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Anti-Virus Less Effective Than Ever

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For a long time, a few things were true about viruses. One, they mostly affected Windows users. Two, simply using a commercial anti-virus program, either free or paid, was usually all one would have to do to inoculate a PC against such a thing. A cheap or free firewall offered additional security.

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But, in the same way, that stronger punishments result in smarter criminals, the anti-virus industry reached its pinnacle some time ago and has gradually become less and less effective against its enemies. At the same time, viruses have migrated from simply targeted the Windows platform, instead being developed for Mac, Linux, Android, and iOS as these systems have become far more commonplace than they once were. Security by obscurity is no longer a reliable strategy, and even the most savvy desktop user now lives in a world where there are attackers able to outsmart him if he is not watchful.

Also read: Panda Antivirus Mistakes Itself as Malware

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Last year, a top executive at Symantec, the producer of Norton Anti-Virus, proclaimed that the anti-virus was dead. He was echoing industry-wide sentiments that the mere installation of an anti-virus program was no longer the cure-all it had been for years. While the reasons are many, the biggest is the sophistication and financial motivation of malware producers.

Financial Motivation Bigger than Ever Before

virus alertsIn the early days of the Internet, malware was present. Malware has existed since the 1980s. In its earliest editions, malware was simply programmer’s playing jokes on each other, essentially. Occasionally it could have catastrophic effects on a system, but people didn’t spend nearly the time on their computers as they do now. More importantly, even in the first days of the Internet, commerce and banking online were unheard of. Most people didn’t even trust the basic tenets of the Internet, let alone trusting companies in other jurisdictions with their money. For the better part of the 90s, customers were more likely to place their orders via phone if they decided to make a purchase than they were to actually submit payment details over the Internet.

Now, we live in an entirely different paradigm. Most people have no issue entering their credit card information into a web form, and online banking is a requirement for any bank that wants to grow its customer base. What this means for the people developing malware and viruses is financial incentive that no legitimate business could offer. No overhead, lower risk than robbing people directly, and higher success rates.

Anti-virus has become less effective as the sophistication of malware developers has increased. Worse yet, crimeware outfits now exist which offer live technical support to bad actors when they run into problems implementing their malware.

Social engineering remains a problem, with phishing still a successful means of penetrating large organizations and gaining access to sensitive details from individuals. “Wrappers” or programming techniques that fool anti-virus programs and operating systems into believing that software is something that it isn’t, are more sophisticated and successful than ever before. “Crypters” are another technique now fashionable. A “crypter” basically encrypts the parts of a virus’s code that allow it to be detected by anti-virus software. Then, of course, there are the malware programs so efficiently written that they are too small to be detected. All of these methods combined have created a situation where viruses are getting through the anti-virus blockade every day, making a mockery of traditional inoculation procedures.

Anti-virus is in deep trouble these days, and consumers have no real guarantees of safety when downloading files and browsing the internet any longer. Successfully avoiding malware infections now requires greater vigilance on the part of the end-user than ever before. Luckily, as attackers have become more effective, so have users, as the younger generation has grown up with the internet in the home being a normal situation. Nonetheless, it seems that unless or until anti-virus catches up and starts winning the war again, education will be key. Users who want to be safe online will have to research everything they download and install, and implement safe browsing methods. Encryption of documents containing sensitive information is another good means of safe computing.

Companies like ThreatStream have offered a promising batch of research which might yield the result that viruses are detected and disabled before they even make it through to the hard drive. As much money as there is in creating viruses and malware, security and anti-virus are also huge industries. There is no true declaring the anti-virus “dead” until everyone stops making it, but from here it seems that it is no longer the most effective means of warding off viruses.

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Breaches

Uber Is Paying Hackers to Keep Quiet

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Uber Technologies Inc. has reportedly paid hackers to delete scores of private data stolen from the company in a security breach that was concealed for over a year. The revelation provides further confirmation that, when it comes to cyber security, crime does pay.

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Massive Data Breach

According to Bloomberg Technology, hackers retrieved the personal data of 57 million Uber customers and drivers at some point last year. Nobody heard about it because the rideshare company paid the hackers $100,000 to keep quiet. A purge at the front office of Uber also ensured that the massive cyber breach was kept under wraps.

The compromised data was from October 2016 and included the names, phone numbers and addressed of 50 million Uber riders globally. About seven million drivers had their personal information accessed as well.

At the time of the cyber attack, Uber was inundated with a slew of legal issues stemming from alleged privacy violations. Rather than shine even more negative spotlight on the company, Uber executives decided to pay hackers to stay quiet.

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“None of this should have happened, and I will not make excuses for it,” Dara Khosrowshahi, who took over as CEO in September, said in a statement that was published by Bloomberg. “We are changing the way we do business.”

Hackers have done a masterful job infiltrating companies and governments in recent years. As a reminder, recent cyber attacks levied against Yahoo!, Target Corp and Equifax Inc. dwarf Uber’s 57 million compromised accounts.

Various reports indicate that cyber attacks are bleeding the global economy dry. One report, issued by the World Economic Forum, suggests that cyber crime cost the world economy $445 billion in 2016. If cyber crime were its own market cap, it would exceed Microsoft Inc., Facebook Inc. and ExxonMobil Corp

The Fall of Uber?

Uber revolutionized the ride-hailing business over the span of seven years by giving more power to the consumer. Several missteps later, the company finds itself in legal hot water, with its future appearing less certain than it did just one year ago.

The rideshare company faces at least five U.S. probes ranging from bribes to illicit software and right up to unethical pricing schemes. According to another Bloomberg report, Uber is under investigation for violating price transparency regulations, not to mention the alleged theft of documents for Google’s autonomous cars.

Some governments are sensing weakness in the ride-hailing service, and are moving toward banning the Uber app entirely. London is the most prominent example of a city that has taken definitive steps to outlaw the service over a “lack of corporate responsibility.”

Even with its legal troubles, Uber is a revolutionary technology that has influenced a bevy of other innovations aimed at improving the human experience.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock. 

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Cybersecurity

The Pirate Bay is Hijacking PCs to Stealth-Mine Cryptocurrency

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For the second time in as many months, The Pirate Bay has been caught mining cryptocurrency on your computer without consent. The torrent platform was actually test-driving cryptocurrency mining in your browser – no doubt a lucrative revenue stream.

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The Pirates Are At It Again

The Pirate Bay has been caught using software called Coinhive, a JavaScript library that essentially serves as a cryptocurrency miner. It basically connects to visitors’ computers to mine Monero, one of the world’s most profitable cryptocurrencies.

The news was later confirmed by Bleeping Computer, which reported that,”The Pirate Bay, the internet’s largest torrent portal, is back at running a cryptocurrency miner after it previously ran a short test in mid-September.”

Estimates indicate that the scheme has earned the pirates a total of $43,000 over a three-week period.

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Users had no way to opt their computers out of being test-driven by the torrent network. Back in September, The Pirate Bay got away by telling people it was just a test. The site’s owners cannot use the same excuse this time around.

CoinHive advises websites to let their visitors  know their browser is being used to mine cryptocurrency.

“We’re a bit saddened to see that some of our customers integrate CoinHive into their pages without disclosing to their users what’s going on, let alone asking for their permission,” the company said.

The good news is most ad-blockers and antivirus programs will block CoinHive, given its recent abuses. That means not all visitors of The Pirate Pay were being used as a conduit for mining Monero.

Monero Joins Global Crypto Rally

The value of Monero (XMR) shot up nearly 8% on Friday, and was last seen trading at $94.17. With more than 15.2 million XMR tokens in circulation, the total market cap for Monero is $1.4 billion, according to CoinMarketCap. That’s enough for ninth on the global cryptocurrency list.

Twelve cryptos have now crossed the $1 billion valuation mark. A handful of others have made their way north of $500 million.

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Breaches

Ethereum Notches Two-Month High as Bitcoin Offspring Triggers Volatility

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Digital currency Ethereum climbed to a two-month high on Monday, taking some of the heat off Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash, which have slumped since the weekend.

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Ethereum Forges Higher Path

Concerns over Bitcoin created a favourable tailwind for Ethereum (ETH/USD), which is the world’s No. 2 digital currency by total assets. Ether’s price topped $340.00 on Monday and later settled at $323.54. That was the highest since June 20.

At its peak, ether was up 10% on the day and 70% for the month of August.

The ETH/USD was last down 2.2% at $315.02, according to Bitfinex. Prices are due for a brisk recovery, based on the daily momentum indicators.

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Fractured Bitcoin Community

Bitcoin and its offshoot, Bitcoin Cash, retreated on Monday following a volatile weekend. The BTC/USD slumped at the start of the week and was down more than 3% on Tuesday, with prices falling below $3,900.00. Just last week, Bitcoin was trading at new records near $4,500.00.

Bitcoin Cash, which emerged after the Aug. 1 hard fork, climbed to new records on Saturday, but has been in free-fall ever since. The BTH was down another 20% on Tuesday to $594.49, according to CoinMarketCap. Its total market value has dropped by several billion over the past two days.

Analysts say that a “fractured” Bitcoin community has made Ethereum a more attractive bet this week. The ether token has shown remarkable poise over the past seven days, despite trading well shy of a new record.

Other drivers behind Ethereum’s advance are steady demand from South Korean investors and growing confidence in a smooth upgrade for the the ETH network. The upgrade, which has been dubbed “Metropolis,” is expected in the next several weeks. Its key benefits include tighter transaction privacy and greater efficiency.

Ethereum Prices Unaffected by ICO Heist

Fin-tech developer Enigma was on the receiving end of a cyber-heist on Monday after hackers took over the company’s website, mailing list and instant messaging platforms. The hack occurred three weeks before Enigma’s planned Initial Coin Offering (ICO) for September 11.

In addition to defacing the company’s website, the hackers pushed a special “pre-sale” ahead of the ICO. While many users realized it was a scam, 1,492 ether tokens – valued at $495,000 – were directed into the hackers’ cryptocurrency wallet by unsuspecting backers.

The irony in all this is that Engima is a cryptography company that prides itself on top-notch security protocols. The company issued a statement that its servers had not been compromised.

ETH/USD (Bitfinex)

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