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The U.S. Treasury signed sanctions against three hacking groups actively engaged in cyber operations meant to bring financial assets to the government of North Korea. The groups are Lazarus, Bluenoroff, and Andariel, well-known in the security industry for cyber operations aimed at cyberespionage, data theft, monetary reward, and data destruction. By signing the sanctions, the U.S. Treasury U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) puts a lock on all properties and financial assets owned by the three groups in the U.S. and prohibits all dealings involving these goods. The sanctions extend to "any foreign financial institution that knowingly facilitates a significant transaction or provides significant financial services for any of the entities," could become the target of sanctions. All three groups operate at the command of the Reconnaissance General Bureau (RGB), which is North Korea’s primary intelligence bureau. Lazarus Group (a.k.a. Hidden Cobra), which is the larger of the three hacking entities and considered an umbrella for the others, was created in early 2007 and it is coordinated by the 110th Research Center, 3rd Bureau of the RGB; this bureau is charged with technical surveillance and it is the architect of North Korea's cyber operations. Infamous incidents attributed to Lazarus Group include the attack on Sony Pictures - known as Operation Blockbuster, back in 2014 and the WannaCry ransomware global epidemic in 2017. One of the most notable heists attempted by this group was against the Bangladesh Central Bank, which stood to lose about $1 billion, were it not for two mistakes from the hackers. One of them was a typo, the other misstep was choosing a recipient that had been flagged for evading U.S. sanctions against Iran. In total, Bluenoroff (APT38) hackers managed to steal $81 million from just four transfers out of a total of 35. The third hacker group associated with the North Korean government is called Andariel. Operating since at least 2015, the outfit is known to focus on foreign businesses, government agencies, entities in the defense industry, financial services infrastructure, and private corporations. Find this interesting and want to know more visit OUR FORUM.

This review was written after using Android 10 for the past two months, as well as a week of the final release which is much the same as the previous betas. Android 10 is Google’s latest Android software version and is the version of Android that will be on the Pixel 4 when it launches. There aren’t many huge features packed in here as there would be with iOS. This isn’t a knock on Android however, it’s because Google trickles down features to its apps via the Play Store rather than waiting for a single large annual update. With Android 10, Google will also start pushing security updates via the Play Store as well. So enough about what’s not new here, here’s what IS new here. While Android 10 has a bevy of new features, only a few of them are directly relevant or even worth mentioning to new users. The first is the new gestures system, the second is the dark theme, and the last is the new privacy system. Before that, there are a whole bunch of other interesting features Google’s advertised with Android 10. We’ve got Live Caption, a feature that’ll let your phone add captions to whatever audio is playing automatically even if there aren’t any subtitles present. It’s meant to be an accessibility feature and something that’ll improve the quality of life of Android users with hearing difficulties. Google has also announced Focus Mode, a series of features to help users improve their productivity on their phones. Aside from being highlighted on the Android 10 official release, both features have the dubious distinctions of not actually being present in the final release itself almost as if Gooogle couldn’t be bothered to complete its work before releasing the project. And that’s an issue with Android 10 in general that I’ve noticed. Read the review on OUR FORUM.

Cobalt Dickens, a threat actor associated with the Iranian government, ran a phishing operation in July and August that targeted more than 60 universities in countries on four continents. Security researchers say that the group's hacking activity affected at least 380 universities in more than 30 countries, many of the targets being hit multiple times. The latest phishing campaign was directed at organizations in Australia, Hong Kong, the U.S., Canada, the U.K., and Switzerland. It used at least 20 new domain names registered using the Freenom service that offers free top-level domain names (.ml, .ga, .cf, .gq, .tk). A fraudulent email Cobalt Dickens sent to people with access to the library of the targeted university, shows a message that prompted to reactivate the account by following a spoofed link. Using a spoofed link is a change in the modus operandi as previous campaigns from the group relied on shortened URLs to direct to the fake login page. Following the fake link leads "to a web page that looks identical or similar to the spoofed library resource," say researchers from Secureworks' Counter Threat Unit (CTU). Once the credentials are provided, they are stored in a file named 'pass.txt' and the browser loads the genuine university website. To cancel suspicions of fraudulent activity, the threat actor often uses valid TLS certificates for its websites. Most of the certificates observed in this campaign are free, issued by the Let's Encrypt non-profit certificate authority. Also known as Silent Librarian, the group focuses on compromising educational institutions, although its victims count private sector companies, too. Its purpose seems to be stealing library account credentials and selling academic resources as well as access to them to customers in Iran. Nine individuals believed to have roles in the group's activity were indicted by the US Department of Justice in March 2018 for cyber intrusion activities. It is believed that they were partners or hacker-for-hire for a company called Mabna Institute that carried hacking operations since at least 2013. You can find the complete posting on OUR FORUM.

Attackers can use genuine binaries from Microsoft Teams to execute a malicious payload using a mock installation folder for the collaboration software. The problem affects most Windows desktop apps that use the Squirrel installation and update framework, which uses NuGet packages. A list of impacted products, as tested by the security researcher that made the discovery, includes WhatsApp, Grammarly, GitHub, Slack, and Discord. Reverse engineer Reegun Richard found that he could create a fake Microsoft Teams package and use a signed binary to execute anything present in a specific location. One notable aspect of the experiment is that no resources are required on the target system other than the minimum package created by the attacker. The researcher found that the genuine 'Update.exe' file and two folders - 'current' and 'packages,' all being part of a normal Microsoft Teams installation, are sufficient to launch on the system malware that inherits the trust of the signed executable, allowing the defeat of some defense mechanisms. It appears that the 'Update' executable blindly deploys anything that is present in the 'current' folder. The 'packages' location needs to have a 'RELEASES' file, albeit it does not have to be valid. "It just needs the format 'SHA1 filename size'. Microsoft is aware of the problem but decided not to address it. The researcher says that the reason the company gave him was that the glitch "did not meet the bar of security issue." The researcher explains that not all NuGet packages are vulnerable but all apps relying on the Squirrel one-click installer are. More details can be found on OUR FORUM.

On Monday, 50 attorneys general from US states and territories signed onto an antitrust investigation into Google, placing even more pressure on the major tech firms that are already facing intense scrutiny over their market dominance from the government. The probe, led by Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton from Texas, will focus primarily on Google’s advertising and search businesses. But in remarks given Monday, the attorneys general suggested that they may expand the investigation later. California and Alabama are the only two state attorneys general staying out of the probe. At Monday’s press conference in front of the Supreme Court, Paxton said that Google “dominates all aspects of advertising on the internet and searching on the internet,” The Washington Post reported. “We applaud the 50 state attorneys general for taking this unprecedented stand against Big Tech by uniting to investigate Google’s destruction of competition in search and advertising,” the Open Markets Institute said in a statement. “We haven’t seen a major monopolization case against a tech giant since Microsoft was sued in 1998. Today’s announcement marks the start of a new era.” Running parallel to the states’ investigation, the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission are also probing the companies out of concerns they may be stifling competition in the industry. In its last quarterly earnings, Facebook disclosed that the FTC had opened an antitrust investigation into the company in June. Follow this on OUR FORUM.

Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith says the way the U.S. government is treating Huawei is un-American. As far as he knows, China’s leading maker of networking equipment and mobile phones should be allowed to buy U.S. technology, including software from his company. Such actions shouldn’t be taken without a “sound basis, in fact, logic, and the rule of law,” says Smith in an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek, adding that Microsoft has asked U.S. regulators to explain themselves. “Oftentimes, what we get in response is, ‘Well, if you knew what we knew, you would agree with us,’” he says. “And our answer is, ‘Great, show us what you know so we can decide for ourselves. That’s the way this country works.’” U.S. President Donald Trump has said Huawei, run by a former Chinese army technologist, is a national security threat, and his Department of Commerce has added the company to an export blacklist scheduled to take full effect in November. Trump should know better, Smith says, citing Trump’s experience in the hotel industry. “To tell a tech company that it can sell products, but not buy an operating system or chips, is like telling a hotel company that it can open its doors, but not put beds in its hotel rooms or food in its restaurant. Either way, you put the survival of that company at risk.” Book cover of Tools and Weapons: The Promise and the Peril of the Digital Age by Brad Smith Why, yes, Huawei is a key customer for Microsoft’s Windows operating system, which comes loaded on its branded consumer laptops. Four years ago, Smith and Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping at Microsoft for a photo op with tech leaders including Apple CEO Tim Cook and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. That probably won’t happen again. Follow along on OUR FORUM.

 

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