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Organized cybercriminals are targeting Eastern Bloc politicians and embassies, and it's still unknown who is behind the attacks, according to security firm Symantec. The attack began with a former Soviet Union country infected, which led to 60 other computers being compromised - and the infections spread throughout the rest of the year and into 2013.
"Because of the targets chosen and the advanced nature of the malware used, Symantec believes that a state-sponsored group was behind these attacks," according to Symantec. "The current campaign is the work of a well-resourced and technically competent attack group that is capable of penetrating many network defenses. It is focused on targets that would be of interest to a nation state, with spying and theft of sensitive data among its objectives."
There is growing concern of state-sponsored attacks against political rivals, with China and Russia typically blamed - but groups stemming from Iran and other foreign governments have stepped up their cyber initiatives to conduct cyberespionage.
Florida-based TotalBank is informing around 72,500 of its customers of a data breach that involves personal information ranging from names, banking information, account balances, PIN numbers, and possible Social Security numbers.
"An unauthorized third party" was able to compromise the TotalBank network, with bank officials notifying customers starting in early July. "The information did not include customer passwords or the type of information that would allow access to your bank account, which remains secure," said Luis de la Aguilera, TotalBank President and CEO.
There is a stronger call for the U.S. government to force banks - which already have stricter security protocols in place - to keep their customers safe. Cybercriminals find it extremely easy to sell and trade bulk information in organized underground forums.
California Governor Jerry Brown is now taking a look at the mandatory smartphone 'kill switch' bill after it was passed by the state legislature. If Brown approves the bill, all smartphone devices sold in the state following July 2015 must have some type of anti-theft technology.
"Our goal is to swiftly take the wind out of the sails of thieves who have made the theft of smartphones one of the most prevalent street crimes in California's biggest cities," noted Mark Leno (D - San Francisco), author of the controversial bill.
California's decision has become the strongest effort to clamp down on smartphone theft, which has led to robberies and crimes in metropolitan areas. Apple already has a kill switch option on its devices, so owners are able to remotely shut off phones. Meanwhile, Google and Microsoft are working on similar solutions for their devices.
Warplane manufacturer Northrop Grumman is offering British children the chance to learn cyber defence skills in UK schools, targeting those between 12- to 18 years old.
Northrap Grumman's program is dubbed CyberCenturion, and it will cater to any young person who wants to learn more about cyber security, including in the international arena. It's feared that there will be a skills gap if nothing is done to train young people in science and engineering, which the programme aims to address. It comes as part of the British government's Cyber Security Challenge UK, which seeks to promote cyber security particularly among young people through a series of competitions.
Those who do particularly well at certain competitions, such as checking virtual machines for vulnerabilities, could be offered an internship placement with Northrop Grumman. "The CyberCenturion competition will provide a way for young people interested in the world of cyber security to understand the cyber challenges of today, test their cyber defense skills and inspire them in their choice of career," the company's chief exec, Andrew Tyler, said.
The Blackphone was announced as a way for security conscious consumers to use their device in peace, without the fear of their communications being compromised - and it has now been 'hacked' at the Black Hat event in under five minutes.
@TeamAndIRC managed to gain root access to the Blackphone at the DefCon hacking conference within five minutes by going through the Android Debugging Bridge, and without using a bootloader to boot. Blackphone still seems to be solidly secure on the surface nonetheless, and now the company has responded to the discovery.
Blackphone said it is perhaps not as big of a disaster as it sounds: the company underplayed getting access through ADB, claiming it is just a part of the Android OS that the firm opted to turn off, and that a patch is on the way. But another vulnerability uncovered by TeamAndIRC, the company said in a blog post, is "accurate" - and a patch was released in three days of its initial discovery. Blackphone went on to congratulate the hacker for finding the bug.
Criminals that compromise networks and steal large amounts of information are finding easier and more organized methods to quickly get rid of the data. Data dumps are one of the most popular products found on these underground forums, where buyers and sellers communicate in an organized fashion similar to an official business from the legitimate world.
Many cybercriminal groups are trying to steal bulk data, such as the Target and eBay breach, looking to offload the information as quickly as possible. Using organized underground hacker forums, many based in Eastern Europe and China, they are able to sell and trade the data.
"When we think about the markets themselves they are organized in a unique fashion," said Tom Hold, Michigan State University associated professor specializing in cybercrime. "At the individual level, we're talking about a process where we're seeing peers and colleagues; at the formal forum level, we're seeing a more formal organization that takes place."
Cybersecurity experts Jakob Lell and Karsten Nohl have demonstrated a new vulnerability that makes it extremely difficult for users to defend against USB-based attacks. The current USB standard's vulnerability makes it hard to defend against attacks, even if manufacturers should begin developing additional security layers.
Specifically, empty USB flash drives can contain malware even if formatted - a troubling sign for many of the companies that rely on flash drives to transfer data.
"USB is ubiquitous across all devices," said Mike McLaughlin, First Base Technologies, in a statement to BBC. "It comes down to the same old saying - don't plug things in that you don't trust. Any business should always have policies in place regarding USB devices and USB drives. Businesses should stop using them if needed."
The high-profile security data breaches of Target and eBay, among others over the past year, caused alarm among security experts wanting to see better government intervention to prevent future problems.
Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden disclosing massive government surveillance angered some Black Hat users, but sophisticated malware used by China, Russia and other state-sponsored are of greater concern. Cyberespionage attacks continue to increase in an effort to steal government and corporate secrets, while IT staff struggle to keep up.
"Either software houses deliver quality and back it up with product liability, or they will have to let their users protect themselves," said Dan Geer, venture capital firm In-Q-Tel, as he spoke for himself during the event. "The current situation - users can't see whether they need to protect themselves and have no recourse to being unprotected - cannot go on."
Many people are very focused on security and keeping their communications private. Some of the focus on privacy and security came after Edward Snowden leaked documents to the world that showed the US government was capturing information on the internet from unencrypted websites.
Yahoo announced this week that users of its email service will have the option of encrypting emails sent from start to finish. The encryption will be available starting next year and will be enabled via a browser plug-in.
Yahoo's announcement comes only a short while after Google made a similar announcement. Yahoo says that it will bootstrap Google's code and that the Yahoo and Google encryption services will be compatible. Once the encryption is complete, the people will be able to send emails that only the intended recipient can read. Yahoo will use PGP encryption for its email.
When it comes to getting better rankings for their websites, you can bet many business users will do anything that Google tells them to. Google has a formula that it uses to determine the page raking for the sites that are returned in its listings when you type in a word or phrase.
Exactly what Google uses to rank the pages is a secret, but it will occasionally give site owners an idea what they need to do to get better rankings. Such is the case with an announcement made this week that involves a change to the formula used to rank pages online.
Google has said that web pages that automatically encrypt their services will get a ranking boost in the Google recommendation system. Google says for now the encryption will be a small factor in ranking, but the company says that it may put greater emphasis on encryption in the future. Sites that start with "https" are going to get rankings boost.