Faronics Tech Roundup – February in Review

Another February has come and gone, leaving behind a trail of abandoned New Year’s resolutions, and more importantly, big news in the areas of IT and cybersecurity.

Without further ado, let’s begin our February review:

1. RSA 2017

This year’s RSA conference, held in San Francisco, left almost no topic untouched. Government hacking, Internet of Things regulation, ransomware, the cybersecurity expertise shortage, security analytics and so much more were discussed in a series of panels and presentations featuring some of the world’s preeminent cybersecurity experts.

One of the more widely talked-about areas was the use of advanced analytics in security, which experts hope to use as a way to improve threat detection. IoT was also a hot topic, with some panelists optimistically expressing hope that IoT attacks in 2017 will serve ultimately serve us, by helping to identify security gaps. Others argued for IoT regulation to help create some sort of baseline for these endpoints as their prominence becomes more pervasive.

2. More Ransomware

Another month, another batch of ransomware news. In February, there were two notable developments pertaining to ransomware:

  1. Ransomware for industrial systems: During RSA, researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology created a strain of ransomware specifically designed to bring down industrial systems. They actually simulated an attack on a theoretical water treatment plant to prove their point, which is that ransomware can bring down critical infrastructure. Food for thought: At what point does this err on the side of a terrorist act?
  2. Ohio government computers infected: Simulations can illicit fear, but what happened to Licking County, Ohio, was no simulation. Hackers locked down the local government’s computer and phone systems countywide. As a result, some county government officials have had to preform their functions without the use of computers and phones. The FBI has been brought into the case, and as of this writing, a ransom amount has not been disclosed.

The long and short of it is that ransomware continues to wreak havoc.

Ransomware just doesn't seem to ever go away. Ransomware just doesn’t seem to ever go away.

3. ASLR Meets Its Match

Perhaps the biggest news for the month is the discovery of a flaw in address space layout randomization (ASLR). According to WIRED, “Windows, Android, and every other modern operating system randomizes where programs run in a device’s memory.” This randomization of an application’s code makes it much harder for hackers to successfully compromise a system.

The problem is that a team of Dutch researchers have found a way to use malicious code to monitor a memory management unit (MMU), which makes it much easier for hackers to orient themselves inside of a victim’s computer. This finding is arguably the most significant in 2017 so far, but also one of the most damning. Since the exploit leverages the processor, no software update can fix it. This is a much deeper problem that can only be solved at the microprocessing level.

If there’s one silver lining to this news, its that the white hats found it first. There may not be a quick fix, but at least we know about it.

Suzannah Hastings

Suzannah is interested in all things digital, from software security to the latest technological advances. She writes about ways in which the increasingly internet-driven landscape changes our lives, and what we can expect in the future.