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Paul Merrell

Popular Security Software Came Under Relentless NSA and GCHQ Attacks - The Intercept - 0 views

  • The National Security Agency and its British counterpart, Government Communications Headquarters, have worked to subvert anti-virus and other security software in order to track users and infiltrate networks, according to documents from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. The spy agencies have reverse engineered software products, sometimes under questionable legal authority, and monitored web and email traffic in order to discreetly thwart anti-virus software and obtain intelligence from companies about security software and users of such software. One security software maker repeatedly singled out in the documents is Moscow-based Kaspersky Lab, which has a holding registered in the U.K., claims more than 270,000 corporate clients, and says it protects more than 400 million people with its products. British spies aimed to thwart Kaspersky software in part through a technique known as software reverse engineering, or SRE, according to a top-secret warrant renewal request. The NSA has also studied Kaspersky Lab’s software for weaknesses, obtaining sensitive customer information by monitoring communications between the software and Kaspersky servers, according to a draft top-secret report. The U.S. spy agency also appears to have examined emails inbound to security software companies flagging new viruses and vulnerabilities.
  • The efforts to compromise security software were of particular importance because such software is relied upon to defend against an array of digital threats and is typically more trusted by the operating system than other applications, running with elevated privileges that allow more vectors for surveillance and attack. Spy agencies seem to be engaged in a digital game of cat and mouse with anti-virus software companies; the U.S. and U.K. have aggressively probed for weaknesses in software deployed by the companies, which have themselves exposed sophisticated state-sponsored malware.
  • The requested warrant, provided under Section 5 of the U.K.’s 1994 Intelligence Services Act, must be renewed by a government minister every six months. The document published today is a renewal request for a warrant valid from July 7, 2008 until January 7, 2009. The request seeks authorization for GCHQ activities that “involve modifying commercially available software to enable interception, decryption and other related tasks, or ‘reverse engineering’ software.”
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  • The NSA, like GCHQ, has studied Kaspersky Lab’s software for weaknesses. In 2008, an NSA research team discovered that Kaspersky software was transmitting sensitive user information back to the company’s servers, which could easily be intercepted and employed to track users, according to a draft of a top-secret report. The information was embedded in “User-Agent” strings included in the headers of Hypertext Transfer Protocol, or HTTP, requests. Such headers are typically sent at the beginning of a web request to identify the type of software and computer issuing the request.
  • According to the draft report, NSA researchers found that the strings could be used to uniquely identify the computing devices belonging to Kaspersky customers. They determined that “Kaspersky User-Agent strings contain encoded versions of the Kaspersky serial numbers and that part of the User-Agent string can be used as a machine identifier.” They also noted that the “User-Agent” strings may contain “information about services contracted for or configurations.” Such data could be used to passively track a computer to determine if a target is running Kaspersky software and thus potentially susceptible to a particular attack without risking detection.
  • Another way the NSA targets foreign anti-virus companies appears to be to monitor their email traffic for reports of new vulnerabilities and malware. A 2010 presentation on “Project CAMBERDADA” shows the content of an email flagging a malware file, which was sent to various anti-virus companies by François Picard of the Montréal-based consulting and web hosting company NewRoma. The presentation of the email suggests that the NSA is reading such messages to discover new flaws in anti-virus software. Picard, contacted by The Intercept, was unaware his email had fallen into the hands of the NSA. He said that he regularly sends out notification of new viruses and malware to anti-virus companies, and that he likely sent the email in question to at least two dozen such outfits. He also said he never sends such notifications to government agencies. “It is strange the NSA would show an email like mine in a presentation,” he added.
  • The NSA presentation goes on to state that its signals intelligence yields about 10 new “potentially malicious files per day for malware triage.” This is a tiny fraction of the hostile software that is processed. Kaspersky says it detects 325,000 new malicious files every day, and an internal GCHQ document indicates that its own system “collect[s] around 100,000,000 malware events per day.” After obtaining the files, the NSA analysts “[c]heck Kaspersky AV to see if they continue to let any of these virus files through their Anti-virus product.” The NSA’s Tailored Access Operations unit “can repurpose the malware,” presumably before the anti-virus software has been updated to defend against the threat.
  • The Project CAMBERDADA presentation lists 23 additional AV companies from all over the world under “More Targets!” Those companies include Check Point software, a pioneering maker of corporate firewalls based Israel, whose government is a U.S. ally. Notably omitted are the American anti-virus brands McAfee and Symantec and the British company Sophos.
  • As government spies have sought to evade anti-virus software, the anti-virus firms themselves have exposed malware created by government spies. Among them, Kaspersky appears to be the sharpest thorn in the side of government hackers. In the past few years, the company has proven to be a prolific hunter of state-sponsored malware, playing a role in the discovery and/or analysis of various pieces of malware reportedly linked to government hackers, including the superviruses Flame, which Kaspersky flagged in 2012; Gauss, also detected in 2012; Stuxnet, discovered by another company in 2010; and Regin, revealed by Symantec. In February, the Russian firm announced its biggest find yet: the “Equation Group,” an organization that has deployed espionage tools widely believed to have been created by the NSA and hidden on hard drives from leading brands, according to Kaspersky. In a report, the company called it “the most advanced threat actor we have seen” and “probably one of the most sophisticated cyber attack groups in the world.”
  • Hacks deployed by the Equation Group operated undetected for as long as 14 to 19 years, burrowing into the hard drive firmware of sensitive computer systems around the world, according to Kaspersky. Governments, militaries, technology companies, nuclear research centers, media outlets and financial institutions in 30 countries were among those reportedly infected. Kaspersky estimates that the Equation Group could have implants in tens of thousands of computers, but documents published last year by The Intercept suggest the NSA was scaling up their implant capabilities to potentially infect millions of computers with malware. Kaspersky’s adversarial relationship with Western intelligence services is sometimes framed in more sinister terms; the firm has been accused of working too closely with the Russian intelligence service FSB. That accusation is partly due to the company’s apparent success in uncovering NSA malware, and partly due to the fact that its founder, Eugene Kaspersky, was educated by a KGB-backed school in the 1980s before working for the Russian military.
  • Kaspersky has repeatedly denied the insinuations and accusations. In a recent blog post, responding to a Bloomberg article, he complained that his company was being subjected to “sensationalist … conspiracy theories,” sarcastically noting that “for some reason they forgot our reports” on an array of malware that trace back to Russian developers. He continued, “It’s very hard for a company with Russian roots to become successful in the U.S., European and other markets. Nobody trusts us — by default.”
  • Documents published with this article: Kaspersky User-Agent Strings — NSA Project CAMBERDADA — NSA NDIST — GCHQ’s Developing Cyber Defence Mission GCHQ Application for Renewal of Warrant GPW/1160 Software Reverse Engineering — GCHQ Reverse Engineering — GCHQ Wiki Malware Analysis & Reverse Engineering — ACNO Skill Levels — GCHQ
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

A newly discovered router virus actually fights off malware | The Verge - 1 views

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    "Routers are among the most hackable devices out there - rarely updated, easily compromised, and almost never scanned for viruses. But a new router virus might actually be making the devices safer, according to a report from the security firm Symantec."
Paul Merrell

Protocols of the Hackers of Zion? « LobeLog - 0 views

  • When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Google chairman Eric Schmidt on Tuesday afternoon, he boasted about Israel’s “robust hi-tech and cyber industries.” According to The Jerusalem Post, “Netanyahu also noted that ‘Israel was making great efforts to diversify the markets with which it is trading in the technological field.'” Just how diversified and developed Israeli hi-tech innovation has become was revealed the very next morning, when the Russian cyber-security firm Kaspersky Labs, which claims more than 400 million users internationally, announced that sophisticated spyware with the hallmarks of Israeli origin (although no country was explicitly identified) had targeted three European hotels that had been venues for negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program.
  • Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal, one of the first news sources to break the story, reported that Kaspersky itself had been hacked by malware whose code was remarkably similar to that of a virus attributed to Israel. Code-named “Duqu” because it used the letters DQ in the names of the files it created, the malware had first been detected in 2011. On Thursday, Symantec, another cyber-security firm, announced it too had discovered Duqu 2 on its global network, striking undisclosed telecommunication sites in Europe, North Africa, Hong Kong, and  Southeast Asia. It said that Duqu 2 is much more difficult to detect that its predecessor because it lives exclusively in the memory of the computers it infects, rather than writing files to a drive or disk. The original Duqu shared coding with — and was written on the same platform as — Stuxnet, the computer worm  that partially disabled enrichment centrifuges in Iranian nuclear power plants, according to a 2012 report in The New York Times. Intelligence and military experts said that Stuxnet was first tested at Dimona, a nuclear-reactor complex in the Negev desert that houses Israel’s own clandestine nuclear weapons program. While Stuxnet is widely believed to have been a joint Israeli-U.S. operation, Israel seems to have developed and implemented Duqu on its own.
  • Coding of the spyware that targeted two Swiss hotels and one in Vienna—both sites where talks were held between the P5+1 and Iran—so closely resembled that of Duqu that Kaspersky has dubbed it “Duqu 2.” A Kaspersky report contends that the new and improved Duqu would have been almost impossible to create without access to the original Duqu code. Duqu 2’s one hundred “modules” enabled the cyber attackers to commandeer infected computers, compress video feeds  (including those from hotel surveillance cameras), monitor and disrupt telephone service and Wi-Fi, and steal electronic files. The hackers’ penetration of computers used by the front desk would have allowed them to determine the room numbers of negotiators and delegation members. Duqu 2 also gave the hackers the ability to operate two-way microphones in the hotels’ elevators and control their alarm systems.
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

La Ciberseguridad. Primera parte (I). Antecedentes. - 0 views

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    " lunes, 12 de agosto de 2013 La Ciberseguridad. Primera parte (I). Antecedentes. Los tres problemas básicos de seguridad Hasta hace poco, en el mundo del Internet, la mayoría de las personas solo se tenía que preocupar por los virus, cuestión que con un antivirus cualquiera, se convertía en una preocupación menor. El segundo problema más frecuente, es que accedan a tú cuenta del correo electrónico o alguna de tus redes sociales, y te cambien la contraseña, la reacción habitual del usuario es: "me hackearon la cuenta". Cuando en realidad, es poco probable que hayas sido víctima de un "hacker" propiamente dicho, simplemente han logrado conseguir tu password."
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

What is a Zero-Day Threat? - Definition from Techopedia - 0 views

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    "Zero-day exploits are often put up by renowned hacker groups. Typically, the zero-day attack exploits a bug that neither developers, nor the users, know about. Indeed, this is exactly what the malicious coders anticipate. By discovering a software vulnerability before the software's developers do, a hacker can make a worm or virus that can be used to exploit the vulnerability and harm computers"
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Bitdefender Blocks Anti-Piracy Website as Malware - TorrentFreak - 1 views

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    " rnesto on August 1, 2015 C: 8 Breaking Rightscorp, the piracy monetization company that works with Warner Bros and other prominent copyright holders, has had to deal with its fair share of setbacks recently. The company is publicly condemned for its "extortionist" practices and now anti-virus vendor Bitdefender has started to brand the company's website as malware. "
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Linux Concerns: Convenience vs. Security - Datamation - 0 views

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    "Ask why you should use Linux, and inevitably someone will claim that it is more secure than Windows, and doesn't need anti-virus protection, either."
Paul Merrell

The Digital Hunt for Duqu, a Dangerous and Cunning U.S.-Israeli Spy Virus - The Intercept - 1 views

  • “Is this related to what we talked about before?” Bencsáth said, referring to a previous discussion they’d had about testing new services the company planned to offer customers. “No, something else,” Bartos said. “Can you come now? It’s important. But don’t tell anyone where you’re going.” Bencsáth wolfed down the rest of his lunch and told his colleagues in the lab that he had a “red alert” and had to go. “Don’t ask,” he said as he ran out the door. A while later, he was at Bartos’ office, where a triage team had been assembled to address the problem they wanted to discuss. “We think we’ve been hacked,” Bartos said.
  • They found a suspicious file on a developer’s machine that had been created late at night when no one was working. The file was encrypted and compressed so they had no idea what was inside, but they suspected it was data the attackers had copied from the machine and planned to retrieve later. A search of the company’s network found a few more machines that had been infected as well. The triage team felt confident they had contained the attack but wanted Bencsáth’s help determining how the intruders had broken in and what they were after. The company had all the right protections in place—firewalls, antivirus, intrusion-detection and -prevention systems—and still the attackers got in.
  • Bencsáth was a teacher, not a malware hunter, and had never done such forensic work before. At the CrySyS Lab, where he was one of four advisers working with a handful of grad students, he did academic research for the European Union and occasional hands-on consulting work for other clients, but the latter was mostly run-of-the-mill cleanup work—mopping up and restoring systems after random virus infections. He’d never investigated a targeted hack before, let alone one that was still live, and was thrilled to have the chance. The only catch was, he couldn’t tell anyone what he was doing. Bartos’ company depended on the trust of customers, and if word got out that the company had been hacked, they could lose clients. The triage team had taken mirror images of the infected hard drives, so they and Bencsáth spent the rest of the afternoon poring over the copies in search of anything suspicious. By the end of the day, they’d found what they were looking for—an “infostealer” string of code that was designed to record passwords and other keystrokes on infected machines, as well as steal documents and take screenshots. It also catalogued any devices or systems that were connected to the machines so the attackers could build a blueprint of the company’s network architecture. The malware didn’t immediately siphon the stolen data from infected machines but instead stored it in a temporary file, like the one the triage team had found. The file grew fatter each time the infostealer sucked up data, until at some point the attackers would reach out to the machine to retrieve it from a server in India that served as a command-and-control node for the malware.
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  • Bencsáth took the mirror images and the company’s system logs with him, after they had been scrubbed of any sensitive customer data, and over the next few days scoured them for more malicious files, all the while being coy to his colleagues back at the lab about what he was doing. The triage team worked in parallel, and after several more days they had uncovered three additional suspicious files. When Bencsáth examined one of them—a kernel-mode driver, a program that helps the computer communicate with devices such as printers—his heart quickened. It was signed with a valid digital certificate from a company in Taiwan (digital certificates are documents ensuring that a piece of software is legitimate). Wait a minute, he thought. Stuxnet—the cyberweapon that was unleashed on Iran’s uranium-enrichment program—also used a driver that was signed with a certificate from a company in Taiwan. That one came from RealTek Semiconductor, but this certificate belonged to a different company, C-Media Electronics. The driver had been signed with the certificate in August 2009, around the same time Stuxnet had been unleashed on machines in Iran.
Paul Merrell

#Vault7: CIA's secret cyberweapon can infiltrate world's most secure networks - RT Viral - 1 views

  • WikiLeaks’ latest release in its Vault7 series details how the CIA’s alleged ‘Brutal Kangaroo’ program is being used to penetrate the most secure networks in the world.
  • Brutal Kangaroo, a tool suite for Microsoft Windows, targets closed air gapped networks by using thumb drives, according to WikiLeaks.Air gapping is a security measure employed on one or more computers to ensure that a secure computer network is physically isolated from unsecured networks.
  • These networks are used by financial institutions, military and intelligence agencies, the nuclear power industry, as well as even some advanced news networks to protect sources, according to La Repubblica journalist Stefania Maurizi.READ MORE: ‘CIA’s Cherry Bomb’: WikiLeaks #Vault7 reveals wireless network targetsThese newly released documents show how closed networks not connected to the internet can be compromised by this malware. However, the tool only works on machines with a Windows operating system.Firstly, an internet-connected computer within the targeted organization is infected with the malware. When a user inserts a USB stick into this computer, the thumbdrive itself is infected with a separate malware.Once this is inserted into a single computer on the air gapped network the infection jumps – like a kangaroo – across the entire system, enabling sabotage and data theft.RELEASE: CIA air-gap jumping virus 'Emotional Simian' https://t.co/KkBnXhNtGCpic.twitter.com/w6MZFGushc— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) June 22, 2017If multiple computers on the closed network are under CIA control, they “form a covert network to coordinate tasks and data exchange,” according to Wikileaks.Data can be returned to the CIA once again, although this does depend on someone connecting the USB used on the closed network computer to an online device.
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  • While it may not appear to be the most efficient CIA project, it allows the intelligence agency to infiltrate otherwise unreachable networks.This method is comparable to the Stuxnet virus, a cyberweapon purportedly built by the US and Israel. Stuxnet is thought to have caused substantial damage to Iran's nuclear program in 2010.The CIA allegedly began developing the Brutal Kangaroo program in 2012 – two years after Stuxnet incident in Iran.The most recent of these files were to intended to remain secret until at least 2035. The documents released by WikiLeaks are dated February 2016, indicating that the scheme was likely being used until that point.
Paul Merrell

WikiLeaks - Vault 7: Projects - 0 views

  • Today, March 31st 2017, WikiLeaks releases Vault 7 "Marble" -- 676 source code files for the CIA's secret anti-forensic Marble Framework. Marble is used to hamper forensic investigators and anti-virus companies from attributing viruses, trojans and hacking attacks to the CIA. Marble does this by hiding ("obfuscating") text fragments used in CIA malware from visual inspection. This is the digital equivallent of a specalized CIA tool to place covers over the english language text on U.S. produced weapons systems before giving them to insurgents secretly backed by the CIA. Marble forms part of the CIA's anti-forensics approach and the CIA's Core Library of malware code. It is "[D]esigned to allow for flexible and easy-to-use obfuscation" as "string obfuscation algorithms (especially those that are unique) are often used to link malware to a specific developer or development shop." The Marble source code also includes a deobfuscator to reverse CIA text obfuscation. Combined with the revealed obfuscation techniques, a pattern or signature emerges which can assist forensic investigators attribute previous hacking attacks and viruses to the CIA. Marble was in use at the CIA during 2016. It reached 1.0 in 2015.
  • The source code shows that Marble has test examples not just in English but also in Chinese, Russian, Korean, Arabic and Farsi. This would permit a forensic attribution double game, for example by pretending that the spoken language of the malware creator was not American English, but Chinese, but then showing attempts to conceal the use of Chinese, drawing forensic investigators even more strongly to the wrong conclusion, --- but there are other possibilities, such as hiding fake error messages. The Marble Framework is used for obfuscation only and does not contain any vulnerabilties or exploits by itself.
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    But it was the Russians who hacked the 2016 U.S. election. Really.
Paul Merrell

Leaked docs show spyware used to snoop on US computers | Ars Technica - 0 views

  • Software created by the controversial UK-based Gamma Group International was used to spy on computers that appear to be located in the United States, the UK, Germany, Russia, Iran, and Bahrain, according to a leaked trove of documents analyzed by ProPublica. It's not clear whether the surveillance was conducted by governments or private entities. Customer e-mail addresses in the collection appeared to belong to a German surveillance company, an independent consultant in Dubai, the Bosnian and Hungarian Intelligence services, a Dutch law enforcement officer, and the Qatari government.
  • The leaked files—which were posted online by hackers—are the latest in a series of revelations about how state actors including repressive regimes have used Gamma's software to spy on dissidents, journalists, and activist groups. The documents, leaked last Saturday, could not be readily verified, but experts told ProPublica they believed them to be genuine. "I think it's highly unlikely that it's a fake," said Morgan Marquis-Bore, a security researcher who while at The Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto had analyzed Gamma Group's software and who authored an article about the leak on Thursday. The documents confirm many details that have already been reported about Gamma, such as that its tools were used to spy on Bahraini activists. Some documents in the trove contain metadata tied to e-mail addresses of several Gamma employees. Bill Marczak, another Gamma Group expert at the Citizen Lab, said that several dates in the documents correspond to publicly known events—such as the day that a particular Bahraini activist was hacked.
  • The leaked files contain more than 40 gigabytes of confidential technical material, including software code, internal memos, strategy reports, and user guides on how to use Gamma Group software suite called FinFisher. FinFisher enables customers to monitor secure Web traffic, Skype calls, webcams, and personal files. It is installed as malware on targets' computers and cell phones. A price list included in the trove lists a license of the software at almost $4 million. The documents reveal that Gamma uses technology from a French company called Vupen Security that sells so-called computer "exploits." Exploits include techniques called "zero days" for "popular software like Microsoft Office, Internet Explorer, Adobe Acrobat Reader, and many more." Zero days are exploits that have not yet been detected by the software maker and therefore are not blocked.
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  • Many of Gamma's product brochures have previously been published by the Wall Street Journal and Wikileaks, but the latest trove shows how the products are getting more sophisticated. In one document, engineers at Gamma tested a product called FinSpy, which inserts malware onto a user's machine, and found that it could not be blocked by most antivirus software. Documents also reveal that Gamma had been working to bypass encryption tools including a mobile phone encryption app, Silent Circle, and were able to bypass the protection given by hard-drive encryption products TrueCrypt and Microsoft's Bitlocker.
  • The documents also describe a "country-wide" surveillance product called FinFly ISP which promises customers the ability to intercept Internet traffic and masquerade as ordinary websites in order to install malware on a target's computer. The most recent date-stamp found in the documents is August 2, coincidung with the first tweet by a parody Twitter account, @GammaGroupPR, which first announced the hack and may be run by the hacker or hackers responsible for the leak. On Reddit, a user called PhineasFisher claimed responsibility for the leak. "Two years ago their software was found being widely used by governments in the middle east, especially Bahrain, to hack and spy on the computers and phones of journalists and dissidents," the user wrote. The name on the @GammaGroupPR Twitter account is also "Phineas Fisher." GammaGroup, the surveillance company whose documents were released, is no stranger to the spotlight. The security firm F-Secure first reported the purchase of FinFisher software by the Egyptian State Security agency in 2011. In 2012, Bloomberg News and The Citizen Lab showed how the company's malware was used to target activists in Bahrain. In 2013, the software company Mozilla sent a cease-and-desist letter to the company after a report by The Citizen Lab showed that a spyware-infected version of the Firefox browser manufactured by Gamma was being used to spy on Malaysian activists.
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