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…
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?
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.
Your router is one of the weakest links in your security, and researchers have proven once more that your home router puts you at risk.
Sixty security flaws have been identified in 22 router models that are distributed around the world, mostly by ISPs to their customers. These flaws could allow hackers to break into the device, change the password, and install and execute malicious scripts that change DNS servers to those the attacker wants. They do this so they can send your traffic through servers they control and direct you unwittingly to malicious sites or load malicious code on your machine when you visit a legitimate site.
Other flaws include allowing the hackers to read and write information on USB storage devices attached to the affected routers and reboot the devices.
The research report describes how the attackers can get in – through a backdoor with a universal password that is used by the ISP’s technical support staff to help troubleshoot for their customers over the phone. This second default administrator access is hidden from the router owner.
Which routers did the researchers test?
Question of the week: Why does Avast and other antivirus companies try to scare us with all this news about viruses and bad apps? It makes me think you are connected to the threats.
Avast and other reputable antivirus companies are not connected to the creation of threats – there are plenty of them without our developers making something up! But thanks for your question. We would like to help you and our other customers understand the nature of cybersecurity in today’s world and assure you that we have the tools to protect your online environment.
Most of us can agree that we don’t want our personal data falling into other people’s hands. This may seem like an obvious concept, but with the amount of data we regularly share online, it’s not such an uncommon occurrence that our information is wrongfully passed onto others. In this clever video published by Facebook Security, we learn how to nip scams in the bud and prevent others from tricking us into sharing personal information.
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.
Your home router could be part of a network used to knock sites like Sony PlayStation network offline.
During Christmas we reported that a hacker group calling themselves the Lizard Squad, took responsibility for ruining the day for Sony PlayStation and Microsoft Xbox users by taking the gaming networks offline. This and previous attacks, which included a bomb threat directed at an American Airlines flight with Sony Entertainment president John Smedley on board, have been revealed to be a marketing campaign to advertise a new product available for rent to anyone who wants to cause a Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attack to the target of their choice.
I’m not a hacker. Why should I care?
You may not be a hacker, but the power for this service could be coming from your home office! Security blogger, Brian Krebs, whose own site was attacked, found out that the network of infected devices that powers the Product-That-Must-Not-Be-Named (that’s because Lizard Squad gleefully thanked Brian for the publicity on their Twitter account) is made up mostly of compromised home routers. On that same Twitter account, Lizard Squad said that they are using 250-500k infected routers.
These are the devices in everyone’s home that we warned you about in our blog, Your home network is at risk of cybersecurity attacks. Most people neglect the security of these devices by using the default user name and password that comes from the manufacturer out-of-the-box.
Our research determined that nearly 80% of all home routers in use today are thinly protected by common, easily hacked passwords, making routers an easy entry point to the home network for hackers,” said Avast Software’s CEO, Vincent Steckler.
Lizard Squad has just proven that point.
Today’s router security situation is very reminiscent of PCs in the 1990s, with lax attitudes towards security combined with new vulnerabilities being discovered every day creating an easily exploitable environment, “ Steckler said. “The main difference is people have much more personal information stored on their devices today than they did back then. Consumers need strong yet simple-to-use tools that can prevent attacks before they happen.”
How to protect your home router
Start by scanning you home network with Avast’s Home Network Security Solution.
Open the Avast user interface, click Scan from the menu on the left, then choose Scan for network threats. Avast will take a look at your router and report back any issues. In most cases, if there is an issue to be addressed, then it will direct you to your router manufacturer’s website.
The Home Network Security Solution is available in free and paid versions of Avast 2015. Get it at www.avast.com.
For more steps you can take to protect your home router, please see our blog post, 12 ways to boost your router’s security.
Earlier this month, as the Sony Entertainment breach was making headlines, Sony’s PlayStation Network (PSN) was knocked offline due to an alleged hacking attack. On Christmas morning, just as kids everywhere were unwrapping their new PlayStation and Xboxes, the PSN and Microsoft’s Xbox Live network were both disrupted leading to speculation that they were once again hacked. A group calling themselves Lizard Squad claiming responsibility for the attacks via Twitter.
As of now, PlayStation is still offline and PSN is directing users to their @AskPlayStation Twitter account for updates.
Please follow @AskPlayStation to get the latest updates as we work to restore full network functionality.
— Ask PlayStation (@AskPlayStation) December 26, 2014
Xbox Live Status reports that its core services are running, but there is limited access to apps for IGN, Maxim, and MLG.tv.
Related article: Sony PlayStation Network down due to hacker attack
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.