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When Lizards Attack: Security Experts Say Lizard Squad Likely Involved in Sony Hack

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lizard squad sony hackEarlier this year, a group of hackers ruined the day of a lot of gamers one day when they knocked out the servers of the online role playing game Runescape as well as League of Legends. For perspective, Runescape’s website is the 6,000th most popular page on the internet. Now, they are being linked to the Sony Pictures hack.

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Who is Lizard Squad?

Not even a week after their initial attacks, they pulled an IRL hack by tweeting a bomb threat at a very specific American Airlines flight: one carrying none other than Sony Online Entertainment CEO John Smedley, who’d be the top man overseeing the PlayStation Network, which was reportedly also a target of the group.

LizardSquad.com is currently not available, but an archived version of it is interesting to read:

We set out on our journey 2 weeks ago with the plan to cause havoc within the gaming community. Our motives varied throughout this adventure. Originally it was to see if we could evade being caught and to experience the raw thrill of anarchy, not being bound to phony laws. We’ve been called everything from an organized criminal “gang” to complete assholes, really we are just a bunch of guys with too much free time. Throughout our journey we met new people, gained new members, learned new things. People tried taking swings at us (and missed). We proved that even though we are little in this very big world, that a small group of friends who work together can cause a lot of havoc without legal repercussions.

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The last part is most interesting. This group seems to very clear on one thing: they will not be caught. One wonders if they believe there is any form of cryptographic security which can in the end truly mask them. The truth is, with the present state of the Tor network and the abysmal state of digital security as evidenced by the attacks they are now being linked to, if the authorities want to find you bad enough, they will.

Because They Can and Because it Pays

Since the beginning of the internet, hackers have been executing the most brilliant attacks they can get away with (or not) for the fame and fun of it. This group is different in that they claim in interviews with Keemstar, the infamous host of gaming podcast DramaAlert, that they do this for money.

“We are Lizard Squad, we do what we do because we can do what we do, said member Plague in one interview.

In a separate interview, he claimed that while they do get paid to hack websites and services, they don’t announce those attacks. “The ones that we announce aren’t paid.” He was being asked about the attack the group had done on the Major League Gaming video stream.

Making Enemies

The other famous hacker group of recent times, Anonymous, did not take kindly to the work of Lizard Squad. Earlier this month, Anonymous released a video that ordered the group to stop. The tone of the video makes it sound as if Anonymous is upset because the attacks are aimed at games played by kids and not politically motivated.

Linked to Sony Pictures Hack

On December 23rd, Bloomberg published an article which quoted LA-based cybersecurity firm IntelCrawler as saying that Lizard Squad could either have worked in conjunction with North Korean hackers on the recent Sony hacks or they could actually be responsible. Another possibility is that the linked attacks simply co-incided with each other.

What is clear is that there is little evidence backing up the US Government‘s claim that North Korea was, in fact, behind the hack on Sony. The biggest piece of evidence which links Lizard Squad with the so-called Guardians of Peace is a tweet they made before their account was suspended that said they were “working together with #GoP on a Christmas project.”

While the Federal Government might place lower priority on childish acts like distributed denial of service attacks on game servers and even might rarely catch the actors behind “swatting” (the act of managing to get a SWAT team dispatched to an enemy’s home), Lizard Squad or Guardians of Peace or whoever was behind the attack on Sony Pictures definitely just got itself in the cross hairs when they involved themselves in international affairs regarding a rogue state the government once called part of an “axis of evil.”

In related news, Sony has released The Interview starring Seth Rogen and James Franco on the Google Play store. A two-day rental, at $5.99 USD, is less than a typical movie theater ticket would cost.

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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

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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Hacking

Hackers Only Need Seconds to Figure Out Card Details

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Experts from Newcastle University in England has found that hackers only need six seconds to figure out the card number, expiry date, and security code for a Visa debit or credit card by simple guesswork, according to a report from The Telegraph.

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According to figures from the Office of National Statistics, in the U.K. the number of bank account fraud cases reported up to June 2016, from the beginning of the year, amounted to over 2.3 million.

The researchers found that all that a hacker needs is a computer and an Internet connection. It is believed that hackers simply utilize what is known as a Distributed Guessing Attack enabling them to get around security features that help prevent online fraud.

By using the Distributed Guessing Attack, the system was unable to detect multiple attempts made by hackers.

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Process of Elimination

As such, within a matter of seconds hackers were able to determine the correct information on a person’s card by a process of elimination.

Only recently Tesco bank account customers were subjected to hacking after criminals were able to gain access to their accounts. It is believed that these hackers may have used the Distributed Guessing Attack to siphon money from peoples’ accounts.

Payment Cards Remain Vulnerable

Unfortunately, even though Visa debit and credit cards remain popular and convenient forms of payment, they remain vulnerable as well.

And hackers know this, which is why reports of online card fraud are becoming more prevalent in today’s technologically-advanced world.

Visa states though:

The research does not take into account the multiple layers of fraud prevention that exist within the payments system, each of which must be met in order to make a transaction possible in the real world.

However, while this may be the case, it seems something is amiss if cybercriminals can simply determine a person’s card details in six seconds through guesswork.

Bitcoin to the Rescue?

The digital currency bitcoin, however, may provide an answer to this problem.

As a type of digital currency that is held and created electronically with no central bank governing it, bitcoin is considered the cash of the Internet.

Due to its popularity more people are turning to it instead of fiat currency.

It was recently reported that Sweden is considering the issuance of its own digital currency, ekrona, in an effort to address the significant decline of the use of cash in the country.

Whereas India has announced that digital currency will become the new normal in the country as it attempts to reduce the amount of cash transactions with the banning of its biggest banknotes, the Rs 500 and Rs 1,000.

While these are just a few instances of how bitcoin is revolutionizing how we see money, many are quickly catching on to how safe and effective bitcoin is as a form of payment in a world where hackers are gaining easy access to a person’s Visa debit and credit cards.

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