Jul 17 2012
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The weakest link
E-crime is on the rise, and cyber criminals are becoming more sophisticated than ever. Joanna Andrews finds out what banks - and customers can do to counter cyber crime. The 21st century cybercriminal has been one step ahead of the game of late. Today's 'e-criminal' is coming up with new methods to target victims. According to a white paper from Trend Micro they are using an automated system to 'silently' siphon money from bank accounts 'undetected' - without even having to be online at the same time.
The new technique, referred to as 'automatic transfer system' (ATS), is being used in conjunction with popular crimeware kits to create a 'man-in-the-browser' attack that can bypass online banking security measures, Trend Micro said in the paper. Researchers focused on how two well-known crimeware kits, Zeus and SpyEye, use these tools to move funds from one account to another - while staying under
With the rapid adoption of internet banking and mobile banking in the Middle East, internet users are exposed to greater threats than ever before, and while banks are buffering up their defenses, experts say the weakest security link is often the not-so-tech-savvy customer.
WHAT IS FLAME?
The security industry's shortcomings were underscored most recently by the discovery of the Flame spying virus in the region, which experts claim is being used for targeted cyber espionage in Middle Eastern countries.
IT security expert Nicolai Solling, Director of Technology Services at German information security consulting firm help AG, told BME how the way people bank has changed forever, "The concept of devices has completely changed the online behaviour of the individual. Where internet computing previously was associated with sitting in front of a PC, the tablet/Smartphone phenomenon has changed usage to always-on or on-demand".
"This is done to meet the customer's demand for convenience, but also because the tablet/ smartphone allows the bank to have a more controlled software delivery environment compared to the relatively insecure platform such as the PC."Solling says the most pressing issue for banks is to make sure that their e-banking solutions are delivered in a format that can be viewed on
"Previously a bank could define that e-banking applications should only be accessible from specific platforms because if they covered the Windows platforms they had covered 98 per cent of all their customers. However in recent years the development of e-banking applications has had to change in that banks now have the requirement to support a much broader range of client environments such as MacOS, Linux, Android and iOS which powers the iPhone and iPad platforms," he adds.
From a security perspective e-banking apps deliver a big opportunity for banks. "When writing an e-banking application all of a sudden the bank can deliver security services which were previously difficult to deliver. As an example, one of the big security risks for a bank is the man-in-the-middle attack, where attackers could intercept client traffic by various technologies. Since an app is a 'controlled' environment the application could be hard-coded to only communicate with specific internet addresses or allow communication only with the bank's certificates."
He adds that the biggest issue for any online banking solution is the protecting the user against identity theft and making sure that users are correctly authenticated. The best way to handle this is using one-time-passwords and two-factor authentication. "However banks have been reluctant in doing this as it was always expensive and cumbersome to deploy strong authentication. With an app the bank all of a sudden has the software platform and vehicle for delivering proper and strong authentication."
Solling says individuals can protect themselves by simply applying common sense, "Think about which websites you use, which software you install and who wrote it. If you are constantly installing shady software or even software that is pirated you are exposing yourself to risks." He warns, "Never execute files from any unknown source, and remember almost all files are executable, including films, music, documents, pdfs etc. So when a friend gives you the latest blockbuster movie it is not only a copyright issue, but also additional risk you are exposing yourself to."
Emphasis on the Password
Passwords need to be unique. A good password should consist of both characters, numbers and special characters to avoid dictionary attacks.
Solling: People often use one password for multiple services; at least make sure your critical services have a good and unique password. After all, do you really want the administrator of your car-forum or e-mail service to also know the password for your online bank account?
Always use an endpoint (PC) that you trust for doing any transactions that require you to log in to identity sensitive services. Unknown machines (such as internet cafés) could be running applications which monitor what you do, what keys you enter.
Solling: Especially for e-banking, simply wait until you are at your own PC, or even better - use an un-rooted or non-jail broken tablet device as malware on these type of platforms are still relatively unsophisticated.
Close other browser windows when you log into your sensitive applications.
Solling: Most browsers today are vulnerable to cross-site-request-forgery or cross-browser-request-forgery, which means that your authenticated session for an e-banking application could be hijacked by another website.
Think about the network
Many locations such as cafés, restaurants and hotels offer their patrons free wireless services. In order to make these networks easy to access there is no encryption of the data-traffic. This leads to vulnerabilities.
Solling: Always consider if it is really appropriate and necessary to log into identity sensitive applications on these networks.
It is should be something we all know and do, but keeping security systems on your operating system up to date is very important.
It is not only the operating system that is at risk, but also your applications. A high percentage of all malware infections on a PC is related to five applications:
4) MS Office Suite
5) Internet Explorer
Before doing any sensitive work on your PC it is a good idea to boot it.
Solling: Many users tends to just hibernate or sleep PC's which means that all disk and memory sensitive areas are stored and re-applied when the machine is started again. This if of course convenient, but recent types of malware are only present in memory and do not require any files to be written. This means that when a machine is booted the malware is also removed.
© Banker Middle East 2012
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