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The Smart Watch as a Hardware Keylogger

25 January 2016

French college student Tony Beltramelli has e-published his scientific research on the use of so-called “smart watches” and special algorithms to track the users of these watches.

The topic of the paper (and this fundamentally new approach to hacking attacks) involves the interception and deep analysis of data from the accelerometer of a worn device. In this case the device in question is a smart watch (the Samsung Gear Live, for example) or fitness bracelet. These devices are worn on the wrist, which makes it possible to intercept data the user has typed in with this wrist on any physical or touch keyboard.

This specific study is dedicated to a method for intercepting keypresses on a standard 12-key numerical keypad such as those used at ATMs or for entering PIN codes in mobile applications.

The data from the accelormeter is collected by the worn device, then transmitted via Bluetooth to a nearby smartphone, and then from the phone to a server via GPRS/LTE. On the server the data is processed using a special algorithm in Java, Python, and Lua that imitates a neural network.

The algorithm cancels out noise, looks for signs of a PIN code being entered, and decodes it with a reliability of 59-73%. After processing by a neural net the reliability of the decoding process is significantly increased (up to 92%).

The developer has posted outgoing codes from this process on GitHub and video demonstrations of the process on YouTube.

The only thing that remains unclear is why anyone would enter a PIN code with the same they use for their watch. Watches are usually worn on the left hand, but most right-handed people enter their codes with their right hand.

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.

Internet and children. Online threats.

29 July 2014

childThe young audience of the Internet is currently estimated at 130 millions children under 14. More than 85% of teenagers over 12 years old use the Internet, and the number is growing. Today, children first go online at the age of 4.

  • According to numerous researches and surveys, over a half (52%) of Internet users under 14 have visited sites that are not intended for children.
  • More than 45% of children have seen (both intentionally and inadvertently) porn online.
  • Slightly fewer children (40%) have encountered pedophilic activities on the web.
  • Around 15% of the questioned children reported that strangers tried to arrange a personal meeting with them.
  • One-third of them agreed to meet or somehow disclosed their personal details.

Besides, the list of things that children regularly face online includes violence, gambling, drugs and alcohol, extremist materials, sects and nationalistic propaganda. Many suffer from online fraud and computer viruses.
Many parents are aware of the potential online threats and do their best to protect their children.

In 63% of cases, this is limited to child control and monitoring; 25% use special software like filters and security add-ons; 12% use built-in parental control tools integrated into the operating system.

RoboRoach: Controllable cockroaches

8 November 2013

tarakan-300x225In exactly two months a special device called RoboRoach will be on sale in the U.S. that allows people to control cockroaches from their smartphones. The set will cost about $90.

The Blaberus giant cockroach is not included, but is easily found in pet stores and from breeders: this variety is a popular food for exotic animals.

A tiny microcontroller is attached to the back of a live cockroach so that it touches its antennae. The smartphone is connected via BlueTooth. An app that directs the microcontroller lets you set the amplitude and type of impulses sent to the cockroach’s antennae.

RoboRoach, by Backyard Brains, is an educational project for studying the fundamentals of neurobiological experiments.

Earlier this summer a similar project was conducted at the University of North Carolina, although this didn’t focus on education, but rather more practical applications — search operations, for example.

Android: Google knows your Wi-Fi passwords

8 October 2013

smartphone wifi accessMichael 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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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.

Personal problems of McAfee’s founder impacted the company’s reputation

15 January 2013

The reputation of the anti-virus software developer has been seriously tarnished by the recent scandal involving its founder, John MacAfee. He is accused of murdering a Belize citizen.

McAfee Associates was founded by John back in 1987, but he left the company in 1994 (after it became one of the leading companies on the market). In early 2011, Intel purchased it for $7 billion.

A BrandIndex expert studied the rating of the McAfee anti-virus software brand and made an unusual conclusion: despite the fact that John hasn’t been with the company for over 20 years, his association with the brand is still so strong that his personal problems resulted in a -17 downslide of the company’s rating (on a -100 to 100 scale). This is the lowest rating of the McAfee brand since over 5 years ago when this monitoring was started.

McAfee’s brand rating plummeted after mass media announced that the Belize government had doubts as to the mental health of the company’s founder.

Study: Mobility against Security

21 March 2012

mobile devicesAccording 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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Spying scandal in Germany

10 November 2011

Chaos Computer Club (CCC), a Germany-based hacker group, published a proof of the use of spyware by the government, which resulted in a serious scandal on the highest level.

The spyware mentioned in the publication was found on a laptop that belonged to a person who was suspected of illegal export of pharmaceuticals. The program was allegedly installed during a customs inspection at an airport.

This program captures the URL’s of visited websites and email communications and then sends the collected data to a remote server, presumably outside the country. Besides, it allows the operator to upload and launch any applications on a remote computer.

Joachim Hermann, the Minister of Interior of Bavaria, confirmed that state authorities in this land had been using spyware since 2009, but refused to provide specific examples. In his opinion, this practice in not in breach of any laws, although this issue is subject to further discussion. Authorities from three other lands (Baden-Württemberg, Brandenburg and Niedersachsen) also confirmed that they had been using similar software.

In response to the furious public reaction, some high-profile authorities were forced to provide comments on the situation.

Germany’s Minister of Justice, Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, and Chancellor Angela Merkel demanded that a thorough investigation of the incident be conducted. The result of this investigation should be a mechanism aimed at protecting the citizens’ rights to privacy.

Therefore, Germany’s laws related to the use of spyware may change considerably in the nearest future.

Google: online safety guide for children

10 November 2011

family safetyAccording to a research conducted by the Internet Development Fund, children in Europe and the NIS states usually know more about the Internet than their parents do.

From the one hand, this is a positive and logical thing. From the other hand – we don’t really know how children understand the basics of online security. Regular incidents involving Internet fraud and harassment prove that the problem is very real and the level of online threat awareness among teenagers is very low.

You can try to shield your kids from such threats in many ways, but you must be ready to face the fact that an Internet-savvy teenager won’t have any problems finding a workaround. And that is why you, as a parent, will have to explain the basics of online security to them.

Google has published a guide for parents and teachers that explains how online dangers can be avoided and how the rules of online conduct can be efficiently communicated to minors. All of these materials have been published as “Family Safety Center”.

The guide contains articles written by Google and other companies working on the problems of online security for children.

However, we should not forget than no technology, even the most advanced one, will ever be able to replace parental control and proper upbringing.

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