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Cybercriminals are becoming more brazen about their cybercriminal activities, boasting on social media, and offering custom wares on underground forums. It's also possible to visit these forums to recruit cyber mercenaries to conduct hacking behavior and create malware to customers willing to pay for their services.
Tools available for purchase include some of the following: keyloggers, print screen stealers, webcam stealer, firewall bypasses, spam email dispatchers, remote logins, and similar technologies.
"Offering cybercrime software tools for sale is not new," a May 2014 malware report from RSA noted. "However, advertising them out on the open web and social networking sites like Facebook is quite unusual. This particular software tool author does not seem to be afraid or concerned about exposing his software or his email addresses to the general public. Such behavior goes against the trend of pushing cybercriminal activity further underground as has been witnessed by RSA over the last two years."
Governments and police authorities are cracking down on organized cybercrime groups operating botnets and other digital crime operations. Companies trying to stay safe from sophisticated attacks need to be aware of the tactics cybercriminals use, which largely depends on deception and exploiting users.
Botnets target a variety of different industries, but banks and financial intuitions must be aware of the growing risks their networks face.
"Deception is always the name of the game," said Joe Caruso, Global Digital Forensics (GDF) founder, in a press statement. "Whether it's a phishing email that's made to look like it's coming from a recognized and trustworthy source, with links to a fabricated website which can look quite convincing, or the evasion techniques malware uses to circumvent standard antivirus and antimalware solutions, the goal is to make you trust your eyes on face value."
At least 30 different Japanese government ministries and other organizations have faced cyberattack threats since May 2009, with many hijacked PCs and servers phoning home to Chinese-based servers. Japan is one of the most tech-savvy countries in the world, though is often overlooked in regards to cyberattacks that must be addressed. Much like other western countries, cybersecurity has become a major political talking point in Japan, in the country's effort to stay safe from espionage and theft.
Specifically, Japan must defend against a higher number threats from China and North Korea - and with China conducting cyberespionage operations against the United States and its partners, there is no surprise Japan is a popular target. The country saw 12.8 billion cyberattacks in 2013, according to the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT).
Japan also saw a lot of attacks from the United States, Russia and Brazil, including distributed denial of service (DDoS) and phishing attacks, along with network probes.
After a few road signs were hacked, the government is warning cities and highway operators using signs manufactured by Daktronics of possible cyberattacks. The United States Department of Homeland Security Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team (ICS-CERT) released a statement saying operators should prepare "defensive measures" against these types of attacks. The ICS-CERT team said hackers have published a guide on how to compromise Daktronics systems to alter the normal message.
"CIS believes it is likely that a small percent of Watch Dog players will experiment with compromising computers and electronic systems outside of game play," according to a recent report from the Center for Internet Strategy (CIS).
Years ago, vandals would write messages such as, "Warning, Zombies Ahead!" on road signs - and only small number of incidents have been reported. However, authorities were immediately concerned, because changing road signs can be a serious public safety issue, and the signs often help drivers deal with possible traffic and road issues.
Current Microsoft Windows XP users making tweaks to the registry to receive support for XP until April 9, 2019 was quickly discovered by Microsoft. A registry hack is available for both the 32-bit and 64-bit copies of XP, though Microsoft and security experts still recommend migrating to Windows 7 or 8/8.1.
The registry hack tricks traditional desktop versions of Windows XP into thinking it's really a copy of Windows Embedded POSReady 2009, a version of Windows designed for point-of-sale machines. However, Microsoft warns the security update won't make XP fully secure, and it's still advisable to upgrade to a newer OS.
"We recently became aware of a hack that purportedly aims to provide security updates to Windows XP customers," a Microsoft statement said. " The security updates that could be installed are intended for Windows Embedded and Windows Server 2003 customers and do not fully protect Windows XP customers. Windows XP customers also run a significant risk of functionality issues with their machines if they install these updates, as they are not tested against Windows XP."
Security experts continually warn users to choose strong passwords, but it appears hackers don't bother to use complicated passwords, either. Of the 2,000 passwords recently analyzed by security firm Avast, used by hackers to illegally access information, many of the passwords were saved in plain text. Many hackers used the terms "hack," "pass," "root," or "hax."
"When a hacker finds vulnerability in a website, [they]use a special file called a 'shell' to gain control over the website," said Antonin Hyza, AVAST virus lab analyst, in a statement to SCMagazine. "Avast detects shell as malware to help administrators identify infected websites. Those shells are usually protected by passwords so no other hacker could use it."
Just 10 percent of the passwords analyzed by Hyza are considered to be strong, with him recommending a password that is at least 10 characters long. Cybersecurity experts recommend how to select stronger passwords, with free online websites also testing how strong a password is.
When Target suffered a major data breach towards the end of 2013, security experts warned that other large companies would likely endure a similar style incident. Sure enough, eBay suffered a data breach that required all of its members to reset their passwords to try to remain secure. A previously released study found that 33 percent of customers would shop somewhere else if a retailer suffered a major data breach.
"When you lost a customer's trust it seems like it's pretty hard to win it back," said Jason Helmmann, host of the Business Take. However, Business Take panelist Daniel Kline had this to say: "There doesn't seem to be a loss of trust. It's almost like an accepted cost of doing business."
As consumers better understand the risks that these data breaches pose, it's possible they will be less forgiving following major incidents. eBay faces multiple investigations over the data breach, with states, and national governments wanting to hear how and why the data theft occurred.
Security firm KnowBe4 is so confident that its Kevin Mitnick Security Awareness series is so beneficial, the company will pay a ransom if a client is compromised due to employee error. The new generations of ransomware typically can slip by traditional anti-virus software, and end-users are responsible for accidentally installing software on work PCs. The security awareness training is ongoing and the KnowBe4 offer to pay ransoms via bitcoin is valid until June 30.
"Many employees take work home and access the network on personal laptops or devices shared with family members," said Stu Sjouwerman, KnowBe4 CEO, in a statement. " KnowBe4 recognizes the need to help users stay secure in a variety of environments and we offer our clients a separate Home Internet Security Course for their whole family as an extra bonus. We are so confident our training works, we'll pay your ransom in Bitcoin if you get hit with ransomware while you are a customer and your employees stepped through our training."
It's a bold decision by KnowBe4, as 234,000 people have been hit with some type of ransomware, such as CryptoLocker, CryptoDefense or CryptoBit, according to the FBI. These data breaches led to $20 million in ransom fees during a four-month span in 2013 alone, according to the report.
Cybercriminals trying to compromise users continued to find new and innovative ways to target unsuspecting users in April, launching malicious attachments and conducting well-coordinated phishing attacks, according to security company Kaspersky Lab.
Email and search engines were the most popular targets, accounting for 31.9 percent of attacks, with social media in second with 23.8 percent, and financial and payment organizations slotted in third with 13 percent. The most notable target in April was Chinese telecommunications company Tencent, with criminals seizing user logins and passwords.
"Last month, we saw a new wave of so-called pump and dump spam," said Tatyana Shcherbakova, Kaspersky Lab Senior Spam Analyst, in a press statement. " The scammers behind these mailings advertised offers to buy stock in a certain company at super low prices, which were allegedly meant to increase considerably in the near future. As a result, the demand for the stock in the company rose, the prices became artificially inflated - and the scammers would then sell off their stock in said company. The stock prices would then begin to fall, and the bamboozled investors were left with depreciated shares and lost their investments."
Marcel Lazar Lehel, operating under the hacker pseudonym "Guccifer," was convicted by a Romanian court and sentenced to serve four years in prison. Lehel has a day job serving as a cab driver, but his miscellaneous activities are what led him to be arrested in January - and already has a three-year suspended sentence that could force him to spend even more time in prison.
In late May, the hacker admitted to illegally accessing email accounts, targeting Romanian government officials, celebrities, and other well-known personalities. In addition, "Guccifer" targeted former U.S. President George W. Bush, along with several of Bush's family members, in his global hacking operation.
"The aggrieved parties Corina Cretu and George Cristian Maior did not turn into civil claimants ... the defendant is obliged to pay $3,400 in legal fees to the state," according to the Romanian government.