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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.

Hackintosh? The low cost alternative to buying Apple…

Filed Under (Apple, Hacking, Hardware) by admin on 08-05-2013

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Hey Folks,

hackintosh2It has been one hell of a long time since I have posted here but why not just jump right back into the blogging sphere with a cool article about building your own, low cost Macintosh, err hackintosh. Make no mistake about it, Apple builds superior computers. They are extremely well designed, offer the highest quality components, and provide you with a refined user experience.

That said there is always some room for improvement. Take for instance the Mac Pro line of hardware. It is the machine to use if you are a graphic designer, a software developer using XCode, a video editor, or just about anyone using a Mac for audio or video production. Unfortunately, this line hasn’t been redesigned since 2006-2007 and has only been minimally refreshed with new processors since then. No real new improvements.

While there has always been a subculture movement working hard to make OS X run on ordinary PCs it just hasn’t been fruitful, until now.

In past years there have been many hacks, may mods to kexts and specially made boot keys and CDs some which have partially worked and others which didn’t work at all.

Now with the help of youtube (search for Hackintosh) or tonymacx86.com you can get extensive build guides and tutorials as well as lists of recommended and known working hardware to build your own machines, all at a fraction of the cost of a new mac.

I plan on building my very own Ivy Bridge based Hackintosh in the coming weeks and will report back here with an article on how the experience went.  In the meantime, please be sure to check out these hackintosh related videos and websites, they will certainly offer you everything you need to get started with your very own hackintosh project.

 

YouTube Videos

Building an Ivy Bridge Hackintosh From Start to Finish – LIVE
Building a Socket 2011 Hackintosh From Start to Finish
Ultimate Hackintosh Tutorial | 10.8 My Hacks

Dual-Boot Snow White Hackintosh Pro Build Update & Walkthrough!
Hackintosh Tutorial: Setup A Unibeast Mountain Lion USB

 

Important Hackintosh Resource Sites

Hackintosh.com
tonymacx86.com
lifehacker.com/tag/hackintosh
BenchmarkReviews.com – Hackintosh

 

Best regards,
MM

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.

Apple TV 2 – Review

Filed Under (Apple, Hacking, Hardware, Product Review, Smart Device) by admin on 17-02-2011

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Apple TV 2 - Fits in the palm of your hand

Sleek, black, powerful, multimedia device

The AppleTV 2 is so small it fits in the palm of your hand but it packs quite a punch on the big screen.  I have 2 now.  I liked the one I bought for my office so much that I acquired another at a Christmas party this past holiday season.  And by acquire I mean stole.  You see, the party I went to is set up that every couple brings a $100 gift and everyone gets a number.  As your number comes up you can either pick a gift off the pile or steal one that has already been given.  And since that’s how I role, I now own two Apple TV 2.  Haha.

Anyways.  Here is the deal.. The Apple TV 2 will allow you to stream media from your iTunes account via wifi or ethernet cable on any computer to your TV.  Plain and simple.  But there is more.  The Apple TV 2 also have built in NetFlix, YouTube, MobileMe, or Flickr.  It’s actually quite impressive and I use it just about everyday.

If you subscribe to video blogs or are a NetFlix addict like myself then this is a product for you.  The quality is great and it is incredibly easy to setup and navigate.    You can also rent or download movies from your iTunes account and play them in HD on your big screen TV and be perfectly satisfied with your purchase.

The Remote is sleek, small and pretty easy to use.  I have slipped up a few times doing a text search but I have been getting the hang of it.  It’s the same remote that Apple shipped to control Front Row on the mac.   The Apple TV reminds me a lot of the old Front Row interface but much improved.

Apple TV 2 Remote

The Remote is very small but pretty easy to use...

The unboxing and setup take virtually no time at all.  Simply open it, Connect Power, Ethernet, and HDMI and you are ready to go.  If you do not have Ethernet then you can configure it to use your wireless connection if available in your house.  You must have a wired or wireless network in your home to use Apple TV2.

Back panel connections

Ports on the back of Apple TV 2

The left most port is the power connector, next to it moving right is the HDMI connector, beneath the HDMI connector is a Micro USB connector for restoring your Apple TV 2 in case you screw it up trying to jailbreak it, the next port is an optical audio connector and finally the right most port is an ethernet connector.

The same Micro USB port can be used to jailbreak the Apple TV 2 but you need a special Micro USB cable that can be found on eBay.  It looks exactly like this…

Apple TV 2 -> Micro USB Cable

Micro USB Cable

Articles on jailbreaking the AppleTV2 can be found all over the web.  It’s just not the purpose of this blog so please google jailbreaking the Apple TV 2 for more info on that process.  That said you can add more functionality to the Apple TV 2 such as installing the XBMC Media Center to allow you access to all different types of video formats and content.

When all is said and done I highly recommend the Apple TV 2 to my friends, family and colleagues.  It is a great piece of engineering and for $100 how can you go wrong?

Job Search Security??? Be Careful!

Filed Under (Anonymity, Hacking, Privacy, Security) by admin on 14-02-2011

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I had to re-post this here as I posted it on my http://spamend.com blog.  It’s a good read and lets you know exactly what lengths these conmen will go to to steal your identity.

—–Begin————–

For all of you who are actively conducting a job search and there are a lot of you, take note of this warning.  The phishers are actively harvesting private data in very devious ways.

I responded to an ad on Craigslist the other day for a job opening with the following title, Senior IT Executive (North Jersey).  Here is the link…

http://newjersey.craigslist.org/tch/2180772287.html

I wasn’t interested in this job as it only paid $15 – 21 per hour which is a joke if you are looking for a senior person.  That said, I did receive the following reply….

From : Lindsay Slayton <huqazefezaz95@hotmail.com>
Subject: RE: Senior IT Executive (North Jersey)
Date: February 14, 2011 8:43:11 AM EST
To: Mark Moloughney <mark@moloughney.com>

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_-_.__=.=,.-,.,,..,,-_=-=.=,==
____=,,_-=,._-=.=.=___==..=..=,,-,,=
_.=.-,—.=.,-_.=,,_..=-,.-_,.,=-=-

Hi Mark,

Thank you for your interest and your recent resume submission. My name is Lindsay Slayton and
I am the Human Resource Manager that is in charge of the hiring process for our company
VSD Property Management. I’ve look over your application and due to the high amount of
replies that we’ve gotten regarding our recent classifieds posting, I wanted to contact
you as soon as possible and see if you would be interested in setting up an interview with us.

Before I continue let me tell you some background information about VSD Property Management:
We are an established Rental Company that was founded back in 1984 and we’ve grown immensely
since then. Unlike other rental companies, we hope to foster a fun yet efficient environment
for our employees since we have the firm belief that if we provide our employees with a
welcoming work atmosphere we will see an increased return in productivity. Candidates should
consider themselves self-starters and be able to work efficiently with minimum supervision. Other
skills like great interaction with employees of all levels of the firm, strong communication
skills, organization skills etc. are also valued very highly.

Our company aims to build a strong bond with its employees and therefore we offer benefits
packages for you and your family plus we thrive to pay our employees a higher hourly wage than
any of our competitors. We will be discussing compensation and benefits a little bit more in
detail during our interview when we are in a more private environment instead of public emails.

Now due to our policies I will not be able to schedule an interview with you until you have
filled out one of our online applications which can be found on our company website.
Please visit
http://vsdmanagement.com/application/ and fill out our short application so we can move on
with the interview process. Each applicant is required to have a personal application code
in order to fill the application.

Your code is: 6MJ5QZgN6X0

Since we have received such a high number of replies to our job posting I will only be able to
hold your application on my desk for 1-2 days more so please do not wait too long to fill out
our online application! I will contact you as soon as I receive your online application!

Now if you have any questions please feel free to contact me!
Hoping to see you here for an interview soon,

Lindsay Slayton
Human Resource Manager
VSD Property Management

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So let’s look at this shall we.  First things first.  The FROM says the message is from Lindsay Slayton but the actual email address says huqazefezaz95@hotmail.com.  So there are a couple of no-nos here.  First off the name of the person and the actual email address do not match.  Now this is common if you are emailing with friends but not in a professional environment.  What company would have an HR person respond to a job submission via a Hotmail account.  Unlikely at best.

Next, the first line says that I submitted a resume.  Haha.  I didn’t but for those of you who did, be careful.  Any private information in that resume is now being harvested and used against you.  Hello identity fraud.

Thirdly, she says she works for VSD Property Management which does not meet the description of the original job posting.

Lastly, she (probably not a she by the way) tells you in order to set up an interview you have to fill out a questionnaire online which undoubtedly asks a number of personal questions including your Social Security number.

Oh… One more thing.  I did a whois on the domain name mentioned in the ad and it comes back as being registered to the following individual…

Vsemil Sobolev (VsemilSobolev@pochta.ru)

+1.1231106541
Fax:
Lenin ave 32/87
Moscow,  60539
RU

So this guy is in Russia trying to harvest US data.  BE CAREFUL OUT THERE…  And please pass this on.

Mark

+1.1231106541Fax:Lenin ave 32/87Moscow,  60539RU