Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Bad guys win again (Part IV)



The Internet is a neutral place. For as much good as it allows it also permits equal amounts of bad. It is simply a medium. Probably the thing that most people have problems comprehending is just how ‘global’ cybercrime is. You can have your bank account details stolen by someone in Russia or you can have your server brought down by someone else in China. Given the growing speeds and pervasiveness of the Internet it is actually getting easier.

A recent program on 4 Corners “Fear in the Fast Lane” gives you some insight into the challenges faced. You can find a complete replay of the episode here:

http://www.abc.net.au/reslib/200908/r419212_1990446.asx

One of the cases it details is how an Alice Springs betting company was sent bankrupt because they failed to pay ‘cyber’ extortion money. Another instance shows how a simple drive through a Sydney suburb revealed about 20% of home wireless networks had no protection. So many people are using computers and networks these days but every few grasp the issues they face and the challenges security brings. If you are interested I created a video a while back that illustrates what can arise from insecure wireless networks after demonstrating the issues to a friend:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mknGP-TOFu8
In an interesting turn of events, it seems that the Australian Federal Police featured in the story, who took over an underground hacking site, had their sting turned against them as “Hackers break into police computer as sting backfires” details. It further illustrates that there are just too many opportunities available for people to exploit vulnerabilities and weaknesses in computer systems. As I always tell people:

Q. How many different types of attacks and attackers do you have to protect yourself against?
A. ALL OF THEM.

now

Q. How many vulnerabilities or weaknesses does need to find to get inside your computer?
A. JUST ONE.

How can you win against these odds? Security is a huge investment that needs to be constantly maintained. Now consider your average computer user. Do they have the knowledge or the skills to even understand the threats they face – nope. As one of the Feds in the show says, it is probably about time that computer security be given same national priority as health but what are the chances of that?

As the show details, the problems are only going to get worse with the roll out of the Australian National Broadband network that will provide huge improvements in access speeds. I’m sure that the criminals can’t wait for that either because it means they can now achieve their ill gotten gains in a much shorter time period. A much better ROI.

Bottom line is that as we base more and more of our lives and society on computers without educating end users we are all losing out. It is typically the non-IT literate user who has their computer compromised without their knowledge. That computer is then added to a fleet of other compromised computers which are used to do the bidding of a cyber crim somewhere.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BRhauoXpNSs
Because we all live on the Internet it is up to everyone to be aware and maintain the security of their own systems. People are just not doing that, which in effect impacts us all and makes the Internet a worse place to be. My contention has always been, imagine the roads if we didn’t have rules, cyber crime can reek just as much havoc yet we happily allow people to buy a computer and connect it directly to the Internet with no training or understanding. Don’t appreciate the problems this can cause? Watch the 4 Corners program and visit the accompanying site to see why the Internet is fast becoming a place that you MAY NOT want to be!