Malware has changed a lot over the years. If memories of the ILOVEYOU worm or the Anna Kournikova virus evoke memories of lost time and money, then the malware of today might, at first glance, seem more benign. This would be an incorrect assumption. While we have gotten more sophisticated in our prevention methods, the malware itself has gotten more sinister.
Malware developers are no longer going after the name recognition that once drove them to greater heights of destruction. Profit is the new motivation behind the business of malware development. To this end, malware has become more stealthy and useful to their creators. Delivery mechanisms have changed also. Porous e-mail clients were once the primary mechanism for distributing malware. Today’s viruses have a much more targeted approach. The good news is that fewer companies are being victimized by the new breed of malware. The bad news is that those who are victimized are more likely to lose actual money, trade secrets, client information, etc. Because the programs are designed to run stealthily, they can continue to collect data indefinitely unbeknownst to the victims.
Another common use of this new, silent delivery mechanism is remote control. Hackers use these tools to build giant networks of computers across the Internet to deliver millions of spam messages each day. These networks can be used for all kinds of nefarious activities. Owners of the computers on these networks typically have no idea that they are pawns in the scheme. This can really become problematic in the event the computer is used to distribute illegal materials.
How can you protect yourself in this new paradigm? The basics are more important than ever. Patch management for operating systems, Internet browsers, and all programs which can interface with the Internet is a must. Endpoint security must be of good quality and updated regularly. Routine scans are also important. Browsing should be allowed only through a proxy which scans all sites for malware. The use of dedicated providers for hosting cloud solutions is also a good idea. Make sure that these providers can show proof of the security they claim to provide.
If you have concerns about a particular data set, build a security plan around it. Limit access to users who absolutely need it and invest in the hardware/software to monitor and protect it. Keep up with the threats and adjust your policies to adapt. If you believe that your trade secrets might be of value to a hacker, for instance, take extra steps to secure them. Don’t store sensitive data on your network if it doesn’t absolutely need to be there.
Security experts aren’t helpless in the battle, but keep in mind that they are usually a few steps behind on the innovation front. Limiting exposure is the best policy.
If you have questions about securing your computers and/or sensitive data, please call Promethius at 317-733-2388.