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With the coming of a New Year, we know these things to be certain: death, taxes, and… security breaches. No doubt, some of you are making personal resolutions to improve your physical and financial health. But what about your organisation’s web and mobile application security? Any set of New Year’s resolutions is incomplete without plans for protecting some of the most important customer touch points you have — web and mobile apps. Every year, data breaches grow in scope and impact. Security professionals have largely accepted the inevitability of a breach and are shifting their defense-in-depth strategy by including a goal to reduce their time-to-detect and time-to-respond to an attack. Despite these efforts, we haven’t seen the end of headline-grabbing data breaches like recent ones affecting brands such as Marriott, Air Canada, British Airways and Ticketmaster. App-level threats The apps that control or drive these new innovations have become today’s endpoint The truth of the matter is that the complexity of an organisation’s IT environment is dynamic and growing. As new technologies and products go from production into the real world, there will invariably be some areas that are less protected than others. The apps that control or drive these new innovations have become today’s endpoint — they are the first customer touch point for many organisations. Bad actors have realised that apps contain a treasure trove of information, and because they are often left unprotected, offer attackers easier access to data directly from the app or via attacks directed at back office systems. That’s why it’s imperative that security organisations protect their apps and ensure they are capable of detecting and responding to app-level threats as quickly as they arise. It’s imperative that security organisations protect their apps and ensure they are capable of detecting and responding to app-level threats as quickly as they arise In-progress attack detection Unfortunately, the capability to detect in-progress attacks at the app level is an area that IT and security teams have yet to address. This became painfully obvious in light of the recent Magecart attacks leveraged against British Airways and Ticketmaster, among others. Thanks to research by RiskIQ and Volexity, we know that the Magecart attacks target the web app client-side. During a Magecart attack, the transaction processes are otherwise undisturbed Attackers gained write access to app code, either by compromising or using stolen credentials, and then inserted a digital card skimmer into the web app. When customers visited the infected web sites and completed a payment form, the digital card skimmer was activated where it intercepted payment card data and transmitted it to the attacker(s). Data exfiltration detection During a Magecart attack, the transaction processes are otherwise undisturbed. The target companies receive payment, and customers receive the services or goods they purchased. As a result, no one is wise to a breach — until some 380,000 customers are impacted, as in the case of the attack against British Airways. The target companies’ web application firewalls and data loss prevention systems didn’t detect the data exfiltration because those controls don’t monitor or protect front-end code. Instead, they watch traffic going to and from servers. In the case of the Magecart attacks, the organisation was compromised and data was stolen before it even got to the network or servers. Today’s proven obfuscation techniques can help prevent application reverse engineering, deter tampering, and protect personal identifiable information and API communications Best practice resolutions The Magecart attacks highlight the need to apply the same vigilance and best practices to web and mobile application source code that organisations apply to their networks—which brings us to this year’s New Year’s resolutions for protecting your app source code in 2019: Alert The key to success is quickly understanding when and how an app is being attacked First, organisations must obtain real-time visibility into their application threat landscape given they are operating in a zero-trust environment. Similar to how your organisation monitors the network and the systems connected to it, you must be able to monitor your apps. This will allow you to see what users are doing with your code so that you can customise protection to counter attacks your app faces. Throughout the app’s lifecycle, you can respond to malicious behavior early, quarantine suspicious accounts, and make continuous code modifications to stay a step ahead of new attacks. Protect Next, informed by threat analytics, adapt your application source code protection. Deter attackers from analysing or reverse engineering application code through obfuscation. Today’s proven obfuscation techniques can help prevent application reverse engineering, deter tampering, and protect personal identifiable information and API communications. If an attacker tries to understand app operation though the use of a debugger or in the unlikely event an attacker manages to get past obfuscation, threat analytics will alert you to the malicious activity while your app begins to self-repair attacked source code or disable portions of the affected web app. The key to success is quickly understanding when and how an app is being attacked and taking rapid action to limit the risk of data theft and exfiltration. Protecting encryption keys is often overlooked but should be considered a best practice as you forge into the new year with a renewed commitment to app security to ensure your organisation’s health and well-being in 2019 Encrypt Finally, access to local digital content and data, as well as communications with back office systems, should be protected by encryption as a second line of defense, after implementing app protection to guard against piracy and theft. However, the single point of failure remains the instance at which the decryption key is used. Effective encryption requires a sophisticated implementation of White-Box Cryptography This point is easily identifiable through signature patterns and cryptographic routines. Once found, an attacker can easily navigate to where the keys are constructed in memory and exploit them. Effective encryption requires a sophisticated implementation of White-Box Cryptography. One that combines a mathematical algorithm with data and code obfuscation techniques transforming cryptographic keys and related operations into indecipherable text strings. Protecting encryption keys is often overlooked but should be considered a best practice as you forge into the new year with a renewed commitment to app security to ensure your organisation’s health and well-being in 2019. Protecting applications against data breach According to the most recent Cost of a Data Breach Study by the Ponemon Institute, a single breach costs an average of $3.86 million, not to mention the disruption to productivity across the organisation. In 2019, we can count on seeing more breaches and ever-escalating costs. It seems that setting—and fulfilling—New Year’s resolutions to protect your applications has the potential to impact more than just your risk of a data breach. It can protect your company’s financial and corporate health as well. So, what are you waiting for?
In the age of massive data breaches, phishing attacks and password hacks, user credentials are increasingly unsafe. So how can organisations secure accounts without making life more difficult for users? Marc Vanmaele, CEO of TrustBuilder, explains. User credentials give us a sense of security. Users select their password, it's personal and memorable to them, and it's likely that it includes special characters and numbers for added security. Sadly, this sense is most likely false. If it's anything like the 5.4 billion user IDs on haveibeenpwned.com, their login has already been compromised. If it's not listed, it could be soon. Recent estimates state that 8 million more credentials are compromised every day. Ensuring safe access Data breaches, ransomware and phishing campaigns are increasingly easy to pull off. Cyber criminals can easily find the tools they need on Google with little to no technical knowledge. Breached passwords are readily available to cyber criminals on the internet. Those that haven’t been breached can also be guessed, phished or cracked using one of the many “brute-force” tools available on the internet. It's becoming clear that login credentials are no longer enough to secure your users' accounts. Meanwhile, organisations have a responsibility and an ever-stricter legal obligation to protect their users’ sensitive data. This makes ensuring safe access to the services they need challenging, particularly when trying to provide a user experience that won’t cause frustration – or worse, lose your customers’ interest. After GDPR was implemented across the European Union, organisations could face a fine of up to €20 million, or 4% annual global turnover Importance of data protection So how can businesses ensure their users can safely and simply access the services they need while keeping intruders out, and why is it so important to strike that balance? After GDPR was implemented across the European Union, organisations could face a fine of up to €20 million, or 4% annual global turnover – whichever is higher, should they seriously fail to comply with their data protection obligations. This alone was enough to prompt many organisations to get serious about their user’s security. Still, not every business followed suit. Cloud security risks Breaches were most commonly identified in organisations using cloud computing or where staff use personal devices According to a recent survey conducted at Infosecurity Europe, more than a quarter of organisations did not feel ready to comply with GDPR in August 2018 – three months after the compliance deadline. Meanwhile, according to the UK Government’s 2018 Cyber Security Breaches survey, 45% of businesses reported breaches or attacks in the last 12 months. According to the report, logins are less secure when accessing services in the cloud where they aren't protected by enterprise firewalls and security systems. Moreover, breaches were most commonly identified in organisations using cloud computing or where staff use personal devices (known as BYOD). According to the survey, 61% of UK organisations use cloud-based services. The figure is higher in banking and finance (74%), IT and communications (81%) and education (75%). Additionally, 45% of businesses have BYOD. This indicates a precarious situation. The majority of businesses hold personal data on users electronically and may be placing users at risk if their IT environments are not adequately protected. Hackers have developed a wide range of tools to crack passwords, and these are readily available within a couple of clicks on a search engine Hacking methodology In a recent exposé on LifeHacker, Internet standards expert John Pozadzides revealed multiple methods hackers use to bypass even the most secure passwords. According to John’s revelations, 20% of passwords are simple enough to guess using easily accessible information. But that doesn’t leave the remaining 80% safe. Hackers have developed a wide range of tools to crack passwords, and these are readily available within a couple of clicks on a search engine. Brute force attacks are one of the easiest methods, but criminals also use increasingly sophisticated phishing campaigns to fool users into handing over their passwords. Users expect organisations to protect their passwords and keep intruders out of their accounts Once a threat actor has access to one password, they can easily gain access to multiple accounts. This is because, according to Mashable, 87% of users aged 18-30 and 81% of users aged 31+ reuse the same passwords across multiple accounts. It’s becoming clear that passwords are no longer enough to keep online accounts secure. Securing data with simplicity Users expect organisations to protect their passwords and keep intruders out of their accounts. As a result of a data breach, companies will of course suffer financial losses through fines and remediation costs. Beyond the immediate financial repercussions, however, the reputational damage can be seriously costly. A recent Gemalto study showed that 44% of consumers would leave their bank in the event of a security breach, and 38% would switch to a competitor offering a better service. Simplicity is equally important, however. For example, if it’s not delivered in ecommerce, one in three customers will abandon their purchase – as a recent report by Magnetic North revealed. If a login process is confusing, staff may be tempted to help themselves access the information they need by slipping out of secure habits. They may write their passwords down, share them with other members of staff, and may be more susceptible to social engineering attacks. So how do organisations strike the right balance? For many, Identity and Access Management solutions help to deliver secure access across the entire estate. It’s important though that these enable simplicity for the organisation, as well as users. Organisations need an IAM solution that will adapt to both of these factors, providing them with the ability to apply tough access policies when and where they are needed and prioritising swift access where it’s safe to do so Flexible IAM While IAM is highly recommended, organisations should seek solutions that offer the flexibility to define their own balance between a seamless end-user journey and the need for a high level of identity assurance. Organisations’ identity management requirements will change over time. So too will their IT environments. Organisations need an IAM solution that will adapt to both of these factors, providing them with the ability to apply tough access policies when and where they are needed and prioritising swift access where it’s safe to do so. Importantly, the best solutions will be those that enable this flexibility without spending significant time and resource each time adaptations need to be made. Those that do will provide the best return on investment for organisations looking to keep intruders at bay, while enabling users to log in safely and simply.
The use of facial recognition has become a highly debated topic recently, and has increasingly and misleadingly been criticised by some for being an unethical tool used to spy on the public. The reason for such criticism is however largely due to lack of information and regulation around the technology. Used proportionately and responsibly, facial recognition can and should be a force for good. It has the ability to do a lot more to increase security in the future – from street crime to airport security, all the way through to helping those battling addiction, the technology can take security and operations to new heights. These systems can memorise the faces of persons of interest, networks of gang members, wanted criminals and those suspected of involvement in serious violent crimes The rise in knife crime Knife crime has dominated the headlines in the UK throughout the year. Recent statistics show the number of people being admitted to emergency care due to attacks by a sharp object to be up by nearly 40 per cent from two years ago, whilst the number of children under the age of 18 being admitted to hospitals with stab wounds is up by 86 per cent in only four years. This recent surge in knife crime has put police forces under immense pressure, and the intelligent use of facial recognition has a role to play in enabling more informed stop & search interventions. Currently UK police can stop and search an individual they suspect to be carrying drugs or weapons or both, or they can stop and search a person in a location where there have been or are considered likely to be “incidents involving serious violence.” In both cases they must do so with access to limited information, leaving themselves open to accusations of bias or discrimination. Knife crime dominated the headlines in the UK throughout 2018 Police systems benefiting crime investigations This is where facial recognition can offer up additional intelligence. These systems can memorise the faces of persons of interest, networks of gang members, wanted criminals and those suspected of involvement in serious violent crimes. Furthermore, these systems don’t need prior personal engagement to recognise an individual and see only data, not gender, age or race. Facial recognition thus helps eliminate both weapons and criminals off the streets and potentially prevent crimes before they have a chance to take place. The technology doesn’t take the decision away from the human police officer. However, it does bring greater transparency and context to the decision-making process of whether a stop and search intervention is justified. Similarly, the advanced technology can recognise and match an individual seen on a CCTV camera at a crime scene to someone the police encounters on the streets some time later, justifying a stop and search on that individual. Its ability to check in real time if a person is on a criminal watchlist adds an extra layer to the decision-making process prior to conducting a stop and search, lowering the likelihood of discrimination. Facial recognition thus helps eliminate both weapons and criminals off the streets and potentially prevent crimes before they have a chance to take place. Gambling addiction and how facial recognition can help There are an estimated 593,000 people in the UK currently battling a gambling problem, making it a serious public health issue in the country. Having understood the gravity of the issue, the UK gambling commission have set limits and advice in place to help those suffering this addiction; yet as with all addictions, gambling is a tough habit to beat. In order to put effective limitations in place and make a real difference, the gambling commission needs the right technology to protect those most vulnerable in the industry. Facial recognition technology is able to keep track of customers and thus help gambling companies in protecting their customers Facial recognition technology is able to keep track of customers and thus help gambling companies in protecting their customers to a higher degree. Monitoring those entering and moving around gambling areas is an extremely difficult task for human staff to do alone, especially in large crowded areas such as casinos. Facial recognition technology installed around the premises would be able to help the company and the staff to identify people who have registered as gambling addicts, and keep record of their day’s play in order to inform staff if and when it was time for them to stop. It would also be able to ensure effective self-exclusion procedures, by identifying a self-excluded individual via CCTV as soon as they entered the venue to then allow security staff to respectfully escort them out. Utilising facial recognition at airport security Facial recognition has by now become a normal sight at many airports around the world. Several people today hold a so-called biometric passport, which allows them to skip the normally longer queues and instead walk through an automated ePassport control to proceed to the gate faster without having to deal with control officers. Facial recognition used in this way has managed to significantly cut waiting times at the passport control, but it also has the ability to enhance security in and around airports. Facial recognition uses algorithms to match physical characteristics against photos and videos of people's faces Earlier this year, facial recognition technology managed to catch an imposter trying to enter the US at the Washington Dulles Airport. The false passport may have been uncaught by the human eye, yet due to the accuracy of the facial recognition technology it managed to help officers catch the imposter and bring him to justice. Facial recognition thus allows officers to identify an individual faster and more accurately than the human eye. Facial recognition uses algorithms to match physical characteristics against photos and videos of people's faces, which have been collected from visas, passports and other sources. Facial recognition allows officers to identify an individual faster and more accurately than the human eye At airports the use of facial recognition has proved to both enhance security as well as speed up processes such as check-inWhilst some critics may worry about issues of privacy related to the technology, at airports the use of facial recognition has proved to both enhance security as well as speed up processes such as check-in and, in the future, even boarding proceedings. If used correctly and proportionately, facial recognition can help safeguard the public and improve national security on several fronts. Whilst the many benefits of facial recognition are evident, the lack of regulation and understanding of the technology has led to misconception around how it works and what it is used for. Facial recognition technology can match faces in crowded public places against criminal watch lists, and register faces that match with those on criminal watch lists – whilst ignoring everyone else.
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