If you’re reading this, it’s highly likely that your PC is a fine-tuned piece of 64-bit technology, customized to the hilt and purring like a kitten with a belly full of formula. Yup, she’s a beaut, and attacks your daily tasks like a Belgian Police Dog going after a fleeing perp. All is well in the world, until one day when you sit down, fire it up, and realize something is different. That extra bit of snap when programs open is missing, and encoding video seems to take longer than it used to. Even downloading files seems to require more patience than you’re accustomed to exhibiting. It’s at this very moment that you silently say to yourself, “What the FRACK???”
Note: This article was originally featured in the May 2014 issue of the magazine.
Twitch, the popular videogame streaming site recently acquired by Amazon, is being used to propagate malware that specifically targets Steam users, security firm F-Secure revealed in a blog post Friday. Gullible Steam users are being lured into clicking a malicious link contained in bot-sent raffle invites on Twitch that promise them the opportunity to win such prizes as Counter-Strike: Global Offensive items. On the other side of that link, there is usually a Java program asking for some basic personal info, a congratulatory message, a malicious Windows binary file, and an empty Steam wallet.
Android continues to be a popular target in mobile
Security outfit F-Secure released its Threat Report for the first half of 2014, and in it the company highlights an increase in online attacks that lock up user data and hold it for ransom. This rising trend in "ransomware," as it's called, is even prevalent on mobile devices, most notably Android, which was the target of 294 of the 295 new threat families F-Secure discovered, with the only other taking aim at iOS.
A hacker attack believed to have originated in China resulted in the theft of personal details of 4.5 million patients of Community Health Systems Inc, one of the largest hospital groups in the nation. Cyber thieves made off with a treasure trove of personal details, including patient names, addresses, birth dates, telephone numbers, and social security numbers, or pretty much all the necessary info to steal someone's identity.
"[Microsoft] should try and kill this beast!" - F-Secure on Windows XP
It's not cockroaches that would survive a nuclear war, but Windows XP, the legacy operating system that simply refuses to give up the ghost. Officially, Microsoft ended support for XP back in April, but companies still have the option of paying for continued security updates. Security firm F-Secure isn't real pleased with Microsoft's handling of XP or the fact that so many businesses and users are still running the OS.
Perhaps it should be called the world wild web to more accurately reflect a landscape fraught with danger, at least if you're taking an alarmist point of view. Sometimes it's hard not to. To wit, security outfit ESET said its research team, in collaboration with CERT-Bund, the Swedish National Infrastructure for Computing and other leading agencies, uncovered a massive cybercriminal campaign in which a backdoor Trojan was able to hijack more than 25,000 UNIX servers around the world.
Malware writers didn't take a vacation in 2013. Just the opposite, McAfee noted a sharp rise in ransomware, Android malware, suspicious URLs, and other malicious attempts to steal users' data, which the security firm published in its Threat Report for the fourth quarter of 2013. When combining all of its findings across mobile and desktop, security firm McAfee said it detected 200 new threats every minute, or more than three for every second that passed in 2013.
As if worrying about your PC and smartphones weren't enough, now you've got to go on the defensive when it comes to your wireless routers. According to reports from the SANS Institute's Internet Storm Center (ISC), customers out of a Wyoming ISP have reported compromised Linksys routers. The culprit? Malware known only as "TheMoon," malicious software that first compromises Linksys routers and then scans for other devices that may very well be vulnerable.
Android is by far the biggest target of mobile malware
Security firm Kaspersky says it has logged 10 million dubious Android applications to date. It comes down to a numbers game for cyber criminals, and since Android is the most popular mobile operating system on the planet -- market research firm Canalys estimates that Android accounted for 80 percent of smartphones shipped in 2013 -- it attracts the most attention from malware writers.
By far the biggest revelation of 2013 was that of the U.S. government's overreaching National Security Agency (NSA) and its PRISM surveillance program. Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden blew the whistle on the government's ability to spy on various forms of communication by leaking several documents to the press, and since doing so, new information keeps coming out. One of the most recent reports claims the NSA routinely intercepts computer deliveries in order to exploit vulnerabilities to aid with spying.