Cyber Week in Review

ADAM SEGAL | April 26, 2016

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Here is a quick round-up of this week’s technology headlines and related stories you may have missed Goodbye Safe Harbor. Hello Privacy Shield! The European Commission and the United States have agreed on a new framework for transatlantic data transfers. In a press release, the Commission argued the data sharing framework–called the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield–provides stronger obligations on U.S. companies that have access to Europeans’ personal data because it offers European citizens the possibility of redress if their information has been misused and requires an annual review of U.S. commitments to only engage in necessary and proportionate surveillance. The new agreement follows months of negotiation after the top court in the European Union struck down Safe Harbor agreement that previously regulated transatlantic data flows. The new deal is almost surely expected to be challenged in the courts as Max Schrems, the Austrian privacy activist whose complaint led to Safe Harbor’s invalidation, expressed skepticism that it would withstand a judicial challenge. The Commission and the Department of Commerce, which led the negotiations on behalf of the United States, are expected to release the details of the Privacy Shield later this month.

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OTHER ARTICLES

Noxious Zero-Click Attack: What Is It And How To Avoid It

Article | January 19, 2021

For years, we have been told that cyber-attacks happen due to human-errors. Almost every person has stressed about training to prevent cyber-attacks from taking place. We have always been on the alert to dodge errant clicks or online downloads that might infect devices with security threats. However, not all attacks need a user’s oversight to open the door. Although avoiding clicking on phishing emails is still significant but there is a cyber threat that does not need any human error and has been in the recent news. It is known as Zero-Click attack where some vulnerabilities can be misused by hackers to launch attacks even without interaction from the victim. Rather than depending on the hardware or software flaws to get access to the victim’s device, zero-click attacks eliminate the human error equation. There is nothing a victim can do once coming into the limelight of the hacker. Also, with the flourishing use of smartphones around the world that entails all the personal information and data, this thread has expanded enormously. How Zero-Click Attacks Occur? The core condition for successfully pulling off a zero-click is creating a specially designed piece of data which is then sent to the targeted device over a wireless network connection including mobile internet or wifi. This then hit a scarcely documented vulnerability on the software or hardware level. The vulnerability majorly affects the messaging or emailing apps. The attacks that have begun from Apple’s mail app on iPhone or iPad, have now moved ahead on Whatsapp and Samsung devices. In iOS 13, the vulnerability allowed zero-click when the mail runs in the background. It enables attackers to read, edit, delete, or leak the email inside the app. Later these attacks moved to Samsung’s android devices having version 4.4.4 or above. The successful attacks provide similar access to the hackers as an owner, entailing contacts, SMS, and call logs. In 2019, a breach on Whatsapp used the voice call functionality of the app to ring the victim’s phone. Even if the victim didn’t pick the call and later deleted it, the attacks still installed malicious data packets. These grants access to the hacker to take complete control of call logs, locations, data, camera, and even microphone of the device. Another similar attack had happened due to the frangibility in the chipset of WI-FI that is used in streaming, gaming, smart home devices, and laptops. The zero-click attack blooms on the increase of mobile devices as the number of smartphones have reached above 3 billion. How To Avoid Zero-Click Attacks? Most of the attacks of zero-click target certain victims including corporate executives, government officials, and journalists. But anyone using a smartphone is a possible target. These attacks cannot be spotted due to the lack of vulnerabilities. So the users have to keep the operating system along with the third-party software updated. Also, it is a must to give minimal permissions to apps that are being installed on the device. Moreover, if you own a business and are afraid of the zero-click attacks on your company’s app, you can always seek IT consultations from top-notch companies orhire developersthat will help in developing applications with hard-to-creep-into programming languages where detecting an attack is efficient.

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As Ransomware Surge Continues, Where Next for Government?

Article | August 30, 2021

Global leaders want to carve out specific areas of critical infrastructure to be protected under international agreements from cyber-attacks. But where does that leave others? There are ‘four or five steps you could take that could significantly mitigate this risk,’ Falk said. These are patching, multifactor authentication and all the stuff in the Australian Signals Directorate's Essential Eight baseline mitigation strategies. …” Back in April of this year, a BBC News headline read, "The ransomware surge ruining lives." And that was before the cyber-attacks on critical infrastructure sectors like Colonial Pipeline, meat-processing giant JBS, the Irish Health Service and so many others. And when President Biden met with Russian President Putin last month in Geneva, he declared that certain critical infrastructure should be “off-limits” to cyber-attacks. “We agreed to task experts in both our countries to work on specific understandings about what is off-limits,” Biden said. “We’ll find out whether we have a cybersecurity arrangement that begins to bring some order.” As an initial positive step forward, this cyber defense policy makes sense. In fact, most global experts applaud these moves and efforts to better protect and clarify international crimes in cyberspace. Previous administrations going back to George W. Bush have taken aggressive steps to ensure critical infrastructure is protected in the U.S. and around the world through actions involving people, process and technology, both offline and online. The 16 critical infrastructure sectors identified by DHS/CISA can be found here. Still, many questions remain regarding this new policy: Will all global governments actually agree on the wording? More importantly, even if they do agree, how will the agreements be enforced? Also, what happens if some countries continue to allow criminals to attack these critical infrastructure sectors from their soil? And my main question goes further: Even if all of these agreements and actions are 100 percent agreed upon and enforced, which most people don’t believe will happen, does this imply that every organization not covered under these 16 critical infrastructure sectors can be openly attacked without a response? Is this giving into cyber criminals for everyone else? For example, would K-12 schools or small businesses be “fair game” and not off limits? Could this actually increase attacks for any organization not considered on the CISA list? No doubt, some will say that schools are a part of government, and yet there are private schools. In addition, if we do cover all others somehow, perhaps as a supplier of these 16 sectors, doesn’t that make the “off-limits” list essentially meaningless? Essentially, where is the line? Who is included, and what happens when some nation or criminal group crosses the line? These questions became more than an intellectual thought exercise recently when the Kaseya ransomware attack impacted more than 1,500 businesses, without, in their words, impacting critical infrastructure. CBS News reports, “Still, Kaseya says the cyber-attack it experienced over the July 4th weekend was never a threat and had no impact on critical infrastructure. The Russian-linked gang behind the ransomware had demanded $70 million to end the attack, but CNBC reported that the hackers reduced their demands to $50 million in private conversations. "The Miami-based company said Tuesday that it was alerted on July 2 to a potential attack by internal and external sources. It immediately shut down access to the software in question. The incident impacted about 50 Kaseya customers.” OTHER RECENT RANSOMWARE NEWS Meanwhile, in a bit of a surprise, ransomware group REvil disappeared from the Internet this past week, when its website became inaccessible. As Engadget reported, “According to CNBC, Reuters and The Washington Post, the websites operated by the group REvil went down in the early hours of Tuesday. Dmitri Alperovitch, former chief technology officer of the cyber firm CrowdStrike, told The Post that the group's blog in the dark web is still reachable. However, its critical sites victims use to negotiate with the group and to receive decryption tools if they pay up are no longer available. Visitors to those websites now see a message that says ‘A server with the specified host name could not be found.’" CNBC reported: “There are 3 main possibilities for the criminal gang’s disappearance — each of which carries good and bad news for U.S. efforts to combat the ransomware scourge emanating from Russia. The Kremlin bent under U.S. pressure and forced REvil to close up shop. U.S. officials tired of waiting for Kremlin cooperation and launched a cyber operation that took REvil offline. REvil’s operators were feeling the heat and decided to lay low for a while. "This situation may send a message to some of the players that they need to find a less-aggressive business model, which could mean avoiding critical infrastructure, or it could mean avoiding U.S. targets.” Also, the Biden administration announced several other measures to combat ransomware: “The Biden administration will offer rewards up to $10 million for information leading to the identification of foreign state-sanctioned malicious cyber activity against critical U.S. infrastructure — including ransomware attacks — and the White House has launched a task force to coordinate efforts to stem the ransomware scourge. "It is also launching the website stopransomware.gov to offer the public resources for countering the threat and building more resilience into networks, a senior administration official told reporters.” And yet, many experts are still predicting that ransomware will continue to grow in the near future. For example, TechHQ wrote that “identifying the culprits often isn't as big an obstacle as apprehending them.” To show recent growth of ransomware attacks, Fox Business offered details on a Check Point report this past week that “ransomware attacks surge, growing 93 percent each week.” Also: “'The ransomware business is booming. We’re seeing global surges in ransomware across every major geography, especially in the last two months,' said Lotem Finkelstein, head of threat intelligence at Check Point Software. 'We believe the trend is driven by scores of new entrants into the ransomware business.'" For more background on this hot topic, a few weeks back I appeared on MiTech News to discuss the ransomware crisis. FINAL THOUGHTS I’d like to close with this article which offers a slightly different perspective on ransomware from ZDNet Australia: “The threat of ransomware dominates the cyber news right now, and rightly so. But this week Rachael Falk, chief executive officer of Australia's Cyber Security Cooperative Research Centre, made a very good point. Ransomware is ‘Totally foreseeable and preventable because it's a known problem," Falk told a panel discussion at the Australian Strategy Policy Institute (ASPI) on Tuesday. ‘"It's known that ransomware is out there. And it's known that, invariably, the cyber criminals get into organisations through stealing credentials that they get on the dark web [or a user] clicking on a link and a vulnerability," she said. ‘We're not talking about some sort of nation-state really funky sort of zero day that's happening. This is going on the world over, so it's entirely foreseeable.’" Article Orginal Source: https://www.govtech.com/blogs/lohrmann-on-cybersecurity/as-ransomware-surge-continues-where-next-for-government

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Protecting against Cybersecurity Threats when Working from Home

Article | March 11, 2020

With the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), many organizations are requiring or permitting employees to work remotely. This post is intended to remind employers and employees that in the haste to implement widespread work-from-home strategies, data security concerns cannot be forgotten.Employers and employees alike should remain vigilant of increased cybersecurity threats, some of which specifically target remote access strategies. Unfortunately, as noted in a prior blog post, cybercriminals will not be curtailing their efforts to access valuable data during the outbreak, and in fact, will likely take advantage of some of the confusion and communication issues that might arise under the circumstances to perpetrate their schemes. Employees working from home may be accessing or transmitting company trade secrets as well as personal information of individuals. Inappropriate exposure of either type of data can lead to significant adverse consequences for a company.

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Coronavirus malware roundup: watch out for these scams

Article | March 18, 2020

With so many of us hunting out the latest Covid-19 info, it hasn’t taken long for hackers to take advantage. So first off, a basic hygiene reminder: Don’t download anything or click on any links from unfamiliar sources. This includes coronavirus-related maps, guides and apps. Here’s a closer look at some of the specific threats that have emerged over the last week or so. The DomainTools security research team has uncovered at least one example of a coronavirus-related fake app .The Android app in question was discovered on a newly created domain, (coronavirusapp[.]site). The site prompts users to download an Android App to get access to a coronavirus app tracker, statistical information and heatmap visuals. The app actually contains a previously unseen ransomware application, dubbed CovidLock. On download, the device screen is locked, and the user is hit with a demand for $100 in bitcoin to avoid content erasure.

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Spotlight

Avast Software

Free Antivirus * Business Security * Security Software * Mobile Security * Antivirus Protection Avast Software (www.avast.com), the global leader in digital security products for consumers and businesses, protects over 400 million people online. Avast offers products under the Avast and AVG brands, that protect people from threats on the internet with one of the most advanced threat detection networks in the world. Avast digital security products for Mobile, PC or Mac are top-ranked and certified by VB100, AV-Comparatives, AV-Test, OPSWAT, ICSA Labs.

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