HIDDEN COBRA, smartphones and DNA
By Ted Smillie on Sunday, December 17th, 2017
Features in QESP NewsletterVolume 29 , Issue 12 - ISSN 1325-2070
Our December 2017 article Security flaw found: 10 million banking app users at risk may have appeared to be the worst of recent security breaches but security of mobile phone apps may be the least of our problems. The US Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) issued an alert on November 14, 2017, revised November 22, 2017, titled HIDDEN COBRA – North Korean Remote Administration Tool: FALLCHILL. The U.S. Government refers to malicious cyber activity by the North Korean government as HIDDEN COBRA and notes that “ This alert includes IOCs (indicators of compromise) related to HIDDEN COBRA, IP addresses linked to systems infected with FALLCHILL malware, malware descriptions, and associated signatures. This alert also includes suggested response actions to the IOCs provided, recommended mitigation techniques, and information on reporting incidents.”
On a brighter note, researchers are reporting progress on new tools at least for identifying breaches if not for preventing them. Our November article ‘Instant replay’ for computer systems shows cyber attack details described a new software system being developed to quickly and accurately pinpoint how intruders entered the network, what data they took and which computer systems were compromised.
Other recent research includes:
A 12 December 2017 . ScienceDaily article from University of California – San Diego, Computer scientists develop a simple tool to tell if websites suffered a data breach, which describes a tool that “can detect when websites are hacked by monitoring the activity of email accounts associated with them. The researchers were surprised to find that almost 1 percent of the websites they tested had suffered a data breach during their 18-month study period, regardless of how big the companies’ reach and audience are.“ Comments from the researchers include: “One percent might not seem like much. But given that there are over a billion sites on the Internet, this means tens of millions of websites could be breached every year” and “One percent of the really big shops getting owned is terrifying,”
A 13 December 2017 . ScienceDaily article from University at Buffalo. Your smartphone’s next trick? Fighting cybercrime: Like bullets fired from a gun, photos can be traced to individual smartphones, opening up new ways to prevent identity theft. This article notes that “A team of researchers has discovered how to identify smartphones by examining just one photo taken by the device. The advancement opens the possibility of using smartphones — instead of body parts — as a form of identification to deter cybercrime”
Interestingly, some research for other purposes could be applied to prevent cybercrime. An example is a 30 November 2017. ScienceDaily article from Columbia University School of Engineering and Applied Science. New software can verify someone’s identity by their DNA in minutes. This article has the subtitle: Designed for cheap DNA sequencers, technology could improve research quality-controls and the study’s senior author notes “ Our method opens up new ways to use off-the-shelf technology to benefit society… We’re especially excited about the potential to improve cell-authentication in cancer research and potentially speed up the discovery of new treatments.”
Preventing cybercrime may be one of the new ways to use off-the-shelf technology to benefit society.