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Terrorist Cyber Attacks Are Coming, Security Experts Warn

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Kaspersky Lab senior researchers warned at a cyber security conference in Baku, Azerbaijan that major cyber attacks on infrastructure in the Middle East are pending, with governments, companies and individuals mostly unprepared. The average ransomware is now $551,000, and security researchers find 310,000 new viruses every day.

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Ghareeb Saad, a senior researcher at Kaspersky Lab, said the scariest cyber attack is cryptoware, which deletes files and encrypts them without the victim’s knowledge before the victim faces a demand to pay a ransom in bitcoin to recover the information. Saad said the criminals even have a call center to tell victims how to pay ransoms.

The conference included technologies who gathered to advise corporations, governments and individuals about impending disasters that call for immediate security measures.

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Most Attacks Not Reported

In 2010, the Stuxnet attack on Iran’s nuclear facility generated a lot of attention. However, researcher Mohammad Amin Hasbini said there have been many smaller attacks that have not been reported by the media. The reason they were not reported is that the impacted organizations did not want the publicity.

Last December, hackers disabled Ukraine’s power grid, causing 250,000 people to lose power for six hours.

This past March and April, attacks victimized a French hydroelectric system, a Swedish public water system serving 2.5 million customers, a Korean transport system and a U.S. dam. It was only by chance that a major disaster was averted, Hasbini said.

He said 295 industrial attacks took place in 2015 in the U.S., many of which were not reported.
Such things occur “all the time,” he said, but the media does not cover them. He said an attack could do “real damage.”

In the first quarter of 2016, “2.2-B” cyber attacks occurred, according to Kaspersky. In addition, half of Internet users faced some form of attack.

Breaches were especially common in Turkey, Egypt and Qatar. The most secure country in the Middle East is Lebanon.

Ransomware Attacks On Rise

Ransomware attacks in the Middle East rose 15% to 160,000 in the first quarter of 2016. Most came from emails, websites, USB sticks, routers and social networks.

About 17% of attacks occur on Android devices, 11% through Java, 61% from browsers, 4% from Microsoft Office and 3% from Adobe Reader.

The lack of awareness from governments and public utility contractors is the weak link, Hasbini said. The attacks are not digital, but in the physical world. The attacks can stop people from being able to live their lives normally. He said there is now a new threat every day.

Saad said gaming and banking systems are under constant attack from hackers. The most serious threat, however, is to public utilities and critical infrastructure, which hackers can remotely access using a simple password and login.

Yury Namestnikov, a senior security researcher, said everything today is “smart,” but not everything is secure.

Denis Legezo, a technology positioning manager, said everything online is vulnerable and searchable.

Best practices to prevent attacks include using an anti-virus software, using strong passwords, allowing “system watcher” on devices, and not opening email attachments from unknown sources.

Also read: Cryptocurrency for ransomware may fuel ‘largest crimewave in modern history’

Attackers’ Targets Vary

Matvey Voytov, solutions business lead, said most attacks target either money or things that have monetary value. Some cyber criminals, however, seek information and intelligence. Others attackers look to push an ideological cause or disrupt competitors.

Kaspersky Lab has 400-M individual users for its product and 270,000 customers in 200 countries. Eugene Kaspersky, CEO, said he is no a mission to save the world from cyber crime.

Featured image from Shutterstock.

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Ethereum Notches Two-Month High as Bitcoin Offspring Triggers Volatility

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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.

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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.

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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.

ETH/USD (Bitfinex)

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Ethereum Prices on Track for 35% Monthly Drop

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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.

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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.

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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.

ETH/USD (Bitfinex)


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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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