Michael Kan

About the Author Michael Kan


‘Kill switch’ helps slow the spread of WannaCry ransomware

Friday’s unprecedented ransomware attack may have stopped spreading to new machines — at least briefly — thanks to a “kill switch” that a security researcher has activated.

The ransomware, called Wana Decryptor or WannaCry, has been found infecting machines across the globe. It works by exploiting a Windows vulnerability that the U.S. National Security Agency may have used for spying.

The malware encrypts data on a PC and shows users a note demanding $300 in bitcoin to have their data decrypted. Images of the ransom note have been circulating on Twitter. Security experts have detected tens of thousands of attacks, apparently spreading over LANs and the internet like a computer worm.

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A ransomware attack is spreading worldwide, using alleged NSA exploit

A ransomware attack appears to be spreading around the world, leveraging a hacking tool that may have come from the U.S. National Security Agency.

The ransomware, called Wanna Decryptor, struck hospitals at the U.K.’s National Health Service on Friday, taking down some of its network.

Spain’s computer response team, CCN-CERT, has also warned of  a “massive attack” from the ransomware strain, amid reports that local telecommunications firm Telefonica was hit.

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Ransomware attack spreads worldwide using alleged NSA exploit

A ransomware attack appears to be spreading around the world, leveraging a hacking tool that may have come from the U.S. National Security Agency.

The ransomware, called Wanna Decryptor, struck hospitals at the U.K.’s National Health Service on Friday, taking down some of its network.

Spain’s computer response team, CCN-CERT, has also warned of  a “massive attack” from the ransomware strain, amid reports that local telecommunications firm Telefonica was hit.

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Trump’s cybersecurity order pushes U.S. government to the cloud

President Donald Trump has finally signed a long-awaited executive order on cybersecurity, and he called for the U.S. government to move more into the cloud and modernize its IT infrastructure.

The order, signed on Thursday, is designed to “centralize risk” and move the government’s agencies toward shared IT services, White House homeland security adviser Tom Bossert said in a press briefing   

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Patch to fix Intel-based PCs with enterprise bug rolls out this week

PC vendors this week will start rolling out patches that fix a severe vulnerability found in certain Intel-based business systems, including laptops, making them easier to hack.   

Intel on Friday released a new notice urging clients to take steps to secure their systems.

The chipmaker has also released a downloadable tool that can help IT administrators and users discover whether a machine they own has the vulnerability.

In addition, vendors including Fujitsu, HP and Lenovo have released lists showing which products are affected and when the patches will roll out. 

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Top tips for finding the right cybersecurity products

Having trouble finding the right security products for your business? You’re not the only one.

Today’s market is filled with hundreds of vendors and plenty of marketing hype. But figuring out which solutions are worthwhile can be a challenge, especially for businesses with little experience in cybersecurity.  

So we asked actual buyers of enterprise security products for tips, and here’s what they said.  

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Google Docs phishing scam underscores OAuth security risks

Google has stopped Wednesday’s clever email phishing scheme, but the attack may very well make a comeback.

One security researcher has already managed to replicate it, even as Google is trying to protect users from such attacks.

“It looks exactly like the original spoof,” said Matt Austin, director of security research at Contrast Security.

The phishing scheme — which may have circulated to 1 million Gmail users — is particularly effective because it fooled users with a dummy app that looked like Google Docs.

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Sneaky Gmail phishing attack fools with fake Google Docs app

Google Docs was pulled into a sneaky email phishing attack on Tuesday that was designed to trick users into giving up access to their Gmail accounts.

The phishing emails, which circulated for about three hours before Google stopped them, invited the recipient to open what appeared to be a Google Doc. The teaser was a blue box that said, “Open in Docs.”

In reality, the link led to a dummy app that asked users for permission to access their Gmail account.

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Sneaky Gmail phishing attack fools with fake Google Docs app

Google Docs was pulled into a sneaky email phishing attack on Tuesday that was designed to trick users into giving up access to their Gmail accounts.

The phishing emails, which circulated for about three hours before Google stopped them, invited the recipient to open what appeared to be a Google Doc. The teaser was a blue box that said, “Open in Docs.”

In reality, the link led to a dummy app that asked users for permission to access their Gmail account.

screen shot 2017 05 03 at 2.38.57 pmReddit

An example of the phishing email that circulated on Tuesday.

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Vulnerability hits Intel enterprise PCs going back 10 years

Intel is reporting a firmware vulnerability that could let attackers take over remote management functions on computers built over nearly the past decade.

The vulnerability, disclosed on Monday, affects features in Intel firmware that are designed for enterprise IT management.  

Enterprises using Intel Active Management Technology, Intel Small Business Technology and Intel Standard Manageability on their systems should patch them as soon as possible, the company says.

The vulnerable firmware features can be found in some current Core processors and all the way back to Intel’s first-generation Core, called Nehalem, which shipped in 2008. They’re part of versions 6.0 through 11.6 of Intel’s manageability firmware.

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Vulnerability hits Intel enterprise PCs going back 10 years

Intel is reporting a firmware vulnerability that could let attackers take over remote management functions on computers built over nearly the past decade.

The vulnerability, disclosed on Monday, affects features in Intel firmware that are designed for enterprise IT management.  

Enterprises using Intel Active Management Technology, Intel Small Business Technology and Intel Standard Manageability on their systems should patch them as soon as possible, the company says.

The vulnerable firmware features can be found in some current Core processors and all the way back to Intel’s first-generation Core, called Nehalem, which shipped in 2008. They’re part of versions 6.0 through 11.6 of Intel’s manageability firmware.

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NSA ends surveillance tactic that pulled in citizens’ emails, texts

The U.S. National Security Agency will no longer sift through emails, texts and other internet communications that mention targets of surveillance.

The change, which the NSA announced on Friday, stops a controversial tactic that critics said violated U.S. citizens’ privacy rights.

The practice involved flagging communications where a foreign surveillance target was mentioned, even if that target wasn’t involved in the conversation. Friday’s announcement means the NSA will stop collecting this data.

“Instead, this surveillance will now be limited to only those communications that are directly ‘to’ or ‘from’ a foreign intelligence target,” the NSA said in a statement.

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Ransomware attacks are taking a bigger toll on victims’ wallets

Hackers spreading ransomware are getting greedier. In 2016, the average ransom demand to free computers hit with the infection rose to $1,077, up from $294 the year before, according to security firm Symantec.

“Attackers clearly think that there’s more to be squeezed from victims,” Symantec said in a Wednesday report

In addition, the security company has been detecting more ransomware infection attempts. In 2016, the figure jumped 36 percent compared with the prior year.  

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Ransomware attacks are taking a bigger toll on victim’s wallets

Hackers spreading ransomware are getting greedier. In 2016, the average ransom demand to free computers hit with the infection rose to $1,077, up from $294 the year before, according to security firm Symantec.

“Attackers clearly think that there’s more to be squeezed from victims,” Symantec said in a Wednesday report

In addition, the security company has been detecting more ransomware infection attempts. In 2016, the figure jumped 36 percent compared with the prior year.  

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Old Windows Server machines can still fend off hacks. Here’s how

If you’re running a Windows Server 2003 machine, you have a problem. Your already-vulnerable computer is now at severe risk of being hacked.

That’s due to the internet release earlier this month of a batch of updates that paint a bulls-eye on computers running Windows Server 2003, according to security researchers.

“I can teach my mom how to use some of these exploits,” said Jake Williams, founder of Rendition Infosec, a security provider. “They are not very complicated at all.”

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Old Windows Server machines can still fend off hacks. Here’s how

If you’re running a Windows Server 2003 machine, you have a problem. Your already-vulnerable computer is now at severe risk of being hacked.

That’s due to the internet release earlier this month of a batch of updates that paint a bull’s-eye on computers running Windows Server 2003, according to security researchers.

“I can teach my mom how to use some of these exploits,” said Jake Williams, founder of Rendition Infosec, a security provider. “They are not very complicated at all.”

Experts are urging affected businesses to upgrade to the latest Windows OSes, which offer security patches that can address the threat.

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There’s now a tool to test for NSA spyware

Has your computer been infected with a suspected NSA spying implant? A security researcher has come up with a free tool that can tell.

Luke Jennings of security firm Countercept wrote a script in response to last week’s high-profile leak of cyberweapons that some researchers believe are from the National Security Agency. It’s designed to detect an implant called Doublepulsar, which is delivered by many of the Windows-based exploits found in the leak and can be used to load other malware.

The script, which requires some programming skill to use, is available for download on GitHub.

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At $175, this ransomware service is a boon to cybercriminals

Cybercriminals have another easy-to-use ransomware kit to add to their arsenals, thanks to a new variant called Karmen that hackers can buy on the black market for $175.

A Russian-speaking user called DevBitox has been advertising the ransomware in underground forums, security firm Recorded Future said in a blog post on Tuesday.  

Karmen is what experts call ransomware-as-a-service — a particularly worrisome trend. Amateur hackers with little technical know-how can buy access to them, and in return, they’ll receive a whole suite of web-based tools to develop their own ransomware attacks.

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Rival IoT malware clash in a botnet territory battle

Mirai—a notorious malware that’s been enslaving IoT devices—has competition.

A rival piece of programming has been infecting some of the same easy-to-hack internet-of-things (IoT) products, with a resiliency that surpasses Mirai, according to security researchers.

“You can almost call it Mirai on steroids,” said Marshal Webb, CTO at BackConnect, a provider of services to protect against distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks.

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Microsoft: Past patches address leaked NSA exploits

Microsoft said it has already patched vulnerabilities revealed in Friday’s high-profile leak of suspected U.S. National Security Agency spying tools, meaning customers should be protected if they’ve kept their software up-to-date.

Friday’s leak caused concern in the security community. The spying tools include about 20 exploits designed to hack into old versions of Windows, such as Windows XP and Windows Server 2008.

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