Terry Zink: Security Talk

Discussing Internet security in (mostly) plain English

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  • Blog Post: Blocking executable content in Office 365 for more aggressive anti-malware protection

    Sometimes, spammers and malware writers create malware that passes through our service and arrives in customer inboxes. This is known as zero-day malware. The anti-malware engines that we use have not yet created signatures for them, and sometimes the spam rules do not catch them because the small amount...
  • Blog Post: Smartphone OS market share vs. malware targeted at that OS

    I was reading yesterday on Yahoo News (and on Flipboard yesterday on my tablet) that that the Department of Homeland Security issued a report detailing what platform mobile malware targets on your smartphone. I decided to do a sanity check – how well does the amount of malware targeted at a platform...
  • Blog Post: The modern face of mobile malware

    At the Virus Bulletin Conference last month in Dallas, Grayson Milbourne and Armando Orozco presented a talk entitled XXX Malware Exposed: An in-depth look at the evolution of XXX Malware . I have renamed it in this blog post to mobile malware because the techniques that malware writers are doing are...
  • Blog Post: Evaluating anti-virus products with field studies

    Did you ever wonder how people get malware onto their computer? Or how effective real life A/V software is on zero-day malware? Or just malware in general? Current A/V evaluations have some drawbacks: They are based on automated tests and therefore are not representative of real life They do not account...
  • Blog Post: Do tech-savvy readers practice what they preach?

    While at the Virus Bulletin conference in Dallas last week, Sabina Raluca Datcu and Ioana Jelea of BitDefender gave a presentation entitled “ Practise what you preach: a study on tech-savvy readers’ immunity to social engineering techiques .” In this talk, presenters spoke about a study they conducted...
  • Blog Post: What do consumers know about Antivirus?

    I’ve been at the Virus Bulletin 2012 conference in Dallas, Texas this week and there have been a lot of good presentations. I took notes on over 20 of them and thought I’d write about some of the more memorable ones. One of them was a presentation entitled Malware and Mrs Malaprop: what do consumers...
  • Blog Post: The Psychology of Spamming, Part 6 - The Flynn Effect

    The Flynn Effect Some of the most phished brands are Paypal, HSBC, Bank of America, Facebook, and eBay. All of these sites have security policies set up on their home pages and they are all fairly similar – they use education as a means of informing their user base about what techniques they...
  • Blog Post: The Psychology of Spamming, part 5 - Solutions

    Solutions So how do we get people to stop falling for scams? Will Cognition Save Us? Thinking about it - Thinking about a decision often changes people’s minds. When people are asked to justify why they like a particular choice, they ended up less happy with their choices. Analyzing...
  • Blog Post: The Psychology of Spamming, part 4 - Why we fall for scams

    Impact We humans had Stone Age ancestors for a long time and our limbic systems kept us alive; when we feel afraid of something, say snakes, it is because our brains are hard wired to avoid things that could harm us. The fear response is actually a good thing. However, eventually our neocortexes evolved...
  • Blog Post: The Psychology of Spamming, part 3 - External factors that influence our decisions

    Spam, Emotion and Decision Researchers distinguish between two types of emotions – expected emotions and immediate emotions. Expected emotions are predictions about how we will feel if certain decision outcomes occur. They are forward looking and their benefits are to determine the optimal course...
  • Blog Post: The Psychology of Spamming, part 2 - The Limbic system, cognition and affect

    The Limbic System The limbic system is the center of emotion in the brain and it governs much of our non-conscious behavior. We know from psychological studies that people will sometimes engage in behavior counter to their own best interests in order to satisfy short term desires. This is the work...
  • Blog Post: Israeli officials dispute claims of Stuxnet’s joint US/Israel effort

    A few weeks ago, the New York Times published an article saying that the Stuxnet worm, which infected a large number of Iran’s nuclear power plants, was a joint effort between the United States and Israel.  The program began under former president George W. Bush and continued under President Obama...
  • Blog Post: Mahdi malware discovered in the Middle East

    The other day, a new piece of malware, dubbed “Mahdi'”, was discovered on various computers in the middle east.  Seculert reported on it the other day on their blog , saying that they had stumbled on it a few months ago.  A piece of spam arrived into their labs (by way of a honeypot?) with...
  • Blog Post: Today is my 8-year anniversary of fighting spam

    Today is my 8-year anniversary of fighting spam.  It was July 12, 2004, that I got the job at Frontbridge as a spam analyst and we headed down to Los Angeles for 4 weeks of training.  Here’s a recap of 8 general trends that have happened since then: Image spam - In 2006, there was a huge outbreak...
  • Blog Post: More pirated software leads to more malware infections, poorer countries at more risk

    I decided to take a look at the relationship between the rate of software piracy and the rate of malware infections.  If you pirate your software, are you more at risk of getting infected with malware?  It sounds plausible so I decided to investigate. First, I downloaded a copy of the 2011...
  • Blog Post: A bit more on that spam from an Android botnet

    A quick follow up on my previous post about spam from an Android botnet , there are a few things I need to point out: Sophos discovered the same thing on their Naked Security blog : The messages appear to originate from compromised Google Android smartphones or tablets. All of the samples at SophosLabs...
  • Blog Post: Spam from an Android botnet

    I came across some interesting spam samples today. The messages all come from Yahoo Mail servers.  They are all from compromised Yahoo accounts.  They are sending all stock spam, the typical pump and dump variety that we’ve seen for years. But what is interesting about them is that they all...
  • Blog Post: Android taking over as the malware author target-of-choice

    A couple of weeks ago, Der Westen, a German online news magazine, published an articled entitled Android is a virus writer’s favorite target .  In it, the author (and if you don’t speak German, you’ll need to translate with your browser) talks about how we used to have lots of problems with PCs...
  • Blog Post: Roundup of Flame so far

    I hadn’t commented on it before, but last month the Flame malware was discovered by researchers from Kaspersky.  Here’s what we know so far: Reuters originally reported that it was designed as a cyber weapon to be used against Iran.  However, it wasn’t just computer systems in Iran that were...
  • Blog Post: Evolution of the antivirus industry

    I found the following elsewhere on the web .  I bumped up the original dates in the graphic by 3 or 4 years.
  • Blog Post: Naked Security

    [With apologies to Sophos who maintain a blog of the same title as this post; please feel free to reciprocate by writing a blog post with my blog’s name in the title]. A couple of weeks ago, McAfee released the results of a study they performed, analyzing the security practices of computer users in 24...
  • Blog Post: According to the Department of Homeland Security, cybercrime is a bigger threat than terrorism

    An article in Forbes the other day reports on US Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano’s comments that ‘cybercrime represents the “greatest threat and actual activity that we have seen aimed at the west and at the United States” in addition to “or other than Al Qaeda and Al Qaeda-related groups...
  • Blog Post: Does Stuxnet, Flame, etc., unleash a Pandora’s Box?

    In my previous post where I linked to an New York Times article, the last paragraph is the following: Mr. Obama has repeatedly told his aides that there are risks to using — and particularly to overusing — the weapon. In fact, no country’s infrastructure is more dependent on computer systems, and thus...
  • Blog Post: New York Times: Obama Order Sped Up Wave of Cyberattacks Against Iran

    The New York Times has a front-page story today alleging that the Obama administration continued the program of cyberattacks begun by the Bush administration.  Indeed, they sped it up. In case any Microsoft lawyers are reading this post, I am alleging nothing about the US government or any malware...
  • Blog Post: What Apple’s security response can learn from Microsoft

    A couple of days ago, Ed Bott posted an article on ZDNet entitled What Microsoft can teach Apple about security response .  This is in response to how Microsoft deals with security vulnerabilities and applies updates, vs how Apple does it (did it) with the Flashback malware.  Some highlights...
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