Common Security Dos and Don’ts

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Security vulnerabilities pose a major threat to organizations. Breaches can be costly both in terms of finances and reputation. So what are some ways that businesses can take initiative in protecting themselves against some of the most common security threats?

Do screen job applicants and third parties

Comprehensive background checks and due diligence are extremely important to getting the whole picture of an applicant or a third-party business relationship. Without going through this process, you expose your business to countless threats.

Typical background checks may verify an applicant’s residence and professional history, where a comprehensive investigation including social media can identify more subtle connections that would alter the risk recommendation. If your business does not have the resources to do this on its own, we can help you with our team of professional investigators. Don’t hesitate to reach out!

For more on this subject, be sure to read our article on The Significance of Background Checks in Business.

Do come up with a robust security policy

Your organization’s security policy should cover procedures for preventing, detecting, and acting upon misuse, as well as guidelines for conducting due diligence. These should be crafted with a plan for investigating insider breaches as well.

A good security policy also contains risk management processes. Check out our guide here on the basics of forming a risk management plan.

Don’t overlook the threat of malicious emails

Your organization might go to extremes to secure their email system, and yet it remains one of the most vulnerable links in the chain. All it takes is for one person to inadvertently click on an malicious link or attachment to infect all the computers in the office.

A good rule of thumb is to never open a link or attachment if you don’t recognize the sender, and ensure that your employees are trained in recognizing this type of scamming/phishing behaviour. For help in training your employees on this, don’t hesitate to reach out to our cyber security team.

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Typosquatters

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Of all the myriad of ways that we can be duped, scammed, or otherwise taken advantage of on the internet, “typosquatting” remains one of the easiest to stumble into.

Perpetrators of this scam will purchase site domain names that are very similar to popular pages that people visit, usually by changing the .com part of the web address to .cm. This preys on people who make typos, which is, suffice to say it – all of us.

These duped sites can range from being pop-up laden cesspools riddled with viruses or malware, to near-replicas designed to fool users into inputting login information that can be manipulated later.

So, who is doing this? While these types of tricks can occasionally be tied down to lone actors (given how easy it is to obtain a domain name), KrebsOnSecurity identified the marketing firm Media Breakaway LLC to be behind more than 1500 of these false .cm domains. The company is headed by one Scott Richter – a convicted felon who has been the target of several successful lawsuits for illegal spamming. Other companies related to Richter include Dynamic Dolphin and affiliate[dot]com, also related to email spam.

Just how many people are falling victim to these scams? More than 12 million in a 3 month time frame – amounting to a potential of 50 million per year, according to an analysis conducted by Matthew Chambers. Several of these visitors additionally were found to be coming from .gov and .mil sites in the USA, which are the official federal government and military domains. Many popular news sites, social media, banking, and music streaming sites have these malicious doppelgangers.

The actionable item to protect yourself in this situation ultimately boils down to a matter of double-checking the web address before you hit enter, or bookmark your most commonly visited sites.

For more information on this subject, feel free to reach out to us @CentryLTD on Twitter or any of our other social platforms.

What to Pack in a Grab-Bag

One of the ways that you can prepare yourself for an emergency is to stock a grab-bag. That is, a bag containing a handful of supplies that could make all the difference in recovering after an emergency, whether it’s a natural disaster or hostile threat.  The idea is that you need only to take this single bag with you as you respond to a crisis, ensuring that you have what you need for immediate survival following the contingency.

The exact necessities that you pack will be impacted by your geographical location and the regional-specific risks therein, but here are a few ideas to get you started:

Information & Documentation

This should include your passport and/or visa, and any other important documents related to your identity. This is especially important if you are travelling abroad, particularly if the contingency requires you to leave the country. Even if it is for a home-emergency, being able to have at least a couple identifying documents will assist you in the recovery of other important documents after the fact.

Food & Water

A stock of high energy, non-perishable food items and as much water as you can feasibly carry.

Communications

A spare mobile phone with a charger.

Health & Safety

Basic first aid kit and any essential medications that you may require day-to-day.

Other

Some other items to include in your grab bag are money, a change of clothing, candles, matches, a flashlight/torch, and spare batteries.

Keep in mind that the general advised contents of this grab bag address the needs of the average individual whether they are at home or traveling. Family and/or group kits will vary, especially if there are pets involved. 

If you have any questions or would like expanded detail of this, please don’t hesitate to contact us at info@centry.global! Remember to subscribe for weekly updates on Centry Blog, and follow us on Twitter @CentryLTD for more content like this.

Social Networks & Data Protection Policies

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In preparation for GDPR, a comprehensive EU data protection law, a few big-name social media companies have taken the time to review their privacy policies, making it easier for users to know where and how their information is being used.

Facebook has made some changes to its privacy settings in light of the Cambridge Analytica scandal and Mr. Zuckerberg’s congressional hearings. While it is not changing the information that the company collects from its users, it is making strides toward greater transparency on what that information is and how that is shared. It created a central hub with a more user-friendly interface to enable people to more easily see what data they are sharing and who can see it.

Additionally, the social network will make it easier for users to see all the data that the company has on them – previously, this could be accessed by a massive data dump download, however the new Access Your Information tool allows individuals to explore the information by category.

Twitter updated their privacy policy, sending out emails to their users with information on some of their key revisions. These include more focus on the controls that they offer users over their personal data, more focus on how Twitter shares public data, more transparency and control over how the data is shared with business partners. Furthermore, there is more clarity about how data may be shared to prevent harm, comply with the law, or serve public interest.

LinkedIn has adapted its policy to enable members to download their personal data, and it has followed up on GDPR’s right to erasure, by clarifying that personal data such as audience email addresses will be automatically deleted within a 90 day time frame if it is not edited or being used in active campaigns.

If you are active on any social media networks, be sure to take a proactive approach and review your privacy settings, as well as the availability of your personal data.

This article was written by Kristina Weber at Centry Ltd. For more content like this, subscribe to Centry Blog and follow us on Twitter @CentryLTD!

A Quick Look: South China Sea Disputes

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The South China Sea is a critically important trade route of the world, with an estimated $5-trillion worth of goods passing through yearly, which amounts to about 30% of global maritime trade. In addition to that, there are vast oil and natural gas reserves under the sea, and it is the site of lucrative fishing grounds, providing the main source of animal protein for the densely populated southeast Asia.

For all of its resources and strategic value, the South China Sea is highly contentious. Several sovereign states all have varying claims over different sectors of the waterway and the islands therein, whereas non-claimant states advocate for the South China Sea to remain international waters.

These maritime and territorial disputes are complex and sprawling in their nature. To better grasp the greater picture of the situation, we’ve broken it down into a few sections.

The Claimants

The prime areas of contention in the South China Sea include the Spratly Islands, Paracel Islands, and various boundaries in the Gulf of Tonkin. Each claimant nation wants something specific, and they all have their individual justifications for what they want. The main players in the territorial disputes have been China, Taiwan, Vietnam, The Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei.

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Image 1. South China Sea Claims

China depicts its claims to the South China Sea using the map of the nine-dash line, a vague demarcation line that was inspired by a December 1947 then-Republic of China (1912-1949) map with eleven segments. After the Communist Party of China formed the PRC, the claim was amended to the “nine-dash line” that we know today. The U-shape of it can be observed in Image 1 above.

Taiwan (ROC) also uses the 1947 map it as a basis for their own claim to the contested waters, because it was published before the PRC was established. Taiping Island, also known as Itu Aba Island, is the largest isle of the Spratly group and it remains steadfastly in Taiwan’s control. As one of the world’s biggest seafood exporters, Taiwan’s interests in the region are connected to fishing and oil.

Vietnam’s claim over the Paracel and Spratly islands was first established in a White Paper issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1974, with historical evidence as a basis for the claims. It has been a vocal opponent of China’s historical claim over the South China Sea, asserting that China had never claimed sovereignty over the islands before the 1940s, whereas Vietnam had actively ruled over both the Paracel and the Spratly Islands since the 17th Century.

However, tensions between China and Vietnam have been de-escalating ahead of agreements to resolve their disputes. In April 2018, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi gave an announcement that China and Vietnam are moving toward a settlement agreement on the status of their claims in the South China Sea.

The Philippines has historically cited its geographical proximity to the Spratly Islands as the main basis of its claim to the Scarborough Shoal, however its President Rodrigo Duterte has avoided aggressive rhetoric on the issue, saying that he “will not impose anything on China.”

This came after the July 2016 international arbitration that ruled China could not legally claim most of the South China Sea – including a rebuke of the nation’s manmade islands. Although China is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, it refused to accept the court’s authority on this case.

Malaysia has claimed seven islands in the Spratly group, of which two are also claimed by Vietnam and one by the Philippines. Thus, it has occupied the remaining four and constructed mini-naval stations to reinforce its claim.

Brunei by contrast is sometimes referred to as a “silent claimant” of the South China Sea, however it first asserted rights shortly after gaining independence from Britain in 1984. Its principal interests revolve around the development of offshore oil and natural gas fields – both within its EEZ and outside of its territorial waters. Its claim is on Louisa Reef, which is on its continental shelf, however the Louisa Reef is also part of the Spratly islands, a feature claimed by both China and Vietnam.

Recently, Indonesia ramped up the territorial disputes by renaming the northernmost waters of its exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea to the North Natuna Sea, despite China’s claims to the area.  Ian Storey, a senior fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore, suggested that the renaming of the waterway helped to make it “sound more Indonesian.” It has increasingly conducted aggressive posturing in the area, including a military buildup on nearby Natuna Islands and deployment of naval warships.

For decades, Indonesia’s official policy has maintained that it is not party to any territorial disputes with China on the South China Sea, yet in 2016, the two countries had three maritime skirmishes, including warning shots and a situation where Indonesian warships seized a Chinese fishing boat and its crew.

China’s Manmade Islands

In recent years, China has been building various ports, runways, and radar facilities on manmade islands throughout the South China Sea. CSIS Satellite images from 2016 depict large anti-aircraft guns and weapons systems as well.

These man-made islands have been constructed by dredging sand on to reefs in an effort to boost China’s claim to the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. China had previously committed to not militarizing the islands, however the CSIS imagery suggests otherwise. Nonetheless, the PRC government maintains that the islands are for maritime safety and civilian purposes.

The Situation at Present

On April 11th, 2018, the Chinese navy began a 3-day drill near its main submarine base in what analysts described as a message to other nations in the area that it was capable of defending its territorial and maritime interests. This display came right as an American strike group, led by the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, conducted its own exercises in the South China Sea. The United States maintains that the South China Sea is international water, and therefore the United Nations Convention on Laws of the Sea should determine sovereignty in the area.

These exercises additionally overlapped with a week-long series of live-fire drills involving the aircraft carrier Liaoning, near the venue for the BOAO Forum for Asia. On the sidelines of the forum, senior fellow Oh Ei Sun said that all the surrounding countries were concerned by the military exercises in the region. This area is significant because it has several underwater channels and straits that could allow China’s submarine fleet to break through the United States’ first and second island chain blockades. Although the location for these specific demonstrations was in a less sensitive area than the South China Sea, it nonetheless served as a means for China to illustrate its military might to the other claimants involved in the disputes.

PRC President Xi Jinping presided over the Chinese navy’s largest military display on April 12th, 2018. The state broadcaster, China Central Television, showed footage of Xi boarding the destroyer Changsha before sailing to an unspecified location in the South China Sea to watch the procession. China’s armed forces are in the middle of a modernization program, and the subsequent military buildup has seemingly unnerved its neighbors, particularly due to the increasing assertiveness on the territorial disputes of the South China Sea.

China intended on holding live-fire military drills in the Taiwan Straits on April 18th, however, it was reported that the drill scaled down in an effort to reduce tensions. The Taiwanese military similarly cancelled a scheduled cannon drill.

The probability of South China Sea disputes leading to an outbreak of hostilities is unlikely, however since China has continued to pursue its territorial and maritime claims, the potential for escalating small-scale skirmishes cannot be ruled out. Furthermore, any escalations in the trade corridor may have an impact on the global economy, particularly if sanctions become involved.

This article was written by Kristina Weber of Centry Ltd. For more content like this, follow @CentryLTD on Twitter!

Human Trafficking in the European Union

The European Union regards human trafficking as one of the most heinous violations against human rights. Efforts to address this complex issue have been a primary focus for EU strategies on national and international levels.

Among other findings in a country-by-country statistical analysis on human trafficking in the period of 2010-2012, Eurostat reported in 2015 that 80% of the registered victims were female, more than 1,000 children were trafficked, and over 70% of traffickers were male. It should be noted that not all 28 EU Member States were able to provide data, and the statistics are based on the small amount of information available from registered sources. As a result, there is certainly more that goes on undocumented.

However, one particular finding noted that among non-EU states, Nigeria was over-represented

in both the statistics of both victims and traffickers. In the 3-year course of the study, it was found that of the registered victims with non-EU citizenships, there were 1,322 registered victims from Nigeria, as compared to the next highest non-EU state, Brazil, with 537 registered victims. The most frequently reported non-EU citizenship of suspected traffickers over the course of the reference period was also Nigeria, with 299 individuals.

The International Response

The U.S. Department of State has classified Nigeria’s human trafficking narrative as Tier 2: Watchlist on a scale of 1-3 in their 2017 human trafficking report. This means that the government of Nigeria does not fully meet the minimum standards for elimination of trafficking. There are challenges present where some elements of Nigerian Security Forces (NSF) were found to have used children as young as 12 in support roles, and the Nigerian military conducted on-the-ground coordination with the CJTF, which includes non-governmental militias that recruit and use children in support roles, and possibly unwillingly. Furthermore, government officials were found to be involved in sexual exploitation of Borno State women and girls that were displaced by Boko Haram.

That said, Nigeria is making a significant effort to improve. Efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers in Nigeria are remarkable, as well as conducting anti-trafficking training for law enforcement officials, however the growth is slow-going, with limited increases in efforts compared to the previous reporting period.

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Picture 1. NAPTIP & Finland sign MoU to collaborate in curbing trafficking in 2017 (Accessed March 2018)

One such anti-trafficking organization in Nigeria is the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), which recently made headlines when Europol put out a statement detailing how Spanish police forces in cooperation with NAPTIP and UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) dismantled a Nigerian organized crime ring that had trafficked victims to Europe through Libya and Italy. Among their efforts was a block on bank accounts that laundered more than 300k euros for the crime ring, leading to 89 arrests and the liberation of 39 victims.

The crime network was found to be connected to the Eiye Confraternity (Air Lords), one the most influential campus cult originated gangs in Nigeria. It operates in clandestine groups worldwide, funding the confraternity in Nigeria through both legal and illegal activities.

Campus Cults in Nigeria

Campus cults represent a widespread gang and organized crime problem in Nigeria, as many post-secondary institutions have confraternities. The majority of these cult groups are involved in organized crime.  Recruitment is sometimes involuntary, and the initiation rites involve assault to varying degrees. Some of the cults operate their business with a secret membership model and some of them dominate streets openly. At peak, tens of murders have been connected monthly to confraternity related violence. The Nigerian democracy is relative new, and amongst the former and current cult members are local politicians and other influential members of society. According to some sources, politicians have been known to have used the gangs as their private armies, and the cults have had active roles in the nation’s internal conflicts.

The Eiye Confraternity is very active in social media, utilizing it to give voice to their opinions and in fact openly using platforms such as Facebook and WhatsApp for coordination purposes.

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Picture 2. Screenshot of a FB page voicing support for EIYE confraternity (Accessed Mar 2018)

Global Business Response

To address the crime of human trafficking, companies have been complementing their due diligence processes with human rights impact assessments and taking relevant related risks in consideration for their existing assessments and processes. This is typically done in compliance with international guidelines such as the United Nations’ Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights via implementing the “Protect, Respect, and Remedy” Framework. However, new national-level legislations, such as the French Corporate Duty of Vigilance Law, are starting to make human rights duty of care a mandatory compliance for global supply chains. With regard to the issue at hand, global enterprises will be duty-bound to do whatever is in their power to ensure their supply chain isn’t exploited for human trafficking purposes.

This article was written by Investigator Oskar Savolainen and Content Supervisor Kristina Weber of Centry Global. For any questions or comments on the above material, please feel free to contact us @CentryLTD on Twitter or on any of our other social media platforms!

 

Orbitz Data Breach

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If you made travel plans with Orbitz or Amex Travel between 2016 to 2017, you might want to keep a close eye on your card statements.

This week, the Expedia-owned travel planning company, Orbitz, announced that it had discovered a potential data breach that may have compromised information tied to 880,000 credit cards. Hackers may have been able to access consumer data submitted between Jan. 1, 2016 to June 22, 2016 on the company’s legacy platform.

Partner platform Amextravel.com was also affected, linked to purchases made between Jan. 1, 2016, and Dec. 22, 2017.

The compromised data includes names, dates of birth, postal and email addresses, gender, and payment card information of customers who submitted such information in those specified time periods. Orbitz stated that they do not yet have any “direct evidence” that this information was stolen, but it was certainly put at risk. The company has said that it has been notifying customers who may have been impacted by the breach, and it is offering a free year of credit monitoring to affected U.S. customers.

In a statement, Orbitz described working with a forensic investigation firm, cybersecurity experts, and law enforcement once the breach was discovered, on March 1st, in order to “eliminate and prevent unauthorized access to the platform.”

In the meantime, Orbitz has set up a website for US customers to find out more about the breach and whether their information may have been compromised. Individuals that enter their name and email address into the form requesting additional protection will be directed to a confirmation page and emailed a redemption code from orbitz@allclearid.com. Orbitz asserts that the AllClearID website will be the company’s primary platform for communication on the protective services they are offering.  

If you are worried about your information being compromised, ensure that you review payment card statements carefully and call your bank if there are any suspicious transactions. Similarly, be aware of phone calls or emails that offer identity theft protection – these may be phishing scams to steal your information while you’re vulnerable.

For more content like this, follow us on Twitter @CentryLTD!