Doug Vitale Tech Blog

January-February 2015 News Archive

Android Phone’s Battery Use Can Reveal User Location

IEEE Spectrum, 27 Feb 2015 – Most Android smartphone owners probably feel secure knowing that apps must ask permission to access their location. That sense of security is misplaced, say U.S. and Israeli researchers who have figured out how to track smartphone owners based on a mobile device’s battery use alone. [More]

Is the Lenovo Superfish Debacle a Call to Arms for Hacktivists?

IEEE Spectrum, 26 Feb 2015 – As Lenovo has come under fire for pre-installing on their computers the intrusive Superfish adware — and as lawsuits are now being filed against the laptop-maker for compromising its users’ security — one solution to the problem may have been given short shrift. Maybe it’s time, in other words, to release the hackers. [More]

Ramnit Botnet Disrupted By International Public-Private Collaboration

Dark Reading, 25 Feb 2015 – Most Android smartphone owners probably feel secure knowing that apps must ask permission to access their location. That sense of security is misplaced, say U.S. and Israeli researchers who have figured out how to track smartphone owners based on a mobile device’s battery use alone. [More]

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

Wired, 22 Feb 2015 – Europol’s Cybercrime Centre (EC3), with assistance from Symantec, Microsoft, and Anubis Networks, shut down command-and-control servers and redirected 300 domains used by the Ramnit botnet, used mostly for stealing banking credentials. [More]

HTTP/2 gets approved, heads to RFC

ISOC, 19 Feb 2015 – The IETF HTTP Working Group has officially approved the HTTP/2 specification, bringing the biggest change to the web since the launch of HTTP/1.1 back in 1999. The HyperText Transport Protocol (HTTP) underpins the web, but has been relatively stagnant since 1999 when the publication of RFC2616 formalized the current version 1.1 of the standard. [More]

HTTP Strict Transport Security comes to Internet Explorer

MSDN, 16 Feb 2015 – As part of our ongoing commitment to help build an interoperable, secure web that “just works,” we’re excited to announce support for HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS) in Internet Explorer. This change can be previewed using Internet Explorer in the Windows 10 Technical Preview, and will come to Project Spartan in a later update. [More]

NSA hid spying software in hard drive firmware

CBC, 16 Feb 2015 – The U.S. National Security Agency has figured out how to hide spying software deep within hard drives made by Western Digital, Seagate, Toshiba and other top manufacturers, giving the agency the means to eavesdrop on the majority of the world’s computers, according to cyber researchers and former operatives. [More]

Bank Hackers Steal Millions via Malware

New York Times, 14 Feb 2015 – In late 2013, an ATM in Kiev started dispensing cash at seemingly random times of day. But when a Russian cybersecurity firm, Kaspersky Lab, was called to investigate it discovered that the errant machine was the least of the bank’s problems. The bank’s internal computers, used by employees who process daily transfers and conduct bookkeeping, had been penetrated by malware that allowed cybercriminals to record their every move. [More]

Cost of Anthem’s data breach likely to exceed $100 million

CNET, 12 Feb 2015 – The financial consequences of Anthem’s massive data breach could reach beyond the $100 million mark, according to reports. The US health-insurance provider’s own cyberinsurance policy covers losses of up to $100 million. However, when a company has up to 80 million current customers, former customers, employees and investors to notify, this amount may not be enough. [More]

Is Modern Linux Becoming Too Complex?

Slashdot, 11 Feb 2015 – Debian developer John Goerzen asks whether Linux has become so complex that it has lost some of its defining characteristics. “I used to be able to say Linux was clean, logical, well put-together, and organized. I can’t really say this anymore.” [More]

Artificial Intelligence: Reality or Science Fiction?

Armstrong, 11 Feb 2015 – People like Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk are worried about what might happen as a result of advancements in AI. They’re concerned that robots could grow so intelligent that they could independently decide to exterminate humans. And if Hawking and Musk are fearful, does this mean you probably should be too? [More]

Our Fear of Artificial Intelligence (MIT Technology Review)

CrowdStrike’s 2014 Global Threat Report released

CrowdStrike, 11 Feb 2015 – In 2014, it became abundantly clear that threat intelligence would provide the decisive advantage when protecting your network. Major cybercrime trends include the Gameover Zeus (GOZ) botnet takedown, how financial crime malware changed the threat landscape, and why point-of-sale (POS) malware became increasingly prevalent. [More]

Facebook Unveils Tool For Sharing Data On Malicious Botnets

Wired, 11 Feb 2015ThreatExchange, a set of application programming interfaces, or APIs, lets disparate companies trade information about the latest online attacks. Built atop the Facebook Platform – the standard set of tools for coding applications atop the company’s worldwide social network — ThreatExchange is already used by Facebook and a handful of other companies, including Tumblr, Pinterest, Twitter, and Yahoo. [More]

New agency to sniff out threats in cyberspace

Washington Post, 10 Feb 2015 – The Obama administration is establishing a new agency to combat the deepening threat from cyberattacks, and its mission will be to fuse intelligence from around the government when a crisis occurs. The agency is modeled after the National Counterterrorism Center. [More]

Buyers seeking Anthem data on underground forums

SC Mag, 6 Feb 2015 – Not long after managed health care company Anthem announced its massive breach late on Wednesday, buyers took to underground forums and marketplaces to request the data that was accessed in the attack. [More]

From Q3 to Q4 2014, 90% increase in global DDoS attacks observed

SC Mag, 30 Jan 2015 – In the final quarter of 2014, enterprises around the globe were targeted with an influx of distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, which topped even experts’ expectations for the period – a season typically rife with such attacks. [More]

With a Few Bits of Data, Researchers Identify ‘Anonymous’ People

New York Times, 29 Jan 2015 – A group of data scientists analyzed credit card transactions made by 1.1 million people in 10,000 stores over a three-month period. The data set contained details including the date of each transaction, amount charged and name of the store. Although the information had been “anonymized” by removing personal details like names and account numbers, the uniqueness of people’s behavior made it easy to single them out. [More]

Rooting Out Malware With a Side-Channel Chip Defense System

IEEE Spectrum, 27 Jan 2015 – The world of malware has been turned on its head this week, as a company in Virginia has introduced a new cybersecurity technology that at first glance looks more like a classic cyberattack. The idea hatched by PFP Cybersecurity is taken from the playbook of a famous cryptography-breaking scheme called the side channel attack. All malware, no matter the details of its code, authorship, or execution must consume power. As PFP has found, the signature of malware’s power usage looks very different from the baseline power draw of a chip’s standard operations. [More]

Heartbleed Alert: Vulnerability Persists

GovInfoSecurity, 22 Jan 2015 – The Heartbleed bug remains present on about 250,000 servers and other systems that connect to the Internet, according to information security research firm Errata Security. [More]

Data center hunger fuels Ethernet market (25/50 Gbps)

Register, 21 Jan 2015 – Market research outfit Infonetics reckons the data centre Ethernet market is set for a shake-up as 25 Gbps and 50 Gbps drive the migration from 10 Gbps products. Reporting on third quarter sales from 2014, the company’s Data Center Network Equipment report says with Broadcom set to ship its 25G and 50G silicon, it’s vendors are pushing ahead with product development ahead of IEEE standardisation. [More]

93% of US Companies Feel Vulnerable to Insider Threats

Info Security Magazine, 21 Jan 2015 – According to Vormetric’s 2015 Insider Threat Report, conducted in tandem with Ovum, organizations increasingly have warranted concerns about the number and types of employees who have access to sensitive data. More than half (59%) of US respondents believe privileged users pose the most threat to their organization. [More]

Bahraini dissident exposes advanced state-sponsored ‘Finfisher’ malware

Verge, 21 Jan 2015 – One day in 2011, Moosa opened the Facebook Messenger app on his iPhone. What he saw was chilling: someone else typing under his name to an activist friend of his in Bahrain. Whoever it was kept posing personal questions prodding for information, and Moosa watched unfold right before eyes. [More]

How NSA Hacked North Korean Hackers

Gov Info Security, 21 Jan 2015 – The U.S. government’s attribution of the Sony Pictures Entertainment hack attack to North Korea stems, in part, from the U.S. National Security Agency having infected a significant number of North Korean PCs with malware, which the intelligence agency has been using to monitor the country’s hacking force. [More]

Stopping Hardware Trojans in Their Tracks

IEEE Spectrum, 20 Jan 2015 – A hardware Trojan is exactly what it sounds like: a small change to an integrated circuit that can disturb chip operation. With the right design, a clever attacker can alter a chip so that it fails at a crucial time or generates false signals. Or the attacker can add a backdoor that can sniff out encryption keys or passwords or transmit internal chip data to the outside world. [More]

Encryption, Privacy, National Security, and Dr. Seuss

IEEE Spectrum, 20 Jan 2015 – Obama indicated that he believes Silicon Valley companies want to solve this problem because “they’re patriots.” An interesting statement, given that just a few months ago, Silicon Valley companies were being criticized by U.S. government agencies for adding automatic encryption to smart phones — a move the government sees as not so patriotic. The latest software released for Android and Apple phones and pads automatically encrypts user data, and the companies said they are not keeping a master key, so they can’t help the government get into user data, even if they want to. [More]

Obama’s cyber-security proposals fall short

Intercept, 20 Jan 2015 – The State of the Union address President Obama delivers tonight will include a slate of cyber proposals crafted to sound like timely government protections in an era beset by villainous hackers. But if you cut through the spin, it turns out that the steps Obama is proposing would likely erode, rather than strengthen, information security for citizens and computer experts trying to protect them. [More]

Healthcare breaches need a cure for human errors

CSO Online, 19 Jan 2015 – The biggest risk to increasingly digitized Personal Health Information (PHI) is not a cyber attack. It is human error. That is the conclusion of numerous studies and surveys. [More]

Malware Could Steal Data from iPhones Using Siri

IEEE Spectrum, 16 Jan 2015 – A pair of computer scientists based in Europe have found a security vulnerability in the iPhone 5 series of smartphones that could be exploited by malicious software and compromise a user’s personal information. And the gatekeeper that makes this possible is Siri [More]

US, UK to stage joint cyber ‘war games’ to ramp up cyberdefenses

Stars and Stripes, 15 Jan 2015 – The United States and the U.K. will stage cyber “war games” together, starting this year, to boost both countries’ resistance to cyberattacks, Britain’s government said. The two Western powers have also agreed to launch a joint “cyber cell” to share information on cyberthreats, as both countries seek to ramp up their cyberdefenses in the wake of alarming attacks. [More]

Windows 7 exits mainstream support: What you need to know

PCWorld, 12 Jan 2015 – Yet another end is nigh for Windows 7. After months of buildup — Microsoft killed standalone software sales of the operating system in October 2013, and Windows 7 consumer PCs stopped being manufactured in October 2014 — the venerable OS is finally exiting “mainstream support” on January 13, 2015. And for months now, the Web has been flooded with a wave of confused or downright fearmongering headlines and articles implying that Windows 7 is following Windows XP into the graveyard. It’s not. [More]

Malware coders adopt DevOps to target smut sites

Register, 12 Jan 2015 – Linux-served porn sites may offer devs more than they bargained for after villains behind one of 2014’s nastiest malware campaigns changed tactics to hit adult sites with stealthier wares. The Windigo campaign was revealed in March 2014 to have over the previous two years infected 25,000 Unix and Linux servers, with some 10,000 under active control including at the time. In a preview of the talk he will give at, ESET malware analyst Olivier Bilodeau said the malware writers had infected porn sites after Windigo was outed. [More]

DHS and GSA Should Address Cyber Risk to Building and Access Control Systems

USGAO, 12 Jan 2015 – DHS lacks a strategy that: (1) defines the problem, (2) identifies the roles and responsibilities, (3) analyzes the resources needed, and (4) identifies a methodology for assessing this cyber risk. GSA has not fully assessed the risk of building control systems to a cyber attack in a manner that is consistent with the Federal Information Security Management Act of 2002 (FISMA) or its implementation guidelines. [More]

Microsoft calls for better vulnerability disclosure

Microsoft TechNet, 11 Jan 2015 – This is a time for security researchers and software companies to come together and not stand divided over important protection strategies, such as the disclosure of vulnerabilities and the remediation of them. In terms of the software industry at large and each player’s responsibility, we believe in Coordinated Vulnerability Disclosure (CVD). This is a topic that the security technology profession has debated for years. [More]

CryptoWall ransomware variant has new defenses

CIO, 8 Jan 2015 – CryptoWall, one of a family of malware programs that encrypts files and demands a ransom from victims, has undergone a revamp that is frustrating security researchers. Dell SecureWorks estimated in August 2014 that CryptoWall had infected 600,000 computers in the previous six months, netting as much as $1 million in ransoms. [More]

Microsoft’s advance security notification service no longer publicly available

ZDnet, 8 Jan 2015 – Microsoft is “evolving” its Advance Notification Service in a way that will make its advance security update information available only to customers with paid Premier support contracts and organizations “involved in its security programs.” The change means the Advance Notification Service (ANS) is no longer going to be publicly available. [More]


Written by Doug Vitale

March 15, 2015 at 1:41 PM

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