Tag Archives: Internet Safety

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Making Information Security Fun

Category:Facebook,Higher Education,Information Security,Infosec Communicator,Internet Safety,Presentations,Social Networking,STC,STC Rochester,techcomm Tags : 

I shared this presentation at the October program meeting of the Rochester Chapter of the Society for Technical Communication. The presentation demonstrates how the Information Security Office at the Rochester Institute of Technology used marketing techniques to reinforce key messages to raise awareness around information security concerns such as phishing.

To see more about how we’re using blogging to raise awareness in a specific academic course, visit the RIT Cyber Self Defense blog.

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Top Ten Tips for Safe(r) Social Networking

Category:Information Security,Infosec Communicator,Internet Safety,Privacy,Social Networking,Uncategorized Tags : 

No lifeguard on dutyDid you know you’re a target every time you go online? Did you know that cyber criminals are targeting social networking sites? Do you know how to recognize a phishing attempt? Following these tips will help make your use of social networking sites safer. (Unfortunately, there’s no way to guarantee that you can use them safely.)

Tip #1: Use strong passwords/passphrases.

It’s important to use strong passwords because automated “cracking” programs can break weak passwords in minutes. At a minimum, you should use 8 characters (preferably 15 or more), mixing upper and lower case letters and numbers. Many websites also allow the use of longer passwords and special characters. Incorporating special characters into your password will make them more difficult to crack. You’ll also want to use different passwords on different accounts. Using a password safe such as LastPass will help you manage these passwords by generating strong passwords and then supplying them when needed.

Tip #2: Keep up to date.

Attackers take advantage of vulnerabilities in software to place malware on your computers. Keeping up to date with patches/updates helps thwart attackers from using “exploits” to attack known vulnerabilities. It’s important to keep both your Operating System (Windows, Mac OS, linux, etc.) and your applications (Microsoft Office, Adobe, QuickTime) patched.

Tip #3: Use security software.

It’s a good practice to follow the requirements of the RIT Desktop and Portable Computer Security Standard on personally-owned computers. Among other elements, the standard requires use of a firewall, antivirus, and anti-spyware programs. Many security suites contain all of the elements needed to protect your computer. (Your Internet Service Provider may also provide security software.)

Tip #4: Learn to recognize phishing attacks.

You’ve all seen phishing attacks. They’re typically emails that appear to come from a financial institution that ask you to verify information by providing your username and password. Never respond to these requests. Your financial institution should not need your password.

Tip #5: Think before you post.

Don’t post personal information (contact info, class schedule, residence, etc.) A talented hacker can see this, even if you’ve restricted your privacy settings! Don’t post potentially embarrassing or compromising photos. Be aware of what photos you’re being “tagged” in—don’t hesitate to ask others to remove photographs of you from their pages.

Tip #6: Remember who else is online.

Did you know that most employers “Google” prospective employees? Have you seen the stories of people’s homes being burglarized because they’ve posted their vacation plans online? Many people other than your friends use these sites.

Tip #7: Be wary of others.

You can’t really tell who’s using a social network account. If you use Facebook, you’ve certainly seen posts by your “friends” whose accounts have been compromised. Don’t feel like you have to accept every friend request, especially if you don’t know the person.

Tip #8: Search for your name.

Have you ever done a “vanity search?” Put your name in a search engine and see what it finds. Did you know that Google allows you to set up an Alert that will monitor when your name appears online? Setting this up with daily notifications will help you see where your name appears.

Tip #9: Guard your personal information.

Identity thieves can put together information you share to develop a profile to help them impersonate you. Be especially careful of Facebook applications. They may collect information that they sell to marketing companies or their databases could be compromised. Do they really need the information they’re requesting?

Tip #10: Use privacy settings.

Default settings in most social networks are set to sharing all information. Adjust the social network’s privacy settings to help protect your identity. Show “limited friends” a cut-down version of your profile. Choose the strongest privacy settings and then “open” them only if needed.

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Updated: Choosing the Safest Browser, Part One

Category:Information Security,Infosec Communicator,Internet Safety,Uncategorized Tags : 

Swim safe!

This post provides an update to last year’s Choosing the Safest Browser post. Let’s take a look at what’s changed since June 2010.

Browsers

Last year, we looked at the following browsers to discuss which would be the safest:

Number of Vulnerabilities

How do you decide which browser is the safest? One way is to look at the vulnerabilities that were disclosed for each one. Attackers may exploit these vulnerabilities to place malicious code onto your computer.

In Spring 2010, my Cyber Self Defense class ranked the browsers in the order below according to which ones they thought had the most vulnerabilities:

  1. Internet Explorer
  2. Safari
  3. Opera
  4. Firefox
  5. Chrome

According to the  Symantec 2008 Internet Threat Report, here’s the list of browsers ranked from most reported vulnerabilities to the least:

  1. Firefox
  2. Internet Explorer
  3. Safari
  4. Opera
  5. Chrome

The class was really surprised by this ranking.

June 2011

Let’s see how the rankings look from the Symantec 2010 Internet Threat Report. Here’s the 2010 list of browsers and number of vulnerabilities:

  1. Google Chrome–191 vulnerabilities
  2. Apple Safari–119
  3. Mozilla Firefox–100
  4. Microsoft Internet Explorer–59
  5. Opera–31

I was surprised by this order. Ranking browsers by vulnerabilities reported, Chrome appears to be the worst and Opera the best. (In the 2008 report, Chrome had the fewest vulnerabilities!)

Average Time to Fix a Vulnerability

Another way to look at browser safety is how long it takes for a reported vulnerability to be fixed. How would you rank these same five browsers from shortest to longest patch time?

In the 2010 report, Internet Explorer had an average patch time of 4 days. Opera, Safari, and Chrome were each one day or less. (In the 2008 report, Safari had an average “exposure” time of nine days, compared to the “best,” Firefox, which normally took only one day to patch.)

Patch time alone doesn’t appear to be a factor when choosing the worst browser.

Safe browsing is important because the majority of attacks are web-based, peaking at  almost 40 million per day in September 2010.

Does Your Browser Choice Really Matter?

In my opinion, not so much. Internet Explorer vulnerabilities are targeted more because it’s the biggest target. However, all of the browsers mentioned have vulnerabilities and all are patched relatively quickly. Many attacks actually target applications such as Adobe Flash, QuickTime, and the like. Malicious PDFs have also become a huge problem in the last year. What matters are safe practices!

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Choosing the Safest Browser, Part 2

Category:Information Security,Infosec Communicator,Internet Safety Tags : 

Safe Practices

Check your Browser Security Settings

How can you tell how secure your web browser may be? Scanit’s Browser Security Test checks your browser security settings and provides a report explaining the vulnerabilities, the potential impacts, and how to correct them.

Use Security Software

Your security software should include an antivirus, anti-spyware, and a firewall.

Update Regularly

Keep your browser and applications up to date. If you’re prompted for an update, accept it.

Use Strong Passwords

Use a strong complex password or passphrase. Consider using a password vault such as LastPass to generate and store your passwords.

Install Browser Tools/Add-ons

Current browsers all provide some protection against phishing. There are also browser tools that you’ll find helpful.

  • The Netcraft Toolbar is a browser plug-in available for Firefox. The toolbar helps stop phishing attempts by blocking known phishing sites and providing hosting information about the sites you visit.
  • The McAfee Site Advisor is a browser plug-in available for Internet Explorer and Firefox. The Site Advisor warns you of websites known to have malicious downloads or links by checking them against a database at McAfee.
  • WoT (Web of Trust) provides color-coded ratings of the safety and reputation of websites.

Limited Account Privileges

Limiting account privileges (WindowsXP) provides simple but effective protection when working online. Limited accounts allow you to do most daily activities but do not allow you to install software (only accounts with administrative privileges can install software on the computer).

Many attacks take advantage of administrative privileges to install malware on your computer. If you’re using a limited account, attackers and malicious websites will not be able to install malware. (This is less of an issue with Windows 7 and Mac OS X because they ask you to confirm software changes.)

Threats have doubled since 2009 and the threat vectors have increased. Vigilance is even more important.

One thing hasn’t changed. The key to safe browsing is not which browser you choose. It’s following safe practices.

Please comment on the post and let us know some safe practices you recommend.

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