Cyber Threats to Watch Out for in 2010

Security is a huge part of the job for most IT administrators. We’re always striving to protect our organizations from the latest barrage of viruses, worms, and other malware. With 2009 over, what types of threats could we face in the year ahead? The recent 2010 Threat Predictions report from McAfee (News – Alert) pegs a few different areas to watch out for in 2010.

Social networks will be one key breeding ground for cyber attacks, says McAfee. As sites like Twitter and Facebook (News – Alert) continue to grow in popularity, especially among the business crowd, cyber crooks will increasingly employ their usual bag of tricks to try to ensnare users.

A site like Facebook can be especially vulnerable as many people will implicitly and unthinkingly trust any “invitation” from their friends. But as McAfee points out, that next invite to play a cool game or run an interesting application from a Facebook friend could be a fake app created by a cybercriminal designed to infect your PC. We’ve already seen such malware attacking Facebook, such as the infamous Koobface worm that first reared its ugly head about a year ago.

Personally, I’ve just about stopped playing games, filling out quizzes, and running most applications in Facebook. I’ve never been comfortable with the way a Facebook app needs to gain access to your personal information in order to run. That’s always seemed like an open vulnerability that could easily allow the wrong people to learn too much about you. Now McAfee’s reminder that these apps are also a way to spread malware is something IT admins and Facebook users should keep in mind.

Another area to watch out for is the use of URL shorteners, popular on social networking and bookmarking sites. Services like bit.ly and tinyurl.com shorten URL strings so they can fit in smaller spaces, such as the 140-character limit imposed by Twitter. But you can’t preview a shortened URL, so you don’t know where it’s going to take you until the page pops up. This makes it easy for cyber crooks to point these URLs to pages that could deliver malware.

Microsoft (News – Alert) apps have traditionally been a popular target for malware writers. But that “honor” may switch over to Adobe this year. As Adobe Reader and Flash have become more prevalent, they’ve also become more of a target for cybercriminals. Adobe Reader in particular has been hit by security holes over the past year, forcing Adobe to take a more active role in keep its app properly patched.

Other threats that McAfee sees in its crystal ball for 2010:

Banking trojans designed to grab your financial account information may become more advanced. Already in 2009, they showed off the ability to sneak past some of the protections currently used by banks. McAfee warns that this year they may be able to silently interrupt transactions and even make withdrawals without being detected.

E-mail attachments will also continue to grow as a primary means of spreading malware. McAfee believes that these attachments could even target specific audiences, such as corporations, journalists – not good news on my end – and individuals.

Botnets, which are responsible for carrying out cyberattacks, will also increasingly use peer-to-peer networking to hop from one computer to another without a central base of operations. Such a strategy will make it more difficult for security professionals to track them down.

So how do you prepare yourself for the potential threats that lie ahead? Well, naturally since McAfee wrote the report, the company would like you to buy its own security software to protect your users. And McAfee does offer software with certain capabilities, such as the ability to scan shortened URLs. The company also recently struck a deal with Facebook to provide Facebook users with a free six-month subscription to its security software.

But any good security suite or application would be your first line of defense in protecting you and your users from the coming threats. It goes without saying that choosing and using the right software and keeping it updated is critical, no matter what security software you deploy. Also, make sure that you keep your organization’s PCs updated with the latest patches from Microsoft to protect the operating system, office suite, and browser.

But beyond the right software, user education is vital. Make sure your users are aware of the latest threats and realize that their actions can have consequences. They need to think twice before opening a file attachment or downloading an application that could expose them and your business to malware. Though 2010 may bring its own share of cyber threats like any other year, protecting your organization and your users is the best role you can play.

Lance Whitney is a journalist, IT consultant, and Web Developer with almost 20 years of experience in the IT world. To read more of Lance’s articles, please visit his columnist page

Advertisements

Butter ban ‘would save thousands of lives’

Butter should be banned in a bid to save thousands of lives, a leading heart surgeon in London has claimed.

 Shyam Kolvekar, of the University College London Hospital, is leading a campaign to reduce saturated fat in diets after treating patients as young as 33 for heart bypass operations.

 As the Food Standards Agency (FSA) launches the second stage of a campaign to boost awareness of the dangers of saturated fat, Mr Kolvekar said reducing intake in line with Government recommendations could prevent at least 3,500 deaths per year.

 He said: “By the time I see people it’s usually too late, but the frustrating thing is that often the need for heart surgery could have been prevented by following a healthier, lower sat fat diet. Simple food swaps can make a big difference.

 “In reality people don’t stick to complicated diets. By banning butter and replacing it with a healthy spread the average daily sat fat intake would be reduced.

 “This would save thousands of lives each year and help to protect them from cardiovascular disease – the UK’s biggest killer.”

 GP Sarah Jarvis supported his comments, adding: “My patients are often simply not aware of how much saturated fat they’re eating and the damage this causes until it’s too late.

 “Simple food swaps every day can help dramatically. A great example is North Karelia in Finland, where there has been an 82% reduction in heart disease amongst men over the last 40 years.

 “This has been directly linked to a decrease in butter consumption.”

Shorter MBBS courses to produce doctors for villages

New Delhi: To combat acute shortage of doctors in rural areas, the government has come up with a unique three-and-a-half-year bachelor course in medicine and surgery (MBBS) for students from villages.

 The catch is these doctors will not be allowed practise in urban or semi-urban areas.

 Once the rural doctors get their degrees, they will be allowed to practise only in notified rural areas. To ensure this, the MCI would renew their practising licence on an annual basis that too on submission of a certificate from the district health officer.

 At present, the sub-centres are handled by the auxiliary nurse and midwives (ANMs) and there are no doctors to man them since they prefer to work in urban areas.

 “These doctors will work in rural areas. District hospitals with specified bed capacities can be utilised as medical schools for these courses,” said health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad.

 According to Dr Ketan Desai, president of Medical Council of India (MCI), this will provide an opportunity to children of villagers to get into the medical stream.

 “Only 300 out of India’s 604 districts have medical colleges. There are 34,000 medical seats available at the MBBS level out of which only 10,000 are left for general students after quotas. Some very good students are left out due to stiff competition where mainly the urban students score better due to better coaching facility,” Desai said.

 The rural medical course has been almost finalised by the MCI and is likely to be discussed in a conference with vice-chancellors of universities, and health secretaries on February 4.

 “The syllabus will be the same. We have only condensed the new course by removing certain things like kidney transplant, angiography, MRI, and radiology from it. All we require at the village level is a doctor who can immediately attend to a patient. This doctor can refer serious patients to district or bigger hospitals,” Desai said.

 In rural areas, doctors can handle common ailments like asthma or abdominal ailments. They can also attend to normal child delivery, but they will not conduct surgery or look into complicated cases, Dr Desai said.

 The government will begin by picking up 25 students from each of India’s 300 districts which do not have medical colleges. The new MBBS course has been tailor-made to suit the rural requirements.

World’s Cheapest Car May Get Diesel Boost From Bosch

New diesel engine would be smallest automotive diesel

 The Tata Nano is a fascinating vehicle.  Launched in March 2009, it is the world’s cheapest car, retailing for $2,160 (production costs are said to be under $2,000).  The car also seats four and gets 52 mpg city/61 mpg highway fuel economy courtesy of a Bosch 2-cylinder, 624 cc gasoline engine.  The vehicle certainly has its downsides — lack of safety features and potential environmental impact — but it also promises radical societal change, bringing affordable transportation to the developing world.

 Now Tata’s partner, the Robert Bosch Automotive Group, is looking to improve the Tata less than a year after its introduction.  Its planning an engine variant for the Tata with a single diesel cylinder.

 The engine size would be in the same ballpark as the gas engine — 550-650 cc displacement.  Horsepower would drop to about 25-30 hp, versus 35 hp in the current nano.  However, the already impressive fuel economy would likely get a nice boost.

 The new diesel will likely be the world’s smallest automotive diesel engine — smaller even than the 800 cc three cylinder in the Smart Fortwo CDi.

 The new engine work was announced by Bosch’s common-rail injection Bosch Chairman Dr. Bernd Bohr.  Bosch, which invested $4.3B USD globally in research and development, is now very interested in stepping up its India operations after revenue from India grew 5 percent last year.  In contrast, global revenues for the recession-stricken company dropped 15 percent.

The magic of Aloe vera

Aloe vera, a small succulent herb grown as an ornamental plant, is regarded as a panacea for a multitude of dermatological problems. It is also widely used as a general health tonic and an aphrodisiac. Both modern and traditional forms of medicine have recognised its importance as a wonder herb that’s capable of fighting even cancerous cells.

Research is presently underway in different parts of the world on the efficacy of Aloe vera in fighting HIV. Aloe vera has been found to kill bacteria, fungi, viruses and other harmful micro-organisms present in human beings. It has wide applications in veterinary medicine too.

Aloe vera has been found to contain allergy-causing chemicals. It can be applied liberally on the skin, but one has to exercise caution in case of oral intake.

It is quite easy to grow Aloe vera at home. A small pot is enough to grow the plant. Ensure that sunlight falls on the plant and do not water it too much.

Health tonic:

You may take Aloe vera juice as a general health tonic and to clean the digestive system of worms and harmful organism. To prepare a glass of fresh Aloe vera juice, cut a leaf, clean it with water and remove thorny edges on sides. Cut the leaf vertically and remove the gel. Blend the gel and add water. You may add sugar to taste and consume it fresh.

Antiseptic:

Do not discard the leaf after removing the gel. You may rub it on the affected portion of the skin for relief from acne, rashes, burns and bruises. You may also rub the leaf for glowing skin texture and as a natural moisturizer.You may also prepare a paste from Aloe vera gel and apply it on your face and body. The gel works as a natural sunscreen.

Moisturizer:

Aloe vera gel can also be mixed with egg yolk and olive oil for application on the skin as a herbal moisturizer

Rabbit milk may help treat heart patients

Scientists are concentrating on creating herds of dairy rabbits to help treat heart patients with their milk.

 A farm in Holland is said to be the first in the commercial milking of rabbits, who have been genetically modified to include a human gene and contain a protein called C1 inhibitor.

 The milk could help prevent the rejection of transplant organs and tissue damage in survivors of strokes, heart attacks and car accidents, and may also treat the hereditary immune disorder angioedema.

 “I am really excited. This therapy will transform the lives of sufferers,” ‘Times Online’ quoted Hilary Longhurst, an immunologist at Barts hospital in London, as saying.

 Sijmen de Vries, the chief executive of Pharming, the biotech company behind the project, added: “There is a great unmet need for this product. We have the capacity to produce it cheaply in unlimited quantities.”

 The milk is presently waiting to receive the green signal from European drug regulators and will hit the UK shelves later this year.

Weight loss pill ‘could be deadly’

A weight-loss pill popular in Australia has been found to be potentially fatal.

 Therapeutic goods administration has ordered doctors to stop prescribing the drug to the overweight after a clinical trial showed its hazardous effects, reports the ‘Daily Telegraph.’

 The decision has driven women desperate to obtain the drug sibutramine, marketed as Reductil, to the Internet to get around the ban.

 The TGA has imposed restrictions after almost 200 reports of adverse reactions to the drug.

 Reductil has been linked to strokes, high blood pressure, thyroid problems, anxiety and at least one death in Australia.

 The circular warns that the fat-busting drug could harm the people it was aimed at – the overweight.

 “Based on the preliminary results of the Sibutramine Cardiovascular Outcomes Trial (SCOUT), changes have been made to the Australian product information to highlight that sibutramine must not be prescribed to patients with a history of cardiovascular disease and/or hypertension,” it states.

 It added: “In summary, the SCOUT study suggested potential for harm in patients who are overweight or obese and at high risk of a CV (cardiovascular) event.”