How to defend against government hackers
By Mark Rockwell Mar 31, 2017
The 188-page “Challenging Government Hacking In Criminal Cases” report, released by the American Civil Liberties Union on March 30, addresses new amendments to Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, which took effect last December.
Under the changes to criminal procedure rules, feds can remotely search computers in multiple jurisdictions with a single warrant. The rules are touted by law enforcement agencies as a way to streamline 100-year-old rules of criminal procedure
more on surveillance in this IMS blog
Hackers could acquire sensitive data through monitoring hard drive noises
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Six Ways to Protect Student Data and Prevent Cyberattacks
School administrators and IT staff can be super-vigilant, but the hackers are getting better and better at sneaking through security.
the most common cybersecurity threats, and how can school staff avoid them?
Eavesdropping / Man-in-the-Middle (MiTM) Attacks
What they are: It’s likely that you sometimes use a school laptop or mobile device to gain internet access via Wi-Fi networks in public places like coffee shops or airports. If so, be aware that there may be hackers eavesdropping to try and gain entry to any two-party exchange you make so they can filter and steal data.
How to avoid them: Always use a school-verified SIM card, dongle or VPN(virtual private network) to access the internet in public places.
Social Engineering Attacks
According to Verizon’s 2018 Breach Investigations report, 92 percent of malware is delivered via email, often referred to as social engineering attacks. The aim is to interact with the user and influence and manipulate their actions to gain access to systems and install harmful software. Malware uses various guises. Here are some of the most common:
1. Phishing emails
2. Baiting attacks
3. Quid pro quo requests
4. Pretexting attacks
5. Contact with a ‘compromised’ website
Are your phone camera and microphone spying on you?
Apps like WhatsApp, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Viber
Felix Krause described in 2017 that when a user grants an app access to their camera and microphone, the app could do the following:
- Access both the front and the back camera.
- Record you at any time the app is in the foreground.
- Take pictures and videos without telling you.
- Upload the pictures and videos without telling you.
- Upload the pictures/videos it takes immediately.
- Run real-time face recognition to detect facial features or expressions.
- Livestream the camera on to the internet.
- Detect if the user is on their phone alone, or watching together with a second person.
- Upload random frames of the video stream to your web service and run a proper face recognition software which can find existing photos of you on the internet and create a 3D model based on your face.
For instance, here’s a Find my Phone application which a documentary maker installed on a phone, then let someone steal it. After the person stole it, the original owner spied on every moment of the thief’s life through the phone’s camera and microphone.
- Edward Snowden revealed an NSA program called Optic Nerves. The operation was a bulk surveillance program under which they captured webcam images every five minutes from Yahoo users’ video chats and then stored them for future use. It is estimated that between 3% and 11% of the images captured contained “undesirable nudity”.
- Government security agencies like the NSA can also have access to your devices through in-built backdoors. This means that these security agencies can tune in to your phone calls, read your messages, capture pictures of you, stream videos of you, read your emails, steal your files … at any moment they please.
Hackers can also gain access to your device with extraordinary ease via apps, PDF files, multimedia messages and even emojis.
An application called Metasploit on the ethical hacking platform Kali uses an Adobe Reader 9 (which over 60% of users still use) exploit to open a listener (rootkit) on the user’s computer. You alter the PDF with the program, send the user the malicious file, they open it, and hey presto – you have total control over their device remotely.
Once a user opens this PDF file, the hacker can then:
- Install whatever software/app they like on the user’s device.
- Use a keylogger to grab all of their passwords.
- Steal all documents from the device.
- Take pictures and stream videos from their camera.
- Capture past or live audio from the microphone.
- Upload incriminating images/documents to their PC, and notify the police.
And, if it’s not enough that your phone is tracking you – surveillance cameras in shops and streets are tracking you, too
- You might even be on this website, InSeCam, which allows ordinary people online to watch surveillance cameras free of charge. It even allows you to search cameras by location, city, time zone, device manufacturer, and specify whether you want to see a kitchen, bar, restaurant or bedroom.
more on privacy in this IMS blog
more on surveillance in this IMS blog
The top 5 cybersecurity threats for schools
BY EARL D. LAING November 29th, 2017
1. Link Security
From ransomware to phishing and other types of security breaches, direct contact is the number one way that you can create a vulnerability in your system. Those who commit these online crimes are finding smarter and sneakier ways to infiltrate your data every day. Sometimes the attack can even come as an email from a legitimate sender, or appear to be a perfectly normal message on social media. The goal is usually to get you to click on a link.
Solution: Make sure the security preferences for your email account(s) are set up to filter spamming, phishing and executable files that aren’t recognized.
2. Unknown Devices
Solution: Your IT system should include a solution that tracks all devices, including those not owned by your school, that enter the network.
3. Out of Date Technology
Contrary to popular misconception, user interaction isn’t always required for a cyber attack to be launched. The WannaCry attack targeted hundreds of computers all with the same security vulnerability on their Windows operating systems.
Solution: Again, an IT solution that tracks all devices is important, but one that can also check on software upgrades and block access to certain apps is ideal.
4. User Error
A data breach in Florida is just one example of the chaos user error can provoke. This issue didn’t begin with hackers at all. It began with carelessness that caused sensitive information to become public.
User error occurs regularly, and a common root of this is failing to restrict access to files or certain sites that may be compromised.
Solution: Restrict user access to sensitive documents only to those who absolutely need them, and make sure that your site architecture is set up to require a secure login for access. You may also want to create a white list of safe sites and applications and block the rest.
5. No Backup
As disheartening as it sounds, even when you take all the necessary precautions to protect your vital information, data breaches can still occur. When an attack happens, it’s often a major blow to productivity to try and get all the information back into a secure place. Worse, vital work can be lost for good.
Solution: Install a backup system on each school device that sends data to a remote server throughout the day (not just at night) to help make sure nothing is lost.
more on cybersecurrity in this IMS blog
Fake news and botnets: how Russia weaponised the web
The digital attack that brought Estonia to a standstill 10 years ago was the first shot in a cyberwar that has been raging between Moscow and the west ever since
It began at exactly 10pm on 26 April, 2007, when a Russian-speaking mob began rioting in the streets of Tallinn, the capital city of Estonia, killing one person and wounding dozens of others. That incident resonates powerfully in some of the recent conflicts in the US. In 2007, the Estonian government had announced that a bronze statue of a heroic second world war Soviet soldier was to be removed from a central city square. For ethnic Estonians, the statue had less to do with the war than with the Soviet occupation that followed it, which lasted until independence in 1991. For the country’s Russian-speaking minority – 25% of Estonia’s 1.3 million people – the removal of the memorial was another sign of ethnic discrimination.
That evening, Jaan Priisalu – a former risk manager for Estonia’s largest bank, Hansabank, who was working closely with the government on its cybersecurity infrastructure – was at home in Tallinn with his girlfriend when his phone rang. On the line was Hillar Aarelaid, the chief of Estonia’s cybercrime police.
“It’s going down,” Aarelaid declared. Alongside the street fighting, reports of digital attacks were beginning to filter in. The websites of the parliament, major universities, and national newspapers were crashing. Priisalu and Aarelaid had suspected something like this could happen one day. A digital attack on Estoniahad begun.
“The Russian theory of war allows you to defeat the enemy without ever having to touch him,” says Peter Pomerantsev, author of Nothing is True and Everything is Possible. “Estonia was an early experiment in that theory.”
Since then, Russia has only developed, and codified, these strategies. The techniques pioneered in Estonia are known as the “Gerasimov doctrine,” named after Valery Gerasimov, the chief of the general staff of the Russian military. In 2013, Gerasimov published an article in the Russian journal Military-Industrial Courier, articulating the strategy of what is now called “hybrid” or “nonlinear” warfare. “The lines between war and peace are blurred,” he wrote. New forms of antagonism, as seen in 2010’s Arab spring and the “colour revolutions” of the early 2000s, could transform a “perfectly thriving state, in a matter of months, and even days, into an arena of fierce armed conflict”.
Russia has deployed these strategies around the globe. Its 2008 war with Georgia, another former Soviet republic, relied on a mix of both conventional and cyber-attacks, as did the 2014 invasion of Crimea. Both began with civil unrest sparked via digital and social media – followed by tanks. Finland and Sweden have experienced near-constant Russian information operations. Russian hacks and social media operations have also occurred during recent elections in Holland, Germany, and France. Most recently, Spain’s leading daily, El País, reported on Russian meddling in the Catalonian independence referendum. Russian-supported hackers had allegedly worked with separatist groups, presumably with a mind to further undermining the EU in the wake of the Brexit vote.
The Kremlin has used the same strategies against its own people. Domestically, history books, school lessons, and media are manipulated, while laws are passed blocking foreign access to the Russian population’s online data from foreign companies – an essential resource in today’s global information-sharing culture. According to British military researcher Keir Giles, author of Nato’s Handbook of Russian Information Warfare, the Russian government, or actors that it supports, has even captured the social media accounts of celebrities in order to spread provocative messages under their names but without their knowledge. The goal, both at home and abroad, is to sever outside lines of communication so that people get their information only through controlled channels.
24-hour Putin people: my week watching Kremlin ‘propaganda channel’ RT
Tim Dowling Wednesday 29 November 2017 12.39 EST
According to its detractors, RT is Vladimir Putin’s global disinformation service, countering one version of the truth with another in a bid to undermine the whole notion of empirical truth. And yet influential people from all walks of public life appear on it, or take its money. You can’t criticise RT’s standards, they say, if you don’t watch it. So I watched it. For a week.
Suchet, the son of former ITV newsreader John Suchet and the nephew of actor David Suchet, has been working for RT since 2009. The offspring of well-known people feature often on RT. Sophie Shevardnadze, who presents Sophie & Co, is the granddaughter of former Georgian president and Soviet foreign minister Eduard Shevardnadze. Tyrel Ventura, who presents Watching the Hawks on RT America, is the son of wrestler-turned-politician Jesse Ventura. His co-host is Oliver Stone’s son Sean.
My note; so this is why Oliver Stone in his “documentary” went gentle on Putin, so his son can have a job. #Nepotism #FakeNews
RT’s stated mission is to offer an “alternative perspective on major global events”, but the world according to RT is often downright surreal.
Peter Pomerantsev, author of Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible, about Putin’s Russia, and now a senior visiting fellow in global affairs at the London School of Economics, was in Moscow working in television when Russia Today first started hiring graduates from Britain and the US. “The people were really bright, they were being paid well,” he says. But they soon found they were being ordered to change their copy, or instructed how to cover certain stories to reflect well on the Kremlin. “Everyone had their own moment when they first twigged that this wasn’t like the BBC,” he says. “That, actually, this is being dictated from above.” The coverage of Russia’s war with Georgia in 2008 was a lightbulb moment for many, he says. They quit.
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more on state propaganda in this IMS blog