The first AMA interview via Mark Cuban’s Cyberdust Messaging App

The first AMA interview via Mark Cuban’s Cyberdust Messaging App

Cyberdust has been growing quite rapidly for sometime now, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out why. The Cyberdust team has brilliant engineers, great leadership, as well has having an excellent product that is easy to use. Not many apps get designed from the ground up with end user privacy and security in mind. Even fewer have the Mark Cuban brand name associated with it.

Yesterday was an exciting day, as Cyberdust had its first official AMA style interview where users of Cyberdust could ask questions to a selected person on the platform on the +AskMeAnything account. Since I had just released my first book the day prior and had been an early adopter / user of Cyberdust, it made sense to do an AMA to talk about cyber security, hacking and anything else people wanted to know.

Most websites that host ama style interviews will show all the questions and answers (like Reddit) and this can be a great way to answer questions publicly. I am all for having an open forum, but there was something unique about being able to respond to people candidly and without fear of having your answers seen by the entire world.

Let me walk you through the experience.

The community manager, Grace, gave me the login and password for the Cyberdust +Askmeanything account the night before. Grace then announced the AMA event about an hour before it started, and I logged in at 10am PST and sent out a blast notifying users that I was ready for whatever questions they wanted answers to.  I did provide my name, bio information, and what I do for a living, as well as announcing the launch of my book on Amazon.com the day prior.

People that followed that account (about 400,000) then received that blast message and many started sending questions to me. This is where things got interesting. I had no idea how many people were going to be interested in chatting, and before i knew it, I had been typing for 5, almost 6 hours straight without so much as leaving my chair.  If I had to guess, there were over 800 people who asked questions, many of whom asked more than one.

I wanted to share with you some of the questions that were asked, as well as my answers, so that people who missed the event can potentially get answers to questions they might have as well. I’ll start with the most common questions that were asked.

Question 1. Who killed JFK – More than 20 people asked this question. You all thought you were the only ones, didn’t you.
Answer: My default answer was usually something sarcastic, like Jack Bauer or Sterling Archer.

Question 2. Are we really being hacked by China? 
Answer: Since I don’t work for the federal government, I can’t comment with 100% certainty that they perpetrated one hack in particular. Sources in nearly every story regarding the OPM breach say yes, it was China.  You can watch a real time hacking map of the world at Norse.com

Question 3. Where is Jimmy Hoffa buried? – Again, 10+ people asked this. I was surprised that so many people asked the same obscure question.
Answer: I answered, under Yankee Stadium.

Question 4. What are your best tips to avoid being hacked?
Answer:

  1. Strong Passphrases, not passwords. These are easier to remember so you don’t have to write them down on a sticky note. Think “Icantdancetosavemylife!!!” or “Canjetfuelmeltsteelbeams?”  not 7&6^5%ridiculous@#$6(*.   No way you are gonna remember the complicated one, and writing passwords down is the worst thing you can do.
  2. Get a VPN for all surfing outside of your home. Many people bring laptops to coffee shops, and if so, USE A VPN. They are roughly 7-10$ a month. Here is a link to many of the best rated ones. Pick one. They are simple to install.
  3. Use full disk encryption. TrueCrypt is still better than nothing, and there are alternatives. 

Question 5. What is your book about? / Why did you wiretap the Secret Service?
Answer: Here is a short interview I did on King 5 news here in Seattle that discusses the book I just wrote and the reason why I did what I did.

Question 6. Where do I start to learn how to be an ethical hacker? 
Answer: You can find Certified Ethical Hacking videos on youtube, or videos to prep you for the CISSP exam. Both of those certifications are highly desirable, and you will learn a lot by watching boot camp / tutorials.

There were many other questions, and I will try to remember more if people want. You don’t have to feel like you missed out however, you can always add me on cyberdust at +bryanthemapsguy and ask me a question anytime, or email me. I’m on Linkedin.com, twitter, so there really is no excuse for not being able to reach me.

It was a lot of fun answering questions on Cyberdust, and I was still answering questions until 10-11pm although very few people were asking by that point. It was an honor to be able to do the first official AMA for Cyberdust, and help with outlining the process and coming up with ways to make it easier on the interview. My first recommendation is get a bluetooth keyboard for your iphone or ipad, so you can type faster. I was still behind by 100-200 messages nearly the entire first half of the day.

 

Now Available on Kindle! Cyber Fraud: The Web of Lies

Now Available on Kindle! Cyber Fraud: The Web of Lies

I am very pleased to announce that Cyber Fraud: The Web of Lies is now available on Kindle!

Tomorrow, July 15th, is the official release of the paperback version, and I will be starting out the day at NBC King-5 to discuss the book on the morning show at 7:15am.

If you bought a print copy of the book you should be able to purchase the kindle version for 2.99.

Tomorrow is Amazon Prime Day, which was very nice of Amazon to schedule their biggest online deals day for the day that I launched my book 😉

Thanks to everyone for the support and encouragement throughout the writing process.

Hackers Stole ALL Federal Employee’s SSN’s

Hackers Stole ALL Federal Employee’s SSN’s

If you know someone who works for the federal government or used to, send them the link to this article immediately.

Sources at the Office of Personnel Management claims that the hack that was reported last week was even larger than anyone imagined.

According to a federal worker union, hackers gained access to Social Security Numbers of

  • All current federal employees
  • All federal retired employees
  • 1 million former federal employees

According to a letter given to the Associated Press, the hackers also got access to military records, veterans status information, addresses, birth dates, job and pay history, health insurance, life insurance, pension information, age, gender and race data.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the hackers were inside for more than a year before a sales demo by a tech firm found the malware. Basically it was only discovered by blind luck. I hope that company ended up getting whatever contract they were trying to get.

To think that the largest breach in the history of the U.S. Government was discovered by sheer luck does not give me a lot of faith in our system.

I will be detailing various steps in a post tomorrow regarding things that can be done to protect yourself.

If you have any questions, comments or concerns feel free to reach out to me via email at bryan@seelysecurity.com
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Giant Security & Antivirus Company Kaspersky Lab Admits Being Hacked

Giant Security & Antivirus Company Kaspersky Lab Admits Being Hacked

The Russian security giant Kaspersky Lab admitted to being hacked. Kaspersky Lab CEO and founder Eugene Kaspersky wrote on their corporate blog 

“We discovered an advanced attack on our own internal networks. It was complex, stealthy, it exploded several zero-day vulnerabilities, and we’re quite confident that there’s a nation state behind it.”

Kaspersky is one of the largest provider of consumer antivirus software, not to mention being an industry leader in the world of cyber security. The attack was named Duqu 2.0, which is a reference to the specific piece of malware called Duqu that was widely considered to be closely linked to the Stuxnet attack that targeted Iran, India, France and the Ukraine in 2011.

The intention behind the attack was to gain access to Kaspersky’s corporate networks to learn more about its products, and that Kaspersky Lab was not the only target.

This attack was actually kind of stupid on the part of the hackers, particularly because security firms like Kaspersky Lab generally sell exploits and other security products on the open market, so the hackers could have paid for the information that they were after in the first place. By hacking Kaspersky Lab, they took the risk of getting caught, which they did, and ultimately revealed their own capabilities. Think of this discovery as Kaspersky Lab being able to see the cards that these attackers had in their hand.

With the brazen attack on Kaspersky, consumers everywhere will likely have concerns about their antivirus solutions. This is understandable from a consumer perspective, as the company you were counting on to protect you from malware could not protect itself from malware.  Eugene Kaspersky took to twitter to reassure enterprise customers and consumers that there is no risk to them. Kaspersky has always created great products and this reassurance is helpful, but if there was a risk to their customers, would they be as forth coming with a warning as they are with their reassurance.

TIPS:
Change your Password – Read about how important this is here.

If you have any concerns about antivirus software, the risk that hackers pose to you or your company, feel free to reach out to me via email at bryan@seelysecurity.com
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U.S. Officials: This Is Largest Breach of Government Networks Ever.

U.S. Officials: This Is Largest Breach of Government Networks Ever.

 

The Office of Personnel Management and Department of Interior were originally thought to be the only agencies breached, but now the reports are showing it could be much worse.

Government officials are saying that nearly every federal government agency was hit by the hackers. They went on to say that this could be the biggest cyber attack in U.S. history.

The reason that it was not previously known was that the types, styles and signatures of the attacks were changed from target to target so they didn’t look like the same attack or source.

Officials are also saying that they strongly believe that this was the work of the Chinese government, which the Chinese government called irresponsible allegations.

The hackers who are allegedly working for the Chinese government / military are reported to be assembling a massive database of American citizens. If this database does exist and is being put together by hackers in the Chinese government or military, we know they are not going to be using it for good. Worst case scenario involves completely overhauling Social Security numbers, which one can’t even fathom in terms of scope or cost to the American tax payer.

There will undoubtedly be more to come in these stories as information gets to the public.  For those who have worked for the federal government or still currently do, ask your chain of command for instructions or follow the news for any new developments.

For any questions or comments please email bryan@seelysecurity.com
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4 million Federal Government Employees Affected By Massive Cyber Attack

4 million Federal Government Employees Affected By Massive Cyber Attack

UPDATE: Story has expanded, and Officials now saying all government agencies might have been compromised and said this is the biggest U.S. Government breach in U.S. History
Story Here

The Office of Personnel Management released information today that Chinese Hackers are suspected in the massive cyber attack that is potentially compromising up to 4 million current and former U.S. Federal Government employees. Information is being released by the Office of Personnel management quickly but the worst part about getting information about the Chinese hackers is that in an hour the press is hungry for more.

There are 2.7 million federal executive branch employees, and details are not clear if this is affecting every single one of them or not.

This breach does not affect the military, legislative or judicial branches, according to reports.

CNN reported that The federal personnel office learned of the data breach after using a detection system called EINSTEIN to eventually unearth the information breach in April 2015, the Department of Homeland Security said.  A month later, the federal agency learned sensitive data had been compromised.

“We take all potential threats to public and private sector systems seriously, and will continue to investigate and hold accountable those who pose a threat in cyberspace,” the FBI said in a statement.

The Washington Post and Wall Street Journal first reported Thursday that Chinese hackers were responsible for the breach.

What does this mean to you? 

This means that potentially 1% of the entire population of the United States was affected by this breach which can have really serious financial consequences. China could potentially have all of those employee social security numbers, dates of birth, and other sensitive information. The implications for identity theft are disastrous.

If China wanted to send spies to the United States, they now have millions of identities to assume, and one would only need to file the appropriate paperwork to get a passport, retrieve old birth certificates, considering the wealth of information they undoubtedly have.

If you know someone who has worked for the federal government, send them a link to this story. They need to be made aware so they can follow the story and learn more  as the story develops.

For any questions or comments please email bryan@seelysecurity.com
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Japanese Pension System Hack Affects 1.25 Million

Japanese Pension System Hack Affects 1.25 Million

The Japanese National Pension System was hacked and according to the announcement on Monday, 1.25 million Japanese have been affected by this breach. According to the Japan Times, the breach was due to an employee opening an attachment on an email that contained a virus. The computers that were initially affected by the hack were connected to the fund’s central database which keeps all of the fund’s member information.

What strikes me about the initial report was the level of detail that the Japanese were willing to discuss as to how they were going to fix the problem, and what steps they had taken initially. When companies within the US have a breach,  the typical response is just a statement to the press about how they are taking “appropriate actions” to secure customer information blah blah blah. The Japanese Pension system said that they were restricting employee access to the internet, and had removed all infected machines from the corporate network. The officials also said that 500,000 of the 1.25 million cases, that passwords had not been set, which was a violation of the fund’s internal rules.   The President of the Japan Pension Service apologized for the leak and said affected people will be given new pension ID numbers.

I understand that this is a rule violation, but the users of the pension system are probably less trained or qualified on computers than the typical 18-25 year population. If they knew that there were 500,000 records without passwords, shouldn’t they have forced passwords to be set by denying access to the funds?  This is a very common practice with companies today and is the responsible thing to do. Chase or Bank of America do not let you have a weak or default password, because they have mutual self interest in keeping your money safe. Otherwise they would be held liable in case of theft etc.

Overall the Japanese Pension System responded swiftly, apologized, and took corrective action which most companies could take note from.  They did not deny or pass blame, they accepted their role in the situation, and did what they could to make it right. This is an unfortunate circumstance in which consumers were the victims of cyber-crime, yet has some silver linings. American companies could learn more than just a thing or two from the Japanese when it comes to handling a cyber-attack and public relations.

iOS Bug Crashes iPhone Twitter App & More

iOS Bug Crashes iPhone Twitter App & More

As media outlets all over the world have been reporting, there is a strange iOS bug that has been crashing iPhones. Up until now, it was reported to be affecting the Messages App on iPhones when recieving an SMS (text) or iMessage.

I was doing some digging into the issue after I wrote about this yesterday, and found that this is not confined to the messaging app. The Twitter and PushBullet Apps are affected by this bug with varying results.

When testing the results on twitter, I sent the message that causes the crash on iPhones via direct message and if the user receiving the crash message has alerts or banners turned on, the iPhone immediately crashes.  Once it reboots, you can access the Twitter app without problem, but the crash is still annoying. To prevent this from happening at all, just turn off banner or alert notifications for Twitter by going to Settings>Notifications>Twitter.

PushBullet is a bit different. This is not an application that you send messages to other people, but to yourself from other devices. You can send items from Chrome to your iphone seemlessly, and I use this app all the time. When receiving the message in this instance however, the pushbullet app crashes and the only way to be able to use the app on your phone again is by deleting the message from a browser at www.pushbullet.com. I discovered this when trying to test various apps, and ultimately bricked my PushBullet App myself. It really is an amazing App that I plan to continue using, just not for shooting myself in the foot while conducting “research.”

I have sent Twitter and PushBullet staff this information as well as Apple, and will update this post with their responses as I get them. As many readers already have, you can email bryan @ seelysecurity.com or follow me on Twitter, CyberDust, Linkedin or Facebook.com.

iOS Bug Crashing iPhones With A Single Text Message

iOS Bug Crashing iPhones With A Single Text Message

Update – 6:45pm – The problem very much still exists. Use the code below for educational purposes, with the recipients consent please.

Last night MacRumors.com reported that a new bug has been discovered that affects all users of the popular iPhone.

The bug affects the iMessage and SMS app on the iPhone, and when a user sends a specific string of characters to an iPhone it can cause an immediate reboot of the iPhone. The bug was first reported in a Reddit.com thread and has quickly spread around the globe in hopes that there is a solution to the problem.

The specific message contains specific Arabic characters and symbols:

Power
لُلُصّبُلُلصّبُررً ॣ ॣh ॣ ॣ

and if sent to users of iPhones, it can cause the message app to crash and reboot the phone. Once you reboot the phone and attempt to open the message app in list view, the app will crash again.

The Reddit.com user that discovered and wrote about the issue was “sickestdancer98”, and his explanation was

I can tell you it is due to how the banner notifications process the Unicode text. The banner briefly attempts to present the incoming text and then “gives up” thus the crash. On a jailbroken device, this ultimately leads to safe mode. However, on a stock iOS device, there is no safe mode hence the respring after the crash. That is why this only happens when you are not in the message because the banner is what truly crashes the entire system. Is this a possible vulnerability? Maybe. Has this been around already? Roughly since iOS 6. Can it be fixed/patched? That, my friends, is up to Apple. I hope I cleared things up a little bit if it did help in anyway, shape, or form.

Based on my testing with a couple of iPhones, the quickest way to solve the problem is to go to the photo app, and send a photo to the person who sent you the iMessage / text and then go back into the messages app and delete the conversation.

Once you have done that, you can prevent it from happening again by going to Settings > Notifications > Messages and changing your settings to the settings pictured here.

Uncheck the “show in lockscreen” and turn off  banner notifications, which prevents the iPhone’s banner from crashing the phone.

Apple’s engineers are aware of the issue and will hopefully have an update shortly.

If you are experiencing any issues with your iPhone and restoring functionality, visit an Apple store or feel free to reach out to bryan @ seelysecurity.com for assistance.