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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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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.

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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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4.6 stars on average, based on 546 rated postsSam Bourgi is Chief Editor to Hacked.com, where he specializes in cryptocurrency, economics and the broader financial markets. Sam has nearly eight years of progressive experience as an analyst, writer and financial market commentator where he has contributed to the world's foremost newscasts.




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Mt. Gox vs. Bithumb: That Was Then, This Is Now

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Bithumb now shares something in common with the Tokyo-based shuttered bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox — both suffered a hack on about the same date, June 19. It’s a club that no exchange wants to belong to and that Bithumb happened on the seven-year anniversary of Mt. Gox’s maiden attack has to be more than an eerie coincidence.

It’s a stark reminder of the risks involved with keeping funds on an unregulated exchange, vulnerabilities that cost South Korea’s Bithumb some $36.6 million in digital cash and Mt. Gox $450 million in hacked bitcoin and its future. The Mt. Gox theft unfolded over a series of hacks that culminated in 2014. Though it’s still early on in the Bithumb hack, it appears the South Korean exchange will recover from the security breach. So what do we know now that we didn’t on June 19, 2011?

Then vs. Now

Former Coinbase official Nick Tomaino, who is also the founder of crypto fund 1 confirmation, reflected on the Mt. Gox hack in what proved to be a prescient tweet given the Bithumb attack that was about to surface.

The thing to note about Mt. Gox is that the Japan-based exchange in 2011 controlled most of the BTC trading volume, approximately three-quarters of it by average estimates — more if you ask Tomaino. Since bitcoin fever caught on in 2017, there are more than 500 cryptocurrency exchanges on which trading volume is shared. Binance boasts the highest trading volume and captures nearly 15% of bitcoin trading. It’s much less than Mt. Gox days but still a little high.

The other thing to note is that the Mt. Gox hack or actually hacks, as there were multiple attacks on the exchange over several years, was a mysterious event that was shrouded in controversy and mistrust of a key executive. Bithumb, on the other hand, confronted the hack seemingly right away on Twitter and has not let any grass grow under its feet in the interim, which is a key difference in the way Mt. Gox was handled.

Also, the bitcoin price didn’t tank in response to the Bithumb hack. It traded lower for a while, but less than 24 hours it was back in the green, which is a reflection of the fact that bitcoin trading is no longer dependent on a single exchange.

Charlie Lee, creator of Litecoin (LTC), the No. 6 cryptocurrency by market cap, was among the first to respond to the Bithumb hack. He tweeted:

Indeed, Bithumb does expect to be able to cover the losses via their reserves.

Crypto Security

It’s still early on in Bithumb’s security breach, and more details are sure to emerge in time. In the meantime, it’s a good idea to use the hack as an opportunity to examine the security of your cryptocurrency investment portfolio. There are several hardware wallet options out there for you to choose from — whether it’s Trezor or Ledger Nano S, to name a couple — and as Charlie Lee advised, “only keep on exchange coins that you are actively trading.”

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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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4.6 stars on average, based on 36 rated postsGerelyn has been covering ICOs and the cryptocurrency market since mid-2017. She's also reported on fintech more broadly in addition to asset management, having previously specialized in institutional investing. She owns some BTC and ETH.




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Bithumb Hack Prompts South Korea to Hasten Cryptocurrency Regulation

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South Korea’s second-largest cryptocurrency exchange suffered a security breach on Wednesday, prompting local authorities to hasten their adoption of stricter regulations.

Bithumb Hack

Bithumb confirmed Wednesday that cyber criminals “seized” 35 billion won ($31.6 million) worth of digital cash in an apparent attack targeting user accounts. The exchange halted deposits at approximately 00:53 UTC and began a wholesale transfer of funds to cold storage to prevent further theft.

“We checked that some of cryptocurrencies valued about $30,000,000 was stolen,” Bithumb tweeted Wednesday. “Those stolen cryptocurrencies will be covered from Bithumb and all of assets are being transferring to cold wallet.”

The exchange has confirmed that it will fully compensate affected users.

An earlier update on Bithumb’s Twitter account reveals that a security upgrade was being carried out last week where it transferred to a cold wallet for safe storage. However, it is unclear whether the upgrade is linked to the theft.

In terms of trade volume, Bithumb is the world’s sixth-largest cryptocurrency exchange. The platform processed more than $355 million worth of digital currency transactions in the last 24 hours, according to data provided by CoinMarketCap.

Bithumb is the second South Korean exchange this month to have been hacked. Less than two weeks ago, more than $37 million was compromised in a coordinated attack on Coinrail. The attackers went after the exchange’s coins and lesser-known ERC-20 tokens.

South Korea to Boost Regulation

South Korea’s financial regulators have announced plans to implement stricter guidelines for virtual exchanges, and to do so more expeditiously than previously planned. The announcement, which came on the heels of the Bitthumb attack, follows months of deliberation about whether to regulate cryptocurrency exchanges like banks and other financial institutions.

As CCN notes, cryptocurrency exchanges are presently regulated as “communication vendors,” which means virtually anyone can launch an online trading platform. This designation prevents direct oversight of digital currency exchanges by financial regulators.

New crypto regulations are expected to be rolled out in the coming months, which will put South Korea’s financial authorities on par with their counterparts in the United States and Japan. In those countries, cryptocurrency exchanges must comply with laws pertaining to security and consumer protection.

Park Yong-kin, a committee member of the National Assembly, has championed stricter regulations since last year. According to local media, his views are now being echoed by other government officials.

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 546 rated postsSam Bourgi is Chief Editor to Hacked.com, where he specializes in cryptocurrency, economics and the broader financial markets. Sam has nearly eight years of progressive experience as an analyst, writer and financial market commentator where he has contributed to the world's foremost newscasts.




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