As CISPA Hits Congress, Cybersecurity Company Hypes The Fear Of Anonymous

from the fearing-fear-itself dept

Through TNW, we learn of a survey published by threat protection company Bit9 that states an attack by Anonymous is the number one thing IT security professionals fear. Doubtless the release of this survey was timed to coincide with CISPA, the dangerous cybersecurity bill that is being debated in the House this week. It's no surprise that a security provider would want to play up the fear of cyber attack, but I'm reminded of a quote from comedian Dara O'Briain: "Zombies are at an all time low level, but the fear of zombies could be incredibly high. It doesn't mean we have to have government policies to deal with the fear of zombies."

Apart from the fact that the fear of something is pretty meaningless (except to those who sell security, and those who want to pass bad laws), the details of the survey make it clear that this is entirely a matter of the hype around Anonymous:

61% believe that their organizations could suffer an attack by Anonymous, or other hacktivist groups.

Despite the utter sense of fear that Anonymous has created over the years, 62% were more worried about the actual method of attack, with malware accounting for the most cause for concern at 48%.

Only 11% of the respondents were concerned about one of Anonymous’ actual methods of attack – DDoS, while fears over SQL injections dipped to a measly 4%. Phishing was a concern for 17% of the respondents.

So, despite the fact that Anonymous apparently has them shaking in their boots, they know that their real vulnerability is malware—and that's not really Anonymous' game. The fear is manufactured.

What this survey calls attention to, though, is a fact that deserves more attention: under CISPA or a similar law, Anonymous would make a juicy target. Security companies and the government could collude and share data not only to strengthen their networks against attack, which would itself be perfectly reasonable, but also to identify and investigate Anonymous members, notwithstanding any other privacy laws. Regardless of how you feel about Anonymous' tactics, this should concern you: privacy rights and the 4th Amendment exist for a reason, and CISPA would wash them away online. The authors of the bill insist that it targets foreign entities, but it is arguably an even stronger weapon against domestic hacktivism that will inevitably be used and abused.

Filed Under: anonymous, cispa, cybercrime, fear, security


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  1. identicon
    Rich Kulawiec, 24 Apr 2012 @ 12:33pm

    Re: Re:

    Speaking of botnets: we're about a decade into that issue now. We know lots of stuff about them:

    - Any estimate under 100M should be laughed out of the room. 200M is plausible. 300M is possible. (Vint Cerf posited 250M five years ago. I think his estimate was high at the time...but it's not high now.)

    - They're overwhelmingly, as in well over 99%, running Windows (which we know thanks to passive OS fingerprinting). More recently: MacOS.

    - They're everywhere: consumer ISPs, corporations, universities, governments, non-profits, desktops, laptops, portable devices, servers.

    - Command/control mechanisms for organizing botnets are getting increasingly sophisticated. They're using various techniques to resist detection and destruction.

    - Individual botnets routinely include millions of members and we know some have passed the 10-million mark. Probabilities being what they are, we probably haven't seen the largest botnet.

    - They're used for everything: sending spam, DDoS attacks, harvesting email addresses, phishing/spear-phishing, hosting illegal websites, providing DNS for abuser domains...too many things to list here.

    - They're for rent. (Of course they are: supply and demand.)

    - Every now and then some combination of companies and governments announces that they've busted one, usually with a big press release and a lot of self-congratulation about how this represents progress. It's meaningless. All those systems are still compromised. All those systems are still vulnerable to the same issue that got them compromised. All those systems are now just waiting for the next botmaster to sweep them up...a process which likely started before the triumphant press conference did.

    - Anti-virus/anti-malware/anti-whatever aren't much help. (To borrow a line from Marcus Ranum: if they were ever going to work, they would have worked by now.) This is in part because they never were very effective, and in part because botmasters can commission custom malware that will evade the anti-whatever software, and because social engineering/trojan techniques work beautifully.

    - Given the sophistication of contemporary botnet operations, it's reasonable to think that we don't see all their members -- that is, that some portion is being held in reserve. It's also possible that one reason we don't see more than we do is that nobody actually needs that much CPU/memory/disk/bandwidth for anything.

    This is pretty much the largest (in terms of scale) problem in contemporary security. It's not going to be fixed by legislation, CISPA or otherwise. There already is legislation that covers it, and has been since before botnets existed. I leave it as an exercise to the reader to evaluate how effective that approach has been.

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