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Top Stories for the Week of January 16, 2019

  • Episode 591
  • January 16, 2019

Here are the stories we're following for the week of Wednesday January 16, 2019


A recently discovered ransomware group has netted almost $4 million since August by adopting a “big game hunting” strategy

A recently discovered ransomware group has netted almost $4 million since August by adopting a “big game hunting” strategy

The new-found ransomware selectively installs the malicious encryption software on previously infected targets with deep pockets. The method differs from the usual one of indiscriminately infecting all possible victims.

Two analyses were published Thursday, one by security firm CrowdStrike and the other by competitor FireEye.

Both reports say that Ryuk, as the ransomware is known, infects large enterprises days, weeks, or as much as a year after they were initially infected by separate malware, which in most cases is an increasingly powerful trojan known as Trickbot. Smaller organizations infected by Trickbot, by contrast, don’t suffer the follow-on attack by Ryuk. CrowdStrike called the approach “big-game hunting” and said it allowed its operators to generate $3.7 million worth of Bitcoin across 52 transactions since August.

Besides pinpointing targets with the resources to pay hefty ransoms, the method has another key benefit: the “dwell time”—that is, the period between the initial infection and the installation of the ransomware—gives the attackers time to perform valuable reconnaissance inside the infected network. The reconnaissance lets attackers maximize the damage it causes by unleashing the ransomware only after it has identified the most critical systems of the network and obtained the passwords necessary to infect them.

While uncommon, the reconnaissance isn’t unique to Ryuk. SamSam—an unrelated ransomware that’s caused millions of dollars of damage infecting networks belonging to the City of Atlanta, Baltimore’s 911 system, and Boeing, to name just a few—follows a similar path. There’s no doubt, however, the technique is effective. According to federal prosecutors, SamSam operators recovered more than $6 million in ransom payments and caused more than $30 million in damage.

Thursday’s reports leave little doubt that this approach is likely to grow more common.

The FireEye researchers wrote, "Throughout 2018, FireEye observed an increasing number of cases where ransomware was deployed after the attackers gained access to the victim organization through other methods, allowing them to traverse the network to identify critical systems and inflict maximum damage."

Source: arstechnica.com

Sent to us by: Roy W. Nash


Qualcomm's patent lawsuit against Apple has been dismissed as groundless by a court in Mannheim, Germany.

Qualcomm's patent lawsuit against Apple has been dismissed as groundless by a court in Mannheim, Germany.

The chipmaker had argued Intel -powered iPhones infringed a transistor switch patent it holds. But in an initial verbal decision the court disagreed. Qualcomm has said it will appeal.

In a statement, Don Rosenberg, Qualcomm’s executive VP and general counsel, said: “Apple has a history of infringing our patents. Only last month the Munich Regional Court affirmed the value of another of Qualcomm’s cutting-edge patents against Apple’s infringement and ordered a ban on the import and sale of impacted iPhones in Germany. That decision followed a Court-ordered ban on patent-infringing iPhones in China as well as recognition by an ITC judge that Apple is infringing Qualcomm’s IP. The Mannheim court interpreted one aspect of our patent very narrowly, saying that because a voltage inside a part of an iPhone wasn’t constant the patent wasn’t infringed. We strongly disagree and will appeal.”

Apple responded, saying, “We are happy with the decision and thank the court for their time and diligence. We regret Qualcomm’s use of the court to divert attention from their illegal behavior that is the subject of multiple lawsuits and proceedings around the world.”

The pair have been embroiled in an increasingly bitter and global legal battle in recent years, as Apple has shifted away from using Qualcomm chips in its devices.

Source: techcrunch.com

Sent to us by: Robbie Ferguson


YouTube clips that depict dangerous or emotionally distressing “pranks” have been banned from the platform.

YouTube clips that depict dangerous or emotionally distressing “pranks” have been banned from the platform.

The move comes in response to so-called "challenges" that have sometimes resulted in death or injury.

The Google-owned video sharing site said such material had “no place on YouTube”.

However, the firm appears to be failing to enforce its existing rules on harmful content.

Some of the videos had attracted many millions of views. YouTube said it “worked to aggressively enforce our monetisation policies to eliminate the incentive for this abuse”.

But enforcing its new rules on pranks may prove even more difficult, given ambiguity over what may or may not be considered harmful.

A message added to the site’s FAQ section reads, "YouTube is home to many beloved viral challenges and pranks. That said, we’ve always had policies to make sure what’s funny doesn’t cross the line into also being harmful or dangerous.

“Our Community Guidelines prohibit content that encourages dangerous activities that are likely to result in serious harm, and today clarifying what this means for dangerous challenges and pranks.”

From now on, the site said it would not allow videos that featured “pranks with a perceived danger of serious physical injury".

This includes pranks where someone is tricked into thinking they are in severe danger, even if no real threat existed.

The new rules come in response to several instances of pranks and stunts that are seriously ill-advised at best, and deadly at worst.

Source: www.bbc.com

Sent to us by: Roy W. Nash


Nike has launched self-lacing trainers, which fit themselves to the shape of the foot and are controlled via a smartphone.

Nike has launched self-lacing trainers, which fit themselves to the shape of the foot and are controlled via a smartphone.

It is the latest iteration of the futuristic footwear, first referred to in the film Back to the Future Part II, and made reality by Nike in 2016.

The latest version, called Nike Adapt, will cost $350 and will not require a physical button to activate the laces.

Eric Avar, Nike's creative director of innovation said, "We picked basketball as the first sport for Nike Adapt intentionally because of the demands that athletes put on their shoes. During a normal basketball game the athlete's foot changes and the ability to quickly change your fit by loosening your shoe to increase blood flow and then tighten again for performance is a key element that we believe will improve the athlete's experience."

Users can customise the fit and control it through a smartphone app which will store fit preferences. They can input different fit settings for different moments in the game, loosening it for a timeout and tightening before they re-enter the game.

When they step into the shoe, a custom motor and gear will sense the tension needed by the foot and adjust accordingly.

The app will also store the data, which athletes can choose to share with Nike.

The shoe goes on sale in February.

Source: www.bbc.com

Sent to us by: Roy W. Nash


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