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U.S. Enters Final Stage of Net Neutrality Debate
23.2.2018 securityweek BigBrothers

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) published its official order (PDF) repealing net neutrality rules in the Federal Register on Thursday. This follows the December vote by the commissioners -- 3-2 in support of Chairman Ajit Pai's campaign to abandon the Open Internet Order that began in 2005 and was finally approved by the FCC in 2010.

The basic tenet of net neutrality is that internet service providers may not favor one customer over another. ISPs contend that basic business principles should allow them to offer discounts to major customers. Neutrality supporters fear that this could only be achieved by charging small customers at a higher rate -- and that this would inevitably affect innovation by favoring the existing large customers. Side effects would include the ISPs effectively having the ability to block websites.

Although the FCC ruling is now official, it won't come into effect until April 23; that is, 60 days after publication in the Federal Register. It still has hurdles. Led by New York State attorney general Eric Shneiderman, 23 states have immediately petitioned (PDF) for a judicial review of the Order. The petition asks the court of appeals for the district of Columbia to determine that the order is "arbitrary, capricious, and abuse of discretion". They claim it violates both the Constitution and the Communications Act of 1934, and they "request that this Court hold unlawful, vacate, enjoin, and set aside the Order."

At the same time, several of the states are planning their own state-level net neutrality laws -- effectively telling the ISPs that if they operate the new FCC rules, they won't be allowed to do business in their states.

In San Francisco, Mayor Mark Farrell, who chairs the city's Blue Ribbon Panel on Municipal Fiber, released recommendations designed to stop ISPs compromising net neutrality principles. The plan is for San Francisco to own its own high-speed fiber network. "On the day the FCC is releasing its plan to repeal net neutrality and vital consumer protections, I am releasing San Francisco's plan to fight back against this misguided move that will dismantle the Internet as we know it," Farrell said in a statement.

Meanwhile, in January, Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass. gathered the support of all his Democratic colleagues, plus one Republican (Sen. Susan Collins of Maine) seeking to kill the order under the Congressional Review Act. If the Democrats are able to gain one more vote in the Senate to overcome the Republican majority, they will be able to prevent the FCC repealing net neutrality both now and again in the future. In reality, this is unlikely since it will require the Senate Majority Leader and the House Speaker -- both Republicans -- to schedule a vote before April 23.

A Consumer Reports survey of more than 1000 Americans in 2017 showed consumer support for the existing net neutrality rules. "One main finding," says the report, "was that the majority of Americans -- 57 percent -- support the current net neutrality regulations that ban ISPs from blocking or discriminating against lawful content on the internet." Only 16% opposed the existing rules. "An even larger majority -- 67 percent -- said that ISPs shouldn't be allowed to choose which websites, apps, or streaming services their customers can access."

In a statement yesterday, the Consumers Union said, "We urge Senators to listen to the consumers they represent and vote to restore these critical net neutrality rules to ensure that internet service providers aren't the gatekeepers to the internet."

During the public comment period for the repeal of net neutrality, the FCC received millions of comments. The process was not without its critics. At one point, the FCC's website went off-line, supposedly either under the weight of comments being submitted or an unrelated DDoS attack. Neutrality activists, however, claimed that the FCC took the website offline to hinder the receipt of negative public comments.

Since then Schneiderman's office undertook its own investigation into the public comments. Among the millions received by the FCC, it concluded that around 2 million were fraudulent, being submitted by people posing to be others -- both living and dead.

This may be partly the motivation for FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel's comments. Rosenworcel was one of two FCC commissioners to vote against the repeal. "This agency has failed the American public," she said. "It turned a blind eye to all kinds of corruption in our public record, from Russian intervention to fake comments to stolen identities in our files. As a result of the mess the agency created, broadband systems will now have the power to block websites, throttle services and censor online content. This is not right,"

America has entered the final stage of the net neutrality debate. Ajit Pai's new approach is in the driving seat -- but the next 60 days will decide whether he succeeds or not.


SEC Tells Execs Not to Trade While Investigating Security Incidents
22.2.2018 securityweek BigBrothers

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Wednesday announced updated guidance on how public companies should handle the investigation and disclosure of data breaches and other cybersecurity incidents.

The SEC has advised companies to inform investors in a timely fashion of all cybersecurity incidents and risks – even if the firm has not actually been targeted in a malicious attack. The agency also believes companies should develop controls and procedures for assessing the impact of incidents and risks.

While directors, officers and the people in charge of developing these controls and procedures should be made aware of security risks and incidents, the SEC believes these individuals should refrain from trading securities while in possession of non-public information regarding a significant cybersecurity incident.

SEC Updates Guidance on Data Breach Disclosures

“Public companies should have policies and procedures in place to (1) guard against directors, officers, and other corporate insiders taking advantage of the period between the company’s discovery of a cybersecurity incident and public disclosure of the incident to trade on material nonpublic information about the incident, and (2) help ensure that the company makes timely disclosure of any related material nonpublic information. In addition, we believe that companies are well served by considering the ramifications of directors, officers, and other corporate insiders trading in advance of disclosures regarding cyber incidents that prove to be material,” the SEC said.

These recommendations follow accusations of insider trading against executives at two major companies recently involved in significant cybersecurity incidents. Last year, questions were raised after four Equifax executives sold stock worth $1.8 million just prior to public disclosure of the hack affecting 145 million customers. Equifax claimed that the execs had been unaware of the breach when they sold shares.

Intel’s CEO, Brian Krzanich, faced similar accusations after it was revealed that he had sold all the stock he was legally allowed to, worth roughly $24 million, just before the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities were disclosed. The chipmaker claimed Krzanich’s decision was not related to the disclosure, but some of the lawsuits filed against Intel over the flaws accuse the company of misleading investors.

“We’re all fighting a cyber arms race. However, some organizations have been operating the cyber war while being cloaked. Organizations determine if damage has been done, and how much damage has been done while not being made public. While these undisclosed investigations are being conducted to determine the extent and potential impact of an attack, it’s simply reckless and inappropriate for executives to trade equities, even if they’re on an automated plan,” said Bill Conner, CEO of SonicWall.

“It is good to see the SEC taking action, even if they are reacting on behalf of shareholders to protect them from the massive, headlining breaches that have come so frequent. There’s more to be done by the SEC with respect to cyber guidelines on disclosure and insider trading rules but, this is a solid step in the right direction,” Conner added.

The SEC’s cybersecurity incident disclosure guidance was first released in 2011 and it has now been updated to reinforce and expand previous recommendations. However, some officials, including SEC commissioners Kara Stein and Robert Jackson, believe the agency could have and should have done more.

“I reluctantly support today’s guidance in the hope that it is just the first step toward defeating those who would use technology to threaten our economy. The guidance essentially reiterates years-old staff-level views on this issue. But economists of all stripes agree that much more needs to be done,” Jackson said on Wednesday.

The SEC itself admitted last year that it was the victim of a cyberattack in 2016 that may have allowed hackers to profit through trading on non-public information obtained from its EDGAR filing system.


Singapore Invites Cyberattacks to Strengthen Defenses
22.2.2018 securityweek BigBrothers

Hundreds of hackers have targeted Singapore's defence ministry –- but the attacks were at the government's invitation in an unusual attempt to strengthen cybersecurity.

Authorities said Wednesday they had paid out US$14,750 in prize money to the best of the 264 so-called "white hat" hackers -- specialists who seek to break into networks to check for vulnerabilities -- involved in the project.

The program, which ran from mid-January to early February, was introduced after an embarrassing breach last year which saw hackers steal personal data from about 850 military servicemen and other employees from a defence ministry web portal.

It was run with cybersecurity network HackerOne, which specializes in coordinating "bug bounty programs" in which hackers are rewarded for spotting weaknesses in computer systems.

The top hacker in the contest was a Cyber Security Manager from Ernst and Young Singapore who gave his name only as Darrel and goes by the online moniker "Shivadagger". He was awarded US$5,000.

A total of 97 vulnerability reports were submitted from 34 participants during the program, with 35 reports deemed valid, according to the defence ministry.

David Koh, the defence ministry's cybersecurity chief, hailed the project. "Our systems are now more secure," he said.

While Singapore has some of the most advanced weaponry in the region, Koh said the ministry was at increasing risk of being targeted, and attackers could range from high-school students in their basements to criminals and state-actors.


North Korea Cyber Threat 'More Aggressive Than China': US Firm
21.2.2018 securityweek BigBrothers

North Korean hackers are becoming more aggressive than their Chinese counterparts, a leading US cybersecurity firm warned Tuesday, as it identified a Pyongyang-linked group as an "advanced persistent threat".

It was the first time that FireEye had used the designation for a North Korean-based group.

Analysts say the isolated and impoverished but nuclear-armed North has stepped up hacking operations partly to raise money for the cash-strapped regime, which is subject to multiple sanctions over its atomic weapons and ballistic missile programs.

North Korea Cyber ThreatNorth Korea has previously been blamed for the WannaCry ransomware that briefly wreaked havoc around the world last year -- an accusation it angrily denies.

FireEye said North Korean operatives had expanded their targets beyond South Korea and mounted increasingly sophisticated attacks, adding it had identified a suspected North Korean cyberespionage group it dubbed "APT37" -- standing for "advanced persistent threat".

APT37 was "primarily based in North Korea", it said, and its choice of targets "aligns with North Korean state interests".

"We assess with high confidence that this activity is carried out on behalf of the North Korean government," it added.

APT37 has been active at least since 2012, it said, previously focused on "government, military, defence industrial base and media sector" in the rival South before widening its range to include Japan, Vietnam and the Middle East last year, and industries ranging from chemicals to telecommunications.

"This group should be taken seriously," FireEye added.

FireEye's first APT was identified in a 2013 report by company division Mandiant, which said that hackers penetrating US newspapers, government agencies and companies "are based primarily in China and that the Chinese government is aware of them".

One group, it said then, was believed to be a branch of the People's Liberation Army in Shanghai called Unit 61398. Five of its members were later indicted by US federal prosecutors on charges of stealing information from US firms, provoking a diplomatic row between Washington and Beijing.

"We have seen both North Korean and Chinese operations range from simplistic to very technically sophisticated," FireEye's director of intelligence analysis John Hultquist told AFP.

"The sharpest difference between the two really lies in the aggressive nature of North Korean operations," he added.

"Whereas Chinese actors have typically favoured quiet espionage, North Korea has demonstrated a willingness to carry out some very aggressive activity, ranging from attack to outright global crime."

But the WannaCry ransomware, he believes, was the work of a different North Korean group. "Thus far, we have only found APT37 doing the quiet espionage but they are a tool the regime can use aggressively."

The North is known to operate an army of thousands of well-trained hackers that have attacked South Korean firms, institutions and even rights groups helping North Korean refugees.

Its cyberwarfare abilities first came to prominence when it was accused of hacking into Sony Pictures Entertainment to take revenge for "The Interview," a satirical film that mocked its leader Kim Jong Un.

More recently, according to analysts, the North's hackers have stepped up campaigns to raise funds by attacking cryptocurrency exchanges as the value of bitcoin and other cybercurrencies soared.


U.S. Justice Department Launches Cybersecurity Task Force
21.2.2018 securityweek BigBrothers

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced on Tuesday the launch of a new cybersecurity task force whose role is to help the Department of Justice find ways to combat cyber threats and become more efficient in this area.

The Cyber-Digital Task Force will focus on various types of threats, such as interfering with elections, disrupting critical infrastructure, using the Internet for spreading violent ideologies and recruiting followers, attacks that rely on botnets, the use of technology designed to hide criminal activities and avoid law enforcement, and the theft of personal, corporate and governmental data.

The task force has been instructed to submit a report to the Attorney General on these and other important topics, along with providing initial recommendations, by June 30.

The Cyber-Digital Task Force will be chaired by a senior Justice Department official and will include representatives of the Department’s Criminal Division, the National Security Division, the U.S. Attorney’s Office community, the Office of Legal Policy, the Office of Privacy and Civil Liberties, the Office of the Chief Information Officer, the FBI, ATF, DEA, and the U.S. Marshals Service. Other departments may be invited to participate as well.

“The Internet has given us amazing new tools that help us work, communicate, and participate in our economy, but these tools can also be exploited by criminals, terrorists, and enemy governments,” said Attorney General Sessions. “At the Department of Justice, we take these threats seriously. That is why today I am ordering the creation of a Cyber-Digital Task Force to advise me on the most effective ways that this Department can confront these threats and keep the American people safe.”

The U.S. government has been increasingly concerned about online campaigns whose goal is to interfere with the country’s elections. Russia is widely believed to have meddled in the 2016 presidential election and officials fear it will attempt to do so again in the upcoming midterm elections.

Officials are also concerned about cyberattacks launched by Russia and others against critical infrastructure in the United States.

In response to growing threats, the U.S. government has launched various cybersecurity initiatives. For instance, the Department of Energy is prepared to invest millions in cybersecurity and recently announced the creation of a dedicated office, and the Department of Defense has paid hackers hundreds of thousands of dollars for finding vulnerabilities in its systems.


Russian Cyberspies Shift Focus From NATO Countries to Asia
20.2.2018 securityweek BigBrothers

The Russia-linked cyber espionage group known as Sofacy, APT28, Fancy Bear, Pawn Storm, Sednit and Strontium has shifted its focus from NATO member countries and Ukraine to Central Asia and even further east, Kaspersky Lab reported on Tuesday.

Sofacy, which is believed to be behind attacks targeting the 2016 presidential election in the United States, has been known to target Ukraine and NATO countries. NATO was heavily targeted in early 2017, including with zero-day exploits, but Kaspersky said the group later started to shift its focus towards the Middle East and Central Asia, which had been less targeted in the first half of the year.

According to the security firm, by mid-2017, detections of a Sofacy backdoor tracked as SPLM, CHOPSTICK and X-Agent showed that the hackers had been increasingly targeting former Soviet countries in Central Asia, including telecoms firms and defense-related organizations. The attacks were aimed at countries such as Turkey, Kazakhstan, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, Jordan and Uzbekistan.

Attacks involving SPLM and a tool tracked as Zebrocy were increasingly spotted between the second and fourth quarters of 2017 further east. The list of countries where these pieces of malware were detected by Kaspersky includes China, Mongolia, South Korea and Malaysia.

Zebrocy, which allows attackers to collect data from victims, has been used to target various types of organizations, including accounting firms, science and engineering centers, industrial organizations, ministries, embassies and consulates, national security and intelligence agencies, press and translation services, and NGOs.

As for the infrastructure used in these attacks, researchers pointed out that Sofacy has been fairly consistent throughout the years and many of its techniques and patterns have been publicly disclosed. As a result, Kaspersky expects to see some changes this year.

“Sofacy is one of the most active threat actors we monitor, and it continues to spear-phish its way into targets, often on a remarkable global scale,” explained Kurt Baumgartner, principal security researcher at Kaspersky Lab. “Our data and detections show that in 2017, the threat actor further developed its toolset as it moved from high volume NATO spear-phish targeting towards the Middle East and Central Asia, before finally shifting its focus further East. Mass campaigns appear to have given way to subsets of activity and malware involving such tools as Zebrocy and SPLM.”


NIST Proposes Metadata Schema for Evaluating Federated Attributes
20.2.2018 securityweek BigBrothers

NIST's Attribute Metadata Schema Could Help Privacy Compliance in Multi-Domain Transactions

Verifying identities (entities) is one problem. Managing the authorized transactions available to that verified entity is a separate problem. As industry and government increasingly move online, both the complexity and criticality of different possible cross-domain transactions increase. A single verified entity may be authorized for some transactions, but not others.

The decision to authorize or decline access to a protected resource depends upon different attributes (metadata) associated with each entity. In a federated identity and access management (IAM) process, different metadata is obtained from different authoritative providers. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) recently published 'Attribute Metadata: a Proposed Schema for Evaluating Federated Attributes' (PDF) in order to provide the basis for the evolution of a standardized approach to entity attributes.

This is an internal report (NISTIR 8112) that will not be imposed upon federal agencies, but can be used by both public and private organizations. Its purpose is to allow a system (RP, the relying party) that uses federated IAM to better understand and trust different attributes; to apply more granular and effective access authorizations; and to promote the federation of attributes.

"NIST envisions that the core set of metadata proposed here can serve as a library or menu from which both commercial and federal implementers can draw common semantics, syntaxes, and values to support their specific needs," notes the report. "This will serve as a starting point for the development of a metadata standard that can enable greater federation across markets and sectors."

NIST believes that it could become the foundation for a future attribute confidence scoring structure to help align attribute-based authorizations with an organization's risk environment. Furthermore, it adds, "the ideal metadata schema could be used in both commercial and public-sector implementations, thus serving as a foundation to enable greater federation across markets and sectors."

The NIST proposal comprises two core concepts: Attribute Schema Metadata (ASM, or the attribute's own metadata -- a definition of the attribute); and Attribute Value Metadata (AVM, or the value contained in the metadata). The ASM for an attribute includes its description, allowed values, its format, its verification frequency, and a description of the basis for processing attributes and attribute values.

The AVM defines 15 separate metadata elements around the value contained in an attribute. There are five categories: provenance (3), accuracy (2), currency (3), privacy (5) and classification (2). The provenance category includes three elements: 'origin', which is the name of the entity that issues the attribute; 'provider', which is the name of the entity providing the attribute and might be different to the origin; and 'pedigree', which is the relationship of the attribute value to an authoritative source, such as 'authoritative', 'derived' or 'self-asserted'.

The Classification (security level) metadata comprises two elements: classification and releasability. The classification metadata element could be any one of six values: unclassified, controlled unclassified, confidential, secret, top secret, and company confidential. The releasability element has seven possible values: NATO, NOFORN (no-one foreign), FVEY (only members of the Five Eye allies), public release, for business purposes, do not release, and none.

However, the remaining eight metadata elements have no defined values nor restrictions on what could be included. The five 'privacy' elements are particularly interesting because they can be used both to provide compliance with privacy regulations -- including aspects of the EU's General Data Protection Regulation -- and demonstrate compliance to auditors. The elements are date of consent, type of consent, acceptable uses, cache time limit, and date for data deletion.

Consent is an essential part of user data collection and user data processing. Having the date consent was given, separate data processors have greater legal status in processing user data. The type of consent is equally important. Values could include 'opt-in', 'opt-out' or parental-delegated consent, among others. Since different jurisdictions can demand 'opt-in' consent, or allow 'opt-out' consent, knowing which attribute applies to the data is important for privacy compliance.

The acceptable uses element can be used to specify the use conditions for the entities that receive attributes. Again, since under GDPR and other regulations, user data can only be used for the purposes for which it was collected, it is an aid to ensuring and demonstrating compliance. The NIST document suggests, "organizations or trust frameworks might also maintain their own categories of acceptable uses based on their policies."

The cache time limit reflects the sensitivity of different data, and can be used to specify the maximum time that data may reside in cache memory, perhaps for re-use in other transactions. "In some cases," says NIST, "the time to live may be dictated by regulation or law, and this information needs to be relayed to RP systems so data are handled accordingly. The more sensitive an attribute value, the shorter time it will likely be enabled to live in temporary memory."

The data deletion data attribute simply ensures that a best practice privacy principle can be applied. "Some attribute values may produce little to no privacy risk for individuals," writes NIST. "Other values may add new privacy risks or increase existing privacy risks. A deletion date ensures that sensitive information does not remain in systems indefinitely."

"This NISTIR," says the report, "defines a set of optional elements of an attribute metadata schema to support cross-organization decision making, such as two executive branch agencies, in attribute assertions. It also provides the semantics and syntax required to support interoperability. NIST does not intend to make any of this schema required in federal systems and attribute-based information sharing. Rather, this schema represents a compendium of possible metadata elements to assist in risk-based decision making by an RP. This schema is focused on subjects (individual users); objects and data tagging, while related, are out of scope."


Cyberattacks cost the United States between $57 billion and $109 billion in 2016
20.2.2018 securityaffairs BigBrothers

The report published by the White House Council of Economic Advisers examines the cyberattacks cost that malicious cyber activities cause to the U.S. economy.
How much cost cyber attacks to the US? According to a report published by the White House Council of Economic Advisers last week, the cyberattacks cost between $57 billion and $109 billion in 2016, and things can go worse in the future.

“This report examines the substantial economic costs that malicious cyber activity imposes on the U.S. economy. Cyber threats are ever-evolving and may come from sophisticated adversaries. Due to common vulnerabilities, instances of security breaches occur across firms and in patterns that are difficult to anticipate.” states the report.

“Firms in critical infrastructure sectors may generate especially large negative spillover effects into the wider economy.”

The report analyzed the impact of malicious cyber activities on public and private entities, including DoS attacks, sabotage, business disruption, and theft of proprietary data, intellectual property, and sensitive financial and strategic information.

Damages and losses caused by a cyber attack may spill over from the initial target to economically linked organizations. More exposed are critical infrastructure sectors, at attack against companies and organization in this industry could have a severe impact on the US economy.

The document warns of nation-state actors such as Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea, that are well funded and often conduct sophisticated targeted attacks for both sabotage and cyber espionage.

“Finally, and perhaps most important, if a firm owns a critical infrastructure asset, an attack against this firm could cause major disruption throughout the economy.” reads the report.

“Insufficient cybersecurity investment in these sectors exacerbates the risks of cyberattacks and data breaches. The economic implications of attacks against critical infrastructure assets are described in more detail later in the paper. “

US cyberattacls cost

The reports also warn of devastating cyberattacks that would target sectors that are internally interconnected and interdependent with other sectors.

The report offered little in the way of new recommendations on improving cybersecurity, but noted that the situation is hurt by “insufficient data” as well as “underinvestment” in defensive systems by the private sector.

“Cyber connectivity is an important driver of productivity, innovation, and growth for the U.S. economy, but it comes at a cost. Companies, individuals, and the government are vulnerable to malicious cyber activity.” concludes the report. “Effective public and private-sector efforts to combat this malicious activity would contribute to domestic GDP growth. However, the ever-evolving nature and scope of cyber threats suggest that additional and continued efforts are critical, and the cooperation between public and private sectors is key.”


Cybersecurity Plagued by Insufficient Data: White House
19.2.2018 securityweek BigBrothers

Cyberattacks Are Costly, and Things Could Get Worse: US Report

Cyberattacks cost the United States between $57 billion and $109 billion in 2016, a White House report said Friday, warning of a "spillover" effect for the broader economy if the situation worsens.

A report by the White House Council of Economic Advisers sought to quantify what it called "malicious cyber activity directed at private and public entities" including denial of service attacks, data breaches and theft of intellectual property, and sensitive financial and strategic information.

It warned of malicious activity by "nation-states" and specifically cited Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea.

The report noted particular concern over attacks on so-called critical infrastructure, such as highways, power grids, communications systems, dams, and food production facilities which could lead to important spillover impacts beyond the target victims.

"If a firm owns a critical infrastructure asset, an attack against this firm could cause major disruption throughout the economy," the report said.

It added that concerns were high around cyberattacks against the financial and energy sectors.

"These sectors are internally interconnected and interdependent with other sectors as well as robustly connected to the internet, and are thus at a highest risk for a devastating cyberattack that would ripple through the entire economy," it said.

The report offered little in the way of new recommendations on improving cybersecurity, but noted that the situation is hurt by "insufficient data" as well as "underinvestment" in defensive systems by the private sector.

The document was issued a day after US officials blamed Russia for last year's devastating "NotPetya" ransomware attack, calling it a Kremlin effort to destabilize Ukraine which then spun out of control, hitting companies in the US, Europe and elsewhere.

It said Russia, China, North Korea and other nation-states "often engage in sophisticated, targeted attacks," with a specific emphasis on industrial espionage.

"If they have funding needs, they may conduct ransom attacks and electronic thefts of funds," the report said.

But threats were also seen from "hacktivists," or politically motivated groups, as well as criminal organizations, corporate competitors, company insiders and "opportunists."

In an oft-repeated recommendation, the White House report said more data sharing could help thwart some attacks.

"The field of cybersecurity is plagued by insufficient data, largely because firms face a strong disincentive to report negative news," the report said.

"Cyber protection could be greatly improved if data on past data breaches and cyberattacks were more readily shared across firms."


Prosecutor Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russians for a massive operation aimed to influence Presidential election
19.2.2018 securityaffairs BigBrothers

The special prosecutor Robert Mueller has accused thirteen Russian nationals of tampering with the 2016 presidential election and charged them with conspiring against the United States.
Thirteen Russian nationals and three Russian entities have been indicted for a massive operation aimed to influence the 2016 Presidential election.

The special prosecutor Robert Mueller has accused the defendants of tampering with the 2016 US presidential election and charged them with conspiring against the United States.
According to the results of the investigation conducted by the prosecutor, the Internet Research Agency, a Russian organization, and the 13 Russians began targeting the United States back in 2014.

Russian nationals used stolen American identities and local computer infrastructure to influence the 2016 Presidential election, the group deliberately denigrate the candidate Clinton to support Trump.

“Certain Defendants traveled to the United States under false pretenses for the purpose of
collecting intelligence to inform Defendants’ operations. Defendants also procured and used
computer infrastructure, based partly in the United States, to hide the Russian origin of their
activities and to avoid detection by U.S. regulators and law enforcement.” reads the Mueller’s indictment.

“Defendant ORGANIZATION had a strategic goal to sow discord in the U.S. political
system, including the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Defendants posted derogatory information
about a number of candidates, and by early to mid-2016, Defendants’ operations included
supporting the presidential campaign of then-candidate Donald J. Trump (“Trump Campaign”) and
disparaging Hillary Clinton.”


The indictment states the Russian organization since April 2014 created a specific section focused on the US population that acted to influence the sentiment of citizens on the candidates through social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. By 2014,

The group used VPN services to connect from Russia to the US and manage their network of social media accounts.

The organization would use email addresses such as staceyredneck@gmail.com during its activities.

16 Feb

kadhim (^ー^)ノ

@kadhimshubber
Replying to @kadhimshubber
In September 2017, people apparently continue to write emails in which they say: "the FBI busted our activity (not a joke). So, I got preoccupied with covering tracks together with the colleagues" https://www.justice.gov/file/1035477/download … pic.twitter.com/jZCaq61ork


kadhim (^ー^)ノ

@kadhimshubber
Email addresses the Russians allegedly used with their PayPal accounts include: "staceyredneck@gmail.com" and "wokeaztec@outlook.com" https://www.justice.gov/file/1035477/download … pic.twitter.com/7A6pbdM42I

7:23 PM - Feb 16, 2018
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2
See kadhim (^ー^)ノ's other Tweets
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The Russian propaganda machine created and controlled numerous social media accounts, one of them is the Twitter account “Tennessee GOP,” which used the
handle @TEN_GOP.

“The @TEN_GOP account falsely claimed to be controlled by a U.S. state
political party. Over time, the @TEN_GOP account attracted more than 100,000 online followers.” continues the Indictment.

The group used stolen identities of US citizens to buy political advertisements on social media, they also recruited Americans to spread derogatory information.

We are facing with a powerful and efficient propaganda machine. defendants and their conspirators
constantly monitored their campaign over social media. They measured the
size of the online U.S. audiences reached by their actions and the types of engagement with the
posts.

The activity of the organization was very active in 2016, when defendants posing as American citizens and communicating with Americans began to gather intelligence to better target their campaign.

“In order to carry out their activities to interfere in US political and electoral processes without detection of their Russian affiliation, the Defendants conspired to obstruct the lawful functions of the United States government through fraud and deceit, including by making expenditures in connection with the 2016 US presidential election without proper regulatory disclosure; failing to register as foreign agents carrying out political activities within the United States; and obtaining visas through false and fraudulent statements,” the indictment reads.

Social media giants Facebook and Twitter are both accused of running ads and promoted content for the groups operated by the Organization.

Twitter has admitted the involvement of thousands of bot accounts in Russian propaganda, the company has deleted 200,000 tweets posted by army of trolls used by the Kremlin.


Germany’s defense minister: Cyber security is going to be the main focus of this decade.
19.2.2018 securityaffairs BigBrothers

On Saturday, Germany defense minister Ursula von der Leyen told CNBC that cyber attacks are the greatest challenge threatening global stability.
The cybersecurity is a pillar of modern states, the string of recent massive attacks including NotPetya and WannaCry is the demonstration that we are all potential targets.

Cyber attacks could hit governments, private companies and citizens in every time and from every where causing severe problems to the victims and huge financial losses. The cyber risk is directly linked to geopolitical, environmental, technological, and economic risks. A cyber attack could destabilize governments worldwide, it can get a business out of the business.

When journalists asked about the “single greatest threat to global stability,” to the German defense minister, she confirmed the disconcerting scenario.

“I think it’s the cyber threats because whatever adversaries you can think of and even if you talk about Daesh (the terrorist group) they use the cyber domain to fight against us.” Germany’s defense minister Ursula von der Leyen told CNBC.

Germany defense minister urges European states to invest in collective defense

“This decade will be the decade of improvement in cyber security and information ruling,” she added.


Governments and companies are already investing to improve the resilience to cyber attacks of their networks. The Germany defense minister also noticed that Governments are also working to improve their offensive cyber capabilities.

The US and UK are reportedly using cyber soldiers to fight the Islamic State.

The video interview is available at the following link:

https://www.cnbc.com/video/2018/02/17/cyber-threats-biggest-threat-to-stabililty-german-defense-minister-says.html


Global Powers Must Address 'Episodes of Cyberwar': UN Chief
17.2.2018 securityweek BigBrothers

World leaders must lay the groundwork on how countries respond to cyberattacks that have proven to be a daunting threat, whether by state actors or criminal enterprises, UN secretary general Antonio Guterres said Friday.

"It is clear we are witnessing in a more or less disguised way cyberwars between states, episodes of cyberwar between states," Guterres said during one of the opening speeches at the Munich Security Conference.

"It's high time to have a serious discussion about the international legal framework in which cyberwars take place," he said.

"The fact is we haven't been able to discuss whether or not the Geneva convention applies to cyberwar and whether international humanitarian law applies to cyberwar."

The United States and Britain on Thursday blamed the Russian military for last year's devastating "NotPetya" ransomware attack, calling it a Kremlin effort to destabilise Ukraine, which spun out of control.

The attacks ended up crippling computer networks in the United States and Europe, including those of some big companies.

Washington has also blamed North Korea for the huge "WannaCry" ransomware attack last May in which more than 300,000 computers were struck in some 150 nations.

"How to respond in cases of permanent violations of cybersecurity? What are the different uses that criminal, terror organisations are making of the web?" Guterres said.

Finding a consensus on how to respond to such attacks is urgent, he said, "especially now that artificial intelligence, that is providing enormous potential for economic development, social development, for the well-being of all, is also in the opinion of many an existential threat for humankind."

"It is necessary to bring together governments, the private sector, those involved in civil society, academics, research centres, in order to be able to establish at least some basic protocols to allow the web to be an effective instrument for the good," he said.


U.S. Energy Department Announces Office for Cyber, Energy Security
16.2.2018 securityweek BigBrothers

The U.S. Department of Energy announced this week that it’s creating a new Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response (CESER).

The new office will be led by an assistant secretary who will report to the undersecretary of energy. The role of the assistant secretary will be to focus on energy infrastructure security and support the DoE’s expanded national security responsibilities.

The CESER office will help the DoE efficiently coordinate preparedness and response to both manmade and natural threats.U.S. Department of Energy launches Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response

“DOE plays a vital role in protecting our nation’s energy infrastructure from cyber threats, physical attack and natural disaster, and as Secretary, I have no higher priority,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry. “This new office best positions the Department to address the emerging threats of tomorrow while protecting the reliable flow of energy to Americans today.”

U.S. President Donald Trump has proposed a budget of $30.6 billion for the DoE, including $96 million allocated for bolstering the department’s cybersecurity and energy security efforts. Overall, the current administration wants to invest $80 billion in IT and cybersecurity, which represents a 5.2 percent increase compared to the previous fiscal year.

Energy facilities in the United States and the Energy Department itself have often been targeted by malicious hackers in the past years.

In response to the increasing threat, the DoE announced a few months ago its intention to invest more than $20 million in cybersecurity, including tools and technologies for enhancing cybersecurity, communication systems for resilient grid architectures, energy delivery systems that can adapt to survive a cyber incident, partnerships for vulnerability mitigation, and identifying energy delivery systems that are inadvertently accessible from the Web.


U.S. Government Contractors Score Poorly on Cyber Risk Tests
16.2.2018 securityweek BigBrothers

Report Analyzes Cyber Risk of Federal Supply Chain

Attacks against the supply chain are not uncommon. It represents the soft underbelly of large organizations that are otherwise well defended. The federal government is not an exception -- in fact, federal agencies are especially reliant on their supply chain; and the security posture of that supply chain is of national importance.

This importance is not unrecognized. The May 2017 presidential Executive Order specified that the supply chain be included in security improvements: it called for a report, "on cybersecurity risks facing the defense industrial base, including its supply chain, and United States military platforms, systems, networks, and capabilities, and recommendations for mitigating these risks."

BitSight this week published an analysis of the security posture of the federal supply chain following the executive order. BitSight is a firm that examines and rates companies' security posture by analyzing visible evidence. It sees indicators of compromise, infected machines, improper configuration, poor security hygiene and potentially harmful user behaviors. From such evidence, it is able to see and compare different organizations. It concludes that the federal supply chain continues to provide a soft underbelly for attacks against federal agencies.

While federal agencies are improving their own security stance, their supply chain is lagging. For its analysis, BitSight researchers took a random sample of over 1,200 U.S. federal government contractors across a range of sectors, and compared the results with the performance of over 120 U.S. federal agencies.

It found a mean performance gap of at least 15 points between the agencies and their contractors. BitSight's ratings are calculated on a scale of 250-900, where a higher score reflects a stronger security posture. "There is a significant gap between the security performance of U.S. federal agencies and their contractors," concludes the analysis. "The mean rating for agencies as of January 2018 was 725. This is markedly higher than any of the other sector of contractors for the U.S. federal government observed in this study."

This mean rating disguises some concerning specifics. For example, nearly one in five users at Technology and Aerospace/Defense contractors have an outdated internet browser, making these employees and their organizations highly susceptible to new variants of malware. "High-profile vulnerabilities like Spectre can exploit outdated browsers as an attack to intercept or compromise data," warns BitSight. "Updating to the latest browser, operating system, or software package is critical to mitigating risks."

Individual risk vectors are graded on a scale from 'A' to 'F'. "Nearly 50% of contractors have a BitSight grade below C for the Protective Technology subcategory of the NIST Cybersecurity Framework," states the report. "This data suggests that many contractors are not implementing best practices for network security, encryption, and email security." Engineering was the worst performing sector in this area, with only 4% achieving an A rate. This compares to 38% of the federal agencies achieving an A grade (which is almost three times the average second-best rate of 13% for Business Services).

Botnet infections are another worrying area. It was highlighted in the Trump executive order, which demanded action "to improve the resilience of the internet and communications ecosystem and to encourage collaboration with the goal of dramatically reducing threats perpetrated by automated and distributed attacks (e.g., botnets)."

Here there is less difference between the agencies and their contractors -- in fact both the Business Services (80%) and Aerospace/Defense (74%) sectors achieved more A grades than the Federal Agencies (73%). However, only Aerospace/Defense equaled the agencies in the low number of F and D grades (both at 4%). In general, however, far more of the subcontractors scored B and below than did the agencies. For reference, BitSight claims, "an organization receiving a B or lower in this category is more than twice as likely to experience a data breach."

It goes on to suggest, "This data suggests that these organizations have ineffective security programs in place and may be experiencing ongoing data breaches."

Security of the supply chain is a problematic issue for all organizations. This BitSight reports suggests that it is a serious problem for federal agencies. “Tens of thousands of government contractors hold sensitive data or perform services on behalf of federal agencies," says Jacob Olcott, VP of Strategic Partnerships at BitSight. "The U.S. government must be focused on evaluating, monitoring and improving the cyber hygiene of these contractors. Recent contractor regulations, like the new DOD requirements, are a start, but are too focused on check-the-box compliance. Cyber is a dynamic risk. By leveraging objective data and continuously monitoring the supply chain, the federal government will better comprehend the danger within its own ecosystem and begin to meaningfully mitigate this risk.”

Cambridge, Mass.-based BitSight Technologies raised $40 million in a Series C funding round in September 2016, bringing the total raised to $95 million.


Russian Hackers Sent to U.S. Prison for Stealing 160 Million Bank Card Numbers
16.2.2018 securityweek BigBrothers

A United States Judge this week sent two Russian nationals to prison for their involvement in a hacking scheme that compromised roughly160 million credit card numbers and incurred losses of hundreds of millions.

The two, Vladimir Drinkman, 37, and Dmitriy Smilianets, 34, both of Moscow, were arrested in the Netherlands on June 28, 2012. Smilianets was extradited to the United States on Sept. 7, 2012, while Drinkman was extradited on Feb. 17, 2015.

Drinkman, who previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Jerome B. Simandle of the District of New Jersey, was sentenced to 144 months in prison. Smilianets, who pleaded guilty in September 2013, was sentenced to 51 months and 21 days in prison.

Drinkman and Smilianets, along with three co-defendants, were charged with hacking into the networks of organizations engaged in financial transactions, retailers operating with financial data, and other institutions with information of interest to the group.

The conspirators hacked the computer networks of NASDAQ, 7-Eleven, Carrefour, JCP, Hannaford, Heartland, Wet Seal, Commidea, Dexia, JetBlue, Dow Jones, Euronet, Visa Jordan, Global Payment, Diners Singapore and Ingenicard, court documents and statements show.

Each of the five defendants played a specific role in the scheme, with Drinkman penetrating network security, gaining access to the corporate victims’ systems, and harvesting valuable data from the compromised networks. Smilianets would sell the stolen data and distribute the proceeds of the scheme to the participants.

The other three co-defendants, namely Alexandr Kalinin, 31, of St. Petersburg, Russia, Roman Kotov, 36, of Moscow, Russia, and Mikhail Rytikov, 30, of Odessa, Ukraine, are fugitives.

The hackers targeted the computer networks of corporate victims to steal information such as user names and passwords, means of identification, credit and debit card numbers, and other personal identification information of cardholders.

The group used SQL injection attacks to penetrate the victims’ networks. The hackers targeted vulnerabilities in SQL (Structured Query Language) databases for initial access, then installed malware on the system to create a backdoor and help them maintain access to the network. They would sometime assault a victim network for months before being able to bypass security.

“The defendants used their access to the networks to install ‘sniffers’, which were programs designed to identify, collect and steal data from the victims’ computer networks. The defendants then used an array of computers located around the world to store the stolen data and ultimately sell it to others,” a Department of Justice announcement reads.

The stolen data was sold through online forums or directly to individuals and organizations for around $10 for a stolen American credit card number and associated data, $50 for a European credit card number and associated data, and $15 for a Canadian credit card number and associated data.

Their customers would encode such data onto the magnetic strip of a blank plastic card and use it to withdraw money from ATMs or make purchases.

To conceal the scheme, the five defendants used various methods, starting with the use of anonymous web-hosting services provided by Rytikov. They also used private and encrypted communication channels and also attempted to evade protections by security software, in addition to modifying settings on victim networks to disable the logging of their actions.

“As a result of the scheme, financial institutions, credit card companies and consumers suffered hundreds of millions in losses – including more than $300 million in losses reported by just three of the corporate victims – and immeasurable losses to the identity theft victims in costs associated with stolen identities and false charges,” DoJ says.

In addition to prison terms, Drinkman and Smilianets were also sentenced to three years of supervised release.


Kaspersky Files New Lawsuit Over U.S. Government Software Ban
15.2.2018 securityweek BigBrothers
Kaspersky Lab has filed a new lawsuit over the U.S. government’s decision to ban its products in federal agencies, this time challenging the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

The NDAA for Fiscal Year 2018 was signed by President Donald Trump in mid-December and it reinforced the binding operational directive (BOD) issued by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in September, which ordered government agencies to stop using products from Kaspersky due to concerns regarding its ties to Russian intelligence.

Kaspersky filed a lawsuit to appeal the BOD on December 18, a few days after President Trump signed the NDAA. Last month, the security firm filed an injunction in an effort to expedite the appeal.

The government filed a response to the injunction earlier this month and Kaspersky responded this week with a new lawsuit that challenges the NDAA as a bill of attainder.

A bill of attainder is a legislative act that singles out an individual or group for punishment without a trial. Legislative bills of attainder are banned by the U.S. constitution.

“Kaspersky Lab has filed an action challenging the constitutionality of Section 1634 (a) and (b) of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018, which prohibits any federal entity from using the company’s hardware, software or services. Kaspersky Lab believes that these provisions violate the U.S. Constitution by specifically and unfairly singling out the company for legislative punishment, based on vague and unsubstantiated allegations without any basis in fact,” Kaspersky Lab stated.

“No evidence has been presented of any wrongdoing by the company, or of any misuse of its products. Kaspersky Lab is proven to be one of the world’s leading IT security companies, with a track record of uncovering malicious code and threat actors regardless of their origin or purpose,” the company added.

Kaspersky has attempted to clear its name by launching a new transparency initiative that involves giving partners access to source code and paying significantly larger bug bounties for vulnerabilities found in the firm’s products.

It has also attempted to provide a logical explanation over accusations that its software had been exploited by Russian hackers to steal data belonging to the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) from a contractor’s device.


Shooting Outside US NSA Headquarters, One Hurt
14.2.2018 securityweek BigBrothers
A shooting erupted Wednesday outside the suburban Washington headquarters of the National Security Agency, a secretive intelligence organization responsible for global US electronic eavesdropping, leaving at least one person injured, officials said.

NBC News aired aerial images of what appeared to be police surrounding a man on the ground in handcuffs outside the NSA facility in Fort Meade, Maryland.

A black SUV appeared to have crashed into a concrete barrier surrounding the site, and bullet holes were visible in the vehicle's front windows.

"We can confirm there has been one person injured and we don’t know how the injuries occurred," an NSA spokesman told AFP.

The local ABC affiliate put the number of injured at three and said a suspect was arrested.

The NSA said the situation was under control, advising motorists that a highway leading to the complex was closed in both direction "due to a police investigation."

"The president has been briefed on the shooting at Ft. Meade," the White House said in a statement. "Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone that has been affected."

A law enforcement source said the FBI's Baltimore office was handling the investigation but it was "too soon to tell" whether it was an attack.

They are "still trying to ascertain the facts," the source said.

Known as the "Puzzle Palace," the NSA is the nerve center for US electronic espionage as well as the main protector of US communications and information systems from cyber attack.

The agency was thrust into the spotlight in 2013 when former contractor Edward Snowden leaked details of its global surveillance programs, including its collection of data on Americans.

Snowden has been charged with violating the Espionage Act and theft of government property. He now lives in exile in Russia.

The NSA was the scene of a similar incident in March 2015 when police fired on an SUV, killing the driver and wounding a passenger after they failed to obey orders to stop at its heavily guarded entrance.

In that incident, the two men in the Ford SUV were dressed in women's clothes "but not in an attempt to disguise themselves from authorities," an FBI spokeswoman said at the time.


All You Need to Know About North Korea and its cyber army
14.2.2018 securityaffairs BigBrothers

What Type Of Technology Does North Korea Have? How Did The Country Begin Using Hackers? How Do Hacking Efforts Comply with the Political Situation?
North Korea is not known for technological sophistication. The country does not have any global technological franchises, such as Apple or Samsung, and its citizens continue to have limited access to any basic internet or smartphone apps.

However, the regime of Kim Jong Un has become increasingly adept at entering computer systems across the globe for the strategic benefit and financial gain.

According to statistics, North Korea‘s ‘cyber-soldiers’ have been linked to the stolen US-South Korean military plans, alleged theft of $60 million from a Taiwanese bank, and the collapse of the Seoul-based cryptocurrency exchange.

Even as the US begins to concentrate on the North Korean development of nuclear weapons, Kim Jong Un is attacking from the rear with aggressive NK hackers.

1. What Type Of Technology Does North Korea Have?
The North Korean nation has experienced limited access to the free flow of online information. The majority of citizens can view only a few websites within the country, but with close government and media agency monitoring.

A select few of these agencies have international access, but the activities are carefully monitored to avoid any unwanted interactions.

For several years, North Korea had a single link to the global internet via the state-owned China United New Communications corporation; however, it recently secured a second link via Russian telecommunications company in October 2017.

According to Fergus Hanson, the head of the International Cyber Policy Center at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, North Korea currently employees an estimated 1,700 state-sponsored hackers to deal with online interactions.

2. How Did The Country Begin Using Hackers?
Kim Jong Il, the father of current leader Kim Jong Un, was an early proponent of technology to be used as a form of modern weaponry.

The military worked on several methods for disrupting GPS systems and setting off electromagnetic pulses to obstruct computer capabilities in other countries.

It is thought that North Korea set up Unit 121 – an early cyber-warrior squad approximately twenty years ago as part of the NK’s military.

The unit started to draw attention to its existence in 2004 during allegations of alleged ‘tapping’ into South Korea’s military wireless communication and for testing malicious computer coding.

In 2011, South Korea arrested five hackers allegedly working as North Korean hackers for stealing several millions of dollars via an online game.

3. When Did the Hackers Show Signs Of Improvement?
North Korea’s ‘cyber-warriors’ began to draw international attention during 2014 when headlines stated an alleged intrusion into the Sony Corporation’s film business.

Sony was preparing to release a movie starring Seth Rogen and James Franco called ‘The Interview’ – a comedy about meeting the leader of North Korea.

All efforts of the intrusion seemed to be the protection of Kim’s image and punishment of the studio.

Leaked documentation of the hack-damaged careers in Hollywood resulted in Sony having to compensate over $8 million in damages.

Once North Korea got publicly identified as the perpetrator, the NK government denied involvement and publicly declared the US as slandering them.

Despite several accusations being made of hacking attacks, North Korea continues to deny their involvement.

4. What is Happening at the Moment?
Currently, North Korea has improved the cyber attacks among rising tensions with the US and rest of the globe. In 2016, a hacking group associated with North Korea getting accused of the theft of $81 million from a central bank account in Bangladesh.

In May 2017, cyber-security researchers linked the WannaCry ransom-ware attack to a North Korean hacking group known as Lazarus.

This hack resulted in the intrusion of over 300,000 computers and threatened the loss of data unless a ‘ransom’ was paid – typically, $300 in bitcoin within three days.

According to Europol, this is one of the most unprecedented hacks to date.

Despite the association with Lazarus, North Korean hackers have increased efforts to secure cryptocurrency, which could be used to avoid trade restrictions in recent sanctions approved by the UN.

South Korea is currently investigating the possible North Korean involvement of the cryptocurrency exchange eight months after the country hacked the target.

5. Are the Hacks for Financial Gain Primarily?
Not exactly.

It was seen in October that a South Korean legal maker stated that Kim’s cyber-warriors stole military plans produced by South Korea in a case of armed conflict.

The plans included a classified section known as ‘decapitation strike, which was aimed at removing the North Korean leader. The lawmaker attacked the South Korean armed forces for allowing the breach in military enforcement causing a mistake in the service.

Rhee Cheol-hee agrees that he had worked with defense officials and they are not supposed to save such vital data on PC files.

A US military aide stated that, despite the alleged hack, the UK continues to place confidence in South Korea and their ability to deal with the challenges of North Korea. Some suspect that North Korea may ramp up money counterfeiting to also help fund the regime.

6. What are South Korea and the US Doing in Response?
Believe it or not, the US has not been standing by as North Korea regains its connection to the internet. North Korea has restored an online relationship via Russia after China’s faltering strategy.

The link was reportedly distributed under a denial of service attack with a flood of data traffic being produced to overwhelm and obstruct computer systems in the US.

Meanwhile, US president Donald Trump has criticized the North Korean leader for this development of nuclear weapons stating that the US may use military force against the regime.

North Korea has, however, warned that nuclear war by occurring at any moment with South Korea and the UK being joined naval drills.

7. How Do Hacking Efforts Comply with the Political Situation?
All hacking efforts appear to be continuing amidst the current political tensions.

North Korea’s hackers continue to push for valuable intelligence and harder currently, while traditional military forces engage with the chance of war.

While Lazarus may have been associated with the theft of $60 million from Taiwan’s Far Eastern International Bank, the malware used bore features of Lazarus and was an international highlight.


Seagate, RackTop Launch Secure Data Storage Product for Governments
13.2.2018 securityweek BigBrothers
Seagate Technologies and RackTop Systems on Tuesday announced a partnership and their first product, a secure data storage solution designed to help government organizations address cybersecurity and compliance challenges.

The joint product from RackTop and Seagate is the Secure Data Protection Platform (SDP2), a storage solution designed to help government organizations, civilian agencies, military agencies, and contractors in the United States and Europe protect sensitive data against both insider and external threats.

Seagate and RackTop join forces to launch a data protection platform for governments

SDP2 combines encryption key management from Fornetix, a high-performance software-defined storage platform from RackTop, and disk drives and enclosures from Seagate.Seagate and RackTop join forces to launch a data protection platform for governments

The companies claim the new product is compliant with the Trade Agreements Act (TAA), the Buy American Act (BAA), NIST 800-88 (guidelines for media sanitization), NIST 800-171 (protecting unclassified data on nonfederal IT systems), FIPS 140-2 (federal standard for approving cryptographic modules), and the European Union’s upcoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

According to Seagate and RackTop, SDP2 can be used for file sharing, virtual machine storage, databases, and DevOps. It includes policy-driven data protection, anti-ransomware mechanisms, and auditing and reporting features.

The product provides encryption, versioning, orchestration, replication, retention and disposition capabilities. The solution is ideal for both small offices and data centers as it can easily scale from a few terabytes to multiple petabytes, the vendors said.

“Seagate Government Solutions is pleased to partner with RackTop to create exceptional data security solutions to meet rising risk management standards,” said Mike Moritzkat, vice president and general manager of Seagate Government Solutions. “The Secure Development Protection Platform – or SDP2 – is the first of many products Seagate is delivering to meet increasingly-stringent data security regulations in both the U.S. and EU.”


U.S. Spies Bilked for $100,000 by Russian Peddling Trump Secrets: Report
11.2.2018 securityweek BigBrothers
A Russian man promising stolen hacking tools and compromising information on President Donald Trump fleeced American spies for $100,000 last year, The New York Times reported Friday.

In a story worthy of a John le Carre novel that included secret USB-drive handovers in a small West Berlin bar and coded messages delivered over the National Security Agency's Twitter account, CIA agents reportedly spent much of last year trying to buy back from the Russian hacking programs stolen from the NSA.

The seller, who was not identified but had links to both cyber criminals and Russian intelligence, tantalized the US spies with an offer of the NSA hacking tools that had been advertised for sale online by a shady group called the Shadow Brokers.

Some of the tools, developed by the NSA to break into the computers of US rivals, were used by other hackers last year to break into computer systems around the world, including the global malware attack last May.

The seller, reached through a chain of intermediaries, wanted $1 million.

The $100,000, delivered in a cash-stuffed suitcase handed over in a Berlin hotel room, was an initial payment by US agents still dubious he really had what he was promising.

- Trump kompromat -

The seller also repeatedly pressed US agents with offers of compromising materials, or kompromat, on Trump, the Times said, citing US and European intelligence officials.

Although an investigation was already underway back in Washington on the link between Moscow and the Trump campaign, the agents did not want to get involved in anything that smelled of the politics back home.

The story -- which was also reported by The Intercept, an online magazine on nationals security matters -- paints a classic spy versus spy story where the US agents aren't ever certain about who they are dealing with and whether or not they are being baited and played by their Russian counterparts.

US intelligence officials say Russia interfered with the 2016 election to help elect Trump, and continues to use disinformation to sow confusion in the American political system.

The Intercept reported that the operation created rifts in the CIA, which is led by Trump loyalist Mike Pompeo but has many staffers still smarting over the president's repeated harsh comments about the intelligence community's role in the Russia meddling investigation.

The Russian's first delivery turned out to be hacking tools the Shadow Brokers had already released.

And he kept pushing his offer of kompromat on Trump, including shady financial records and a sex video that the US spies didn't really want.

In the end, the deal broke down last month -- the Russian did not come up with any of the unreleased NSA materials, and the Trump-related materials were either already known or untrustworthy.

The Russian was told by the Americans to leave Western Europe and not return, according to the Times.


South Korea Probes Cyber Shutdown During Olympics Ceremony
11.2.2018 securityweek BigBrothers
South Korea on Saturday investigated a mysterious internet shutdown during the Winter Olympics opening ceremony, which follows warnings of possible cyberattacks during the Pyeongchang Games.

Internal internet and wifi systems crashed at about 7:15 pm (1015 GMT) on Friday and were still not back to normal at midday on Saturday, Games organizers said.

Cyber-security teams and experts from South Korea's defence ministry, plus four other ministries, formed part of a taskforce investigating the shutdown, they said, adding that it didn't affect the high-tech opening ceremony.

Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and US Vice-President Mike Pence were among the VIPs at Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium late on Friday.

The outage follows warnings of malware phishing attacks targeting organizations working at the Olympics, and allegations of cyberattacks from Russia -- which has denied any involvement.

North Korea has also blamed for a series of cyber incidents including the WannaCry global ransomware attack, which infected 300,000 computers worldwide last May.

"We don't want to speculate because we're still trying to find out what the root source is," said Nancy Park, a spokeswoman for the Games organisers.

"We have some reports, we've been working all night trying to find out and working with our partners."

- WannaCry -

South Korea showed off its technical expertise with a dazzling gala opening ceremony on Friday which included state-of-the-art special effects and augmented reality to add extra impact for TV viewers.

While internet and wifi were affected across the Olympic site -- spread over two main venues in mountainous eastern South Korea -- organisers said there was no impact on competition, which got into full swing on Saturday.

"There were some issues that impacted some of our non-critical systems last night for a few hours," Games organizers said in a statement.

"These have not disrupted any events, or had any effect on the safety and security of any athletes or spectators," they added.

"All competitions are running as planned and the systems are working at the expected level."

Last month, cyber-security firm McAfee said it had uncovered an attack targeting organisations involved with the Olympics, using a malicious email attachment.

North Korea has been accused of involvement in a number of cyber incidents, including WannaCry -- although it has slammed that accusation as "absurd".

Russia has also denied launching any hacking attacks on the Pyeongchang Olympics, where its team is formally banned following the revelation of systemic doping.

While organizers wouldn't comment on the possibility that an attack was behind the shutdown, experts believe disrupting the Games would be seen as a coup for many hackers.

"The whole world’s watching. It's one of the largest stages you can possibly have to get a message out there," Ross Rustici, senior director for intelligence Boston-based Cybereason told the Tribune News Service.

"You got a lot of lower-tier guys going after these games. It's head-hunting, bragging rights," Rustici was quoted as saying.


Researchers ported the NSA EternalSynergy, EternalRomance, and EternalChampion to Metasploit
7.2.2018 securityaffairs BigBrothers

Security researcher Sean Dillon ported three NSA-linked exploits, EternalSynergy, EternalRomance, and EternalChampion, to the Metasploit platform.
The security researcher at RiskSense Sean Dillon (@zerosum0x0) ported the Rapid7 Metasploit three hacking tools supposedly stolen from the NSA-linked Equation Group.

The researcher modified the exploits to use them also against latest windows versions and merged them into the Metasploit Framework, they should work on all unpatched versions of Windows based on x86 and x64 architectures.

The three exploits are EternalSynergy, EternalRomance, and EternalChampion that were leaked by the hacker crew Shadow Brokers in April 2017.

Metasploit exploits NSA EternalRomance

The tools were later used in several attacks in the wild, for example, the EternalRomance exploit was used in the massive Bad Rabbit ransomware attack.

The versions ported to Metasploit could be used to target all Windows versions since Windows 2000.


zǝɹosum0x0🦉
@zerosum0x0
MS17-010 #EternalSynergy #EternalRomance #EternalChampion exploit and auxiliary modules for @Metasploit. Support for Windows 2000 through 2016. I basically bolted MSF psexec onto @sleepya_ zzz_exploit. https://github.com/rapid7/metasploit-framework/pull/9473 …

5:54 AM - Jan 29, 2018
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The EternalChampion and EternalSynergy exploits trigger a race condition with Transaction requests tracked as CVE-2017-0146, while the EternalRomance and EternalSynergy exploits trigger the CVE-2017-0143, a type confusion between WriteAndX and Transaction requests.

The expert explained that the tool can be used to run any command as System or to stage Meterpreter.

“You can run any command as SYSTEM, or stage Meterpreter. Note: unlike EternalBlue, kernel shellcode is not used to stage Meterpreter, so you might have to evade your payloads.” Dillon explained.

“This module is highly reliable and preferred over EternalBlue where a Named Pipe is accessible for anonymous logins (generally, everything pre-Vista, and relatively common for domain computers in the wild).”

The Metasploit module does not implement shellcode execution, instead, it overwrites the SMB connection session structures instead to obtain Admin/SYSTEM session.

“The exploit chain is an almost 1:1 skid port of @worawit awesome zzz_exploit adaptation, which brings a few improvements over the original Eternal exploits. Instead of going for shellcode execution, it overwrites the SMB connection session structures to gain Admin/SYSTEM session.” wrote the expert.

“The MSF module is leaner (stripped down packet count/padding), checks extra named pipes, sprinkles randomness where possible, and has Metasploit’s psexec DCERPC implementation bolted onto it. For the last reason, Rex is used and not RubySMB,”

Further info and the “MS17-010 EternalSynergy / EternalRomance / EternalChampion aux+exploit modules” are available on GitHub.


NSA-Linked Hacking Tools Ported to Metasploit
6.2.2018 securityweek BigBrothers
Three hacking tools supposedly stolen from the National Security Agency-linked Equation Group and made public last year were recently ported to Rapid7’s Metasploit Framework.

The three exploits – EternalSynergy, EternalRomance, and EternalChampion – were released publicly in April 2017 alongside the more popular EternalBlue, one month after Microsoft patched them.

The tools could previously be used only on several, older Windows releases, although EternalSynergy was modified to target recent Windows versions as well. Last year, EternalRomance was used in the global Bad Rabbit ransomware attack.

All three exploits can now be used to target all Windows versions since Windows 2000, Sean Dillon, a security researcher with RiskSense who goes by the online handle of @zerosum0x0, reveals. The researcher modified the exploits and merged them into the open-source Metasploit Framework.

The three tools target two vulnerabilities in Microsoft’s platform, namely CVE-2017-0146, a race condition with Transaction requests exploited by EternalChampion and EternalSynergy, and CVE-2017-0143, a type confusion between WriteAndX and Transaction requests exploited by EternalRomance and EternalSynergy.

The researcher explains that the module does not use kernel shellcode to stage Meterpreter, meaning that those interested in leveraging it would need to use evasion for their payloads. However, the tool can be used to run any command as System or to stage Meterpreter.

“This module is highly reliable and preferred over EternalBlue where a Named Pipe is accessible for anonymous logins (generally, everything pre-Vista, and relatively common for domain computers in the wild),” the researcher says.

The module does not attempt shellcode execution, but overwrites the SMB connection session structures instead, thus achieving Admin/SYSTEM session.

“The MSF module is leaner (stripped down packet count/padding), checks extra named pipes, sprinkles randomness where possible, and has Metasploit's psexec DCERPC implementation bolted onto it. For the last reason, Rex is used and not RubySMB,” the researcher explains.

The exploits can be used on both 32-bit and 64-bit architectures and target all platform iterations from Windows 2000 to Windows 10 and Windows Server 2016.

The module is available on GitHub. As Dillon points out, it has been created for academic research and the development of defenses, not to be used in attacks, except where explicitly authorized.


British Hacker 'Lauri Love' will not be extradited to US, Court Rules
6.2.2018 thehackernews BigBrothers

British citizen and hacker Lauri Love, who was accused of hacking into United States government websites, will not be extradited to stand trial in the U.S., the High Court of England and Wales ruled today.
Love, 33, is facing a 99-year prison sentence in the United States for allegedly carrying out series of cyber attacks against the FBI, US Army, US Missile Defence Agency, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and New York's Federal Reserve Bank between 2012 and 2013.
The High Court ruled Monday that Love should be tried in U.K. after Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett of Maldon and Justice Ouseley heard he suffered severe mental illness like Asperger syndrome, eczema, asthma, and depression, and may kill himself if extradited.
At Westminster Magistrates' Court in London in late 2016, District Judge Nina Tempia ordered Love to be extradited to the U.S. to stand trial, although his lawyers appealed the decision, arguing that he should be tried for his alleged crimes in the UK.
The court accepted both of the arguments advanced by Love's lawyers and ruled that extradition would be "oppressive" due to his serious health conditions and it would be likely that he would be kept in solitary confinement in the American prison system if extradited.
The court burst in applause and cheering when the judgment was handed down by Lord Burnett, who asked Love supporters to be quiet, saying "This is a court, not a theatre."
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), which acts on behalf of the US authorities, said it would read the judgment before deciding whether to appeal the high court decision to the supreme court.
According to US Prosecutors, Love was allegedly involved in #OpLastResort, an online protest linked with the Anonymous collective following the persecution and untimely death of hacktivist Aaron Swartz, who committed suicide in 2013 while under federal charges for data theft.
Love, who lives near Newmarket, was arrested from his home in Stradishall, England in October 2013, when the British police seized his encrypted laptops and hard drives.
Britain's National Crime Agency (NCA) also asked the courts to force Love to turn over keys to decrypt his encrypted computer's hard drives, but Love won the case against the agency in early 2016.
If extradited to the United States and found guilty, Love could have sentenced to up to 99 years in prison and a potential fine of up to $9 million (£6.3 million).
Speaking outside the Royal Courts of Justice, Love expressed his thanks to the judges and said: "I'm thankful for all the support we've had, without which I'm not sure I would have made it this far."
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is also fighting US extradition, congratulate Love in a Tweet, saying: "VICTORY: @LauriLove wins UK appeal against US extradition. Congratulations to Lauri, his lawyers & family, @CourageFound and many supporters on an excellent campaign."
Right now, it is not clear if Love, who denies all wrongdoings, would face a prison sentence in the UK following his five years of legal battle.


Cisco and FireEye Pointing Finger at North Korea Hacking Group For Adobe Flash 0-Day In The Wild
5.2.2018 securityaffairs BigBrothers

According to security researchers at Cisco and FireEye a North Korea Hacking Group is behind the attacks that exploited the recently discovered Adobe Flash 0-Day vulnerability.
There have been over 1,000 Adobe Flash vulnerabilities since it was released. Designed to make website development easier and providing additional features not supported by standard web browsers, it also adds complexity and a much broader attack surface. Web browsers no longer support Flash by default, but users often re-enable it for convenience. And just having it installed on your system may be enough for this latest zero-day Adobe Player vulnerability to be exploited.

KISA, the South Korean CERT issued a security bulletin on January 31, 2018, warning of a “use-after-free” vulnerability in Adobe Flash Player being actively exploited in the wild. The following day, Adobe issued Security Advisory APSA18-01 confirming CVE-2018-4878 as a potential remote code vulnerability and announcing plans to release a security patch on February 5, 2018. The attack is carried out with a malicious SWF file embedded inside a Microsoft Office or Hancom Hangul document or spreadsheet. Once opened, the victim’s computer executes the malicious SWF through Adobe Flash if it is installed.

“Upon opening and successful exploitation, a decryption key for an encrypted embedded payload would be downloaded from compromised third-party websites hosted in South Korea,” according to FireEye.

The embedded payload is likely to be DOGCALL malware which facilitates the installation of ROKRAT command and control trojan which gives the remote attackers access to the victim’s system.

Experts warn that while waiting for the patch from Adobe on February 5th, users should be very cautious opening unexpected spreadsheets and document files. In reality, one should always be wary of any unexpected or suspicious document, especially ones that support embedding since they can hide all kinds of malware. You should also strongly consider uninstalling Adobe Flash. Even if it is disabled in your browser, having it installed on your system is enough for this latest exploit to execute successfully. Chances are you don’t need Adobe Flash any more. As explained by Sophos,

“The most common “need” we hear for Flash is to watch web videos, but almost all websites will use HTML5 for videos if you don’t have Flash. If you uninstall it, your browser will use its built-in video player instead – so you probably don’t need Flash after all.”

Cisco and FireEye have both been investigating, and warn that a North Korean group that they have been following for a while are likely behind this latest attack. Called TEMP.Reaper by FireEye and Group 123 by Cisco, the group with ties to North Korea was very active in 2017.

According to FireEye: “Historically, the majority of their targeting has been focused on the South Korean government, military, and defense industrial base; however, they have expanded to other international targets in the last year.”

In addition to expanding their targets, the hacking group appears to have been expanding its skills, utilizing a variety of different techniques to deploy destructive wiper malware and the command and control trojans.

There have been many hacking accusations pointed at North Korea in the past few years. With tensions rising in 2017 and the impending Olympics in South Korea this month there is a lot of opportunities and potential motivation for something significant. This latest attack shows that this hacking group is poised to take advantage of these opportunities.

As described by Cisco’s Talos security team, “Group 123 have now joined some of the criminal elite with this latest payload of ROKRAT. They have used an Adobe Flash 0 day which was outside of their previous capabilities – they did use exploits in previous campaigns but never a net new exploit as they have done now. This change represents a major shift in Group 123s maturity level, we can now confidentially assess Group 123 has a highly skilled, highly motivated and highly sophisticated group.”


Leaked memo suggest NSA and US Army compromised Tor, I2P, VPNs and want to unmask Monero users
5.2.2018 securityaffairs BigBrothers

The image of a memo leaked online suggests US Army and NSA are able to unmask Tor, I2P, VPNs users and they are working to track Monero,
US Army and NSA are able to unmask Tor, I2P, VPNs users and they are working to track Monero, this is the truth revealed by a photo alleged leaked by US Army.
The image revealed a joint project to track anonymous cryptocurrencies conducted by US Army’s Cyber Protection Team (CPT) from the Cyber Protection Brigade and NSA.
The photo of the memo is dated August 21, 2017, and was posted in the biz section of 4chan. The content reads:
“MEMORANDUM FOR RECORD

SUBJECT: Additional resource request for ACC project

2nd Battalion’s joint NSA/CPT [Cyber Protection Team] anonymous cryptocurrency project needs additional support in the form of new hires and additional funding to meet GWOT [Global War On Terror] and drug interdiction objectives outlined in July’s Command update brief.
• Requesting authorization to add additional civilian consultants to the ACC project and to initiate their SCI investigations
• Requesting additional funds for class 7 and 9, amounts indicated in attached cost analysis worksheet.
The success we have had with Tor, I2P, and VPN cannot be replicated with those currencies that do not rely on nodes [?]. There is a growing trend in the employment of Stealth address and ring signatures that will require additional R&D. Please reference the weekly SITREP [SITuation REPort] ON SIPR for more details regarding the TTPs involved.
BLUF [Bottom Line, Up Front]: In order to put the CPT back on track, we need to identify and employ additional personnel who are familiar with the CryptoNote code available for use in anonymous currencies.
Include this request for discussion at the next training meeting.
Point of contact for this memorandum is CW4 Henry, James P. at DSN (312)-780-2222.
JAMES,HENRY
.P1363921716

JAMES P. HENRY
CW4, USASPB”

NSA US army unmask Monero Tor I2P VPN

The memo explicitly refers to the difficulties in unmasking cryptocurrencies that are based on the CryptoNote that is an application layer protocol implemented in the scheme of several decentralized privacy oriented digital currencies.

The document requests the allocation of additional resources to track anonymous cryptocurrencies like Monero (XMR), Anonymous Electronic Online CoiN (AEON), DarkNet Coin (DNC), Fantomcoin (FCN), and Bytecoin (BCN).

The US authorities believe that Monero would become the main cryptocurrency in the criminal underground.

Researchers at DeepDotWeb verified the authenticity of Defense Switched Network (DSN) phone number listed for James P. Henry

“There is a Defense Switched Network (DSN) phone number listed for James P. Henry. When this DSN phone number was converted into a phone number that can be reached from the regular commercial phone network and called, the number was in fact the US Army’s Cyber Protection Brigade located in Fort Gordon, Georgia, just as the document purported to originate from.” states the blog post published by DeepDotWeb.

“While it is possible someone could have done a search for the Cyber Protection Brigade telephone number and used the conversion chart to recreate the DSN version of the phone number, it should be noted that the DSN phone number was not published on the internet prior to the release of this leak.”

DeepDotWeb requested comments from a Monero developer and others sources who were formerly in the Army, they all confirmed that the document appears to be authentic and its content plausible.

DeepDotWeb cited an anonymous source who is still serving in the US Army, that after analyzed the document said it was accurate.

Security experts believe that the US intelligence and military are using internal resources to conduct surveillance on blockchains.

It is still unclear who leaked the memo, someone speculates it was intentionally published with a deterrence purpose.

Tor, I2P, and VPNs are not completely compromised by the intelligence agency, persistent attackers have already proposed and implemented techniques to unmask users but that are not effective for dragnet surveillance.

Documents leaked by Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA is able to unmask VPN solutions based on vulnerable VPN protocols such as the PPTP, however, VPNs which rely on OpenVPN may not be compromised.

Don’t forget that anonymizing networks are essential to fight censorship and to ensure freedom of speech.

Looking at the photo it is possible to note above the laptop’s monitor, in the bottom right of the photo, a Common Access Card (CAC) that is a smart ID card used by the Department of Defense.

I believe it was intentionally put there with a diversionary intent.


UK Government Advices Industry Sectors To Comply With Guidance Or Pay $17 Million Fine
3.2.2018 securityaffairs BigBrothers

Aiming to tackle threats from rogue nations and hackers The UK Government urges to boost security measures of services in critical sectors.
On November 2016 United Kingdom published the National Cyber Security Strategy to address cyber threats from rogue nations like Iran, Russia, China, terrorists, states sponsored hackers and cyber menaces like ransomware against the national infrastructure.

On August 2017 UK government published a public consultation to improve United Kingdom essential services in electricity, transport, water, energy, health and digital infrastructure in accordance with the Directive of Security of Network and Information Systems (known as NIS Directive) in cooperation with the Member States within the European Union (EU).

The NIS Directive consultation covered six main topics that are the following: identification of essential services, national Framework to manage implementation, security requirements for operators of essential services, incident reporting requirements for operators of essential services, requirements on Digital Service Providers and proposed penalty regime.

The Directive comes into play to cover aspects of network security that are not present in GDPR. Regarding GDPR the Directive aligns itself with the deadline for the implementation.

It is important to notice that there are two major and distinct bodies inspecting the compliance of the NIS Directive, the Competent Authorities, and NCSC. NCSC stands for National Cyber Security Centre a part of GCHQ, while Competent Authority stands for Regulator Body defined in NIS Directive scope for different critical sectors. This division aims to allow NCSC to carry out its function in providing expert advice and incident response capability to cyber attacks.

The NIS Directive is established in a layered fashion with a mandatory security outcome to be achieved with each principle like the NIST Security Framework. This assures that the NIS Directive can be implemented throughout the whole industry regardless their sectors. The layered approach takes into account the implementation of the principles without discarding the actual infrastructure.

The NIS Directive is composed of 14 principles that can be divided into four major objectives: Management of security risks (Governance, Risk Management, Asset Management, Supply chain), Protection of cyber attacks (Service protection policies and processes, Identity and access control, Data Security, System security, Resilient Networks & Systems, Staff Awareness & Training), Detection of cyber security events (Security Monitoring, Anomaly Detection) and reduction of the impact of cyber security events (Response and Recovery Planning, Improvements).

The directive sets the scope for the identification of operators of essential services and significant disruptive effects that that may pose a threat to national security, the potential threat to public safety and the possibility of significant adverse social or economic impact. The NIS Directive lay the ground for a national framework where Government ensures that the Competent Authorities have the necessary legislative provision to accomplish their duties and the necessary resources to conduct their activities.

The penalty will only be applied once the operator of essential service fails to comply with the directive tacking into account these following criteria listed in article 14, Security requirements and incident notification: the number of users affected by the disruption of the essential service, duration of the incident and the geographical spread with regard to the area affected by the incident. The fine will be judged and decided upon the accordance with the proper measures that were not taken and nor implemented, with a maximum value of €17 million. There are some uncertainties if essential services providers can accomplish the implementation requirements of NIS Directive until May 2018.

Sources:

http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-42861676
http://www.securityweek.com/uk-warns-critical-industries-boost-cyber-defense-or-face-hefty-fines
http://www.itpro.co.uk/cyber-warfare/30405/uk-energy-companies-face-17m-fines-for-poor-cybersecurity
https://www.infosecurity-magazine.com/news/uk-government-warns-of-17m/
http://www.itpro.co.uk/cyber-warfare/30405/uk-energy-companies-face-17m-fines-for-poor-cybersecurity
http://www.businessinsurance.com/article/20180129/STORY/912318798/UK-to-fine-firms-up-to-%2424-million-for-lax-cybersecurity
https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-acts-to-protect-essential-services-from-cyber-attack
https://www.scmagazineuk.com/uk-companies-warned-to-boost-cyber-security-or-face-fines/article/740029/
https://www.computing.co.uk/ctg/news/3025464/critical-infrastructure-firms-could-be-fined-up-to-gbp17m-for-lacklustre-cyber-security
http://www.computerweekly.com/news/252433946/Hefty-fines-confirmed-for-CNI-providers-with-poor-cyber-security
https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/677065/NIS_Consultation_Response_-_Government_Policy_Response.pdf
https://www.ncsc.gov.uk/guidance/nis-directive-top-level-objectives
https://www.ncsc.gov.uk/guidance/nis-guidance-collection
https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/consultation-on-the-security-of-network-and-information-systems-directive
https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/567242/national_cyber_security_strategy_2016.pdf
http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=uriserv:OJ.L_.2016.194.01.0001.01.ENG&toc=OJ:L:2016:194:TOC


Japan’s Financial Services Agency raided the Coincheck headquarters in Tokyo after the hack
3.2.2018 securityaffairs BigBrothers

Cryptocurrencies are in the middle of a Tempest, on Thursday India announced it would adopt measures to prevent the use of virtual currencies in the country, the value of Bitcoin dropped below $9,000 for the first time since November. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, in his annual budget, explained its government would “take all measures to eliminate use of these crypto-assets in financing illegitimate activities or as part of the payment system”.

coincheck hack coindesk

A week after the security breach suffered by the virtual currency exchange Coincheck, Japanese authorities raided the company.

The hackers stole 58 billion yen ($530 million), an amount of money that is greater than the value of bitcoins which disappeared from MtGox in 2014.

After the MtGox case, the Japanese government passed a law on cryptocurrencies that assigns to the FSA the tack of regulating the exchanges operating in the country.

Coincheck had submitted an application to the FSA for a licence, the company was waiting for the permission.

This week, Coincheck announced it will refund about $400 million to 260,000 customers after the hack, the company will use its own funds.

Coincheck was founded in 2012, it is one of the most important cryptocurrency exchange in Asia. The company announced it will refund about $400 million to customers after the hack.

Japanese media criticized the company blaming the management to have underestimated the importance of security of its investor, they said Coincheck “expanded business by putting safety second”.

On Friday, agents of the Financial Services Agency raided the Coincheck’s headquarters in Tokyo’s Shibuya district with the intent to verify that the company adopted proper security measures to protect its assets.

“We have launched an on-site inspection to ensure preservation of clients’ assets,” said Finance Minister Taro Aso.

Japan’s Financial Services Agency gave Coincheck until February 13 to investigate the hack, implements additional security measures and “properly” deal with the affected clients.

According to Japanese bitcoin monitoring site Jpbitcoin.com, in November, yen-denominated bitcoin trades reached a record 4.51 million bitcoins, or nearly half of the world’s major exchanges of 9.29 million bitcoin.


Why are we all silent on the surveillance?
3.2.2018 securityaffairs BigBrothers

Silicon Valley with its bright minds has come to a point where almost every day they collect information about individuals. Why are we all silent on the surveillance?
NSA spying apart, what Facebook, Apple, and Google know about their usual users is quite overwhelming. Each of these major players is trying to find more about us. They even go to our friends, family and job network.

The big guns know when you are sad, happy, as well as your general internet spendings and many more.

Technology is changing so dramatically and has the power to find every bit of information about you. A perfect example of this is the Google Home Assistant or the new self-driving cars that shockingly knows where you want to go, or where’s your home.

In quick succession, step by step these big guys are creating probably the most invasive surveillance population in time.

It is quite worrisome how a group of known criminals hack them pretty often. Take Uber as an example; the ride-sharing firm is accused of getting hacked for multiple times – not just once or twice.

Californians, the world, and privacy

From all of this, you might think Californians are often talking about the privacy policy not only in most private sector, where is believed that law is more occasionally meeting with people.

But they actually talk in the private sector, where they have the protection of the 4th Amendment if they encounter problems as “unreasonable” searches.

I wish to have a talk at a coffee or a dinner with a tech investor and to ask him “What is your company doing with all the information?” For the moment, there is no possibility of a confrontation at this.

Even if California, for the USA, is the center of everything. As for technology, investors, the most brilliant minds, residents and elected officials are the targeted ones when it comes to the privacy policy. And, for sure, as in everything, there are exceptions.

I would love to see in the next US elections to prioritize this issue, or it can be an impactful subject in a ballot initiative.

Unfortunately, not so many exceptions for tech employees to feel human again. However, the one pushing is the employer, who digs deep into the privacy and enjoys it.

surveillance

The idea to do good is far to be reached

As I stated above, California might encounter the most impactful debate regarding privacy in the whole world in coming future. Do you consider letting companies keep user data forever? To move in a way and change the terms of service, so they breach privacy?

Should they share information with governments? Would there be an option purge information after a while or to just request to anonymize? It’s an option for only a company to sell information and meanwhile, they discharge the debt in bankruptcy?

What obligation parents have regarding their children’s privacy? It is awkward how Instagram tracks kids’ behavior before reaching the age of consent. Should Instagram keep that information until they are adults?

A very out of date law from California gives us a glimpse of how out of date they are: prohibiting someone to record a phone call without the consent of the other party.

For sure it is not a bad law, however, restricts everyone just for the idea of privacy. Sadly, this rule is not applied since data is gathered without shame. We can imagine revenging porn laws that protect us from unauthorized shops from centerfolds.

All in all, we exposed ourselves to comprehensive, intrusive, relentless surveillance at our daily activities.

John Naughton an Irish academic affirmed, “and we have no idea what the long-term implications of this (surveillance) will be.”

Some end thoughts

Some of this is the threat when others are scared by the idea of imposed limits. Yet, people value privacy and having it updated can mean a better future. For sure it is impossible to stop privacy threats sometimes.

But in exchange shouldn’t we prioritize and make things better? Californians have a high position here, more than anyone, yet they haven’t made a bit of effort.

And of course, not just the ones living in California – we all, no one, should keep their voice low against the surveillance. Speak up!


Does The U.S. Need a National Cybersecurity Safety Board?
2.2.2018 securityweek BigBrothers
It is time, suggest two academics from Indiana University-Bloomington, for Congress to establish a National Cybersecurity Safety Board (NCSB) as an analogue of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), to improve the level of cybersecurity in the U.S.

The argument is that the NTSB helped to improve the safety of air travel while still stimulating growth and innovation in the industry. "Today," they say in a paper published this week, "air travel is widely regarded as among the safest forms of mass transportation. Can the same feat be replicated in cyberspace?"

Scott J. Shackelford JD, PhD, and Austin E. Brady argue, in their paper "Is it Time for a National Cybersecurity Safety Board? Examining the Policy Implications and Political Pushback' that it is both time, and possible (although not immediately probable). "A NCSB is politically unlikely in the near term, but we believe that the creation of such a body is overdue... All that is needed is the political will to act, the desire to experiment with new models of cybersecurity governance, and the recognition that we should learn from history."

The paper argues that there have been many propositions for strengthening U.S. cybersecurity, "from federally sponsored cyber risk insurance programs to allowing companies to have a freer hand to engage in proactive cybersecurity measures." The former would allow the insurer to impose cybersecurity conditions, while the latter would allow 'active defense' or even the right to 'hack back' . Across most of these proposals, it suggests, "are more robust data breach investigation requirements."

This connection is not clearly established in the paper, although it precisely aligns with the transportation functions of the NTSB. The argument is that we can better prevent future cybersecurity breaches by more fully understanding past breaches, and that this process needs to be established by government.

There is an alternative model for improving cybersecurity that is not mentioned in this paper: an American Cybersecurity Association (ACA) that uses the American Medical Association (AMA) as the model. This argument argues that professionalizing the cybersecurity workforce in the same way that the AMA professionalized the medical profession would raise the standard and quality of organizations' cybersecurity.

The ACA approach has been described by Martin Zinaich, Information Security Officer at the City of Tampa, FL. In his paper, 'What does Information Security have in common with Eastern Air Lines Flight 401?', he argues, "The AMA accelerated the professionalization of medicine and the establishment of minimum standards in medical training, education and apprenticeship requirements to gain entry to the profession. The same could and should be done in the Information Security field with a similar cybersecurity national body and professional associations."

The difference between the two approaches is that one imposes regulations from outside of the profession, while the other generates standards from within the profession. Both, however, suffer from inertia, and Shackelford and Brady argue that Congress should force the issue by establishing a national safety board.

"Such a model would be an improvement on the existing reliance on Cyber Emergency Response Teams (CERTs), and aide in effective policy making at both the state and federal level given the lack of hard, verifiable data on the scope and scale of cyber attacks. The creation of a NCSB could also help law enforcement investigations, particularly local and state agencies without the resources and expertise of the FBI. Along with the ISACs, this would be a boon to academics needing reliable data to undertake scholarly analysis, as well as national security organizations, and U.S. strategic partners around the world."

Interestingly, the authors spend some time looking at the European cybersecurity model depicted by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Network Information Systems Directive (NISD) both coming into force in May 2018. "Although neither the GDPR nor the NIS Directive includes a version of a regional Cybersecurity Safety Board, the elements it does include moves the EU in this direction, which could make an analogous U.S. body that much more effective," they write. "Such developments would be an important step on the long journey to a positive and sustainable cyber peace."

However, GDPR is far removed from any form of a national cybersecurity safety board. The authors say, "it centralizes data protection authority in the EU into a single regulatory body, as compared with the EU Data Privacy Directive’s (DPD) utilization of national data protection authorities for each Member State." This isn't strictly true -- each member state will retain its own regulatory body, and there are many areas within the regulation where national transposition has a degree of flexibility over implementation and interpretation. While GDPR is a unifying force, its application will still vary slightly between different member states.

Such minor differences are likely to be exacerbated by the concept of national security -- which again varies between different member states. "The extent of some of these obligations, however, is still unclear, as States may see cyber threats as falling in the realm of national security, and therefore outside the scope of this strata of EU governance," note the authors.

The interplay between national security and cybersecurity is not discussed within this paper; and yet it is fundamental to the way in which any overarching regulation -- whether the EU's GDPR or a proposed U.S. NCSB -- can actually operate. In the name of national security there will always be areas where intelligence agencies, and politicians, will seek to keep the true nature of events secret. There is likely to be considerable pushback from the intelligence agencies against any national body that has the independence of the NTSB, and the independence proposed for an NCSB.

How, for example, could an NCSB handle an investigation into a breach such as the Belgacom telco hack that was revealed in 2013? According to leaked documents (Snowden) it was undertaken by GCHQ using the NSA's 'quantum insertion' technology.

Martin Zinaich certainly has his concerns over an NCSB. "I support anything that might solidify a structuring of Information Security into a normalized business risk profile," he told SecurityWeek. "However, it seems to me a National Cybersecurity Safety Board might not be the best place to start. I also do not think a NCSB could be agile enough to keep pace.

"If there is one area where Cyber Security professionals excel," he continued, "it is in the identification of cyber-attacks and breaches. Too often, the cause is not a mystery where an investigative body would expose an unknown risk that could then be shared to make the industry safer (as does the current NTSB). No, too often the cause is well-known and age old. Take the 2017 Equifax breach. The vector was an Apache Struts vulnerability that had already been patched but the patch was not applied (and there are a lot of non-technical reasons why that can be so)."

Zinaich retains his belief that the best way to improve cybersecurity is by professionalizing the practitioners. "The issue is the integration of Information Security into the business at a level where it has an impact -- be the business a manufacturer of IoT devices or a credit lending institution. I still hold that professionalizing this field is the place to start, but I predict legislation will come first."

While there are strong arguments, as outlined in this paper, for the formation of a National Cybersecurity Safety Board, it is probably not achievable in the current geopolitical climate. Similarly, while there are strong arguments in favor of an American Cybersecurity Association, existing practitioners are generally too busy firefighting cybersecurity incidents to get it started.

The greater likelihood is that the current tendency for government to impose regulations to improve cybersecurity will probably just continue and gather pace.


South Korea Warns of Flash Zero-Day Exploited by North Korea
2.2.2018 securityweek BigBrothers
South Korea’s Internet & Security Agency (KISA) has issued an alert for a zero-day vulnerability in Flash Player that has reportedly been exploited in attacks by North Korean hackers.

Few details have been provided, but KISA says the vulnerability affects Flash Player 28.0.0.137 and earlier. Version 28.0.0.137 is the latest, released by Adobe in January as part of the Patch Tuesday updates.

The security hole can be exploited by getting a user to open a document, web page or email containing a specially crafted Flash file, KISA said on Wednesday.

Simon Choi of South Korea-based cybersecurity firm Hauri said on Twitter the Flash Player zero-day has been exploited by North Korea since mid-November 2017 in attacks aimed at South Korean individuals who focus on researching North Korea.

According to the expert, the flaw has been leveraged to distribute malware. A screenshot he posted appears to show that the exploit has been delivered via malicious Microsoft Excel files.
Flash zero-day exploited by North Korea - credits: Simon Choi (@issuemakerslab)

Flash zero-day exploited by North Korea - credits: Simon Choi (@issuemakerslab)

SecurityWeek has reached out to Adobe for comment and will update this article once the company responds. Since the activities of North Korean threat actors have been closely monitored by several security firms, it’s possible that Adobe has already been made aware of the zero-day and is working on a patch.

UPDATE. Adobe says it's aware of a report that an exploit for a vulnerability it tracks as CVE-2018-4878 exists in the wild, and is being used in limited, targeted attacks against Windows users. The company says it will address the flaw with an update planned for the week of February 5.

In an advisory, Adobe said the vulnerability is a critical use-after-free that allows remote code execution. Until a patch becomes available, the company has provided some mitigations.

"Beginning with Flash Player 27, administrators have the ability to change Flash Player's behavior when running on Internet Explorer on Windows 7 and below by prompting the user before playing SWF content," Adobe said. "Administrators may also consider implementing Protected View for Office. Protected View opens a file marked as potentially unsafe in Read-only mode."


Watch out, cyber criminals are using fake FBI emails to infect your computer
2.2.2018 securityaffairs BigBrothers

The FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) is warning of a new malware campaign aimed at infecting victims with weaponized attachments.
The Feds’ Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) is warning of a new spam campaign aimed at infecting victims with a ransomware. According to an alert issued on Wednesday by the IC3, numerous citizens filled complaints after received emails purporting to be from IC3. The message pretends to be the compensation from a cyber attack and asks the victims to fill the attached document, but the file is laced with malware.

The story is interesting, the email reports that a Nigerian cyber criminal had been arrested and feds have found the recipient’s email address of the alleged scammer’s PC. The email asks victims to return the document with recipient info and wait for the refund to arrive. Once the victim has opened the document, the infection process will start.

FBI

The FBI has identified at least three other versions of the IC3 impersonation scam:

“The first involved a fake IC3 social media page, which advertised itself as the FBI Cyber Crime Department (IC3) and requested recipients provide personal information in order to report an internet crime.” states the alert issued by the FBI. “
“The second involved an email which stated the recipient was treated unfairly by various banks and courier companies. The email claimed the recipient’s name was found in a financial company’s database and that they will be compensated for this unfair treatment.”
“The third example involved an email from the Internet Crime Investigation Center/Cyber Division and provided an address in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The email also included a case reference number in the subject line. The email informed the recipient that their IP address was referred to the IC3 as a possible victim of a federal cyber-crime. The email then requests the recipient to contact the sender via telephone.”
FBI is currently investigating the cases, victims of an online scam can file a complaint with the IC3 at www.ic3.gov.


Mining Smominru botnet used NSA exploit to infect more than 526,000 systems
1.2.2018 securityaffairs BigBrothers

Researchers from Proofpoint discovered a huge botnet dubbed ‘Smominru’ that is using the EternalBlue exploit to infect Windows computers and recruit them in Monero cryptocurrency mining activities.
The number of cyber attacks against the cryptocurrency sector continues, vxers are focusing their efforts on the development of cryptocurrency/miner malware.

Recently security experts observed cryptocurrency miners leveraging the NSA EternalBlue SMB exploit (CVE-2017-0144) as spreading mechanism.

On August 2017, a new fileless miner dubbed CoinMiner appeared in the wild, it uses NSA EternalBlue exploit and WMI tool to spread.

Now researchers Researchers from Proofpoint discovered a huge botnet dubbed ‘Smominru’ (aka Ismo) that is using the EternalBlue exploit (CVE-2017-0144) to infect Windows computers and recruit them in Monero cryptocurrency mining activities.

” Because obtaining these cryptocurrencies through legitimate mining mechanisms is quite resource-intensive, cybercriminals are stealing them, demanding ransomware payments in them, and harnessing other computers to mine them for free. Recently, Proofpoint researchers have been tracking the massive Smominru botnet, the combined computing power of which had earned millions of dollars for its operators.” states the analysis published by Proofpoint

With the help of Abuse.CH and the ShadowServer Foundation, Proofpoint conducted a sinkholing operation that allowed to profile the botnet.

The command and control infrastructure of the Smominru botnet is hosted on DDoS protection service SharkTech, Proofpoint promptly notified the abuse to the service provider without receiving any response.

According to the researchers, the Smominru botnet has been active at least since May 2017 and has already infected more than 526,000 Windows computers.

Most of the infected systems are servers distributed worldwide, most of them in Russia, India, and Taiwan. It is a profitable business, the operators had already mined approximately 8,900 Monero ($2,346,271 at the current rate).
“Based on the hash power associated with the Monero payment address for this operation, it appeared that this botnet was likely twice the size of Adylkuzz,” the researchers said. “The operators had already mined approximately 8,900 Monero (valued this week between $2.8M and $3.6M). Each day, the botnet mined roughly 24 Monero, worth an average of $8,500 this week (Figure 2).”

smominru botnet

The researchers at Proofpoint discovered that crooks are using at least 25 hosts to scan the Internet for EternalBlue vulnerable Windows computers and also leveraging the NSA EsteemAudit (CVE-2017-0176) for compromising the target machines.

The machines all appear to sit behind the network autonomous system AS63199, further technical details and the IoCs are included in the analysis published by Proofpoint.

“Because most of the nodes in this botnet appear to be Windows servers, the performance impact on potentially critical business infrastructure may be high, as can the cost of increased energy usage by servers running much closer to capacity. The operators of this botnet are persistent, use all available exploits to expand their botnet, and have found multiple ways to recover after sinkhole operations.” concluded the Proofpoint.

“Given the significant profits available to the botnet operators and the resilience of the botnet and its infrastructure, we expect these activities to continue, along with their potential impacts on infected nodes. We also expect botnets like that described here to become more common and to continue growing in size.”


FBI Pushes for Small Business Information Sharing
31.1.2018 securityweek BigBrothers
Howard S. Marshall, Deputy Assistant Director of the Cyber Division of the FBI, spoke Tuesday before the House Small Business Committee on the subject of 'Small Business Information Sharing: Combating Foreign Cyber Threats.' The purpose was to outline the FBI's role in helping small businesses defend against cyber threats.

His statement came in two parts: first, to outline the major cyber threats to U.S. business, and then to outline the FBI's response to these threats.

"Some of the more prevalent or rising cyber threats to small businesses," he said, include business e-mail compromise (BEC); ransomware; criminal data breach activity; and the internet of things (IoT). He did not provide any statistics on these cybercrimes, but instead concentrated on a high-level description of the threats with a brief explanation of FBI advice on countering them.

The FBI's advice for BEC is that companies should require a second, independent verification on payment requests; that e-mail accounts should have regularly changed strong passwords and two-factor authentication; and that companies should use their own domain-based email rather than free web-based email. Wherever possible, the last recommendation should be supported a filter system that flags emails with look-alike domain names.

The primary advice against ransomware, which the FBI expects "to remain a significant threat to businesses in the U.S. and worldwide", is that businesses should schedule regular backups to drives not connected to their network. "These drives can be used to restore a system to the backup version without paying the ransom to the perpetrator."

There is no specific advice on whether businesses should or should not pay the ransom, although it is known that the FBI -- and LEAs generally -- would prefer that ransoms are not paid. Marshall did say, however, "It is important to note that even if a ransom is paid, there is no guarantee the business or individual will obtain their files from the cyber criminal."

In two recent ransomware incidents, two separate healthcare organizations were infected with different variants of the SamSam ransomware. One, Hancock Health, decided to pay the ransom. It was infected on January 11 and was back online by January 15. The second, Allscripts, chose not to pay the ransom. It was infected on January 18. On January 26, Allscripts emailed SecurityWeek, "We are pleased to announce that service to all affected clients has been restored." In the final analysis, whether to pay or not is a risk-based decision for each individual victim.

'Criminal data breach activity' is such a vast subject that the statement makes little attempt to discuss it in detail. This is probably a mistake since it could leave politicians with the idea that small businesses are at less risk of hacker attacks than large organizations -- which is not correct. All that Marshall says here is, "We encourage businesses to apply a variety of best practices to secure their network architecture."

The growing IoT threat is discussed as a problem with no current solution. "Increased connectivity through IoT devices will only increase the potential attack surface for networks, as cyber security is largely under-prioritized from device design through implementation." Marshall highlighted the IoT-based DDoS attacksof late 2016. He said, "Individuals and businesses can prevent their devices from being compromised by changing default user name and passwords, ensuring device firmware is up to date, implementing strong firewall rules, and by turning off or rebooting devices when not in use."

The long-term solution to the IoT threat will come from better designed and built devices, and he noted that NIST is currently developing standards to improve IoT devices.

The description of current threats provides the background for the second half of the statement: 'FBI Cyber private sector engagement', which is described as a key component of the FBI's strategy for combating cyber threats. This engagement has required a change to the FBI's traditional methods of intelligence gathering. Traditionally, intelligence has been gathered from its own operations, from intelligence services, and from other LEAs.

"However," said Marshall, "we are now also looking to integrate private industry information into our intelligence cycle to enhance our ability to identify and respond to both emerging and ongoing threats." The FBI is particularly looking to private industry to share both its understanding of sector-specific networks, and its threat intelligence in order to integrate that understanding into its own intelligence cycle. "This type of information sharing enables us to provide more specific, actionable, and timely information to our industry partners so they can protect their systems in a proactive manner."

The FBI accepts that such information sharing must be two-way. Marshall described some of the FBI's outreach projects: nearly 70 public service announcements (PSAs) over the past five years, and other notifications including FBI Liaison Alert System (FLASH) reports, and private industry notifications (PINs).

Other projects include its involvement with the National Cyber-Forensics and Training Alliance (NCFTA); its public awareness campaigns or 'open houses' to educate businesses on serious cyber threats; its workshops on specific threats (such as BEC); and its countrywide briefings, conferences, and workshops for key executives throughout industry. There have been nearly 2800 of the latter over the past five years.

This is achievable through the FBI's countrywide decentralized organization, with field offices in every state. "Cyber-trained special agents are in each field office, providing locally available expertise to deploy to victim sites immediately upon notice of an incident," he said.

One aspect of the FBI statement stands out. Marshall goes to some length to stress that the FBI will treat cyber victims as the victim. "No matter what course of action is deemed appropriate, the FBI views a company that has been attacked as a victim and will protect investigative information appropriately." This goes to the heart of the FBI's problem in engaging with small businesses. While companies will automatically consider the FBI as the first port of call in an emergency, other engagements are traditionally avoided or concerning.

Voluntarily offering operational details to the FBI is not yet in the psyche of small business -- and yet this must be achieved for the FBI to fulfil its purpose. That ultimate purpose, says the statement, is to "provide information that can be used to initiate indictments, affect arrests, generate demarches, or produce international sanctions against those who conduct cyber attacks or aggressive actions against entities in the United States."


Heat Map Released by Fitness Tracker Reveals Location of Secret Military Bases
30.1.2018 thehackernews BigBrothers

Every one of us now has at least one internet-connected smart device, which makes this question even more prominent —how much does your smart device know about you?
Over the weekend, the popular fitness tracking app Strava proudly published a "2017 heat map" showing activities from its users around the world, but unfortunately, the map revealed what it shouldn't—locations of the United States military bases worldwide.
Strava which markets itself as a "social-networking app for athletes" publicly made available the global heat map, showing the location of all the rides, runs, swims, and downhills taken by its users, as collected by their smartphones and wearable devices like Fitbit.
Since Strava has been designed to track users’ routes and locations, IUCA analyst Nathan Ruser revealed that the app might have unintentionally mapped out the location of some of the military forces around the world, especially some secret ones from the United States.
With a total of one billion activities logged on the Strava's activity map, it is a whole lot of useful data from all over the world.
Although Strava's publicly available activity map was live as of November 2017, Ruser recently noticed that the map includes the fitness routes of army soldiers and agents in secret base locations, including U.S. military bases in Afghanistan and Syria, a suspected CIA base in Somalia and even Area 51.

Besides American military bases, the map also revealed the UK's RAF Mount Pleasant airbase in the Falkland Islands, Lake Macphee and Gull Island Pond, among others. Russian bases have also been showed up by the Strava data.
What's more? Security experts on Twitter have also discovered potentially sensitive American military bases in Somalia, Afghanistan and Syria; secret Russian military bases in Ukraine; a secret missile base in Taiwan, as well as an NSA base in Hawaii.
Ruser said that the map allowed him to find out regular jogging routes for military personnel, which is bad news for security, as it establishes reliable "pattern of life" information that would otherwise be secret from the rest of the world.
"If soldiers use the app like normal people do, by turning it on tracking when they go to do exercise, it could be especially dangerous. This particular track looks like it logs a regular jogging route. I shouldn't be able to establish any Pattern of life info from this far away," Ruser tweeted.
Should Strava be blamed entirely for this revelation?
Strava said its heat map is based only on publically available data, and the company does offer a private mode that allows its users to turn off data sharing outside of the app.
However, it appears that many American and foreign military personnel using the app were sharing the confidential information publicly—perhaps without the knowledge or realising the implication, which is terrible.
What's even worse?
A security researcher told the Washington Post that this publically available data could even help enemy forces plan an "attack or ambush U.S. troops in or around the bases."
To make things even worse, some experts have also found ways to deanonymize the Strava heatmap, identifying individuals and their location where they have been exercising.
Strava has reminded its users that they could turn off location services for the app and that the map does not include private activities or areas deemed private.
"Our global heat map represents an aggregated and anonymised view of over a billion activities uploaded to our platform," Strava said in a statement. "It excludes activities that have been marked as private and user-defined privacy zones. We are committed to helping people better understand our settings to give them control over what they share."
The incident is a great reminder for people, especially for those working in or around sensitive locations, to turn off location sharing services for everything.
Moreover, militaries should also consider limiting smartphones and wearables use in sensitive areas as well as educate their soldiers on the importance of privacy.


Intel reportedly alerted Chinese companies before US Government about Meltdown and Spectre flaws
30.1.2018 securityaffairs  BigBrothers

According to the Wall Stree Journal, Intel reportedly alerted Chinese companies before US Gov about Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities.
There is no peace for Intel, according to a report published by The Wall Street Journal the company warned Chinese tech giants about the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities before notifying them to the US government.

Citing unnamed people familiar with the matter and some of the companies involved, The WSJ revealed that the list of Chinese companies includes Lenovo and Alibaba.

It is not clear when Intel notified the flaw to Lenovo, but a leaked memo from Intel to computer makers suggests the company reported the issues to an unnamed group of on November 29 via a non-disclosure agreement. The same day, the Intel CEO Brian Krzanich sold off his shares.

Last week, French tech publication LeMagIT’s Christophe Bardy disclosed the first page of the “Technical Advisory” issued by the Intel Product Security Incident Response Team.

Of course, security experts speculate the companies might have passed this information to the Chinese Government, but Alibaba spokesman refused any accusation.

I personally believe that the Chinese Government was informed by the companies about the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities and it is disconcerting that the US intelligence agencies neither US CERTs were not aware of the flaws.

Meltdown Spectre patches

We also know that the Meltdown flaw is easy to exploit, this means that it is likely that threat actors might have triggered it to extract passwords and other sensitive data from a target machine. The situation is worrisome in cloud-computing environments were many customers share the same servers, in this scenario an attacker can launch a Meltdown attack to steal info belonging to other clients with applications hosted on the same server.

El Reg reached Intel for a comment, below the reply of the chip vendor:

“The Google Project Zero team and impacted vendors, including Intel, followed best practices of responsible and coordinated disclosure. Standard and well-established practice on initial disclosure is to work with industry participants to develop solutions and deploy fixes ahead of publication. In this case, news of the exploit was reported ahead of the industry coalition’s intended public disclosure date at which point Intel immediately engaged the US government and others.” states the El Reg.

Let me close with this eloquent Tweet published by security journalist Zach Whittaker:

Zack Whittaker

@zackwhittaker
This is grade A crap. Several people told me Meltdown/Spectre's planned disclosure was set for Jan. 9 but was revealed on Jan. 3 after a PoC came out. Based on WSJ, Intel was going to tell the US gov. only a week before disclosure?! It knew since June! https://techmeme.com/#a180128p6

8:39 PM - Jan 28, 2018 · Manhattan, NY


Exercise Tracking App Reveals Details of Military Sites
30.1.2018 securityweek  BigBrothers
A map showing paths taken by users of an exercise tracking app reveals potentially sensitive information about American and allied military personnel in places including Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

While some bases are well known to groups that want to attack them, the map also shows what appear to be routes taken by forces moving outside of bases -- information that could be used in planning bombings or ambushes.

The map, made by Strava Labs, shows the movements of its app users around the world, indicating the intensity of travel along a given path -- a "direct visualization of Strava's global network of athletes," it says.

Routes are highlighted over large parts of some countries, but in others, specific locations stand out.

The map of Iraq is largely dark, indicating limited use of the Strava app, but a series of well-known military bases where American and allied forces have been deployed as part of their war against the Islamic State (IS) group are highlighted in detail.

These include Taji north of Baghdad, Qayyarah south of Mosul and Al-Asad in Anbar Province.

Strava%20heatmap%20exposes%20military%20sites%20-%20credits%3A%20Tobias%20Schneider

 

Smaller sites also appear on the map in northern and western Iraq, indicating the presence of other, lesser-known installations.

Stretches of road are also highlighted, indicating that Strava users kept their devices on while traveling, potentially providing details about commonly-taken routes.

In Afghanistan, Bagram Airfield north of Kabul is a hive of activity, as are several locations in the country's south and west.

- Opting out an option -

Tobias Schneider, a security analyst who was among the group of people who highlighted the military bases shown on the map, noted that it shows military sites in Syria and Iraq as well as the Madama base used by French forces in Niger.

"In Syria, known Coalition (i.e. US) bases light up the night. Some light markers over known Russian positions, no notable coloring for Iranian bases," Schneider wrote on Twitter.

US troops are deployed in support of local forces battling IS in Syria as well as Iraq, while Russian and Iranian units are backing President Bashar al-Assad's Syria government in that country's civil war.

"A lot of people are going to have to sit thru lectures come Monday morning," Schneider wrote, referring to soldiers likely to be taken to task for inadvertently revealing sensitive information while trying to keep in shape.

"Bases are fixed & hard to conceal," he wrote, so the "biggest potential threat is to tracking movement."

The US Department of Defense said it is "reviewing" the situation.

"Recent data releases emphasize the need for situational awareness when members of the military share personal information," Major Audricia Harris, a Pentagon spokeswoman, told AFP.

"DoD takes matters like these very seriously and is reviewing the situation to determine if any additional training or guidance is required, and if any additional policy must be developed to ensure the continued safety of DoD personnel at home and abroad," Harris said.

The Pentagon "recommends limiting public profiles on the internet, including personal social media accounts," she said.

The issue could have been fairly easily avoided. According to Strava, "athletes with the Metro/heatmap opt-out privacy setting have all data excluded" from the mapping project.


UK Warns Critical Industries to Boost Cyber Defense or Face Hefty Fines
30.1.2018 securityweek  BigBrothers
The UK government has warned that Britain's most critical industries must boost their cybersecurity or face potentially hefty fines under the EU's Networks and Information Systems Directive (NISD).

The warning comes less than four months before the deadline for the NISD, adopted by the EU on July 6, 2016, to be transposed into EU member states' national laws (May 9, 2018, which aligns with the date for GDPR enforcement).

NISD is designed to ensure the security of network systems not already covered by the GDPR -- but its primary purpose is to ensure the security of the industries that comprise the critical infrastructure (such as power and water, healthcare and transport). These companies, or covered entities, are defined within the directive as 'operators of essential services' (OES), and 'digital service providers' (DSPs).

Since it is a Directive rather than a Regulation, the NIS Directive has some national flexibility in its implementation. For example, the UK government had earlier proposed that maximum fines under the directive should be between €10 million and €20 million or 2% to 4% of annual global turnover. It has now settled on a maximum fine of €17 million.

The government announcement on Sunday stems from its published response (PDF) to a public consultation it initiated in August 2017.

The UK has made it clear that a breach of an OES will not automatically trigger a fine. This will depend on the judgment of separate industry sector regulators, or competent authorities. The primary factor will be whether the breached OES/DSP has made adequate cyber security provisions -- in practice, this will probably depend upon how well the firm has implemented the 'NIS Directive: Top-level objectives' guidelines published by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC, part of GCHQ) Sunday. However, the government also states, "New regulators will be able to assess critical industries to make sure plans are as robust as possible."

The key part of the EU's NIS Directive is Article 14: Security requirements and incident notification. This specifies, "Member States shall ensure that operators of essential services take appropriate and proportionate technical and organizational measures to manage the risks posed to the security of network and information systems."

The NCSC guidelines say this can be implemented through conforming to four top-level objectives comprising 14 security principles. The top-level objectives are: managing security risk; protecting against cyber-attack; detecting cyber security events; and minimizing the impact of cyber security incidents. Each of the objectives is then broken into the series of sector-agnostic security principles. "Each principle," states the NCSC, "describes mandatory security outcomes to be achieved."

Only one of the four objectives takes the traditional view of cyber security: protecting against cyber-attack -- recognizing the difference between commercial and critical organizations. For the former, personal information and profitability are the primary motivations; for the latter, it is continuity (or recovery) of operation that is important. "This legislation clearly signals the move away from pure protection-based cybersecurity thinking," comments Steve Malone, director of security product management at Mimecast. "Robust business continuity strategies have never been more important to ensure organizations can continue to operate during an attack and get back up on their feet quickly afterwards."

The objective that concentrates on protection against a cyber-attack recognizes that technology is not a complete solution. For example, Principle B1 deals with policies and procedures. Principle B6 handles staff awareness and training. This latter is particularly welcomed by Stephen Burke, Founder and CEO at Cyber Risk Aware.

Noting that the critical infrastructure is actively targeted by nation state actors more than cyber criminals, he asks, "But how do nation states get in? The simple answer is through people. For example, the Saudi Aramco breach affected 35,000 machines and the attackers got in because a Saudi Aramco employee clicked on a link in a spear-phishing email and meant 10 percent of the world's supply was at risk.

"This emphasizes the fact that any institutions no matter how big they are and no matter how sophisticated their technical defenses are, they need to help staff and make them become aware of the cyber dangers they face as that’s how actors are going to breach defenses.”

But it isn't just about cyber-attacks and data loss. NISD "will also cover other threats affecting IT such as power outages, hardware failures and environmental hazards," says the government announcement. "Under the new measures recent cyber breaches such as WannaCry and high-profile systems failures would be covered by the Network and Information Systems (NIS) Directive.

"These incidents would have to be reported to the regulator who would assess whether appropriate security measures were in place. The regulator will have the power to issue legally-binding instructions to improve security, and – if appropriate – impose financial penalties."

This raises another issue. Most of the critical industries will have customer databases, and that could make them liable to GDPR as well as NISD, plus any existing sector-specific regulations. "Under this new legislation," warns Andy Miles, CEO of ThinkMarble, "companies could potentially be fined under the GDPR, the Government and by a regulator, so there is a risk of double or even triple jeopardy here."

The government's response document specifies the regulator (or 'competent authority') for the different critical sectors. This is often the government itself; that is, the relevant Secretary of State for that sector -- although it is the Information Commissioner (ICO) who is the competent authority for digital service providers just as with the GDPR. This could lead to confusion and lack of consistency since Secretaries of State change, and different enforcement levels could change rapidly in line with a changing political situation. "I believe that the NCSC, working alongside the ICO, should take the lead in putting these sanctions in place -- and the regulators should feed into them, not the other way around," suggests Miles.

There is a danger that NISD has simply been overshadowed by GDPR. There is concern that many of the covered entities will not be ready for its implementation in May 2018. Miles warns that "27% of respondents [to the governments consultation period] had no plans to implement further security measures, and 31% did not know if they would make any changes. This suggests that there is much still to be done in educating companies about the importance of protecting themselves from cyber-attacks."

Lorena Marciano, EMEAR data protection & privacy officer at Cisco, told SecurityWeek that organizations seen as privacy-immature experience far greater losses than those considered as privacy-mature. The implication, she said, is that NISD provisions, "shouldn’t be adopted for the single purpose of avoiding fines, but that organizations which are willing to go beyond the set compliances will reap the long-term financial benefits as well as protecting customer data.”

This means that the NCSC's guidelines should be considered as the base-line for critical industries, and that they should then go beyond them. The first step would clearly be a gap analysis between existing security controls and the NCSC's guidelines.

"Importantly, meeting those four objectives and 14 principles will demand a degree of cyber maturity that is far removed from prescriptive, compliance-based tick-box exercises," comments Robert Orr, cyber security principal consultant CNI, Context Information Security. "This means that [covered entities] will need to put as much emphasis on NIS as they should be putting on that other EU regulation, GDPR; not least because the level of fine for non-compliance is similarly punitive." That will require OES and DSPs to assess their existing cyber security and resilience, to identify any gaps in meeting the NIS outcomes, and to develop improvement plans to close those gaps -- and then go beyond them.


U.S. Floats Idea Nationalizing High-Speed Networks, Drawing Rebukes
30.1.2018 securityweek  BigBrothers
US officials have launched a debate on a proposal to nationalize the newest generation of high-speed wireless internet networks in the name of national security, provoking sharp criticism from across the political spectrum.

One official familiar with the proposal but not authorized to speak publicly told AFP the idea "has been discussed over the past couple of weeks" at the request of US national security officials.

The proposal was first reported by the news website Axios, citing a memo proposing government control of the newest and fastest part of the nation's mobile network -- the fifth generation, or 5G -- to guard against China's growing online capabilities.

Axios cited a memo by a senior official as contending that the US need to quickly deploy 5G because China is in a top position with the technology and "is the dominant malicious actor" online.

But the proposal -- which would run counter to the longstanding US policy of relying on private telecom networks -- drew immediate rebukes from the industry and even from US regulatory officials.

The official familiar with the proposal noted that "it's not hard to find people who think it's a dumb idea."

Industry leaders pointed out that the private sector is already in the process of building and deploying 5G systems, which will be important for a range of connected devices from appliances to self-driving cars.

The federal government stepping in would "slam the brakes" on momentum to deploy 5G, argued Jonathan Spalter, chief of USTelecom trade association.

"The best way to future-proof the nation's communications networks is to continue to encourage and incentivize America's broadband companies... in partnership with government, to continue do what we do best: invest, innovate, and lead," Spalter said in a statement.

Meredith Attwell Baker, president of the wireless industry group CTIA, added that while 5G is important, "the government should pursue the free market policies that enabled the US wireless industry to win the race to 4G."

Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai, whose agency regulates the telecom sector, also voiced strong opposition.

"Any federal effort to construct a nationalized 5G network would be a costly and counterproductive distraction from the policies we need to help the United States win the 5G future," Pai, a Republican, said.

Pai's Democratic colleague on the FCC, Mignon Clyburn, agreed, saying a network built by the federal government "does not leverage the best approach needed for our nation to win the 5G race."

Conservative advocacy group FreedomWorks also came out against the idea, arguing that the move would put the US on the same level as China in controlling online access.

FreedomWorks president Adam Brandon said, "We're not beating the Chinese if we sacrifice what makes our government so different from theirs."


Military personnel improperly used Fitness Strava Tracker exposed their bases
30.1.2018 securityaffairs BigBrothers

Military worldwide have publicly shared online their exercise routes recorded through the fitness tracker Strava revealing the fitness sessions conducted inside or near military bases
We discussed many times privacy risks related to IoT devices, here we are to discuss an alarming case, fitness tracker Strava revealed details of Military Bases.

American and allied military worldwide have publicly shared their exercise routes online revealing the fitness sessions conducted inside or near military bases, including Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.

This leak of information has happened because military personnel turned on their fitness Strava tracker while making exercises at the bases.

A map showing exercise routes recorded by users of a tracking app reveals sensitive information about military personnel in locations around the world, including Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.

Such kind of information could be used by enemies and terrorists to plan an attack.

Obviously while in some regions of the globe it is impossible to distinguish the activity of the military personnel, in other locations the routes immediately stand out.

For example, examining the map of Iraq you can notice that the entire region is dark, except for a series of well-known military bases used by the American military and its allies.

The list of the bases easy to locate thank to the map associated to the fitness tracker Strava includes Taji north of Baghdad, Qayyarah south of Mosul, Speicher near Tikrit and Al-Asad in Anbar Province and a number of minor sites highlighted in northern and western Iraq.

Searching for bases in Afghanistan, it is easy to locate the Bagram Air Field in the north of Kabul along with other smaller sites south of the country.

Strava%20Tracking%20app%20military%20bases

The movements of soldiers within Bagram air base – the largest US military facility in Afghanistan – Source BBC

Similarly, in Syria it is Qamishli in the northwest, a stronghold of US-allied Kurdish forces, is clearly visible.

Tobias Schneider, one of the security experts that discovered the map, shared details about the bases on Twitter, including the French Madama base in Niger.

27 Jan

Tobias Schneider

@tobiaschneider
Replying to @tobiaschneider
Worth browsing a bit. Three positions around the US outpost at Tanf: pic.twitter.com/jS7S4LR2QS


Tobias Schneider

@tobiaschneider
My focus is on Syria, but obviously works all over. French military base Madama in Niger: pic.twitter.com/1e9SRR73xS

7:57 PM - Jan 27, 2018
View image on Twitter
7 7 Replies 174 174 Retweets 331 331 likes
Twitter Ads info and privacy
27 Jan

Tobias Schneider

@tobiaschneider
Replying to @tobiaschneider
A lot of people are going to have to sit thru lectures come Monday morning.


Tobias Schneider

@tobiaschneider
So much cool stuff to be done. Outposts around Mosul (or locals who enjoy running in close circles around their houses): pic.twitter.com/wHItJwYUUI

8:37 PM - Jan 27, 2018
View image on Twitter
10 10 Replies 187 187 Retweets 469 469 likes
Twitter Ads info and privacy
The researchers Nathan Ruser spotted also activities of Russians in Khmeimim.

27 Jan

Nathan Ruser
@Nrg8000
Replying to @Nrg8000
Not just US bases. Here is a Turkish patrol N of Manbij pic.twitter.com/1aiJVHSMZp


Nathan Ruser
@Nrg8000
You can see the Russian operating area in Khmeimim, but also the guard patrol to the NE. pic.twitter.com/iWiX5Kozc1

7:28 PM - Jan 27, 2018
View image on Twitter
3 3 Replies 77 77 Retweets 114 114 likes
Twitter Ads info and privacy
The good news is this issue could be easily fixed, Strava confirmed that “athletes with the Metro/heatmap opt-out privacy setting have all data excluded.”

The app allows users to set up “privacy zones,” that are areas where the Strava tracker doesn’t collect GPS info. These areas can be designed around the user’s home or work, but evidently, the military personnel ignored it.


Russia Infrastructure Spying Could Cause 'Total Chaos': UK Defence Minister
28.1.2018 securityweek BigBrothers

Britain's Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has accused Russia of spying on its critical infrastructure as part of possible plans to create "total chaos" in the country that could "cause thousands and thousands of deaths".

In unusually alarmist words from a senior minister Williamson told the Daily Telegraph that, in its research on UK power supply connections with Europe, Moscow appeared intent on sowing "panic" and hurting Britain.

"What they are looking at doing is they are going to be thinking 'how can we just cause so much pain to Britain?'" he said in comments published Thursday night.

"Damage its economy, rip its infrastructure apart, actually cause thousands and thousands and thousands of deaths, but actually have an element of creating total chaos within the country."

Williamson, who only became defence chief in November after predecessor Michael Fallon resigned over allegations of misconduct, gave the interview at the outset of a new five-month defence review.

He is reportedly pressuring finance minister Philip Hammond to allocate more money to defence and scrap further cuts to Britain's strained armed forces.

In the interview the minister said Russia acts in a way "that any other nation would see as completely unacceptable".

Related: Learn More at SecurityWeek's ICS Cyber Security Conference

"Why would they keep photographing and looking at power stations, why are they looking at the interconnectors that bring so much electricity and so much energy into our country," he questioned in the paper.

"They are looking at these things because they are saying these are the ways that we can hurt Britain."

Earlier this week Fallon joined calls from the head of the army for more British military spending, amid warnings the country may struggle to match Russian battlefield capabilities.

Meanwhile the head of the National Cyber Security Centre said the country will likely face a major cyber-attack within two years.

Ciaran Martin told the Guardian it was inevitable a hostile actor would launch an online attack aimed at crippling Britain's critical infrastructure, such as energy supplies, and it was lucky not to have fallen victim to such a strike already.

Williamson, who is tipped as a possible future ruling Conservative party leader, described his scenario planning as "the real threat that I believe the country is facing at the moment."

A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said it had nothing further to add to his remarks.

The Russian Embassy in London could not be reached for comment Thursday.


Dutch Spies Watched as Russians Hacked US Democrats: Report
26.1.2018 securityweek BigBrothers

Dutch intelligence services hacked Russian cyber attackers and alerted US counterparts after watching them transfer "thousands" of Democratic Party emails ahead of the 2016 US election, Dutch media reported Friday.

The Dutch national intelligence service (AIVD) had been watching the notorious group known as Cozy Bear since 2014, according to the respected Volkskrant daily, and a Dutch TV news programme Nieuwsuur.

But as well as stumbling upon the group's computer network which was run out of a university building near Moscow's Red Square, the Dutch agents also gained access to the security cameras surveilling the room.

"Not only can the intelligence service now see what the Russians are doing, they can also see who's doing it," the Volkskrant said, citing anonymous US and Dutch sources.

The AIVD alerted its US counterparts when in 2015 it became a "witness to the Russian hackers harassing and penetrating the leaders of the Democratic Party, transferring thousands of emails and documents," it said.

"Yet, it will be months before the United States realise what this warning means: that with these hacks the Russians have interfered with the American elections. And the AIVD hackers have seen it happening before their very eyes."

Cozy Bear has been widely blamed for meddling in the 2016 US elections won by now President Donald Trump.

Although Trump has vehemently denied working with the Russians, his White House is under investigation by special prosecutor and former FBI director Robert Mueller.

Mueller's team is seeking to uncover whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia's efforts to sway the election, including leaks of hacked Democratic Party files.

Mueller's team has spent the past eight months interviewing members of Trump's campaign and White House staff, and has issued four indictments, with two guilty pleas.

A spokeswoman for the AIVD refused to confirm the Dutch media reports, telling AFP "we never comment on operations."

But American intelligence agencies have said "with high confidence" they believe the Kremlin was behind the attack on the Democratic Party.

That confidence is based on "AIVD hackers having had access to the office-like space in the centre of Moscow for years," the Volkskrant said, citing sources who added that the Dutch had provided "technical evidence" of the attack on the Democratic Party.


The Dutch intelligence service AIVD ‘hacked’ Russian Cozy Bear systems for years
26.1.2018 securityaffairs BigBrothers

Spying on spies – The hackers from the Dutch intelligence service AIVD ‘compromised’ for years the network of the Russian APT Cozy Bear.
It’s not a mystery, technology firms that intend to work with Russia need to allow the Government experts to scan their code for backdoors and vulnerabilities.

The problem is that this software is often used by the US Government, this means that Russian experts could found bugs or backdoors to exploit in cyber attacks against US Agencies.

Many tech giants already allowed their software review, including McAfee, SAP, Symantec, and HPE, the risk is that foreign Governments could exploit a bug or a backdoor to control them.

Anyway, other firms like Trend Micro has refused to allow the Russians to conduct a source code review of their products.

Of course, the companies defend their position clarifying that the code review s were done under controlled conditions and that not code was allowed to be copied.

News of the day is that the Dutch intelligence service AIVD ‘hacked’ Russian state-sponsored hackers.

The news was reported by the newspaper de Volkskrant, AIVD in 2014 monitored the activity of the Russian APT Cozy Bear (aka APT29) and its efforts to hack into systems at the US Democratic Party‘s and US government servers.

Dutch intelligence service AIVD provided the FBI with crucial information about Russian interference with the American elections.

The AIVD cyber spies compromised security cameras surrounding the building used by the Cozy Bear crew, the Dutch agents were looking for known Russian spies accessing the structure.

“Hackers from the Dutch intelligence service AIVD have provided the FBI with crucial information about Russian interference with the American elections,” reports the Dutch daily newspaper Volkskrant.nl.

“That’s how the AIVD becomes witness to the Russian hackers harassing and penetrating the leaders of the Democratic Party, transferring thousands of emails and documents. It won’t be the last time they alert their American counterparts.”

Cozy%20Bear

The Dutch hackers conducted a Computer Network Attack against Russians, they are involved in offensive operations aim to compromise adversary networks.

The unit operates under the Joint Sigint Cyber Unit, a collaborative unit of the AIVD and the Dutch Military Intelligence and Security Service MIVD, of about 300 people.

The Dutch cyber unit is composed of about 80-100 people, part of them is focused on intercepting or managing sources, while another team is dedicated to Computer Network Defence.

It’s unknown what exact information the Dutch hackers collected, the unique certainty is that it linked Cozy Bear to the attacks against the US Government.

“Three American intelligence services state with ‘high confidence’ that the Kremlin was behind the attack on the Democratic Party. That certainty, sources say, is derived from the AIVD hackers having had access to the office-like space in the center of Moscow for years. This is so exceptional that the directors of the foremost American intelligence services are all too happy to receive the Dutchmen.” continues the newspaper.

The Cozy Bear hackers are located in a university building near the Red Square, the team is composed on average of ten people. The entrance is in a curved hallway controlled by a security camera that was hacked by Dutch cyber spies.

Thanks to the AIVD, the NSA was able to locate the command and control servers used by Cozy Bear while it was targeting the systems at the State Department.

“Access to Cozy Bear turns out to be a goldmine for the Dutch hackers. For years, it supplies them with valuable intelligence about targets, methods and the interests of the highest ranking officials of the Russian security service. From the pictures taken of visitors, the AIVD deduces that the hacker group is led by Russia’s external intelligence agency SVR.” continues the Volkskrant.

“There’s a reason the AIVD writes in its annual report about 2014 that many Russian government officials, including president Putin, use secret services to obtain information.”

The AIVD hackers left Cozy Bear’s computer network after an investigation that lasted for 1 and 2,5 years, likely because the Russians cut off their access.


Lebanon Must Investigate Claims of Mass Spying: Rights Groups
25.1.2018 securityweek BigBrothers

Eight rights groups including Human Rights Watch called on Lebanese authorities Wednesday to investigate reports of a massive espionage campaign traced back to a government security agency.

Digital researchers last week said they had uncovered a hacking campaign using malware-infected messaging apps to steal smartphone data from people in more than 20 countries, including journalists and activists.

The report tracked the threat, which the researchers dubbed "Dark Caracal", to a building in Beirut belonging to the Lebanese General Security Directorate.

Eight rights groups and media organizations called on Lebanon's general prosecutor on Wednesday to investigate who was behind the campaign.

"If these allegations are true, this intrusive surveillance makes a mockery of people's right to privacy and jeopardises free expression and opinion," said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "Lebanese authorities should immediately end any ongoing surveillance that violates the nation's laws or human rights, and investigate the reports of egregious privacy violations."

Other signatories included the Lebanese Center for Human Rights (CLDH), the SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom, and Lebanon's Social Media Exchange (SMEX).

Hundreds of gigabytes of data have been taken from thousands of victims in more than 21 countries, said the report, authored by digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation and mobile security firm Lookout.

They called Dark Caracal "one of the most prolific" mobile espionage campaigns to date. With fake versions of secure messaging services like WhatsApp and Signal, the scheme has enabled attackers to take pictures, capture audio, pinpoint locations, and mine handsets for private data.

According to the report, Dark Caracal used FinFisher, surveillance software used by governments around the world.

In 2015, Toronto-based research group Citizen Lab found that General Security and other Lebanese security forces have used FinFisher for surveillance in Lebanon.

General Security chief Abbas Ibrahim did not explicitly deny the report.

"The report is very, very, very exaggerated. We don't have these capabilities. I wish we had those abilities," he said.

In comments to the media, Interior Minister Nouhad Mashnuq also appeared to confirm there was at least some truth to the report. "It's not that it's not true, it's just very overblown," said Mashuq.


North Korea-linked Lazarus Hackers Update Arsenal of Hacking Tools
25.1.2018 securityweek BigBrothers

Recent cyberattacks associated with the North Korea-linked Lazarus group have used an evolved backdoor, along with a Remote Controller tool, Trend Micro reports.

Targeting financial institutions, the campaign employed watering hole attacks and an evolved variant of the Lazarus-linked RATANKBA Trojan, which is capable of delivering multiple payloads, including hacking tools and software targeting banking systems.

The Lazarus group has been active since at least 2009 and is believed to be backed by the North Korean government. The threat actor has targeted government, military, media, aerospace, financial and manufacturing organizations, and is believed to be the most serious threat against banks.

Servers the group used as part of the recently observed campaign for temporarily holding stolen data allowed security researchers to gain insight into attacks and victims. Thus, they discovered that around 55% of the victims were located in India and neighboring countries and that most of them didn’t use enterprise versions of Microsoft software.

In a December 2017 report, Proofpoint researchers revealed that Lazarus had started targeting individuals, and that a new Windows executable downloader and a new first-stage implant were being used in attacks.

“Less than 5% of the victims were Microsoft Windows Enterprise users, which means that currently, RATANKBA mostly affects smaller organizations or individual users, not larger organizations. It’s possible that Lazarus is using tools other than RATANKBA to target larger organizations,” Trend Micro says.

By looking at the victims’ IP addresses, the security researchers also determined that none can be associated with a large bank or a financial institution. However, victims that are likely employees of web software development companies in India and South Korea appear to have been targeted.

The hackers delivered the RATANKBA malware to their intended targets via malicious Office documents (containing topics related to software development or digital currencies), CHM files, and script downloaders. The goal of the attacks was to install the RATANKBA backdoor onto the victims’ machines to steal user information and execute commands on the system.

The hackers use a Remote Controller tool to send jobs to compromised endpoints. Through the controller, attackers queue tasks on the main server, and RATANKBA connects to this server to retrieve the tasks and execute it. This means that real-time communication between the backdoor and the attacker isn’t employed.

The controller provides a graphical UI interface and allows the attacker to both push code to the server and download victim profiles from it.

The RATANKBA variant used in these attacks was written in Powershell, an evolution from the original variant, which was in PE form. The new malware iteration is more difficult to detect.

The members of the Lazarus group, Trend Micro says, appear to be native Korean speakers, “or at least have Korean language proficiency that is at the near-native level.” At least one of them is believed to also understand Chinese. The group appears interested in crypto-currencies such as Bitcoin (BTC) and Ant Share (NEO).

“Given Lazarus’ use of a wide array of tools and techniques in their operations, it’s reasonable to assume that the group will continue to use ever-evolving tactics in their malicious activities. Overall, an organization will need multilayered security strategies, as Lazarus and other similar groups are experienced cybercriminals who employ different strategies to get past organizational defenses,” the researchers conclude.


Nearly Half of the Norway Population Exposed in HealthCare Data Breach
23.1.2018 thehackernews BigBrothers

Cybercriminals have stolen a massive trove of Norway's healthcare data in a recent data breach, which likely impacts more than half of the nation's population.
An unknown hacker or group of hackers managed to breach the systems of Health South-East Regional Health Authority (RHF) and reportedly stolen personal info and health records of some 2.9 million Norwegians out of the country's total 5.2 million inhabitants.
Health South-East RHA is a healthcare organisation that manages hospitals in Norway’s southeast region, including Østfold, Akershus, Oslo, Hedmark, Oppland, Buskerud, Vestfold, Telemark, Aust-Agder and Vest-Agder.
The healthcare organisation announced the data breach on Monday after it had been alerted by HelseCERT, the Norwegian CERT department for its healthcare sector, about an "abnormal activity" against computer systems in the region.
HelseCERT also said the culprits behind the data breach are "advanced and professional" hackers, although it is still unknown as to whether they were managed to exfiltrate data successfully and if so, how many people may have been impacted.
So far there's also no evidence if the stolen data theft has had any consequences for or effects on patients' safety. However, the healthcare organisation assured that security "measures had been taken to limit the damage caused by the burglary."
"We are in a phase where we try to get an overview. It's far too early to say how big the attack is. We are working to acquire knowledge of all aspects, " NorCERT director Kjetil Nilsen told Norwegian publication VG.
"Everything indicates that it is an advanced player who has the tools and ability to perform such an attack. It can be advanced criminals. There is a wide range of possibilities."
Why Do Hackers Want Your Health Data?
Digital healthcare has been growing to satisfy the demands of connected healthcare technology that provides better treatment and improved patient care.
We know that any organisation with a computer is at risk from cyber-attacks both from criminals wanting to extort money and state-sponsored hackers wanting to cause chaos.
Since the healthcare sector is part of the critical national infrastructure, alongside water, electricity and transport, it becomes an attractive target for hackers.
Believe it or not, your medical records are worth more to hackers than your stolen credit card details on the dark web markets.
Financial data has a finite lifespan, but the information contained in health care records—which includes names, birth dates, policy numbers, diagnosis codes, social security number and billing information—has a much longer shelf life and is rich enough for identity theft.
Fraudsters can use this data to create fake identities to do all illegal kinds of stuff in your name, combine a patient number with a false provider number and file fake claims with insurers, and even file fake tax returns using your stolen addresses, phone numbers and employment history.
How to Protect Yourself After a Data Breach?
If you are a one of those affected by the healthcare breach, you will have to remain vigilant against fraud for the rest of your lives, because the risk of identity theft isn't short term, unlike in case of credit cards fraud.
You may follow the following steps to protect yourself:
1) Monitor Your Accounts: Watch out if someone using your information do not ever try to take over or transfer money out of your existing accounts. Don’t forget that thieves with stolen details on you can get through your security questions, including the last four digits of your social and street address. Also, watch for any unauthorised activity or transfers on your current financial accounts.
2) File Your Taxes Early: With the stolen information in the hands, cyber thieves could hook your tax refund by filing your taxes early and claiming it for themselves. So, to avoid any such problems, file your taxes as early as possible.
3) Stay Vigilant: The foremost thing to protect against any breach is to stay vigilant, as nobody knows when or where your stolen identities will be used. So, affected consumers will simply have to stay mindful forever.


UK Teen Gained Access to CIA Chief's Accounts: Court
22.1.2018 securityweek BigBrothers
A British teenager managed to access the communications accounts of top US intelligence and security officials including the then CIA chief John Brennan, a London court heard Friday.

Kane Gamble, now 18, was aged 15 and 16 when, from his bedroom in Coalville, central England, he managed to impersonate his targets to gain highly sensitive information.

"Kane Gamble gained access to the communications accounts of some very high-ranking US intelligence officials and government employees," prosecutor John Lloyd-Jones told England's Old Bailey central criminal court. "He also gained access to US law enforcement and intelligence agency networks."

Gamble has admitted 10 offences against the computer misuse act, between June 2015 and February 2016, and is awaiting sentencing.

The court heard how the teenager founded the group Crackas With Attitude (CWA), who used "social engineering" -- manipulating call centres and help desks into divulging confidential information -- which they then exploited.

Gamble impersonated Brennan in calls to the telecommunications companies Verizon and AOL, although in one attempt, he stumbled on a question about Brennan's first pet.

Several sensitive documents were reportedly obtained from Brennan's private email inbox and Gamble managed to get information about military and intelligence operations in Iran and Afghanistan.

"It also seems he was able to successfully access Mr Brennan's iCloud account," the prosecutor said.

Gamble called AOL and initiated a password reset, took control of Brennan's wife's iPad.

- 'I own you' -

Gamble also targeted the then US secretary of homeland security Jeh Johnson and made calls to his phone number.

He left Johnson's wife a voicemail saying "Am I scaring you?" and managed to get a message to appear on the family television saying: "I own you".

Other targets included the then US president Barack Obama's deputy national security adviser Avril Haines, his senior science and technology adviser John Holdren, and FBI special agent Amy Hess.

Gamble gained extensive unauthorised access to the US Department of Justice network and was able to access court case files, including on the Deepwater oil spill.

He boasted that he had a list of all Homeland Security employees.

Gamble gave some of the material he managed to access to WikiLeaks.

He was arrested at his home on February 9 last year at the request of the FBI.

He claimed he was motivated to act out of support for the Palestinians, and due to the United States "killing innocent civilians", the prosecutor said.

Gamble, wearing a black jacket, spoke only to confirm his name, mumbling "yes", and sat in the court next to his mother.

He will be sentenced at a date yet to be fixed.


Kaspersky Files Injunction to Expedite Appeal Against DHS Ban
22.1.2018 securityweek BigBrothers
Kaspersky Lab last week filed a motion for a preliminary injunction as part of its appeal against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s decision to ban the company’s products in federal agencies.

Kaspersky’s appeal targets the DHS’s Binding Operational Directive (BOD) 17-01, which the agency issued in September in response to concerns that the company may be aiding Russia’s espionage efforts. President Donald Trump reinforced the ban in mid-December with the National Defense Authorization Act for FY2018.

The security firm filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government shortly after the president signed the bill, arguing that the ban is unconstitutional as it infringes the company’s due process rights. Kaspersky believes the DHS should have given it the opportunity to view the information obtained by the agency before the directive was issued.

“[Kaspersky] has made this filing in hopes that the court will address and resolve the appeal expeditiously in light of the BOD’s damage to the company,” Kaspersky told SecurityWeek.

“The company asserts that the DHS decision is unconstitutional and relied on subjective, non-technical public sources, such as uncorroborated and often anonymously sourced media reports, related claims, and rumors. Furthermore, DHS has failed to provide the company adequate due process to rebut the unsubstantiated allegations underlying the BOD and has not provided any evidence of wrongdoing by the company,” it added.

When it announced the lawsuit, Kaspersky said it had voluntarily reached out to the DHS in July and offered to assist with any investigation into the company and its products. While the agency seemed to appreciate the offer, it did not follow-up and instead issued the controversial directive without warning.

The security firm said that while only a relatively small percentage of its revenue comes from the U.S. government, the DHS’s actions have had a negative impact on sales in other sectors, in both the United States and other countries.

The accusations against Kaspersky Lab stem from the connection between Eugene Kaspersky, the company’s founder and CEO, and Russian intelligence.

“Dissuading consumers and businesses in the United States and abroad from using Kaspersky Lab products solely because of its geographic origins and without any credible evidence does not constitute a risk-based approach to cybersecurity and does little to address information security concerns related to government networks,” Mr. Kaspersky said when the appeal was filed.

Kaspersky has attempted to clear its name by launching a new transparency initiative that involves giving partners access to source code and paying significantly larger bug bounties for vulnerabilities found in the firm’s products.

It has also attempted to provide a logical explanation over accusations that its software had been exploited by Russian hackers to steal data belonging to the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) from a contractor’s device.


Crackas leader (15) gained access to data of intel operations in Afghanistan and Iran by posing as the CIA chief
20.1.2018 securityaffairs BigBrothers

British teenager Kane Gamble (15), leader of the ‘Crackas With Attitude’ hacking group gained access to intel operations in Afghanistan and Iran by posing as the CIA chief.
Do you remember “Crackas With Attitude”?

You remember for sure the Crackas With Attitude, a hacking crew that claimed clamorous actions in support of the Palestine cause.

The notorious group is responsible for clamorous attacks against US intelligence officials, the list of targeted victims is long and includes James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence under President Obama’s administration and the deputy director of the FBI Jeh Johnson, CIA director John Brennan.

Cracka is also responsible for the disclosure of personal information of 31,000 government agents, including data of FBI agents, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officers and DoJ employees.

crackas%20Kane%20Gamble

Cracka used the account “@DotGovz” on Twitter to publish online the sensitive data.

The Cracka with Attitude team always expressed its support to Palestine, they hacked US Government entities due to its support to the Israeli politics.

The group was lead by a British teenager, Kane Gamble, that was 15-years-old at the time of the hack of CIA director.

According to prosecutors, Kane Gamble accessed secret data related to intelligence operations in Afghanistan and Iran by pretending to be head of CIA.

“He accessed some extremely sensitive accounts referring to, among other things, military operations and intelligence operations in Afghanistan and Iran.” said John Lloyd-Jones QC prosecutor.

crackas%20Kane%20Gamble

Gamble was arrested in February 2016, in October 2017, Kane Gamble pleaded guilty to ten charges related to the attempted intrusions occurred between late 2015 and early 2016.

Two other members of Crackas With Attitude team, Andrew Otto Boggs and Justin Gray Liverman, were arrested by FBI in September 2016 and had already been sentenced to five years in federal prison.

Gamble pleaded guilty to eight charges of performing a function with intent to gain unauthorized access, and two charges of unauthorized acts with intent to compromise the operation of a computer.

“It all started by me getting more and more annoyed at how corrupt and cold-blooded the US Government is so I decided to do something about it.” Gamble told a journalist.

“The court heard Gamble “felt particularly strongly” about US-backed Israeli violence against Palestinians, the shooting of black people by US police, racist violence by the KKK and the bombing of civilians in Iraq and Syria.” reported The Sun.

Gamble’s advocate sustained that Gamble he is on the autism spectrum at the time of his offending had the mental development of a teenager.

“Medical experts for the defence argue that he is on the autism spectrum and at the time of his offending had the mental development of a 12 or 13-year-old.” reported The Telegraph.

“He has no friends to speak off and is closest to his mother Ann, a cleaner who reportedly won a £1.6million lottery jackpot in 1997 but “lost all the money on doomed property deals”.

William Harbage QC said that after his arrest he told doctors “it was kind of easy” and that he had little consequences of his actions “in his bedroom on the internet thousands of miles away”. “

The teenager is waiting for the final sentence.


The US Global surveillance bill has been signed by President Trump
20.1.2018 securityaffairs BigBrothers

US Government missed a historic opportunity to reform a dangerous surveillance law that opens to a global surveillance, instead it has signed a version that makes it worse.
The U.S. legal framework related to the domestic surveillance has been signed by President Trump one day after the Senate approved it with 65 votes against 34. The bill will be effective for other six years, below the Edward Snowden’s comment:


Edward Snowden

@Snowden
65 Senators just voted to expand an unconstitutional law permitting Trump to spy on communications with one leg in the US–without a warrant. For the next six years, any unencrypted internet request that even touches a US border will be "ingested" (intercepted) and parsed by NSA. https://twitter.com/EFF/status/954048766000087041 …

7:56 PM - Jan 18, 2018
359 359 Replies 7,305 7,305 Retweets 7,843 7,843 likes
Twitter Ads info and privacy
Privacy advocates and civil rights have a long criticized the Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) that allows US intelligence agencies to conduct domestic surveillance under certain conditions without a warrant.

The Section 702 allows the NSA to conduct warrantless spying of foreigners located abroad, including any communications with US citizens.

NSA%20surveillance%20activities

Section 702 was revealed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2012. Civil rights and privacy advocates consider it as unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment.

The bill increases spying powers of intelligence agencies and block safeguards, curiously it was passed by Republicans who always criticized the corruption of the Government.

Politicians that voted for the Section 702 believe it is crucial it is crucial to protect Americans from foreign governments and terrorism, they highlighted that the revisions to the bill will guarantee citizens from any abuse.
“There is a glimmer of light,” “The last few weeks have demonstrated that bipartisan efforts to reform our surveillance laws continue on an arc of progress.” wrote ACLU legislative counsel Neema Singh Guliani in a blog post.

“With only two more votes, reformers could have halted this bill from advancing and forced a floor debate over badly needed improvements. And an effort to pass the most comprehensive Section 702 reform bill introduced in Congress garnered the support of over 180 members in the House. With actual debate, real reform provisions likely would have passed.”

Just hours before the section 702 program was signed by the President, the Senate’s intelligence committee approved the release of a confidential four-page memo alleging previous abuse of the FISA spying program to the rest of Congress.

“Scores of Republicans have since viewed the document in a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility on Capitol Hill. They left expressing shock, saying the special counsel investigation into whether Trump’s campaign officials had improper contacts with Russia is based on politically motivated actions at the highest level of law enforcement.” reported The Hill.

House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) called the memo “shocking.”

““I’m here to tell all of a America tonight that I’m shocked to read exactly what has taken place,” Meadows (R-N.C.) said in a speech on the House floor.

“I thought it could never happen in a country that loves freedom and democracy like this country. It is time that we become transparent with all of this, and I’m calling on our leadership to make this available so all Americans can judge for themselves.”

Politicians opposing the section 702 program are defining its contents “worse than Watergate.”

In conclusion, this is a black page in the history of Americans. The 6-year extension of the regulation that allows the US government to monitor foreigners’ communications abroad without a warrant has been approved. Moreover, the US intelligence will also be able to spy on American citizens, politicians, businessmen, and journalists who communicate with them, despite the Fourth Amendment.


Health South East RHF data breach exposed health records for half of Norway’s Population
19.1.2018 securityaffairs BigBrothers

On January 8, the Health South East RHF, that is the healthcare organization that manages hospitals in Norway’s southeast region disclosed a major security breach.
On January 8, the Health South East RHF, that is the healthcare organization that manages hospitals in Norway’s southeast region (countries of Østfold, Akershus, Oslo, Hedmark, Oppland, Buskerud, Vestfold, Telemark, Aust-Agder and Vest-Agder), disclosed a security breach that may have exposed sensitive data belonging to more than half of the population.

The incident was announced by the national healthcare security centre HelseCERT that detected an abnormal activity against computer systems in the region. HelseCERT notified the incident to local authorities as well as NorCERT.

“We are in a phase where we try to get an overview. It’s far too early to say how big the attack is. We are working to acquire knowledge of all aspects,” Kjetil Nilsen, director of NorCERT, the National Security Authority (NSM) told Norwegian media outlet VG.

“Everything indicates that it is an advanced player who has the tools and ability to perform such an attack. It can be advanced criminals. There is a wide range of possibilities,”

According to the HelseCert, the security breach is the result of an attack conducted by ‘advanced’ and ‘professional’ hackers.

Authorities announced important measures to limit the damage caused by the security breach.

“A number of measures have been implemented to remove the threat, and further measures will be implemented in the future,” announced Norway’s Ministry of Health and Care in a statement.

“This is a serious situation and measures have been taken to limit the damage caused by the incident,” reads a joint statement published by Health South East RHF and Sykehuspartner HF.

The hospitals in the region currently serve 2.9 million inhabitants, that correspond to 56 percent of the overall population composed of 5.2 million citizens.

norway%20Health%20South%20East%20RHF

Health records are a precious commodity in the cybercrime underground, but are also considered by nation-state actors a mine of data that could be used in further attacks. Experts and government representatives believe that the data breach suffered by the Health South-East RHF could be the result of a cyber espionage campaign conducted by a foreign state interested in gathering data related to people who work in government, military, intelligence personnel, and politicians.

The VG newspaper reported that Health South East hired Hewlett Packard Enterprise in the autumn of 2016 to modernize computer systems in the healthcare company, but the project was suspended because NRK revealed poor control of access to patient data.

The Health South East RHF data breach seems to be not related to the above project, as confirmed by CEO Cathrine Lofthus.

“We have investigated that is important to us. We do not see any connection between this attack and that project, “says Lofthus.


Former CIA Agent Arrested With Top Secret Info
18.1.2018 securityweek BigBrothers

US authorities said Tuesday they had arrested a former CIA agent, Hong Kong resident Jerry Chun Shing Lee, after discovering he had an unauthorized notebook that had the identities of undercover US spies.

Lee, a naturalized US citizen also known as Zhen Cheng Li, was arrested late Monday after he arrived at JFK International Airport in New York.

The Department of Justice said Lee, 53, grew up in the United States and served in the US Army before joining the Central Intelligence Agency as a case officer in 1994.

He served in unnamed overseas locations and left the agency in 2007, later apparently taking a job in Hong Kong.

In a complaint filed in a New York federal court, the Justice Department said that in 2012, FBI agents with court-ordered warrants secretly searched Lee's luggage while he was travelling in the United States and found he was carrying top secret materials he was not authorized to have.

"Agents found two small books containing handwritten notes that contained classified information, including but not limited to, true names and phone numbers of assets and covert CIA employees, operational notes from asset meetings, operational meeting locations and locations of covert facilities," the Justice Department said.

Lee was charged with unlawful retention of national defense information, a charge that can bring up to 10 years in prison.

Officials did not say why it took so long to bring charges against Lee, or whether he had leaked any materials to foreign countries.

But the case takes place amid concern in the US intelligence community that the Chinese government has been able to cripple their operations in that country.

The New York Times reported last year that starting in 2010, to the end of 2012, the Chinese killed "at least a dozen" sources the CIA had inside China and imprisoned six or more others.

A hunt for a "mole" in the agency led to one person, a "former operative" now living elsewhere in Asia, the Times said. But there was not enough information to arrest him.

But others in the agency blamed sloppy work and not a mole, the Times added.

Asked about the case at a regular press briefing in Beijing Wednesday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said: "I'm not aware of the information you've mentioned."


PureSec Emerges From Stealth With Security Product for Serverless Apps
18.1.2018 securityweek BigBrothers
Tel Aviv, Israel-based startup PureSec emerged from stealth mode on Wednesday with a security platform designed for serverless architectures and a guide that describes the top 10 risks for serverless applications.

Founded by Shaked Zin (CEO), Avi Shulman (VP of R&D) and Ory Segal (CTO), PureSec raised $3 million in May 2017 in a seed round led by TLV Partners.

PureSec’s product is powered by the company’s Serverless Security Runtime Environment (SSRE) technology, which provides a trusted and safe environment for serverless functions.

Applications built on serverless architectures do not require an always-on physical or virtual server. Instead, resources are provided dynamically as Backend-as-a-Service (BaaS) and Function-as-a-Service (FaaS) services. Amazon’s AWS Lambda, Microsoft’s Azure Functions, Google Cloud Functions and IBM BlueMix Cloud Functions are the most popular serverless platforms.PureSec launches serverless security product

Using serverless architectures has many advantages, including the fact that developers can focus on product functionality without having to worry about the server side, including when it comes to applying security patches. However, the developer is still responsible for ensuring that the application is resilient to attacks.

PureSec’s product aims to address this by providing runtime protection via two layers: a firewall and a behavioral engine.

“The first layer, the Serverless Function Firewall, makes sure that input going into the function is safe for usage as event input. It can detect application layer attacks that are relevant for serverless architectures - like NoSQL Injections, SQL Injections, XSS, Local File Inclusion, Runtime Code Injections, etc. It is working on the event-data for the function (the arguments), so it is protocol agnostic and can handle any kind of event triggers (it's not limited to HTTP),” Segal told SecurityWeek.

“Once the function starts executing, our behavioral detection engine monitors ‘operations’ and ‘interactions’ performed by the function in real-time, making sure that only good behaviors are performed. Our research team spent time modeling good behavior, as well as malicious behavior, and we can detect attempts to subvert function logic, attempt to access files in an unauthorized way, attempts to download malware or execute it, or leak data. This is purely behavioral and does not rely on signatures, in order to provide 0-day protection. It's basically positive security applied to function behaviors,” he added.

PureSec’s product, currently available in pre-Beta, has already been tested by various organizations, including a very large US retail company, several global ad tech firms, and some US-based cloud technology firms. Some large US-based companies migrating systems to AWS Lambda may be signed up soon.

The company could not provide any information on pricing and general availability.

Top 10 risks for serverless applications

PureSec has also published a guide describing the top 10 risks for applications built on serverless architectures. The guide, designed for both security and development teams, provides mitigations, best practices, and comparisons to traditional applications.

Inspired by the OWASP Top 10, the document covers issues such as function event data injection, broken authentication, insecure deployment configuration, over-privileged function permissions and roles, inadequate function monitoring and logging, insecure third-party dependencies, insecure application secrets storage, denial-of-service and financial resource exhaustion, serverless function execution flow manipulation, and improper exception handling and verbose error messages.

A study conducted by the company showed that the adoption of serverless architectures has seen exponential growth, but there is a significant gap in knowledge of serverless security.


North Korean Hackers Prep Attacks Against Cryptocurrency Exchanges: Report
17.1.2018 securityweek BigBrothers

Researchers Say a North Korea-Linked Hacking Campaign is Ready to Go Against South Korean Cryptocurrency Exchanges

North Korean hackers, loosely categorized as the Lazarus Group, have continued their attacks against South Korean interests, with particular emphasis on cryptocurrency exchanges.

Recorded Future has published details of a campaign it discovered in late 2017, which does not yet appear to be active. This may be in recognition of, or because of, the current discussions between North and South over North Korea's potential involvement in South Korea's Winter Olympics being held in Pyeongchang in February -- or it could simply be that the campaign development has not yet been put in action.

Recorded Future said they discovered a spear-phishing campaign that uses the CVE-2017-8291 Ghostscript vulnerability triggered from within a Hangul Word Processor (popular in South Korea) document.

For now, the bilateral discussions between North and South seem to be fruitful. It is reported that North Korea will send a 140-member orchestra to the Games, and there are ongoing discussions over the two countries fielding a joint women's hockey team. Nevertheless, Recorded Future researcher Priscilla Moriuchi told SecurityWeek that the campaign is in place and could be easily invoked.

Earlier this month, McAfee described a separate attack against North Korean defectors from a group -- almost certainly North Korean -- that does not appear to be related to any known cybercrime group.

Recorded Future notes that the techniques used in that attack "are unusual for the Lazarus Group. These include leveraging PowerShell, HTA, JavaScript, and Python, none of which are common in Lazarus operations over the last eight years." This new campaign, however, "showcases a clear use of Lazarus TTPs to target cryptocurrency exchanges and social institutions in South Korea."

The Lazarus targets are users of the Coinlink cryptocurrency exchange, other exchanges, and a group known as 'Friends of MOFA (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)'.

The cryptocurrency target is typical Lazarus. "Beginning in 2016," notes Recorded Future, "researchers discovered a shift in North Korean operations toward attacks against financial institutions designed to steal money and generate funds for the Kim regime." Lazarus is believed to be behind the 2016 attacks on the SWIFT global banking network, including the theft of $81 million from the Bangladesh central bank in February 2016.

In December 2017, the South Korean Youbit cryptocurrency exchange went bankrupt following its second hack of the year. In the first attack it lost 4000 bitcoin or around 40% of its reserves (around $5 million at the time), and a further 17% of its assets in the December breach. Some reports suggest that the attacks were undertaken by BlueNoroff, a sub-group of Lazarus.

South Korean exchanges have been strengthening their network defenses, while the government has been considering regulations to tighten control over cryptocurrencies. One mooted option has been the shutdown of all virtual cryptocurrency exchanges, although a statement from the Office for Government Policy Coordination on Monday downplayed a comment from Justice Minister Park Sang-ki last week. The Justice Minister's statement suggested the government is already working on legislation to ban virtual exchanges in the country. The current view is that a ban is not imminent, although stricter regulation is likely.

Whatever happens, hacking South Korean cryptocurrency exchanges will become more difficult in the future. "The majority of North Korean cryptocurrency operations have targeted South Korean users and exchanges, but we expect this trend to change in 2018. We assess that as South Korea responds to these attempted thefts by increasing security, they will become harder targets, forcing North Korean actors to look to exchanges and users in other countries as well."

Noticeably, Recorded Future warns that although this campaign and toolset are specific to the Hangul Word Processor, the actul vulnerability it exploits is not. "This vulnerability is for the Ghostscript suite and affects a wide range of products, and while this particular version is triggered from within an embedded PostScript in an HWP document, it could easily be adapted to other software."

"The main targets and victims of North Korean cryptocurrency operations in 2017 were South Korean," Moriuchi told SecurityWeek. "As a result of that targeting, the South Korean regulators are attempting to impose stricter financial controls on exchanges, and the exchanges are also implementing stricter security measures both for their users and within their networks. We believe that these factors will lead North Korea -- which is clearly invested in cryptocurrency operations -- to pursue other targets in other countries because the South Korean targets are becoming harder to get at."

This campaign is delivered by spear-phishing emails. Four separate lures have been identified: one aimed at users of Coinlink; two that appear to be resumes stolen from two genuine South Korean computer scientists who work at cryptocurrency exchanges; and one lifted from a blog run by the Friends of MOFA. All of the lure documents were created between mid-October and late November.

"This campaign relies on multiple payloads fashioned out of the Destover infostealer code to collect information about the victim system and exfiltrate files," reports Recorded Future. Destover further implicates Lazarus in the campaign. It was used in the Sony Pictures Entertainment attack in 2014, the Polish banking attacks in January 2017, and in the first WannaCry victim discovered by Symantec.

Recorded Future does not believe that any improving relations between North and South Korea will stop Lazarus targeting South Korea. The campaign could kick off at any time. But the suggestion is that as attacking South Korean exchanges becomes more difficult and less fruitful, the same attack could relatively easily be re-engineered for different exchanges in different countries.


Highly Targeted Attacks Hit North Korean Defectors
11.1.2018 securityweek BigBrothers
A recent set of attacks aimed at North Korean defectors and journalists were associated with a highly targeted campaign conducted by an actor that does not appear to be related to any known cybercrime groups, McAfee says.

The attacks used a range of vectors to infect victims with malware, including email, the KakaoTalk chat application (which is popular in South Korea), and social network services such as Facebook. Some of the attacks also employed Google-shortened URLs to spread malware.

McAfee’s research into the incident revealed the use of two versions of the dropper malware, namely applications called “Pray for North Korea” and “BloodAssistant.” Most of the clicks leading to infection originated from South Korea in both cases, McAfee's security researchers discovered.

The most frequently observed browser and operating system combination for the clicks was Chrome and Windows, with Android coming in second, McAfee notes in a technical report. Furthermore, the investigation revealed that Facebook was used in 12% of infections to send a malicious link to the targets.

The Trojan used in this campaign, which McAfee detects as Android/HiddenApp.BP, is dropped onto the victim’s device via malicious APK files. Although various malicious apps are used for malware delivery, the dropper mechanism is identical, the researchers say.

The dropper first checks whether the device hasn’t been already infected, then tricks the victim into enabling accessibility permissions. The application then displays an overlay to hide the fact that it turns on required settings and downloads and installs the Trojan. The overlay is removed once the installation has been completed.

The Trojan uses cloud services such as Dropox and Yandex as the command and control (C&C) server. Once installed, it uploads device information to the cloud, then downloads a file containing commands and other data to control the infected device. Malicious behavior such as saving SMS messages and contact information is implemented in a separate DEX file.

Variants of the malicious APKs were found on Google Drive, some using different cloud services as C&Cs, while others also dropping a separate call-recording application.

The researchers discovered that the initial malicious APKs were uploaded to Google Drive from a single account, which was also associated with a social network account. The same account is believed to have been used to send shortened URLs to victims.

The group behind the account appears to know the South Korean culture well, yet the account also revealed the use of the North Korean word for “blood type,” instead of the South Korean word. A North Korean IP address was also found in test log files on some Android devices connected to accounts used to spread the malware.

The researchers also discovered a deleted folder named Sun Team, supposedly revealing the name of the actor behind the campaign, which has been supposedly active since 2016.

“This malware campaign is highly targeted, using social network services and KakaoTalk to directly approach targets and implant spyware. We cannot confirm who is behind this campaign, and the possible actor Sun Team is not related to any previously known cybercrime groups. The actors are familiar with South Korea and appear to want to spy on North Korean defectors, and on groups and individuals who help defectors,” McAfee concludes.


Following recent mass demonstration, Iran Infy group may attempt to target protesters and their foreign contacts
8.1.2017 securityaffairs BigBrothers

Following the recent mass demonstration, the Iran-linked Infy group may attempt to target protesters and their contacts abroad.
The crackdown of Iranian authorities on protesters and dissident could have a wide range and involve anyone in contact with them.

According to cybersecurity firms and researchers, a nation-state actor called Infy is intensifying its attacks against anyone is in contact with protesters.

The state-sponsored hackers target victims with spear-phishing messages that are constantly refined and improved.

According to the experts Palo Alto Networks, the Infy group is active at least since 2007, its malware was involved in attacks in the country and abroad.

The name Infy malware is based on a string used by the VXers in filenames and command and control (C&C) folder names and strings.

Infy%20group

The Infy malware was first submitted to VirusTotal on August 2007, meanwhile, the C&C domain used by the oldest sample spotted by the experts has been associated with a malicious campaign dated back December 2004.

The malware evolved over the years, the authors improved it by implementing new features such as support for the Microsoft Edge web browser that was introduced in the version 30.

Unlike other Iranian nation-state actors who target foreign organizations, the Infy group appears focused on opponents and dissidents.

Researchers Colin Anderson and Claudio Guarnieri, authors of the research titled “Iran and the Soft War for Internet Dominance,” confirmed that the Infy attackers were responsible for a large number of attempted malware attacks against Iranian civil society since late 2014.

In response to the recent mass demonstrations, the Iran Government also tried to isolate the protests by blocking internet on mobile networks, the authorities blocked Instagram and messaging services like Telegram.

Security experts believe that protesters will be targeted by the Infy actor, its malware will be used against anyone has any kind of relationship with them.


US National Security Agency Director Admiral Mike Rogers to Retire
8.1.2017 securityaffairs BigBrothers

After a four-year term, the National Security Agency Director Admiral Mike Rogers plans to retire, he sent a letter to its staff on Friday informing them that he would depart next spring.
After a four-year term, the National Security Agency chief Admiral Mike Rogers plans to retire within months.

The Admiral Mike Rogers was chosen by President Barack Obama in 2014 when he replaced Gen. Keith Alexander. He was nominated for his significant experience in the cybersecurity field, he was involved in cyber defense and offense policy issues as head of the Fleet Cyber Command.

Admiral%20Mike%20Rogers

The news was confirmed by US intelligence sources, the Admiral Mike Rogers who also led the US Cyber Command sent a letter to its staff on Friday informing them that he would depart next spring.

The Rogers’s successor will be nominated by President Donald Trump this month.

Rogers is in opposition to Trump, The Observer reported recently that he has admitted in a private town-hall-style meeting of NSA staffing that Donald Trump did, in fact, collude with the Russians.

Rogers along with other US security chiefs presented a report to Trump on January 6, 2017 saying that Russians had interfered in the 2016 presidential election.

Unfortunately, during his management of the management the agency faced the clamorous and disconcerting leak of its exploits and hacking tools from its arsenal.


US National Security Agency Chief to Retire
8.1.2018 securityweek BigBrothers
National Security Agency Director Admiral Mike Rogers, the US signals intelligence czar, plans to retire within months after a four-year term scarred by damaging leaks, US intelligence sources confirmed Friday.

Rogers, who has led the NSA and its sister agency, the US Cyber Command, for four years, told staff in an internal letter Friday that he would depart in the spring, with his replacement to be nominated by President Donald Trump this month.

Named to the position in April 2014 by President Barack Obama, Rogers, 58, has almost completed one year under Trump, who has repeatedly delivered withering criticism of the US intelligence community.

Rogers was one of the four US security chiefs who presented a damning report to Trump on January 6, 2017 saying that Russians had interfered in the 2016 presidential election to boost his candidacy.

Trump has ever since refused to concede that conclusion, and Rogers is the only official who attended the meeting who kept his job through Trump's first year.

Besides keeping up US electronic spying, he has also spearheaded the country's ability to conduct offensive cyber operations, via the Cyber Command, a Pentagon unit.

And he has struggled to deal with the leak of ultra-secret NSA hacking tools, some of which are believed to have fallen into the hands of Russians.

Two former NSA hackers have agreed to plead guilty in recent months to charges of removing classified NSA materials to their homes, but neither has been accused of deliberate leaks.

According to a Washington Post report earlier this week, the NSA's 21,000-strong staff is facing a rapid turnover due to unhappiness with a Rogers-led reorganization and poor pay compared to the private sector.


NSA Contractor Pleads Guilty in Embarrassing Leak Case
8.1.2018 securityweek BigBrothers
A former contractor for the US National Security Agency's elite hacking group has agreed to plead guilty to removing classified documents in a case that highlighted a series of disastrous leaks of top-secret NSA materials.

Harold Martin, who reportedly worked for an NSA unit focused on hacking into target computer systems around the world, will plead guilty to one of 20 counts against him with the aim of concluding a 15-month-old case couched in deep secrecy, according to court documents filed late Wednesday.

The indictment filed on February 8, 2017 accused Martin of hoarding an estimated 50 terabytes of NSA data and documents in his home and car over a 20-year period. The material reportedly included sensitive digital tools for hacking foreign governments' computers.

His arrest in late 2016 followed the NSA's discovery that a batch of its hacking tools had fallen into the hands of a still-mysterious group called the Shadow Brokers, which offered them for sale online and also released some for free.

At least publicly, Martin has not been accused of responsibility for any NSA leaks.

In December, Nghia Hoang Pho, 67, a 10-year veteran of the NSA's Tailored Access Operations hacking unit, was charged with and agreed to plead guilty to one count of removing and retaining top-secret documents from the agency.

Vietnam-born Pho also had taken home highly classified NSA materials and programs.

According to The New York Times, apparent Russian hackers broke into his personal computer to steal the files, accessing them via Pho's use of Kaspersky software.

But that case also has not been linked to the Shadow Brokers theft.

Those leaks, and others from the Central Intelligence Agency, have hobbled the US spy agencies' abilities to hack into the computer systems of foreign governments and other espionage targets, according to intelligence experts.

Martin will officially submit his plea on January 22, according to court filings. He faces up to 10 years in jail and a maximum fine of $250,000.

Sentencing won't take place until the 19 other charges are resolved -- an indication that the government, while entertaining his single-count plea, is not completely satisfied that Martin's actions were harmless.


Former NSA hacker reversed Kaspersky Lab antivirus to compose signatures capable of detecting classified documents
2.1.2017 securityaffairs BigBrothers

Former NSA hacker, demonstrated how to subvert the Kaspersky Lab antivirus and turn it into a powerful search tool for classified documents.
The Kaspersky case demonstrated that security software can be exploited by intelligence agencies as a powerful spy tool.

Patrick Wardle, chief research officer at Digita Security and former NSA hacker, demonstrated it by subverting the Kaspersky Lab antivirus and turning it into a powerful search tool for classified documents.

“In the battle against malicious code, antivirus products are a staple,” Patrick Wardle told the New York Times. “Ironically, though, these products share many characteristics with the advanced cyberespionage collection implants they seek to detect.”

“I wanted to know if this was a feasible attack mechanism,” Mr. Wardle added. “I didn’t want to get into the complex accusations. But from a technical point of view, if an antivirus maker wanted to, was coerced to, or was hacked or somehow subverted, could it create a signature to flag classified documents?”

In December, US President Donald Trump signed a bill that bans the use of Kaspersky Lab products and services in federal agencies.

According to a draft of a top-secret report leaked by Edward J. Snowden, the NSA at least since 2008 was targeting antivirus software (i.e. Checkpoint and Avast) to collect sensitive information stored in the target machines.

Mr. Wardle conducted a reverse-engineering of Kaspersky Lab antivirus software to explore the possibility to abuse it for intelligence purposes. The expert’s goal was to compose a signature that is able to detect classified documents.

Mr. Wardle discovered that the code incredibly complex, unlike traditional antivirus software, Kaspersky’s malware signatures are easily updated. This feature can be tweaked to automatically scan the victim’s machine and steal classified documents.

“Modern anti-virus products are incredibly complex pieces of software and Kaspersky is likely one of the most complex. Thus, merely gaining a reasonable understanding of its signatures and scanning logic is a challenging task.” wrote Wardle.

“Though the installer ships with built-in signatures, as is the case with any anti-virus program, Kaspersky’s anti-virus engine regularly checks for, and automatically installs any new signatures” “When new signatures are available, they are downloaded by the kav daemon from Kaspersky’s update servers”

Wardle found antivirus scanning could be the used for cyberespionage activities.

The expert pointed out that officials routinely classify top secret documents with the marking “TS/SCI,” (“Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information),” then he added a rule to Kaspersky’s antivirus program to flag any documents that contained the “TS/SCI” marker.

To test the new rule, the researcher edited a document on his computer containing text from the Winnie the Pooh children’s book series and added “TS/SC” marker.

Kaspersky%20antivirus

As soon as the Winnie the Pooh document was saved to his machine, the Kaspersky’s antivirus software flagged and quarantined the document.

The successive phase of Wardle’s test was on discovering how flagged documents are managed, but it normal that an antivirus software send data back to the company for further analysis.

Kaspersky Lab explained that Wardle’s research is not corrected because the company is not able to deliver a specific signature or update to only one user in a stealthy way.

“It is impossible for Kaspersky Lab to deliver a specific signature or update to only one user in a secret, targeted way because all signatures are always openly available to all our users; and updates are digitally signed, further making it impossible to fake an update,” Kaspersky said in a statement.

Anyway, Wardle’s research demonstrated that hacking vendor’s platforms it is possible to use the antivirus as a search tool.

“However, a malicious or willing insider within any anti-virus company, who could tactically deployed such a signature, would likely remain undetected. And of course, in a hypothetical scenario; any anti-virus company that is coerced to, or is willing to work with a larger entity (such as a governemnt) would equally be able to stealthily leverage their product to detect and exfilitrate any files of interest.” concluded the expert.
“Sometimes the line between what is good and evil, comes down to a signal signature… “


Iran ‘s Government is reportedly blocking the Internet to calm down protests
2.1.2017 securityaffairs BigBrothers

The Iran Government is also trying to isolate the protests by blocking internet on mobile networks, authorities are blocking Instagram and messaging services like Telegram.
At least 12 people dead in the biggest challenge to the Government of the Tehran regime since mass demonstrations in 2009. The Iranian President Hassan Rouhani tried to downplay the dangerous situation, while violent protests mount across the country.

The Government is also trying to isolate the protests by blocking internet on mobile networks, multiple reports confirm the authorities are blocking social media services like Instagram and messaging services like Telegram since December 30.

“It’s a busy weekend for oppressive governments trying to suppress digital communication. Iran has blocked mobile access to at least Telegram and Instagram as it tries to thwart protests that started over economic concerns (particularly inflation), but have extended into broader resistance to the government and clerical rule.” reported the website engadget.com.

“Officials claim the censorship is meant to “maintain peace,” but the argument doesn’t hold water. Telegram founder Pavel Durov noted that his company refused to shut down “peacefully protesting channels,” and Instagram is primarily being used to document protests — Iran clearly doesn’t want to reveal the extent of the demonstrations.”


Pavel Durov

@durov
Iranian authorities are blocking access to Telegram for the majority of Iranians after our public refusal to shut down https://t.me/sedaiemardom and other peacefully protesting channels.

1:17 PM - Dec 31, 2017 · Dubai, United Arab Emirates
1,058 1,058 Replies 2,944 2,944 Retweets 5,358 5,358 likes
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The Government fears that technology could amplify the protests like happened during the Arab Spring.

“The authorities appeared to respond by cutting internet access to mobile phones, with the main networks interrupted at least in Tehran shortly before midnight” AFP reporters said.

“Several Iranian news agencies warned Telegram, the most popular social media service in the country, might soon be shut down after communications minister Mohammad-Javad Azari Jahromi accused one popular channel, Amadnews, of encouraging an “armed uprising”.”

1 Jan

Kavé Salamatian
@kavesalamatian
@bgpmon @InternetIntel Changes in Iran BGP connectivity happening right now. Seems that the full internet is getting disconnected


View%20image%20on%20Twitter
@InternetIntel
Large routing outage in Iran about 2hrs ago. pic.twitter.com/382BYEIscF

4:35 PM - Jan 1, 2018
View image on Twitter
5 5 Replies 75 75 Retweets 51 51 likes
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Iran Freedom
@4FreedominIran
#Sanandaj, January 1 - Large crowd took to streets confronting oppressive security forces. Some were arrested. (via #MEK activists in #Iran) #FreeIran #Iranprotests #IranProtests #Iran #RegimeChange

4:55 PM - Jan 1, 2018
1 1 Reply 111 111 Retweets 82 82 likes
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“How nervous the government is about losing control over the population is proportional to various control tactics they implement over the Internet,” Mahsa Alimardani, who researches internet freedoms in Iran for Article 19, told Motherboard. “In the past few hours there are also some reports of home connections (up until today mostly left undisturbed) also facing some blocks to accessing foreign web content.”

At the time I’m writing it is not clear the real effect on the Internet access by the population, in the following graph it is visible the increase in the number of directly connecting users to the Tor network.

Iran%20protests

During Iran’s elections earlier this year, Rouhani promised to cut down on censorship, but evidently, it was only political propaganda.


Vietnam's 10,000-strong 'Cyber Army' Slammed by Rights Groups
1.1.2018 securityweek BigBrothers
The deployment of 10,000 cyber warriors to fight online dissent in Vietnam adds a grim "new dimension" to controls on free speech in the Communist country, a rights group has said.

Vietnam routinely jails its critics and closely monitors activists on social media, which is not banned unlike in neighbouring China.

A top Vietnamese general this week said a 10,000-strong brigade dubbed "Force 47" has been tasked with fighting "wrongful views" spreading on the internet, according to state media reports.

It was not immediately clear what Force 47 is responsible for, but observers anticipate the cyber soldiers will escalate smear campaigns against activists online.

Rights groups rounded on the move.

Human Rights Watch deputy Asia director Phil Robertson said the cyber scouts announcement was a "shocking new dimension to Vietnam's crackdown on dissent".

Others said the tactic is designed to squeeze online critics.

"This is just the latest plank in a campaign to curb internet freedoms at all costs," Shawn Crispin, Committee to Protect Journalists' Southeast Asia representative, told AFP Friday.

"While they can't unplug Facebook, Instagram and the likes outright, they can apply more and more pressure on those platforms and it looks like these cyber troops are their latest attempt to do that."

Vietnam's internet is classified as "not free", according to web watchdog Freedom House, which ranks it second only to China in Asia.

Around half of the country's 93 million people have access to the internet, and the country also ranks among Facebook's top 10 users by numbers.

Vietnamese officials did not respond to a request for comment from AFP.

Earlier this year the government asked Facebook and YouTube to remove "toxic content" from its sites.

In August, the president called for tougher internet controls, saying that groups have used the web to launch campaigns against the government that threaten the "prestige of the party's leaders and the state".

A conservative leadership in power since last year has waged a crackdown on dissidents, with at least 15 arrested this year, according to Amnesty International.

Several other have been handed heavy jail terms, joining scores of activists already behind bars.

Force 47 is likely to include commentators hired to publish pro-government material and counter critics, said Madeline Earp, senior research analyst with Freedom House.

"Vietnam very much follows China's example when suppressing internet freedom, particularly when it comes to blocking websites and arresting dissidents," she told AFP.

For some activists, the cyber troop announcement is no surprise. But activist Nguyen Chi Tuyen said the new force marked an escalation in state tactics of repression.

"The main purpose for Force 47 is to try and control news and public opinion on the internet... they want to protect the party, not protect the country," said Tuyen, more commonly known by his online handle Anh Chi.


Chinese censorship – authorities have shut down 13,000 websites since 2015
30.12.2017 securityaffairs BigBrothers

China continues to strengthen its online censorship, it has shut down or revoked the licenses of 13,000 websites since 2015 for violating the country’s internet rules.
State media also reported that service providers have closed nearly 10 million internet accounts for “violating service protocol.”

“These moves have a powerful deterrent effect,” Xinhua quoted Wang Shengjun, vice chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC), as saying.

Chinese authorities have summoned more than 2,200 websites operators since 2015. According to Xinhua more than 10 million people who refused to register using their real names had internet or other telecoms accounts suspended over the past five years.

Within China, websites must register with authorities and are responsible for “ensuring the legality of any information” that is published on them.

These data confirm the strict control powered by China on the digital lives of its citizens.

According to Freedom House, China is the country with the most restrictive online use policies.


The new Chinese cyber security law gives more power to the Government and enforces new rules especially for those companies that produce software that could be used to circumvent the country’s censorship.

The Great Firewall project already blocked access to more hundreds of the world’s 1,000 top websites, including Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Dropbox.

Recently the Chinese authorities have sentenced a man to five-and-a-half years in prison for selling a VPN service without the authorization.

Since early this year, the Chinese authorities started banning “unauthorized” VPN services, any company offering such type of service in the country must obtain an appropriate license from the government.

People resident in the country make use of VPN and Proxy services to bypass the censorship implemented by the Great Firewall and access website prohibited by the Government without revealing their actual identity.


China Has Shut Down 13,000 Websites Since 2015: Xinhua
30.12.2017 securityweek BigBrothers
China has shut down or revoked the licenses of 13,000 websites since 2015 for violating the country's internet rules, state media reported Sunday.

The news comes as the Communist country continues to strengthen its already tight regulation of the internet, a move which critics say has picked up pace since President Xi Jinping came to power in 2012.

Platforms have also closed nearly 10 million internet accounts for "violating service protocol", the official news agency said Sunday, likely referring to social media accounts.

"These moves have a powerful deterrent effect," Xinhua quoted Wang Shengjun, vice chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), as saying.

Despite being home to the world's largest number of internet users, a 2015 report by US think tank Freedom House found that the country had the most restrictive online use policies of 65 nations it studied, ranking below Iran and Syria.

This year alone, it has enacted new rules requiring foreign tech companies to store user data inside the country, imposed fresh content restrictions, and made it increasingly difficult to use software tools that allow users to circumvent censors.

Google, Facebook, Twitter and The New York Times are all blocked in China, among countless other foreign websites.

Beijing strictly defends what it calls "cyber sovereignty" and maintains that its various forms of web censorship -- collectively known as "The Great Firewall" -- are necessary for protecting its national security.

Within China, websites must register with authorities and are responsible for "ensuring the legality of any information" posted on their platforms, according to regulations in force since 2000.

When their content runs afoul of authorities, they can be shutdown or fined.

One way to bypass the strictly controlled domestic internet is by using a virtual private network (VPN) which can allow users to access the unfiltered global internet. But here too authorities have cracked down.

Earlier this week, Wu Xiangyang from the southern Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region was sentenced to five and a half years in prison for selling a VPN service on Alibaba's Taobao and other marketplaces.


Chinese authorities have sentenced a man to 5 years in prison for selling a VPN service without the authorization
24.12.2017 securityaffairs BigBrothers

The Chinese authorities have sentenced a man to five-and-a-half years in prison for selling a VPN service without the authorization.
China continues to intensify the monitoring of the cyberspace applying, the authorities always fight any services that could be used to bypass its censorship system known as the Great Firewall.

The Great Firewall project already blocked access to more hundreds of the world’s 1,000 top websites, including Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Dropbox.

The Chinese authorities have sentenced a man to five-and-a-half years in prison for selling a VPN service without the authorization.

Since early this year, the Chinese authorities started banning “unauthorized” VPN services, any company offering such type of service in the country must obtain an appropriate license from the government.

People resident in the country make use of VPN and Proxy services to bypass the censorship implemented by the Great Firewall and access website prohibited by the Government without revealing their actual identity.

A Chinese court in the southern region of Guangxi sentenced Wu Xiangyang, a Chinese citizen from the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, for offering a non-licensed VPN service since 2013 until June 2017.

According to an announcement from China’s Procuratorate Daily on Wednesday, the man was also fined 500,000 yuan ($76,000).

“From 2013 to June 2017, Wu Xiangyang, the suspect Wu Xiang Yang, illegally profited without obtaining the relevant business license, set up his own VPN server on the Internet and provided a member account and login software which allows him to browse foreign websites ;” states the announcement .

“In addition the suspect Wu Xiangyang also some VPN member account password written to the hardware router, making the modified router can log in directly to the VPN, to achieve the ability to listen to foreign websites audio and video programs.”

Prosecutors said the man was convicted of collecting “illegal revenue” of 792,638 yuan ($120,500) from his unauthorized activity.

Wu Xiangyang set up his “Where Dog VPN” website on a shop created on the shopping site “Taobao” and advertised it on social media sites.

It was a successful business for the Chinese man, in March 2016 the company claimed on Twitter to have 8,000 foreigners and 5,000 businesses using the VPN service to bypass censorship in the country.

In July, in compliance with Chinese Internet monitoring law, Apple has started removing all IOS VPN apps from it App Store in China.


US Intel Chiefs Sound Alarm on Overseas Web Spying Law
23.12.2017 securityweek BigBrothers
US intelligence chiefs on Thursday sounded the alarm about the imminent expiration of a law that allows them to spy on overseas web users, and called on Congress to renew it immediately.

"If Congress fails to reauthorize this authority, the Intelligence Community will lose valuable foreign intelligence information, and the resulting intelligence gaps will make it easier for terrorists, weapons proliferators, malicious cyber actors, and other foreign adversaries to plan attacks against our citizens and allies without detection," the intelligence chiefs said in an open letter to Congress.

The letter was signed by Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, FBI chief Christopher Wray and the director of the National Security Agency (NSA) Michael Rogers.

The law they want extended, known as Article 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), is set to expire at the end of the year, and Congress is preparing a temporary extension until January 19 as part of a short-term budget bill which will fund the federal government.

The House of Representatives was due to vote on the budget later Thursday, with a deadline to pass it by midnight Friday. The Senate will vote on it after that.

The law allows US intel agencies to spy on internet users abroad, including on platforms like Facebook and Skype. Congress initially passed the law in 2008 and renewed it in 2012, for five years.

"Short-term extensions are not the long-term answer either, as they fail to provide certainty, and will create needless and wasteful operational complications," said the intelligence heads in their statement.

Most members of Congress support renewing the law on the grounds of combating terrorism, but some on the far right and left have joined forces to try to restrict it, citing concerns that US citizens could be caught up in the overseas spying program.

By law, communications by US citizens cannot be legally intercepted and used except with a judge's warrant, unlike foreigners living overseas who do not benefit from the same constitutional protections as Americans.


Chinese Hackers Target Servers With Three Types of Malware
22.12.2017 securityweek BigBrothers
An established Chinese crime group uses a large coordinated infrastructure to target servers running database services with three different types of malware, GuardiCore security researchers say.

The group is operating worldwide and has been observed launching multiple attacks over the past several months. Each of the three malware families employed – Hex, Hanako and Taylor – is targeting different SQL servers and has its own goals, scale and target services.

According to GuardiCore, a campaign targeting a single server has started in March of this year and evolved into thousands of attacks per day during summer, hitting numerous MS SQL Server and MySQL services. The compromised machines were used for various activities, including cryptocurrency mining, distributed denial of service (DDoS), and for implanting Remote Access Trojans (RATs).

While most of the compromised machines are located in China, some were observed in Thailand, the U.S., Japan, and other countries. Database services on both Windows and Linux machines are targeted.

The three campaigns launched from this infrastructure differ mostly in target goals: Hex focuses on cryptocurrency miners and RATs; Hanako builds a DDoS botnet; and Taylor installs a keylogger and a backdoor. To date, the security firm has observed hundreds of Hex and Hanako attacks and tens of thousands of Taylor incidents each month.

“From what we’ve seen, the attackers often compromise public and private cloud deployments without chasing any specific domain. This is shown in their frequent scanning of Azure and AWS public IP ranges (which are publicly available) while looking for potential victims,” GuardiCore says.

Compromised machines aren’t used for long

To fly under the radar, the actors use each machine to attack only a small number of IPs. The security researchers discovered that victims are re-purposed to make tracing as difficult as possible: every compromised machine is used for about a month and then rotated out of use.

The infected systems are used for scanning, launching attacks, hosting malware executables and as command and control (C&C) servers. Most of the attacks feature three simple steps: scanning, attacking and initial implant.

The scan machines search for subnets and create ‘hit lists’ of IPs and credentials. The attackers, the researchers say, start from a large set of IP ranges and look for machines running services such as HTTP web servers, MS SQL Server, ElasticSearch, and more.

Based on said ‘hit lists’, the attacker machines attempt to gain an initial foothold on the servers through brute forcing MS SQL and MySQL databases. Next, they execute predefined SQL commands to gain full control of the victim machine, such as creating new users for persistency.

Parts of the campaign, such as the RATs, are hosted on separate file servers, to ensure attacks aren’t dependent on a single server. In addition to this modular approach, the infrastructure features both FTP and HFS (HTTP File Server) servers and is used to deliver additional attack tools after the initial dropper runs.

While the Tylor attacks were observed downloading the files from two domains down@mys2016@info and js@mys2016@info, both registered in March 2017, Hex and Hanako were observed using a unique file server per attack.

Attack flow

After brute forcing their way onto the target servers (an operation possible because many admins don’t harden the database beyond the use of a password), the attackers use xp_cmshell, a variety of stored procedures and OLE automation, to upload their first set of tools.

The droppers employed by the group usually establish persistency by creating a backdoor user and opening the Remote Desktop port. Next, malware is downloaded from a short lived FTP or HTTP server.

Later on, the attackers also stop or disable anti-virus and monitoring applications and attempt to cover tracks by deleting any unnecessary registry, file, and folder entries. The downloaded malware attempts to trick detection by using a fake MFC user interface and abnormally sized binaries containing large quantities of junk data.

Hex and Hanako, the security researchers discovered, use the same MS SQL Server attack flow and download unique attack configuration files. They create an identical scheduled task to run the same unique binary and target the same antivirus products.

Hanako gets its name after the backdoor user added to targeted databases.

Written in C++, Hex (it uses name variations of Hex.exe) can log key strokes and capture the screen and microphone to extract information from the victim machines and can download and execute additional modules.

The malware masquerades as Kugou Player, a popular Chinese music streaming service. Along with comments in Chinese found in the code, targets’ location, and configuration files showing email addresses from popular Chinese providers, this suggests that the actor behind the campaign is of Chinese origin, the researchers say.

Taylor (named after an image of Taylor Swift used to hide the keylogger) has been observed in over 80,000 attack attempts since March. As part of the attack, a backdoor related to the 2016 Mirai botnet is also downloaded onto the compromised servers, the researchers say.

Although it uses the same domain names over time and does not change IP addresses often, Taylor uses a more cautious attack script, where the hackers send most of the queries encoded in hex. They also store references to the servers in HTML pages downloaded during the attack.

“The best way to minimize your exposure to campaigns targeting databases is to control the machines that have access to the database. Routinely review the list of machines that have access to your databases, keep this list to a minimum and pay special attention to machines that are accessible directly from the internet. Every connection attempt from an IP or domain that does not belong to this list should be blocked and investigated,” GuardiCore concludes.

“There isn’t a server out there that is connected to a LAN which isn’t vulnerable to malware. If the LAN is connected to the Internet, bad actors can get in. Since infection is inevitable, it is important to watch for the telltale signs of an infection. Behaviors such as abnormal traffic to another host can be an indicator and this could be in the form of excessive connections (E.g. DDoS), bytes, or other metric. Even light scanning behaviors can be detected. Leveraging flow data for network traffic analytics is one of the best resources for monitoring and malware incident response,” Michael Patterson, CEO of Plixer, told SecurityWeek in an emailed comment.


Lithuania Bans Kaspersky Software as 'Potential' Threat
22.12.2017 securityweek BigBrothers
Lithuania will ban Moscow-based cyber security firm Kaspersky Lab's products from computers managing key energy, finance and transport systems due to security concerns, authorities said Thursday.

The Russian firm's software was banned from US government networks earlier this year amid allegations that it helped Russian intelligence steal top secret information.

"The government... recognised that Kaspersky Lab software is a potential national security threat," the Baltic EU state's defence ministry said in a statement.

The government agencies responsible for "critical infrastructure" must replace the popular anti-virus software in "a short while", it added.

Lithuanian intelligence chief Darius Jauniskis recently said the cyberfirm "was sometimes acting as a toy in the hands of (Russian President Vladimir) Putin's administration".

Kaspersky has repeatedly denied having any inappropriate ties with the Kremlin and said that malware-infected Microsoft Office software and not its own was to blame for the hacking theft of American intelligence materials.

Kaspersky told Russian media on Thursday it was "disappointed" and assured customers they "do not have to worry because they have not been subjected to any violation from our company."

"The Kaspersky laboratory has never helped nor will it ever assist any state in the world to engage in cyber-espionage or to conduct cyber-attacks," the company said. "The Kaspersky laboratory has no political connection or affiliation with any government."

Lithuania, a NATO and EU member of 2.8 million people, has been one of the most vocal critics of Russia, notably after its 2014 annexation of the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine.


North Korean Hackers Targeting Individuals: Report
22.12.2017 securityweek BigBrothers

North Korea Bitten by Bitcoin Bug
North Korean state-sponsored hacking group Lazarus has started targeting individuals and organizations directly, instead of focusing exclusively on spying on financial institutions, Proofpoint reports.

Active since at least 2009, the Lazarus Group is considered one of the most disruptive nation-state sponsored actors, accused of being involved in numerous high-profile attacks. Some of these include the 2014 Sony Pictures hack, last year’s theft of $81 million from the Bangladesh Bank, and this year’s WannaCry ransomware attack.

The group was recently observed to be increasingly focused on financially motivated attacks and was named as the most serious threat against banks earlier this year. More recently, the group also started showing high interest in the skyrocketing prices of cryptocurrencies.

The multistage attacks that Proofpoint has uncovered rely on cryptocurrency-related lures to spread sophisticated backdoors and reconnaissance malware. In some cases, the hackers deploy additional malware, including the Gh0st remote access Trojan (RAT), in an attempt to steal credentials for cryptocurrency wallets and exchanges.

What’s more, Proofpoint's security researchers discovered that the nation-state actor also started targeting a point-of-sale (PoS) related framework to steal credit card data. These PoS attacks can potentially incur high financial losses given their timing near the holiday shopping season.

In a new report (PDF), Proofpoint details a new toolset associated with the Lazarus Group. Dubbed PowerRatankba, the toolset has been targeting individuals, companies, and organizations with interests in cryptocurrency via spear-phishing and phishing campaigns.

The hackers were observed using a total of six different attack vectors to deliver PowerRatankba, including a new Windows executable downloader called PowerSpritz, a malicious Windows Shortcut (LNK) file, malicious Compiled HTML Help (CHM) files, JavaScript (JS) downloaders, two macro-based Microsoft Office documents, and backdoored popular cryptocurrency applications hosted on internationalized domain (IDN) infrastructure, thus appearing as legitimate.

The campaigns started on or around June 30, 2017 and included highly targeted spear-phishing attacks focused on at least one executive at a cryptocurrency organization. While a PowerRatankba.A variant was used in these attacks, the rest of the campaigns used PowerRatankba.B, Proofpoint says.

Attack vectors

The PowerSpritz downloader hides both its legitimate payload and malicious PowerShell command using the Spritz encryption algorithm. The downloader has been delivered via spear-phishing attacks using the TinyCC link shortener service to hide the malicious link.

Posing as Telegram or Skype updates, PowerSpritz would first launch a legitimate installer to trick the user into believing they downloaded a working application installer or update. In the background, however, a PowerShell command is executed to download the first stage of PowerRatankba.

A malicious LNK file was observed using a known AppLocker bypass to retrieve the payload from a TinyURL shortener link. The CHM files abuse a well-known technique to create a shortcut object capable of executing malicious code and to cause the object to be automatically clicked.

The JavaScript (JS) downloaders are hosted on supposedly attacker-controlled servers and have been designed to retrieve decoy PDF documents featuring themes such as cryptocurrency exchanges Coinbase and Bithumb, the Falcon Coin ICO, and a list of Bitcoin transactions.

The researchers also associated two VBScript macro-laden Microsoft Office documents with this activity, namely one Word document and one Excel spreadsheet. The former uses an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) theme, while the latter uses a Bithumb lure.

New first-stage implant

Recent attacks involved the use of phishing emails to direct users to fake webpages in an attempt to trick them into downloading or updating cryptocurrency applications. A backdoor in the PyInstaller executables, however, was meant to download PowerRatankba.

The implant, supposedly a successor of Ratankba, which was publicly detailed earlier this year, is a first stage reconnaissance tool used for the deployment of further stage implants. Using HTTP for command and control (C&C) communication, PowerRatankba first sends information about the machine, including computer name, IP address, OS boot time and installation date, language, info on ports 139/3389/445, a process list, and output from two WMIC commands (PowerRatankba.B only).

After initial contact with the C&C, PowerRatankba.A sends a request to receive commands from the server. This malware variant can download a payload and execute it via memory injection; can download the payload, save it to disk, and then execute it; can sleep and send request after sleep; and exit.

For persistence, PowerRatankba.A saves a JS file to the Startup folder. Depending on whether it runs under an admin account or not, PowerRatankba.B either downloads a PowerShell script, saves it to disk, and creates a scheduled task to execute it on system startup, or downloads a VBScript file and saves it to the Startup folder.

PowerRatankba.B was observed delivering a custom variant of the Gh0st RAT to several devices, but only to victims with obvious interest in cryptocurrencies. An attack involving the RAT revealed immediate interest in taking full remote control of the infected device to interact with a password-protected Bitcoin wallet, among other applications.

POS malware

The North Korean state-sponsored hackers appear to be interested in other financially motivated actions as well, beyond stealing millions in cryptocurrency. Thus, Proofpoint has discovered what appears to be a Lazarus operation focused on targeting PoS terminals of businesses operating in South Korea.

Dubbed RatankbaPOS, this might be “the first publicly documented nation-state sponsored campaign to steal PoS data from a PoS-related framework,” the security researchers note.

Although it’s unclear how the new malware variant is distributed, Proofpoint believes that PowerRatankba is used to deploy later stage implants that would ultimately infect systems with RatankbaPOS. The file was found on a C&C in plaintext, suggesting that it wasn’t deployed using the reconnaissance tool.

Deployment is achieved through a process injection dropper that can also achieve persistence by creating a registry key. The malware first checks with the server for an update and then starts the process injection search.

RatankbaPOS would hook a KSNETADSL.dll module “which appears to be the handling of encrypted and decrypted credit card numbers for a KSNET-related POS framework system.” According to Proofpoint, however, the module (two of them, actually) isn’t the correct target for the malware.

The security researchers believe that the malware might be targeting an encrypted form of the track data, suggesting that the actor is focused on a SoftCamp POS-related software application, framework, or device. The researchers believe “with high confidence” that the attacks are primarily targeting devices in South Korea.

Attribution

“Attribution is a controversial topic and arguably one of the most difficult tasks threat intelligence analysts face. However, based on our research, we assess with a high level of confidence given the information available to us that the operations and activity discussed in this research are attributed to Lazarus Group and ultimately North Korea,” Proofpoint says.

The security firm notes that the use of a specific implementation of the Spritz encryption cipher to encrypt PowerSpritz’ legitimate installer payload and malicious PowerShell commands is one clear indicator that this hacking group is behind the attacks. Furthermore, obfuscation techniques used in these campaigns overlap with those attributed to the Lazarus Group before.

The fact that PowerRatankba and RatankbaPOS include similar or identical features previously observed in the original Ratankba implants are another indicator of correct attribution, the researchers say. To that, the researchers add the use of a common directory for storing implants and logs, seen across the group’s toolset, as well as the initial POST request to C&C to deliver system information.

The researchers also discovered instances of code overlap between the RatankbaPOS dropper and the spreader implant used in the attack on the Far Eastern International Bank (FEIB) in Taiwan in October. The implants use the same directory and set up persistence in almost precisely the same way.

Additionally, Proofpoint discovered that content found in a PowerRatankba JS downloader decoy PDF file was previously used in Lazarus campaigns focused on espionage rather than for financial gain.

According to the security researchers, the detailed campaigns and tools belong to a financially motivated arm of the state actor, which should be differentiated from the espionage and disruption teams. The group is following the money, stealing directly from individuals and organizations instead of targeting financial institutions for espionage, as “traditional” threat actors do.

“This group now appears to be targeting individuals rather than just organizations: individuals are softer targets, often lacking resources and knowledge to defend themselves and providing new avenues of monetization for a state-sponsored threat actor’s toolkit,” Proofpoint concludes.


Intelligence Committee Outlines UK's Offensive and Defensive Cyber Posture
22.12.2017 securityweek BigBrothers
The UK Intelligence and Security Committee, which has oversight of the UK intelligence community, published its 2016-2017 annual report (PDF) on Wednesday. With the rider that the report was written prior to April 2017, but delayed in publication, it provides insight into the UK perspective on global cyber threats. Its discussion includes commentary on nation state adversaries, the potential impact of the Trump administration on UKUSA, and the effect of Brexit on GCHQ operations.

The primary cyber threats are perceived to come from state actors, organized criminals and terrorist groups. State actors are the most advanced, with objectives including traditional espionage, commercial secrets and geopolitical instability. Organized crime occupies the next level of sophistication, becoming increasingly competent and targeted, and concentrating on financial gain. Terrorist groups have the intent to use cyber techniques, but are currently thought to lack the requisite capabilities (although this is likely to change).

There is additional threat from hacktivists and less competent criminals. Hacktivists are often politically motivated and primarily use DDoS for publicity or to inflict reputational damage. The entry level for less-skilled criminals is lowering, and financial gain is the main motivation.

The impact from cyber threats is primarily economic, although the reports notes, "increasingly there is a risk of physical damage in the 'real world'." This is magnified by the growing insecure internet of things (IoT) usage within the critical infrastructure. "Manufacturers," says the report, "are likely to side-line cyber security considerations, given their potential impact on time to market and, therefore, profits." The Committee urges the government to work with industry internationally "to promote the use of modern and secure operating systems in all smart devices connected to the internet."

The report describes the UK's new (since November 2016) National Cyber Security Strategy. It revolves around 'Defend' (which is typical cyber security mitigation); 'Deter' (which includes the specific warning, "We have the means to take offensive action in cyberspace, should we choose to do so"); and 'Develop' (based on "an innovative, growing cyber security industry").

GCHQ is tasked with implementing this policy; and it is leading to a change in GCHQ's traditional posture -- it is coming out of the shadows and promises to be more proactive in UK commercial cyber defense.

"We're spending too much time shouting at users and telling them they're too stupid to do the right thing frankly, and that hasn't worked and we need to get away from that," GCHQ told the Committee. The new approach has been called 'active cyber defense', and "includes GCHQ assisting private companies in developing automated technological solutions to operate on the underlying internet infrastructure that would prevent a large proportion of cyber attacks from ever reaching end-users."

Part of this process can be seen in the National Cyber Security Center (NCSC) which is both GCHQ (still covert) and partly an advice center backed by the skills and knowledge of GCHQ. It's aim, says GCHQ, is "to fuse powerful covert capabilities, accesses, data and skills to help provide cyber defense at scale to the UK."

The Committee asked whether GCHQ should have legal cyber security enforcement powers. GCHQ welcomes the tendency for existing regulatory organizations (such as the Bank of England and the Office of the Nuclear Regulator) to consult with and take advice from the organization; but it is not a supporter of general 'cyber regulatory legislation'. While it is a political decision, it says it is hard to do, difficult to keep up with technology, and problematic across different industry sectors.

The UK has a well-established offensive cyber capability program. GCHQ's ultimate position on the use of offensive capabilities is clear: "International law applies to state acts in cyberspace in the same way as anywhere else." If international law allows a response to kinetic activity, it will allow a response to cyber activity. The committee says that GCHQ's offensive capabilities are "an effective deterrent".

The problem remains 'attribution'. "Further work will be required to develop a better international consensus on the rules of engagement for offensive cyber. GCHQ told us that it supported this concept in principle, but held some concerns, for example about others' adherence to such agreements."

The report highlights four specific cyber adversary states: Russia, China, Iran and North Korea. Russia is the primary concern. "It is possible that Russia is ostentatiously flexing its muscles towards the West under a deliberately thin blanket of deniability, or these may simply be providing a useful public cover for the Russian agencies' practice runs," suggests the report.

The intelligence community is more forthright. "The [Russian] risk appetite is quite different and they are quite prepared to use the world as a range, [saying] 'we will give it a go and see what happens', said Defense Intelligence. "They clearly are operating to risk thresholds which are nothing like those that the West operates," said MI5. Despite this increasing level of mistrust between Russia and the West, the Committee urges "that limited lines of communication should be maintained, although a delicate balance is needed."

China remains a serious cyber threat, attempting to steal data for economic purposes and to acquire classified government and military data. GCHQ notes that since the UK and the U.S. both signed cyber security accords with China (where all sides agreed not to engage in commercial cyber espionage), China is taking more care to disguise attribution.

Iran gets relatively little coverage in the report. "Iranian motivations against the UK are more obscure than those of Russia and China. GCHQ has suggested that Iran is primarily attempting a show of strength."

North Korea is different. Its 'recklessness and unpredictability' is difficult to defend against. "It is prepared to use its capabilities without any concern for attribution, and for ideological motives which are alien to other countries," warns the report.

In international cyber relations, the report unsurprisingly highlights the Five Eyes (the UK, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand) as "the closest international intelligence partnership in the world." Bearing in mind that much of the report was compiled either before or during the first few months of the Trump administration, it is interesting to see the extent of UK concern -- even to the extent that it could upset Five Eyes relationships.

"Any significant change in US policies relating to detainee treatment," states the Committee, "would pose very serious questions for the UK-USA intelligence relationship. The US agencies are well aware of the implications for cooperation with the UK and other allies, and the UK Agencies are monitoring the situation closely." In fairness, neither the Committee nor the intelligence community expected this to happen.

Brexit is also a concern for international intelligence relations. While Brexit cannot affect the Five Eyes (none of which, after Brexit, will be part of the European Union), nevertheless is will affect the UK. The Director General of MI5 told the Committee that there were two sides to the problem. National security falls outside of the Lisbon Treaty (the basis of the European Union), and the UK expects to continue working with European intelligence agencies.

What's driving this, he said, is that "Half of Europe is scared of terrorism and the other half is scared of Russia and both halves want us to help them... So that will not change with Brexit because Article 4.2 [of the Lisbon Treaty] had all of that outside scope anyway." But he added that other parts of cyber relations do fall within Lisbon scope, "in areas like data sharing, what happens with borders... what happens with law enforcement cooperation..." All of this is far from decided yet.

GCHQ is more relaxed. Its European partnerships are bilateral, and not connected with any European institutions; "So there is no reason why it would be affected by Brexit." GCHQ is, however, concerned about data sharing and trade with Europe. "The big companies, will need to be able to share data in a way that is legally compliant on... both sides, the UK and the EU. That's a policy issue way beyond intelligence, actually, but it will have big implications for us, so getting that right is important."

Asked for a formal assessment of the effect of Brexit on their operations, both GCHQ and MI5 referred the Committee to the Cabinet Office, saying it was a political matter. The Cabinet Office then declined to respond; and the report registers the Committee's disapproval. "The decision to leave the EU clearly has direct and indirect implications for the work of the Agencies -- and these are well within this Committee's remit."

Much of the report is necessarily concerned with budgets (usually redacted), staffing and premises. However, wherever cyber security, both offensive and defensive, is discussed, the report provides a bullish picture of improving UK capabilities.


Industry Reactions to U.S. Blaming North Korea for WannaCry
22.12.2017 securityweek BigBrothers
The United States, Canada, Japan, Australia and New Zealand have all officially accused North Korea this week of being behind the WannaCry campaign. They join the United Kingdom, which blamed Pyongyang for the attack back in October.

While some security firms pointed the finger at North Korea shortly after the attack, Japan and the Five Eyes countries claim their intelligence agencies reached the same conclusion after conducting their own investigations and sharing data with each other.

North Korea has once again denied the accusations, claiming that Washington was demonising it.

Industry Reactions to U.S. Blaming North Korea for WannaCry

Some industry professionals point to evidence showing that these governments’ assessment is accurate, while others highlight that attribution is a difficult task, and warn that the world is not ready for the next WannaCry.

And the feedback begins...

Benjamin Read, Manager, Cyber Espionage Analysis, FireEye:

“FireEye has found the WannaCry malware shares unique code with WHITEOUT malware that we have previously attributed to suspected North Korean actors. While we have not verified other experts’ observation of known DPRK tools being used to drop early versions of WannaCry, we have not observed other groups use the code present in both WannaCry and WHITEOUT and we do not believe it is available in open source. This indicates a connection between the two.

Our analysis has found this unique code shared across additional North Korean malware, including NESTEGG and MACTRUCK. Significantly, while this code is present in the MACTRUCK malware, it is not used. The shared code likely means that, at a minimum, WannaCry operators share software development resources with North Korean espionage operators.

In addition to the WannaCry activity, we believe that North Korean actors are using multiple vectors to engage in cyber-criminal actively, including, most prominently, the targeting of Bitcoin exchanges. FireEye assess that North Korea will continue to pursue financially motivated cyber intrusion to supplement the government's income.”

Tim Erlin, VP of Product Management and Strategy, Tripwire:

“Accurate attribution for cyber attacks is almost always a difficult task, and it’s doubly so when the evidence leading to the conclusion can’t be shared.

With global public trust in the US government at a low point, it’s not surprising that there’s skepticism. If we’re going to have national security organizations delivering these types of conclusions on attribution to the public, we need to find a way to develop trusted output. The mantra of ‘trust us’ doesn’t cut it here.

This conclusion about North Korea’s culpability isn’t new. The UK discussed the very same conclusion in October, with the very same caveats about sharing the actual evidence. You can’t arrest a nation-state, which inevitably prevents any real closure on an incident like WannaCry.”

Chris Doman, Threat Engineer, AlienVault:

“WannaCry was linked to a group known as Lazarus, which others have linked to North Korea. There were two data points linking WannaCry to Lazarus - a number of rare code overlaps between WannaCry and Lazarus malware, and Symantec saw an early version of WannaCry manually deployed by Lazarus on one of their clients. The US government may have additional information, but the evidence provided at the time by the private sector was pretty strong.

The evidence linking Lazarus to North Korea is similarly strong. There are a very small number of publicly assigned internet addresses assigned to North Korea, and they pop up in Lazarus attacks. The attacks have been dated back to at least 2007, and often contain other clues such as North Korean fonts.

Things take time to come out of the government - but the timing today may have to do with other events. Lazarus have been particularly active recently - I’m seeing numerous new malware samples from them daily. A lot of their current activity involves stealing bitcoin and credit card numbers.”

Dmitri Alperovitch, CTO and Co-founder, CrowdStrike:

“[The US Government’s announcement] of its official public attribution of the WannaCry attack to North Korea regime is another step in establishing the importance for regularly attributing significant attacks to nation-states and criminal groups. It also raises public awareness about North Korea’s growing offensive cyber capabilities. CrowdStrike has tracked DPRK’s cyber activities going back to the mid-2000s, which started with espionage, then half a decade later evolved into destructive attacks and in the last few years delved into cybercrime such as ransomware and bank heists. They are a very capable actor that is known to have developed 0-day exploits and their own unique malware code. As such, they pose a major threat to organizations globally, especially as tensions between the US and North Korea over the nuclear and missile programs continue to escalate.”

Joseph Carson, Chief Security Scientist, Thycotic:

"Cyber attribution is one of the most difficult tasks in cybersecurity today. Unless the devices are persistent, it is almost impossible to identify who was sitting behind the keyboard, let alone who was instructing that person to carry out the malicious activity without any advanced cyber forensics tools. When attribution is pointing to a nation state, it is crucial that the attribution is communicated by the impacted government and not any private company or entity. Private companies should focus on getting back to a secure and operational state and assist in evidence that assist the government in accordance to any compliance requirements. In my experience, when cybercrime crosses international borders, it is difficult to claim attribution without cooperation of the country to where the evidence leads.

The challenge with calling out a group like Lazarus, which is widely believed to be associated with North Korea and several previous cyber-attacks, is that it is important to be clear that this is a group and motives can change depending on who is paying. I have found when researching hacking groups they can one day be working for one government under one alias and another using a different alias. This means that association in cyberspace means nothing. In my experience in digital forensics, I have always followed two rules when analyzing a cyber-crime: follow the motive or follow the money — either one will lead to the criminal.

In both WannaCry and NotPetya it looks like the motive was not financial. To me, it is clear that multiple bad actors played a part in the creation and malicious use of the ransomware. The payload and financial portion of the crime appears to be constructed by two different groups of cybercriminals. Remember, the real purpose of ransomware can be a combination of motives, or involve multiple threat actors with different motives. It is always important to step back and think: if this was your crime how would you have done it? It’s crucial to be able to think and look at the world through the eyes a hacker or cyber-criminal.”

Michael Daly, CTO, Raytheon Cybersecurity and Special Missions:

“The message for any company doing business on the internet is that North Korea sees you as a target. So do other rogue nation-states, and so do transnational crime organizations. For them, ransomware is an irresistible crime. It keeps hundreds of millions of dollars in untraceable cryptocurrency flowing in, all the while causing chaos in places like hospitals, power plants, train stations, financial institutions and telecommunications companies.

It's no coincidence the administration announced its findings in a publication they knew would reach the people who have the power and influence to strengthen networks in the commercial sector. Stronger networks are more expensive to attack, and when we increase the cost of cybercrime, we undermine the incentive for the attack.”

Travis Farral, Director of Security Strategy, Anomali:

“Attributing certain attacks or specific malware to an actor, group, or nation-state is difficult in the cyber world. Often, attribution is made as a best-guess based on available evidence. In the case of WannaCry, a handful of prominent security companies noted clues that pointed to the Lazarus Group, a North Korea associated actor group, as the potential culprits behind the malware. The cited links connecting North Korea to WannaCry have been far from conclusive, however. The U.S. Government claims to have evidence indicating that North Korea was indeed behind WannaCry. They may have such evidence, but because they have not shared the details with the public, it is a case of trusting their judgment on the matter.”

Atif Mushtaq, CEO, SlashNext:

“The interesting thing about malware is that, like any other product that works effectively, it can become widely-adopted. We recently blocked an exploit called “EternalBlue” which takes advantage of a Microsoft Windows Security flaw to gain entry using the network file sharing protocol (TCP ports: 139, 445). Similarities, including infection vectors, code sequences, infrastructure and exploitation techniques, link this to the APT called “Unit 180,” as well as a backdoor program called Contopee, originating from Lazarus, a North Korean hacking group. The core malware gets used but each hacking group modifies their attack strategy in order to evade signature- or sandbox-based detection mechanisms.”

Chris Morales, Head of Security Analytics, Vectra:

“Most industry experts believe that North Korea is engaged in finding alternative means for funding their efforts as they have been cut off from traditional financial channels. When WannaCry was first detected, we saw similarities in the code used for that ransomware attack with previous attacks attributed to North Korea, like the Sony hack. North Korea has been targeting banks directly with banking malware while using ransomware against other organizations to acquire a large volume of Bitcoin. North Korea has benefited greatly from with the meteoric rise in bitcoin over the past year. With the success in financial gain they have received from cybercrime, we can expect to see more.

We anticipate that many more ransomware attacks will continue to occur. They will have different names and use different exploits. What won’t change is the nature of the attacks and their associated behavior. While we don’t know when the next big attack will occur, enterprises need to be ready for it. Ongoing advances in AI have allowed technology to augment the efforts of cybersecurity teams. And there must be a seismic shift in the cybersecurity industry to identify attacker behaviors fast and early to stop ransomware attacks.”

Eddie Habibi, Founder and CEO, PAS:

“While attribution is an important question to answer, the real question is are we prepared for the next WannaCry? The lifeblood of critical infrastructure plants – where electricity is generated, fuel is produced, and drinking water is cleaned – are industrial control systems. They are responsible for process safety, production uptime, and environmental protection. Attacks on these systems have increased seven-fold since 2010, and the bad guys are achieving greater success with every attack.

Even after WannaCry initially hit, many plants had systems that remained unpatched. Just last week, attackers were successful taking control of safety systems in a plant with malware called TRITON/TRISIS. They did not need a vulnerability to assert control; they only needed specific process knowledge and an unprepared plant environment.

The threat landscape is fluid, and risk is increasing for critical infrastructure companies. Traditional IT security controls are not keeping pace with the requirements of operational technology systems, and industries need better methods to increase visibility into their most critical cyber assets – eighty percent of which are largely invisible to security personnel today. The basic fact is, you cannot protect what you cannot see.”


After US, also Lithuania bans Kaspersky Software due to its alleged link to the Kremlin
22.12.2017 securityaffairs BigBrothers

Lithuania announced it will ban the products of the cyber security giant Kaspersky from computers in critical infrastructure.
After the decision of the US Government for banning Kaspersky software, Lithuania announced it will ban the products of the security giant from computers in critical infrastructure (energy, finance, and transport).

Lithuania is member of the EU and also component of the NATO alliance, it is very critics of Russia, especially after its 2014 annexation of the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine.

“The government… recognised that Kaspersky Lab software is a potential national security threat,” the Lithuanian’s defence ministry said in a statement.

The government will prohibit agencies responsible for “critical infrastructure” from using Kaspersky products and will force them to replace the anti-virus software in “a short while.”

The Russian security software was banned from US government agencies because it was blamed by US intelligence of helping Russian intelligence steal top-secret information.

The Lithuanian intelligence has the same opinion as of the US peers, the Lithuanian intelligence chief Darius Jauniskis recently said Kaspersky “was sometimes acting as a toy in the hands of (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s administration”.

Kaspersky denied any involvement in cyber espionage activity, the company sued the U.S. Government over product ban, it’s appeal was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Kaspersky considers the ban as unconstitutional, according to the company the US Government took the decision to prohibit its products based on reports citing anonymous sources without strong evidence of its involvement in cyber espionage activities.

Kaspersky claims to have offered its support to the DHS for its investigation, but the agency issued the 17-01 directive, banning its security software and services without any warning.

Lithuania bans kaspersky

The decision of the US Government is having a significant impact on the brand reputation with a consequent effect on the sales in almost any sector and any country.

“Through Binding Operational Directive 17-01, DHS has harmed Kaspersky Lab’s reputation, negatively affected the livelihoods of its U.S.-based employees and U.S.-based business partners, and undermined the company’s contributions to the broader cybersecurity community,” said Eugene Kaspersky, CEO and co-founder of Kaspersky Lab.

In December 2016, Lithuania announced to have found Russian spyware on its government computers, the government blamed Moscow for cyber espionage campaigns.

According to the Lithuanian intelligence, Russia powered cyber attacks that hit government networks over the last two years. According to the Reuters, the head of cyber security Rimtautas Cerniauskas confirmed the discovery of at least three Russian spyware on government computers since 2015.


Greedy North Korean Hackers Targeting Cryptocurrencies and Point-of-Sale Terminals
21.12.2017 thehackernews BigBrothers

The North Korean hacking group has turned greedy.
Security researchers have uncovered a new widespread malware campaign targeting cryptocurrency users, believed to be originated from Lazarus Group, a state-sponsored hacking group linked to the North Korean government.
Active since 2009, Lazarus Group has been attributed to many high profile attacks, including Sony Pictures Hack, $81 million heists from the Bangladesh Bank, and the latest — WannaCry.
The United States has officially blamed North Korea for global WannaCry ransomware attack that infected hundreds of thousands of computers across more than 150 countries earlier this year.
In separate news, security experts have blamed Lazarus group for stealing bitcoins worth millions from the South Korean exchange Youbit, forcing it to shut down and file for bankruptcy after losing 17% of its assets.
Researchers from security firm Proofpoint have published a new report, revealing a connection between Lazarus Group and a number of multistage cyber attacks against cryptocurrency users and point-of-sale systems.
"The group has increasingly focused on financially motivated attacks and appears to be capitalizing on both the increasing interest and skyrocketing prices for cryptocurrencies," the researchers said. "The Lazarus Group’s arsenal of tools, implants, and exploits is extensive and under constant development."
After analyzing a large number of spear phishing emails with different attack vectors from multiple spear phishing campaigns, researchers discovered a new PowerShell-based reconnaissance implant from Lazarus Group arsenal, dubbed PowerRatankba.
Encryption, obfuscation, functionality, decoys, and command-and-control servers used by PowerRatankba closely resembles the original Ratankba implant developed by Lazarus Group.
The PowerRatankba implant is being spread using a massive email campaign through the following attack vectors:
Windows executable downloader dubbed PowerSpritz
Malicious Windows Shortcut (LNK) files
Several malicious Microsoft Compiled HTML Help (CHM) files
Multiple JavaScript (JS) downloaders
Macro-based Microsoft Office documents
Backdoored popular cryptocurrency applications hosted on fake websites
PowerRatankba, with at least two variants in the wild, acts as a first-stage malware that delivers a fully-featured backdoor (in this case, Gh0st RAT) only to those targeted companies, organizations, and individuals that have interest in cryptocurrency.
"During our research, we discovered that long-term sandboxing detonations of PowerRatankba not running cryptocurrency related applications were never infected with a Stage2 implant. This may indicate that the PowerRatankba operator(s) were only interested in infecting device owners with an obvious interest in various cryptocurrencies," reads the 38-page-long report [PDF] published by Proofpoint.
Once installed, Gh0st RAT allows cybercriminals to steal credentials for cryptocurrency wallets and exchanges.
It's notable that PowerRatankba and Gh0st RAT don't exploit any zero-day vulnerability; instead, Lazarus Group relies on mixed programming practices, like C&C communication over HTTP, use of Spritz encryption algorithm and the Base64-encoded custom encryptor.
"It is already well-known that Lazarus Group has targeted and successfully breached several prominent cryptocurrency companies and exchanges," the researchers say. "From these breaches, law enforcement agencies suspect that the group has amassed nearly $100 million worth of cryptocurrencies based on their value today."
Besides stealing cryptocurrencies, the group was also found infecting SoftCamp point-of-sale (POS) terminals, largely deployed in South Korea, using RatankbaPOS malware for stealing credit card data.
Since RatankbaPOS was sharing same C&C server as the PowerRatankba implant, it is believed that both the implants are linked to Lazarus Group.
The explosive growth in cryptocurrency values has motivated not only traders but also hackers to invest all their time and resources in making digital wealth.
More details about the new malware campaigns run by Lazarus Group can be found in the in-depth report [PDF], titled "North Korea Bitten by Bitcoin Bug—Financially motivated campaigns reveal a new dimension of the Lazarus Group," published by PowerPoint on Wednesday.


North Korea Denies Role in WannaCry Ransomware Attack
21.12.2017 securityweek BigBrothers
North Korea on Thursday denied US accusations it was behind the WannaCry global ransomware cyberattack, saying Washington was demonising it.

WannaCry infected some 300,000 computers in 150 nations in May, encrypting user files and demanding hundreds of dollars from their owners for the keys to get them back.

The White House this week blamed Pyongyang for it, adding its voice to several other countries that had already done so.

A spokesman for Pyongyang's foreign ministry said the US allegations were "absurd", adding: "As we have clearly stated on several occasions, we have nothing to do with cyber-attacks."

Washington had "ulterior" motives, the spokesman added according to the North's KCNA news agency.

"This move is a grave political provocation by the US aimed at inducing the international society into a confrontation against the DPRK by tarnishing the image of the dignified country and demonising it," he said.

North Korea is subject to multiple United Nations sanctions over its banned nuclear and ballistic missile programs, and tested its third ICBM last month.

Leader Kim Jong-Un declared his country had achieved full nuclear statehood, in a challenge to US President Donald Trump who responded with promises of "major sanctions".

According to experts North Korea's cyberwarfare targets have expanded from the political -- it was accused of hacking into Sony Pictures Entertainment in 2014 to take revenge for "The Interview", a satirical film that mocked Kim -- to the financial, as it seeks new sources of funding.

A South Korean cryptocurrency exchange shut down on Tuesday after losing 17 percent of its assets in a hacking -- its second cyberattack this year, with the North accused of involvement in the first.

Investigators are probing the possibility that Pyongyang was also behind Tuesday's incident, the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg News reported.

The North is blamed for a massive $81 million cyber-heist from the Bangladesh Central Bank (BCB) in 2016, as well as the theft of $60 million from Taiwan's Far Eastern International Bank in October.

Pyongyang has angrily denied the accusations -- which it described as a "slander" against the authorities -- but analysts say the digital footprints left behind suggest otherwise.


White House Blames North Korea for Cyberattack
20.12.2017 securityweek BigBrothers
The White House on Tuesday publicly accused North Korea of launching a massive cyberattack that hit 150 countries last May -- hobbling networks from Britain's public health system to FedEx.

"After careful investigation, the United States is publicly attributing the massive 'WannaCry' cyberattack to North Korea," said White House homeland security advisor Tom Bossert.

"We do not make this allegation lightly, we do so with evidence and we do so with partners," he added.

Exploiting a security flaw in Microsoft's Windows XP operating system, the malware infected an estimated 300,000 computers demanding ransom to decrypt data.

The United States is the latest country to point the finger of blame at Pyongyang, attribution which comes as part of a drive to exert "maximum pressure" on the regime.

As yet, no retaliatory measures have been announced.

Among the infected computers were those at Britain's National Health Service (NHS), Spanish telecoms company Telefonica and US logistics company FedEx.

London had already blamed North Korea, which hit a third of Britain's public hospitals.

Pyongyang then denied the allegation, saying it went "beyond the limit of our tolerance" and was a "wicked attempt to lure the international community into harboring greater mistrust of the DPRK."

- US government under scrutiny -

Questions had been raised about whether the US government acted in a timely manner to respond to the attack, with Microsoft accusing Washington of spotting the flaw and using it for its own ends.

"This attack provides yet another example of why the stockpiling of vulnerabilities by governments is such a problem," Microsoft's Brad Smith said at the time.

"Repeatedly, exploits in the hands of governments have leaked into the public domain and caused widespread damage," he said, claiming that the National Security Agency of spotting the flaw and saying nothing.

Bossert said that the United States kept only 10 percent of security flaws secret and had no policy of "stockpiling" or withholding information from potential targets.

Since coming to office Donald Trump has sought to put pressure on North Korea, as its reclusive leaders edge ever-closer to developing a ballistic missile that could deliver a nuclear warhead to the United States.

Amid a series of tests Trump's administration has appeared at odds over whether talks could offer a way out of the standoff.

National Security Advisor HR McMaster tried to clean up that question in an interview with the BBC, saying the United States wanted a peaceful solution: "Of course that's what we want but we are not committed to a peaceful resolution."

"We are committed to a resolution, we want the resolution to be peaceful. But, as the president has said, all options are on the table and we have to be prepared if necessary to compel the denuclearization of North Korea without the cooperation of that regime."

Trump's first National Security Strategy released Monday, declared that "North Korea seeks the capability to kill millions of Americans with nuclear weapons."

"Continued provocations by North Korea will prompt neighboring countries and the United States to further strengthen security bonds and take additional measures to protect themselves."


North Korea's New Front: Cyberheists
20.12.2017 securityweek BigBrothers
The messages are alluring, the pictures are attractive. But the women seeking to beguile South Korean Bitcoin executives could actually be hackers from Pyongyang in disguise, experts warn.

In the face of sanctions over its banned nuclear and ballistic missile programs, the cash-strapped North is deploying an army of well-trained hackers with an eye on a lucrative new source of hard currency, they say.

Its cyberwarfare abilities first came to prominence when it was accused of hacking into Sony Pictures Entertainment to take revenge for "The Interview", a satirical film that mocked its leader, Kim Jong-Un.

But it has rapidly expanded from political to financial targets, such as the central bank of Bangladesh and Bitcoin exchanges around the world, with Washington this week blaming it for the WannaCry ransomware that wreaked havoc earlier this year.

And a South Korean cryptocurrency exchange shut down on Tuesday after losing 17 percent of its assets in a hacking -- its second cyberattack this year, with the North accused of being behind the first.

According to multiple South Korean reports citing Seoul's intelligence agency, North Korean hackers approach workers at digital exchanges by posing as beautiful women on Facebook, striking online conversations and eventually sending files containing malicious code.

North Korea Cyber AttacksThey also bombard executives with emails posing as job seekers sending resumes -- with the files containing malware to steal personal and exchange data.

Moon Jong-Hyun, director at Seoul cybersecurity firm EST Security, said the North had stepped up online honeytrap tactics targeting Seoul's government and military officials in recent years.

"They open Facebook accounts and maintain the online friendship for months before backstabbing the targets in the end," Moon told a cybersecurity forum, adding many profess to be studying at a US college or working at a research think tank.

- 'Criminal enterprise' -

Simon Choi, director of Seoul cybersecurity firm Hauri, has accumulated vast troves of data on Pyongyang's hacking activities and has been warning about potential ransomware attacks by the North since 2016.

The United States has reportedly stepped up cyberattacks of its own against Pyongyang.

But Choi told AFP: "The North's hacking operations are upgrading from attacks on 'enemy states' to a shady, lucrative moneymaking machine in the face of more sanctions."

Pyongyang's hackers have showed interest in Bitcoin since at least 2012, he said, with attacks spiking whenever the cryptocurrency surges -- and it has soared around 20-fold this year.

US cybersecurity firm FireEye noted that a lack of regulations and "lax anti-money laundering controls" in many countries make digital currencies an "attractive tactic" for the North.

Cryptocurrencies, it said in a September report, were "becoming a target of interest by a regime that operates in many ways like a criminal enterprise".

It documented three attempts by the North to hack into Seoul cryptocurrency exchanges between May and July as a way to "fund the state or personal coffers of Pyongyang's elite".

In October, Lazarus, a hacking group linked with the North, launched a malicious phishing campaign targeting people in the bitcoin industry with a fake but lucrative job offer, according to US cybersecurity firm Secureworks.

- 'Hard to predict' -

Hacking attacks targeting digital currencies are only the latest in the long list of alleged online financial heists by the North.

The North is blamed for a massive $81 million cyber-heist from the Bangladesh Central Bank (BCB) in 2016, as well as the theft of $60 million from Taiwan's Far Eastern International Bank in October.

Although Pyongyang has angrily denied the accusations -- which it described as a "slander" against the authorities -- analysts say the digital footprints left behind suggest otherwise.

The attack on the BCB was linked to "nation-state actors in the North", cybersecurity firm Symantec said, while the Taiwanese bank theft had some of the "hallmarks" of Lazarus, according to the British defence firm BAE Systems.

Proceeds from such actions are laundered through casinos in the Philippines and Macau or money exchanges in China, said Lim Jong-In, a cyber-security professor at Korea University in Seoul, making it "virtually impossible" to trace.

The global WannaCry ransomware attack in May infected some 300,000 computers in 150 nations, encrypting their files and demanding hundreds of dollars from their owners for the keys to get them back.

Experts say that young hacking talents are handpicked at school to be groomed at elite Kim Chaek University of Technology or Kim Il Sung Military University in Pyongyang, and now number more than 7,000.

They were once believed to be operating mostly at home or neighbouring China, but analysis by cybersecurity firm Recorded Future noted "significant physical and virtual North Korean presences" in countries as far away as Kenya and Mozambique.

FireEye CEO Kevin Mandia put the North among a quartet of countries -- along with Iran, Russia and China -- that accounted for more than 90 percent of cybersecurity breaches the firm dealt with.

Its hackers, he said, were "interesting to respond to and hard to predict".


Australia, Canada, Others Blame North Korea for WannaCry Attack
20.12.2017 securityweek BigBrothers
The United States is not the only country to officially accuse North Korea this week of being behind the WannaCry ransomware campaign. Canada, Japan, Australia and New Zealand have also blamed Pyongyang for the attack.

The U.K. accused North Korea in late October, and the other Five Eyes countries and Japan have now done the same.

“We are aware of the statements made by our allies and partners concerning the role of actors in North Korea in the development of the malware known as WannaCry,” said Greta Bossenmaier, chief of Canada’s Communications Security Establishment (CSE). “This assessment is consistent with our analysis.”

Australia said its own intelligence agencies reached the same conclusion after consultations with allies. New Zealand attributed the WannaCry attack to North Korean threat actors based on “cyber threat analysis from a range of sources, including the United States and the United Kingdom.”

The WannaCry ransomware was unleashed in May and it infected roughly 300,000 computers across 150 countries. The malware spread using exploits developed by the Equation Group, an actor linked to the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA).

North Korea in October denied the accusations, claiming that they were a “wicked attempt" to further tighten international sanctions. Furthermore, not everyone believes North Korea is responsible. Endpoint security firm Cybereason said in May that the attack did not fit Pyongyang’s style and interests, and the company stands by its initial assessment.

Nevertheless, the United States is convinced that the WannaCry attack is the work of North Korea, which is believed to be responsible for several recent profit-driven campaigns. “We do not make this allegation lightly,” said White House homeland security advisor Tom Bossert. “We do so with evidence, and we do so with partners.”

One of those partners is Microsoft, which concluded that the North Korea-linked threat actor known as Lazarus – the company tracks it as ZINC – was responsible for the ransomware attack.

“Among other steps, last week we helped disrupt the malware this group relies on, cleaned customers’ infected computers, disabled accounts being used to pursue cyberattacks and strengthened Windows defenses to prevent reinfection. We took this action after consultation with several governments, but made the decision independently,” said Brad Smith, president and chief legal officer at Microsoft.

“We are pleased to see these governments making this strong statement of attribution. If the rising tide of nation-state attacks on civilians is to be stopped, governments must be prepared to call out the countries that launch them,” Smith said.

Facebook also had a role in disrupting the activities of the Lazarus group, but pointed out that its actions were not focused on the WannaCry malware itself.

“In this case, we deleted accounts operated by this group to make it harder for them to conduct their activities. Similar to other threat groups, they largely used personal profiles and pretended to be other people in order to do things like learning about others and building relationships with potential targets,” the social media giant stated.

“We also notified people who may have been in contact with these accounts and gave suggestions to enhance their account security, as we have done in the past about other threat groups,” it added.


Australia Police Accidentally Broadcast Arrest Plans on Social Media
19.12.2017 securityweek BigBrothers
Australian police accidentally broadcast on social media details of an operation to arrest a suspected North Korean agent -- three days before he was taken into custody, media reported Wednesday.

The Sydney-based man, described by authorities as a "loyal agent of North Korea", was arrested on Saturday and charged with trying to sell missile parts and technology on the black market to raise money for Pyongyang in breach of international sanctions.

But a minute of conversation about the case between federal police officers, including the timing of the arrest, was broadcast on Periscope Wednesday and linked to on Twitter, The West Australian reported Tuesday.

The newspaper said it had listened to the discussion, which included a suggestion that officers are "not going in all guns blazing, it's only half-a-dozen people and a forensic van".

The paper added that while the tweet was deleted, the broadcast remained live -- and was watched by 40 people -- before it was also removed after the publication alerted federal police.

It was only by luck that no details of the identity of the target were revealed, the West Australian added.

Federal police confirmed part of a conversation was mistakenly broadcast via its Periscope account while "testing a piece of social media broadcasting equipment".

"Steps have been taken to ensure such incidents will not occur again," the force said in a statement.

"The matter has been referred to the AFP's security area for review."

AFP [Australian Federal Police] Assistant Commissioner Neil Gaughan told reporters on Sunday that the case involving the alleged agent was "like nothing we have ever seen on Australian soil".

He added that the 59-year-old suspect, named in local media as Chan Han Choi, was a "loyal agent of North Korea, believing he was acting to serve some higher patriotic purpose".

Choi, who is in custody, is due back in court this week.


U.S. Declares North Korea Led Huge WannaCry Cyberattack
19.12.2017 securityweek BigBrothers
The United States officially accused North Korea late Monday of carrying out the massive WannaCry attack that infected some 300,000 computers in 150 countries earlier this year.

North Korea was widely suspected of being behind the computer virus and ransomware, which demanded payment to restore access. It has been denounced as such by Britain, but the United States had yet to follow suit.

Homeland Security Advisor Tom Bossert made the announcement in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, and was expected to provide more details in a briefing with reporters early Tuesday.

"The attack was widespread and cost billions, and North Korea is directly responsible," he wrote.

"We do not make this allegation lightly. It is based on evidence."

Among the infected computers were those at Britain's National Health Service (NHS), Spanish telecoms company Telefonica and US logistics company FedEx.

"These disruptions put lives at risk," Bossert wrote.

"North Korea has acted especially badly, largely unchecked, for more than a decade, and its malicious behavior is growing more egregious. WannaCry was indiscriminately reckless."

He said Washington must lead efforts to cooperate with other governments and businesses to "mitigate cyber risk and increase the cost to hackers," and thus improve internet security and resilience.

"When we must, the US will act alone to impose costs and consequences for cyber malfeasance," Bossert added.

President Donald Trump "has already pulled many levers of pressure to address North Korea's unacceptable nuclear and missile developments, and we will continue to use our maximum pressure strategy to curb Pyongyang's ability to mount attacks, cyber or otherwise."

The WannaCry attack spread rapidly around the globe using a security flaw in Microsoft's Windows XP operating system, an older version that is no longer given mainstream tech support by the US giant.

Ransomware, which can be used on PCs as well as tablets and smartphones, is malicious software which locks computer files and forces users to pay the attackers a designated sum in the virtual Bitcoin currency to regain access to the files.

The Washington Post cited a US official as saying Trump's administration would be urging allies to counter North Korea's cyberattack capabilities and implement all "relevant" UN Security Council sanctions.

It said the CIA had already laid blame on North Korea for the attack in November, though the assessment was classified and had not yet been previously reported.


Kaspersky Lab Sues U.S. Government Over Software Ban
19.12.2017 thehackernews BigBrothers

Moscow-based cyber security firm Kaspersky Lab has taken the United States government to a U.S. federal court for its decision to ban the use of Kaspersky products in federal agencies and departments.
In September 2017, the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a Binding Operational Directive (BOD) ordering civilian government agencies to remove Kaspersky Lab software from their computers and networks within 90 days.
The order came amid mounting concern among United States officials that the Kaspersky antivirus software could be helping Russian government spy on their activities, which may threaten the U.S. national security.
U.S. President Donald Trump also signed into law last week legislation that bans the use of Kaspersky products within the U.S. government, capping a months-long effort to purge Kaspersky from federal agencies amid concerns it's vulnerable to Kremlin influence.
The Kaspersky's appeal is part of an ongoing campaign by the company to refute allegations that the company is vulnerable to Russian influence.
Moreover, there's no substantial evidence yet available which can prove these allegations, but an article published by US media WSJ in October claimed that Kaspersky software helped Russian spies steal highly classified documents and hacking tools belonging to the NSA in 2015 from a staffer's home PC.
Just last month, Kaspersky claimed that its antivirus package running on the staffer's PC detected the copies of the NSA exploits as malware and uploaded them to its cloud for analysis, but its analysts immediately deleted them.
Earlier this month, the NSA staffer, identified as Nghia Hoang Pho, a 67-year-old of Ellicott City, Maryland, pleaded guilty to illegally taking classified documents home, which were later stolen by Russian hackers.
Kaspersky Lab Challenges DHS's Ban on its Software in U.S. Court
Underlining that U.S. authorities have not provided any substantial evidence of wrongdoing by the company, CEO Eugene Kaspersky wrote in an open letter to the Homeland Security agency on Monday, stressing that the "DHS's decision is unconstitutional" and based purely on "subjective, non-technical public sources."
"One of the foundational principles enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, which I deeply respect, is due process: the opportunity to contest any evidence and defend oneself before the government takes adverse action," Kaspersky wrote.
"Unfortunately, in the case of Binding Operational Directive 17-01, DHS did not provide Kaspersky Lab with a meaningful opportunity to be heard before the Directive's issuance, and therefore, Kaspersky Lab's due process rights were infringed."
Kaspersky argues that the company was not given enough time to contest allegations before the DHS issued a ban, and that the documents available at the time of the ban were based more on references than a technical threat that the company could analyze and respond to.
The company also said that it wrote to DHS in mid-July to address any concerns the U.S. agency had, and DHS even acknowledged receipt of the communication in mid-August, appreciating the company's offer to provide information on the matter.
Kaspersky: DHS Harmed Kaspersky Lab's Reputation
However, Kaspersky said the agency did not follow up with the company "until the notification regarding the issuance of Binding Operational Directive 17-01" and accusing Kaspersky products of causing infosec risks on federal information systems.
"DHS has harmed Kaspersky Lab's reputation, negatively affected the livelihoods of its U.S.-based employees and U.S.-based business partners, and undermined the company’s contributions to the broader cybersecurity community," Kaspersky wrote.
"In filing this appeal, Kaspersky Lab hopes to protect its due process rights under the US Constitution and federal law and repair the harm caused to its commercial operations, its US-based employees, and its US-based business partners."
CEO Eugene Kaspersky has repeatedly denied the company's ties to any government and said it would not help a government with cyber espionage, adding that "If the Russian government comes to me and asks me to anything wrong, or my employees, I will move the business out of Russia."
In October, it was also reported that Israeli government hackers hacked into Kaspersky's network in 2015 and caught Russian hackers red-handed hacking United States government with the help of Kaspersky software.
In the wake of this incident, Kaspersky Lab also launched a transparency initiative late October, giving partners access to its antivirus source code and paying large bug bounties for security issues discovered in its products.


Information Warfare At Bay – The Dangers of Russian Menace to Underwater Internet Critical Infrastructure
19.12.2017 securityaffairs BigBrothers

British Armed Forces chief has warned that Russia could compromise underwater communication cables causing severe damage to the financial global economy
It came as silently as a fatal heart stroke, and now the dangers of Russian Cyber Warfare materializes into reality.
Join us to uncover this cripple and stealth threat to our global community.

As defined by the Briefing European Parliamentary Research Service, “Hybrid conflict is a situation in which parties to the conflict refrain from the overt use of armed forces against each other, relying instead on a combination of military intimidation (falling short of an attack), exploitation of economic and political vulnerabilities, and diplomatic or technological means to pursue their objectives.”

In this regard, we take a special account in Russia development of Electronic Warfare and Navy developments to further advance conventional and unconventional threats to US and Allies.

As reported in many media outlets, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach, who heads the British Armed Forces, in a speech to the Royal United Services Institute, has warned that Russia could compromise underwater communication cables causing severe damage to the financial global economy. As reported by BBC, “Russia is upgrading and advancing it’s use of conventional and unconventional warfare,” especially in the fifth domain: The Cyberspace.

Russian ships have been spotted regularly near the Atlantic cables and according to Marshal Peach, it is due to the lack of investments in upgrading UK Navy to match the developments of Russia Navy. The Marshal also notice that there are not enough UK ships to monitor the activities of Russia Navy. It is important to notice that since the annexation of Crimea, Russia is developing new technologies of Electronic Warfare which is putting in danger the global security.

underwater cable

Besides the economic danger to UK and US economies, Russian ships can also try to wiretapping and disrupt communications that could cause great danger to the intelligence community and national security of many countries.

The news comes in the midst of scandals involving Russian meddling in US election and the use of Kaspersky software, recently banned from US Government use, to spy on US Government Data. This brings some serious concerns about how secure we are in this interconnected world we live in. A new Theater of Operations is presented were rogue nations can seriously damage our way of live.

It is a serious concern since that Russia is not alone trying to undermine the world, as it has a partnership with Iran, North Korea, Syria, China and Brazil trying to destabilize the global security and economy. We must notice that to China and Brazil had contributed to Russia Cyber Upgrade since this two countries are the leading source of software piracy that causes serious economic losses and exposures to organizations around the world. In Brazil, for example, a copy of Microsoft Windows is sold for 3 dollars on the streets of Santa Ifigênia.

The US and Europe must take a firm stance with sanctions against those rogue nations and maintain an up to date investment in Navy to continuously monitor any activity that could lead to dangers to the global security. Also according to BBC, it is estimated that 97% of global communications are transmitted by underwater cables, and approximately 10 trillion of financial transaction is negotiated on a daily basis through these cables. Any scenario involving an attack to this critical infrastructure could lead not only to an enormous loss of money but also to an enormous loss of life and the collapse of modern society due to its implications on supply chain and product delivery.

Sources:
http://www.natolibguides.info/hybridwarfare/reports
https://www.icds.ee/fileadmin/media/icds.ee/doc/ICDS_Report_Russias_Electronic_Warfare_to_2025.pdf
Russia’s Neighbors Respond to Putin’s ‘Hybrid War’
http://www.armyupress.army.mil/Journals/Military-Review/Online-Exclusive/2017-Online-Exclusive-Articles/Russian-Actions-and-Methods/
[1]http://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/BRIE/2017/599315/EPRS_BRI(2017)599315_EN.pdf

https://rusi.org/event/annual-chief-defence-staff-lecture-2017
https://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/12/15/russia_cable_chop_warning_chief_of_defence_staff/
https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/dec/15/britain-warns-russian-threat-undersea-internet-cab/