The underground market for cybercrime is thriving – BullGuard

BullGuard’s head of global sales Steve Hicks tells PCR how the stolen data trade is evolving, why Android devices are a big risk and why the firm is integrating Dropbox into its security products.

What have been the biggest security threats over the past year?

Despite the spate of continuing high-profile hacks, whether it’s cyber thieves gaining entry to networks or disgruntled hackers launching distributed denial-of-service attacks, the main threats to businesses are internal.

Internal hacks from disgruntled employees have the potential to cause a lot more damage than external hacks. With many job roles requiring access to sensitive areas of business systems, entire databases of information can be lifted, data stolen and inner secrets exposed. At the same time, poor security policies from an IT department means careless employees can cause tremendous damage by losing devices in public places, using weak passwords, clicking on malware loaded links and so on.

BYOD is also a threat if devices are not securely protected and encrypted, and employees are not aware of the dangers of downloading material or the sensitivity of the data they carry. There are also issues around unpatched software, cloud applications that don’t have the strongest levels of encryption and third parties remotely accessing networks who don’t use best practice security such as different difficult-to-crack passwords for clients.

How about consumer threats?

From the consumer perspective, by far one of the biggest threats over the past year has been the liberal use of social networks and exposing too much information. Attackers work hard to access accounts and once they’ve done this they also have access to all the contacts within the circle and can then hide malware in their posts. This also dovetails with an increasing rise in identity theft attacks.

Fraud prevention agency Cifas said identity theft victims rose by 31% to 32,058 in the first three months of 2015, compared to the same period in 2014. It might not seem like a spectacularly high figure, but it is on the rise and is rapidly becoming an organised criminal endeavour. With verified identities able to be sold without unmasking the original information gatherer, it’s an attractive form of attack.

"Attacks in the coming year will continue to come from lots of different angles whether it’s malware, phishing emails or social engineering, but the one common denominator is the need for ongoing education."

What devices are going to be more of a risk in the future?

Android mobile devices are going to be a big risk simply because they are the target of choice for hackers. This is due to the combination of open source architecture and huge global market share. There have been plenty of attacks to date on Android devices and top ranked Android apps.

Additionally, unofficial app stores contain plenty of apps loaded with malware, and if downloads are permitted from non-Play stores this can significantly increase the chance of infection, particularly if a device is rooted.

Attacks in the coming year will continue to come from lots of different angles whether it’s malware, phishing emails or social engineering, but the one common denominator is the need for ongoing education. People, whether in business or at home, are the weakest link; phishing attacks only succeed because of a lack of awareness, malicious links only work because people don’t ask questions, social engineering only works because people can be fooled.

What are your top tips for business security?

At the top should be education and developing a security policy that informs employees of the dangers of weak passwords, BYOD, malware and social engineering and how to recognise these things. However, dropping down a level, businesses should ensure software updates are installed, robust unique passwords are used and two-factor authentication is standard for accessing corporate networks, especially remotely.

How has selling security changed over the years?

Security today is more of a holistic sale and it’s also more pressing. For instance, firewall sales alone are not enough. All points of entry into a network must be considered and especially so with BYOD. Malware typically sneaks into a network via email or employees clicking on infected links. So all aspects of security need to be taken into account.

While components, such as firewalls are clearly important, everything must be viewed within the wider context. It also pays to take a view on the bigger picture that is driving security sales, that is cyber theft and cyber-attacks are now absolutely commonplace.

"Security sellers should be using these facts to support their sales; it’s not marketing, it’s reality."

How is the stolen data trade evolving?

There is a thriving underground market for cyber-crime and it’s not restricted by geographic boundaries. Hackers in Hong Kong can easily steal credit card information from a Londoner and sell it in Italy. This has dramatically opened up the market for the trade in stolen data. And there are now plenty of organised crime groups launching sophisticated cyber-crime attacks, especially through bot nets.

It’s as if organised crime has gone even deeper underground and it’s well known that hackers are often hired. All of this points to a burgeoning growth in cyber skulduggery. Security sellers should be using these facts to support their sales; it’s not marketing, it’s reality.

Tell us about your current product range?

BullGuard provides a range of products aimed specifically at home users and designed to meet their precise needs. For instance, first and foremost BullGuard delivers award-winning protection that combines both behavioural based and signature based detection to stop known malware and zero-day threats. This effectively stops all forms of malware such as viruses, ransomware, rootkits, Trojans, spyware and so on. Products also provide parental controls to help parents monitor their children’s online activities and safeguard them from predators and bullies. They also include a range of easy-to-use performance tools that ensure customer’s computers run at the best speeds possible as well as features such as spam filters, vulnerability scans and safe browsing.

One product, Premium Protection, monitors the web and deep net 24/7 for personal information such as bank account details, credit/debit card numbers, passwords, passport numbers and so on. This is an identity theft protection service that alerts customers the moment their information appears somewhere it shouldn’t, for instance on a deep net forum.

What does BullGuard have planned for the near future?

The focus remains on our core products delivering a service, across multiple platforms, which keeps our customers safe online and their devices protected from malware.

We are launching the ability for customers to use Dropbox to store their data, in addition to their BullGuard-storage, and have added the ability to encrypt the data in a way that Dropbox cannot access their content. BullGuard’s products have always been very important to our customers as the malware landscape changes.

We will continue to invest and develop with our core principals in mind – acknowledging and addressing customers’ changing needs, and researching new technologies to meet them. Only through doing so can we continue to stay at the forefront of this ever-evolving market.

Throughout November, PCR is running a dedicated Sector Spotlight on Security – Click the logo below for more articles

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