Turbotodd

Ruminations on tech, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

Posts Tagged ‘cybersecurity

Stuxnet Two?

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The New York Times is reporting that a cyberattack against Iran in June took out a database used by Iran’s paramilitary arm used to plot attacks against oil tankers. The attack also degraded Tehran’s ability to target shipping traffic in the Persian Gulf, and Iran is still trying to recover information destroyed in the June 20 attack and get back online.

This attack came right around the time that Iran shot down a U.S. drone, a retaliatory attack for which the Trump Administration called off at the eleventh hour.

MIT Review reports the attack has had a lingering impact on the Iranian military’s ability to target oil tankers in the Persian Gulf, and noted the database wiped out belong to Iran’s paramilitary forces known as the Islamic Revolutionary Guard.

U.S. officials said there has been no escalation from Iran, but the Times reports there have been doubts about whether the benefits of the operation outweighed the cost — “lost intelligence and lost access to a critical network used by the Guard.”

The entire episode is reminiscent of Stuxnet, a cyber operation thought to be developed by the U.S. and Israel that targeted and destroyed controller systems for centrifuges in Iran’s uranium enrichment program — only this time at a much faster pace. 

Written by turbotodd

August 29, 2019 at 10:29 am

An Ounce of Cyber Prevention

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IBM’s X-Force IRIS incident response team has published new research based on recent cyberattacks they’ve been asked to assist on and are reporting that cyberattacks designed to cause damage have doubled in the past six months and that 50 percent of those organizations affected are in manufacturing.

Physical, meet digital.

Some of the malicious code — including Industroyer, NotPetya, Stuxnet, among others – aren’t just looking or stealing. These are search and destroy missions.

From the report:

In the past, destructive malware was primarily used by sophisticated nation-state actors, but new analysis from X-Force’s incident response data has found that these attacks are now becoming more popular among cybercriminal attackers, with ransomware attacks including wiper elements to increase the pressure on victims to pay the ransom. As a result of this expanding profile, X-Force IRIS noted a whopping 200 percent increase in the amount of destructive attacks that our team has helped companies respond to over the past six months (comparing IBM incident response activities in the first half of 2019 versus the second half of 2018).

Other key findings:

An analysis of real-world incident response data from X-Force IRIS paints a picture of the devastating effects of these attacks on companies. A few of the key findings include:

  • Massive destruction, massive costs: Destructive attacks are costing multinational companies $239 million on average. As a point of comparison, this is 61 times more costly than the average cost of a data breach ($3.92 million).
  • The long road to recovery: The debilitating nature of these attacks requires a lot of resources and time to respond and remediate, with companies on average requiring 512 hours from their incident response team. It’s also common for organizations to use multiple companies to handle the response and remediation, which would increase hours even further.
  • RIP laptops: A single destructive attack destroys 12,000 machines per company on average — creating quite a tab for new devices in order to get companies’ workforce back in action.

What You Can Do With An Ounce of Prevention

  • Test your response plan under pressure. Use of a well-tailored tabletop exercise and a cyber range can ensure that your organization is ready at both tactical and strategic levels for a destructive malware attack.
  • Use threat intelligence to understand the threat to your organization. Each threat actor has different motivations, capabilities and intentions, and threat intelligence can use this information to increase the efficacy of an organization’s response to an incident.
  • Engage in effective defense in depth. Incorporate multiple layers of security controls across the entire Cyberattack Preparation and Execution Framework.
  • Implement multifactor authentication (MFA) throughout the environment. The cost-benefit of MFA is tough to overstate, providing significant cybersecurity benefit in reducing the value of stolen or guessed passwords dramatically.
  • Have backups, test backups and offline backups. Organizations should store backups apart from their primary network and only allow read, not write, access to the backups.
  • Consider an action plan for a quick, temporary business functionality. Organizations that have been able to restore even some business operations following a destructive attack have fared better than their counterparts.
  • Create a baseline for internal network activity and monitor for changes that could indicate lateral movement

If you find yourself in a cyberemergency, you can reach IBM Security at 888-241-9812 in the US and Canada, or (001) 312-212-8034 outside the US.

Written by turbotodd

August 6, 2019 at 1:09 pm

What’s In Your Wallet?

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“What’s in your wallet?”

Too soon?

The Capital One hack, a breach of 106M U.S. and Canadian customers, gave me flashbacks of the Equifax hack…you know, the one that led so many of us to freeze our credit reports.

What we know so far: A female software engineer in Seattle hacked into a server holding customer information for Capital One and obtained over 100M credit applications, as well as 1M+ Canadian social insurance numbers.

The New York Times is reporting that the bank expected the breach to cost up to $150M, including credit monitoring costs for affected customers.

The Capital One hacker, one Paige Thompson, was a former employee of Amazon Web Services and dropped signals in online fora and Slack that she might be the person behind the hack.

Back to Equifax: Just last week that company settled claims from the 2017 data breach for roughly $650M.

What’s in Capital One’s wallet? Ask again once the regulators are through with them.

Written by turbotodd

July 30, 2019 at 9:35 am

A Picture’s Worth…

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If you’re wondering what happened to your images on Facebook’s News Feed, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger….well, you and over a billion other people.

The Verge is reporting that Facebook is working to resolve the outage and “to get things back to normal as quickly as possible.”

This once again proves the complexities and challenges of publishing multiple pieces of content from multiple sources into a single page. Welcome to the cloud-driven Web of 2019.

But let’s talk soccer. We witnessed yet another storied defeat by the U.S. women’s team last evening in the FIFA Women’s World Cup, beating England 2-1, in a game which missed play of wunderwoman Megan Rapinoe due to a hamstring injury.

Those women are awesome (give them a raise!).

On to the dealmaking…talk all over the place about a possible acquisition of cybersecurity firm Symantec by Broadcom, with Bloomberg reporting Broadcom is in advanced talks to buy them in a deal that could be reached “in weeks.”

From Bloomberg Intelligence:

Broadcom’s potential purchase of another asset with $4+ billion in software sales is likely its most ambitious deal yet – leaderless Symantec has been losing share, even in its core segments. Broadcom CEO Hock Tan will likely need to aggressively cut Symantec costs while keeping sales stable.

– Anand Srinivasan, technology analyst

And on to Chimerica…Mixed signals emanating from the Trump Administration on Huawei, with Reuters reporting a senior U.S. official telling the Commerce Department’s enforcement staff this week that China’s Huawei should still be treated as blacklisted only a few days after the President vowed to ease a ban on sales to the firm.

While Commerce tries to get its story straight, Nikkei Asian Review is reporting that there’s an electronics exodus from China underway:

Global consumer electronics makers HP, Dell, Microsoft and Amazon are all looking to shift substantial production capacity out of China, joining a growing exodus that threatens to undermine the country’s position as the world’s powerhouse for tech gadgets.

HP and Dell, the world’s No. 1 and No. 3 personal computer makers who together command around 40% of the global market, are planning to reallocate up to 30% of their notebook production out of China, several sources told the Nikkei Asian Review.

While this is just smart supply chain management and oversight by electronics firms, it’s a blow to China, which is the world’s largest producer of PCs and smartphones.

It could be a very good time to learn to speak Vietnamese!

Okay, over and out. For those of you in the U.S., Happy Independence Day. And if you’re in D.C. for the big celebration, you can be assured the tanks brought in are expected to be stationary.

But watch your feet, just in case.

Written by turbotodd

July 3, 2019 at 2:37 pm

LinkedIn, Algoed Up

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Happy Tuesday.

Yesterday was a bad tooth day. I had my first root canal since I don’t want to remember when. 

The headphones with classic rock with Pandora, some deep bone antisthetic shots to fully numb my tooth, and a steady stream of nitrous oxide made a root canal a nearly fun experience. 

Endondontists everywhere, more nitrous for all root canals.

While I was down in the endo’s chair, I learned this AM how a small ISP in Pennsylvania “tanked a big chunk of the Web” yesterday.

According to a story from Slate’s “Future Tense,” a Web outage in the Northeast affected “Verizon users and thousands of Website serviced by Cloudflare.”

Cloudflare provides security and performance services to 16 million websites and demonstrates how “one little error…can cause swaths of the Web to break with little warning.”

The outage started around 7 a.m. and affected Verizon before spreading to Amazon Web Services, web-hosting provider WP Engine, live-streaming platform Twitch, Reddit, and several others.

While we wait for the 404s to fade away, know that Axios is reporting some big time algo changes over at LinkedIn.

Axios reports the company has made the algorithm changes over the past 12-18 months to favor conversations in the LI feed that cater to “niche professional interests,” as opposed to elevating viral content. 

Specifically, Axios reports LinkedIn is focused on:

  • Elevating content that users are most likely to join in conversation, which typically means people that users interact with directly in the feed through comments and reactions, or people who have shared interests with you based on your profile.
  • Elevating a post from someone closer to a users’ interests or network if it needs more engagement, not if it’s already going viral.
  • Elevating conversations with things that encourage a response (like opinions commentary alongside content), as well as posts that use mentions and hashtags to bring other people and interests into the conversation and elevating posts from users that respond to commenters.
  • Elevating niche topics of conversation will perform better than broad ones. (When it comes to length, LinkedIn says its algorithm doesn’t favor any particular format, despite rumors that it does.)

This matters because…advertisers want higher-quality engagement, which in turn leads to happier advertisers, which in turn leads to more ad revenue for LI.

Have *you* noticed a difference in your LI feed?

Written by turbotodd

June 25, 2019 at 10:04 am

No Slackers

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Greetings from my South Austin bunker on a hill.

There’s an onslaught of relevant tech news this AM. First, let’s cover off the mo-nay situations.

Slack is expected to go public today, and it’s direct listing reference price has been set at $26. That would value Slack at roughly $15.7B

In case you didn’t know what a direct listing is, The Wall Street Journal explains:

In a

direct listing

, a company simply floats its existing stock onto a public exchange without raising any money or using underwriters. The company doesn’t choose an IPO price or who gets to buy in the night before trading begins, as is the case in a traditional IPO. Spotify Technology SA, which made its trading debut in April 2018, is the only other major company to go public via direct listing.

I think, therefore I Slack. All day, every day.

So, good luck, Slackers everywhere.

You know who’s not Slack? Apple, which, according to a report from Nikkei and as reconnoitered in The Verge, is looking at moving between 15 and 30 percent of its hardware production out of China and has apparently asked key partners like Foxconn, Pegatron, and Wistron to “evaluate the available options.”

The catalyst for the shift is the ongoing trade war between China and the US, which is expected to intensify at the end of this month with the

introduction of 25 percent tariffs

on devices including phones, laptops, and tablets. However, Apple reportedly wants to shift production regardless of whether the trade dispute gets resolved.

Florida’s Riviera Beach has decided to pay $600K in ransom to hackers that took over its computer system. It was a classic email spearphish attack that led to ransomware situation, and, according to a report from the AP, spokeswoman Rose Anne Brown “said Wednesday that the city of 35,000 residents has been working with outside security consultants, who recommended the ransom be paid.”

I guess that whole “We don’t negotiate with terrorists” thing is an outdated trope when it comes to the cyber realm, because it appears more and more municipalities are paying the ransom, as opposed to just saying “No.” Call me old fashioned, but just saying “Yes” simply invites more such attacks.

And yes, the payment is being made via Bitcoin.

Closing on a positive note. Fresno-based Bitwise Industries, which offers training for software developers, has raised a $27M Series A round led by Kapor Capital, which will allow the firm to potentially expand its training to other unusual suspect, underserved cities for tech (like El Paso, Texas, and Knoxville in Appalachia).

As James Fallows writes in The Atlantic:

“Some people have had opportunities by accident, and others do not,” she said [Irma Olguin, from venture firm New Voices Fund]. “We need to make those opportunities less a matter of chance and serendipity, and more a matter of deliberately creating opportunities and exposing young people to different possibilities for their lives.”

Written by turbotodd

June 20, 2019 at 10:52 am

Who Turned Out The Lights?

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Happy Monday!

Okay, golf fans out there, how about that U.S. Open?  Hats off to Gary Woodland, who held off the always lurking Brooks Koepka (and previous two-years-in-a-row U.S. Open winner) and fastidious Justin Rose to win his first ever major championship.

And there was hardly any bitching about the conditions of the venue, Pebble Beach, which I consider to be a good sign (i.e., no out of control rough, crazy fast greens, streaking fans…okay, that last one I made up just to see if I have your attention).

Of course, it’s kind of hard to bitch much about Pebble Beach — I’ve never been there in person, but even on TV it’s breathtaking.

Now, if you happened to be at a Target over the weekend trying to buy some merch, you might have had reason to bitch. For two days in a row, Target experienced a register outage that caused long lines and forced some customers to pay with cash.

You remember cash, right? That green stuff issued by the Federal Reserve that has pictures of past presidents and stuff on it?

Target shares are down more than 1.5% today as investors figured the missing weekend cash into the investment equation. The Wall Street Journal “Morning Download” email newsletter this morning cited Target as explaining the incident wasn’t security related, but rather blamed the outage on a data center issued related to “routine maintenance.” 

Tell me about those self-driving cars, again?  You know, the ones inextricably linked to the same clouds that are running the Target cash registers??

It could have been worse. You could have been trying to do the tango in Argentina (and Paraguay…and Uruguay…and parts of Chile…and Brazil). The power went off and left tens of millions in darkness for several hours on Sunday, and nobody seems to know why.

This as The New York Times on Sunday reported that the U.S. is escalating cyber attacks on Russia’s electric power grid and has placed potentially crippling malware inside the Russian system. Moscow responded today by saying such hacks could escalate into a cyberwar with the U.S.

Mutually assured power outages, anyone?

And on the subject of mutually assured whatever, Huawei’s CEO is doing some advance damage control on the U.S./China Chill-But-Getting-Colder trade war, explaining he expects the company’s revenues to drop $30B below forecast over the next two years.

That’s due largely to a drop of 40 to 60 million international smartphone shipments. 

I would recommend he go talk to Alexa about his problems, but according to a recent survey of 1,000+ U.S. adults, 46 percent never use voice assistants, and 19 percent use them less than once a month.

And for those who do use virtual assistants, 49 percent use them via smartphones as opposed to 18 percent on smart speakers.

Siri, tell Google Assistant to text Alexa not to bother me!

Written by turbotodd

June 17, 2019 at 11:14 am

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