Cybercrime – it's the outsiders wot's to blame

Checking out the finances

Outsiders are responsible for the vast majority of cybercrime attacks against companies.

So claims Ubizen, which last week set up a computer forensics bureau in the UK, joining an existing US facility. The IT security firm reports that only one in 50 "incident responses" it handled in recent months was a suspected inside job. And the accusation in that case was not substantiated, either.

So much for received wisdom, then. IT pros are a loyal honest bunch, after all. And that's the line we'll be sticking to, until companies start reporting in-house jobs to the police in meaningful numbers.

The point of entry of crackers into corporate networks is "almost always" Web server vulnerabilities, according to Bryan Sartin, director of technology at Ubizen. Often, attacks on financial institutions can be traced back to colleges and universities. Their substantial bandwidth resources and minimal security spend make them attractive targets in 'stepping stone' attacks. Launching assaults from university networks magnifies the power of attacks while helping crackers to cover their tracks.

In many cases, the source of hostile attacks can be traced to East European countries, Sartin says. In three investigations, Ubizen investigators have traced an attack to the same source IP address. Also the same cracking tools crop up time and again in forensic investigations.

Ubizen cites four main problem areas which leave corporates open to attack, namely: failure to check Web server and Intrusion Detection System logs; weak network level security (generally caused by poor network design); weak application level security; and failure to patch vulnerable systems.

Money is the primary motivation for most of the cybercrime which Ubizen investigates. "Mischief making" is also behind many attacks.

In its forensic work, Ubizen doesn't see much signs of hackers and virus writers (or spammers) working together. However, hackers frequently make use of sophisticated root kits; and Trojans and Sartin notes the increased use by crackers of "anti-forensics" - tools to modify logs and attempts to throw sysadmins off the scent by uploading MP3 files onto compromised machines. ®

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