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A Barrage of Breaches Later, Cybersecurity Requires a Rethink

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Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity needs an upgrade.

It’s a good time to bet against cybersecurity when everyday headlines are made of breached dating websites; stolen federal employee records; pilfered private health care records of patients – all of which affects millions of people. It’s time, perhaps, that fundamental cybersecurity policies in corporations, the government and other predictable targets vulnerable to hackers, requires a rethink.

An example as recent as the $100 million insider trading ring involving Wall Street traders and Ukrainian hackers looking into corporate press releases addresses the vulnerabilities in no uncertain terms. In an age where companies can distribute information through corporate websites, social media outlets, and mailing lists, one might assume newswires are outdated and offer little value. Still, newswires are necessary. Companies are mandated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to put out press releases in the interest of fair disclosure. Hence, PR agencies are predictable targets for opportunists and hackers for their ill-gotten gains.

press releasesThe FBI dismantled the illegal insider ring and released their own press release, claiming the accused had stolen approximately 150,000 confidential press releases since 2010. It’s baffling that, with such massive stakes, PR wire agencies and companies aren’t investing in a better cybersecurity infrastructure.

Rick Spurr, Chairman and CEO of Zix Corporation – an email encryption services provider, says that companies and services that are not prioritizing the latest security measures risk embarrassment and are jeopardizing customer trust.

“Anyone in security shouldn’t be surprised by incidents like the hack of newswire services. Data breaches are common and have occurred for years, but often they’ve gone undetected,” Spurr told Hacked.

“These incidents show that all companies – both public and private – have valuable data that is vulnerable to theft and, therefore, require data protection.”

While certain industries like healthcare and finance adopted security solutions early, a majority of the rest were slow to implement protection, adds Spurr.

The Greatest Vulnerabilities Are Also the Most Obvious Ones

The reality is that no corporation, government or person is truly secure against the threat of hacking. Mitigation strategies and cyber-defenses are routinely the focus of cybersecurity experts, and yet the biggest vulnerabilities in companies remain its employees.

“Employee behavior risks” remain the greatest concern as a vulnerability facing companies, asserts Spurr. Social engineering scams such as email and phone spear phishing,  lack of encryption binding sensitive data sent outside the corporation and other routine errors contribute to failing cybersecurity.

There has been a concentrated focus on embracing encryption by trendsetting tech giants recently. The U.S. Govt recently mandated that all federal websites are required to adopt HTTPS encryption by Dec 31, 2016. At the time of writing this, only 29% of federal websites are compliant with the mandate. Small business owners have also expressed concerns about current cybersecurity and encryption measures.

The other significant vulnerability stems from the “interception of unencrypted data as it travels across the public Internet,” Spurr contends.

There are many insecure channels of communication being used to send confidential information. Unencrypted email and file sharing services are the first that come to mind. Communication via mobile devices should also be a concern for business executives.

Immediate Solutions for Curbing Threats

The human element in any situation always represents the probability of error(s), and it is no different in companies. Even the best employees will inevitably make mistakes, explains Spurr. The best course of action would be to embrace and prioritize automated cybersecurity systems that are further elaborated upon here and here. Email encryption is a necessity and recommended because it is automated to scan instantly and secure data in real-time.

Furthermore, Spurr notes that it is imperative that employees are educated about the dangers of targeted spear phishing schemes. Regular training routines are also recommended to understand and be vigilant against social engineering schemes that will always better the best-automated security and encryption possible.

The Bigger Picture

While HTTPS encryption and better cybersecurity practices will help with greater safety, the means to combat or even resist the threat of state-sponsored hacker groups is a far more daunting task. For instance, the latest State of the Internet report (Q2 2015) indicates the originating source for the highest number of DDoS attacks is China.

State-sponsored hackers from China have long been suspected and accused of targeting U.S. institutions by breaching records of over 30 million federal employees; infiltrating universities; stealing airline manifests by hacking United Airlines; performing cyber espionage on Forbes among other clandestine operations.

It isn’t all one-way, either. Edward Snowden revealed that the U.S. targeted and hacked Chinese Universities and mobile phones. In what is essentially a high-stakes game of cat and mouse to preserve their self-interests, the subject of cybersecurity, state-sponsored hacking, and cyber espionage were discussed at length during bi-lateral talks between the two nations earlier this year.

It has to be reiterated that every security system, company or government can be hacked. However, better standards of cybersecurity will ensure that the privacy and confidential information of millions that are stored online are better preserved. Otherwise, it’s one long and open season for malicious hackers.

Images from Shutterstock and Pixabay.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4 stars on average, based on 1 rated postsSamburaj is the contributing editor at Hacked and keeps tabs on science, technology and cyber security.




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  1. Samburaj Das

    August 28, 2015 at 11:24 am

    For those interested, here’s a real-time map of cyber-attacks taking place around the world. Disclaimer: It looks notoriously similar to a Star Wars shooting gallery. http://map.norsecorp.com/

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Breaches

MyEtherWallet Compromised in Security Breach; Users Urged to Move Tokens

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Popular cryptocurrency service MyEtherWallet (MEW) is urging users to move their tokens after the platform succumbed to its second cyber attack of the year. As the company reported earlier, hackers targeted MEW’s popular VPN service in an attempt to steal cryptocurrency.

Hola VPN Users Compromised

Rather than target MEW directly, hackers took control of the Hola VPN service, which claims nearly 50 million users. For the next five hours, MEW users who had the Hola chrome extension installed and running on their computer were exposed.

MEW took to Twitter to urge users to move their funds immediately.

“Urgent! If you have Hola chrome extension installed and used MEW within the last 24 hrs, please transfer your funds immediately to a brand new account!” the company said. It added the following message shortly thereafter:”We received a report that suggest Hola chrome extension was hacked for approximately 5 hrs and the attack was logging your activity on MEW.”

At the time of writing, MEW’s Twitter feed had no further updates.

MyEtherWallet is used to access cryptocurrency wallets, where users can send and receive tokens from other people.

The company reportedly told TechCrunch that the attack originated from a Russian-based IP address.

“The safety and security of MEW users is our priority. We’d like to remind our users that we do not hold their personal data, including passwords so they can be assured that the hackers would not get their hands on that information if they have not interacted with the Hola chrome extension in the past day,” MEW said, as quoted by TechCrunch.

It’s not yet clear how many users were compromised in the attack or how much, if any, was stolen from their wallets. MEW suffered a similar incident in February after a DNS attack wiped out $365,000 worth of cryptocurrency from users’ accounts.

Cyber Attacks on the Rise

The attack on MEW came less than 24 hours after Hacked reported another major cyber breach involving Bancor, a decentralized cryptocurrency exchange. The security breach compromised roughly $23.5 million worth of digital currency, including Ethereum, NPXS and BNT, Bancor’s native token.

Last month, a pair of South Korean exchanges fell prey to cyber criminals, prompting local regulators to expedite their approval of new cryptocurrency laws.

It has been estimated that a total of $761 million has been stolen from cryptocurrency exchanges in the first half of the year, up from $266 million in all of 2017. That figure is expected to rise to $1.5 billion this year.

CipherTrace, the company behind the estimates, told Reuters last week that stolen cryptocurrencies are mainly used to launder money and aid criminals in concealing their identities.

Disclaimer: The author owns bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies. He holds investment positions in the coins, but does not engage in short-term or day-trading.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.6 stars on average, based on 546 rated postsSam Bourgi is Chief Editor to Hacked.com, where he specializes in cryptocurrency, economics and the broader financial markets. Sam has nearly eight years of progressive experience as an analyst, writer and financial market commentator where he has contributed to the world's foremost newscasts.




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Breaches

Mt. Gox vs. Bithumb: That Was Then, This Is Now

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Bithumb now shares something in common with the Tokyo-based shuttered bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox — both suffered a hack on about the same date, June 19. It’s a club that no exchange wants to belong to and that Bithumb happened on the seven-year anniversary of Mt. Gox’s maiden attack has to be more than an eerie coincidence.

It’s a stark reminder of the risks involved with keeping funds on an unregulated exchange, vulnerabilities that cost South Korea’s Bithumb some $36.6 million in digital cash and Mt. Gox $450 million in hacked bitcoin and its future. The Mt. Gox theft unfolded over a series of hacks that culminated in 2014. Though it’s still early on in the Bithumb hack, it appears the South Korean exchange will recover from the security breach. So what do we know now that we didn’t on June 19, 2011?

Then vs. Now

Former Coinbase official Nick Tomaino, who is also the founder of crypto fund 1 confirmation, reflected on the Mt. Gox hack in what proved to be a prescient tweet given the Bithumb attack that was about to surface.

The thing to note about Mt. Gox is that the Japan-based exchange in 2011 controlled most of the BTC trading volume, approximately three-quarters of it by average estimates — more if you ask Tomaino. Since bitcoin fever caught on in 2017, there are more than 500 cryptocurrency exchanges on which trading volume is shared. Binance boasts the highest trading volume and captures nearly 15% of bitcoin trading. It’s much less than Mt. Gox days but still a little high.

The other thing to note is that the Mt. Gox hack or actually hacks, as there were multiple attacks on the exchange over several years, was a mysterious event that was shrouded in controversy and mistrust of a key executive. Bithumb, on the other hand, confronted the hack seemingly right away on Twitter and has not let any grass grow under its feet in the interim, which is a key difference in the way Mt. Gox was handled.

Also, the bitcoin price didn’t tank in response to the Bithumb hack. It traded lower for a while, but less than 24 hours it was back in the green, which is a reflection of the fact that bitcoin trading is no longer dependent on a single exchange.

Charlie Lee, creator of Litecoin (LTC), the No. 6 cryptocurrency by market cap, was among the first to respond to the Bithumb hack. He tweeted:

Indeed, Bithumb does expect to be able to cover the losses via their reserves.

Crypto Security

It’s still early on in Bithumb’s security breach, and more details are sure to emerge in time. In the meantime, it’s a good idea to use the hack as an opportunity to examine the security of your cryptocurrency investment portfolio. There are several hardware wallet options out there for you to choose from — whether it’s Trezor or Ledger Nano S, to name a couple — and as Charlie Lee advised, “only keep on exchange coins that you are actively trading.”

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.6 stars on average, based on 36 rated postsGerelyn has been covering ICOs and the cryptocurrency market since mid-2017. She's also reported on fintech more broadly in addition to asset management, having previously specialized in institutional investing. She owns some BTC and ETH.




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Bithumb Hack Prompts South Korea to Hasten Cryptocurrency Regulation

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South Korea’s second-largest cryptocurrency exchange suffered a security breach on Wednesday, prompting local authorities to hasten their adoption of stricter regulations.

Bithumb Hack

Bithumb confirmed Wednesday that cyber criminals “seized” 35 billion won ($31.6 million) worth of digital cash in an apparent attack targeting user accounts. The exchange halted deposits at approximately 00:53 UTC and began a wholesale transfer of funds to cold storage to prevent further theft.

“We checked that some of cryptocurrencies valued about $30,000,000 was stolen,” Bithumb tweeted Wednesday. “Those stolen cryptocurrencies will be covered from Bithumb and all of assets are being transferring to cold wallet.”

The exchange has confirmed that it will fully compensate affected users.

An earlier update on Bithumb’s Twitter account reveals that a security upgrade was being carried out last week where it transferred to a cold wallet for safe storage. However, it is unclear whether the upgrade is linked to the theft.

In terms of trade volume, Bithumb is the world’s sixth-largest cryptocurrency exchange. The platform processed more than $355 million worth of digital currency transactions in the last 24 hours, according to data provided by CoinMarketCap.

Bithumb is the second South Korean exchange this month to have been hacked. Less than two weeks ago, more than $37 million was compromised in a coordinated attack on Coinrail. The attackers went after the exchange’s coins and lesser-known ERC-20 tokens.

South Korea to Boost Regulation

South Korea’s financial regulators have announced plans to implement stricter guidelines for virtual exchanges, and to do so more expeditiously than previously planned. The announcement, which came on the heels of the Bitthumb attack, follows months of deliberation about whether to regulate cryptocurrency exchanges like banks and other financial institutions.

As CCN notes, cryptocurrency exchanges are presently regulated as “communication vendors,” which means virtually anyone can launch an online trading platform. This designation prevents direct oversight of digital currency exchanges by financial regulators.

New crypto regulations are expected to be rolled out in the coming months, which will put South Korea’s financial authorities on par with their counterparts in the United States and Japan. In those countries, cryptocurrency exchanges must comply with laws pertaining to security and consumer protection.

Park Yong-kin, a committee member of the National Assembly, has championed stricter regulations since last year. According to local media, his views are now being echoed by other government officials.

Disclaimer: The author owns bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies. He holds investment positions in the coins, but does not engage in short-term or day-trading.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.6 stars on average, based on 546 rated postsSam Bourgi is Chief Editor to Hacked.com, where he specializes in cryptocurrency, economics and the broader financial markets. Sam has nearly eight years of progressive experience as an analyst, writer and financial market commentator where he has contributed to the world's foremost newscasts.




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