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The Romanian hacker known as "Guccifer," Marcel Lazar Lehel, is serving a seven-year prison sentence for numerous cybercrime-related charges. Prior to his arrest, the hacker became increasingly paranoid, even smashing his PC hard drive and mobile phone, as an international manhunt for the brash self-taught cybercriminal was underway.
"I was expecting them, but the shock was still very big for me," the hacker recently said. "It is hard to be a hacker, but even harder to erase your tracks."
After being sentenced in Romania, the hacker was also indicted in the United States, but extradition still seems unlikely at this point in time. Rather than rely on malware and social engineering attacks, Lazar used patience and trial and error while guessing correct passwords to compromise Romanian politician Corina Cretu, former US President George W. Bush, and Colin Powell.
The FBI is aware of state-sponsored cyberattacks, with a large volume of attacks blamed on the Chinese and Russian governments, but finding ways to arrest and prosecute hackers overseas is difficult. Companies are struggling to keep their networks secure, as more employees and customers are at risk of data breaches with these groups evolving into better organized, well-funded cybercriminals.
"Since cybercrime is not found in only one country and is globally dispersed, law enforcement agencies must work together on identifying and arresting the actors perpetrating the crimes," a Special Agent from the FBI recently said during a webinar. "The biggest challenge is when these actors live in countries where the cybercrime laws are not distinct, or in some cases non-existent. There have been cases where these actors have traveled through cooperative regions of the world and arrests have been made."
Realistically, many of the state-sponsored cybercriminals will remain out of the reach of the FBI - and other Western European governments - but China, Russia, and select other countries are the largest perpetrators of attacks.
Apple hasn't heard reports of any users that have been compromised by the "Masque Attack," but cybersecurity experts are still asking Apple engineers to develop new protections to ensure enterprise users are more secure.
"We designed OS X and iOS with built-in security safeguards to help protect customers and warn them before installing potentially malicious software," an Apple spokesman recently said. "We're not aware of any customers that have actually been affected by this attack."
Cybercriminals want to hijack OS X and iOS users - and have largely struggled to find security loopholes - but are increasing their efforts into malware development.
Airplane flights have given the US Department of Justice (DoJ) the perfect opportunity to snoop on American citizens with a custom surveillance program operated by the US Marshals Service. The covert program originally started in 2007 and uses "dirtboxes," portable cell towers, that can secretly collect identity and phone locations on subscribers.
The flights leave from five different airports across the United States, and can snoop on thousands of citizens during any given flight. Specific details regarding the program remain unclear, but the US Marshals conduct these missions "on a regular basis" - and not surprisingly, the DoJ is refusing to comment. The phones are in continuous communication with local cell towers, providing a great opportunity to snoop while being discreet.
Following former NSA contractor Edward Snowden's mass surveillance disclosures, American citizens have become more concerned of government spying.
The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is reportedly speaking with Apple regarding privacy of health data that is gathered by the HealthKit framework, which will also be applicable to the upcoming Apple Watch wearable. Apple's HealthKit allows patients to control how medical information is used via mobile health apps, and the FTC has taken great interest in the Apple Watch.
Apple spokesperson Trudy Muller noted that the Silicon Valley company continues to work with government oversight bodies to ensure patient privacy is secured - and with no confirmation of an official FTC investigation - Apple is reportedly preparing just in case a future problem arises.
It's not surprising to hear US regulators are interested in HealthKit - and other similar medical-based applications - which will become more common place in the coming years.
Cybersecurity experts continue to have concerns over state-sponsored hacking activity, with China and Russia typically blamed for organized cyberattacks. There were a number of significant data breaches throughout 2014, and it would appear many of them were conducted by state-sponsored hacking programs orchestrated by organized, knowledgeable computer specialists.
Following troubling news that Chinese-sponsored hackers breached the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), there has been more attention on hackers that are well-paid and well-organized.
"Whether or not China perpetrated this particular hack or not, the fact remains that nation states are sometimes our enemy," said Robert Twitchell, Jr., President and CEO of Dispersive Technologies, in a statement. "Many of them, including China and Russia, will engage in hacking to steal corporate secrets (for economic advantage), military secrets (for national defensive AND offensive purposes), to embarrass the US and show their technical superiority, and to divert our attention from other activities."
Small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are becoming aware that their employees pose a significant threat to cybersecurity, as attacks begin to ramp up attacks on companies. To make matters worse, many SMBs either don't have IT security staff - or an overwhelmed IT manager - unable to ensure employees are avoiding potential security threats.
It's true that cybercriminals are finding new methods to attack business workers, including using social engineering tactics to trick them into clicking fraudulent links, turning over login and password credentials, or installing malware. Many companies struggle to properly teach their employees on better security practices, such as accurately identifying and deleting phishing emails, reusing passwords, and other common behaviors that lead to major security risks.
Here is what Tom Smith, SVP of CloudEntr, which sells password protection to companies: "The employee factor is huge. For most companies it's the single biggest exposure point."
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has received a letter from 19 automakers stepping up to promise new efforts to keep customer data secure. The 13-page statement outlines how automakers will keep customer privacy secure, especially as cybersecurity experts are concerned hackers will be able to compromise onboard vehicle computer systems.
The following automakers are some of the companies supporting the effort: BMW, the Fiat Chrysler Automobile's Chrysler Group, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Toyota, Volkswagen.
"As modern cars not only share the road but will in the not too distant future communicate with one another, vigilance over the privacy of our customers and the security of vehicle systems is an imperative," said John Bozzella, president of Global Automakers.
BlackBerry has announced a new corporate partnership with Samsung, providing mobile security software on Samsung smartphones and tablets. During a presentation in San Francisco, BlackBerry CEO John Chen, who has been at the company for one year, the company again reaffirmed its efforts to create enterprise-focused partnerships.
"This isn't a concession of defeat as much as it's a concession to reality - most people aren't going to choose BlackBerry devices and so BlackBerry needs to find a way to make its management solutions relevant beyond its own devices," said Jan Dawson, Jackdaw Research principal, when discussing the news. "BlackBerry's handset business is a tiny fraction of what it once was, and that's not going to change whatever happens."
BlackBerry still has a strong portfolio of enterprise-based software and technology - and instead of trying to cram them onto its own devices - looks for business partnerships with rivals. Years ago it would have been an impossible scenario, but as BlackBerry's smartphone market share drops, it only makes sense that the company wants to ensure it can find new ways to stay relevant.
The use of Near Field Communication (NFC) payments continue to expand, but cybercriminals are finding security bugs they can exploit as they try to hijack smartphones. During the Mobile Pwn2Own competition sponsored by Hewlett-Packard in Tokyo, Japan, security experts showed their abilities to compromise devices.
Eight devices, including the Apple iPhone, BlackBerry Z30, Google Nexus 7 and Amazon Fire phone were the targets of focus - and five teams were able to use security bugs to compromise devices, with three teams using NFC exploits to hijack devices. The LG Nexus 5, Amazon Fire phone, iPhone 5S and Galaxy S5 were compromised - and now the phone manufacturers have been informed of the security problems, so they can create security patches.
NFC technology is common place in the United States and Western Europe, with most smartphones featuring NFC - and as Apple Pay and other mobile payments continue to expand - these types of security exploits need to be quickly addressed.