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CIA special unit for social networks monitoring

14 December 2012

For several years now, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has had a special unit for monitoring social networks all over the world. The official name of this bureau is “Open Source Center”. Its employees are mostly hackers and linguists.

The primary goal of the bureau is the collection, filtration and analysis of information coming from social networks, as well as local forums, TV channels and other mass media. The reports of the bureau go directly to the White House.

Linguists and professional hackers from OSC are capable of filtering millions of posts in Twitter alone and finding information that others don’t have a clue about.
The bureau was created after 9/11 and the official reason for this was, obviously, “war on terrorism”.

RFID at Schools: a Tricky Question

30 November 2012

One of the American schools competing for a 2 million-dollar government grant from the state of Texas has started using RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tags to control the location of students hoping to improve the attendance rate. According to the school’s administration, this should have a positive effect on the safety of students as well, since they believe that public schools are safe places to be in.
However, students and their parents do not always agree with this opinion. Andrea Hernandez was suspended from classes for a categorical refusal to wear an RFID tag. Her agitation among peers against the use of this technology was also prohibited. The student believes that this new practice violates her right to privacy and infringes her religious beliefs and freedom of expression.
Andrea goes to another school now, while her parents and a group of civil rights activists are trying to sue the administration of the old school that refused to let her continue her education. They may well win the case — personal rights and freedoms have always been prioritized in the US.

Vulnerability in Samsung and Dell network printers

30 November 2012

Neil Smith, an IT security expert, found a hidden embedded program in Samsung printers that makes it possible to remotely connect to them, change settings and manage printing. This is a real backdoor created by the manufacturer for the convenience of technical support experts.

Apparently, the company never disclosed the existence of such functionality. The same kind of program was found in Dell printers, which can be attributed to their mutual manufacturing contracts.

This backdoor uses a modified version of the SNMP protocol that is not visible in the list of connections and continues to work even if the user disables SNMP in the printer settings.

Since the information has been made public, emergence of working exploits for this vulnerability is just a matter of time. Obviously, these exploits will not try to intercept documents being printed, but will aim to execute arbitrary unauthorized code with administrator rights in an external network. Samsung believes that it will be able to release a patch before hackers find a way to create an exploit.

Vulnerabilities in the 3G standard

31 October 2012

Security experts from the University of Birmingham and the Technical University of Berlin have discovered a number of vulnerabilities in the 3G mobile telecommunications technology and managed to exploit them under near-life conditions – they were able to locate a specific phone and capture its exact coordinates.

In the 3G communications standard, the international mobile subscriber identity (IMSI) is not used for security reasons and is replaced with the varying temporary mobile subscriber identity (TMSI).

The scientists used a femtocell (a compact portable cellular base station, a fairly simple device) to find two ways of obtaining the IMSI of a specific device and intercepting its coordinates.

In the first case, they managed to intercept the communications between a device and a base station when they exchanged a pair of IMSI/TMSI values.
In the second case, they managed to intercept the transmission of authentication parameters and a secret session key. After that, they forwarded the signal to all devices in range, including the one being attacked. The synchronization error signal revealed the necessary device.

With this information at hand, one can intercept the exact location of the necessary person even without involving the mobile carrier’s infrastructure. This operation requires fairly simple and widely available equipment, so practical skills and knowledge of standard 3G protocols are the only limiting factors in preparation for such attacks, and obtaining them is essentially just a matter of time.

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Employee Monitor: advanced settings

24 April 2012

errorFrom time to time, we get contacted by people complaining that they cannot connect to a remote computer using Mipko Employee Monitor. Unfortunately, such situations do happen because of the differences in network architectures, computer settings, user permissions and other parameters. We have compiled a list of recommendations that will most probably help you solve your problem and successfully establish a connection. Here they are.

One.

Make sure that the script is installed and launched on monitored computers (just in case you missed something). The following instruction explains how it can be created and installed.
The work of the script can be tested in the following way:
If the script was installed, you will find a folder called C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\MPK (in Windows XP) or C:\ProgrammData\MPK (in Windows 7) containing logs and the executable file of the program. If the program is running, it won’t be possible to delete or move the executable file (with the *.exe extension).

Two.

Try adding the target computer using its IP address instead of its network name.
Try navigating from the observer’s computer to C$, the hidden shared folder of the client system being monitored and make sure it is accessible under the current user without errors or issues of any sort. If it’s not, try looking for a possible reason and fixing it.
My Computer > address bar > \\IP address or name of the client computer\C$ > Enter
If it didn’t help and didn’t solve the problem, carry on with the instruction.

Three.

Make sure that the DWORD RestrictAnonymous key is set to zero in the HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Lsa registry node on all monitored computers. This is a recommendation from Microsoft.
In Windows 7, disable the “Password protected sharing” option:
Control Panel > Network and Internet > View network status and tasks > Change advanced sharing settings > Home or Work (current profile) > Password protected sharing > Turn off password protected sharing.

Make sure that all computers are in the same workgroup or domain. This is important – if they are not, it may cause problems.
If you have completed the steps described above, restarted the computer and the problem still persists, please contact our technical support service, we’ll do our best to assist you.

Jailbreaking Apple’s latest gadgets

23 March 2012

By the day after release of Apple’s new iPad 3, hackers had already found three ways to jailbreak the OS of the tablet device. This represented a drop of six days compared to the time necessary for jailbreaking the iPad 2 after launch.

Hackers also dryly noted that out of Apple’s entire device lineup, the best-protected device is also the very cheapest one: the Apple TV 3.1 television appliance.

Why? Most of the features in Apple’s iOS operating system, which is used on all of the company’s mobile devices, are simply discarded and disabled on the Apple TV. This reduces the “area for attack” available to hackers, thus creating significant obstacles for them.

Although the newer version of the Apple TV was ultimately hacked nonetheless, the jailbreak tool did not catch on with users. It is usually the case that Apple gradually updates the operating system with the features that users had hoped to gain through jailbreaking their devices.

Study: Mobility against Security

21 March 2012

According to a research called “The Impact of Mobile Devices on Information Security” published by Check Point® Software Technologies Ltd., the number of mobile devices connected to corporate networks doubled in 2010-2011. Half of these devices contain confidential information.

The management of 70% of the surveyed companies are confident that it is the use of mobile devices that results in the increased number of data leaks. This mostly happens when devices containing corporate emails (80% of cases), client databases (around 50%) and corporate passwords (around 40%) get lost or stolen.

Corporate users are actively embracing mobile devices and services, thus creating a lot of problems for IT experts responsible for the security of corporate data. Modern standards do not cover new security threads, and yet it’s not reasonable to completely stop using mobile devices, since they give users a number of advantages that boost their performance and provide them with quick and convenient mobile access to corporate resources.

Check Point report highlights:

  • In 94% of companies, the number of mobile devices connected to corporate networks has increased.
  • In 78% of companies, their number has more than doubled over the past two years.
  • The most popular mobile platforms used in corporate networks are:
    1. Apple (30%)
    2. BlackBerry (29%)
    3. Android (21%)
  • 43% of companies believe that Android-based devices pose a serious threat to their information security.
  • The key threats undermining information security are:
    1. Lack of knowledge in the information security field among corporate users (over 70%).
    2. Use of mobile devices for web browsing (61%)
    3. Use of unprotected wireless connections (59%)
    4. Device loss of theft (58%)
    5. Downloading of malicious software to mobile devices (57%).

 

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USA: 10 years of prison for leaked data

26 January 2012

When the leak was discovered, the programmer was a part-time employee of the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank, which helped him get access to the source code of the software developed for the US Department of the Treasury.

The compromised program, called Government-wide Accounting and Reporting Program (GWA), was developed for monitoring the money transfers made by the US government and reporting to a variety of government agencies and organizations.

Once the leak was discovered, the bank initiated an internal investigation and handed the results over to the police. As the result, Bo Zhang was arrested on January 18.

The FBI did not find any signs of espionage and he was released on bail. The trial will take place on February 17 and if he is found guilty (he is being charged with the theft of government property), he may be sentenced to up to 10 years of prison.

 

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France was secretly intercepting the British government correspondence

28 November 2011

During his speech at the McAfee Focus Event in London, David Blunkett, the former British Minister of Internal Affairs, provided some details about the 2000 negotiations with Nicolas Sarcozy (the French Minister of the Interior at that time), where the latter admitted that France had been intercepting electronic correspondence of the British embassy.

The future president of France thereby confirmed the fact of active hi-tech espionage on the state level. These days, virtually all government agencies use strong data encryption for all correspondence, especially for messages sent abroad.

During his address, Blunkett also raised the topic of “advanced persistent threats (APT’s), which usually target the IT systems of public organizations and government agencies.

One of the characteristics of APT’s is that hackers disguise their activities using the tools already present in the system being attacked, exploit commonly used ports, mask their activities as actions performed by standard applications or even hide their control communications in HTML comments, which allows them to capture highly-confidential and secret information for prolonged periods of time.

User monitoring: Facebook’s new patent

28 November 2011

facebookSome time ago, Facebook got involved in a new scandal. The hype was based around the fact that HTTP cookies saved by Facebook on users’ computers remained there even after they logged out of the social network, thus casting a shadow of suspicion on it developers and created an impression that they could be monitoring users’ activities on other sites.

On September 25, Facebook officials sent a statement to major mass media assuring the public that they were not monitoring users’ activities on other websites.

However, on September 22, the US Patent and Trademarks Office received a patent application for a technology that made it possible to track user’s actions outside a social network.

It’s clear that “to patent” does not equal “to use”, but hardly anybody can guarantee that the social network will not get such functionality in the future.

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