Archive for Security

What Would it Take to Disable the World’s Technology Infrastructure?

b2ap3_thumbnail_threat_of_cyberwar_400.jpgFor argument’s sake, do you think society today relies too much on technology? In the Information Age, both businesses and governments have to be more careful than ever about how they approach cybersecurity. However, what would happen if a massive cyber war were to render any and all computing systems in the United States inert? Granted, such a powerful, in-depth attack is unlikely, but it’s sometimes fun (and frightening) to examine the worst-case scenario.

David Gewirtz of ZDNet performed what he calls a “thought experiment” to determine what would happen if a cyber war were to knock the United States back to the proverbial “Stone Age,” a term he uses to describe the era of computing that directly precedes the Information Age: when computing wasn’t commonplace or central to our everyday lives.

One scenario Gewirtz explores is the possibility of the Stuxnet virus (an extremely complex virus that targets nuclear reactors) being exploited against the United States, alongside several other digital attacks that are designed to weaken the infrastructure. Since some systems rely on older technology, flaws in security can be found and exploited relatively easy if they’re being looked for. Furthermore, the United States’ reliance on electronic payments means that an attack on financial systems could potentially leave it in disarray. However, most scenarios that were considered came to the conclusion that within a few days, normal life would once again commence; primarily because of the assumption that society would “regroup, rebuild, and recover.”

Then, Gewirtz takes a darker approach by assuming that the prior statement simply doesn’t happen. These scenarios rely on the assumption that the government’s carefully laid out plans also fall through, and are compromised by hackers. While these might be some dramatic events, Gewirtz urges the reader to “remember that this is a thought experiment, and that clever enemies are capable of playing a long game.” For instance, what would happen if hackers used the files stolen from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, which was breached recently, to infiltrate the government, implant threat actors, and fake information within the system to suit their needs? With personal information, including fingerprint records, at their disposal, hackers would have everything they need to take down systems that everyday society requires to function; all from the inside.

With so many vital points hit at once, it’s safe to say that the financial systems and communications infrastructure would be among the first to go down. Without electronic transactions, businesses wouldn’t be able to run. This would be exacerbated by a lack of communications. Since most people don’t use landlines, and instead are opting for mobile phones or simple Internet communications, it’d be difficult for anyone to contact one another without waiting several days for messages.

In Gewirtz’s own words:

Without financial support and communications, our supply chains would be toast. Goods and services would no longer move across the country. There would be mobs storming supermarkets, hardware stores, and gun shops. Gasoline for vehicles would run out in a matter of days. National government would cease to function. Instead, the primary governance touch points would be some responsible local law enforcement officers. More likely, we would see feudal governance take hold, where those with the most firepower, survival resources, and physical strength would take power.

The end result would probably be what would be akin to a technology age of around World War II, though for several reasons, Gewirtz states that society would regress further than that. His reasoning is that society is more structured around technology than it was in the past. Even amidst war, nations were able to communicate with each other because of this sound structure. Would today’s society be able to hold up to these standards? Probably not, simply because the entire way we communicate is so heavily reliant on digital technology. According to Gewirtz, it’s likely society would regress a few centuries to around the 18th century, before the telegraph.

At this point, Gewirtz asks whether or not this situation is likely to happen. Since the entire world relies on the United States’ economy functioning properly, who would want to cause such a catastrophic cyber attack? Just about nobody would want to, not even the countries that are most likely to do so. In fact, so long as other countries aren’t affected by this apocalyptic hack, they would probably aid the United States since they’re somewhat reliant on their success. In other words, crazed activists are really the only ones who would bother with this type of threat, and that’s entirely dependent on their available resources.

In the end, it’s extremely unlikely, if not completely impossible, that an attack of this magnitude would ever occur. It simply wouldn’t be worth the tremendous amount of effort, and the entire world would be affected negatively.

So, we’ll ask you again. Do you think today’s society relies too much on technology?

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Hack Attack: Putting our System to the Test Part 2

Awhile back, we wrote about our internal attempt to hack into our own computer security system. Like a hacker, we kept a computer running in the background using a software to continually generate different passwords. The software works like a slot machine, running different combinations behind the scenes until the hacker hits the jackpot – […]

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Now You Can Blame Hackers for Your Next Speeding Ticket

b2ap3_thumbnail_car_hack_400.jpgSince the dawn of the computing age, hackers have taken advantage of all sorts of tactics in order to crack systems and ruin lives. With the Internet of Things bringing connected devices from all over the place into the mix, there are more opportunities than ever to take advantage of unsuspecting users. In fact, even car computers are capable of being hacked.

WIRED reporter Andy Greenburg experienced this terror first-hand, though he was expecting it to happen. In fact, he’s already had two run-ins with this type of hack. The first time was in 2013, when researchers Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek accompanied Greenburg as he drove a Ford Escape. As he reports, “they sat in the backseat with their laptops, cackling as they disabled my brakes, honked the horn, jerked the seat belt, and commandeered the steering wheel.” This doesn’t sound like something you’d want to happen while driving on the highway; that much is for certain.

Two years later, and this is precisely what happened the second time Greenburg met up with the researchers. Miller and Valasek instructed Greenburg to drive on the highway while they remotely hacked the vehicle. The only issue is that he didn’t know when the attack would strike. Still, they assured him that they wouldn’t try anything life-threatening, but when you’re faced with a vehicle that you have practically no control over, that’s a little hard to believe. The two succeeded, taking over the air conditioning, spamming the windshield wipers, and blaring Kanye West (the self-proclaimed “greatest living rock star in the world,” mind you) at maximum volume. They then mercilessly cut the transmission and brakes, which abruptly ended Greenburg’s ride down Interstate 64.

Yes, that’s right. Hackers can remotely mess with your vehicles if they really want to. The code used by Miller and Valasek is designed to use the Jeep’s entertainment console as a jumping point, issuing commands to the dashboard functions, steering wheel, brakes, and even the transmission. Though the code is only in the possession of the researchers (for the time being), you can bet that hackers are always looking for ways to profit off of the misfortune of others, and it’s only a matter of time before they find a practical use for hacks just like this one, and much more.

Following this troublesome vulnerability being exposed, there was a recall on the Jeep Cherokees affected by this code, though Chrysler wasn’t able to locate a definitive defect. Either way, such a drastic stunt only proves how technology is pushing toward greater communications without paying equal attention to security. In order to avoid the “crash and burn” aspect of The Internet of Things, it’s imperative that you take action now before it’s too late to do so.

This means that, as a business owner, it’s up to you to take the proper precautions to shield your organization’s network from potentially malicious activity. Integrating powerful security solutions is one way you can make accessing your network easy for your employees, but difficult for any unauthorized devices. Give us a call at (602)412-5025 to learn more about how you can take the first steps toward protecting your business from rogue devices.

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