This week’s episode of Mr. Robot was an exciting one for us here at Avast – our product made an appearance on the show! In addition to the exploit Avast blocked, there were many other interesting hacks in this week’s episode, which I discussed with Avast security experts, Filip Chytry and Jiri Sejtko.
Minute 7:00: Elliot is in his apartment with Isaac and DJ. Something about Vera’s brother, Isaac, bugs Elliot and what does Elliot do when he is bugged by someone? He hacks them!
Stefanie: We see Elliot once again turn to the Linux distribution, Kali, to hack Isaac’s cell phone. He seems to do this within a matter of seconds, how easy is this to do? Later on, when Elliot visits Vera in prison, we learn what Elliot plans to auto-send information from Isaac’s phone to himself. This seems really intrusive and couldn’t Isaac just get a new phone?
Filip Chytry: This is a more advanced hack and unless Elliot had everything prepped before they entered his apartment, this would taken a lot more time to execute (but this is a TV show, so things sometimes happen faster on TV then they do IRL). The Linux distribution Kali, a popular tool for penetration testing, can be used to plant code on a device. But, Isaac’s phone would have had to be connected to either Elliot’s Wi-Fi network or Elliot could have set up a fake Wi-Fi hotspot using a popular network name like “Starbucks Wi-Fi” or “ATT Wi-Fi”, a Wi-Fi network Isaac’s phone had connected to before and would connect to automatically. Elliot would then use Kali to exploit a vulnerability in Isaac’s phone and plant code to send information from the phone to Elliot’s chosen destination. Since Elliot told Vera about this, Vera could have told Isaac and Isaac could have gotten a new phone, but Isaac was not given a happy end in this episode…
Here’s your wrap up of security and privacy related news from the first half of July.
We are very excited to announce the debut of a new series of videos called Avast Hack Chat. Every week we invite a security expert to talk us through the hacks on Mr. Robot, USA Network’s summertime hit TV show. We also talk about current news, technology in pop culture, and tips that you can use in your everyday life to keep your devices and data secure. Please subscribe to Avast Hack Chat on YouTube to see all of our videos.
Read our reviews of the hacks
Pilot episode 1: Are the hacks on Mr. Robot real?
Episode 1.1: Mr. Robot Review: Ones and Zer0s
Episode 1.2: Mr. Robot Review: d3bug.mkv
Episode 1.3: Mr. Robot Review: da3m0ns.mp4
Episode 1.4: Mr. Robot Review: 3xpl0its.wmv
It’s too bad that hacking is not just for TV and movies. Even trusted websites can fall victim to cybercrooks. Online shopping just got a little more risky when the largest e-commerce platform was hacked in order to spy on customers and steal credit card data.
Driving under the influence of alcohol or texting while driving is still a bigger risk to your safety on the road, but the hacking experiments conducted on technology-heavy cars might be an indicator of break-downs to come.
Two security engineers proved that a car is not just a transportation device to get from point A to point B, but a vulnerable combination of individual software systems that can be hacked.
Back in 2013, Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek hacked a 2010 Ford Escape and a Toyota Prius. The two researchers demonstrated the ability to send commands from their laptop that did things like jerk the steering wheel, give false readings on the speedometer and odometer, sound the horn continuously, and slam on the brakes while going down the road.
They have done it again, this time with a 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee.
The major theme of this week’s Mr. Robot episode revolved around vulnerabilities. As much as we sometimes try to deny it, we all have weaknesses. Cybercriminals, being the intelligent people they are, unfortunately often use their smarts for evil. They know that it is human nature to have weaknesses since no one is perfect, and they exploit these weaknesses using a tactic called social engineering.
“People make the best exploits”
Whether directly or indirectly, humans and the software they create can be exploited via their weaknesses and vulnerabilities.
FSociety penetrates Steel Mountain, E Corp’s data security center, by exploiting human weaknesses. We first see this happen when Elliot exploits Bill Harper, a sales associate at Steel Mountain, by dismantling his self-worth and telling him that no one in his life really cares about him. Elliot then requests to speak to someone who matters and Bill, disheartened and humiliated, calls his supervisor.
To FSociety’s surprise, Trudy comes instead of Wendy, the supervisor they were expecting and were prepared to utilize to get into the next level of Steel Mountain. This slightly throws off FSociety for a few seconds, but they make a quick comeback by doing a bit of online research. They learn that Trudy’s weakness is her husband and use a Linux distribution called Kali to send her a text message appearing to be sent from her husband saying that he is in the hospital. I researched more about this tool and found out that when using it, it is possible for anyone to spoof SMS and make messages appear as if they are from a number the recipient knows — a trick that is also employed in fraud emails.
The interesting thing about this, though, is they say they do not have Trudy’s number, just her husband’s number. Yet, they type her number into the program to send the message.
With the release of their newest operating system just days away, now is not the most convenient time for Microsoft to be facing and dealing with security bugs. However, two thirds of all 1.5 billion PCs operated by Windows across the globe were recently left vulnerable due to a security flaw found in nearly every version of Windows, including Windows 10 Insider Preview.
The flaw (MS15-078) lies within the Windows Adobe Type Manager Library and can be exploited by cybercriminals to hijack PCs and/or infect them with malware. Users can be attacked when they visit untrusted websites that contain malicious embedded OpenType fonts. Microsoft explains more about the threat in a security bulletin advisory:
An attacker who successfully exploited this vulnerability could take complete control of the affected system. An attacker could then install programs; view, change, or delete data; or create new accounts with full user rights.
There are multiple ways an attacker could exploit this vulnerability, such as by convincing a user to open a specially crafted document, or by convincing a user to visit an untrusted webpage that contains embedded OpenType fonts. The update addresses the vulnerability by correcting how the Windows Adobe Type Manager Library handles OpenType fonts.
The flaw has been classified as critical, which is Microsoft’s highest measured level of threat. Anyone running Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8 and 8.1, Server 2008, Server 2012 and Windows RT are affected by the flaw. Microsoft’s online Security TechCenter includes a full list of affected software and additional vulnerability information.
Windows 10 will be launching in T-minus seven days and will be offered for free within its first year of availability to Windows 7 and 8 users. Not only will the beloved Start button be back in Windows 10, but Windows 10 will also include a personal assistant, Cortana. What’s more, the new operating system will introduce many promising security features and a new browser.
Hello there, Windows Hello and Passport!
Windows Hello is biometric authentication that either scans your face, iris or fingerprint to access your Windows 10 device – very secret agent-like security! By doing so, Windows Hello eliminates the chance of hackers stealing your password to access your device, simply because you will no longer have a password to begin with!
Windows Passport also eliminates the use of passwords to access your online accounts. For now, Microsoft will work with the Azure Active Directory and has joined the FIDO alliance to subsequently support password replacement for other consumer, financial and security services. Windows will verify that you are truly the one using your device through a PIN or via Windows Hello, and then it will authenticate Windows Passport so you can log in to websites and services without ever using a password. Combined use of Windows Hello and Windows Passport would mean that a hacker would not only have to physically steal your device, but also kidnap you to access your accounts.
You will, of course, need hardware that is capable of infrared scanning your face or iris, or that has a built-in fingerprint reader to use Windows Hello. Microsoft has already confirmed that all OEM systems with Intel® RealSense™ 3D Camera (F200) will support Windows Hello’s facial unlock features.
Ashley Madison calls itself the “most famous website for discreet encounters between married individuals”. Now, the platform for infidelity and dating has been hacked and its user database of 40 million cheaters with their real names, addresses, financial records, and explicit information were stolen. Discreet is done.
Did the married Ashley Madison customers really think their extramarital activities could be discreet?
The past months and years, Target was hacked, Home Depot, BlueCross BlueShield, and even the U.S. government was hacked and data of tens of millions of people were exposed. Wal-Mart, CVS, and Costco had to take down their photo service websites last week as they are investigating a possible data breach. News about new data breaches break every month, sometimes even every week. Just in May, the dating site AdultFriendFinder was hacked, and sensitive information about 3.5 million people was leaked. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to Ashley Madison users that this data breach happened. It was just a matter of time.
Mid January we informed you of a data-stealing piece of Android malware called Fobus. Back then Fobus mainly targeted our users in Eastern Europe and Russia. Now, Fobus is also targeting our users in the USA, United Kingdom, Germany, Spain and other countries around the world.
Fobus can cost its unaware victims a lot of money, because it sends premium SMS, makes calls without the victims’ knowledge and can steal private information. More concerning is that Fobus also includes hidden features that can remove critical device protections. The app tricks users into granting it full control of the device and that is when this nasty piece of malware really begins to do its work. You can find some more technical details and analysis of Fobus in our previous blog post from January.
Today, we decided to look back and check on some of the data we gathered from Fobus during the last six months. We weren’t surprised to find out that this malware family is still active and spreading, infecting unaware visitors of unofficial Android app stores and malicious websites.
The interesting part of this malware is the use of server-side polymorphism, which we suspected was being used back in January but could not confirm. We have now confirmed that server-side polymorphism is being used by analyzing some of the samples in our database. Most of these have not only randomly-generated package names, but it also seems that they have randomly-generated signing certificates.
It’s a common belief (and myth) that Apple products are invincible against malware. This false line of thinking has recently again been refuted, as iPhone and iPad users have been encountering a ransomware threat that freezes their Internet browsers, rendering their devices unusable. The ploy, commonly known as iScam, urges victims to call a number and pay $80 as a ransom to fix their device. When users visit an infected page while browsing using the Safari application, a message is displayed saying that the device’s iOS has crashed “due to a third party application” in their phone. The users are then directed to contact customer support to fix the issue.
How to clean your system if you’ve been infected by iScam
- Turn on Anti-phishing. This can be done by visiting Settings > Safari and turn on ‘Fraudulent Website Warning’. When turned on, Safari’s Anti-phishing feature will notify you if you visit a suspected phishing site.
- Block cookies. For iOS 8 users, tap Settings > Safari > Block Cookies and choose Always Allow, Allow from websites I visit, Allow from Current Websites Only, or Always Block. In iOS 7 or earlier, choose Never, From third parties and advertisers, or Always.
- Clear your history and cookies from Safari. In iOS 8, tap Settings > Safari > Clear History and Website Data. In iOS 7 or earlier, tap Clear History and tap Clear Cookies and Data. To clear other stored information from Safari, tap Settings > Safari > Advanced > Website Data > Remove All Website Data.
Check out Apple’s support forum for additional tips on how to keep your device safe while using Safari.
Change is good, especially when it pushes us forward and encourages us to improve. We’ve recently made a change that will benefit our users and make their experience using our products even better. Our PC optimization product formerly known as GrimeFighter has now emerged as Avast Cleanup. In addition to the name change, there’s more to this transition that Avast users can be excited about. In Avast Cleanup, we’ve got a bunch of great benefits for you to enjoy:
- Rid your PC of up to 5x more junk. Avast Cleanup continues to search for junk files, unnecessary app processes and system settings that slow down your PC’s performance. The amount of issues detected by Avast Cleanup have been improved fivefold, ensuring that your PC is cleaned as thoroughly as possible.
- Keep it clean, keep it fast. Avast Cleanup’s quick and easy scan is 10x faster, now capable of transforming your PC in minutes or even seconds. As always, exact scan times may vary due to Internet connection or amount of issues found.
- Win precious space back with new, advanced scanning features. Even a new PC can be loaded with unnecessary apps. Avast Cleanup checks when you update a program or uninstall an app, ensuring that any unnecessary leftover files don’t take up space on your PC. Since you’re immediately informed if unneeded files are discovered, you can save more space on your device than ever before.
- Organize Avast Cleanup to work around your agenda. You can schedule a daily clean, select which programs you want to load upon startup, and choose what you clean in a scan. What’s more, Avast Cleanup discreetly runs in the background while you go about your daily activities.
Avast Cleanup helps you store more of what you actually want and to accomplish it in just a few minutes. Don’t let your PC become a test of your patience — try Cleanup for yourself. Here’s how:
- For licensed users, all you need to do is install the latest version of Avast. Your GrimeFighter will then be automatically updated to Avast Cleanup. You’ll receive a notification letting you know that the update was successful.
- For users who have updated to the latest Avast version but haven’t yet purchased Avast Cleanup, you can do so either from our website or, better yet, directly through the program by navigating to the store link on left menu of the interface.
- For users who haven’t updated, you can also buy Cleanup within Avast. For now, you’ll still see it as GrimeFighter and you’ll need to do an update to the latest version of Avast in order for it to work.