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InfoSec News Nuggets 01/25/2021

After big hack of U.S. government, Biden enlists ‘world class’ cybersecurity team

President Joe Biden is hiring a group of national security veterans with deep cyber expertise, drawing praise from former defense officials and investigators as the U.S. government works to recover from one of the biggest hacks of its agencies attributed to Russian spies. Disclosed in December, the hack struck eight federal agencies and numerous companies, including software provider SolarWinds Corp. U.S. intelligence agencies publicly attributed it to Russian state actors. Moscow has denied involvement in the hack. Under a recent law, Biden must open a cyber-focused office reporting to a new National Cyber Director, who will coordinate the federal government’s vast cyber capabilities, said Mark Montgomery, a former congressional staffer who helped design the role.


Intel says financial graphic was ‘hacked,’ forcing early release of 2020 report

Even the leak of a single infographic can be a big deal for a major corporation. Intel Corp. had to act fast Thursday afternoon when it discovered that an infographic from its unpublished quarterly report had been circulating outside the company. As a result, the chipmaker posted those fourth quarter 2020 financial results a few minutes before the stock market closed at 4 p.m., instead of afterward. Chief Financial Officer George Davis told the Financial Times that the graphic had been “hacked” from the company’s public relations newsroom website. Intel has not specified who the thief might be, or where the graphic had been illicitly shared online.


This web app will tweak your photos to flummox facial-recognition systems

A group of computer scientists has released a privacy-focused web application to poison people’s online images so they confuse commercial facial recognition systems. The application, called LowKey, is intended to protect people from unauthorized surveillance. It’s based on an adversarial attack technique developed by University of Maryland boffins Valeriia Cherepanova, Micah Goldblum, Shiyuan Duan, John Dickerson, Gavin Taylor, Tom Goldstein, and US Naval Academy researcher Harrison Foley. It alters images so facial recognition systems can’t easily use the data to find the depicted person in another image. The authors say that the facial recognition systems deployed by government agencies, contractors, and private companies depend on massive databases of images harvested from the internet.


How to tell if your webcam has been hacked

There’s a good reason so many people put tape over their computer webcams or use a dedicated webcam cover to shut them off: Webcams can be hacked, which means hackers can turn them on and record you when they want, usually with a “RAT” or remote administration tool that’s been secretly uploaded. This type of attack may target anyone. Ransomware attempts generally try to take control of anything that can be used to make cash. As a result, many malware try to infect webcams so hackers can (potentially) get content suitable for extortion. To keep your webcam privacy, it’s important to have good anti-malware software — but you should also know the signs if someone has gained control of your cam. Here’s what to watch for.


FTC issues first fines using a law against ticket scalping bots

Most live events simply aren’t an option due to the pandemic, but that isn’t stopping the FTC from cracking down on ticket scalper bots. The regulator has taken its first legal action using the Better Online Ticket Sales (BOTS) Act meant to punish these scalping practices. The owners of Concert Specials, Just in Time Tickets and Cartisim face a total of $3.7 million in fines for using bots to automatically scoop up “thousands” of tickets and resell them to would-be guests. In addition to the bots themselves, the companies allegedly broke the law by hiding their internet addresses and using bogus Ticketmaster accounts (plus credit cards) to dodge purchasing rules. The perpetrators made “millions of dollars” from the practice, the FTC said. The fines originally amounted to a much steeper $31 million, but the Commission cut them back due to an inability to pay.


Tesla sues former employee for allegedly stealing 26,000 confidential files

Tesla has sued a former employee for allegedly stealing about 26,000 confidential files in his first week of working at the company, according to a court filing seen by AFP. The company said on Friday that within three days of being hired, software engineer Alex Khatilov “brazenly stole thousands of trade computer scripts that took Tesla years to develop” and transferred them to his personal Dropbox, a cloud storage service. Tesla said that when confronted by Tesla’s security team, Khatilov claimed he had only transferred “a couple of personal administrative documents”, whilst trying to delete the evidence. Khatilov told the New York Post the software files ended up in his Dropbox by mistake when he had been trying to make a backup copy of a folder on his computer.


Russian government warns of US retaliatory cyberattacks

The Russian government has issued a security warning to organizations in Russia about possible retaliatory cyberattacks by the USA for the SolarWinds breach. Last month, the SolarWinds network management company disclosed that they suffered a sophisticated cyberattack that led to a supply chain attack affecting 18,000 customers. The US government believes that this attack was conducted by a Russian state-sponsored hacking group whose goal was to steal cloud data such as email and files from high profile US corporations and government agencies. In responses to questions about the cyberattack, White House press secretary Jen Psaki indicated that the USA might retaliate in kind to whoever has conducted the attacks. “We reserve the right to respond at a time and in a manner of our choosing to any cyberattack. But our team is, of course, just getting on the ground today, they’re just getting onto their computers,” NBC News reported.


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