Who are the hackers who cracked the iPhone?

By: Dave Lee

Israel-based organization called NSO Group. / AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ

What do we know about the curious, secretive NSO Group? Very little – but after this week, an awful lot more than we did before.

The group, an Israeli-based but American-owned company, specialises in creating what it calls tools against crime and terrorism. But the security researchers call them something else: a cyber arms dealer.

On Thursday, the NSO Group was thrust into international headlines after being credited with creating malicious software capable of “jailbreaking” any iPhone with just one tap of the screen, and then installing vicious spyware.

Factfile: NSO

  • Founded in 2010 and has had several different names
  • Based in Herzliya, Israel, and owned by US investment firm Francisco Partners
  • Could be worth $1bn

Security-savvy human rights lawyer Ahmed Mansoor found himself targeted by the attack when his iPhone received a message promising “secrets” about torture happening in prisons in the United Arab Emirates.

Had he tapped on the link, the phone would have been plundered. Huge amounts of private data: text messages, photos, emails, location data, even what’s being picked up by the device’s microphone and camera.

Thankfully, he didn’t do that. Instead, he passed on the message to experts at Citizen Lab and Lookout, who peeled back the covers on what they described as one of the most sophisticated cyber weapons ever discovered. With it came evidence that it was the NSO Group’s expertise at the heart of it all.

Big money deals

Earlier this year, UK-based watchdog Privacy International launched a database tracking the global trade of cyber arms. Its intention was to track deals between cyber arms companies and governments.

According to the Surveillance Industry Index (SII), the NSO Group was founded in 2010 and is based in Herzliya, an attractive city north of Tel Aviv that is known as being a cluster of tech start-ups. The group was likely funded by the elite 8200 Intelligence Unit, an Israeli military-funded scheme for start-ups.

According to Forbes, the 8200 Intelligence Unit was heavily involved in providing expertise and funding for Stuxnet, a cyber attack on Iran that was a joint operation between the US and Israel.

More: https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-37192670

WhatsApp discovers ‘targeted’ surveillance attack

By: Dave Lee

Hackers were able to remotely install surveillance software on phones and other devices using a major vulnerability in messaging app WhatsApp, it has been confirmed.

WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, said the attack targeted a “select number” of users, and was orchestrated by “an advanced cyber-actor”.

A fix was rolled out on Friday.

On Monday, WhatsApp urged all of its 1.5 billion users to update their apps as an added precaution.

The attack was developed by Israeli firm NSO Group, according to a report in the Financial Times.

Facebook first discovered the flaw in WhatsApp earlier in May.

WhatsApp promotes itself as a “secure” communications app because messages are end-to-end encrypted, meaning they should only be displayed in a legible form on the sender or recipient’s device.

However, the surveillance software would have let an attacker read the messages on the target’s device.

“Journalists, lawyers, activists and human rights defenders” are most likely to have been targeted, said Ahmed Zidan from the non-profit Committee to Protect Journalists.

Presentational grey line

How do I update WhatsApp?


  • Open the Google Play store
  • Tap the menu at the top left of the screen
  • Tap My Apps & Games
  • If WhatsApp has recently been updated, it will appear in the list of apps with a button that says Open
  • If WhatsApp has not been automatically updated, the button will say Update. Tap Update to install the new version
  • The latest version of WhatsApp on Android is 2.19.134


  • Open the App Store
  • At the bottom of the screen, tap Updates
  • If WhatsApp has recently been updated, it will appear in the list of apps with a button that says Open
  • If WhatsApp has not been automatically updated, the button will say Update. Tap Update to install the new version
  • The latest version of WhatsApp on iOS is 2.19.51

How was the security flaw used?

It involved attackers using WhatsApp’s voice calling function to ring a target’s device. Even if the call was not picked up, the surveillance software would be installed, and, the FT reported, the call would often disappear from the device’s call log.

WhatsApp told the BBC its security team was the first to identify the flaw, and shared that information with human rights groups, selected security vendors and the US Department of Justice earlier this month.

“The attack has all the hallmarks of a private company reportedly that works with governments to deliver spyware that takes over the functions of mobile phone operating systems,” the company said on Monday in a briefing document note for journalists.

More: https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-48262681

Sem defesas contra golpes, empresas podem perder US$ 133 bilhões em 5 anos

By: Luiza Ferraz

Com o crescimento da era digital, também aumentaram exponencialmente os ataques cibernéticos no Brasil. Segundo uma pesquisa da consultoria de tecnologia Accenture, esse tipo de crime na segurança digital cresceu em 67% nos últimos cinco anos no país.

E grande parte das empresas brasileiras, na avaliação da consultoria, ainda não construiu uma arquitetura de negócios focada na segurança. O estudo estima uma perda geral, ao longo dos próximos cinco anos, no valor de US$ 133 bilhões, ou em torno de 7,5% do PIB brasileiro em 2018 –US$ 1,71 trilhões, ou R$ 6,8 trilhões.

Para chegar à conclusão, a empresa entrevistou especialistas e realizou pesquisas de opinião com 1.700 executivos de 13 países, incluindo o Brasil.

“Antes, o hacker era alguém motivado pelo desafio. Quando perceberam que essa atividade tinha ganhos financeiros, evoluíram para quadrilhas muito bem organizadas”André Fleury, diretor executivo de cibersegurança da Accenture

Como proteger a empresa?

Antes de pensar na empresa individualmente, é preciso enxergar todo o ‘ecossistema’, ou seja, o ambiente de negócios no qual ela se encaixa. “As corporações precisam trabalhar juntas para melhorar a segurança e criar padrões. É importante que elas compartilhem informações sobre ataques, pois quando um criminoso descobre um método de invadir um lugar, ele avisa seus colegas e isso se espalha como um vírus“, explicou Fleury.

Para que isso não aconteça, as áreas de segurança e comunicação de uma empresa precisam estar interligadas para encontrar a melhor forma de gerenciar uma crise e conquistar a confiança dos clientes.

Mais: https://noticias.uol.com.br/tecnologia/noticias/redacao/2019/05/11/

Samsung leak exposed source code, passwords and employee data

By: Zack Whittaker

(Photo by Jung Yeon-je / AFP) (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)

A development lab used by Samsung engineers was leaking highly sensitive source code, credentials and secret keys for several internal projects — including its SmartThings  platform, a security researcher found.

The electronics giant left dozens of internal coding projects on a GitLab instance hosted on a Samsung-owned domain, Vandev Lab. The instance, used by staff to share and contribute code to various Samsung apps, services and projects, was spilling data because the projects were set to “public” and not properly protected with a password, allowing anyone to look inside at each project, access and download the source code.

Mossab Hussein, a security researcher at Dubai-based cybersecurity firm SpiderSilk who discovered the exposed files, said one project contained credentials that allowed access to the entire AWS account that was being used, including more than 100 S3 storage buckets that contained logs and analytics data.

Many of the folders, he said, contained logs and analytics data for Samsung’s SmartThings and Bixby services, but also several employees’ exposed private GitLab tokens stored in plaintext, which allowed him to gain additional access from 42 public projects to 135 projects, including many private projects.

Samsung told him some of the files were for testing but Hussein challenged the claim, saying source code found in the GitLab repository contained the same code as the Android  app, published in Google Play on April 10.

The app, which has since been updated, has more than 100 million installs to date.

“I had the private token of a user who had full access to all 135 projects on that,” he said, which could have allowed him to make code changes using a staffer’s own account.

Hussein shared several screenshots and a video of his findings for TechCrunch to examine and verify.

The exposed GitLab instance also contained private certificates for Samsung’s SmartThings’ iOS and Android apps.

Hussein also found several internal documents and slideshows among the exposed files.

“The real threat lies in the possibility of someone acquiring this level of access to the application source code, and injecting it with malicious code without the company knowing,” he said.

More: https://techcrunch.com/2019/05/08/samsung-source-code-leak/

A malware attack against accounting software giant Wolters Kluwer is causing a ‘quiet panic’ at accounting firms

By: Kate Fazzini

A malware attack on Wolters Kluwer, a popular tax and accounting software platform, has left many in the accounting world unable to work this week and sparked concerns about the security of the tax return and financial information stored on the company’s cloud servers.

Wolters Kluwer provides software and services to all of the top 100 accounting firms in the U.S., 90% of top global banks and 93% of Fortune 500 companies, according to its web site. Many of its tax and accounting services, as well as vital storage services, have been down since early Monday morning, leaving customers unable to work, access customer tax returns or personal information, during a busy filing period (taxes for non-profit organizations are due May 15). The approximately $4.8 billion company is headquartered in The Netherlands.

While the company did not comment on how many of its customers were impacted by the downtime, CNBC spoke to accountants and cybersecurity specialists across the U.S., from the biggest firms down to independent operations, who described significant and ongoing problems accessing their customers’ data. One accountant at a large, Midwest-based accounting firm, said that the accounting world was in a “quiet panic” over the attack. This person requested anonymity to protect his clients.

“We have a really close relationship with our customers, and we understand that this situation impacted their day-to-day work,” Elizabeth Queen, vice president of risk management for Wolters Kluwer, told CNBC. “We’re working around the clock to restore service, and we want to provide them the assurance that we can restore service safely. We’ve made very good progress so far.” Queen said the company has contacted authorities and third-party forensic teams to investigate the incident.

Queen reiterated a written statement issued yesterday by the company, which said “We have seen no evidence that customer data was taken or that there was a breach of confidentiality of that data. Also, there is no reason to believe that our customers have been infected through our platforms and applications. Our investigation is ongoing.”

Difficult communication and inaccessible data

The attack started around 8am Eastern Time on Monday. Queen said she could not yet release information on the specific type of attack against the company. But the incident is reminiscent of the NotPetya ransomware attacks of 2017, which spread quickly throughout firms, knocking out services including voice and email, and rendering huge databases of documents inaccessible.


More: https://www.shttps://www.cnbc.com/2019/05/08/wolters-kluwer-accountingom-may-6-cyberattack/

‘LightNeuron’ backdoor receives secret commands via Microsoft Exchange email servers; Russian link suspected

By: Bradley Barth

Researchers have uncovered what they say is the very first malware to achieve persistence in Microsoft Exchange email servers, which allows attackers to secretly execute commands via malicious emails featuring attachments with hidden code.

Dubbed LightNeuron, the furtive backdoor has been targeting Exchange servers since at least 2014, according to a blog post from ESET, whose researchers have provisionally linked the threat to the Russian cyber espionage group Turla. ESET discovered the backdoor on three victims: an unidentified Brazilian organization, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Eastern Europe and a regional diplomatic organization in the Middle East.

In addition to the confirmed Windows-based version, ESET believes there may be a Linux variant in use as well, based on artifacts turned up during its investigation.

The key to LightNeuron’s persistence technique is its ability to leverage “transport agents,” which according to Microsoft are tools that let users install custom software on Exchange servers and then process email messages that pass through the transport pipeline. These Transport Agents are granted the same level of trust as spam filters and other security products, ESET explains, which makes a successful infection all the more dangerous and hard to detect.

Using XML-based rules, a LightNeuron Transport Agent can interfere with a victim’s emails in a variety of ways — blocking them; composing and sending new ones; modifying their content, subjects and recipients; replacing attachments and more.

But the attackers’ can do much more than alter emails. They can also send commands via the compromised Exchange program, enabling them to write executables, launch executables and processes, delete or exfiltrate sensitive files and essentially control local machines via its command-and-control infrastructure.

To achieve this, the attackers simply send an email with a specially crafted PDF document or JPG image to any email address belonging to the infected organization. The commands inside these attached documents are hidden using steganography techniques.

“Once an email is recognized as a command email, the command is executed and the email is blocked directly on the Exchange server. Thus, it is very stealthy and the original recipient will not be able to view it,” states the blog post, authored by ESET researcher Matthieu Faou. Faou also penned an accompanying white paper that further details the threat.

More: https://www.scmagazine.com/home/security-news/lightneuron-backdoor

Binance Hacked — Hackers Stole Over $40 Million Worth Of Bitcoin

By: Mohit Kumar

Binance, one of the largest cryptocurrency exchanges in the world, confirmed today that the company lost nearly $41 million in Bitcoin in what appears to be its largest hack to date.

In a statement, Binance’s CEO Changpeng Zhao said the company discovered a “large scale security breach” earlier on May 7, as a result of which hackers were able to steal roughly 7000 bitcoins, which worth 40.6 million at the time of writing.

News of the hack comes just hours after Zhao tweeted that Binance has “to perform some unscheduled server maintenance that will impact deposits and withdrawals for a couple of hours.”

According to the company, malicious attackers used a variety of attack techniques, including phishing and computer viruses, to carry out the intrusion and were able to breach a single BTC hot wallet (a cryptocurrency wallet that’s connected to the Internet), which contained about 2% of the company’s total BTC holdings, and withdraw stolen Bitcoins in a single transaction.

What’s more disturbing is that the company admitted the hackers managed to get their hands on user critical information, such as API keys, two-factor authentication codes, and potentially other information, which is required to log in to a Binance account.

Zao also warned that “hackers may still control certain user accounts and may use those to influence prices.”

Fortunately, the Binance cold storage—the offline wallets where the majority of funds are kept—remain secure. Also, Internet-connected individual user wallets were not directly affected.

More:  https://thehackernews.com/2019/05/binance-cryptocurrency-hacked.html?m=1

Chinese Hackers Used NSA Hacking Tools Before Shadow Brokers Leaked Them

By: Swati Khandelwal

In a shocking revelation, it turns out that a hacking group believed to be sponsored by Chinese intelligence had been using some of the zero-day exploits linked to the NSA’s Equation Group almost a year before the mysterious Shadow Brokers group leaked them.

According to a new report published by cybersecurity firm Symantec, a Chinese-linked group, which it calls Buckeye, was using the NSA-linked hacking tools as far back as March 2016, while the Shadow Brokers dumped some of the tools on the Internet in April 2017.

Active since at least 2009, Buckeye—also known as APT3, Gothic Panda, UPS Team, and TG-0110—is responsible for a large number of espionage attacks, mainly against defence and critical organizations in the United States.

Although Symantec did not explicitly name China in its report, researchers with a high degree of confidence have previously attributed [1,2] Buckeye hacking group to an information security company, called Boyusec, who is working on behalf of the Chinese Ministry of State Security.

Symantec’s latest discovery provides the first evidence that Chinese state-sponsored hackers managed to acquire some of the hacking tools, including EternalRomanceEternalSynergy, and DoublePulsar, a year before being dumped by the Shadow Brokers, a mysterious group that’s still unidentified.

According to the researchers, the Buckeye group used its custom exploit tool, dubbed Bemstour, to deliver a variant of DoublePulsar backdoor implant to stealthily collect information and run malicious code on the targeted computers.

Benstour tool was designed to exploit two then-zero-day vulnerabilities (CVE-2019-0703 and CVE-2017-0143) in Windows to achieve remote kernel code execution on targeted computers.

More: https://thehackernews.com/2019/05/buckeye-nsa-hacking-tools.html

TinyPOS: Handcrafted Malware in Assembly Code

By: Kacy Zurkus

Legacy software vulnerabilities have created opportunities for hackers to steal credit card data and other personal information using tiny point of sale (POS) malware, according to research published by Forcepoint.

Researchers reportedly analyzed 2,000 samples of POS malware and found that many are handcrafted, written in assembly code and very small; thus, researchers aptly named the malware TinyPOS.

Of the samples analyzed, 95% were loaders used to distribute malware to systems. In addition, researchers found that system compromises can go months without detection due to the small code size (2.7kb). Though researchers suggested that protecting against these attacks is not difficult, the issue for many organizations is that they are using old, outdated POS software and hardware that can do a lot of damage.

The samples were grouped into four categories: loaders, mappers, scrapers and cleaners, wrote Robert Neumann, senior security researcher at Forcepoint. “The most probable initial vector would be a remote hack into the POS system to deliver the Loaders. Other options could include physical access (unlikely) or a rogue auto-update to deliver a compromised file to the POS operating system.”

That attackers are targeting POS systems is nothing new, particularly because they collect large amounts of personal data. Because of their vulnerabilities, Ryan Wilk, VP of customer success for NuData Security, a Mastercard company, said POS systems have long been a prime target for cyber-criminals.

More: https://www.infosecurity-magazine.com/news/tinypos-handcrafted-malware-in-1/

Vodafone Found Hidden Backdoors in Huawei Equipment

By: Daniele Lepido


While the carrier says the issues found in 2011 and 2012 were resolved at the time, the revelation may further damage the reputation of a Chinese powerhouse.

For months, Huawei Technologies Co. has faced U.S. allegations that it flouted sanctions on Iran, attempted to steal trade secrets from a business partner and has threatened to enable Chinese spying through the telecom networks it’s built across the West.

 Now Vodafone Group Plc has acknowledged to Bloomberg that it found vulnerabilities going back years with equipment supplied by Shenzhen-based Huawei for the carrier’s Italian business. While Vodafone says the issues were resolved, the revelation may further damage the reputation of a major symbol of China’s global technology prowess.

Europe’s biggest phone company identified hidden backdoors in the software that could have given Huawei unauthorized access to the carrier’s fixed-line network in Italy, a system that provides internet service to millions of homes and businesses, according to Vodafone’s security briefing documents from 2009 and 2011 seen by Bloomberg, as well as people involved in the situation.

Vodafone asked Huawei to remove backdoors in home internet routers in 2011 and received assurances from the supplier that the issues were fixed, but further testing revealed that the security vulnerabilities remained, the documents show. Vodafone also identified backdoors in parts of its fixed-access network known as optical service nodes, which are responsible for transporting internet traffic over optical fibers, and other parts called broadband network gateways, which handle subscriber authentication and access to the internet, the people said. The people asked not to be identified because the matter was confidential.

More: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-04-30/vodafone-found-hidden-backdoors-in-huawei-equipment