Monday, February 10, 2014

The bitter sunflower seeds of the Internet

The bitter sunflower seeds of the Internet

If the Internet were a package of sunflower seeds, a cyberattack would be like a bitter one. In Spain, it is very common to eat sunflowers seeds as kind of appetizer. While Spaniards enjoy the pleasant salty taste of websites, social networks or online games, the onslaught of cyber criminals can spoil it in a second, with the added disadvantage that they cannot simply spit it out.

But let's say that the mother of all bitter seeds on the Internet is the advanced persistent threats (APT). Such threats are often high-value targets such as government organizations, financial institutions, critical infrastructure... and according to Kaspersky Lab, they represent an increasing risk because the cost of carrying out this type of attack is dropping significantly.

Therefore in some places they are getting prepared in order to avoid choking any undesirable seed. The city of Eindhoven called Dutch hackers to seek vulnerabilities in municipal systems that are supposedly secure. The contest is called "Hack me Please" and it will take place on February 15.

But they also promote similar initiatives from the private sector. For example, the antivirus developer company Avast announced that it will double the minimum awards for those who find a bug in its software and reports it. Meanwhile, the maximum compensation rises up to $ 10,000.

However, several retail companies in the U.S. have recently swallowed a bitter hateful seed due to some security breaches that allowed the leak of information concerning their customer’s bank cards information. Therefore, experts from Visa and Mastercard said they are committed to replace swipe-and-sign card systems by chip-and-PIN (EMV) ones, by October 2015. From Symantec, they claim that in these second ones the information is more difficult to obtain due to encryption and they are also harder to copy. On the contrary, the analyst from Javelin Strategy & Research, Al Pascual, argues that in the online environment it is not clear that this EMV system really protects the user's transactions because hackers can steal their PIN and card number.

We do not know what they would respond to Mr. Pascual from the UK, where EMV systems have been used for years. Anyway, we do know the 20 years prison sentence imposed on a British woman who trolled herself. Indeed, Michelle Chapman was angry at his father. In retaliation, she created fake profiles with names and pictures of her family. For a year she was devoted to send herself nasty and obscene messages from those profiles in order to finally accuse her relatives of cyberbullying. Arguably Mrs. Chapman is the black sheep, or the bitter seed, of her family.


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