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White House Responds to Sony Hack

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In a reality TV script straight out of a James Bond movie, the White House has now entered the fray on the Sony hacking drama. In a statement, the White House said that it was treating the hack as a national security matter. It further added that the hacking was the work of a sophisticated actor but refused to officially point a finger at North Korea. The White House further added that it was preparing a “proportional response” to the attack.

So far, North Korea has denied any involvement in the attack. However in a statement on the state-run KCNA news agency North Korea termed the hack as a “righteous deed” for a movie that “hurt the dignity of its supreme leadership.”

Sony withdrew The Interview, a new movie in which the actors were to go to North Korea and kill Kim Jong-Un. The media company pulled the plug on the movie after threats appeared online warning of consequences to cinema halls that aired the movie. The hackers invoked 9/11 in their message telling moviegoers to “remember the 11th of September 2001,” and warning those who lived nearby to stay “distant” from those movie theaters.

The move by Sony also comes weeks after the same group of hackers first breached Sony’s system and posted private emails and other data online.

Also read: Sony is Counter-Hacking with DDOS Attacks

Inside the Sony Hack

Sony storePreliminary investigations revealed that the hack was not a forced entry. Rather it had the markings of an inside job or the use of stolen credentials. The first emails sent to Sony had to do with blackmail and extortion demands. The malware used in the hack does two things. One, it overwrites data and interrupts execution processes, for example, startup functions. In Sony’s case it knocked off services such as email, which is now known to have been a distraction, while it launched even greater destruction on the Sony system. The malware used can be so destructive that the data is not recoverable, or it becomes too costly to retrieve. It is not clear how long the malware needs to be in the system before it initiates its destructive potential.

Sources further added that the sophistication of the malware was consistent with what has previously been seen from Iran, China and Russia. Initial investigations also show that the attack originated outside North Korea. However, it is believed that the individuals who carried out the attack may have been acting on orders of the North Korean government.

Other North Korea-Themed Projects Shelved

The Interview was not the only Sony project themed on North Korea. Two other projects including Team America and a project that had Pyongyang as a working title had been planned, but it would appear that executives had now pulled the plug on them indefinitely.

The move is likely to embolden other regimes that have hostile relations with the United States and other western interests, into blackmailing movie projects that rub their regimes the wrong way.

On Wednesday, President Obama encouraged Americans to go to the movies, but when life increasingly imitates art, it remains to be seen how many moviegoers will heed the call on movies that anger dictators overseas. It also remains to be seen as to how the general entertainment industry will proceed in a time when governments, hacking groups or lone wolves may wreck havoc on entertainment giants such as Sony and others.

Images from Wikimedia Commons and Shutterstock.

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Cryptocurrency Theft Reaches $1.1 Billion This Year: Carbon Black

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The cryptocurrency market continues to be extremely lucrative for cyber criminals. Through the first five months of 2018, they managed to steal roughly $1.1 billion worth of digital assets, according to a new study conducted by Carbon Black.

Dark Web Targets Crypto

In a newly released study, analysts at Carbon Black estimated 12,000 marketplaces and 34,000 offerings targeting crypto theft.  Their weapon of choice: malware.

“As was the case during the physical gold rush in the mid-1800s, there are criminals looking to exploit innocent parties of their earnings,” Carbon Black security strategist Rick McElroy said in a statement. “Carbon Black has found that modern-day cybercriminals are increasingly using the dark web to facilitate cryptocurrency theft on a large scale.”

McElroy later told CNBC in an interview that malware costs an average of $224, though it can be had for as little as $1.04. Although small on the surface, the malware market has grown to become a $6.7 million economy.

The crypto universe, which includes initial coin offerings and exchanges, is being ever more targeted by cyber criminals. Although dark web elements have been exploiting digital assets for several years, their efforts have increased since the bull market began in January 2017.

Earlier this year, hackers made off with $530 million worth of NEM tokens in a coordinated attack on Coincheck, a Tokyo-based digital currency exchange. The attack is the second largest on record in terms of monetary value.

The first high-profile attack on an exchange occurred in 2014 when thieves stole 750,000 bitcoins from Mt. Gox, another Tokyo-based platform. The exchange filed for bankruptcy shortly thereafter.

Privacy Coins and the Dark Web

While bitcoin may be the most popular cryptocurrency on the market, the dark web would much rather deal with privacy coins such as Monero.
A recent study by Recorded Future found Monero to be the most popular cryptocurrency on the dark web. Dash was second, followed by Ethereum, Litecoin and bitcoin.  Coins like Dash have attracted a larger following for their ease of use and low fees.

Despite Monero’s popularity, it is accepted only by a tiny minority of dark web vendors. Interestingly, Litecoin had the highest acceptance rate for coins other than bitcoin. Virtually every dark web vendor accepts bitcoin as a method of payment.

When it comes to absolute privacy, Zcash is considered one of the best cryptocurrencies on the market – at least, when compared with other major assets. However, when it comes to fungibility, Zcash is said to have limitations relative to bitcoin, Monero and others.

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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4.5 stars on average, based on 457 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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Coincheck Hackers Launder 40% of Stolen NEM Funds, Experts Say

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The hackers behind Coincheck’s massive NEM heist have successfully offloaded 40% of the stolen funds, according to new research by Tokyo-based consultancy group L Plus. The successful money laundering campaign highlights the ongoing challenges authorities face in bringing cyber criminals to justice.

Hackers Launder NEM

Analysts at L Plus believe that roughly 200 million NEM tokens, worth $79 million, have already been laundered through the dark web. However, the hackers likely pocketed a much smaller amount amid ongoing efforts to blacklist the tokens.

Nikkei Asian Review reported Monday that Coincheck was targeted with “suspicious traffic” for weeks leading up to the Jan. 26 heist. Citing a person close to the investigation, Nikkei said the attackers hacked an employee email and stole a private key needed to transfer the NEM tokens to the desired accounts. L Plus indicated that the attacker must have repeatedly accessed the Coincheck server to obtain the private key.

When the hack took place, the stolen NEM tokens were worth more than $400 million. Today, they are worth less than half that amount. The identity of the attackers remains unknown to this day. However, authorities have speculated that North Korea may have been responsible for the attack.

Coincheck plans to resume operations this week following a government-mandated freeze on all trading activity.

Japan Boosts Oversight

The attack has prompted Japan’s financial regulators to step up their oversight efforts of the cryptocurrency market. Last week, regulators penalized seven exchanges after deeming their internal controls insufficient to deal with a cyber attack.

Japan’s Financial Services Agency (FSA) slapped two exchanges – FSHO and Bit Station – with month-long suspensions. The remaining five exchanges – Bicrements, Coincheck, GMO Coin, Mr. Exchange and Tech Bureau – were given business improvement orders.

The FSA began conducting on-site inspections in late January following the Coincheck attack. Regulators have uncovered several issues, including a lack of customer protection measures and insufficient anti-money laundering controls.

Japan remains one of the most welcoming jurisdictions for cryptocurrency trading, but repeated attacks may prompt regulators to reconsider their relatively lax approach. Digital currency exchanges in Japan and elsewhere face a growing threat from cyber criminals looking to capitalize on the rising value of digital assets.

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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4.5 stars on average, based on 457 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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Skepticism Grows Over BitGrail’s Supposed $167 Million Hack

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A relatively unknown cryptocurrency exchange by the name of BitGrail has informed its users of a coordinated cyber attack targeting Nano (XRB) tokens. However, the incident does not appear to be holding up to scrutiny after the founder of the exchange made an odd request to the developers of Nano shortly after discovering the alleged theft.

BitGrail Exchange Allegedly Compromised

The Italian exchange issued a notice to its clients last week informing them that 17 million XRB tokens were compromised in a cyber attack. The XRB token, formerly known known as Raiblocks, is valued at $9.80 at the time of writing for a total market cap of $1.3 billion. That puts the total monetary loss of the supposed heist at nearly $167 million.

Parts of the notice have been translated into English from the original Italian by Tech Crunch, a media company dedicated to startups and technology news. According to the agency,  BitGrail has stated the following:

“… Internal checks revealed unauthorized transactions which led to a 17 million Nano shortfall, an amount forming part of the wallet managed by BitGrail… Today a charge about those fraudulent activities has been submitted to the competent authorities and now is under police investigation.”

The notice indicated that all transactions have been put on hold until authorities complete their investigation.

Very little is known about BitGrail, as it is not listed among the 183 exchanges whose volume is ranked by CoinMarketCap.

Suspicion Grows

Unlike other crypto heists, the circumstances surrounding the alleged BitGrail attack have been met with widespread suspicion. As David Z. Morris of Fortune rightly notes, this isn’t the first time BitGrail has suspended Nano withdrawals. The same thing happened in early January when the exchange halted not only Nano, but Lisk and CryptoForecast transactions as well.

The suspension was followed by an announcement that the exchange was taking measured steps to verify users and enforce anti-money laundering requirements. It was around this time that users became suspicious that BitGrail was going to cut and run with their tokens.

BitGrail founder Francesco Firano made an unusual request to the developers of Nano following the alleged attack: he asked them to fork their record, a move that would essentially restore the stolen funds.

Nano officially rejected the request on Friday, the day after Firano supposedly discovered the stolen coins. In a post that appeared on the Nano Medium page, the team said:

“We now have sufficient reason to believe that Firano has been misleading the Nano Core Team and the community regarding the solvency of the BitGrail exchange for a significant period of time.”

Last month, hackers made off with more than $400 million worth of NEM tokens stolen from Coincheck, a Japan-based cryptocurrency exchange. The coins have yet to be recovered and the perpetrators remain at large. In 2014, a cyber heist brought down Mt Gox, which was the world’s largest exchange.

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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4.5 stars on average, based on 457 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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