Today's Tip: Is That App Giving Away Your Privacy?

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Be careful when you install apps on your mobile device. Many apps want more permissions than actually needed for their function. For example, some flashlight apps want access to your contacts. Why? Usually for marketing purposes to build a better profile on you and your friends. Don't install apps that require excessive permissions.

Also, always install apps from a trusted source. This helps ensure the app isn't fake or malicious.

August 2016 - secureCI Monthly Newsletter

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secureCI presents Ouch!

The SANS Monthly Information Security Bulletin at CI

  • What Is Encryption?
  • What Can You Encrypt?
  • Getting It Right


Guest Editor
Francesca Bosco (@francibosco) is a researcher and a project officer, managing projects related to cybercrime, cybersecurity, and the misuse of technology. She is working at the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute and she co-founded the Tech and Law Center.

What Is Encryption?
You may hear people use the term “encryption” and how you should use it to protect yourself and your information. However, encryption can be confusing and you should understand its limitations. In this newsletter, we explain in simple terms what encryption is, how it protects you, and how to implement it properly.

You have a tremendous amount of sensitive information on your devices, such as personal documents, pictures, and emails. If you were to have one of your devices lost or stolen, all of your sensitive information could be accessed by whoever possesses it. In addition, you may conduct sensitive transactions online, such as banking or shopping. If anyone were to monitor these activities, they could steal your information, such as your financial account or credit card numbers. Encryption protects you in these situations by helping ensure unauthorized people cannot access or modify your information.

Encryption has been around for thousands of years. Today, encryption is far more sophisticated, but it serves the same purpose -- to pass a secret message from one place to another by ensuring only those authorized to read the message can access it. When information is not encrypted, it is called plain-text. This means anyone can easily read or access it. Encryption converts this information into a non-readable format called cipher-text. Today’s encryption works by using complex mathematical operations and a unique key to convert your information into cipher-text. The key is what locks or unlocks your information. In most cases, your key is a password or passcode.

What Can You Encrypt?
In general, there are two types of data to encrypt: data at rest (such as the data stored on your mobile device) and data in motion (such as retrieving email or messaging a friend).

Encrypting data at rest is vital to protect information in case your computer or mobile device is lost or stolen. Today’s devices are extremely powerful and hold a tremendous amount of information, but are also very easy to lose. In addition, other types of mobile media can hold sensitive information, such as USB flash drives or external hard drives. Full Disk Encryption (FDE) is a widely used encryption technique that encrypts the entire drive in your system. This means that everything on the system is automatically encrypted for you; you do not have to decide what or what not to encrypt. Today, most computers come with FDE, but you may have to manually turn it on or enable it. It is called FileVault on Mac computers, while on Windows computers, depending on the version you have, you can use Bitlocker or Device Encryption. Most mobile devices also support FDE. iOS on iPhones and iPads automatically enable FDE once a passcode has been set. Starting with Android 6.0 (Marshmallow), Google is requiring FDE be enabled by default, provided the hardware meets certain minimum standards.

Information is also vulnerable when it is in transit. If the data is not encrypted, it can be monitored, modified, and captured online. This is why you want to ensure that any sensitive online transactions and communications are encrypted.  A common type of online encryption is HTTPS. This means all traffic between your browser and a website is encrypted. Look for https:// in the URL, a lock icon on your browser, or your URL bar turning green. Another example is when you send or receive email. Most email clients provide encrypted capabilities, which you may have to enable. A third example of encrypting data in transit is between two users chatting with each other, such as with iMessage, Wickr, Signal, WhatsApp, or Telegram. Apps like these use end-to-end encryption, which prevents third parties from accessing data while it’s transferred from one end system or device to another. This means only you and the person you’re communicating with can read what is sent.

Getting It Right
To be sure you are protected when using encryption, it is paramount that you use it correctly:

  • Your encryption is only as strong as your key. If someone guesses or gets access to your key, they will have access to your data. Protect your key. If you are using a passcode or password for your key, make sure it is a strong, unique password. The longer your password, the harder it is for an attacker to guess or brute force it. Do not forget your password; without your key, you can no longer decrypt your information. If you can’t remember all of your passwords, we recommend a password manager.
  • Your encryption is only as strong as the security of your devices. If your device has been compromised or is infected by malware, cyber attackers can bypass your encryption.  This is why it is so important you take other steps to secure your device, including using anti-virus, strong passwords, and keeping it updated.
  • Many mobile apps and computer applications now offer strong encryption to protect your data and communications. If the app or application you are considering does not support encryption, consider an alternative.

Security Awareness Posters
Learn how to protect your family, friends, and coworkers with this series of friendly and free security awareness posters. Download the posters from

Encryption Explained      
Password Managers            
What Is Malware                
Securing Your New Tablet  

OUCH! is published by SANS Securing The Human and is distributed under the Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 4.0 license.
You are free to share or distribute this newsletter as long as you do not sell or modify it. For past editions or translated versions, visit Editorial Board: Bill Wyman, Walt Scrivens, Phil Hoffman, Bob Rudis, Cheryl Conley

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Cyber Essentials - I'm Hacked, Now What?

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Continuing our blog series targeted at protecting yourself against cyber threats, today's blog topic covers Cyber Bullying.

Today's guest blog contributor is Eric Varela. Eric is a student here at CSU Channel Islands majoring in Information Technology with a minor in Security Systems Engineering.

Define Hacked: No matter how securely you use technology in your day-to-day life, you may eventually be hacked or more commonly called “compromised.” In this blog, you will learn how to determine if your mobile device or computer has been hacked and, if so, what you can do in response. Bottom line, the quicker you detect something is wrong and the faster you respond, the more likely you can reduce the harm a cyber-attacker can cause.

Clues You Have Been Compromised: It can be difficult to determine if you have been compromised, as there is often no single way you can figure it out. On the other hand, hackers usually leave behind several clues, often called ‘indicators’. The closer your system matches any of these indicators, the more likely it has been compromised:

  • Your anti-virus program has flagged an alert that your system is infected, specifically if it says that it was unable to remove or quarantine the affected files.
  • Your web browser’s homepage has unexpectedly changed or your browser is taking you to websites that you did not want to go to.
  • There are new accounts on your computer or mobile device that you did not create, or new programs running that you did not download and install.
  • Your computer or applications are constantly crashing, there are icons for unknown apps on your mobile device, or strange windows keep popping up.
  • A program requests your authorization to make changes to your system, though you’re not installing or updating any of your applications.
  • Your password no longer works when you try to log into your system or an online account, even though you know your password is correct.
  • Your friends ask you why you are spamming them with emails that you know you never sent. 

How to Respond: If you believe your computer or mobile device has been compromised, the sooner you respond the better. Here are some steps you can take:

  • Anti-Virus: If your anti-virus software informs you of an infected file, you can follow the actions it recommends (delete, quarantine, etc.). (Note: Most anti-virus software will have links you can follow to learn more about the specific infection.)
  • Change your passwords: This includes not only changing the passwords on your computers and mobile devices, but for all of your online accounts. Be sure you do not use the compromised computer to change the passwords. Alternatively, use a different computer or device that you know is secure to change the passwords.
  • Rebuilding: If you are unable to fix the infection or you want to be absolutely sure your system is fixed, a more secure option is to rebuild (reformat) it. Follow your system manufacturer’s instructions. In most cases, this will mean using the built-in utilities to reinstall the operating system. (Tip: If these utilities are missing, corrupted, or infected, then contact your manufacturer for guidance or visit their website.)
  • Backups: The most important step you can take to protecting yourself is to prepare ahead of time with regular backups. (Tip: The more often you back up, the better. Often times, recovering your data from a backup is the only way you can recover from being hacked.)

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Cyber Essentials - Anti- Virus

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Continuing our "Cyber Essentials" blog series targeted at protecting yourself against cyber threats, today's blog topic covers Anti-Virus.

Today's guest blog contributor is Eric Varela. Eric is a student here at CSU Channel Islands majoring in Information Technology with a minor in Security Systems Engineering.

Define Anti-Virus: Anti-virus is a security program you install on your computer or mobile device to protect it from getting infected by ‘malware’. The term ‘malware’ is an encompassing phrase for any type of malicious software, such as worms, Trojans, viruses, and spyware. (The term malware comes from combining the words malicious software.) If your computer has become infected by malware, a cyber-attacker could potentially capture your keystrokes, steal your personal and private documents, or use your computer to attack others.
(Tip: You can purchase anti-virus software as a standalone solution, or as part of a security package.)

How Anti-Virus Works: There are two ways anti-virus software identifies malware: signature and behavior detection. Signature detection works like the human immune system. It scans your computer for specific characteristics or signatures of programs known to be malicious. It does this by referring to a dictionary of known malware. If something on your computer matches a pattern in the dictionary, the program attempts to neutralize it. Like the human immune system, the dictionary approach requires updates, (like when humans get flu-shots), to protect against new strains of malware.
(Tip: Anti-virus can only protect against what it recognizes as harmful. Update daily.)

Anti-Virus Tips:
  1. Obtain anti-virus software only from known, trusted sources and vendors. It is a common ploy of cyber attackers to distribute fake anti-virus programs that are really malware.
  2. Make sure your anti-virus automatically scans portable media, such as USB drives, and ensure real-time protection is on.
  3. Pay attention to on-screen warnings and alerts generated by your anti-virus software.
  4. Do not disable or uninstall your anti-virus software. Disabling your anti-virus software will expose you to unnecessary risk.
  5. Do not install multiple anti-virus programs on your computer at the same time. Doing so will most likely cause the programs to conflict with each other.
  6. Learn to recognize the warnings that your anti-virus software produces. Cyber attackers can create malicious websites that post realistic, but fake, anti-virus warnings and offer to “fix” your computer. 

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New PayPal phishing scam hooking victims

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With Phishing and Spearphishing on the rise people need to pay close attention to the email they receive.   The research firm AppRiver is reported a new PayPal phishing scam is making the rounds with this version using a phony security message to obtain personal identifiable information. 

Additional information about phishing can be found at here.

The full article may be found here at SC Magazine.

Cyber 101 Series - Backup and Recovery

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Continuing our "Cyber 101" blog series targeted at protecting yourself against cyber threats, today's blog topic covers Backup and Recovery.

Today's guest blog contributor is Eric Varela. Eric is a student here at CSU Channel Islands majoring in Information Technology with a minor in Security Systems Engineering.

What are ‘Backups’? Backups are copies of your information that are stored somewhere else. When you lose important data, you can recover that data from your backups. The issue is that most people do not perform backups, which is unfortunate, because they can be simple and inexpensive.

When should you Back Up? Common options include hourly, daily, weekly, etc. For home use, personal backup programs, such as Apple’s Time Machine or Microsoft’s Windows Backup and Restore, allow you to create an automatic “set it and forget it” backup schedule. For university use, backing up your classwork files on your personal computer, and when using university equipment, manually backup your files to a USB flash drive or cloud solution. (Tip: Backing up your classwork could save you unimaginable headaches during the semester.)

How to Back Up? There are two ways to back up your data: physical media or Cloud-based storage.
Physical media is any type of hardware, such as DVDs, USB drives or external hard drives. The potential problem with physical media is that if your location has a physical disaster (theft or fire), then not only can you lose your computer, but the backups as well. You should plan to store copies of your backup off-site in a secure location. For extra security, encrypt your backups.
(Tip: Whichever media you choose, never back up your files to the device that holds the original files.)

Cloud-based solutions are different than physical media. This is a service where your files are stored somewhere on the internet. Depending on how much data you want to back up, this may be a paid service. This solution works by installing a program on your computer that automatically backs up your files for you. There are also solutions such as Google Drive and Apple iCloud that make it easy for you to save information on-the-go and from almost any computer. The advantage with this solution is that since your backups are in the ‘Cloud’, your backups are still safe if a disaster happens to your house or device. Plus, you can access your backups, or often even just individual files, from almost anywhere.
(Tip: If you are not sure which backup option is best for you (physical media or Cloud) keep in mind you can always do both.)

Recovery Backing up your data is only half the battle; you have to be certain that you can recover it. Check every month that your backups are working by recovering file and validating the contents. In addition, be sure to make a full system backup before a major upgrade or a major repair and verify that it is restorable.
(Tip: When rebuilding an entire system from a backup, be sure you reapply the latest security patches and updates before using it again.)

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Cyber-Bullying and Cyber-Harassment

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Continuing our blog series targeted at protecting yourself against cyber threats, today's blog topic covers Cyber Bullying.

Today's guest blog contributor is Eric Varela. Eric is a student here at CSU Channel Islands majoring in Information Technology with a minor in Security Systems Engineering.

What is “CyberBullying”? The Journal of School Violence defines it as, “Repeated, intentional and often anonymous act done to harm another person through e-mail, cell phone text messages, social networking websites, chat rooms, and instant messaging. It can be perpetrated by one person or a group of people.”

Types of Cyberbullying:
  • Denigrating: Putting someone down by posting or sending cruel and embarrassing material (text, photos, etc.) about the individual to others.
  • Flaming & Trolling: Posting angry, rude or mean-spirited comments and provoking others to do the same.
  • Harassing: Sending repeated, unwanted messages to another person.
  • Outing: Posting or sending out private information about someone without that person’s permission and with the intent of embarrassing or harming that person.
  • Excluding: Leaving someone out of an online group for malicious reasons.
  • Masquerading: Sending or posting messages, or creating Facebook, Twitter, or other social media profiles as someone else in attempt to damage the victim’s reputation or relationships.
  • Mobbing: Recruiting friends and allies to send hundreds of text messages to the victim’s cell phone or mobile device.
  • Stalking: Threatening harm or intimidating someone else by constantly monitoring their actions and locations. Stalking is a serious issue. Thousands of college students are stalked every year.

What to do if you are Harassed:
  • Decide whether to respond: If you know the person, respond to the first message, telling them to stop. If the first message is anonymous, don’t respond. Don’t respond to any additional messages and block or delete/unfriend/unfollow the person.
  • Document. Document. Document: Take screen shots. Save all communications for evidence. Do not alter them in any way. Keep electronic copies, not just print-outs. Having forms of proof such as the actual text messages, emails, and voicemail makes it easier to build a case for harassment and pursue charges.
  • Report It: Report abusive posts or messages to the service provider—Facebook, Twitter, the harassers’ cell phone provider, or their internet service provider. You can also report the abuse to your Residential Advisor.

How to Help Someone Being Harassed:

  1. Refuse to pass on the harasser’s messages.
  2. Tell Friends to stop the harassment or bullying.
  3. Offer the victim support without blame.
  4. Report abusive posts to the proper authorities.
  5. Block communication with those who are posting or sending abusive messages.

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