UK: the real risk of cyber attack
By Patrick Van Eecke
New revelations of the cyber threat to government and business identify the risk of attack even when stopping for a cup of coffee. The solution is not to restrict the use of mobile computing devices but to enable access in a safe, controlled and informed manner.
Earlier this year, a government department hosted a conference in a central London hotel on cyber security. It is probably not surprising, therefore, that this event, which was attended by government ministers, senior government security officials and a range of cyber security experts, vendors, media and other professionals, came under cyber attack itself. The attack was perpetrated through the use of the hotel’s free-to-use Wi-Fi internet access and involved the use of a technique known as ARP poisoning to intercept and, in some cases modify, communications over that network. The event’s organisers have investigated this attack and have advised delegates who used the Wi-Fi network that their login details, and consequently their communications, may have been compromised by the incident.
This attack was made possible because, in common with many such access points, this network provided open access without any security. Many other such networks are not secured or use only very limited security, with ease of access having greater priority than security of access. A similar risk arises from the easy availability of mobile wireless routers. For very little cost, a ‘hacker’ can set up a free Wi-Fi hotspot and mount a ‘man-in-the-middle’ attack to obtain valid user names and passwords, which can then be used to gain access into corporate computer systems. As a result, the value of valid credentials to a cyber criminal is eight times greater than current credit card details. Such attacks can even be used to defeat the security around SSL and SSH encrypted traffic…
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