July 2022 Newsletter

Posted By: Mark Monday 8th August 2022 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

We’re taking a look at Deepfake cyber security threat; listening to government advice if thinking about paying a ransomware demand, examining a scam that costs business $143 billion, considering how the extreme hot weather affected UK cloud services; welcoming new emojis, and, we’re hiring.

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The Next Cyber Threat Staring Us In The Face

Amongst the current tech headaches of ransomware, business email compromise, phishing, software & hardware vulnerabilities, and DDoS attacks, a new cyber threat is beginning to worry the leading minds in cyber security. Deepfake technology — the use of artificial intelligence techniques to either alter existing, or create new, audio or audio-visual content — is seen as the next big cyber security challenge.

What initially began as a visual editing technique used for comedy meme purposes, smoothing out movie-world issues, and character expansion in gaming, the advancement of machine deep learning and artificial intelligence techniques has turned it into a powerful weapon for cyber criminals.

Deepfake Cyber Security Threat

The Deepfake cyber security threat to companies is in the potential criminal exploitation for social engineering attacks (increasing the effectiveness of phishing and BEC campaigns), spreading misinformation (manipulating company reputations for embarrassment, blackmail or stock market manipulation, etc), and other scams by making it easier to commit identity fraud.

Cyber Criminals are able to exploit deep learning algorithms to target any specific features of a person, such as facial features and structure, their body language, and even their voices. A 2019 report by iProove found that 72% of people were still unaware of what Deepfakes were. While awareness is growing, there is a general lack of understanding about the potential problems Deepfakes could cause.

Examples of Deepfake Attacks

ZDNet reports a very recent use of Deepfake for nefarious purposes:

One recent example is when the mayor of Berlin thought he was having an online meeting with former boxing champion and current mayor of Kyiv, Vitali Klitschko.

But the mayor of Berlin grew suspicious when ‘Klitschko’ started saying some very out of character things relating to the invasion of Ukraine, and when the call was interrupted the mayor’s office contacted the Ukrainian ambassador to Berlin – to discover that, whoever they were talking to, it wasn’t the real Klitschko.

The imposter also apparently spoke to other European mayors, but in each case it looks like they had been holding a conversation with a deepfake, an AI-generated false video that looks like a real human speaking.

Meanwhile, the FBI gave a warning at the end of June, that it was receiving increasing numbers of complaints from companies about deepfake videos turning up during interviews for tech jobs that involve access to sensitive systems and information.

Types of Deepfake

There are five general areas of deepfake manipulation being exploited.

Textual Deepfakes

AI enters the creative world with the ability to generate convincing synthetic writing and drawing.

Video Deepfakes

The most common manipulation out there, with the generation of photographs and video content, generally by having someone similar looking to the target and then mixing that person’s gestures and actions in with the target’s original face & features.

Audio Deepfakes

Cloning and imitation of the target’s voice. Machine learning from a selection of recorded words, phrases, sentences, spoken by the original person.

Social Media Deepfakes

Fake internet profiles built across social media platforms, along with articles and blog posts, to create a non-existent character.

Real-time Deepfakes

Live, on-the-fly, software manipulation. Think things like the FaceSwap app on phones, and other virtual reality filters.

Types Of Deepfake Fraud

Panda Security reports on three types of Deepfake activity carried out by cyber criminals:

Ghost Fraud

Ghost fraud occurs when a criminal steals the data of a deceased person and in order to impersonate them for financial gain. The stolen identity might be used to gain access to online services and accounts or to apply for things like credit cards and loans.

New Account Fraud

Also referred to as application fraud, new account fraud involves using stolen or fake identities for the purpose of opening new bank accounts. Once a criminal has opened an account, they can wreak serious financial damage by maxing out credit cards or taking out loans they have no intention of paying back.

Synthetic Identity Fraud

Synthetic identity fraud is a more complex method of fraud that’s typically more difficult to spot. Rather than exploiting the stolen identity of a single person, criminals mine for information and identities of multiple people to create a “person” who doesn’t actually exist. This manufactured identity is then used for large transactions or new credit applications.

While the problem of Deepfakes is already being recognised in cyber security circles, it’s likely to become an even greater problem over the next couple of years.

Deepfakes are one of the many cyber security issues businesses should be aware of. LaneSystems offers a variety of services to protect your company from cyber threats. Contact us today.

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We’re Hiring – Field Technician

We are currently recruiting for an IT Field Technician to join our growing and successful support team. You will become part of our friendly team of support technicians providing first class IT support to our widely varied client portfolio.

Technical knowledge of Microsoft Desktop Operating Systems including Windows 7/8/10. Knowledge of server operating systems and technologies (Server 2016/2012/2008/DHCP/DNS etc).

Read the full details of our vacancy here.

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Ransomware – Thinking Of Paying Up?

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) and Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) issued a joint letter to The Law Society, this month, reminding solicitors that its clients shouldn’t pay ransomware demands, as it won’t keep data safe.

The organisations have seen an increase in the number of firms paying the cyber criminals, and believe that some solicitors are advising their clients to pay because they believe that (a) it will keep the data safe, and (b) result in a lower financial penalty from the ICO.

Ransomware Payment Doesn’t Reduce Risk

The letter said: “It has been suggested to us that a belief persists that payment of a ransom may protect the stolen data and/or result in a lower penalty by the ICO should it undertake an investigation. We would like to be clear that this is not the case”

Current advice is that paying the ransom to gain access to the locked data is not classed as a reasonable safeguard to protecting data. It doesn’t reduce the risk to individuals, and isn’t a requirement under data protection law. The ICO makes it clear that it doesn’t consider ransom payment as a mitigation for the type of enforcement action or its scale. Early engagement and co-operation with the NCSC is considered when setting its response to such a data breach.

NCSC CEO Lindy Cameron said: “Ransomware remains the biggest online threat to the UK and we are clear that organisations should not pay ransom demands.

“Unfortunately we have seen a recent rise in payments to ransomware criminals and the legal sector has a vital role to play in helping reverse that trend.

“Cyber security is a collective effort and we urge the legal sector to help us tackle ransomware and keep the UK safe online.”

Dealing With Ransomware

John Edwards, UK Information Commissioner, added: “Engaging with cyber criminals and paying ransoms only incentivises other criminals and will not guarantee that compromised files are released. It certainly does not reduce the scale or type of enforcement action from the ICO or the risk to individuals affected by an attack.

“We’ve seen cyber-crime costing UK firms billions over the last five years. The response to that must be vigilance, good cyber hygiene, including keeping appropriate back up files, and proper staff training to identify and stop attacks. Organisations will get more credit from those arrangements than by paying off the criminals.

“I want to work with the legal profession and NCSC to ensure that companies understand how we will consider cases and how they can take practical steps to safeguard themselves in a way that we will recognise in our response should the worst happen.”

Take Steps To Protect Data From Ransomware Attacks

The ICO expects an understanding of what has happened and how it occurred. They need a company to be able to demonstrate that they had taken reasonable steps to protect data and mitigate such an attack, following the latest guidance from the NCSC.

The NCSC offers advice for mitigating the ransomware threat and the ICO offers it’s own guidance

LaneSystems provides services to protect data and mitigate the chances of data loss. Contact us today to make sure your company is knows how to stay cyber safe.

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The $43bn Business Scam

While ransomware attacks generally get the most news coverage related to business targets and amounts taken, the FBI has, this month, been reminding people that there’s another major cybersecurity issue that they say has cost businesses more than $43bn.

Sophisticated, Email Phishing Scams

Business Email Compromise (BEC) is a global problem in a world where companies need to arrange and manage online payments to suppliers, both domestically and abroad. Cyber Criminals are bombarding departments with various, very sophisticated, email phishing scams in an attempt to trick people into transferring payments to fake accounts.

Social Engineering Tactics

As TrendMicro explains: BEC attackers rely heavily on social engineering tactics to trick unsuspecting employees and executives. Often, they impersonate CEO or any executive authorized to do wire transfers. In addition, fraudsters also carefully research and closely monitor their potential target victims and their organizations.

BEC cyber criminals might send an email from a spoofed address, pretending to be a supplier chasing up a payment, or even an internal email from within asking for a payment to be made to somebody. Generally the email will be projecting a sense of urgency, maybe setting a deadline to avoid a penalty or to avoid the holding up of an ongoing business deal.

There can also be emails generated after compromising a user account via malware. A link in an email triggering a keylogger or other such Trojan allowing the takeover of a system to set up legitimate looking requests for payments.

Types Of Business Email Compromise

TrendMicro lists 5 types of BEC to be aware of:

The Bogus Invoice Scheme

Companies with foreign suppliers are often targeted with this tactic, wherein attackers pretend to be the suppliers requesting fund transfers for payments to an account owned by fraudsters.

CEO Fraud

Attackers pose as the company CEO or any executive and send an email to employees in finance, requesting them to transfer money to the account they control.

Account Compromise

An executive or employee’s email account is hacked and used to request invoice payments to vendors listed in their email contacts. Payments are then sent to fraudulent bank accounts.

Attorney Impersonation

Attackers pretend to be a lawyer or someone from the law firm supposedly in charge of crucial and confidential matters. Normally, such bogus requests are done through email or phone, and during the end of the business day.

Data Theft

Employees under HR and bookkeeping are targeted to obtain personally identifiable information (PII) or tax statements of employees and executives. Such data can be used for future attacks.

Preventing BEC Scams

Payments made to these scam requests, obviously, end up in the accounts of cyber criminals, yet a vast number of these losses go unreported as they’re not seen as cyber security issues.

It is extremely important to be wary of any and all incoming emails that are a request for payment. Always verify that your company deals with a supplier, and that the requested payment is for something actually provided. Keep a list of contacts at all your suppliers so you can make a call to confirm anything on accounts. Make sure all staff are trained and there’s an internal policy for dealing with company payments. Be aware of ‘red flags’.

Don’t click on any links or simply reply to the address or call the number provided in the email received. If something seems suspicious raise the alarm. Stay safe.

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Heatwave Forced Google And Oracle Offline

As UK temperatures pushed 40° Celsius for a couple of days in June, tech giants Google and Oracle suffered outages at their London data centres because of cooling issues related to the extreme heat.

Cloud services and servers used by many customers were affected as the decision was made to power down some machines for protection from any long-term damage. There was serious concern of hardware burning out, as server overheating exceeded operational limits.

Oracle’s Cloud Infrastructure resources were taken offline, meaning networking, storage, and computing power provided by its servers were unavailable to its customers.

Google’s Cloud data centre suffered cooling system failures which were said to be causing “elevated error rates, latencies or service unavailability”. Services using Google Cloud, such as customer websites that relied on the virtual resources, were affected by the drop in capacity.

These huge datacentres have substantial capacity for creating many backups, and in-built redundancy for cushioning any spike in resource requests, but unprecedented temperatures put a strain on the data centre infrastructure by falling into the “upper end of design expectations for a lot of data centre operators”.

As the BBC reports: With climate scientists warning that very hot days will become more frequent, tech firms are exploring greener cooling solutions and computer systems that consume less power and generate less heat.

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Maracas, Jellyfish, Shaking face, Goose!

What do all of these things have in common in the tech world? They’re some of the new emojis that are proposed to be added this year. All together there are 31 new emojis proposed for Emoji 15.0, down from the 112 that were added last year.

Alongside a moose, a comb, a donkey, a jellyfish, a ginger root, maracas, the WiFi symbol, and a “talk to the hand” icon, there is a plain pink heart emoji which is said to be the most requested emoji.

The final approved list will be confirmed in September. Unicode Consortium’s. Emoji reference website Emojipedia said that while some emojis may not make the final version, most that reach this stage are confirmed.

The Hyperallergic website notes that: Emojis have been around since 1999, and after almost 25 years, they have become a near universally accepted form of communication. Last year, an Adobe report found that 88% of people felt more empathetic toward someone if they used an emoji, and 66% of people liked it when emojis were used at work.

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