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Cyber Security

3 Lessons We Can All Learn from The Equifax Hack




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For those of us who have a credit report, there’s a good chance that our sensitive personal information was exposed in a data breach at Equifax. They have since published steps to take to help protect information from being misused.

Although we are unlikely to know the full effects of the Equifax security breach any time soon, there are key actionable takeaways we can use to better protect ourselves from future security attacks.

1. Weak passwords matter

If you use weak passwords on any system, it makes the chances of it being coerced much higher. But people who use weak passwords also tend to use the same or similar passwords across multiple systems. If your password is “leadership”, then a hacker will check variants of that as well to see what other places you have used that password. Cyber attackers have built systems to automatically check obvious derivatives, adding numbers, and a symbol to the beginning or end are just the start. Using databases of known passwords allow them to quickly identify derivatives.

If you also use your corporate email address as your login name, then becoming an online copy of you is even easier. For example, if you use your corporate ID as a login for Linkedin, and that account is broken into, then the hacker can easily pretend to be you on Linkedin, speak to your clients, prospects and colleagues, and use this to socially engineer them into providing further private information.

Always use complex and/or long passwords to minimize this risk. Your IT department can help you force good password policy across your organization.

2. Pony Attacks

One of the ways that cyber attackers targeted Equifax customers was through the “pony” exploit. Pony malware is a Russian password stealer kit. It performs data exfiltration on the credentials of 90+ applications when it gains access to the machine. This type of malware can execute through a simple phishing attack or by a web application. Once the pony has its passwords, it deletes itself and becomes undetectable. There was also evidence of third-party application breaches, such as through LinkedIn, Dropbox,,, and other hacktivism sets.

What this means is that malware was running on end users computers, and it stole their logins to multiple systems, including their login to Equifax. The only way to protect your users (and yourself) from malware infections is to run an Advanced Endpoint Protection (AEP) solution that both detects known malware and prevents infection from as yet unknown malware. Make sure all your endpoints are using an AEP solution that doesn’t just detect known malware, but also stops even unknown malware from infecting your systems.

3. The guidance of passwords issued by NIST have changed

Passwords are only one of many lines of defense, but it’s important to implement strong passwords using the best available practices. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has published new guidance, and it’s worth noting. Here is the detail from NIST.

The guidance is this:

  • Use long passwords
  • Worry less about regularly changing them or using complex special character formats
  • Check passwords against list of commonly used ones,
  • Increase usability in creating and using passwords is more important than complexity.

I would encourage you to read the link above for full details, but the key thing is to make sure you and your users are aware that passwords  are just one link in the website security chain, and make use of advanced platforms for security monitoring and administration, such as the Comodo cWatch web and Comodo cWatch network platforms available for all sizes of business and enterprise. Your IT Department can ensure that good password policies are delivered across your organization.

A final word

As a final note, to keep informed about the evolution of malware around the globe, you can sign-up for the weekly Comodo Treat Intelligence Lab update at It’s free and you will automatically receive a detailed weekly report on the spread of malware around the globe, plus when something important needs to be shared, we will also send you special reports.


Cyber Security

Chrome VPN Gives Basic Security Protection




The advancement of technology and the ever-increasing need to be “online,” whether for work, shopping, or just browsing the web for information, does, unfortunately, go hand in hand with the advanced actions and methods that hackers and cybercriminals use to access your personal information and data. 

Any Cybersecurity expert worth his (or her) salt would recommend getting a Virtual Private Network (VPN) for both your business and for your own personal use.  The good news is that anyone who is still in doubt regarding these VPN apps’ actual worth can now try a free VPN browser extension for Chrome, which will undoubtedly allay any fears and help you make up your mind. 

Internet Explorer seems a distant memory when it comes to web browsers these days, and Google Chrome has been at the forefront for a while now and has fast become the most popular web browser in the world, so realistically, it’s not really surprising that consumers are pleased that their choice of VPN for Google Chrome is free.

When it comes to versatility, Google Chrome has plenty to offer. Chrome’s security, stability, and user-friendly set up are just some of the reasons why most of us consumers have bid farewell to Internet Explorer, Firefox and Edge and have opted for the ease of access use of Chrome. The countless number of customization options that Chrome can offer by using and installing their available range of extensions and, hey-presto, Chrome turns into a bespoke personal browser that has been tweaked, modified, and finely tuned to your own exact preferences, whatever they may be.

The CyberGhost VPN extension that Google Chrome offers for free is, according to Google, so simple to use that basically anybody can have it up and running and be using it in less than one minute.

You can use it for free for as long as you like; essentially, a free VPN proxy server that ultimately lets users access all aspects of the world wide web and also gives them the ability to unblock geo-restricted websites.  

This free VPN has more than 100 worldwide servers, allowing you to unblock and access content that may not be readily available in your own country, school, or company.  All you need to do is to connect to any server in any location to change your “public” location and alter your IP address.

The installation instructions are simple and clear, and with a few clicks, you will have your free VPN for Chrome which is the fastest and simplest to use proxy service on the market. 

You don’t even need to log in, register or create an account to use Chrome’s free VPN service. You simply install the extension, and you are good to go. Once the VPN extension is installed, you should be confident that you have the right to deal with your surfing and other activities online.

Ease of use should be paramount. Depending on why you have opted for a VPN in the first place, you will undoubtedly be looking to ensure that your privacy is protected whilst you are surfing the web. You will want to circumnavigate censorship from a website or gain access to content that has been geo-restricted because of the location of your IP address. Of course, it goes without saying that your passwords, encryption, and protocol should follow best cybersecurity practices and be as hacker-proof and watertight as they are on all your mobile devices.

Key performance levels are also crucial, especially if you are looking at using Chrome to access streaming services or downloading torrents – you don’t want your VPN to slow down what you’re doing.

Regardless of the varying prices and offers and marketing fluff that companies will be throwing at you, while you make your mind up which VPN service is going to be your “go to, top of the pile, best on the market” choice, picking up a free option may suit you better until you have made your final decision.

Once you see the benefits that the free extension service provides, it won’t be so much of a leap to go for the full VPN package. These are cost-effective and most providers allow you to install the VPN on multiple devices in the home, or workplace. They can be used on cell phones, laptops, desktops and tablets.

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Cyber Security

Three of the Major Threats to Application Security and How to Mitigate Them




With the increased dependency of our lives on the internet and mobile apps, application security is important, now more than ever. 

The importance of applications in our lives cannot be overemphasized. We depend on them for everything from dating to banking and from bookkeeping to private messaging. 

To give you an idea of just how essential applications are in our lives, 105 billion applications were downloaded in 2018. The number has increased by more than 25 percent over the last two years.

That means one thing, applications are here to stay for quite a bit of time. And if they do have to be a part of our life, they better be secure.

You cannot make anything secure unless you don’t know what exactly you are securing it against. For that matter, we’ll have a look at some of the common security threats applications are facing. Then we’ll see how they can be mitigated.

Major Application Security Threats 

There are more application threats than can be covered in any blog post of reasonable dimensions. We’ve picked the most common threats to give you an idea of what you need to steer clear of as a developer or a user.

Brute Force Hacking 

This is the most primitive and perhaps the rawest method of hacking into a secure environment. As the name suggests, these attacks rely on the use of force to break into an application. 

The way this is done is simple. A hacker programs a computer to try all possible combinations of letters, symbols, and numerals to guess a password. 

Definitely, that takes the computer quite a bit of time to crack the password but given enough time it can do that every single time. 

As of now, there are no active defenses to stop or prevent such an attack. There are some measures that can minimize the possibility. 

How to Avoid Brute Force Hacking?

There are two things that can secure an application against a brute force attack: 

  • The use of a strong password that has a long combination of letters, numbers, and symbols in it. 
  • Limiting the number of login attempts allowed from an IP address within a certain period of time.

Injection Hacking

Another common form of attacks on applications is injection attacks. The target of such attacks is mostly the web-based applications that run on data provided by the user. 

The way these attacks work is by “injecting” data into the application that compromises the security of the system from within.

The most common types of injection hacking attacks include cross-site scripting, code injection, and SQL injection attacks.

Cross-Site Scripting 

These are the attacks where the attackers inject malicious scripts into a trusted application. This causes the application to execute these scripts and behave in a way that exposes sensitive information about the users. 

Code Injection Attacks 

In these attacks, the hackers compromise the application by injecting malicious code into it. When executed, these codes can prevent the application from properly working.

SQL injection 

These attacks involve injecting the application with malicious SQL codes. This makes it possible for the hackers to remotely control the application and access the sensitive data in its databases.

How to Prevent Injection Hacking? 

Unlike brute force hacking, injection hacking can be prevented. Here are some precautionary measures that can secure applications against such attacks:

  • Enforce strict access criteria for getting into the app.
  • Put in place strong screening measures for all the data entered by the users into the app.

Malware Attacks 

Malware is probably the single largest threat not only to application security but to the computer systems as a whole.

This is mainly because of the sheer amount of new malware coming to the market every year. It is estimated that as many as 317 million new computer viruses and malware were created in 2018 alone.

The effects of malware differ from one to another but once they have infected an application they can: 

  • Allow the cybercriminals to make illegal backdoors into the application. 
  • Give unauthorized access to the application.
  • Result in massive data breaches and privacy compromise. 

How to Prevent Malware Attacks

As new malware is coming to the scene every day, there cannot be a singular solution to this problem. However, application security against malware can be improved by: 

  • Putting strong antivirus and firewalls in place.
  • Releasing security patches for the application as and when a new threat is revealed. 
  • Scanning the app for vulnerabilities and fixing them.

While all these measures are to secure applications against specific attacks, there are some things that need to be made a part of the app development process in order to make the apps safer.

Making the Development Environment Secure 

It goes without saying that it is of paramount importance for the developers to make the applications secure. However, just like it is very difficult to proofread what you have written, it is an ego-shattering thing to enforce application security measures. 

A recent study has shown that as much as 83% of developers globally release their apps without implementing proper security measures.

Here are some things that every developer needs to do to ensure application security: 

  • Applications must be developed in accordance with the security standards of the industry leaders and regulators. 
  • Updates and patches must regularly be released to cope with the ever-lurking threat of malware.
  • All the open-source components of the application must be regulated and made at par with the application security standards being followed.

However, it is not just up to the developers to ensure application security. Application users also need to play their part to make sure that the applications they use and the data they have are safe. The things that the users can do include:

  • The use of long and mixed passwords that are hard to guess even for a computer. 
  • Install a firewall on their devices.
  • Don’t download any application from an untrusted source.
  • Keep their credentials safe. 

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Cyber Security

Fintechs are ransomware targets. Here are 9 ways to prevent it.




Cybercriminals are clever, and they often target fintechs for two reasons. They know fintechs handle a lot of sensitive and financial information on a daily basis, and that they probably have the means to meet hackers’ demands and get back to business as usual.

Ransomware attacks are one of the most common fintech cybersecurity risks, and falling victim to one can be devastating — or disruptive at the very least. So, we asked the experts at ESET to explain how to prevent ransomware, and secure your business from the inside out.

Firstly, what is ransomware and how does it work?

With a ransomware attack, a cybercriminal hacks into their victim’s systems and essentially holds their data “hostage” until they pay a ransom. Since hackers know how valuable data is to a business, they tend to set ransoms in the thousands or even millions of dollars.

There are two types of attacks: crypto ransomware encrypts all the files, folders and hard drives on the infected computer, while locker ransomware locks users out of their devices. For cybercriminals, the goal is to get you to pay up so you can retrieve your files and mitigate any damage to your business.

What to do after a ransomware attack

Unfortunately, you don’t have too many options if you fall victim to a ransomware attack. You’ll need to decide to pay the ransom or not, and that involves weighing up how much your data is worth. Just keep in mind that giving in to a cybercriminal’s demands may encourage them to attack you again — and there’s no guarantee that your data will be restored.

Either way, it’s important to go into disaster recovery mode right away. Follow these steps for what to do if you get ransomware:

1. Alert your IT department. If your company has IT professionals or a Chief Information Security Officer, notify them about the attack. Hopefully, they’ll have a plan of actions for situations like these and be able to guide your team through these steps.

2. Trace the source of the attack. Most ransomware attacks have a countdown clock before all your files are deleted forever, so the sooner you find the source, the faster you can act. Typically, ransomware sneaks its way into your system through a malicious link or email attachment. The best-case scenario is the ransomware only attacks that one device, and the worst-case is it infects your entire system. Once you’ve found the culprit, ask the user if they’ve opened other suspicious emails or noticed anything weird about their computer.

3. Remove that device from your network. To stop the ransomware from spreading through your network, you’ll need to unplug the infected device.

4. Let your employees and clients know about the breach. While it’s important not to cause panic, you do need to be transparent. The truth is, most cyber breaches are the result of human error, so your employees need to know what happened and what’s expected of them. As for your clients or customers, contact them if you have proof their data has been compromised. In other words, avoid putting out a statement until you have all the information.

5. Invest in better security systems. When you’ve gotten through the aftermath, look into more sophisticated cybersecurity in fintech practices.

9 ways to prevent ransomware attacks

Ransomware is incredibly common, and as you now know, there are limited ways to deal with an attack. You need to be proactive and prepared, and implement measures to prevent an attack.

As you might have guessed, fintech cybersecurity should be a priority. These are our tips for how to protect against ransomware: 

Set up sophisticated email filters. The majority of ransomware is delivered by spam or phishing emails. To stop ransomware before it has a chance to infect your systems, employ email filters that scan all email content for spam, viruses and other forms of malware.

Run regular security audits. It’s worth assessing your security systems to identify any gaps or weaknesses. If you can, consider outsourcing your cybersecurity, reallocating resources or hiring in-house professionals to give your fintech peace of mind.

Use an up-to-date antivirus and anti-ransomware software. To protect your company devices from ransomware, malware, identity theft and more, install a third-party antivirus software designed for businesses. ESET Digital Security for Business offers the best ransomware protection and defence against a range of advanced cyber threats, and can be tailored to the size and scope of your fintech. Along with blocking persistent threats, it secures your devices with endpoint protection, which is especially handy if you have employees who work remotely.

Accept all software updates. Cybersecurity companies often release new patches to fix bugs and address vulnerabilities, which is why it’s essential to stay on top of any updates. In other words, you could have the most sophisticated antivirus ransomware software in the world, but that won’t do you any good if you ignore every notification that pops up! Updates usually take a few minutes to download and require you to restart your computer, but they make your company much less vulnerable to ransomware.

Implement multi-factor authentication. Two-factor authentication is good, but multi-factor authentication is better. This means employees will need to enter their username, password and one more piece of additional information — usually a code sent to their phone or email — before they can log into the system. It also makes it harder for hackers to break in.

Create a whitelisting program. This is effective in preventing ransomware, and it involves restricting the applications that can run within your company’s system. Think of it as the opposite of blacklisting — only applications that have passed the approval process will work.

Encrypt your company files. Ideally, all of your data should be end-to-end encrypted, and access limited to the people who need that information to do their jobs. The good news is, most computers and phones have built-in operating systems that encrypt stored data and prevent unauthorised users.

Tighten your cloud security. Speaking of the cloud, some cloud services don’t offer secure encryption and can’t distinguish between authorised users and other people trying to access the cloud. ESET Cloud Office Security will configure your cloud security so hackers can’t bypass your company’s policies and tap into sensitive information.

Routinely back up your data and systems. By backing up your data regularly, you’ll be able to recover any lost or corrupted data if your server crashes or if you fall victim to a ransomware attack. We recommend always having two encrypted backups: one on the cloud, and one an external hard drive.

Get in touch with ESET today!

Ready to protect your business from the inside out? With ransomware, prevention is always better than cure, so head to ESET’s site to learn more about their top-rated cybersecurity systems.

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Cyber Security

What are Insecure Direct Object References (IDOR)?




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HackerOne empowers the world to build a safer internet.

Insecure Direct Object References (or IDOR) is a simple bug that packs a punch. When exploited, it can provide attackers with access to sensitive data or passwords or give them the ability to modify information. On HackerOne, over 200 are found and safely reported to customers every month. 

What is an IDOR?

There are several types of IDOR attacks, including:

  • Body Manipulation, in which attackers modify the value of a checkbox, radio buttons, APIs, and form fields to access information from other users with ease.
  • URL Tampering, in which the URL is modified at the client’s end by tweaking the parameters in the HTTP request. 
  • HTTP Requests in which IDOR vulnerabilities are typically found in GET, POST, PUT, and DELETE verbs.
  • Mass Assignment, where a record pattern can be abused to modify data that the user should not be able to access. While not always a result of IDOR vulnerabilities, there are many powerful examples of this being the result of it. 

In its simplest and most common form, an IDOR vulnerability arises when the only input required to access or replace content is from the user. This vulnerability submitted to Shopify by California-based hacker Rojan Rijal (a.k.a. @rijalrojan) in 2018 is the perfect example.

By observing how file attachments were labeled when sending a query to Shopify’s Exchange Marketplace application, Rojan was able to replace documents by leveraging the same file name from different accounts. 

Figure 1: IDOR vulnerability reported by @rijalrojan to Shopify on the HackerOne platform.

For retail and ecommerce companies, IDOR vulnerabilities represent 15% of what organizations pay bounties for and represent the top vulnerability for programs across government (18%), medical technology (36%), and professional services (31%) industries. 

If they’re so simple, why are they so common? 

In short, IDORs can not be detected by tools alone. 

IDORs require creativity and manual security testing to identify them. They require you to understand the business context of the target application. While some scanners might detect activity, it takes a human eye to analyze, evaluate, and interpret. Understanding the deeper context is an innately human skill that machines cannot replicate. In traditional pentests, unless a pentester tests every possible parameter in every request endpoint, these vulnerabilities can go undetected. 

What are the implications of an IDOR vulnerability? 

Perhaps the most infamous IDOR vulnerability as of late is that found in alt-tech social media platform Parler. The company ordered their posts by number in the URL, a telltale sign of IDOR. If you add a sequential digit to a Parler post URL, you could access the next post on the platform indefinitely. Without authentication or access limits, an attacker could easily build a program to download every post, photo, video, and data from the entire site. While this was just public posts (not necessarily IDs used to verify accounts), geolocation data from posts was also downloaded, which could reveal GPS coordinates of users’ homes.  

How can you prevent IDORs from cropping up?

“Avoiding IDOR is only possible by building a robust access control mechanism, choosing the best fit methodology for your scenario, log all access and if possible do an audit with a post authorization check,” said HackerOne hacker Manoel Abreu Netto, better known online as @manoelt.

“However, if you want to reduce the impact of an IDOR, avoid using a simple pattern to reference objects in the backend, thus not using a sequential integer value but something like uuid or even a MAC (hashed ID) with a salt per user session.

This does not eliminate the IDOR, but reduces the overall impact and the ability to enumerate objects.”

To remediate IDOR vulnerabilities, below are a few best practices. 

  1. Developers should avoid displaying private object references such as keys or file names.
  2. Validation of parameters should be properly implemented.
  3. Verification of all the referenced objects should be checked.
  4. Tokens should be generated in such a way that it can only be mapped to the user and is not public.
  5. Ensure that queries are scoped to the owner of the resource. 
  6. Avoid things like using UUIDs (Universally unique identifier) over Sequential IDs as UUIDs often let IDOR vulnerabilities go undetected.

For more information about reducing risk and getting started with hacker-powered security, check out our CISOs Guide to Deriving Value from Hacker-Powered Security.


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