Cyber-tales update from the quarantined side: March 92, 2020.

Most folks around the world have been in lockdown now for around three months! And you’ll have heard mention of a certain movie over those last three months, I’m sure, plenty; but here’s a new take on it: Groundhog Day is no longer a fun film! Then there’s the ‘damned if you’re good, damned if you’re bad’ thing with the weather: it stays bad and wet and wintry: that’s an extra downer for everyone (in addition to lockdown); it gets good and dry and summery: that’s a downer for everyone also, as no one can go out for long to enjoy it!

Still, I guess that maybe it’s some consolation that most all of us are going through the same thing sat at home. Maybe. But that’s us – good/normal folks. What about cyber-evil? How have they been ‘coping’, cooped up at home? Well, the other week I gave you some stats and trends about that. Today I want to follow that up with an update – for, yes, the cyber-baddies move fast. // Oh, and btw – if you’re interested in more cyber-tales from the dark side, aka I-news, check out this archives tag.

First off, a few more statistics – updated ones; reassuring ones at that…

March, and then even more so – April – saw large jumps in overall cybercriminal activity; however, May has since seen a sharp drop back down – to around the pre-corona levels of January-February:

At the same time we’ve been seeing a steady decline in all coronavirus-connected malware numbers:

// By ‘coronavirus-connected malware’ is meant cyberattacks that have used the coronavirus topic in some way to advance its criminal aims.

So, it would appear the news is promising. The cyber-miscreants are up to their mischief less than before. However, what the stats don’t show is – why; or – what are they doing instead? Surely they didn’t take the whole month of May off given its rather high number of days-off in many parts of the world, including those for celebrating the end of WWII? No, can’t be that. What then?…

Read on…

Cyber-yesteryear – pt. 3: 1992-199x.

Just in case you missed the first two, this is the third episode of my cyber-yesteryear chronicles. Since I’m in lockdown like most folks, I have more time on my hands to be able to have a leisurely mosie down cyberseKurity memory lane. Normally I’d be on planes jetting here, there and everywhere for business and tourisms – all of which normally takes up most of my time. But since none of that – at least offline/in person – is possible at the moment, I’m using a part of that unused time instead to put fingers to keyboard for a steady stream of personal / Kaspersky Lab / cyber-historical nostalgia: in this post – from the early to mid-nineties.

Typo becomes a brand

In the very beginning, all our antivirus utilities were named following the ‘-*.EXE’ template. That is, for example, ‘-V.EXE’ (antivirus scanner), ‘-D.EXE’ (resident monitor), ‘-U.EXE’ (utilities). The ‘-‘ prefix was used to make sure that our programs would be at the very top of a list of programs in a file manager (tech-geekiness meets smart PR moves from the get go?:).

Later, when we released our first full-fledged product, it was named ‘Antiviral Toolkit Pro’. Logically, that should have been abbreviated to ‘ATP’; but it wasn’t…

Somewhere around the end of 1993 or the beginning of 1994, Vesselin Bontchev, who’d remembered me from previous meet-ups (see Cyber-yesteryear – pt. 1), asked me for a copy of our product for testing at the Virus Test Center of Hamburg University, where he worked at the time. Of course, I obliged, and while zip-archiving the files I accidentally named the archive AVP.ZIP (instead of ATP.ZIP), and off I sent it to Vesselin unawares. Some time later Vesselin asked me for permission to put the archive onto an FTP server (so it would be publically available), to which I obliged again. A week or two later he told me: ‘Your AVP is becoming really rather popular on the FTP!’

‘What AVP?’, I asked.
‘What do you mean ‘What AVP’? The one you sent me in the archive file, of course!’
‘WHAT?! Rename it right away – that’s a mistake!’
‘Too late. It’s already out there – and known as AVP!’

And that was that: AVP we were stuck with! Mercifully, we (kinda) got away with it – Anti-Viral toolkit Pro. Like I say – kinda ). Still, in for a penny, in for a pound: all our utilities were renamed by dropping the ‘-‘ prefix and putting ‘AVP’ in its place – and it’s still used today in some of the names of our modules.

First business trips – to Germany for CeBIT

In 1992, Alexey Remizov – my boss at KAMI, where I first worked – helped me in getting my first foreign-travel passport, and took me with him to the CeBIT exhibition in Hannover in Germany. We had a modest stand there, shared with a few other Russian companies. Our table was half-covered with KAMI transputer tech, the other half – our antivirus offerings. We were rewarded with a tiny bit of new business, but nothing great. All the same, it was a very useful trip…

Our impressions of CeBIT back then were of the oh-my-grandiose flavor. It was just so huge! And it wasn’t all that long since Germany was reunified, so, to us, it was all a bit West Germany – computer-capitalism gone bonkers! Indeed – a cultural shock (followed up by a second cultural shock when we arrived back in Moscow – more on that later).

Given the enormity of CeBIT, our small, shared stand was hardly taken any notice of. Still, it was the proverbial ‘foot in the door’ or ‘the first step is the hardest’ or some such. For it was followed up by a repeat visit to CeBIT four years later – that time to start building our European (and then global) partner network. But that’s a topic for another day post (which I think should be interesting especially for folks beginning their own long business journeys).

Btw, even as far back as then, I understood our project was badly in need of at least some kind of PR/marketing support. But since we had, like, hardly two rubles to rub together, plus the fact that journalists had never heard of us, it was tricky getting any. Still, as a direct result of our first trip to CeBIT, we managed to get a self-written piece all about us into the Russian technology magazine ComputerPress in May 1992: home-grown PR!

Fee-fi-fo-fum, I smell the dollars of Englishmen!

My second business trip was in June-July of the same year – to the UK. One result of this trip was another article, this time in Virus Bulletin, entitled The Russians Are Coming, which was our first foreign publication. Btw – in the article ’18 programmers’ are mentioned. There were probably 18 folks working at KAMI overall, but in our AV department there were just the three of us.

London, June 1992

Read on…

Flickr photostream

Instagram photostream

The world’s cyber-pulse during the pandemic.

Among the most common questions I get asked during these tough times is how the cyber-epidemiological situation has changed. How has cybersecurity been affected in general by the mass move over to remote working (or not working, for the unlucky ones, but also sat at home all the time). And, more specifically, what new cunning tricks have the cyber-swine been coming up with, and what should folks do to stay protected from them?

Accordingly, let me summarize it all in this here blogpost…

As always, criminals – including cybercriminals – closely monitor and then adapt to changing conditions so as to maximize their criminal income. So when most of the world suddenly switches to practically a full-on stay-at-home regime (home working, home entertainment, home shopping, home social interaction, home everything, etc.!), the cybercriminal switches his/her tactics in response.

Now, for cybercriminals, the main thing they’ve been taking notice of is that most everyone while in lockdown has greatly increased the time they spend on the internet. This means a larger general ‘attack surface’ for their criminal deeds.

In particular, many of the folks now working from home, alas, aren’t provided with quality, reliable cyber-protection by their employers. This means there are now more opportunities for cybercriminals hacking into the corporate networks the employees are hooked up to, leading to potentially very rich criminal pickings for the bad guys.

So, of course, the bad guys are going after these rich pickings. We see this evidenced by the sharp increase in brute-force attacks on database servers and RDP (technology that allows, say, an employee, to get full access to their work computer – its files, desktop, everything – remotely, e.g., from home) ->

Read on…

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Six simple brainteasers.

Brainteasers, riddles, conundrums – they come in all sorts of types: from easy to ~impossible, those requiring logic, math, geometry, and/or plenty of other skills and competencies. But those tricky types – requiring higher mathematics, complex space, and formulas several pages long – you won’t find any of those in this blogpost. Here, they range from real simple to average-hard, since the last one – the Sudoku – was rather tough. So, without further ado, here are the six…

Poser No. 1

You have two pieces of string of differing lengths. If burned from one end, they both burn for exactly one hour. The speed of the burning varies all the time: for example, half may burn in almost the full hour, then the other half burns up in minutes; or the other way round. You have at your disposal only the two lengths of string and one cigarette lighter, nothing else. What you need to do is determine when 45 minutes is up.

Poser No. 2

You have some graph paper with 10 by 10 squares on it. You cut out the square in the top left and top right corners; that is – one square from two opposing corners. Now the question: how do you cover the whole of the surface with 2×1 dominoes? That is, how do you place (100-2)/2 = 49 dominoes on the graph paper (with just one level of dominoes) so that everything is covered?

Poser No. 3

One night I dreamed of a number – a very unusual number. It was a 10-digit number. The first digit is equivalent to the number of zeros in the number. The second digit = the quantity of ones in the number, the third – the quantity of twos, … , and the last = the quantity of nines. Like I say, a very unusual number. The problem is – I forgot the number once I’d woken up! Question: what is the number?

Poser No. 4

This one’s to test the quickness of your wits. There’s symmetry here – almost:

30 – 33 = 3

One numeral needs to be moved to make the symmetry perfect. Which. And the ‘-‘ and ‘=’ don’t count. 

Poser No. 5

You have a cylinder, around which some thin wire is carefully wound. The wire was sufficient for four windings round the cylinder – from one end to the other – as in the pic. The length of the cylinder is 12 centimeters, the circumference of the cylinder is 4 centimeters. What is the length of the wire?

Poser No. 6. 

You have a huge cake for you and 100 of your colleagues (before/after lockdown). The colleagues line up for a slice. The first colleague takes a mere 1% slice, the second – a 2% slice: 2% of the remaining cake. The third – 3% of remaining cake, and so on, until, the last colleague – the 100th – takes all that’s left. Question: who cut themselves the largest slice?

 

All these brainteasers are doable in your head. You can of course use a pen and pad, but they won’t really help.

All righty – good luck!

And the most precise, witty, unexpected and other ‘most, mostest’ answers will get a prize: some serious antivirus protection – a boxless (contactless) version ).

Tasmania – the video collection.

NB: with this post – about a place I visited before the lockdown – I want to bring you some positivism, beauty, and reassurance that we’ll all get a chance to see great different places again. Meanwhile, I encourage you not to violate the stay-at-home regime. Instead, I hope you’re using this time for catching up on what you never seemed to find the time to do… ‘before’ :).

Yes, I know: I wrote how yesterday’s post was the last on Tasmania. But I’d forgotten about all the video material my travel companion, OA, had taken along the way! Plenty of it too – two hours worth, all shot on his smartphone. So, herewith, an opportunity to get the popcorn in, dim the lights, and go over the whole trip once more enjoy a video version of the very ‘greatest hits’ of our Tasmanian road/walk/chopper tour!…

Oh those Tasmanian hairpin bends!

Read on…

Tasmania in a chopper.

NB: with this post – about a place I visited before the lockdown – I want to bring you some positivism, beauty, and reassurance that we’ll all get a chance to see great different places again. Meanwhile, I encourage you not to violate the stay-at-home regime. Instead, I hope you’re using this time for catching up on what you never seemed to find the time to do… ‘before’ :).

Tasmania – done, at least in terms or a road trip therearound, plus much trekking along its peninsulas. The only thing still not done – chopper ride!…

First up – Tasmanian forest. You can see here how a swathe had been cut down, then replanted. I bet this is something to do with the very active logging that goes on on the island – done wisely: cut down, then plant some more in their place.

Read on…

Sudoku… for bored, locked-down boffins.

What? Bored? Surely not! Surely you’re reading those novels you kept putting off, that autobiography; fixing that faucet, finally getting round to that long-overdue spring clean, no?!

Ok, let’s say you’ve done all such things (or not). And now it’s back to ‘bored’. Well here’s something a bit different to end that boredom – at least for… a few days: a particularly tricky spot of Sudoku!

Now, before the knee-jerk groaning and eye-rolling, just let me explain. This isn’t your usual easy Sudoku you get in those Sudoku magazines. Oh no. This one was sent to me with the comment: ‘The most difficult Sudoku there is!’. Fine by me – the harder the better!

Thing is, I’d never done a Sudoku before. Talk about ‘in at the deep end’! Still, I had plenty of time to focus on it, and only it – on my long-haul flight from Australia in March after the Tasmanian tour. And I seemed to pick it up fairly quickly. Well, relatively: as I was an absolute beginner it actually took me… around the whole flight; i.e., about a day! So, be warned – this isn’t something you’ll get done in minutes, even hours. And for the beginners among you, I recommend reading up on the rules first, and then to do some simpler ones first to get some practice in and get up to speed.

Meanwhile, for you pros out there, here you go; knock yourself out! ->

Ahoy, Cape Hauy!

NB: with this post – about a place I visited before the lockdown – I want to bring you some positivism, beauty, and reassurance that we’ll all get a chance to see great different places again. Meanwhile, I encourage you not to violate the stay-at-home regime. Instead, I hope you’re using this time for catching up on what you never seemed to find the time to do… ‘before’ :).

Onward we stroll, on the last day of our trek along Three Capes Track on the Tasman Peninsula. On today’s menu – getting to Cape Hauy. Over there… ->

At first it was the usual sturdy path with super views, but a bit later we entered a really strange wood…

Read on…

Unsecure ATMs should be quarantined too!

Each year, accompanied by travel companions, I tend to take more than a hundred flights all around the world. And practically everywhere these days we always pay by card or phone, and mostly contactless like Apple or Google Pay. In China you can even pay via WeChat when you’re at the market buying fruit and veg from grannies. And the sadly famous biovirus makes the use of virtual money more popular even still.

At the other end of the spectrum, you get the odd surprise: in Hong Kong, of all places, you need to pay cash for a taxi – always! In Frankfurt, of all places, last year in two separate restaurants they only took cash too. EH?!! We had to go on a long search for an ATM and withdraw euros instead of enjoying our post-dinner brandy. The inhumanity! :) Anyway, all this goes to prove that, despite there being progressive payment systems in place all around the globe, there still appears to be a need for the good old ATM everywhere too, and it looks like that need won’t be going away any time soon.

So what am I driving at here? Of course, cybersecurity!…

ATMs = money ⇒ they’ve been hacked, they’re getting hacked, and they’ll continue to be hacked – all the more. Indeed, their hacking is only getting worse: research shows how from 2017-2019 the number of ATMs attacked by malware more than doubled (by a factor of ~2.5).

Question: can the inside and outside of an ATM be constantly monitored? Surely yes, may well have been your answer. Actually, not so…

There are still plenty of ATMs in streets, in stores, in underpasses, in subway/metro stations with a very slow connection. They barely have enough broadband for managing transactions; they hardly get round to keeping watch of what’s going on around them too.

So, given this lack of monitoring because of the network connection, we stepped in to fill the gap and raise the security level of ATMs. We applied the best practices of optimization (which we’re masters of – with 25 years of experience), and also radically brought down the amount of traffic needed by our dedicated ‘inoculation jab’ against ATM threats – Kaspersky Embedded Systems Security, or KESS.

Get this: the minimum speed requirement for an internet connection for our KESS is… 56 kilobits (!!!) a second. Goodness! That’s the speed my dial-up modem in 1998!

Just to compare, the average speed of 4G internet today in developed nations is from between 30,000 and 120,000 kilobits per second. And 5G promises 100 million-plus kbps (hundreds of gigabits) (that is, if they don’t destroy all the masts before then). But don’t let prehistoric internet speeds fool you: the protection provided couldn’t be better. Indeed, many an effective manager could learn a thing or two from us about optimization without loss of quality.

Read on…

Blade Runner, Tasmanian version.

NB: with this post – about a place I visited before the lockdown – I want to bring you some positivism, beauty, and reassurance that we’ll all get a chance to see great different places again. Meanwhile, I encourage you not to violate the stay-at-home regime. Instead, I hope you’re using this time for catching up on what you never seemed to find the time to do… ‘before’ :).

Onward we marched, along Three Capes Track. The time had come to visit Cape Pillar, from which mind-blowing views like this are to be enjoyed:

Around half of the seven kilometers to get there are walked along this elevated wooden path:

Read on…