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Obama's Cyberthreat Intel Aggregator Plan Divides Security Experts
February 12, 2015
The Obama Administration on Tuesday announced plans to set up a national Cyber Threat Intelligence Integration Center to integrate all data from government agencies and the private sector, and disseminate it appropriately. The intelligence integration center will initially have a staff of 50 and a budget of US$35 million. Reactions from cybersecurity experts were mixed.
Bug Bounties Entice Researchers to Don White Hats
February 10, 2015
Bug bounty programs are used by individual software makers to improve the quality of their products, but they can have incidental benefits for all software makers, too. One of those is to encourage bug hunters to wear a white hat instead of a black one. When you make it easy for hackers to do the right thing, the majority will," noted Alex Rice, CTO of HackerOne.
Is the FTC Jumping the Gun on IoT Security?
February 3, 2015
For months, the security community has been waving a red flag about how the nascent Internet of Things could become a cyber criminal's paradise. Last week, those admonitions were given some credence when the Federal Trade Commission recommended that the makers of IoT gadgets adopt some "best practices" to protect consumers from potential violations of their privacy and security.
POS Terminals Rich Vein for Gold-Digging Hackers
January 28, 2015
Hackers are like gold miners. Once they find a rich vein for their malware, they mine it until it's dry. Point-of-sale terminals are such a vein, and it doesn't appear that it's one that's about to run dry any time soon. Following the success of the Target breach in 2013, the hacker underground was quick to rush more POS malware to market.
Businesses Seek Liability Protection for Cybersecurity Disclosures
January 28, 2015
"No foreign nation, no hacker, should be able to shut down our networks, steal our trade secrets, or invade the privacy of American families," President Barack Obama told the U.S. Congress during the State of the Union Address last week. However, hunting down the perpetrators of cyberattacks that compromise national security or disrupt commerce is only going to get more difficult in the future.
Coinbase Bitcoin Exchange Off to a Rocky Start
January 26, 2015
Coinbase on Monday launched Coinbase Exchange, the first regulated bitcoin exchange in the U.S. It got the jump on the upcoming Gemini exchange currently being established by Cameron and Tyler Winkelvoss. The firm debuted in 24 U.S. states, but the launch was bedeviled with problems. Some pages reportedly failed to load completely, and some users had problems with access.
White House Jump-Starts Cybersecurity Protection Programs
January 23, 2015
As members of the U.S. Congress started to prepare for the upcoming legislative session, President Obama lost little time in putting cybersecurity near the top of a to-do list for lawmakers. During a visit to the federal National Cybersecurity Communications Integration Center, Obama called for additional legislation to improve information technology protection.
Businesses Waste Big Bucks Fighting Phantom Cyberattacks
January 21, 2015
Businesses spend an average of $1.27 million a year chasing cyberthreats that turn out to be dead ends. That is one of the findings in a report released last week on the cost of containing malware. In a typical week, an organization can receive nearly 17,000 malware alerts, although only 19 percent of them are considered reliable, the researchers found.
Warning Sony of Coming Storm Wasn't NSA's Department
January 19, 2015
The United States National Security Agency reportedly knew in advance that North Korea was about to hack into Sony's systems. The NSA apparently penetrated North Korea's network through several vectors, including Chinese networks used to connect with the rest of the world and hacker connections in Malaysia. The NSA was able to burrow in using the networks of South Korea and other allies.
Hacking as a Service Hits the Mainstream
January 19, 2015
A fledgling website created last fall connects hackers with clients willing to pay for their services. Nearly 50 hackers have listed their services on Hacker's List so far, for tasks including data recovery, penetration testing and computer forensics. More than 500 hacking jobs reportedly had been out to bid as of last week, with prices ranging from $100 to $5,000.
Sony Sortie's Smoking Gun Still Missing
January 14, 2015
Recent research from security firm Cloudmark has raised doubt about the purported connection between North Korea and last November's intrusion on Sony Pictures Entertainment's computer networks. The FBI last week continued to press its case that North Korea was behind the cyberattack, pointing to an exposed block of IP addresses allocated to North Korea.
Data Breach Law Tops Obama Privacy Initiatives
January 12, 2015
A proposed national data breach reporting law, aimed primarily at protecting consumer privacy, headlined several initiatives the Obama administration announced Monday. The Personal Data Notification & Protection Act clarifies the obligations of companies when there's been a data breach. It includes a requirement to notify customers within 30 days of the discovery of a breach.
Thieves Take $5M Bite Out of Bitcoin Exchange
January 7, 2015
An estimated $5.2 million was stolen over the weekend from Bitstamp, a digital currency exchange. It has suspended services pending an investigation. The company assured its customers that bitcoins held with Bitstamp prior to suspension of services were completely safe and would be honored in full. Bitstamp on Sunday discovered that some of its operational wallets had been compromised.
Yikes! Ransomware Could Take Over Your Hard Drive
January 5, 2015
Malware is running rampant on the Internet, affecting smartphones, tablets and PCs. Relatively new malware allows bad guys to encrypt devices until a ransom is paid. Usually the ransom is required in bitcoin, rather than U.S. currency, as it cannot be traced. What are the legal and other risks associated with ransomware? Ransomware is largely directed at personal devices and small businesses.
Hackers Give Touch ID the Finger
December 29, 2014
Hacker Jan Krissler, aka "Starbug," this weekend told attendees at the 31st Chaos Computer Club convention that he had replicated the fingerprints of German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leven using a standard photo camera and commercially available software. Krissler used a close-up of a photo of the minister's thumb and other pictures taken at different angles during a press event in October.
The Big Tech Stories of 2015
December 29, 2014
Last week, we looked back at the largely untold, or under told, stories of 2014. This week, let's look ahead to some of the stories that are coming in 2015. We'll have robots, self-driving cars, armed autonomous drones, the professional proliferation of head mounted cameras, some scandals, and some interesting political implications. I'll close with my product of the year, which even surprised me.
Flaws in Ancient Standard Enable Wireless Eavesdropping, Spying
December 23, 2014
Vulnerabilities in Signaling System 7, telephony signaling protocols used by carriers worldwide, allow third parties to listen to people's cellphone calls and intercept text messages despite encryption, The Washington Post reported last week. German cybersecurity researchers Tobias Engel of Sternraute and Karsten Nohl of Security Research Labs separately discovered these vulnerabilities.
The Untold Stories of 2014
December 22, 2014
It is time to look back at 2014, so I'll focus here on a series of stories I thought were interesting but didn't seem to catch much or any real air. Some, like what is really behind Sony's decision to pull The Interview still might take off. Hadoop analytics is one of the most powerful platforms to come to market, and one vendor stands out above all others: Cloudera.
Terrorist Threats May Blow Up 'The Interview's' Box Office
December 17, 2014
The now-notoriously controversial action comedy The Interview, which was expected to deliver profits of $90-$95 million for Sony, may have become a financial black hole. The movie's Thursday premiere in New York has been cancelled, and several movie theater chains have scrapped plans to screen it, following a hacker message referencing 9/11 and threatening physical attacks on theaters.
Sony May Have Succumbed to DDoS Temptation
December 15, 2014
Sony reportedly has used Amazon Web Services to launch distributed denial of service attacks on sites carrying files stolen from its network. Those attacks apparently involved "hundreds of computers" in Tokyo and Singapore. Amazon reportedly issued a statement denying the claim, but the language it used was vague: "The activity being reported is not currently happening on AWS."
No Respite for Sony
December 12, 2014
Since the hacker group calling itself "Guardians of Peace" announced its attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment late last month, things have gone downhill for the company. After confidential documents were leaked to the Internet over several days, a denouement of sorts was reached last week, when a security company examining the stolen data discovered nearly 50,000 Social Security numbers.
Plundered Pirate Bay May Be Back in Business
December 11, 2014
The Pirate Bay, which was closed down following a raid by Swedish police on Tuesday, appears to have found safe haven on a Costa Rican domain. The site, which gained notoriety for hosting pirated movies and music files, has been raided repeatedly by the Swedish police. Its founders have been arrested and convicted of copyright infringement, and two are currently behind bars.
Sony's Cyber-Whodunit Is a Page-Turner
December 5, 2014
Who breached Sony Pictures' network and why continues to be a puzzle a week after news of the hack first emerged. Some speculate it was an inside job. A few have pointed fingers at North Korea, which returned its own one-finger salute in response. Others discount that possibility. In the meantime, the FBI has issued a warning stating destructive malware is on the loose.
Cybersecurity Threats 2015: More Espionage, More Apple Malware
December 3, 2014
Cyberspies will flourish and hackers will target Apple devices more often in 2015. Until now, Russia, China and the United States have dominated the cyberespionage scene, but their success will start to attract new players to the practice. "We can expect some of the developing economies ... to engage in these activities to protect their growth status," said Websense's Carl Leonard.

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