Tag Archives: i-news

Cyber-tales from the dark (and light) side: audacious crypto hack, K goes neuromorphic, and how to enter a data-center via a… toilet!

Hi folks!

For those still sweating it out in the office, not lucky enough to have left for some serious digital detox vacationing, herewith, to keep your mind off the heat, some juicy iNews, aka Dark (and Light) Tales from the Cyber Side – yet more extraordinary, hard-to-believe stories from the world of cybersecurity.

Crypto-decrepito

The gaming community will no doubt recall how, this spring, Axie Infinity, the online crypto-game (perhaps most notable for permitting virtual winnings to be exchanged into real money), suffered one of the largest robberies of all time. It appears highly likely that North Korean hackers broke into the Ronin blockchain that controls the game, and proceeded to steal around $625 million (the exact figure varies depending on the source) from users’ accounts! The incident went unannounced for a time, highlighting the vulnerability of the game’s security system, and putting the reputation of its developer behind – Sky Mavis – on the line too.

Oh my gigantic sum! But wait – that’s not all; there’s more!…

Earlier this month it was revealed precisely how the hackers managed to break into the blockchain. Are you sitting down?!…

Several months ago fake employees of a fake company on LinkedIn sent info about fake job vacancies to employees of Sky Mavis. A senior Axie Infinity developer decided to apply. He even got through several rounds of (fake) interviews, after which he was offered an extremely attractive (fake) salary and benefits package. Basically, he was made an offer he couldn’t refuse.

Said offer eventually arrived in the developer’s inbox in the form of a pdf document, which he had no qualms about downloading and opening on his work computer. And that was that – the bad guys were in. Henceforth it was all just a matter of technique: an espionage program infiltrated Ronin, via which they were able to seize four of the nine validators that protect the network. Access to the fifth validator (needed to complete the hack and then steal all the money) was gained by the hackers via the Axie Decentralized Autonomous Organization – a group set up to support the gaming ecosystem. Result – bingo; jackpot!

Read on…

For cyber-insurance – a watershed moment (involving a $1.4bn payout!)

Hi boys and girls!

It’s been a while since my last installment of iNews, aka – uh-oh cyber-news, aka – cyber-tales from the dark side, so here’s reviving the series to get back on track in giving you highlights of jaw-dropping cyber-astonishments you might not hear about from your usual sources of news…

In this installment – just one iNews item for you, but it’s plenty: an added item might have watered down the significance of this one (hardly appropriate when there’s ‘watershed’ in the title:)…

Briefly about the iNews: after lengthy legal proceedings in the U.S., a court has ruled in favor of big-pharma company Merck against its insurer for a payout of US$1.4 billion (!!) to cover the damages Merck suffered at the grubby hands of NotPetya (aka ExPetr or simply Petya) in 2017.

Quick rewind back to 2017…

In June of that year, all of a sudden a viciously nasty and technologically advanced encryptor worm – NotPetya – appeared and spread like wildfire. It initially targeted Ukraine, where it attacked victims via popular accounting software – affecting banks, government sites, Kharkov Airport, the monitoring systems of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant (!!!), and so on and so on. Next, the epidemic spread to Russia, and after that – all around the world. Many authoritative sources reckon NotPetya was the most destructive cyberattack ever. Which looks about right when you count the number of attacked companies (dozens of which each lost hundreds of millions of dollars), while overall damage to the world economy was estimated at a minimum 10 billion dollars!

One of the most notable victims of the global cyberattack was the U.S. pharmaceuticals giant Merck. It was reported 15,000 of its computers were zapped within 90 seconds (!) of the start of the infection, while its backup data-center (which was connected to the main network), was lost almost instantly too. By the end of the attack Merck had lost some 30,000 workstations and 7,500 servers. Months went into clearing up after the attack – at a cost of ~1.4 billion dollars, as mentioned. Merck even had to borrow vaccines from outside sources for a sum of $250 million due to the interruptions caused to its manufacturing operations.

Ok, background out the way. Now for the juiciest bit…

Read on…

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Cyber-tales from the dark side: unexpected vulnerabilities, hacking-as-a-service, and space-OS.

Our first month of summer in lockdown – done. And though the world seems to be opening up steadily, we at K decided to take no chances – remaining practically fully working-from-home. But that doesn’t mean we’re working any less effectively: just as well, since the cybercriminals sure haven’t been furloughed. Still, there’ve been no major changes to the global picture of threats of late. All the same, those cyberbaddies, as always, have been pulling cybertricks out of their hats that fairly astonish. So here are a few of them from last month.

A zero-day in ‘super-secure’ Linux Tails 

Facebook sure knows how to spend it. Turns out it spent a very six-figure sum when it sponsored the creation of a zero-day exploit of a vulnerability in the Tails OS (= Linux, specially tuned for heightened privacy) for an FBI investigation, which led to the catching of a pedophile. It was known for some time beforehand that this deranged paranoiac used this particular – particularly secure – operating system. FB’s first step was to use its strength in mapping accounts to connect all the ones the criminal used. However, getting from that cyber-victory to a physical postal address didn’t work out. Apparently, they ordered development of an exploit for a video-player application. This choice of software made sense as the sex-pest nutcase would ask of his victims’ videos and would probably watch them on the same computer.

It’s been reported that developers at Tails weren’t informed about the vulnerability exploited, but then it turned out that it was already patched. Employees of the company are keeping shtum about all this, but what’s clear is that a vulnerability-to-order isn’t the best publicity. There does remain some hope that the exploit was a one-off for a single, particularly nasty low-life, and that this wouldn’t be repeated for a regular user.

The takeaway: no matter how super-mega-secure a Linux-based project claims to be, there’s no guarantee there are no vulnerabilities in it. To be able to guarantee such a thing, the whole basic working principles and architecture of the whole OS need overhauling. Erm, yes, actually, this is a cheeky good opportunity to say hi to this ).

Hacking-as-a-service 

Here’s another tale-from-the-tailor-made-cyber-nastiness side. The (thought-to-be Indian) Dark Basin cybercriminal group has been caught with its hand in the cyber-till. This group is responsible for more than a thousand hacks-to-order. Targets have included bureaucrats, journalists, political candidates, activists, investors, and businessmen from various countries. Curiously, the hackers from Delhi used really simple, primitive tools: first they simply created phishing emails made to look like they’re from a colleague or friend, cobbled together false Google News updates on topics interesting to the user, and sent similar direct messages on Twitter. Then they sent emails and messages containing shortened links to credential-phishing websites that look like genuine sites, and that was that – credentials stolen, then other things stolen. And that’s it! No complex malware or exploits! And btw: it looks like the initial information about what a victim is interested in always came from the party ordering the cyber-hit.

Now, cybercrime-to-order is popular and has been around for ages. In this case though the hackers took it to a whole other – conveyor – level, outsourcing thousands of hits.

Source

Read on…

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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…

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…

Cyber-news from the dark side: Er, who said you could sell my data?

January 28 is my aunt Olga’s birthday. It also happens to be Data Privacy Day. And my aunt Olga still isn’t aware! But she should be! For digital data is the currency of the new millennium. Accumulated knowledge of trillions of clicks and transactions – it’s a gold mine for any business. And multimillion-dollar businesses – lots of them – are based on the sale of these cyber-resources.

Global IT companies have more access to personal data than do countries. As a result, this topic is extremely important; it’s also toxic.

And, wherever there’s money – there are always bad guys. Cyber-bad-guys getting up to no good with folks’ data are forever multiplying in numbers. But even respectable companies may get up to no good with folks’ data too, and they seem to get away with – mostly. But more on that later…

Now, I’d like to ask a simple question – one to which, at least in global IT, there is no answer yet: ‘What is good and what is bad?’ I mean: where is the line between universal human morals and business ethics? Where is that fine line?

Alas, the question of cyber-ethics and cyber-morals is a very ambiguous one. Meanwhile, I can assure you that with the introduction of 5G and further sharp increases in the number of IoT devices, our data will be collected all the more. And more, and more…

Now for some detail: broken down into the main, most-pressing, interesting matters:

Lawyers, lawmakers, journalists, politicians, pundits, social commentators, philosophers… – not one of them can answer this question: ‘Who does data belong to?’ To users? To governments? To businesses? It would nice to think that users’ personal data belongs to those users themselves; at least up until when they may decide to voluntarily share it: when they fill in a form on a website, enter their name, telephone number and email to register for a newsletter, or thoughtlessly place a check in an app without reading through the small print of a lengthy legal agreement. Formally, from that moment on we give certain third parties the legal ability to handle our data, analyze it, sell it and whatever else is written (but rarely read) in the respective agreement. So does that mean that from that moment the data belongs to those third parties, too?

Much of the problem lies in the fact that the term ‘personal data’ is very vague and ephemeral – not only from the standpoint of the user but also from the legal one. Laws often can’t keep up with technological development. Nevertheless, on the whole over recent years the tendency has been clear: new laws being passed on the protection of personal data and the updating of existing legislation. In parallel, people’s attitudes toward personal data and privacy have become a lot more serious – something that of course I’m very happy to see.

Enough of my ‘intro’; let’s move on to the main dish…

Last week there was quite the scandal reported in the press involving Avast, one of the major players in the AV market.

Vice published an expose detailing how Avast has for years been giving data of its users that it collects to one of its subsidiaries – Jumpshot – which in turn then sells it to third-party companies. Those third-party companies thus got access to information on the online behavior of users: what websites were visited, movements from sites to sites, GPS coordinates of users of Google Maps, YouTube viewing histories, and lots more besides. And though the data wasn’t associated with specific individuals, IP addresses or emails – in other words it was anonymous – the data did come with identifiers, which keep working up until when a user may delete their Avast antivirus from their computer

Of course, this is nothing short of scandalous from an ethical point of view. We here at K have never allowed such a thing to happen, and never would; and we firmly believe that any earnings made from data of your users is simply beyond the pale.

The epilogue of this sorry tale was a formal apology from Avast’s CEO, in an announcement about the termination of Jumpshop. In my view, that was the only appropriate thing to do. I understand it mustn’t have been easy, and there will have been big financial losses, but still. Well done for doing the right thing in the end.

For us, the matter of data storage and its usage has long been a priority. Back in 2017 we launched our Global Transparency Initiative, moved our data processing for European users (plus other countries) to Zurich, since then have opened two more Transparency Centers, and are soon to open two more. Projects like this aren’t cheap; but we feel we simply must set new standards of openness and a serious attitude to personal data.

More details about our principles of data processing, about how our cloud-based KSN works, anonymization of data, and other important things you can find here. But I just want to add, addressing all our users, that, rest assured: we never make any compromises with our conscience – ever.

Often, the collection and sale of data is carried out by free antivirus software, covering things like surveillance of users for advertising purposes and the trade in their confidentiality, all to make money. As you’ll know, we also have a free version of our AV, based on the same protection-tech as our other, paid-for products, whose effectiveness is constantly confirmed in independent tests. And though the functionality of the free version is rather stripped down, it’s still a piece of AV we’re very proud of, delivering users solid and reliable protection and leaking no personal data for advertisers. Users deserve the best protection – without annoying adverts and privacy trading. But I’ve been saying that years.

Something else I’ve been talking about for years is my own paranoid very serious attitude to my own personal data. One more time: I only ever give it out when it is wholly necessary, which I recommend you do too. I understand it’s difficult to fully realize the importance of this, when its so intangible and when the ‘price’ of our data is impossible to estimate. Just remember – every click, every site you visit – someone (rather – something), somewhere is making a record of it, and it never gets deleted. So come on folks, lets get serious about our digital footprint; and more serious about how we view the companies and products to which you entrust your personal – private – data.

PS: We recently launched a useful site with detailed recommendations for protecting your personal digital life. Here you can find the most important privacy settings for popular social networks, online services and operating systems. Have a look!

Cybernews: If Aramco had our Antidrone…; and honeypots to make IoT malware stop!

Hi folks!

Recently there was a Cyber News from the Dark Side item of oh-my-Gulf proportions. You’ll no doubt have heard about it as it was all over the news for days just recently. It was the drone attack on Saudi Aramco that took out millions of barrels of crude per day and caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage.

Alas, I’m afraid this is only the beginning. Remember those drones bringing Heathrow – or was it Gatwick? – to a standstill a while back? Well this is just a natural progression. There’ll be more, for sure. In Saudi, the Houthis claimed responsibility, but both Saudi and the US blame Iran; Iran denies responsibility. In short – same old saber-rattling in the Middle East. But that’s not what I want to talk about here – that’s geopolitics, which we don’t do, remember? ) No, what I want to talk about is that, as the finger-pointing continues, in the meantime we’ve come up with a solution to stop drone attacks like this one on Aramco. Soooo, ladies and gents, I hereby introduce to the world… our new Antidrone!

So how does it work?

The device works out the coordinates of a moving object, a neural network determines whether it’s a drone, and if it is, blocks the connection between it and its remote controller. As a result the drone either returns back to where it was launched, or it lands below where it is up in the sky when intercepted. The system can be stationary, or mobile – e.g., for installation on a motor vehicle.

The main focus of our antidrone is protection of critically important infrastructure, airports, industrial objects, and other property. The Saudi Aramco incident highlighted how urgently necessary such technology is in preventing similar cases, and it’s only going to become more so: in 2018 the world market for drones was estimated at $14 billion; by 2024 it’s forecast to be $43 billion!

Clearly the market for protection against maliciously-minded drones is going to grow too – fast. However, at the moment, our Antidrone is the only one on the Russian market that can detect objects by video using neural networks, and the first in the world to use laser scanning for tracking down the location of drones.

Read on…

i-Closed-architecture and the illusion of unhackability.

The end of August brought us quite a few news headlines around the world on the cybersecurity of mobile operating systems; rather – a lack of cybersecurity of mobile operating systems.

First up there was the news that iPhones have been getting attacked for a full two years (!) via a full 14 vulnerabilities (!) in iOS-based software. To be attacked, all a user had to do was visit one of several hacked websites – nothing more – and they’d never know anything about it.

But before all you Android heads start with the ‘nah nana nah nahs’ aimed at the Apple brethren, the very same week the iScandal broke, it was reported that Android devices had been targeted by (possibly) some of the same hackers who had been attacking iPhones.

It would seem that this news is just the next in a very long line of confirmations that no matter what the OS, there may always be vulnerabilities that can be found in it that can be exploited by certain folks – be they individuals, groups of individuals, or even countries (via their secret services). But there’s more to this news: it brings about a return to the discussion of the pros and cons of closed-architecture operating systems like iOS.

Let me quote a tweet first that ideally describes the status of cybersecurity in the iEcosystem:

In this case Apple was real lucky: the attack was discovered by white-hat hackers at Google, who privately gave the iDevelopers all the details, who in turn bunged up the holes in their software, and half a year later (when most of their users had already updated their iOS) told the world about what had happened.

Question #1: How quickly would the company have been able to solve the problem if the information had gone public before the release of the patch?

Question #2: How many months – or years – earlier would these holes have been found by independent cybersecurity experts if they had been allowed access to the diagnostics of the operating system?

To be frank, what we’ve got here is a monopoly on research into iOS. Both the search for vulnerabilities and analysis of apps are made much more difficult by the excessive closed nature of the system. The result is almost complete silence on the security front in iOS. But that silence does not actually mean everything’s fine; it just means that no one actually knows what’s really going on in there – inside those very expensive shiny slabs of aluminum and glass. Even Apple itself…

This state of affairs allows Apple to continue to claim it has the most secure OS; of course it can – as no one knows what’s inside the box. Meanwhile, as time passes – yet no independent experts can meaningfully analyze what is inside the box – hundreds of millions of users are just lying in wait helpless until the next wave of attacks hits iOS. Or, put another way – in pictures…:

Now, Apple, to its credit, does put a lot of time and money into increasing security and confidentiality with regard to its products and ecosystems on the whole. Thing is, there isn’t a single company – no matter how large and powerful – can do what the whole world community of cybersecurity experts can combined. Moreover, the most bandied-about argument for iOS being closed to third-party security solutions is that any access of independent developers to the system would represent a potential vector of attack. But that it just nonsense!

Discovering vulnerabilities and flagging bad apps is possible with read-only diagnostic technologies, which can expose malicious anomalies upon analysis of system events. However, such apps are being firmly expelled from the App Store! I can’t see any good reason for this beside fear of losing the ‘iOS research monopoly’… oh, and of course the ability to continue pushing the message that iOS is the most secure mobile platform. And this is why, when iUsers ask me how they’re supposed to actually protect their iDevices, I have just one simple stock answer: all they can do is pray and hope – because the whole global cybersecurity community just ain’t around to help ).

Cyber-news: nuclear crypto mining.

Hi folks!

The i-news section is back with a bang after the summer holidays. Straightaway there’s some hot industrial cybersecurity news.

In case anybody missed my posts about how I spent this summer, here you go. Meanwhile, how some of the personnel at the South Ukraine Nuclear Power Plant spent their summer was reported in recent crime-related news. Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) recently terminated cryptocurrency mining at the power plant’s restricted access facilities. This, erm, extra-curricular activity resulted in the leak of top-secret information about the power plant’s physical security. This is not only pretty depressing but also downright scary.

source

According to expert forecasts, the ICS market is set to reach $7 billion by 2024. Attacks on critical infrastructure are increasingly hitting the headlines. The recent Venezuela blackout, for example, immediately looked suspicious to me, and just a couple of days later it was announced that it was caused by a cyberattack.

This July, in collaboration with ARC Advisory Group, we published a lengthy report on the state of things in the industrial cybersecurity sphere. It’s a good read, with lots of interesting stuff in there. Here is a number for you to ponder on: in 2018, 52% of industrial cybersecurity incidents were caused by staff errors, or, in other words, because of the notorious human factor. Behind this number is a whole host of problems, including a shortage of professionals to fill key jobs, a lack of technical awareness among employees, and insufficient cybersecurity budgets. Go ahead and read the report – it’s free :)

Attention all those interested in industrial cybersecurity: you still have a few days (till August 30) to sign up for our annual Kaspersky Industrial Cybersecurity Conference 2019. This year, it’s being held from September 18-20 in Sochi, Russia. There’ll be presentations by over 30 international ICS experts, including yours truly. So, see you soon in sunny Sochi to talk about some serious problems and ways to deal with them!

Cyber-news from the dark side – cyber-hypocrisy, an eye for a Mirai, GCHQ-watching-you, and keeping BlueKeep at bay.

Hi folks!

Let’s kick off with some good news….

‘Most tested, most awarded’ – still ).

Just recently, the respected independent test lab AV-Comparatives released the results of its annual survey. Taking place at the end of 2018, the survey, er, surveyed 3000 respondents worldwide. Of the 19 questions asked of each, one was ‘Which desktop anti-malware security solution do you primarily use?‘. And guess which brand came top in the answers for Europe, Asia, and South/Central America? Yes: K! In North America we came second (and I’m sure that’s only temporary). In addition, in Europe we were chosen as the most frequently used security solution for smartphones. We’re also at the top of the list of companies whose products users most often ask to test, both in the ‘home’ segment and among antivirus products for business. Great! We like tests, and you can see why! Btw – here’s more detail on the independent tests and reviews that our products undergo.

“Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye;
and then shalt thou see clearly to cast the speck out of thy brother’s eye.”
Matthew 7:5

In May, yet another backdoor with features reeeaaal useful for espionage was discovered. In whose tech was the backdoor found? Russia’s? China’s? Actually – Cisco‘s (again)! Was there a hullabaloo about it in the media? Incessant front-page headlines and discussion about threats to national security? Talk of banning Cisco equipment outside the U.S., etc.? Oh, what, you missed it too?! Yet at the same time, Huawei’s international lynching is not only in full swing – it’s in full swing without such backdoors, and without any convincing evidence thereof whatsoever.

source

Read on…