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Top 10 Bad Cybersecurity Habits to Shed in 2022

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Written by Phil Muncaster, guest writer at ESET

The new year is a new opportunity to rewire your digital life. An increasingly important part of this is cybersecurity. In fact, 2021 is already shaping up to have been one of the most prolific years yet for cybercriminals. Almost 19 billion records were exposed in the first half of the year alone. Better security should mean you’re more insulated from the risk of identity fraud and financial loss. The cost of these scams reached a record $56bn in 2020, with most of this coming online. Although the organizations you interact with have a duty, and often a legal responsibility, to keep your data protected, it’s important to do your bit.

If you’re still feeling reluctant to find new ways to protect your digital world, consider this: a third of US identity crime victims have claimed they didn’t have enough money to buy food or pay for utilities last year as a result of fraud, according to the U.S. Identity Theft Resource Center.

Be alert, be proactive and break these 10 bad habits to improve your cyber-hygiene in 2022:

Using outdated software
Vulnerabilities in operating systems, browsers, and other software on your PCs and devices are one of the top ways cyber-criminals can attack. The problem is that more of these bugs were discovered in 2020 than any year previously: over 18,100. That amounts to more than 50 new software vulnerabilities per day. The good news is that by switching on automatic update functionality and clicking through to update when prompted, this task needn’t intrude too much on day-to-day life.

Poor password hygiene
Passwords represent the keys to our digital front door. Unfortunately, as we have so many to remember these days – around 100 on average – we tend to use them insecurely. Using the same password for multiple accounts and easy-to-guess credentials gives hackers a massive advantage. They have software to crack weak encryption, try commonly-used variants and attempt to use breached passwords across other accounts (known as credential stuffing). Instead, use a password manager to remember and recall strong, unique passwords or passphrases. And switch on two-factor authentication (2FA) on any account that offers it.

Using public Wi-Fi
We’re all getting out-and-about more these days. And that brings with it a temptation to use public Wi-Fi. But there are risks. Hackers can use the same networks to eavesdrop on your internet usage, access your accounts and steal your identity. To stay safe, try to avoid these public hotspots altogether. If you must use them, don’t log in to any important accounts while connected.

Not thinking before clicking
Phishing is one of the most prolific cyber threats out there. It uses a technique known as social engineering, where the attacker tries to trick their victim into clicking on a malicious link or opening a malware-laden attachment. They take advantage of our hard-wired credulity and often try to force rapid decision-making by lending the message a sense of urgency. The number one rule to thwart these attacks is to think before you click. Double-check with the person or company sending the email to make sure it is legitimate. Take a breath. Don’t be pressured into taking over-hasty action.

Not using security on all devices
It goes without saying that in an era of prolific cyber-threats, you should have anti-malware protection from a reputable provider on all of your PCs and laptops. But how many of us extend the same security to our mobile and tablet devices? Research suggests we spend nearly 5,000 hours each year using these gadgets. And there’s plenty of opportunities to come across malicious apps and websites in that time. Protect your device today.

Using non-secure websites
HTTPS sites use encryption to protect the traffic going from your web browser to the site in question. It has two purposes: to authenticate that website as genuine and not a phishing or fraudulent web property; and to ensure cybercriminals can’t eavesdrop on your communications to steal passwords and financial information. It’s not a 100% guarantee nothing bad will happen as even many phishing sites use HTTPS these days. But it’s a good start. Always look for the padlock symbol.

Sharing work and personal lives
Many of us have spent a large part of the past two years merging a once clearly defined line between our work and our personal lives. As the line has become more blurred, cyber risk has crept in. Consider the use of work emails and passwords to register on consumer shopping and other sites. What if those sites are breached? Now hackers may be able to hijack your corporate account. Using unprotected personal devices for work also adds extra risk. Keeping business and pleasure discrete is worth the extra effort.

Giving out details over the phone
Just as email and SMS-based phishing use social engineering techniques to trick users into clicking, so voice phishing, also called vishing, is an increasingly popular way to elicit personal and financial info from victims. The scammers often disguise their real number to add legitimacy to the attack. The best rule of thumb is not to hand out any sensitive info over the phone. Ask who they are and where they’re calling from and then ring the company directly to check – not using any phone numbers provided by the caller.

Not backing up
Ransomware is costing businesses hundreds of millions annually. So it’s sometimes easy to forget that there are still variants lying in wait for consumers. Imagine if you were suddenly locked out of your home PC. All the data on it, and potentially cloud storage, could be lost forever – including family photos and important work documents. Regular backups, according to the 3-2-1 best practice rule, provide peace of mind in case the worst happens.

Not protecting the smart home
Nearly a third of European houses are fitted out with smart gadgets like voice assistants, smart TVs, and security cameras. But by fitting them with connectivity and intelligence, these devices also become a more attractive target for criminals. They can be hijacked and turned into botnets to launch attacks on others, or used as a gateway to the rest of your devices and data. To keep them secure, change default passwords on start-up. Also, be sure to choose a vendor who has a track record of fixing known vulnerabilities in their products and research potential security flaws before purchasing a gadget.

Cyber Security

FortiGuard Labs Contributes to INTERPOL Multinational Cybercrime Suppression Operation in Africa

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Sharing threat intelligence and working with other threat intelligence organizations improves protections for customers and enhances the effectiveness of the entire cybersecurity industry.

Recently, FortiGuard Labs provided evidentiary support to INTERPOL and African Member countries as part of the Africa Cyber Surge Operation (ASCO) to help detect, investigate, and disrupt cybercrime through coordinated law enforcement activities, utilizing INTERPOL platforms, tools, and channels in close cooperation with AFRIPOL.

The ACSO is a multinational cybercrime suppression operation focused on identifying cybercriminals and compromised infrastructure in the African region. The INTERPOL Cybercrime Directorate and INTERPOL Support Program for the African Union (ISPA) collaborated with AFRIPOL and 27 INTERPOL member countries to leverage this intelligence and combat the growing threat of cybercrime across the continent.

The successful Cyber Surge operation and transfer of knowledge to multiple law enforcement agencies in the African region is the result of continued threat information sharing and trusted cooperation between INTERPOL, FortiGuard Labs, and other INTERPOL private partners.

FortiGuard Labs provided actionable threat intelligence over a six-month period, which consisted of botnet, command, and control (C2), and malware infrastructure research, including C2 and malware and botnet victims located within the African continent.

“The Africa Cyber Surge Operation, launched in July 2022, has brought together law enforcement officials from 27 countries, working together for almost four months on actionable intelligence provided by INTERPOL private partners,” Craig Jones, Director of the Cybercrime Directorate with INTERPOL comments. “This intelligence focused on opportunities to prevent, detect, investigate and disrupt cybercrime through coordinated LE activities utilizing INTERPOL platforms, tools, and channels. This operation focused both on cybercriminals and compromised network infrastructure in Africa, allowing member countries to identify more than 1,000 malicious IP addresses, dark web markets, and individual threat actors, enhancing cooperation between INTERPOL, AFRIPOL, and the member countries, and contributing to connecting policing for a safer world.”

“The Africa Cyber Surge Operation is a shining example of how shared threat intelligence on threat actors and joint operations across trusted partners can increase the cyber resilience of an entire region,” highlights Derek Manky, Chief Security Strategist & VP Global Threat Intelligence, FortiGuard Labs. “It also shows how valuable cybersecurity training and education is to help close the cyber skills gap and effectively disrupt cybercrime at scale. We will continue to work with our private and public sector partners such as INTERPOL around the world to help make our digital world a safer place.”

For more than a decade, FortiGuard Labs has helped inform and protect customers, partners, and governments around the world. As a leader in the threat intelligence community, its mission is to provide the best threat intelligence designed to protect customers from malicious activity and sophisticated cyberattacks. The team is composed of some of the most knowledgeable threat hunters, researchers, analysts, engineers, and data scientists in the industry, working in dedicated threat research labs all around the world.

Fortinet has been an active member of the Global Cybercrime Expert Group and trusted partner to INTERPOL dating back to 2015 and became an INTERPOL Gateway partner in 2018. This ongoing collaboration has resulted in greater threat intelligence standards and protocols across the industry as well as impactful global cybercriminal takedowns.

In addition to INTERPOL, FortiGuard Labs is committed to partnership and cooperation with global law enforcement, government organizations, and industry organizations. Some of the global partnerships include being a founding member and regular contributor of the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Centre for Cybersecurity as part of its Partnership Against Cybercrime (PAC), serving as a long-standing member of the NATO Industry Cyber Partnership (NICP), contributing to the development of STIX/TAXII protocols with MITRE & OASIS​, being an official Research Partner with MITRE Engenuity’s Center for Threat-Informed Defense (Center), co-founding the Cyber Threat Alliance (CTA), working in partnership with the computer incident response organization FIRST, and more.

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Cyber Security

Lookout Threat Lab Discovers Predatory Loan Apps on Google Play and Apple App Store

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Lookout, Inc. has announced the discovery of nearly 300 loan apps that exhibit predatory behavior such as exfiltrating excessive user data from mobile devices and harassing borrowers for repayment. These apps, which were found in Africa and Southeast Asia, as well as India, Colombia, and Mexico, purportedly offer quick, fully-digital loan approvals with reasonable loan terms. In reality, they exploit victims’ desire for quick cash in an attempt to ensnare borrowers into predatory loan contracts and require them to grant access to sensitive information on their devices such as contacts, phone history, and SMS messages — information that would not be required in a valid loan application process.

In addition to predatory requests for excessive permissions, many of the loan operators display scam-like actions. Victims have reported that their loans came with hidden fees, high-interest rates, and repayment terms that were much less favorable than what was posted on the app stores. Lookout Threat Lab also found evidence that the data exfiltrated from devices were sometimes used to pressure the customer for repayment – a common threat tactic to disclose a borrower’s debt or other personal information to their network of contacts.

In total, Lookout researchers uncovered 251 Android apps on the Google Play Store with more than 15 million collective downloads. The team also identified 35 apps on the Apple App Store that were in the top 100 finance apps in their regional stores. Lookout has been in contact with Google and Apple about these apps and, at the time of publishing, none of them are available for download.

“Mobile apps have made managing our lives a lot easier and are a convenient way to interact with businesses such as financial institutions. However, when entrusting any app with sensitive personal information, it is extremely important to stop and ask yourself if the information being requested makes sense and if the business behind the app is a trusted entity,” said Ruohan Xiong, senior security intelligence researcher, Lookout. “As these predatory loan apps have demonstrated, app permissions could easily be abused if users are not careful. While there are likely dozens of independent operators involved, all of these loan apps have a very similar business model – to trick victims into unfair loan terms and then extort payment.”

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Cyber Security

Dragos Participates in Global Security Forum in Riyadh

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Dragos, Inc. announced that it participated in the Global Cybersecurity Forum, held in Riyadh recently. The two-day event attracted cybersecurity experts and leaders from all over the world. Ben Miller, who represented Dragos as its Vice President of Services, spoke on the concluding day of the forum, about the threat of supply chain and third-party attacks. In his session, titled, “Pervasive and Insecure,” he discussed supply chain risk in critical infrastructure, examining the complex reality of third-party and supply chain attacks and sharing perspectives on the unseen vulnerabilities and how to address them.

Miller highlighted the complex nature of supply chain attacks, which potentially contain widespread vulnerabilities in the OT and industrial control systems (ICS). He outlined Dragos’ specific focus on the Kingdom’s supply chain risk in critical infrastructure including refineries and water treatment plants, as “Energy and water are specific focuses of ours in the region as they are critical not just to the economy but also to every person who lives here,” he said.

Giving an outline of the Dragos plan to help organizations detect and respond to the threat challenges posed to critical infrastructure in Saudi Arabia, he said, “We need to focus on educating the workforce, building a new understanding of how OT is different from IT, and gaining visibility and insights into what is happening in our critical infrastructure.” OT cybersecurity is in many ways a new field, he said.

“We need to communicate the needs of OT security as right now the concern exists but the specific needs aren’t well understood by asset owners. They do understand that digital transformation is happening and they need to secure it. I would focus on this business case and speak to the need for OT-specific monitoring, defensible architectures, and OT-specific incident response plans,” the Dragos official said.

Miller said supply chain attacks in critical infrastructure are complex with many suppliers, vendors, integrators, and long lifecycles that measure in decades. Commenting on the need to build industrial cyber resilience to keep such threats in check, he said: “The first challenge in the OT space is gaining visibility into what assets one has. You can’t defend something if you don’t know it exists.”

When it comes to safeguarding cyberspace, he had a few words of advice for Saudi Arabia, “The Kingdom should realize the potential challenges as early as possible. Commending the country’s efforts in cybersecurity. Over the last few years, Saudi Arabia has focused heavily on cybersecurity by investing in key programs and events such as the Global Cybersecurity Forum. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has impressed many by taking one of the world’s leading positions in developing and maintaining a cyber ecosystem. Therefore, the Kingdom now has a vantage point to bridge global cyber divides and ensure that cybersecurity benefits all societies in the region.”

A global expert in industrial cybersecurity himself, Miller joined other renowned thought leaders in the field, including Dr. Albert Antwi-Boasiako, Directory-General of the Cyber Security Authority, Ghana; Mary O’Brien, General Manager, IBM Security; Lothar Renner from Cisco Security; and Dr. Victoria Coates, Former Senior Advisor to the US Secretary of Energy.

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