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Attacks against IoT, Dark Web indexing, and other tales from Ground Zero

Tue, 9th Feb 2016
FYI, this story is more than a year old

I just returned from a trip to Israel where security innovation and ideas thrive. Here are some of the main takeaways from my trip:

a) Attacks against IoT are not theoretical – they are real: We've heard so much about how driverless cars can be hacked. Turns out cars that still require human drivers are already being hacked. Organized crime rings that steal and sell stolen cars from showroom lots are actively plotting thefts that exploit vulnerabilities in keyless ignition systems. Insiders at the showrooms are colluding so no one will report the missing shiny cars from the lots.

b) Threat intelligence Fallacies: Threat intelligence firms that claim to scour the deep corners of the Dark Web are actually not performing any incredibly difficult technical feat. Turns out the criminals are actively indexing their black market forums and are working hard at improving their proprietary search engine. In fact, the bad guys are eager to have their forums located so they can more easily sell stolen data in a more competitive environment.

c) Invisibility of Banking Malware: About half the malware attacking global banks these days is not even visible to the banks, so they have no easy way of protecting their customers from banking Trojans. Malware strains such as Dyre and Dridex and more recently Bugat are redirecting bank customers to their own spoof sites and social engineering processes as soon as the customer tries to log in to their bank. This renders many bank tools against malware, such as device identification and malware analysis, ineffective since the banks don't even see the customers' web sessions.

That's one reason we advocate a layered approach. You have to assume the criminal will get into a customer account, just as you have to assume a criminal will penetrate an organization's perimeter defenses. That's what makes detection so important. (See our research “The Five Layers of Fraud Prevention and Using them to Beat Malware”).

d) Identity proofing using smartphone images of identity documents and peoples' faces, is going mainstream; Challenges in identity proofing are rampant, especially because private information typically used to prove an online identity is no longer private. U.S. tax agencies tell us that more of their citizens identities have been compromised than haven't, which should come as no surprise in light of all the breaches and compromises of PII data over the past couple of years.

A few technology providers, such as Lexis Nexis, Jumio, GB Group and IamReal enable identity proofing that verifies users' scanned or photographed identity documents, including passports and drivers licenses, and reconciles the data embedded in them with the data on the face of the document and the photograph of the individual being verified. Some solutions go further to test if the individual holding the smartphone is really alive. Such solutions are attractive to many Gartner clients, as they are relatively ubiquitous across the globe and provide stronger identity assurance than just data validation does. (See our research note “Absolute Identity Proofing is Dead; Use Dynamic Identity Assessment Instead”).

In November 2015, Israeli regulators issued new guidelines that state (translated into English here) “The Bank will recognize face to face and conduct a KYC (Know Your Customer) process when a new account is being opened online through video conference technology that will enable clear identification and will document these actions.” One Israeli lender has already implemented such a video conferencing KYC process supported by technology provider IamReal.

This type of identity proofing will likely gain widespread adoption in the coming years. Criminals are going to great lengths to take over identities, for example when they want to purchase high-value luxury goods like diamond rings, over the Internet using stolen credit cards. The bad guys will set up profiles on social media mimicking the target victim, purchase hundreds of fake friends or followers so as to look real, and have the target victim's phone number forwarded to the criminal in time for the transaction.

This way, when the online jeweller calls the buyer to verify the sale, the criminal will answer the phone and their ‘fake' social network profile will also make him or her look legitimate if the jeweller chooses to check it out. (Turns out about 7% to 10% of social network profiles belong to fake individuals). Forter, an eCommerce fraud detection vendor that supports high-risk online merchants, has seen lots of cases where this scenario has played out.

e)Prevention fights back; Many seasoned security professionals, including (of course) CheckPoint's CEO, are claiming enough is enough with the recent emphasis on detection. Prevention is still key, they say. I did come across a few innovative technologies enabling session isolation that promise to help their weakening cause.

Of course, what's required is a balance across prevention and detection. Security spending figures show the vast majority of investments has gone into prevention in past years. An emphasis on detection to compensate for past imbalances is duly warranted and long overdue. Stay tuned for more Gartner research on the state of security and user/entity behavior analytics in 2016.

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