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Vulnerabilities / Threats

3/30/2007
06:00 AM
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Mourning the Loss of the Safety Margin

From phishing and malware to RFID and car hacks, there's not much room to be a user anymore

2:00 PM -- I'm writing this from a cow pasture in a remote, undisclosed location, and this will be my last column. As soon as I've hit the "send" button, I'm destroying my computer -- and I'll finally, finally be safe.

Y'see, I've concluded that it's no longer safe to be a computer user -- or even just a human being -- anymore. Everything, and I mean everything, is at the mercy of today's hackers. You doubt my conclusion? Pull up a rock, grasshopper, and review this week's security news with me.

First we found out that the risk of identity theft has just about doubled in the last two months. (See ID Theft Doubles in Two Months.) Since January, the number of phishing sites has grown by 50 percent, and the number of sites carrying malware has grown by 200 percent. That's in just two months, according to Internet monitoring firm Cyveillance . And that's only the stuff Cyveillance could see -- who knows how much might be hidden from its search engines and Web crawlers.

OK, we already knew that phishing and malware were a threat. How about other applications? Well, Adobe has a new development platform, Apollo, which appears to be rife with security concerns in its alpha version. (See Apollo Lands Security Concerns.) Think you might be safer with a more established type of application, like WiFi? The newest version of the popular Metasploit hacking tool contains exploits for these wireless environments as well. (See Now Playing: Metasploit 3.0.)

We could, of course, throw out our home computers and limit our online activity only to the workplace. Nope, that won't keep us safe. Many buildings use RFID card scanners that are eminently hackable. (See New RFID Attack Opens the Door.) And if that's not enough, our bosses now have the ability to monitor everything we do in the online workplace. At any time, they can actually get a live screen shot of what we're doing on the computer. Thank goodness my boss isn't easily offended. (See Careful, The Boss Is Watching.)

So what's left? Build a bunker and live in it full time? How will I stock up on supplies? There are about $600 billion of counterfeit goods sold each year, and much of that fraud takes place online. I can't buy supplies that way. I wouldn't be seen going into my bunker without a genuine Dior handbag, and I can't go into a bunker without at least a year's worth of illegal pharmaceuticals. (See Wooing the Gun-Shy Shopper.)

A few hours ago, with nowhere else to turn, I got into my car and started driving. I figured I'd be safe there, far from any server or wired network. Clearly, I was wrong. In fact, Italian researchers have discovered a way to hack the auto industry's onboard navigation systems. (See Hacking the Car Navigation System.)

So I've abandoned my car. And now I'm here, safe in this pasture. I'm surrounded only by the soft lowing of the cows. Nice cows, safe cows. Cows that have RFID chips implanted under their hides. Chips that are, of course, eminently hackable.

Oh, the hell with it. I'm going home. Hackers, can you please open the garage door for me? I've lost the remote.

— Tim Wilson, Site Editor, Dark Reading

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