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Chinese Malware Found Preinstalled on US Government-Funded Phones

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Researchers found unremovable malware preinstalled in the Unimax U686CL, a budget Android device sold by Assurance Wireless.

Budget Android smartphones offered through a US government initiative for low-income Americans come with preinstalled, unremovable Chinese malware, researchers report.

These low-cost smartphones are sold by Assurance Wireless, a federal Lifeline Assistance program under Virgin Mobile. Lifeline, supported by the federal Universal Service Fund, is a government program launched in 1985 to provide discounted phone service to low-income households. The Unimax (UMX) U686CL ($35) is the most inexpensive smartphone it sells.

In October 2019, Malwarebytes began to receive complaints in its support system from users of the UMX U686CL who reported some pre-installed apps on their government-funded phones were malicious. Researchers purchased one of these smartphones to verify customers’ claims.

The first suspicious app they detected is Wireless Update, which is capable of updating the device – it’s the only way to update the phone’s operating system – but also is a variant of the Adups malware. Adups is also the name of a Chinese company caught gathering user data, creating backdoors for mobile devices, and developing auto-installers, researchers report.

Years ago, Adups began partnering with budget phone companies to provide wireless phone updates, explains Nathan Collier, senior malware intelligence analyst for Malwarebytes Labs. For some reason, he notes, Google doesn’t provide updates for budget smartphones.

“Adupts provides wireless updates so people can update their operating system, but they’re also just installing random stuff without any user permission whatsoever,” Collier explains. Not all of this content is malicious, he notes; sometimes the app simply installs hidden ads. Still, from the time the device is first activated, Wireless Update starts auto-installing apps.

“This opens the potential for malware to unknowingly be installed in a future update to any of the apps added by Wireless Update at any time,” Collier writes in a blog post on the findings.

Wireless Update isn’t the only unremovable app on the UMX U686CL. The phone’s Settings app also functions as heavily obfuscated malware detected as Android/Trojan.Dropper.Agent.UMX, which shares characteristics with two other variants of known mobile Trojan droppers.

“It has a lot of elements that are very similar to other elements of Trojan droppers that we know for sure are dropping hidden ads,” Collier explains. Hidden ads are growing more popular in the malware community, as attackers generate a little revenue with each click. On one device this may not amount to much, he adds, but it can add up over time as the victim pool grows.

Malwarebytes has a way to uninstall preinstalled apps for current users; however, this could have consequences on the UMX. Uninstalling Wireless Update could cause users to miss critical updates, which the company says is worth the tradeoff. Unfortunately, removing the Settings app would essentially render the device useless.

Researchers informed Assurance Wireless of the problem and have not heard a response at the time of writing. Customers were also reaching out to UMX, Collier says, noting this problem falls on Assurance. It’s worth noting UMX devices are made by a Chinese company; however, it has not been confirmed whether the device makers know there is Chinese malware preinstalled.

The issue of preinstalled malware has grown over the past several years. Now, as it starts to affect the Settings app and other critical parts of device software, it’s becoming more of a challenge for users. Unlike apps that can be deleted and forgotten, the apps affected here cannot be simply uninstalled without irreversibly damaging the phone.

“This has been an issue for quite a while and it’s getting worse and worse,” Collier says. “We’re seeing it on a lot of different budget carriers around the world.”

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Kelly Sheridan is the Staff Editor at Dark Reading, where she focuses on cybersecurity news and analysis. She is a business technology journalist who previously reported for InformationWeek, where she covered Microsoft, and Insurance & Technology, where she covered financial … View Full Bio

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Pipeline Update: Biden Executive Order, DarkSide Detailed and Gas Bags

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The administrator of your personal data will be Threatpost, Inc., 500 Unicorn Park, Woburn, MA 01801. Detailed information on the processing of personal data can be found in the privacy policy. In addition, you will find them in the message confirming the subscription to the newsletter.

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8 Cyber Security Practices Every Organization Adopt

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Computer internet cyber security background. Cyber crime vector illustration. digital
Computer internet cyber security background. Cyber crime vector illustration. digital

Cyber security is such a pressing matter among companies, especially for large enterprises. Since there’s a lot to get from hacking large companies, they’re bound to experience cyber threats such as Trojans, malware, phishing, and ransomware regularly. But remember that there have been cases of cyberattacks on businesses with 100 or fewer employees, so small- and medium-sized companies are not exempt from this issue.

Regardless of the size of your company, consider strengthening your cyber security. There’s no better way to do that than by increasing the number of your security controls.

Security controls are countermeasures that prevent cyberattacks and minimize security risks on information, physical property, and, most importantly, your computer systems. For more information, you can read the article of Beryllium regarding security controls.

If you plan to establish newer security controls for your computer systems, you might want to consider looking into the following cyber security practices:

Table of Contents

Invest In Antivirus Software

A long time ago, you only had to worry about viruses, but that’s no longer the case. Today, there are all kinds of cyberthreats such as Trojan horses, worms, spyware, ransomware, and malware. If you want to be protected against these kinds of threats, you should consider investing in antivirus software. Antivirus software refers to any program designed to detect and eliminate various threats to a system, including those mentioned earlier.

Establish A Firewall

Antivirus software focuses on threats that may corrupt the programs inside a computer system. However, it doesn’t cover external threats; for those, you need a firewall. A firewall is a form of security control that helps keep external threats from breaching a computer system in the first place. You can think of it as the first line of defense against cyber threats. A firewall partnered with antivirus software can provide extremely powerful protection for any organization.

Utilize Multifactor Authentication

Usually, when logging into a computer system, you need to input your username and an authentication code, which is the password. But as previously said, cyberthreats have already evolved. It’s no longer enough to use a single authentication code, and that’s what multifactor authentication (MFA) is all about.

Basically, multifactor authentication is the process of requiring more than two codes from the user. So instead of a password alone, the system may also ask for a fingerprint, one-time passwords (OTPs), and more. This reduces the chances of hackers getting into the system.

Encourage Safe And Secure Passwords

Although you can use MFA, passwords are still the hardest authentication codes to crack. Hackers can steal OTPs with special software or even fake fingerprints. However, passwords are difficult to predict, perhaps due to their randomness.

If you’re going to implement MFA, you might as well make sure your employees have safe and secure passwords. You can start by giving them a few pointers, such as the following:

    • Use a password generator for the sake of randomness.
    • Avoid common characters.
    • Use a mix of characters.
    • Lengthen your password.

Monitor Third Parties’ Access To Data

Certain companies outsource some of their operations to third-party agencies. In doing so, they’re giving those firms access to confidential information.

If you’re currently in partnership with an outsourcing agency, you might want to consider monitoring them and limiting their access to data as well. After all, you can’t strengthen their cyber security even if you want to. If you do suffer from security breaches due to their negligence, your company would be on the losing side, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Check For Security Patches And Updates

Operating systems roll out security patches and updates every now and then. Your job is to apply those patches as soon as possible. Even if you leave your computer system outdated only for a few hours, there can be severe consequences.

Back Up All Data

Regardless of how secure your system is, there’s no guarantee that a hacker won’t get past your security controls. To minimize the damage from security breaches, companies must have a backup of all their data on a device not connected to the computer system. That way, if ever the computer system’s corrupted, you don’t have to worry about your data getting lost.

Educate Your Employees

Making mistakes is what makes one human. Some errors have minor consequences, but some can lead to huge problems. If your employees have access to the company’s system, the only thing hackers need to do is to take advantage of inexperienced employees. They can do this through phishing and other social engineering techniques.

If you don’t want your employees to bear all the blame for a security breach, try raising their awareness through training that teaches them about cyber security threats. Granted, it won’t guarantee 100% security, but it will reduce the chances for a cyberattack nonetheless.

Wrapping Up

Take note that every security control has a weakness. Your job is to ensure that those weaknesses are taken care of by other security controls. Take antivirus software and firewall, for example. Antivirus software deals with internal threats, while a firewall deals with external threats. If you want to strengthen your cyber security, you need to know how cyber security practices interact with each other, and this guide should have everything you need in that regard.

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Source: https://cybersguards.com/8-cyber-security-practices-every-organization-adopt/

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How to Become a Cybersecurity Specialist

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In the modern age, a cybersecurity expert acts as a watchdog. Cybersecurity experts work with businesses and organisations to keep networks and data safe.

One of a cybersecurity specialist’s main duties is to keep track of their company’s systems and report any problems to management. They are also in charge of foreseeing potential threats and providing advice about how to deal with them.

Table of Contents

What is a cybersecurity specialist?

Depending on the size and shape of his or her company or organisation, a cybersecurity specialist can wear a variety of hats.

Cybersecurity experts, as the job description suggests, are supposed to provide a certain degree of experience and knowledge that enables them to provide guidance and training on the most up-to-date digital best practises.

Cybersecurity experts may have in-depth knowledge of a specific vendor’s product (such as CISCO Systems, which manufactures networking and IT products), or they may have experience with other domains such as computer operating systems or mobile applications.

A cybersecurity specialist can be thought of as someone who monitors a company’s or organization’s security while also assisting other employees and teammates in staying current on best practises.

This position is crucial because data breaches are often caused by employees, either deliberately or unintentionally.

Four key steps to becoming a cybersecurity specialist

1. Education: Most cybersecurity specialist positions, like the majority of other cybersecurity jobs, require some sort of formal education. However, since cybersecurity specialist positions cover such a broad range of job descriptions and duties, a specialist job can be obtained after completing many levels of cybersecurity education.

In other words, people with a cybersecurity associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree, or master’s degree will work as cybersecurity specialists. Furthermore, several cybersecurity specialists found jobs after completing a similar degree (such as computer science, engineering, or mathematics) and/or gaining relevant work experience.

2. Industry certifications and clearances: Obtaining the required industry certifications and/or clearances is a vital phase in job planning, as it is in many other cybersecurity career paths.

It’s a good idea to start thinking about what certifications an employer may need, or what certifications make job applicants more competitive in their profession.

Here are a few examples of the different types of cybersecurity certifications available:

Security+ is a CompTIA qualification that is widely recognised by cybersecurity practitioners as a foundational credential. The topics of risk management and threat evaluation are included.

CompTIA offers Network + as well. This credential focuses on networking technology and operations, as the name suggests. It is regarded as a basic qualification.

A more specialised qualification, the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), is reserved for cybersecurity practitioners with at least five years of experience. Architecture, engineering, and management are among the subjects covered by the credential.

Since it normally allows candidates to have several years of work experience, the Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) credential is often considered a more advanced cert. The aim of an ethical hacker credential is to develop threat assessment and mitigation skills by understanding how cyber attacks unfold.

These are just a few of the many cybersecurity certifications that are accessible. When looking for cybersecurity work openings, it’s a good idea to keep track of the certifications that employers are looking for.

When applying for cybersecurity specialist jobs, it’s also a good idea to inquire about professional development programmes, such as certifications that an employer will pay for.

3. Experience: Another important aspect of obtaining a job as a cybersecurity specialist is demonstrating relevant experience.

This can be in the form of a structured internship or other formal hands-on learning, or it can be in the form of other similar work experience.

4. Network: Looking for opportunities to grow a professional network is always a good idea.

There are a variety of specialist cybersecurity associations and groups with a network-oriented approach that are explicitly structured to notify members about job openings and professional development opportunities.

A good place to start is Digital Guardian’s list of the top 50 cybersecurity networking groups and professional organisations.

What do cybersecurity specialists do?

Security evaluations of computer hardware and software systems are created and implemented by cybersecurity experts. They ensure that the systems work as they should and are secure from attack.

A cybersecurity specialist’s work can be very routine at times. They are in charge of ensuring that networks and operating systems are up to date and free of software bugs.

Furthermore, security specialists are responsible for ensuring that other coworkers are kept up to date on security best practises, which could require them to serve as a trainer or counsellor.

Designing firewalls and other protection mechanisms to ensure that information and proprietary networks are compatible with the most current security requirements is another part of a cybersecurity specialist’s task.

Cybersecurity experts are also in charge of continuously monitoring security systems and networks for irregularities and documenting and reporting on their findings.

Skills for specialists

Cybersecurity professionals play an interesting role in the businesses and institutions where they work. People in this role are often hired for their social skills as well as their technical abilities.

Cybersecurity experts must be able to interact effectively and work well in groups. Coaching and advising coworkers on security best practises is a common part of the job.

In addition, cybersecurity experts are often called upon in times of crisis or disaster, as well as when networks or data structures are malfunctioning. As a result, the ability to survive in “emergency” situations is critical.

Finally, becoming a security specialist can entail assisting coworkers in adopting new technologies and security software as it evolves. However, most people are averse to change, especially if it necessitates learning a new operating procedure or work-flow. As a result, the ability to express the rationale for the transition, as well as the ability to appeal to the desires and objections of coworkers, is crucial.

Cybersecurity experts must be at ease in a continuously changing and shifting environment. New digital attack vectors and mechanisms emerge on a regular basis, and a cybersecurity expert is charged with determining what skills and expertise are needed to defend against these new threats.

This frequently necessitates continued education, both in the form of formal, industry-recognized certifications and informal learning and monitoring of industry developments.

A cybersecurity expert should be like a Swiss Army knife of the digital world in terms of expertise, experience, and general attitude. This role requires multi-disciplinary skills and the ability to adapt to a wide range of circumstances.

Outlook for cybersecurity specialists

According to a new PayScale survey, the majority of workers with the job title cybersecurity specialists are satisfied with their employment.

According to Payscale, cybersecurity professionals are paid differently based on their expertise, roles, and place. A specialist’s salary varies from $45,644 to $115,841. The average salary is $74,140 a year.

Employment prospects for cybersecurity specialists are expected to rise 36 percent by 2024, far faster than other careers, indicating an increasing demand for cybersecurity expertise in all fields and career levels.

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How Digital Transformation Influences Cyber Security in Banking

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Banks’ first priority is the protection of their clients’ assets. That’s why ensuring cyber security in banking is crucial. As a rule, financial institutions are attacked 300 times more often than other companies. Giants in the market, such as Mastercard, deal with about half a million intrusion attempts daily. We’ll tell you about the challenges that 

next-generation banks face today and the factors that influence cyber security in financial institutions. 

The increasing risk of threats

People are gradually moving away from paper money, choosing online banking over it. To meet customer expectations, financial companies develop user-friendly websites and mobile apps. By doing so, they put their cyber security at risk.  

No app is perfect. The research company Accenture has proved that with its study of 30 core banking systems – all of them had security vulnerabilities, such as insecure data storage, insecure authentication, code forgery, and so on. Another similar study revealed that 85% of programs have weaknesses. 

One minor vulnerability might be enough for malefactors to get what they want: personal user data, access to bank accounts, CEOs’ or managers’ data, etc. Cyber crime costs financial institutions $18.5 million per year, and the losses are projected to grow up to $6 trillion per year. Quite an impressive growth, right? 

In light of all the above, cyber security assurance becomes vitally important. What threats does the banking industry face? 

New types of cyber attacks

As security systems are upgraded, more sophisticated ways of stealing data appear.  

For example, fileless malware penetrates the random-access memory of a device through licensed programs directly, without being saved on the hard drive. Every month, the number of such attacks increases. These attacks are hard to spot and prevent, and they pose a serious threat even to advanced security systems.

Spoofing is a new type of threat and another cyber security challenge. Fraudsters make fake websites, the URLs and designs of which resemble a web app of the real bank. When accessing the system, a user enters personal data into the form, thus unconsciously sending it to hackers. 

Fortunately, cutting-edge technology based on AI and ML and skilled cyber security professionals can keep the banks safe from that kind of incident.

Digitalization challenges

The banking industry is one of the first to respond to the digital requests of society. Today, customers contact banks via laptops, tablets, smartphones, and smartwatches. IoT devices, in turn, help banks obtain more information about the preferences, needs, and habits of their clients. 

New opportunities pose new challenges for banks. For example, financial institutions might find it difficult to decide on user authentication methods, places for storing bank details, or they might have problems with unauthorized data access, and so on. Since most of the information in the banking sector is secret and data breaches lead to huge losses, cyber security turns into one of the important development thrusts in banking.  

Banks are willing to invest in cyber security. They will account for almost 30% of all the spending on threat protection by 2023, which amounts to approximately $151.2 billion. 

What data breaches lead to

Сyber security costs prove its value. For example, JPMorgan Chase & Co. spends about $600 million yearly to secure its data and employs about three thousand cyber security experts!

Banks have to take such steps – otherwise, they might find themselves in a situation similar to that of CapitalOne who didn’t manage to protect data in the cloud. As a result, one hundred million people in America and about six million in Canada suffered from hacking. Up to 140,000 Social Security numbers and about 80,000 bank account numbers were stolen. The bank itself was charged a penalty of $80 million, and its reputation was shattered.  

Financial institutions need cyber security tools to protect their customers. As a survey by Ponemon Institute showed, it is better to put effort into threat prevention than deal with the consequences afterward. 

Remote working and cyber security

Most specialists (75%) surveyed by McKinsey prefer to work remotely and are not going to return to their offices. The remote working trend will surely continue in the coming years. In the case of bank officers, this contributes to the attitude towards cyber security – data protection concern is ever more topical.

There is a reason for that. In April of 2020 alone, Google recorded around 18 million malicious and phishing emails. In this context, banks had to change their security policies several times, conduct specialized information campaigns among their employees, and train them on anti-phishing tests. 

Penalties for non-compliance with security requirements

Compliance with cyber security requirements is controlled by the law – therefore, banks are concerned with conforming to legislation. None of them wants to be charged with penalties by, say, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation due to security requirement violation or poor protection of client rights.

If a banking institution can’t follow data protection regulations, there will be a huge monetary penalty – just as it happened to the New York Apple Bank for Savings that was charged a penalty of $12.5 million for an alleged violation of the Bank Secrecy Act. 

A few more words about cyber security

Cyber security investment became especially relevant when the UK and Europe began the transition to open banking. Data flows are opening between different financial companies, and it is becoming extremely important to ensure data protection when transmitting or storing it in the сloud. 

However, research by Deloitte showed that many financial companies can’t keep pace with digital transformation. The founder of Cybersecurity Ventures Steve Morgan says that the business sector is undergoing the natural evolution of cyber crime, as it was with street and other types of crime that developed as the population grew. In addition, cyber-attack methods are improving, hence the traditional ways to deal with them are becoming outdated.     

Although it may be hard to eliminate all the threats and fully protect one’s resources from vulnerabilities, a bank can be kept safe from drastic consequences by limiting the area of attack and preventing it from spreading. That is why financial institutions must be flexible in terms of cyber security and employ specialists with relevant knowledge. After all, investors prefer those financial companies that have secure systems, generate profits, lead the market, and grow. 

 

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