Of spear phishing, vulnerabilities and CERTs

By Matthew Hines  |  Posted 2008-06-10 Print this article Print

I'm back, and it feels like a homecoming.

Thanks to the powers that be at eWeek, I've been offered the opportunity to reconnect with you the readers of Security Watch, and I couldn't be more enthused at the prospect.

Not only do I consider this blog to be one of the places where I had the best chance to get to the heart of some cutting-edge security issues with my reporting -- and hopefully where I did some of my better work -- but I know that over the years during which I was a contributor to Security Watch I had some of the most interesting discussions and debates with you readers that I've ever been exposed to in this space, and I do hope we can get back into that asap.

As current eWeek security lead Brian Prince and I discussed in our welcome back podcast last week, there's absolutely no shortage of fascinating issues to talk about these days. However, in maintaining the tradition of Security Watch most of what you read here will relate not so much to the security technology industry (in which I now work), but rather, attempt to highlight the vulnerabilities, exploits and attacks that have made this electronic world such a loaded place to live in these days.

In the last few weeks alone we've seen some startling things. According to researchers at VeriSign, spear phishers are running wild, with one recent tactic that targeted executives with lawsuit-themed emails subverting an estimated 15,000 end users. Ouch. And there seems to be no solution in sight for inventive social engineering of this type as of yet -- or none that has been sufficiently adopted to protect most businesses.

There have been the usual assortments of vulnerabilities posted, but also some that truly stand out, including those affecting products made by Apple, Microsoft and Skype. So, it would appear that even those software makers with the dollars to invest in securing their code continue to struggle to do so.

Other interesting research has uncovered flaws in critical technologies such as SCADA industrial control programs -- you know, the ones used to run nuclear power plants and the like. Maybe that Richard Clarke guy isn't so crazy after all, huh? Just ask Scott McClellan.

And, on the bright side, the US-CERT has a new chief security technologist, Mischel Kwon

(no, not the former Olympian), who will help run the nation's cyber-attack readiness programs. Experts who point to the disparity of women in the technology workforce should be pleased to see Kwon follow in the footsteps of Cheri McGuire, who had departed in March.

So, as stated, we will have no shortage of things to discuss in the blog. As usual, I am most interested to hear from anyone with news of the insecure and unusual (no, the exploits and software flaws, not your MySpace page) and encourage you to respond to the subsequent posts or reach out to me directly at SecurityWatchBlog@gmail.com.

Thanks for reading, I look forward to your thoughts and observations, and hopefully the feeling remains mutual.


Matt Hines has been following the IT industry for over a decade as a reporter and blogger, and has been specifically focused on the security space since 2003, including a previous stint writing for eWeek and contributing to the Security Watch blog. Hines is currently employed as marketing communications manager at Core Security Technologies, a Boston-based maker of security testing software. The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the views of Core Security, and neither the company, nor its products and services will be actively discussed in the blog. Please send news, research or tips to SecurityWatchBlog@gmail.com.

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