Magecart Attacks See Spike in Automation
The latest attack in the long string of Magecart breaches has apparently affected over 900 e-commerce sites in under 24 hours. This increase over the previous attack, which affected 700 sites, suggests that its authors are working on improving the automation of these information-stealing attacks. The results of these types of attacks can be seen in the latest major fines being issued under GDPR, including one to Marriott for $123 million and another to British Airways for a whopping $230.5 million.
Agent Smith Android Malvertiser Spotted
Researchers have been tracking the resurgence of an Android-based malware campaign that disguises itself as any number of legitimate applications to deliver spam advertisements. After being installed from a third-party app store, the malware checks both a hardcoded list and the command-and-control server for available apps to swap out for malicious copies, without alerting the device owner. The majority of targeted devices have been located in southwestern Asia, with other attacks showing up in both Europe and North America.
Third Florida City Faces Ransomware Attack
Almost exactly one month after the ransomware attack on Lake City, Florida, a third Florida city is being faced a hefty Bitcoin ransom to restore their systems after discovering a variant of the Ryuk ransomware. Similar to the prior two attacks, this one began with an employee opening a malicious link from an email, allowing the malware to spread through connected systems. It is still unclear if the city will follow the others and pay the ransom.
British Airways Receives Record GDPR Fine
Following a data breach last year that affected over 500,000 customers, British Airways has been hit with a total fine amount of $230.5 million. The amount is being seen as a warning to other companies regarding the severity of not keeping customer data safe, though it’s still much less than the maximum fine amount of up to 4% of the company’s annual turnover.
Georgia Court System Narrowly Avoids Ransomware Attack
Thanks to the quick work of the IT team from Georgia’s Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC), a ransomware attack that hit their systems was swiftly isolated, leading to minimal damage. Even more fortunate for the AOC, the only server that was affected was an applications server used by some courts but which shouldn’t disrupt normal court proceedings. Just days after the initial attack, the IT teams (aided by multiple law enforcement agencies) were already in the process of returning to normal operations without paying a ransom.
Second Florida City Pays Ransom
Following the news that Riviera Beach, FL would pay the ransom demanded by cyberattackers, the mayor of Lake City, FL has announced that the city will be paying the demanded ransom of $460,000 to restore access to their email and internal system servers. While law enforcement agencies strongly recommend against paying the ransom and suggest that victims instead attempt to recover encrypted files through backups or other offline methods, many companies who fall prey to ransomware attacks do not keep complete backups of their systems, so they may have no choice but to pay.
Group Arrested in Domain Spoofing Scam
Several individuals were recently arrested for creating a spoof domain for Blockchain.com, a site that allows users to access their cryptocurrency wallets. The individuals in question successfully stole over $27 million’ worth of various currencies from roughly 4,000 victims by using their spoofed site to steal wallet credentials. The group was captured in two separate countries after more than a year of investigation.
Database for Insurance Marketing Site Exposed
A database belonging to MedicareSupplement.com, an insurance marketing site, was found to be publicly accessible, exposing the records of over 5 million customers. While it is unclear how long the database had been improperly secured, the researcher who discovered it in mid-May promptly reported it to the database owner. Amongst data exposed were nearly a quarter million records that indicated specific insurance categories.
Report Reveals Countries Most Targeted by Ransomware
A new report has run the numbers to uncover the top five countries most targeted by ransomware. So far in 2019, the list includes the USA, Brazil, India, Vietnam, and Turkey. During the first quarter of this year alone, the USA took 11% of the attacks, with Brazil coming in right behind with 10% of the total number of attacks. Even more concerning: the average ransom demand has nearly doubled since this time last year, jumping from around $6,700 to ca. $12,700.
IoT Malware Bricks Devices
Researchers have just found a new type of malware, dubbed Silex, that focuses on IoT devices running with default credentials. The malware then bricks—i.e., breaks in an irreparable or unrecoverable fashion—the entire device. The Silex authors claim to have distributed it with the specific intention of rendering devices unusable to prevent lower level scripters from adding the devices to their botnets. Fortunately, the authors did shut down the malware’s command servers, though the already-distributed samples will continue their operations until they have been removed by security.
We are excited to announce Webroot® DNS Protection now runs on Google Cloud Platform (GCP). Leveraging GCP in this way will provide Webroot customers with security, performance, and reliability.
Preventing denial of service (DoS) attacks is a core benefit of Webroot DNS Protection. Now, the solution benefits from Google Cloud load balancers with built-in DoS protection and mitigation, enabling the prevention of attack traffic before it ever hits the agent core.
“The big thing about Google Cloud is that it dynamically manages denial of service (DoS) attacks,” said Webroot Sales Engineer Jonathan Barnett. “That happens automatically, and we know Google has that figured out.”
With this release, Webroot DNS Protection now runs on the Google Cloud’s high-redundancy, low-latency networks in 16 regions worldwide. That means there’s no need for a Webroot customer in Australia to have a DNS request resolved in Los Angeles, when more convenient infrastructure exists close by.
“Google Cloud provides the ability to scale by adding new regions or new servers whenever necessary as load or need determines, nationally or internationally,” said Barnett. “This allows us to provide geolocation-appropriate answers for our customers, maximizing performance.”
Because of GCP’s global infrastructure footprint, Webroot can quickly and easily provision more of Google’s servers in any region to ensure latency times remain low.
And because those regional deployments can be programmed to auto-scale with spikes in traffic, even drastically increasing loads won’t increase wait times for requests.
According to Barnett, “Even if Webroot were to take on a large number of customers in a short time period, say with the closing of a deal to offer DNS solutions to an enterprise-level client with a number of subsidiaries, our environments would automatically scale with the additional load.”
One more note on the release
Another key feature of the April DNS agent update regards switching communications from port 53, which is typically associated with DNS requests, to port 443, which is more commonly associated with SSL certificates.
The reason for this change is that, given port 443’s relevance to routine requests like banking sites and those accepting payment information, it is rarely constrained, modified, or controlled. This will reduce the need to configure firewalls or make other admin adjustments in order for Webroot DNS Protection to function as intended.
It’s good to be in good company
With Webroot DNS Protection now leveraging the GCP will power your network-level protection. Fewer outages, latency, and bottlenecks. Ready to experience Webroot DNS Protection for yourself? Try it free for 30-days here.
It’s been more than a decade since Netflix launched its on-demand online streaming service, drastically changing the way we consume media. In 2019, streaming accounts for an astonishing 58 percent of all internet traffic, with Netflix alone claiming a 15 percent share of that use. But as streaming has become more common, so has the exploitation of streaming technologies. Some consumers stream illegally to cut costs, perceiving it to be a victimless crime. But as the saying goes: there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Streaming is no exception.
By downloading illegal streaming apps from third-party sources (i.e. outside of the Apple® App Store or Google™ Play), users may think they’re capitalizing on a clever loophole to access free services. However, according to a startling study conducted by Digital Citizens, 44 percent of households using pirated streaming services experienced a cybersecurity breach of one or more of their devices. That means if you use any type of illegal streaming device or app, you are six times more likely to fall victim to a cybersecurity attack than households using legal streaming services. Since a reported 12 million homes—in North America alone) are actively using pirated streams, that means illegal streaming may have led to up to 5 million potentially undetected breaches.
Why are illegal streams so attractive to cybercriminals? Because you’re probably streaming using devices and applications that are connected to your home network. Unfortunately, the firewall on the average home router does not provide adequate security against attacks. Any malware introduced by the streaming software is likely able to get through successfully. If you’re using a Window® computer or device, that means the malware can infiltrate not the device you’re actively using, but also any other Windows devices using the same internet connection. By spreading itself across multiple devices, malware makes its own removal that much more difficult. Pair these details with the fact that illegal streaming users are less likely to report a malicious app, illegal streams provide a haven for cybercriminals in which they can easily attack users, infect their machines, steal their data, and hold their files for ransom.
Cybersecurity breaches caused by illegal streaming can manifest in many ways. For example, a popular illegal movie and live sports streaming app was observed scraping the connected WiFi name and password, as well as other sensitive information, according to ThreatPost.
How You Can Stream Safer
Ultimately, nobody can guarantee the security of an illegal stream.
The truth is that legal streaming is the only safer streaming. That doesn’t
mean you have to go through the giants, like Netflix or Hulu. Users can now access
many low-cost, legal streaming options—including a few that are ad-supported and are actually free. So
why put yourself and your family at risk for the sake of an illegal stream?
If you’re worried that someone with access to your WiFi network may be streaming illegally, thereby putting you and your devices in danger, make sure all of your devices are using up-to-date antivirus software to help stop cyberattacks and prevent malware infections. More importantly, talk with your family and friends about the real cost of “free” streaming. They’ll be more cautious once they fully understand the risks.
Looking for more home security education? Check out our Home + Mobile playlist on YouTube.
Multiple Tesla Models Vulnerable to GPS Attacks
Though it’s not the only manufacturer to offer GPS navigation in their vehicles, Tesla has once again suffered an attack on their GPS autopilot features. These attacks were able to trick the car into thinking it had arrived at an off-ramp more than two miles early, causing it to start to merge and eventually turn off the road entirely, even with a driver attempting to stop the action. Using off-the-shelf products, the test conductors were able to gain control of Tesla’s GPS in less than a minute.
Oregon DHS Successfully Phished
The personally identifiable information for at least 645,000 Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) patients was illicitly accessed after a successful phishing attack on nine DHS employees. The attack allowed the hackers to obtain 2 million emails from the accounts, which contained everything from names and birthdates to social security numbers and confidential health information. Fortunately, the DHS issued a password reset shortly after the initial breach that stopped the attackers from getting any further and began contacting potential victims of the attack.
IP and Computer Blacklisting in New Ryuk Variant
The latest variant of the Ryuk ransomware includes an IP blacklist and a computer name check prior to beginning encryption. The IPs and computer name strings were likely implemented to stop any encryption of Russian computer systems. After these checks, the ransomware continues as normal using .RYK as the appended file extension and a ransom note that points victims to make payments to one of two proton mail accounts.
EatStreet Ordering Services Breached
A data breach is affecting the food ordering service EatStreet and possibly all of its 15,000 partnered restaurants. Payment card information for millions of customers using the app, along with some banking information for the 15,000 business partners, is believed to have been compromised in the breach. Though EatStreet quickly began improving their security and implementing multi-factor authentication following the breach, the damage was already done.
Fake System Cleaners on the Rise
While phony system cleaner apps have been common for many years, a recent study shows that user numbers for these apps has doubled from the same time last year to nearly 1.5 million. These apps often appear innocent and helpful at the outset, while others have begun taking an outright malicious approach. To make matters worse, these apps are commonly installed to fix the very issues they later create by slowing the computer down and causing annoying popups.
Radiohead Refuses Ransom, Releases Stolen Tracks
The band Radiohead recently fell victim to a hack in which 18 hours of previously unreleased sessions were ransomed for $150,000. Rather than pay the ludicrous fee, the band instead opted to release the tracks through Bandcamp for a donation to charity. The unreleased sessions were stored as archived mini discs the band created during the years surrounding their third album, “OK Computer.”
US Border Protection Breached by Contractor
A subcontractor for the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency is under scrutiny after it was revealed that they had illicitly transferred thousands of images of both license plates and travelers that had crossed the US/Mexico border in the last month. In doing so, the subcontractor broke several mandatory security policies written into a legal contract. While there is no sign of the images leaking onto the dark web, there is very little redress for the exposed travelers without proving actual harm.
Billions of Spam Emails Sent Everyday
The latest industry report on spam emails revealed that around 3.4 billion fake/spam emails are distributed across the globe each day. More worrisome is that the majority of these emails originate in the US and regularly target US-based industries. While many industries have improved security measures, larger enterprises have struggled to implement strong protection for their entire staff.
Ransomware Hits Washington Food Bank
The Auburn Food Bank in the State of Washington recently fell victim to a ransomware attack that encrypted all but one of their computers, which was isolated from the internal network. Instead of paying the ransom, the nonprofit chose to wipe all computers, including their email server, and begin rebuilding from scratch. The ransomware variant has been claimed to be GlobeImposter 2.0, which requires the victim to contact the attacker to determine the ransom demanded.
Retro Game Site Breached
The account information was leaked for over 1 million users of EmuParadise, a retro gaming site that hosts all things gaming related. The breach, which took place in April of 2018, affected 1.1 million IP and email addresses, many of which were found in previous data breaches. It is still unclear how the breach actually took place, though given the use of salted MD5 hashes for storing user data it’s clear EmuParadise could have done more to properly secure their users information.
Quest Diagnostics Customers Affected by Third-Party Breach
The medical testing organization Quest Diagnostics has fallen victim to a third-party data breach that could affect nearly 12 million of their patients. AMCA, a collections agency that works with Quest Diagnostics, noticed unauthorized access to their systems over an eight-month period from August of last year through March 2019. The majority of data targeted were Social Security Numbers and other financial documents, rather than patient’s health records. The market offers a premium for such data.
Adware Installed by Millions of Android Users
Until recently, there were over 230 apps on the Google Play store that had been compromised by a malicious plugin that forced out-of-app advertisements on unsuspecting victims. Globally, over 440 million individuals have installed at least one of these compromised applications and have been affected by overly-aggressive advertisements. While this SDK has been used legitimately for nearly a year, sometime during 2018 the plugin began performing increasingly malicious behaviors, until other developers caught on and began updating their own applications to remove the plugin.
Chinese Database Exposes Millions of Records
A database belonging to FMC Consulting, a headhunting firm based in China, was recently found by researchers to be publicly available. Among the records are resumes and personally identifiable information for millions of individuals, as well as company data with thousands of recorded messages and emails. Unfortunately for anyone whose information is contained within this database, in the two weeks since being notified of the breach FMC has yet acknowledge the breach or take steps to secure it.
Restaurant Payment Systems Infected
Customer who’ve patronized either Checkers or Rally’s restaurants in recent months are being urged to monitor their credit cards after the chain announced that they discovered card stealing malware on their internal systems. While not all restaurant locations were affected, the company is still working to determine the extent of the compromised payment card systems and has offered credit monitoring services to customers.
University of Chicago Medicine Server Found Online
Researchers have found a server belonging to University of Chicago Medicine with personal information belonging to more than 1.6 million current and past donors. The data includes names, addresses, and even marital and financial information for each donor. Fortunately, the researcher was quick to inform the university of the unsecured ElasticSearch server and it was taken down within 48 hours.
I’ve been in this business a long time, and I can honestly say that many MSPs lack a concrete sales process structure. That’s pretty worrisome because, let’s face it, you have to have a plan in order to succeed at just about anything. Imagine you’re an engineer working on server maintenance or a network infrastructure build—you wouldn’t do that without a plan, would you? Your sales strategy should be handled no differently.
Dos and Don’ts for your Sales Process
First, let’s talk about some don’ts. Avoid taking a call and immediately giving a quote over the phone, as well as going straight to the customer site to conduct ad hoc assessments and sales presentations in the same breath. To build value, you need to stretch this into multiple touches, by which I mean multiple meetings. Sure, that’s more work for you up front, but it’s crucial for establishing trust with the client. You need to open and sustain a dialog about their needs so you can tailor a unique solution for them, without diving right into a pitch. By leading with careful consideration and attention to their needs, you can begin building a lasting relationship and, eventually, bring them a better offering.
Here’s how I recommend you structure your process.
Schedule an on-site strategy session with your client.
Meeting with a prospect face-to-face will demonstrate your investment in a trust relationship. Now, you have to listen to them. Don’t lead with a pitch. Let them tell you what their problems are, pay close attention to them as they express their needs, and take note of all their pain points.
This is also the ideal opportunity to truly grasp of whether the demands are excessive or unreasonable for your capabilities. Each relationship you enter into with clients is a partnership that comes with shared responsibilities. Be more than a fulfull/deliver shop.
Perform an in-depth assessment and discovery.
You need to discover everything that’s on the client’s network and assess exactly where they stand. Don’t do this on the same day as that initial meet; schedule a second one. Take the extra time between the meetings to prepare more specific questions that will delve more deeply into the needs your prospect expressed. This will help show the client that you’re invested in their unique challenges.
When you come back, bring an engineer or assistant with you. You need someone with you who can interview different staff members and find out about the specific issues they face. Ask basic questions to understand how the employees feel about where the company’s IT stands, like: What kind of issues are you having?; What do you see wrong with your computer network?; How could your network be improved?; and What things would you like to see change?
As you’re doing your assessment and discovery, make sure to bring cybersecurity into the discussion. Managed cybersecurity is often a poor experience, so this is your chance to feel out how else you can alleviate their pains (and set yourself apart from their current provider.)
And, finally, book the third meeting.
Make the pitch.
Ideally, your third meeting would be at your location. If there’s some reason you can’t do it in your own shop, take the prospect off-site for lunch at a restaurant that has private meeting rooms. Essentially, you want to avoid doing the presentation in their office, where they can easily get interrupted.
In this case, it will pay to be overly prepared. Again, if you listened closely, the prospect would’ve already told you what to focus on to help them succeed. Use that knowledge to craft the right message to deliver during this meeting.
Start by walking through the pain points they and their employees revealed. Talk over anything else you found in your discovery/assessment that could be improved. Have an itemized list, and then ask them if they agree with all the issues you’ve found.
Once you get agreement, then you can go into your sales pitch and present them with a well-tailored offering that can actually solve their challenges and help them grow.
Ultimately, by listening to your prospect, exhibiting an understanding of their needs, and demonstrating your level of commitment to providing value and nurturing the relationship itself, you’ll be well on your way to building a meaningful, successful business partnership.
Download my Multi-Million Dollar MSP Sales Process that will guide you through the above steps like a pro. The last few pages of the document include links to helpful templates as well as worksheets for you to hit the ground running on this process.
Keep crushing it!
News Site Suffers Data Breach
Flipboard, a news aggregation site, recently revealed that it’s been the victim of a data breach that could affect many of their more than 100 million active users. Digital tokens were among the compromised data, which could give the attackers further access to other sites, though Flipboard promptly removed or replaced them. At least two separate breaches have been reported by Flipboard, with one occurring in the middle of 2018 and the other in April of this year. Both allowed the attackers nearly unlimited access to databases containing a wealth of user data.
Keylogger Targets Multiple Industries
At least two separate campaigns have been found to be sending malicious emails to industry-leading companies in several different areas of business. Hidden within these emails are two variants of the HawkEye keylogger that perform various malicious activities beyond simply stealing keystrokes from the infected device. By acting as a loader, HawkEye can install additional malware and even contains a script to relaunch itself in case of a system reboot.
Australian Teen Hacks Apple
A teen from Australia was recently in court to plead guilty to two separate hacks on Apple, which he conducted in hopes of gaining a job with the company. While Apple has since confirmed that no internal or customer data was breached, they have chosen leniency after his lawyer made a case for the perpetrator being remorseful and not understanding the full impact of his crimes.
Fake Crypto-wallets Appear on App Store
Several fake cryptocurrency wallets have made their way into the Google Play store following the latest rise in the value of Bitcoin. Both wallets use some form of address scam, by which the user transfers currency into a seemingly new wallet address that was actually designed to siphon off any transferred currency. The second of the two wallets operated under the guise of being the “mobile” version of a well-known crypto-wallet. It was quickly identified as fake due to an inconsistent icon image. Both fake wallets were tied to the same domain and have since been removed from the store.
Ransomware Focuses on MySQL Servers
While the threat of GandCrab is not new, organizations discovered its persistent risk after researchers found it has been refocused on attacking MySQL servers. By specifically targeting the port used to connect to MySQL servers, port 3306, the attackers have had some success, since many admins allow port 3306 to bypass their internal firewalls to ensure connectivity. As GandCrab continues to narrow it’s attack scope, its remaining viable vectors are likely to be even more lucrative given that most organizations are not able to secure everything.
As technology continues to evolve, several trends are staying consistent. First, the volume of data is growing exponentially. Second, human analysts can’t hope to keep up—there just aren’t enough of them and they can’t work fast enough. Third, adversarial attacks that target data are also on the rise.
Given these trends, it’s not surprising that an increasing number of tech companies are building or implementing tools that promise automation and tout machine learning and/or artificial intelligence, particularly in the realm of cybersecurity. In this day and age, stopping threats effectively is nearly impossible without some next-generation method of harnessing processing power to bear the burden of analysis. That’s where the concept of a cybersecurity platform built on threat intelligence comes in.
What is a platform?
When you bring together a number of elements in a way that makes the whole greater or more powerful than the sum of its parts, you have the beginnings of a platform. Think of it as an architectural basis for building something greater on top. If built properly, a good platform can support new elements that were never part of the original plan.
With so many layers continually building on top of and alongside one another, you can imagine that a platform needs to be incredibly solid and strong. It has to be able to sustain and reinforce itself so it can support each new piece that is built onto or out of it. Let’s go over some of the traits that a well-architected threat intelligence platform needs.
Scale and scalability
A strong platform needs to be able to scale to meet demand for future growth of users, products, functionality. Its size and processing power need to be proportional to the usage needs. If a platform starts out too big too soon, then it’s too expensive to maintain. But if it’s not big enough, then it won’t be able to handle the burden its users impose. That, in turn, will affect the speed, performance, service availability, and overall user experience relating to the platform.
You also need to consider that usage fluctuates, not just over the years, but over different times of day. The platform needs to be robust enough to load balance accordingly, as users come online, go offline, increase and decrease demand, etc.
Modularity can’t be forgotten, either. When you encounter a new type of threat, or just want to add new functionality, you need to be able to plug that new capability into the platform without disrupting existing services. You don’t want to have to worry about rebuilding the whole thing each time you want to add or change a feature. The platform has to be structured in such a way that it will be able to support functionality you haven’t even thought of yet.
Sensing and connection
A threat intelligence platform is really only as good as its data sources. To accurately detect and even predict new security threats, a platform should be able to take data from a variety of sensors and products, then process it through machine learning analysis and threat intelligence engines.
Some of the more traditional sensors are passive, or “honeypots” (i.e. devices that appear to look open to attack, which collect and return threat telemetry when compromised.) Unfortunately, attack methods are now so sophisticated that some can detect the difference between a honeypot and a real-world endpoint, and can adjust their behavior accordingly so as not to expose their methods to threat researchers. For accurate, actionable threat intelligence, the platform needs to gather real-world data from real-world endpoints in the wild.
One of the ways we, in particular, ensure the quality of the data in the Webroot® Platform, is by using each deployment of a Webroot product or service—across our home user, business, and security and network vendor bases—to feed threat telemetry back into the platform for analysis. That means each time a Webroot application is installed on some type of endpoint, or a threat intelligence partner integrates one of our services into a network or security solution, our platform gets stronger and smarter.
Context and analysis
One of the most important features a threat intelligence platform needs is largely invisible to end users: contextual analysis. A strong platform should have the capacity to analyze the relationships between numerous types of internet objects, such as files, apps, URLs, IPs, etc., and determine the level of risk they pose.
It’s no longer enough to
determine if a given file is malicious or not. A sort of binary good/bad
determination really only gives us a linear view. For example, if a bad file
came from an otherwise benign domain that was hijacked temporarily, should we
now consider that domain bad? What about all the URLs associated with it, and
all the files they host?
For a more accurate picture, we need nuance. We must consider where the bad file came from, which websites or domains it’s associated with and for how long, which other files or applications it might be connected to, etc. It’s these connections that give us a three-dimensional picture of the threat landscape, and that’s what begins to enable predictive protection.
The Bottom Line
When faced with today’s cyberattacks, consumers and organizations alike need cybersecurity solutions that leverage accurate threat telemetry and real-time data from real endpoints and sensors. They need threat intelligence that is continually re-analyzed for the greatest accuracy, by machine learning models that are trained and retrained, which can process data millions of times faster than human analysts, and with the scalability to handle new threats as they emerge. The only way to achieve that is with a comprehensive, integrated machine-learning based platform.
Cities are expanding their technological reach. Many of their efforts work to increase public protections, such as using GPS tracking to help first responders quickly locate the site of a car accident. But, in the rush for a more secure and technologically advanced city, privacy can fall by the wayside. We’ve reviewed the top cities around the world that are using technologies that may invade citizens’ privacy, so you know what to expect and what you can do.
Big brother in Beijing, China
China is infamous for its mass surveillance, with Beijing often serving as a testing ground for new surveillance software. The Chinese government uses internet monitoring, GPS tracking, and the “world’s biggest camera surveillance system”, with more than 170 million CCTV cameras to monitor the country’s populace. These CCTV cameras are backed by powerful facial recognition algorithms, which can track an individual down in just seven minutes. It is safe to say that you are probably being monitored anywhere you travel while in China, but a general rule is that, the higher the population, the more surveillance there is.
The town of Yizhuang has more than 2,243 high definition security cameras, 277 vehicle recognition cameras, and 267 facial recognition cameras. It also features six patrol vehicles with mobile cameras, and enforcement officers equipped with video capture equipment. Each of these cameras is sending live video streams to a main control center 24/7—all to monitor a single 11-square-mile suburb of Beijing.
Beijing is also preparing to roll out a social credit system in 2020. This system will award personal trustworthiness points to citizens and businesses based on their financial credit scores, as well as their personal and professional behavior. In the meantime, how the Chinese government plans to use this system to reward or punish its citizens remains a mystery.
Always watching in Moscow, Russia
Not one to be outdone, Russia has also embraced mass CCTV surveillance. Moscow alone has more than 170,000 cameras, making it the most surveilled city in Russia. Facial recognition software is paired with this massive network of cameras to track down persons of interest, though exactly what defines a “person of interest” is somewhat nebulous. In fact, Moscow officials recently admitted that they “can now trace the debtors’ movements,” thanks to this massive network of CCTV cameras. He declined to comment on the number of debtors who have been traced using this technology, nor the severity of their debts.
Mass monitoring in Darwin, Australia
Darwin, Australia is piloting a surveillance system similar to the technologies used in China, with some warning that it could evolve into a social credit system. Darwin has installed poles throughout the city outfitted with speakers, cameras, and WiFi. These monitoring stations track people and their movements all around the city, and are aided by facial recognition software. They can even respond to triggers, such as when a specific individual breaches a “virtual fence.”
“We’ll be getting sent an alarm saying, ‘There’s a person in this area that you’ve put a virtual fence around.’ … Boom, an alert goes out to whatever authority, whether it’s us or police to say ‘Look at camera five,’” said Josh Sattler, the Darwin Council’s General Manager for Innovation, Growth, and Development services in an article with NT News.
This system also tracks mobile phone use, web traffic, and mobile app usage—but only to help local businesses, of course.
“[It will tell us] where people are using WiFi, what they’re using WiFi for, are they watching YouTube, etc., all these bits of information we can share with businesses… we can let businesses know ‘Hey, 80 percent of people actually use Instagram within this area of the city, between these hours,’” said Sattler.
‘I spy’ in New York City, USA
In an effort to assist its police force, NYC has turned to the world’s largest surveillance technology company—the Chinese state-owned Hikvision—to install the same surveillance tools being used in China. Thousands of surveillance cameras have been operating in New York City since 2014, using the same facial recognition software that enables law enforcement in Beijing to locate and track individuals within the city. These cameras are equipped with infrared sensors that help capture high resolution images even in very low light. The NYPD has direct access to this surveillance network, and monitors the footage remotely to avoid showing an obvious police presence. The full extent of the surveillance in New York is unknown, but reports indicate the NYPD is using these products on a “large scale.”
Small-town surveillance in Hillsboro, USA
Hillsboro, Oregon is the smallest city on this list, with a population of just over 100,000. So why is such a small town on the same list as places like Beijing, Moscow, and New York? The Washington County Sheriff’s Office, which presides over Hillsboro, recently became the first law enforcement agency in the United States to use Amazon’s AI-powered facial recognition tool, Rekognition. As this is the first real-world test of this technology, its accuracy is hotly debated. Many experts argue that this technology will likely lead to the wrongful arrest of innocent people whose only crime is bearing a resemblance to the accused.
More than 300,000 mug shots taken at the Washington County jail have been uploaded into the Rekognition system. These pictures can be cross-referenced with images from a security camera, social media accounts, or even a deputy’s mobile device—without requiring a warrant. More than 1,000 facial recognition searches were logged into the Rekognition system by the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, but public records requests show that only nine official case reports mention the use of the tool. Washington County deputies are under no imperative to note when facial recognition software assisted with an arrest, so we have no way to judge how accurate the system is.
Your Privacy is Your Concern
While the only way to avoid detection through the facial recognition algorithms is to hide or alter your face, there are some precautions you can take to protect your privacy when visiting these cities. As an example, you can easily obscure your digital traffic, which can help prevent the kind of tracking reported in Darwin. Strong encryption is your best protection against privacy invasive cities. Research a reliable VOIP and text messaging encryption service, and invest in a trusted VPN to shield your web and mobile traffic. Encryption may not stop state actors from intercepting your data, but it will make it nearly impossible for them to interpret it.
Have other tips for protecting your privacy while traveling? Let us know in the comments.
In a constantly evolving cyber landscape, it’s no simple task to keep up with every new threat that could potentially harm customers. Webroot Senior Threat Research Analyst Kelvin Murray highlighted the volume of threats he and his peers are faced with in our latest conversation. From finding new threats to answering questions from the press, Kelvin has become a trusted voice in the cybersecurity industry.
What is your favorite part of working as a Senior Threat Research Analyst?
My favorite part about being a threat researcher is both the thrill of learning about new threats and the satisfaction of knowing that our work directly protects our customers.
What does a week as a Senior Threat Research Analyst look like?
My week is all about looking at threat information. Combing through this information helps us find meaningful patterns to make informed analysis and predictions, and to initiate customer protections. It roughly breaks down into three categories. The first would be “top down” customer data like metadata. The data we glean from our customers is very important and a big part of what we do. The interlinking of all our data and the assistance of powerful machine learning is a great benefit to us.
Next would be “whole file” information, or static file analysis and file testing. This is a slow process but there are times when the absolute certainty and granular detail that this kind of file analysis provides is essential. This isn’t usually part of my week, but I work with some great specialists in this regard.
Last would be news and reports on the threat landscape in general. Risks anywhere are risks everywhere. Keeping up to date with the latest threats is a big part of what I do. I work with a variety of internal teams and try to advise stakeholders, and sometimes media, on current threats and how Webroot fits in. Twitter is a great tool for staying in the know, but without making a list to filter out the useful bits from the other stuff I follow, I wouldn’t get any work done!
What skills have you built in this role?
Customer support taught me a lot in terms of the client, company culture, and dealing with customer requests. By the time I was in business support I was learning the newer console system and more corporate terms. Training on the job was very useful for my move to threat, where I also picked up advanced malware removal (AMR), which is the most hands on you can get with malware and the pain it causes customers. All of that knowledge is now useful to me in my public facing role where I prepare webinars, presentations, interviews, blogs, and press answers about threats in general.
What is your greatest accomplishment in your career at Webroot so far?
Learning the no-hands trick on the scooter we have in the office. And of course my promotion to Senior Threat Research Analyst. I have had a lot of different roles in my time here, but I’m glad I went down the path I did in terms of employment. There’s never a dull moment when you are researching criminal news and trends, and surprises are always guaranteed.
What brought you to Webroot?
I like to say divine providence. But really I had been travelling around Asia for a few months prior to this job. When I got back home I was totally broke and needed a job. A headhunter called me up out of the blue, and the rest is history.
Are you involved in anything at Webroot outside of your day to day work?
Listening, singing and (badly) dancing to music. Dublin is a fantastic place for bands and artists to visit given its proximity to the UK and Europe and the general enthusiasm of concert goers. I do worry that a lot of venues, especially nightclubs, are getting shut down and turned into hotels though. I sing in a choir based out of Trinity College.
Favorite memory on the job?
Heading to (the now closed) Mabos social events with my team. The Mabos collective ran workshops and social and cultural events in a run-down warehouse that they lovingly (and voluntarily) converted down in Dublin’s docklands. Funnily enough, that building is now Airbnb’s European headquarters.
What is your favorite thing about working at Webroot?
The people that I get to work with. I have made many great friendships in the office and still see previous colleagues socially, even those from five or six years ago.
What is the hardest thing about being a Senior Threat Research Analyst?
Prioritizing my time. I can try my hand at a few different areas at work, but if I don’t focus enough on any one thing then nothing gets done. I find everything interesting and that curiosity can get in the way sometimes!
What is your favorite thing to do in Dublin?
Trying new restaurants and heading out to gigs. I’d be a millionaire if I didn’t eat out at lunchtime so much. Dublin is full of great places. I like all kinds of gigs from dance to soul to traditional. The Button Factory is one of the coolest venues we have.
How did you get into the technology field?
I first become interested in technology through messing with my aunt’s Mac back in the early 90s. There were a lot of cool games on her black and white laptop she brought home from a compucentre she worked in, but the one that sticks in my memory was Shufflepuck Café. My dad always had some crazy pre-Windows machines lying around. Things with cartridges or orange text screens running Norton commander.
To learn more about life at Webroot, visit https://www.webroot.com/blog/category/life-at-webroot/.