Internet security service Hacking Team claims to be making progress in determining how hackers managed to steal 400 GB worth of data on July 6 and release it on BitTorrent, according to Business Insider. The damage, which included the hijacking of Hacking Team’s Twitter account to tweet screenshots of stolen emails, has created a public relations challenge for the Italy-based security service, which provides surveillance tools to governments worldwide.
The thieves, whose identities remain unknown, got ahold of Hacking Team’s products, email messages, audio recordings, and client information. The leak suggested the company sold its surveillance products to countries that the United Nations, NATO, European Parliament, and the U.S. have placed under export restrictions.
Hacking Team Claims It Has Gained Insight
David Vincenzetti, CEO, told Business Insider the company has determined the extent of the attack and the damage incurred. The company is cooperating with Italian law enforcement, and there is an ongoing investigation to determine who was behind it.
Hacking Team is presently developing new systems as it assesses “the new environment for surveillance,” Vincenzetti said, but he could not say how long this will take. He acknowledged there have been a number of attempts to break into Hacking Team’s systems. He said the company deserves the protection of law and order, but it has not received enough protection to prevent significant damage.
The Company Responds To The Attack
Vincenzetti told Business Insider how the company responded to the July 6 attack. After learning about the attack at 3:15 a.m., Vincenzetti had the engineers take all systems offline. They also contacted all company clients and advised them to suspend use of the system.
The attack did not reveal information from government agencies, Vincenzetti said, since Hacking Team does not actually conduct its clients’ investigations. The clients conduct the investigations and maintain the data on their own computer systems. Despite this security measure, Hacking Team told clients to stop operations since they could not immediately determine the extent of the damage.
In the first week following the attack, company engineers built a patch to further protect client data. They also rebuilt the company’s internal communications and data systems.
‘We Have Analysed And Learned’
Vincenzetti did not wish to explain how much the team has learned about the hackers’ techniques. “We have analysed the attack and learned a good deal about the techniques used, exactly what was taken, and how,” he said. “That has allowed us to take steps to protect new systems that are now in place.”
Hacking Team’s clients have been supportive, Vincenzetti said.
As our clients know from their own experience, the system that we have provided is the most powerful, comprehensive and easy to use software available for digital surveillance.
Selling To Blacklisted Countries?
In response to allegations that Hacking Team sold tools to blacklisted countries like Sudan, Vincenzetti said the company has separated business relations with Sudan, Russia and Ethiopia. While sales to these countries were legal at the time, the company has since decided to end these relationships. The company made these decisions based on the political situations in those countries and Hacking Team’s evolving business practices.
Asked if there are other countries or organizations Hacking Team will not sell its services to, Vincenzetti said this list includes North Korea, Syria, Iran, and other examples that he chose not to divulge.
Helping Governments Spy On People?
Pressed to respond to claims that Hacking Team’s tools help governments abuse citizens’ privacy, Vincenzetti said the company helps government’s fight crime in the digital age with its surveillance tools. “The company believes this is a small step toward a more secure world for all who wish to use the Internet and digital tools lawfully,” he said.
Asked to give his personal views about web privacy, Vincenzetti told he recognizes the need to balance privacy with security. He noted that his company has worked with Italian regulators in implementing the Wassenaar Arrangement’s protocols. The Wassenaar protocols are part of an international agreement among more than 40 nations, including the U.S. and the U.K., and are designed to control and manage arms deals.
“Hacking Team has always followed laws and regulation, and the company has complied immediately with new regulation such as the Wassenaar protocols that went into effect in Italy in January of 2015,” he said.
“We are committed to providing services in accordance with the rules, and as regulation has changed in the past, Hacking Team has taken whatever steps were required to operate under the law. We will do so in the future, should the regulations change again.”
Position On ‘Zero Vulnerabilities’
As for “zero vulnerabilities” – software vulnerabilities that are found by hackers before the general research or tech community – these are not core to Hacking Team’s business, Vincenzetti said. The core business is to provide surveillance tools to law enforcement. “Essential to that is a process of continuous updates to the software to assure that it can be operated securely. Zero day exploits are only one way in which clients may choose to deploy Hacking Team software.”
Featured image from Shutterstock.
Uber Is Paying Hackers to Keep Quiet
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.
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.
“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.
Ethereum Notches Two-Month High as Bitcoin Offspring Triggers Volatility
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.
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.
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.
Ethereum Prices on Track for 35% Monthly Drop
It has been a difficult month for ethereum. The world’s No. 2 digital currency has lost a third of its value over the past 30 days following a series of cyber breaches targeting vulnerable wallets and ICOs.
Ethereum Struggles to Regain Momentum
Ethereum (ETH/USD) was trading near $197.00 Sunday at 6:30 BST, according to Bitfinex. That represents a decline of around 5%. At current values, ethereum’s market cap was $18.4 billion.
The ETH/USD exchange rate has struggled throughout July, with prices briefly falling below $160.00. The decline, which amounted to a 60-day low, lured bargain-hunters back into the market. After surging back toward $250.00, the ETH/USD has consolidated below the $220-mark, which continues to offer strong resistance. On the opposite side of the spectrum, major support is located at $180.00.
A price recovery may prove elusive in the short-term, with the Relative Strength Index (RSI) and Stochastic indicator signalling weak underlying momentum.
Despite its recent decline, ethereum’s value has surged more than 2,200% this year.
Cyber Attacks, SEC Weigh on Market
The ethereum network suffered a large-scale cyber breach earlier this month resulting in the loss of tens of millions of dollars. A community of ethical hackers quickly banded together to “rescue” hundreds of millions of dollars worth of tokens.
Blockchain-based trading platform Coindash was also hijacked during an initial coin offering (ICO). The breach exposed Coindash’s ether wallet address, resulting in the loss of $7 million worth of ether.
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has also taken an interest in the ethereum-based ICO market. Last week, the regulator concluded that a certain multi-million dollar token sale last year violated securities law. Although ICOs have been compared to crowd-sourcing, the SEC maintained that some tokens were in fact securities.
Analysts say the SEC ruling could impact the future of ICOs, although it remains unclear how the regulator is pursuing this market. The SEC’s July 25 press release cautions investors about ICOs in general.
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