Security stories to watch this week

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A new week is upon us and, with it, new challenges. Here are some of the big security stories to watch for in the coming days.

Online attacks will play on Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy.
With the news about a gruesome massacre of school children at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown Connecticut still dominating the headlines around the world, security experts are warning folks to be wary of scams and malware attacks playing on the still-unfolding tragedy. The SANS Internet Storm Center (ISC) issued an alert on Monday about Newtown scam sites. The ISC said that several new domain names have been registered relating to the tragic killings in Newtown, and at least some are likely to be the creation of scam artists floating fake charities in the hope of tapping into the outpouring of public grief over the incident. So far, there aren't any scams to report, but SANS said that will change in the days ahead.

Hackin' around the Christmas tree: holiday scams ramp up
We all know that, at least in the U.S., the holiday shopping season starts sometime before Halloween. But things really get going in December. Online shopping makes up a bigger and bigger piece of the holiday season retail pie. Cyber Monday – the first Monday following Thanksgiving – was the biggest online shopping day ever, topping $1.5 billion. Online criminals know that, and are using social media like Facebook and Twitter to lure would-be shoppers with bogus offers. The web site Facecrooks warned of one such scam: a spam campaign on Facebook promising $1,000 Walmart Christmas gift cards. Clicking on the link leads, circuitously, to an online survey that you're asked to fill out and a Facebook application you're asked to install. Doing so will spread the spam to all your contacts.

China's Great Firewall gets taller as government moves to ban VPN.
To China's all-powerful government censors, disallowing encrypted Internet sessions may have seemed like a small tweak to make its government-backed firewall more effective. But that small tweak will have huge repercussions for citizens and businesses operating within the country. According to a number of reports in recent days, the Chinese government started using an enhancement to its Great Firewall to terminate encrypted Web and VPN sessions. For consumers, that means popular sites like Facebook and Google Mail that require secure HTTP (https) can't be used. But the feature will also block encrypted virtual private network (VPN) connections in and out of the country – and that's disrupting the ever important business sector. According to a report in the Global Times, VPN service providers Astrill, Witopia and StrongVPN reported that users in mainland China were having their connections blocked, VPN technology is commonly used by many businesses, including multi-nationals with operations in China, to conduct business. The government maintains that all organizations wishing to offer VPN services much register with the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, and it is illegal for foreign firms to operate a VPN business in the country.

WordPress Pingbacks being used for evil
The security firm Acunetix is warning web site owners that use the popular WordPress content management system that a new attack tool is exploiting unpatched vulnerabilities in a feature used to track links to web posts. In a post on Monday, Acunetix's Bogdan Calin said that problems with the way WordPress handles so-called “Pingback” or “Trackback” requests from external web sites can be used to extract information about the system hosting the blog, or even to launch a denial of service (DOS) attack against another web site. With no fix (yet) from the WordPress Foundation (one is expected soon), users need to disable a file used to do pingbacks, or hold tight and hope not to get attacked!


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