Archive for June, 2011


Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

Placing your mobile phones in biscuit tins when attending meetings foils spyware & listeneing devices

A German chemicals company says its managers have begun keeping their mobile phones in biscuit tins during meetings in order to guard against industrial espionage.

“Experts have told us that mobile phones are being eavesdropped on more and more, even when they are switched off,” Alexandra Boy, spokeswoman for Essen-based speciality chemicals maker Evonik, said.

“The measure applies mostly when sensitive issues are being discussed, for the most part in research and development,” she said, confirming a report in business weekly Wirtschaftswoche.

Biscuit tins have a Faraday cage effect, she said, blocking out electromagnetic radiation and therefore preventing people from hacking into mobile phones, not only for calls but also to get hold of emails.

The firm, with 34,000 employees and sales of 13 billion euros ($17.7 billion), is not alone in wanting to defend itself against what experts warn are increasingly sophisticated methods of industrial espionage.

This month the German government opened a new national centre in Bonn to coordinate efforts not only to protect firms from espionage but also state infrastructure from cyberattacks.

AFP  Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha


Monday, June 20th, 2011

As hacking evolves and attacks become more sophisticated, the threat continues to escalate, writes Patrick Kingsley.

Late last month, the US media group PBS ran a strange story on its website. ”Prominent rapper Tupac has been found alive and well in a small resort in New Zealand,” it reported. ”The small town – unnamed due to security risks – allegedly housed Tupac and Biggie Smalls [another rapper] for several years.”

For two reasons, this was a surprising piece of journalism. First, Tupac died in 1996. Second, the piece wasn’t written by PBS. It had been planted on their site by a group called Lulz Security, a loose collective of anonymous hackers who wanted revenge for a recent PBS program that criticised WikiLeaks.

”Greetings, Internets,” Lulz wrote on their own website. ”We just finished watching WikiSecrets and were less than impressed. We decided to sail our Lulz Boat over to the PBS servers for further … perusing.” Above the message the tagline: ”Set sail for fail!”

Advertisement: Story continues below
A message from  Lulz Security.A message from Lulz Security.

The extraordinary episode was by no means isolated. In March, hackers stole a database of email addresses from the marketing group Epsilon in what one commentator called the largest email address heist in history. Then the computer security firm RSA had their servers breached in an attack that may have led to the hacking of defence giant Lockheed Martin, an RSA client. In April, persons unknown cracked Sony’s PlayStation network and stole 77 million users’ data. And in the past month, the IMF, Citibank, the Spanish police, Google, the Turkish and Malaysian governments, the US Senate and (earlier this week) the CIA have all been hacked.

In simple terms, there are three kinds of attack taking place. Hacktivism is the most prominent: raids by amateur groups such as Lulz (who took down sites belonging to the CIA, the Senate and the Spanish police) or Anonymous (PayPal, PlayStation, MasterCard and Visa), for fun – ”for the lulz” – or, increasingly, as an act of political protest. There is the criminal kind: professionals hunting for credit card details or email address directories. Finally, there’s state-sponsored espionage, or even cyber-warfare. ”Google, RSA, Lockheed Martin, IMF – the strong suspicion is all those were state-sponsored, or state-approved,” Dave Clemente, a cyber security expert at Chatham House, the international affairs experts, said..

Are all three categories really on the rise? Well, possibly. Disclosure laws obliging companies to come clean about data breaches have been in place in many parts of the US for several years. But, when Google went public last year with the news it had been hacked by Chinese sources, ”that got the ball rolling”, Clemente said. ”It suddenly seemed more permissible to report a hack.”

If increased openness in part accounts for the apparent hike in hacking, there has still been an exponential rise in cyber threats. In 2008, security giant Symantec counted 120 million malware variants; last year, that figure was 286 million. Symantec security strategist Sian John has also noted a large increase in ”targeted attacks”. Hackers are using a new tackle called ”spear phishing”, which enables them to be more specific about who they target. ”In the past, if you got a phish attack, it would be from a Nigerian offering you lots of money,” said John. ”Now it’ll be from someone saying: ‘Oh, we saw you at that conference last week. Here’s some minutes of that conference’.” Contained within those minutes will be a virus.

This kind of targeted attack has become dangerous because of the amount of information we divulge on the internet. ”One of the first places a hacker will visit is LinkedIn,” said Rik Ferguson, director of security research at computer protection firm, Trend Micro. ”[There] you can see all my connections, see everyone I’ve worked with, everyone I know … I’m far more likely to open an attachment from your email, because it’s far more credible.”

However, the arrival of groups such as Anonymous and its offshoot LulzSec does mark a changing of the guard. ”Hacktivism is definitely on the rise,” said Ferguson. ”Anonymous were previously quite a cliquey underground community. But as the WikiLeaks thing unfolded … they have garnered a lot of coverage.”

The anarchist collective Deterritorial Support Group recently posted an essay ”Twenty Reasons Why it’s Kicking Off in Cyberspace”, which aimed to explain the rise of Anonymous and Lulz. ”Make no mistake, this is not a minor struggle between state nerds and rogue geeks,” they wrote. ”This is the battlefield of the 21st century, with the terms and conditions of war being configured before our very eyes.”

It is tempting to think of this kind of debate as irrelevant to our everyday lives. Symantec says mobile phone technologies will be hacking’s next target, and perhaps it is physical problems such as this that we should be more concerned about. But as we increasingly live more of our lives online, and as that boundary between physical and virtual is increasingly blurred, perhaps it is the conceptual questions posed by hacking that will prove more significant.

Guardian News & Media

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha


Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

Queensland Australia mum gets a $91,000 phone bill from Telstra

A $91,372 phone bill has Highfields mother of two Kym Ford at breaking point.Kym Ford is tired of getting the run-around by Telstra over a ridiculously large, $91,372 bill.

Callum Bentley

A $91,372 phone bill has Highfields mother of two Kym Ford at breaking point.

The Telstra bill, comprising mainly unknown SMS charges, is a mystery to Ms Ford.

She contacted Telstra’s complaints department to have the charges cleared and was told the “simple computer glitch” would immediately be corrected.

But a month later she received another bill which this time had an outstanding balance of $91,412.98.

Ms Ford again contacted Telstra.

“I was told that the first bill would be credited straight away and the complaint was closed,” she said.

“But then they told me the second time that nothing had actually been done.”

Ms Ford said it just took some simple maths to shed light on just how ridiculous the charges were.

At 25 cents a text message, she would have had to have sent 365,488 messages a month or eight messages every minute.

The ludicrous phone bills were not the last of Ms Ford’s worries.

After returning from holidays in January, she found an iPhone waiting for her complete with a bill of $1100.

Ms Ford said she had never ordered or signed-up for the iPhone.

“I sent it back to them straight away as I had only just signed up for this phone that I have now,” she said.

“Now I’m receiving late charges for overdue amounts for this mystery iPhone.”

The overdue charges for the iPhone have added up to $340 which Ms Ford said was adding to the financial pressure she was already feeling.

“As a single mother of two with a house to pay off, I’m afraid the overdue fees will affect my credit rating,” she said.

“I don’t understand why it’s such a problem; all of the calls were recorded.”

A Telstra representative said the charges applied to Ms Ford were still being investigated and she would be contacted shortly.

“It appears that the charges may be a result of fraudulent activity,” the representative said.

“The customer may have replied to an email or phone call requesting her details.”

The representative said all of the charges relating to the iPhone would be waived.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha