For many years security professionals have advocated using layered safeguards to reduce the risk of threats. While many organizations do employ multiple technologies like firewalls, anti-virus and intrusion detection to try to stop hackers, these guys are getting very good at navigating our layers of security. It’s like the old Mario and Donkey Kong video games where you had to jump over land mines, climb ladders, wait for doors to open and avoid swinging obstacles to reach the bonus prizes.
As an example of how many layers they are able to traverse, consider the reported attack on a financial institution’s enterprise network, which started life as a hacked Facebook account. (Click HERE for the full story.)
To make a long story short the attackers did the following:
- They captured the Facebook credentials of an individual who worked for a financial institution
- They then scanned the user’s Facebook profile to find recent social events involving co-workers on Facebook (finding a company picnic)
- They then sent emails to multiple Facebook friends who were co-workers saying, “Hey, have a look at the pictures I took at the company picnic!”
- The emails contained links to malicious web pages that attempted to launch a keylogger on the victims’ computers.
- They then scanned the keystrokes of an employee whose laptop had become infected with the keylogger and found the authentication credentials for the corporate VPN
- They infiltrated the VPN and infected a computer inside the corporate perimeter and performed vulnerability scans around the network to find servers with sensitive information on them.
The attack lasted as long as 2 weeks. If the attackers’ vulnerability scans had not been so “noisy”, they may not have been noticed, and the company could have suffered severe losses in terms of costly data breaches and corrupted databases, as well as system repairs.
So, what will happen now? Will the company add another layer of security to prevent a similar attack in the future? Probably… and these attackers will probably move on to other organizations with a bit less security. The cat and mouse game continues.
What’s interesting in this story is that the initial attack on the employees’ Facebook friends is pretty hard to defend against, since nothing seemed out of the ordinary. There really was a corporate picnic!
What would you do next if you were a security manager at this financial institution?
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