The Importance of Closing the Front Gate

I recently came across a story in the news about a new type of virus, named ‘Chameleon’, which seeks to gain access to the networks of people who hadn’t changed their admin passcode on their WiFi.

They might have changed the WiFi key, but the admin password was left with the default one – probably something like ‘password’.

Once it gains access, the virus spreads like wildfire from unprotected network to unprotected network – all by rewriting the firmware on the wireless access point with new code.

Thankfully Chameleon is in the hands of the good guys, having been created by researchers in Liverpool to prove a point. Now that they have demonstrated the threat, they are looking at creating a product that will prevent similar hacking attempts. This would purportedly get around the problem of users not updating their security settings themselves.

This kind of vulnerability – leaving default passwords unchanged – made me think of a particular scene in the second Lord of the Rings film – The Two Towers.

Towards the end of the film is the climactic battle at Helm’s Deep – a supposedly impenetrable fortress, under the current ownership of the people of Rohan.

Helm’s Deep has but one weakness. Its outer walls are solid rock, except for a small gap at its base which is “little more than a drain”. The bad guys, the Uruk-Hai, who are attempting to destroy every man, woman and child in Rohan, exploit this weakness by, well, blowing it up.

The Uruk-Hai spill into the fortress like Friday night pub goers at 5pm.

My point is that you can make your IT network the strongest fortress in the world – multiple verification logins, restrictive access, monitoring… the lot.

However, if you leave the front gate open, you will never be as secure as you want to be.

At TSG we would look to change the default WiFi passwords for our customers, but what about people using their home network to work remotely?

Once hackers get control of your files there’s no telling what they’ll do with them, and they may even hold you to ransom for them.

Accessing your work folders using an unprotected WiFi hub is a very good way of letting them in.

And now to a story where, unfortunately, the virus is very much in the control of the bad guys.

What’sApp has made the headlines in recent weeks for its arguably ludicrous selling tag of $19b to Facebook.

What hasn’t had quite made so many headlines is a fake desktop version of the app being released.

Currently What’sApp doesn’t offer a desktop client for Mac and Windows, but hackers, pretending to be from the company, sent users (mostly based in Brazil) an email encouraging them to download a version of it.

When they did, Trojan malware was implanted on their device; designed to hack into your files and uncover passwords and data.

Over 250,000 new pieces of malicious code are being detected every day, and for every step forward in technology, malware tries to put it two steps back.

Hackers tend to prey on users who are simply trying to make their lives easier, or are not truly aware of the real security implications (another story this week tells of 300,000 routers being taken over through lack of security and loopholes in software).

Critically, users need to make sure that they close that front gate. Spending lots of cash on building a solid rock wall won’t make any difference if something obvious gets overlooked, which then creates a much easier way in.

I used the Lord of the Rings analogy before but you could always use the classic Death Star/ unshielded exhaust port which my colleague Mike Tudor blogs about in ‘Is your business like the Death Star?’