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Shortly after reports surfaced accusing Apple iPhones of posing a threat to Chinese national security, the U.S. company rebutted charges lobbied by state media. The iPhone location-tracking function is unable to identify the phone owner's activities, and instead is utilized to help speed up applications based on phone owner location.
"Apple has never worked with any government agency from any country to create a backdoor in any of our products or services," an Apple statement claims. "We have also never allowed access to our servers. Apple does not track users' locations - Apple has never done so and has no plans to ever do so."
China has notoriously made it difficult for western companies to do business in the surging market - pressuring companies into changing features, adhering to sometimes questionable guidelines, and doing little to prevent intellectual property theft. However, companies are determined to cater to Chinese users, with a large number of first-time smartphone owners.
If you think that using the factory reset function on your smartphone will clear your data, you're in for a pleasant surprise! Czech-based security company Avast purchased several phones via eBay to evaluate if they can extract data from it, especially the ones that had a factory reset done by the previous owner.
The factory reset is supposed to be a one-touch feature which should secure erase all the data, settings and other user-related details from the photo and return it to a 'rolled out of the factory' state. But the experiment by Avast proved that this is not entirely true.
The company conducted this experiment by purchasing 20 smartphones from eBay. The experts at Avast were able to extract data from these smartphones, though the company didn't disclose if that was the case with all the smartphones. The experts were able to extract 40,000 photos, out of which 1,500 of those were family photos and others included selfies with their manhood.Other data included emails, text messages, Google search history and even browser history. Avast also added that the factory reset feature does not wipe out the data from the phone. Rather, it only erases the index information.
Symantec is working with the Chinese government so a reported ban of its software is lifted by the Ministry of Public Security, according to Chinese media. Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden's disclosures of widespread surveillance activity has increased political tensions of cyberespionage between China and the United States.
The Ministry sent notices for department PCs to have pieces of Symantec software uninstalled, according to the China Daily news source. There is no official reasoning explaining why Symantec poses a security threat to China - and the company is discussing the problem with Beijing.
"Symantec takes the privacy and security of our customers' information very seriously and our products do not have so-called 'Data Theft Backdoors,'" said Colleen Lacter, Symantec spokesperson, in a recent statement. "We believe (this) is an insolated incident to the Ministry of Public Security."
Chinese state media said the Apple iPhone is a national security threat, citing the tracking ability of the popular smartphone, including its "Frequent Locations" function found in iOS 7.
Apple has worked diligently to build a strong following in China, a booming smartphone market, but has struggled against its rivals. China currently controls 6 percent of the Chinese smartphone market, with Samsung, Lenovo, Coolpad, Huawei, and Xiaomi ahead - but revenue from China is growing, so Apple will continue to promote iPhones there.
Washington and Beijing have an extremely touchy relationship, and cyberespionage and security issues are certainly complicated, with both sides accusing one another of surveillance techniques. Meanwhile, Apple has been criticized by Chinese state media and the government itself on several occasions, along with being criticized for not having good levels of customer service.
Romanian citizen Iulian Schiopu was sentenced to 45 months in prison for his role in a cybercrime operation related to phishing. Schiopu and his accomplices reportedly affected thousands of debit and credit cards of U.S. banking customers.
Stolen information was stored in shared email accounts, with names, addresses, dates of birth, telephone numbers, and Social Security numbers at risk. The group became known in the United States because criminals in Romania were withdrawing money of U.S. bank account holders. So far in the investigation, more than 20 Romanian citizens have been arrested for their various roles in the phishing scheme.
Cybercriminals are able to launch a large amount of attacks with little risk of law enforcement interference, but the U.S. government is ramping up efforts to dismantle organized attack groups.
The rise in cyberattacks and digital threats forced business leaders to pay closer attention, and that means more job opportunities. More than half of CEOs will include some type of "digital" leader by the end of 2015, according to research firm Gartner. Moving ahead, one-third of large organizations participating in digital business will have some type of "digital risk" officer.
It's a complicated time with cybercriminals finding great success compromising companies, stealing employee and customer personal data. IT security teams are suffering while trying to keep information secure, the digital risk officers will be tasked with being business savvy and have appropriate knowledge on how to address digital risk issues.
"Digital risk officers will require a mix of business acumen and understanding with sufficient technical knowledge to assess and make recommendations for appropriately addressing digital business risk," said Paul Proctor, Gartner VP and distinguished analyst. "Many traditional security officers will change their titles to digital risk and security officers, but without material change in their scope, mandate, and skills they will not fulfill this role in its entirety."
Chinese hackers successfully breached a U.S. government network that includes personal data of federal employees and their security clearance applications. The incident took place in March and specifically targeted the Office of Personnel Management, and files included everything from financial data to medical records and other sensitive information.
It's troublesome how easily foreign hackers are able to breach networks, especially when they contain personal data. An unnamed Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official didn't announce that type of data was taken in the breach, but confirmed a security issue did occur.
"The administration has never advocated that all intrusions be made public," said Caitlin Hayden, Obama Administration spokesperson. "We have advocated that business that have suffered an intrusion notify customers if the intruder had access to consumers' personal information. We have also advocated that companies and agencies voluntarily share information about intrusions."
Two people with alleged ties to the Lecpetex botnet, compromising more than 250,000 computers to help mine for bitcoins, were arrested. Lecpetex brought infected PCs into the growing botnet, and compromised machines tried to infect machines using No. 1 social media website Facebook.
Facebook officials contacted Greek police and were able to identify multiple suspects allegedly involved in running the botnet.
"Late last year, our abuse-fighting teams started to see a distinct new botnet," Facebook said in a blog post. "Based on statistics released by the Greek Police, the botnet may have infected as many as 250,000 computers. In addition, the Lecpetex authors appeared to have a good understanding of anti-virus evasion because they made continuous changes to their malware to avoid detection."
The issues related to cybersecurity among utilities companies has a unique twist that sounds like something from a hacker movie made in Hollywood. A cyberattack to compromise a utility provider and demand cash ransom in exchange for access to the networks is possible if security measures aren't improved, according to Dr. Larry Ponemon, Ponemon Institute founder.
Ransomware attacks, made up of custom malware designed to encrypt files and interrupt business operations, is a successful technique that hackers from Eastern Europe and China have deployed. If altered to breach utility networks, the same type of attack might be extremely effective.
"With the increased convergence of cyber and physical world's, attacks are no longer limited to office computers and networks," said Steve Durbin, International Security Forum Managing Director, in a statement. "They can now have physical impact in the real-world."
The German government remains upset that the NSA snooped on German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other government leaders, requesting the top U.S. intelligence official in Germany to leave the country. It was an unexpected move by the German government, as the CIA official works at the U.S. embassy in Berlin - as parliamentary inquiries continue in Germany.
The German government wants to speak with Snowden, but the American turned down an in-person meeting that would have taken place in Russia. Even if German investigators are unable to chat with Snowden in the near future, there are obvious political tensions between Germany and the United States at the moment.
"The representative of the U.S. intelligence services as the Embassy of the United States of America has been requested to leave Germany," said Steffen Seibert, a Germany government spokesperson, in a statement. "The Federal Government takes these incidents very seriously. It remains vital for Germany, in the interest of the security of its citizens and its forces abroad, to cooperate closely and trustfully with western partners, in particular with the USA. To do so, however, mutual trust and openness are necessary. The Federal Government continues to be ready for this and expects the same from its closest partners."