Topic

Security

A collection of 81 issues
Latest — Jul 17, 2024

The name "Bluetooth" is derived from the name of Harald Bluetooth, a king who was known for uniting Danish tribes in the 10th century. Similarly, bluetooth technology, developed in the late 1990s, was created as a wireless alternative to RS-232 data cables, unifying various communication protocols into a single universal standard. 

However, mass unification comes with its risks. Indeed, the recent discovery of a significant Bluetooth vulnerability across several operating systems, including Android, macOS, iOS, iPadOS, and Linux, has raised alarms in the tech community. 

This vulnerability, discovered by security expert Mark Newlin, opens the door to potential contactless hacking of devices without any action required from the device owner. It poses a serious threat, especially considering the widespread use of Bluetooth technology in modern devices. Today, we’ll be discussing some of Bluetooth’s vulnerabilities with the help of Newlin’s report. 

Counterfeit keyboards

The crux of the problem lies in the ability to compel a vulnerable device to establish a connection with a counterfeit Bluetooth keyboard, all without requiring user confirmation. This is achieved by circumventing the Bluetooth protocol's authentication checks, which, in specific implementations of Bluetooth stacks in popular operating systems, allow an attacker to exploit this inherent mechanism. Subsequently, this connection can be exploited to issue commands, granting the attacker the capability to perform actions on the compromised device on behalf of the user, without any additional authentication, such as a password or biometrics (e.g., fingerprint or facial recognition). Newlin, the security researcher who unearthed this vulnerability, emphasized that a successful attack does not necessitate a specialized setup; even a standard Bluetooth adapter on a Linux-based laptop can be used for exploitation.

It's worth noting that the attack's practicality is limited by the proximity requirement between the attacker and the victim, as Bluetooth connections typically have a short range. While this restricts mass exploitation, it does pose a potential threat to individuals who may be targeted by attackers for specific reasons.

Android 

Android devices have been subjected to rigorous scrutiny with regard to the aforementioned vulnerability. Newlin conducted tests on seven different smartphones running various Android versions, ranging from Android 4.2.2 to Android 14. Remarkably, all of them exhibited vulnerability to Bluetooth hacking. In the case of Android, the only prerequisite for a successful hack is that Bluetooth is enabled on the target device.

The researcher promptly alerted Google to this discovered vulnerability in early August. Consequently, Google has already developed patches for Android versions 11 to 14 and shared them with smartphone and tablet manufacturers that rely on this operating system. These manufacturers are expected to release corresponding security updates for their customers' devices in due course. It is imperative for users to install these patches as soon as they become available for their Android 11/12/13/14-based devices. For older Android versions, no updates will be forthcoming, leaving them perpetually susceptible to this attack. Thus, turning off Bluetooth remains a prudent precaution until the end of these devices' life cycles.

MacOS, iPadOS, and iOS

In the case of Apple's operating systems, the researcher had a more limited range of test devices at his disposal. Nonetheless, he was able to confirm the presence of the vulnerability in iOS 16.6, as well as in two versions of macOS: Monterey 12.6.7 (x86) and Ventura 13.3.3 (ARM). It is reasonable to assume that a broader spectrum of macOS and iOS versions, including their counterparts, iPadOS, tvOS, and watchOS, could potentially be susceptible to a Bluetooth-based attack.

Regrettably, Apple's enhanced security feature, known as Lockdown Mode, introduced in the past year, does not provide protection against this particular Bluetooth vulnerability. This applies to both iOS and macOS.

Fortunately, a successful attack on Apple's operating systems necessitates an additional condition, in addition to Bluetooth being enabled: the device must have the Apple Magic Keyboard paired with it. As a result, the risk of an iPhone being compromised through this vulnerability appears to be minimal.

Linux

This attack is also applicable to BlueZ, a Bluetooth stack that is included in the official Linux kernel. Newlin verified the Bluetooth vulnerability in various versions of Ubuntu Linux, including 18.04, 20.04, 22.04, and 23.10. The bug that enabled this attack was identified and patched in 2020 (CVE-2020-0556). However, the fix has been deactivated by default in most popular Linux distributions, with only ChromeOS having it enabled (based on information obtained from Google).

The Linux vulnerability discovered by the researcher is designated as CVE-2023-45866 and is rated at 7.1 out of a possible 10 (CVSS v3) with a "moderate" threat status, according to Red Hat. A successful exploit of this vulnerability requires just one condition to be met: Bluetooth discovery or connectivity must be enabled on the Linux device. The good news is that a Linux patch addressing this vulnerability is already available, so it is strongly recommended to install it as soon as possible if it has not been done already.

Final thoughts 

In conclusion, the discovery of a critical Bluetooth vulnerability affecting popular operating systems such as Android, macOS, iOS, iPadOS, and Linux highlights the ongoing risks associated with modern technology. However, it's essential to note that many of these companies have responded promptly to the issue, releasing patches and updates to address the vulnerability. This demonstrates their commitment to enhancing security for their users.

While this story underscores the constant vigilance required in the ever-evolving landscape of cybersecurity, it also serves as a reminder that hackers are not dormant, they continuously seek new vulnerabilities to exploit. As technology advances, the responsibility to remain proactive in protecting our devices and personal information becomes increasingly crucial.

Bluetooth vulnerability: dangers and solutions in operating systems

Jul 12, 2024 — 4 min read

In the digital era, where the internet and electronic devices dominate every aspect of our lives, the importance of data security cannot be overstated. Zip archives, a common format for compressing and storing data, are no exception to the need for stringent security measures. Typically, passwords are employed to protect the contents of these archives. 

However, challenges arise when one forgets the password to a zip file or seeks to evaluate the robustness of their data encryption. 

This article delves into the motivations behind zip archive password cracking and the prevailing methods. Additionally, it offers valuable advice on safeguarding your data against unauthorized access.

Understanding the motivations for cracking zip archive passwords

The act of cracking zip archive passwords can stem from both legitimate and malicious intentions. On the legitimate side, the most common scenario involves individuals attempting to regain access to their own archives after forgetting the password. This forgetfulness is a natural human trait, especially when dealing with numerous passwords for different files and services. On the other hand, the conversation around archive cracking often highlights two main concerns. The first is the ability to crack a password-protected archive to retrieve its contents. The second, more alarming issue, involves exploiting vulnerabilities in the archiving software to gain unauthorized access to a user's computer system.

Fortunately, the current landscape of archive cracking offers a silver lining. Attackers are primarily limited to brute-force attacks, where they attempt to guess the password by trying numerous combinations. This method's effectiveness heavily relies on the complexity of the password. A sufficiently complex password can significantly enhance the security of your data. However, the situation becomes more complicated when considering the vulnerabilities within the archiving software itself. These vulnerabilities can be discovered periodically, making it imperative for users to keep their software updated to prevent potential exploitation by hackers.

Cybercriminals have various motivations for wanting to crack zip archives. These include gaining unauthorized access to confidential information, circumventing copyright protection, bypassing security restrictions and policies, and modifying or destroying data. Such actions can lead to significant breaches of privacy and financial loss. To mitigate these risks, it is advisable to use reputable archiving software and ensure that all necessary updates and patches are applied promptly.

Methods for cracking zip archives

Gaining access to a zip archive without the password involves eliminating and guessing. The unlimited password attempts feature of zip archives makes them vulnerable to brute-force attacks. Various tools and techniques are available for this purpose, each with its own set of strategies:

Full brute-force attack
This method is applicable when no information about the password is known. It involves trying every possible combination within a specified range, allowing for customization based on known password characteristics.

Brute-force attack with extended mask
When some information about the password's structure is known, this method allows for a more targeted approach, reducing the number of guesses needed.

Dictionary attacks
These are effective when the password is suspected to be a common word or phrase. Unfortunately, the tendency of users to choose simple, easily guessable passwords makes many archives vulnerable to this type of attack.

Tools such as John the Ripper, Advanced Archive Password Recovery, KRyLack ZIP Password Recovery, and ZIP Password Cracker Pro are among the most popular for cracking archive passwords.

Enhancing the security of zip archives

The relative ease with which zip archives can be cracked necessitates the adoption of additional protective measures. A robust password is the first line of defense, ideally incorporating a mix of characters, numbers, and symbols to increase complexity. Such passwords are significantly more challenging to crack, providing a strong barrier against unauthorized access.

Beyond passwords, the level of protection should be tailored to the value of the data being secured and the user's knowledge of information security. Encrypting files before sharing them over the internet adds an extra layer of security. For instance, using a zip archive with a strong password for encryption, and then sharing the password through a separate communication channel, can prevent unauthorized access even if the primary transmission method is compromised.

In addition to the fundamental security measures previously discussed, adopting advanced security practices can significantly enhance the protection of zip archives.

Implementing Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) can dramatically increase the security of your zip archives. While not a standard feature for archive access, integrating MFA through secure storage solutions or encrypted file systems adds a critical security layer. MFA requires users to provide two or more verification factors to gain access, combining something they know (like a password) with something they have (such as a security token or a mobile phone confirmation). This method ensures that even if a password is compromised, unauthorized access to the archive remains highly unlikely.

While zip archives support password-based encryption, users seeking higher security levels should consider additional encryption layers. Tools like VeraCrypt or BitLocker offer robust encryption for files and folders, including zip archives. By encrypting the entire storage container that holds the zip archive, users can protect against both unauthorized access and more sophisticated attacks that target file-level encryption vulnerabilities.

Conducting regular security audits and vulnerability assessments of the systems storing zip archives can identify potential security weaknesses before they are exploited. This proactive approach involves scanning for vulnerabilities, assessing the risk level of identified vulnerabilities, and implementing necessary patches or security enhancements. Regular audits ensure that both the software used for archiving and the broader system environment remain secure against emerging threats.

Finally, educating users on security best practices plays a crucial role in safeguarding zip archives. This includes training on creating strong passwords, recognizing phishing attempts, and safely sharing sensitive information. A well-informed user is the first line of defense against many common cyber threats, making education a vital component of any comprehensive security strategy.

Final thoughts 

In conclusion, while zip archives offer a convenient means of compressing and storing data, their security is not infallible. Users must employ strong passwords, take advantage of encryption options, and keep their software up to date to protect their data effectively. Additionally, it's crucial to remember that unauthorized cracking of archives not only violates legal statutes but also infringes on the privacy and confidentiality of individuals. By adopting a proactive approach to data security, users can safeguard their information against the evolving threats in the digital landscape.

Securing the zip: advanced strategies for archive protection in the digital age

Jul 5, 2024 — 5 min read

The counterfeiting of well-known apps remains a popular tool for spreading malicious software. For instance, in 2022, a counterfeit version of the popular messaging app WhatsApp tricked thousands of users into downloading it from unofficial sources, leading to the harvesting of personal data and intrusive ads. 

Cybercriminals employ various tactics to deceive users into downloading fake apps through email, dangerous websites, and social media. This article will provide recommendations to help you identify a fake app before downloading and completely remove it from your smartphone. Let's take a look today at the dangers they pose, their prevalence, and the steps you can take to protect yourself against these threats.

The dangers they pose

Installing malicious software on your phone can expose you to numerous threats, ranging from slowing down your device to spying on you. One of the most common risks is the theft of confidential and personal data. Malicious apps can steal your private information, such as contacts, photos, and messages, which can then be sold to other fraudsters or used for identity theft. Another significant threat is financial theft, where cybercriminals can access your financial information, such as banking apps and cryptocurrency wallets, to steal your money.

Malicious apps can also cause performance issues on your device, leading to slower operation, overheating, or rapid battery drain due to background processes. Additionally, these fake apps may display a large number of ads, known as adware, which can be intrusive and significantly reduce the usability of your device.

Spying is another critical threat posed by malicious apps. These apps can eavesdrop on your conversations, read your messages, and monitor your activities, severely compromising your privacy. If you use your smartphone for work, malicious apps can engage in corporate espionage by stealing corporate data, which can lead to potential business losses and security breaches.

The prevalence of fake apps

In recent years, these threats have become increasingly common. Some target a wide range of users, while others are more specific. Notable examples of malicious fake apps include counterfeit versions of WhatsApp and Telegram, spread through dozens of fake websites. Once installed, these fake apps intercepted victims' chat messages to steal their confidential information and cryptocurrency.

Another example is the spread of BadBazaar spyware disguised as Signal and Telegram by hackers linked to China. Both types of fake apps passed official verification and were available on Google Play and the Samsung Galaxy Store.

How to prevent fake apps from reaching your device

To reduce the likelihood of installing threats on your device, it is crucial to take several preventive measures. Always install the latest versions of your operating system and software, as threats often exploit vulnerabilities in older versions. Before downloading any app, verify the developer's reputation online and check for any reviews of the app to ensure its legitimacy. It's also essential to use official app stores, as they have strict vetting processes to prevent threats from reaching the platform.

Removing any apps you don't use can help you monitor what is on your device more effectively. Be cautious about clicking on links or attachments, especially if they appear in unsolicited social media messages or emails and offer to download something from third-party sites. Similarly, avoid clicking on ads on the internet, as they may be part of a scam aimed at redirecting you to a counterfeit app.

When installing new apps, be cautious when granting permissions that are unrelated to the app's functions, as this could be a sign of malicious software trying to access your data. Using biometric data for login instead of simple passwords in your accounts can also enhance your security.

Lastly, employing security solutions that provide enhanced protection with effective threat detection, blocking malicious websites, safeguarding online payments, and managing passwords. By following these steps, you can significantly reduce the risk of installing fake apps on your device and protect your personal and financial information from cyber threats.

It's also important to monitor unusual activity on your device if malicious software does manage to infiltrate it. For example, be alert if your battery drains faster than usual. Also, if your device runs slower, it may be due to malicious software. Pay attention to persistent pop-up ads, as this could indicate that you have installed adware. Watch for any unusual icons appearing on your screen.

10 additional tips and tricks 

1. Educate Yourself on Common Threats
Understanding the various types of malware and how they typically operate can help you stay vigilant. Common types include trojans, spyware, adware, and ransomware. Each has distinct characteristics and signs that can alert you to their presence.

2. Regularly Update and Patch Software
Make sure all your apps, not just the operating system, are regularly updated. Developers often release patches for known vulnerabilities, so keeping your software current is crucial in preventing exploitation by malicious actors.

3. Monitor App Permissions
Review the permissions of apps already installed on your device. Apps should only have access to the information and functions necessary for their operation. For instance, a flashlight app should not need access to your contacts or messages.

4. Utilize Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)
Wherever possible, enable MFA for your accounts. This adds an extra layer of security, making it harder for unauthorized users to gain access even if they obtain your password.

5. Backup Your Data Regularly
Ensure you have regular backups of your important data. This practice can save you from losing vital information if your device is compromised. Use cloud services or external storage devices for these backups.

6. Be Skeptical of Free Offers
If an app promises something that seems too good to be true, it probably is. Be cautious of free versions of popular apps that offer the same functionality without any apparent revenue model. These could be traps to lure you into installing malware.

7. Use Strong, Unique Passwords
For each of your accounts, use a unique password that combines letters, numbers, and symbols. Avoid using easily guessable information like birthdays or simple sequences. Password managers can help you keep track of your passwords securely.

8. Regularly Scan Your Device for Malware
Use reputable antivirus and anti-malware software to scan your device regularly. These tools can detect and remove many types of malware before they cause significant harm.

9. Stay Informed on the Latest Threats
Cybersecurity is an ever-evolving field. Stay informed about the latest threats and trends by following trusted sources. This knowledge can help you recognize and avoid new types of attacks.

10. Use Secure Networks
Avoid using public Wi-Fi for sensitive transactions, such as online banking. Public networks can be less secure, making it easier for attackers to intercept your data. Use a virtual private network (VPN) to add a layer of security when connecting to public Wi-Fi.

Conclusion

Today, smartphones and tablets are our gateways to the digital world. But this world must be protected from unwanted guests. By following these simple steps and additional measures, your finances and personal data will be better protected. Stay vigilant, stay informed, and take proactive steps to secure your digital life.

By incorporating these practices into your daily routine, you can create a robust defense against the ever-present threat of fake apps and other forms of cybercrime. Your digital safety is paramount, and with the right knowledge and tools, you can navigate the digital world securely and confidently.

Identifying fake apps on your smartphone

Jun 28, 2024 — 4 min read

The world has grown accustomed to social media, where users upload millions of images and videos daily. However, not everyone realizes that an innocent-looking selfie at work could be used by malicious actors to break into a company or that a hotel photo might lead to blackmail.

With the advancement of technology and the expansion of geospatial information systems, cybersecurity threats have also increased, demanding more careful consideration of the data being published. This article explores what GEOINT is, how criminals use your photographs for their purposes, and why people scrutinize Google Maps.

What is GEOINT?

GEOINT, short for "Geospatial Intelligence," involves the analysis and use of imagery and geospatial information to gain insights into activities on Earth. It combines several disciplines: cartography, charting, image analysis, and imagery intelligence. While traditionally associated with the military, geospatial intelligence is increasingly utilized by civilian sectors, including telecommunications, transportation, public health, safety, and real estate, to enhance daily life quality. In broader applications, geospatial intelligence is used for emergency planning, crime and security monitoring, and protecting critical infrastructure.

Technological advancements have brought a new era in geospatial intelligence. The advent of powerful analytical software, ubiquitous geolocation data, far-reaching broadband connections, rapidly developing computational power, affordable cloud storage, advanced analytics, and artificial intelligence have all played a role in the revolution of geospatial intelligence.

GeoGuessing

In the context of geospatial intelligence, the phenomenon of geo guessing is worth mentioning. The term comes from the name of the browser game GeoGuessr, launched in 2013. The game uses Google Street View maps, requiring players to guess the location of a street/alley/highway worldwide by marking it on Google Maps. Since 2015, the game has also been available as an iOS app.

The game has become so popular that competitions and tournaments are held. In 2023, the GeoGuessr World Championship finals were held in Stockholm with a prize pool of $50,000. Clues include road markings, languages on signs and plaques, animals and people in the frame, and other details. The most professional players can recognize a location on the map by a 3D image within seconds, requiring extensive time studying maps.

How criminals use GEOINT

An example of careless handling of personal information is found in an interview with Michael Oren, a former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Attentive viewers noticed a note with login credentials in the background during the shoot from his home. Imagine the damage a criminal could cause in such a situation. 

Be vigilant and cautious when sharing your photos on social media. Like any other information obtained through theft or leakage, data from open sources can be used by malicious actors. Here are some ways they exploit this information:

1. Phishing using geolocation
By determining your location, criminals can personalize phishing messages. For instance, if you're at a resort, you might not ignore a message supposedly from emergency services warning of dangerous weather conditions in the area.

2. Physical threats
Criminals can locate server centers or critical infrastructure and plan physical intrusions.

3. Espionage and surveillance
Malicious actors can use geodata to track people or organizations, monitor their movements, connections, habits, and even plans to exploit this information for their gain, such as crafting more convincing social engineering attacks or blackmail.

Overall, the use of geospatial intelligence by criminals poses a severe threat to data security, personal information, and critical infrastructure.

Law enforcement and GEOINT

On the flip-side, law enforcement agencies use GEOINT for investigations and apprehending criminals. For example, in 2019, Sacramento authorities arrested a drug dealer who sent potential buyers photos of marijuana on his hand. The fingerprints visible in the photo led to his identification. 

Photographs can indeed serve as evidence in criminal cases. In spring 2023, a data leak from the Pentagon put U.S. National Guard member Jack Teixeira under suspicion. An investigation revealed that the leaked photos were taken in his home, as the edges of the photographs matched the interior.

The most frequent method of geospatial intelligence is analyzing images or videos to determine their location. Almost anyone can conduct basic geospatial intelligence using the internet and various services. For example, a jealous wife might deduce from her husband's social media photos that he is not on a business trip but visiting a lover. 

Tools and services for GEOINT

Various services and tools are used for collecting data from open sources in geospatial intelligence. Here are some examples:

Google Maps. A web mapping platform from Google offering satellite photos, aerial photography, street maps, interactive street views in 360°, and real-time traffic conditions.

OpenStreetMap. An open collaborative project to create a free editable geographic database of the world.

Soar Earth. A service for collecting and exploring satellite images, aerial photographs, and drone images.

GeoHack Tools. This service provides a list of OSINT resources for the selected area on a map, including maps/satellite images, photographs, real-time weather, flight and maritime tracking, railways, peaks, and even fitness device data.

The range of geospatial intelligence tools is vast and continually expanding.

Final thoughts — protecting oneself 

As we have explored, even innocent photos shared on social media can be exploited by malicious actors, leading to severe consequences such as unauthorized access, blackmail, or even physical threats. To safeguard against these threats, it is essential to:

1. Be vigilant with personal information
Avoid sharing sensitive data in photos, such as login credentials or identifiable locations, that can be exploited by criminals.

2. Control privacy settings
Regularly review and adjust the privacy settings on social media platforms to limit the visibility of your posts to trusted individuals.

3. Use geotagging wisely
Disable geotagging on your devices when sharing photos publicly, as location data can be a significant security risk.

4. Leverage security tools
Utilize available security tools and services to monitor and protect against unauthorized use of geospatial data.

By taking these proactive steps, individuals and organizations can better defend themselves against the growing threats posed by the misuse of geospatial intelligence.

GEOINT and the Chamber of Secrets

Jun 21, 2024 — 4 min read

Every year, blockchain technology unveils new possibilities in the realm of digital transactions and decentralized applications. One of the latest additions to this ecosystem is the smart account—advanced accounts capable of automatically performing predefined functions and operations.

Imagine a digital wallet that automatically allocates funds among various investment portfolios based on predetermined rules or market conditions. Or consider a smart contract managing the supply of goods in real-time, based on demand and supply.

While smart accounts offer unprecedented flexibility and automation in managing cryptocurrencies, they also introduce unique security challenges that must be addressed to protect valuable digital assets and ensure the stability of decentralized systems.

What is a smart account?

Before delving into security issues, let’s clarify what smart accounts are and their role in the blockchain ecosystem. In traditional blockchains like Bitcoin, accounts are addresses linked to specific balances and transactions. However, smart accounts, as seen on platforms like Ethereum, have far broader functionality.

Smart accounts are unique accounts tied to executable code known as smart contracts. These contracts define the conditions under which the smart account can perform certain actions, such as transferring funds, performing computations, or interacting with other contracts. For instance, a smart account could be programmed to automatically send monthly rent payments from your cryptocurrency funds.

Unlike regular accounts that merely hold funds, smart accounts are autonomous agents capable of making decisions and performing complex operations based on embedded logic. It’s akin to a bank account that can independently transfer funds at specific intervals and under certain criteria.

Security issues of smart accounts

The unique security challenges of smart accounts are a significant concern, especially as protecting digital assets in the dynamic blockchain environment becomes critically important with the mass adoption of cryptocurrencies. Key security issues include code vulnerabilities, cyberattacks, and problems with access management and permissions. Any bugs or vulnerabilities in the code can have catastrophic consequences, such as the Genesis DAO project’s loss of $50 million in 2016 due to a smart contract vulnerability.

Several high-profile blockchain security breaches involving smart contracts have raised serious concerns, particularly among those actively engaged with blockchain technology. For instance, the infamous DAO hack led to the Ethereum network's hard fork, resulting in a new version of the blockchain—Ethereum Classic.

Once a smart contract is deployed on the blockchain, its code becomes immutable, making it extremely difficult to correct errors and vulnerabilities. This underscores the importance of thorough testing and code auditing before deployment. Otherwise, mistakes can lead to disastrous outcomes, as seen with CryptoKitties and Cryptozombies, where bugs in smart contracts resulted in the loss of valuable digital resources.

Best practices for smart account security

Given the risks associated with smart accounts, it’s crucial to follow best security practices throughout the lifecycle of smart contracts. Security should be an integral part of the smart contract design process, with careful consideration of contract logic, access structures, key management, and other critical aspects. For example, MakerDAO implemented a multi-tier permission structure and voting mechanism for managing its collateralized stablecoin system with security in mind.

Secure development of smart contracts involves using formal verification methods and proofs to ensure code correctness, engaging independent experts to audit the code before deployment, and applying secure programming patterns and standards, such as OpenZeppelin and Solidity Security Best Practices. Even after deployment, continuous monitoring of smart contract security is essential, as new threats and vulnerabilities can emerge at any time.

The future of smart account security

As blockchain and smart contract technologies evolve, new approaches and tools are emerging to enhance smart account security. AI and machine learning are being used for automatic vulnerability detection and error identification in smart contract code. Zero-Knowledge Proofs (ZKPs) are maintaining transaction privacy, and Secure Multi-Party Computation (MPC) is protecting confidential data by allowing computations on encrypted data without revealing the data itself. Formal verification provides mathematical proof of smart contract code correctness.

While quantum computers are still in early development stages, they may pose a future threat to the cryptographic algorithms used in blockchains. Malicious actors with sufficiently powerful quantum computers could potentially break traditional cryptographic systems used in blockchains. Smart contract developers should monitor this development and adapt their security systems using quantum-resistant algorithms.

Open-source communities play a crucial role in raising smart contract security standards. Collaboration, knowledge sharing, and tool improvement contribute to a more secure ecosystem. Examples of such communities include OpenZeppelin, the Ethereum Security Community, and Ethereum Cat Herders.

Education and awareness in smart account security

Ensuring the security of smart accounts involves education and awareness. This includes training developers, auditors, users, and other blockchain ecosystem participants on security best practices, threats, vulnerabilities, and prevention methods.

Smart contract developers should be well-versed in secure programming principles, security threats, and prevention techniques. This includes understanding common vulnerabilities like buffer overflows, coding errors, and access management issues, as well as using tools and methodologies for detecting and fixing such vulnerabilities.

Smart contract security auditors should be trained in using specialized tools and methodologies to analyze smart contract code, identify vulnerabilities, and recommend fixes. They should also stay updated on the latest threats and trends in blockchain security.

Users of smart accounts and decentralized applications also play a crucial role. They should be aware of security risks and best practices. This can include training on the secure storage and use of private keys, understanding phishing risks and other fraud types, and using tools and services to monitor the security of their smart accounts.

Conclusion

Smart account security is critically important in the era of digital transactions and decentralized applications. From secure development and auditing of smart contracts to education and awareness, compliance with regulatory requirements and security standards, and continuous monitoring and evaluation of security—all these aspects are key to ensuring the security of smart accounts.

Smart account security

Jun 14, 2024 — 5 min read

Cybersquatting, i.e., the registration of domain names similar to a trademark already owned by someone, has existed for about as long as the Internet itself. However, even today, many companies are new to encounters with individuals who want to make money from the similarity of domains.

To successfully combat cybersquatters, it's important to consider their possible interest before registering a domain name for your website. What should you think about and what actions should you take? We explain in this article.

What is cybersquatting?

A person who registers domains that are consistent with someone else's trademarks is called a cybersquatter. Their non-cybersquatter counterpart, the common squatter, occupies a vacant building and asserts rights to it.

The principle remains the same, while the object is the humble ‘Domain’. Is there a company or brand name, but the domain consonant with it is somehow free? Then it needs to be occupied, sat on comfortably, and held until the owner who needs this domain name pays a ransom for it.

Simply put, cybersquatting is a type of entrepreneurial activity. Its goal: to be the first to find a potentially needed domain, register it for a standard symbolic value, and then resell it at a much higher price.

Types of cybersquatting

With many people wanting to make money on your website's domain or another company’s web resource, several types of cybersquatting exist:

Typosquatting or counting on user error involves registering a name one letter different from the original. If there’s a website example.com, registering exemple.com means some visitors will land there due to the typo. By displaying ads before they realize their mistake, you can make money.

Branded cybersquatting or counting on fame. A company has registered the domain example.ru, but it didn’t use example.com or example.biz. These will be registered by a cybersquatter.

Unsuccessful cybersquatting. An entrepreneur wants to launch a new product and announces his plans on social networks without registering the domain. The cybersquatter will get there first and the entrepreneur will have to pay more for the domain.

Cybersquatting with a trademark, which by law is worth more than the registered domain name. A site without a registered trademark finds a cybersquatter, who registers the TM for himself and, voilà, can now legally take away the domain through the court.

Drop domain cybersquatting involves domains not renewed in time by the rightful holder. Such a domain falls into a special section of the registrar's site, where the most promising quickly pass into the hands of entrepreneurs. When the owner remembers that the domain has not been renewed, it already belongs to another person.

Another phenomenon often confused with cybersquatting is called domaining. In this case, entrepreneurs use popular words in various industries without claiming a specific unique domain name. This is done expecting that someone wanting to create a new site will buy a favorable and easy-to-promote domain at a higher price.

For domains, words like business, photo, market, shop, and others are often used in various combinations. They also often take the surnames of famous people and names of settlements. The domain ivanivanov.ru could interest an entrepreneur with this name. Cityname.com with the name of a particular city is suitable for the site of its administrative structures or tourist portal.

How cybersquatters choose domains

Registering hundreds and thousands of unique domains with all kinds of typos and similar names is expensive. To keep his business afloat, it's important for a cybersquatter to choose successful combinations. To do this, entrepreneurs specializing in the resale of domain names often:

• Monitor situations in companies. For example, rumors of a merger between companies A and B. Therefore, a name containing fragments of each of their names is likely needed. Cybersquatters can register these before employees of the new large organization.

• Look for companies that already exist but don't have their own website yet. For example, those finding customers through social networks and other marketing channels. Domains consonant with their names are also bought for the future.

• Check the registration of a trademark on the company's domain name. The scheme of taking the domain from the owner is not always possible, but it still works.

Cybersquatting is real

Companies often believe those wanting to register a domain and resell it more favorably exist in a parallel universe. However, companies all over the world regularly encounter them.

Not all disputes over a domain arise for personal gain and fit the definition of cybersquatting. Sometimes the reason is the consonance in the names of two companies. For example, in 2014, the recruitment portal HeadHunter sued the Russia-based company HH&HR over the use of the domain hh-hr.ru. The court sided with the portal and ruled to seize the domain name in its favor. At that time, HeadHunter had no intention of using the domain name for commercial purposes.

But in 2017, Google sued Vitaly Popov over a case more akin to cybersquatting. The domain secret.ɢoogle.com was used to send messages saying "Vote for Trump" during the US election. The name differed from Google by just one letter. It started with an uppercase but small Latin "G", i.e., "ɢ", which in Unicode is denoted by the symbol 0262.

The battle between Italian clothing brand Lotto Sports Italy and Canadian David Dent for the domains LottoStore.com and LottoWorks.com ended with the latter winning. However, it was an epic two-part duel. The Canadian resident bought the two domains and planned to create gaming-themed websites. The clothing brand sued Dent and initially won. The court ordered the transfer of the domain names to the company. The Canadian appealed, and Lotto Sports Italy was eventually found guilty of reverse domain seizure. The company paid $237,000.

Cybersquatters and the law

No matter how dubious the activity of some squatters may seem, it doesn't negate the fact: cybersquatting is entirely within the legal field. It's not illegal to register domains and trademark names.

Yet the world is trying to combat cybersquatters. The main arbiter of domain disputes is the WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organisation), which unites 157 member countries. It has developed the UDRP — Uniform Domain Dispute Resolution Policy.

There are two ways for companies and brands that have faced domain name seizure: pay the amount demanded by the cybersquatter or go to court, where it's necessary to provide justification for their claims to the domain. For those slow to act, there's a third option: wait. If the domain name is rare and doesn't cause other market participants particular interest, the cybersquatter might eventually reduce the price. However, this is a path with unpredictable results.

Summing up: how to fight cybersquatting

It's important not only to know what cybersquatting is but also to think in advance about how to protect yourself from this phenomenon. A few simple rules will help:

• Check for a domain that matches the name of the company or brand before finalizing the name. Using an original, "off-the-beaten-path" name reduces the risk of domain disputes due to conflicts of interest.

• Don't publicize the brand or company name before the domain name is officially registered. Cybersquatters don't sleep! — Don't limit yourself to one domain when registering. It's better to choose several similar ones in different popular domain zones. This reduces the risk of someone creating dubious content on a similar domain.

• Register a trademark on the selected domain name immediately. This isn't a panacea, but in most domain disputes, its presence becomes a decisive argument for the court.

• Make timely payments for domain renewal to avoid dealing with squatters who quickly re-register drop domains to themselves.

If you can do all of this — it’s safe to say that you’ll be safe from the squatters!

Your domain is my domain: how to protect yourself from cybersquatting

May 28, 2024 — 3 min read

A simple file or photograph shared with a colleague might encompass data that the sender didn't plan to divulge. For instance, a snapshot of a cat, besides the visible content, might inform the recipient about the location and time it was captured, and even the gadget utilized.

This holds true for social media platforms — an image uploaded online harbors details that might not only jeopardize the user but also disclose, perhaps, their whereabouts. Moreover, e-commerce transactions and various online actions create such digital traces. However, not everyone is acquainted with the concept of file metadata at present.

In this piece, we will elucidate the potential hazards of file metadata, ways to safeguard it, and how to individually eliminate undesired data embedded in transmitted images and other files.

The dangers of metadata

All our online activities — sharing images, and files, posting articles, curating music playlists, shopping, and so forth — create so-called digital traces besides the conveyed information. These are generated mainly due to metadata. Frequently, this reality is overlooked by the general populace, escalating the risk of unauthorized activities.

By analyzing, say, images on social platforms, a malefactor can deduce a victim's regular routes, favorite spots, and preferences. Utilizing this data, they might orchestrate a phishing scheme or employ social engineering tactics.

It's vital to note that corporations are equally, if not more, vulnerable compared to individual users when metadata falls into the wrong hands. Metadata can often assist criminals in decoding pilfered data. Hence, without comprehending the file's content and its potential use, cyber criminals resort to metadata, facilitating a quicker comprehension and monetization of the stolen assets. Alternatively, they might exploit metadata to ascertain the software utilized by a firm and plan a more targeted assault.

Metadata is generated automatically, without user intervention. Typically, it encompasses details about the creation time and place, attributes, author's remarks (if added to the file), and information about the software version used during creation. This data is quite personal and sensitive, given that in certain scenarios, metadata can narrate the history of file transfers and modifications.

The purpose of metadata

Primarily, metadata facilitates license restriction implementation and author identification. Furthermore, it aids websites and apps in organizing and recognizing content. And, for telecom operators, it helps in monitoring user engagement on specific platforms.

Any targeted marketing, audience segmentation based on preferences, location, habits, and professional sphere, stems from analyzing user metadata, or more precisely, the digital imprints left on social platforms and the broader internet. Metadata enables marketers to discern not only your smartphone model but also alarmingly accurate search queries.

Securing and erasing metadata 

Metadata is safeguarded similarly to conventional data, particularly concerning organizations rather than individual users. For the layman, the optimal approach is to erase metadata prior to file transmission to prevent the dissemination of unnecessary data and avoid leaving digital traces.

On an iPhone, it's straightforward to remove photo metadata:
• Launch the Photos application and choose the image you wish to strip of metadata
• Tap the "Share" symbol at the lower right corner and opt for the "Do not retain metadata" feature
• Press the "Done" button

To view a file's metadata on Android, Google Photos needs to be downloaded, and for deletion, a third-party application is required. Numerous choices are available in the store; it's advisable to scrutinize the description and additional features while selecting.

Additional tools and tips

Also, websites offering metadata removal services are excellent tools where you can effortlessly upload files prior to sending them, without the necessity to download anything or alter device settings. It should be noted that free versions impose file size restrictions, generally up to 5MB.

As per experts, the supreme strategy for metadata protection is to eliminate any metadata that might disclose sensitive details before dispatching a document anywhere. Moreover, if required, app software can be pre-configured to prevent metadata storage in documents altogether.

In the context of work-related files, metadata can be discarded when sharing them externally, but internally and when collaborating with contractors, metadata serves as a crucial component. Metadata functions as a historical record, aiding in understanding the preceding data, especially if older datasets are preserved.

Sensitive EXIF data encapsulates vital technical specifics about an image. It can reveal the camera or phone's brand and model, the creation time, and even the camera and flash configurations.

This data can be effortlessly deleted in Windows via Explorer. You need to launch it, navigate to the desired image, right-click on it, and choose "Properties," followed by the "Details" tab, where properties and personal information can be easily removed.

Conclusion

You can remove metadata using applications, online utilities, fundamental device configurations, and settings during transmission. However, remember that metadata can be beneficial, particularly concerning work-related matters. For instance, metadata can assist in identifying the software and editor used to create a file, its initial title, and creation date. This might facilitate file conversion or its utilization in a new system. Moreover, even a regular user might need to recall the time and place of file creation or image capture.

But it's essential to remember that if metadata isn't safeguarded, the same details can be accessed by an adversary and used against you. For instance, knowledge about the software version and other device specifics can be highly valuable for cyber criminals when choosing tools for.

Metadata 101

May 13, 2024 — 3 min read

2023 was characterized by an evolving array of cyber threats and a significantly broadened spectrum of digital vulnerabilities, pushing organizations to reassess and strengthen their cybersecurity infrastructures. Despite a widespread yearning for a break from the relentless tide of phishing, ransomware, and credential stuffing incidents, cybercriminals are gearing up to use their proven strategies from this period to orchestrate even more intricate and damaging campaigns in 2024. It’s become increasingly imperative for those in the cybersecurity realm to forecast and brace for the predominant challenges and trends that will define the cybersecurity landscape in 2024.

The following are key prognostications intended to serve as vital strategic insights for IT and cybersecurity professionals, aiding them in effectively prioritizing their efforts to navigate and mitigate the rapidly evolving threat landscape

Compromised credentials

The ongoing reliance on traditional usernames and passwords for access control and authentication has perpetuated the issue of compromised credentials. This has been a consistent weak spot, often exploited in cyberattacks. Detailed analyses of data breaches repeatedly pinpoint compromised credentials as a principal attack vector. Intriguingly, a study by the Identity Defined Security Alliance (IDSA) highlights that identity-related cyberattacks are both widespread (with 94% of respondents experiencing such attacks) and largely preventable (with a 99% prevention rate). Despite these alarming statistics, a significant number of organizations remain underprepared, lacking crucial identity-related security measures. This is particularly concerning given the rise of non-human identities stemming from digital transformations, such as in DevOps, cloud computing, and IoT (Internet of Things). Therefore, the expectation for 2024 is a continued emphasis on enhancing identity security, with organizations encouraged to intensify their implementation of Zero Trust models and decrease their dependency on traditional password-based systems.

Ransomware

Ransomware has proven to be a lucrative venture for cybercriminals, who exploit vulnerabilities within organizations to execute devastating attacks. Examples of these include high-profile breaches involving entities like the Kansas Court System, Yamaha Motors, and Western Digital. The emergence of Ransomware-as-a-Service has simplified the process of launching such attacks. Over the past year, ransomware tactics have evolved into complex extortion schemes, involving not just data encryption but also data exfiltration and threats of public disclosure if ransoms aren't paid. This trend was exemplified by the Alphv/BlackCat ransomware group's SEC complaint against MeridianLink. With new SEC disclosure regulations mandating prompt reporting of major cybersecurity incidents, such tactics are expected to gain even more traction. Therefore, enterprises are advised to enhance their ransomware preparedness, with a specific focus on the recovery of endpoints and essential infrastructure like Active Directory.

Hacktivism amidst global conflicts

The intersection of global conflicts and the upcoming 2024 Presidential elections in the United States is expected to create a fertile environment for hacktivism. Hacktivists, often self-identified as defenders of free speech, may seek to disrupt the controlled flow of information during times of conflict or elections by exposing sensitive data or initiating cyberattacks. This could lead to a blurring of lines between state-sponsored hacking and independent hacktivist activities. The role of hacktivists in influencing public opinion through various cyber operations, including the potential use of deepfake technologies, is expected to be significant in 2024.

Vulnerability management 

In response to the increasing exploitation of zero-day vulnerabilities by cyber adversaries, the White House's National Cybersecurity Strategy, released in March 2023, has redirected focus towards organizations' responsibility to secure their software. This strategy underscores the importance of comprehensive vulnerability management, which involves identifying, assessing, prioritizing, and mitigating security vulnerabilities. This increased emphasis on liability for independent software vendors is anticipated to drive technological advancements in vulnerability management tools and bring renewed attention to this critical aspect of cybersecurity.

Transformation in security awareness training

The realm of security awareness training is poised for a significant transformation in 2024. With the widespread adoption of generative artificial intelligence in the sphere of cyber threats, traditional training methods are becoming obsolete. Future training programs are expected to integrate continuous breach and attack simulations (BAS) to test and enhance the effectiveness of user-focused controls. These programs will also likely focus on equipping software developers with secure coding practices to preemptively address vulnerabilities.

Conclusion

In summary, the year 2024 emphasizes the crucial need for a delicate balance between robust cybersecurity measures and the resilience to adapt to cyber threats. As IT and security professionals prepare for the challenges ahead, prioritizing the continuous visibility, protection, and management of the entire digital attack surface is paramount. Protecting mission-critical assets and developing the capability to anticipate, withstand, recover from, and adapt to various cyberattacks will remain at the forefront of effective organizational cybersecurity strategies.

Five cybersecurity predictions for 2024

May 5, 2024 — 5 min read

Of course, losing access to your Google or Gmail account is going to be upsetting. If you've forgotten your password, or if someone has hacked into your account and changed it, Google provides a list of actions that you may take to regain access to your account. Indeed, they may come in handy at times, but the methods of password recovery for Google accounts tend to change from time to time and relying on them as a fallback is never a good idea.

Not only have we provided all the necessary links in the “Password recovery” section down below for those who have lost access to certain accounts, but we’ll today be focusing on what can be done to ensure you never lose access to your account again. Here are some things to consider:

Regularly backup your data

If you have a current backup of your data, it will be less of a blow if you ever lose access to your account. Takeout is the name Google has given to the feature that allows you to download your data. You may download all of the data from all of your Google applications, or just part of the data from some of them. You might even decide to download the data from a single app, such as Gmail, from your Google account.

For each sort of data, the download formats are different. For example, MBOX files may be imported to Gmail or most other email services and applications.

Keep your old passwords

Keep a copy of your old passwords in case you forget your current one. Google uses this method to verify your identity if you ever lose your password. In the event that you haven't updated your password in a while, you may not be able to recall your old password. It's a good idea to maintain a copy of your previous Google passwords in a secure place when you change your password.

When using a password manager such as Passwork, you can keep track of your previous passwords. Because of that, we strongly recommend using one. When you establish a new password on an app or website, most password managers only allow you to update the current entry; however, with a password manager, you may create a new password and then go back and change the name of the old one to something like "Gmail — old password". By the way, this is also a problem with Apple Keychain — when you change your password, it asks whether you would like to update your old password. You’ll obviously press “Update”, and bam, your previous password is lost in the void. So keep an eye on that.

Why is this important? Well, as we’ve hinted at, Google asks you to enter the previous password in some cases as a fallback plan.

Fill in the recovery info

Google provides you with many ways to recover your password:

  1. Go to your Google account and choose "Security" from the left-hand column
  2. Scroll all the way down to "Ways that we can verify that it’s you"
  3. Fill them in
  4. PROFIT

Now, Google will use those options to recover your password when needed, or just to verify it’s you when weird login behaviour is detected. Among all the options, the ‘Recovery phone’ is the most convenient one — trust me, you’ll forget that ‘Security Question’ in just a few days. ‘Recovery email’, to be honest, isn't secure enough — we, Earthlings, tend to use weak passwords, so your account might be compromised if a hacker manages to guess your ‘NicknameDateOFBirth’ password.

Remember the day you registered

If everything else fails, Google may ask you to provide an estimated date of when you created the account. The best way to get this date is by searching for a Gmail welcome email.

To locate the welcome email, go to the ‘All Mail’ folder on your computer (to see it, you may need to click ‘More’ to expand the folders). You may also hover your cursor over the page information in the upper right-hand corner and choose ‘Oldest’.

This will move the email you received first to the top of the list. If, on the other hand, you imported non-Gmail emails into your inbox from before 2004, the welcome email will not appear at the top of the inbox hierarchy. Also, if you haven’t imported all of your emails, you’ll encounter some problems.

The email may also be found by searching for "welcome," "Gmail team," "gmail-noreply@google.com," or "googlecommunityteam-noreply@google.com," among other similar words and phrases.

However, when I personally tried it, I couldn't find it. This is because I delete all the mail on my account once a year. For people like myself, there’s a weird hack — your POP settings might show the date on which you created your Gmail account.
To access them, click the gear icon in the top right-hand corner, select See all settings, then click Forwarding and POP/IMAP.

Look for the Status line in the POP download section. If you're fortunate, you'll come upon the following information:

Status: POP is enabled for all mail that has arrived since [Here is your date]”

Important:

If you’ve ever changed your POP settings, the date on which you created your Gmail account won’t be shown.

Password recovery

There’s only one place where you can recover your password — it’s this “Google Recovery” page. Everything else is likely phishing scams. The only other alternative option, in case of an adversary like losing your password, is the “Can’t sign into your Google Account” page.

Basically, you should follow the instructions on screen and pray to Google's mothership that hope shall be restored.

If your prayers haven’t been heard, and all pages cycle through a loop with a “Please try again” message, visit the “Tips to complete account recovery steps” page — it helped me several times to understand exactly what Google wants from me.

The last page you can visit, if everything else fails, is “Create a replacement Google Account”.

Conclusion

If you have important data stored on any cloud: Gmail, Google Drive, Docs, etc. — back them up using offline storage. Use two-factor authentication to always keep your mobile phone as a recovery option. Keep hold of your password change history and remember the date you registered your account.

I forgot my GMail password!

Feb 10, 2024 — 4 min read

Are you having trouble remembering your passwords or accessing your account? Perhaps you’re stressing out that you may have been hacked? Well, in any case, restoring your Facebook account utilising reliable Facebook account recovery solutions shall be covered by this article, so buckle up!

In order to regain access to your Facebook account, you can use one of several automated methods. Many are based on the information you provided when you set up your account, which isn’t helpful if you can’t remember the most important piece of information you provided when you set up the account — your password. Also, some information will be out of date, like your recovery phone number or your active email address.

And even if all methods listed below fail, we’ve got an alternative for you right at the very bottom of the article.

Firstly, make sure that you aren't still logged into Facebook somewhere else!

Android and iOS Facebook apps, as well as mobile browsers may all be used to access the site, so you might be logged in on them.

If you are logged in, you can ‘recover’ your account by simply changing the password, and it can be done without a confirmation reset code!

But if you are not logged into Facebook on other devices or browsers — try Facebook's Default Account Recovery Methods.

If at all feasible, log into your Facebook account using the same internet connection and computer or phone that you've used on a regular basis in the past. If Facebook detects your network and device, you may be able to reset your password without having to provide any extra information to Facebook. But first and foremost, you must authenticate your account.

Find and recover your account by providing contact information

The best option is to directly go to the Facebook Recovery Page.

To sign in, enter an email address or phone number that you previously associated with your Facebook profile. When looking for a phone number, test it both with and without your country code, for example, 1, +1, or 001 for the United States; all three variants should work just fine. Even if it doesn't explicitly say so, you may use your Facebook credentials to log in — instead of your mobile number or email.

Your profile will be summarised once you have successfully identified your account, as seen in the screenshot below. Please double-check that this is indeed your account and that you still have access to the email address or phone number mentioned before proceeding. The option of choosing between email or phone recovery may still be available to you.

If everything appears to be in order with the contact information that Facebook has on file for you, though, click Continue. A security code will be sent to you by Facebook.

Retrieve the code from your email or phone (depending on whatever method you used), input it, and rejoice in the knowledge that you have regained access to your Facebook profile.

At this point, you have the option of creating a new password, which we highly advise you to do.

If you don't receive the code via email, check your spam folder, or make sure you can receive text messages from unknown senders if the code doesn't arrive to your mobile.

If you are still unable to receive the code, choose Didn't get a code? from the drop-down menu. You can return to the previous screen by clicking the X in the bottom-left corner of the Enter Security Code box.

Maybe you'll get lucky and discover that you don't, in fact, have access to the account at all!

Log back into your Facebook account

You should immediately reset your password and update your contact information if you have regained access to your Facebook account after a suspected hijacking.

To keep your Facebook account safe, follow two simple rules. Don't forget to get rid of any email addresses or phone numbers that you no longer have access to. Also, enable two-factor authentication on all of your social media accounts in order to prevent a loss of access in the future.

Don’t forget, the Facebook Help Community is a great place to find answers to your issues.

If all else fails, creating a new Facebook profile might not be as bad as you think

Over the past few years, we've received a large number of letters from users who were unable to regain access to their Facebook accounts, despite following each and every one of the instructions listed above.

Typically, their contact information was out of date, the recovery codes offered by Facebook were ineffective, or the corporation never responded to their request for identification verification. And at that point, you’re pretty much out of options.

You have to accept the fact that you must move on. Even though it's painful, you must learn from your mistakes and register a new user account.

Always include legitimate contact details, don’t forget to up the security on your Facebook account, and completely re-create your profile from the ground up. Despite the inconvenience, it’s a better option than doing nothing. Not to mention, you won’t have any of those embarrassing old photos, and you can only add people as friends that really matter to you now.

How to recover your Facebook account