Tag Archives: Hacks

RESEARCHERS PROVE ABILITY TO HACK DEVICES USING SOUND WAVES

Yesterday, computer security researchers from the University of Michigan and the University of South Carolina proved they have discovered a way to hack into a device using sound ways. This newly found weakness allows them to control or influence devices through tiny accelerometers. Accelerometers are instruments that measure acceleration and are manufactured as dynamic silicon chip-based devices used to sense movement or vibrations known as microelectromechanical systems, or MEMS. They are used for navigating, determining the orientation of a tablet and calculating distance in fitness monitors. Accelerometers are standard in consumer products such as smartphones, Fitbits and automobiles.

In the paper highlighting the research, they demonstrate how they were able to add additional steps to a Fitbit monitor, as well as, play a “malicious” music file from a smartphone, demonstrating they can control the phone’s accelerometer. Kevin Fu, one author of the paper, stated, “It’s like the opera singer who hits the note to break a wine glass, only in our case, we can spell out words.” He went on to say, “You can think of it as a musical virus.”

In addition, research from the paper shows that with the toy car, they did not infiltrate the car’s microprocessor, but rather controlled the car by forcing the accelerometer to generate fake readings. Computer security researchers remarked that this is new insight into cybersecurity challenges in complex systems, which show how analog and digital components can interact in unpredictable ways.

Vinny Troia, CEO of NightLion Security commented, “as we see a heightened push to develop self-driving vehicles from numerous companies, undetected vulnerabilities, such as this one, that could allow an attacker to remotely control a self-driving vehicle is disturbing, but a reality that should be seriously considered.”

The computer security researchers will be presenting their findings at the IEEE European Symposium on Security and Privacy in Paris next month.

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Tech Companies Comment on WikiLeaks’ Vault 7 Impact

Tuesday, WikiLeaks published “Vault 7”, a collection of about 10,000 CIA documents created between 2014 and 2016. These documents contain the CIA’s collection on specific software vulnerabilities.

Tech companies such as, Apple, Microsoft and Samsung were specifically mentioned in the documents, in regard to, security holes the CIA uses to hack into their specific smart devices. For example, The CIA can use Samsung’s Smart TV to listen to people even when the TV appears to be off. All three of these companies have addressed the security flaws mentioned and state that they are “looking into” them.

Apple commented late Tuesday, “While our initial analysis indicates that many of the issues leaked today were already patched in the latest iOS, we will continue work to rapidly address any identified vulnerabilities.” They went on to say, “We always urge customers to download the latest iOS to make sure they have the most recent security updates.”

The Vault 7 leak has brought to light new criticism of the CIA and other intelligence agencies’ practice of discovering security flaws in popular hardware and software, and failing to disclose the flaws to the manufacturers. Cybersecurity expert, Vinny Troia commented, “The CIA hiding the security holes in these devices from the manufacturers is frowned upon, however, what I really find to be irresponsible is what Wikileaks did. In one breath, they are saying ‘look at all of this technology that the CIA has to spy and harm everyone’, and on the other hand they are saying ‘here it is. Enjoy!’ Just proves the importance of detecting security weaknesses within your own network before they can be used by cyber criminals.”

Both the CIA and Trump administration have denied any comment on the authenticity of these files.

CloudPets’ Poor Security Leads to Millions of Childrens’ Voice Recordings Leaked

CloudPets’ Internet of Things (IoT) teddy bear leaked more than 2 million voice recordings of parents and children because of their poor database security. This is only the latest compromise to occur with children’s toys. In January, Germany issued a ban on its internet-connected doll, Cayla, and demanded parents destroy them. With the CloudPets leak, everyone’s fear of what the privacy risk to children is with these smart toys has been brought to life.

The breach was first reported on Tuesday in a blog post by Troy Hunt, a Microsoft guru who specializes in cloud and online security. Hunt informs that CloudPets’ data was saved to a MongoDB database on an Amazon-hosted service that was publicly available and required no authentication, not even a password. Hunt goes on to say that the database was filed by Shodan, a search engine known for finding connected things, and evidence shows that since December 25, 2016 the stored data had been accessed multiple times by multiple people. CloudPets’ parent company, Spiral Toys, was notified at least four times about the breach, however, Hunt explains that some attempts to contact the company failed due to dead email addresses. In any event, there is no way Spiral Toys was not aware of the leak due to evidence left from criminal ransom demands.

Although this is a wake-up call to parents, businesses can take a lot away from the CloudPets breach, explains cybersecurity expert, Vinny Troia, CEO of NightLion Security. “Many businesses have not taken cybersecurity as seriously as they should be, until it’s too late,” Troia continues, “they take shortcuts that do not properly protect them against cyber criminals, and then are floored when their system becomes compromised.” Troia goes onto to explain that today cybersecurity needs to be at the forefront of businesses’ minds or they are going to be the next Spiral Toys.

The CloudPets incident is only the most recent compromise involving IoT toys, but they are certainly not the last. Both businesses and parents need to take the proper steps to protect the user data and their children from the darker side of the cyber world.

IRS Cautions of New W-2 Phishing Scam

Tax season is upon, which means time for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to release its “Dirty Dozen” scam list for 2017. This annual list features numerous schemes taxpayers may encounter throughout the year, but mostly occur during tax season.

It is no surprise that phishing scams are at the top of the list. Earlier this month, the IRS warned about a very refined and evolving W-2 scam that is targeting school districts, corporations, hospitals, nonprofits and regular taxpayers. According to the IRS, this particular phishing scam is not an IRS impersonation, but instead scammers are sending an email to a company’s payroll department as a company executive. The email requests a list of employees and their W-2 information, which gives the scammer access to the employees’ personal and tax information.

IRS Commissioner, John Koskinen, commented, “this is one of the most dangerous email phishing scams we’ve seen in a long time. It can result in the large-scale theft of sensitive data that criminals can use to commit various crimes, including filing fraudulent tax returns. We need everyone’s help to turn the tide against this scheme.’’

According to the IRS website, the list also includes:

  • Phishing: Fake emails or websites that attempt to steal personal information.
  • Phone Scams: Calls from criminals pretending to be IRS agents.
  • Identity Theft: Criminals file fraudulent returns using a stolen Social Security number.
  • Return Preparer Fraud: Be aware of dishonest return preparers.
  • Fake Charities: Be aware of criminal groups acting as charitable organizations to receive donations from innocent contributors.
  • Inflated Refund Claims: Taxpayers should be wary of anyone promising inflated refunds.
  • Excessive Claims for Business Credits: Avoid claiming the fuel tax credit, a tax benefit usually unobtainable to most taxpayers.
  • Falsely Filling Deductions on Returns: Avoid the temptation to falsely raise deductions or expenses on their returns to pay less than what they owe or possibly receive greater refunds.
  • Falsifying Income to Claim Credits: Don’t let scammers talk you into inventing income to invalidly qualify for tax credits, like Earned Income Tax Credit.
  • Abusive Tax Shelters: Don’t use abusive tax structures to dodge paying taxes.
  • Frivolous Tax Arguments: Don’t use frivolous tax disputes to avoid paying taxes.
  • Offshore Tax Avoidance: Money and income in offshore accounts is becoming more and more heavily enforced.

Koskinen advises people to avoid opening emails or clicking on websites stating to be from the IRS. He goes on to remind that if it sounds too good to be true it probably is. In addition to Koskinen’s advice, cybersecurity expert, Vinny Troia, CEO of NightLion Security adds, “cyber criminals are getting smarter. Make sure you’re using strong, tricky passwords to protect your personal information and networks. All sensitive information should be backed up with two-step authentication, which helps prevent cyber criminals from hacking into a system. Be completely sure your network has no vulnerabilities these hackers can exploit; my team offers 24/7 emergency service to companies who have been exploited.”

Click here to view the full “Dirty Dozen” list.

Hacks on WordPress sites deliver malware to visitors

WordPress sites are experiencing a large increase in hacks that deliver malware and ransomware to first-time, unsuspecting users. It is not yet clear how this is happening but it is being looked into extensively. No one should be visiting WordPress sites with out-of-date versions of Adobe Flash Player, Adobe Reader, Microsoft Silverlight, or Internet Explorer. With these outdated systems, you can find your computers infected with the ransomware package, which puts a hold on your computer system until you pay a hefty ransom.

To disguise the attack furthermore, the code redirects users through a series of sites before delivering the malware. It is possible that hackers are regularly updating malware when old ones get flagged.

This shows that trustworthy sites can still expose you to malware and hacks. The best way to prevent hacks is to be up-to-date on security updates when they become available.

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