The Ever-Changing Cyber-Security Threat

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The Ever-Changing Cyber-Security Threat

Data used to live in a safe and tidy world. Sensitive information was locked up in a physical building, unreachable by undesirables. Of course, it was also virtually unreachable by those who could leverage it to advance the company’s goals, and that was a big missed opportunity.

Enter the Digital Age, with personal computers, laptops, the Internet, cloud computing, and mobile devices. Suddenly a company’s data is flowing everywhere, being put to work — and, at the same time, it is being put at risk.

Today, the cyber threats are unprecedented in their sophistication, reach, frequency, and ability to attack our systems, steal our data, and harm our critical infrastructure.

A report published in the fall of 2011 by the Georgia Tech Information Security Center specifically identified several growing threats.1 A significant one is mobile devices.

With the expansion of bandwidth, and the flood of mobile applications, it is expected that mobile Internet usage will eclipse desktop Internet usage by 2014. Already, most phones, even less-expensive ones, include some form of a Web browser, which is vulnerable to existing and emerging Web-based threats.

One of the difficulties in eliminating mobile Web browser security flaws is that there is a trade-off between usability and security. There are, for example, constraints due to the small size of the devices, including small screens, which offer an opportunity for attackers.

Usability is increased by making the address bar disappear above the screen so more content is visible. As a result, many of the visual cues that enable users to confirm the safety of a site on a desktop screen are not available, making it easier for an attack to be disguised.

Another vulnerability of mobile browsers is their display security, which is not as advanced as that for desktop browsers. Just touching the display can launch an attack. Perfectly legitimate-looking images can hide a malicious link underneath that, when touched, can offer an attacker the ability to spy on the user or redirect the user to a site where malicious content is uploaded to the phone.

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Dan Kuykendall, co-CEO and Chief Technology Officer for NT OBJECTives, sees two other significant issues with mobile devices. He states, “One of the biggest problems with mobile browsers is that they never get updated. For most users, their operating system and mobile browser is the same as it was on the phone’s manufacture date. That gives the attacker a big advantage.”

Kuykendall’s second concern is that mobile applications are being developed too quickly, which is not allowing developers to validate the data as aggressively as it should be...

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