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Global Computer Security Issues News 2015
Obama draws cyber line in sand


How the U.S. thinks the Russians hacked the White House


John Oliver tackles surveillance in surprise Snowden scoop

A match made in heaven: fraud & social media

IBM uncovers bank cyber transfer scam

An index of all of John's articles


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Computer security continues in the news with North Korea's attacks on Sony in November and ongoing hacks of every branch of the US government by every enemy from ISIS to China and even friendly countries like Israel. Here follow excerpts copied and pasted from news articles on the subject. In the links to the left of this article you may click to read these entries in their entirety.

1. Obama draws cyber line in sand

President Barack Obama on Wednesday signed an executive order that gives the Secretary of Treasury the authority to impose sanctions on entities found responsible for or complicit in carrying out a cyberattack harmful to U.S. interests. The Secretary of Treasury will have to consult with the Secretary of State and the Attorney General before enacting the powers granted under the order.

"Starting today, we're giving notice to those who pose significant threats to our security or economy by damaging our critical infrastructure, disrupting or hijacking our computer networks, or stealing the trade secrets of American companies or the personal information of American citizens for profit," said Obama.

2. How the U.S. thinks the Russians hacked the White House

Russian hackers behind the damaging cyber intrusion of the State Department in recent months used that perch to penetrate sensitive parts of the White House computer system, according to U.S. officials briefed on the investigation. While the White House has said the breach only affected an unclassified system, that description belies the seriousness of the intrusion. The hackers had access to sensitive information such as real-time non-public details of the president's schedule. While such information is not classified, it is still highly sensitive and prized by foreign intelligence agencies, U.S. officials say.

The FBI, Secret Service and U.S. intelligence agencies are all involved in investigating the breach, which they consider among the most sophisticated attacks ever launched against U.S. government systems. The intrusion was routed through computers around the world, as hackers often do to hide their tracks, but investigators found tell-tale codes and other markers that they believe point to hackers working for the Russian government. National Security Council spokesman Mark Stroh didn't confirm the Russian hack, but he did say that "any such activity is something we take very seriously."

3. John Oliver tackles surveillance in surprise Snowden scoop

Comedy talk show host John Oliver boldly went where few journalists from the mainstream media have dared to tread, grilling whistle-blower Edward Snowden about his leaking of thousands of NSA documents to the press in an interview that aired Sunday on Last Week Tonight. Oliver raked Snowden over the coals for not having read every one of the documents, insisting there's a difference between understanding what's in documents and reading them. The documents were "passed to the journalists," Snowden responded, "and they're using extraordinary security measures to make sure this is reported in the most secure way."

4. A match made in heaven: fraud and social media

Since the days of Friendster and GeoCities, fraud has thrived on social media. Social media is the fraudsters’ playground—an unregulated, highly visible, easily exploitable platform that connects with billions of people and serves a host of purposes in a hacker’s repertoire. Many fraudulent accounts are mere satire or innocuous trolling, but others are created with far more devious intentions.

Even inexperienced cyber criminals can carry out low-tech attacks via social media by building convincing profiles and connecting to the right people. In a targeted attack, hackers connect with colleagues and friends of the target, a tactic called “gatekeeper friending,” to appear more legitimate once connecting to the target itself.

In the unverified world of social media, fraudsters lay claim to whatever they like—that they work at the same organizations, have the same alma mater, or share all the same goals and interests. Never in the history of human communication has deceit been easier. With these elements in place, the hackers can request sensitive information or ask for money. If the target believes the account to be a coworker, relative, or love interest, these things are openly shared.

5. IBM uncovers bank transfer cyber scam

IBM has uncovered a sophisticated fraud scheme run by a well- funded Eastern European gang of cyber criminals that uses a combination of phishing, malware and phone calls that the technology company says has netted more than $1 million from large and medium-sized U.S. companies. The scheme, which IBM security researchers have dubbed "The Dyre Wolf," is small in comparison with more recent widespread online fraud schemes but represents a new level of sophistication.

According to IBM, since last year the attackers have been targeting people working in companies by sending spam email with unsafe attachments to get a variant of the malware known as Dyre into as many computers as possible. If installed, the malware waits until it recognizes that the user is navigating to a bank website and instantly creates a fake screen telling the user that the bank's site is having problems and to call a certain number. If users call that number, they get through to an English-speaking operator who already knows what bank the users think they are contacting. The operator then elicits the users' banking details and immediately starts a large wire transfer to take money out of the relevant account.
April 12, 2015

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