News on two botnets, advice for data breach victims and defend your Defender

Welcome to Cyber Security Today. It’s Friday September 20th, I’m Howard Solomon, contributing reporter on cyber security for ITWorldCanada.com.

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A botnet is a network of compromised Internet-connected devices that spreads malware by trying to automatically hack machines. A report this week from a security company called Guardicore gives an idea of fast it can work. One botnet it investigated infected 90,000 company and individual computers around the world in August. How? This particular botnet can get into poorly-patched Windows computers and servers, or computers with poor passwords. Then it infects other vulnerable machines on the same company or personal network. It goes on to steal passwords, data and install cryptomining software. So the lesson is make sure anything you have that connects to the Internet runs patched software, especially Windows, and make sure they all have different and strong passwords. To keep track of your credentials, use a password manager.

Botnets get created in other ways. Here’s another recent example: You think you got good news in your email inbox: A tax refund from the U.S. government! Well, it’s a con. A security company called Cofense said this week it discovered a phishing scam involving fake refund messages from the Internal Revenue Service. The email includes a link to a fake IRS website where you enter a one-time username and password. All you have to do is download a document, print it out, sign it and mail it back to the government. That’s a waste of time. Without you realizing, the downloaded document is infecting your computer so it steals information and joins a botnet. Then your computer is used to spread other malware. If the government believes you’re entitled to a tax refund it will mail it to you, no passwords needed.

With lots of data breaches being reported it’s possible one day you may get a letter or email from an organization that you might be a victim. What should you do? Canada’s Office of the Privacy Commissioner this week offered advice: Keep the letter, or print a copy of the notification. If your password was compromised, change it — and make sure it’s strong and not a password you’ve used elsewhere. Keep a close eye on the account. If this was a financial institution and think your account has been tampered with, let the institution know. Consider subscribing to a credit alert service. Ask the institution if free credit monitoring is available. If you suspect you are a victim of identity theft call police. There’s more here on the web site of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.

Finally, if you use Windows Defender and recently had a problem with full or quick scans ending too fast the fault is with a Microsoft update. There’s a fix available. First, run a full or quick scan. If it doesn’t run across your entire hard drive you need to download the fix manually. You’ll find that through Windows Update.

That’s it for Cyber Security Today. Links to details about these stories can be found in the text version of each podcast at ITWorldCanada.com. That’s where you’ll also find my news stories aimed at businesses and cyber security professionals. Cyber Security Today can be heard on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or add us to your Flash Briefing on your smart speaker. Thanks for listening. I’m Howard Solomon



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