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Covert Channel Attacks

A covert channel attack is initiated by using an existing information channel to transfer objects from one source to another without the knowledge of the user. Since the system or information channel was not originally built for such communication or conveyance of information, hackers transfer the data in small bits to keep the attack unnoticed.

The data is embedded in the free space available in a data stream without affecting the main body of information being transferred. The space used for creating a covert channel may be the free space left within the padding or other parts of the network data packets. Usually, only 1-2 bits of covert data stream are added to one data packet which makes it difficult to detect the attack. As the original data is not tampered, the covert receiver can receive information from the system without creating a data trail.

Covert channels are of two types:

  • Covert Time Channel- The processing of signal information of a network channel by manipulating own system resources which affects real response time observed by the original network.
  • Covert Storage Channel- Direct or indirect embedding of data to a storage location by a system & direct or indirect reading of this data by another system at a different security level.

Using DNS As A Covert Channel

To create a covert channel, attacker installs a malware or specially designed program on the victim’s system via malicious links or by using remote administration to alter its DNS. An altered DNS is configured to serve random text in addition to website information. It behaves normally under usual conditions, but acts as per the covert channel program for a special domain. The flow of information between DNS & malware follows the normal client-server architecture. The malware plays the role of second component of covert channel. It sends DNS requests which look legitimate. The compromised DNS responds to these requests with hidden key information.  Covert receiver extracts this hidden information. Thus, a covert channel uses a fully functional authorized system to transfer unauthorized information in a secretive manner.

Covert channel attacks make use of simple forums like a file or time used for computation, which makes it difficult to identify these attacks. Two techniques that are commonly used for detection of covert channels are analyzing the resources of a system and vigilance of the source code.

For more information on tips to secure your computer network, contact Centex Technologies at (972) 375 - 9654.

Health Technology Trends

Healthcare industry is moving towards preventive care solutions with the help of technological advancements. Digital innovative platforms like information systems and wearable devices are rapidly growing in health care market. Also, new technological trends like big data and healthcare analytics are gaining momentum. These advancements aim at achieving universal healthcare by making medical facilities accessible and affordable for everybody.

Technology trends that will potentially dominate healthcare industry in coming years are:

  • Primary Healthcare: The industry is focusing on quality improvement techniques to enhance primary care based on accessibility and equity. This will promote good health among a wide range of people regardless of their age, socio-economic status or geographic origin. Primary care revolves around prevention and patient education for longer & healthier lives. New technologies such as mobile apps that track calories, sleep pattern & fitness plans for improved health cycle are being widely used for educating patients.
  • Artificial Intelligence: Healthcare industry is employing artificial intelligence systems like IBM Watson for enhancing care management, drug discovery, managing patients for clinical trials, etc. Numerous other robotic and machine learning systems are being introduced in the healthcare sector as they offer attractive & valuable applications like image processing to detect abnormalities, robot assisted surgery, virtual nursing assistants and administrative assistance.
  • Blockchain: The technology is gaining popularity in health care industry because of its ability to secure data and protect it from breaches. Blockchain will facilitate the health care providers to manage endless data including patient health information, insurance claims, and electronic health records in a hassle free manner. Also, it will increase transparency between pharmaceutical industry and customers by enhancing drug traceability to prevent fake drugs.
  • Guiding Patients: Digital health tools like chatbots and companion robots have made healthcare accessible and convenient. They assist the patients in a humane way by addressing their needs. Chatbots make it possible for patients living in remote and rural areas to benefit from telemedicine projects and consult a doctor sitting far off through online channels. On the other hand, companion robots reduce workload of professionals like nurses & helping staff to save time and money.
  • Advance Analytics: Adoption of predictive analytics across hospitals have made it easier to analyze large amount of patient’s data. The analytic tools are capable of identifying genetic factors related to chronic diseases like cancer and spotting individuals with elevated risks of developing these diseases. This plays a key role in formulating preventive medicine programs, providing appropriate treatment as early as possible, reducing the chances of high-cost lengthy treatments and admission costs.

For more information on how medical establishments can benefit from advanced IT solutions, contact Centex Technologies at (972) 375 - 9654.

Network Security Threats

A computer network consists of one or two computers that act as nodes and some peripheral devices. Once these devices are electronically connected, they enable the user to share resources, send & receive data over local or world-wide network and store data locally or on cloud. However, there are some security threats that lurk around computer networks and as the number of threats is on constant rise, it becomes necessary to have detailed knowledge about them.

Common Network Security Threats

  1. Viruses & Worms: They are snippets of software that are designed to infect a computer network. Both computer virus and worms are sent as email attachments, downloaded from a website or transmitted through any writable device like thumb drive, hard disk, etc. Once downloaded, they replicate themselves & spread over networked systems. After infecting the system; they send spam, disable security settings, steal personal information or delete data on the hard drive.
  1. Rogue Security Software: It is a malicious software as well as an internet fraud. The software sends a fake warning stating that the security settings of a user’s system are not up-to-date. Once the user is convinced, a scareware is downloaded under the disguise of an antivirus software. The software modifies actual security settings to prevent the user from identifying the attack. It crashes the system & reports the detection of fake malware. However, instead of directly deleting the detected files, the user is prompted to make extra payment for removal of reported virus. The prompts may stop after the payment is made, however the cycle repeats itself after a time gap.
  1. Botnet: They are a network of compromised computers which are controlled by a Command & Control network without the knowledge of computer user. The computers in the network are called bots or zombie computers. They are used to send spams or to initiate DDOS attacks. Also, botnets can be employed for attacking secure systems. Each bot operates at a low attack frequency to evade detection; however, collectively they are capable of performing a brutal attack.
  1. Trojan Horse: It is a malicious software that masks itself as a legitimate program and tricks the user to run it willingly. They are often spread via email or as a false advertizement that requires the user to click on a malicious link. Once the software is downloaded, it can record passwords by tracking keystrokes, hack webcam, steal personal data, etc.
  1. SQL Injection Attack: It is a code injection technique that attacks any type of SQL based data driven applications. The attackers takes advantage of security vulnerabilities of the application & inject malicious SQL code into an entry field for executing the attack. The attack enables them to spoof identity, annul website transactions, destroy the data or allow complete disclosure of user data stored in the database or application.

Regularly updating the antivirus software, avoiding links from unauthorized sources and scrutinizing the website before downloading any application can help in avoiding network security threats.

For more information, contact Centex Technologies at (972) 375-9654.

Using Technology Advancements To Increase Customer Engagement

Customers are the most important asset of a business. It is important for businesses to successfully engage their customers in order to survive in this highly competitive environment. One way to do this is by using technology.

Technology has influenced the business sector positively & empowered businesses to serve their customers in a better way. Following are some ways in which technological advancements can be used to increase customer engagement.

  • Virtual Reality & Augmented Reality: VR and AR technology is being used to engage customers innovatively. It improves the customer experience & allows them to perform tasks virtually which may be a little difficult or inconvenient to be performed physically. For example, Room Planner: Design for IKEA, is an app that allows users to browse through their products & preview how the furniture would look in their home by visualizing it from different points using their smartphone’s camera.
  • Location-Based Computing: Smartphones these days are location enabled devices that allow businesses to provide personalized services thus increasing customer engagement. For example, businesses can reach out more customers at a geo-location & target their needs. Cinemas, theaters, florists, salons, etc. target their customers in the vicinity & provide them last minute tickets & discounts using location based computing.
  • 3D Printing: By transforming the way businesses manufacture & distribute goods, the 3D printing technology has significantly affected customer engagement. Using this technology, a virtual design can be instantly transformed into a physical object. Also, any flaws in the manufacturing process can be identified early & fixed to save money and enhance customer experience. 3D printing also enables the customers to modify the shape, color, pattern, material, etc. to get a customized product. Since, they can choose what they need, it results in better customer engagement.
  • Chatbots: Chatbots have become quite popular these days. They offer 24/7 customer support and are faster as well as more efficient. These artificially intelligent assistants have self-learning capabilities and can proficiently engage the customers. Emobots have improved abilities & have entered the business scenario now as they can judge real-time emotional reactions of a customer & provide suitable services accordingly.
  • Artificial Intelligence: AI helps businesses in understanding customer needs & preferences better. For example, businesses can personalize a customer’s shopping experience in real time to increase engagement. Intelligent algorithms enable the websites and apps to target individuals and recommend them products based on their search history.
  • Internet of Things (IoT): Most devices these days are internet-enabled which provide numerous opportunities to increase customer engagement. IoT generates humongous amount of data which can be used by businesses to gain insight about customer behavior for a personalized user experience. For example, this technology enables creation of predictive models that use condition-based monitoring to prevent failures before they occur. Businesses can use this information and provide timely maintenance before the device breakdowns completely.

For more information, contact Centex Technologies at (972) 375 - 9654.

What Is Distributed Cybercrime?

Distributed cybercrime is a type of attack that is launched on a large scale with an aim to target many victims though the same campaign. Recent attacks like WannaCry, BadRabbit, NotPetya and other cybercrimes have created a havoc, thus highlighting the alarming increase of distributed cybercrimes.

Launching a massive ransomware attack on masses is the most preferred choice of cyber attackers. Such attacks are on rise and as per a prediction by Cyber Security Venture, a new organization will fall victim to ransomware every 14 seconds in 2019 and every 11 seconds by 2021. The number is soaring high and is growing at a fast pace.

What Makes Distributed Cybercrime A Preferred Choice To Cyber-criminals?

A cyber-criminal is not required to possess specialized knowledge of cybersecurity or cryptography to launch an attack. They use sample exploit codes and tools that are available on the dark web.

This way hackers develop malware and malicious software that run on professional platforms. The attack is not targeted to a specific set of people and usually cyber criminals don’t know their victims personally. They are simply interested in the ransomware amount. Their primary victims are individuals and organizations with sub-par security.

Following are some reasons why distributed cyber-attack is a lucrative option for cyber-criminals:

  • Since the distributed ransomware attack is aimed to target masses, it requires less effort.
  • Highly specialized skill & knowledge is not required to launch a distributed cybercrime.
  • There are endless possibilities of earning revenue as every standard endpoint is a potential source of revenue.

Hackers often send an email or website link, which when clicked by the victim installs a malware on their device. Ransomware attacks have affected almost every sector like healthcare, finance, transportation, etc. 

How To Protect Against Distributed Cybercrime?

  • Make sure that your organization meets the baseline security standards.
  • Follow a threat-centric vulnerability management (TCVM) approach.
  • Install an anti-virus software.
  • Update and patch your devices regularly.

How Does Threat Centric Vulnerability Management Work?

Cyber-crimes have been commercialized and so following this approach can significantly help in minimizing the risk of a distributed cybercrime.

  • The first step is assessment and discovery of vulnerabilities within an organization’s system.
  • Next step is threat intelligence research to consolidate and understand which exploits are active, available or packaged in the crimeware.
  • Then analyze the vulnerabilities and flag the ones that are exposed in the network or actively exploited.
  • Implement patches or other remedial factors such as IPS signatures, segmentation, etc. to avoid exploitation.
  • Check if something has been done to neutralize the effect of threat or reduce the overall risk. Vulnerabilities which have not been mitigated should be closely monitored.

For more information, contact Centex Technologies at (972) 375 - 9654.

What Is Cyberbullying?

With the increasing use of technology, there has been a rise in problems such as cyberbullying. Cyberbullying also known as cyber-harassment & online bullying, is the display of inappropriate behavior or influence in written, verbal or physical form with an intent to intimidate, threaten, harass & embarrass someone over internet.

Cyberbullying is usually common between teens, however adults are equally vulnerable to it. Following are the most common forms of cyberbullying:

  • Outing: It is a deliberate act to embarrass or harass someone publically by posting his confidential & private information online without his consent. Revelation of personal information by someone can have a major impact on the victim. 
  • Fraping: In this form of cyberbullying, your social media account is hacked by someone. They log into your account and post inappropriate content by impersonating you. Posing as someone and posting unsuitable content online can have a serious impact as it ruins the reputation of the victim. 
  • Dissing: It is the act of posting or sending information about a person with an intent to criticize him, damage his reputation, hamper his relationships, etc. It can be done by posting personal pictures & videos or sharing certain screenshots to put the other person down. Dissing is usually done by a victim’s friend or acquaintance. 
  • Trolling: It is a deliberate act of insulting someone on social media & other online platforms. A troll usually posts unwanted comments & material to incite the victim for a response. Trolling attacks are usually personal and are carried to instigate anger among the victims in order to make them lash out & behave improperly.
  • Trickery: Cyberbully often pretends to be the victim’s confidant by giving him a false sense of security. They gain the victim’s trust to an extent that the victim reveals his secrets & private information to them. They trick the victim and gather sensitive information about them which is then posted on social platforms to embarrass him publically or is either sent to a third party.
  • Cyberstalking: It can have serious effect on a person’s emotional, mental & physical well-being. Stalkers make use of the internet or electronic media to gather information for the purpose of harassing an individual or group.
  • Catfishing: A catfish is a person who wants to hide his identity. They usually steal the victim’s information available online such as photos to create a fake profile. This could be used for deceptive purposes where the impersonator might post rude or hurtful comments, indulge in sexual and racist activities, chat with other people while posing as the victim, etc.

It is important to know about different forms of cyberbullying in order to avoid falling prey to them.

For more information, contact Centex Technologies at (972) 375 - 9654.

Using Cloud Technology In Education Sector

Education sector has seen a major shift as technology has taken the center stage. The introduction of online learning courses, modern software applications and cloud based educational applications has changed the way how education sector used to work traditionally.

Cloud Technology Benefits

Cloud technology has revolutionized the operations in education sector in the following ways:

  • Real-Time Instruction In Virtual Environment: Cloud technology has opened up a plethora of opportunities for students around the world. It offers numerous benefits by enabling face-to-face instructions in a virtual environment. This allows the students residing in different corners of the world to become a part of lectures delivered by teachers of well-known institutes.
  • Self-Paced Distance Learning Online: Educational institutes now offer distant learning courses to students from all across the globe. Since, these courses can be accessed at any time of the day, from any part of the world, they enable students to learn at their own pace.
  • Cost Effective: Cloud based solutions are cost effective as it does not require you to invest on costly infrastructure & equipment. The applications are compatible on mobile devices so the students are not required to own expensive computers or external storage devices. The software programs are either free of cost or require low-cost subscription because the cloud based applications run on internet browsers & the software as a service model (SaaS) makes it easy to use this technology at a lower cost.
  • Unlimited Storage: Cloud hosting has unlimited storage capacity to manage enormous learning material as well as assignments submitted by the students. Also, since one cloud account can be accessed by students on multiple devices, teachers can easily share course material & assignments with all the students simultaneously.
  • Data Security: Cloud storage is highly secure when it comes to data security. Any hardware failure at the end of a student or teacher does not result in loss of data. Also, the content is encrypted end-to-end for enhanced security.
  • More Flexibility: Cloud solutions provide more flexibility to teachers by enabling them to customize their online learning portals according to the need of students. It is also easily scalable to accommodate increasing student base.
  • No More Expensive Textbooks: Cloud based virtual education has outpaced the need of buying expensive textbooks. Digital content which is provided to the students is cheaper as compared to printed text. Thus, every student is able to access the same quality learning material which provides equal opportunity by leveling the field for all students.
  • Easy To Update: Since cloud based material is easy to update, students can have access to the latest learning material at all times.

For more information, contact Centex Technologies at (972) 375 - 9654.