IT Security thoughts

It seems that this week a couple of IT Security related things are crossing the wire – so I really want to quickly share 3 of those to make my non-IT friends a little more sensitive about this topic…

I guess this all started with the news earlier this week that a hacker group has managed to inject code into the Firmware of Hard Disk drived – so basically the heart of what every computer uses to store data. This code can basically copy data to hidden parts of the drive and then establish a connect to upload the data. And there is no easy way get rid of this. The way to inject the code is basically build into the Disk Command specification and undocumented….. Here’s are 2 article on this, in German: Spiegel online and heise
To be really simple – once this SW is on your system, people have access to all your data!
The second things was the Lenovo incident yesterday- Lenovo had installed a tool on their laptops that basically can act as man in the middle to inject unwanted advertising into your search queries. Why is this important? Well, the ads are not really the problem – the problem is that all protected connections (for example to your homebanking) are not safe anymore. The advertising tool can decrypt the data, it is not the browser who does that. And that means that basically the ad Tool opens up the door for the misuse of data. Somebody can get your banking data – and with that your money. Even the Tan codes can be taken and sent. So you really want to monitor your banking account to see if your money transfers are correct.
The 3rd one is basically about people not configuring the environment correct. Again mentioned on Spiegel online, a student wrote a simple program that was checking if any file shares would be accessible. To explain, a file share is used to allow other computers to access a file – on computers, shared storages or other devices. Almost every computer has a fileshare, usually protected by passwords. The point of the article is that most of these shares either have no password set or very simple ones.
I don’t really know how this can be done easily, but it is easy to configure something and leave security asite as passwords are inconvenient for people. Nevertheless, no password means again everybody has access. Maybe it is worthwhile to either have tools from trusted sources that check security and help users to get it right or make better defaults.
There is even a 4th one now – Metadata tracking by our beloved smartphones. Go, check out where you have been over the last days and month.
If you are using an android phone, go here. Log in and take a look. All this google knows about YOU!
Do I want to scare anybody? Hell, no. But I am trying to explain these things in a way people can get sensitive. And think before they do things. I would say any company has one big interest – their own benefit.
I guess the first thing for everybody to do is read things on the screen – not every checkbox is good, like the one when installing Java that will also install the “Ask Toolbar”. Uncheck these things unless you really want them! So really consider if you need something installed on your computer – or not. And always use trusted sources for Software – and keep virus scanner and firewalls updated and current.
Not that they would really help against user errors – but they make it harder to cause damage!
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