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HP, Synaptics, and keyloggers in new laptops

19 December 2017

The Western press regularly publishes news about keyloggers found in new laptops and desktop PC’s coming right off store shelves.

keyloggers notebooks

Sometimes, it can be attributed to the human factor (a personal initiative of a shop assistant) or an error, but sometimes, it does look like a real thing – for example, in the case of Samsung laptops.

A week ago, a researcher by the name of Michael Myng announced that he had found keylogging functionality in the Synaptics touchpad driver on new HP laptop models. This “vulnerability” affected over 460 HP laptops, including EliteBook, HP Pavilion, and ZBook.

A few days later, Synaptics completed its investigation of the issue and reported that the scale of the problem was largely exaggerated. The touchpad drivers did have a debugging mode that can intercept data from input devices and save them to a local log. It is used for driver configuration and troubleshooting. This mode is deactivated before a device is sent to the store.

To enable the mode, you need to change the value of a particular key in the system registry that is protected by UAC and accessible only to the user with admin rights.

To rule out the possibility of any allusions, HP has released a software update that permanently removes the debugging mode for this driver from the system.

According to US reports, military drones may be virus-infected

12 October 2017

As reports, in september security system has indentified a virus in drone control systems at a military base in Nevada.

A virus or a keylogger has infected the “Predator” and the “Reaper” drone control software.

Military representatives are not entirely sure whether it was an intentional hack or some random infection.

The behavior of the drones was not affected, so it is too soon to recall the plot of the game “Call of Duty: Black Ops II”.

Still, the military data may be compromised.

If you discover a virus on your home computer, do not beat yourself up. Even the most secure places in the world are not safe from them.

The ECHR has Confirmed the Legality of Firing Employees for Facebooking during Work Hours

15 February 2016

In January 2016 the European Court of Human Rights acknowledged the legality of the firing of a Romanian engineer for actively corresponding on Facebook from his work computer during work hours. The court confirmed that an employer has the full legal right to control what its employees do and what they use company computers for during work hours – whether for work or for personal ends.

The ECHR has Confirmed the Legality of Firing Employees for Facebooking during Work Hours

The European Court of Human Rights is an international legal body whose jurisdiction expands to all the member states of the Council of Europe that have ratified the European Convention on the Defense of Human Rights and Basic Freedoms. It encompasses all issues relating to the interpretation of the application of the convention, including inter-governmental affairs and complaints by individuals.

36-year-old engineer Mikhai Barbalescu was fired in 2007, after which he went through all the Romanian legal authorities and, after receiving a refusal, turned to the ECHR.

Checking a social networking page can, under certain circumstances, constitute interference in an employee’s personal life. It was to this theoretical violation of his rights that the engineer was appealing in court.

However, the court quite logically considered otherwise, since correspondence on a public “wall” on Facebook is essentially public. And the employment contract between the company and the employee states quite clearly that employees are prohibited from using company equipment for personal ends.

Since the ECHR is essentially the highest legal authority for the countries of the Council of Europe, its decision has set a precedent, and we can state will full confidence that not just using programs to monitor employees (legal memorandum), but also using information collected in this manner for staffing solutions is entirely legal.

TOP 5 spyware scandals

3 December 2014

1. A built-in keylogger in Windows 10.

1-windowsMicrosoft has confirmed that Windows 10 Developer Preview contains an integrated keylogger that captures everything that users type on their keyboards and sends these logs to the corporation.

Moreover, even voice commands and dictation results are logged in the same way.

The company explained that the collection of this information helps improve the operating system’s word autocompletion feature and the build-in spellchecker.

Particular concerns among some users were raised by the fact that the license agreement (terms and conditions of the Insider Program) states that the user agrees with the disclosure of keyboard logs both to Microsoft and undefined third parties.

2. Keyloggers found in new Samsung laptops.

2-samsungResearchers have found a software keylogger installed on Samsung laptops purchased online.

The program discreetly collected information about key presses, made screenshots and sent them to an unidentified recipient.

An anonymous consultant explained that the purpose of installing this spyware was the collection of data for improving future device control features.

Although Samsung has initiated a lengthy internal investigation, it has not officially admitted its role in this scandal and voiced an assumption that the programs had been installed by store employees.

3. A scandal around the Carrier IQ app installed on 140 million phones.

3-phoneAn app called Carrier IQ was found on a huge number of devices from all major manufacturers, from Apple and Google to Nokia and HTC.

Its official purpose was the collection of phone parameters and general usage details. However, the researchers have found out that the program is also capable of accessing multiple types of users’ data, such as the lists of visited websites and sent text messages.

Apple completely removed the application only in the latest version of iOS. Other manufacturers explained the presence of the program on their devices by a mistake made by wireless service providers during phone localization.

4. Spying computers available for purchase by installments.

Several chains of stores were offering an installment plan for computers with a program called “PC Rental Agent” included in the standard software bundle.

The program was initially intended for monitoring computers sold by installments – that is, computers that still belonged to the stores.
However, store employees did not inform customers about the purpose of these programs. They could be used for remotely installing any other software on customers’ systems.

Such software could include tools capable of making screenshots, activating the webcam, recording key presses or locating the system using the nearest Wi-Fi networks.

The investigation revealed multiple cases of abusive behavior by store employees. Some of them were spying on customers for fun, and some of them continued to do so even after the last installment was paid.

The store owners were forced to pay ample compensations to affected customers.

5. Skype – an illusion of privacy.

5-skypeSkype, a popular communications program for text, audio and video chats, has been in the center of spy scandals surprisingly often.

Even before the company was acquired by Microsoft, it was rumored to be a part of “Project Chess”, a secret initiative aimed at making users’ data available to secret agencies.

After Edward Snowden’s revelatory publications, Skype appeared on the list of companies cooperating with PRISM, a monitoring system created by the U.S. National Security Agency.

This information, however, remained a mystery. Which is probably the way it’s supposed to be in spy stories.


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Internet and children: parental monitoring software

13 November 2014

We are used to being calm and relaxed when our children are at home. We rightfully assume that they are safe here, away from the dangers of city streets, away from maniacs and crooks… They are in their room, browsing the web, learning new things… educating themselves.
However, this is exactly the type of situation when your child can be in danger. And it’s not about their slouching or bad eyesight. Things can get much worse.

What do we know about the Internet?
And what do we not know about the ways of protecting our children.


Every fourth child has seen porn on the web.
An innocent search query like “red pussy” can bring up results that have nothing to do with pets.

Every third has been psychologically humiliated online, and only 10% of them have told their parents about it.
Social networks are formed by a group of people, and its virtual nature does not make it completely harmless. Teenage media moved from school corridors to the vast spans of social networks long ago, so abusive messages and mocking can result in serious psychological problems and even catastrophic tragedies.

Eight out of ten children are ready to provide private information in exchange for products, services or access to information.
Fraudsters’ sites have learned to work with children. In exchange for products or services, they can fill out questionnaires with very personal questions, up to their parents’ credit card details.


HOW CAN WE protect our children?

More »

China says no to Kaspersky and Symantec anti-virus software

13 August 2014

ChinaThe Chinese government has removed Kaspersky and Symantec programs from its list of trusted anti-virus software. Both anti-virus companies were also removed from the vendor lists of the state procurement agency.

Local media believe that this is related to attempts by the government to restrict use of foreign technologies by citizens.

The current list of trusted anti-virus developers includes five Chinese companies: Qihoo 360 Technology Co, Venustech, CAJinchen, Beijing Jiangmin and Rising.

A Kaspersky Lab press representative said that the company is currently in talks with Chinese authorities, but claimed that it would be “too premature to go into any additional details at this time”.

Disgruntled Ex-Employees: By the Numbers

13 August 2014

A report from ESET and FutureToday contains eye-opening data for corporate managers.

In a survey of over 500 people working at over 50 companies, it was found that approximately 38% of those surveyed had, at least once, illegally copied, destroyed, or disclosed confidential data concerning a former employer.

  • 17% had intentionally deleted documents, messages or applications important for the employer prior to termination.
  • 13% had taken working materials (client databases, plans, reports, etc.) with them to sell to competitors or for other use.
  • 4% had used their knowledge of loopholes to gain access to internal systems and resources when no longer working at a company.
  • 4% had deliberately gained revenge by posting internal documents publicly.

The most interesting coincidence found by the study concerns the number 38%, which is encountered twice. 38% of respondents had caused harm to their former employers in one way or another. And the same percentage of companies, based on research, do not pay enough attention to IT security.

Google Hangouts: a step towards closed protocols

9 July 2013

Corporate SecretsGoogle decided to replace the Google Talk IM platform with Google Hangouts that has very limited XMPP (Jabber) support and no option for disabling the logging of user’s chats.
A number of experts criticized this decision, since, in their opinion, it denotes the transition from free to closed proprietary protocols.

Messengers are already being updated – and that includes both desktop applications, their web counterparts (found in Gmail and Google+, for example) and mobile apps.

The main difference between the protocols is the lack of the server-to-server federation standard support that allowed users to use alternative message exchange servers or even create their own ones to be 100% sure of the confidentiality of their communications. From now on, all messages will be sent via Google’s servers and be logged there as well.

The consequences this may lead to are obvious.

IT security experts are calling to Google to revert to open standards, make the Google Hangouts specifications public and publish the source code for creating a personal server.

Interception of Gmail messages: FBI’s key priority

9 July 2013

gmail-300x200Speaking at an event organized by the American Bar Association, Andrew Weissman, an FBI counsel, called the development of a legal base for monitoring major online services the top priority of the bureau in 2013.

The current legal foundation for online surveillance is a part of a law that grants secret services access to email and chat services and is called the “Wiretap Act”. It enables the FBI to monitor users’ activities on the provider level. However, most Internet services encrypt data connections between users and the server, thus rendering FBI surveillance partially useless.

Weissman mentioned Gmail, Google Voice, Dropbox and built-in chats in many games as examples of such services.

Therefore, FBI can legally compel Gmail, for instance, to assist in intercepting some information, but it does not oblige Gmail employees to mandatory actions, so the efficiency of FBI investigations in limited. This happens because the Act only applies to providers, who must install FBI equipment in their data centers. Online services are currently out of reach for the bureau.

According to Weissman, FBI will be working hard on new legislation, which, once adopted, will considerably broaden their authority.

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Russian intelligence agencies acquire Skype intercept

9 July 2013

After the Microsoft company acquired the Skype company in 2011, the client communication program received an interesting modification. Microsoft specialists gave themselves the ability to transfer any user to a special mode, in which the transmission data encryption keys are generated on the company server instead of on the client device.

This makes it possible for intelligence agencies to eavesdrop on users’ conversations, to read their Skype chat transcripts, and even to determine their locations.

Microsoft does not hide the fact that these capabiities are available to the world’s intelligence agencies, including Russia’s. More importantly, Russian intelligence agencies do not always obtain their access with the permission of the courts, but sometimes “by routine request”.

It recently became known that in the Chinese version of Skype there actually is a separate mechanism for tracking the activities of a subscriber. Built into their localized distribution package is a call logger that records everything entered from the keyboard. This module searches text for “objectionable” words and forwards what is detected to local intelligence agencies.

Official representatives of the MVD and FSB traditionally refrain from commenting.

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