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The United States and British governments were left angry and embarrassed after former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed mass surveillance programs aimed at citizens and foreign nationals. However, there are other governments accused of "rubber-stamping" mass surveillance programs, according to the UN human rights watchdog.
The constant stream of new revelations shows how disturbingly little we really know about the precise nature of surveillance," said Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Pillay also said Snowden should be appreciated for his decision to publish details regarding NSA and GCHQ spying behaviors.
Although many users are upset with government spying, with Pilay's office saying it's "neither necessary nor proportionate," it's a common practice with communications taking place over mobile phones and via the Internet. The more information that is collected, however, the more governments need to try to justify the behavior - and to limit it to avoid too much personal intrusion.
Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden has revealed widespread spying and surveillance, but there has been a large amount of other revelations made by the American. Snowden recently said it's not uncommon for NSA workers to share "intimate nude photos of someone in a sexually compromising situation," including intercepted sexts sent among phone users.
"You've got enlisted guys 18-22 years old," Snowden said. They've suddenly been thrust into a position of extraordinary responsibility where they now have access to all your private records. During the course of their work, they stumble across something that is completely unrelated to their work in any sort of necessary sense, for example, an intimate nude photo of someone in a sexually compromising situation. But they're extremely attractive. So what do they do? They turn around in their char and show a coworker who says, 'Hey that's great. Send that to Bill down the way.' Then Bill sends it to George, who sends it to Tom."
An NSA official didn't deny the activities occurs, but said the organization "has zero tolerance for willful violations" of professional conduct and would address "credible allegations of misconduct." If true, it's not necessarily surprising to hear that this type of behavior happens, though certainly is inappropriate.
The highest ranking official of the United Nations humans rights department says former NSA contractor Edward Snowden should be celebrated and not hunted. The U.S. and British governments relying on mass surveillance is a "dangerous habit" with very little oversight, even following Snowden's whistleblowing activities.
Snowden is facing espionage charges in the United States, accused of theft of government property, wilful communication of classified communications and unauthorized communication of national defese information. If Snowden did return to the United States, he noted he's not necessarily afraid of a possible trip to Guantanamo Bay - but wants to face a jury trial - something that the federal government probably wouldn't agree to.
"Those who disclose human rights violations should be protected: we need them," said Navi Pillay, UN high commissioner for human rights, during a recent press conference. "I see some of it here in the case of Snowden, because his revelations go to the core of what we are saying about the need for transparency, the need for consultation. We owe a great deal to him for revealing this kind of information."
Hackers were enjoying the 2014 World Cup from Brazil, with cybercriminal activity dropping during the Germany-Argentina championship match, according to security company Imperva. Web attacks were higher during the quarterfinal and semifinal matches, however, but that traffic dropped during the finals.
Cybercriminals exploited security researchers distracted during the World Cup to launch attacks in an effort to compromise networks while no one was looking. Since the finals were on Sunday, that could have also led to a drop in hacker activity.
"We were surprised," noted Barry Shteiman, Imperva director of security strategy. "We thought that the attacks would be the same or even during the final. With a lot of attacks over the past few years... attackers [take advantage] of everyone turning from security operations to watching the game instead of the incoming attacks. They're not focused..."
Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden wants professionals to utilize data protection and encryption to communicate, and is reportedly working on some type of "encryption tools" to help protect sources. Remaining in Russia, with his asylum status extended, it's mainly unknown what the American has been doing with his spare time.
Snowden also is working on funding for the project, which will be used to keep communications between journalists and their anonymous sources secure from government spying.
"Journalists have to be particularly conscious about any sort of network signaling, any sort of connection, any sort of license-plate reading device that they pass on their way to a meeting point, any place they use their credit card, any place they take their phone, any email contact they have with the source because that very first contact, before encrypted communications are established, is enough to give it all away," Snowden recently said in an interview.
Suspected Russian hackers successfully breached NASDAQ in 2010, with malware reaching the company's servers. The FBI first noticed unusual network traffic originating from NASDAQ's systems in 2010, and the code was well written and designed to launch attacks.
Not surprisingly, Russian Embassy spokesperson Yevgeniy Khorishko said putting blame on Russia is "pure nonsense" and that the topic "is not even worth commenting on," though that is a typical response when Russia is blamed for cyberespionage efforts.
"We've seen a nation-state gain access to at least one of our stock exchanges, I'll put it that way, and it's not crystal clear what their final objective is," said Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI), in a statement. "The bad news of that equation is, I'm not sure you will really know until that final trigger is pulled. And you never want to get to that."
Compromised Japanese pornography websites are being used to share the Win32/Aibatook banking Trojan, designed to steal banking credential information and hosting provider account credentials. The Trojan monitors where users are going inside of Web browsers, redirects Web pages, and tracking data that is inputted into online forms, according to ESET researchers.
Despite the Trojan being identified late last year, cybercriminals updated it a few months ago to target Japanese banks and other companies. Microsoft Internet Explorer remains the most popular Web browser in Japan - and despite great security improvements than previous versions - vulnerabilities are still being found and exploited.
"The exploitation success ratio is probably high enough for the Aibatook's operators," said Joan Calvet, ESET malware researcher, in a statement to SCMagazine. "Using a more powerful exploit pack and targeting other Web browsers would be the next logical step for the operators in order to increase the number of potential victims."
The use of distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks by cybercriminals remains an effective and affordable strategy to compromise large targets. DDoS attacks topping 20Gbps during the first two quarters of 2014 doubled when compared to all four quarters of 2013 - and there have been more than 100 DDoS-related attacks with speeds of 100Gbps or higher so far.
Large-scale DDoS attacks are most worrisome for security experts, as thousands of compromised machines can flood targets with tremendous amounts of traffic. As more households have faster Internet service, the threat is becoming more complicated and difficult to properly prevent.
"The frequency of very large attacks continues to be an issue, and organizations should take an integrated, multi-layered approach to protection," said Darren Anstee, Arbor Networks Director of Solutions Architects, in a statement. "Even organizations with significant amounts of Internet connectivity can now see that capacity exhausted relatively easily by the attacks that are going on out there."
The wider adoption of 'smart' technology has presented cybercriminals with a unique opportunity to compromise emerging solutions that heavily rely on Internet connectivity. Both consumer and industrial smart technologies are becoming more common place, but security protocols are struggling to keep up at the moment.
The head of Recurity Labs, an IT security company based in Germany, noted it would have been possible for him to shut off the power, water and gas supply of the southern German town of Ettlingen. Using the utility network's IT grid, Felix Lindner and his team were able to gain control of its access grid, indicating how insecure critical infrastructure is at the moment.
"The smart metering system has been developed to provide security controls that mitigate the risks of security compromise," a British Department of Energy and Climate Change spokesperson told Reuters. "Smart metering system security uses international standards and common industry good practices, e.g. encryption of sensitive data, protection from viruses and malware, access control, tamper alerts on meters, two-party authorization of important messages to the meters and system monitoring."
A new form of malware dubbed 'ScarePakage' is targeting U.S. smartphone owners and can render devices inoperable, according to security firm Lookout. The mobile ransomware tricks users by claiming it's from the FBI, saying phone owners are being investigated for alleged crimes. Once a device is compromised, the ransomware demands "several hundred dollars" or the device will remain under control of ScarePakage.
The ScarePakage ransomware doesn't need root administrator access, and has been designed to be overly intrusive. It runs a Java TimerTask every 10 milliseconds to prevent any other applications or processes to shut down, and stops hijacked devices from going into sleep mode.
"Mobile ransomware in and of itself is a fairly new tactic from malware authors and this is one of the first we've seen targeting the U.S. specifically," said Jeremy Linden, Lookout Senior Security Product Manager, in a statement to TweakTown. "That said, we are less concerned about ScarePakage distributes itself and more concerned about how difficult to remove it is. Once the application has device administrator permissions, it is very hard to regain control of the device."