New Apple update against Intel CPU attacks imposes 40% performance penalty

Intel processor

As mentioned in this article, Apple has posted a new article on its website that details how a user can implement Full Mitigation for a “theoretical” speculative attack that targets Intel CPUs (central processing units). Full Mitigation is mostly for users that are at heightened risk for an attack, such as government workers or high-ranking business executives.

Enabling this mitigation results in an approximate 40% drop in performance. However, as previously mentioned, most users won’t need to enable this level of mitigation, as the attack is theoretical at this point and there are no known attacks in the wild for this.

macOS 10.14.5 includes the most relevant patches for users, although there have been reported issues from Mac users with some methods of file sharing over macOS. As always, it is the best practice to only download trusted software from the Apple App Store.

If you have further questions or would like to discuss, let us know!

Outlook breach reportedly targeted Crypto users

Laptop chain

We previously notified our readers of a breach involving Microsoft Outlook email. Users of Cryptocurrency are now coming forward to indicate that this Outlook breach led to a theft by hackers of their Cryptocurrency from various Cryptocurrency Exchanges, as detailed in this follow-up article.

Keeping anything online, whether it be email or items like Cryptocurrency, leaves a user open to potential hacks. It is wise to copy email to a folder on the user’s computer vs. leaving it online in an inbox or the like for hackers to gain access to. When stored in a folder on a personal computer, it’s much harder to access.

Also, enabling verification items like 2fa (Two-factor authorization), where a user is required to verify log-ins and other procedures using an application on their phone, are wise to use to prevent access to user accounts. As one user indicated in the article, they did not have 2fa enabled on their account, so it allowed the hackers easier access.

If you’d like to discuss further on ways you can protect yourself online, please let us know!

Beware mobile VPN services promoted by scam ads

VPN

It is becoming more and more popular for a user to be on a mobile device and receive pop-up windows or be otherwise directed to a site to indicate that you’ve been hacked or are being tracked, and the solutions is to install a VPN (Virtual Private Network) application. A VPN allows the user to connect to another public IP in order to mask their current IP, and encrypt data sent.

With these pop-up redirect ads, what is occurring is that various VPN providers provide affiliate programs, where individuals are compensated for driving traffic to the VPN provider. These individuals create scare-tactic ads that promote users install the VPN application, and in return, the affiliate marketer receives compensation in exchange.

As the article states, if you receive one of these warnings, just close the page. If you are having issues closing the page, close your web browser. Upon re-opening the browser, attempt to close the page if it still exists. Also, closing the page that prompted the redirection is also advised, to prevent further issues. Also, NEVER install any applications being promoted on these sites, as they could install any variety of malware onto your device.

Please let us know if you have questions or would like to discuss setting up a more secure VPN into your computing environment!

Microsoft admits hackers had access to online email

email

For the first three months of 2019, Microsoft has admitted that hackers had access to some details of certain Outlook.com email accounts. As this article states, Outlook.com is the web version of Microsoft’s email service, and this online service was previously known as Hotmail. Per Microsoft, “this unauthorized access could have allowed unauthorized parties to access and/or view information related to your email account …but not the content of any emails or attachments.”

While it appears no actual emails were read or attachments were accessed, this is an important reminder that being online brings its share of risks to user data. It’s a smart idea to use an actual email application to view email, in companion with a web browser, and to store as much email off-line as possible. This will help in prevention of potential data access in the event your email account gets hacked.

In relation to this, and as has been mentioned before, it is important to ensure the safeguarding of passwords, for email and other sites. It is good practice to change passwords periodically throughout the year. By doing so, there’s less of a chance that the current password is in the hands of hackers if it is changed more often, in the event an account is compromised. Also, never send password or login information via email, as this just opens user’s data to easily being compromised.

As always, please contact us if you have questions or would like to discuss further!

Mar-a-Lago intruder sneaks surveillance Hardware into Club

Thumb Drive

An intruder into Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago private club had, amongst several other pieces of technology such as cell phones, a thumb drive that could apparently immediately begin installing files onto a computer when plugged in, per the U.S. Secret Service. They indicated that this is very out of the ordinary, as detailed in this story.

A few interesting aspects of this story, in relation to thumb drives as well as other hardware and security. The first is that thumb drives (aka flash drives) are very popular, primarily because of their ease of use: they are an easy way to get programs and files from one computer to another. Because of this, they’re also easy to use to get malicious software onto a computer. This leads to the second and most important point: it is wise to not plug-in thumb drives without positively knowing their source and potential side effects. On this point, it’s a bit alarming that the Secret Service agent didn’t follow this point when they plugged it into their work computer.

The lesson to be gained from the linked article is that employers should not allow their employees to plug-in items such as thumb drives into their computers, or at the very least have security software which prevents the mounting of this type of hardware when it is plugged in.

In addition to being wary of thumb drives, other insecure types of hardware purchased off of sites such as eBay should give a user pause, whether the hardware has been previously used or not. Used hardware always has the potential of having been tampered with, from both a hardware and installed software perspective. For example, users could be spied on through a laptop’s camera, or their keystrokes captured through a hidden keylogger program.

In the realm of “new” hardware, what one person may think is new may actually not be. New hardware should always come in a factory sealed box with a security sticker. Of course, it is possible that this could be faked, but it is much less likely, especially when purchased direct from the Manufacturer.

Separate recent ransomware attacks affect Spectrum Health, MI doctor’s office

locked entrance

A cyber attack that hit a contracted vendor of Spectrum Health, Wolverine Services Group, has impacted approximately 60,000 patients of Spectrum Health Lakeland. Wolverine’s systems were attacked by a ransomware attack. A ransomware attack occurs when hackers gain access to a system and encrypt a portion or all of the files and demand ransom payment in order to release instructions on how to decrypt the files.

The breach in this incident affected only the Lakeland portion of Spectrum Health, not their entire system. As is usual with breaches such as this, it occurred well before it was discovered: the breach occurred in September but wasn’t discovered until December. More can be read about this incident here.

In a more recent ransomware hack in Michigan, which occurred on April 1st at a doctor’s office in Battle Creek, the doctors of this office decided to retire early, after they refused to pay the ransom payment and the hackers erased all their files. The files were already encrypted by the office’s software system, so no personal information was gained. However, with patient files gone forever, much data that was already gained through tests and other means will never be recovered, as the article from WWMT states.

While these two cases show issues at businesses, and we as citizens only have so much control over business records, it is important for every person to keep secure their private information. We will continue to work to update this blog on ways users can prevent becoming the victim of cyber incidents (malware, phishing, etc.). If you have any questions or would like to discuss, we’re here to help.

Reminder to keep passwords secure…

It is a vitally important practice to keep your passwords safe. As a general rule, never give out passwords to anyone. The article here notes that Facebook asked a user for their email login and password to verify who they were. This can open up a user to phishing attacks.

If you need to use Facebook, it is advised to create a new Gmail account and use that specifically for Facebook, rather than risking the potential of a frequently-used email account being compromised.

In addition to this, it is wise to use different and hard-to-guess passwords for different websites. Using the same password for different sites opens one up again to issues if one site’s password file gets hacked.

Feel free to discuss with us your options with keeping your passwords safe. We’re here to help!

Facebook stored users’ passwords in unsecure manner

Facebook app

Facebook stored passwords for hundreds of millions of users, exposing them for years to any person who had internal access to these password files. Passwords are usually encrypted, but errors led to some 200 million to 600 millions passwords being exposed. Passwords that were affected were for Facebook, Facebook Lite and Instagram. More information can be found here.

This is a good reminder of the importance of:

  • Changing passwords often, while making them not easily guessable
  • Using 2fa (Two Factor Authorization) applications on your mobile phone, such as Authy
  • Configuring Facebook to send you alerts in the event an unauthorized computer or mobile device logs into your account
  • Using Facebook to audit your account to see what devices are currently logged into your account, to determine if there are any that may look suspicious

If you’d like assistance with setting up any of these items, or have questions, let us know!

Google urges Chrome users to upgrade to latest version

Due to a security vulnerability, Google is urging users of their Chrome web browser to update to the latest version. As the article mentions in the first link below, Chrome updates are usually automatically performed.

To see the current version of Chrome on a Mac, you can access the Chrome menu in the top left while in the browser and choose “About Google Chrome”. The second of two links below explains how to check if on a Windows-based PC.

This is another example of ensuring that your software is kept up to date.

https://www.pcmag.com/news/367015/stop-what-youre-doing-and-update-google-chrome

https://www.pcmag.com/feature/364079/how-to-update-google-chrome/2

Multi-level hack on email provider destroys almost two decades of data

People holding message bubbles

“Email provider VFEmail said it has suffered a catastrophic destruction of all of its servers by an unknown assailant who wiped out almost two decades’ worth of data and backups in a matter of hours.” The hacker (or hackers) acquired multiple passwords related to the service, and formatted all hard drives related to the serving of email. They were discovered in the middle of formatting the backup server. The email is “effectively gone” as stated in the article.

This is a good reminder that it’s important to have a backup of your IMAP mail or other online email (such as Yahoo Mail or Gmail) to your local computer, which also has a backup. Backups are a good idea always, in all circumstances.

https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2019/02/catastrophic-hack-on-email-provider-destroys-almost-two-decades-of-data/