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Crypto Locker Virus Holds Your Files For Ransom

Filed Under (Encryption, Hacking, Security, Software, Technology, Windows) by admin on 28-10-2013

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A new virus is making its way around the world but this one can really hit you where it hurts, your pocketbook.  That’s right, this isn’t some amateur teen hacker looking to send mass emails from your computer or cause destruction, more likely a group of professional hackers are behind Crypto Locker and they are looking to strike it rich.

cryptolockerCrypto Locker infects computers through an email phishing scam pretending to be FedEx, UPS or some other innocent looking company.  When you click to open the attachment which is an executable cleverly disguised as a PDF, JPG, Word or Excel doc, the virus will securely encrypt all of your files with encryption so secure the NSA won’t even be able to decrypt it.  Once encrypted you will receive a notice informing you that your documents are not available to you until you pay a ransom of anywhere between $100 and $500.  The attackers offer a multitude of anonymous payment methods and give you a specified amount of time to act before your decrypt key will be deleted rendering your files unrecoverable.

 

The attackers seem to be offering multiple ways to pay using anonymous and online currencies such as bitcoin, GreenDot MoneyPak and others.

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Back in 2008 a similar virus was unleashed to the public called GPCode which used RSA keys to encrypt user data but was quickly cracked allowing users to recover their data.  Unfortunately, it is widely believed that this encryption is far superior to GPCode’s and a timely crack to free your data is unlikely.

As always this blog piece is meant to be educational and not the be all end all on ransomware or Crypto Locker in general.  Please make sure your systems are completely backed up on a daily basis in order to prevent this type of virus from wreaking havoc on your computer and or network.  Financial Computer Systems (888-434-6443) offers a backup service called BackITUp that can help your organization stay ahead of the curve and preemptively protect your data in case of a worst case scenario such as Crypto Locker.  Whatever product you decide on, make sure you are protected.  Also, if you receive an email with an attachment, DO NOT OPEN it unless you can verify 100% who it’s from.  This is extremely important.   Hope this helps!
Keywords to know:
phishing – the act of attempting to acquire personal or private information such as birth dates, credit card numbers, social security numbers, usernames, passwords, etc by posing as a known entity (bank, car company, shipping company, tech company, game company, etc) that you are likely to deal with regularly.
executable – an application that automatically executes its instructions when opened
encryption
– a method of encoding messages or other information that isn’t easily decrypted (or readable) without a password or other secure key.
bitcoin – an online currency that functions without a central authority.  A cryptocurrency that uses cryptography to prevent double-spending.  Each bitcoin is worth approx. $207 USD as of Oct. 28th 2013.
ransomware – a malware that restricts access to the computer system that it infects and demands a ransom paid to its creator in order to be removed.

OWC Mercury Accelsior_E2 PCI Express SSD Drive

Filed Under (Apple, Hardware, Product Review, Technology) by admin on 18-05-2013

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owc-accelsior_e2I just picked up a great new product, the OWC Mercury Accelsior_E2.  It’s basically 2 x raided SSD drives on a PCIe card that goes in my Mac Pro.   The Mac Pro has been the top of the line POWER beast in Apples hardware lineup for years but also hasn’t been upgraded in years.  More an more Mac Pro owners are looking for ways to pep up their Mac Pro to make it last a little longer until the next great Mac Pro is released, which will hopefully be soon.

In any event, I received the Accelsior in 2 days from http://www.macsales.com which is one in the same with OWC or Other World Computing.  Larry has been running OWC for many years now and has always offered great products to help you upgrade your Macs, whether it be ram, hard drives, video cards, etc, so definitely check them out for great products at great prices.

The Accelsior I picked up was the 240gb model which has 2 x 120gb ssd blades like those used in the MacBook Air.  The key ingredient in this product though is that it runs on the PCIe bus, not through SATA which on the mac pro is still 2.0 and not very fast.  Another cool feature is that the E2 also offers you 2 x 600mbps eSATA slots.

Now to the numbers.  My standard 1gb 7200rpm drive received under 70MB/s on both Read and Write operations using the Blackmagic Design disk speed test application while the new Accelsior received 608.1MB/s on Read operations and 492.8MB/s on Write operations.  Below are the screen captures for each…

OWC Mercury Accelsior_E2 240gb PCIe Card
Screen Shot 2013-05-18 at 9.54.24 AM

Standard 1gb 7200rpm SATA Drive
Screen Shot 2013-05-18 at 9.56.20 AM

In conclusion, my Mac Pro has a whole new life.  I have installed my startup disk on the Accelsior and boot times have gone from about 1 minute to around 22 secs.  Its absolutely amazing.  I also have all of my applications running on the Accelsior so they spring to life almost immediately after clicking them.  I also do a lot of video editing and it is a dream to work off of this drive.

I highly recommend this to any Mac Pro owner.  It’s a no brainer.  If a new Mac Pro comes out you can simply unplug it and put it in your new machine.  Kudos to Larry for staying ahead of the curve as per usual.  Another great product from a great company, Other World Computing rocks!

On a side note, these reviews are my personal opinions and have not been the result of any discount for this product.  I paid full price for this product and I do not review products that were given to me.  Rest assured what you find in this review is fact and my opinion was not bought.  

 

Do your apps listen? Or see?

Filed Under (Apple, Privacy, Smart Device, Technology) by admin on 27-04-2011

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Have you ever thought you have heard or seen it all? Well, you haven’t! But, your phone has. That’s right. A whole new crop of mobile apps are capable of turning on your phone’s microphone and camera to both listen and see what you are doing and what is going on around you.
Over The Line?
So are these developers going over the line or is this a natural progression in giving the end user a more desirable experience? We all have used apps like SoundHound or Shazam but those are user invoked. Imagine having an app that sits on your phone in the background and whenever it hears a voice it recognizes it, then does something like play a sound, display a picture, pop up an ad or even suggest something for you to do? That’s what it has come to. In an age where everyone seemingly wants everyone else to know where they are or what they’re doing developers are filling the gaps and automating these processes.
Some Apps to look out for….
ShopKick is a mobile app that senses when you walk into a certain store and presents deals or rewards to you. This is a pretty neat idea but we all know where its going don’t we? I can only imagine that it knows where you are and if you walk into a store that is a competitor of one of their vendors it could pop an ad saying “What are you doing at Burger King? Here is a coupon for McDonald’s!” Can you imagine?
IntoNow is an app that listens to what shows you are watching on TV and then posts them on Facebook or Twitter so your friends can see what you are watching. I’m not one of those people that needs to have everyone else around me up to date on what I am doing. I’m pretty sure my family and friends could care less unless of course I am doing something really cool.
Color is an app that uses your mic and your camera to keep people online up to date as to where you are, who you are with and what you are doing. A constant stream of your doings that can be uploaded to the color network and to other color users around you. Their multilens feature allows you to see all pictures and videos of other color users nearby. These photos and videos are yours to keep. So if someone videos you doing something and posts that to their color account it is there forever. Yikes.

iPhone Tracker Application

iPhone Tracker Application

Apple Collecting Data?
I’m not going to say they are or they aren’t but it sure seems like they could. Apple has come under fire recently for keeping a database on your phone and on whatever computers you sync that phone to. This file is unencrypted and stores GPS locations where your phone is every 10 mins (give or take a minute) and that is whether or not you turn off location service. If you would like to see where you have been with your phone there is a neat application that runs on the mac called iPhoneTracker that will present a map with points based on the data in that database.
Consequences?
This is the never ending saga of information overload. Data is where the money is and companies are coming up with newer and extremely clever ways to collect even more data about you, the places you go, the shows you watch, the people you are with, everything. This data is the backbone for companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, and the advertising agencies that are looking to capitalize on that data. The problem is that this data is our essence, it’s what makes up who we are, we should hold it and protect it.

PlayStation Network Down Indefinitely – Anonymous Strikes Again!

Filed Under (Anonymous, Hacking, Security, Technology, WikiLeaks) by admin on 26-04-2011

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Sony’s PlayStation Network once again has been hit with a DDoS (distributed denial of service) attack believed to be perpetrated by the underground hack society known as Anonymous. Sony has decided to pull the plug on its PlayStation Network after it believes sensitive user information may have been leaked in the attack. According to reports Anonymous does claim responsibility for the DDoS attack but is adamant that the taking of sensitive customer data did not come under its direction. Since Anonymous is made up of individual citizens from all over the world it is possible some or one may have acted on their own accord.
What’s a DDoS Attack
A DDoS attack is essentially hundreds or thousands of users generating thousands or more requests each to a single web site or web service. Due to the cumulative enormity of such an attack the site or service becomes overwhelmed with the false requests and is unable to properly service the real requests which effectively brings the service or site to a crawl and makes it unusable. DDoS is a popular method of attack used as a form of civil disobedience and has become a very effective tool for the underground community to show its displeasure with abuse or injustices.
Who is Anonymous?
Anonymous is a massive underground movement of individuals who have organized themselves shortly after WikiLeaks came under intense scrutiny by the US and Swedish governments for releasing sensitive US government cables believed to be leaked by then Pfc. Bradley Manning. Since the leaks, Manning has been held in solitary confinement 23 hours a day, is under constant surveillance, is not allowed to exercise and has not been allowed a pillow or bed sheets despite not having been convicted of a crime. Anonymous has shown strong support for WikiLeaks by using DDoS attacks to shut down many credit card and other online payment vendors who have stopped servicing WikiLeaks, thus preventing WikiLeaks from collecting contributions and donations made online using these services.
Operation Payback – Sony and Anonymous
Anonymous’ battles with Sony began shortly after Sony brought lawsuits against PS3 hackers forcing them never to hack a Playstation even though they legally owned the hardware. This has been an ongoing licensing battle for years between hardware vendors and power users who want to improve their systems much like a car owner could upgrade parts in his/her car without getting sued by the manufacturer. Anonymous created a manifesto called Operation Payback – Sony announcing its stance on Sony’s actions and what it intends to do to make Sony pay. This is the Anonymous video associated with Operation Payback – Sony.

Stay tuned for more….

The Cloud is Falling!!!!!

Filed Under (Cloud, Hacking, Privacy, Security, Technology) by admin on 25-04-2011

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So this week I would like to talk about cloud computing and the mishap last week that led to widespread web outages all because Amazon’s AWS (Amazon Web Services) had a networking glitch (haha) that sent their storage servers offline effectively dragging down all of the sites it was hosting (nearly 70 by some estimates) including the New York Times, Foursquare, Propublica, Reddit, Quora, Hootsuite and many more.
Infrastructure to the Cloud…
Everyone who knows me knows that I am an infrastructure guy. The 5 years I spent as CTO at The Money Store was mostly spent upgrading their IT infrastructure to handle expansion from 1 office to over 300. We did this all in-house. On a very slim budget. We were successful because we were persistent and creative. We were responsible with our data and didn’t trust anyone else with it. Hell, we had financial data that would be a literal gold mine for spammers and phishers.
The cloud is the effective opposite of what we were doing. Instead of building infrastructure you would essentially move all necessary services to a hosting provider. All of that proprietary information, the financial data, customer files, everything would be moved somewhere else. Term services, application servers, exchange, everything would be outsourced to the cloud.
Why Do Hackers Love the Cloud?
Hackers view the cloud as an interesting attack surface because they can maximize collateral damage through a simple DDOS (distributed denial of service) attack. Since the whole point behind the cloud is to utilize and maximize the resources of a handful of providers this creates an optimal surface for hackers to carry out a DDOS attack to bring down dozens, hundreds and in some cases thousands of websites. If your site is served from the same cloud server as say Bank of America and someone decides they want to DDOS BofA chances are your site is going to be knocked offline too.
That’s just DDOS. But what about data infiltration. Can you imagine the bevy of information, the personal customer data, the proprietary business processes, vendors and financials that could be swiped. And all in one neat place. It’s too good to be true.
What should I do?
For one, understand the risks involved with the cloud and that you may not even be a target but could suffer the ramifications of someone else who is targeted and that translates into downtime. Now Amazon says the outage they experienced last week was because of a network glitch that somehow caused their storage to go offline creating a domino effect resulting in a mass outage. Hey, you can paint me with the dummy brush if you want to but this sounds an awful lot like someone found a security hole and exploited it.
ContangoIT’s Danny Mizrahi
By the way, I contacted Danny Mizrahi from ContangoIT about this outage asking him how his company was affected by the outage and responded saying that his clients that were using EC2 were setup properly and in multiple zones and weren’t affected. He also gave me a link to another in depth blog post breaking down exactly what happened in the Amazon outage which is some great reading and located HERE. Danny is one of those non-techie PRO-CLOUD sales/marketing guys that truly believes in cloud computing even though most of his clients use traditional infrastructure technology. In any event, Danny has a speaking engagement this Wednesday from 6-8pm for CANTAB NYC titled “Navigating the Cloud”. And while I don’t totally agree that putting all your eggs in the cloud basket is such a great idea, his talk should be a worthwhile event to attend.

Deb Roy: The birth of a word…

Filed Under (Technology) by admin on 16-03-2011

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As we navigate through life we sometimes forget how powerful, how amazing and how completely random it really is.  MIT Researcher Deb Roy started a new project trying to figure out how his infant son learned language.  What you are about to see is the culmination in video form explaining the results of his experiment which is truly remarkable.

Please take the time to watch this entire video and I believe you will come away from it with a new appreciation for how our lives are lived and how we learn language and gain understanding visually, vocally and how it all relates to social networks.