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Shadow Brokers’ NSA Hacking Raises Questions about Government Disclosure of Leaks

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The hacking of the National Security Agency (NSA) security tools by the Shadow Brokers raises some serious questions about what information the NSA should be releasing, according to eweek.com.

The balance between the NSA’s need to protect its hacking capabilities and the need to protect U.S. computers has to be addressed in light of the recent breach, several security observors have noted. The NSA did not notify the software vendors of the recent Shadow Brokers hacking.

The Shadow Brokers announced on Twitter on Aug. 13 they would auction off cyber-espionage tools taken from the Equation Group, which is widely considered part of the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA).

Hacking Under Investigation

James Clapper, director of national intelligence, said on Aug. 24 the event was still under investigation and that he did not know the full extent of what happened.

The leak contained encrypted files weighing more than 250MB of data, and these files included the encryption key for a folder of files labeled “Firewall.” The Shadow Brokers said the key to unlock the main body of data will only be released if it received 1 million bitcoin, about $580 million. The group is believed to be linked to Russia.

Security experts claim the NSA, known for its offensive capabilities, should be considering its defensive role more seriously.

Experts Call For Disclosure

Logan Brown, president of threat intelligence and vulnerability acquisition firm Exodus Intelligence, said it is in everyone’s interest for the government entity behind the Equation Group to advise security vendors of such a breach so that other nations do not use Equation’s IP against their citizens.

The outing of the NSA-linked framework is the most recent leak of cyber tools that indicate governments are active in cyber operations against individuals, non-government groups and other nations.

Lookout, a mobile security firm, and the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab, noted on Aug. 25, that an attacker – believed to be government connected – used espionage tools the NSO Group allegedly created, against Ahmed Mansour, a known Middle Eastern activist targeted by previous attempts.

The question about the proper use of such technology by government agencies increases with each such revelation.

What The Files Contained

The leaked “Firewall” files included names of tools such as “SecondDate” and a passcode that marks the data as a match for the information leaked by Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor. The tools in the teaser data target vulnerabilities in major firewalls.

Cisco, which is currently patching one issue, noted another vulnerability targeted by the Equation Group tools was patched in 2011.

Fortinet examined the files and found the attacks only impacted its software versions prior to 2012.

Juniper has found no exploitable vulnerabilities in the data.

NSA Policy Under Question

Nicholas Weaver, senior staff researcher at the International Computer Science Institute in Berkeley, Calif., says the NSA leak sheds light on the arrangement between agency’s mission to protect U.S. computer systems and its wish to exploit capabilities.

Previous calculations relied on the likelihood that another party would exploit the vulnerability, Weaver noted in a Lawfare blog. This calculation changes when NSA’s own tools can be stolen without detection. He questioned if there is a policy governing what NSA does when it knows its tools are compromised.

If NSA failed to notify Fortinet and Cisco of the breach of its tools, it represents a “serious dereliction” of the NSA information assurance mission since the government used both products which NSA is charged with protecting.

The U.S. government has said it would disclose vulnerabilities when there is a clear need to protect the nation’s computer systems and the Internet. Following disclosure of a widespread flaw in OpenSSL known as Heartbleed, the White House said it did not know about the issue, and if it did, it would have notified the public.

Also read: Hacking group claims it dumped National Security Agency files, demands one million BTC

Spokesman: Decisions Not Easy

Michael Daniel, special assistant to the president and cyber-security coordinator who wrote the White House statement, said that the decision is not always easy. He said there are legitimate arguments on both sides of the decision to disclose.

The trade-offs between withholding information about vulnerabilities and prompt disclosure can have serious consequences. Disclosing such information can involve losing an opportunity to gather intelligence and undermine a terrorist attack, halt the theft of intellectual property, or find more dangerous vulnerabilities being used by adversaries to exploit networks.

Companies have largely remained silent on the issue. Juniper, Fortinet and Cisco chose not to comment.

The NSA did not return requests for comment.

Brown of Exodus Intelligence said the choice to disclose might not rest with the agency. If the Equation Group is a private firm employed by the NSA, the intellectual property and the decisions about it belong to the firm.

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Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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3.9 stars on average, based on 8 rated postsLester Coleman is a veteran business journalist based in the United States. He has covered the payments industry for several years and is available for writing assignments.




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Altcoins

Monero Price Analysis: Stronger Malware to Mine Monero; XMR/USD Has Room for Another Potential Squeeze South

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  • Researchers: a stronger malware has been uncovered, which can mine Monero.
  • XMR/USD price action remains stuck in a narrowing range, subject to an imminent breakout.

The XMR/USD price has seen some upside on Saturday, holding gains of around 3% towards the latter stages of the day. Despite the press higher from the bulls, a move which has been observed across the cryptocurrency market, vulnerabilities remain. Price action has been ranging for the past nine sessions. Once again, this isn’t specifically just XMR, as this type of behavior is witnessed across the board. The narrowing in play came after the steep drop that rippled across the market on 10th January.

Price action was initially well-supported to the upside by an ascending trend line, which was in play from 15th December. This at the time was a very promising recovery, as XMR/USD had gained as much as 55%. Unfortunately, however, the bulls were unable to break down supply heading into the $60 region and were eventually dealt a big hammer blow. On 10th January, the market bears forced a heavy breach to the downside, smashing through this support. The price had dropped a big double-digits, some 20%.

Stronger Malware Mining Monero (XMR)

There is a dangerous form of malware that can bypass being detected and mine Monero (XMR) on cloud-based servers. A recent notice was put out by Palo Alto Networks’ Unit 42, an intelligence team that specializes in cyber threats, regarding a Linux mining malware. This was detailed to have been developed by Rocke group, which has the ability uninstall cloud security products. It can do this to the likes of Alibaba Cloud and Tencent Cloud, to then illegally mine Monero on compromised machines.

The two researchers from Palo Alto Networks, Xingyu Jin and Claud Xiao, detailed the findings of their studies. Once the malware is downloaded, it takes administrative control to initially uninstall all cloud security products. Shortly after, it will then then transmit code that will mine the Monero (XMR). Further within their press release, they said, “To the best of our knowledge, this is the first malware family that developed the unique capability to target and remove cloud security products.”

Technical Review – XMR/USD

XMR/USD daily chart.

Given the current range block formation, eyes should be on the key near-term technical areas. Firstly, to the downside, $43, which is the lower part of the range. A breach here will likely see a retest of the December low, $38. To the upside, resistance be observed at around the mid $46 level. Should a breakout be observed here, then a potential retest of the broken trend line will be watched.

Disclaimer: The author owns Bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies. He holds investment positions in the coins, but does not engage in short-term or day-trading.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.6 stars on average, based on 125 rated postsKen has over 8 years exposure to the financial markets. During a large part of his career, he worked as an analyst, covering a variety of asset classes; forex, fixed income, commodities, equities and cryptocurrencies. Ken has gone on to become a regular contributor across several large news and analysis outlets.




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Altcoins

Crypto-Security Testnet Surpasses Key Milestones

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Security and has been combined with micro-compucomputing are a combination which ascended to greatly relevant, both economically and financially, since the early days of commercial internet technology, the John McAfee associated era of anti-virus software, and fears of ‘millennium-bug’ (‘Y2K’)-induced societal meltdowns.

As a market player, ‘cybersecurity‘ is hailed for its continuedvalue and growth, with recent implementations advancing in tandem with technological development. With ‘blockchain’ having become a key buzzword in recent years, it comes as little surprise that digital security providers have been attempting to identify and provide protection against cryptocurrency related scams.

Examples of these include ‘malware‘ AKA ‘malicious software’. They are often created with the aim of illicitly subvert the processing power of the victim’s device for use towards the mining of cryptocurrencies, or lock and potentially delete highly sensitive data (such as Ransomware’).

Cybersecurity and Blockchain

Crypto attacks can affect almost any person or institution: from private wallets and exchanges, to cryptocurrency operators, and even sometimes unsuspecting users of internet browsers with no relation to blockchain based services.

In an article published at CCN in August 2018, I wrote about the large prolificity and news coverage of cyber-attacks carried out against cryptocurrency organisations: with a majority of them involving the theft of high-value quantities of tokens or sensitive data.

Key points raised in the piece include the identification of wallets and exchanges as high-value targets for potential thieves, as well as a discussion surrounding a study of over 1000 participants in which none of the top exchanges were “lauded for security”.

As cybersecurity has been exposed as a fatal flaw in the unauthorised access / theft access of finances and data, it has also drawn a spotlight on the various methods employed by the companies which suffer these attacks.

Middleware, Wear and Tear

Some teams attempt to protect their data and finances through the creation and implementation of their own proprietary cybersecurity solutions whilst others seek the tender of others,

‘Middleware’ is nothing new and has long been utilised as a means of implementing third-party solutions as a means of shifting professional a legislative liability regarding essential functions of a brand technology.

It’s a creation by third party product / service providers that sits between external and internal code in order to facilitate functions or protections.

Decentralized Security Testnet

REMME is a project harnessing blockchain technology to create a distributed cybersecurity solution for enterprises.

Its now-released testnet has already demonstrated the efficacy of storing hashed Public Key Infrastructure certificates on the blockchain, and with 300 pilot program participants signed up, REMME isn’t short of applicants eager to trial its distributed identity and access management solution.

‘Distributed Identity and Access management’ (IAMd) and ‘Public Key Infrastructure’ requests (PKId) count amongst two of the primary features of the proprietary REMChain testchain network infrastructure. Both claims of which have come from CEO Alex Momot, who additionally praised “The interoperability of the public blockchain and sidechains”.

Additional features include the ‘REMchain block explorer’ – ‘node monitoring’ (connected to five nodes worldwide) – REMME WebAuth demo application.

While a pilot program reportedly attracting over 300 global enterprise applicants, REMME feels confident about the future of their long terms plans: which include full integration existing enterprise systems (ERP, CRM, Accounting software etc.).

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock. 

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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Breaches

MyEtherWallet Compromised in Security Breach; Users Urged to Move Tokens

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Popular cryptocurrency service MyEtherWallet (MEW) is urging users to move their tokens after the platform succumbed to its second cyber attack of the year. As the company reported earlier, hackers targeted MEW’s popular VPN service in an attempt to steal cryptocurrency.

Hola VPN Users Compromised

Rather than target MEW directly, hackers took control of the Hola VPN service, which claims nearly 50 million users. For the next five hours, MEW users who had the Hola chrome extension installed and running on their computer were exposed.

MEW took to Twitter to urge users to move their funds immediately.

“Urgent! If you have Hola chrome extension installed and used MEW within the last 24 hrs, please transfer your funds immediately to a brand new account!” the company said. It added the following message shortly thereafter:”We received a report that suggest Hola chrome extension was hacked for approximately 5 hrs and the attack was logging your activity on MEW.”

At the time of writing, MEW’s Twitter feed had no further updates.

MyEtherWallet is used to access cryptocurrency wallets, where users can send and receive tokens from other people.

The company reportedly told TechCrunch that the attack originated from a Russian-based IP address.

“The safety and security of MEW users is our priority. We’d like to remind our users that we do not hold their personal data, including passwords so they can be assured that the hackers would not get their hands on that information if they have not interacted with the Hola chrome extension in the past day,” MEW said, as quoted by TechCrunch.

It’s not yet clear how many users were compromised in the attack or how much, if any, was stolen from their wallets. MEW suffered a similar incident in February after a DNS attack wiped out $365,000 worth of cryptocurrency from users’ accounts.

Cyber Attacks on the Rise

The attack on MEW came less than 24 hours after Hacked reported another major cyber breach involving Bancor, a decentralized cryptocurrency exchange. The security breach compromised roughly $23.5 million worth of digital currency, including Ethereum, NPXS and BNT, Bancor’s native token.

Last month, a pair of South Korean exchanges fell prey to cyber criminals, prompting local regulators to expedite their approval of new cryptocurrency laws.

It has been estimated that a total of $761 million has been stolen from cryptocurrency exchanges in the first half of the year, up from $266 million in all of 2017. That figure is expected to rise to $1.5 billion this year.

CipherTrace, the company behind the estimates, told Reuters last week that stolen cryptocurrencies are mainly used to launder money and aid criminals in concealing their identities.

Disclaimer: The author owns bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies. He holds investment positions in the coins, but does not engage in short-term or day-trading.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.7 stars on average, based on 773 rated postsChief Editor to Hacked.com and Contributor to CCN.com, Sam Bourgi has spent the past nine years focused on economics, markets and cryptocurrencies. His work has been featured in and cited by some of the world's leading newscasts, including Barron's, CBOE and Forbes. Avid crypto watchers and those with a libertarian persuasion can follow him on twitter at @hsbourgi




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Hacked.com and its team members have pledged to reject any form of advertisement or sponsorships from 3rd parties. We will always be neutral and we strive towards a fully unbiased view on all topics. Whenever an author has a conflicting interest, that should be clearly stated in the post itself with a disclaimer. If you suspect that one of our team members are biased, please notify me immediately at jonas.borchgrevink(at)hacked.com.

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