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Businesses more worried about hackers rather than CIA

Hacking or snooping is possible only when a malware is downloaded on to the device, experts say

Gulf News

Dubai: You may think the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) or (government entities) are out to get you, but most businesses should be more concerned about cybercriminals, industry expert said.

Nicolai Solling, director of technology services at Help AG, said businesses are not specifically worried by the CIA snooping as they expected it after the Snowden leaks.

“What businesses are worried is about is the cybercriminals, and the companies have invested a lot in security to safeguard their information,” he said.

According to analyst reports following the wikileaks announcement, the CIA software that was leaked is far behind the NSA in sophistication and technical expertise. According to some reports, the CIA buys more advanced software from contractors or shares technology with the NSA.

However, Solling said that relations between the government and the technology industry has been tense since National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden disclosed secret NSA surveillance of phone and digital communications in 2013. Last year, the FBI also asked Apple to assist in unlocking an iPhone used by attackers in San Bernardino mass shooting. Apple refused and took the FBI to court over the issue. The FBI finally cracked the iPhone without the help of Apple by using a professional hacker.

While some analysts say business shouldn’t be too concerned about the CIA leak on Tuesday, a number of companies listed in the leaks have been taking measure to secure their devices.

Financial Times tweeted on Wednesday that Samsung is looking into security of their smart TV line after WikiLeaks leaked documents show that smart TVs are vulnerable to cyber snooping.

Apple said in a statement to the international media that many of the issues identified in the leaks have already been addressed in the latest version of iOS.

“Our products and software are designed to quickly get security updates into the hands of our customers, with nearly 80 per cent of users running the latest version. We always urge customers to download the latest iOS to make sure they have the most recent security updates,” Apple said.

That biggest threats to a person’s security often comes from their own actions, one analyst warned.

Sian John, chief security strategist at Symantec EMEA, said hacking or snooping is usually only possible when a malware is downloaded on to the device.

According to Norton Cyber Security Insights Report, one in five (21 per cent) of people have at least one unprotected device, leaving their other devices vulnerable to ransomware, malicious websites, zero days and phishing attacks.

Of these, one-third say they don’t believe their devices need protection, leaving them vulnerable to attack.

“Even if your Smart TV or smart devices are switched off, the malware will make the camera and the microphone on the devices to be on always. Same is the case for Amazon Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant despite uttering the key word to start listening to users’ commands. The microphone is always listening to the users to hear the key word,” Solling said.

Hackers are looking at the vulnerabilities and have found ways to ransom users data.

Ransomware is software that infects a smartphone or computer and prevents users from accessing their data unless the user pays a ransom.

Ransomware attacks have soared five-fold to hit 718,536 users in one year (between April 2015 and March 2016) and have become a huge problem for cybersecurity over the last few years.

Solling said users should also be careful with social media networks. Google, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft all have the ability to track information but don’t because they don’t want to be associated with the surveillance issues.

The same caution should be used when giving access to certain apps to can grant access apps, camera, photos and music.

Best options for protecting your data

• Keep devices running on the latest operating systems and antivirus software.

• Don’t download any unwanted or unknown apps.

• Don’t open messages or e-mails from strangers.

• Don’t use public WiFi or open WiFi.

• Never share your passwords.

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