Scam of the day – November 15, 2017 – New updates for Adobe Flash

As we learned again, most recently with the Equifax data breach, delay in installing security patches and updates for your software as soon as they become available can lead to disastrous consequences.  Adobe has recently issued critical updates to a number of its software programs including the popular, but seriously vulnerable Adobe Flash.

Flaws in Adobe Flash have been exploited by hackers and identity thieves against individuals, companies and government agencies including the U.S. State Department and the White House.  In 2010 Steve Jobs vociferously complained about its security and it has routinely been cited as being extremely vulnerable.   According to security company, Symantec in 2015 80% of the newly discovered software vulnerabilities which can be exploited by malware created by cybercriminals involved Adobe Flash. Adobe has announced that it will be retiring Adobe Flash in 2020.  It will still be issuing security patches until then, but now is a good time to move away from Adobe Flash if you have not already done so.

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If you are going to continue to use Adobe Flash, it is imperative that you update your software with the latest security patches when they are issued.  Here is a link to the latest updates for Adobe Flash.

https://www.us-cert.gov/ncas/current-activity/2017/11/14/Adobe-Releases-Security-Updates

However, it may well be time for you to replace Adobe Flash to avoid future problems.

Here is a link to a website with alternative plugins you may wish to consider to replace Adobe Flash.

http://alternativeto.net/software/flash-player/

 

Scam of the day – June 29, 2017 – Latest security updates from the Department of Homeland Security

As shown by the recent massive WannaCry  and Petya ransomware attacks that took advantage of computer users that had not patched their Windows operating system with available updates, constant updating of the software we all use with the latest security patches and updates is a critical part of avoiding scams and identity theft threats.  Whenever new security updates and patches are issued, we provide access to these so that you can update your software to provide better security on your computers, smartphones, laptops and other electronic devices.  Updating your software with the latest security patches and updates as soon as possible is important because identity thieves and scammers are always finding and exploiting vulnerabilities in the software that we all use.  Delay in updating your software could lead to disastrous results.  However, it is also important to be sure that you are downloading legitimate patches and updates rather than being tricked by an identity thief or scammer into downloading malware under the guise of downloading a security patch or update.  These new updates from the Department of Homeland Security includes critical updates for Adobe software including Adobe Flash.

I have been warning you for years about flaws in Adobe Flash that have been exploited by hackers and identity thieves against individuals, companies and government agencies including the U.S. State Department and the White House.  Problems with Adobe Flash are nothing new.  In 2010 Steve Jobs vociferously complained about its security and it has routinely been cited as being extremely vulnerable.  Despite security patch after security patch, new problems keep coming up.  According to security company, Symantec 80% of the newly discovered software vulnerabilities which can be exploited by malware created by cybercriminals involved Adobe Flash.

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Here are the links to a list of all of the recent security updates as posted by the Department of Homeland Security:

https://www.us-cert.gov/ncas/bulletins/SB17-177

Some alternative plugins you may wish to consider to replace Adobe Flash include  GNU Gnash, and Silverlight.

Silverlight can be downloaded free directly from the Microsoft at this link: https://www.microsoft.com/silverlight/ while GNU Gnash can be downloaded free at this link: http://www.gnu.org/software/gnash/

Scam of the day – May 29, 2016 – North Korea tied to cyber bank robberies

In a startling development, security researchers at Symantec and  BAE investigating the cyber bank robbery of the Central Bank of Bangladesh, about which I reported to you in March, are now saying that it appears that the cyber bank robbery was the work of North Korea.  If so, this would be the first time that a nation state used a cyber attack to steal money.

In February, cybercriminals hacked into Bangladesh’s central bank and managed to steal approximately 81 million dollars.  It appears that, as with so many types of cybercrimes, this one started with social engineering spear phishing which lured bank employees to unwittingly download the malware used by the hackers to infiltrate the bank’s computers and obtain not just the passwords and cryptographic keys used for electronic fund transfers, but also the emails of bank employees so that they could copy and adapt the emails by which they made their transfers appear legitimate. Armed with this information, the cybercriminals sent dozens of account transfer requests using the international SWIFT banking messaging service from the Bangladesh Central Bank to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York where the Bangladesh Central Bank has accounts containing billions of dollars.  The account transfer requests processed by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York electronically sent about 81 million dollars to accounts in the Philippines where the funds were transferred multiple times including transfers to Philippine casinos in an effort to launder the money.

Late last year banks in the Philippines and Vietnam also suffered similar cyber attacks.  Now cybersecurity investigators are saying that the same type of malware used in all three attacks was the same used by state sponsored North Korean hackers against South Korean banks in 2013 and Sony in 2014.

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All businesses and governmental agencies have got to do a better job at cybersecurity in general.  In particular, greater attention has to be paid to the dangers of social engineering spear phishing which has been at the root of the almost all of the major data breaches at both companies like Target and governmental agencies, such as the Office of Personnel Management.  The international banking system is under attack and although the  security of the SWIFT system itself appear not to have been breached, that is little consolation when individual banks are hacked thereby obtaining the authorizations necessary to utilize the SWIFT system to steal money.  Although SWIFT continues to say that its messaging system is secure, it is apparent that just as the individual banks need to increase their security, so does SWIFT have to recognize the security vulnerabilities that exist in banks around the world and introduce dual factor authentication and confirmation protocols in order to protect the security of the international banking system.

Scam of the day – July 2, 2014 – Russian hackers attack energy companies

Cybersecurity security company, Symantec has uncovered a vast hacking of hundreds of oil and gas companies in the United States, Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Turkey and Poland.  The hacking appears to be the work of a group of Russian hackers referred to by Symantec as “Dragonfly.”  Although such industrial espionage has been common for the last few years, it has become much more concentrated in the last six months.  According to Symantec, the purpose of the hacking into the computers of these companies is not to destroy oil rigs, power generators or other infrastructure, but rather more to steal information about the operation of the victims’ companies, their technology and their trade secrets.  The manner in which the malware has been implanted by the hackers is particularly interesting as it is indicative of a newer trend in such hackings.  Similar to the hacking of Target, where Target was not hacked directly, but a third party vendor of Target’s with less computer security was hacked and then the access of the third party vendor to Target’s computers was used to infiltrate Target’s computer systems and download malware, so in this case Dragonfly initially hacked into the computer systems of a number of industrial control software developers whose programs were used by the targeted energy companies.  By inserting the malware into the programs of the software developers, the malware was, in turn, passed on to the targeted energy companies when they downloaded the infected software from these vendors with whom they did business.  Another way that malware has been passed on to energy companies in recent years has been through what is called “watering hole attacks” by which the hackers infect a website frequented by the intended target such that when the intended victims visit the infected website, which may be a restaurant from which employees of the targeted company wish to order take-out food, they unwittingly download the malware into their companies’ computers.

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Corporations around the world have got to to a better job of protecting their computers.  In addition to the risk to these companies of having their information stolen and harming them in the competitive marketplace, the real risk of sabotage exists as well.  Cyberterrorism aimed at crucial infrastructure such as utilities is a very real risk throughout the world.  As for the rest of us, as individuals, we can also fall victim to the same kind of hacking which may be used by hackers primarily interested in identity theft.  The best protection for us as individuals is to make sure that your computer’s anti-malware and anti-virus software is up to date at all times.  If you are particularly prudent, you may wish to restrict your financial information storage and financial transactions to a separate computer in your home so that if you do end up having the latest malware unwittingly installed on a computer that you use for other purposes, you will not run the risk of having your important personal information stolen.

Scam of the day – March 27, 2014 – ATM hacking danger exposed

As I first reported to you on March 21st’s Scam of the day, on April 8th Microsoft will stop supporting the Windows XP operating system with security updates and patches.  This is very significant because upwards to 95% of ATMs use the Windows XP operating system as do thousands of government websites with which we all do business.  Hackers and identity thieves are constantly working to locate and exploit vulnerabilities in computer software toward their criminal ends.  Unless the banks using  the Windows XP operating system act quickly to upgrade their operating systems to other programs, they will be increasingly vulnerable to hackers and identity thieves.  In fact, as Microsoft issues, as they do each month, new security alerts describing the patches we need to install in order to maintain the security of our systems, what Microsoft will also be doing is informing hackers and identity thieves about similar vulnerabilities that exist in the Windows XP program for which there will be not patches or updates.

A new way to breach the security of ATMs was also disclosed this week by the computer security company Symantec.  Symantec described a new tactic by which ATMs can be hacked into by a hacker who connects a targeted ATM to his or her smartphone through a USB thereby setting up a connection that can be exploited by sending a command via the phone to the ATM to disperse the cash to the hacker.  This problem will only be made worse as security patches cease to be provided in the future for Windows XP.

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Whenever you use an ATM always carefully observe the machine for any evidence of tampering and do not use a machine that does look like it has been tampered with by a skimmer or any other visible alteration.  Also, regularly check your bank account balances for any evidence of fraud so that you can report the matter as soon as possible to your bank in order to protect yourself from losses.  Finally, in regard to the specific issue as to Windows XP and ATMs, ask your bank what operating system they are using and if it is Windows XP, you may wish to find out what ATMs near you do not use this system.