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NSA: collection of mobile users’ location data

8 November 2013

Keith Alexander, head of United States National Security Agency, confirmed that in 2010, NSA used experimental equipment to collect information about the location of mobile subscribers.

In 2011, the process was officially suspended, but the agency’s head does not deny the possibility of resuming it in the future: “It may be something that this country might need in the future.“

On the eve of this announcement, senator Ron Wyden inquired about such practices, but Keith replied that their agency has never collected such information and had no plans to do that.

The news caused outrage with the senator — he said that the government kept concealing facts about monitoring all aspects of the citizens’ rights.

Global gas station fraud stopped in Russia

8 October 2013

azsIt would sound like pure madness just a few years ago, but appears to be a reality nowadays. A group of Russian criminals successfully hacked a network of fully automated gas stations with a purpose of unlawful enrichment.

Special modules were found at dozens of gas stations owned by major oil companies that stole a few liters of gas from each client and sent them to a separate tank. This high-tech “bugs” were controlled remotely via devices disguised as regular calculators.

Gas station owners were not involved in this fraud and the police suspect former employees who had access to and knowledge of all hardware and software systems of these stations.

The revenue generated from this scheme is estimated in millions of rubles and was shared between all members of the group. The police believe that similar devices may still be installed at gas stations across the country and is currently conducting a thorough inspection with the help of security services of the oil companies.

Users are leaving Facebook

8 October 2013

Facebook: possible information leakAccording to Daily Mail, there is an interesting tendency in England and USA: users no longer use social networks. Recently, over 11,000,000 users have deleted their Facebook accounts.

Daily Mail is a popular daily newspaper that has been in circulation in the United Kingdom since 1896. It is the second largest newspaper in the country.

The main reasons for leaving social networks are the urge to protect privacy and fear of Internet dependency.

Analysts associate this tendency with Wikileaks and Snowden, who revealed that USA National Security Service tracks network users.

The ex-users of Facebook usually explain their motives by saying that they have lost interst.

The US National Security Agency purchases exploits

8 October 2013

We recently learned about an annual contract between the US NSA and the French company VUPEN, according to which the French supplied the NSA with access to their database of vulnerabilities and exploits for targeted attacks against systems and sites.

Thanks to the Freedom of Information Act in the US, it was learned that this contract was signed as early as September 2012.

It also came to light that VUPEN cooperates with other NATO representatives, as well. According to an employee of the company, they actually do sell access to their data to the military and intelligence agencies.

Among hackers, however, this revelation caused mixed reaction since VUPEN’s database is not known for being either cheap or up-to-date, i.e. it is possible to obtain more complete and up-to-date information for less money. It was assumed that it is not the main channel for obtaining exploits, just one of them.

Android: Google knows your Wi-Fi passwords

8 October 2013

Michael Horowitz, an IT security expert, has published an article titled “Google Knows Nearly Every Wi-Fi Password in the World”. The article explains that Google servers currently store unencrypted passwords from nearly all access point that Android devices have ever connected to.

According to research, there are over 1 billion Android devices in the world. Each of these devices stores Wi-Fi access point passwords in a way that allows Google (and, therefore, secret services, for instance) access them.

Moreover, default Android settings allow these passwords to be stored and sent to Google’s servers in an unencrypted plain text form (for backup purposes).

Gaining access to a Wi-Fi network is the least one can do with this information at hand.

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Men read others’ correspondence twice as often

13 September 2013

man-with-phoneThe results of a survey conducted among two thousand British citizens showed that men studied the contents of their girlfriends’ phones twice as often as women.

62% of male respondents admitted doing so as opposed to only 34% of women.

What were these men interested in their partners’ phones? It’s very simple – around a half of respondents were looking for SMS messages, while the other half were looking for social network posts.

In the majority of cases (89%), the purpose of these inspections was to find out if their partners had an affair.

The British believe that the lack of trust in couples can be a serious problem of the society as a whole on a global level.

Samsung SmartTV Hacked

13 September 2013

samsung-smarttvMartin Herfurt, a German information security expert, announced a successful attempt to hack a Samsung TV with SmartTV functionality.

The attack was made from a remote computer and aimed at disrupting the broadcast over HbbTV.

The hack became possible thanks to the use of WebKit 1.1 in the TV’s web browser. WebKit 1.1 is known for multiple unfixed vulnerabilities and lack of SSL support.

The expert managed to replace the broadcast with his own footage, enable subtitles and even install a Bitcoin generation on the TV set.

Vulnerability found in smart toilets

13 September 2013

Toilet hackedA great and rather unique piece of news for our “madness and information security” section – experts have found a software vulnerability in a line of smart toilets.

The vulnerability was found in Japanese Lixil Satis toilets, but it was discovered by American (not British!) experts from Trustwave SpiderLabs.

Some features of Japanese toilets include music playback, automatic seat lifts, automatic flushing, personal settings and toilet usage statistics.

The equipment is controlled with a special Android application via Bluetooth. The essence of the vulnerability is that the developers used a single PIN code for connecting to the toilets – 0000. The code can be used by anyone to connect to any model of this line of toilets.

To do this, one needs to download the My Satis all from Google Play, install it on the phone and locate a Lixil Satis toilet within the Bluetooth working range.

Ultimate information security

13 September 2013

The Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration has recently demonstrated extreme zeal in maintaining ultimate information security on its own premises.

A preliminary analysis showed that 146 of the department’s 250 computers were infected with a virus. As it turned out later, this early information was completely wrong – just two computers had problems.

However, the they took it very seriously, even too seriously. To defend against the spreading virus, the company’s management decided to physically eliminate all “infected” equipment, including computers, keyboards, mice, printers, surveillance cameras, TV’s and so on.

The total damage caused by this decision (investigation, deployment of an interim infrastructure, planning, purchasing of new equipment and recycling of old devices) reached 2.7 million dollars, exactly a half of the department’s budget.

An interesting approach to a seemingly simple problem, isn’t it?

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Over a half of all children have seen porn and violence online

13 September 2013

Over a half of all children have seen porn and violence onlineAccording to the Russian Children’s Rights Commissioner, over a half of Russian Internet users under 14 have visited sites with explicit content, 40% of them featuring pornographic content, 19% containing violent scenes, 16% promoting gambling, 14% promoting drugs and 11% containing materials of a extremist nature.

Mobile devices, such as smartphones or tablets, are getting increasingly popular for visiting such sites.

The “Russian Safe Internet Center” reports that over 10 million Russian children under 14 are active Internet users, which makes up 18% of all Internet users in Russia.

On November 1, 2012, RosComNadzor launched a “registry of prohibited websites” that contains sites with child pornography, suicide and drug use propaganda. When and if possible, ISP’s block access to websites from this registry, but due to a number of technical and administrative reasons, the registry itself is very inefficient and is laughed at by the entire Internet audience.