Skip to main content

Security Vacuum - Anything Better Than Nothing?

"I don't have a Facebook account as I am worried about privacy/identity theft/my boss knowing what I did last Saturday/my patients/pupils/clients seeing what I did last Saturday...".  A fair assumption you would think?  Facebook can easily be replaced with any other on line account linked to the personality of an individual such as LinkedIn, MySpace, Twitter and so on.

Whilst there are various settings that can now be put in place to increase privacy on some of the social networking sites, suspicion still remains.  However, what would happen if you didn't create a Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn account?  Sure, there would be a definite reduction in risk of any of your personal information, photos or history being made available, as it wouldn't be there in the first place.

But, what would happen if some one else put that information there in your place?

If there is no Facebook account representing you, what is stopping someone from creating one?  That in itself is not difficult and hundreds of fake accounts are created each day.  What would it take to create an account in your name?  A fake email address would be needed.  That is probably the easiest thing to do on line today, with the plethora of free email accounts.  Signup to Facebook, with a minimum of personal information.  First name, last name and ideally a date of birth, but as many leave DoB off due to security issues anyway, not having that information certainly wouldn't raise suspicions.

The next step is to start making that account, look, act and feel like you.  Certainly a picture would help massively.  How difficult would that be for you?  Are professional or social pictures available via Google or would an associate or acquaintance have a picture themselves of you?  Slightly more tricky but not unobtainable.  Next is the big social engineering piece of convincing your friends and family that the on line account is in fact you.  A list of known friends and contacts would be needed, but would they simply question a request from a seemingly trusted source?  Probably not and the request would be accepted without analysis.  Suddenly a would be attacker is in an incredibly powerful position of having assumed your identity, albeit in a small corner of the on line world to small group of your social circle.

In this case, the best form of counter measure, was in fact to set up an account, even if not actively being used.  A 'get there first' strategy.

The same approach can be applied to the recent DNS changes for new Top Level Domains.  These new domains are covering new specific tags such as .app, .xxx, .game, .free and so on, instead of the more traditional .com or .org.  Whilst many of the big brands such as Google, Amazon and Apple all square up and try to get the extensions that align with their current business goals, what about the domains they're not going after?  Google.xxx anyone?  Something as benign as a registration and fake page on a supposedly adult themed extension could reek havoc for an organisations brand and reputation.

As the rise of technical countermeasures becomes more sophisticated and more expensive and time consuming to overcome, organised criminals and hackers are increasingly relying on carefully executed social engineering and fraud related attacks, in order to penetrate corporate networks, personal identities and any other area for monetary reward.

Putting your head in the sand isn't an option and sometimes it's better to provide a more offensive security counter measure than simply react once an attack has occurred.

(Simon Moffatt)



Popular posts from this blog

2020: Machine Learning, Post Quantum Crypto & Zero Trust

Welcome to a digital identity project in 2020! You'll be expected to have a plan for post-quantum cryptography.  Your network will be littered with "zero trust" buzz words, that will make you suspect everyone, everything and every transaction.  Add to that, “machines” will be learning everything, from how you like your coffee, through to every network, authentication and authorisation decision. OK, are you ready?

Machine Learning I'm not going to do an entire blog on machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI).  Firstly I'm not qualified enough on the topic and secondly I want to focus on the security implications.  Needless to say, within 3 years, most organisations will have relatively experienced teams who are handling big data capture from an and identity, access management and network perspective.

That data will be being fed into ML platforms, either on-premise, or via cloud services.  Leveraging either structured or unstructured learning, data fr…

Customer Data: Convenience versus Security

Organisations in both the public and private sector are initiating programmes of work to convert previously physical or offline services, into more digital, on line and automated offerings.  This could include things like automated car tax purchase, through to insurance policy management and electricity meter reading submission and reporting.

Digitization versus Security

This move towards a more on line user experience, brings together several differing forces.  Firstly the driver for end user convenience and service improvement, against the requirements of data security and privacy.  Which should win?  There clearly needs to be a balance of security against service improvement.  Excessive and prohibitive security controls would result in a complex and often poor user experience, ultimately resulting in fewer users.  On the other hand, poorly defined security architectures, lead to data loss, with the impact for personal exposure and brand damage.

Top 5 Security Predictions for 2016

It's that time of year again, when the retrospective and predictive blogs come out of the closet, just before the Christmas festivities begin.  This time last year, the 2015 predictions were an interesting selection of both consumer and enterprise challenges, with a focus on:


Customer Identity ManagementThe start of IoT security awarenessReduced Passwords on MobileConsumer PrivacyCloud Single Sign On
In retrospect, a pretty accurate and ongoing list.  Consumer related identity (cIAM) is hot on most organisation's lips, and whilst the password hasn't died (and probably never will) there are more people using things like swipe login and finger print authentication than ever before.

But what will 2016 bring?


Mobile Payments to be Default for Consumers

2015 has seen the rise in things like Apple Pay and Samsung Pay hitting the consumer high street with venom.  Many retail outlets now provide the ability to "tap and pay" using a mobile device, with many banks also offer…