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Cybersecurity 101: Online Behaviors That You Should Stop Doing

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Protect your data by not doing these things online

An average person would share a significant amount of personal and identifiable data over the internet to different platforms every time they log in to their social media accounts, buy something online, sign up for a promotion, or just by browsing the internet out of boredom. These data include names, IP addresses, email addresses, location, credit card numbers, and in some cases, sensitive data like intimate messages, phone recordings, and social security numbers.

While many of the online companies right now are promising security to their users, many of these supposedly secured platforms still experience some sort of data leak and expose user data to the privy eyes of cybercriminals because when data are floating out there, there will always be someone who will fish for them.

Cyber attacks are everywhere, and this is the time that people become more vigilant in their cyber usage and data handling. Even huge corporations like Facebook have experienced it in the past.

Safe-keeping your data may be a responsibility of the company you entrusted them to, but you also have to be very careful with the data that you share. In most cases, recklessness of the data owner can lead to tremendous and dangerous data phishing, so prevention is better than cure.

But making sure that your data is protected is not hard. Besides, there’s just enough that you can do to prevent your data from falling in the hands of evil hackers. The first step to safe-keeping your data is by having good online behavior and following basic security protocols.

Nonetheless, we as people have taken for granted some of the basic internet don’ts, putting our data in serious security risk. Here are some of the behaviors that everyone should avoid to maximize the protection of your data.

USING ONE PASSWORD ON ALL YOUR ACCOUNTS

As an average person, it is understandable to have accounts in different social media platforms and websites and to use a single and having a universal password is beneficial in the short run. Memorizing different passwords is truly a tough task for everyone, but the thing about having a universal password is it maximizes the effect of a cyber attack.

When a hacker gets hold of your universal password, he can easily open all your accounts and download all data that is stored in them. Conversely, having a unique password for every account that you have isolates an attack to the site where the obtained password works.

If you’re bothered that having multiple passwords will result in you forgetting about them, there are apps that you can download to manage your passwords in one place. The downside of this, however, is that if the password manager is compromised, all of your passwords is also compromised. The trick in this is to use passwords that are strong but can be remembered easily or safe-keeping them in cold storage or any offline and secured storage in your house or your office.

NOT READING THE TERMS AND CONDITIONS

Terms and Conditions are long, and it’s most definitely understandable if you won’t sit and read all of what’s written there. But always remember that “Terms and Conditions” serve as a contract between you and the service that you are using. All the security and data handling are stipulated there. In most cases, T&C’s are where service would put what kind of data they are collecting from you and how they are going to use it. Without a knowledge of this information that was readily available to you before you signed up for the service, you maybe are giving them data that you don’t consent to or they are selling your data to a third party without you know. It always pays to read the T&Cs.

CONNECTING TO A PUBLIC NETWORK CONNECTION

Here’s the thing, the internet is readily accessible to anyone right now for a low price, so avoid connecting your devices and using public WiFi. By connecting to these networks, you allow other computing systems – computers, smartphones – to see what you are doing in your device. They can also have access to the files saved in your internal storage. This is dangerous especially if you are using public WiFi to submit sensitive information like credit card numbers and social security numbers. As much as possible, if the need is not that urgent, do not connect your device to public networks.

SUBMITTING DATA TO NON-SECURED WEBSITES

But wait, how do you know if the website is secured or not? Well, you have to check the URL. The simplest way to see the security of the site you are in is by looking if it uses HTTPS instead of HTTP. By being vigilant in that way, you can avoid sending data to websites that may potentially use your data in ways you don’t want your data to be used.

CLICKING SUSPICIOUS LINKS AND EMAILS

This is very self-explanatory. If you find a link suspicious, don’t click on it. The same goes with emails as well. If you were informed that you won $1 million for a contest you did not join, do not fall for the ruse. Chances are, these are phishing links, and they will extract your data without you realizing that you have been fooled.

IN CONCLUSION: Being able to protect yourself as much as you can from cyberattacks that may have dangerous consequences for you and your finances keeps your peace. Be vigilant and be cautious with the data that you share online. /apr

A Consumer Tech and Cybersecurity journalist who does content marketing while daydreaming about having unlimited coffee for life and getting a pet llama.

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Cybersecurity

Indictment Against Hackers Involved In Anthem Data Breach Unsealed

Two men are indicted for allegedly part of a group of hackers from China linked in the Anthem Insurance data breach in 2015. Click To Tweet

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Twor men are indicted for allegedly part of a group of hackers from China linked in the Anthem Insurance data breach in 2015.
The indicted individuals are allegedly part of a group of hackers from China linked in the Anthem Insurance data breach in 2015. Photo: Tim Reckmann | a59.de | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Two men were indicted in the U.S. in connection with the data breach at the health insurance company, Anthem, that siphoned more than 78.8 million customer and employee records between 2014 and 2015.

The Justice Department recently unsealed an indictment against two people who prosecutors say are part of a sophisticated hacking network group, based in China that was behind not only in Anthem data breach, but also the attacks against three other US businesses.

While the Justice Department did not name the said Chinese hacking group victimized the three other businesses who they said, they said that these companies were “data-rich.” One was a technology business, one was in necessary materials, and the third was in communications. They said that all of these three companies store a substantial amount – and some confidential – of data on their servers and data networks.

The suspects are 32-year-old Wang Fujie with the Western name of “Dennis” and another one that until now remained unnamed. The Justice Department could not find the real name of the unnamed man but said that he goes by various online nicknames such as “Daniel Jack,” “Kim Young” and “Zhou Zhihong.”

The charges are one count of conspiracy to commit fraud and related activity in relation to computers and identity theft, one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and two counts of intentional damage to a protected computer.

According to the indictment documents, the hacker group where Dennis and the unnamed man belongs have carried out attacks using “sophisticated techniques” including spearphishing and malware from February 2014 and up until around January 2015.

They allegedly sent tailored spearphishing emails with links to malware and sent them to employees at the target companies. Once the targeted employee opened the email, the system would get affected by the malware that would later plant a backdoor Trojan that gives the hackers remote access via their command and control servers.

Wang is also accused of having set up the servers, hosted in California and Arizona that were used in the Anthem attacks.

The cyber attack suffered by the insurance company has had them cough up large amounts of money as settlement, making it the most significant data breach settlement ever. In 2017, the company agreed to pay $115 million to settle a class action suit over the breach.

The Anthem attack is also the most massive health insurance data breach, and the amount of data lost to the hackers dwarfed the biggest data breaches in the following years with 11 million breached at Premera and 10 million from Excellus.

The DOJ through a press release and Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski called the hacking event as “unprecedented.”

“The allegations in the indictment unsealed today to outline the activities of a brazen China-based computer hacking group that committed one of the worst data breaches in history. These defendants allegedly attacked U.S. businesses operating in four distinct industry sectors and violated the privacy of over 78 million people by stealing their PII. The Department of Justice and our law enforcement partners are committed to protecting PII, and will aggressively prosecute perpetrators of hacking schemes like this, wherever they occur.”

Meanwhile, another set of indictments were released by the Justice Department against European hackers over the hacking of different private and public institutions in the United States. Ten individuals were charged with conspiracy to commit computer fraud, conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

The ten people who were charged were allegedly involved in the malicious software attacks that infected tens of thousands of computers and caused more than $100 million in financial losses, the US and European authorities announced Thursday.

According to the officials who filed the charges, the malware, which enabled cybercriminals and hackers from Eastern Europe infiltrate computer systems remotely and siphon funds from victim’s bank accounts, targeted companies and institutions across all sectors of American life.

The victims of the malware attacks included a Washington law firm, a church in Texas, a furniture business in California and a casino in Mississippi.

The investigation started following the dismantling of a network of computer servers, known as Avalanche, which hosted more than two dozen different types of malware. The Justice Department had successfully taken their operation apart in 2016.

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Cybersecurity

Winnti For Linux: Researchers Found Linux Variant Of Malware Used By Chinese Hackers In 2015

A Linux version of Winnti malware was discovered by tech researchers from Chronicle. The malware was used in 2015 by Chinese hackers. Click To Tweet

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A Linux version of Winnti malware was discovered by tech researchers from Chronicle. The malware was used in 2015 by Chinese hackers.
The discovered Linux malware bears significant similarities with its Windows counterpart. Photo: Christiaan Colen | Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Linux systems are cybersecurity kings, but on a historic first, tech researchers have found a variant of a widespread malware, a favorite of Chinese hackers, have been discovered in a Linux system.

The discovery was made by researchers from the Chronicle, Alphabet’s cybersecurity department. The researchers revealed that they found a Linux variant of the Winnti malware that works as a backdoor on infected hosts, granting attackers access to compromised systems. It was the malware used by Chinese hackers in the high-profile cybercrime against a Vietnamese game company in 2015.

Chronicle researchers said that they discovered the malware following the news that Bayer, one of the biggest pharma company in the world, had been hit by Chinese hackers, and the Winnti malware was discovered on its servers.

After the team scanned Bayer’s system using its VirusTotal platform, they found what appeared to be a Linux variant of the Winnti, dating back to 2015 when it was first used by Chinese hackers to attack a Vietnamese gaming company.

According to the Chronicle, the malware that they have discovered comes in two parts: a rootkit to disguise the malware in the infected host and the actual backdoor Trojan. Further analysis the discovered Linux variant of the Winnti malware bears a lot of similarities to the malware’s Windows version. Other connections with the Windows version also included the similar way in which the Linux variant handled outbound communications with its command-and-control (C&C) server — which was a mixture of multiple protocols (ICMP, HTTP, and custom TCP and UDP protocols).

“As with other versions of Winnti, the core component of the malware doesn’t natively provide the operators with distinct functionality. This component is primarily designed to handle communications and the deployment of modules directly from the command-and-control servers. During our analysis, we were unable to recover any active plugins. However, prior reporting suggests that the operators commonly deploy plugins for remote command execution, file exfiltration, and socks5 proxying on the infected host. We expect similar functionality to be leveraged via additional modules for Linux,” said the researchers in their comprehensive report.

Lastly, the Linux version, just like the Window’s version, also has the ability for Chinese hackers to initiate communication with the infected host without going through the C&C servers – distinct characteristics in Windows Winnti.

“This secondary communication channel may be used by operators when access to the hard-coded control servers is disrupted,” Chronicle researchers said in a report published last week.

While infecting Linux systems is something already done especially by American and Russian hackers, it is also extremely rare, as pointed out by the Chronicle.

“Clusters of Winnti-related activity have become a complex topic in threat intelligence circles, with activity vaguely attributed to different codenamed threat actors. The threat actors utilizing this toolset have repeatedly demonstrated their expertise in compromising Windows-based environments. An expansion into Linux tooling indicates iteration outside of their traditional comfort zone. This may indicate the OS requirements of their intended targets, but it may also be an attempt to take advantage of a security telemetry blindspot in many enterprises, as is with Penquin Turla and APT28’s Linux XAgent variant,” added Chronicle.

Meanwhile, malware have become one of the most common tools to attack computer systems, even those of public institutions. A few days ago, ten Europeans were indicted for the malware attacks that have victimized several businesses and government agencies in the U.S.

The ten people who were charged were allegedly involved in the malicious software attacks that infected tens of thousands of computers and caused more than $100 million in financial losses, the US and European authorities announced Thursday last week.

The victims of the malware attacks included a Washington law firm, a church in Texas, a furniture business in California and a casino in Mississippi.

The charged individuals are now facing conspiracy to commit computer fraud, conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

The investigation started following the dismantling of a network of computer servers, known as Avalanche, which hosted more than two dozen different types of malware. The Justice Department had successfully taken their operation apart in 2016.

Officials reveal that the malware in the current court case has infected more than 41,000 computers by disguising as legitimate messages or invoice and was sent as spam emails. Once the email was opened, hackers will be able to record all keystrokes in the infected computer, sweeping data like baking information and wire money away from the victim’s account.

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Cybersecurity

10 European Cybercriminals Charged For Malware Attacks In The US

European and US Officials collaborated to pin down ten individuals in connection with the ransomware attacks in the US. The charges include facing conspiracy to commit computer fraud, conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud and conspiracy… Click To Tweet

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European and US Officials collaborated to pin down ten individuals in connection with the ransomware attacks in the US.
European and US Officials collaborated to pin down ten individuals in connection with the ransomware attacks in the US. Photo: Christian Cohen | Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

The tech world has agreed that ransomware and malware are becoming one of the most prolific cyber attacks in recent (more…)

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