Category Archives: cyber criminals

Cybercriminals increasingly taking aim at businesses

2018 has been the year when cryptominers first dethroned ransomware as the most prevalent threat due to a meteoric spike in Bitcoin value in late 2017, then slowly trailed off

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Why Compliance Does Not Equal Security

A company can be 100% compliant and yet 100% owned by cyber criminals. Many companies document every cybersecurity measure and check all appropriate compliance boxes. Even after all that, they

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Lessons From Some Of The World’s Largest Data Breaches, And The Way Forward

“What I did 50 years ago is 4,000 times easier to do today because of technology,” says Frank Abagnale, 70-year-old FBI security consultant and former con man. His exploits as a check

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Hackers Spark Revival of Sticky Keys Attacks

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Hackers are constantly trying to find new ways to bypass cyber-security efforts, sometimes turning to older, almost forgotten methods to gain access to valuable data. Researchers at PandaLabs, Panda Security’s anti-malware research facility, recently detected a targeted attack which did not use malware, but rather used scripts and other tools associated with the operating system itself in order to bypass scanners.

Using an attack method that has gained popularity recently, the hacker launch a brute-force attack against the server with the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) enabled. Once they have access to the log-in credentials of a device, the intruders gain complete access to it.
At this stage, the attackers run the seethe.exe file with the parameter 211 from the computers’ Command Prompt window (CMD) – turning on the ‘Sticky Keys’ feature.

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Next, the hacker initiates Traffic Spirit – a traffic generator application that ensure the attack is lucrative for the cyber-criminals.

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Once this is complete, a self-extracting file is launched that uncompresses the following files in the %Windows%\cmdacoBin folder:
• registery.reg
• SCracker.bat
• sys.bat

The hacker then runs the Windows registry editor (Regedit.exe) to add the following key contained in the registery.reg file:

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This key aims at ensuring that every time the Sticky Keys feature is used (sethc.exe), a file called SCracker.bat is run. This is a batch file that implements a very simple authentication system. Running the file displays the following window:

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The user name and password are obtained from two variables included in the sys.bat file:

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This creates a backdoor into the device through which the hacker gains access. Using the backdoor, the hacker is able to connect to the targeted computer without having to enter the login credentials, enable the Sticky Keys feature, or enter the relevant user name and password to open a command shell:

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The command shell shortcuts allow the hacker to access certain directories, change the console colour, and make use of other typical command-line actions.

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The attack doesn’t stop there. In their attempt to capitalise on the attack, a Bitcoin miner is installed, to take advantage of every compromised computer. This software aims to use the victims’ computer resources to generate the virtual currency without them realising it.
Even if the victim realises their device has been breached and changes their credentials – the hacker is still able to gain access to the system. To enable Sticky Keys, the hacker enter the SHIFT key five times, allowing the cyber-criminal to activate the backdoor one again.

Adaptive Defense 360, Panda Security’s advanced cyber-security solution, was capable of stopping this targeted attack thanks to the continuous monitoring of the company’s IT network, saving the organisation from serious financial and reputational harm. Business leaders need to recognise the need for advanced security, such as AD360, to protect their network from these kinds of attacks.

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Hacking SMART services in Cars, Homes, and Medical Devices – a cinch!


Businesses are reinventing themselves by transforming traditional services and service delivery into digital services. Digital services utilize smart products to provide enhanced service quality, additional features and to collect data that can be used to improve performance. Smart products can be remotely controlled using Wi-Fi or cellular connections, software, sensors that makes smart dumb devices, cloud infrastructure and mobiles.
Examples of digital products and services are network connected cars, home appliances, surveillance systems, wearables, medical devices, rifles and so on. Very recently ethical hackers exploited a software glitch that allowed them to take control of a Jeep Cherokee while on the road and drive it into a ditch. All this with the hapless driver at the wheel!

While the car hack made headlines and led to the recall of 1.4 m vehicles, it also signaled the beginning of an era where cyber-attacks or software glitches cause physically harm to cyber citizens, blurring the lines between safety and security. Cyber-attacks in the near future will do a lot more damage than destroy reputations, steal money or spy on intimate moments people would prefer to keep private, it may maim or kill in a targeted or random fashion and that too in the privacy of one’s own home.
The severity of some of the demonstrated exploits by ethical hackers were downplayed because the attacker required physical access to the vehicle to execute the attack. I for one, do not know what happens to my vehicle while it is serviced or valet parked, both ideal opportunities to fiddle with the electronic systems and even modify the firmware.

All smart devices will be connected and updatable over wireless networks. Wireless updates are ideal opportunities for hackers to obtain access or control over these devices. However, digital products or services must have built in defenses not only for over the air hacks but equally on risks from technicians, mechanics or others that have physical access to the smart infrastructure.
Startups with limited budgets may struggle to provide adequate security to their new incubations, allowing ample opportunity for maliciously minded individuals and cyber criminals to find ways to compromise the service. Investment in smart product security will be driven by liabilities around safety regulations, compliance and strict penal provisions.

Pukka Firewall Lessons from Jamie Oliver

Pukka Firewall Lessons from Jamie Oliver

In our office I’m willing to bet that food is discussed on average three times a day. Monday mornings will be spent waxing lyrical about the culinary masterpiece we’ve managed to prepare over the weekend. Then at around 11 someone will say, “Where are we going for lunch?” Before going home that evening, maybe there’s a question about the latest eatery in town. 

I expect your office chit chat is not too dissimilar to ours, because food and what we do with it has skyrocketed in popularity over the past few years. Cookery programmes like Jamie Oliver's 30 minute meals, the Great British Bake-off and Masterchef have been a big influence. 

Our food obsession, however, might be putting us all at risk, and I don’t just mean from an expanded waistline. Cyber criminals appear to have turned their attention to the food industry, targeting Jamie Oliver’s website with malware. This is the second time that malware has been found on site. News originally broke back in February, and the problem was thought to have been resolved. Then, following a routine site inspection on the 13th of March, webmasters found that the malware had returned or had never actually been completely removed. 

It’s no surprise that cyber criminals have associated themselves with Jamie Oliver, since they’ve been leeching on pop culture and celebrities for years. Back in 2008, typing a star’s name into a search engine and straying away from the official sites was a sure fire way to get malware. Now it seems they’ve cut out the middleman, going straight to the source. This malware was planted directly onto JamieOliver.com.

Apart from bad press, Jamie Oliver has come away unscathed. Nobody has been seriously affected and the situation could have been much worse had the malware got into an organisational network. 

Even with no real damage there’s an important lesson to be learned. Keep your firewall up to date so it can identify nefarious code contained within web pages or applications. If such code tries to execute itself on your machine, a good firewall will identify this as malware.

3 Rules for Cyber Monday


3 Rules for Cyber Monday


It’s nearly here again folks, and the clues are all there: planning the office Christmas party, your boss humming Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and an armada of Amazon packages arriving.

Which brings me nicely to the topic of this blog: online shopping at work.

It’s official; we are ‘in love’ with online shopping. At this time of the year, it’s harder to resist temptation. Retailers conjure up special shopping events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday - all aimed at getting us to part with our hard earned cash. While online retailers rub their hands in anticipation of December 1st, for companies without proper web security, the online shopping season could turn out to be the nightmare before Christmas.

In a recent survey by RetailMeNot, a digital coupon provider, 86 percent of working consumers admitted that they planned to spend at least some time shopping or browsing online for gifts during working hours on Cyber Monday. That equates to a whole lot of lost productivity and unnecessary pressure on your bandwidth.

To help prevent distraction and clogged bandwidth, I know of one customer, I’m sure there are others, who is allowing his employees time to shop from their desks in their lunch breaks. He’s a smart man - productivity stays high and employees happy.

But productivity isn’t the only concern for the IT department – cyber criminals are out in force at this time of year, trying to take advantage of big hearts and open wallets with spam and phishing emails. One click on a seemingly innocent link could take your entire network down.

To keep such bad tidings at bay, here’s a web security checklist to ensure your holiday season is filled with cheer not fear.

1.  Flexible Filtering. Set time quotas to allow online shopping access at lunchtimes, or outside of core hours. Whatever you decide is reasonable, make sure your employees are kept in the loop about what you classify as acceptable usage and communicate this through an Acceptable Usage Policy.

2.  Invest in Anti-malware and Anti-spam Controls. As inboxes start to fill with special offer emails, it gets more difficult to differentiate between legitimate emails and spam. These controls will go some way towards separating the wheat from the chaff.

3.  Issue Safety Advice to Your Employees. Ask employees to check the legitimacy of a site before purchasing anything. The locked padlock symbol indicates that the purchase is encrypted and secure. In addition, brief them to be alert for phishing scams and not to open emails, or click on links from unknown contacts.