All I Want for Christmas is to Not Get Hacked !

Published: 2012-12-18
Last Updated: 2012-12-18 15:45:45 UTC
by Rob VandenBrink (Version: 1)
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With the holidays coming up, you might think it's time to stop thinking about security, malware and generally anything to do with work.  Unfortunately, in the area of security, the holidays are not the time to let your guard down.  It's always fun to see the up-tick in malware over significant holidays, because the malware authors plan for the time windows when their targets (that's you and yours) and the AV vendors are at reduced staff levels

So, what should Corporate IT folks be thinking about?

Before your users go home for the holidays, ensure that everyone has their Antivirus set up to auto-update over the web.  In some corporate setups, AV clients update from a corporate server.  If your user community is all offsite over the holidays, they won't get their updates when they need them the most.  Which means that some of your users will come back in January infected, and (likely) with their AV turned off by the malware they've picked up. 

Similarly on the OS Side - if your users are using WSUS or some other central update service, you likely want them to either update over the internet, or force them to VPN in to get updates.  There's nothing like a zero day loose on your corporate network to make for an exciting January!

If you are on the security team, keep track of your system logs.  In particular, keep track of backup logs and IPS logs.  Even little stuff missed over the holidays does nothing but get worse over the two weeks we have off!

Think about spam.  We're all expecting a flood of e-cards in our mailboxes from friends, family, customers, vendors, and other people we do business with.  Mixed in with these expect to find some malware, and maybe even some new, ingenious malware.  It's a good idea to send a note to your users to let them know to look out for spam that might get past the filters.  Remind them that if a website or an email attachment tells them that "they might be infected", they should close that window or maybe even instruct them to reboot to kill it (you'd be surprised how many folks will press "OK" to close a window).

Think about new devices.  Off-brand picture frames have come with malware in the past, but you could just as easily see malware on cameras or those keychain picture frames.  Really, anything with a USB port that might be infected, even stuff you might not think about like USB powered remote control helicopters and cars - - yes, some of your users will plug these into their corporate laptops to charge, even if there's a charger in the box.

Your users will absolutely come to back to work with new tablets, mp3 players and phones - all of which "must" have a network connection.  If you don't already have a plan (and a written policy) for dealing with these, you may have an uphill battle ahead of you (or maybe it's a battle you might have already lost)

Whatever it is, if you're in IT, expect an evil present or two from your users in January.

What should you be thinking about if you're at home, and you're NOT in IT?

Well, all the same stuff.  Be sure that all the computers at your house are updated, and have up-to-date AV protection.  Think about e-cards and other holiday spam and malware when you open mail.  Think about USB and network attached devices after it gets unwrapped and eveyone wants to start plugging cables in.

And think about your extended family who might be calling you after "everything got really slow on our computer after Christmas, right after we uploaded our pictures to that new picture frame".  

Because we all know that even if we're not in the IT department at work, we're certainly an "IT department of one" after we get home !

Have a good, safe holiday everyone !

Rob VandenBrink

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