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North Korea’s Internet May Be Under Attack

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North Korea experienced widespread internet outages on Monday. The unusually prolonged connectivity issues could owe their origin to maintenance work or router troubles. However, experts state the unusual nature of the outages could indicate North Korea’s internet is under attack. Could this be the “proportional response” President Barack Obama stated the United States would take against North Korea’s alleged role in the recent Sony hacks and terrorist threats?

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Also read: Sony Hack Drama Continues: Washington Wants North Korea to Compensate Sony for The Interview

North Korea’s Internet May Be Under Attack

north korea blackoutNorth Korea’s internet is notoriously insulated, with few users having access to the uncensored internet most in the West enjoy. But North Koreans had trouble accessing even that limited internet on Monday as the nation experienced widespread internet outages. It’s possible the connectivity troubles stem from network maintenance or minor hardware trouble. However,  North Korea Tech spoke with Doug Madory of internet analysis firm Dyn Research, who said there is reason to consider that North Korea’s internet outage may be more serious.

I haven’t seen such a steady beat of routing instability and outages in KP before,” said Doug Madory, director of Internet analysis at Dyn Research. “Usually there are isolated blips, not continuous connectivity problems. I wouldn’t be surprised if they are absorbing some sort of attack presently.

Madory elaborated in a later interview with Re/code:

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They’re pretty stable networks normally,” Madory said. “In the last 24 hours or so, the networks in North Korea are under some kind of duress, but I can’t tell you exactly what’s causing it…There’s no way to confirm that these outages are the result of an attack, but given the timing, it’s something we have to consider,” he said.

Could the U.S. Be Involved?

Both the irregularity and timing of North Korea’s internet outage raise questions about U.S. involvement. The FBI officially blamed North Korea for the recent Sony hacking scandal and terror threats, which caused Sony to cancel the release of The Interview. Later, President Obama stated that the U.S. government was taking steps to prepare a “proportional response” to the attack, which he referred to as an act of “cyber vandalism.” The U.S. reportedly made overtures to China for help with the response.

But if the U.S. is involved, they are not ready to admit it. When asked by CNBC for comment, a White House National Security Council representative remained tight-lipped.

We don’t have any new announcements on North Korea today.

What do you think? Comment below!

Images from Wikimedia.

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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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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.

Featured image from Shutterstock.

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