Beware Applications requesting a plug-in be downloaded

As noted in this article, “a security researcher has disclosed a new flaw that undermines a core macOS security feature designed to prevent apps, or malware, from accessing a user’s private data, webcam or microphone without their explicit permission.” Recent privacy protections, expanded in the Mojave version of the Macintosh operating system, were meant to make it more difficult for malicious apps to get access to the user’s private information, unless the user allows access through a pop-up dialog.

However, these protections weren’t as good as Apple previously believed. This bug is the result of a whitelist of approved applications that are allowed to create “synthetic clicks” to prevent them from breaking. This includes the popular video playing application VLC, which the researcher showed could access a user’s camera, microphone, and other Macintosh computer services, through a plug-in that performed malicious actions.

This is a reminder that users should be aware anytime an application asks for permission to download and/or load additional software. In this case, any application that requires a download and installation of a plug-in would require closer scrutiny. This is especially true for anyone who attempts to access files through something like torrent services, which could potentially request to download a plug-in to view the downloaded file (or else the file that is downloaded through the torrent file could also be a payload with malicious intent, even if not requiring a plug-in).

If you’d like to discuss further, please 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!

New WiFi to offer security, speed improvements

Girl holding WiFi indicator

Individuals that rely heavily on WiFi may want to hold off on new equipment purchases until they are WiFi 6 (aka 802.11ax) equipped and/or upgradable to WiFi 6. As detailed in this article, the new upgrade will make WiFi faster, while also approving its efficiency in other areas. The speed is almost tripled from WiFi 5 (aka 802.11ac), meaning that it can deliver more speed to more devices. And with its efficiency improvements, the advantages are more apparent through improving the network when lots of devices are connected.

WiFi 6 puts forth new technologies to help mitigate the issues that come with putting dozens of Wi-Fi devices on a single network. It allows routers to communicate with more devices at once, send data to multiple devices in the same broadcast, and lets Wi-Fi devices schedule check-ins with the router. When all is said and done, the result should be that the devices are more likely to maintain top speeds even in busier environments.

In addition to speed improvements, WiFi 6 should provide greater security, as WiFi 6 will need to support WPA3 to receive certification from the Wi-Fi Alliance. WPA3 is the most recent security protocol and the biggest upgrade to the security level of WiFi in a decade. This will make it harder for hackers to crack passwords by guessing multiple times, and make some data less useful even if hackers are able to gain access. Therefore, most devices will include this greater level of security to receive certification.

In order to use WiFi 6, you’ll need a router that supports it. Those that will see the biggest improvements in WiFi performance are those that have WiFi 6 enabled devices and have lots of devices attempting to connect to one WiFi 6 router. At this point, the routers remain relatively expensive, but should become more affordable as time goes on.

If you’d like to discuss WiFi topics like this further, please let us know!

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!

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/

Hackers use malicious Windows file to access MacOS

Mouse pointer hovering over the work security

Hackers are utilizing the file type “.exe” to unload malicious software onto MacOS powered computers. As the article linked below mentions, by default, .exe files won’t run on a Mac. The malicious download worked around this limitation by bundling the .exe file with a free framework known as Mono. Mono allows Windows executables to run on MacOS, Android, and a variety of other operating systems.

Users should be cautious of downloading any software from insecure resources such as Torrent sites. Torrent sites provide users with the ability to download any type of software, movies, games, etc, which leads to a “Wild West” scenario, where all bets are off with the type of files that you’re actually downloading.

It’s also wise to ensure children are not accessing these sites either, and to block access to Torrent resources on company networks.

https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2019/02/clever-trick-uses-windows-executable-file-to-install-malicious-payload-on-macs/