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Six rising threats from cybercriminals

John Brandon | May 19, 2011
Watch out for these cyberattacks that can turn smartphones into texting botnets, shut off electricity, jam GPS signals and more.

To keep cyberstalkers off company networks, businesses should implement all the usual corporate security tools, such as firewalls and encryption, Baty says. Additionally, companies should institute a social media policy that outlines clear guidelines for what kinds of information employees should and should not post or discuss on public sites.

If you do become a victim of cyberstalking or cyberbullying, Baty advises you to report it immediately to local law-enforcement authorities; if it happens at work, report it to your HR department as well. Don't delete harmful posts or other electronic communications, she says, but instead retain all documentation of incidents, mainly as evidence but also because the headers for e-mail and forum postings can be used to track down the offender.

That said, the best defense is to protect your personal information as carefully as you can. For instance, never reveal online such details as where you live, and don't announce your movements, such as that you are on vacation or home sick and have left your workplace computer open to attack -- which rules out public "check-in" social networks such as Foursquare.

 

5. Hackers controlling your car

The age of the connected car is dawning. Vehicles like the Ford Edge now provide 3G network access, a Wi-Fi router in the car, and the ability to tap into your home Wi-Fi network (only while parked). In the next few years, more automakers will provide wireless access for Web browsing and streaming high-def movies. And by 2013, a new FCC-mandated wireless signal called DSRC (dedicated short-range communications) will run at 5.9GHz and provide a vehicle-to-vehicle communication network.

For anyone who follows network computing or computing in general, adding these new features to a moving vehicle should raise a red flag as yet another way criminal hackers can cause problems. Since these systems often tap into the car diagnostics and safety features, a hacker could potentially interfere with such systems and, for example, cause a car's engine to surge at just the wrong time, says Stephan Tarnutzer, chief operating officer at automotive control console manufacturer DGE.

While no real-world exploits are known to have happened, security researchers from the University of California, San Diego, and the University of Washington have hacked into the computers of several late-model cars and remotely disabled the brakes, altered the speedometer reading, turned off the engine, locked passengers into the car and more.

The research team's initial tests relied on plugging a laptop into the car's diagnostic system, but later tests identified other entry points for an attack, including the cars' Bluetooth and cellular connections. More wireless communications in future cars will create even more attack vectors.

 

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