Another week, another Mr. Robot episode! Last Wednesday the second episode of Mr. Robot aired (Ones and Zer0s). This episode did not disappoint! It was dark, gloomy, but also included lots of technical things that made us once again question: How can this affect me?
This week I sat down with freelance security and privacy journalist, Seth Rosenblatt, to discuss the episode.
At the beginning of the show, Elliot has a bit of an involuntary meeting with E-Corp now interim CTO, Tyrell Wellick. After this meeting, Elliot goes home and hacks Tyrell. What he notices is that E-Corp mail servers haven’t been patched since “Shellshock” and that Tyrell does not use two-factor authentication nor does he have a complex password. Elliot realizes that this was all too easy and that Tyrell must have wanted Elliot to hack him. He then goes nuts and burns his chips and SIM cards in the microwave, tears apart his hard drive, destroys his mother board.
Stefanie: Lots of interesting stuff happened in this scene! Can someone hack me like Elliot hacked Tyrell? What is the Shellshock vulnerability and can it still affect me as a personal user?
Seth: If Tyrell wanted Elliot to hack him, he made it pretty easy for an experienced hacker like Elliot. I bet many people, who do not put a lot of thought and effort into their online security, can be easily hacked. The fact that E-Corp hadn’t patched their servers since Shellshock seemed a bit odd, but again this was maybe intentional to make it easy for Elliot to hack, in the hopes of blackmailing him later on. In terms of the average user, Shellshock is a vulnerability that affects systems using BASH (a Unix based command processor used by Unix- based systems such as Linux and Mac). Patches for Shellshock have long been issued, so if you update your operating system regularly you have nothing to worry about.
Avast for Business just made life easier and saved money for administrator Dale Kvittem-Barr at Peace Lutheran Church and School.
Schools house a large quantity of sensitive data and Kvittem-Barr knows that security software is a must. But, managing 50 devices is a challenge.
“When I started here, we had Norton and each computer had its own individual license. It was a nightmare. I switched all of the school’s computers to the free Avast consumer product. When I heard there was a free business solution and that it had a centralized management dashboard I knew we had to have it.”
With Avast for Business, Kvittem-Barr no longer has multiple licenses to manage and he can see his entire network anytime, anywhere.
“The cloud-based system makes sense because the entire network can be updated constantly from the dashboard so I don’t have to run around to every computer anymore.”
For his mixed platform networks, Kvittem-Barr says Avast for Business just works for him.
“We have Macs and PCs so to be able to protect them both with the same console is great!”
And the software keeps him continuously informed about threats to the school.
“The notifications have been really helpful because I can see which computers are being hit harder than others and make sure I focus on those.”
Budget is an issue for all schools and Kvittem-Barr said that his school’s savings with Avast for Business were substantial. As for plans to spend the savings he says,
“Yeah, we were actually able to purchase a lot more computers and a device charging cart.”
Find out how your school can save money with Avast for Business.
Anyone interested in computer security and how it is circumvented, will certainly enjoy the hacking that takes place on USA Network’s hit television show Mr. Robot. The show has been praised not only for its compelling story line but for its “accurate portrayal of cybersecurity and crime.”
Every Wednesday night after the show airs, our host Ariana asks a security expert to help us examine the hacks and explor their ramifications in the real world. We record the conversation and share it with you in our video series, Avast Hack Chat. In addition to the discussion about hacking, we also take a weekly trip back in the Time Machine to revisit special people in the history of computing or how computers have been portrayed in popular culture.
Avast Hack Chat: Episode 2 “Ones and ZerOs” Program Notes
In episode 2 of Avast Hack Chat, Seth Rosenblatt, an independent security and privacy journalist, takes us through the hacks on Mr. Robot. He explains hacking a major corporation’s email servers, destroying your hard drive and SIM card to get rid of evidence, and if critical infrastructure like a natural gas plant can be hacked.
Alan Turing, who is referred to the grandfather of computer science, was recently portrayed in the movie The Imitation Game. Ariana and Pedram talk about his legacy and how the advances he made are still in use today. Plus, a computer bug.
Pedram brings us up-to-date on the celebrity photo hacking that took place last year. He shares why he thinks the hacker was an idiot.
This week’s Tips and Tricks tells you the safe way to go about sexting. Not that we want you to do it, but if you are there’s a way to make sure your messages stay secure and get to the intended recipient (who probably is not some guy sitting behind a desk at the NSA.)
Subscribe to the Avast Hack Chat YouTube channel and don’t miss a single weekly episode.
Earlier this year, we told you about the return of CryptoWall, malware that encrypts certain files in your computer and, once activated, demands a fine around $500 as a ransom to provide the decryption key. These kinds of financial fraud schemes target both individuals and businesses, are usually very successful and have a significant impact on victims. The problem begins when the victim clicks on an infected advertisement, email, or attachment, or visits an infected website.
Recently, a click fraud botnet with ties to CryptoWall has been discovered. The malware, nicknamed ‘RuthlessTreeMafia‘, has been being used to distribute CryptoWall ransomware. What first appears as an attempt to redirect user traffic to a search engine quickly mutates into an alarming threat as infected systems begin to download CryptoWall and system files and data become encrypted, rendering them useless by their owners. Click fraud and ransomware are two types of crimeware that are usually quite different from one another and typically don’t have many opportunities to join forces; therefore, the result of this unlikely yet powerful collaboration can be detrimental to its victims.
Remember when you used to make sure you were home at a certain time so you wouldn’t miss your favorite TV show? That was called “appointment television”, and those of you old enough to remember watching The X-Files or Friends when they originally aired know what I’m talking about. But, with the new USA Network show, Mr. Robot, it feels like those days are back again. Sure, I have my DVR set to record, but I will definitely watch it live. Since all my buddies are watching too, I will be itching to talk about it the next day.
Avast’s new Hack Chat video series brings back that around-the-watercooler discussion. Watch our debut episode here (10:13).
Avast Hack Chat: Episode 1 “Hello Friend” Program Notes
In episode 1 of Avast Hack Chat, host Ariana welcomes special guest, security researcher and software developer, Pedram Amini.
One of the largest e-commerce platforms, Magento, has been plagued by hackers who inject malicious code in order to spy and steal credit card data or any other data a customer submits to the system. More than 100,000+ merchants all over the world use Magento platform, including eBay, Nike Running, Lenovo, and the Ford Accessories Online website.
The company that discovered the flaws, Securi Security, says in their blog, “The sad part is that you won’t know it’s affecting you until it’s too late, in the worst cases it won’t become apparent until they appear on your bank statements.”
Data breaches are nothing new. The Identity Theft Research Center said there were 761 breaches in 2014 affecting more than 83 million accounts. You probably recall the reports of Sony, Target, Home Depot, and Chic Fil A.
We have heard lots about what we as individual consumers can do to protect ourselves: Use strong passwords, update your antivirus protection and keep your software patched, learn to recognize phishing software, and be wary of fake websites asking for our personal information.
But this kind of hack occurs on trusted websites and show no outward signs that there has been a compromise. The hackers have thoroughly covered their tracks, and you won’t know anything is wrong until you check your credit card bill.
So how do you minimize the risk of online shopping?
Here’s your wrap up of security and privacy related news from the June 17 – 27 posts on the Avast blog:
It’s summertime in the Northern Hemisphere and many people are going on or planning their vacation. Beware of fake vacation packages and beautiful rental properties that are not as they seem. These Vacation scams can ruin your holiday, so read up before you become a victim.
More than 600 million Samsung phones were reported to be at risk because of a vulnerability found in the keyboard app SwiftKey. The best way to protect yourself is to use a virtual private network (VPN) when using an unsecured Wi-Fi hotspot. If you have a Samsung S6, S5, or S4, you need to read Samsung phones vulnerable to hacker attack via keyboard update.
Cybercrooks run their organizations like businesses these days. They have multinational offices, marketing departments, business development, and technical support teams. Maybe they also need some security…
Malware entrepreneur sentenced to 57 months in prison
One such malware entrepreneur, Alex Yucel, sold malware through a website that he operated, to other hackers. The Blackshades malware allowed hackers to remotely control their victims’ computers. They could do such things as log the victim’s keystrokes, spy through webcams, and steal usernames and passwords for email and other services. They could also turn their computers into bots which were used to perform Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks on other computers, without the knowledge of the victim.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “Alex Yucel created, marketed, and sold software that was designed to accomplish just one thing – gain control of a computer, and with it, a victim’s identity and other important information. This malware victimized thousands of people across the globe and invaded their lives. But Yucel’s computer hacking days are now over.” See the Department of Justice press release here.
Yucel sold the software for as little as $40 on PayPal and various black market forums. Read more…
For as long as there have been governments, there have been spy agencies, and for as long as there have been spy agencies, they’ve done spying. Spy agencies are always looking for ways to get information. Information is valuable, always has been, always will be. ~Avast CEO Vince Steckler
New documents from the many that were leaked by former US intelligence analyst Edward Snowden were published this week in The Intercept. They reveal that the U.S.’s National Security Agency (NSA) and its British counterpart, Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), spied on security companies including Avast, AVG, Kaspersky Lab, and Antiy. The spy agencies seem to be targeting non-American security companies; Avast and AVG are based in Prague, Czech Republic; Kaspersky is based in Moscow, Russia; and Antiy is Chinese. Together, these companies have nearly a billion users. No U.S. or U.K. -based companies were included in the list.
“Geopolitically, it makes sense that the NSA and GCHQ are targeting products that are prevalently used by foreign governments, like Kaspersky in Russia or CheckPoint in Israel,” said Steckler in an interview with RT News. “On the flip side, Russian or Chinese spy agencies may be similarly targeting products that the American government heavily uses, for example Symantec and McAfee. We’re hearing just one side of the story.”
Last night the pilot episode of MR. ROBOT, a new thriller-drama series aired on USA Network.
The show revolves around Elliot who works as a cyber security engineer by day and is a vigilante hacker by night.
I watched the episode and then sat down with Avast security expert Pedram Amini, host of Avast’s new video podcast debuting next week, to find out if someone like you or me could be affected by the hacks that happened in the show.
In the second minute of the episode we see Elliot explaining to Rajid, owner of Ron’s Coffee, that he intercepted the café’s Wi-Fi network, which lead him to discover that Rajid ran a child pornography website.
Stefanie: How likely is it that someone can hack you while you’re using an open Wi-Fi hotspot?
Pedram: Anyone with a just a little technical knowledge can download free software online and observe people’s activities on open Wi-Fi. We went to San Francisco, New York, and Chicago for a Wi-Fi monitoring experiment and found that one-third of Wi-Fi networks are open, without password-protection. If you surf sites that are unprotected, meaning they use the HTTP protocol, while on open Wi-Fi, then anyone can see, for example, which Wikipedia articles you are reading, what you’re searching for on Bing, and even see what products you are browsing for on Amazon and eBay, if you do not log in to the site.
Stefanie: Wow! That’s a bit frightening… How can I protect myself then?