Friday, December 30, 2016

Did you are achieve your goals for 2016?

The best of the week in Cyber Security

Something that we repeat every year is that typical phrase: "This year I'm going to the gym" or "This year I'm going to learn a new language". December 31 is already here and you are asking yourself if you are already an expert in yoga or a expert on the theory of Marcel Mouse about the condition of returning gifts, a topic during these dates. You look back sadly and admitting: "At the end I didn't fulfilled the purposes for this 2016".

A year ago we wanted to take cybersecurity more seriously, and reviewing the most important news of the week, we can see that the results have been quite different from what we expected.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Better safe than sorry

The report of the week

Stuck in the last stages of the year, the cold has arrived and so the regrets, colds and flu to the cities.
For that reason, before our health turned weaker we will always need to have a good coat, hat, gloves... and of course, a good acetaminophen just in case. And if something teaches us medical advances is that, it's better to prepare for the worse than suffering and get sick.

However, the US medical industry could take their own advice, talking about cybersecurity, since a recent study by Trap X Labs reveals that in 2016 US health institutions have suffered 93 major attacks, 63% more than last year.

Friday, December 23, 2016

It's cinema time!

The best of the week in Cyber Security

Finally, you get to see that film you have been waiting for the whole year, but with the rush you have not been able to buy food to eat during the two hours that you have ahead. You look to your right and see how a stranger offers you his popcorn, smiling in a suspicious way. Your stomach growls, you are so hungry… Would you accept it?

When you’ve lost count of how many delicious and salty popcorn you’ve swallowed already, you look at the package. It says: ‘Popcorn Time’. Oh no! You have just received a ransomware what will take control of your computer and sooner all your files will be encrypted. Nobody in real life is going to give you some popcorn for free. It’s the same in the digital world!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

A Christmas cyber-carol

The report of the week

Once upon a time, there was a grumpy and greedy old man who hated Christmas. He didn’t like cyber security either and when his neighbours, with their best intention, told him to be careful with ransomware, phishing and malware at this time of the year, he put on his coat angrily, took his stick and went away grumbling: “Cyber-humbug!”. That gentleman’s name was Ebenezer Scrooge. 

On Christmas Eve, three ghosts visited him in his bedroom: the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. Each one carried a specific mission, but the three of them shared a common purpose: to open his eyes and make him discover the dangers and all the things he could lose because of his stubbornness.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Between past and future

Today, one year ago...

'Back to the future' (1985) is a science fiction film written and directed by Robert Zemeckis and produced by Steven Spielberg. It is about a teenager who is sent back in time to the period when his parents met. After altering the events in 1955 and finding out that if they don’t marry, he will disappear, the young Marty McFly will try to reunite them again to assure his own existence. 

Every time we take a tour through the news from last year, we feel like jumping into the DeLorean, Doc’s time machine, which has the shape of a car. Thus, driving/flying at the speed of 88 miles/hour , we could time travel to warn people about all the security breaches that are about to come, the back doors that someone placed in Juniper firewalls or the discovery of a vulnerability on Instagram that was never rewarded.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Secrets you shouldn't share

The best of the week in Cyber Security

“I’m going to tell you a secret, but don’t tell anyone…”, that’s you starting a conversation with your best friend. That’s a mistake! The first thing that person is going to do is run to tell another. And that person to another and that one to another and another… We are not questioning the strength of your friendship, but seriously, if you don’t want something to be known, don’t tell, don’t write it down…

...And do not send it by private message on Facebook Messenger either. “But it’s protected by point-to-point encryption, like Whatsapp!”, you reply, very sure of yourself. What if we tell you that a researcher has found a bug that allows an attacker to access Facebook Messenger and get your photos, files and ‘private’ chats? This week Redes Zone informed about it on their website. They explain how the hacker exploits this vulnerability: by convincing he victim to click on a malicious link. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Be careful with your phone

The report of the week

Imagine this situation: you are going to work by public transport, you check your pocket to get your new smartphone and… Surprise! It’s not there. Then you look for it everywhere, desperately: in your other pocket, your bag, the floor… And you stare at people, trying to find some complicity, someone that could say: “I’ve seen the thief, it’s the one over there”. But nobody looks back at you. Then you realise you are not going to see your mobile again.

Nervous, you start thinking… You have lost all your pictures, you left your social networks open, the bank application had your password on it, your personal and work emails with confidential information were there…

By the way, one question: Was your phone locked with a security PIN? If the answer is “Yes, it was”, the disappointment is less. You report the theft, make a card duplication and then the previous one becomes unusable. But this fact that seems so obvious, it’s not that obvious for 1 in 5 people, who leave their smartphones without that protection, especially if we are referring to work phones.

Monday, December 12, 2016

"Soul of a jug"

Today, one year ago...

If you call someone “alma de cántaro” in Spanish, you mean something like “soul of a jug”, pinhead, like he is a fool and people make fun of him easily. The stories that happened a year ago are starred by people who were too innocent. It’s good to remember them and not repeat what they did. Otherwise, you will have to learn the lesson in a hard way.

The first testimony is about a white hat hacker who had been to The Phone House at a Media Markt in the Netherlands to buy a new smartphone and discovered some naive souls along the way. First, the hacker was surprised to see a piece of paper pasted on the computer screen, visible to all visitors, with the password on it: “media321”. Ok, we can accept that your password is obvious and easily hackable, but please, please, please, do not write it down on a post-it on the monitor, in front of everybody!

Friday, December 9, 2016

Damned pictures

The best of the week in Cyber Security

Some aboriginal tribes of America and Australia refused to be photographed by explorers because they thought those strange devices -cameras- could steal someone's soul. Even today, there are towns all over the world that keep this belief and don’t allow even a single photo to be taken. Perhaps, seeing their own faces reflected on a piece of paper is like an act of witchcraft for them; something inexplicable than can only be the work of black magic. Like when you hear about steganography for the first time.

Steganography is the study of techniques that hide messages within others. It comes from two Greek words: steganos (hidden) and graphs (writing). The idea is to establish a covert channel of communication in a way that is unnoticed for third parties. This science is not new, it was born a long time ago. But with the development of computer science, many cybercriminals like using it to hide messages or malicious files.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

I've been hacked, and you?

The report of the week

I’m 40 years old, I’m a virgin and I’ve never been hacked…”. What? Haven't you ever been hacked? Are you sure? Well… You must be one of the privileged few people who have not suffered hacking and lost their passwords and emails… yet. In a few years time, instead of the question: “Do you study or work?” when flirting in a pub people will start saying: “I have been hacked, and you?”. If you don’t believe it, give time to time.

Last Monday we were talking about the security breach at Shiseido, the Japanese cosmetics company, with 420,000 customers affected, today, it’s the turn of one of the largest online video platforms on the Internet: Dailymotion, with 85 million accounts leaked. Nobody is safe here! Linkedin, Dropbox, Yahoo, Tumblr, Opera, Weebly, AdultFriendFinder are just a few companies that have realised their systems were not as secure as they thought.

Monday, December 5, 2016

The lurking worm

Hoy, hace un año...

One of the most unpleasant creatures that Mulder and Scully had to face was an alien worm that had been frozen in the Artic ice for thousand of years. Apparently harmless, the tiny organism had been able to cause the death of the first expedition. The parasite provoked hatred and paranoia in the hosts, making them want to kill each other. The two FBI agents had to solve the case before the bug infected them as well. Undoubtedly, this episode is one of the most mythical ones in the series The X-Files. Moreover, this is a tribute to the film The Thing (1982), by John Carpenter.

365 days ago we were talking about a worm’s birthday: Conficker. It has been active for eight years now and it still installed on thousands of computers, without the owners suspecting a thing. The peculiarity of this virus is that it can adapt to the environment, camouflage and evolve, transforming itself into new variants. Designed to attack Microsoft Windows systems, it has spread in 190 countries and has infected more than 11 million devices.

Friday, December 2, 2016

"Shut up and dance"

The best of the week in Cybersecurity

A timid boy who works at a fast food restaurant. A family man who is going through the 50s crisis. At first glance, they seem to have nothing in common. However, if we look closer, we can see their faces of concern. They are hiding something. Something bad of what they are ashamed of. And there is someone on the other side of their computers who knows exactly what it is and is planning to make them pay for it.

How far would you be willing to keep something disgraceful of yours as a secret? This is the premise of the third episode in the last season of Black Mirror, a Netflix series that presents a shocking future related to technology. With no intention of making a spoiler, we will just say that the episode is about different cases of “sextortion”. The word refers to a type of sexual blackmail in which sexual images or videos are used to extort money from others.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Don't play with cybercrime

The report of the week

Like every night, you put on your heavy armour and travel through the Eastern Kingdoms of Azeroth riding your black horse. Inside your favourite video game you feel like a hero. You could spend hours and hours in front of the computer, killing ferocious dragons, rising levels and acquiring new weapons and powers. Along the way you will find other virtual characters. Behind the Night Elf, the Magician and the Werewolf there are people like you; with some of them you could even create a friendly bond. But you can’t trust everyone: cybercriminals hide in the forest too.

One day, just when you are about to defeat one of the most powerful monsters, your enemy manages to escape. “Don’t worry, I know how to finish this. Someone passed me an infallible trick, there is a tutorial…”, Nyto723 writes to you on a private chat. Immediately, he sends you a link from where you can download the file. And you don’t think it twice because you’ve known him for a long time and also because you are looking forward to passing that level. So you press on the link… without knowing it is infected by malware… and you end up downloading a Trojan. Game over. 

Monday, November 28, 2016

Coal for the "cyber bad guys"

Today, one year ago...

“Dear Wise Men… This year I have been a very good child and I would like to ask you for an electronic toy which I can connect to the Internet, play with, send photos and write chats…”. If your son begins this way the letter to the Three Wise Men or Santa Claus, perhaps it’s time to sit down with him or her to talk about a very serious issue: cybersecurity.  

Just a year ago, VTech, China’s smart toy company, suffered a cyberattack that triggered the data leak of 6.5 million children accounts worldwide and 5 million accounts from their parents. According to the journalist who published the scandal, in the leaked information there were emails, passwords, IP addresses, birth dates, chats history, physical addresses and a huge amount of photographs, in total: 190 GB of images.

Nevertheless, the company tried to calm down the big commotion by assuring users that their credit card numbers were safe. The problem had affected several countries: the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada and Spain, among others.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Be careful on Black Friday

The best of the week in Cybersecurity

Today is Friday, but not an ordinary one. It's Black Friday. You already knew it. You have spent several weeks thinking about what to buy. Discounts of 30%, 50%, up to 70% will make you end up spending more money than you expected, because you will end up buying stuff you didn't  plan.

Since 1975, the fourth Friday of November was officially established as the beginning of Christmas shopping, in order to reduce the crowds in the stores in December. Over the years it was called Black Friday because deficit red numbers became surplus black numbers for many businesses. And that's because a lot of Santa Claus and Wise Kings (in Spain) take advantage of this day to buy Christmas gifts, before the products return to the original prices.

But before taking out your bank card and start buying all these wonderful and irresistible online offers, you should know that cybercriminals are as excited about it as you. Or more!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

A 'mole' by mistake

The report of the week

The 70s. George Smiley is a spy who is forced to put an end to his career with the British Secret Services because of a failed mission in Budapest. However, just when he had already accepted his destiny, in the last minute, his boss gives him a new task. And now, discretion will be everything. It is suspected that among the members of the dome there is a mole who is spreading secrets that endanger all their other missions. Who will it be? Smiley must gather information and put all the pieces of the puzzle together to unmask the traitor.

This is the plot of Tink Tailor Soldier Spy (2011), a British espionage film that received three nominations to the Oscars and is based on the homonymous novel by John le Carré. Its structure is quite complex to make the spectators open their eyes widely and pay attention to every single detail, until finally the million dollar question is revealed: the mole’s identity.

We spend so much energy protecting ourselves from external threats, from the competitors and cyber-attacks, that we don’t care so much about who we have in the company. What would happen if one of our employees, either out of ignorance or perhaps with treachery, opened the security barrier and let our confidential information escape? Without wanting it or not, he or she would be a “mole” that could endanger our most precious assets: our data.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Danger: rock path

Today, one year ago...

It’s been said you need to learn from the past if you don’t want to repeat the same mistakes in the future, but the human being is the only animal to stumble over the same stone twice. Twice? And many more times! We can even feel attached to the rock and not let it go. That’s the way we are.

Over a year ago, we laughed (because we didn’t want to cry) at a series of “epic fails” that seemed to come from a comedian’s monologue rather than from real life. Among them, a photo of a Greek minister that went viral.   

Sitting down at his desk, he was looking at the camera smiling, without noticing there was a post-it note with confidential information on it. And because nowadays we can zoom and scan everything with virtual magnifiers as if we were detectives 2.0, many people realized that he had written the user name and the fantastic and unpredictable hyper-secure password: 123456. Read the last part with irony, please.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Sex, shopping and virtual reality

The best of the week on Cybersecurity

Sex is overrated nowadays. In the past, virginity and I am ‘the girl-who-doesn’t-kiss-anybody-on-the-first-date’ was a value, today this seems to be the opposite. You have to go out and flirt. The Internet has changed the way of meeting people. Ask the millennials, they have learnt everything through a mobile phone and a computer. In the past, meeting someone was free and you just had to approach him or her in a pub; now you have to pay.   

The recent Adult Friend Finder data breach corroborates what we just said. About 339 million accounts may have been hacked. To get the idea: Spain has 47 million inhabitants. That is, there are six times as many users of Adult Friend Finder as Spanish people. The United States has about 320 million inhabitants. The Ashley Madison data breach in 2015, compared to this, is just a children’s game. On that occasion, there were 32 million accounts, and even the ironmonger on the corner got nervous.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The black nurse

You are convalescing. You need to sleep. The smell of the chemicals enters your nostrils and you know you are not at home. You are in a hospital. You know you are going to be safe there. You will be protected and they will take care of you. You don’t need to worry, they will look after you, even when the night comes. You are disconnected from the outside dangers. When the lights go out, a nurse enters the room but you can only see a shadow. Yes, a shadow. But she is dressed as a nurse. And she is not coming with good intentions.

BlackNurse is the name that a group of researchers have given to a recently discovered cyberattack. This method allows massive DDoS attacks, capable of knocking down large servers with limited resources. Their biggest danger lies in their ability to perform the attack on their own, and what is more important, when victims are offline or disconnected.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Cybersecurity: classic myths and common sense

Today, one year ago...

Born in 1901 in Berlin and getting the USA nationally later, Marlene Dietrich is considered one of the greatest myths of the Seventh Art. Apart from her participation in the big screen, she was a political activist that gave us quotes to remember like: "The imagination exaggerates, the mind underestimates and the common sense moderates". Eleven words that almost any cybersecurity expert would endorse, whether being in the bad or the good side (or both, which is possible too). Neither magnifying the risks nor despising them: placing each risk in the better place is the best tip. 


This quote is still worth it today, as it was worth it one year ago, when the news related to cybersecurity seemed to claim the prevalence of common sense over any other way of facing the situations involved. Thus, we find an F-Secure report about logging automatically on certain platforms through other services such as Facebook. After a long debate, the text said: “Yes, but no”. That is to say: the login via Facebook is safe, but it is better to take certain precautions before doing so from any website that requests it.

Friday, November 11, 2016

The change of millennium

The best of the week in cybersecurity

If something describes the change of millennium is technology. And if there is something in common between all those who were born in the last two decades of the last century is their relation with technological advances. Some people call them ‘millenials’ and there are a lot of articles and reports about them. In some ways, social networks, such as Facebook, Twitter and instant messaging apps  like Whatsapp or Telegram, determine their interactuation with the world.

David Zuckerberg is one of them. He knows that an account in a social network can be everything. This week we have found out that Facebook has bought passwords in the black market to keep their users’ accounts safe. The security chief of the company said that account safety is about more than just building secure software. Apparently, when passwords are stolen en masse and traded on the black market, it becomes apparent just how many of them are the same: “123456”. Using these type of easy-to-remember passwords makes them more vulnerable to being compromised. And this is something Facebook is keen to prevent.

Thursday, November 10, 2016


In the Greek mythology, pride and arrogance were elements that often defined the different character’s actions in their myths. Hibris is a term in mythology that describes a personality quality of dangerous overconfidence and refers to the excesses of wanting to challenge and transgress the boundaries of the gods. According to Isaiah, in the Judeo-Christian tradition, Lucifer fell to the ground because of his pride and vanity, when he rebelled against the Creator. Lucifer was not only beautiful but also wise. Hence in Latin, his name means “the light-bearer”. 

The survey was conducted among two thousand executives of companies that have an invoice of more than 1 billion euros per year. Of them, 3 out of 4 are convinced that they will be able to catch the cyber attackers. But this overconfidence would be putting their organizations at risk. The report also revealed that more than the half of the respondents were fully convinced that they could stop the most complicated breaches in just a few months. However, a third of these attacks are never discovered. 

Especially in the English-speaking world you can appreciate this kind of poor performance when it comes to detecting successful breaches. To the 30% of the organizations in the United States and the 26% of British companies, it takes more than a year to detect sophisticated cyber attacks. Most of these attacks happen in English-speaking companies. British are the second ones in the world, after the Germans, that believe they can detect everything that is happening in their systems.

Managers from the largest companies in 15 countries stated that they have fully inserted the culture of cybersecurity in their environments. However, successful cybercrime happens on an average of two to three times a month. Despite the overconfidence, around 54% of the executives would invest in an additional budget. Only 17% would invest in cybersecurity, and 28% would invest in mitigating the financial losses.

Speaking of pride and vanity, Donald Trump’s triumph in the United States has crashed the Canadian Inmigration website because of people who may be thinking of crossing the borders to the North. His success has provoked fear in a large sector of the population that is still in shock by the election results. 

In the world of cybersecurity, unlike other environments, vanity or overconfidence can be paid dearly. The best thing is, perhaps, to behave with more modesty and precaution. 

Original image source:

Monday, November 7, 2016

Everybody gets a 'prize'

Today, one year ago...

We should always keep in mind that the weakest link in the chain is the most powerful vector of infection. But, many times, the user doesn’t take part on it or his intervention is minimal. The risk exists and  it happens because we are online, and prevention is important but not always enough. In our weekly review about what happened just one year ago, we find some turbulent news related to online forums, Twitter, emails… The daily routine for any of us, under little and not very friendly crossfire.

The creators of vBulletin, a software on which many popular opinion forums are based, woke up on a November morning with such an overwhelming threat that those forums decided to close temporarily. The attacker, under the identity of Coldzero, put the 0-day on sale, almost at the same time that the vBulletin released a patch that solved the problem. Of course, the bug on which the exploit was based had been online for three years.

Friday, November 4, 2016


The best of the week in Cybersecurity

If in the past decades youth was associated with sex, drugs and rock and roll, nowadays this may have changed. The novel ‘The Girls’, by Emma Cline, published this year, tells the story of a teenage girl who gets into Charles Manson’s band at the end of the sixties and begins to feel intense emotions.

Technology has made young people and teenagers change, even their way of approaching crime. This week we have found out that a 19-year-old British boy has been convicted of creating a DDoS tool, used in 1.7 million attacks. Prosecutors say Adam Mudd would have earned more than 300,000 euros since he created Titanium Stresser when he was 15 years old. The software is a booter service that has been used by thousands of cybercriminals and the attacks were made against 181 IP addresses. 

But not all cyber attackers are so young. This week we have discovered the identity behind one of the hackers that leaked private photographs of celebrities. Ryan Collins, 36, from Pennsylvania, is one of the suspects of leaking the pictures known as ‘Fappenning’ or ‘CelebGate’, which affected artists such as Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, Rihanna or Avril Lavigne. The other one is Edward Majerczyk, 28, from Illinois. Between the two of them, it is presumed that they affected about 600 victims

In countries like the United States, where distances are so long, having a car means to be able to travel more comfortably. Otherwise there would not be another way of moving around certain cities. Nowadays connected cars may face some problems if they are victims of hackers. The main problem is, perhaps, that there is no antivirus to solve those attacks. As we can read on Hipertextual website, according to engineer Charlie Miller, there are two types of attacks: one directed to the multimedia system and the other one focused on the breaks and the car control.

To Miller, the problem starts because of the connection between both systems, since if one can be accessible, the other one can also be accessed. This threat could change our way of pre-warning ourselves when driving in a not very distant future. It’s not just about driving carefully, but to be sure that it’s us who are driving the car.

In the previous post we talked about certain threats of today that were not possible before. It’s true that technology has made things easy, but it’s also true that it has changed a lot of other aspects. For instance: a kid can become rich illegally at the age of 15; if you are famous your privacy can be attacked, or the new fear that your car can be controlled by someone else. As Bob Dylan would say: times are changing.

Original image:

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Today threats

During the second half of the twentieth century, the world was in constant fear of a possible nuclear war. The atomic bomb made clear the horrible consequences if the two Cold War Blocs surrendered to the temptation of a nuclear war.

Nowadays that fear still remains, but in the world of computer science and cybernetics the attacks may be already happening. Atomic Bombing (AtomBombing) is the name that a group of researchers are using to name the technique of introducing malicious code that would affect PC users. The study, by eSilo, has found out that cyber attackers can use this technique, which is called this way because it uses a Windows function called Atom Tables, to bypass the security systems that would prevent the infection. 

Friday, October 28, 2016

Online payments

Cybersecurity: the best of the week

In one of the last scenes of the dramatic comedy Inherent Vice (2014), based on the novel by Thomas Pynchon, in order to restore the true identity of a spy that has been working for “the system”, what they return is not his identity card, it is his credit card. Bank cards changed the way we shop. Nowadays, the online payment systems can be the target of constant cyber attacks. 

Paypal is one of them. This week we found out that the company has repaired a bug in the authentication system. The error allowed the attackers to take control over the accounts. According to Henry Hoggart, from InfoSecurity, the cyber attackers would have just needed the username and password to generate a kind of chaos within the payment system.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The innovation paradox

One of the first things we learnt when we were in elementary school was to make a string phone. It was a way to understand the origin of the world of communications and the mechanics of the phone. We just needed two plastic cups with a hole in the base of each one and a rope. In a few minutes you could have a conversation with a classmate who was some meters away.

Technology has developed so fast in the last years that the analog phones look like museum objects. However, techonological development brings other difficulties. In the past few days we have seen how Rowhammer took control of the attacks towards Android mobile phones. Unlike other threats, Rowhammer can exploit a flaw in the hardware.

At first, smartphones shouldn’t worry too much about this type of attacks because they require advance memory components that are not yet present on mobile phones. But this week, researchers have discovered that Android phones can be victim of Rowhammer.

The list includes LG Nexus (4, 5, 5X) LG G4, Motorola Moto G (2013 and 2014), One Plus One, HTC Desire 510, Lenovo K3 Note, Xioma Mi 4i and Samsung Galaxy (S4, S5, S6). Researchers estimate there could be millions of possible affected devices and announced that they could do a test, through an app they have developed, to check which phones are infected. The app is expected to be on Google Play soon. Not all the phones would be equally vulnerable because, the attack is focused on hardware flaws, so the variation of the chip would be a determining factor.

This week we have heard that the generation 2G of phones can also be hacked, in just seconds. The work, done by the Agency for Science, Techonology and Research (A*STAR) has proved that it’s possible to break the A5/1 stream cipher implemented by 2G by using commodity hardware. This type of threats have been done since 2009, but nowadays they have discovered that it is much easier.

When making the string phone, the threats were that the rope or the plastic cup broke, nowadays digital threats develop almost at the same time as technology itself. In the case of the cyber threats it’s not just an interference in communication, it is more complex. Telephones now, are more complex too. And they are not just for communicating.

Monday, October 24, 2016

The final countdown in cybersecurity

Today, one year ago...

In the spring of 1986, and against the initial will of the members of the Swedish band that had composed the song: the single ‘The Final Countdown’ was released to the world. This song has become a cultural icon in many places around the world, especially Western Europe. The “final countdown” by the group Europe, tells the journey of a space trip in the obligation to leave the Earth, and this serves us as a hook for our particular countdown in our Monday review about the issues that were in the news one year ago. Three, two one… Ignition!

Because like a countdown, one year ago we had a “Three, two, one…”. Three pieces of relevant news were about data leaks, two about cryptography, and one issue about Asterix the Gaul. Let’s go by parts and focus on the first one: the British Internet provider TalkTalk suffered a theft of up to 4 million records of critical customer information. A robbery in which we find everything: from names and telephone numbers to credit cards, and a lot of information non-encrypted, as the company admitted. 

Friday, October 21, 2016

Protection on the network

Cybersecurity: the best of the week

In the last film starring Antonio Banderas, ‘Security’, a bodyguard’s mission is to protect a court witness who has been threatened by a criminal gang which aims to end his life. As in the film ‘The Bodyguard’, where one of the main actors, Kevin Costner, has to protect the other protagonist, Whitney Houston, life and death seem to hang by a very thin thread.

When we talk about cybersecurity, generally speaking, financial and economic issues are at risk (in the case of cyberterrorism, life can also be at risk). Very often, users and companies have to take action, or precaution, as if they were bodyguards. Prevention is essential. This week we have found out that people’s health could also be the victim of cyber attackers. Helpnet Security reports that security will spend triple in medical devices by the year 2021. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Invisible violence

The first film by Quentin Tarantino, ‘Reservoir Dogs’, tells the story about a group of criminals who plan to rob a bank and get the money. Since that first film, Tarantino has shown his predilection for violent scenes, bad words and blood. 

But one of the most striking things about this film is that the viewer never sees the assault. In other words, all the entire first part of the film tells the story of how these thieves prepare the robbery. The second part begins when the assault is over and they are escaping. Something similar could happen with certain malwares that are used to attack banks. Cyberattacks have made invisible the old method of entering a bank with a gun and hear thieves shouting “Hands up!”. Some time ago, the Trojan Dyre caused more than a headache and big economic losses to banks in the United States, England and Australia.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Cybersecurity: an extreme sport

Today, one year ago...

Ok but… Should I worry about it or it doesn’t matter whatever I do? This question is on people’s mind regarding the Internet. As usual, both extremes are dangerous, although cybersecurity is to digital like an extreme sport to health. Like every Monday, we look back over a year ago, to run into the news that then, as today, demanded our awareness. And no paying attention involves taking risks.

For instance, one may think that if the CIA director can be hacked, it doesn’t matter as many barriers as you want to put, they will be useless. “I’m not the CIA director”, you may say. That’s fine, but if you lower your defenses, the overall experience on the network is more insecure, and an unauthorized access to the most powerful person in the world could have started in your own computer, used like a zombie device to launch all kinds of attacks and make all kinds of evil.

Friday, October 14, 2016

More risks for the biggest ones

The best of the week in cybersecurity

With no doubt, one thing that has changed our shopping habits has been Amazon’s arrival. Since it was launched, there have been many detractors. In the book selling business, for instance, there was a whole war against publishers and conventional booksellers. Even now there are small libraries that still feel threatened.

But Amazon has a threat that small booksellers don’t have: cybercriminals. Actually, large companies are more attractive to hackers than the small ones. This week we have heard that Amazon may have suffered a possible cyberattack. Although the company has not confirmed it yet and denies it, according to Softpedia, the company has reset users’ passwords “just in case”. 

Thursday, October 13, 2016

The doors

“The Doors of Perception”, by Aldous Huxley, published in 1956, emphasized the idea that the human brain is a filter of reality that doesn’t allow all the images and impressions that can’t be possible to process. Huxley wanted to test his theory with mescaline while taking notes of his experiences. Years later, Jim Morrison, would borrow the title of his book to name his band: The Doors. In fact, the song ‘Break on through to the other side’ talks about the book and the idea of being able to transfer those doors of perception. 

If we think in computer terms, we could ensure that the cybersecurity world is nothing but doors that open and close constantly. The more doors you open, the more complicated is to control them. And somebody will have to close them in order to avoid possible damages. Or create doors that take their enemies to other places, exactly where they want them to be. The National Security Agency (NSA) knows this and is considering the idea of putting trapdoors (false doors), undetectable and hidden in millions of codebooks. 

Monday, October 10, 2016

Miraculously saved

Today, one year ago...

A fast-paced action plot, set in one single day, and in which only a miracle could save a family from the murder by the revolutionaries. This is the summary of the film ‘No escape’, with Owen Wilson, Lake Bell and Pierce Brosnan, that came to the big screen one year ago now. As in the fiction, in the world of cybersecurity there are many events that can stir up the scene, and stay safe could be a question of miracles.

Friday, October 7, 2016

A matter of age

Cybersecurity: the best of the week 

Generations can be an indicator of many things. They can determine presidential elections or consumer trends. In the 20s, in the United States, young people loved jazz and alcohol (forbidden at that time). They were seen as libertines by the elders. But those young people, forty years later, looked at young hippies and rock and roll lovers with the same distrust during the 60s.

This week we have seen that age can also be a determining factor for the cyber attackers on the network. The older generations of today have proved to be a good target for cyber criminals. According to Kaspersky Lab and B2B International, people older than 55 are an easier prey for cyberattacks. The report says that they don’t tend to protect their mobile phones, although they usually do with their computers. Unlike younger users, they don’t worry so much about security in the privacy settings of their social networks.   

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Dress Code

How to get dressed to get into to a place? There are certain areas where a dress code is mandatory, places where you can’t get in if you are not dressed as they say. In some pubs in Berlin, for instance, if you don’t wear extravagant clothes, the doorman doesn’t let you in, it doesn’t matter if you had been waiting for one hour or two in the queue. In Barcelona, it’s usually to see a latex-lover festival where all the assistants look like Batman or Catwoman.

DressCode is also the name of a malware for mobile phones that has just been discovered by a group of researchers from Trend Micro. According to Security Week, this malware has infected more than 400 apps that were uploaded on Google Play. Researchers believe, however, that the number could be higher, and they talk about more than 3,000 infected apps, distributed by several well-known Android mobile markets.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Internet and the rain: why do you get wet?

When it rains, the only way of not getting wet is to stay home. If you decide to go out, it doesn’t matter if you wear a waterproof because there’s always the possibility of getting wet. In the cyberworld it’s the same: the only way to prevent the hacking storm is to be disconnected and not get outside: no smartphones, not going online… Can you do that? The point here is not to avoid the rain, but to get dry in time and evade waterspouts (DDos), large puddles (ransomware), open clothes (data gaps) or to stay under the rain in the open field (malware).

In our Monday review about what happened one year ago, we find some cyber storms on the same dates in 2015. To begin with, we have two well-known companies called T-Mobile and Patreon. The first one suffered a data breach of 15 million files and the second one, a data breach of an undetermined number of records with names, emails, publications and billing information.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Heroes and villains

The recent release of the film ‘Snowden’, directed by Oliver Stone, talks about the issue of hackers and their role in society today. Because of  the impact of the Snowden case in the news, some practices of the secret intelligence services -on behalf of the public security- transcended the public debate. 

The reactions came soon. The Nextgov website published an interview with a former NSA official, Chris Inglis, who says there are several technical inaccuracies in the film. For Inglis, technical errors are not the worst part. In his opinion, it is how they show the intelligence services of the United States. In the film, Snowden is described as a patriot that gets disappointed with the secret services after realizing that the agency violated certain people’s rights.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Attacks in (cyber) space

The conquest of space has been one of the main goals that many world powers have constantly fought for. Many things have been said about the first man on the moon. Things such as it was a big step for mankind, or that it could have been set up in a film studio. 

The truth is that the aerospace sector is not free from the attack of cybercriminals. According to the magazine Security Week, a group of researchers at Palo Alto Networks may have discovered a Trojan for OS X used by Russian cyberspies in the aerospace sector. The malware known as Komplex seems to have been developed by a group of hackers known as Sofacy, Pawn, Storm, APT28, Fancy Bear and Tsar Team.

The attackers may be also linked to major cyber attacks against the US government and their political parties. Those hackers may have also intervened in the German parliament and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

According to researchers, the Komplex attack usually begins with a component that displays a document in the app preview in OS X. The dropper component is designed to drop and execute the main payload and ensure its persistence by configuring the system to launch it when OS X starts.

Once it infects the device, the malware establishes contact with its command and control server and collects system information. The Trojan allows attackers to execute arbitrary commands and download additional files. According to Ryan Olson, intelligence director at 42 Palo Alto Network, Komplex was detected at the beginning of August. “Komplex shares the same features and functions than other tools used by Sofacy, that were used in Windows systems”, Olson says.

Another study that was made public this week is the one by Google. The company has paid around one million euros to a group of researchers in order to try and fight the cross-site scripting (XSS), according to the website The Register. The XSS are one of the most widespread threats in the web app world. It can be used to steal sensitive information, hijack user sessions and affect the browser and the whole system integrity. 
Image Original Source: Freeimages

Monday, September 26, 2016

Choose: your money or your data?

Today, one year ago...

 In the genre of dystopia, from “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley, to the film “The island” by Michael Bay, the starting premise is clear: when anyone can be the enemy, everybody should be monitored closely. Perhaps the enemy is a unique individual, an isolated group or a small percentage, but if you can’t get rid of it, you better limit everyone. A mental sequence that is present in the iconography of political conspiracy, the critics to the power and messianic revolutions. A classic that sometimes can be found in the real world in higher doses rather than in fiction.

In our Monday review from one year ago, today we find a plot that Eric Blair (known by his pen name George Orwell) would have wanted for himself. A week of intense news in the field of cybersecurity, from the hunt of criminals, to their aim to get their prize (money, always money), through the baroque monitoring done by the intelligence services to the population they must defend.

Friday, September 23, 2016

The speed of things

If there is something that development of technology has achieved is: information can travel faster. What before could take decades to be known, now it can be known in some minutes. No one is free. Neither celebrities nor politicians. Not even countries. Internet can spoil anyone’s reputation. But just as it takes little time to know something, it takes little time to forget it. And this week we have seen this very clearly.

In a piece of news published by The Guardian, we have found out that North Korea has only 28 websites. The discovery was made by Matt Bruant, who published the information on GitHub, after getting the domain data thanks to a malfunction on the servers. On those websites they talk about North Korea’s nuclear tests and their leader Kim Jon-un’s health. This would highlight that cybernetics is not their strong point.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

There is a hacker in the car

Knight Rider was one of the most popular series in the eighties in the United States. The main character was a car that had complete autonomy thanks to a central computer. It could move by itself, make decisions and speak. Its name was Kitt and it was something like a modern technological horse loyal to Michael Knight, played by David Hasselhoff before he became a lifeguard in Baywatch.

Keen Lab researchers at the Chinese Tencent Company have found a number of weaknesses that could put Tesla Model S in the hands of hackers. According to several websites, Security Affairs among them, attackers could manage these vehicles with a remote control. The researchers proved that it’s possible to take control of the cars when they are parked or in full use. The most shocking part of this was that it could be done with the car moving. Those hackers could activate the brakes when the car was going 12 miles per hour. They could also activate the wipers, open the trunk and fold the rearview mirrors.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Unflattering cyber-tolls

If you have a job related to any IT activity you should reject anything that has to do with pirated software and unofficial access. We know that, unfortunately, it is NOT that way, but it should be. Because if you are working with something you shouldn’t, some of your tools may come with a “present” and your computer can get infected. But that is the lesser evil. The real danger is what you represent to your partners, employees, clients, and suppliers. Anybody who is in contact with you.

In our look back to Mondays, we find out that September 2015 was a perfect date to learn this basic lesson in cybersecurity. Some Chinese iOS developers, who were used to worki in an unofficial platform, started to use resources that were infected, and they ended up introducing 39 apps with malicious code in the Apple Store, apps such as WeChat. The curious thing is that this is the sixth time that something like this happens.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Invisible weapons

One of the best sitcoms that the Cold War gave us was Get Smart. The main character was Maxwell Smart, a secret agent (Agent 86), a bit clumsy and indiscreet, constantly confronted to his enemies from Kaos, who wanted to rule the world. In each mission, Smart was usually given a weapon or a rather peculiar tool. The most famous was his shoe phone, which predicted the arrival of mobile phones. 

Although he was somewhat clumsy, Smart was a good shooter and often had hidden weapons inside lighters and watches. The Register published a note stating that French hackers would be smuggling pen-guns that can fire bullets of .22 caliber. The website ensures that contraband in other countries is nothing compared to how this business is developed in France. Each gun would be worth 150 euros. The discovery was made by Pernet, from Trend Micro, when he investigated cybercriminal forums globally. Pernet found out that these weapons are sold only through French forums, where they also smuggle euthanasia kits, among other services in the dark web.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Emergency call

Suddenly you are in an extreme situation. Your hands are shaking, your heart beats faster and you are sweating. You are scared and need help. You pick up the phone and dial the emergency number (911 in this story), but it’s busy. Then you panic. The only chance to save your life is if you have professional help, but they can’t hear you. There is someone blocking your communication. Hackers. 

In a recent research conducted by Ben Gurion University in Israel, they concluded that the 911 emergency services could suffer an attack by cybercriminals. By using a network of hacked phones, hackers could make the whole US emergency system collapse, causing dropped calls, or leaving out all the people who may need help.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Astronomical cybersecurity

Today, one year ago...

Planets, satellites, comets, stars, galaxies and dark and interstellar materials, among other issues. It’s hard to get bored when you are interested in Astronomy, because we could be talking about millions and millions of subjects of study. In a similar way, it’s hard to get bored in cybersecurity, where figures can often be astronomical, and where there is a whole universe full of malwares, ransomwares, social engineering attacks, denial of services, espionage campaigns and advanced persistent threats. If someone gets bored here it's because he or she wants to. Today, as one year ago.
Precisely because one year ago we heard about the “astronomical” attack that was being prepared against 430 million emails, with the aim of installing the banking malware Dridex in the greatest possible number of British devices. The operation, discovered by Fujitsu, put immediately on guard (even more) the intelligence services in the country. The Government Communications Headquarts had no choice but to alert the multiple agencies involved, including banks, government institutions and large corporations.

Friday, September 9, 2016

House taken over by hackers

In the short story ‘House taken over’, by the Argentinian writer Julio Cortázar, a couple of brothers are gradually expelled from their home. Their house has been taken by some strange beings, undefined, and we never know who or what they really are. When the main characters realized, they were in the street, bewildered and sad because of what just had happened.

Cortázar never used the Internet, but that story could easily be a metaphor about cybercrime nowadays. Naked Security website talks about the precautions with the routers we have at home. The article gives a series of recommendations when configuring devices. Otherwise, we open the door to bandits than can spy our computers, extract our passwords and our configuration settings. Moreover, our system should be authenticated so cybercriminals don’t establish an impostor server somewhere between the router and the IP auto-configuration servers. This way we will make sure the device doesn’t send false orders.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Cybercrime: Tower of Babel

In the radio adaptation of The War of the Worlds, by Orson Welles in 1938, aliens invade the Earth. Maybe it is still hard to imagine how visitors from very faraway will be. But if the invasion was today, one of the aspects of our planet that would attract their attention would be how cybercriminals are different depending on the place of origin and the language that hackers use.

Info-Security magazine details the results of a study by Robert McArdle, from the research team Trend Micro. In the report –made public in an event organized by Cloudsec in London– he compared geographical differences among cybercrime groups worldwide. McArdle said the very first step for a good defense is to know your enemy, which begins with the detection of global trends regarding cyberattacks. This way, we will be able to be more protected. Although there are threats that go beyond geography itself, there are many differences among the attackers, depending on their origin.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Permanent Cybercrime Targets

Today, one year ago...

Hacked cars, cyberwar, espionage and health care cybersecurity. Are we talking about the present time? No, we are talking about what happened one year ago. As we have been doing every Monday since August, we look back to see what happened a year ago at this time. On days like this September 5th, we can see that the techniques can be modernized year by year, but many of the major threats are virtually identical: the money trail and the weakest link in the chain are 'responsible' for these reasonable similarities between the past and the present.
If we search on Google the term 'Blue Termit', we will be facing an Advanced Persistent Threat (APT), which has its roots in the last months of 2013. Since that date we can find some examples of malware that Kaspersky Labs identified within a campaign against organizations in Japan. At the end of August 2015, the matter came back to the news because there had been new and more sophisticated methods of attack. Among them, the infection of hundreds of websites by a Flash Player exploit, the same one that had been leaked in the well-known incident related to The Hacking Team.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Access Keys

In the 80s the videogame The Legend of Zelda caused furor among console lovers. It often consisted in finding keys to doors, trunks or jewellery boxes that would help the warrior Link in his eagerness to save the princess and the Kingdom of Hyrule. As in the fiction, those keys don't ever fall into good hands, as we have heard in the news related to cybersecurity this week.

According to Info-Security Magazine, a group of hackers had access to data from OneLogin, a cloud-based company that provides online accounts and identity management. Apparently the attackers kept that information for one whole month, from July 25 to August 25 this year. This happens just after it has come to light that 69 million Dropbox accounts have been leaked, forcing the enterprise to reset the passwords.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Human identification using WiFi signal

Identification (and verification) in digital environments has become the Holy Grail of our time

It is relatively quick and easy to manage identities of users at local level. What complicates matters is deal with a structure able to identify users in decentralized environments in such way that we could optimize users experience and control their different permissions.      

And to make matters worse, the Internet of Things is forcing us to correspond digital word with the physical one so as not to be dependent on non standardized variables.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Cyber (public) secrets...

Today, one year ago...

As known as something that is supposed to be kept a secret but everybody knows it, even if the tittle says that the secret is safe and sound. This is what we call a public secret and we can find them in cyber security field. If we cast our minds back we discover that August 2015 was a special date for these public secret that were known by almost everybody.

One of them is the announcement of the powerful Google about its browser Chrome would no longer offered Flash content, a not much appreciated technology by other but Adobe lived as it never would affect them. "It is over" they said from Mountain View. If your ads are not in hands of a big platforms or HTML5 you would never see them again. We all know that, sooner or later, it would happen but "when" was not defined.