Archive - April 2011

Security industry says utility attacks imminent
Malaysia’s Top News Website Hit by DDoS Attack
Most IT departments ?clueless? over sensitive files

Security industry says utility attacks imminent

An attack on utilities and infrastructure “is imminent”, various security experts have told?TechEye.

Sony, as we reported earlier, is struggling to prevent concerted attacks by a dedicated group of disgruntled hackers. But the threat doesn’t stop there.

Elsewhere, alarm bells rang as McAfee and the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) launched a report called ‘In the Dark: Crucial Industries Confront Cyber-attacks’. It found that 40 percent of 200 IT security executives surveyed were worried that a major cyber-attack on critical infrastructures would occur within a year. The problem is, according to some, they are already happening.

Forty percent of the execs, from critical electricity infrastructure enterprises in 14 countries, also said the industry’s vulnerability had increased almost 30 percent. They believe that their companies are not ready for cyber-attacks. 90 to 95 percent of the people working on the smart grid were not concerned about security and only saw it as a last box they had to check.

One security professional, who wished to remain anonymous, said it’s another case of people “sticking their heads in the sand.”

Our source tells TechEye: “There’s already been attacks and threats to hospital infrastructure and financial institutions, while there’s been numerous security warnings of cyber attacks from China on utilities and infrastructure.

“Although it may be controversial to say, there’s no better way to attack a country then hit its power grids and overall infrastructure. That said, and as this report seems to show, no-one is really doing anything about it.

“They aren’t tightening their security around this, instead taking a head in the sand approach. If they don’t buck up their ideas soon, attacking countries will take advantage of this and I’m afraid I’ll take an “I told you so” approach.”

Another told us that he was surprised that this threat has taken so long to come to light.

“Of course, hackers are bright enough to move away from businesses and set their sites on the more important things such as utilities. After all, if they can take down a website, think what they can do to a power grid when they team up and put their clever minds together.

“Is there anything we can do?

“Sure, make sure utility companies keep up to date with their security, but that’s a lot easier said than done. After all, many are still burying their heads in the sand. Until a major threat occurs and hackers show their collective almighty strength, utility companies will continue to plod along as they already are.”

Other security experts are cautiously claiming that, as more DDoS attacks occur from people joining forces to bring down companies who have done something to annoy them, the threat could turn more sinister. A recent example is ?Sony, which was seen the PSN totally brought to its knees.

The attack is thought to be a thoroughly annoyed group of people who are upset about how Sony has handled the legal case it made against George Hotz, who posted the PS3’s root keys to get the system running on an alternative OS. Anonymous denies it is involved.

It’s no surprise, Professor Les Hatton at Kingston University tells TechEye: “The Sony attack wasn’t anything new, it just came to light as the company is high profile. The more high profile the attack, the higher and more qualified the hacker.

“It happens all the time.

“Most of the time servers are being attacked, it’s something we’ve come to expect from the internet. There’s obviously various types of attack from DDoS to breaking down passwords of government and business machines and installing software on them.

“Government sites and power grids are also being attacked.

“There will be more serious threats in the future as there is lots of money to be made. This will involve espionage as well as more serious attacks on utilities.”

Meanwhile, Graham Cluley at Sophos agrees: “We have seen attacks like this in the past. On the internet groups have formed to launch DDoS attacks, which have been very detrimental to companies with just a web presence. This is something groups will continue to do.

“On the other hand hackers going after a company which doesn’t depend on the internet will usually go it alone because this type of attack is far more malicious and not for notoriety meaning they don’t want to get caught.

“As more people however see they can join the net and form bonds with members to attack companies, this will become more and more popular,” he added.

Malaysia’s Top News Website Hit by DDoS Attack

Malaysia’s top news website,, was the victim of a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack yesterday which rendered it unreachable.

It’s unclear who instrumented the attack or what was their intention, but it coincided with the start of elections in Sarawak, the largest Malaysian state located on the island of Borneo.

Malaysiakini provides news in English, Malay, Chinese and Tamil and has over 1.6 million monthly unique visitors. Since mid-2008, the website is the most popular online news source in the Asian country.

The attack was so powerful that both data centers housing the site’s servers were affected. JARING, one of Malaysia’s top ISPs that operates?one of the centers also reported service disruptions across several regions at around the same time.

A cyber attack beginning at 11am today shut down Malaysiakiniservers simultaneously, making the website inaccessible to readers.

The Malaysiakini technical team has determined it to be a denial-of-service attack, where an attacker uses computers in different parts of the world to swarm Malaysiakini servers to the point that they are unable to cope with the massive traffic.

Both our servers, which are hosted at two data centres – TM Brickfields and Jaring – have been affected by the attack,” Malaysiakini’s official announcement reads.

The website has remained offline since the attacks, but new Malaysiakini content has been made available through other means, including Facebook and a blog hosted at

The company plans to achieve some redundancy by cross-publishing on multiple platforms, including, Facebook, Blogger and others, which are better equipped to fend of powerful DDoS attacks.

Malaysiakini readers have been largely supportive, some even accusing the government of involvement and trying to censor the Sarawak elections.

There are various ways to mitigate DDoS attacks, but ultimately the only true protection is to have better bandwidth than what attackers have at their disposal.

Most IT departments ?clueless? over sensitive files

Sensitive files don’t appear to mean much to security pros, an Imperva survey suggests.

The majority of IT departments have little idea about how many sensitive files they have or where they are stored, research has revealed.

Two-fifths of respondents to an Imperva survey carried out at this year?s RSA Conference said they were completely clueless about the volume of sensitive files in their organisation.

Furthermore, almost two-thirds of the security professionals quizzed said they weren?t even aware of who had access to such files.

Nearly a third said their company had lost data due to employees abusing access rights, on purpose or by accident.

?With so many respondents unsure of how many sensitive files they have and how accessible they are, it indicates a general lack of control over sensitive data, which increases the likelihood of an insider breach,? said Amichai Shulman, chief technology officer (CTO) of Imperva.

?The first step to a solid data security plan is taking inventory of your sensitive files and knowing where they are and who has access to them at all times. Only with this complete picture will you be able to guard against insider threat by detecting when sensitive data is being added or removed, or when an employee is improperly accessing files.?

In more positive findings, 82 per cent of respondents said breaches such as WikiLeaks inspired them to reconsider security policies.

However, 57 per cent said they would not be investing more money into data security following the WikiLeaks saga

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