Security is the Name of the Game
It's been a rough day here weather-wise, with snow and ice wreaking havoc on everything from the roads to internet service — we were fine without the roads, but the internet was more than we could take. The treacherous conditions outside set us thinking about conditions on the information superhighway, and so we bring you a roundup of interesting security news from the world wide web.
First up, if you haven't already heard and patched your Linux kernel, an exploit for vmsplice has been discovered that allows a local attacker to gain a root shell on your system. The exploit affects kernel versions from 2.6.17 to 18.104.22.168, and can be overcome with a quick patch available through a number of sources. Many distributions are already pushing the patch down the auto-update lines, so you may be patched without even knowing it.
You may have wondered where viruses and exploits — as well as their patches — come from once in a while, but you've probably never suspected it could be the same place. That was the case for Indian antivirus company AvSoft last week, when it was discovered that their website had fallen victim to an injection vulnerability and was hosting a variation of the Virut virus. The company is keeping quiet on the matter, but other prominent security companies have been quick to point out that it could happen to anyone.
While AvSoft's situation may not have been their fault, that's not the case for the French bank that lost more than seven billion dollars through rogue trading. Experts are now suggesting that the Société Générale had adequate security in place, but failed to properly manage it, giving Jerome Kerviel — a relatively low-level trader — the access he needed to rip the bank off for billions. There's a lesson to be learned here: change your password, or someone may steal a billion dollars from you.
Myspace is hardly likely to cost you a billion dollars — even if you forget to change your password — but it could cost you your job if you're not careful. We've all known for a while that employers are watching what we do on the web at work, and Googling us before we're hired, but new numbers drive the point home. According to a major placement firm, well over half of British execs are on social networking sites looking for information about applicants, while two-thirds said the information they found directly affected hiring. It's something to think about the next time you're tempted to upload those pictures of you doing body shots last weekend...
Finally, in a similar vein, email too can byte you in the tuchus, if you aren't careful. An attorney representing Eli Lilly produced a spectacular example of this last week when she tripped over Outlook's autocomplete and instead of sending confidential information about government negotiations to a fellow staffer sent them to the New York Times. Oops! The lesson in this? We think the obvious one is Be sure you send your messages to the right people, but perhaps Don't keep the New York Times in your address book is a good one too.
Now we're off to patch our kernel and clean out our address book — away!
Justin Ryan is a Contributing Editor for Linux Journal.
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