Monday, December 30, 2013

The color of cyber threats

The color of cyber threats

“But what is of great importance to me is observation of the movement of colors.” said French artist Robert Delaunay. In information security field, there are dangers and threats of a wide range of colors. Observing where they come from and where they are going to is a paramount issue.

Red has always been the color of a warning light. This red bulb turned on in the BBC last week when they realized that a hacker managed to take over one of their servers and was selling access to it on the black market. It is unknown yet if he finally got to make some sales, but the British media conglomerate’s security team claimed to have secured the affected FTP server.

On the other hand, thinking about messaging app Snapchat, the color that comes to mind is yellow, isn’t it? Although, according to Australian firm Gibson Security, the Snapchat’s creators should blush with shame because they did not solve some security problems that researchers kept warning them since summer, so Gibson made security issues public in order to force the company’s reaction.

Those who can indeed proudly show off their blue and red colors are Cisco employees who solved two vulnerabilities that allowed an attacker to cause a denial of service or to avoid security restrictions in Cisco IOS XE devices. The company which takes the Golden Gate Bridge as a symbol, already released updates that cover these issues.

For many people, mathematics is a very dark world, almost black. But fortunately there are some people who understand it and know how to apply it to practice. On one hand, for creating different encryption systems, such as those that protect information from payment cards. On the other hand, to design algorithms that execute the daunting task of reversing those cryptographic codes. Thus, reducing the number of operations needed by these algorithms from 2^80 to 2^70, as some French researchers did, represents a great achievement.

They are also very dark some of the surveillance practices carried out by the NSA. According to some documents cited by German newspaper Der Spiegel, the U.S. National Security Agency installed spyware on computers, hard drives, routers and other devices from companies like Cisco, Dell, Western Digital, Seagate, Maxtor and Samsung.

Nevertheless, what color defines a virtual currency like the bitcoin? Difficult, right? It is not easy to relate it with green banknotes or gold coins. Perhaps this lack of clarity is what led the Reserve Bank of India to force suspension of Bitcoin exchanges by the argument that it could violate laws against money laundering and terrorist financing.


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