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    Archive for April 2nd, 2013

    10:25 am (UTC-7)   |    by

    The market capitalization of the Bitcoin ecosystem crossed 1 billion US dollars recently. As the value of the each Bitcoin nears 100 US dollars, many have begun to take notice.

    One likely source of this sudden interest is the Cypriot banking crisis. As depositors scramble to hedge their investments, the steadily growing notoriety of bitcoin raises some interesting opportunities. The two most alluring aspects that make the Bitcoin economy unique are the concept of mining and, interestingly enough, the automatic limits on mining.

    Unlike other forms of currency, bitcoin users can create new money. By solving complex math problems users, or miners as they are often called, create new bitcoins where there used to be none. This operation is not strictly free “as in beer”. Miners need to invest time, electricity, and equipment into the endeavor. Profit is also not guaranteed. The nature of the math problems being solved mean that a single miner may never create new bitcoins on their own.

    This self-limiting aspect of Bitcoin creates a fascinating set of contradictions. First there is a hard limit. There will never be more than 21 million bitcoins in circulation. It is important to note that each Bitcoin can be divided almost ad-infinitum. Some software only supports fractional bitcoins to 8 decimal places, but there is no hard limit in the Bitcoin system itself. Once all bitcoins have been mined it is expected that the value will increase as smaller and smaller fractions are transacted.

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    Posted in Bad Sites | Comments Off on Keep Your Eye On The Bitcoin

    March 31 was something of a… busy day on the calendar, so some people may not have noticed that it was also World Backup Day. It’s as good a day as any to remind people about how important it is to back up your data.

    People today are generating more and more data. As our infographic shows, the mobile devices that are part of many of our lives generate – and store – amounts of data that would have been unthinkable not too long ago. Add to that what we generate elsewhere and people have significant amounts of digital “stuff”.

    Important data needs to be backed up, because losing them could cause all sorts of damage: from the emotional (say, lost family pictures) to the financial (business records). How can you do it?

    The accepted rule for backup best practices is the three-two-one rule. It can be summarized as: if you’re backing something up, you should have:

    • At least three copies,
    • In two different formats,
    • with one of those copies off-site.

    Let’s go through each of those rules. They’re all based on one concept, really: redundancy. Each of those rules is meant to make sure that your data is stored in multiple ways, so that at least one backup will survive.

    Three different copies means three different copies in different places. (Different folders on the same hard drive or flash disk does not count.) Why three? In the digital era, it is very easy to make digital copies, and it’s better to have more copies than too few. By keeping them on different places, it reduces the risk of a single event destroying multiple copies.

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    Posted in Bad Sites | Comments Off on World Backup Day: The 3-2-1 Rule

    Last week, we posted some detailed information about the actions that the March 20, 2013 MBR wiper attacks took against systems in South Korea.

    Today, I’d like to take that and some additional information that has come out about the incident and draw some conclusions about what lessons this attack teaches us.

    When we look at the South Korean attacks three specific lessons come out of what we’ve seen:

    1. Post-PC attacks aren’t just about devices
    2. Auto-updating infrastructure is a viable target
    3. Security and infrastructure products are targets too

    There is an overarching theme to these lessons: when we say targeted attacks it means not just targeted in terms of who a spear phishing email is sent to start the attack. Targeted attacks are also targeted in terms of understanding a carefully selected potential victim’s infrastructure, with an eye to circumventing and compromising that specific infrastructure as much as possible. Most importantly, this applies to the security protections and controls in place.

    Post-PC attacks aren’t just about devices

    One thing that stands out in these attacks is the presence of attack code targeting Unix and Linux operating systems. We’ve seen attackers starting to turn their attention to Mac OS X over the past year, so malware attacks against non-Windows operating systems aren’t inherently new. However, Unix and Linux have more often been targets of active hacking attacks than malware, so this does represent a new trend bringing these operating systems into the post-PC attack crosshairs.

    Most organizations tend to use versions of Unix for high-value systems, so including them in this attack code would seem to indicate an active targeting of those sorts of systems. Linux tends to be used for infrastructure and as a commodity operating system, so here too we can see thought being given in selecting the operating system targets.

    The key lesson here is that when looking at targeted attacks, we have to view all platforms and devices as viable targets now. It makes sense to extend endpoint security practices to all platforms and devices as much as possible, and to implement other layers of protection to protect those platforms and devices that can’t be protected by endpoint security (like iOS).

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