Friday, July 1, 2022

Cyber Security Today, May 4, 2022 – Advice to IT managers and individuals for World Password Day

Advice to IT managers and individuals for World Password Day.

Welcome to Cyber Security Today. It’s Wednesday, May 4th, 2022. I’m Howard Solomon, contributing reporter on cybersecurity for ITWorldCanada.com.

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Tomorrow is World Password Day. It’s a day when everyone should think about the passwords they have and how to safely keep track of them. I know, passwords are a drag. A good one is hard to create and you need to have a different one for each site you log into. That’s right: Creating one safe password and using it for your company login, your company email login, your personal email login, your bank login, your Twitter, Facebook and everything else — that’s a formula for disaster. Because once crooks figure out one of your passwords, they’ll try it on everything else they think you subscribe to. There are password-less solutions like fingerprint readers and facial recognition on laptops, smartphones and tablets. It’s important you enroll and use them. Even then you probably need a password or PIN number as a backup in case the biometric fails — they can be finicky. So what should you do? First, get a software password manager. It may already be part of your antivirus suite. Password managers keep your passwords secure. If you want, they can create scrambled passwords you don’t ever have to remember. Good ones work across all your devices — PCs, smartphones and tablets. Some listeners already know about password managers because their companies make employees use one. Reviews of password managers can be found on reputable websites like PC Magazine. Second, make sure every password you create is long — at least 12 characters. And third, where it is offered use multifactor authentication to add an extra level of login protection. Ideally the MFA should be delivered by an app like Google Authenticator or Microsoft Authenticator.

As for IT leaders, World Password Day poses a problem: Employees may create safe passwords for work, and you should exercise control through login rules to make sure the passwords are long enough and aren’t simple to break. You know, like not using ‘Monday12345678’ as a password. But there’s no guarantee employees aren’t re-using the same passwords for sites they go to outside of work. So you need to do four things: If your firm isn’t off passwords now, move to password-less solutions as soon as possible. If you can’t drop passwords get an enterprise password manager employees have to use. Add multi-factor authentication for extra protection — especially for staff with access to everything like the IT department. And educate your employees about the creation of safe passwords at work and at home, and why they have to create a different one for every site they use.

Related content: Make this ‘World Passwordless Day’

Security experts urge IT managers to install the latest security updates as soon as possible to prevent hackers from exploiting vulnerabilities. The latest reason why comes from a report by security researchers at Trend Micro into the workings of a new strain of the AvosLocker ransomware. This strain tries to disable Windows Update, corporate anti-virus solutions and scans for the Log4j2 vulnerability. A patch to stop this particular attack was released by Microsoft for Windows last month. Fully updated antivirus or anti-malware solutions may also stop this attack.

A new corporate espionage threat actor has been discovered. Researchers at Mandiant have given it the name UNC3524. It seems to be focusing on senior employees who are involved in corporate development, mergers and acquisitions and large corporate transactions. The attackers are skilled enough to worm their way back into an IT network after being caught and ejected. Once in the attackers look for Microsoft Exchange or Microsoft 365 email systems to compromise and read mail of executives and employees. One defence is to beef up security of email systems. There’s a link to the full report in the text version of this podcast at ITWorldCanada.com.

Separately, email administrators are being warned in another report not to take shortcuts with email security. This comes after researchers at Avanan discovered threat actors are taking advantage of a flaw in Google’s SMPT relay service to bypass security. Relay services are used by firms to send out mass emails. But they can be hacked to spoof legitimate brands to send out email with malicious links or attachments. Recipients get fooled. That’s because victims think the sender address in the “From” field looks safe. Avanan saw a spike in the abuse of Google’s relay service last month. One defence against this attack is for IT departments to properly set up the DMARC email authentication protocol.

Finally, operators of decentralized finance platforms for transferring digital currencies and financial instruments through smart contracts still don’t have cybersecurity worked out. The latest evidence comes from news reports that someone made off with the equivalent of $80 million through a weakness in one platform’s lending protocol.

That’s it for now Remember links to details about podcast stories are in the text version at ITWorldCanada.com. That’s where you’ll also find other stories of mine.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of ITWorldCanada.com and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including ITBusiness.ca and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@] soloreporter.com

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