The week in security: Jingle bell hack: Cybercrims delivering malware, DDoS as Christmas presents to “unprepared” SMBs

The holiday season always brings its share of security warnings and actual threats – and this year was no exception. DDoS attacks were threatening retailers' profits but Australia's mobile-using shoppers were creating even more problems for themselves, experts warned. Little wonder companies were scrambling to fix the lack of encryption on mobile apps.

That's hardly a vote of confidence in improving the security situation, but there were good signs. Even a former Secret Service agent was sentenced for corruption in an investigation of now-closed marketplace Silk Road, the US cybercriminal underground is a shopping haven, by reports – although the underground may not be as underground anymore in France if the police there get their way by banning Tor and public WiFi.

The Darkode hacking forum was back but as a shadow of its former self – a phrase that may also describe much of the Internet if millions of users are locked out as the SHA-1 digital-certificate algorithm is retired.

Some were weighing the possible revival of proposed legislation forcing technology companies to report terrorist activity, while others were renewing the push for government back doors into tech products on grounds of securing information of suspected terrorists.

The hack of Australia's Bureau of Meteorology highlighted the growing security threat to Australian government targets. With major security incidents held to be unavoidable, this is worrying news – particularly since most Australian SMBs feel unprepared to handle the threats they face. Territoriality and outright denial of the threats, common in many companies, aren't helping either – with one security expert arguing that it will take “a rude awakening” before many companies act.

DDoS attacks were another growing threat, with the latest Akamai figures suggesting DDoS perpetrators were exploiting Web-based stress-testing networks and launching more but smaller DDoS attacks.

Amidst all this, there were warnings about new payment-card malware that is hard to detect and remove. This, combined with news of Barbie dolls as a security vulnerability and new vulnerabilities in the remote-support software of several vendors, highlighted the many types of issues that users consumers need to be aware of.

The government's big splash into information security, as part of its $1.1b innovation initiative, provided a big shot in the arm for research into quantum-computing techniques that have strong security implications – but may not be such a popular topic of conversation with NASA. IBM was facilitating better collaboration around threat intelligence in a quest to help corporates catch up to collaboration-heavy cybercriminals.

Marketers were sounding alarm bells on the government's proposed breach-notification laws, warning that they would drive over-reporting and overwhelm consumers. Also overwhelmed were the defences of the Trump Tower web site, which was hit by online activist group Anonymous in retaliation for comments by US presidential candidate Donald Trump that he would ban Muslims from entering that country.

The US NSA's CIO explained how the agency uses analytics to improve its security. Also on the political front, Symantec warned that Iranian hackers may be tracking dissidents and activists on line.

Google was patching critical media-processing and rooting vulnerabilities, even as it brought its desktop-browser malware warnings to its Android-based Chrome browser. Apple found itself patching 49 iOS bugs and Adobe fixed 79 flaws in Flash. And a major UK newspaper was fixing things after criminals tried to use its site as a conduit for ransomware.

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