While the mainstream media dutifully followed the “Sony hacked by North Korea” narrative, experts were not at all convinced. There are situations where North Korea is the source of advanced persistent threats (APT), but their operators grew up in the world’s last Stalinist state. They are often confused by how little control western governments have in their media, let alone their entertainment business. The rapid, direct hits on Sony‘s soft spots indicated an insider was involved.
The first big clue that the intrusion was an inside job came thanks to metadata. The exfiltrated files are a known size; they get laid down in order with date/time stamp, and the transfer speeds vastly exceeded the capacity of the company’s internet connection. The person who exfiltrated the data did so by plugging an external drive into a computer connected to the Sony corporate LAN. One of those exfiltrated files, the movie The Interview, the alleged motivation for North Korea to attack Sony, has started showing up online and is headed for an unprecedented “online before theaters” release, now that it’s clear it’s not going to trigger an international incident.
Six Individuals Involved in the Hack, Including One Former Sony Employee
A recent Security Ledger article, New Clues In Sony Hack Point To Insiders, Away From DPRK, had this to say about the messages offered by Guardians of Peace, the group taking credit for the intrusion.
Other analysis studied clues buried in statements made by the shadowy hacking crew, the Guardians of Peace or GOP, who claimed responsibility for the attacks. Email addresses and other ephemera from the GOP communications with Sony and the outside world have been read to reveal links to everything from Japanese anime and the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers television show to U.S. domestic disputes over politics and gender equality. Further, linguistic analysis of GOP’s online communications suggests they were penned by someone who is a native Russian speaker, not a native Korean (or English) speaker.
The presence of a native Russian speaker does not surprise knowledgeable APT watchers. Roughly a third of all APT reports point the finger at Russian actors, Moscow based Kaspersky Lab is a prolific profiler of such things, and this has been the case since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The freshly dismantled KGB of the early 1990s transformed into cybercrime rings, and Russians have dominated the business ever since.
It is thought that the group name Guardians of Peace, shortened to #GOP, is a jab at Mitt Romney, whose former employer, Bain Capital, acquired Sony, and was responsible for layoff decisions in early 2014. Security firm Norse Corporation believes they have identified a group of six individuals involved in the intrusion.
Speaking to The Security Ledger, Kurt Stammberger, a Senior Vice President at Norse, said that his company identified six individuals with direct involvement in the hack, including two based in the U.S., one in Canada, one in Singapore and one in Thailand. The six include one former Sony employee, a ten-year veteran of the company who was laid off in May as part of a company-wide restructuring.
Norse is in a unique position to evaluate the DDoS aimed at Sony as well as the intrusion, thanks to their IPViking Live platform, which provides a realtime global view of attack sources and targets. This short clip is from an event earlier this year; the attacks aimed at the St. Louis area in response to the Ferguson grand jury failing to indict Michael Brown’s killer.
We approached Norse directly to see if there was additional information available on the Sony intrusion. Based on their response it seems like there will be information forthcoming, but not just yet, due to the open investigation. We’ll be back with an update once this information is made public.
We can share as soon as law enforcement approves – have to play by the book… – @NorseCorp
Images from Shutterstock.
Uber Is Paying Hackers to Keep Quiet
Uber Technologies Inc. has reportedly paid hackers to delete scores of private data stolen from the company in a security breach that was concealed for over a year. The revelation provides further confirmation that, when it comes to cyber security, crime does pay.
Massive Data Breach
According to Bloomberg Technology, hackers retrieved the personal data of 57 million Uber customers and drivers at some point last year. Nobody heard about it because the rideshare company paid the hackers $100,000 to keep quiet. A purge at the front office of Uber also ensured that the massive cyber breach was kept under wraps.
The compromised data was from October 2016 and included the names, phone numbers and addressed of 50 million Uber riders globally. About seven million drivers had their personal information accessed as well.
At the time of the cyber attack, Uber was inundated with a slew of legal issues stemming from alleged privacy violations. Rather than shine even more negative spotlight on the company, Uber executives decided to pay hackers to stay quiet.
“None of this should have happened, and I will not make excuses for it,” Dara Khosrowshahi, who took over as CEO in September, said in a statement that was published by Bloomberg. “We are changing the way we do business.”
Hackers have done a masterful job infiltrating companies and governments in recent years. As a reminder, recent cyber attacks levied against Yahoo!, Target Corp and Equifax Inc. dwarf Uber’s 57 million compromised accounts.
Various reports indicate that cyber attacks are bleeding the global economy dry. One report, issued by the World Economic Forum, suggests that cyber crime cost the world economy $445 billion in 2016. If cyber crime were its own market cap, it would exceed Microsoft Inc., Facebook Inc. and ExxonMobil Corp
The Fall of Uber?
Uber revolutionized the ride-hailing business over the span of seven years by giving more power to the consumer. Several missteps later, the company finds itself in legal hot water, with its future appearing less certain than it did just one year ago.
The rideshare company faces at least five U.S. probes ranging from bribes to illicit software and right up to unethical pricing schemes. According to another Bloomberg report, Uber is under investigation for violating price transparency regulations, not to mention the alleged theft of documents for Google’s autonomous cars.
Some governments are sensing weakness in the ride-hailing service, and are moving toward banning the Uber app entirely. London is the most prominent example of a city that has taken definitive steps to outlaw the service over a “lack of corporate responsibility.”
Even with its legal troubles, Uber is a revolutionary technology that has influenced a bevy of other innovations aimed at improving the human experience.
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.
Ethereum Notches Two-Month High as Bitcoin Offspring Triggers Volatility
Digital currency Ethereum climbed to a two-month high on Monday, taking some of the heat off Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash, which have slumped since the weekend.
Ethereum Forges Higher Path
Concerns over Bitcoin created a favourable tailwind for Ethereum (ETH/USD), which is the world’s No. 2 digital currency by total assets. Ether’s price topped $340.00 on Monday and later settled at $323.54. That was the highest since June 20.
At its peak, ether was up 10% on the day and 70% for the month of August.
The ETH/USD was last down 2.2% at $315.02, according to Bitfinex. Prices are due for a brisk recovery, based on the daily momentum indicators.
Fractured Bitcoin Community
Bitcoin and its offshoot, Bitcoin Cash, retreated on Monday following a volatile weekend. The BTC/USD slumped at the start of the week and was down more than 3% on Tuesday, with prices falling below $3,900.00. Just last week, Bitcoin was trading at new records near $4,500.00.
Bitcoin Cash, which emerged after the Aug. 1 hard fork, climbed to new records on Saturday, but has been in free-fall ever since. The BTH was down another 20% on Tuesday to $594.49, according to CoinMarketCap. Its total market value has dropped by several billion over the past two days.
Analysts say that a “fractured” Bitcoin community has made Ethereum a more attractive bet this week. The ether token has shown remarkable poise over the past seven days, despite trading well shy of a new record.
Other drivers behind Ethereum’s advance are steady demand from South Korean investors and growing confidence in a smooth upgrade for the the ETH network. The upgrade, which has been dubbed “Metropolis,” is expected in the next several weeks. Its key benefits include tighter transaction privacy and greater efficiency.
Ethereum Prices Unaffected by ICO Heist
Fin-tech developer Enigma was on the receiving end of a cyber-heist on Monday after hackers took over the company’s website, mailing list and instant messaging platforms. The hack occurred three weeks before Enigma’s planned Initial Coin Offering (ICO) for September 11.
In addition to defacing the company’s website, the hackers pushed a special “pre-sale” ahead of the ICO. While many users realized it was a scam, 1,492 ether tokens – valued at $495,000 – were directed into the hackers’ cryptocurrency wallet by unsuspecting backers.
The irony in all this is that Engima is a cryptography company that prides itself on top-notch security protocols. The company issued a statement that its servers had not been compromised.
Ethereum Prices on Track for 35% Monthly Drop
It has been a difficult month for ethereum. The world’s No. 2 digital currency has lost a third of its value over the past 30 days following a series of cyber breaches targeting vulnerable wallets and ICOs.
Ethereum Struggles to Regain Momentum
Ethereum (ETH/USD) was trading near $197.00 Sunday at 6:30 BST, according to Bitfinex. That represents a decline of around 5%. At current values, ethereum’s market cap was $18.4 billion.
The ETH/USD exchange rate has struggled throughout July, with prices briefly falling below $160.00. The decline, which amounted to a 60-day low, lured bargain-hunters back into the market. After surging back toward $250.00, the ETH/USD has consolidated below the $220-mark, which continues to offer strong resistance. On the opposite side of the spectrum, major support is located at $180.00.
A price recovery may prove elusive in the short-term, with the Relative Strength Index (RSI) and Stochastic indicator signalling weak underlying momentum.
Despite its recent decline, ethereum’s value has surged more than 2,200% this year.
Cyber Attacks, SEC Weigh on Market
The ethereum network suffered a large-scale cyber breach earlier this month resulting in the loss of tens of millions of dollars. A community of ethical hackers quickly banded together to “rescue” hundreds of millions of dollars worth of tokens.
Blockchain-based trading platform Coindash was also hijacked during an initial coin offering (ICO). The breach exposed Coindash’s ether wallet address, resulting in the loss of $7 million worth of ether.
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has also taken an interest in the ethereum-based ICO market. Last week, the regulator concluded that a certain multi-million dollar token sale last year violated securities law. Although ICOs have been compared to crowd-sourcing, the SEC maintained that some tokens were in fact securities.
Analysts say the SEC ruling could impact the future of ICOs, although it remains unclear how the regulator is pursuing this market. The SEC’s July 25 press release cautions investors about ICOs in general.
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