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Most Notorious Hacking Attacks on News Media

2013 is increasingly becoming the year of hacking attacks, with major news media outlets and social networking sites becoming hacktivists’ target. While some hackers target government websites to denigrate those portals, some focused on social media and biggest news media worldwide. The most notorious attackers of them are the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA). Led by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Syrian Electronic Army (SEA) has attacked a third-party link network called Outbrain to hack major media organizations which are linked to the same network. In addition to the website and the organizations, users of these media portals were also affected and suffered inconvenience to a certain degree. These top media hacks include –

Fox News: Earlier on July 4, 2011, a message popped up stating assassination of President Barack Obama on the Twitter account of Fox News media site. As soon as the incident exploded as an erroneous announcement, a secret service was appointed to investigate the incident. As it found out that the furor was created by a group called Script Kiddies. One of the members of Script Kiddies revealed to Stony Brook University’s Think magazine that they targeted Fox News as “their security would be just as much of a joke as their reporting”.

NBC: Hackers attacked NBC.com in February, 2013 as they loaded the website with the Citadel Trojan malware which were being automatically transferred to visitors’ systems. Visitors put them into potential threat with the ‘drive-by downloading’ malware attack on NBC.com site. The site was also temporarily blacklisted by Google.

AP: another notorious hacking activity included hackers’ taking on Twitter account of Associated Press in April of 2013. They triggered a social media panic by posting a false message stating “Breaking: Two Explosions in the White House and Barack Obama is injured.” Though the message turned out to be false, but it cost AP a significant $130 million drop until the White House announced and denied the claim. This was the first big media hack which was hit by Syrian Electronic Army (SEA). Earlier it had also attacked other major media sites including BBC, Reuters, NPR and others. The AP attack involved sending phishing emails to AP reporters containing fake links to dupe reporters to click on those links.

Another major media hack was the attack on the New York Times, made by SEA in August 2013. The attack took place two weeks after the attack on Washington Post’s website thus making the two biggest media hacks of all time. SEA posted a tweet stating “Hi @Twitter, look at your domain, its owned by #SEA:)” which hindered many users to access the account and images; this Twitter breakdown lasted for about 90 minutes while the NYT hack lasted for hours.

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Social Media Spam Swelled up to 355% – Are We Safe Here?

We have been familiar to spam attack on telephone calls and text messages, email messages and now spammers have chosen social media. Explosive social media spam increase is recorded at 355% in the first half of 2013, according to a new study conducted by Nexgate. Spammers are using different types of distributional mechanisms throughout all major social networks such as Facebook, Google Plus, YouTube, Twitter and other networks.

What kinds of spam are rounding at social media networks?

Phishing attacks

Spammers are using a plethora of mechanisms with link and text-based spammers are the most widespread techniques they have adopted to bait unsuspecting social media users. These text links work as phishing attacks and take target users to spammers’ webpage or website which will often lure or deceive users to give personal information, ploy sympathetic request top to spread the spam message within recipients’ circles and even worse, ask for money or credit card credentials or bank account details.

Like-jacking?

Most social media networks feature ‘Like’ buttons and spammers have devised new methods to goad social network users to click such similar buttons and take such actions. Have you thought that you are secure because you are not clicking any fake links, but those harmless like buttons then, be prepared to hear this. Spammers are creating fake accounts and social bots in order to trick users into clicking images or icons which appear as such buttons. According to Nextgate, these new spamming attacks may significantly affect social media presence businesses as well as returns on their social media marketing campaigns.

Other finds of this study on social media spam increase revealed that security systems are able to detect only 15% of links as spam and 5% social media apps as spam. Furthermore, 20% of all social media spammy apps are actually identified as brand-owned social media pages. Fake spammy profiles are able to generate greater mass of content and popularity than genuine social media profiles. And worst still, out of 7 social media accounts, 5 accounts are detected to be of spammers.

Therefore, you need to watch out before you like any social media profile, page or content. Is verifying these links and protecting your PC against social media spam too complicated to handle on your own?

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Google™ fixes 18 security flaws in Google™ Chrome

Google has announced the release of newest version of its popular Chrome web browser after fixing 18 security glitches and has also added a easy-to-use new feature for its customers.

Updating Chrome

Seven of the vulnerabilities that were fixed in the Chrome version 19.0.1084.46 were classified as high-risk flaws, which means that they could be exploited to take control of infected systems. The users of Chrome can update to version 19 by clicking the wrench icon in the top right corner of the browser and selecting ‘About Google Chrome’.

The latest release of Google Chrome even allows the users to access the open tabs they viewed on their office PC with their tablet or smartphone. To do so the user has to sign in to his Google account. Signing into Chrome syncs other browser settings too, including bookmarks, apps, extensions, history, and themes.

Facebook® proposes further changes to privacy policy

Facebook has announced that it intends to make further some changes to its privacy policy in order to respond to an audit by the Irish government. This move has been seen as an inadequate attempt to subdue privacy concerns prior to Facebook’s planned initial public offering by privacy advocates.

Will there be any major changes?

The proposed changes, which the company put out for public comment this weekend, do not indicate any major shifts in its policy. A major part of the document clarifies how Facebook is using the data of its users. The company has also updated the policy to reflect newer features, such as cover photos.

The proposed changes are not final. A document highlighting the proposed changes can be viewed on the official website in PDF form, along with an explanation of the changes. Facebook is asking for user feedback and will host a web question-and-answer session about the changes on May 14 at 9 a.m. Pacific time.

According to privacy analysts, once Facebook goes public, it will be under pressure to generate more revenue and will probably resort to selling personal information for targeted advertising to accomplish that goal.

Passwords of Twitter® account holders exposed

The passwords of thousands of Twitter users were exposed this week by hackers. Twitter is investigating this data breach, which resulted in the posting of user names and passwords of Twitter account holders on Pastebin, a favorite site for hackers to showcase their ill gotten achievements.

What Twitter has to say on this

Twitter spokesman Robert Weeks said:
“We are currently looking into the situation. In the meantime, we have pushed out password resets to accounts that may have been affected. For those who are concerned that their account may have been compromised, we suggest resetting your passwords and more in our Help Center.”

Twitter is considering this leak as not a big threat as much of the information posted to Pastebin appears to be garbage. There are some 20,000 duplicates, many of the accounts belong to suspended spammers and some of it consists of ‘unlinked’ information, information where the user name does not correspond to the password paired with it.

More Malware Targeting Android

Malware specifically targeted to Android devices is a growing concern as researchers discover new variants of Android malware.  Researchers have recently discovered a new variant of the Trojan DroidDream.  Google had removed apps from the market that was affected by this Trojan.   Google also found out malware that were designed to send premium SMS from the Android phone thus raising the phone bill of the user. Some malware that were discovered were data stealing Trojans that specifically were targeted to steal one time bank SMS pass codes. Google had removed apps that were targeted by malware from Android Market and also removed them other alternative apps market including markets in China.

Lookout, a mobile security firm was first to warn the Android users community about the new variants of the Trojan DroidDream which was named as DroidDream Light. Google had removed the malware from the Android market immediately after the reports. The malware was available for download only for short period and only 1,000-5000 downloads of the malware were recorded.

Lookout has also issued warning about four other applications in the Android market; QuickFallDown, BubbleBuster, Scientific Calculator and Best Compass and Leveler all published by Mobnet.  Though these are legitimate apps, users may accidentally download a malware which has a similar name. For example, the legitimate filename of app Best Compass and Leveler may be “com.gb.compassleveler.” The malware with similar name may have  a filename such as  “com.gb.CompassLeveler”’ Lookout has also reported that variants of DroidDream found in late May and  March  do not depend on users actions for activation  which means  they do not required to be launched or started by user in order to execute its malicious code. The malware has the ability to modify the next connection time. The app can command and control the Trojan Distributor server that is used for communication with the malware.  The malware can initiate download of other infected apps in the already infected Android device from the Trojan distributor server.  The malware can also visit malicious web address and download other infected apps. It also has the capacity to update itself.

Researchers working at North Caroline State University have warned about new Android malware “HippoSMS”. The malware is mainly distributed from alternative apps markets in China.  HippoSMS   sends text messages to a premium rated number. This Android malware also blocks communication messages sent by telecom service provider that updates and informs the customer about additional charges.

Fortinet, a security firm has discovered a banking Trojan targeted towards Android devices.  The malware presents itself as a banking activation application. Once installed it listens to all incoming text messages and forwards them to a remote Web server. Banks generally send one-time pass codes through text message which can be easily seized by this malware.

Android users can protect themselves from malware by exercising caution while downloading apps. They should download apps only from trusted portals or sources on Internet.  They should also look for apps and developers rating before downloading the app.

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