Monday, 15 September 2014


You can now find our blog at so please pop on over and keep up to date with Information Security News from around the globe.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Much ado about SOCMINT!

You may not have heard of the term SOCMINT which emerged a couple of years ago as the abbreviation for Social Media Intelligence. What has this to do with Apple iCloud and Celebrities?  Well if you are to believe Apple this is what was used to hack into celebrity iCloud storage.  It appears the criminals gathered enough online information on these individuals to reset their passwords and hijack their accounts.  Effectively we have a successful social engineering attack without manipulating the human.  No one rang Apple, no one rang the celebrities, no eavesdropping in restaurants, no near contact to clone phones or going through celebrity trash cans.  It appears this attack relied totally on intelligence  gathering and analysis of online digital content and perhaps some targeted phishing emails.

Social engineering of social media, I think I can create a new acronym - SESM. Checked Google no one has used it before.

How do you stop SESM happening to you?  Google, Microsoft and Apple all want you to use their cloud services,  it’s free, it’s so convenient  and you can recover your device, so  “ don’t use it” is not the practical answer.    It is about responsibility for your security.  In a foreign country would you hand over your passport to a complete stranger?  Yet when it comes to our online digital life the lack of physical presence seems to  create the belief that it is ok to pass responsibility for the security to others.  How much did you pay these strangers to do this for you?
Here are some simple strategies to keep strangers and hackers out of your digital life:
1.  Passwords are important,  give them personality – use special characters or a pass phrase. If a site you are using does not support them, account lockout hacker tools can automatically run every word in the dictionary and common password combinations against your account in only a few hours.
2.  Get in front of a screen with  someone who you have not “friended”, might be a sibling or work colleague. Get them to look you up on Facebook and  other social sites  and see what they can see as a stranger – you might be surprised.  You can then go and fix your security settings.
3. On social media value your circle of trust. Do not “friend” anyone you have not met. What they say to you in a request could be totally false. There is no internet Bro code that states “I will not make up a social media page and tell lies”. You need to protect yourself and your friends. If they say they know you through a mutual friend – ask your  friend how they know them before responding.
4. Would you walk up to a creep on the street and handover a photo of your smiling face with your home address written on the back? No, so don’t  do it online. If you upload a photo taken at home or a friend’s house make sure the location/gps data has been removed.
5. Birth date. You need this for Facebook so everyone can wish you happy birthday but do you really need to divulge it on other sites?  Most of the time these sites only want this so they can market to you, it is not adding to your experience. Limit the amount of personal information you enter on such sites, just because they ask you don’t have to tell. If you have to enter a birth date then for example round the year to the nearest decade.  If one of these sites is compromised then the hacker cannot use the birth date to help gain access to your  important sites.
6. SMS alerts. Apple has announced it will strengthen its iCloud account alerting in light of the celebrity hack. If there is one thing to do as soon as possible it is go to your social media sites and check that you have SMS alerts turned on for account change requests.
7. Security questions. As appears to have happened to the celebrities. The questions like - what is your mother’s maiden name , what city were born in  or what high school did you attend don’t really cut it.  Instead  try  - what movie star or singer  do you not like? You are more likely to post or join conversations about things you like rather dislike – politicians are probably the exception.  

8. Phishing emails can look very legitimate and may be personally addressed. Never respond or open links in unsolicited email asking you about online account details or that they have something for you. Just delete them.   Only go to your sites using your browser favourites or app, you can then check if there are any legitimate messages for you.
Greg Starkey

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

For your eye's only

“Celebs in nude photo scandal’ make it to the top of our news feed today and who’s clicking on the link. I have to say for 1 ‘not me’.

I’m sure Jennifer Lawrence has a lovely figure but I don’t need to see it and the photos were never intended for the public, they are private photos stored on a private cloud account. The only reason why the likes of you and I are aware of them is because someone stole them! Yes, stole, ‘to take without permission or right, especially secretly or by force’. It took for someone to hack into her and the accounts of others and copy and exploit their private images online for all to see and continue to use what they have to blackmail others this is a criminal act.

I was pretty shocked and disappointed seeing comments made on social media about the images and requests for links to the images, if you really need to see it there are sites already available with similar content by consenting adults rather than exploiting someone who hasn't. Celebs may be famous and making a living by providing the world with entertainment but what they do in their own time in their own homes is private, and everyone is entitled to their own privacy. In general we have all been brought up to respect others, to use a level of discretion and these values should be remembered, and simply by not clicking on that link begins to remove and sense of credibility the hacker would feel from performing such a deed.

Although there has been no official comment of how the hack was made or specifically where the photos were taken from iCloud or Photostream (and likely we won’t hear about it either) I’m sure that this has raised many questions around the Apple offices this week.

The moral of that story is if you’re using a cloud based photo storing service maybe a little cautious of what you store, having an eternal hard drive works just as well, as for what Jen Law is up to, if this is really important to you maybe you need a hobby…

Sarah Taylor

Thursday, 28 August 2014

To click or not to click…………

We recently assisted one of our clients during an information security incident, a server monitoring system had picked up unusual file access activity on one of their network file stores, upon further investigation they discovered that a piece of malware was encrypting files on a user’s network share.

By the time we arrived onsite they had already started to contain the outbreak, taking the infected network drives off line, identifying the user whose network drive was being infected, removing the user’s PC from the network and disabling their network account.
At that time they were in the process of rolling out new anti-malware definitions across the network so they immediately commenced a full network scan using the latest definition files concentrating on the offline network shares.

Investigation of the user’s machine, indicated they have browsed to an external URL minutes before the unusual activity was logged.  The user had received an email, from a reputable postal service reportedly saying the organisation had a parcel that was awaiting payment and delivery, being a member of the accounts payable team, the user clicked on the link that opened a copy of the postal services website.  Unbeknown to the user malicious files were being downloaded initiating the malware infection using the win32 crowti ransomware variant and subsequently starting encrypting of all their files.

The email itself was very well crafted using good English and corporate branding of the postal services company, only upon closer inspection and hovering over a link to unsubscribe did we notice that the link misspelt the word “unsubscribe” as “unsubscrube”.  Checking the email headers revealed the IP Address and checking the registration confirmed the URL was located in Russia.

Whilst the incident was being Triaged the client asked, what they could have done to stop this kind of attack, we recommended they block the IP address in their firewall and block the domain on their SMTP relay but once the cyber criminals move to a different IP address or domain these defences would be useless, enabling smart screen filter as a group policy setting on their browsers could afford them an extra layer of security.

But in hindsight all of these enterprise and perimeter security controls are great but the user decided to click on the link in the email, not maliciously but in the normal duties of their role.  Users are the last line of defence….right?
Correct they are the last line of defence, but far too often organisations treat users just as that last in the line, security/awareness training as just another tick in the box to ensure some form of compliance.  Organisations can have the best of breed technical security controls in place at the perimeter, but these are only as good as the speed and efficiency of the vendor releasing signature or definition files and the IT department’s diligence at deploying updates.  During this incident the infected PC and network drives were disconnected from the network with ten minutes during which time approximately 50K files were encrypted.
The user however is the one constant that is always present and one that the cyber-criminal is relying on to perform an action or act that provides them with the backdoor they need.
Is annual security refresher training enough, when compared to how the security landscape changes in our view no!  Too many organisations use this as a tick box exercise, a cyber-criminal is relying on the end user, this is the mechanism that allows them to not brute force the front door spending 100’s of hours reconnoitring a target company and then trying to push an exploit through the front door.

How many times have you done something you were told not to do, “Don’t walk on the grass!”

“Don’t bite your nails!” humans have individuality and intrigue these are some of the traits that make society the great place it is so why would we curtail it.  You cannot tell someone not to do something, their very inquisitiveness will ask well “what will happen if I….” rather demonstrate through past experience, constantly building security awareness into their daily habits, so that they become accustomed to questioning the norm.
Large organisations have layers of security to protect their important information, with the abundance of social media and on-line interactions “the general public” does not have these controls to protect them, with the internet all around us, we need to make all users of the internet aware of the inherent dangers of its use, many of the day to day natural things we do to protect our homes, cars, handbags/wallets etc, if we applied the same common sense approach to the internet we would make the cyber criminals job that much harder.

End users may well be the last line of defence, providing real life examples of fake, imposter emails will go a long way to help improve security awareness, long gone are the days of the Nigerian 419 badly written scam emails, cyber-criminals content scrap websites to make the html content look real, but end users are the one control you can influence and educate daily providing an important proactive security control, beating any vendor zero day response, ignore them at your peril.

Neil Bray
Senior Security Specialist

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

What is Privacy? OAIC are showing us the way.

When looking for a new home we like to see photos of what the house looks like but for a tenant/home owner are there any rules that govern what photos the real estate agent takes and is there anything you can do if you are unhappy about the photos they have taken.

The OAIC's fifth video in their Privacy series tell us,'Is my real estate agent aloud to take photos in my house?'

________________________________________________________________________________ If your neighbour has a security camera and you are concerned about your Privacy the OAIC's latest video gives you some advice on what you can do to apease the situation.

The OAIC's fourth video in their Privacy series tell us,'What can i do about my neighbours security camers?'

We all have personal information held by organisations, but how do you access that information, are you able to just ask for it or might you have to pay or wait for an extended period of time, and then what if it is incorrect are you able to make changes where you need to?

The OAIC's third video in their Privacy series tell us,'How do I access my personal information?'

If you know that personal information about you has been mishandled what should you do, and how do you go about making a complaint?

The OAIC's second video in their Privacy series tell us, 'How do I make a privacy complaint?'

Following on from PRIVACY AWARENESS WEEK in May 2014 when CQR were partners of the OAIC (The Office of Australia Information Commissioner), the OAIC have released the first a series of 5 video's which are designed to help individuals learn more about PRIVACY and the common concerns they may have.

All of the video's are to be release over the next 2 weeks and we will be here to support the OAIC in spreading the word on PRIVACY.

The first in the series is 'What is Privacy?'

Further information on the changes to the PRIVACY ACT can be found on the OAIC website.

Sarah Taylor

Friday, 20 June 2014

Nice filesystem you've got there...

"Nice filesystem you've got there.  Be a shame if anything... happened to it.  Know what I mean?"

It's a stock phrase used by thugs in extortion rackets in countless movies, TV shows, and video games.  It's also exactly the threat that Cryptolocker presents.  Cryptolocker is malware that when activated will encrypt all the files that it can write to, and hold the decryption key hostage.  If you pay the thugs the extortion money before the clock runs out, they give you the key, and you get your files back.  If not, your files are gone for good.

The media love using the countdown timer in Cryptolocker as a background, all the while talking about this new threat, and how the government should be doing something about it.  Except of course that it isn't really new.  It's just the latest way that criminals have found to monetise malware now that the fake-antivirus market is drying up.  And it won't be the last.

Don't get me wrong, it really is a serious problem both for individuals and for business, but it is relatively easy to avoid, and even possible to recover from without paying the criminals, but only if you plan ahead.  Here's the plan:

1.  Patch everything.
Most malware uses known vulnerabilities in operating systems and software applications to take over your computer.  If they are patched, they block the initial attack.

2.  Run current and up to date antivirus on all computers.
If the criminals can't use an unpatched vulnerability, they will try to install the malware by tricking you into clicking on a bad link, or opening a bad attachment.  If you are running a current antivirus solution from any reputable vendor, then the vast majority of this sort of malware will be blocked before it can be run.

3.  Make regular backups and ensure the backups are offline.
Even in the worst case where the malware has encrypted all of your files, the criminals aren't the only place to recover them from if you have a recent backup.  While it's very convenient to keep a USB backup drive connected to keep the copies, if you can write to that drive, then so can the malware.  After you've made a backup, disconnect the backup drive.

4.  Restrict user access to read-only everywhere except where required.
Cryptolocker will encrypt every file on every network fileshare it can write to.  In a business most users should not have full write access to all the corporate data repositories.  Restrict access either at the share level or the filesystem level.

5.  Have a response plan.
When the worst does eventually happen, and all the protective controls fail, having a plan means that you won't make the situation even worse by panicking.

Remember the threat over the next few weeks is no different from the threat over the last few weeks, or months, or years!  The media just has a new bone to chew on, but the defences are exactly the same as they have always been.  Just don't pay the criminals.

Friday, 9 May 2014

Privacy Awareness Week Day 5: Managing a Breach or Complaint

Business standpoint:

The OAIC has not yet enforced the requirement for businesses to disclose a breach, however they do provide considerable support if you do fall victim to a breach that compromises personal information. You can find further information in this Guide to handling personal information security breaches.

Reporting a breach does not preclude the OAIC from receiving complaints and conducting an investigation of the incident (whether in response to a complaint or on the Commissioner's 'own motion').

Make sure that your incident response procedures identify the actions you will need to take if a breach to personal information were to occur.  Consider: 
  • Who you should contact, When, How?
  • What information will you need to disclose?
  • What immediate actions can you take to minimise the impact of the breach?
  • Your communications strategy, will you need to contact those affected by the breach? When will you do this? How will you do this?
  • How will you manage complains from individuals affected?

Who else can help?

How do I know I can trust a consultancy such as CQR?
  • CREST Australia, assess and certify companies and staff for their proved technical ability 
  • Looking for companies that are ISO/IEC 27001 certified, ensures the company is compliant to security standards.
  • You can check companies for their certifications through Jas Anz

Personal standpoint:
If you are not happy with the manner in which your personal information is being handled by an organisation you do have some rights that ensure that the organisation reviews your concerns or complaint.

Ensure you write a formal letter detailing what your concerns are directly to the organisation and they will be obliged to manage your concerns in a timely manner.

If you do not get a satisfactory result the OAIC is there to help you.  It is free to lodge a complaint with the OAIC.  You do not need to be represented by a lawyer to make a complaint about your privacy. However, if you do decide to hire a lawyer, you must pay for the lawyer yourself.