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Vulnerabilities

New Form of Ransomware Uses Social Media to Customize Demands

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A new form of ransomware is reported to have been found that uses a person’s social media and computer files to customize a demand, according to cybersecurity researchers at Proofpoint.

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Called ‘Ransoc’ by the researchers because of its connection to social media, they found that the malware was scanning local media filenames and running several routines by interacting with Skype, LinkedIn, and Facebook profiles, infecting the system through Internet Explorer on Windows and Safari on OS X.

What’s interesting about this new type of ransomware is the fact that unlike ransomware such as Locky, which encrypts a person’s files before demanding payment, Ransoc customizes its demands to its victims.

After scanning a person’s computer files and social media to find potentially incriminating evidence, it then sends a penalty notice, threatening victims with court action if the amount isn’t paid.

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As it doesn’t encrypt a person’s files, the ransomware relies on a victim’s fear to pay the money straight away.

According to Proofpoint, though, this type of penalty notice threat was widespread during 2012 and 2014; however, since then the focus has been on crypto ransomware and other malware as a way of scamming victims out of their money.

Interestingly, enough, the team at Proofpoint discovered that the penalty notice only appeared if the malware was able to locate incriminating evidence on the computer. If, however, the file name was manually changed no penalty notice was triggered.

Not only that, but the team found that instead of demanding the payment in bitcoin, which is what the vast amount of cybercriminals using malware demand, this one demanded payment with a credit card. Unlike bitcoin, which gives criminals anonymity, the use of a credit card means that law enforcement can potentially trace the money back to the criminals a lot easier.

The fact that this method is used could suggest that the cybercriminals are happy in the belief that the victims have too much to hide to seek out help from the police. To encourage payment, though, the ransom note states that the money will be sent back to the victim if they are not caught again in 180 days.

It’s safe to say that repayment never happens.

All, it seems, is not lost.

According to Proofpoint, the Ransoc only employs a registry autorun key to persist, so rebooting in Safe Mode should allow users to remove the malware.

Featured image from Shutterstock.

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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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Eavesdropping

Are Children Losing Their Childhood to Smart Toys?

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Smart toys are on the rise, but while they may have the ability to enhance a child’s play, do they also pose a threat by spying on what children are doing?

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In an article from the New Scientist, the issue of privacy is looked into. More specifically, the privacy of children.

Nowadays, it seems it’s no longer a case of simply playing with Ken and Barbie as the imagination of a child takes over. As the article reports, various companies have been looking into how they can capture the imagination of children. One play item, in particular, is the Barbie Hello Dreamhouse and Hello Barbie.

Created by the American toy-company Mattel, Inc., Barbie has been in existence since 1959. Designed by businesswoman Ruth Handler, Barbie has maintained its popularity with children up to the present day for nearly 60 years.

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But, in a bid to keep up with technological advances in the 21st century, Mattel, Inc., has created the Barbie Hello Dreamhouse, a pink-and-white smart house for the world’s most popular doll. Apparently, the Hello Barbie is reported to be able to talk to a child on a number of topics ranging – as the New Scientist states – ‘from fashion and family to dreams and paddleboarding.’

Nothing wrong with that, you might think.

Except for the fact that when a child presses Barbie’s buckle to talk to her, every word the child makes is then transmitted to a Mattel-owned server farm where it is analyzed so that a suitable reply can be sent back to the child.

Sending Details to Third Parties

Shockingly, the information that was being stored was also being sent on to third parties, which, naturally, ensued a backlash.

According to Josh Golin, executive director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC), who launched a social media campaign #HellNoBarbie, he said that:

It just struck us as such as invasion of children’s privacy.

Open to Hackers

Children, in their innocence, don’t realize that what they are telling their dolls may now be listened to by others. This can also include hackers.

Even though toys may seem above anything else, they can just as easily become a target for hackers too.

In 2015, Chinese company VTech was targeted by hackers. Reports stated that nearly five million parents and more than 200,000 children had their information stolen after a hacker breached the servers of the toy company.

As such privacy activists have objected not only because of the concern from others listening in or the vulnerability that toys can pose, but also because it can take away the nature of a child’s play.

Taking Away the Child’s Imagination

Of course, if you walk into someone’s house, the chances are that you will find a vast array of smart technology around. Consider digital assistants such as Siri, Alexa, and Allo to name a few.

Toys, however, don’t need to be smart, do they?

After all, when it comes to child’s play that’s when a child learns how to figure out skills while playing out a fantasy world that only they see in their eyes. By playing with toys that are already preprogramed with answers seems to only hinder a child’s play rather than broaden it.

Featured image from Shutterstock.

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Bitcoin

Russian Fraudster Lures Thousands in Kenyan Pyramid Scheme with a Bitcoin Twist

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For the past year, Kenyans have been lured with the promise of making money quickly through a pyramid scheme started by convicted Russian fraudster, Sergey Mavrodi, reports the Daily Nation, a Kenyan news site.

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Mavrodi is reported to have designed a major pyramid scheme in Russia before its end came in 1997, which is believed to have conned an estimated $100 million out of its members. He was later sentenced to four and a half years in prison in 2007 for defrauding 10,000 investors of around $4.3 million. This is the same man who set up MMM Global giving promises to Kenyans interested in the latest MMM Kenya pyramid scheme that they would receive up to 100 percent returns.

mavrodi

Sergey Mavrodi

As part of the scheme, members are informed that if they donate money to the needy they will be rewarded, earning points in the digital currency, bitcoin. Not only that, but for people who want financial freedom, they are promised this as well as an opportunity to ‘change the world.’

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The idea behind this scheme is that you give to the network and in turn wait for others to give back to you. It is portrayed that the more you give, the more you receive.

Mavrodi is reported to have said on his website that:

This is not a pyramid scheme, not a bank or an online business.

Warning the Public

It’s reported by the Daily Nation, that the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) warned the public; however, they didn’t refer specifically to MMM. Instead, they said that digital currencies such as bitcoin are not legal in Kenya and have no protection attached to them if they should fail.

It said:

Transactions in virtual currencies such as bitcoins are largely untraceable and anonymous, making them susceptible to abuse by criminals in money laundering and financing of terrorism.

How the Scheme Works

Once an individual joins MMM, they are asked to donate not less than $10 before they can then ask others in the chain for help.

After a donation has been made an individual is promised to receive 30 percent of the amount they donate.

The more people who join the more bonuses a person can get through points called Mavros.

MMM Under Investigation

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first, nor will it be the last, time that Mavrodi has initiated these types of Ponzi schemes designed to make money off the backs of vulnerable people.

In April 2016, MMM Global’s franchises, Republic of Bitcoin, was shut down while MMM South Africa is alleged to be under criminal investigations by the National Consumer Commission. MMM Zimbabwe has already fallen after the number of those in need outnumbered those joining.

Images from Shutterstock and Wikipedia.

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