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.
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…
Forget about shoplifting or painting graffiti on the wall at midnight. Opportunistic teens are turning to cybercrime to get their kicks these days.
A 14-year old boy in Florida was recently arrested and charged with a felony offense for unauthorized access against a computer system. The 8th grader said he was playing a prank on his teacher when he used the teacher’s administrative password to log onto a school computer and changed its desktop background to an image of two men kissing. The password was the teacher’s last name, and the prankster said he figured it out by watching the teacher type it in.
When it comes to cybercrime, it’s always better to be in the know. Here are a few ways that web attacks can find their way onto your device. Don’t be fooled — most cybercrooks design attacks to take place where you’d least expect it.
Social engineering preys on human weakness
“A lot of attacks are still using social engineering techniques; phishing emails – ways of convincing the user to give up valuable information,” said Avast CEO Vince Steckler.
In a phishing or spearphishing attack, hackers use email messages to trick people into providing sensitive information, click on links, or download malware. The emails are seemingly sent from organizations or individuals the potential victims would normally get emails from, making them even more deceptive. Last July, Avast took a look at the Tinba Trojan, banking malware that used spearphishing to target its victims.
An example of an injected form from Tinba Trojan targeting U.S. Bank customers.
Web attacks also take place through SMS Text Phishing, also known as SMSishing. This method has become one of the most popular ways in which malicious threats are transmitted on Android devices. These text messages include links that contain malware, and upon clicking them, the malicious program is downloaded to the user’s device. These programs often operate as SMS worms capable of sending messages, removing apps and files, and stealing confidential information from the user.
Malicious apps attempt to fool you
Malicious programs can disguise themselves as real programs by hiding within popular apps or games. In February, we examined malicious apps posing as games on Google Play that infected millions of users with adware. In the case of malicious apps, cybercrooks tamper with the app’s code, inserting additional features and malicious programs that infect devices. As a result, the malware can attempt to use SMSishing in order to collect additional data.
The Durak card game app was the most widespread of the malicious apps with 5 – 10 million installations according to Google Play.
Ransomware uses scare tactics that really work
Another name that made headlines was a group of malware dubbed ransomware, such as CryptoLocker, and its variants Cryptowall, Prison Locker, PowerLocker, and Zerolocker. The most widespread is Cryptolocker, which encrypts data on a computer and demands money from the victim in order to provide the decryption key. Avast detects and protects its users from CryptoLocker and GameoverZeus.
Make sure you back up important files on a regular basis to avoid losing them to ransomware. Ransomware made its way from desktop to Android during the year, and Avast created a Ransomware Removal app to eliminate Android ransomware and unlocks encrypted files for free.
Count on Avast apps to keep mobile malware at bay
To keep your devices protected from other ransomware, make sure to also install Avast Free Mobile Security & Antivirus from the Google Play store. It can detect and remove the malware before it is deployed.
Install Avast Ransomware Removal to find out if your Android devices are infected and to get rid of an infection. Avast Ransomware Removal will tell you if your phone has ransomware on it. If you are infected, it will eliminate the malware. Android users who are clean can use the free app to prevent an infection from happening.Once installed, you can easily launch the app to scan the device, remove the virus, and then decrypt your hijacked files.
Small and medium-sized businesses face a challenge when it comes to keeping their data secure. Many companies don’t have the budget to hire a Managed Service Provider (MSP) to take care of their IT needs, and often, they think they do not have enough knowledge or time to handle it themselves, therefore the path of least resistance is to not have any security at all. At the very best SMBs use a consumer version of antivirus software.
But these days, neither of those options is a good idea. Having no protection leaves you too vulnerable, and the problem with using a consumer product in a work environment is whoever is managing the network cannot look across all computers at once and implement policy changes or updates.
Do hackers really target small businesses?
The media coverage of big time data breaches like Target, Neiman Marcus, and Home Depot may have many SMB owners thinking that they are not at risk, but even small and medium-sized businesses need to make sure that their data and that of their customers is protected.
Here’s a statistic that should get your attention: One in five small businesses are a victim of cybercrime each year, according to the National Cyber Security Alliance. And of those, nearly 60% go out of business within six months after an attack. And if you need more convincing, a 2014 study of internet threats reported that 31% of businesses with fewer than 250 employees were targeted and attacked.
Why do hackers target small businesses?
Hackers like small businesses because many of them don’t have a security expert on staff, a security strategy in place, or even policies limiting the online activity of their employees. In other words, they are vulnerable.
Don’t forget that it was through a small service vendor that hackers gained access to Target’s network. Hackers may get your own customer’s data like personal records and banking credentials and your employee’s log in information, all the while targeting the bigger fish.
While hackers account for most of the data lost, there is also the chance of accidental exposure or intentional theft by an employee.
What can I do to protect my small business?
For mom-and-pop outfits, Avast for Business, a free business-grade security product designed especially for the small and medium-sized business owner, offers tremendous value. The management console is quite similar to our consumer products meaning that the interface is user-friendly but also powerful enough to manage multiple devices.
“Avast for Business is our answer to providing businesses from startup to maturity a tool for the best protection, and there’s no reason for even the smallest of companies not to use it, because it starts at a price everyone can afford, free,” said Luke Walling, GM and VP of SMB at Avast.
Some companies may still opt to pay for a MSP, and in many cases, especially for medical or legal organizations, handing over administration to a third-party may be a good way to go. Either way, our freemium SMB security can be used, and if you use a MSP then the savings can be passed on to you.
Is free good enough for a business?
Many IT professionals have been using free security on their home computers for years. It’s not such a huge leap of faith to consider the benefits of making the switch in their businesses as well.
“I have been using Avast since 2003 at home, with friends, with family. You really come to trust and know a product over the years. It lends itself to business use really well, nothing held back,” said Kyle Barker of Championship Networks, a Charlotte-area MSP.
How do I get Avast for Business?
Visit Avast for Business and sign up for it there.
Poor Sony. They are getting it from all directions these days. On Sunday, the PlayStation Network, the online store for games, movies, and TV shows, suffered a hacker attack and was knocked offline. Visitors to the store got a message that said, ‘Page Not Found! It’s not you. It’s the Internet’s fault.’ I just visited the page, and got this same message, so reports that it was up again, were at best, temporary – at least for some of us.
Sony tweeted yesterday that they were investigating.
We are aware that users are having issues connecting to PSN. Thanks for your patience as we investigate.
— Ask PlayStation (@AskPlayStation) December 8, 2014
A group called Lizard Squad, which was also involved in a hack of Xbox Live last week as well as previous attacks on EA Games and Destiny, claimed responsibility for the attack.
During the Xbox hack, Lizard Squad promised that attacks would continue until Christmas.
This attack comes on the heels of news recently that Sony Pictures’ corporate network was infiltrated by cybercrooks which resulted in the theft of 100 terabytes of confidential employee data, business documents, and unreleased films. It was speculated that North Korean hackers were behind the attack due to the upcoming release of the movie “The Interview,” which is about an attempted assassination of Kim Jong-Un. The North Korean government denied responsibility for the attack on Sunday. The attack has since been traced to a luxury hotel in Bangkok, and is being investigated.
The two attacks appear to be unrelated.
The FBI, along with the Department of Justice, announced a multinational effort on their website that has disrupted a botnet called GameOver Zeus. GameOver Zeus has infected millions of Internet users around the world and has stolen millions of dollars.
The UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) has worked closely with the FBI to crack down on the GameOver Zeus botnet. The NCA has given infected users a two week window to get rid of the malware and those lucky enough to have thus far been spared, the opportunity to safeguard themselves against future attacks. The two week window is an estimation on how long it will take cybercriminals to build a new botnet. The FBI has stated on their website that GameOver’s botnet is different from earlier Zeus variants in that the command and control infrastructure communicates peer-to-peer, rather than from centralized servers. This means that any infected computer can communicate controls to other infected devices. If cybercriminals build a new botnet, which will likely happen, the new botnet can resurrect dormant infected machines and continue to infect new users while stealing financial and personal information from innocent victims.
Do you really have two weeks, and what should you do?
Who knows how long it may take for a new botnet to emerge; it could appear tomorrow or in two weeks. People should not take this threat lightly and should act immediately. Read more…
Back in the good ol’ days of Halloween, you only had to worry about your house getting egged or your big brother stealing the good candy. Halloween tricks have moved online, and along with any significant event or holiday, this spooky celebration marks an increase in malware. Cyber ghouls pull out their bag of tricks – rogue apps, scams, and email attachments, to name a few classics – all to get unsuspecting people to click on a link in order to steal credentials.
Here are a few tricks to be aware of:
Bad video links and rogue apps
In the weeks before Halloween, searches for holiday-related items like costumes and pumpkin carving increase. This example of a search for “Halloween costume make your own” came from Glen Newton of Wired’s Innovation Insights. He wrote,
The website that came up at the top of the list has a link to a video that promises to show you how to make one for under $15 in materials, requiring only basic sewing skills – just what you were looking for. You click, and there it is, but the video doesn’t play. Oh, wait, there’s a note at the bottom of the player that says, “If this video doesn’t start playing, click here to download the latest flash player.” You click.
You can guess what happens next. No, someone in a Ghostface is not looking in your window. Rather, when you click to download, a warning pops up that your PC is infected with multiple instances of malware. But don’t you already have virus protection? You immediately assume that it’s not working, plus you remember that you haven’t backed up your files in months (cue the Psycho music). Panic ensues.
The scan window…show(s) you third-party software that can remove the malware… Fortunately, it’s not a budget breaker: $39.95 for a year’s license. The web page includes graphics that show several certifications with which you’re unfamiliar, so you figure it must be safe.
Instead of finding out how to make a costume, you end up selling your soul to the devil. Well, not quite that bad – but you give personal information and your credit card number to buy a malware removal program. After the purchase is made, you still can’t access the video. Meanwhile, the personal information and credit card data you gave away is being sold to the highest bidder on underground crime webs, and your real antivirus has been disabled and replaced by malware that the crooks can use to control your computer. Talk about a Nightmare on Elm Street…
Read the whole article from Wired.
AVAST Tip: Only visit websites that are established and reputable, and keep your antivirus software updated. (And remember, vampires can only enter your house if you invite them!)
Some old-fashioned tricks that have made the jump from darkened parlors to cyberspace are virtual voodoo dolls, fortune-telling, psychic readings, and spell casting. There are good and respectable “intuitive consultants” (as some psychics prefer to be called) that are able to help others. For every good one, there are a plenty who con people to only get their money.
A typical M.O. of scammers is to use multiple sites with similar content. So if you see a site for Voodoo Queen Mumbo Gumbo who is offering a buy one spell, get one free, and you see 12 others with similar content, then forget about it.
“It’s a new twist on an old idea,” said Nicholas Little, legal director of the Center for Inquiry to the Toronto Sun yesterday. “It’s easy to hide your identity on the Internet, so people are willing to try scams online that they would never be willing to try in person.”
AVAST Tip: Never pay for a service or product that you are not sure of or you do not want. (A money-back guarantee for spell casting is not a good sign!)
AVAST is a proud champion of National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM) and supporter of the European Cyber Security Month (ECSM) recognized this October. The month begins with the awareness that no individual, company, or government is solely responsible for securing the internet – it is Our Shared Responsibility.
Individual computer users are the first line of defense in guarding against online risks. For this reason, online security requires our collective participation, requiring awareness and vigilance from every citizen, community, and country.
How can I do my part?
The Stop.Think.Connect.™ campaign is designed to help people practice safer online habits. Here are some basic steps everyone from kids to business owners should know to minimize the chances of becoming a victim of cybercrime:
- Set strong passwords, change them regularly, and don’t share them with anyone.
- Keep your operating system, browser, and other critical software optimized by installing updates. (AVAST has Free protection for PCs, Macs, and Android devices.)
- Maintain an open dialogue with your friends, family, and colleagues about Internet safety.
- Use privacy settings and limit the amount of personal information you post online.
- Be cautious about offers online – if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
During this month, we’ll talk more about cybersecurity with AVAST experts and share tips that you can adopt and share. For all the latest news, fun and contest information, please visit our blog often and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.