Avast blog: Dave Piscitello working to make the internet a more secure place

Dave Piscitello of Interisle Consulting Group: 5 Things You ...I first met Dave Piscitello in the late 1990s when we served together on the Interop+Networld conference program committee, and collaborated on several consulting reports. He went on to create his own conference on internet security that ran from 1997-2000, then went on to work on security for ICANN until 2018. He serves on several international do-gooder infosec boards and is part of a consultancy called the Cybercrime Information Center that produces some very excellent reports on the state of malware, phishing, and domain name abuses. The most current report is on phishing, which shows that monthly attacks have doubled since May 2020. What makes his report powerful is that includes data from four commercial information sources, which collected more than a million unique attacks and publish their own blocklists. I wrote about his work and the state of phishing for my latest Avast blog here.


How to choose the best MFA methods to help stop ransomware

Interest in multi-factor authentication (MFA) has risen in the past few years, spurred by the increasing frequency and severity of data breaches and destructive attacks. When Covid-19 happened, ransomware actors proliferated. Recently, MFA has received a boost from various supporters, including Google, the US federal government, GitHub and Microsoft. When evaluating the various MFA products and technologies on the market today, it’s important to understand the tradeoffs in security, scalability and usability inherent in each option. Additionally, it can be helpful to understand your available choices in the context of how MFA has developed over time.

In this ebook I co-authored with Evan Krueger, the engineering manager of Token, we track the evolution of MFA, the work of the FIDO Alliance to bring the industry together and provide new authentication standards, and some suggestions on how to choose the right MFA technology that you carry with you, that understands your biometrics, and can be married to your identity without any operator intervention. Ransomware and data theft are only increasing in severity. It’s time for the defenders to up their game as well.

Avast blog: More developments on NSO’s Pegasus spyware


Last summer, I wrote about a major international investigation of the NSO Group and its Pegasus spyware. We described how it works and what you can do to protect your phone. NSO has gone through some difficult times as a result of that analysis. NSO was almost purchased by an American company that is closely linked to intelligence operations until the US Government put them, along with another Israeli spyware vendor Candiru, on a special block list that prevents both from obtaining government contracts. Candiru, you might recall, was discovered to be doing its own zero-day spying by Avast researchers.

In my post today for Avast’s blog, I review what transpired at a recent hearing held by the House Intelligence Committee. There were three witnesses who emphasized the threat of spyware to various democracies around the world, and provided lots of specifics about how Pegasus has operated.

Avast blog: How to prepare for a hacking incident

The initial phases of a breach are often the most critical: The intruder is counting on your confusion, your lack of a plan or a clear chain of authority, and any early missteps. Given that it’s only a matter of time before a breach happens, what can you do after encountering an incident to minimize the damage?

For businesses of all sizes, incident response planning infrastructures have gotten very complex, with many interconnected relationships that might not be immediately obvious — until something goes wrong. In this blog for Avast, I outline how you can prepare for an incident in a well-thought-out and organized manner.

Avast blog: More Magecart attacks

Magecart, the notorious credit card stealing cybercrime syndicate, is once again in the news. It is the gift that keeps on giving – it has recently taken root in three different online restaurant ordering websites: MenuDrive, Harbortouch, and InTouchPOS. The malware was found in more than 300 restaurants that used them and exposed more than 50,000 paid orders. The malware was present in some of these systems for many months before they were discovered. Indeed, some attacks began last November and are still active.

There are more details in my post for Avast’s blog here.

Avast blog: The importance of patching

I’ve often made recommendations about patching your systems. Patching is a simple concept to explain: Keeping all your various digital components (hardware, software, and networking infrastructure) up to date with the most recent versions. However, it can be easier said than done – this is due to the fact that our day-to-day operations have become complex systems that interconnect and intersect in ways that are hard to predict. In this blog post for Avast, I review some of the benefits of timely patching, how to get a patching program established and operational, and some notable failures about patching over the years.

SC Magazine: The coming passkey revolution

The war on passwords has entered a new and more hopeful era: their final battle for existence. The challenger is the passkey. Let’s talk about why this is happening now, what exactly the passkey is, and how the victory might just finally be in sight. The goal is a worthy one — according to Verizon DBIR 2022 report, 80% of data breaches still begin with a phishing or Man-in-the-Middle attack, using hijacked account credentials to take over an account. Spoiler alert: passkeys can help big-time in this fight.

Passkeys use a set of cryptographic keys – meaning a long string of digits – in a way that you, the user, doesn’t have to remember or type anything additional. They have been adopted by the major endpoint vendors (Google, Apple and Microsoft), and in my post for SC Magazine I describe how they work.


Avast blog: Explaining malicious PDF attachments

The next time someone sends you an email with a PDF attachment, take a moment before clicking to open it. While most PDF files are benign, hackers have recently been using PDFs in new and very lethal ways. Malicious PDFs are nothing new. In my post for Avast’s blog here, I explain their history and how two news items have shown that they are still an active threat vector and being exploited in new and interesting ways, such as this invoice which has different amount due items depending on the particular reader used to view the file.


Avast blog: A new way to fight Office macro-based malware

Microsoft has made it a bit harder for macro viruses to proliferate with a recent change to its default macro security policies. Malware-infected Microsoft Office macros have been around for close to three decades. These exploits involve inserting code into a seemingly innocuous Word or Excel macro, which is then downloaded by an unsuspecting user by clicking on a phishing lure or just a simple misdirected email attachment. Recently, Microsoft changed the default settings, making it harder both for this type of malware to spread and also harder for IT managers who have to figure out how to manage their legitimate macro users. And then, they rolled back these changes, based on user complaints. I explain the details in this post for Avast’s blog.

A better treatment, with lots of specifics on Office group policy settings, can be found in Susan Bradley’s CSO piece here.


GoodAccess VPN review: A new twist on an old security tool designed for the smaller business

There are lots of reasons to use a VPN for business: to improve your access speeds, to avoid state-sponsored blocks or tracking of your browsing movements, and to segregate your business traffic when working remotely or home from prying eyes, And while there are numerous VPNs that focus on larger enterprises or for individual consumers, the middle ground is poorly served. This is the target segment that GoodAccess, a Czech-based company, is after. They sponsored a review of their product, and I think they deliver in terms of preserving anonymity, privacy, and security and have superior product features that make it particularly attractive for smaller businesses, such as its main dashboard shown here.

You can download a copy of my report here.