Archive for category Security

How To Stay Anonymous Online

Internet has become an integral part of daily life because everything possible is seemingly available online. This is the reason, why there is a constant risk of your privacy being hacked by cyber criminals. Not only can they track your online presence but also snoop away on everything you do.

This constant tracking imposes the need of staying anonymous online. Following are some ways through which you can achieve the desired anonymity:

  • Hide Your IP: The best way to stay unidentified online is to hide your IP with an anonymous VPN service. This way a virtual IP replaces your real IP address and prevents cyber criminals in gaining a sneak peek of your online activities.
  • Keep Your Web Searches Private: Conducting searches on search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing etc. collects a lot of information such as your IP address, searches made, device used to make the search, location, etc. This is the reason why users are now opting for alternate search engines which do not track the search history and retain their privacy.
  • Block Third Party Cookies: Advertizers often use third party cookies to keep a track of your browsing habits. However, it is possible to hide them by blocking third party cookies within the browser settings. If you want to delete the cookies and other browsed information, you may use programs like CCleaner./li>
  • Use HTTPS: In order to prevent sensitive information from being intercepted Transport Layer Security (TLS) is extremely important. However, every website does not support a TLS connection and in that case HTTPS can help. It helps in keeping the internet traffic secure & private by enforcing TLS connections on the websites you visit.
  • Opt For Anonymous Email Communication: There are two ways to ensure email anonymity in a situation where you want to send somebody an email without letting them know your email address. You can use an alias which is essentially a forwarding address and allows the recipient to see your forwarding address only. The other way is to use a disposable email account which can be done by creating a new email account which you can use when you need. Another alternative to is to create a temporary forwarding address. This address gets deleted after a specific time, so it is best to use it while signing up on untrusted websites.
  • Encrypt Your Emails: Encrypting your emails can help you prevent unauthorized access by a middleman. There will be a limiting control as only you will have a private key for it.
  • Enable Privacy Settings: Your social media profile speaks volumes about you and hackers usually resort to a victim’s social media accounts to garner their private information. So make sure that you enable your privacy settings and hide personal information from public view.

For more information about IT Security, call Centex Technologies at (254) 213-4740.

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More About CryptoWall Ransomware

In the wake of rising cyber-attacks, it has become important to be constantly vigilant as well as make efforts to protect data from CryptoWall and its variants. Detected in early 2014; CryptoWall is a nasty ransomware and some reports suggest CryptoWall 3.0 has caused damage of over 325 million dollars since its appearance. It encrypts the files available on the system and the cyber-criminals demand ransom to decrypt these files. The ransomware has been updated time and again and the threat hovers around in 2018 as well.

How Does It Work?

CryptoWall 3.0 uses RSA-2048 encryption to lock away your files and forces you to pay the ransom in order to decrypt them. Some variants of the ransomware have add-on features such as CryptoWall v4 not only encrypts the files but also the filenames thus disabling you to look up the filename to check if you have a file backup available. Whereas CryptoWall v5.1 is based on the HiddenTear malware that uses an AES-256 encryption which is quite different from its previous versions.

The ransomware can be distributed through a variety of ways, some of which have been listed below –

  • Phishing Emails: Often the target victim is sent an email containing malicious files hidden in a zipped folder. As the victim opens the files, the malware is installed in the system. CryptoWall then scans the system for data files and encrypts them.
  • Exploit Kits: The exploit kit takes advantage of the vulnerabilities in the operating system, applications used or websites visited to install the malware and thereby launch a ransomware attack.
  • Advertizements: Malware can be installed into the system through malicious internet advertizements that are hacked by the cyber-criminals. These advertizements run JavaScript in the browser to download the malware. Most of the times the victim fails to notice that a malware has been injected into the system.

CryptoWall hides inside the OS and injects a new code to explorer.exe that installs the malware, deletes the volume shadow copies of your files as well as disables window services. It then runs throughout the system and communicates with Command and Control Server to receive an encryption key to encrypt the files. The encrypted files become inaccessible and can only be decrypted using the encryption key.

Post encryption, the victim gets a ransom note with instructions to pay certain amount of bitcoins as ransom to decrypt the files. However, most of the times it is a trap. A report by the CyberEdge Group reveals that only 19% of the ransomware victims actually got their files back.

How To Protect Against CryptoWall Ransomware?

  • Update your Operating System timely and keep the applications patched
  • Install an anti-virus scanner and update it regularly
  • Use a firewall as it may prevent the connection between CryptoWall and home base
  • Be wary of emails sent from unknown sources and never click on the links attached
  • Always keep a backup of your files at a source other than your system

For more information about IT Security, call Centex Technologies at (254) 213-4740.

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Stages Of A Cyber-Attack

Cyber-attacks are increasing at a soaring rate. As per a report by Juniper Research, the average cost of data breach will exceed $150 million by 2020. Also, it is projected that cybercrimes will cost businesses over $2 trillion by 2019. The figures are alarming, and the businesses need to do something to prevent falling prey to a cyber-attack.

No wonder, better security and anti-virus systems are being designed but even the cyber-attacks are getting sophisticated & more complex with each passing day. Cyber criminals are finding one way or the other to infiltrate into the systems and get hold of private & confidential data.

In order to avoid falling prey to a cyber-attack, it is important to understand the life cycle of an attack. Following are the stages of a cyber-attack.

Step 1: Reconnaissance
Reconnaissance is often used in military and refers to the process of conducting a planned observation on the target area. Thus, before an attack is launched, cyber criminals tend to identify their target victim & explore the possible ways to exploit them. They gather sufficient information about the victim through various open sources such as business website, social media handles, etc.

Step 2: Scanning
Attackers often try to find a weak link which can act as an entry point. Once identified they infiltrate and tend to spread the malware throughout the system.

Step 3: Access
After identifying the vulnerability point in the target network, the next step in the process is to gain access to the system. Hackers plan the modus operandi of gaining the access and once successful they take over the network and exploit it.

Step 4: Exfiltration
When they have gained access to the system they are free to move around the network. They use this opportunity to gather the organization’s private & confidential information. They might also change or erase files for their benefit.

Step 5: Sustainment
After gaining an unrestricted access throughout the target network, they now tend to sustain in it quietly to avoid being caught before they have hands on the organization’s confidential information. They disguise their presence to maintain access so that there is no dependence on a single access point. This is done so that cyber attackers can come and go as per their choice.

Step 6: Assault
This is that stage of the attack when things get really nasty. It is generally too late for the victim organization to defend itself as the cyber criminals by this stage have taken full control of the network.

In order to mitigate a cyber-attack it is important to be able to control privileged access. Also make sure that you remove all the weak links and educate your employees to identify such attacks.

For more information, call Centex Technologies at (254) 213-4740.

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Future of AI

PDF Version: Future-of-AI

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More About CEO Fraud

Online crimes are on a consequent rise and every sector is vulnerable to it. However, corporate sector is at a high risk as there is a constant threat of data breach.

CEO Fraud is the recent cyber-attack that has taken a toll over business sector. Also known as Business Email Compromise (BEC), it is an attack in which the attacker masquerades his original identity. They often pose themselves as the CEO or any other senior executive of an organization and send emails to the staff members. They generally ask for confidential information or make you do something which should not be done otherwise.

Such attacks are launched after careful planning & research. Cyber-criminals often search the organizations website to gather information such as physical location of the business, employee details, business partners etc. They might also gather employee specific data from sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

After a thorough study of organization’s structure and dynamics they search for their targets as specific employees are targeted with a specific goal.  For example, they might target accounts department if they seek some money related information, HR department if they seek employee info or IT department to access database servers. After determining exactly what they want, a phishing attack is launched. A well-drafted email containing a malicious link is then sent to selected people.

Emails in CEO fraud are crafted so realistically that it is often very hard for employees to detect that they are being tricked. Cyber-criminals might send you an email in the name of your CEO, senior executive or fellow employee with a company’s logo or seal. The text is written to initiate a sense of urgency so that the target victim in a rush to reply ignores the loopholes and provides necessary information asked for in the email.

Following are the three different things that can happen:

  • Wire Transfer: The attacker might send an email to an employee in the accounts department posing as their boss to transfer some money in a particular account urgently.
  • Passwords: Passwords to important logins may be asked through email.
  • Tax Fraud: A cyber-criminal might send a fake email asking for certain employee information in order to conduct a fraud.
  • Attorney Impersonation: The attack might also be conducted through a telephone. A cyber-criminal might email you posing as a senior official advising you to consult an attorney. Then he might impersonate as an attorney and call you to discuss an urgent matter. They trick you in passing on confidential information by creating a sense of urgency.

How To Prevent A CEO Attack?

  • If you come across a rogue & suspicious email then inform everyone on the company’s radar so that they might be wary of it in future.
  • Design policies & restrict data access to trusted employees only.
  • Train employees on ways to identify phishing emails
  • Consider multifactor authentication.

For more information IT security, call Centex Technologies at (254) 213-4740.

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