Malware Pandemic

A record five million new malware threats were detected in third quarter of 2009 according to the Cloud Security firm, Panda Security.
Trojans accounted for 71 percent of all new malware between July and September 2009. Adware (13 percent) and spyware (9 percent) have also all increased, while traditional viruses and worms have decreased to 2 percent of the total.

SAdly, thw weak lin is still the individual user who fails to apply basic net safety rules or applies commonsense when an impressive sounding phishing scam asks for bank details.

malware detected

PandaLabs has recorded five million new strains of malware. Most of these were banker Trojans, although adware and spyware have also increased.

“Spyware has increased for the first time this year, rising from 6.90% to 9.16%. Adware however has decreased slightly from 16.37% to 13.13%, yet it was still the second most detected malware category this year” according to the quarterly report.
“We currently receive approximately 50,000 new samples of malware every day, compared to 37,000 just a few months ago. There is no reason to believe that the situation will improve in the coming months,” explains Luis Corrons, Technical Director of PandaLabs.
There has been a marked increase in malware distributed through spam, social networks and search engine optimization techniques, which draw users to spoof Web pages where malware is downloaded. These exploit topical issues like swine flu, Independence Day, forest fires or Presidential speeches by Barack Obama.
“There is a false sense of security, as users perceive there to be no real danger at the moment. When their computers get infected, they rarely notice any symptoms” said According to Luis Corrons, Technical Director of PandaLabs, According to Panda’s U.S. computers are infected by the most dangerous malware strains: Trojans, followed by adware, worms and viruses.
The global infection rate on computers rose to 59% states Panda Security. Taiwan has the most infected PCs, with a 69.10 percent corruption, followed by Russia and China at 67.99 percent and 61.97 percent, respectively. U.S. ranks ninth with an infection ratio of 58.25. The country with the least infections is Norway at 39.60 percent.

“Spyware has increased for the first time this year, rising from 6.90% to 9.16%. Adware however has decreased slightly from 16.37% to 13.13%, yet it was still the second most detected malware category this year” according to the quarterly report.
“We currently receive approximately 50,000 new samples of malware every day, compared to 37,000 just a few months ago. There is no reason to believe that the situation will improve in the coming months,” explains Luis Corrons, Technical Director of PandaLabs.
There has been a marked increase in malware distributed through spam, social networks and search engine optimization techniques, which draw users to spoof Web pages where malware is downloaded. These exploit topical issues like swine flu, Independence Day, forest fires or Presidential speeches by Barack Obama.
“There is a false sense of security, as users perceive there to be no real danger at the moment. When their computers get infected, they rarely notice any symptoms” said According to Luis Corrons, Technical Director of PandaLabs, According to Panda’s U.S. computers are infected by the most dangerous malware strains: Trojans, followed by adware, worms and viruses.
“This is a clear sign that hackers are becoming more and more sophisticated,” said Corrons.
“Cybercriminals have found news ways to spread their creations, frequently exploiting the latest news stories to launch attacks through social networks, videos, and email. The huge amount of Trojans in circulation is due to the spectacular increase in the number of banker Trojans aimed at stealing user data.”
The global infection rate on computers rose to 59% states Panda Security.  Taiwan has the most infected PCs, with a 69.10 percent corruption, followed by Russia and China at 67.99 percent and 61.97 percent, respectively. U.S. ranks ninth with an infection ratio of 58.25. The country with the least infections is Norway at 39.60 percent.

infected PCs

European ATM Crimes Increasing

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ATM attacks rose 149% on 2008 in Europe and annual cash machine losses approach EUR 500 million states ENISA, the European Network and Information Security Agency.

ATM burglaries and physical attacks have also seen an increase by 32% over the last 12 months from ram raids and explosions to the use of rotary saws, thermal lances and diamond drills.

“ATMs are attractive to criminals because they contain bank notes, while the bank cards themselves give thieves access to customers’ bank accounts,” said Mr. Andrea Pirotti, Executive Director at ENISA.

ATM numbers have increased in Europe by 6% last year to almost 400,000. Seventy-two percent of European ATMs are located in just five countries: UK, Spain, Germany, France and Italy. Many ATM’s are in remote locations such as convenience stores, airports and petrol stations.

Criminals prefer take money directly ATM’s after obtaining pin numbers using a wide range of techniques from ‘shoulder surfing’ to complex skimming techniques. During 2008, 10,302 skimming incidents were reported in Europe.

“This can involve the usage of a small spy camera, a false PIN overlay and even fake machines; while increasingly Blue Tooth wireless technology is used to transmit card and PIN details to a nearby laptop computer” states ENISA.

[UNSET]

“ATM crime is likely to become even more attractive as the latest generation of ATMs is designed to dispense other services and products such as phone top ups and stamps” he said.

Organised criminal gangs have also extracted money by trapping and then retrieving users’ cards, stopping withdrawals in the middle of a transaction and completing them later or even trapping cash in the machine.

PIN and account information has been obtained by sophisticated phishing techniques and hacking into bank computer systems and web sites, states ENISA.

“Most ATM crime is focused on exploiting the human element and card holders must be more aware of the risks they are exposed to and how to prevent fraud occurring” said Pirotti. “Information security has, for too long, been focusing on technical solutions to maximise protection.”

“The first line of defence against ATM crime is increasing awareness of the risks” so that users can take simple precautions such as shielding their PIN when entering it and by keeping alert to any signs of tampering or suspicious activity at an ATM.”

The ENISA suggests a few Golden Rules to offer maximum protection with minimum effort.

ENISA Golden Rules

  • Choosing an ATM Machine
  • Don’t use ATMs with extra signage or warnings
  • Try to use ATMs inside banks
  • Don’t use freestanding ATMs
  • Physical surroundings
  • Use an ATM which is in clear view and well lit
  • Be cautious of strangers and check they are at a reasonable distance away

Making Operations

  • Pay careful attention to the front of the machine for tampering
  • Pay attention to the card reader for signs of additional devices
  • Look carefully for differences or unusual characteristics of the ATM’s PIN pad
  • Look out for extra cameras
  • Protect your PIN by standing close to the ATM and shielding the key pad
  • Report confiscated cards immediately
  • Beware of ATMs that don’t dispense cash and non-bank ATMs that don’t charge fees

Statement Reviews

  • Frequently review your account statements
  • Report any suspicious activity immediately

(‘ATM Crime: Overview of the European situation and golden rules on how to avoid it’.)

Cybercrime Hits Smaller Business

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Heartland Payment Systems, Radisson Hotels and Network Solutions have made news because of data breaches. In 2008 285 million records were compromised according to the 2009 Data Breach Investigations Report by the Verizon Business Investigative Response Team.

However, the Federal Deposit Insurance corporation (FDIC) reports that online crime is attacking small and medium sized businesses and fraudulently draining funds from their bank accounts.

In a recent podcast with Doug Johnson Senior Policy Analyst for the American Bankers Association noted that although it is hard “get a fix on the exact number” “law enforcement and institutions have really seen the exploit migrate from large businesses to small businesses”.

Smaller businesses may not be aware of this type of fraud or know how to protect themselves.

Johnson recommends authentication at the business customer level and educating customers about how to protect themselves.

“It starts very cagily by the fraudsters, mostly from Eastern Europe, doing some social intelligence associated with the business” said Johnson “ so they might know who the CFO is, or they might know who someone in HR is or what have you, or in IT.”

“Then they will send an email, which might be a Microsoft update for instance, or some other thing, which that particular individual would be aware of. The CFO might get something that purportedly is coming from the Better Business Bureau, for instance, things of that nature.”

In other words, an email that looks legitimate or expected may be a bait.

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Recently, the Rippoff Report pointed out that Two-thirds used the sender’s name to gauge whether a mail was spam, 45% looked at the subject line and 22% use “visual indicators.” About 3% relied on the time a message was sent to judge if it was legitimate.

As technology improves judging an email on visual clues can be problematic.  Businesses obviously need to avoid clicking links in these emails.

“I think that it is not unusual for business customers to in their busy day not even think about the emails that they are clicking on” he said.

Chris Novak, managing principal at Verizon Business Investigative Response Team describes online security as a “kind of cat and mouse game “ requiring vigilance over a continually evolving threat.

Mr Novak has investigated criminal and civil data breaches for over a decade.

“I think the biggest thing is the evolution of malware. We are seeing that the malware is getting more advanced, and the hackers — particularly the organized crime groups – they actually have development teams” he said.

“Some of the malware is purposely built just for one specific victim environment, and the hackers have the capability to do that.”

Novak expresses concern that people think there are just a few types of malware that viral protection can handle.

“Malware is evolving rapidly with added capabilities that may frighten some people he said.

“The key piece if really making sure that you stay up on the latest and greatest threat information to know what you need to do protect yourself.”

Fortunately the recent big name security breaches demonstrated that event monitoring and log analysis revealed what was happening in 82% of cases. To be effective this requires a combination of people, processes and technology.

Novak expressed concern that people have developed an over reliance on technology.

“The problem with a lot of that is, like most technology, it is pre-configured to understand certain things and detect certain threats, but for the most part it is based on what’s been programmed into and how it has been configured.”

“In a lot of cases, you need a backup to technology of those appliances with people resources that can look at it and kind of do sanity check on it and say ‘You know what, this doesn’t look right. Someone logged into their bank account 7000 times today, and that is probably a problem.’ Sometimes the technology picks up things like that, and sometimes it doesn’t.”

Data can be moved in and out of an environment so quickly, which is why monitoring is so important.

“The biggest breaches that we’ve ever investigated took place in 24-to-48 hours. That’s all the hacker needed, depending on how organized they were.”

Why Does Spam Work?

The cost of spam

Spam works because about one out of six respond to messages suspect are spam survey data by the Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group, an anti-spam trade organization (MAAWG).

Although, about 17% admitted it was a mistake, curiosity seems to play into the hands of spammers. Twelve percent were interested in the product or service, and 13% don’t know why they acted on the message. Six percent “wanted to see what would happen.”

The survey of 800 people in the U.S. and Canada who admitted they were not ‘internet experts’ about 80 percent of users doubted their computers were at risk of ever being infected with a “bot.” This is alarming as covertly planted viruses capable of sending spam are responsible for generating much of today’s illegitimate email.

The problem is not limited to email spam. In a recent banking phishing spam atcacking LibertyBank, an automated phone message claimed”Your card has been suspended because we believe it was accessed by a third party. Please press 1 now to be transferred to our security department.”

Customers who pressed “1” were asked to enter their credit/debit card number and personal identification number. Sadly people fell for it.

“Spamming has morphed from an isolated hacker playing with some code into a well-developed underground economy that feeds off reputable users’ machines to avoid detection” said MAAWG Chair Michael O’Reirdan.

“Consumers shouldn’t be afraid to use email, but they need to be computer smart and learn how to avoid these problems.”

“Bots, or malware running on users’ computers without their knowledge, are responsible for generating up to 90 percent of spam and can also be used to steal personal information or take part in DDOS (distributed denial of service) attacks” states MAAWG.  cmsconnect.com  estimates the lost time to be nearly 50 hours per employee and almost $1000 per person per year.

Spam is now major bandwidth gobbling headache for service providers and the growing problem of bot infestations contributing to spam, identity theft and online fraud.

No longer is a spammer the seedy lone money grabbing sneak hiding in the attic. In 2007 “a flood of junk messages was thrown at the e-mail server of the [Estonian] Parliament, shutting it down.” This is why a CMS white paper reccommended country of origin email filtering to reduce spam 50-80%.

As spammers use automated systems to constantly collect email addresses, 24 hours a day and 365 days a year it sometimes seems you are doomed to receive a pile of email 95% promoting MLM and the rest suggesting have such a low IQ that you will give your bank details to a non entity at the north pole.

“Spam is also getting globalised as Brazil, Russia, India and China are among the biggest emerging broadband markets worldwide and as such offer a tremendous opportunity for cybercrime ” states Emirates Business 24/7.

Most  users are familiar with general email-based threats but not necessarily proactively protecting themselves sufficiently.

How will we stop spam when we are such easy targets? Even though 12% claimed they were “very” or “somewhat” experienced with Internet security opened spam before deleting it, while 11% called themselves inexperienced who also opened spam.

Two-thirds used the sender’s name to gauge whether a mail was spam, 45% looked at the subject line and 22% use “visual indicators.” About 3% relied on the time a message was sent to judge if it was legitimate.

About two-thirds considered themselves “very” or “somewhat” knowledgeable in Internet security. While most consumers use anti-virus software and over half said they never click on suspected spam, the survey also found that 21 percent take no preventative anti spam measures.

Yet, 12% of respondents who indicated they were “very” or “somewhat” experienced with Internet security opened spam before deleting it, compared with only 11% of respondents who called themselves inexperienced who did the same.

63 percent would allow their network operator or anti-virus vendor to remotely access their computer to remove detected bots.

Industry analyst Ferris Research, Inc., suggested network operators offer remote bot mitigation capabilities to differentiate their services from competitors. They also suggest refining spam filters based on the specific patterns revealed by the study.

For example, the MAAWG survey found that users between the ages of 24 and 44 are more likely to use email for banking and bill statements, so industry vendors might focus on preventing phishing spam for these consumers.

To combat bot infestations has released a series of strategies used by some of the largest ISP network operators or Common Best Practices for Mitigating Large Scale Bot Infections in Residential Networks (Version 1.0).

The report recommends:

  • While protecting users’ privacy, network operators can use tools to detect infected end-user computers, including DNS, scanning the IP space to identify vulnerable computers, and collecting IP traffic information for known command and control addresses.
  • Email, phone calls to customers, postal mail and walled gardens are common notification tools.. In-browser messages are considered to be among the most effective methods to alert customers but also can be technically challenging to implement.
  • ISPs need to maintain a well-publicized security portal that includes directions for end-user bot removal.

“Bots are a global affliction and these best practices are an important step in educating the industry on the appropriate processes to help protect consumers” said Michael O’Reirdan.

“We’re sharing the experiences of our global membership so that network operators everywhere can more aggressively tackle this problem”

Spam Alert

stance against spam

“Even in challenging economic times, spammers continue to plague businesses with unprecedented levels of unsolicited mail and push them to spend valuable bandwidth and resources on dealing with spam,” said MessageLabs Intelligence Senior Analyst, Symantec, Paul Wood.

“For Australian businesses, more than ninety percent of all emails are now unwanted, however as email is the prime communication channel for businesses today, keeping email secure and functional is critical to business success.”

In the Sydney suburb of Auburn, spam levels reached 94.1%, making it Australia’s most spammed suburb.

In Australia, the most spammed areas have higher density of small-to-medium sized businesses. The least effected have the largest companies.

World wide, Sophos discovers 23,500 new infected webpages every day. That’s one every 3.6 seconds, four times worse than in 2007.

“15 new bogus anti-virus vendor websites are discovered every day” states Sophos. .”This number has tripled, up from an average of five detected per day, during 2008”.

“Financially motivated cybercriminals are turning their attention to Web 2.0 platforms such as Facebook and Twitter and alternative programs and tools such as Adobe Flash and PDFs.”

Between four million and six million computers worldwide  the globe have been compromised without the user’s knowledge states MessageLabs Intelligence.

“These computers now form robotic networks – Botnets, which are controlled by cybercriminals and used to send out more than 87% of all unsolicited mail, equating to approximately 151 billion emails a day.

89.7% of business email is spam. In September, globally the spam rate is 86.4%, Australia’s spam rate is 90.7%.

“Spammers have preferred professions, with the Engineering and Education sector being top targets globally with spam levels reaching more than 93%” states MessageLabs Intelligence.

In Australia  Healthcare has a  93.5% spam rate, Wholesale 92.1%, Minerals/Fuel 91.0%,  Professional Services 90.9%

Communication enhancing and information gathering technology has given hackers opportunities to attack businesses.

Sophos receives 40,000 unique suspicious files every day — accounting for 28 unique files every minute, 24 hours a day. Independent testing agency, AV-Test.org, currently counts over 22.5 million unique samples of malware in its collection — compared to 12.3 million in June 2008, demonstrating that the scale of the problem has almost doubled.

spam mailing list

The importance of good email security is highlighted by the spread of botnet infections.

“Botnets are now responsible for distributing 87.9% of all spam” states MessageLabs Intelligence.

“Approximately 151 billion unsolicited messages each day being distributed by compromised computers.

MessageLabs lists a number of ISP’s that were closed for hosting botnet activity: September 20, 2008 California Intercage (California) followed shortly after by McColo (California). After which “spam originating from Srizbi, Rustock and Mega-D all took a nosedive. Until then, Srizbi had been responsible for as much as 50% of all global spam”

Following the demise of these ISPs in 2008, additional ISPs were taken down as recently In June Pricewert in the U.S and on August 1,2009, Real Host in Latvia, were closed.

The take-down of Real Host saw spam levels temporarily drop by 38% according to Messagelabs.

“Real host was believed to have hosted the command-and-control centres of the Cutwail botnet (also known as Pandex or Pushdo), which is responsible for about 15 to 20 per cent of the spam sent out worldwide” states the virus bulletin.

Typically websites whose sole purpose is to distribute malware arereached through redirection scripts and links from other legitimate websites, such as links posted on social networking websites, malicious or compromised banner advertising, hyperlinks posted in spam emails and hyperlinks shared over instant messaging traffic” states messagelabs.

“The typical profile of these sites indicates that they have been registered up to three months before first being blocked for hosting malicious content.” It is no surprise that Google ranks domains registered for more than a year more favourably.

“A relatively large proportion of them (approximately 29%) are taken down after just one day; 40% are removed within two days; and 65% within one week. Generally, 90% of “young” malicious domains are taken down within 38 days.”

To enhance the effectiveness of their short term web life URL-shortening services have been exploited and account for more than 9% of all spam.

However, MessageLabs Intelligence states, “80 percent of domains being blocked as malicious for serving up malware are in fact compromised, legitimate websites”. Removing a young obviously malicious server is relatively easy so it is obvious why a spammer would like to compromise an established site.

How To Stop Spam?

Protect your email address – Be careful where you use your primary email address on the net.

Watch out for the checkboxes –opt out of being contacted by third parties as you don’t know who will get your email address.

Don’t use the reply, remove or forward options – Using these features tells a spammer you are real and validates your email address.

Use an unusual name – An email address with numbers or is less likely to receive spam.

“Spammers often use directories of common names to guess email addresses” states MessageLabs.

Avoid clicking on any links in spam messages – the addresses of links are frequently disguised intending to confirm your existence to spammers. This can also include the unsubscribe links.

Avoid downloading pictures in spam email – Even in the preview pane pictures these can identify you. Block images, or view emails in text format.

Use a Good spam filter – Stop it from getting into your inbox in the first place.

According to the virus bulletin released September 21, Alwil‘s avast!, BitDefender, ESET‘s NOD32, F-Secure, G DATA, MicroWorld‘s eScan and Symantec‘s Norton were top achievers at detecting malicious samples, rated the highest ranking of ‘Advanced+’..

Tested with two sets of malicious samples, split into two sets with one containing sample representing the last 7 months, and the other the preceding twelve months.  The results are balanced against false positives.

Ranking highly in the ‘Advanced’ classification were AVG, Avira, Kaspersky, McAfee and Trustport. Avira, McAfee and Trustport had high detection rates but ranked lower because of  false alarms.

Microsoft‘s solution, rated as ‘Standard’, Kingsoft, Norman and Sophos ranked only ‘Tested’  Sophos‘ scored low because of a relatively high false positive rate, sated the Virus Bulletin.

Is the Law of Attraction a Scam?

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“When people start to learn and apply the Law of Attraction, make it too complex or difficult on themselves, try it for 2 days, and give up because of unsatisfactory results”  states Law of Attraction Enthusiast Ivan Jones.

What people don’t get is that it’s an incremental process. This process is not a daunting one, but does require your commitment and perseverance.
Doing small little things that aren’t hard or time consuming, and doing them on a day to day basis over a period of more than just 2 short days, can have you see a difference in your life.

For the past 6 months Jones studied of the Law of Attraction in an experiment to  change his life and manifest his dreams.
Besides reading a lot of books, he attended seminars by John Asseraf, Harrison Klein and Dr. John Demartini.

But does six months of study making him an expert?

He believes he has cracked the code and he feels that he now wants to give back to the world, and share the secrets of the universe.

“There’s more to learn about the law that you’ll ever learn in an entire lifetime, but that shouldn’t stop you. I want to stress to people, by tackling the law step by step and doing simple exercises on a day to day basis can have you see massive results down the road. Even though it might not seem like much at first, it all adds up.”

“It’s not difficult to adopt the Law of Attraction into your life. I’ve had it been explained to me in easy-to-get terms. You really can have, do or be anything you want in this life and I want to show you the steps you need to take to get you there.”

Ivan emphasizes the initial steps towards activating the Law of Attraction as the most crucial.Sounds wonderful. Yet, how come there are all those extra Laws that the guru’s are suddenly telling us about?

True,  many of the other Laws really only help keep you either aligned to purpose or remove psychological resistances.

Is Ivan Jones simply cashing in on a gullible market?

Checking his website, http://www.FinallyGettingWhatYouWant.com, he offers a free report – the usual email grabbing device, although the fact he links to Awebber suggests he is serious.

However, check the contact us, and privacy policy links and they lead to a dead end 404 error page.

Hmmm…

Perhaps he has not learned how to manifest marketing techniques yet.

Signup and you get linked to the report, affirmation cards and the usual bonuses of As A Man Thinketh, Think And Grow Rich, The Master Key System and the Science Of Getting Rich-which you can get free anywhere anyhow.

Low and behold you are then sent to Bob Proctors 11 forgotten secrets.

Now I have absolutely nothing against Bob. However, I find myself thinking that Ivan Jones is just using old information to get a few emails to make back end sales with a list.

Well, I hope I’m wrong.

What’s your experience with Ivan jones? Is he the real deal?
Can you  tell me?

The Increasing Cost of Information Security

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“In today’s complex and distributed financial services environment, an organization,from both a compliance and operational risk perspective, needs a 360-degree view of enterprise fraud investigations and loss.” wrote Michael Rasmussen of the strategy & research advisor Corporate Integrity, LLC.

Its easy for a small business owner to put this off. Security policies are full of jargon and in the mind of the business owner the more fancy it sounds, the more expensive he fears it will be.

Security software and services spending will outpace other IT spending areas in 2010, according to a survey by Gartner, Inc. Security software budgets are expected to grow by approximately 4 per cent in 2010, outpacing all other areas of infrastructure software. Security services budgets are projected to grow 2.74 per cent in 2010.

In April and May of 2009, Gartner surveyed more than 1,000 IT professionals with budget responsibility worldwide to determine their budget-planning expectations for 2010.

“In the current highly uncertain economic environment, with overall IT budgets shrinking, even the modest spending increases indicated by the survey show that security spending accounts for a higher percentage of the IT budget,” said Adam Hils, principal research analyst at Gartner.

Security-related software spending  in  2010 is likely in security information and event management (SIEM), e-mail security, URL filtering, and user provisioning.

The increased projected expense is partly driven by a growing movement towards managed security services, cloud-based e-mail/web security solutions, third-party compliance-related consulting and vulnerability audits and scans states Gartner.

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The extent of the problem is perhaps suggested by the advertising boast of RSA.com:

“120,000 phishing sites shut down.

200 million online identities protected.

Growing investment in R&D.”

Prevention is cheaper than cure and an understanding of what is required for fraud to occur can help businesses develop protective strategies.

In the 1950’s criminologist and sociologist Dr. Donald Cressey the motivation to commit fraud was mostly financial and required three factors: pressure or motivation, rationalization and opportunity.

However, the world has changed. Early hackers often wanted to prove they could do it, and even enjoy the notoriety of the achievement.

Now, revenge may be a non financial motive.

Whatever the reason, fraud requires the criminal have some form of access, some knowledge or a skillet and an Intent, or purpose or desired outcome to commit fraud.

Even if you have password access and administrator rights at work, You are probably an unlikely security risk if I can barely log on without help. On the other end of the scale, some security breaches require access to technologies available to a minute fraction of the population. While scripts of code can make other breaches possible to those with little knowledge.

“If you can reduce a user’s access/authority or increase the controls (which requires the attacker have more knowledge), then you reduce the risk” wrote Ron Woerner. “You must also ascertain what is required for the exploit.”

Ron Woerner suggests applying the following Internet Security protocols:

* Separation of duties

* Background checks, including a financial records check

* Job rotation/cross-training

* Protecting and limiting access to administrator accounts

* Role-based access control (RBAC)

It is not possible to predict all possible security threats.

“Businesses should recognise that new threats or vulnerabilities may require security spending that exceeds the amounts allocated” said principal research analyst at Gartner, Ruggero Contu “and should consider setting aside up to 15 per cent of the IT security budget to address the potential risks.”