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NCSC Urges Customers to Stay Aware About Scams On E-commerce Platforms


National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) made a final request to customers prior to the busiest weekend before Christmas, to be aware of fraud and data theft attacks. The GCHQ agency requested customers to secure their devices, be informed about unsolicited messages, and reduce the size of information they input into online shopping websites and e-commerce websites. As per the banking body of UK Finance, around €22 bn was spent online on Christmas shopping last year because of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Currently, with the rise of the Omicron variant, 2021 probably experienced a similar pattern, risking more customers vulnerable online. The attacks may come in many forms, it may include phishing emails having fake shipping details, and fake warnings about hacked accounts or fake gift cards which require the user to share personal details in order to use the offers. Customers may also be contacted through social media messages and emails having "unbelievable" offers for popular discount gift items, like electronics. Once the customer falls for these tricks, he loses his money along with banking details and personal information, which is stolen by the hackers. 

As per NCSC, the urge to buy last moment presents during a festival may be a reason that customers fall victim to such attacks easily. In order to be safe, users can follow some practical steps like having a strong password on websites before placing an order. It is advised to use strong, unique passwords with two-factor authentication for every account, especially banking, email and payment services. Online customers are also advised to avoid unsolicited notifications, particularly messages linked to suspicious websites, and platforms that depend on payment with a credit card. 

Lastly, customers should log in as guests while making a purchase to avoid revealing too much personal information. As per NCSC, "if you think your credit or debit card has been used by someone else, let your bank know straight away so they can block anyone using it. Always contact your bank using the official website or phone number. Don't use the links or contact details in the message you have been sent or given over the phone."

Pinterest soon to join the Online Classes Plethora


With 400 Million monthly active users (a 30% increase from last year), Pinterest is gaining foot among millennials and Gen Z. And their secret of success is their creative interface and their constant new features that attract Gen Z to the platform for future growth, learning, and inspiration. And thus, the photo-sharing social app is aired to be testing online events where users can sign up for Zoom classes by creators. 

The organization confirmed that the feature is undergoing tests with selected users but didn't comment further either on the confirmation or the launch. 

The creators can organize lessons through Pinterest’s class boards, manage class materials, notes, and other resources, and connect through a group chat option. The classes would work through communities- similar to pinboards, if a user wants to join a class, they'll have to click on a sign (a book) to join and they will be mailed with the class detail and zoom link. The communities will be a space to inform about notes, photos, class overview, description, group chat, and more. like lists of what to bring to class, notes, photos, and more. 

The feature was discovered by reverse engineer Jane Manchun Wong on Tuesday by looking into class details. Though, she adds that clicking on these links results in nothing as the feature is not yet active. There are some demo profiles that you can check out: “@pinsmeditation” or “@pinzoom123,” but their communities are empty.

 "We are experimenting with ways to help creators interact more closely with their audience," a Pinterest spokesperson said in a statement. 

 The social media company is constantly on the rise with 442 million global monthly users and a 50 percent increase in Gen Z loggers. Their Q3 revenue rose to 58 percent and a 60 percent increase is expected in Q4. With these numbers, it is no shock that the company will invest in new features and quirks for their users, and what could be more beneficial than online classes during a worldwide pandemic. As Pinterest commented, "We continue to navigate uncertainty given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and other factors".

Is a cyber pandemic looming over our heads?

The year 2020 is proving to be quite a hassle and the adversities don't seem to be slowing down. COVID-19 has already created atypical conditions of living with complete lock-downs and travel restrictions. We would like to think that after COVID-19, when the vaccine will come everything would return to normal and things would go back to the way they were. It's a comforting thought but quite far from the truth.

It seems that COVID like incidents would become the new normal, the world is not as invincible as we thought. The modern world is prone to disasters, pandemics, and environmental catastrophes. And the next mishap staring us in the face is a cyber pandemic. Security researchers have predicted that a “Cyber Pearl Harbor” or “Cyber 9/11” is inevitable. These assumptions disappeared with time due to lack of evidence but in the wake of COVID-19 doubts like these are resurfacing.

The Check Point CEO warns “that the new reality created by the coronavirus pandemic will cause threats in the cybersecurity field to rise, and that countries need to protect themselves against the coming ‘cyber pandemic.’ “What happened in the last three months pushed forward five, maybe even 10 years of technological evolution,” he says. “More services moved online; companies removed barriers. We allowed developers to work just from within the company physically, so we could keep our intellectual property.  In one day, we had to change all of that and allow people to access from home. This rapid change means hackers will find a way. The hackers can find a way to hack a personal computer of an employee and through them get into our Crown Jewels.”

Though the World Economic Forum gives a ray of sunshine saying that this corona pandemic has thought us how to fight off and prepare for the "inevitable global cyberattack". A good thing out of this pandemic is that it teaches us about cybersecurity and the measure of the impact a massive attack would have to better prepare ourselves for this sort of assault.

 The World Economic Forum states three lessons-
  •  Speed of the attack

They predict that a cyberattack would spread exponentially faster than any biological virus. The RO (reproductive rate ) of COVID-19 is two to three whereas the 2003 Slammer/Sapphire worm (fastest worm) doubled every 8.5 seconds.

  • The Economic Impact 

World Economic Forum says that the digital economic shutdown will put a similar dent, which may be greater to the economy as the one currently. The only way to prevent the spread of the digital virus would be to shut down systems and machines to break the chain and one day without internet would cost the World a loss of 1 billion dollars.

  •   Recovery 

The recovery would no doubt be challenging in both measures - to replace the infected devices and damage recovery.

But there are learning to be taken from COVID-19 that these sorts of attacks can happen and to be better prepared for them. Effective communication, coordination among private and public sectors, and a substitute for digital work will go a long way to battle the upcoming cyber pandemic.

Microsoft rolls out a new threat intelligence against COVID-19 attacks

COVID-19 has become a hotspot of cyber attacks and spams as the majority of employees are working from home. These growing numbers of attacks have made security firms and tech industries quite concerned. But Microsoft has come to the rescue, rolling out a new COVID-19 threat intelligence.

Microsoft announced on its blog a new move that will improve security and can be availed easily. The company has introduced a COVID-19 threat intelligence made available from May 14, sharing feeds for Azure Sentinel customers and publicly available for everyone on GitHub. So, even if you are not a Microsoft customer worry not, you can still protect yourself from these COVID-19 based attacks. This data is only available for a limited period only until the pandemic threat looms over our heads.

“Microsoft processes trillions of signals each day across identities, endpoints, cloud, applications, and email, which provides visibility into a broad range of COVID-19-themed attacks, allowing us to detect, protect, and respond to them across our entire security stack,” Microsoft stated in their blog. “Today, we take our COVID-19 threat intelligence sharing a step further by making some of our own indicators available publicly for those that are not already protected by our solutions.”

Users with Microsoft Threat Protection need not go through this, they are already protected with Microsoft Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) and email with Office 365 ATP.

These COVID-19 threat intelligence indicators are available on the Azure Sentinel GitHub via Microsoft Graph Security API.

Best Protection from COVID-19 Threats 

Hackers and Cybercriminals have been using an array of malicious ways from malware to phishing emails for their own gain. This move by Microsoft will shift the balance and go a long way to protect and defend from such threats.

Security researcher Sean Wright says, "Microsoft certainly deserves credit for this. It will be especially useful for those who are struggling at the moment and don’t necessarily have the funds to afford services that organizations would normally have to pay for.”

“This information is going to be very useful to enable many volunteers in the community to help organizations and others. It is the correlation of data—especially threat intelligence—that will go a long way to help stop the threat actors out there who are actively targeting organizations and individuals.”

Some are critical of this announcement by the tech giant pointing out that it is "too little, too late".

 “I’m not saying it’s not welcome but where was this support nine weeks ago?” says Ian Thornton-Trump. 

Ian Thornton-Trump, CISO at Cyjax points out “It’s clever marketing and has some value—although most, if not all, those indicators of compromise (IOCs) will be available from a multitude of cyber threat intelligence sources, feeds and vendors already.”