Monthly Archives: October 2016

An Army of Million Hacked IoT Devices Almost Broke the Internet on Friday


A massive Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack against Dyn, a major domain name system (DNS) provider, broke large portions of the Internet on Friday, causing a significant outage to a ton of websites and services, including Twitter, GitHub, PayPal, Amazon, Reddit, Netflix, Box, and Spotify.

But how the attack happened? What’s the cause behind the attack?

Exact details of the attack remain vague, but Dyn reported a huge army of hijacked internet-connected devices could be responsible for the massive attack.
Yes, the same method recently employed by hackers to carry out record-breaking DDoS attack of over 1 Tbps against France-based hosting provider OVH.

According to security intelligence firm Flashpoint, Mirai bots were detected driving much, but not necessarily all, of the traffic in the DDoS attacks against DynDNS.

Mirai is a piece of malware that targets Internet of Things (IoT) devices such as routers, and security cameras, DVRs, and enslaves vast numbers of these compromised devices into a botnet, which is then used to conduct DDoS attacks.

Since the source code of Mirai Botnet has already made available to the public, anyone can wield DDoS attacks against targets.

This time hackers did not target an individual site, rather they attacked Dyn that many sites and services are using as their upstream DNS provider for turning internet protocol (IP) addresses into human-readable websites.

The result we all know: Major sites and services including Twitter, GitHub, Reddit, PayPal, Amazon, AirBnb, Netflix, Box, Pinterest, and so on, were among hundreds of services rendered inaccessible to Millions of people worldwide for several hours on Friday.

“Flashpoint has confirmed that at least some of the devices used in the Dyn DNS attacks are DVRs, further matching the technical indicators and tactics, techniques, and procedures associated with previous known Mirai botnet attacks,” Flashpoint says in a blog post.

This type of attack is notable and concerning because it largely consists of unsecured IoT devices, which are growing exponentially with time. These devices are implemented in a way that they cannot easily be updated and thus are nearly impossible to secure.

Manufacturers majorly focus on performance and usability of IoT devices but ignore security measures and encryption mechanisms, which is why they are routinely being hacked and widely becoming part of DDoS botnets used as weapons in cyber attacks.

An online tracker of the Mirai botnet suggests there are more than 1.2 Million Mirai-infected devices on the Internet, with over 166,000 devices active right now.

In short, IoT botnets like Mirai are growing rapidly, and there is no easy way to stop them.

According to officials speaking to Reuters, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the FBI are both investigating the massive DDoS attacks hitting DynDNS, but none of the agencies yet speculated on who might be behind them.

Ex-NSA Contractor Stole 50 TB of Classified Data; Includes Top-Secret Hacking Tools


Almost two months ago, the FBI quietly arrested NSA contractor Harold Thomas Martin III for stealing an enormous number of top secret documents from the intelligence agency.

Now, according to a court document filed Thursday, the FBI seized at least 50 terabytes of data from 51-year-old Martin that he siphoned from government computers over two decades.

The stolen data that are at least 500 million pages of government records includes top-secret information about “national defense.” If all data stolen by Martin found indeed classified, it would be the largest NSA heist, far bigger than Edward Snowden leaks.

According to the new filing, Martin also took “six full bankers’ boxes” worth of documents, many of which were marked “Secret” and “Top Secret.” The stolen data also include the personal information of government employees. The stolen documents date from between 1996 through 2016.

“The document appears to have been printed by the Defendant from an official government account,” the court documents read. “On the back of the document are handwritten notes describing the NSA’s classified computer infrastructure and detailed descriptions of classified technical operations.”

Former NSA Insider Could Be Behind The Shadow Brokers

It’s not clear exactly what Martin allegedly stole, but The New York Times reported Wednesday that the stolen documents also included the NSA’s top secret hacking tools posted online by a supposed hacking group, calling itself Shadow Brokers, earlier this year.

Earlier this summer, Shadow Brokers claimed to have infiltrated NSA servers and stolen enormous amounts of data, including working exploits and hacking tools.

The NY Times report suggests that the FBI has found forensic evidence that the hacking tools and cyber-weapons posted online by the alleged hacking group had actually been on a contractor’s machine.

NSA Contractor to Face Espionage Charges

Martin, a former Booz Allen Hamilton staffer like NSA whistleblower Snowden, should remain locked up and the government also plans to charge him with violations of the Espionage Act, Prosecutors said.

If convicted, one can face the death penalty.

Martin has “obtained advanced educational degrees” and has also “taken extensive government training courses on computer security,” including in the areas of encryption as well as secure communications.

A former US Navy veteran, Martin allegedly used a sophisticated software that “runs without being installed on a computer system and provides anonymous Internet access, leaving no digital footprint on the Machine.”

It’s believed that Martin was using TAILS operating system or another USB-bootable operating system in conjunction with Tor or a VPN that would not leave any forensic evidence of his computer activities.

Martin’s motives are still unclear, but among the seized documents, investigators uncovered a letter sent to Martin’s colleagues in 2007, in which he criticized the information security practices of government and refers to those same co-workers as “clowns.”

The letter reads: “I will leave you with this: if you do not get obnoxious, obvious, and detrimental to my future, then I will not bring you; into the light, as it were. If you do, well, remember that you did it to yourselves.”

Martin is due to appear before US Magistrate Judge Beth P. Gesner for his detention hearing on Friday in Baltimore.


What Is Threat Intelligence? Definition and Examples


Key Takeaways

  • Threat intelligence is the output of analysis based on identification, collection, and enrichment of relevant data and information.
  • Always keep quantifiable business objectives in mind, and avoid producing intelligence “just in case.”
  • Threat intelligence falls into two categories. Operational intelligence is produced by computers, whereas strategic intelligence is produced by human analysts.
  • The two types of threat intelligence are heavily interdependent, and both rely on a skilled and experienced human analyst to develop and maintain them.

Everybody in the security world knows the term “threat intelligence.” At this point, even some non-security folks have started talking about it.

But it’s still very poorly understood.

Raw data and information is often mislabeled as intelligence, and the process and motives for producing threat intelligence are often misconstrued.

If you’re new to the field, or you think your organization could benefit from a carefully constructed threat intelligence program, here’s what you need to know first.

Defining Threat Intelligence

Although most people believe they intuitively understand the concept, it pays to work from a precise definition of threat intelligence.

Threat intelligence is the output of analysis based on identification, collection, and enrichment of relevant data and information.

As already alluded to, raw data and information do not constitute intelligence. Equally, analyzed data and information will only qualify as intelligence if the result is directly attributable to business goals.

A truly well-planned and executed threat intelligence initiative has the potential to provide enormous benefit to your organization. On the flip side, if you aren’t careful, it’s easy to sink huge amounts of resources into an intelligence program without really achieving anything.

It would be foolish, then, to invest heavily in threat intelligence without having a clear idea of what you’re trying to achieve and why.

Simply “keeping the business secure” is not a valid motive for threat intelligence, but it’s the only driver for many organizations. The issue here is that as a goal it’s spectacularly generic, and almost impossible to measure.

A threat intelligence program with this motive is at serious risk of failing to identify what is and isn’t relevant or important.

A much better business goal, which is both relevant and tangible, would be to reduce operational risk by a given margin within a specified time period. Operational risk is a regularly measured and monitored business metric, and the results (however they’re derived) are there for all to see.

As a result, a threat intelligence program designed to reduce operational risk will be far more focused on those aspects of security that can be clearly linked to the markers used to measure cyber risk. As an example, intelligence relating to recent attacks on similar organizations within the same industry would be highly relevant, whereas analysis of the most recent high-profile attack in a totally different industry would not.

Intelligence Typologies

Perhaps the single most important phase of the whole process is analysis. During this phase, large quantities of raw data and information are processed into relevant, actionable intelligence.

But the actual analysis process can vary enormously depending on the desired output. Largely speaking, depending on the form of analysis used to produce it, threat intelligence falls into two categories: operational and strategic.

Operational intelligence is produced entirely by computers, from data identification and collection through to enrichment and analysis. A common example of operational threat intelligence is the automatic detection of distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, whereby a comparison between indicators of compromise (IOCs) and network telemetry is used to identify attacks much more quickly than a human analyst could.

Strategic intelligence focuses on the much more difficult and cumbersome process of identifying and analyzing threats to an organization’s core assets, including employees, customers, infrastructure, applications, and vendors. To achieve this, highly skilled human analysts are required to develop external relationships and proprietary information sources; identify trends; educate employees and customers; study attacker tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs); and ultimately, make the defensive architecture recommendations necessary to combat identified threats.

A common example of strategic intelligence is the use of threat actor TTPs to inform proactive security measures such as enhanced vulnerability and patch management or comprehensive security awareness training.

And it’s natural at this stage to wonder …

Which Is Better?

This question is problematic for two reasons.

First, it’s the natural question to ask when presented with two options, and second, it totally misses the point.

The reality of threat intelligence is that both operational and strategic intelligence are required. More than that, though, they actively rely on each other.

For a start, the fact that the end-to-end process for producing operational intelligence involves no human analysts is misleading.  As Levi Gundert points out in his threat intelligence white paper, achieving an automated operational workflow is highly dependent on the presence of at least one talented and experienced data architect. This person is responsible for designing, creating, and calibrating tools that are capable of performing this vital intelligence function.

And the only reason that any analysts are available to produce strategic intelligence is because the operational “heavy lifting” is being done automatically by computers. If that weren’t the case, intelligence analysts would be totally bogged down with detail and false positives.

If this is starting to seem like a “chicken-and-egg” situation, let us help you out.

To build a world-class threat intelligence capability, the first thing you’ll need is at least one highly skilled and experienced human analyst. Once a person or team with the right skillset is in place, they will need to move through three stages:

  1. Develop or procure the systems needed to automate the identification, collection, and enrichment of threat data and information.
  2. Create and maintain the tools needed to produce operational threat intelligence.
  3. Focus their attentions on the production of highly targeted and valuable strategic intelligence.

Sadly, many organizations never make it past stage one. Once they have an intelligence feed in place, they take action to mitigate the most basic threats using simple information such as IOCs and vulnerability announcements, and never progress to a level that would enable them to address real business needs and objectives.

If your threat intelligence capability is stuck at this level, you’re leaving a huge proportion of the business value of your threat intelligence feed on the table.

Don’t Settle, and Don’t Get Lost in the Woods

So far in this article, we’ve presented two clear and major dangers of developing a threat intelligence capability:

  1. Settling for simple threat data and information, instead of fighting for intelligence.
  2. Wasting valuable time and resources on producing intelligence that doesn’t further business goals.

To avoid these mistakes, you’ll need to keep pushing your analysts for more and better intelligence, while also stressing the importance of keeping things relevant.

Losing sight of either of these fundamental considerations can undermine the value of your program. Keep them at the forefront, though, and over time you’ll develop a truly world-class threat intelligence capability.

Protect yourself from scammers by doing this when your bank calls

YouTubeAdam Levin, author of “Swiped: How to Protect Yourself in a World Full of Scammers, Phishers, and Identity Thieves” explains how you can protect…

Breach exposes at least 58 million accounts, includes names, jobs, and more

Another breach!  “Cloud” is often touted as being more secure than on-premise hosting.  But that only goes if your cloud provider does proper pro-active security.  In the case mentioned in the article, they didn’t.  How does your cloud provider do?   Are they open about security, or is it hidden behind an SLA?
“Buyer beware” it’s priceless.

With 2 months left, more than 2.2 billion records dumped so far in 2016.

There has been yet another major data breach, this time exposing names, IP addresses, birth dates, e-mail addresses, vehicle data, and occupations of at least 58 million subscribers, researchers said.

The trove was mined from a poorly secured database and then published and later removed at least three times over the past week, according to this analysis from security firm Risk Based Security. Based on conversations with a Twitter user who first published links to the leaked data, the researchers believe the data was stored on servers belonging to Modern Business Solutions, a company that provides data storage and database hosting services.

Shortly after researchers contacted Modern Business Solutions, the leaky database was secured, but the researchers said they never received a response from anyone at the firm, which claims to be located in Austin, Texas. Officials with Modern Business Solutions didn’t respond to several messages left seeking comment and additional details.

Risk Based Security said the actual number of exposed records may be almost 260 million. The company based this possibility on an update researchers received from the Twitter user who originally reported the leak. The update claimed the discovery of an additional table that contained 258 million rows of personal data. By the time the update came, however, the database had already been secured, and Risk Based Security was unable to confirm the claim. The official tally cited Wednesday by breach notification service Have I Been Pwned? is 58.8 million accounts. In all, the breach resulted in 34,000 notifications being sent to Have I Been Pwned? users monitoring e-mail addresses and 3,000 users monitoring domains.



According to Risk Based Security, the account information was compiled using the open source MongoDB database application. The researchers believe the unsecured data was first spotted using the Shodan search engine. The publication of the data happened when a party that first identified the leak shared it with friends rather than privately reporting it to Modern Business Solutions.

By the tally of Risk Based Security, there have been 2,928 publicly disclosed data breaches so far in 2016 that have exposed more than 2.2 billion records. The figures provide a stark reminder of why it’s usually a good idea to omit or falsify as much requested data as possible when registering with both online and offline services. It’s also a good idea to use a password manager, although this leak was unusual in that it didn’t contain any form of user password, most likely because the data was being stored on behalf of one or more other services.



New Post: GoDaddy Support

Hi Subscribers!  Please accept my sincere apology for the above email pushed out to all users recently.  GoDaddy disabled one of my security plugins which allowed unauthorized emails to be posted.

I wish I could write in Latin like that.  It gets me inspired to learn a new language.

I worked with GoDaddy to fix and avoid unnecessary emails being sent to my valuable users.  Thank you for your support and comments.

The Digital Age Blog

Did Yahoo spy on its users for the US government?


Yahoo Inc last year secretly built a custom software program to search all of its customers’ incoming emails for specific information provided by U.S. intelligence officials, according to people familiar with the matter.

The company complied with a classified U.S. government demand, scanning hundreds of millions of Yahoo Mail accounts at the behest of the National Security Agency or FBI, said three former employees and a fourth person apprised of the events.

Some surveillance experts said this represents the first case to surface of a U.S. Internet company agreeing to an intelligence agency’s request by searching all arriving messages, as opposed to examining stored messages or scanning a small number of accounts in real time.

It is not known what information intelligence officials were looking for, only that they wanted Yahoo to search for a set of characters. That could mean a phrase in an email or an attachment, said the sources, who did not want to be identified.

Reuters was unable to determine what data Yahoo may have handed over, if any, and if intelligence officials had approached other email providers besides Yahoo with this kind of request.

According to two of the former employees, Yahoo Chief Executive Marissa Mayer’s decision to obey the directive roiled some senior executives and led to the June 2015 departure of Chief Information Security Officer Alex Stamos, who now holds the top security job at Facebook Inc.

“Yahoo is a law abiding company, and complies with the laws of the United States,” the company said in a brief statement in response to Reuters questions about the demand. Yahoo declined any further comment.

Through a Facebook spokesman, Stamos declined a request for an interview.

The NSA referred questions to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which declined to comment.

The request to search Yahoo Mail accounts came in the form of a classified edict sent to the company’s legal team, according to the three people familiar with the matter.

U.S. phone and Internet companies are known to have handed over bulk customer data to intelligence agencies. But some former government officials and private surveillance experts said they had not previously seen either such a broad demand for real-time Web collection or one that required the creation of a new computer program.

“I’ve never seen that, a wiretap in real time on a ‘selector,'” said Albert Gidari, a lawyer who represented phone and Internet companies on surveillance issues for 20 years before moving to Stanford University this year. A selector refers to a type of search term used to zero in on specific information.

“It would be really difficult for a provider to do that,” he added.

Marissa Mayer, President and CEO of Yahoo, participates in a panel discussion at the 2015 Fortune Global Forum in San Francisco, California, U.S. November 3, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage/File Photo

Marissa Mayer, President and CEO of Yahoo, participates in a panel discussion at the 2015 Fortune Global Forum in San Francisco, California, U.S. November 3, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage/File Photo

Experts said it was likely that the NSA or FBI had approached other Internet companies with the same demand, since they evidently did not know what email accounts were being used by the target. The NSA usually makes requests for domestic surveillance through the FBI, so it is hard to know which agency is seeking the information.

Alphabet Inc’s Google and Microsoft Corp, two major U.S. email service providers, separately said on Tuesday that they had not conducted such email searches.

“We’ve never received such a request, but if we did, our response would be simple: ‘No way’,” a spokesman for Google said in a statement.

A Microsoft spokesperson said in a statement, “We have never engaged in the secret scanning of email traffic like what has been reported today about Yahoo.” The company declined to comment on whether it had received such a request.


Under laws including the 2008 amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, intelligence agencies can ask U.S. phone and Internet companies to provide customer data to aid foreign intelligence-gathering efforts for a variety of reasons, including prevention of terrorist attacks.

Disclosures by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and others have exposed the extent of electronic surveillance and led U.S. authorities to modestly scale back some of the programs, in part to protect privacy rights.

Companies including Yahoo have challenged some classified surveillance before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, a secret tribunal.

Some FISA experts said Yahoo could have tried to fight last year’s demand on at least two grounds: the breadth of the directive and the necessity of writing a special program to search all customers’ emails in transit.

Apple Inc made a similar argument earlier this year when it refused to create a special program to break into an encrypted iPhone used in the 2015 San Bernardino massacre. The FBI dropped the case after it unlocked the phone with the help of a third party, so no precedent was set.

“It is deeply disappointing that Yahoo declined to challenge this sweeping surveillance order, because customers are counting on technology companies to stand up to novel spying demands in court,” Patrick Toomey, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement.

Some FISA experts defended Yahoo’s decision to comply, saying nothing prohibited the surveillance court from ordering a search for a specific term instead of a specific account. So-called “upstream” bulk collection from phone carriers based on content was found to be legal, they said, and the same logic could apply to Web companies’ mail.

As tech companies become better at encrypting data, they are likely to face more such requests from spy agencies.

Former NSA General Counsel Stewart Baker said email providers “have the power to encrypt it all, and with that comes added responsibility to do some of the work that had been done by the intelligence agencies.”


Mayer and other executives ultimately decided to comply with the directive last year rather than fight it, in part because they thought they would lose, said the people familiar with the matter.

Yahoo in 2007 had fought a FISA demand that it conduct searches on specific email accounts without a court-approved warrant. Details of the case remain sealed, but a partially redacted published opinion showed Yahoo’s challenge was unsuccessful.

Some Yahoo employees were upset about the decision not to contest the more recent edict and thought the company could have prevailed, the sources said.

They were also upset that Mayer and Yahoo General Counsel Ron Bell did not involve the company’s security team in the process, instead asking Yahoo’s email engineers to write a program to siphon off messages containing the character string the spies sought and store them for remote retrieval, according to the sources.

The sources said the program was discovered by Yahoo’s security team in May 2015, within weeks of its installation. The security team initially thought hackers had broken in.

When Stamos found out that Mayer had authorized the program, he resigned as chief information security officer and told his subordinates that he had been left out of a decision that hurt users’ security, the sources said. Due to a programming flaw, he told them hackers could have accessed the stored emails.

Stamos’s announcement in June 2015 that he had joined Facebook did not mention any problems with Yahoo.

In a separate incident, Yahoo last month said “state-sponsored” hackers had gained access to 500 million customer accounts in 2014. The revelations have brought new scrutiny to Yahoo’s security practices as the company tries to complete a deal to sell its core business to Verizon Communications Inc for $4.8 billion.