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Once again, I get to be the bearer of bad news in order to keep you, our reader, safe. This time I bring news of a new malware that is going around dubbed "ransomware" due to the fact it locks up your computer until you pay the ransom amount demanded. This isn't a completely new idea, but this is a new strain and variation.
This latest campaign is mainly targeting the UK and a few other European countries and claims that illegally downloaded music has been found on the computer. Due to this illegal material, the malware claims that "to unlock your computer and to avoid other legal consequences, your are obligated to pay a release fee of 50 pounds."
The malware was spotted by security watch blog abuse.ch. According to them, the malware is delivered through an exploit known as "Blackhole." The ransomware also carries a payload of Aldi Bot which steals banking information. The message to take away here is to keep all your browsers and their add-ons up to date, as this is how Blackhole functions. Anti-virus isn't a bad idea either.
This year, so far, has not exactly been a stunning display for Macs. Between the Flashback malware and now this, it really shows just how weak the security of Mac OSX is. The latest blunder by Apple and its security team is that they turned on a debug log file which stores the user's password outside of the encrypted area.
If you were using FileVault prior to upgrading to Lion, it may be time to think about changing your passwords as this would affect you. FileValut 2 users (whole drive encryption) are not affected by this accident. Additionally, if you have Time Machine backups, the plaintext log file has stored your password for the long term.
Security researcher David Emery explains:
This is worse than it seems, since the log in question can also be read by booting the machine into firewire disk mode and reading it by opening the drive as a disk or by booting the new-with-LION recovery partition and using the available superuser shell to mount the main file system partition and read the file. This would allow someone to break into encrypted partitions on machines they did not have any idea of any login passwords for.
I'm sure there will be plenty of people who get up in arms over this, but I tend to agree. Apple is years behind Microsoft in terms of security because they have never had to worry about it since no one ever bothered to write malware or viruses for Macs due to their small market share. As it has increased, Macs has become a more attractive target.
Eugene Kaspersky, CEO of the influential Kaspersky security firm said:
For many years I've been saying that from a security point of view there is no big difference between Mac and Windows. It's always been possible to develop Mac malware, but this one was a bit different. For example it was asking questions about being installed on the system and, using vulnerabilities, it was able to get to the user mode without any alarms.
Several security breaches have brought Mac security to the attention of the public and Apple will have a bit of a public relations crisis on their hands if they continue. One in five Mac computers carry Windows malware but only 2.7% have Mac OS X malware. Kaspersky says "cyber criminals have now recognised that Mac is an interesting area. Now we have more, it's not just Flashback or Flashfake. Welcome to Microsoft's world, Mac. It's full of malware."
Most people think Macs are safe, and it's definitely a decision that sways some people when purchasing their latest kit. But, according to Sophos, one in five Macs actually harbors some kind of Windows-orientated malware.
The company looked at results over seven days from 100,000 Apple machines using its free anti-virus program, with 20-percent having one or more instances of Windows-based malware. Sophos have warned of this before, where last year they tested 50 USB drives lost in public. To their surprise, as well as mine, two thirds of these were infected. That's 33-percent! Seven of these owners of lost USB flash drives owned a Mac.
In their latest study, Sophos found that just 2.7-percent of the infected Macs actually contained harmful malware, with 75-percent of it being Flashback variants. Of the 20-percent harboring Windows malware, 12.2-percent carried Bredo, a three-year-old Trojan. Sophos does note that some machines contain malware samples that go back to 2007. Sophos have said the following:
A second Mac OSX Trojan has been discovered, but is likely not to be as widespread as the Flashback Trojan due to the process by which it infects the computer. As opposed to the Flashback Trojan which could be caught simply by surfing the internet, this new Trojan requires users to download a malformed Word doc.
Similar to the Flashback Trojan, this new Trojan requires no entering of a username and password so it could catch Mac users off guard. This Trojan should be less widespread due to the fact that users have to download a malformed Word document file. Once opened, it exploits Word and opens a backdoor for hackers to steal information or install further code.
The security vulnerability is actually pretty old. It comes from June 2009, so as long as you keep your Microsoft software up to date, you should be safe from this Trojan. With all of the recent outbreaks of Trojans, it won't surprise me if they start coming more frequently with more capabilities to do destructive things.
These recent Trojans underline the fact that Mac OSX does need some sort of good virus protection as well as security updates. Previously they weren't needed because people didn't waste time writing malicious code for 5% of the computer population. But, as the market share has increased and security updates haven't, Mac OSX has become a more inviting platform to write malicious code for.
Back in June, 2010, the Iranian nuclear program was hit with a massive work that caused the setback at one of the nuclear refinement factories. No one really knew how the virus got into the nuclear factory, but most speculated that it was a government operation. It has now come to light that the virus was implanted by an Israeli proxy who used a corrupt "memory stick.32."
Former and serving US intelligence officials stated that these proxies have been instrumental in assassinating Iran's nuclear scientists to continue to delay the Iranian nuclear program. These same sources said that they most likely used a person on the ground, an insider, to target weak spots of the system, rather than wait for the program to spread.
In addition to this virus, Israel has been doing targeted killings of Iranian nuclear scientists for 10 years. This has been a completely separate operation without any US involvement. The Stuxnet worm, however, was a joint US-Israel effort. This just continues to show that the easiest way to hack a system is to have physical access.
Researchers have found and released two exploits that are similar to the Stuxnet worm that attacked nuclear centrifuges in Iran. These two exploits are capable of being used to damage critical infrastructure, such as refineries or factories. The exploits operate on the same piece of hardware, but have two different outcomes.
The first method is just sending a "stop" command which causes the piece of hardware to stop its functions thus shutting down whatever the piece of hardware is responsible for doing. The second method is much more dangerous. Instead of just stopping or shutting down the factory, this exploit can be used to cause damage.
This exploit involves downloading the ladder logic that is currently on the PLC. It is analyzed so that it can be understood what the device is doing. A modified ladder logic is then uploaded which automatically overwrites the current logic on the device. Both exploits use the fact that the actual PLC device doesn't have any authentication. If you can talk to it, you can write to it.
Once again, I get to be the bearer of bad news just to keep you, our reader, safe. Facebook's Mobile app for iOS and Android store your login information in a plaintext file that doesn't expire until the year 4001. The Facebook .plist file where your login data is stored could easily be swiped by a USB connection or via malicious apps.
Gareth Wright, a U.K.-based app developer for Android and iOS, is the discoverer of this bug. He discovered it after poking around in the application directories using the free tool iexplorer. He first found a plaintext Facebook Access token that was stored by DrawSomething and was able to query all of his data.
He then took a look at Facebook's directory where he found the .plist in question. He passed this file over to his friend and fellow blogger who, in the next few minutes, started posting status updates, sending private messages, and even liking websites. In other words, he had full control over the account.
Facebook is currently working on a fix, but there is no ETA. Additionally, other apps who use Facebook Access Tokens need to encrypt those as well. This is just another reason to be careful when selecting apps or plugging your device into a shared PC. Getting Facebook "jacked" just became real.
The group that everyone has secretly been cheering for has a new branch in China. An Anonymous China Twitter account was created late last month and endorsed by the official Anonymous account. Shortly after all of this, they went to work. Now hundreds of Chinese government, corporation, and other websites have been hacked.
A Pastebin post explains why they are doing this:
Hello, we are Anonymous.
All these years the Chinese Government has subjected their people to unfair laws and unhealthy processes.
People, each of you suffers from tyranny of that regime.
Fight for justice, fight for freedom, fight for democracy!
In the defaces and leaks in this day, we demonstrate our revolt to the Chinese system. It has to stop! We aren't asking you for nothing, just saying to protest, to revolt yourself, to be the free person you always want to be! So, we are writing this message to tell you that you should protest, you should revolt yourself protesting and who has the skills for hacking and programming and design and other "computer things" come to our IRC: http://2.webchat.anonops.com/ channel: #GlobalRevolution .
We are Anonymous.
We are Legion.
We do not forgive.
We do not forget.
A new project that has been launched on Kickstarter wants to give privacy back to the users of social networks and the internet in general. Pretty much where ever you go on the internet right now, anything you post is tracked, and often sold, to the highest bidder. This is one form of monetization of the internet.
Sean McGregor, a computer scientist at Oregon State University, is Priv.ly's creator and lead developer. Priv.ly is an open-source project and allows a user to encrypt any message they post in basically any text box on the web. How it works is that the message is sent to Priv.ly to be encrypted. Eventually, it will simply be a peer-to-peer connection.
This creates a link to the message that can only be viewed by the people that the message is intended for when encrypted. Then, instead of posting the actual message to where ever your'e posting, you post a link to the Priv.ly message instead. The only visible data is the link to Priv.ly. So, maybe I should start encrypting these news posts!