Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Growing cybersecurity threats

Anthony A. Stramella, special assistant to the director of the NSA said "The threat is huge, it’s real and it’s growing, and if you’re going to defend against the threat, you need to know the threat."

Historically, the National Security Agency may be known for its low profile, but a top official from the NSA’s Central Security Service Threat Operations Center sounded a loud and clear warning that the size and growth of the cybersecurity threat landscape demands the good guys start thinking like attackers.

Stramella noted that 40 years after the first computer virus, malware continues to increase in sophistication, as demonstrated in recent years by Koobface, Conficker and Stuxnet, to name a few. However, he said, there are more than 68,000 hacker tools available on the Internet, many of which require no special knowledge to be used effectively by an attacker.

Malware remains a high-profile threat, but Stramella cited many low-profile threats that are equally, if not more dangerous for consumers and enterprises. For instance, downloading smartphone apps has become commonplace for many iPhone and Android device users, but he noted 2010 data from mobile security vendor Lookout Inc. that found more than 80 apps in the Android Marketplace collected personal user data and uploaded it in plain text to remote servers. At least one of those apps transmitted data to China.

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