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Infrastructure Technology Group Questions Hacker Group’s NASA Breach Claim

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The Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology (ICIT), a non-partisan group of innovation experts and firms that provides solutions to support and protect critical infrastructure, has questioned the AnonSec hacker group’s claim that it breached NASA’s internal networks and almost crashed a Global Hawk Drone in the Pacific Ocean. Hacked reported AnonSec’s claim on Monday.

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AnonSec claimed that in 2013 it bought an “initial foothold” from a hacker who had knowledge of NASA servers, then started trying to find out how many computers they could break into and hijack. The hackers claimed they gained flight logs, employee personal information and video footage from the $222 million drone.

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James Scott, ICIT co-founder and senior fellow, contacted Hacked and presented an assessment of the hacktivists’ claims.

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Hacktivists’ Claims Scrutinized

An AnonSec administrator contacted a journalist and claimed to have exfiltrated between 100 to 276GB of data from NASA drone systems and servers, according to Scott. AnonSec also claims to have provided The Guardian and Wikileaks with copies of the encrypted data.

The next day, the hacker group provided “samples” of the data online, supposedly containing 631 aircraft and radar videos, information on 2,414 employees, and 2,143 flight logs.

AnonSec said it targeted NASA because they want the agency to disclose the amount of radioactive and hazardous chemicals in the upper atmosphere. AnonSec claims NASA obfuscated the real levels in an effort to diminish the global warming threat.

The hacktivist group has threatened to reveal its stolen data through The Guardian and Wikileaks if NASA fails to release its actual finding in the next month.

It released only a teaser video on the indexed Internet. Larger files allegedly from the breach have surfaced on the darknet, but the data hasn’t been verified.

Accessing NASA Servers

Scott said the group did not breach NASA systems through any sophisticated attack vector. They bought a foothold on the deepweb from a hacker with “knowledge of NASA servers.” The seller could have been a malicious threat actor inside NASA. Other accounts indicate the hacker could have established a presence by accidentally infecting a NASA system with the gozi virus.

AnonSec claims it used a sniffing program to steal a system administrator password. These stolen credentials allowed the group to access at least three network-attached storage devices (NAS) that contained backup copies of flight logs and data.

The group also claims to have focused on these systems in order to copy data as NASA employees uploaded new data. It targeted drone systems because the systems record chemical samples from the upper atmosphere. It dedicated members to the technical aspects of the breach like infecting new hosts, compromising camera systems or mapping the network.

Other members sifted through the allegedly stolen data.

Corroborating Claims Challenging

Corroborating or disproving the hacktivists’ claims may be difficult for security experts since the group claims to have deleted indicators of their network presence.

The current status of the breach is still at “claim” level and there has been no response from NASA or the FBI that legitimizes the claim, Scott said.

AnonSec claims it spent months in NASA’s internal network. Scott said it is hard to believe NASA hasn’t created a technologically sophisticated cyber barricade around its infrastructure.

What NASA Could Have Done

If AnonSec’s breach claim is accurate, NASA could have used the following methods to slow down the breach:

1) User behavior analytics. This is an early warning mechanism to detect user behavior abnormalities.

2) User behavior biometrics. This is another early warning mechanism that is valuable when used to detect physical abnormalities in users’ technical behavior.

3) Multi-layered field encryption of data in transit and stationary, including name, email, phone, etc. should each of these have individual encryption algorithms. If the adversary breaches the network and goes undetected and can exfiltrate information, they have to decrypt each field.

4) Ongoing penetration testing. This is penetration testing by skilled hired hackers to uncover vulnerabilities in the network and IoT attached devices.

5) Insider threat analysis. People who work at federal agencies with access to classified material must undergo direct and indirect psychological and lifestyle assessments to see if they are under threat or could become a threat. Credit profile, marital and family relationships, financial threats and professional satisfaction all play a role in assessing the possible threats from inside an organization.

6) Consider that each network, device, drone, NASA location is vulnerable and breached until proven otherwise by penetration testing and vulnerability assessment/risk analysis. Such simulations consider all known threat actors, exploits and vulnerabilities.

7) Change administration credentials from “default” to a creative combination.

The above information is based on what is known about the breach that AnonSec claims to have facilitated, Scott said.

What Did AnonSec Divulge?

Also contesting the credibility of the hack is that the leaked employee information only consists of names, email addresses and phone numbers. Much of that information is attainable on the open internet and the all of that information can be stolen from a hacked Microsoft Outlook account (or comparable email client).

The prototype hacker process begins with the following steps, Scott said. Knowing these steps can help organizations spot vulnerabilities.

• Reconnaissance. This is the social engineering phase, intelligence gathering on the target and various paths to the target
• Internal exploitation.
• Establish persistence and gain a foothold.
• Install tools.
• Move laterally throughout the network.
• Collect, exfiltrate and exploit.

Images from Shutterstock and ICIT.

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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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Ethereum Prices on Track for 35% Monthly Drop

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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.

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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.

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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.

ETH/USD (Bitfinex)


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Coders Safeguard Vulnerable Ethereum Wallets Following Security Breach

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Ethereum suffered large-scale security breaches last week after anonymous hackers targeted vulnerable wallets in the network, resulting in the loss of tens of millions of dollars. However, it didn’t take long for a volunteer group of coders to “rescue” the funds in 500 at-risk wallets before the same attackers could get to them too.

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White Hat Group Takes Charge

The so-called White Hat Group showed initiative by “rescuing” the funds using the same techniques the thieves employed to compromise $32 million USD worth of ether from three multi-signature wallets. As of Monday, the White Hat Group of ethical hackers was in possession of $86 million worth of ether and an additional $122 million in tokens.

Tokens are digital assets that are sold during an Initial Coin Offering (ICO) fundraising event. They have proven to be extremely popular.

Tens of millions of dollars worth of ether and tokens have already been returned to their owners. The White Hat Group says it will issue full refunds by the end of July.

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Blockchain-based trading platform Coindash was also breached last week, resulting in the loss of more than $7 million worth of ether.

Security Breaches Nothing New in Crypto World

For all its benefits, cryptocurrency has been vulnerable to several high-profile security breaches. Last summer, Hong Kong-based Bitfinex was the target of a major attack that resulted in the theft of around $70 million worth of bitcoins. In response, the exchange announced a controversial plans to “socialize” its losses among all users. Each Bitfinex trader was docked 36% as a result.

Bitcoin prices declined sharply following the attack, stopping what had been a blistering summer of gains.

Ethereum Enterprise Alliance

For anyone doubting the potential of the ether, take a look at the list of companies participating in the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance (EEA). The EEA is a forum that connects Fortune 500 companies, startups and academics with ethereum subject matter experts.  The EEA is made up of multinational banks and some of the world’s biggest technology companies.

The forum has made cyber security a top priority, according to a May 22 press release. In the release, companies like Infosys, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Synechron and others expressed their intent to contribute to the future of ethereum’s security.

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