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Preinstalled keylogger on Samsung laptops

31 March 2011

StarLoggerMohamed Hassan, a graduate of Norwich University in Britain with a major in information security and the owner of NetSec Consulting, purchased a Samsung R525 laptop. After a full system scan with anti-spy and anti-virus software, he discovered a commercial keylogger called StarLogger in his С:\Windows\SL folder.

Mohamed analyzed the system and concluded that the keylogger had been installed by the laptop manufacturer.

He exchanged (for another reason) the laptop for a Samsung R540 from another store and found the same spyware preinstalled on it.

StarLogger (developed by Willebois Consulting, prices start from $23) is a commercial keylogger that logs key presses, creates screenshots and sends the collected data by email.

Mohamed contacted Samsung’s technical support service (inquiry #2101163379) and demanded an explanation. The reaction of the support staff gradually changed from complete denial and attempts to blame Microsoft as the supplier of the entire software package to finally admitting that the company intentionally installed such programs to “monitor the performance of customers’ computers and understand how they were used”.

It looks like Samsung collects data about the use of their computers without users’ consent. Don’t forget to check yours.

Three weeks after the incident, Jason Redmond (Manager, Marketing Communications at Samsung Electronics, Samsung) reported that an internal investigation had been started to deal with the situation.


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Apple lose $2.4 million from information leak

21 March 2011

Paul Devine, who was Apple’s global supply manager, has pleaded guilty to fraud. As an Apple employee he had access to confidential information which he passed on to third parties.

In this way enterprising companies from Singapore obtained sales forecasts and technical features of future Apple products. They were therefore in a better position to win contracts, and deprive Apple of income. Devine received a percentage from these deals. They were not interested in technical production secrets and new designs.

Paul Devine worked for Apple from 2005. He organised contracts with iPhone and iPad suppliers. His annual salary was about $100 thousand.

He communicated with his clients via email using free email systems (Gmail, Hotmail) from his office, which is where law enforcement officers discovered copies of the emails.

It is a serious mistake to use emails to send confidential information. Statistics show that only 6% of leaks use this method. However, it is becoming much quicker and easier to collect evidence on information leaks through emails.

The ex-manager faces a serious jail sentence. Devine has not been sentenced yet and he is currently free on bail. He has already agreed to pay restitution of almost $2.3 million.

Parental control from Trend Micro

21 March 2011

Trend MicroTrend Micro inc. has just released an online parental control service for monitoring children’s online activity. This software is another in their range of products aimed at home use.

By installing this program on their home PC (a one year license costs $49.95) parents can observe remotely ( from work, for example) what their children are doing on the computer. The following additional functions have been announced:

  • link filtering and prevention of access to potentially dangerous websites,
  • monitoring of messages and activity on social networks,
  • personal data protection,
  • monitoring of video files and images viewed on the computer (including on Youtube and Flickr),
  • gradually improving system for preventing program shutdown,
  • ability to look at reports on a mobile phone.

It seems that Trend Micro is trying to create an average program which contains the most necessary set of protection functions.

As you may have noticed, we have a slightly different philosophy. We try and spread different tasks between different applications.

Therefore activity monitoring is done by our program Refog Personal Monitor and other restrictions (for example, by time) are carried out by Refog Time Sheriff.

By the way, a new version of Time Sheriff will soon be released with improved protection from deliberate program closing and a system for blocking dangerous websites.

Menace: revenge of former employees

21 March 2011

Employers and their employees do not always manage to part peacefully. That’s why revenge is a fairly commonplace phenomenon that even such giants as Microsoft are not fully protected from.

Revenge can be take the shape of legal action taken against a former employer or even sabotage involving damage or deletion of internal documents and disclosure of corporate secrets.

These are the kinds of problems that Gray Wireline Service, an American engineering company, faced at the end of 2010 after firing Ismael Alvarez, an employee with a 7-year tenure.  Outraged by this decision, Alvarez hacked the corporate server and deleted important reports, as well as information about oil and gas wellsites.

The judge’s response was harsh as well: Ismael got 5 years of suspended imprisonment, 1 year of house arrest and was fined over $20,000 for his actions.

Gray Wireline Service made no comments as to whether the fired employee had access to these documents prior to leaving the company and whether the company implemented any, even the most basic, security features. As a rule, weak security policies are the main reason of such incidents.

A week ago, for instance, a company called PanTerra Networks (PBX provider) suffered massive damage from the actions of a fired employee only because her email account remained active for several months after she left the company. The fired employee found email messages containing confidential financial reports and contracts due to be signed. All of these documents were shared online, which resulted in damages of over $30,000 and loss of many potential clients.

Russia’s largest cybercrime forums hacked

5 March 2011

Two of the largest private forums used by professional credit card fraudsters and spammers were hacked on 18 February.

Direct Connection

Forum topics, information on thousands of registered users and private correspondence were all stolen and passed on to leading companies combating online fraud (RSA, Anti Money Laundering Alliance, IISFA) and to European, Russian and American law enforcement agencies.

The first forum to be hacked was the well known cybercrime forum “” (also known as “MAZAFAKA”). The forum members main activities and the topics discussed can be put into the following categories:

  • document forgery,
  • sale of stolen internet service records,
  • spam,
  • virus creation,
  • laundering of illegally gained money.

It seemed to be impossible to enter this forum. It was completely private, and it was only possible to register if you had several authoritative backers who were already registered. The forum was protected by the most up to date security solutions: digital security certificates, an anti phishing filter and the server was located in Taiwan.

On 18 February the forum was attacked by hackers and the forum’s database (more than 2000 users) was stolen and handed over to law enforcement agencies.

Following this another similar forum, “Direct Connection”, was also successfully attacked.

Analysts now suggest that a struggle has begun between Russian carders and spammers for influence in the cybercrime world. However, there are no details or any evidence that this may be the case.


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Research: IT security of organizations

5 March 2011

McAfee, Inc. has published research on how aware companies are of risks associated with computer security. This report shows that almost half of the organisations do not have a reliable defence against such risks, or do not know anything about them at all. Only 20% of companies have confidence in their IT security provisions.

Research: IT security of organizations

Despite the fact that a large number of programs have appeared this year which analyze IT security of corporate networks and check compliance management, they have not been very popular. Corporate users prefer integrated solutions to narrowly specialised products.

Due to changes in legislation the need for security policy compliance is an issue for 75% of companies, while 10% have already received fines. Databases containing personal information have caused the greatest problems, so they have received the greatest attention.

“Organizations are under increasing pressure to protect customer information and privacy, as well as their own sensitive business information, driving the need for a strong focus on risk and compliance management. As the results of this study show, companies recognize the need to improve risk management through better identification of threats, vulnerabilities and countermeasures, as well as the need to improve policy compliance through more automation of IT controls,”

said Stuart McClure, senior McAfee vice president.

Undocumented mobile phone features

25 February 2011

There have long been rumours that the GSM mobile phone standard (or even the devices themselves) contains undocumented features. However, up to now such technology had never been used in any country in the world by special services for collecting information.

This makes perfect sense. The technology would become useless if criminals knew about it.

However, it had to happen one day. At the beginning of this year, the first court case was held where location data obtained using undocumented GPS enabled mobile phone features was used as evidence. A secret request was sent via the mobile phone operator to the telephones, which then sent their location coordinates to the operator. Rumours of this capability can be considered to be confirmed.

As could be expected, this secret technology was not used against minor fraudsters, copyright violators or paedophiles but against a serious national security threat.

At the beginning of the year, in the Netherlands, 12 Somali illegal immigrants were arrested in seven different locations in this way. Four of them were planning a terrorist attack in the country. Access to the private data of the accused was authorised by a court order.

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Microsoft concerned over possible leak of confidential data

25 February 2011

Microsoft initiated a lawsuit to prevent one of its managers from assuming a position in a competing company.

According to Microsoft, Michael Michevsky, their former manager, copied a large number of internal documents prior to leaving Microsoft and intended to disclose them to Salesforce, the company’s direct competitor.

The court agreed to the argumentation of the plaintiff and issued a court order prohibiting Michael to assume the position of a vice president at the competing company.

Microsoft representatives insist that the actions of their former employee are in breach of the non-disclosure and non-compete agreements that he signed at the time he was hired.
The summons also states that Michevsky copied over 900 files with over 25,000 pages of text (around 600 MB) to his laptop. These documents allegedly contained confidential information about the company’s marketing strategy and copyright-protected items.

Salesforce refused to comment on this incident.


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USA: Hackers Getting Better

21 February 2011

According to researches, the number of users affected by cybercrimes in 2010 dwindled by nearly 30% and reached 8 million, which is 3 million fewer than in 2009.

However, despite the decline in the number of victims, the actual damage was much more substantial. This happened due to the fact that attackers used much more intricate and modern techniques with a purpose of inflicting maximum damage and making as much profit as possible on every intrusion.

Old methods, like theft of credit card details and one-time cashing of the stolen money, are rarely used these days, since they are easy to track down. Attackers are using increasingly complex and hard-to-detect schemes. For instance, a fraudster can steal your personal data, open a new bank account, take a bank loan or get a new credit card to cover his tracks…

The calculated value of an average damage per user explains the research results: it grew by 63% to $630 in the period of 2009 to 2010.

According to a research by Javelin Strategy, the growth of retail sales entails a decline in cybercrime rate. The experts who discovered this correlation believe that the rather bad results for 2010 are directly related to the consequences of the global economic crisis.

Locked iPhone hacked in 6 minutes

16 February 2011

It took only 6 minutes for a team of scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Secure Information Technology to pull most of the accounts-related data, including passwords, from a password-protected iPhone.

This attack is based on the already known iPhone hacking methods and requires a physical connection to the device, aiming at its password management system called Keychain.

First of all, the phone is “jailbroken” using publicly available tools. After that, the hacker installs an SSH server on the device and uploads a script that, once executed, pulls all the details of the accounts found in the Keychain system records.

The researchers say that this vulnerability still exists because the cryptographic key in the current iOS versions is not bound to the device blocking code.

The Keychain system can store email account passwords, access details for MS Exchange services, VPN and Wi-Fi access point data and passwords for some user’s applications.

Hoverwatch secretly watches over the phones of your children or staff members, recording calls, camera, spy on SMS, MMS, WhatsAPP, internet activity, calendar, contacts, and geodata (GPS).