How ‘Security Responsible’ are You?

TELUS has released their 6th annual study of Canadian business security practices.

The report focuses on which best practices businesses have in place, that go beyond just compliance (as in, the bare minimum forced on you by the government.)

Ideally, your business is in the quadrant with the *.

How does your small business compare?  Take this test to find out.

Give yourself a score between 0-7 (0 being terrible, 7 being excellent), then compare how you operate to other Canadian businesses.

Do you…

1 – monitor and/or have rigorous procedures to act on new threat information

2 – understand the security drivers impacting your business

3 – conduct regular security awareness training for employees

4 – involve security early and throughout the development of new infrastructure/systems

5 – communicate social media policies to their employees

6 – have and/or execute on a comprehensive mobile security strategy

7 – conduct enterprise mobility security testing and Threat Risk Assessments (TRA)

Now compare:

The more “security responsible” companies have: less breaches, retain staff longer, better managed risk, and are positioned better to take new risks (side-note from me: they have better business karma, because accepting a credit card and being careless and lazy about it is terrible.)

And ideally, you have ongoing employee training sessions, because the human is always the weakest link.


This is an excerpt from my interview with Hernan Barros, Directory of Security Solutions at TELUS, and Walid Hejazi, Associate Professor, Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto, about their new study, the 2014 TELUS-Rotman IT Security Study.

The study is in its 6th year, and TELUS remains the country’s only telecom to proactively study security, and this is the only Canadian study this in-depth on a single country.

How it was conducted: 400+ security professionals were surveyed in the 2nd half of 2013, looking for both qualitative and quantitative data on how companies are executing their security strategies. Respondants were Private 48%, Government 23%, Publicly Traded 20%, and Non-profit 9%.

Blog tag = TELUS Security



Things to Think About re: Autonomous Cars

Read it online at Autonet.

Will parking spots become extinct?

What about securing something that is more computer than car? Protect the privacy of the vehicle’s whereabouts… or the car’s software from attack, because think that nightmare through.

Will map-range anxiety replace spontaneous exploration and adventure?

Favourite line:

Go get lost this coming weekend, while you still can.


I had a paragraph in there, about the ethics of programming the crash-avoidance algorithm, but it got cut.

What I said:

In an imminent crash involving two vehicles, what are the ethics behind the crash-avoidance algorithm? Aim for the larger object? Now all SUV drivers feel targeted, because they are, so will their insurance increase then? What if it’s programmed to hit the car best known for safety? Volvo owners won’t be happy about that.


Above Photo

That’s an Audi TTS.

Google gets a lot of press about their autonomous car, but back in 2010 Audi sent the roadster up a 14,000 foot mountain, “Pikes Peak”.

It was even able to register negative obstacles, as in, stuff that wasn’t there, like a cliff without a guard-rail.




How to Clean up a Compromise

Just lifted my head. It took 3 locations, 50 km and 6 hours of laser-beam focus.

It was bad this time, really bad. Remember this from the other day? That’s me showing you barely the surface.

If you ever have to do this:

Being prepared is the key. Regular backups, and an organized file structure. Then, wipe both your computer and phone simultaneously. Otherwise, one could re-infect the other, making the entire exercise pointless.

The clean-up kicked off here.

I used to use TrueCrypt to encrypt my password manager file, but since the last cleanup a couple months ago, TrueCrypt is no longer, so I had to scramble just to get my manager open, and get at my passwords to change them. It’s always something (and this is why I’ll never endorse a security product).

Then the operation moved to here.

Change my passwords one after another, because once you start, you can’t stop. Bet I didn’t blink for 80 minutes, and I was seeing spots by the end.

80. Minutes.

And I’m very prepared for this, and very fast, seasoned.

Point is: you couldn’t do it this quickly, you couldn’t rebuild in 6 hours.

And that makes me nervous for you when this happens to you. Start to think, and operate, and organize, like you will have to one day. Because any security professional will tell you: it’s not if you get compromised, it’s when. Unlikely it’ll be this extreme and targeted, but one stupid click, on one bad link….

Because remember, cleaning up a compromise happens while under duress… palms sweaty, a scattered mind, gripping fear that my attacker will figure out what I’m doing half-way through, and take control of the accounts I haven’t yet changed. My password manager was altered a few weeks ago, it’s possible. Seems I attract the very best. L33t. I’ve wondered for a while if I’m getting air-gapped.

Scared eyes. Hand over mouth when focused, always.

One of my worst breaches…

March 2013. It was timed to happen while I was on my first international car launch with the newspaper, an already stressful situation. Just as I was about to walk out the door to dinner with the auto manufacturer, both my Twitter and Facebook accounts were compromised, both published updates not from me.

And what could I do?

I figured okay, clearly the attacker has the ability to delete everything I own, but they didn’t, so swallow the fear and go sit calmly at dinner and pretend nothing’s wrong, eat it (and certainly don’t talk about it, because if you want to clear out a room, talk about being stalked online.)

The next morning the attack continued with a phone call, as I was readying to board the plane home, informing me my cel number had been published… to my own blog.


Back to today - crucial stuff is now locked down, my email works again.  See, I’d known I’d been compromised for weeks, but having been at this for so many years I tried something new: I gave up. Fine, you’re so curious well come on in, see what I’m up to… I’m pretty boring eh, I work too much and have no friends. But then my boss couldn’t email me anymore, and now it affects the paper and not just me, so wipe and reset.

I lift my head up, breathe, look around the food court, and all these sounds and voices start to filter in that I’ve been completely tuning out. A table of old men are looking at me bug-eyed, give ‘em a wink, and drive home.

To rebuild.

Backup, transfer to other computer, download and re-install my programs, rebuild my phone, everything has to be finished tonight. Memorize a couple more 30-character long passwords. It’s a bit all-for-not though, really, because one ‘ole SQL injection into my search bar…

Because I have deadlines tomorrow for the newspaper, and what do you say, “sorry! Someone’s inside my computer guys, so there’s going to be a few holes in the auto section next week.”

I’ve done this so many times I’ve lost count, 20 anyway. It’s sad I’m this good at it, really.

Of course I have a few suspicions where this started

… obviously ex-boys, and a couple other theories, which in trying to escape from, would make me appear like an anomaly to the watchers, who clearly can’t identify a false positive… ‘independent loner who, when they speak, people listen’ is enough to get your name added to a list…

If I was at all shady, or screwing around hacking people, I wouldn’t breathe a word of this, because I’d have earned this. But I never, ever have. You think I want that karma?

Targeting me is like picking on the kid at recess who’s wearing a helmet. I’ve said the same thing since the beginning – am I better at security than the average person on the street? Yes. Compared to anyone in the industry? Nope, I’m a baby, barely a script kiddie. I blog security stuff for the housewives and average user, opposite of bleeding edge. So like, really?

Imagine living like this everyday, everything you’ve built, your life, under constant attack.

Is this really an email from a reader of my column, or a trick? Why does this Twitter account look created just to speak to me? As if that 1-follower Instagram account just liked a photo from 18 months ago. Oh, my physical address has been changed on all my domains. Can’t get into my cel account online, again. In 2010, 5 months of my calendar were deleted. Notice I stopped using Bluetooth headsets? What is it about Bluetooth? That the range is 30 feet… The military should be studying me, to see how I’m able to eat this much PTSD and still function normally. If I told you how often this bleeds into real life, you’d have nightmares too.

It’s completely out-of-hand, this obsession with me. Someone wakes up everyday, for years, opens a file with my name on it, and dedicates time and energy to messing with my life, and mind.

This stuff is so draining. So I’m taking Friday off here, talk to you Monday.

Back your stuff up this weekend, get a password manager, and change your passwords.

Here’s what mine look like:   H}aU]’&cM$B=>Q(lI!3[d?2Ri



My Computer has been Compromised, Again

That’s a log file.

What it means: there’s something in my laptop, that’s regularly taking screenshots of both my desktop, and login screen.

See the last entry, Saturday at midnight? Wasn’t even home, laptop had been closed for hours. Figure that one out.

Considering how careful I am, well, good to know I attract the best. I guess.

I can pretty much guarantee you will never again see a log like this.

If you want to see what’s happening inside your Mac, go > Applications > Utilities > Console

Logs for everything are found there.



The Scariest Type of Malware – Ransomware

Of all the types of malware, this one scares me the most.

Ransomware – a type of malicious software that locks, and sometimes encrypts, the victim’s entire computer. The victim is then informed that removal is only possible, when they pay a ransom fee to the creator of the malware. Basically, ALL your files get locked up, and someone else has the key. 

The Attack

On my other computer, I was catching up on celebrity gossip, and streaming TV from a sketchy Eastern European site, when this page overtook my browser.

1 – informs me all my files have been encrypted
2 – shows my IP address, which didn’t pinpoint my exact physical location, but was pretty close
3 – ransomware often uses this popular ‘police-theme’, to give the illusion of authenticity, and heighten fear
4 – a scary countdown timer; I have 24 hours to pay the ransom

The Defence

Ransomware is usually installed from clicking a bad link on social media, in a website or email, opening a malicious email attachment, or sometimes just visiting a malicious site.

closer investigation reveals this is mostly scareware. The English is poor, I’m on a Mac not a PC, the “Internet Police Department” uh-huh, and child p0rn phft as if, I don’t even really like kids.

Plus, 24 hours have passed, and my computer is fine.

Notice though, I said “my other computer“.

Because never would I visit those sites on my work computer. Which is why, had this actually happened, my solution would be to wipe the entire laptop, wouldn’t matter, there’s nothing on it. Opposite of this computer.

Keep your anti-virus software updated, your firewall on, and be careful what you click.

The Fix 

Do not pay the ransom.

F-Secure has removal instructions, as does Norton.  Or take you computer to your trusted IT repair place.

Regularly backup your files.