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LAUSD Computers are Breached via Cybercriminals

According to Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), the second-largest school district in the U. S., the Vice Society ransomware group has stolen files containing private information, including Social Security Numbers, from contractors (SSNs).

Additionally, LAUSD disclosed that the threat actors were present on its network for more than two months, from July 31 to September 3, 2022. The group claimed to have stolen 500 GB of data from the school system's systems to BleepingComputer before distributing the stolen material, but they offered no supporting documentation.

Experian's IdentityWorksSM, which aids in detecting information misuse, is being made available to contractors and their staff members by LAUSD for free for a year. The FBI, CISA, and MS-ISAC jointly released an advisory warning of Vice Society's excessive targeting of the U.S. education sector on the day LAUSD reported the ransomware attack. Hackers replied to L.A. Unified's refusal to pay a ransom by exposing the data they obtained into the dark web, where other nefarious characters may use it for identity theft.

The school district declared it would not comply with the cybercriminals' ransom demands in order to better utilize the money for its students and their education, the ransomware group released data from LAUSD.

Data theft is simply one aspect of an operation. The second step entails encrypting computer systems so that users are unable to access them and daily business is rendered impossible. Although basic tasks, such as classroom instruction and record-keeping, were more challenging for approximately two weeks, hackers were able to encrypt systems in the district's facilities division. Schools never had to temporarily close, as in other places when various school systems were targeted.

The revelation in the notice came as no surprise to cybersecurity professionals. They anticipated that an examination would show the system intrusion started earlier than was initially reported. Officials from the school district did not disclose the number of potential victims. When there are more than 500 California citizens affected, the required number for public notification, a notice letter should be filed with the state attorney general in addition to notifying the victims.

SRF: Investigation Links Qatar to FIFA Hacking and Ex-CIA Operative’s Firm

 

Qatar reveals to have launched a large-scale and long-standing operation against FIFA officials via ex-CIA operatives. With Switzerland serving as a key operator, the highest circles of the Qatari government were as well involved in the espionage operation that was working in secret. 

With the intelligence agents involved planned on swaying the world events in the operation and hackers stealing controversial information and data, the operation was in fact funded by an anonymous client with hundreds of millions of dollars. 

The issue came to light when an investigation by Swiss media SRF’s investigative team ‘SRF Investigativ’ shared details of how the state of Qatar had officials of the world football spied on. Additionally, the investigations showed how the non-FIFA critics of the upcoming World Cup were targeted as well. 

According to the English- version of the report by Tariq Panja from The York Times, The SRF News revealed that Qatar hired an ex-CIA operative Kevin Chalker’s “Global Risk Advisors” firm for “predictive intelligence” on FIFA officials who would attempt on moving the World Cup from the country, via their predictive intelligence efforts allegedly involving computer hacking through intermediaries. 

The ultimate goal of the said efforts is to prevent Qatar from losing the World Cup bid, following the massive criticism that was raised when FIFA awarded the tournament to the authoritarian country in 2010. 

The scope of the covert activities remains considerable, since at least 66 operators were expected to be deployed over the course of one sub-operation alone for over nine years. Moreover, a budget of $387 million was allocated for the operation, with the activities spanning five continents. 

The SRF investigations dig the credentials against the ex-CIA agent Chalker. The investigation deduces that initially, before the World Cup awarding in December 2010, Chalker apparently served as an espionage operator for various bids. But as the criticism raised regarding corruption and human rights violation after the 2010 World Cup was awarded, the target was eventually changed. Now, the goal shifted to preventing FIFA, from taking the World Cup from Qatar, at all costs. 

The investigation showed that Switzerland was the most prominent factor to Qatari intelligence operation. Since, Chalker travelled to Zurich at the demand of Qatar with the intention of bugging the hotel rooms of journalists and members of the Executive Committee. One of the documents revived, included photos taken covertly as a part of surveillance operation. These photographs were reportedly taken at Zurich’s plush Baur au Lac hotel, and showed individuals connected to FIFA meeting with officials and journalists. 

Apparently, FIFA mostly remined oblivious to the spy operation. Sepp Blatter, FIFA’s former President, commented in an interview with SRF, “That there was an organized espionage affair in FIFA, that surprised me. And it's alarming.” Although, several documents indicate that Blatter was of great interest to the spies. The documents mention, for instance, that Blatter’s “plans and intentions” ought to be known in advances. 

Besides, Chalker and Global Risk Advisors are currently dealing with a civil lawsuit, in regard to connection to similar alleged activities. The lawsuit was filed by former US president Donald Trump ally Elliot Broidy. Broidy accused Chalker and his company of a hacking attack on behalf of Qatar, after Broidy’s personal data was leaked to newspapers in 2018. Although, Chalker denies all allegations. The lawsuit is still pending.

 Bangladesh Cyber Incident Response Team has Issued a Warning About Malware Attacks Around Eid

 

Officials have warned of a possible cyber-attack on Bangladesh's financial and other key institutions' computer systems during the Eid vacations. According to a statement issued by the Digital Security Agency, the affected authorities must install or update anti-DDOS hardware and software. 

Officials believe the warning was sent by the government's specialized cyber-threat agency as a global cyberwar erupts in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, with NATO assisting the latter with arms support. 

The Bangladesh Computer Council's e-Government Computer Incident Response Team (BGD e-GOV CIRT) also recommends all key information facilities' internal systems be checked and monitored.

Following the current conflict between Ukraine and Russia, Tarique M Barkatullah, director (operations) of the Digital Security Agency and project director of the BGD e-GOV CIRT, stated “hackers from both sides are using important information infrastructures of different countries to spread botnets and malware and attack each other.” 

Botnets are computer networks infected with malware (such as computer viruses, key loggers, and other malicious code or malware) and remotely controlled by criminals, either for monetary gain or to launch assaults on websites or networks. 

BGD e-Gov CIRT discovered over 1400 IP numbers used in Russia after analyzing the warning message issued by the Russian Computer Security Incident Response Team. According to the CIA, hackers are using these IPs to spread propaganda and launch distributed denial of service (DDoS) operations. 

Tareq M Barkatullah, project director of BGD e-Gov CIRT, remarked in this reference: “The country's afflicted financial institutions and public service suppliers are being hampered in providing its usual services due to the exploitation of these IP-enabled Bangladeshi servers."

According to the Financial Express, Prof Dr. Md Salim Uddin, chairman of the executive committee of Islami Bank Bangladesh Limited (IBBL), several financial institutions have been targeted by cyber-attacks as a result of the current crisis between Ukraine and Russia.

IBBL is well-prepared to thwart any cyber-attack because it is always adopting new technological solutions. Among the internal systems, he emphasized strengthening cyber-security with new tech solutions and monitoring systems. To prevent all types of cyber threats, financial institutions should join an organization or platform to improve cooperation and integration. He further urges the government to expand collaboration and support in this area in order to combat rising cyber-threats in the future.

Kaspersky Discovered Purple Lambert to be a Part of the CIA

 

Kaspersky Lab, a cybersecurity company, has uncovered a new malware that analysts believe is linked to the US Central Intelligence Agency. Multiple antivirus providers obtained a series of malware samples in February 2019, according to Kaspersky experts, some of which cannot be linked to the operation of established APT classes. There were no parallels between these malware strains and malware affiliated with other APT classes.

Although an initial investigation revealed no common code with any previously-known malware samples, Kaspersky recently re-analyzed the files and discovered that “the samples have intersections with coding patterns, style, and techniques that have been used in different Lambert families,” according to the company. Lamberts is Kaspersky's internal codename for tracking CIA hacking operations.

Kasperksy has dubbed this new malware cluster Purple Lambert due to the shared similarity between these recently found samples and previous CIA malware. The malware samples seem to have been collected seven years earlier, in 2014, according to Purple Lambert metadata. Although Kaspersky has not seen any of these samples in the wild, it believes Purple Lambert samples were “most certainly deployed in 2014 and probably as late as 2015.”

“Although we have not found any shared code with any other known malware, the samples have intersections of coding patterns, style and techniques that have been seen in various Lambert families. We therefore named this malware Purple Lambert.” states the APT trends report Q1 2021 published by Kaspersky. “Purple Lambert is composed of several modules, with its network module passively listening for a magic packet. It is capable of providing an attacker with basic information about the infected system and executing a received payload. Its functionality reminds us of Gray Lambert, another user-mode passive listener. Gray Lambert turned out to be a replacement of the kernel-mode passive-listener White Lambert implant in multiple incidents. In addition, Purple Lambert implements functionality similar to, but in different ways, both Gray Lambert and White Lambert.” 

While the Lambert APT (also known as the Longhorn APT) has been present since at least 2008, the first samples were discovered in 2014. The group is extremely advanced, and it has penetrated organisations all over the world with a sophisticated cyberattack network that can hack both Windows and Mac systems. The researchers discovered and studied numerous backdoors and hacking methods that make up the cyberespionage group's arsenal over the years.

No app can stop CIA from reading your messages, says Pavel Durov



In an article titled "What does the "Year Zero" and "Vault 7" stuff from Wikileaks mean?", Pavel Durov, the Founder of social network Vkontakte and messenger Telegram, explained how CIA can read your messages even if you are using a secure messaging application.

Durov said that the hackers do not need to directly hack the targeted applications. Instead, they can exploit the vulnerabilities in the mobile operating systems to access your sensitive information and messages.

"To put 'Year Zero' into familiar terms, imagine a castle on a mountainside. That castle is a secure messaging app. The device and its OS are the mountain. Your castle can be strong, but if the mountain below is an active volcano, there's little your engineers can do." he explained. "So in the case of 'Year Zero', it doesn't matter which messenger you use."

He explained that the hackers can gain access to your keyboard that allows them to know which key you press.

"No app can hide what shows up on your screen from the system. And none of this is an issue of the app." said Durov

The founder of the Telegram urged the main developers of operating systems and devices, such as Apple, Google or Samsung, immediately start fixing their vulnerabilities.

He said that normal users do not need to worry about this. But, if the CIA is on your back, it doesn't matter which messaging apps you use as long as your device is running iOS or Android.