An Islamist hacktivist going by the moniker “Mauritania Attacker” claims to have hacked and accessed the entire database of Twitter accounts. As proof of this exploit, he has published details on 15,000 accounts that included access tokens users have generated for other applications that use Twitter either as an authentication source, or as a means to publish data from or to the microblogging service. According to representatives from Twitter, no accounts have been compromised, and the account details released by the hacker did not contain passwords (hashed, encrypted or otherwise). Security analysts suspect that it may be possible to use the exposed security tokens to gain limited access to publish through the associated Twitter account via third party app (which is what the tokens are for in the first place) if a hacker could ascertain for which app a specific token was created.
What this means for you:
If you use Twitter, you should do two things:
- Enable login verification by going to your Twitter settings -> Account -> Login Verification. This basically sends out a confirmation to your mobile device that must be entered in order to log into your Twitter account.
- Revoke permissions to Twitter-enabled apps. You can do this by going to your Twitter settings -> Apps and clicking “Revoke Access” next to every app on the list, even the ones you might use frequently. Then, you can go back to your favorite apps and reauthenticate. This way, you can recreate the access tokens, and not have to worry about the possibility that your access tokens were among the ones shared by the Mauritania Attacker.
Following recent attacks by hacktivist group Anonymous on various government websites, the Department of Energy has reported that it too has been hacked, and personal information on hundreds of its employees has been compromised. The DOE has been relatively tight-lipped about the breach, and it’s not immediately clear whether this may be related to Anonymous’s current campaign “Operation Last Resort” which aims to reform computer criminal laws in the wake of internet celebrity Aaron Swartz’s suicide. In the case of the Anonymous-led attacks, various government websites have been completely taken over by hackers and used to post derogatory videogame parodies and login credentials for hundreds of banking executives.
What this means for you:
The gloomiest of the doomsayers are saying that in the near future, there will be only 2 types of businesses: “Businesses that have been hacked, and ones that don’t know that they’ve been hacked.” We’re not there yet, but some analysts believe we’ve hit an inflection point in cyber security where the criminals are now ahead of the business world in terms of sophistication and advantage. If the above is any indication, many government institutions are probably even further behind businesses in terms of security. Does that mean it’s time to pack up all that technology and return to paper ledgers, brick and mortar storefronts and hand-written checks? Not yet, but the businesses that take an aggressive stance towards tightening up their ships will stay well ahead of the competition, especially when those looser ships start to spring cyber-leaks.
What’s the first step? Find out if you have an information security policy. If so, make sure it’s being enforced. If not, call me right away to start talking about how to get your company’s technology battened down for the coming storm.
In August of this year, one of the world’s largest oil producers, Saudi Aramco, was targeted in a cyberattack that crippled tens of thousands of its computers. Despite the apparent success of the attack and the impact this would have had on the company’s operations, oil production did not falter, and the global economy continued its drunken flirtation with failure instead of rushing into an oil-shortage-fueled orgy of self-destruction. Saudi Aramco has not been forthcoming on the details of the attack, or how they managed to survive it relatively unscathed, but in the eyes of security analysts and even our own Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, this attack was “probably the most destructive attack that the private sector has seen to date.”
There are conflicting reports about the motivation behind the attack. The hacktivist group “Cutting Sword of Justice” has claimed responsibility, citing the act as a strike at the House of Saud, the ruling body of Saudi Arabia, refuting claims by security analysts who believe the attack to be a state or government-sponsored reprisal for the Stuxnet attacks that crippled the Iranian Nuclear Program. Intended to cripple oil-dependent economies like the US, government-backed cyberattacks on companies like Saudi Aramco can also gain proprietary geological survey data that could be extremely profitable for other, competing state-sponsored oil companies.
What this means for you:
Information is power, and there are very few companies that don’t store their most valuable data on computers and servers that are somehow connected to a network, if not the internet itself. Even if they had the best security known to man, it’s believed that at least one individual inside Saudi Aramco provided the means for attackers to compromise a company that produces 12% of the world’s oil. You should never rely 100% on technology alone for security – humans will always be more fallible than computers. Additionally, it’s important to provide some level of separation in your core business operations so that if a segment of your business is paralyzed, the entire operation doesn’t grind to a halt because the computers are offline getting repaired.