Like always, much activity has been taking place in cyberspace, and naturally, all souls enthusiastic about the updates must be scavenging through the internet for relevant news reports. The search concludes here as we bring you the most important news headlines from the world of cybersecurity, curated, and presented most originally:

 

Israeli NSO Allegedly Spies On Cloud Data Of Apple, Google & Facebook

Israeli Cyber Security Company – NSO group has been allegedly installing spyware capable of extracting data, into the servers of Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft products. Known as Pegasus, this malware not only attacks and extracts information stored on a smartphone but also data stored on the cloud, which might include a user’s location data, archived messages, and photos.

A company, which is supposed to provide protection against phishing, had previously been accused of installing the malware in Facebook’s WhatsApp. However, the allegations were denied by the security company citing that cybercriminals impersonate reputable organizations these days, to give shape to their malicious intents.

What does the malware do?

  • Once installed on a device, the malware copies authentication keys from services including Google Drive, Facebook Messenger, and iCloud.
  • A separate server then mimics the device, including its location thereby extracting all of the sensitive data stored on a user’s device.
  • It allows for open-ended access to the data stored on cloud data from the mentioned apps. Thus, no security walls, such as a 2-step verification or warning e-mail on the target device, are prompted to the user.

Comments of the affected companies

As for the explanation of the involved companies, Amazon hasn’t found any evidence of the malware functioning on its systems. Microsoft said that it had incorporated a protection service that will protect its users from such malware, whereas Facebook authorities are still investigating into the matter.

 

Scammers Already Targeting Facebook’s To-Be-Launched Crypto – Libra

Some time back, Facebook announced the launch of its cryptocurrency Libra in the year 2020 and hoped to build trust among people for the authenticity of Libra, thereby aiming to make it a profitable investment for all. However, in spite of the significant number of phishing prevention methods adopted by companies, attackers still manage to succeed in their evil attempts.

Attackers have developed fake pages that are advertised on Facebook and Instagram, claiming to give people early access to Libra. These pages impersonate the official Libra page and even use the logo of Facebook or images of Mark Zuckerberg to increase their credibility and sales.

Upon being notified, Facebook has brought down many of the fake pages, but this severely damages the trust factor that Facebook was so earnestly trying to establish. Another sphere that pops up is Facebook’s inability to detect the flaw on its own, and perhaps it needs an anti-phishing software review for all its systems!

 

Penalty Of $5 Billion On Facebook For Privacy And Data Violation

The social networking platform Facebook had been giving false solace to its 2.2 billion users worldwide for so long, that the US government had to ultimately impose a fine as enormous as $5 billion on Facebook. This fine is the largest in the history of the US for infringements of data privacy. The company has been violating users’ privacy for years now, and it is felt by many that the fine imposed should have been even more severe.

This penalty isn’t, however, the only consequence of the company’s negligence to data privacy of users, the company shall now allow federal eyes on its future business dealings for the next two decades.

A long-fought battle by the FTC

The penalty comes after a 16 month-long investigation by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) which ultimately found that Facebook has been deceiving its user base of 2.2 billion people consistently over the years and that the company allowed app developers and advertisers to access account holders’ private data without the consent or even informing the latter.

For its part, Facebook says that it takes this as positive criticism and by way of paying the penalty, it hopes to close this chapter and focus wholeheartedly on its future goals and projects.

 

Probable Parties Behind The Cyber-attack On Yandex In 2018 Unfolded

Anti-phishing services investigating into the malware attack on Russia’s Yandex search engine that took place in November 2018 revealed that perhaps the cyber teams working for Western intelligence services were the people behind the attack. The malware to hit Yandex was “Regin” – which is used by the “Five Eyes” or the intelligence network shared by the UK, United States, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada.

Yandex has grown to become Russia’s most significant tech group and has interests across various industries right from ride-hailing to web-based retail. Yandex was unable to prevent phishing attacks from Regin, but the attack was detected at a very early stage because of which no user data was compromised.

The motive behind the attack

Though first interpreted as an attack aimed at stealing user-authentication data, the attack on Yandex is now believed to have been espionage rather than an attack to gain unauthorized access.

 

Twitter Handle Of The London Police Hacked For Forty Minutes On Friday

The twitter handle of London’s Metropolitan Police malfunctioned on Friday for about forty minutes during which period all sorts of irrelevant, incomprehensible, and baseless tweets were tweeted from the account. Some of these unusual tweets were:

  • XEON IS THE BEST FIGHTER IN SCOTLAND
  • NO COMMENT GET MY LAWYER
  • FREE DA GANG!! #CHUCKLINGHELLA
  • WHAT YOU GONNA DO PHONE THE POLICE?

These tweets sent out a visible signal that the account was facing security issues, and its access had been compromised. The posts appeared and were then deleted after a few minutes hinting towards some cyber tug-of-war going on underneath.

The police confirmed to have been facing security issues in an e-mail later on Friday. They apologized for the inconvenience to all subscribers who get notified of their tweets even via e-mail.

What are the steps being taken?

Though they are yet to identify the person(s) behind the attack, investigations are ongoing in this regard with the various anti-phishing solutions they have in place. This incident made US President Trump tweet on Saturday morning: “With the incompetent Mayor of London, you will never have safe streets!”

spear phishing prevention

Equifax To Pay Compensation To Users Affected In Data Breach

The year 2017 witnessed one of the most significant data breaches in history as the Atlanta based credit bureau Equifax underwent a data breach that exposed personal information as sensitive as driver’s license and social security numbers of more than 147 million Americans. It took Equifax over two months to detect the breach, and it was only after a month had passed that they had the courtesy to inform users of the attack. The hackers behind this attack have escaped without identification. Consequently, the company has decided to award compensation to the affected users if they can prove that they had indeed been victims of the data breach.

What is the compensation being offered?

Equifax shall pay at least $650 million to address the claims of consumers in addition to fines to be paid to state authorities and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. About $300 million of the mentioned amount shall be given to consumers, and the affected ones are entitled to an additional $125 million if the initial funds are exhausted.

Individual victims can claim as much as $20,000 in compensation for the losses they incurred because of the data breach if they can provide claims with documentation which prove that spent money on credit-monitoring services or they lost money as a result of fraud. This documentation can be inclusive of credit card or bank statements, invoices, telephone records, receipts, etc.

Even people who have not directly been the victims of fraud but who have spent a significant amount of time taking precautions to safeguard their identities are also eligible to claim compensation.

The last date to apply for claims is 22nd January 2020, but those getting to know of their losses much later can still apply for compensation after the deadline, however, the process of the settlement getting sanctioned is subject to the availability of funds after the deadline has passed.

 

Aging Effect Inducing FaceApp Found With Questionable Privacy Policy

The photo-altering smartphone application – FaceApp that can add decades to a person’s face and make them see a realistic picture of what their older versions would probably look like, found momentum off late as various celebrities took the ongoing social media challenge. Created by Wireless Lab of St. Petersburg, Russia, FaceApp ranked among the top free apps, both in the Apple and Android app store, it was probably uploading much more data than the users thought they were submitting to the app, according to a report by the New York Times.

What is the response of FaceApp?

In its defense of the imposed allegations, the app said that they only store images uploaded by users on cloud and that too, because they do not want the performance and traffic of the app to be disrupted due to multiple uploads of the same image. They also said that most of the pictures get auto-deleted from their servers within 48 hours of being uploaded.

Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York, has asked the FBI and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate the app in line with the severe security concerns, data retention, and transparency that have arisen.

 

A Security Contractor Receives Jail Sentence For Stealing Sensitive Classified US Data

Fifty-four-year-old contractor at the US National Security Agency has been sentenced in Maryland to nine years in prison with charges of stealing vast amounts of classified material from US intelligence agencies for more than twenty years. Accused Harold Martin’s involvement in the most significant breach of US classified information includes passage of stolen data from the NSA, CIA, US Cyber Command and National Reconnaissance Office right from 1996.

Among the data that he stole were the NSA reports of 2014 containing precise information on international cyber issues in addition to an NSA user’s guide for an intelligence-gathering tool and a 2007 file containing details of specific daily operations.

Martin misused the faith that the Americans had put in him, and the punishment awarded to him does absolute justice to his actions. Though without any concrete proof, he has also been accused of communicating in Russian and other languages, probably to the enemies for whom he was a spy agent.

The period from 1993 to 2016 saw him work as a contractor at over seven firms in several government agencies. At the time when he was taken for trial, Harold Martin was working for Booz Allen Hamilton Holding Corp.

 

Cyber Attack On Lancaster University; Accused Apprehended

Lancaster University was hit by a massive and sophisticated phishing attack recently, which has put the personal details of several students at risk of being misused and manipulated.

Personal data such as names, addresses, telephone numbers, and e-mail address of the undergraduate student applicants for the year 2019-2020 have been compromised as a result of this attack. Consequently, students are receiving irrelevant invoices. As a part of its e-mail phishing protection guidelines to the students whose details have been compromised, the university has been informing the students of the circulation of these fraudulent invoices and has alerted applicants to be aware of any suspicious approaches.

Furthermore, the university is in constant touch with the police and the office of the Information Commissioner regarding the breach.

The accused apprehended

The latest update, however, is that a 25-year-old person from Bradford has been identified as being the man behind the attack. He was arrested by the officers of NCA’s National Cyber Crime Unit (NCCU) on 22nd July 2019, Monday but was then released under investigation.

 

Data Breach At Third-Party Vendor, Graduation Alliance

Third-party vendor Graduation Alliance, which hosts a college and career-planning website called CollegeforTN.org underwent a data breach recently, which led to the loss of sensitive personal information belonging to thousands of public school students across Tennessee.

Graduation Alliance brought down the affected server immediately after figuring out about the breach and also intimated the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) and the Department of Education about the same. The Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) then informed the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the Office of the Comptroller, in addition to all state agency stakeholders.

Which information was compromised?

The breach revealed sensitive personal information of students such as names, dates of birth, gender, ethnicity, and ACT scores for a subset of students. But luckily for them, no Social Security numbers or addresses were compromised because of the breach.

What steps have been taken?

Independent forensic experts have been appointed by Graduation Alliance to conduct a thorough investigation. Also, the Tennessee Higher Education Commission is carrying out its investigation, finding out the roots of the attack.

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