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API Security Moves Mainstream

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Written by Cameron Camp, Security Researcher at ESET

As swarms of IoT gear, seek richer data retrieval from their cloud mother ships, the more robust – and more potentially dangerously hackable – API interfaces get a fresh push toward center stage. With Google’s API security initiative Apigee, API security is growing up. And it’s not just IoT. Machine-to-machine data behind super-slick UX designs need seamless interfaces that help move masses of data with less friction, offering more responsive mashups of tech polled from locations far and wide.

But to make this all “just work”, those more robust interfaces bake in more robust attack possibilities to potentially slurp data wholesale to parts unknown and at record speed. Recently, we wrote about the spate of new startups at this year’s RSA Conference that tried to get attendees to wrap their heads around how to make sure an API doesn’t suddenly start misbehaving or does stuff no one knows about until it’s too late. It’s not just us: our friends at DarkReading purport to tally the mounting business losses associated with API hacks.

And now the heavyweights are moving into this space too, cementing API security as “A Thing”. Google’s Apigee Advanced API Security for Google Cloud aims to let organizations identify API misconfigurations and thwart malicious bots, the former being one of the main culprits of API security incidents. Luckily, there are tools from folks like the OWASP API Security Project where you can do a health check on your own APIs, or on those you interface with, which can serve as a baseline. They also have a drill-down about the most common misconfigurations and how to avoid them, so it’s a great place to start.

As we mentioned in our previous post, there was a bevvy of API security startups darkening the halls at RSA, so you may also have some commercial options, with more coming in the future. Expect to continue to see API hacks ramp up as companies wrestle with the prospect of securing yet another interface, this time an industrial one that sits at the heart of the cloud and big data, and – configured wrong – can allow vast troves of data to be siphoned off around the world to parts unknown. Just make sure it’s not your data.

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Cloud

Preparing a Secure Cloud Environment in the Digital New Norm

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Written by Daniel Jiang, General Manager of the Middle East and Africa, Alibaba Cloud Intelligence

As hybrid or remote working is being adopted by many companies globally and becoming the ‘new norm’ for millions of workers, cyberattacks meanwhile continue unabated. Building a secure and reliable IT environment has therefore become an increasingly important priority for many businesses who are exploring opportunities in the global digital economy. While moving to the cloud and using cloud-based security features is a good way to challenge cyber risks, it’s important to delve deeper into how best to construct a secure and reliable cloud environment that can fend off even the most determined attacker.

In today’s digital environment, discussions about cyber security’s best practices have never been more important. The UAE in particular established the Cybersecurity Council to develop a cybersecurity strategy and build a secure cyber infrastructure by creating related regulations. Following this move, the nation ranked 5th place on the International Telecommunications Union’s Global Cybersecurity Index 2020, jumping 33 places and it continues to prioritize cyber security and awareness. Creating a secure cloud environment – from building the architecture to adopting cutting-edge security technologies and putting in place important security management practices – will inspire more thorough conversations on this subject.

A resilient and robust security architecture is essential for creating a cloud environment capable of assuring an organisation about the availability, confidentiality and integrity of its systems and data. From the bottom up, the architecture should include security modules of different layers, so that companies can build trustworthy data security solutions on the cloud layer by layer – from the infrastructure security, data security, and application security to business security layers.

In addition to the security modules of all of the layers, there are a variety of automated data protection tools that enable companies to perform data encryption, visualisation, leakage prevention, operation log management and access control in a secure computing environment. Enterprises can also leverage cloud-based IT governance solutions for custom designs of cloud security systems to meet compliance requirements from network security and data security to operation auditing and configuration auditing. This ensures full-lifecycle data security on the cloud, with controllable and compliant data security solutions in place.

Another consideration is to build a multi-tenant environment, abiding by the principle of least privilege and adopting consistent management and control standards to protect user data from unauthorised access. In addition, establishing strict rules for data ownership and operations on data, such as data access, retention and deletion, is also pivotal in creating a safe environment.

Moreover, enterprises can embrace the zero-trust security architecture and build a zero-trust practice by design to protect the most sensitive systems. The architecture requires everything (including users, devices and nodes) requesting access to internal systems to be authenticated and authorised using identity access protocols. As such, the zero-trust security architecture cuts down on automatic trust, or trust without continuous verification, addressing modern challenges in securing remote working environments, hybrid cloud settings and increasingly aggressive cyber threats.

Cutting-edge security technologies such as comprehensive data encryption, confidential computing and many more emerging tech solutions, can be leveraged to ensure we stay on top of the trends in cybersecurity. Comprehensive data encryption provides advanced data encryption capabilities on transmission links (such as data-in-motion), compute nodes (such as data-in-use), and storage nodes (such as data-at-rest). Key Management Service and Data Encryption Service help users securely manage their keys and use a variety of encryption algorithms to perform encryption operations.

Another emerging technology to safeguard the cloud environment is confidential computing. Confidential computing is dedicated to securing data in use while it is being processed, protecting users’ most sensitive workloads. Confidential computing based on trusted execution environments (TEEs), ensures data security, integrity and confidentiality while simplifying the development and delivery of trusted or confidential applications at lower costs.

It is equally important to adopt proper security management practices and mechanisms to maximise the security protection of one’s critical system and important data. One essential mechanism to protect the cloud environment is to develop a comprehensive disaster recovery system, which enables businesses to configure emergency plans for data centres based on factors such as power, temperature and disasters, and establish redundant systems for basic services such as cloud computing, network and storage. It helps companies to deploy their business across regions and zones and build disaster recovery systems that support multiple recovery models.

Setting the effective reviewing and response mechanism for your cloud security issues is imperative. First, having vulnerability scanning and testing in place is important to assess the security status of systems; second, it is vital to use cloud-native monitoring tools to detect any anomalous behaviour or insider threats; furthermore, establishing proper procedures and responsibility models to quickly and accurately assess where vulnerabilities exist and their severity, will help ensure that quick remedy actions can be taken when security problems emerge.

In the future, developing the security architecture, technologies, management and response mechanism will no longer be perceived as a cost-centre burden for companies, but rather, as critical capabilities to safeguard the performance and security of daily business operations. Crafting a comprehensive cloud security plan, adopting the best industrial practices, and choosing a professional cloud service provider with strong security credentials to work with, should be an imperative subjects in a CXO’s agenda.

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Expert Speak

Why You Should Use a VPN While Traveling

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According to a survey conducted by NordVPN, 50% of travellers use public Wi-Fi while on the road. However, only 20% of them use a VPN (a virtual private network) to protect themselves while being connected to a public network. “Travelers connect to public Wi-Fi in airports, cafes, parks, and trains. Some even use public computers to print their visa information or flight tickets. A VPN in those cases is crucial if you want to make sure that your vacation will not be ruined by cyber criminals. Nobody wants to lose access to their device or their bank account during a trip to a foreign country,” says Daniel Markuson, a cybersecurity expert at NordVPN.

As International VPN day (August 19th) is just around the corner, Markuson lists all the benefits offered by the service.

Enhanced online security
The main purpose of a VPN is to keep its user’s online connection secure even when they are away from home. Hackers can set up fake hotspots or access unsecured public routers and this way monitor users’ online activity. Once a user is connected, criminals can intercept their internet traffic, infect the device with malware, and steal their victim’s personal information.

When authenticating themselves on public Wi-Fi, users often need to type in their email address or phone number. However, if a user has accidentally connected to a hacker’s hotspot, they could be exposing themselves to real danger.

A VPN hides users’ IP addresses and encrypts their online activity. That means that, even if a user is using a malicious hotspot, the hacker behind it won’t be able to monitor their activity. Therefore, getting a VPN for travelling abroad is essential if you want to stay secure and private online.

Grab the best deals
Depending on the country in which you’re located, the prices for airline tickets, car reservations, and hotels might vary. That’s because businesses know that people in different countries can and will pay higher amounts for certain products and services. If you use a VPN for travel, you can hop between servers in different countries and find the best deals available.

Make the best of additional VPN features
As the industry is evolving, many VPN providers add new features to make their users’ experience even more wholesome. NordVPN, for example, recently added the Meshnet feature that lets travellers connect to other devices directly no matter where in the world they are. This enables users to form a remote connection with their home or office PC from anywhere in the world to share files or for other uses.

However, having said that, please check local laws and regulations about using VPN services on your devices, before you do.

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Cyber Security

Social Media Data Leaks Account for 41% of All Records Breached

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Written by Edward G, Cybersecurity Researcher and Publisher at Atlas VPN

Social media is quickly turning into a primary security weak point. A single data breach within one of the major social media networks can result in millions of records being stolen. Within the past few years, we have seen multiple large-scale data breaches involving companies like Facebook and Twitter. Yet, we rarely see the bigger picture.

Luckily, data presented by Atlas VPN gives insight into the scope of the issue. It turns out that 41% of all compromised records in 2021 originated from social media data leaks, which is a significant upsurge compared to 25% in 2020. The data presented is based on the 2022 ForgeRock Consumer Identity Breach Report, which gathered data from various sources, such as 2021 Identity Theft Resource Center, IBM Ponemon, TechCrunch, Forrester Research, as well as UpGuard, and IdentityForce.

A few other factors make social media a security weak point within the current online landscape. First, criminals can prey on business clients by posing as the company in order to obtain credentials. This is becoming especially prevalent since companies increasingly use social networks to communicate with customers.

Second, fraudsters frequently attempt to infiltrate businesses by leveraging mutual connections, which create a false sense of security. Moreover, people who overshare on social media make it simple for thieves to locate personal information that aids in company breaches.

Besides social networks, another major source of leaked information is the retail sector, which accounted for nearly a quarter of all records breached in 2021. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce Retail Indicator Division, e-commerce sales increased by 50% during the pandemic. Retail data breaches increased in frequency and severity during the same period.

While the average cost of a retail breach was $2.01 million in 2020, it increased by 63% to $3.27 million in 2021. Customer credit card, payment information, and personal data were the principal targets of retail data breaches. E-commerce websites and applications sometimes skip security precautions like two-factor authentication (2-FA) as they seek a simple user experience.

When the enormous volumes of personal data that retail websites collect are not adequately protected, it creates the ideal environment for breaches and subsequent fraud. Finally, the healthcare sector is worth mentioning with only 1% of records, yet, at the same time, the information leaked is usually particularly sensitive.

Data compromised from healthcare institutions tend to include name, address, SSN, date of birth, and, in two-thirds of the breaches, actual medical history information. With this information in hand, cybercriminals can blackmail companies or even particular individuals.

To round up the findings, it’s obvious that retail and social media companies should go the extra mile in securing their customer information. In addition, even though healthcare providers leak only a fraction of the data, they should still safeguard their client data with particular care due to the sensitive nature of the information.

Some services offer data breach monitoring tools. Data breach monitors track any data breaches related to your online accounts. It automatically scans leaked databases and informs you of any past or recent breaches where your personal information was exposed.

As always, we must mention the most effective countermeasure against data leaks. It is advised to enable multi-factor authentication on all of your accounts that offer the functionality. This way, even if your credentials are compromised, threat actors will not be able to access your account unless you lose your phone, and it is also found by ill-meaning individuals, which is less than likely.

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