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FBI warns on airline hacking threat

May 23, 2015 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Computers, Cyber Security, data security, Hackers, Search Clinic, Technology Companies

The USA’s Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has issued a formal alert warning airlines to be on the lookout for hackers.

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has issued a formal alert warning airlines to be on the lookout for hackersIt follows an onboard tweet from security expert Chris Roberts, who joked about being able to hack into a United Airlines plane’s wi-fi network.

A terrorist could theoretically take over systems that fly a plane by compromising equipment at their seat as an increasing number of airlines are offering onboard wi-fi to customers.

The FBI and the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) said they had no information to support claims a plane’s navigation system could be interfered via its onboard wi-fi kit, but added that they were evaluating the evidence.

In a private industry notification posted on its website and reported by Wired magazine, the FBI advised airlines to:

  • report any suspicious activity involving travellers connecting unknown cables or wires to the in-flight entertainment (IFE) system
  • report any evidence of suspicious behaviour following a flight, such as IFE systems that show evidence of tampering or the forced removal of covers to network connection ports
  • report any evidence of suspicious behaviour concerning aviation wireless signals, including social media messages with threatening references to onboard network systems, automatic dependent surveillance systems (ADS-B), aircraft communications addressing and reporting systems (ACARS) and air traffic control networks
  • review network logs from aircraft to ensure any suspicious activity, such as network scanning or intrusion attempts, would be captured for further analysis

In his tweet, Mr Roberts suggested that he might be able to deploy the oxygen masks on the flight.

Chris Roberts’s tweet:

On arrival at Syracuse airport, Mr Roberts – who is co-founder of security company One World Labs – was taken in for questioning by the FBI, and his laptop and other devices were seized.

A few days later, he was prevented from boarding a flight to California.

He had previously given a number of interviews, explaining the possible weak points in airline systems, telling CNN that he could connect to a computer under his seat to view data from the aircraft’s engines, fuel and flight-management systems.

Security experts have warned for some years that airlines are a possible target for hackers.

Planes including the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and the Airbus 350 and A380 have a single network that is used by both pilots to fly the plane and by passengers for their wi-fi connections.

Although there were currently no publicly known vulnerabilities that a hacker could exploit, such an attack remained “theoretically possible” because all networks were inherently insecure.

Wi-fi is now common on many airlines, and most have relaxed the rules surrounding the use of gadgets during flights.

Computer communication encryptions are a problem for police

March 30, 2015 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Computers, Cyber Security, data security, Social Media, Social Networking, Technology Companies, Telecommunications Companies, Uncategorized

Encrypted communications are the biggest problem for police, says Europol’s police chief.

Computer communication encryptions are a problem for policeThe European police chief says the sophisticated online communications are the biggest problem for security agencies tackling terrorism.

Hidden areas of the internet and encrypted communications make it harder to monitor terror suspects, warns Europol’s Rob Wainwright.

Tech firms should consider the impact sophisticated encryption software has on law enforcement, he said.

There is a significant capability gap that has to change if we’re serious about ensuring the internet isn’t abused and effectively enhancing the terrorist threat.

Mr Wainwright said that in most current investigations the use of encrypted communications was found to be central to the way terrorists operated.

“It’s become perhaps the biggest problem for the police and the security service authorities in dealing with the threats from terrorism,” he explained.

“It’s changed the very nature of counter terrorist work from one that has been traditionally reliant on having good monitoring capability of communications to one that essentially doesn’t provide that anymore.”

Mr Wainwright, whose organisation supports police forces in Europe, said terrorists were exploiting the “dark net”, where users can go online anonymously, away from the gaze of police and security services.

But he is also concerned at moves by companies such as Apple to allow customers to encrypt data on their smartphones.

And the development of heavily encrypted instant messaging apps is another cause for concern, he said. This meant people could send text and voice messages which police found very difficult or impossible to access, he said.

“We are disappointed by the position taken by these tech firms and it only adds to our problems in getting to the communications of the most dangerous people that are abusing the internet.

“Tech firms are doing it, I suppose, because of a commercial imperative driven by what they perceive to be consumer demand for greater privacy of their communications.”

Mr Wainwright acknowledged this was a result of the revelations by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who exposed how security services were conducting widespread surveillance of emails and messages.

He said security agencies now had to work to rebuild trust between technology firms and the authorities.

The extent of the challenge faced by security services is shown in the scale of social media use by IS.

The programme also found evidence that supporters of ISIS are using encrypted sites to radicalise or groom new recruits.

Mr Wainwright revealed that ISIS is believed to have up to 50,000 different Twitter accounts tweeting up to 100,000 messages a day.

Europol is now setting up a European Internet Referral Unit to identify and remove sites being used by terrorist organisations.

Mr Wainwright also says current laws are “deficient” and should be reviewed to ensure security agencies are able to monitor all areas of the online world.

“There is a significant capability gap that has to change if we’re serious about ensuring the internet isn’t abused and effectively enhancing the terrorist threat.

“We have to make sure we reach the right balance by ensuring the fundamental principles of privacy are upheld so there’s a lot of work for legislators and tech firms to do.”

Cyber criminals raided by police

March 06, 2015 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Computers, Cyber Security, data security, Dr Search, Hackers, internet, Personal Security, Search Clinic, Technology Companies, Uncategorized

The UK’s National Crime Police Agency has arrested 56 suspected hackers in part of a “strike week” against cybercrime.

The UK's National Crime Agency has arrested 56 suspected hackers as part of a strike week against cybercrimeIn total, 25 separate operations were carried out this week across England, Scotland and Wales. Those arrested are suspected of being involved in a wide variety of cybercrimes including data theft, fraud and virus writing.

The week long series of operations was co-ordinated by the NCA’s National Cyber Crime Unit (NCCU) as well as specialist officers from regional organised crime squads and the Metropolitan Police.

West Midlands police arrested a 23 year old man in Sutton Coldfield who is believed to have been involved in breaking into the network of the US defence department in June 2014.

The biggest operation saw the arrest of 25 people in London and Essex suspected of using the net to steal money, launder cash and carry out other frauds.

The hackers behind that attack stole contact information for about 800 people and data on the network’s internal architecture was also pilfered.
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The action also resulted in the arrest of people thought to be part of some well known hacking groups.

In Leeds, a suspected member of the Lizard Squad group was arrested, and in London a 21-year-old man was taken into custody on suspicion of being part of the D33Ds Company hacking collective.

The D33Ds group is believed to have been behind a 2012 attack on Yahoo that stole more than 400,000 email addresses and passwords subsequently published online.

Investigations about suspects in Sutton Coldfield, Leeds and Willesden were aided by forensic information provided by the FBI.

The other actions targeted alleged phishing gangs, intellectual property thieves, users of financial malware, companies that offer hosting services to crime groups, and many people who took part in so-called DDoS (distributed denial of service) attacks in an attempt to knock websites offline.

One 21-year-old man from County Durham allegedly knocked out the Police Scotland website mounting such a DDoS attack.

“Criminals need to realise that committing crime online will not render them anonymous to law enforcement,” said Andy Archibald, deputy director of the NCCU. “It’s imperative that we continue to work with partners to pursue and disrupt the major crime groups targeting the UK.”

In addition, this week the NCA coordinated visits to 70 firms to inform them about how vulnerable their servers were to attack and how they could be used by cyberthieves to send out spam or act as proxies for other attacks.

The strike week also involved four forces setting up pop-up shops to give advice to the public about staying safe online and to get their devices checked to make sure they are free of malware and other digital threats.

Police warn on cyber crime threats

April 18, 2014 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Cyber Security, data security, Hackers, Personal Security, Search Clinic, Telecommunications Companies, Uncategorized

Only three out of 43 police forces in England and Wales have a comprehensive plan to deal with a large scale cyber attack, new research has found.

Police warn on cyber crime threatsHer Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) warned only Derbyshire, Lincolnshire and West Midlands had sufficient plans in place.

It also found only 2% of police staff across 37 forces had been trained on investigating cybercrime.

The report examined how prepared police are for a series of national threats.

Last year, the government identified five threats as priorities for police to prepare for. These are:

  • Terrorism
  • Civil emergencies
  • Organised crime
  • Public order threats
  • Large-scale cyber-attacks

As part of its Strategic Policing Requirement (SPR), the Home Office called for a nationally required policing response to counter each of the threats.

The report is the first in a series of inspections looking at how individual forces have responded to the guidelines.

HMIC inspectors said they were “struck by how incomplete the police service’s understanding of the national threats was” and that more needs to be done “collectively by all forces”.

The report called for “much greater attention” from police leaders.

“The capacity and capability of the police to respond to national threats is stronger in some areas than others – with the police response to the cyber-threat being the least well developed,” HMIC’s Stephen Otter said.

Police plans to deal with counter-terrorism, public order, civil emergencies and organised crime were in “stark contrast” with the capabilities for cyber-related threats.

Inspectors found the ability to deal with cyber-threats remains “largely absent” in some forces and that some senior officers across England and Wales are still “unsure of what constituted a large-scale cyber-incident”.

They found forces were “silent” when it came to preventing cybercrime and protecting people from the harm it causes, despite the fact it is “fast becoming a dominant method in the perpetration of crime.

“The police must be able to operate very soon just as well in cyberspace as they do on the street,” the report said.

According to the government’s definition, a large-scale cyber-incident could be “a criminal attack on a financial institution to gather data or money” or an “aggregated threat where many people or businesses across the UK are targeted”.

It also includes “the response to a failure of technology on which communities depend and which may also be considered a civil emergency”.

Basically- despite cybercrime costing the UK ecomony billions of Pounds, our plods are light years from being able to cope- let alone help us.

Moral of the story is make sure that you are as secure as you can be- because the state isn’t capable of nannying you.

Passwords- how to set and remember them

April 15, 2014 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Cyber Security, data security, Dr Search, Hackers, Personal Security, Search Clinic, Uncategorized

With the heightened risk of password hacking Search Clinic thought that it is a good time to refresh your memory on how to set- and remember your secure passwords.

Passwords- how to set and remember themDr Search of the Search Clinic visited the Cheltenham Science Festival a few years ago and attended a lecture by Toby of GCHQ on security in the computer age and posted a post at: top common passwords.

Your starter for ten is to make sure that you don’t use any of them. If you do- then you are already in trouble.

Changing passwords is something many people avoid at all costs- because they fear they will forget the new password.

However, you can make something memorable by simply using the power of association and location. In order to remember a string of online passwords, all you have to do is associate each individual letter and number with a known or fixed item, calling on your imagination throughout.

The more you stimulate and use your imagination, the more connections you will be able to make, and the more you will be able to memorise.

Memory expert Tony Buzan gives tips on how to remember new ones, which should be a long jumble of randomly generated letters and numbers.

No pet’s names- Hackers can find out a lot about you from social media

No dictionary words- Hackers can precalculate the encrypted forms of whole dictionaries and easily reverse engineer your password.

Mix unusual characters- Try a word or phrase where characters are substituted -Whyd03s1talw&ysr*in?

Have multiple passwords- If hackers compromise one system, they won’t be able to access other accounts.

Keep them safely- Don’t write them down – use a secure password vault on your phone. If you must worte them down label the file someother OTHER than passwords.

Tom from GCHQ suggested using a combination of the above, by using multiple words and numbers- with a few symbols thrown in for good measure:

wh1te-rabbt)*m0nth

Good Luck- and safe browsing.

Heartbleed bug- what you need to know

April 11, 2014 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Cyber Security, data security, Dr Search, Hackers, Search Clinic, Uncategorized

A major security flaw at the heart of the internet may have been exposing users’ personal information and passwords to hackers for the past two years.

Heartbleed bug- what you need to knowThe Heartbleed bug exists in a piece of open source software called OpenSSL which is designed to encrypt communications between a user’s computer and a web server, a sort of secret handshake at the beginning of a secure conversation.

It was dubbed Heartbleed because it affects an extension to SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) which engineers dubbed Heartbeat.

It is one of the most widely used encryption tools on the internet, believed to be deployed by roughly two-thirds of all websites. If you see a little padlock symbol in your browser then it is likely that you are using SSL.

Half a million sites are thought to have been affected.

In his blog chief technology officer of Co3 Systems Bruce Schneier said: “The Heartbleed bug allows anyone to read the memory of the systems protected by the vulnerable versions of the OpenSSL software. This compromises the secret keys used to identify the service providers and to encrypt the traffic, the name and passwords of the users and the actual content,” he said.

“This allows attackers to eavesdrop communications, steal data directly from the services and users and to impersonate services and users,” he added.

The bug is so serious it has its own website Heartbleed.com which outlines all aspects of the problem.

Some security experts are saying that it would be prudent to change your passwords- although there is a degree of confusion as to when and if this needs to be done.

Some point out that there will be plenty of smaller sites that haven’t yet dealt with the issue and with these a password reset could do more harm than good, revealing both old and new passwords to any would-be attacker.

But now the bug is widely known even smaller sites will issue patches soon so most people should probably start thinking about resetting their passwords.

The exploit was not related to weak passwords but now there are calls for a mass reset of existing ones, many are reiterating the need to make sure they are as secure as possible.

There are half a million websites believed to be vulnerable so too many to list but there is a glut of new sites offering users the chance to check whether the online haunts they use regularly are affected.

The bad news, according to a blog from security firm Kaspersky is that “exploiting Heartbleed leaves no traces so there is no definitive way to tell if the server was hacked and what kind of data was stolen”.

Security experts say that they are starting to see evidence that hacker groups are conducting automated scans of the internet in search of web servers using OpenSSL.

And Kaspersky said that it had uncovered evidence that groups believed to be involved in state-sponsored cyber-espionage were running such scans shortly after news of the bug broke.

Search Clinic will soon post a blog on how to set and remember passwords- so please subscribe to the Search Clinic newsfeed.

Paypal predicts the end of passwords

March 04, 2013 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Customer Service, Cyber Security, data security, Dr Search, Ecommerce, Hackers, Personal Security, smart phones, Technology Companies, Telecommunications Companies, Uncategorized

The days of the tiresome password may be numbered- according to Paypal.Paypal predicts the end of passwordsThe fact is that the way we users typically deal with having multiple passwords for our online accounts makes us too vulnerable to spyware, phishing and identity theft.

Many of us rely on the same password, while many more of us only use three or four passwords.

Ideally, the best password would be at least 16 characters with capitals, numbers and special characters – but you’d never remember it.

So the industry is looking to ditch passwords, and is turning to a variety of solutions, such as voice recognition, key stroke analysis and finger print identification.

Payments firm PayPal is one of those leading the changes, and president David Marcus says the aim is to make the whole process seamless.

“Like magic, you’ll be authenticated, and the payment will go through. We want to move away from passwords, and get to embedded fingerprint scanners on mobile phones.”

“You’re going to start seeing that type of experience later this year, with a mass roll-out in the year to come.”

Earlier this month, PayPal, Lenovo and others announced the formation of the Fido Alliance (Fast Identity Online) to change the way online security checks are carried out.

The idea is that users will be able to select the type of authentication that suits them best – from fingerprint scanning to USB tokens.

“The best protection is the one you don’t see – it’s the one that happens in the background, that verifies your identity accessing your own data,” says Mr Marcus.
‘Untapped potential’

For PayPal, solving the password security problem is important because so many people now use it to make purchases – it has 125 million customers in more than 190 countries.

“You shop offline more than you shop online, but in most of these transactions mobile is involved now,” says Mr Marcus.

“As the offline market is 17 times bigger than the online market, there is still huge untapped potential for us.”

The key driver for this has been the way in which customers are increasingly using phones, tablets and other handheld devices to make purchases.

Last year, PayPal recorded $145 billion (£95bn) in total transactions, of which $14 billion were via mobile devices, says Mr Marcus.  “But the year before it was less than $4 billion.

All of which should be welcome news for those of us who continually have to email our online retailers for new passwords, because we’ve forgotten the one we asked them for the last time we tried to buy something from them.

Online music piracy down

February 25, 2013 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Computers, data security, Dr Search, Hackers, internet, Search Clinic, Social Media, Technology Companies, Uncategorized

Online music piracy across the world “declined significantly” in 2012, according to a new report.Online music piracy down The NPD Group said last year the number of users on peer-to-peer (P2P) illegally downloading music fell by 17% – down to 21 million worldwide.

The market research firm cited an increased use of legal streaming music sites as being behind the drop.

The NPD Group’s report, based on its annual study of music consumers, said that at P2P file sharing’s peak, in 2005, as many as 33 million people used the services – one in five of all internet users aged 13 and older.

But in 2012 that number was measured as being down to 21 million people.

The report said as many as 40% of people who used illegal music services in 2011 stopped doing so in 2012.

Of those, 20% said this was due to the fact the illegal service they were using had been shut down, or had contained spyware and viruses.

More than half the users who stopped using illegal sites said they now preferred legal services such as the UK-headquartered Spotify.

The music industry has undertaken a sizable campaign over several years to see illegal sites and services put out of business.

In the UK, the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) took action to the courts, obtaining a court order to force internet service providers to block access to file-sharing site The Pirate Bay.

The Pirate Party UK – a political group that campaigns for an “open” internet – launched a proxy service to allow UK users to circumvent the block of The Pirate Bay, but that too was closed following legal threats from the BPI.

“In recent years, we’ve seen less P2P activity, because the music industry has successfully used litigation to shut down [P2P client] Limewire and other services,” said Russ Crupnick, senior vice president of NPD.

“Many of those who continued to use P2P services reported poor experiences, due to rampant spyware and viruses on illegal P2P sites.”

Apple computers now hacked

February 18, 2013 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Apple, Computers, Cyber Security, data security, Hackers, internet, Search Clinic, Technology Companies, Uncategorized

Apple has announced that its own computers were attacked by the same hackers who targeted Facebook.Apple computers now hackedThe iPhone-maker said a small number of its machines were affected, but added there was “no evidence” of data theft.

Last week Facebook said it had traced a cyber attack back to China which had infiltrated employees’ laptops.

Apple said it would release a software update to protect customers against the malicious software used in the attack.

In a statement, the firm said: “Apple has identified malware which infected a limited number of Mac systems through a vulnerability in the Java plug-in for browsers.”

“The malware was employed in an attack against Apple and other companies, and was spread through a website for software developers.”

“We identified a small number of systems within Apple that were infected and isolated them from our network. There is no evidence that any data left Apple.”

“We are working closely with law enforcement to find the source of the malware.”

Apple said it had taken measures to protect users from vulnerabilities in Java, a widely-used programming language that was found to have serious security flaws.

“Since OS X Lion, Macs have shipped without Java installed, and as an added security measure OS X automatically disables Java if it has been unused for 35 days,” the company said.

“To protect Mac users that have installed Java, today we are releasing an updated Java malware removal tool that will check Mac systems and remove this malware if found.”

Facebook’s turn to be targeted by sophisticated hackers

February 15, 2013 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Cyber Security, data security, Facebook, internet, Personal Security, Social Media, Technology Companies, Uncategorized

Facebook has revealed it was the latest website to be targeted by a “sophisticated attack” by hackers last month, but found no evidence any user data had been compromised.Facebook's turn to be targeted by sophisticated hackersThe social network said that the attack occurred when employees visited a mobile developer website “that was compromised”.

More than one billion people use Facebook worldwide.

“Last month, Facebook security discovered that our systems had been targeted in a sophisticated attack,” the company said.

“The attack occurred when a handful of employees visited a mobile developer website that was compromised.”

Malware was downloaded on to its employees’ laptops, the firm said, adding: “As soon as we discovered the presence of the malware, we remediated all infected machines, informed law enforcement, and began a significant investigation that continues to this day.”

“We have no evidence that Facebook user data was compromised in this attack,” Facebook said in its blog post.

The firm went on to say that it was “not alone in this attack”.

“It is clear that others were attacked and infiltrated recently as well. As one of the first companies to discover this malware, we immediately took steps to start sharing details about the infiltration with the other companies and entities that were affected,” Facebook said.