News

The Equifax Breach: What You Should Know

It remains unclear whether those responsible for stealing Social Security numbers and other data on as many as 143 million Americans from big-three credit bureau Equifax intend to sell this data to identity thieves. But if ever there was a reminder that you — the consumer — are ultimately responsible for protecting your financial future, this is it. Here’s what you need to know and what you should do in response to this unprecedented breach.

Who Is Marcus Hutchins?

In early August 2017, FBI agents in Las Vegas arrested 23-year-old U.K. resident Marcus Hutchins on suspicion of authoring and/or selling “Kronos,” a strain of malware designed to steal online banking credentials. Hutchins was virtually unknown to most in the security community until May 2017, when a British newspaper revealed him as the “accidental hero” who inadvertently halted the global spread of WannaCry, a ransomware contagion that had taken the world by storm just days before.

Relatively few knew it before his arrest, but Hutchins for many years authored the popular cybersecurity blog MalwareTech. When this fact became more widely known — combined with his hero status for halting Wannacry — a great many MalwareTech readers quickly leapt to his defense to denounce his arrest. They reasoned that the government was overstepping on flimsy evidence, noting that Hutchins has worked tirelessly to expose cybercriminals and their malicious tools. To date, some 226 supporters have donated more than $14,000 to his defense fund.

At first, I did not believe the charges against Hutchins would hold up under scrutiny. But as I began to dig deeper into the history tied to dozens of hacker forum pseudonyms, email addresses and domains he apparently used over the past decade, a very different picture began to emerge.

In this post, I will attempt to describe and illustrate more than three weeks’ worth of connecting the dots from what appear to be Hutchins’ earliest hacker forum accounts to his real-life identity. The clues suggest that Hutchins began developing and selling malware in his mid-teens — only to later develop a change of heart and earnestly endeavor to leave that part of his life squarely in the rearview mirror.

Beware of Hurricane Harvey Relief Scams

U.S. federal agencies are warning citizens anxious to donate money for those victimized by Hurricane Harvey to be especially wary of scam artists. In years past we’ve seen shameless fraudsters stand up fake charities and other bogus relief efforts in a bid to capitalize on public concern over an ongoing disaster. Here are some tips to help ensure sure your aid dollars go directly to those most in need.

Tech Firms Team Up to Take Down ‘WireX’ Android DDoS Botnet

A half dozen technology and security companies — some of them competitors — issued the exact same press release today. This unusual level of cross-industry collaboration caps a successful effort to dismantle ‘WireX,’ an extraordinary new crime machine comprising tens of thousands of hacked Android mobile devices that was used this month to launch a series of massive cyber attacks.

Experts involved in the takedown warn that WireX marks the emergence of a new class of attack tools that are more challenging to defend against and thus require broader industry cooperation to defeat.

Is Your Mobile Carrier Your Weakest Link?

More online services than ever now offer two-step authentication — requiring customers to complete a login using their phone or other mobile device after supplying a username and password. But with so many services relying on your mobile for that second factor, there has never been more riding on the security of your mobile account. Below are some tips to ensure your mobile device (or, more specifically, your mobile carrier) isn’t the weakest link in your security chain.

Why It’s Still A Bad Idea to Post or Trash Your Airline Boarding Pass

An October 2015 piece published here about the potential dangers of tossing out or posting online your airline boarding pass remains one of the most-read stories on this site. One reason may be that the advice remains timely and relevant: A talk recently given at a Czech security conference advances that research and offers several reminders of how being careless with your boarding pass could jeopardize your security or even cause trip disruptions down the road.

Dumping Data from Deep-Insert Skimmers

I recently heard from a police detective who was seeking help identifying some strange devices found on two Romanian men caught maxing out stolen credit cards at local retailers. Further inspection revealed the devices to be semi-flexible data transfer wands that thieves can use to extract stolen ATM card data from “deep-insert skimmers,” wafer-thin fraud devices made to be hidden inside of the card acceptance slot on a cash machine.