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Rise of the Super-Malware: why it matters to every professional

Super-Malware is often misunderstood by the average professional but can cost any brand big bucks, so let’s brush up on the topic together!

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super malware

Super-Malware has become intense, more common

You already know about malware and you’ve learned not to click stupid links, but your company is vulnerable in more ways than just simple viruses sent over emails, with threats coming from new and increasingly intelligent sources.

To help us better navigate these vulnerabilities for every company (even a one person operation), we tapped the wisdom of Maddie Grant, who outlines below the rise of the Super-Malware:

Threats outpace the rise of awareness

Over the last few years the volume and intensity of malicious web security attacks has grown dramatically, thanks mainly to greater access to high-powered distributed systems and automation; and exploit kits that make execution and distribution simpler for cybercriminals. The strength of attacks is daunting and though the internet community is growing more aware of general risks, the threats seem to outpace it. 2013 is dubbed the year of the mega breach, where we witnessed 253 major breaches that exposed 552 Million identities including credit card data, addresses, passwords and other personal information. This was a 62% increase over 2012 (according to Symantec).

Website vulnerability has been a very attractive starting point for cybercriminals to inject and launch their attacks. Symantec’s state of web security report reveals that 77% of the websites they researched had exploitable vulnerabilities and 1-in-8 was critical. With unchecked access to websites, cyber-criminals are left to roam free executing zero-day exploits that covertly infiltrate to not only steal data but also cripple legitimate networks.

The battle to protect your website and guarantee availability for your clients and other site visitors is a critical area of focus for your company. Depending on the reach and scope of your business and the number of clients being served, a data breach can easily cost you upwards of $5.4 Million. Thankfully, it costs significantly less to protect your web assets.

breach

The Types of Attacks & Risk to your Business

Protecting your website and networks requires input and insight for all aspects of the services you’re providing both to clients and internally. If you’re primarily delivering a service online via a software-as-a-service model, you may be inclined to focus solely on making your web application secure at the code level; ignoring the establishment of internal network usage policies and other types of gateway level protection that will help mitigate denial of service attacks, for example.

Complete security requires an approach that not includes your developers, but IT staff, your web host and other security service providers and resources serving the application, network and human layers.

Some of the most common application layer threats are typically directed towards compromising private user data for the sake of financial gain. Through the injection of code to pull data and trick users into sharing private information cybercriminals gain access.

Examples of the most attacks include:

  • Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)
  • Injection Flaws
  • Malicious File Execution
  • Insecure Direct Object Reference
  • Cross Site Request Forgery (CSRF)
  • Broken Authentication and Session Management
  • Insecure Cryptographic Storage
  • Insecure Communications
  • Failure to Restrict URL Access

hackers

While other attacks like distributed denial of service attacks (DDos) are designed to completely cripple your business’ ability to serve clients and access critical network assets. These are simply meant to hemorrhage and take your business down causing unimaginable and sometimes irreparable damage.

For these types of attacks, you certainly cannot rely on your web server host for protection. And investing in the physical infrastructure and staff to manage, implement and monitor mitigation appliances and services will definitely put a dent in your cashflow.

DDos Could be the Greatest Threat

DDos works by overloading and flooding network servers with data packets and requests to the extent where the server is unable to respond; therefore, taking down the network. DDos attacks have grown more sophisticated with packet floods growing larger, maxing out at around 100 Gbps. In a six-month campaign against U.S. banks, for which a group of alleged Muslim hacktivists claimed credit, the volume of attack traffic regularly surpassed 30 Gbps – throughput rarely seen a decade ago. The 1st quarter of 2014 saw a 240% increase in botnet activity.

Attackers also have targeted other parts of the network infrastructure. Corporate domain name service servers are a common target, and in this case, customers can no longer access a company’s service. Under these attacks, the number of data center capacity a company has is irrelevant as the requests will never reach the data center. Network availability is a critical focal point for ensure business uptime and deliverability.

These attacks have evolved far beyond the capabilities of the typical in-house network security appliance that will inevitably face an overwhelmed network. The ssolutionafest and most effective approach is through a hybrid approach from a security company which offers web application firewalls, CDNs, real-time monitoring and high-class network security appliances to detect and block unwanted traffic in the earliest possible instance.

You’re Not Alone in the Fight & Where to Start

Security companies offering a security-as-a-service model mean that your business is saved from investing in staff and infrastructure to acquire a world-class security system. For instance, the load balancing and failover service offered by Incapsula, is very affordable, starting from $19 per month. Incapsula offers an enterprise-grade cloud-based solution supporting all in-datacenter and cross-datacenter scenarios ensuring high availability and protecting against the most powerful DDos attacks, offers instant propagation and distribution algorithms that will guarantee routing to healthy servers.

First-class infrastructure coupled with real-time monitoring capabilities mean that you and Incapsula’s team are accountable for the health of all your network assets. This is very valuable in the case of zero-day attacks that do not have known fixes, giving you the resources and data to act quickly to prevent loss.

Making the decision to migrate the management and protection of your network assets to a security-as-a-service solution, may be the best investment you could make for ensuring reliable disaster recovery and threat mitigation. It’s a sure-fire way to keep your business on the cutting edge of web security as cybercriminals become more covert and powerful.

The American Genius is news, insights, tools, and inspiration for business owners and professionals. AG condenses information on technology, business, social media, startups, economics and more, so you don’t have to.

Tech News

Quickly learn the basics of UX and UI (for free!)

(TECHNOLOGY) For the all-time low price of—well, free—Invise gives you the option of learning a few basic UI and UX design techniques.

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Woman browsing web, made easy with UI/UX

There’s no denying the strong impact UI and UX design has on the success of a website, app, or service—and, thanks to some timely altruism, you can add basic design understanding to your résumé for free.

Invise is a self-described beginner’s guide to the UI/UX field, and while they do not purport to deliver expert knowledge or “paid courses”, the introduction overview alone is pretty hefty.

The best part—aside from the “free” aspect—is how simple it is to get a copy of the guide: You enter your email address on the Invise website, click the appropriate button, and the guide is yours after a quick email verification.

According to Invise, their beginner’s guide to UI and UX covers everything from color theory and typography to layout, research principles, and prototyping. They even include a segment on tools and resources to use for optimal UI/UX work so that you don’t have to take any risks on dicey software.

UI—short for “user interface”—and UX, or “user experience”, are two critical design aspects found in everything from websites to app and video game menus. As anyone who has ever picked up an outdated smartphone knows, a janky presentation of options or—worse yet—a lack of intuitive menus can break a user’s experience far faster than slow hardware.

Similarly, if you’re looking to retain customers who visit your website or blog, presenting their options to them in a jarring or unfamiliar way—or selecting colors that clash for your landing page—can be just as fatal as not having a website to begin with.

The overarching problem, then, becomes one of cost. Hiring a design expert is expensive and can be time-consuming, so Invise is a welcome alternative—and, as a bonus, you don’t have to dictate your company’s vision to a stranger and hope that they “get it” if you’re doing your own design work.

It may not be the best year to break the bank on design choices, but the importance of UI and UX in your business can’t be overstated. If you have time to read up on some design basics and a small budget for a few of the bare-bones tools, you can take a relatively educated shot at putting together a modern, desirable interface.

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How to safeguard your small company’s data without distrusting staff

(TECHNOLOGY) Even a tiny company has valuable data that can be stolen from inside – without adopting a policy of distrust, you can take preventative action

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Data breaches are scarily common in today’s digital world, and even gargantuan businesses can easily be brought to their knees should a wayward phishing attempt (or a disgruntled former employee) succeed in making off with valuable information.

While your small business probably doesn’t have all of the same calibre of worries as your more monolithic counterparts, don’t make the mistake of thinking that your data can’t be stolen to devastating effect, even if you think the data you have is irrelevant and not worthy of being stolen (you’re wrong).

Cloud storage and increased collaborative tool use means that things like sensitive documents and files are at increased risk of theft. Small businesses are especially susceptible to this due to a lower likelihood of advanced security usage, so it pays to know what kinds of things you might be at risk of losing.

According to MUO, employees are most likely to steal collaborative documents, consumer databases, and any resources devoted to research and development.

Safeguarding these items can be tricky due to their relatively high-traffic use, so a preventive strategy is your best defense.

It should be noted that trust in your employees is crucial, and treating them like they’re poised to steal from you at any moment is not a particularly effective management strategy.

However, it’s important to be aware of the following reasons – and possible preventive measures – for employee theft of data.

Firstly, corporate espionage (as dramatic as it sounds) is still something you have to worry about as a small business owner. It isn’t uncommon for competitors to bribe (or even simply persuade) current employees to share data, even if your competitors are relatively small themselves.

Your employees should know that data is sacred (and confidential), but employing things like intrusion systems and holding trainings for recognition of espionage can help prevent this problem.

Those competitors might also try to snag some of your employees, and not just for their work ethic. Employees may save their own copies of documents that they think will be helpful in their new workspace; in doing so, they can unwittingly aid your competitor with much more than their skillset. Again, reminding your employees that all work documents are both confidential and property of your brand can cut down on accidental data theft in this category.

Non-Compete agreements and NDAs can also prevent this kind of theft, intentional or otherwise; if an employee chooses to leave your business, making sure they are aware of their contractual obligations is key. Perhaps the worst competitor you can have is a former employee who launches their own business in your field, though, and this is a situation in which data theft can be intellectual. Once again, Non-Competes and NDAs are helpful in mitigating damage in this context.

Finally, angry employees can find themselves doing a myriad of dumb (and harmful) things, up to and including data theft.

As mentioned earlier, early prevention is the best way to keep your data on your servers and out of your departing employees’ hands. Restricting employee access to files and folders can limit the number of possible breaches, and the aforementioned Non-Compete and Nondisclosure agreements are absolutely crucial in any business that deals in data–just make sure you’re discussing the terms of those agreements with employees as they come and go.

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Twitter bid on hold, Tesla stock plummets: What’s next for Musk?

(SOCIAL MEDIA) The surprising bid of $44B coming in for Twitter from none other than Elon Musk is now on hold and Tesla stock is down. Is Musk in hot water?

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In the largest corporate privatization deal in U.S. history, Twitter has accepted Elon Musk’s offer to buy 100% of Twitter for 44 billion.

Musk plans to privatize the company and do away with ads, a nearly 5-billion-dollar revenue source for Twitter, which accounts for 90% of their total income. Musk’s plan to do away with ads was nothing short of strategic. Musk is a free speech absolutist – or someone who believes that free speech should be unrestricted at all costs.

Advertisers are the main reason speech is restricted on social media platforms. For social media giants like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter who rely on advertisers buying space on their platforms, as well as sponsored content, to make most of their profits eliminating this revenue stream is not a decision that should be taken lightly. Without these restrictions or community guidelines, advertisers would not advertise on social media, and the sites could not generate much of their revenue.

But, when your pockets run as deep as Musk’s, I suppose revenue doesn’t particularly matter.

Some changes Musk plans on making are as follows: He claims, that despite the lack of advertisements, he will quintuple Twitter revenue by 2028. He plans on doing this while cutting Twitter’s reliance on ads to less than 50% of the total revenue. He also plans on growing the platform’s user base. He claims by 2025 there will be 69 million users on Twitter (however, considering 69 is his favorite number I’m not sure if this is accurate or another one of his famous trolling stunts). He also plans on offering a paid service, Twitter Blue, which will allow users to customize their Twitter experience for only $3 a month.

However, advertising is not the only hurdle to free speech on a social media platform.

Now Musk will face a barrage of questions and restrictions from government watchdogs, regulators, and activists. Twitter could even end up being banned in other countries if Musk attempts to skirt regulations. Musk wants to strip back content moderation rules and stop the censorship of new organizations; he has also not answered questions about how he plans to go about this, only stating that he’d only allow free speech that “matches the law”.

However, several European countries are changing their laws. New laws in the United Kingdom and The European Union (which comprises 27 European countries). The EU, for example, has enacted the Digital Services Act and The Digital Markets Act which aims to create a safer digital space, while protecting the rights of users and leveling the playing field for businesses. These acts extend to social media. The acts, in part, heavily fine companies that refuse to curtail illegal content on their platforms. However, as of May 9th, 2022, EU Industry Chief, Thierry Brighton, met with Elon Musk in Texas and they have reached an agreement regarding free speech and The Digital Services Act. Yet, the pair has not gone into detail about what exactly their agreement entails. When asked, Musk simply stated that it “totally aligned with his thinking”.

Musk may have circumvented the largest spanning cyber laws, but that does not mean he’s out of the woods regarding governmental regulation of Twitter around the world.

Now, the decision for Musk to purchase Twitter, and go public was a polarizing one and was met with mixed reactions. People did not hold back, and many roasted Musk for his decisions.

Some of my favorite reaction tweets are:

Elon Musk Twitter Tweet

Okay, but they make a good point. He’s been heralded as a “Real-life Tony Stark” and there’s nothing technically stopping him from being Iron Man.

Elon Musk Twitter Tweet

Live your dreams I guess, Elon.

Disgruntled Tweet about Musk Bid.

Disgruntled Tweet about Musk Bid.

Sure some people are disgruntled by the whole ordeal, but there’s really not a way to boycott this. In fact, the user base is only projected to grow for Twitter, with Elon at the helm.

Elon Musk Meme

And, in true Musk fashion he trolled Twitter users, critics and fans by tweeting a series of Tweets detailing which companies he was going to buy next.

Elon Musk Twitter Tweet

Musk then said would buy America’s most popular fast-food chain, and fix the most common complaint. I have to admit, I kind of want him to follow through on this one.

First, he threatened to buy Coca-Cola and put the cocaine back in, referring to the inception of the popular soft drink, when it first contained cocaine.

Elon Musk Twitter Tweet

Lastly, the new Twitter CEO threatened to shut down the entire platform altogether, so that all the users go outside.

Elon Musk Twitter Tweet

UPDATE:

As of Friday the 13th (spooky), Musk announced his Twitter bid of 44 billion dollars is currently on hold.

He claims he still plans on following through with the acquisition, and he will owe Twitter a one-billion-dollar breakup fee if he does not follow through. However, if he can afford to spend 44 billion on a social media website, I have to assume one billion dollars isn’t much of a deterrent for him. The bid could be on hold for multiple reasons.

He could be trying to negotiate a better price for Twitter, the deal could be falling apart or he could simply be walking away. One issue is that he was going to borrow against his smart car company, Tesla, but Tesla stock has been plummeting as of late. A part of me wonders if this is some kind of bizarre stunt in order to get media coverage and attention prior to unveiling a new concept at either Tesla or SpaceX. After the frenzy the news of Musk purchasing Twitter has caused, the deal may not even go through, and once again, the future of Twitter remains uncertain.

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