Tag Archive: Hackers


Mobile security company Lookout has continued to expand its list of Android Market applications that have been found to contain malicious code known as ‘RuFraud’. Researchers spotted 22 malicious apps by the start of the week, prompting Microsoft to offer victims free Windows Phone handsets, while five more have been discovered since then.

The titles include several horoscope apps, wallpaper utilities that offer pictures from movies such as Twilight and Moneyball, fake downloaders for popular Android games such as Angry birds, and fake free versions of other games.

Once downloaded, the apps trick users into agreeing to charges that will be applied to the bill due to SMS messages sent to premium numbers. The code appears to affect users in Europe and Asia, rather than North America.

Google has quickly pulled the offending titles from the app portal, however the situation has given credence to criticism of the mobile platform’s security features. The company’s open approach is said to make it easier for attackers to post malicious apps without encountering problems in the approval process. Fragmentation is also seen as a potential problem, as most Android handsets are running older OS versions that lack the latest security protection.

Thanks: Electronista


For the first time, Facebook has revealed details about how it tracks users across the web.

Through interviews with Facebook engineering director Arturo Bejar, Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes, Facebook corporate spokesman Barry Schnitt and Facebook engineering manager Gregg Stefancik, USA Today‘s Byron Acohido was able to compile the most complete picture to date of how the social network keeps tabs on its 800 million users.

Here is what Acohido learned:

    • Facebook doesn’t track everybody the same way. It uses different methods for members who have signed in and are using their accounts, members who are logged-off and non-members.
    • The first time you arrive at any Facebook.com page, the company inserts cookies in your browser. If you sign up for an account, it inserts two types of cookies. If you don’t set up an account, it only inserts one of the two types.
    • These cookies record every time you visit another website that uses a Facebook Like button or other Facebook plugin — which work together with the cookies to note the time, date and website being visited. Unique characteristics that identify your computer are also recorded.
    • Facebook keeps logs that record your past 90 days of activity. It deletes entries older than 90 days.
    • If you are logged into a Facebook account, your name, email address, friends and all of the other data in your Facebook profile is also recorded.

Data about web searches and browsing habits could be used to figure out political affiliations, religious beliefs, sexual orientations or health issues about consumers. According to USA Today, this type of correlation doesn’t seem to be happening on a wide scale, but the concern of some privacy advocates is that selling data could become a tempting business proposition — both to social networks like Facebook and online advertising players such as Google, Microsoft and Yahoo that similarly employ cookie tracking techniques.

Facebook told USA Today that it uses data collected via cookies to help improve security and its plugins and that it has no plans to change how it uses this data. It has, however, applied for a patent on a technology that includes a method that correlates ads and tracking data.

“We patent lots of things, and future products should not be inferred from our patent application,” Facebook corporate spokesman Barry Schnitt told USA Today.

Regardless of how Facebook is handling the data it collects through cookies, by doing so it has entered a very sticky debate about whether consumers should be able to opt out of being tracked by such methods. Aproposed law that would create this option was introduced in February.

While a recent poll found that about 70% of Facebook users and 52% of Google users were either somewhat or very concerned about their privacy, some argue that online commerce would suffer without online tracking.

Thanks: Mashable


Facebook on Monday defended its practice of gathering data from “Like” buttons even after users have logged out, saying that the collection is part of a system to prevent improper logins and that the information is quickly deleted.

The comments from the social-networking giant come after Australian technologist Nik Cubrilovic published findings showing that unique identifiers were sent from “Like” buttons when users were not logged in, raising questions about the privacy implications of Facebook’s vast presence on the Web.

“Even if you are logged out, Facebook still knows and can track every page you visit,” Cubrilovic wrote in a blog post about the issue. “The only solution is to delete every Facebook cookie in your browser, or to use a separate browser for Facebook interactions.”

Here’s how the Facebook data collection works: When you log in to Facebook or visit Facebook.com without logging in, the site places small files called “cookies” on your computer. Some of these cookies remain on your computer even after you log out, and then whenever you visit a site that connects to Facebook – such as those with a “Like” button – information from those cookies is sent back to Facebook, providing a record of where you’ve been on the Web.

Facebook acknowledges that it gets that data but says it deletes it right away. The company says the data is sent because of the way the “Like” button system is set up; any cookies that are associated with Facebook.com will automatically get sent when you view a “Like” button.

“The onus is on us is to take all the data and scrub it,” said Arturo Bejar, a Facebook director of engineering. “What really matters is what we say as a company and back it up.”

In a statement, a Facebook spokesman said “no information we receive when you see a social plugin is used to target ads.”

Bejar said Facebook is looking at ways to avoid sending the data altogether but that it will “take a while.”

So why does Facebook keep cookies after you log out in the first place? Bejar said that it’s to prevent spam and phishing attacks and to help keep users from having to go through extra authentication steps every time they log in.

When a user logs in to Facebook from a new computer, the site will often make them take steps to prove that they are who they say they are, rather than someone attempting to log into an account improperly. Cookies allow Facebook to skip those steps when people are logging in from a computer they’ve used before, Bejar said.

But Facebook has been under fire lately over privacy, and the fact that Facebook is getting data at all after people have logged out is raising concerns. “This is not what ‘logout’ is supposed to mean,” Cubrilovic wrote.

This is not the first time people have questioned how much information Facebook gets from “Like” buttons.

In May, the Journal’s Amir Efrati wrote that Facebook would continue to collect browsing data even if users closed their browser or turned off their computers, until they explicitly logged out of Facebook. The current findings, which your Digits blogger confirmed on her computer, indicate that the collection continues even after users explicitly log out.

And earlier this year, Facebook discontinued the practice of obtaining browsing data about Internet users who had never visited Facebook.com, after it was disclosed by Dutch researcher Arnold Roosendaal.

Thanks: WSJ

Anonymous FacebookOp is a hoax


t wasn’t too long ago that I was lurking in AnonOps’ IRC channel during Operation Payback, the Anonymous action that “took down” a few well-known financial companies’ landing pages, and generally stirred up a lot more media than they deserved. I remember the general chaos and script kiddie-like enthusiasm that pervaded the public chat areas and trying to make sense of the mystique and reverence that the channel operators enjoyed. I also remember a lot of people yelling about Amazon.com, that it was just as bad as the other financial companies that denied donations to Wikileaks, and that it should be “taken down” in turn.

Almost every time, someone a little more wizened and experienced would chime in and say that you don’t just “take down” Amazon.com; websites, especially the ones that are the veritable bastions of distributed cloud systems, scalability, and server infrastructure, aren’t really susceptible to script kiddies en masse. Distributed Denial of Service attacks are not new and it’s amusing to watch people drool over the piece of software that enables you participate in them (Low Orbit Ion Cannon) as if it’s some sophisticated and occult hacking device that magically “takes down websites.”

I keep putting “take down” in quotation marks for a reason. The most damaging wound that Anonymous has ever inflicted on a website is temporarily taking down its homepage, which simply bars visitors from viewing it. This isn’t “taking down” a company. All you’ve done is piss off some sysadmins and alienated some users who needed the site. Putting up an alternate message on the homepage, sometimes embarrassing the site, doesn’t constitute taking down very much. As I’ve seen one comic strip put it, it’s the equivalent of defacing a poster in the lobby.

This is in stark contrast to the recent doings of LulzSec and the Antisec movement as a whole. Those groups are determined to actually do some damage, and damage they certainly do. They have distributed troves of personal and confidential information, swiped maliciously from government and law enforcement websites. While not causing downtime per se, these actions are for more harmful to an organization than simply defacing its landing page.

This is why Anonymous will never attack Facebook. Aside from the numerous other circumstantial evidence that point to yesterday’s announcement being a hoax to begin with (new YouTube account, non-standard Twitter account, non-Pastebin distribution, and none of the usual chatter), you can’t just “take down” Facebook. Facebook is not a website. It isn’t staffed by a few starving sysadmins without the resources to plan for, preempt, and defend from this kind of decidedly primitive attack.

According to Alexa, 44% of global Internet users visited Facebook.com yesterday. In 2010, Facebook was running more than 60,000 servers. 3 billion photos are uploaded to Facebook every month. These numbers are constantly growing. Think about the scale of that number for a moment and it’s quite obvious to see that trying to “take down” Facebook is about as foolhardy a fantasy as simply walking into Mordor. Furthermore, just to add another layer of disbelief, Anonymous is warning Facebook months ahead of time that this is happening!

If the FacebookOp announcement is not a hoax (and it most certainly is), then this is obviously a desperate grasp at some kind of publicity. Anonymous has been rightfully overshadowed by the much more harmful and inflammatory AntiSec groups, and is probably looking for a way to get their hacktivist agenda back on the media’s radar screen. Suffice it to say that it worked; they have the media’s rapt attention. The other possibility, albeit highly unlikely, is that Anonymous actually has the firepower and wherewithal to bring Facebook to its knees. If this really is the case, and Anonymous has evolved from the chaotic and leaderless group we know it to be, we’re obviously dealing with something much larger than hacktivism, and it’s a scenario in which 600 million or so of the world’s population would be victims. While it’s an interesting plot for a bad sci-fi movie, I’m not ready to acknowledge that Anonymous has anywhere near the capabilities required to pull off something as huge and nefarious as “killing Facebook,” and I think Facebook sysadmins would agree.

Thanks: Neowin


China suffered about 493,000 cyber attacks last year, about half of which originated abroad, particularly the United States and India, according to a computer security report issued Tuesday in the northeastern port city of Dalian.

Most of the attacks came in the form of malicious “Trojan” software used by hackers to gain access to target computers, according to the National Computer Network Emergency Response Coordination Center of China, the country’s primary computer security monitoring network.

The report said 14.7 percent of the malicious programs came from Internet Protocol addresses (IPs) located in the United States, with another 8 percent located in India.

International cooperation has been enhanced, the report said, citing an example of Beijing and Seoul cooperating to thwart Republic of Korea-originated cyber attacks targeting a ring-back tone website registered in northwest China in May 2010.

The report said hacking that tampers with web pages is often politically or religiously motivated, though sometimes it is purely to show off. Some government agencies’ websites are often targeted by IPs that originate from Turkey, with hackers displaying texts and pictures intended for political and religious campaigns, it said.

Hackers tampered with nearly 35,000 web pages — including 4,635 government websites — in the past year, the report said, up 67.6 percent from a year earlier. It said 60 percent of websites of ministry-level government departments are at risk of being hacked.

Concerning domestic cyber attacks, the report said an increasing number of financial institutes or online payment platforms are being fabricated. Hackers steal customer information on these fabricated websites and use it to gain access to financial accounts through online banking.

The Chinese report came days after U.S. cybersecurity company McAfee said it had no direct evidence that a particular nation is behind the global scheme and added that it never accused China of being involved. The company’s recent report discovered an unprecedented series of cyber attacks on 72 government agencies and business organizations worldwide.

China has the world’s largest online population — 485 million Internet users.

Thanks: English News