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The 'MiniDuke' hacker group are targeting governments and drug dealers, likely serving as cyber mercenaries working for a paid backer, using malware to compromise users. It's not uncommon to hear government departments, the private sector and public infrastructure being targeted, but focusing on drug dealers seems to be a newer twist.
A total of 23 countries were affected by MiniDuke, with an aim of plucking data and credential information - and the malware is evolving to now include commercial code, as it appears a subdivision could receive funds from law enforcement or rival criminal groups trying to steal drug-related information.
"They are more like underground cybercriminals than a typical nation state," said a Kaspersky Lab researcher. "This is what makes them stand out. They were collecting everything like emails, names, nicknames and handles."
Massachusetts resident Cameron Lacroix, 25, has been charged with attacking tech support company Zendesk, allegedly accessing the company's website in February 2013. Once he gained access, Lacroix reportedly disabled security features so he could view company customer information, U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag said.
Lacroix defaced Twitter feeds for two unidentified companies, after being able to export one million Twitter tech support tickets from Zendesk. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years along with a fine up to $250,000, plus restitution - with Zendesk and Twitter both suffering losses totaling more than $200,000. He also faces a separate federal charge for an unrelated crime.
The federal government has stepped up arrests against suspected hackers, but struggle to prevent the cyberattacks before they happen. However, prosecutors hope to send a message to hackers that they will be targeted and face prison time if convicted of cyber-related crimes.
Following a study of cyberattacks in Q1 2014, it looks like distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks actually dropped, while China remains the country with the largest amount of source attack traffic, the Akamai "State of The Internet Report" indicates. It's a welcome trend considering half of companies last year suffered at least one DDoS attack, with many companies unable to effectively defend against the attacks.
"This decrease accounted for the majority of the difference in attacks compared to previous quarters and might have had a more significant impact on the overall number of attacks if not for an increase in the number of attacks against public sector targets," said Martin McKeay, Akamai senior security advocate, in an interview with SC Magazine.
DDoS attacks remain an affordable, effective tool for cyberattackers trying to disrupt operations of companies and government networks. Almost 60 percent of companies note that DDoS attacks are near the top of the list among security threats, so defense strategy will continue to focus on how to defend against them.
At least one in five websites are blocked in the United Kingdom, with a growing number of legitimate websites getting caught up in the censorship, according to the Open Rights Group.
The Open Rights Grouped tried to access 100,000 websites with default filter settings - or "normal" filtering with nothing set as a default - and there were almost 20,000 different websites blocked. It's a frustrating system that leaves some websites, such as Sherights.com, a blog focusing on violence against women and LGBT rights, blocked and inaccessible.
"We've been surprised to find the default filtering settings are blocking around a fifth of the Alexa top 100K websites," said Jim Killock, ORG Executive Director, in a statement. "That's a lot more than porn, which accounts for around 4 percent of that list."
Following former NSA contractor Edward Snowden discussing surveillance activities by the NSA and its British counterpart, the GCHQ, a number of ISPs in the United States, United Kingdom, South Korea, Netherlands, Germany and Zimbabwe are targeting the GCHQ. Specifically, they say the spy agency used "malicious software" to compromise their networks while collecting data.
The GCHQ said online searches, which it considers "external communications" when routed overseas, don't require a warrant.
"Snowden's revelations have exposed GCHQ's view that independent operators like GreenNet are legitimate targets for Internet surveillance, so we could be unknowingly used to collect data on our users. We say this is unlawful and utterly unacceptable in a democracy," said Cedric Knight, from Dutch-based ISP, GreenNet.
Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden has greatly changed data security after disclosing major surveillance programs targeting U.S. citizens and foreign citizens. This has caused such a shakeup that physical location of data will become irrelevant moving forward, with organizations using a combination of different strategies to stay more secure, according to research firm Gartner.
Gartner lists the following types of data location: physical location, legal location, political location, and logical location. Companies trying to keep data secure will have to find ways to keep data offshore while ensuring encryption keys and other tools are located elsewhere, for example - critically important with cloud computing becoming more important.
"Business leaders must make the decision and accept the residual risk, balancing different types of risk: ongoing legal uncertainty, fines or public outrage, employee dissatisfaction or losing market share due to a lack of innovation, or overspending on redundant or outdated it," according to Gartner.
The Houston Astros baseball team playing in the Major League Baseball (MLB) league recently suffered a data breach, with information posted online. Some of the information includes private conversations related to possible trades with other teams, including the New York Mets and Miami Marlins.
After the team discovered it was compromised, officials alerted the MLB and a FBI-led investigation is currently underway.
"While it does appear that some of the content released was based on trade conversations, a portion of the material was embellished or completely fabricated," according to a statement released by the team.
Norway has conducted e-voting tests during local and national elections in 2011 and 2013, with the government pulling the blog, citing voter fears. During a test run in 2013, 70,000 Norwegians tested e-voting - but there was concern because prior to the election, when the encryption software was compromised.
There was a political controversy and the e-voting process didn't generate additional interest to draw voters to the polls, according to the government. A small number of voters, just 0.75 percent of all voters, managed to double vote due to a glitch in the system.
"In order to push both the trustworthiness and transparency of the procedure, the source code for this year's e-voting system was put into the public domain, and anyone can now download and study the source code used from the e-voting project webpage," said Stig Oyvann.
Western energy companies are under attack by cybercriminals located in Eastern Europe, compromising industrial control system software updates. The attackers, known as "Dragonfly," are able to spy on energy sector targets, and could have damaged or disrupted energy service to customers, according to security firm Symantec.
In addition, Dragonfly utilizes a large library of malware and other cyberattack tools capable of causing damage to targets. Along with infecting industrial control systems, the group is responsible for sending out spam emails to target select companies. The U.S. government wants a stronger stance on cybersecurity, and often points towards the financial and energy infrastructure as two sectors that need to adhere to strict security protocols.
"This campaign follows in the footsteps of Stuxnet, which was the first known major malware campaign to target ICS systems," according to the Symantec report. "While Stuxnet was narrowly targeted at the Iranian nuclear program and had sabotage as its primary goal, Dragonfly appears to have a much broader focus with espionage and persistent access as its current objective with sabotage as an optional capability if required."
Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden generated anger among politicians and military leaders when he revealed organized surveillance programs. However, it's not causing the new head of the National Security Agency (NSA) to panic, saying the damage done is manageable and hasn't led him to believe "the sky is falling."
When responding to damage caused by Snowden, the new director, Adm. Michael S. Rogers, said the risk was manageable: "You have not heard me as the director say, 'Oh, my God, the sky is falling.' I am trying to be very specific and very measured in my characterizations."
Similar to a handful of lawmakers, they claim Snowden's information has led to terrorists changing tactics, but refuse to indicate which groups have altered their tactics - while citizens remain frustrated about such organized snooping practices.