Category: Cyber security

Apple bows to Chinese government

5. March 2018

Apple backs down: The Chinese government has demanded that Apple no longer outsource control of Chinese users data to US-based servers, but hand them over to a Chinese company.

This is likely to give Chinese authorities access to the personal data of Chinese users.

Apple informed the users in the passed weeks. Users of Apples service iCloud were informed, that their data is not longer stored on servers in the USA. Since February 28th, is Guizhou-Cloud Big Data (GCBD) the server provider for the data of Chinese users. GCBD is a state-controlled internet company based in Guizhou Province in southern China.

Affected are iCloud users with a Chinese Apple-ID.

The measure is based on new Chinese cybersecurity law, that is in place since last year. According to the new law, personal data of Chinese users fall under Chinese law and not, like before, under the law, the provider falls under.

For the diffraction under the Chinese law, Apple is heavily criticized.



Cancer Care Organization settles for 2.3 Mio $ after Data Breach

22. December 2017

In 2015, a data breach occurred at 21st Century Oncology  (21stCO), one of the leading providers of cancer care services in the USA, potentially affecting names, social security numbers, medical diagnoses and health insurance information of at least 2.2 million patients.

On its website, the provider had announced in 2016 that one of its databases was inappropriately accessed by an unauthorized third party, though an FBI investigation had already detected an attack as early as October 2015. The FBI, however, requested 21stCO to delay the notification because of ongoing federal investigations.

21stCO had then stated that ““we continue to work closely with the FBI on its investigation of the intrusion into our system” and “in addition to security measures already in place, we have also taken additional steps to enhance internal security protocols to help prevent a similar incident in the future.” To make amends for the security gap patients had been offered one year of free credit monitoring services.

Nevertheless, the provider now has to pay a fine worth 2.3 million dollars as settled with the Office for Civil Rights (OCR; part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services).

It has been accused of not implementing appropriate security measures and procedures to regularly review information system activity such as access or security incident reports, despite the disclosure by the FBI.

The OCR further stated that “the organization also disclosed protected health information to its business associates without having a proper business associate agreement in place”.

The settlement additionally requires 21stCO to set up a corrective action plan including the appointment of a compliance representative, completion of risk analysis and management, revision of cybersecurity policies, an internal breach reporting plan and overall in-depth IT-security. The organization will, in addition, need to maintain all relevant documents and records for six years, so the OCR can inspect and copy the documents if necessary.

Following the settlement, District Attorney Stephen Muldrow stated “we appreciate that 21st Century Oncology self-reported a major fraud affecting Medicare, and we are also pleased that the company has agreed to accept financial responsibility for past compliance failures.”

Category: Cyber security · Data breach · General · USA
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New and surprising password guidelines released by NIST

21. December 2017

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), a non-regulatory federal agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce that promotes innovation and industrial competitiveness often by recommending best practices in matters of security, has released its Digital Identity Guidelines uttering advice for user password management.

Considering that Bill Burr, the pioneer of password management, has admitted regretting his recommendations in a publication back in 2003, the NIST is taking appropriate action by revising wide-spread practices.

For over a decade, people were encouraged to create complex passwords with capital letters, numbers and „obscure“ characters – along with frequent changes.

Research has now shown that these requirements don’t necessarily improve the level of security, but instead might even make it easier for hackers to crack the code as people tend to make minor changes when they have to change their already complex password – usually pressed for time.

This is why the NIST is now recommending to let go of periodic password change requirements alongside of algorithmic complexity.

Rather than holding on to these practices, the experts emphasize the importance of password length. The NIST states, that „password length has been found to be a primary factor in characterizing password strength. Passwords that are too short yield to brute force attacks as well as to dictionary attacks using words and commonly chosen passwords.“

It takes years for computers to figure out passwords with 20 or more characters as long as the password is not commonly used.

The NIST advises to screen new passwords against specific lists: „For example, the list may include, but is not limited to passwords obtained from previous breach corpuses, dictionary words, repetitive or sequential characters (e.g. ‘aaaaaa’, ‚1234abcd’), context-specific words, such as the name of the service, the username, and derivatives thereof.“

Subsequently, the NIST completely abandons its own suggestions and causes great relief for industries all over:

„Length and complexity requirements beyond those recommended here significantly increase the difficulty of memorized secrets and increase user frustration. As a result, users often work around these restrictions in a way that is counterproductive. Furthermore, other mitigations such as blacklists, secure hashed storage, and rate limiting are more effective at preventing modern brute-force attacks. Therefore, no additional complexity requirements are imposed.“

Uber hid massive data breach

22. November 2017

Uber just admitted that hackers stole personal data of 50 million Uber customers and 7 million drivers. The data breach happened in October 2016, over a year ago, but was only published this week.

The data include names, e-mail addresses, phone numbers and the license numbers of 600.000 drivers. According to Uber neither social security numbers, nor credit card information, or trip location details were taken.

Uber did not disclose the data breach to public, as required by data protection law, but paid the hackers 100.000,00 $ to delete the information. Uber assumes that the data was not used.

Referring to Uber the hackers came in through a badly protected database in a cloud service to the data. Uber security Chief Joe Sullivan and another manager lost their jobs.

This data breach wasn’t the first incident that happened to Uber. Uber has a well-documented history of abusing consumer privacy.

Uber said it has hired Matt Olsen, former general counsel at the National Security Agency and director of the National Counterterrorism Center, as an adviser.  He will help the company restructure its security teams.

Category: Cyber security · Data breach · USA

Google: Advanced Protection Program released

30. October 2017

Google released its Advanced Protection Program. The program is meant to make stealing passwords pointless. With help of two inexpensive physical keys it is possible to log in into the Google account on computer and smartphone.
Because of this two-factor authentication the account is secured. Even if the password is stolen in a data breach or successfully phished, the hackers cannot login, because they don’t have the keys as well. The minimal and cost effective effort has a big impact.
Google’s development of a two-factor authentication relies on a Chinese hacker attack in 2010. Since then Google’s motto is “Never ever”.
Addressees of the Program are according to Google people who have a high risk of online attacks, like journalists, victims of stalking and dissidents inside authoritarian countries. The idea of the program is to provide people with a physical device that is harder to steal than a text message or other two-factor authentication tools.
Except these people with a high risk, anyone with a Google account can sign up for the security program. Google has an Advanced Protection webpage for the sign up. In addition to the Advanced Protection Program to be able to use two physical keys are necessary. Each one costs about $20.

Measures to strengthen the EU cybersecurity published

27. September 2017

On September 13, 2017 a joint communication to the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union on “Resilience, Deterrence and Defence: Building strong cybersecurity for the EU” was published. This should strengthen the EU regarding the response of cyber attacks.

The joint communication includes:

  • Greater EU resilience to cyber attacks
  • Better detect cyber attacks
  • Strengthen international cooperation on cybersecurity

and is part of a package of EU documents.

CIA´s circumvention methods on Wikileaks

10. March 2017

Tuesday, 7th March on Wikileaks there was a release of around 9,000 pages of documents on the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency hacking methods, called “Year Zero”, which revealed CIA´s hardware and software world´s top technology products circumvention methods (including smartphone operating systems exploitation). These methods are believed to allow agents to circumvent encryption apps.

According to a Reuters report U.S. government contractors are suspected by the law enforcement and U.S. intelligence to have likely handed over the information to Wikileaks.

However, after it has already occurred in government contractor employees´ cases (Harold Thomas Martin´s and Edward Snowden´s), sensitive government information leak nowadays remains no wonder anymore.

Google Director, Apple, Microsoft and Samsung believe that they are continuously and accurately looking into any identified vulnerabilities in order to implement necessary protections.

Even though the authenticity of the leaks still awaits the confirmation, the CIA has expressed its concern about the topic.

Open Whisper Systems confirm that there was no Signal protocol encryption break, even though the New York Times originally reported that the CIA could break the encryption of WhatsApp, Signal and Telegram apps.

Category: Cyber security · Encryption · USA
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CISPE published Code of Conduct

5. October 2016

The Cloud Infrastructure Services Providers in Europe, CISPE, published a Data Protection Code of Conduct for Cloud Infrastructure Service Providers.

CISPE is a relatively new accosiation including more than 20 cloud infrastructure providers that operate within Europe.

The CISPE Code of Conduct focuses on transparency and compliance with EU data protection laws. Therefore, the CISPE Code of Conduct has been designed in such a way that it will be compliant with the GDPR coming into force in May 2018. The CISPE Code of Conduct has been built on internationally recognised state-of-the-art of security measures increasing the data security for cloud customers.

In the press release, Axelle Lemaire, French Minister for Digital Affairs and Innovation, commented that “The CISPE Code of Conduct show that the European cloud computing industry is capable to provide secure and compliant services for all personal and technical data in Europe and improve trust in digital services.”

Apple offers hackers up to $200,000

29. September 2016

Forbes just released an article saying that Apple invited some of the best hackers to its headquarter in Cupertino.

Among them:

  • the 19-year-old teenage prodigy who was the first to jailbreak an iPhone 7, and therefore now being a world-renowned iOS hacker as well as an
  • ex-NSA employee who has repeatedly found security lacks concerning Mac OS X  Luca Todesco.

The meeting should have been secret and kept confidential, but unfortunately some details leaked. So for example that Apple plans to brief them on the launch of its bug bounty program. The hackers will be rewarded with up to $200,000 in case they can provide Apple with information on vulnerabilities about its laptops and phones. Furthermore, the mentioned program is expected to be put into effect before the end of the month due to the fact that this has been promised at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas last months. Nevertheless, Apple pursues an invite-only list-strategy in order to get quality over quantity.

NIS Directive has been adopted by the EU Commission

12. July 2016

On the 6th July 2016, the Vice-President of the EU Commission, Andrus Ansip, and Commissioner Günther H. Oettinger announced the approval of the NIS Directive, this is the Directive on Security of Network and Information Systems.

NIS Directive is one of the main legislative proposals in the context of the Cybersecurity Strategy developed by the EU and focuses on the following aspects:

  • The development of a national system to face cybersecurity attacks such as a Computer Security Incident Response (CSIRT) and a competent authority in cybersecurity issues.
  • A strategic cooperation mechanism between Member States and a development of a CSIRT Network in order to share information about risks.
  • To promote a culture of IT-security in all industry sectors, especially those identified as being “operators of essential services”. This also means to adopt adequate incident response plans. The Directive will apply also to digital service providers such as cloud computing, search engines and e-commerce businesses.

The Directive will enter into force in August 2016 and EU Member States will have 21 months to implement it into their national laws.

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