Cyberwar Escalates in the Middle East

  Author: Sarah Austin   On March 31, 2015 the DHS reported two new malware campaigns spotted in the Middle East. The first malware campaign is a brand-new information gathering tool called Trojan Laziok. The operators of Trojan Laziok have been targeting oil, gas and helium companies in the Middle East since January 2015. This malware infects the companies’ computer systems via a phishing email that contains an infected Microsoft Excel file. Once the email is opened and the malware has infiltrated the system, it collects vital data and information regarding the companies’ anti-virus protection. Access to information about the companies’ anti-virus protection allows the malware’s operators to remain undetected while continuing to infect the companies system with more advanced malware, such as Cyberats and Zbots, which can record audio and video from the infected computers and monitor keystrokes.

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Net Neutrality – A Win for Liberty or Lawyers?

On February 26, 2015, the FCC ruled in favor of net neutrality by applying Title II (of the Communications Act of 1934 to Internet service providers and reclassifying broadband access as a telecommunications service. Championing the new regulations, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said, "[t]his is no more a plan to regulate the Internet than the First Amendment is a plan to regulate free speech. They both stand for the same concept." While Mr. Wheeler views the regulations as a referee, Telecom company's insist that the measures will do more harm than good, and consumers will bear the brunt of change. What is net neutrality? In short, adoption of Title II established three bright line rules… No Blocking: broadband providers may not block access to legal content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices. No Throttling: broadband providers may not impair or degrade lawful Internet traffic on the basis of content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices. No Paid Prioritization: broadband providers may not favor some lawful Internet traffic over other lawful traffic in exchange for consideration – in other words, no “fast lanes.”  This rule also bans ISPs from prioritizing content and services of their affiliates. Who is for it and who is against it? Those who support net neutrality argue that allowing “paid prioritization” unfairly raises prices on content services and that adoption of title II levels the playing field for all Americans. Opponents say the Title II designation will stifle innovation in broadband. A group of Internet service providers (ISPs), including AT&T, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon, argue that the new classification permits the FCC to conduct "unprecedented government micromanagement of all aspects of the Internet economy." What does this law mean for the consumer? The FCC promises that broadband will continued to cost the same amount as it did before. This ruling establishes the authority to implement regulations put in place in 2010, and will grant the FCC the administrative authority to examine practices and hear complaints. This past week, at the Mobile World Conference, Mr. Wheeler seemed argued that he his plans have been mischaracterized. Wheeler dismisses the idea that adoption of Title II is heavy handed regulation but is instead, as Mr. Wheeler characterized it, a referee throwing up the card when someone acts in an unfair manner. In Europe there are proposals coming through the European commission which would allow specialized services, being provided by telecom groups, to be delivered at guaranteed speeds for customers - very different from what has been proposed int the US. Many opponents have accused the President as relaying pressure from Facebook and google to take action on their behalfs. While adoption of the regulations will begin to have an effect in early summer, the telecoms companies are saying to Mr. Wheeler - “we’ll see you in court.”

In the Clear after 14 Years? Not Quite.

Looks like mistakes are finally catching up to the group of hackers with suspected ties to the NSA, referred to as “Equation Group” by Kaspersky Researchers, as reported in Ars Technica this past week. After almost 14 years of going unnoticed, it looks like Equation Group is finally getting the recognition they deserve. The Ars Technica article exposed information regarding the astounding capabilities of Equation Group, as well several reasons why it seems it’s more likely than not affiliated with the NSA. As seen in previous posts, the NSA is a reoccurring topic when it comes to cyber security. As reported, the information from the Report  released this past week from the Kaspersky Security Analysis Summit proves why Equation Group is being called “probably the most sophisticated computer attack group in the world.” The Ars Technica article discusses Equation Group’s impressive record, with its most note-worthy achievements including a 2002/2003 hack involving Oracle databased installation CDs and a 2009 attack carried out by infecting CDs sent to specific researchers from a recent scientific conference they had attended. According to the Kaspersky website, Equation Group uses “implants” in order to infect victims and obtain information. According to the Kaspersky report, Equation Group is responsible for more than 500 attacks in 42 countries, although it is estimated by some that the real number is probably much higher considering its impressive ability to prevent themselves from being tracked. As pointed out in the article, Kaspersky researchers refrained from specifically naming the NSA in their report, although the procedural similarities between Equation Group and operations known to be the NSA are striking. Aside from this, as noted in the Ars Technica article, the time and resources, as well as Equation Group’s advanced capabilities are things “people have come to expect from a spy agency sponsored by the world’s wealthiest nation.” Despite keeping quiet since the report’s release this past week, it should be interesting to see if the NSA comes up with a response or acknowledges the allegations made in the report at all. Either way, Equation Group definitely poses a serious threat to cyber security worldwide, whether tied to the NSA or not. Or, maybe not.  Depending on how you look at it, this program may be exactly the kind of program the NSA should be running, instead of the broad domestic surveillance it’s developed in recent years – here’s why.

Sony Hacking – A Matter of U.S. National Security? You Betcha.

What may have first appeared to most to be of the type of data breach we’ve grown accustomed to hearing about, this one’s different – or is it? While much of the early media attention to the Sony hacking story morphed into salacious coverage of the details of embarrassing emails and the inner workings of Hollywood, the coverage is shifting back to the undeniable national security implications that this incident exposed.  As we’ve covered in previous posts and feature articles, there is an underlying theme of national security that each private industry data breach touches on U.S. economic survival.   As has been reported, the United States is now seeking China's help "to cripple" North Korean cyber offensive capabilities. The New York Times reported this morning that U.S. preparedness for an incident such as this may not be as one may think.  A must-read, the NYT story describes the Sony hack as “the first major, state-sponsored destructive computer-network attacks on American soil.” The story continues by identifying the many difficulties facing a U.S. “proportional response.” Included is the “concern over the risk of escalation with North Korea, since the United States has far more vulnerable targets, from its power grid to its financial markets, than North Korea.”   While the Obama Administration and the Department of Defense have taken steps to build a stable cyber defense mechanism (see Naval Academy Cyber Security CenterUS Cyber Command, etc.), these defense mechanisms have yet to be integrated in any meaningful way with private industry. The Administration blames the attack on North Korea, but North Korea denies any wrongdoing, even going as far as proclaiming its interest in helping the United States get to the bottom of what happened and help find the perpetrators.

Talking Privacy and Public Policy with IAPP President and CEO J. Trevor Hughes

Earlier this year, the IAPP held its annual Global Privacy Summit in Washington, D.C., where attendees heard from industry leaders discussing the most pressing issues facing privacy and data protection professionals today.  In particular, new FTC Chair Edith Ramirez delivered a special keynote address in which she  vowed to maintain a hard line on

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Pinguelo Appears on Fox’s The Strategy Room to Discuss Workplace Internet Abuse

  Bridgewater, NJ (April 23, 2010) – Fernando Pinguelo, a Member of Norris McLaughlin & Marcus, P.A., appeared as a guest on Fox News Channel’s live web show, The Strategy Room, hosted by Kimberly Guilfolye.  Pinguelo was interviewed about today’s headlines featuring internet abuse, including the Security and Exchange Commission Office of Inspector General’s 5-year investigation that revealed SEC employees and contractors visiting porn sites and viewing sexually explicit pictures using government computers. Ms. Guilfoyle’s guests today also included Richard “Bo” Dietl and Dr. Kathryn Smerling. 

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