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How API Security is Emerging as a Potential Threat to Data-Driven Enterprises

Application programming interfaces play a big role in data-driven enterprises since they rely largely on their software application architecture. APIs have led to a sea change in the way we use web applications as they act as a communication pipeline between numerous services. Using APIs, developers can incorporate any contemporary technology into their architecture, which is quite helpful for including functionality that a consumer needs. 

APIs, by nature, are at risk of getting the application logic or sensitive data exposed, such as personally identifiable information (PII). Since APIs are generally accessible over public networks, they are often well-documented and can easily be manipulated and reverse-engineered by a threat actor. Additionally, they are susceptible to DDoS attacks. 

Since most significant data leaks happen as a result of defective, vulnerable, or hacked APIs, exposing data like medical, financial, or personal information, it is crucial to ensure the security of APIs. Additionally, if an API is not properly secured, it could result in numerous cyberattacks, making API security essential for today's data-driven enterprises. 

Critical API vulnerabilities and attacks 

In recent times, APIs have emerged as a preferred method for establishing more advanced applications, significantly for mobile devices and the internet of things (IoT). however, some businesses still need to fully understand the possible risks pertaining to their APIs while making them accessible to the public, given the continually evolving application-development methodologies and pressure for innovation. 

Businesses should as well be cautious of these typical security errors before public deployment.

Authentication flaws: Many APIs deny requests for authentication status made by legitimate users. Threat actors could take advantage of these exploits in a variety of ways by replicating API requests, such as session hijacking and account aggregation. 

Lack of encryption: Several APIs lack encryption layers present between the API client and server. Flaws as such could lead a threat actor into intercepting unencrypted or stealing sensitive data via unencrypted or inadequately protected API transactions. 

• Flawed endpoint security: Since most IoT devices and microservices are created in order to communicate with the server via an API channel, hackers often attempt to acquire unauthorized access over them through IoT endpoints. This frequently causes the API to reorder its sequence, leading to a data breach. 

Challenges Faced by API Security

As per Yannick Bedard, head of penetration testing, IBM security X-Force Red, one of the challenges in API security in current times is going through tests for security, for intended logic flows could be difficult to understand, and test it is not clearly comprehended. 

Bedard tells VentureBeat, “In a web application, these logical flows are intuitive through the use of the web UI, but in an API, it can be more difficult to detail these workflows […] This can lead to security testing missing vulnerabilities that may, in turn, be exploited by attackers.” 

“It is common for services to inherently trust data coming from other APIs as clean, only for it to turn out to not be properly sanitized,” says Bedard.  “Malicious data would eventually flow to backend APIs, sometimes behind many other services. These APIs would, in turn, be vulnerable and could provide the attacker an initial foothold into the organization.”

“The top challenge is discovery, as many security teams just aren’t sure how many APIs they have,” says Sandy Carielli, principal analyst at Forrester. 

Carielli said that many teams unknowingly deploy rogue APIs or there may be unmaintained APIs that are still publicly accessible, which can lead to several security hazards. 

According to her, many teams obliviously use rogue APIs, and there may be unmaintained APIs that are still accessible to the general public. This poses a number of security risks. “API specifications could be outdated, and you can’t protect what you don’t know you have,” she said. “Start by understanding what controls you already have in your environment to secure APIs, and then identify and address the gaps. Critically, make sure to address API discovery and inventory.” 

Best practices to enhance API security 

Listed are a few approaches that may be utilized in order to effectively secure your system against API intruders: 

API gateway: API gateway serves as the cornerstone of an API security framework, since it is easy to create, administer, monitor, and secure APIs, and serves as the cornerstone of an API security framework. The API gateway can enable API monitoring, logging, and rate limitation in addition to protecting against a variety of threats. Additionally, it may automatically validate security tokens and restrict traffic depending on IP addresses and other data. 

Web application firewalls (WAF): WAF serves as a layer between traffic and the API gateway or application. It offers an additional security layer against threat actors, like bots, by providing malicious bot detection, the ability to detect attack signatures, and additional IP intelligence, WAFs can be useful for preventing malicious traffic from entering your gateway in the first place. 

Security applications: Standalone security applications with features like real-time protection, static coded and vulnerability scanning, built-time checking, and security fuzzing can as well be incorporated into the security architecture. 

Security in code: An internal form of security that is built into the API or apps is security code. However, it can be challenging to apply uniformly across all of your API portfolios the resources necessary to verify that all security measures are applied appropriately in your API code.   

North Korea Uses Stolen Cryptoassets to fund its Nuclear Weapons Programs

International investigators and researchers have claimed that North Korea, in recent months is responsible for stealing $300 million worth of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, which was done through hacking and other mass cyberattacks. 
The crypto assets are allegedly stolen in order to pay for North Korea's nuclear weapons program. In regards to this, a row has broken out in South Korean political circles over Korea's politicians’ and other leaders' ties to crypto developer Virgil Griffith. 
This development comes after North Korea’s missile launches have intensified in the past 10 days. In the wake of the recent nuclear attacks on the island of Hokkaido, more than 5 million Japanese citizens were urgently ordered to take cover as a protective measure. Pyongyang claims that these missile launches were “simulations” for nuclear attacks on South Korea. 
As per Military analysts, a large part of this missile launch is being funded, using the stolen cryptocurrency. North Korea is believed to have employed thousands of well-trained hackers, who have affected South Korean businesses and organizations. It has also been accused of exploiting its cyber skills for financial gains. 
According to Yonhap, one of South Korea's major news sources, the UN Security Council’s North Korea Sanctions Panel has blamed the North Korean cyber organization such as ‘Lazarus Group’ for Ronin Bridge and the Harmony bridge hack. 
As per the experts, the hermit state is utilizing the absence of worldwide regulatory constraints on cryptocurrencies, in order to steal cryptocurrencies to fund nuclear weapons and missile projects. 
In an interview with the VOA Korean Service, Jason Barlett, a researcher at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) stated, “Cryptocurrency offers Pyongyang a new kind of currency that is substantially less regulated and understood by national governments, financial institutions, and institutions, and international organizations.”  
In accordance with a report by Nikkei Asia, North Korea is in the penultimate phase, to prepare for a nuclear weapon test, with such incidents pointing to the excavation of an underground tunnel and testing of triggering mechanisms.

Albanian President Holds Meeting with NSC Over Iran Cyber Attacks Led by HomeLand Justice


In the wake of the ongoing cyber attacks led by hackers group HomeLand Justice, the Albanian President Bajram Begaj recently held a meeting with the National Security Council (NSC) in the Albanian capital, Tirana on 10th October, Monday. The meeting, attended by senior government officials was conducted in order to discuss the issue of persistent cyberattacks, carried out against state infrastructure by Iran. 

The meeting was attended by Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, Prosecutor General Olsjan Çela, Director General of Police Muhamet Rrumbullaku, Chairman of the Security Commission Nasip Naço, and senior intelligence officials. 

The threat actors referred to as HomeLand Justice is a hacker group sponsored by the Iranian government’s advanced persistent threat (ATP) actors. The hackers attempted to paralyse public services, and delete and steal governmental data, disrupting the government’s websites and services, which created a nuisance in the state. 

Earlier this year, in July, HomeLand Justice took to social media, demonstrating the attack pattern of advertising the Albanian Government about the leaks, and posting polls asking the viewers to select the hacked information they want to be published.  

A similar attack was launched in September against the Albanian government, possibly instigated in retaliation for public attribution of the previous attacks, it severed diplomatic ties between the governments of Iran and Albania. 

Over the weekend, threat actors published the hacked data pertaining to employees of the State Police on the Telegram channel operated by Homeland Justice. The leaked data involved names, personal information and photographs, ID numbers, age, name, and photo. 

Although not much information has been provided about the meeting that lasted for two hours, Finance Minister Delina Ibrahimaj briefed about the meeting in an unrelated press conference. 

“In fact, it is the role of the president to call the national security committee on various issues. We discussed the current issues of cyber attacks. Each institution reported on the measures taken, on the level of impact and on the measures that will be taken in the future to cope with the situation”, stated Delina. 

The National Security Council was last addressed on 14th February 2022 by former president Ilir Meta in regard to Russia-Ukraine tensions.

Moody's Intensifies its Scrutiny Of the 'Riskiest' Sectors Of the Economy


According to Moody's Investors Service, nearly $22 trillion of global rated debt has a "high" or "very high" level of cyber-risk exposure. This includes electrical, gas, and water utilities, as well as hospitals, which are among the sectors with the greatest risk of cyberattacks.

In total, Moody's has rated nearly 80 trillion dollars in debt across 71 different sectors across the globe. This represents a quarter of Moody's $180 trillion in debt that Moody's has rated across 71 different sectors worldwide. This represents an increase of nearly a billion dollars from the firm's 2019 numbers.

According to Moody, the Cyber Heatmap takes into account two factors, namely exposure and mitigation. It weighs both equally across all the sectors that it rates for this report.

A major component of exposure is the industry's "systemic role" - the fact that it is appealing from an attacker's perspective in terms of disrupting a wide array of industries, along with its interconnectedness with other sectors. It has also been emphasized that "digitalization" has increased the attack surface by extending its digital footprint.

The mitigation plan will include measures to reduce perimeter vulnerability as well as basic cybersecurity practices based on financial loss estimates. While determining perimeter vulnerability, Moody's takes into account at-risk open ports and patching cadence, which it gathers from data and metrics provided by cyber-ratings company BitSight, in which Moody's owns a minority stake, which provides data and metrics about open ports and patching schedules.

"It has been mentioned before that poor patches can have a significant impact on a company's risk of ransomware, as well as reports of a high rate of ransomware instances," BitSight chief risk officer Derek Vadala said in a press release.

According to Moody's, this year's Heatmap provides insight into cyber risk within the 71 sectors. The information is based on exposures and mitigations, which Moody's has categorised as "low," "moderate," "high" and "very high" risk. Utility companies were found to have high levels of cyber risk.

In this sector, which has a total amount of $2.5 billion in collective debt rated by Moody's, there are both regulated and self-regulated electric utilities operating in the generation, transmission, and distribution of electricity and gas. There are also unregulated electric and power companies, as well as water and wastewater companies. Moody's noted, "this does not mean the issuers within these sectors have weak cybersecurity practices."

Most economists believe that it has more to do with the "multiplier effect across an economy," as per the report. Cyberattacks that knock out a regional power grid, for example, will have far more consequences than simply for the utility itself. Hospitals may be unable to provide life-saving surgery or critical medicine to patients if a cyberattack knocks them out of service. For assisted living facilities, it would be extremely challenging for them to keep their elderly residents comfortable during heat waves or cold snaps. This is because they cannot provide heat or air conditioning.

There is no doubt that this is why critical infrastructure has become such an attractive target for cybercriminals seeking to cause the most damage, as evidenced by the seemingly constant barrage of government warnings regarding nation-state threat groups targeting power systems and infrastructure.

As far as cyber risk is concerned, non-profit hospitals also ranked extremely high when it comes to the threats they face. In Moody's view, non-profit hospitals are particularly attractive targets for attackers because of the huge amount of data that these institutions possess, as well as the average mitigation measures, they have in place to reduce the impact of potential cyber threats. 

Banks, the technology sector, telecommunications, and midstream energy are some of the sectors with the highest levels of risk. Meanwhile, in the Heatmap, some sectors have moderate levels of risk, such as advanced economies and emerging regions, regional and local governments, manufacturing, retail, and apparel, and integrated oil.

In conclusion, low-risk sectors include structured finance, real estate, independent exploration and production, mining, and public housing, which are all low-risk sectors. The analysis evinces how there has been a significant increase in the number of ransomware attacks against hospitals and healthcare organizations over the last few years which in turn calls for strict cyber security measures. 

Anonymous : 900,000 Emails From Russian State Media Were Leaked


Anonymous which has been trying to target Russia since the invasion of Ukraine has reported more attacks against critical infrastructure sectors, including one which used an "improved" version of Russian Conti ransomware, and has called for the targeting of companies for proceeding to do business in Russia after the slaughter of Ukrainian civilians in Bucha. 

More than 900,000 emails by the All-State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company were purportedly leaked by the NB65 or Network Battalion 65 group, which is linked to the famed hacker collective Anonymous (VGTRK). 

DDoSecrets, a non-profit whistleblower site for news leaks, has rendered the 786.2 GB cache accessible to the public as a torrent file after NB65 apparently shared the hacked emails with them on Monday. In this regard, Emma Best, a co-founder of DDoSecrets said, "An unprecedented expose of state-owned media and propaganda which the Russian government views crucial to the state security."

A hacker organization called NB65 has been infiltrating Russian entities, collecting private data, and exposing it online for the past month, claiming the attacks are related to Russia's occupation of Ukraine. The emails, according to the Everyday Dot, span more than 20 years of correspondence and include discussions about daily operations as well as sanctions put on Russia by many other countries in reaction to its invasion of Ukraine.

Tensor, the Russian space program Roscosmos, and VGTRK, the state-owned Russian Television and Radio broadcaster, are among the Russian organizations said to have been targeted by the hacking group. The stated theft of 786.2 GB of data, comprising 900,000 emails and 4,000 files, was released on the DDoS Secrets website following the attack on VGTRK. Since the end of March, the NB65 hackers have been using a new tactic that is attacking Russian institutions with ransomware assaults. 

Conti's source code was released after the company allied with Russia in the Ukraine invasion, and a security researcher obtained 170,000 internal chat conversations and source code for the company's operation. 

Threat analyst Tom Malka first alerted to NB65's activities but was unable to locate a ransomware sample, and the hacking gang refused to provide it. This changed when a sample of the NB65's updated Conti ransomware executable was published to VirusTotal, letting us see how it functions. 

On VirusTotal, almost all antivirus vendors identify this sample as Conti, and Intezer Analyze discovered it shares 66% of the code with other Conti ransomware samples. When encrypting files, gives NB65's malware a run for its money.

The All-Russian State Television and Radio Broadcaster (VGTRK) is Russia's largest media conglomerate, with five national television channels, two major international networks, five radio shows, and over 80 regional television and radio networks under its umbrella. The ransomware will also leave R3ADM3.txt ransom notes all over the encrypted device, with threat actors accusing President Vladimir Putin of invading Ukraine for the attacks. 

JupyterLab Web Notebooks Targeted by Unique Python-Based Ransomware


The first-ever Python-based ransomware virus specifically tailored to target vulnerable Jupyter notebooks has been revealed by researchers. It is a web-based immersive computing platform which allows editing and running programs via a browser. Python isn't widely used for malware development, instead, notably, thieves prefer languages like Go, DLang, Nim, and Rust. Nonetheless, this isn't the first time Python has been used in a ransomware attack. Sophos disclosed Python ransomware, particularly targeting VMware ESXi systems in October 2021. 

Jupyter Notebook is a web-based data visualization platform that is open source. In data science, computers, machine learning, and modular software are used to model data. Over 40 programming languages are supported by the project, which is used by Microsoft, IBM, and Google, as well as other universities. According to Assaf Morag, a data analyst at Aqua Security, "the attackers got early access via misconfigured environments, then executed a ransomware script it encrypts every file on a particular path on the server and eliminates itself after execution to disguise the operation." 

The Python ransomware is aimed at those who have unintentionally made one's systems susceptible. To watch the malware's activities, the researchers set up a honeypot with an exposed Jupyter notebook application. The ransomware operator logged in to the server, opened a terminal, downloaded a set of malicious tools, including encryptors, and then manually generated a Python script. While the assault came to a halt before completing the mission, Team Nautilus was able to gather enough data to mimic the remainder of the attack in a lab setting. The encryptor would replicate and encrypt files, then remove any unencrypted data before deleting itself. 

"There are over 11,000 servers with Jupyter Notebooks which are internet-facing," Aqua researcher Assaf Morag stated. "Users can execute a brute force attack and perhaps obtain access to some of them — one would be amazed how easy it can be to predict these passwords." We believe the attack either timed out on the honeypot or the ransomware is still being evaluated before being used in real-world attacks." Unlike other conventional ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) schemes, Aqua Security described the attack as "simple and straightforward," adding since no ransom note was displayed on the process, raising the possibility the threat actor was experimenting with the modus operandi or the honeypot scheduled out before it could be completed. 

Regardless, the researchers believe it is ransomware rather than a wiper weapon based on what they have. "Wipers typically exfiltrate data and delete it or simply wipe it," Morag continued. "We haven't observed any attempts to move the data outside the server, and the data wasn't just erased, it was encrypted with a password," says the researcher. This is even additional evidence this is a ransomware attack instead of a wiper."

Although evidence discovered during the incident study leads to a Russian actor, citing similarities with prior crypto mining assaults focused on Jupyter notebooks, the attacker's identity remains unknown.

Indian Banks Failing to Protect Their Cyber Security


Indian Banks Failing to Protect Their Cyber Security In Thane, Maharastra some unidentified fraudsters hacked the server and tampered with the data of a cooperative bank. According to Police, the hackers allegedly siphoned off Rs. 1.51 crore to various accounts from the Dombivli Nagarik Sahkari (DNS) bank on March 12. 
Following the attack, a case has been registered against unidentified persons under section 420 (Cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and section 65 of the Information Technology Act at Manpada police station under the Kalyan division who has started a probe into the incident in collaboration with Thane cyber police.  
The security incident draws light on the issue of bank frauds that have become deep-seated in the Indian Financial System. In just over seven years, Indian banks have witnessed frauds surpassing $5 trillion with total fraud loans amounting to Rs. 1.37 lakh crore in the last year alone.  
Shocking scams like Punjab National Bank (PNB) scam (2018), Cosmos Bank cyberattack (2018), Canara Bank ATM Hack (2018), along with many other vishing, phishing, ATM skimming, and spamming attacks have continued to plague Indian banks over the recent years. With an increase in digital-based transactions, money cheating cases have also witnessed a sharp rise. The techniques and resistance measures employed by banks to safeguard their customers’ financial data and money have met with progressive and sophisticated hacking techniques used by fraudsters in India.  
John Maynard Keynes, after examining the condition of banking in India said banking in India should be conducted on the safest possible principles while calling India a “dangerous country for banking”. The apprehension has proven to be prophetic in the modern world as financial institutions failing to conduct prudent banking have become the center of monetary scams. Reportedly, the State Bank of India (SBI), HDFC Bank, and ICICI Bank constituted a majority of incidents totaling more than 50,000 fraudulent incidents in the last 11 fiscal years.  
Digitalization in India has led to the manifestation of ‘Digital Money’ and cashless transactions have been on a continual rise. Consequently, the protection of data and privacy becomes more important as a fragile cybersecurity system can have serious repercussions for any bank’s customer base.  
Data breaches have emerged to be a serious threat in the banking sector which further amplifies the need for an impenetrable banking system as recovering from data breaches and regaining control of a breached server can be extremely stressful and time-consuming. In order to strengthen the evolution of the banking system, banks require to identify and plug the gaps in security. Part of the problem can be attributed to the accelerated pace of digitization which has increasingly required the same kind of investment on the cyber hygiene side as well.  
Some of the viable measures that banks can undertake include proactive security techniques like ‘Whitelisting’ (blocks unapproved programs while only allowing a limited set of programs to run) and BIOS passwords (prevents external access to systems and servers). Awareness of employees, stringent filtering, and communicating regularly with regional offices are some of the other preventive measures as advised by the security experts.

Carpet Bombing DDoS Attacks Increased in 2021


In a carpet bombing, a DDoS attack targets different IPs of any company in a short span of time, these account for 44% of total attacks that happened last year, but the difference between the first and second half of 2021 is huge. Carpet bombing accounted for 34% of total attacks resolved in Q1 and Q2, however, the attacks increased in the second half accounting for 60% attacks and 56% attacks in Q3 and Q4 respectively. The longest attack recorded 9 days, 22 hours, and 42 minutes, however, these were over within minutes. Around 40% of the attacks were observed by SOC in 2021 in the first quarter of 2021. 

The figures dropped in second and third quarters while rising again in the fourth quarter. "The domain name system (DNS) has long been a popular target for DDoS attacks, both as an amplification vector and as a direct target, as well as for other types of exploits," reports Helpnet Security. Attacks varied in nature compared to the past few years. Single attack vectors account for 54% of attacks in 2021, in comparison to 5% in 2020, representing more activity of attackers. Also, the number of attacks using more than four-vectors also increased, accounting for a record 4% of total attacks, this means when an attacker gets serious, it gets difficult for victims to protect themselves. 

Botnets continue to be the main part in DDoS attacks in 2021, security experts are discovering new botnets and command and control (C2) servers every day. The high-profile botnet in 2021 was Meris, it uses HTTP pipelines to stuff web applications, bombarding websites and apps with large numbers of requests per second. The SOC also observed high-intensity amplification km DDoS attacks, which use familiar vectors like DNS and Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) and new variants as well. 

The report covers how web apps are vulnerable from different fronts, threats against web services have risen with the increase in usage of web applications, making web apps the top hacking vector in the attacks. "While the vast majority of attacks fell into the 25 gigabits per second (Gbps) and undersize category, and the average attack was just 4.9 Gbps last year, 2021 saw many large-scale attacks as well. The largest measured 1.3 terabits per second (Tbps) and the most intense was 369 million packets per second (Mpps)," reports Helpnet Security.

The USA will Continue to Support Ukraine in Ensuring Cybersecurity


The U.S. authorities will continue to support Ukraine aimed at improving its cybersecurity. U.S. Undersecretary of Homeland Security Robert Silvers said Thursday. 

He claimed at an online cybersecurity conference that they have been warning publicly and privately for months that cyberattacks could be part of a large-scale Russian effort to destabilize and invade Ukraine. “Of course, we offer support to Ukraine to help Ukraine strengthen its cyber defenses. We will continue to do so in the days ahead." 

According to Silvers, the American side also works closely with other international partners and strengthens its own security. "At the moment, there are no specific and credible threats [from the Russian Federation] to the United States [in cyberspace], however, we, of course, are attentive to the fact that Russia may consider [options] for escalation in ways that may have an impact on other [countries] outside Ukraine. So we are actively working here in the US with industry representatives, with owners and operators of critical infrastructure to strengthen protection," he added. 

The Washington Post newspaper in its article reported on hackers associated with Russia, who, if necessary, will bring down many networks of Ukraine. At the same time, the publication refers to American intelligence data. "We don't know if they intend to do this. But we are working with Ukraine to strengthen their cyber defense," the unnamed official's words are quoted in the article. 

On Tuesday, the Information Security Center of Ukraine announced a DDoS attack on the websites of the Ministry of Defense, the Armed Forces, state Privatbank and Oschadbank. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki noted at a briefing on Wednesday that Washington is not yet ready to say who the US authorities consider responsible for these cyberattacks. The press secretary of the President of the Russian Federation Dmitry Peskov said earlier that Russia has nothing to do with cyberattacks in Ukraine. 

EU Ready to Send a Mission to Kiev to Fight Cyberattacks


The EU countries, while discussing the situation around Ukraine, expressed their readiness, if necessary, to adopt a set of sanctions against Russia. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said this on Monday after the EU Council meeting in Brussels. 

"This meeting showed a great degree of agreement between the Europeans and the United States. This cohesion is very important," he said, adding that diplomatic efforts are underway in connection with the escalation along the Ukrainian border. 

"I was greatly impressed by the firmness of the Europeans and their willingness to jointly present a set of sanctions, measures to contain Russia in order to prevent an offensive - military or otherwise - in Ukraine," Le Drian said. 

On the night of January 14, the websites of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Agrarian Policy and Food were subjected to massive cyberattacks. Hackers posted messages warning residents to "fear and expect the worst." In addition, Ukrainians were warned that the allegedly personal information of residents of the country, which was uploaded to the "common network," would be destroyed without the possibility of recovery. 

According to Deputy Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine Sergei Demedyuk, hackers associated with the intelligence services of Belarus are behind the cyber attack on Ukrainian departments. Later, a criminal case was opened on the fact of the cyber attack. 

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki noted that the United States is in contact with Ukraine regarding the incident, and also offered its assistance in the investigation. According to her, the United States, its allies, and partners are "concerned about this cyberattack." 

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg announced that the organization will sign an agreement with Ukraine on strengthening cyber cooperation. He condemned cyberattacks on the government of Ukraine. 
On December 21, the American newspaper New York Times reported that the United States and Great Britain secretly sent a group of cybersecurity specialists to Ukraine. As specified, the West wants to help Kiev to be ready for allegedly preparing cyber attacks.

Saltzer Health Says Patient Data Exposed in Cyberattack


Saltzer Health, an Intermountain Healthcare company has recently witnessed a cyberattack. The company has started alarming its employees and patients about the breach and sent alerts informing them that their protected health information might have been compromised following a hack on a connected third party. 

According to the static data, the company operates 12 clinics and urgent care facilities in Boise, Caldwell, Meridian, and Nampa, Idaho. After the attack’s findings, the company issued a statement in which it stated that the attackers had access to the employee email account between May 25 and June 1, 2021. 

Also, during the investigation researchers discovered that the email account did contain personal data that was compromised during the period of unauthorized access. Compromised data includes names, contacts, driver’s license numbers, and state identification numbers, and, in some cases, social security numbers and financial account details. 

Additionally, medical information that has been compromised includes medical history, diagnosis, treatment details, physician information, and prescription medication information, along with health insurance information. All impacted individuals will receive two years of identity theft detection resolution services. 

While the company did not issue any statement on the number of affected personnel, the company told the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that 15,650 individuals’ data was potentially compromised during the hack. 

The company said that it has taken steps to mitigate the risk of data theft including resetting the affected email accounts passwords and also monitoring its systems for any suspicious activity. 

“Saltzer Health encourages all individuals to remain vigilant against incidents of identity theft and fraud by reviewing account statements and explanation of benefits, and monitoring free credit reports for suspicious activity,” the organization says.

Novel Fileless Malware Uses Windows Registry as Storage to Bypass Detection


Cybersecurity researchers from Prevailion Adversarial Counterintelligence Team (PACT), have unearthed a new fileless malware dubbed DarkWatchman propagated via a social engineering campaign. 

The RAT is designed to completely bypass detection and analysis; thereby could easily be employed in ransomware operations. DarkWatchman uses a complex domain generation algorithm (DGA) to identify its command-and-control (C2) infrastructure and exploit the Windows Registry storage operations.

The malware "utilizes novel methods for fileless persistence, on-system activity, and dynamic run-time capabilities like self-updating and recompilation," researchers Matt Stafford and Sherman Smith stated. 

“It represents an evolution in fileless malware techniques, as it uses the registry for nearly all temporary and permanent storage and therefore never writes anything to disk, allowing it to operate beneath or around the detection threshold of most security tools." 

According to the researchers, the RAT began its operations in November and exploited multiple known TLS certificates. Given its backdoor and persistence features, the researchers believe that DarkWatchman could be an 'initial access and reconnaissance tool' used by ransomware groups. 

Typically, ransomware operators need other attackers for managing the persistence and wide distribution of their programs. The use of fileless malware with such detection evading techniques helps the developers of the ransomware with better oversight over the operation beyond negotiating ransoms.

The novel RAT is both a fileless JavaScript RAT and a C#-based keylogger, the latter of which is stored in the registry to avoid detection. Both the components are also extremely lightweight. The malicious JavaScript code just takes about 32kb, while the keylogger barely registers at 8.5kb. 

"The storage of the binary in the registry as encoded text means that DarkWatchman is persistent yet its executable is never (permanently) written to disk; it also means that DarkWatchman's operators can update (or replace) the malware every time it's executed," the researchers said. 

Once installed, the malware can execute arbitrary binaries, load DLL files, run JavaScript code, and PowerShell commands, upload files to a remote server, update itself, and even uninstall the RAT and keylogger from the exploited device. The JavaScript routine is also responsible for establishing persistence by creating a scheduled task that runs the malware at every user log on. 

"It would appear that the authors of DarkWatchman identified and took advantage of the complexity and opacity of the Windows Registry to work underneath or around the detection threshold of security tools and analysts alike," the researchers concluded. "Registry changes are commonplace, and it can be difficult to identify which changes are anomalous or outside the scope of normal OS and software functions."

'The Community' Has Been Sentenced For a Multimillion-dollar SIM Swapping Conspiracy


The U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) has sentenced a sixth member of the international hacking group known as ‘The Community’ in association with a multimillion-dollar SIM swapping conspiracy. 

Garrett Endicott, 22 years old from Warrensburg, Missouri, is the last of the six accused that has been sent to prison in connection with a multi-million-dollar SIM-swapping conspiracy that targeted victims across the country, including in California, Michigan, Missouri, Utah, New York, Texas, and Illinois. He has been sentenced to 10 months and pronounced to pay $121,549.37 amount in reparation. 

Before delving into more details, first, we must understand what exactly went down? Let’s go over what SIM swapping is and how it usually plays out. 

SIM swapping or SIM hijacking, is a type of identity theft fraud wherein the perpetrator persuades phone carriers into porting their victims' cell services to SIM cards under their control. 

This usually happens by stealing the data of victims from numerous sources including data breach leaks, social media profiles, phishing, and other types of social engineering. Once this is done, the group of hackers gets access to the victim’s accounts that are linked to their phone number including email account, cloud storage, and cryptocurrency exchange accounts, etc. 

The main reason why cybercriminals do this is to intercept two-factor authentication (2FA) texts that give access to secure services such as banks and crypto-wallets. 

"Members of The Community engaged in Sim Hijacking to steal cryptocurrency from victims across the country, including California, Missouri, Michigan, Utah, Texas, New York, and Illinois, resulting in the theft of cryptocurrency valued, at the time of the theft, ranging anywhere between $2,000 to more than $5 million, from different affected parties,” the justice department said. 

"The actions of these defendants resulted in the loss of millions of dollars to the victims, some of whom lost their entire retirement savings. This case should serve as a reminder to all of us to protect our personal and financial information from those who seek to steal it said Acting U.S. Attorney Saima Mohsin for the Eastern District of Michigan”.

WIRTE Hacker Group Constantly Targeting Middle East Countries


Cyberattacks in the Middle East have typically been carried out by cybercriminals targeting the primary sectors of governments such as oil and gas sectors and other key industries, however, since 2019, a conspiratorial malware campaign is targeting the middle east region that used malicious Microsoft Excel and Word documents to victimize government and its important organs such as military groups, diplomatic agencies, law firms, and financial institutions mainly based in the Middle East. 

Russian cybersecurity company Kaspersky has investigated and confirmed that the state-sponsored hacking group, 'WIRTE' is behind the attacks. The earlier investigation done by Kaspersky researchers disclosed the method of targeting by the WIRTE group. “MS Excel droppers that use hidden spreadsheets and VBA macros to drop their first stage implant”, which is a Visual Basic Script (VBS) with functionality to amass system information and execute malicious code sent by the hackers on the vulnerable system. 

The cyber security researchers at Kaspersky have shown some possibilities after analyzing the campaign as well as the adversary’s toolset and methodology that the WIRTE group has links with other state-sponsored cyber groups known as the Gaza Cyber gang. Furthermore, Armenia, Cyprus, Egypt, Jordan, Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, and Turkey are among the countries that were affected. 

"WIRTE operators use simple and rather common TTPs that have allowed them to remain undetected for a long period of time. This suspected subgroup of the Gaza Cyber gang used simple yet effective methods to compromise its victims with better OpSec than its suspected counterparts,"  Kaspersky researcher Maher Yamout said.

"WIRTE modified their toolset and how they operate to remain stealthy for a longer period of time. Living-off-the-land (LotL) techniques are an interesting new addition to their TTPs. Using interpreted language malware such as VBS and PowerShell scripts, unlike the other Gaza Cyber gang subgroups, adds flexibility to update their toolset and avoid static detection controls," Yamout added.

Threat Actors Targeting Vaccine Manufacturing Facility with Tardigrade Malware


Biomanufacturing facilities in the US are being actively targeted by an anonymous hacking group leveraging a new custom malware called ‘Tardigrade’. 

In a new threat advisory, the Bioeconomy Information Sharing and Analysis Center (BIO-ISAC) claimed this week that the first attack was launched using this new malware in spring 2021, followed by the second assault in October.

 New malware strain

According to BIO-ISAC, Tardigrade possesses advanced features and is supposedly the work of an advanced threat detection group or a nation-state intelligence service. The malware is primarily used for espionage though it can also cause other issues including network outages. The recent assaults are also believed to be linked to Covid-19 research as the pandemic has shown just how crucial biomanufacturing research is when creating vaccines and other drugs. 

Tardigrade’s functionality includes a Trojan, keylogger, data theft, and also establishes a backdoor into targeted systems. There is some debate regarding the origins of the code used in Tardigrade as BIO-ISAC believes the malware is based on Smoke Loader, a Windows-based backdoor operated by a hacking group called Smoky Spider. However, security researchers that spoke with Bleeping Computer believe that it is a form of the Cobalt Strike HTTP. 

“The biomanufacturing industry along with other verticals are so far behind in cybersecurity, making them a prime target for bad actors. Cyberattacks mostly happen to those that provide easy access or least path of resistance,” George Gerchow, chief security officer of machine data analytics company Sumo Logic Inc., told SiliconANGLE. 

“This is a blatant example of how attackers are focusing on human health during a time of high anxiety, and bioscience is an easy target. The industry is going to have to move quickly to put proper cyber security controls in place. It is going to be a huge mountain for them to climb as some of the companies in the industry have antiquated technology, lacked the proper skill sets, and relied too much on legacy security tools,” Gerchow added. 

The BIO-ISAC report recommends the following steps for biomanufacturing sites that will enhance the security and response postures (i) Scan your biomanufacturing network segmentation, (ii)  Collaborate with biologists and automation experts to design a full-proof analysis for your firm, (iii) Employ antivirus with behavioral analysis capabilities, (iv) Participate in phishing detection training (v) Stay vigilant.

UK Man Arrested for Cryptocurrency Fraud, Sentenced 20 Years


A United Kingdom man who was earlier charged in the US for links to hacking celebrities' and politicians' Twitter accounts was recently arrested for stealing cryptocurrency worth $784,000 of cryptocurrency. Prosecutors in Manhattan, US said that Joseph James O'Connor (age 22) along with his partners stole Bitcoin, Litecoin, and Ethereum, after getting access to target's cellphone no. by linking it to SIM cards. 

O Connor, aka PlugwalkJoe, along with his partners orchestrated a SIM swapping attack targeting three Manhattan cryptocurrency company executives, stealing cryptocurrency from two clients, while laundering it. O Connor's lawyer isn't yet known. As per the prosecutors, the campaign ran from March 2019 to May 2019. O'Connor awaits possible extradition from Spain after the July arrest concerned with a last year's July hack which compromised several Twitter accounts and stole around $118,000 worth of Bitcoins. 

"It named the British man as Joseph James O'Connor and said he faced multiple charges. He was also accused in a criminal complaint of computer intrusions related to takeovers of TikTok and Snapchat accounts, including one incident involving sextortion, as well as cyberstalking a 16-year-old juvenile," reported Reuters earlier in July. These hacked accounts include current US president Joe Biden, former president Barack Obama, Ex Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Kim Kardashian, Elon Musk, and rapper Kanye West (currently known as Ye). 

The accused teenager, Graham Ivan Clark, the mastermind behind the Twitter hack, pleaded guilty in March in state court of Florida and is currently serving three years in a juvenile prison. The latest charges against Connor consist of money laundering and conspiracies to commit wire fraud, carrying a minimum of 20 years prison sentence, along with aggravated identity theft and computer hacking conspiracy. 

Reuters reports, "the alleged hacker used the accounts to solicit digital currency, prompting Twitter to take the extraordinary step of preventing some verified accounts from publishing messages for several hours until security to the accounts could be restored."

UMass Memorial Health Suffers Data Breach, 209,000 Users Affected


UMass Memorial health, a health care network based in Massachusetts reported a phishing incident that might have leaked personal information of hundreds of thousands of victims. An unauthorised access to restricted employee mail accounts lasted for around seven months, from June 2020 to Jan 2021, before the attack was identified, UMass Memorial said in its statement on the official website. UMass Memorial health consists a medical center, three other healthcare institutes along with a medical group, in a report to Department of Health and Human services mentioned about an email incident affecting around 209,000 individuals. 

According to UMass Memorial health, it confirmed the breach (on 7 January) when some employees' mail accounts were accessed by an unauthorised user. The information was posted on HIPAA-Breach Reporting Tool website (belonging to HHS' Office for Civil Rights.' Generally known as the "wall of shame," the website contains health data breaches impacting 500 or more users. The healthcare institute (on 25 August) concluded identifying the affected users whose information might have been leaked. 

For patients who have been affected with the breach, the leaked data includes names, ID numbers, subscribers, and election beneficiary information. Whereas for few individuals, driver's license number and social security numbers were also there in the breach. For health plan participant victims, the leaked data includes names, dob, health insurance information, medical record numbers and treatment information, like date of service, diagnoses, prescription information, procedure information and provider names. According to UMass, it does not have any evidence that any information was in fact viewed or accessed, only that it was simply contained within an email account that was compromised. 

UMass also says that there is no proof to suggest data misuse, however, the affected individuals would be offered one year complimentary credit and identify monitoring. "UMass Memorial Health says that to prevent similar incidents in the future, it has reinforced education with its staff regarding how to identify and avoid suspicious emails and the organization is also making additional security enhancements to its email environment, including enabling multifactor authentication," reports Gov Info Security.

RDP Attacks On A Massive Increase, Warns ESET Threat Report


Cybersecurity firm ESET released a report warning a sudden rise in attacks RDP (Remote desktop protocol) endpoints, besides this Nobelium gang has also been active against European government organisations. ESET data tells that attacks on RDP servers went upto 103.9% in its T1 June reports that ESET publishes three times a year. The report shows total number of identified brute force attacks to be 55 billion, owing to a hacking campaign targeting Spanish victims. From the T1 2021 ESET report, one would assume that RDP attacks would go down. 

However, it came as a surprise when RDP related attacks were found again. The pattern suggests a potential increase in hacking attempts, especially a stark one in T3, it being the busiest time of 2021. The RDP attacks notice a small increase in some parts, but there was a huge uptick in RDP attacks against the Spanish targets. ESET data suggests that the total number of attacks against the Spanish targets in August accounts for one third globally. In addition to Spain, the US, Germany and Italy were also in the list. A similar pattern was noticed in SQL password guessing incidents. Meanwhile there was a 200% increase in RDP related attacks, cryptocurrency attacks noticed a slight downside. 

ESET experts believe that there might be a relation between cryptocurrency attacks and cryptocurrency price, especially in matters of cryptomining. ESET says "our report even mentions PayPal's and Twitter's announcements which sent the prices of major cryptocurrencies up following this increase (visible in the trend toward the end of T2). If there are more high-profile adoptions/announcements supporting cryptocurrencies in the coming months, we expect their prices to grow and cryptomining to follow." 

Even though ransomware attacks observed a single digit deficit (ESET also linked it to fall in cryptocurrency prices), the company is sure that the problem still persists. It wasn't possible to keep a full account of ransomware attacks in T2 as it was too busy, however, some incidents couldn't be ignored. "The attack shutting down the operations of Colonial Pipeline – the largest pipeline company in the US – and the supply-chain attack leveraging a vulnerability in the Kaseya IT management software, sent shockwaves that were felt not only in the cybersecurity industry," says ESET.

US House Homeland Leaders Introduce Bipartisan Cyber Incident Reporting Legislation


Representative Yvette D. Clarke (D-NY), Chairwoman of the Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection & Innovation Subcommittee, along with other representatives and with other ranking officers of the Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection & Innovation Subcommittee, presented the Cyber Incident Reporting for Critical Infrastructure Act of 2021. Meanwhile, the Biden administration expressed public support during congressional testimony for such requirements. 

If this legislation is to come to fruition, it would require the DHS Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to organize requirements and procedures for critical infrastructure owners and operators to report cyber-attack incidents under this law. Additionally, under this legislation, critical infrastructure organizations and operators have to report cyber-attacks to the cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security agencies within 72 hours. 

The bill will also mandate it to organizations, including businesses with more than 50 employees, state and governments, and non-profits organizations, to report CISA of any ransomware payments they make within 24 hours. Along with this, the law reads that any organization when infected by ransomware should use recovery tactics instead of paying ransom to the attackers. 

According to the act, a new office will come into existence under CISA and it will be named “Review new Cyber Incident Office”. The office will be responsible for receiving, aggregating, and analyzing the reported cyberattack incidents. 

The introduced law is partly in response to a surge of major cyber-attacks particularly from ransomware that has hit the government agencies and private sectors which own and operate 85% of critical infrastructure. 

“As our nation continues to be faced with more frequent and increasingly sophisticated cyberattacks, authorizing mandatory cyber incident reporting is a key cybersecurity and national security priority,” said Chairman Thompson. 

“I applaud Chairwoman Clarke, as well as Ranking Member Katko and Ranking Member Garbarino, for their months of dedicated work to put together this legislation to require covered critical infrastructure entities to report certain cyber incidents to CISA. Once enacted, CISA will be on the path to getting the information it needs to identify malicious cyber campaigns early, gain a greater understanding of the cyber threat landscape, and be a better security partner to its critical infrastructure partners.” He added. 

Hackers Hit President Putin and Citizens at a TV show


Recently, a massive cyberattack took place while Russian president Vladimir Putin was answering citizen queries through the state-broadcast Rossiya 24 Network. The televised phone-in is an annual session where President Vladimir Putin gives answers to all questions that have been submitted by the citizens. 

However, this year's phone-in on Wednesday, which continued for four hours, faced connectivity issues, particularly when the president was answering calls from remote regions. 

"Our digital systems are right now facing attacks, powerful DDoS attacks," a Rossiya-24 presenter informed the Russian President after a caller from the Kuzbass region in southwestern Siberia experienced connection problems repeatedly. 

President Putin responded by saying “Are you joking? Seriously? Turns out we have hackers in Kuzbass.”

Russia’s telecommunications giant Rostelecom has confirmed massive cyberattacks and further informed that the network is adopting advanced countermeasures to prevent such kinds of cyberattacks. While currently it remains unclear as to who led this attack and no further technical details have been shared by the channel. 

Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the RIA Novosti news agency that “the origin of the attacks was unclear”. 

In June 2021, the world witnessed an important summit between Putin and US president Joe Biden wherein cybersecurity was one of the main topics on the agenda.

Furthermore,  in April 2021, Biden's administration slapped sanctions on the Russian government over the SolarWinds cyberattack that targeted several US federal organizations and more than 100 US private companies.