A Sneaky Ad Scam Tore Through 11 Million Phones

source: wired.com  |  image: pexels.com

Some 1,700 spoofed apps, 120 targeted publishers, 12 billion false ad requests per day—Vastflux is one of the biggest ad frauds ever discovered.

 

EVERY TIME YOU open an app or website, a flurry of invisible processes takes place without you knowing. Behind the scenes, dozens of advertising companies are jostling for your attention: They want their ads in front of your eyeballs. For each ad, a series of instant auctions often determines which ads you see. This automated advertising, often known as programmatic advertising, is big business, with $418 billion spent on it last year. But it’s also ripe for abuse.

Security researchers today revealed a new widespread attack on the online advertising ecosystem that has impacted millions of people, defrauded hundreds of companies, and potentially netted its creators some serious profits. The attack, dubbed Vastflux, was discovered by researchers at Human Security, a firm focusing on fraud and bot activity. The attack impacted 11 million phones, with the attackers spoofing 1,700 app and targeting 120 publishers. At its peak, the attackers were making 12 billion requests for ads per day.

“When I first got the results for the volume of the attack, I had to run the numbers multiple times,” says Marion Habiby, a data scientist at Human Security and the lead researcher on the case. Habiby describes the attack as both one of the most sophisticated the company has seen and the largest. “It is clear the bad actors were well organized and went to great lengths to avoid detection, making sure the attack would run as long as possible—making as much money as possible,” Habiby says. 

T-Mobile Breached Again,

This Time Exposing 37M Customers’ Data

source: darkreading.com  |  image: pexels.com

This time around, weak API security allowed a threat actor to access account information, the mobile phone giant reported.

T-Mobile has disclosed a new, enormous breach that occurred in November, which was the result of the compromise of a single application programming interface (API). The result? The exposure of the personal data of more than 37 million prepaid and postpaid customer accounts.

For those keeping track, this latest disclosure marks the second sprawling T-Mobile data breach in two years and more than a half-dozen in the past five years.

And they’ve been expensive.

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Cybersecurity trends in 2023 that will directly impact everyday life

source: cybersecuritydive.com  |  image: Pixabay.com

 

The scale of cyberthreats are growing, spilling into the mainstream. In 2023, expect the spotlight to add pressure to businesses that have underinvested in security.

 

There are a few certainties in cybersecurity: ransomware will cause headaches for companies; third parties will spark cyber incidents; and every December, cybersecurity analysts will put together lists of their predictions and trends they believe will have an impact in the coming year. 

Most of the predictions are designed to help organizations build out their security programs, but every so often a trend will build slowly over time until its impact is clear.

Sometimes these trends will reach far beyond an individual company and impact society at large. 

Here are some of the biggest trends Cybersecurity Dive is watching this year. Are there any security patterns you are watching closely? Email us at cybersecurity.dive.editors@industrydive.com.

The global impact of state-sponsored activities

State-sponsored threats trend every year, but as we begin 2023, those threats have a different, more menacing, feel to them. The countries responsible for much of the state-sponsored activity — Russia, China and Iran — are embroiled in conflict. 

“In the past year, we’ve seen [Russia’s] invasion of Ukraine; a worsening of the relationship between China and the West combined with tightening control by Xi Jinping and further pressure on Taiwan; and a growing concern in Iran about dissident activity and pressures on the regime both internally and abroad,” said Mike McLellan, director of intelligence for the Secureworks Counter Threat Unit. 

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Microsoft Warns of Uptick in Hackers Leveraging Publicly-Disclosed 0-Day Vulnerabilities

source: thehackernews.com  |  image: pexels.com

 

Microsoft is warning of an uptick among nation-state and criminal actors increasingly leveraging publicly-disclosed zero-day vulnerabilities for breaching target environments.

The tech giant, in its 114-page Digital Defense Report, said it has “observed a reduction in the time between the announcement of a vulnerability and the commoditization of that vulnerability,” making it imperative that organizations patch such exploits in a timely manner.

This also corroborates with an April 2022 advisory from the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), which found that bad actors are “aggressively” targeting newly disclosed software bugs against broad targets globally.

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Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee wants us to ‘ignore’ Web3: ‘Web3 is not the web at all’

source: cnbc.com  |  image:  pexels.com

 

LISBON, Portugal — The creator of the web isn’t sold on crypto visionaries’ plan for its future and says we should “ignore” it.

Tim Berners-Lee, the British computer scientist credited with inventing the World Wide Web in 1989, said Friday that he doesn’t view blockchain as a viable solution for building the next iteration of the internet.

He has his own web decentralization project called Solid.

“It’s important to clarify in order to discuss the impacts of new technology,” said Berners-Lee, speaking onstage at the Web Summit event in Lisbon. “You have to understand what the terms mean that we’re discussing actually mean, beyond the buzzwords.”

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How critical US sectors are coping with rising cyberattacks

source: thehill.com  |  image: pixabay.com

BY INES KAGUBARE

The rise in cyberattacks this year has forced many companies in critical sectors to make improvements to their cyber defenses in an effort to secure their networks from hacks.

Such companies are increasing their investments in cybersecurity and seeking to hire more cyber professionals — a task proving to be challenging amid a shortage of cyber workers across industries. 

The Hill spoke to several security experts and industry leaders in the financial, health care and energy sectors to gauge how those critical industries are seeking to keep their networks secure amid the growing number of cyberattacks.

In the health care sector, which has seen a spike in ransomware this year targeting hospitals and other health care facilities, Christopher Plummer, a senior cybersecurity architect at Dartmouth Health, said having a cybersecurity program is crucial for hospitals, as they hold sensitive information — including patient data. 

But he estimated that only about 10 to 20 percent of the nation’s hospitals have a dedicated cybersecurity program.

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Teen cyber cartels: when world’s most prolific cybercriminals are minors

source:  cybernews.com  |  image: pixels.com

 

As the announcement of two teenagers charged in relation to the Lapsus$ extortion group broke, we began to wonder: how do youngsters join the world’s biggest cyber gangs in the first place?

“Youth of cybercrime” is a relatively new yet quickly spreading phenomenon. It’s becoming increasingly less uncommon to discover that children were behind notorious hacks. Elliott Gunton, for example, was only 16 when he breached the UK telecoms operator TalkTalk, compromising the details of hundreds of thousands of customers. Another “self-proclaimed Apple fan” from Australia (who cannot be identified for legal reasons) was 13 when he first hacked into Apple’s private networks and stole 90GB worth of data. Both of these teenagers received jail time related to various cybercrimes.

Of course, such cases are not limited to hacking into big tech corporations. Jonathan James, a 15-year-old from Florida, managed to install a backdoor in US military servers and access the source code of the International Space Station (ISS). Other kids simply use malware to pull pranks on each other without fully recognizing that it’s still illegal.

“These kids grew up in an online world, and some become proficient in programming and cyber skills well before they reach their teens,” John Gunn, CEO of Token, told Cybernews.

What attracts teenagers to cybercrime?

In many ways, teenagers find themselves as attracted to cybercrime as they are to most unknowns of the big and yet so unfamiliar world. That’s why Kent Landfield, Chief Standards and Technology Policy Strategist at Trellix, considers the boom in “youth-led cybercrime” to be a cultural issue as much as a public policy one.

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Uber investigating wide-reaching security breach

 

source: axios.com  |  image by Mikhail Nilov for pexels.com

Uber is currently responding to what could be one of the worst breaches in the company’s history — all because of a few text messages.

Why it matters: The hacker who has claimed responsibility for the ongoing Uber breach is believed to have access to the company’s source code, email and other internal systems — leaving employee, contractor and customer data at risk.

Details: A hacker first gained access to Uber’s systems on Thursday after sending a text message to an employee claiming to be an IT person and asking for their login credentials, according to the New York Times, which first reported the breach.

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TryHackMe: The Story Behind

the UK’s Most Innovative

Cyber SME

source: infosecurity-magazine.com  |  image: pixabay.com

One of the many highlights of this year’s Infosecurity Europe 2022 event (21-23 June 2022) was the annual UK’s Most Innovative Cyber SME competition. The contest, run by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) and Tech UK in partnership with Infosecurity Europe, showcases the startup community’s enormous contribution to the UK’s booming cybersecurity sector. This is highlighted by the impressive list of previous winners, which include cybersecurity reskilling provider CAPSLOCK (2021), white hacking training platform Hack the Box (2019), communication security firm KETS Quantum Security (2018) and email security specialist Check Recipient (now trading as Tessian) (2017).

 

In the past two competitions, the judges have awarded first prize to companies involved in creating innovative solutions to resolve the much-publicized cyber-skills shortage, and this trend continued in 2022. The newly crowned winner of this award is TryHackMe, a cybersecurity training platform launched in 2018 that focuses on providing gamified lessons to its users. Once the celebrations had concluded, Infosecurity caught up with TryHackMe co-founder Ashu Savani to learn more about the company’s story, journey and future aspirations.

 

Savani described the application process for the Most Innovative Cyber SME competition as “very reflective,” allowing the team to reaffirm its goals following a whirlwind few years. “The application process was quite fun as it solidified our mission and the work we’re doing in our mind,” he explained. “We were very excited to be accepted as it gave us recognition for the work we are doing, which is to make it as easy as possible for anyone to learn cybersecurity, whether you’re a construction worker or a school teacher.”

 

Did he expect TryHackMe to win though? “We weren’t sure we were going to win; we were just really happy that we got through to the final and got a chance to give TryHackMe more exposure,” Savani replied modestly. Win they did though, and the award represented the culmination of many years of hard work, challenges and innovative thinking.

 

The Beginnings

 

The idea for TryHackMe was born after Savani met co-founder Ben Spring during a summer internship at the consultancy Context Information Security. “It was during the internship that we realized there isn’t a lot of cybersecurity learning material,” and most of it was orientated towards people already proficient in security, which, Savani explained, “isn’t very conducive to learning security.”

 

Spring began a side-project that involved building systems on the cloud. He then suggested the idea of adding training material and notes to Savani. “That ended up being the very early prototype of TryHackMe, where you could launch training material with a touch of a button and have some sort of learning focus there,” explained Savani.

 

As the pair developed the prototype, they put the word out on platforms heavily used by the amateur hacking community like Reddit, “and people started using our products.” This was the motivation to keep developing the product, carefully incorporating user feedback. “Fast-forward four years, and we’ve been very fortunate to have a loyal user base still using us. We believe we’re positively contributing to closing the cyber skills gap and we’re excited to continue doing that work,” said Savani.

Overcoming Challenges 

 

As with all startups, there were significant challenges and bumps in the road to overcome in the early years. One of the key difficulties for TryHackMe was acquiring users beyond its base. After attempting a number of different strategies, the company found the most effective approach was holding events that allowed the participants to win prizes by competing in cybersecurity challenges. This included partnering with universities through events called ‘HackBack.’

 

The other major challenge was building out the product “sustainably,” which required hiring the right people to develop and scale the business. “It’s one of those things that’s tough to solve overnight,” reflected Savani. However, they now have “some really amazing people” on board. “We’ve been very fortunate to bring on people who love teaching and have that cybersecurity experience,” he noted, adding: “All our different pockets and departments at TryHackMe have an impact on the work we’re doing on a day-to-day basis.”

 

In terms of the training platform’s evolution, there has been a strong emphasis on gamification, which TryHackMe found most effective in engaging users. “We’re focusing on ensuring the users enjoy the material and stick to what they’re doing.”

 

Savani also revealed the company is now looking to expand its material, providing relevant training content for experienced professionals as well as beginners in the field of cybersecurity, which was previously the primary focus. This includes moving into “more intermediate to advanced topic areas for things like DevSecOps, red teaming and blue teaming.”

 

Long-Term Vision

 

Savani emphasized that while the training content is designed to be fun and engaging, it must have practical real-world benefits for the users. The ultimate vision is “to take a student with a little technical experience all the way to an advanced consultant who understands the complex concepts within defensive security.” Savani added that it is also increasingly working with businesses to train their security teams, “an area we’re looking to grow.”

 

In addition to the quality of the TryHackMe service, Savani acknowledged that the company’s core focus on reducing barriers to entry in cybersecurity was a crucial factor in being crowned Most Innovative Cyber SME at Infosecurity Europe 2022. Lack of diversity and accessible pathways are a major blockage to addressing the cyber skills gap, and TryHackMe is making a conscious effort to provide an opportunity to train in cybersecurity, regardless of background and ability to pay. The firm currently has a pricing scheme of £8-10 ($9.50-12) a month. “No one should be paying lots of money just to discover whether cybersecurity is a feasible career for them,” he added.

 

Looking ahead, the long-term vision for TryHackMe is to continue its mission to provide affordable and engaging training for those looking to develop a career in cybersecurity. This involves constant reflection and evolution, taking on user feedback to continuously improve the platform.

 

Solving the cyber skills shortage is a long-term challenge for the industry and requires innovative ideas and approaches. Often, startups have the most ‘out-of-the-box’ solutions, and TryHackMe has demonstrated this trait over its first few years of operation. TryHackMe’s triumph in this year’s contest, alongside other recent victors, shows that this issue is being taken increasingly seriously in the cybersecurity sector.

TikTok Engaging in Excessive Data Collection

source: infosecurity-magazine.com  |  image: pexels.com

 

TikTok has been engaging in excessive data collection and connecting to mainland China-based infrastructure, Internet 2.0 has claimed in a new white paper.

The latest report, overseen by Internet 2.0’s head security engineer Thomas Perkins, is an analysis of “the source code of TikTok mobile applications Android 25.1.3 as well as IOS 25.1.1”, with Internet 2.0 carrying out static and dynamic testing between 1 July to 12 July 2022 that focused on device and user data collection.

The report identified multiple instances of unwarranted data harvesting, including:

  • Device mapping
  • Hourly monitoring of device location
  • Persistent calendar access
  • Continuous requests for access to contacts
  • Device information

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