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I may meander but I'm 'exploring', not lost

Feb 8, 2018

NBlog February 8 - making security awareness infectious

Just appearing into view along our virtual conveyor belt comes an updated module on malware, one of those perennial, almost universally-applicable security awareness topics.

Aside from generally checking over and fluffing-up the content delivered in prior years, we're on the lookout for new developments, specifically any changes in the risk profile or security controls associated with malware.

Something we've spotted is an alleged move away from ransomware (which was Big News this time last year, a real and present danger) towards using compromised systems for crypto currency mining. I'm not entirely convinced at this point whether that is a genuine change: maybe ransomware has indeed peaked out (I sure hope so!), maybe not, but either way mining malware could be an emerging trend, another short-lived fad, a mistaken interpretation of limited data or pure fiction invented by someone flogging antivirus software.

Over a much longer timescale, commercial exploitation of malware remains evident, along with the continuing battles between black and white hats. For decades we have seen innovative and increasingly complex technologies being deployed on both sides - clever stuff, but things have more or less stalled on the human front. Despite our best efforts through awareness, education, training, phishing simulators etc., the same old social engineering tricks remain somewhat effective today at spreading malware, and there's plenty of potential there for further innovation. 

Novelty is a challenge for both the tech and non-tech malware defenses. This is cutting-edge stuff where established approaches gradually lose their power. Purely responding to changes on the offensive side is bound to set us on the back foot, especially given that most of those changes are unrecognized as such, initially anyway. Who knows, maybe the Next Big Thing in social engineering might be quietly ramping up right now.

So, I'm sitting here thinking about how to encourage NoticeBored subscribers to up their game with more innovative malware defenses, including our creative efforts on security awareness of course but what else could they be doing? Hmmm, I wonder if security awareness messages could be delivered by malware-like infectious mechanisms? 

Probably not a good idea, that one, subject to the same risks and drawbacks as those supposedly benevolent worms designed to patch systems against security vulnerabilities. 

A meme, though, has possibilities. If we can't infect IT systems with technological controls, can we at least infect people with behavioral controls, in a way that spreads from person-to-person like a beneficial form of flu, without the sniffles?