As we enter the new year it’s a good time to reflect on what has happened in the last year and the lessons we should be learning from them. The general goal of our situational awareness mission is to inform on threats to the cyberinfrastructure (CI) of research and education centers. With most alerts it can sometimes be hard to identify overall threats not only to CI but also to you as an individual. We try our best to provide information to help you identify where these vulnerabilities may affect your infrastructure. We translate the issue into a more understandable format so you can make better assessments for how it may affect you, how you can detect it and how it can be resolved.
If you have been taking advantage of this service let us know how it’s been going. We would really appreciate your feedback to help us prepare for our annual report to the NSF as well as to improve the Situational Awareness program. Here is the link to the survey:
In the last year we have provided a number of different alerts for core software like OpenSSH and OpenSSL. We announced vulnerabilities for content management systems WordPress and Joomla. There have been alerts for vulnerabilities in the Linux kernel as well. We have even provided some guidance for named vulnerabilities like Badlock, DirtyCOW and HTTPoxy.
Many of these issues we’ve seen in the last year can be identified, mitigated and/or resolved quickly by taking a few extra steps. If you don’t have the time or expertise on site to manage a service, use professionally hosted services that can provide security mitigation and patching quickly. Use regularly scheduled vulnerability scanning services to identify vulnerabilities in your infrastructure such as unpatched systems or exposed services that you’re unaware of. Protect against compromised passwords by enabling multi-factor authentication. Taking these extra steps can go a long way to protect your infrastructure from pending vulnerabilities.
Back in October we posted about Ransomware and ensuring that you are backing up your data. Every year Ransomware attacks have been increasing in number and complexity. We’ve seen this increase in the last year and expect to see another increase in the next year. If you haven’t already invested in a backup solution for your data this is something you should put effort in as soon as possible.
This last year has also seen the rise of a new compromise vector in small internet devices known as the Internet of Things (IoT). These are embedded devices of everyday things that are connected to the internet. These give you the ability to turn lights on and off, adjust your thermostat, open doors, even cook your food all from your phone. These simple devices are not as complex as a desktop computer and are usually designed for ease of use and not for security. Attackers have taken advantage of this lack of security using the ‘Mirai’ malware to build up an impressively destructive botnet. Because these devices are usually not designed to be upgraded remotely it’s likely this botnet will not disappear soon. In the next year we expect to see increased activity from and growth of this botnet.
The ease at which many of these devices can be added to any network can make this a very real threat for your CI. You may also see devices that show up in offices or on your wireless network. The most likely source of IoT devices will be networks for personal living spaces like dorm networks. The introduction of these devices to your network may create unintended vectors for access to your network. In large enough numbers they can potentially cripple your network if they’re compromised and being used in a DDoS attack. This post from Internet2 has a number of options for mitigating DDoS attacks on your infrastructure.
One of the other things we’ve noticed a lot of in the last year are compromised accounts. Yahoo recently announced the compromise of over 1 billion accounts from as far back as 2013. While large public sites like Yahoo often get mentioned in the news, we do still see lists of compromised accounts for organizations like Universities and small businesses. Also we continue to see re-use of passwords across systems, where a password compromise at a commercial service like Yahoo can lead to compromise of a CI account using the same password. To counteract this many sites and organizations have started to roll out multi-factor authentication solutions to protect their users and systems. The introduction of multi-factor authentication is something we’ll likely be seeing more of in the next year and beyond.
Whatever the new year brings we hope our service will help you navigate through them. If you haven’t already signed up for our mailing lists you can find them here. Security alerts are sent to the CTSC Infrastructure Operators Announce List for issues affecting CI. Alerts that affect software development are sent to the CTSC Software Developers Announcement List. We hope this next year is a safe and secure one.