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FBI Alert: Business Email Scam Losses Exceed $1.2 Billion

FBI Alert: Business Email Scam Losses Exceed $1.2 Billion | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it

The FBI, in a new alert, estimates that fraud losses linked to so-called business email compromise scams worldwide totaled more than $1.2 billion from October 2013 to August 2015. But some financial fraud experts say the losses from this largely overlooked threat could be even higher because the incidents often are not reported.


David Pollino, bank fraud prevention officer at Bank of the West, who calls these scams "masquerading" schemes, has warned of upticks in this type of wire fraud since January 2014.


In May, he predicted that losses linked to masquerading, or business email compromise attacks, in 2015 alone would exceed $1 billion. "This is a global fraud trend," he said.


In a white paper Bank of the West recently posted about this fraud trend, Pollino notes that masquerading attacks are among the top three fraud threats facing small businesses today.


"Masquerading is a payments scheme in which a fraudster impersonates a company executive or outside vendor and requests a wire transfer through a phone call or email to a company controller, or someone else with authority to wire funds," Pollino writes. "The controller will usually tell the business' bank to wire the funds because the email or phone call seems legitimate."


Fraudsters' social-engineering methods include sending these bogus requests to accounting departments with a sense of urgency, Pollino notes. To speed up payments, the fraudsters often ask the bank or credit union to bypass the normal out-of-band authentication and transaction verification processes in place for wires, especially those being sent to overseas accounts, he says.


"For the third consecutive year, three in five companies were targets of payments fraud," which includes BEC scams, Pollino points out, quoting statistics in the Association for Financial Professionals' 2015 Payments Fraud and Control Survey.


To mitigate risks associated with these scams, Pollino recommends that businesses:


  • Develop an approval process for high-dollar wire transfers;
  • Use a purchase order model for wire transfers, to ensure that all transfers have an order reference number that can be verified before approval;
  • Confirm and reconfirm transfers through out-of-band channels, such as a confirmation emails or SMS/texts; and
  • Notify the banking institution if a request for a transfer seems suspicious or out-of-the-norm.
FBI Alert

In its Aug. 27 alert, the FBI notes that most of the companies that have fallen victim to BEC scams have been asked to send urgent wires to foreign bank accounts, most of which are based in China and Hong Kong.


"The BEC scam continues to grow and evolve and it targets businesses of all sizes," the FBI notes. "There has been a 270 percent increase in identified victims and exposed loss since January 2015. The scam has been reported in all 50 states and in 79 countries."

From October 2013 through August 2015, the FBI estimates that some 7,066 U.S. businesses and 1,113 international businesses fell victim to this socially engineered scheme.

Quantifying Losses a Challenge

But quantifying losses from BEC scams has proven challenging because many of the incidents are not reported.


"Certainly these losses are understated, because many companies are not reporting them to the FBI due to embarrassment, lack of knowledge of where to turn, or the realization that there is no chance of retrieving their funds," says financial fraud expert Shirley Inscoe, an analyst at consultancy Aite. "So much money is being stolen through this scam that it is only going to continue, costing businesses billions of dollars."


In an effort to curb losses associated with these socially engineered schemes, Inscoe says financial institutions must educate their commercial customers about how these types of attacks are waged.


And she contends that the Asian banks to which these fraudulent wires are being sent should be held accountable. "Clearly, these banks are assisting in laundering these ill-gotten gains," she says. "An appeal could be made to their regulators to crack down on them from amoney-laundering perspective, but I have no idea how receptive the regulators would be to that avenue of action."


Dave Jevans, co-founder of the Anti-Phishing Working Group and chief technology officer of mobile security firm Marble Security, says federal law enforcement agencies have been strengthening their relationships with agencies in Asian markets to help curb some of this fraud.


"They can always work more closely with the financial institutions in these regions to monitor activity. However, it is really up to the originating companies and their U.S. financial institutions to solve this problem," he says. "Law enforcement is about investigating and arresting criminals. They are not a regulatory agency, nor are they a fraud-detection agency."

Preventive Measures

Jevans argues that the solution to the BEC problem is ensuring that businesses have stronger internal controls and targeted attack prevention on their email systems. "Banks can help their customers get educated, and can strengthen their validation processes and requirements when funds are being requested to be sent to new, untrusted accounts," he says. "Only focusing on overseas accounts won't solve the problem, and many of the smaller BEC frauds are routed through money mule accounts here in the USA."


Tom Kellermann, chief cybersecurity officer at the security firm Trend Micro, says businesses have to understand that bypassing banks' procedures for wire-transfer confirmation is exposing them to fraud.

"Internal procedures should change to ensure that all requests for the transfer of funds be verified," Kellermann says.


Kellermann says businesses' employees should be trained to carefully examine the URLs from which emails are sent. Spoofed email addresses, for instance, will be slightly different yet resemble legitimate email addresses. And he says all external wire transfers should be required to have some type of out-of-band confirmation, through a secondary email, phone call or SMS/text, before they are approved and scheduled.


Stronger email authentication and adoption of DMARC, the Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance initiative, could have a big impact on reducing fraud losses related to BEC, Kellerman contends.


Fraud expert Avivah Litan, an analyst at the consultancy Gartner, says identify-proofing technology, which requires that an online account user provide a headshot or picture of a driver's license captured with a mobile phone, could make a difference.


More banking institutions are exploring identity-proofing to authenticate new-account customers, Litan says, by employing the same technology they use for the remote-deposit capture of check images from smart phones and PC scanners.


"Perhaps this technology for identity proofing and documents transfer [such as check images] can be rolled out to the customer sites," she says. "Now you start asking the person requesting the wire to prove who they are by saying, 'Sorry, CEO, but before I act on your instructions, I need to see your driver's license.'"

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Adobe patches Flash zero-day found in Hacking Team data breach

Adobe patches Flash zero-day found in Hacking Team data breach | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it

The massive Hacking Team data breach led to the release of 400GB worth of data including a zero-day vulnerability for Adobe Flash. Adobe has released an out-of-band patch for the flaw just two days after it was discovered.


The vulnerability was described by the Hacking Team in a readme file in the data dump as "the most beautiful Flash bug for the last four years". Accompanying the readme in the data was a proof-of-concept exploit of the flaw.


Adobe categorized the vulnerability (CVE-2015-5119) as critical and said it affects Flash Player versions 18.0.0.194 and earlier on Windows and Mac, and versions 11.2.202.468 and earlier on Linux. Successful exploitation of the flaw could allow remote code execution.


Security researcher Kafeine found that the vulnerability has already been added to the Angler, Fiddler, Nuclear and Neutrino exploit kits. Because of this, admins are recommended to apply the patch as soon as possible.


Also found in the Hacking Team data was another Adobe Flash zero-day (CVE-2015-0349), which was patched in April, and a zero-day affecting the Windows kernel. The inclusion of these zero-days has caused experts to question if these exploits are being used by Hacking Team clients, including law enforcement and governments.


"As many governments move to try and control malware and offensive security tools, some have been caught with their own hands in the cookie jar, leading many to wonder how and why governments and agencies listed as Hacking Team clients are using these tools and if they are doing so lawfully," said Ken Westin, security analyst for Tripwire. "Given the depth and amount of data compromised in this breach, it will reveal a great deal about the market for offensive tools designed for espionage with a great deal of fallout and embarrassment for some organizations."


Hacking Team spokesman Eric Rabe confirmed the breach and said that while law enforcement is investigating, the company suggests its clients suspend the use of its surveillance tools until it can be determined what exactly has been exposed.


In a new statement, Rabe warned that its software could be used by anyone because "sufficient code was released to permit anyone to deploy the software against any target of their choice.


"Before the attack, HackingTeam could control who had access to the technology that was sold exclusively to governments and government agencies," Rabe wrote. "Now, because of the work of criminals, that ability to control who uses the technology has been lost. Terrorists, extortionists and others can deploy this technology at will if they have the technical ability to do so. We believe this is an extremely dangerous situation."

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Hack Attack Grounds Airplanes

Hack Attack Grounds Airplanes | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it

Polish airline LOT claims that a hack attack disrupted the state-owned airline's ground-control computers, leaving it unable to issue flight plans and forcing it to cancel or delay flights, grounding 1,400 passengers.


The airline said the June 21 cyber-attack against its IT systems at Warsaw Chopin airport lasted about five hours and affected the computers that it uses to issue flight plans. "As a result, we're not able to create flight plans and outbound flights from Warsaw are not able to depart," the company said in a statement.


But the airline emphasized that the attack had "no influence on plane systems" and that no in-progress flights were affected by the incident. It also said that all flights bound for Warsaw were still able to land safely. The IT disruption did, however, result in the airline having to cancel 10 flights - destined for locations inside Poland, to multiple locations in Germany, as well as to Brussels, Copenhagen and Stockholm - and then delay 12 more flights.


An airline spokeswoman didn't immediately respond to a request for more information about the disruption, how LOT judged it to be a hack attack or who might be responsible. No group or individual appears to have taken credit for the disruption.


Airline spokesman Adrian Kubicki says that Polish law enforcement agencies are investigating the hack and warned that other airlines might be at risk from similar types of attacks. "We're using state-of-the-art computer systems, so this could potentially be a threat to others in the industry."

Follows Plane Hacking Report

It's been a busy year for airline-related hacking reports.

In May, information security expert Chris Roberts claimed to have exploited vulnerabilities in airplanes' onboard entertainment systems more than a dozen times in recent years, allowing him to access flight controls. Roberts claimed that his repeated warnings about the problems to manufacturers and aviation officials had resulted in no apparent fixes being put in place.

Question: Hack or IT Error?

Despite the presence of vulnerabilities in avionics systems, however, airline-related IT disruptions are often caused by internal problems, and some security experts are questioning whether that might be the case with the supposed cyber-attack against LOT. "The story doesn't make sense, and most of the actual info so far suggests a 'glitch' caused by an unauthorized user," says the Bangkok-based security expert who calls himself the Grugq, via Twitter.


On June 2, for example, a computer glitch grounded almost 150 United Airlines flights in the United States, representing about 8 percent of the company's planned morning flights. The airline blamed the problem on "dispatching information," and some fliers - such as software firm Cloudstitch CTO Ted Benson - reported via Twitter that pilots told passengers that the ground computers appeared to be spitting out fake flight plans.


As a result of the glitch, the Federal Aviation Administration reportedly grounded all United flights for 40 minutes, until related problems were corrected.

United Airlines Bug Bounty

That glitch followed United Airlines in May launching a bug bounty program - not for the software that runs its airplanes, in-flight entertainment systems, or ground-control computers, but rather its website. "If you think you have discovered a potential security bug that affects our websites, apps and/or online portals, please let us know. If the submission meets our requirements, we'll gladly reward you for your time and effort," United says on the bug bounty page.


Rather than offering cash rewards like many other bug-bounty programs, however, United is instead offering frequent-flier "award" miles - for example 50,000 miles for cross-site scripting attacks, 250,000 for authentication bypass attacks, and 1,000,000 for a remote-code execution attack.

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President Obama calls for stronger American cybersecurity

President Obama calls for stronger American cybersecurity | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it

Citing a series of embarrassinghigh profile incursions against US computer networks in recent months, President Obama called for "much more aggressive" efforts to shore up the government's vulnerable cyber-infrastructure. "This problem is not going to go away," the President told reporters at a G7 press conference in Germany. "It is going to accelerate. And that means that we have to be as nimble, as aggressive and as well-resourced as those who are trying to break into these systems." As such, he urged Congress to pass its pending cybersecurity legislation, such as the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2015.

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United Can't Even Be Bothered To Pay Money For Finding Security Bugs

United Can't Even Be Bothered To Pay Money For Finding Security Bugs | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it

Bug bounty programs are pretty common among tech firms: the likes of Facebook and Google (although notably not Apple) will offer you hundreds of thousands of dollars in order for exposing security flaws in their products. It’s a good system, and one United Airlines wants to use: just without offering cold, hard cash.

Instead, United is offering air miles as the reward for the fruits of your labor. Sure, you can’t feed a family, or pay your internet bill with United miles — but you can at least fly to Europe whilst losing all feeling in your feet! United is offering 50,000 miles (cash equivalent: about $1000) for small flaws, like cross-site scripting, 250,000 miles for authentication bypass, and a million miles if you can remotely execute code.

Notably, eligible bugs are limited to United’s customer-facing websites and apps: onboard Wi-Fi, avionics, and entertainment systems are off-limits. That’s not surprising, given United’s previous response to onboard hackers, but it does limit the program somewhat.


Although it’s good that United has a bug bounty system at all — they work well at preventing hacks from being used nefariously — it would be nice if United actually rewarded the work of security researchers with real money.



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How DNS is Exploited

How DNS is Exploited | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it

The Internet is a global engine of commerce today, but it was never designed with such grandiose applications in mind. In the underlying architecture of the Internet, hostility was never a design criterion, and this has been extensively exploited by criminals, who capitalize on the Domain Name System infrastructure - the map of the Internet - which is indispensable for the Internet as we know it to function.

"Right now the Internet is being used to transfer hundreds of billions of dollars per year from the productive part of the world's economy toward the unproductive part because it is such a gaping hole," says Internet pioneer and DNS thought leader Dr. Paul Vixie, CEO of Farsight Security, a provider of real-time passive DNS solutions that provide contextual intelligence to threat and reputation feeds.

The Internet was built without any thought of authentication, admission control or security, and so almost any application or website can be abused by a creative criminal, he says. But the DNS is proving essential to both the good guys and the bad guys - almost a unifying field theory.

"Everything you need to do on the Internet requires DNS - regardless of intent," says Vixie, who is also the principal author of version 8 of BIND, the most widely used DNS software on the Internet. "I think this makes DNS an interesting place to look for criminals and signs that criminals must leave," he says.

In part one of an exclusive two-part interview with Information Security Media Group (transcript below), Vixie talks about DNS and the impact it has on the Internet's security landscape. He shares insights on:

Part two of this interview will feature Vixie's views on the evolution of the Internet as an ecosystem that has evolved to make crime easier.

Vixie, CEO of Farsight Security, previously served as president, chairman and founder of the Internet Systems Consortium. He has served on the ARIN board of trustees since 2005, where he served as chairman in 2008 and 2009, and is a founding member of the ICANN Root Server System Advisory Committee and the ICANN Security and Stability Advisory Committee. He has been contributing to Internet protocols and UNIX systems as a protocol designer and software architect since 1980. He wrote Cron (for BSD and Linux), and is considered the primary author and technical architect of BIND 4.9 and BIND 8. He has authored or co-authored about a dozen Request for Comments, a publication of the principal technical development and standards-setting body for the Internet, the Internet Engineering Task Force - mostly on DNS and related topics. He was named to the Internet Hall of Fame in 2014.

Varun Haran: How are criminals exploiting DNS infrastructure to perpetrate crime today?

Dr. Paul Vixie: One main area where DNS is facilitating crime is denial-of-service attacks, where the purpose may be economic or ideological to prevent the victim from being able to use the Internet. This is achieved by filling their Internet connection with unsolicited traffic so that they cannot use their connection for good traffic.

Now, unfortunately, the Internet was designed by scientists and engineers to work in a completely friendly environment. Hostility was never one of the design criteria for the Internet. What that means is it is trivial to send packets forging someone else's address as the source. Which means that if you direct the packets forged with a victim's address towards a powerful server, a lot of response traffic will go to your victim. And because the victim did not solicit it, they cannot turn it off. This is a very popular attack, and anytime that you hear that Google or Spamhaus has been hit with a 400 Gbit/s DDoS attack, it is the exact same method being employed - IP source forgery.

This is not only something the Internet was designed without, it is something that the current Internet economy is resisting fixing, because in order to fix this problem, an ISP has to turn on some new features in their Internet routing equipment. Those features need to be tested, there needs to be documentation, there has to be monitoring, so there is a small cost - there may even be a performance cost in the routing equipment if you turn on this feature.

The cost is trivial, but not zero. The benefit that the operator will see, in exchange for that investment will be measurably zero, because what they are doing is protecting the rest of the Internet against their customers. So if an ISP does this, it is only for the greater good and it is very difficult to get an ISP - who has investors, shareholders, board of directors, management chain etc. - to act for the greater good at their own expense. It simply does not make good business sense to fix this problem.
Internet Vulnerabilities

Haran: The Internet wasn't designed for all the purposes it's being put to today. What are some of the security issues that the current nature of the Internet, in terms of infrastructure and architecture, gives rise to?

Vixie: I gave you one example, which is the lack of source address validation. But there are other admission control problems also. For example, there are control packets that you can transmit that can potentially interrupt other people's conversations. Various TCP and ICMP packets can be transmitted toward parts of the network that will respond by denying other people the ability to communicate for a few seconds.

This comes from when the Internet was just a collection of universities and government contractors. Everybody on the Internet for the first 10 years had a contract with the U.S. government. None of them had any incentive to transmit damaging traffic. The nature of the Internet took that into account. It was a very fragile network, which was intended only for mature computer science professionals to interact.

So, if we turn our attention now to spam, the email system has no admission control. Anyone can send an email to anyone. That was, in fact, an important design criteria to avoid central clearinghouses and make email an end-to-end activity. But what that means is that spammers are also endpoints and have the same right to transmit email to anyone. There is no differentiation, there is no privilege required.

Add to that the fact that, just like IP packets can have their sources forged, even email sources can be forged. And unless you are a technology expert or have a high-end email firewall appliance, you won't be able to tell the difference. This works at scale. Right now, the Internet is being used to transfer hundreds of billions of dollars per year from the productive part of the world's economy toward the unproductive part because it is such a gaping hole. The Internet is the backbone of global commerce today, and yet it was built without any thought of authentication, admission control or security, and so almost any application or website can be abused by a creative criminal.
The Internet's Map

Haran: You have said that DNS is like a unified field theory between the good guys and the bad guys. Can you elaborate? How indispensable is DNS to the structure of the Internet?

Vixie: If the Internet were a territory, the DNS would be its map. We who have grown up in a world that is completely mapped, completely discovered, find it impossible to conceptualize the idea of a territory without a map. Without DNS, the Internet would be a trackless wild, where things would exist but you wouldn't know how to get there or the cost of admission. So I mean it when I say that all Internet communication begins with a DNS transaction - at least in order for the initiator to discover the responder and to find out where to send the packets that will represent their conversation.

But there may be other things as well, such as looking up a key, so that they can build a secure conversation by sharing key-in information or for looking up directory servers for authentication and authorization. Pretty much everything you need to do on the Internet is going to be a TCP/IP session. And every TCP/IP session is going to begin with one or more DNS transactions. This is true regardless of your intent. You intent might be to create wealth, to innovate, to make the world a better place, or it could be that your intent is criminal and you want to lie, cheat, take, force, defraud and you have purposes which would be seen as evil in the eyes of your fellow man. Your intent does not matter - you are not going to be able to do anything on the Internet without DNS. And it is that that I think makes DNS such an interesting place to look for criminals and signs that criminals must leave.
DNS Response Rate Limiting

Haran: You are a strong advocate of DNS Response Rate Limiting, which is something that you have worked on yourself. What can you tell me about DNS RRL?

Vixie: In DNS, there are many different kinds of DNS agents. Some only ask questions and receive answers and some only provide answers. It is that second type that concerns rate limiting, because a server in the DNS - the so-called authority server, which is where DNS content comes from - must be very powerfully built, having a lot of capability. Otherwise, if someone sends you a DDoS, they will make your content unreachable because your network pipe would be full of attack traffic.

It is common to buy an extra-large connection to your authority servers and to buy not just one authority server, but maybe a dozen and put them behind load balancers, with redundant power and so forth, because you want to make sure that no matter what happens, you can address queries and your content is reachable.

The difficulty that this presents to the rest of us is that in DNS, a response is larger than a request and that means that you are a potential amplifier. And if you are hearing a question that was forged - the IP address used by the attacker is forged to become the IP address of their intended victim - then you as a very powerful content server would be willing to help that attacker DDoS that victim simply because you are a powerful content server, and you have to be powerful for reasons of your own.

So when we designed response rate limiting, it was to allow those servers to differentiate between attack flows and non-attack flows so that they would be not as usable as an amplifier of third-party attacks. The tricky part is that you have to be very careful not to drop legitimate queries. So there is a little bit of mathematical trickery involved in the DNS RRL system that helps to make sure that you can stop most DDoS attacks without causing collateral damage.

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Hackers have found a way to get into nearly every computer

Hackers have found a way to get into nearly every computer | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it

Hacking even the most secure data is easier than previously thought. This was evidenced by two researchers at the CanSecWest security conference in Vancouver last week.

The two computer security experts, Xeno Kovah and Corey Kallenberg, exhibited a proof-of-concept, showing how to hack into BIOS chips, which are microchips containing the firmware of a computer’s motherboard.

"The BIOS boots a computer and helps load the operating system," Wired explained. "By infecting this core software, which operates below antivirus and other security products and therefore is not usually scanned by them, spies can plant malware that remains live and undetected even if the computer’s operating system were wiped and re-installed. "

The attacks can be levied either through remote exploitation — such as phishing emails — or through “physical interdiction of a system,” Wired reports. The researchers discovered what they called "incursion vulnerabilities," giving them access to the BIOS. Once the BIOS is compromised, they can grant themselves the highest of system privileges. Then, they are able to gain all sorts of control over the system. This includes the ability to steal passwords as well as surveil other data. 

Kovah told Business Insider that of the 10,000 enterprise-grade machines they analyzed, 80% of them had at least one BIOS vulnerability.

Most alarming is that any and all data is up for grabs once the BIOS is compromised. This means encrypted data is accessible — even if the computer user is using privacy-oriented security software.

For example, the researchers said that the Tails system — a widely used OS known for its immense security — could be hijacked. Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald use Tails to share data. Kovah and Kallenberg say that their malware could subvert Tails making it possible to gain access to any of its data. 

The ramifications for computer security are huge. For one, it was previous thought that only the most well-equipped hacking guns, like deep-pocketed governments, were able to compromise BIOS chips. This was most recently evidenced by findings from the Kaspersky Lab, which discovered a series of attacks targeting computers' firmware from what appears to be the NSA.

Now, given that Kovah and Kallenberg were able to hack these chips without a billion dollar government budget, things have changed. Already vendors are working on patches to deal with the vulnerability, but there's no way to know what sort of damage has already been done.

While the vectors for attack are numerous, Kovah and Kallenberg hope their findings bring awareness to how critical firmware security truly is. At the very least, they hope this forces companies to patch their systems. As Kovah explained, even when new patches are issued, "we keep finding new vulnerabilities."


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Brave New World: The Future of Cyberspace & Cybersecurity

Brave New World: The Future of Cyberspace & Cybersecurity | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it

“Since this is a challenge that we can only meet together, I’m announcing that next month we’ll convene a White House summit on cybersecurity and consumer protection. It’s a White House summit where we’re not going to do it at the White House; we’re going to go to Stanford University. And it’s going to bring everybody together — industry, tech companies, law enforcement, consumer and privacy advocates, law professors who are specialists in the field, as well as students — to make sure that we work through these issues in a public, transparent fashion.” – President Barack Obama, Jan. 13, 2015.

The future of cyberspace and cybersecurity has been debated by many theorists and academicians have rendered opinions and studies on the topic. Cyberspace and cybersecurity issues have retaken the center stage of national and homeland security discourse after having taken a sideline to the natural reaction against al-Qaida’s 9/11 attack on the homeland. Despite the renewed sense of purpose and the recognized need to mitigate the ills found in cyberspace, the issue of cybersecurity and the way ahead remain as unclear and obscure since these same theorists and academicians were predicting an “electronic Pearl Harbor” in the 1990s and the events leading up to the hype posed by the Y2K bug.

The Obama administration’s renewed sense of purpose in dealing with cybersecurity issues by calling for the Summit on Cybersecurity and Consumer Protection at Stanford University promises to reinvigorate the discussion on a vital topic of national security. That said, this initiative also sounds oddly familiar to similar initiatives from past administrations voicing similar concerns.

In Brave New World, Aldous Huxley portrayed a dystopian future where mankind was largely driven by the need for pleasure as a means to distract them from the weightier issues of their everyday lives. Huxley also stated one universal truism in that, “Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted.”

In terms of cybersecurity, what have we taken for granted? The renewed focus on cyberspace and security issues, while laudable in the sense that it can promise a debate on issues that must be addressed, will ultimately fail if it does not fundamentally address the question: What are we taking for granted in terms of our understanding of cyberspace and cybersecurity? In other words, are we framing the current debate on flawed conceptions of the issue in general? Are our assumptions flawed? Without considering some of these questions, we risk missing the true and weightier questions that we need to address on an issue that is constantly changing in terms of its impact on humanity.

The question before us is a simple one, but harder in terms of envisioning or defining. As Anthony Codevilla and Paul Seabury clearly stated in their book War: Ends and Means: “Strategy is a fancy word for a road map for getting from here to there, from the situation at hand to the situation one wishes to attain.” While this does not mean that we need to quickly create another national strategy on cybersecurity or cyberspace with glossy photos and sweeping language that promises a utopian future, it does mean that we need to fundamentally address the more difficult question first, “What do we ultimately need to attain in terms of cybersecurity?”

In this sense, President Obama’s speech on the future of cyber issues is appropriately framed in that this really is a challenge that we can only meet together. Envisioning the future in a world that will become increasingly dominated by technology and the Digital Age also addresses the type of future that we want to create for subsequent generations. In short, what future are we giving our children and our grandchildren? While blatantly sophomoric, as a parent and grandparent, it also happens to be true.

By envisioning our future, we are forced to recognize where we are. The continued reports on data breaches, identity theft, insufficient cybersecurity protections for health care records, controversies over data retention by the U.S. government and private industry, terrorist recruitment via social media, and the implications of active targeting by foreign entities on U.S. intellectual property are just a few of the many concerns that define the cyberspace issue in the present age.

To date, we have embarked on a journey with no destination. We have not chartered the course to take us to where we want to go. As such, while we must bring national security specialists, policy-makers, private industry, academicians and civil liberty advocates together, we also need to recognize that these issues are the result of failed initiatives and incremental approaches to the overall topic of cyberspace and cybersecurity in general. If this incremental approach to cybersecurity remains unchecked, our generation will be the first to face the brave new world of cyberspace defined by the nefarious drivers that are presently framing the topic. As the noted philosopher, John Stuart Mill appropriately stated, “When we engage in a pursuit, a clear and precise conception of what we are pursuing would seem to be the first thing we need, instead of the last we are to look forward to.”

While the answers to this basic truism can take on a highly technical tone in terms of the development of cybersecurity standards, technologies and processes, the true nature of the answer centers on the ideals and cultural norms that we wish to preserve while advancing into the future that will be defined by technology. How do we preserve privacy in the Digital Age? What type of culture do we wish to establish for ourselves—innocent until proven guilty or questionable until we can verify who you are? What is the role of the government in terms of ensuring security and where does the responsibility for the private sector begin in terms of its obligation to protect its intellectual property?

The answers to these questions represent but a fraction of the answers that are necessary to define our future. The answers to these questions, however, are the ones that begin to define the parameters for how we get from here to there. The sooner we engage in this dialogue, the better off we will be in defining that future for subsequent generations.




Via Paulo Félix
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Should we hack the hackers? - The Guardian

Should we hack the hackers? - The Guardian | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it

If we’re losing the war against cybercrime, then should we take off the gloves and strike back electronically against hackers?

As banks reel from another major hacking revelation, a former US director of intelligence has joined some of them in advocating for online counterstrikes against cybercriminals.

In February, security firm Kaspersky detailed a direct hack against 100 banks, in a co-ordinated heist worth up to $1bn. This follows growing sentiment among banks, expressed privately, that they should be allowed to hack back against the cybercriminals penetrating their networks.

At February’s Davos forum, senior banking officials reportedly lobbied for permission to track down hackers’ computers and disable them. They are frustrated by sustained hacking campaigns from attackers in other countries, intent on disrupting their web sites and stealing their data.

Dennis Blair, former director of national intelligence in the Obama administration, has now spoken out in favour of electronic countermeasures, known in cybersecurity circles as hacking back, or strikeback.

Blair co-authored a 2013 report from the US Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property. It considered explicitly authorising strikeback operations but stopped short of endorsing this measure at the time.

Instead, the report suggested exploring non-destructive alternatives, such as electronically tagging stolen data for later detection. It also called for a rethinking of the laws that forbid hacking, even in self-defence.

Western law enforcers don’t have jurisdiction in the countries where cybercriminals operate. Ideally, they would pass information about hackers onto their counterparts there, said Blair, but in many cases local police are un-cooperative. It’s time to up the ante, he suggested.

“I am more leaning towards some controlled experiments in officially conducting aggressive cyber-tracking of where attacks come from, discovering their origin, and then taking electronic action against them,” he told the Guardian.

Legal problems

There’s just one problem with strikeback operations, said Mark Rasch, a former federal cybercrime prosecutor and the head of Maryland-based Rasch Technology and Cyber-law: it’s against the law. “You have to start with the general assumption that hacking back is most likely illegal,” he said.

Long-standing laws on both sides of the Atlantic clearly forbid unauthorised tampering with a computer, even if someone is using that computer to attack you. In the UK, the Computer Misuse Act sets those rules. In the US, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act does the same.

Even without this legislation, the law generally frowns upon what Rasch calls “self help”. Judges dislike vigilante justice.

The stakes are getting higher, though. Since the report’s release, corporate America has seen several devastating cyber-attacks. JP Morgan suffered a breach affecting 76 million households. Home Depot and Target were also hacked, and most recently, Sony Entertainment was embarrassed by the theft of internal documents.

“I’ve been seeing the way that technology is developing. I think it’s worth some limited legislation to post penalties back to hackers,” Mr Blair said, adding that companies should work with law enforcement rather than taking matters into their own hands.

“Law enforcement authorities can go back down the same route that [the hackers] use to attack, and cause physical damage to their equipment,” he added.



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Despite High-Profile Data Breaches, Fraud is Down

Despite High-Profile Data Breaches, Fraud is Down | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it

Home Depot, Staples, Neiman Marcus — 2014 was a blockbuster year for the high-profile data breaches, with at least $16 billion stolen from a reported 12.7 million fraud victims.

But those numbers are actually an improvement, according to a new study by Javelin Strategy & Research. Last year, the amount of money lost to fraud dropped 11 percent, down from $18 billion in 2013. And in 2012, the amount was even higher, at $21 billion.

The number of victims is down too, dipping 3 percent in 2014.

Though hacks appear to be growing in size and targeting larger retailers, financial institutions have also gotten better at performing triage after such an attack occurs.

“The combined efforts of industry, consumers, and monitoring and protection systems that are catching fraud more quickly helped reduce the incidence of fraud and the amount stolen over the past year,” said Al Pascual, director of fraud and security at Javelin, a consulting firm that analyzes consumer transactions. “When detected, fraud is being resolved quicker than ever before.”

After 110 million credit card numbers were stolen in the December 2013 Target breach, for example, banks went on the offensive, spending more than $200 million to replace consumer credit and debit cards.

In 2014, 1 in 4 consumers received data breach notifications, but a smaller proportion of those people became fraud victims than in 2013. Last year, fraud incidents among notified breach victims dropped 17 percentage points to 13.7 percent, the lowest rate since Javelin began conducting its annual study in 2004.

The report hypothesized that the huge number of data breaches in 2014 may have spurred banks and retailers to take such attacks more seriously, driving down the incidents of fraud. Improvements in technology that can help detect fraud also contributed to the decline, the report said.

Pascual warned that despite dropping reports of fraud, consumers should still be wary of identity theft.

“We have seen declines in the past, but they have reversed as fraudsters try new approaches or when new technologies make it easier for fraudsters to get consumer information,” he said.

For instance, while new-account fraud (in which a fraudster uses stolen information to open an account in a victim’s name) reached record lows in 2014 according to the Javelin report, this year such incidents have increased due to security weaknesses in Apple’s new mobile payments system, Apple Pay.

In the Javelin report, 13 percent of victims of new-account fraud did not detect the identity theft for more than a year.

Though 2014’s number of victims was down, 2013 had the second-highest number of identity theft victims since Javelin began its annual study.

In the end, said Pascual, more breaches will result in more victims of identity theft. In 2014, two-thirds of identity fraud victims had previously received a data breach notification that year.

“This is a long, drawn-out battle against identity thieves,” he said. “While there have been some victories this year, there have also been some discouraging setbacks. It really reinforces why we need the combined efforts of industry, consumers, and monitoring and protection systems working together to continue the downward trend.”


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Google has delayed its Android encryption plans because they're crippling people's phones

Google has delayed its Android encryption plans because they're crippling people's phones | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it

Google is delaying plans to encrypt all new Android phones by default, Ars Technica reports, because the technical demands of encryption are crippling people's devices.

Encryption slowed down some phones by 50% or more, speed tests show. 

In September 2014, Google — along with Apple — said that it planned to encrypt all new devices sold with its mobile OS by default. This means that unless a customer opted out, it would be impossible for anyone to gain access to their device without the passcode, including law enforcement (or Google itself).

This hardened stance on encryption from tech companies came after repeated revelations about the NSA, GCHQ and other government spy agencies snooping on ordinary citizens' data.

Default encryption has infuriated authorities. One US cop said that the iPhone would become "the phone of choice for the paedophile" because law enforcement wouldn't be able to access its contents. UK Prime Minister David Cameron has floated the idea of banning strong encryption altogether — though the proposal has been slammed by critics as technically unworkable.

Apple rolled out default-on encryption in iOS 8 back in September. Google's Android Lollipop system was first released in November — but because the phone manufacturers, rather than Google itself, are responsible for pushing out the update, it can take months for a new version of the OS to reach the majority of consumers.

But as Ars Technica reports, Lollipop smartphones are now finally coming to the market, and many do not have default-on encryption. So what's the reason? The devices couldn't actually handle it.

Speed tests show that even Google's flagship phone, the Google Nexus 6, suffers serious slowdown when encryption is turned on. A "random write" test measuring writing data to memory showed that the Nexus 6 performed more than twice as fast with encryption switched off — 2.85MB per second as compared with 1.41 per second with it on. The difference was even more striking in a "sequential read" test to measure memory reading speeds. An unecrypted device achieved 131.65MB/s; the encrypted version managed just 25.36MB/s. That's a third of even the Nexus 5, the previous model, which came in at 76.29MB/s.

As such, Google is now rowing back on its encryption stance. Its guidelines now say that full-disk encryption is "very strongly recommended" on devices, rather than the necessary requirement promised. Users can still encrypt their devices (even if it slows them down), but it won't happen by default.

Google says it still intends to force it in "future versions of Android".


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Gemalto says SIM products are secure, despite Snowden leaks

Gemalto says SIM products are secure, despite Snowden leaks | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it

SIM card manufacturer Gemalto has said that its SIM products are secure despite reports that US and UK spy agencies had stolen the encryption keys. The company, which produces around 2 billion SIM cards annually, including supplying all four major US carriers, said in a statement that initial results from an internal investigation "indicate that Gemalto SIM products (as well as banking cards, passports and other products and platforms) are secure." The statement offers no more details but Gemalto says it will discuss the full investigation at a press event this Wednesday.

The company's statement seems to directly contradict the report by The Intercept from last week. Based on leaked documents from Edward Snowden, The Intercept's report claimed that the NSA and GCHQ carried out a significant operation "stealing encryption keys used to protect the privacy of cellphone communications across the globe." The report also notes that a breach of Gemalto's network might mean that its other products — such as smart chips used in bank cards and passports — are also unsafe, but the company's statement says explicitly that these are also "secure." We'll have to wait until Wednesday to find out more.

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How the NSA’s Firmware Hacking Works and Why It’s So Unsettling

How the NSA’s Firmware Hacking Works and Why It’s So Unsettling | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it
One of the most shocking parts of the recently discovered spying network Equation Group is its mysterious module designed to reprogram or reflash a computer hard drive’s firmware with malicious code. The Kaspersky researchers who uncovered this said its ability to subvert hard drive firmware—the guts of any computer—“surpasses anything else” they had ever seen.The hacking tool, believed to be a product of the NSA, is significant because subverting the firmware gives the attackers God-like control of the system in a way that is stealthy and persistent even through software updates. The module, named “nls_933w.dll”, is the first of its kind found in the wild and is used with both the EquationDrug and GrayFish spy platforms Kaspersky uncovered.It also has another capability: to create invisible storage space on the hard drive to hide data stolen from the system so the attackers can retrieve it later. This lets spies like the Equation Group bypass disk encryption by secreting documents they want to seize in areas that don’t get encrypted.Kaspersky has so far uncovered 500 victims of the Equation Group, but only five of these had the firmware-flashing module on their systems. The flasher module is likely reserved for significant systems that present special surveillance challenges. Costin Raiu, director of Kaspersky’s Global Research and Analysis Team, believes these are high-value computers that are not connected to the internet and are protected with disk encryption.Here’s what we know about the firmware-flashing module.How It WorksHard drive disks have a controller, essentially a mini-computer, that includes a memory chip or flash ROM where the firmware code for operating the hard drive resides.When a machine is infected with EquationDrug or GrayFish, the firmware flasher module gets deposited onto the system and reaches out to a command server to obtain payload code that it then flashes to the firmware, replacing the existing firmware with a malicious one. The researchers uncovered two versions of the flasher module: one that appears to have been compiled in 2010 and is used with EquatinoDrug and one with a 2013 compilation date that is used with GrayFish.The Trojanized firmware lets attackers stay on the system even through software updates. If a victim, thinking his or her computer is infected, wipes the computer’s operating system and reinstalls it to eliminate any malicious code, the malicious firmware code remains untouched. It can then reach out to the command server to restore all of the other malicious components that got wiped from the system.Even if the firmware itself is updated with a new vendor release, the malicious firmware code may still persist because some firmware updates replace only parts of the firmware, meaning the malicious portions may not get overwritten with the update. The only solution for victims is to trash their hard drive and start over with a new one.The attack works because firmware was never designed with security in mind. Hard disk makers don’t cryptographically sign the firmware they install on drives the way software vendors do. Nor do hard drive disk designs have authentication built in to check for signed firmware. This makes it possible for someone to change the firmware. And firmware is the perfect place to conceal malware because antivirus scanners don’t examine it. There’s also no easy way for users to read the firmware and manually check if it’s been altered.The firmware flasher module can reprogram the firmware of more than a dozen different hard drive brands, including IBM, Seagate, Western Digital, and Toshiba.“You know how much effort it takes to land just one firmware for a hard drive? You need to know specifications, the CPU, the architecture of the firmware, how it works,” Raiu says. The Kaspersky researchers have called it “an astonishing technical accomplishment and is testament to the group’s abilities.”Once the firmware is replaced with the Trojanized version, the flasher module creates an API that can communicate with other malicious modules on the system and also access hidden sectors of the disk where the attackers want to conceal data they intend to steal. They hide this data in the so-called service area of the hard drive disk where the hard disk stores data needed for its internal operation.Hidden Storage Is the Holy GrailThe revelation that the firmware hack helps store data the attackers want to steal didn’t get much play when the story broke last week, but it’s the most significant part of the hack. It also raises a number of questions about how exactly the attackers are pulling this off. Without an actual copy of the firmware payload that gets flashed to infected systems, there’s still a lot that’s unknown about the attack, but some of it can be surmised.The ROM chip that contains the firmware includes a small amount of storage that goes unused. If the ROM chip is 2 megabytes, the firmware might take up just 1.5 megabytes, leaving half a megabyte of unused space that can be employed for hiding data the attackers want to steal.This is particularly useful if the the computer has disk encryption enabled. Because the EquationDrug and GrayFish malware run in Windows, they can grab a copy of documents while they’re unencrypted and save them to this hidden area on the machine that doesn’t get encrypted. There isn’t much space on the chip for a lot of data or documents, however, so the attackers can also just store something equally as valuable to bypass encryption.“Taking into account the fact that their GrayFish implant is active from the very boot of the system, they have the ability to capture the encryption password and save it into this hidden area,” Raiu says.Authorities could later grab the computer, perhaps through border interdiction or something the NSA calls “customs opportunities,” and extract the password from this hidden area to unlock the encrypted disk.Raiu thinks the intended targets of such a scheme are limited to machines that are not connected to the internet and have encrypted hard drives. One of the five machines they found hit with the firmware flasher module had no internet connection and was used for special secure communications.“[The owners] only use it in some very specific cases where there is no other way around it,” Raiu says. “Think about Bin Laden who lived in the desert in an isolated compound—doesn’t have internet and no electronic footprint. So if you want information from his computer how do you get it? You get documents into the hidden area and you wait, and then after one or two years you come back and steal it. The benefits [of using this] are very specific.”Raiu thinks, however, that the attackers have a grander scheme in mind. “In the future probably they want to take it to the next level where they just copy all the documents [into the hidden area] instead of the password. [Then] at some point, when they have an opportunity to have physical access to the system, they can then access that hidden area and get the unencrypted docs.”They wouldn’t need the password if they could copy an entire directory from the operating system to the hidden sector for accessing later. But the flash chip where the firmware resides is too small for large amounts of data. So the attackers would need a bigger hidden space for storage. Luckily for them, it exists. There are large sectors in the service area of the hard drive disk that are also unused and could be commandeered to store a large cache of documents, even ones that might have been deleted from other parts of the computer. This service area, also called the reserved are or system area, stores the firmware and other data needed to operate drives, but it also contains large portions of unused space.An interesting paper (.pdf) published in February 2013 by Ariel Berkman, a data recovery specialist at the Israeli firm Recover, noted “not only that these areas can’t be sanitized (via standard tools), they cannot be accessed via anti-virus software [or] computer forensics tools.”Berkman points out that one particular model of Western Digital drives has 141 MB reserved for the service area, but only uses 12 MB of this, leaving the rest free for stealth storage.To write or copy data to service area requires special commands that are specific to each vendor and are not publicly documented, so an attacker would need to uncover what these are. But once they do, “[b]y sending Vendor Specific Commands (VSCs) directly to the hard-drive, one can manipulate these [service] areas to read and write data that are otherwise inaccessible,” Berkman writes. It is also possible, though not trivial, to write a program to automatically copy documents to this area. Berkman himself wrote a proof-of-concept program to read and write a file of up to 94 MB to the service area, but the program was a bit unstable and he noted that it could cause some data loss or cause the hard drive to fail.One problem with hiding large amounts of data like this, however, is that its presence might be detected by examining the size of the used space in the service area. If there should be 129 MB of unused space in this sector but there’s only 80 MB, it’s a dead giveaway that something is there that shouldn’t be. But a leaked NSA document that was written in 2006 but was published by Der Spiegel last month suggests the spy agency might have resolved this particular problem.
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More Retailers Hit by New Third-Party Breach?

More Retailers Hit by New Third-Party Breach? | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it

CVS, Rite-Aid, Sam's Club, Walmart Canada and other large retail chains have suspended their online photo services following a suspected hack attack against a third-party service provider that may, in some cases, have resulted in the compromise of payment card data.


The suspected breach centers on PNI Digital Media Inc., a Vancouver-based firm that manages and hosts online photo services for numerous retailers. The incident serves as a reminder of the security challenges that organizations face when it comes to managing their third-party vendors and entrusting them with sensitive customer information.


Numerous chains have confirmed that they are investigating potential breaches - some involving payment card data - after being warned by PNI Digital Media that it may have suffered a hack attack that resulted in the compromise of retailers' customers' names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, photo account passwords and credit card information. But none of the retailers involved have so far reported that they believe the breach would affect any of their in-store customers, including anyone who used in-store photo services.


PNI Digital Media did not immediately respond to a request for comment on its reported breach investigation. Until July 17, the company's investors page reported that it worked with numerous retailers, and while that page is now blank, a recent version cached by Google's search engine reads: "PNI Digital Media provides a proprietary transactional software platform that is used by leading retailers such as Costco, Walmart Canada, and CVS/pharmacy to sell millions of personalized products every year. Last year, the PNI Digital Media platform worked with over 19,000 retail locations and 8,000 kiosks to generate more than 18M transactions for personalized products."

CVS Confirms Investigation

On July 17, CVS spokesman Mike DeAngelis confirmed that CVSPhoto.com may have been affected by the suspected PNI Digital Media breach. "We disabled the site as a matter of precaution while this matter is being investigated," DeAngelis tells Information Security Media Group.


The cvsphoto.com site now reads in part: "We have been made aware that customer credit card information collected by the independent vendor who manages and hosts CVSPhoto.com may have been compromised. As a precaution, as our investigation is underway we are temporarily shutting down access to online and related mobile photo services. We apologize for the inconvenience."

CVS says PNI Digital Media collects credit and debit information for customers who purchase online photo services through CVSPhoto.com. Accordingly, CVS recommends that all customers of its online photo service review their credit card statements "for any fraudulent or suspicious activity" and notify their bank or card issuer if anything appears to be amiss. "Nothing is more central to us than protecting the privacy and security of our customer information, including financial information," CVS says. "We are working closely with the vendor and our financial partners and will share updates as we know more."

Rite Aid: No Suspected Card Theft

Drugstore chain Rite Aid has also taken its online and mobile photo services offline. "We recently were advised by PNI Digital Media, the third party that manages and hosts mywayphotos.riteaid.com, that it is investigating a possible compromise of certain online and mobile photo account customer data," Rite Aid's site reads. "The data that may have been affected is name, address, phone number, email address, photo account password and credit card information."


Unlike CVS, however, Rite Aid reports that it does not believe that its customers' payment-card data is at risk. "Unlike for other PNI customers, PNI does not process credit card information on Rite Aid's behalf and PNI has limited access to this information," it says, adding that it has received no related fraud reports from its customers.

Sam's Club has also taken its online photo service offline, "in an abundance of caution and as a result of recent reports suggesting a potential security compromise of the third-party vendor that hosts Sam's Photo website." As with Rite Aid, however, Sam's Club reports that "at this time, we do not believe customer credit card data has been put at risk."


Costco and Tesco Photo have also suspended their online photo services.


Walmart Canada, which also outsources online photo services to PNI, also may have been affected by the possible breach, according to the The Toronto Star, and the retailer has since suspended its online photo services website. "We were recently informed of a potential compromise of customer credit card data involving Walmart Canada's Photocentre website, www.walmartphotocentre.ca," Walmart states. "We immediately launched an investigation and will be contacting customers who may be impacted. At this time, we have no reason to believe that Walmart.ca, Walmart.com or in-store transactions are affected.


Walmart did not respond to Information Security Media Group's request for comment. ISMG also reached out to office supplier Staples, which owns PNI, but did not get a response.

"PNI is investigating a potential credit card data security issue," a Staples spokesperson told The Toronto Star.

Growing Third-Party Breach Concerns

PNI's potential breach comes just a week after Denver-based managed services provider Service Systems Associates announced that a breach linked to a malware attack against its network had likely affected about 12 of the payments systems it operates for gifts shops at retail locations, which include zoos, museums and parks, across the country.


Service Systems Associates says debit and credit purchases made between March 23 and June 25 may have been compromised.

On July 7, the Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center, along with Visa, the U.S. Secret Service and The Retail Cyber Intelligence Sharing Center, which provides threat intelligence for retailers, issued a cybersecurity alert about risks merchants face when dealing with third parties.


The alert lists a number of security recommendations for managing third-party risks, including using multifactor authentication for remote-access login to point-of-sale systems and including specific policies related to outdated operating systems and software in contracts with vendors.


Earlier this month, Chris Bretz, director of payment risk at the FS-ISAC, warned that managed service providers that offer outsourced services to numerous merchants are increasingly being targeted by cybercriminals.


"Criminals continue to find success by targeting smaller retailers that use common IT and payments systems," Bretz said in an interview with ISMG. "Merchants in industry verticals often use managed service provider systems. There might be 100 merchants that use a managed service provider that provides IT and payment services for their business."

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Will Sony Settle Cyber-Attack Lawsuit?

Will Sony Settle Cyber-Attack Lawsuit? | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it

Did Sony underspend on information security, thus contributing to the success of the devastating hack attack against it, which came to light in November 2014? And can a business be held legally accountable by employees for their employer's information security shortcomings?


Those questions are central to a lawsuit filed by Michael Corona and eight other former Sony employees in the wake of what plaintiffs rightly dub a data breach "epic nightmare, much better suited to a cinematic thriller than to real life." Their suit accuses Sony of having failed to put an effective information security program in place, despite having previously suffered repeated, serious attacks.


 An epic nightmare, much better suited to a cinematic thriller than to real life. 


"Sony failed to secure its computer systems, servers and databases, despite weaknesses that it has known about for years," the lawsuit alleges, citing in part a September 2014 audit by PricewatershouseCoopers, which found that Sony's information security and monitoring practices fell below "prudent industry standards."


The lawsuit further alleges that nearly 100 terabytes of data was stolen, including 47,000 Social Security numbers and personally identifiable information for at least 15,000 current and former employees, some of whom had not worked for the studio since 1955. As a result, breach victims "face ongoing future vulnerability to identity theft, medical theft, tax fraud, and financial theft," the lawsuit plaintiffs allege. "In fact, plaintiffs' PII has already been traded on black market websites and used by identity thieves."

Lawsuit Ruling

Sony asked a court to dismiss the suit, and U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner this week did dismiss some parts, including allegations of breach of contract and that Sony failed to notify breach victims in a timely manner.


But in a setback for Sony, the judge ruled that other parts of the lawsuit can proceed, although he has yet to rule on the merits of these claims, including plaintiffs' allegation that Sony "made a business decision to accept the risk of losses associated with being hacked." The federal judge also agreed with the former employees' allegation that "to receive compensation and employment benefits, they were required to provide their PII to Sony." While many data breach lawsuits get dismissed on the grounds that the breach did not cause any economic harm to people whose information was stolen, Klausner said that by requiring employees' PII, Sony created a "special relationship that provides an exception to the economic loss doctrine."


Michael Sobol, an attorney for the plaintiffs, told the BBC, "We are pleased that the court has properly recognized the harm to Sony's employees."


A spokeswoman for Sony Pictures Entertainment did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the ruling.


In the wake of the 2014 attack, at least nine other lawsuits were filed against Sony by individual former employees. Like the Corona suit, all of these lawsuits seek class-action status, meaning they would include all current and former employees who were affected by the cyber-attack.

Wiper Malware Attack

To recap: Sony suffered a devastating wiper malware attack in November 2014, ostensibly designed to punish the company for releasing "The Interview," a satiric film starring James Franco and Seth Rogan that featured the fictional death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.


But before the attackers unleashed their wiper malware and began erasing Sony hard drives and bricking laptops, they penetrated Sony's network and stolen tens of terabytes of data, including copies of unreleased movies and the script for the upcoming James Bond film "Spectre," as well as numerous private email exchanges, all of which the attackers began leaking.


Sony, in a December 2014 breach notification filed with California state authorities, reported that the breach appeared to compromise current and former employees' names, addresses, Social Security numbers, driver's licenses and passport numbers, corporate credit card information, usernames and passwords, and salaries. Sony also warned that individuals' "HIPAA-protected health information" may have been exposed, including medical diagnoses, dates of birth, health plan identification numbers, and personal and health-related information.


As noted in Corona's lawsuit, large amounts of this information were leaked to the Internet by attackers and likely remain in circulation.

Lawsuit Resolution: Unclear

What will happen next in the Sony class-action lawsuit saga, of course, is not clear. But based on past breach-related lawsuits, it's likely that unless the lawsuit gets dismissed, Sony will ultimately settle, rather than risk a jury trial and ruling that might give breach victims more rights.


If Sony did make a business decision to underspend on security, it was a costly move. In February, Sony said in an earnings report that it expected to spend $35 million in cleanup costs through the end of its fiscal year in March, largely related to restoring the company's "financial and IT systems." But as the multiple lawsuits highlight, Sony faces continuing legal costs, as well as the risk that it will eventually have to pay damages or settlements.


But any such settlement likely would not happen soon. Indeed, Sony only settled a lawsuit filed in the wake of its April 2011 breach - a year in which the company fell victim to more than a dozen breaches - in June 2014. That breach exposed personal information for 77 million users of the Sony PlayStation Network and Qriocity services.


By that timeline, the lawsuits stemming from the 2014 Sony cyber-attack may not be resolved until at least 2017.

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Apple is making it harder to steal the Apple Watch

t didn't make it into today's WWDC keynote address, but Apple is adding an important security feature to watchOS 2. The new version of the wearable OS will bring Activation Lock — a feature that has been on iPhones since 2013 — to the Apple Watch.


Activation Lock is an anti-theft measure that makes stolen devices less attractive to potential thieves. If someone were to steal your device and wipe it (something that can be done on a Watch in just a few taps), Activation Lock won't let the device be reactivated without first inputting the Apple ID and password that was originally used to set it up. It may not stop someone from stealing and selling your Watch for parts, and there's still no comparable feature to "Find my iPhone," but Activation Lock is a start.


IT'S NO FIND MY IPHONE, BUT IT'S A START

Just last month, users grew worried after9to5Mac pointed out how easy it is to wipe the settings, data, and passcode from an Apple Watch. From there, someone could pair a Watch to any new iPhone. In the user guide, Apple frames this as a way to restore your Watch's functionality should you forget your passcode, which is convenient. But for many people the function made it far too easy for someone else to wind up using your Watch as their own.


Users will have the choice to enable Activation Lock on their Watch or not, so it's ultimately up to them. The watchOS 2 developer beta is available today, and the final version will be released this fall.

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Five Steps to Secure Your Data After I.R.S. Breach

Five Steps to Secure Your Data After I.R.S. Breach | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it

The Internal Revenue Service has been added to a long list of companies and government agencies that hackers have breached in the last year.

And so, if there is any advice security experts have for those trying to keep their personal information safe, it is simply: You can’t.

“Your information has already been out there for years, available to anyone who wants to pay a couple dollars,” Brian Krebs, a security blogger who has been a frequent target of hackers, said Wednesday.

The attack on the I.R.S. is just the latest evidence that hackers already have all the information necessary to steal your identity. The agency said Tuesday that hackers used information stolen from previous breaches — including Social Securitynumbers, birth dates, street addresses and passwords — to complete a multistep authentication process and 


But consumers can make things harder for criminals. There may be a trade-off in convenience, but experts say the alternative is a lot worse.

1. Turn on multifactor authentication.

If a service offers added security features like multifactor authentication, turn them on. When you enter your password, you will receive a message, usually via text, with a one-time code that you must enter before you can log in.

Most banking sites and popular sites like Google, Apple, Twitter and Facebook offer two-factor authentication, and will ask for a second one-time code anytime you log in from a new computer.

2. Change your passwords again.

Yes, you need to change passwords again and they have to be passwords you have never used before. They need to be long and not words you would find in a dictionary. The first thing hackers do when trying to break into a site is use computer programs that can test every word in the dictionary.

Password managers like LastPass or Password Safe create long, unique passwords for the websites you visit and store them in a database that is protected by a master password you have memorized.

It may sound counterintuitive, but the truly paranoid write down their passwords.

Security experts advise creating anagrams based on song lyrics, movie quotations or sayings, and using symbols or numbers and alternating lower and upper cases to make the password more difficult. For instance, the “Casablanca” movie quotation “Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine” becomes OaTgJ,iAtT,iAtW,sWiM.

Use stronger, longer passwords for sites that contain the most critical information, like bank or email accounts.

3. Forget about security questions.

Sites will often use security questions such as “What was the name of your first school?” or “What is your mother’s maiden name?” to recover a user’s account if the password is forgotten.

These questions are problematic because the Internet has made public record searches a snap and the answers are usually easy to guess.

In a recent study, security researchers at Google found that with a single guess, an attacker would have a 19.7 percent chance of duplicating an English-speaking user’s answer to the question, “What is your favorite food?” (It was pizza.)

With 10 tries, an attacker would have a 39 percent chance of guessing a Korean-speaking user’s answer to the question, “What is your city of birth?” and a 43 percent chance of guessing the favorite food.

Jonathan Zdziarski, a computer forensics expert, said he often answers these questions with an alternate password. If a site offers only multiple choice answers, or only requires short passwords, he won’t use it.

“You can tell a lot about the security of a site just by looking at the questions they’ll ask you,” he said.

4. Monitor your credit.

Typically a service will offer one year of free credit monitoring if it has been breached. But be aware that attackers do not dispose of your Social Security number, birth date or password a year after they acquire it.

It is better to monitor your credit aggressively at all times through free services like AnnualCreditReport.com.

5. Freeze your credit.

In the attack at the I.R.S., a credit freeze may not have thwarted thieves from filing for false tax refunds, but it could have stopped them from pulling tax transcripts or opening other accounts.

To freeze your credit, call Equifax, Experian or TransUnion and ask to have your account frozen. The credit agency will mail a one-time PIN or password to unfreeze your account later.

The fee to freeze and refreeze credit varies by state. If you plan on applying for a new job, renting an apartment or buying insurance, you will have to thaw a freeze temporarily and pay a fee to refreeze the account.

But if you have been a victim of identity theft, and can show a police report proving as much, most states will waive the freeze fee.


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How to avoid getting hacked due to vulnerable WordPress plugins

How to avoid getting hacked due to vulnerable WordPress plugins | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it

I’m a huge WordPress fan because it’s a very powerful, effective, and amazingly extensible platform which is why it’s used by 60.4% of [websites with identifiable content management systems which amounts to] 23.7% of all websites. But there’s a risk with any platform that’s extensible trough the use of third party software (called “plugins” in WordPress): That risk is from software vulnerabilities.


Part of the reason for these vulnerabilities is that WordPress is fairly complex so interactions with plugins can produce unwanted and occasionally dangerous security issues. The other major reason is that the coding practices of third parties can be inadequate so dumb vulnerabilities such as buffer overflows and SQL injections can be part and parcel of some “must have” feature added by a plugin. For a summary of current Wordpress vulnerabilities check out the WPScan Vulnerability Database, a “black box WordPress vulnerability scanner.”

If you’re running a WordPress site and given the number of potentially show-stopping problems that exist, get fixed, and are replaced with new problems that are just as bad then you need to be on top of what plugins you’re using and what problems they might have. Rather than scanning through loads of vulnerability notices and checking each plugin’s Web site for news there’s not only WPScan, there’s also a free plugin that check the plugins you use for known issues. It’s called Plugin Vulnerabilities and published by WhiteFirDesign.


The publishers also offer another free plugin, Automatic Plugin Updates that, as its name implies, will update your plugins automatically as new versions become available (you can also set up an “ignore” list to exclude specific plugins from automatic updates).

When you activate Plugin Vulnerabilities, all of your other plugins are examined and checked against WhiteFirDesign’s database of vulnerabilities. They’re also rechecked whenever a plugin in manually updated or an update executed by the Automatic Plugin Updates or by any other method.


WhiteFirDesign’s vulnerability stats were, as of April 6:

  • 257 vulnerabilities included
  • 61 included vulnerabilities are in the most recent version of plugins (57 of these plugins have been removed from the Plugin Directory)
  • 24 vulnerabilities have been fixed in part due to our work on this plugin
  • 5 included vulnerabilities in security plugins
  • Top vulnerability types:
    • cross-site request forgery (CSRF)/cross-site scripting (XSS): 52 vulnerabilities
    • reflected cross-site scripting (XSS): 45 vulnerabilities
    • arbitrary file upload: 45 vulnerabilities
    • arbitrary file viewing: 23 vulnerabilities
    • SQL injection: 16 vulnerabilities



This plugin is, in short, something you shouldn’t do without if you’re running WordPress. It could make the difference between smooth, uninterrupted operations and spending lots of time rebuilding your WordPress site after being hacked.

The Plugin Vulnerabilities and Automatic Plugin Updates plugins both get a Gearhead rating of 5 out of 5.


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Will Executive Order Impact Cybercrime?

Will Executive Order Impact Cybercrime? | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it

President Obama on April 1 issued an executive order that allows the U.S. government to block or seize the assets of suspected "malicious cyber actors." But some legal and security experts already are questioning whether the order is legally defensible or will have any meaningful impact on either cybercrime or online espionage.


"There are so many problems with this," attorney Mark Rasch, a former U.S. Department of Justice official who created its computer crime unit, tells Information Security Media Group, citing, for example, the government's ability to presume someone is guilty, without first having to prove it. "In general, sanctions are a political tool for putting pressure on recalcitrant governments to change their ways, [but] these sanctions are a legal tool to impose punishment without trial on persons we believe to be criminals and hackers."


The Obama administration, however, says that the executive order - officially titled "Blocking the Property of Certain Persons Engaging in Significant Malicious Cyber-Enabled Activities" is necessary to give the U.S. government much-needed new legal tools in its fight against cybercrime and online espionage. The executive order represents the first time that the White House has authorized broad sanctions to be imposed specifically for cyber-attacks, and regardless of the location of whoever is behind the attacks.


"Our primary focus will be on cyberthreats from overseas, Obama writes on news website Medium. "In many cases, diplomatic and law enforcement tools will still be our most effective response. But targeted sanctions, used judiciously, will give us a new and powerful way to go after the worst of the worst."


The executive order authorizes the Secretary of the Treasury - in consultation with the Attorney General and the Secretary of State - to impose such sanctions "on individuals or entities that engage in malicious cyber-enabled activities that create a significant threat to the national security, foreign policy or economic health or financial stability of the United States," Obama says in an April 1 statement distributed by the White House.


While the executive order doesn't define "significant," it says sanctions can be imposed for a variety of reasons, for example, in response to attacks that target critical infrastructure, which disrupt networks - via distributed denial-of-service attacks, for instance - as well as for targeting or stealing trade secrets or personally identifiable information, and for computer crime in general.

Intent: To Fill Gaps

White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Michael Daniel says the executive order is meant to expand the "spectrum of tools" that the government can use to combat cyber-attacks, by supplementing current diplomatic, law enforcement, military, economic and intelligence capabilities.


"It is designed to fill in a gap that we have identified where individuals carrying out significant malicious cyber-attacks are located in places that it's difficult for our diplomatic and law enforcement tools to reach - whether because they're behind the borders of a country that has weak cybersecurity laws, or the government is complicit in or turning a blind eye to the activity that is happening, and we don't have good law enforcement relationships or other kinds of relationships," he said on an April 1 a press call. "So what we're doing is putting in place a tool that will enable us to impose costs on those actors."


John Smith, the Treasury Department's acting director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control, or OFAC, which administers and enforces U.S. economic sanctions programs, said on the press call that the executive order elevates cyber-attacks to the realm of such activities as counterterrorism, narcotics trafficking and transnational crime, which the United States targets, regardless of where they're based. Smith says the administration is hoping that by designating cybercrime and online espionage in this manner, more countries will be spurred to put a stop to related activities inside their borders, or which touches their financial system.

Sony Hack Inspired Order

The Washington Post reports that the executive order has been under development for the past two years. But Daniel says the need for the executive order was highlighted after the president called for a "proportional response" to the hack attack against Sony Pictures. "That process informed us as we were finishing up this executive order and highlighted the need for us to have this capability and to have this tool."


The move follows another executive order, signed by the president in January, that imposed sanctions on 10 individuals and three entities associated with the North Korean government, after the FBI attributed the November 2014 hack and wiper malware attack against Sony Pictures Entertainment to "North Korea actors." But numerous information security experts have continued to question that attribution.

Questioning the Rationale

And some legal and security experts are now questioning the rationale behind the new executive order. "It's really built out of frustration, because the international legal process does not deal effective with cybercrime," says Rasch, the former DOJ official. "So there's the urge to take the law into your own hands. Resist that urge."


Rasch adds that another problem with the executive order is that it's not aimed just at state sponsors - or nation-state-backed attackers - but anyone who the U.S. believes has broken the law. Furthermore, it allows the government to impose punishments, such as seizing U.S. citizens' assets, without any due process, or having to first prove the government's case.


The administration says that anyone who wants to contest sanctions that get imposed using this executive order can do so with OFAC, or by filing a lawsuit against the federal government.

Cybercrime Impact?

But will the executive order lead to any meaningful reduction in cybercrime or online espionage? "I'm somewhat skeptical, to say the least," Sean Sullivan, a security adviser for Helsinki, Finland-based anti-virus firm F-Secure, tells ISMG. "There's a great deal of Russian-speaker-based 'espionage as a service' that would be very difficult to do much about. And China seems even more of a challenge. But then again, maybe there are some officials who do actually have American assets to go after - New York real estate, for example."


James A. Lewis, a cyberpolicy expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, believes that the new program could have an impact, for example to combat Chinese-promulgated economic espionage. "You have to create a process to change the behavior of people who do cyber-economic espionage," he tells The Washington Post. "Some of that is to create a way to say it's not penalty free. This is an effective penalty. So it moves them in the right direction."

But Rasch thinks it's unlikely that the executive order would fulfill the stated White House purpose of deterring future cybercrime, espionage and large-scale attacks. "The rogues are not going to be deterred by this," he says. "The state sponsors are not going to be deterred by this."


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The next version of Windows could make passwords obsolete

The next version of Windows could make passwords obsolete | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it

Passwords are terrible.

They're hard for people to remember and relatively easy for computerized programs to guess — which is why a lot of companies make you change them every 90 days and use a bunch of characters and symbols and capital letters and numbers, which makes them even harder to remember.

Because they're so hard to remember, people often write them down on pieces of paper or send them to themselves via email, making them even less secure.

But if Microsoft has its way, the days of entering a password to log into your computer, applications, or favorite web sites may soon come to an end.

Windows 10 will include a feature called Windows Hello, and Microsoft says it "introduces system-level support for biometric authentication." In plain English, that means that you'll be able to log into Windows using your fingerprint or by having the computer take a picture of your face or iris.

Obviously, Microsoft isn't the first and only company trying to rid the world of passwords. Apple's iPhones have had the Touch ID fingerprint scanner since the iPhone 6. And PC makers like Lenovo have tinkered with face recognition instead of passwords for years too.

So, not surprisingly, to work with Windows 10, the PC will have to be equipped with a fingerprint scanner or special infrared sensors, both of which are pretty rare today. But assuming the hardware is there, Windows 10 will do the difficult software work. It can be used not only to log on to your PC, but can also identify you to applications and web sites — assuming that the creators of those apps and sites want to support Windows Hello.

Microsoft is also introducing a technology for businesses code-named Passport, which would allow employees to log on to company networks using a biometric sensor or a PIN (like you use on your phone). No password is ever stored on the PC or server, making it harder for hackers to get into networks.

Biometrics aren't new for Microsoft either — Windows has supported them for years, and many companies already use things like fingerprint readers. The barrier has always been the ubiquity of the hardware more than the software. But with Windows 10, Microsoft is taking another shot at making them even easier. Given the high-profile hacks of the last couple years, the time may finally be ripe for mass adoption.


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US Senate committee advances cyber-surveillance bill

US Senate committee advances cyber-surveillance bill | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it

The Senate intelligence committee advanced a priority bill for the National Security Agency on Thursday afternoon, approving long-stalled cybersecurity legislation that civil libertarians consider the latest pathway for surveillance abuse.

The vote on the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act, 14 to 1, occurred in a secret session inside the Hart Senate office building. Democrat Ron Wyden was the dissenter, calling the measure “a surveillance bill by another name”.

Senator Richard Burr, the committee chairman, said the bill would create avenues for private-to-private, private-to-government and government-to-private information sharing.

The bill’s bipartisan advocates consider it a prophylactic measure against catastrophic data theft, particularly in light of recent large-scale hacking of Sony, Target, Home Depot and other companies.

Private companies could share customer data “in a voluntary capacity” with the government, Burr said, “so that we bring the full strength of the federal government to identifying and recommending what anybody else in the United States should adopt”.

“The sharing has to be voluntary, not coercive, and it’s got to be protected,” said Senator Dianne Feinstein, the committee’s vice-chair, adding that the information would pass through the Department of Homeland Security – and “transferred in real time to other departments where it’s applicable”.

Feinstein said the bill’s provisions would “only be used for counterterrorism purposes and certain immediate crimes”.

Several iterations of the cybersecurity bill have failed in recent years, including a post-Edward Snowden effort that the committee, then under Democratic leadership, approved last year. President Obama, renewing the push earlier this year, has called for a bill to enhance information sharing between businesses particularly banks and others in the financial sector and the federal government surrounding indications of malicious network intrusions.

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Both the administration and Congress intend the legislation to join a panoply of recent moves to bolster cybersecurity, including February’s announced creation of a consolidated center within the intelligence agencies for analysis of internet-borne threats.

“This bill will not eliminate [breaches] happening,” Burr said. “This bill will hopefully minimize the impact of a penetration because of the real-time response.”

Feinstein said that companies, “reluctant to share with the government because they are subject to suit” would be protected from lawsuits “for cybersecurity purposes” under the bill.

But the bill faces strong opposition inside and outside Congress. Beyond expanding government’s reach into private data outside warrant requirements, it mandates real-time access to that data for intelligence agencies and the military.

‘Significantly undermine privacy and civil liberties’

Privacy advocates consider the bill to provide a new avenue for the NSA to access consumer and financial data, once laundered through the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the initial public repository for the desired private-sector information. Campaigners consider the emphasis placed by the bill’s backers on DHS’s role to be a misleading way of downplaying NSA access to win congressional support.

A coalition of nearly 50 technologists, privacy groups and campaigners wrote to the committee earlier this month urging rejection of a bill that would “significantly undermine privacy and civil liberties” and potentially permit corporations to “hack back” at perceived network intrusions.

The bill “does not effectively require private entities to strip out information that identifies a specific person prior to sharing cyber-threat indicators with the government, a fundamental and important privacy protection,” the 2 March letter reads. Its changes to federal law “would permit companies to retaliate against a perceived threat in a manner that may cause significant harm, and undermine cybersecurity”, particularly given the misattributions of responsibility frequently seen in hacking cases.

Companies can only take “defensive measures” and not “countermeasures against another company”, Feinstein said.

Burr said that language in the bill would require companies to “remove all personal information before that data is transferred to the federal government”, and that the Department of Homeland Security would scrub any data not cleaned by companies. “We’ve tried to minimize in that any personal, identifying data that could be captured,” he said.

But Burr admitted the bill would still allow companies to share directly with the NSA, and could potentially receive liability protections if information is shared “not electronically”. “Our preference is the electronic transfer through the DHS portal,” he said.

While the NSA has labored to convince the public to move on from international condemnation of its digital dragnets – though Congress has passed no legislation to curtail them – acrimony within the tech sector at the surveillance giant persists.

At a Washington forum last month, Yahoo’s chief security officer confronted the NSA’s chief, Admiral Mike Rogers, over a recent push by US security agencies to undermine encryption for government benefit, a revival of the so-called “Crypto Wars” of the 1990s.

Alex Stamos of Yahoo challenged Rogers to explain why his company should not do the same thing on behalf of US adversaries or competitors to facilitate their spying on the United States. Rogers, in what was seen as a heated exchange, resisted the comparison.

Against that backdrop of suspicion, it is uncertain if the new cybersecurity bill can garner the votes in the broader Senate and House that its predecessors could not. The digital-rights group Access on Thursday was already seeking to mobilize its membership to call legislators in objection to the bill.

Wyden declined to comment to reporters, saying as he left the meeting: “You guys know I like talking about this stuff but I can’t say anything.”

He later articulated his dissent in a statement: “The most effective way to protect cybersecurity is by ensuring network owners take responsibility for security. Strong cybersecurity legislation should make clear that government agencies cannot order US hardware and software companies to build weaker products, as senior FBI officials have proposed.”



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'Freak' Flaw Also Affects Windows

'Freak' Flaw Also Affects Windows | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it

Microsoft is warning that all Windows operating systems are at risk from the vulnerability known as Freak, for "Factoring RSA-EXPORT Keys." The flaw exists in SSL, which is used to secure online communications, and could be abused by an attacker to force crypto suites to downgrade from using a "strong" RSA cipher to a weaker, "export-grade" RSA cipher.

A new Microsoft security advisory (KB3046015) warns that Secure Channel, or Schannel, which encrypts traffic and transactions on most Windows platforms, is at risk from the Freak flaw.


"Microsoft is aware of a security feature bypass vulnerability in Secure Channel that affects all supported releases of Microsoft Windows," the alert says. "Our investigation has verified that the vulnerability could allow an attacker to force the downgrading of the cipher suites used in an SSL/TLS connection on a Windows client system."

As yet, there's no patch available for vulnerable Windows systems, although information security experts say they expect Microsoft to release related fixes quickly. In the interim, Microsoft has detailed a temporary workaround that can be used for most Windows systems. "You can disable the RSA key exchange ciphers in Windows Vista and later systems by modifying the SSL Cipher Suite order in the Group Policy Object Editor," it says. But it warns: "Windows will fail to connect to systems that do not support any of the ciphers listed in the workaround."

To date, however, there's no fix or workaround available for Windows Server 2003. "The cipher management architecture on Windows Server 2003 does not allow for the enabling or disabling of individual ciphers," Microsoft says.

Risks to Apple, Android, Cloud

After quietly warning security vendors, government agencies and other organizations in recent weeks, security researchers first sounded a public alert about the Freak vulnerability on March 3. They've warned that the vulnerability exists in versions of OpenSSL prior to 1.0.1k, all Android devices that ship with the standard browser, as well as in Apple SSL/TLS clients, which are used by both Mac OS X clients and iOS mobile devices, among other operating systems. The vulnerability has been designated as CVE-2015-0204.

The Freak flaw could be exploited to downgrade a browser or other client's Internet connection from a relatively secure cipher, to an outdated - and weak - "export cipher," which attackers could then crack, allowing them to intercept communications or inject attack code into browsers. "What Freak allows you to do is, if you can break the RSA export-strength key, then you can provide a 'valid' certificate for a man-in-the-middle attack," says Gavin Millard, technical director for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa at Tenable Network Security. Tenable, which sells the widely used Nessus vulnerability scanner, has released a Nessus plug-in that will scan for Windows clients and servers that are vulnerable to Freak.

No Attacks Seen

But to date, there have been no signs that the Freak flaw has ever been exploited in the wild - against Windows servers and systems, or any other device. "The reality is, it's still really difficult to do - to break a key, it would still take a few hours or $100 of Amazon EC2 time," Millard says, referring to Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud, which offers on-demand processing power. "There are so many other ways to break into a site. Hackers are smart; they don't use a sledgehammer to crack a walnut."

Still, related vulnerabilities remain widespread. The Freak Attack website, which is run by researchers at the University of Michigan, has been tracking the extent of the Freak vulnerability. The site reports that as of March 6, 9.5 percent of the websites on the Alexa index of the 1 million most popular top-level domains remained vulnerable to Freak, although that was a decrease from 12.2 percent of all such sites when the Freak vulnerability was first publicized on March 3. But 37 percent of all HTTPS servers with browser-trusted certificates remained vulnerable to Freak, as did 26 percent of all HTTPS servers, and neither of those statistics had declined since Freak was first publicized, the researchers say.

As of March 6, the Freak Attack website reported that the following client software remained vulnerable to the Freak flaw:

  • Internet Explorer
  • Chrome on Mac OS (patch available now)
  • Chrome on Android
  • Safari on Mac OS (patch due week of March 9)
  • Safari on iOS (patch due week of March 9)
  • Stock Android Browser
  • BlackBerry Browser
  • Opera on Mac OS
  • Opera on Linux

Cloud security firm Skyhigh Networks reported that as of March 4, 766 cloud providers also remained unpatched against the vulnerability, thus leaving their users at risk. "These services include some of the leading backup, HR, security, collaboration, CRM, ERP, cloud storage, and backup services," Sekhar Sarukkai, vice president of engineering at Skyhigh, says in a March 5 blog post. Across the company's 350 customers, meanwhile, he reports that 99 percent use at least one cloud provider that's vulnerable to the Freak flaw, while the average company uses 122 vulnerable services.

Don't Freak: How to Mitigate

The Freak Attack site says that to mitigate the vulnerability, anyone running a server "should immediately disable support for TLS export cipher suites," and that anyone who uses a browser should ensure that they have the latest version installed, and keep checking for new upgrades, since all major browsers should soon see a fix.

Finally, Freak Attack recommends that all systems administrators and developers ensure that their TLS libraries are fully updated. "Both OpenSSL and Microsoft Schannel are known to be vulnerable," it says. "Note that these libraries are used internally by many other programs." The site offers a number of tools that can be used to test for related flaws.

This is not the first time that the Microsoft Schannel has been at risk from a newly discovered vulnerability. In particular, a zero-day vulnerability in Schannel was discovered in November 2014. Before that, Schannel was at risk from the so-called POODLE flaw - first publicly revealed Oct. 14 - in SSL, and which was later found in TLS. The flaw could be exploited to intercept and read encrypted Internet communications, steal session cookies and impersonate users.


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OpenDNS trials system that quickly detects computer crime

OpenDNS trials system that quickly detects computer crime | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it

A security system undergoing testing by a San-Francisco-based company aims to speed up the detection of websites and domains used for cybercrime.

The technology is being developed by OpenDNS, which specializes in performing DNS (Domain Name System) lookups. The DNS translates domain names such as idg.com into an IP address that can be called into a browser

OpenDNS offers a secure DNS service for ISPs and organizations that blocks requests from Web browsers to sites that may be associated with cybercrime or spoof a company such as PayPal.

The company, which was founded in 2005, has grown so much that its systems respond to some 71 billion DNS requests per day. That’s just 2 percent of global DNS traffic but is enough of a sample to pick up on many cybercrime campaigns.

The new system, called Natural Language Processing rank (NLPRank) looks at a range of metrics around a particular domain name or website to figure out if it’s suspicious.

It scores a domain name to figure out if it’s likely fraudulent by comparing it to a corpus of suspicious names or phrases. For example, g00gle.com—with zeros substituting for the letter “o”—would raise a red flag.

Many cybercriminal groups have surprisingly predictable patterns when registering domains names for their campaigns, a type of malicious vernacular that OpenDNS is indexing. Bogus domain names use company names, or phrases like “Java update,” “billinginfo” or “security-info” to try to appear legitimate.

But there’s a chance that NLPRank could trigger a false positive, flagging a variation of a domain that is legitimate, said Andrew Hay, director of security research at OpenDNS.

To prevent false positives, the system also checks to see if a particular domain is running on the same network, known as its ASN (autonomous system number), that the company or organization usually uses. NLPRank also looks at the HTML composition of a new domain. If it differs from that of the real organization, it can be a sign of fraud.

NLPRank is still being refined to make sure the false positive rate is as low as possible. But there have been encouraging signs that the system has already spotted malware campaigns seen by other security companies, Hay said.

Earlier this month, Kaspersky Lab released a report on a gang that stole upwards of US$1 billion from banks in 25 countries. The group infiltrated banks by gaining the login credentials to key systems through emails containing malicious code, which were opened by employees.

Hay said Kaspersky approached OpenDNS before the report was published to see if it had information on domains associated with the attacks. NLPRank was already blocking some of the suspicious domains, even though OpenDNS didn’t know more details about the attacks.

“We caught these things well back,” Hay said.

In some cases, NLPRank could allow a domain to be blocked even before one is actively used. After cybercriminals register a domain, they’ll often visit it once to make sure it’s accessible. It may then go dormant for a few days before it is incorporated in a campaign, Hay said.

If a fraudster is connected to an ISP that uses OpenDNS’s service, just a single DNS query for that new domain would allow OpenDNS to analyze and potentially block it before it is used for crime.

“As soon as we see that little bump on the wire, we can block it and monitor to see what’s going on,” Hay said. “It’s almost an early warning system for fraudulent activity.”



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Lenovo Website Hijacked

Lenovo Website Hijacked | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it

The website of Lenovo.com, the world's largest PC manufacturer, was hacked on Feb. 25 and visitors directed to an attacker-controlled page. The hacking group Lizard Squad, which has claimed credit for the attack via Twitter, also appears to have intercepted some Lenovo e-mails.

"Lenovo has been the victim of a cyber-attack," spokeswoman Wendy Fung told Information Security Media Group on Feb. 26. "One effect of this attack was to redirect traffic from the Lenovo website. We are also actively investigating other aspects. We are responding and have already restored certain functionality to our public-facing website.


"We regret any inconvenience that our users may have if they are not able to access parts of our site at this time," Fung added. "We are actively reviewing our network security and will take appropriate steps to bolster our site and to protect the integrity of our users' information and experience. We are also working proactively with third parties to address this attack and we will provide additional information as it becomes available."

Lenovo appeared to have restored complete access to its public website by the evening of Feb. 25.

The attack follows revelations that Lenovo, in recent months, had been preinstalling Superfish, which is adware that information security experts warn could be abused by attackers to intercept consumers' communications on many of its consumer devices.

In response to those reports, Lenovo has apologized and released utilities consumers can use to expunge Superfish from their systems. Working with McAfee, Microsoft and Trend Micro, the Superfish software has also been classified as malware and targeted for removal by their anti-virus engines, which Lenovo says will remotely wipe the adware from many systems.

Lizard Squad has recently claimed credit for a number of attacks, including the January disruption of the Malaysian Airline website, as well as the 2014 Christmas Day disruption of the Sony PlayStation and Microsoft Xbox Live networks.

Hacking Lenovo's DNS

The Lenovo.com website disruption began Feb. 25 at about 4 p.m. ET, with visitors to the site being redirected to another site that was labeled as being "the new and improved rebranded Lenovo website," accompanied by a slideshow of bored-looking teenagers looking at webcams, as the song "Breaking Free" - from the movie "High School Musical" - played in the background, technology publication The Verge first reported.

"We're breaking free! Soarin', flyin', there's not a star in heaven that we can't reach!" Lizard Squad tweeted at 4:19 p.m. ET via its @LizardCircle account, referencing the lyrics from the High "School Musical" song.

Security experts say Lizard Squad appears to have hijacked the Lenovo.com website by compromising its domain registrar, Web Commerce Communications Limited - better known as Webnic.cc. The attackers were then able to alter the Lenovo.com DNS settings, ultimately transferring them to servers run by the distributed denial-of-service attack defense service CloudFlare.

"To all asking: Lenovo was NOT a CF customer; their domain was hijacked & transferred to us," CloudFlare principal security research Marc Rogers tweeted on Feb. 25. "We are working with them to restore service."

The choice of CloudFlare was no doubt an ironic move, given that Lizard Squad says its attacks are meant to advertise its own DDoS service, Lizard Stresser.

Domain Registrar Offline

Following the attack, the Webnic.cc website has been unavailable and resolving to a "service temporarily unavailable" error message. Contacted on Feb. 26, a member of the Webnic.cc customer support team, based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, declined to comment on the reported attack, and whether the website outage was intentional, for example if the registrar is attempting to conduct a digital forensics investigation and remediate affected systems following the apparent hack attack.

If Lizard Squad obtained access to internal Webnic.cc systems, then it could have transferred the Lenovo.com website to any address of its choosing. Bolstering that theory, Lizard Squad has published what it claims to be an authorization key - also known as an auth code or EFF key - that it stole from Webnic.cc. Such keys are used to authorize the transfer of domains between registrars.

Lenovo E-Mail Theft?

Lizard Squad has also published two e-mails that had apparently been sent to employees at Lenovo - with a Lenovo.com e-mail address - on Feb. 25, during the time when the hacking group appeared to have been in control of the Lenovo.com DNS settings. One e-mail cited The Verge report that the Lenovo.com website had been hacked as of 4 p.m. ET, and that Lizard Squad appeared to be responsible.

Another published e-mail referred to a Lenovo Yoga laptop that was "bricked" when a customer attempted to run Lenovo's update to remove the Superfish application and root certificate that it was preinstalling on many of its consumer devices (see Lenovo Drops Superfish Adware). "FYI - the process to remove the Superfish software from the Yoga 11 has resulted in a failed device. Can we get him a new one?" the internal e-mail reads.

Lenovo's Fung declined to comment on whether those e-mails were genuine. But Lizard Squad says via Twitter: "We'll comb the Lenovo dump for more interesting things later."

Follows Google Vietnam Hack

The Lenovo website hack follows Lizard Squad claiming credit for the recent disruption of Google.com.vn, or Google Vietnam, which was reportedly also registered with Webnic.cc. For several hours on Feb. 23, visitors to that Google website were reportedly redirected to a website that showed a man taking a "selfie" in the mirror with his iPhone, underneath the words "Hacked by Lizard Squad," The Wall Street Journal reports.

Google says that its systems were not breached by the attack, and said its domain name registrar was responsible. "For a short period today, some people had trouble connecting to google.com.vn, or were being directed to a different website," a Google spokesman told The Wall Street Journal. "We've been in contact with the organization responsible for managing this domain name and the issue should be resolved."


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Our SIM cards are secure despite alleged hack

Our SIM cards are secure despite alleged hack | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it

Gemalto's SIM cards for mobile phones are secure despite purported hacks by US and UK spy agencies, the company announced Monday.

A report released Thursday by online publication The Intercept claims that the US National Security Agency and the UK's Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ, hacked into Gemalto's internal network and stole the encryption keys used to secure the company's SIM cards. The Amsterdam-based company said last week it would fully investigate the claim.

On Monday, the company said that "initial conclusions" indicate that its SIM cards and other products are "secure" and that it doesn't expect any "significant financial prejudice." Gemalto added that it plans to host a press conference and issue a statement on Wednesday to reveal more information about results of its investigation.

Gemalto sells its SIM cards to 450 carriers around the world, including AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint. The cards contain personal information, including your phone number, billing information, contacts and text messages and are supposed to be protected by encryption keys to thwart hacking attempts.

The Intercept was founded by journalist Glenn Greenwald and is the means through which NSA contractor-turned-whistleblower Edward Snowden's revelations about government spying were first released. Citing documents from Snowden, The Intercept's report last week charges that a joint unit of the NSA and GCHQ hacked the SIM card encryption keys used by Gemalto and possibly other vendors.

The report of the hack, which allegedly occurred in 2010 and 2011, has raised red flags because it would mean that the spy agencies have the ability to access personal data and tap into mobile phone voice and data communications around the world.

Using stolen keys, the NSA and GCHQ could intercept mobile communications without getting approval from telecom providers or foreign governments, The Intercept's report alleges. Having those keys basically would mean there's no need to get a legal warrant.

Gemalto's security team started its investigation on Wednesday after the company was contacted by The Intercept. Gemalto's team attempted to determine how its network could have been compromised but could find no trace of any hacks, The Intercept reported. Paul Beverly, a Gemalto executive vice president, was also asked by The Intercept if the NSA or GCHQ had ever requested access to the SIM card encryption keys.

"I am totally unaware," Beverly told the publication. "To the best of my knowledge, no."


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