Flu: Facts and Advice


The 2009 version of the Swine Flu has already hit the U.S., and it looks like it could be a bad outbreak. There have already been more than 300 deaths among the 1,600 reported cases in Mexico, and cases of the Flu will undoubtedly turn up in more U.S. States over the next several days. Here are some facts about the Flu, pandemics and contagious diseases in general that may help you and your business better prepare for a serious outbreak:

Pandemics are defined as epidemics or outbreaks in humans of infectious diseases that have the ability to spread rapidly over large areas, possibly worldwide. Several pandemics have occurred throughout history and experts predict that we will experience at least one pandemic outbreak in this century. Although avian flu viruses are currently the most likely disease vector to cause a pandemic, in reality any highly infectious drug resistant disease could lead to a pandemic outbreak.

So how can Flu viruses spread? The most insidious way for the flu virus to spread is through the air in the form of “droplets”. When persons with the flu cough or sneeze into the air, large and very small droplets of liquid filled with virus travel through the air and can easily make their way into lungs or onto hands. Large droplets generally do not travel more than six feet but small “micro-droplets” can float through the air for some time and travel greater distances. Flu virus can also enter your body through your digestive system or eyes. If there is flu virus on your hands or food and you put them in your mouth, you can get the flu. If you have flu virus on your hands and you rub your eyes or nose, you can get the flu. So, what can you do to protect yourself from getting the flu or giving it to others?

The best thing you can do, even though it is a pain, is wash your hands. I mean wash your hands each time before you touch anything and put it in your mouth, or before you rub your eyes. Also, I wouldn’t eat food that has been sitting uncovered around where people have been coughing or sneezing.

Another thing you can do that really helps is wear a face mask. Even though individual viruses are small enough to go right through the pores in a normal face mask, it is not true that you get the flu from individual viruses; you get the flu from droplets of moisture that contain and protect thousands of virus cells. So if you want to keep from getting the flu, wear a mask. If you have the flu and don’t want to give it to others, wear a mask and cover your face when you cough or sneeze.

There are also a number of different things that can kill microorganisms like flu viruses. Ultra violet radiation, such as direct sunlight, kills microorganisms almost instantly. Also, Microorganisms die quickly when they come in contact with hard, smooth, dry surfaces. For example, counter tops or glass surfaces or plastic objects won’t support microorganisms as long as there is no moisture or grease on the surfaces to protect the cells. Microorganisms also cannot exist in freely flowing water. And finally, microorganisms can be killed or removed by the use of soaps and other chemical cleaners such as hand sanitizing lotions or disinfectant sprays.

So how do you protect your business from the flu? One way is to implement the advice above. When the flu is rampant in the community, protect yourself when you are in close public areas such as grocery stores, automobiles, airplanes or malls. You should also remember that you can be infectious 24 hours before symptoms appear and you will continue to be contagious for about seven days after symptoms do appear. So if you know you have been in contact with someone with the Flu, or if you are feeling ill yourself, stay away from other people as much as you possibly can. Have your employees do any work remotely that they can. If they can VPN into the network securely or use the telephone and work from home, have them do so. If you are a financial institution, consider closing or restricting access to the lobby and doing as much business as possible via the drive up windows. Insist that employees that have the flu stay home. No matter how important an employee is to the business, find some way to work around them or use their services remotely. And finally, make sure that your business has good written operating procedures in place, and that your employees cross train with each other on a regular basis. This will be a real help in times of great absenteeism.

Malware Attacks Through Ads On The Rise

Traditionally, we thought malware spreading ads were relegated to the sketchy dark corners of the Internet. Lately though, malware spreading ads have increasingly popped up on sites such as eweek.com, bostonherald.com, and foxnews.com.  How is this happening?

In this case, it’s not a vulnerability on the sites in question. The attackers have turned their attention to the ad networks themselves. In some cases, attackers are submitting ads to the ad networks and having them served.  In some other cases, it seems that the ad networks are suffering from vulnerabilties that are being exploited, allowing the attackers to insert malicous code into otherwise legitmate ads.

The malicious ads are doing a variety of different things to attack the end user. The most recent one makes a popup that looks very much like the real Windows Security Center, detailing that your system is infected with some large number of trojans and viruses. The ad claims that it can ‘fix’ your system by installing a tool. Ads have also been seen that were sending a PDF that contains exploits for the recent Adobe Acrobat vulnerabilties.

The best defenses against these attacks are following the tried and true measures. Make sure your OS, browser, and all software is as up to date as possible. Using anti-virus software, as well as regular anti-malware/spyware scans will also help. Consider using a tool such as Secunia PSI, to help make sure 3rd party aps are up to date. Always use safe browsing sensibility, don’t click on anything suspicious, even if it’s from a website you would normally trust. Remember, there are no safe websites.

Picture with a Bee Contest – Win FREE HoneyPoint!

That’s right! Send us your picture taken in a “security-related pose” with a stuffed, bee costume or bee-related item and we will pick the winner of a FREE license for HoneyPoint Security Server!


Just like in life, style counts, so get your ideas together and send us those pictures! Our judges will pick the winner on April 30th, so get your pics in before then. Imagination, security details and fun will be the key to your success. Three runners up will receive FREE licenses for HoneyPoint Personal Edition!

You can send your pictures via email to: hppics@microsolved.com

Remember, we reserve the right to publish all submissions, so make sure you are OK with that before you submit. 🙂 Contest closes and winners picked at noon on April 30th, 2009. Enter as often as you wish, odds of winning depends on number of people entering. Have fun!

3 Great Resources for Learning About SQL

My technical team has been training some new engineers and have been focusing on SQL injections for the last couple of days. They wanted me to share some great resources that they have found and have been told about to help with learning the basics of SQL syntax and such. They are currently working on compiling a set of vulnerable platforms and system images to create a deep lab environment with many examples and test scenarios in which to sharpen their skills and test new techniques and defenses.

The first site that they like is SQLZoo.Net which is a gentle online introduction to SQL. It is perfect for those who took a SQL course long ago, or who is in need of the basics. It is a quick refresher and instructor of SQL syntax, processes and command basics. This basic education mechanism lays the ground work for them to understand SQL queries and reverse engineer the instructions that are in place as they perform SQL injections. (Thanks to @tnicholson for the pointer to this site!)

Second, they have found the book Hacking Exposed: Web Applications Second Edition to be very helpful. The explanations about, and the examples of, SQL injections really helped them “get it”. Once they walked through this, side by side, with members of our penetration testing team, they really made huge strides and were able to immediately employ the examples in the lab. Thanks to the authors for their great work on this book. The entire Hacking Exposed series is simply fantastic for training up and coming security engineers!

Lastly, with special thanks to OWASP, the team found the use of the WebGoat tool to be amazing. This is an interactive web mechanism for stepping through a variety of basic attack patterns. While not complete, in and of itself, for real application penetration testing, it is a great educational tool and makes for great training examples. Our team spent a good deal of time learning to communicate and demonstrate the issues in WebGoat to a mock set of upper management folks who were role playing their parts. Our team members must be able to clearly, concisely and expertly communicate technical issues to non-technical folks, so this makes a great platform for training.

Thanks to all who helped by suggesting resources and thanks to the new techs for keeping their concentration so high. Our experienced engineers did a great job of bringing the new team members to the first floor, now they are showing them how to keep growing for the top. Great work!

If you would like to hear more about SQL injection, application security testing or would like to hear more about creating training/labs for SQL, please drop us a line.

Thanks for reading and I hope this gives you a pointer in the right direction to learn more about the basics of SQL injections!

Insider SQL Injection

While much improvement and awareness of SQL injections as an attack vector has been applied to Internet-facing applications, there remains a large set of vulnerable applications on internal networks. Our technical team often identifies large amounts of serious and easy to exploit SQL injection vulnerabilities on our internal assessments and penetration tests. While many organizations have begun to focus on network and OS threats for their business networks, application layer attacks remain unattended to in many cases.

“Our success level in obtaining customer sensitive data during internal tests remain very high.”, said Adam, penetration testing team leader of MSI. “Even as people have begun to patch their systems, finally, injections prove to be a critical weakness. To make matters worse, these internals web-apps often hold the keys to kingdom, so to speak, so they are a very attractive target for our testing team.”, Adam added.

“If it seems like a client is patched to current levels, then we know to check for injections.” claimed Nathan, penetration tester for MSI. “Throw a simple tick into forms and the vulnerable ones ‘shine like a crazy diamond’. From there, we are a few quick steps from compromise!”, Nathan exclaimed.

Adam and Nathan both agree that organizations really need to pay attention to injections and other web application vulnerabilities on their internal networks. Given the threats of insider attacks, this remains a significant risk. “Even applying the basic techniques that they have achieved success with outside on the Internet would help. They just have to teach developers that internal apps matter as much, if not more, than Internet apps.” added Adam.

At MSI, our teams go well beyond the “scan and report” that so many vendors call a “penetration test”. We perform active exploitation and leverage those vulnerabilities to identify the true depth of the security issues we find, in addition to the width that comes from vulnerability assessment. Our approach, experience and methodology create the clearest and most realistic view of your security issues available. From normal OS exploits to SQL injections and bleeding edge threat vectors, our team brings unique capabilities to the table and our award-winning reporting ensures that the clarity carries through to the board room.

To learn more about internal network assessments, or to receive some free technical training tools about SQL injections, please give us a call or drop us a line/comment. We look forward to helping your team better secure your own internal web apps and other attack targets against compromise.

25% off HoneyPoint Security Server, Plus 0% Financing For April

This is no joke, or at least if it is, then the joke is on us. 🙂

For the entire month of April, we are offering a 25% discount off the retail prices for HoneyPoint Security Server for new customers. In addition to that, you can extend our 0% financing option to pay in monthly payments over the life of your support agreement up to 3 years! Plus, as promised in earlier posts, anyone who purchases HPSS by the end of April will receive 3 free licenses for HoneyBees once they are released!

The product is now licensed per server, in anticipation of the 3.0 release which is in lab testing as I write this announcement. All licenses include one console license on the platform of your choice (Linux, Windows, OS X). Licenses include one year of our acclaimed support and HoneyPoint upgrades. Maintenance year 2 and beyond is 20% of purchase price.

Here are some pricing examples for you to consider:

The base entry point is a 5 server license pack. The retail price for this pack is $4,995.00. During April, you can purchase the pack for just $3,746.25. Additional years of maintenance (up to 2 for a total of 3 years of support and maintenance) are just $749.25 per year. That means that if you buy a 5 server license with two years of maintenance, you can purchase it in April for $5,244.75. Furthermore, you could apply our 0% financing program and spread that amount over 36 months for a monthly payment of just $145.69!

For less than $150 per month, you can achieve incredible security visibility, additional protections against malware and the insider threat and enjoy the power of HoneyPoint’s “deploy and forget” (sm) approach to reducing the workload of your security team!

Here is another example. Our most popular HPSS package is our 25 server protection pack. The pack retail price is $15,975.00 and includes the same one year of support and upgrades. During the month of April, you can purchase this pack for just $11,981.25, while additional years of support/upgrades will run $2,396.25 per year. Using the same 0% financing approach as above you could purchase protection for 25 servers along with 2 additional years of support/upgrades for a total of $16,773.75 or $465.94 per month for 36 months!

In this common case, less than $500 per month can bring you the flexibility of HoneyPoint plugins, the self-defending mechanisms of HornetPoints and the insight that can only be achieved by knowing attacker frequency, capability and motivation.

And, of course, if you are an enterprise, we have the same deal for you too. You can leverage the power that we bring to integrate into existing security architectures and see the 90% savings we have brought to clients in terms of security resources as well. Give us a call and we would be happy to discuss your specific network size, implementations and HoneyPoint needs.

So, check out HoneyPoint. Give us a call to arrange a demo, or better yet, try out our HoneyPoint Personal Edition to see the technology in action. (Take a look at the included HPPE/HPSS document for ideas on how to test the product with HPSS in mind.) Then, give us a call or drop us a line and get the power of the Hive on your side. With HoneyPoint, attackers get stung instead of you.

Note: Purchase orders must be received by April 30, 2009 to qualify for this special offer.