check if it carries a secure certificate and uses encryption for all transactions.

For more information on pharming attacks, you can contact Centex Technologies at (855) 375 – 9654.

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