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How Petya ransomware struck

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The Petya ransomeware attack that has been spreading around the world since 27 June my be the worst of its kind and infections are starting to show up in South Africa.

The Petya ransomware attack that has been spreading across the world since yesterday (27 June) may prove to be the worst of its kind yet experienced. South Africa has remained relatively unscathed, but infections are beginning here.

ESET researchers have located the point from which this global epidemic has all started. Attackers have successfully compromised the accounting software M.E.Doc, popular across various industries in Ukraine, including financial institutions. Several of them executed a trojanized update of M.E.Doc, which allowed attackers to launch the massive ransomware campaign today which spread across the whole country and to the whole world. M.E.Doc has today released a warning on their website: http://www.me-doc.com.ua/vnimaniyu-polzovateley

Numerous reports are coming out on social media about a new ransomware attack in Ukraine, which could be related to the Petya family, which is currently detected by ESET as Win32/Diskcoder.C Trojan. If it successfully infects the MBR, it will encrypt the whole drive itself. Otherwise, it encrypts all files, like Mischa.

For spreading, it appears to be using a combination of the SMB exploit (EternalBlue) used by WannaCryptor for getting inside the network, then spreading through PsExec for spreading within the network.

This dangerous combination may be the reason why this outbreak has spread globally and rapidly, even after the previous outbreaks have generated media headlines and hopefully most vulnerabilities have been patched. It only takes one unpatched computer to get inside the network, and the malware can get administrator rights and spread to other computers.

The journalist Christian Borys, for example, tweeted that the cyberattack has “allegedly hit” banks, power grid and postal companies, among others. Moreover, it appears that the government has also come under attack. Borys has also tweeted an image put up on Facebook by Ukraine’s deputy prime minister, Pavlo Rozenko, which shows a computer apparently being encrypted.

The National Bank of Ukraine has also put out a message on its website warning other banks of the ransomware attack. It stated: “Currently, the financial sector strengthened security measures and counter hacker attacks all financial market participants.”

Forbes said that while there appear to be similarities with WannaCryptor – with others describing it as WannaCry-esque – it is likely to be a variant of Petya.

An image, similar to the one witnessed by WannaCryptor victims, reportedly showing the ransomware message is making the rounds online, with one from Group-IB showing the following message (paraphrased):

“If you see this text, then your files are no longer accessible, because they have been encrypted … We guarantee that you can recover all your files safely and easily. All you need to do is submit the payment [$300 bitcoins] and purchase the decryption key.”

However, a spokesman said that “there is no effect on power supplies”, although it may be too early to ascertain this.

It appears that the ransomware attack is not specific to Ukraine. The Independent said that Spain and India may also have been affected, as well as the Danish shipping company Maersk and the British advertising company WPP.

On the latter’s homepage, the following message reads: “The WPP web site is currently unavailable due to important routine maintenance normal service will resume shortly.

“We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause. In the meantime if you would like to contact WPP, please email the site Editor at the following address …”

WPP has since confirmed on Twitter that it has been the victim of an attack: “IT systems in several WPP companies have been affected by a suspected cyberattack. We are taking appropriate measures & will update asap.”

There are also reports that payments are being made in response to the attack, at the BTC address linked here.

For more on Petya, check out this insightful piece from 2016, which notes of the crypto-ransomware:

Petya took an approach different from that of other crypto-ransomware. Instead of encrypting files individually, it aimed at the file system.

“The target is the victim’s master boot record (MBR), which is responsible for loading the operating system right after system boot.”

In order to prevent this kind of threat, we recommend that you always have your systems fully patched, that you use a proper security solution and that you set up network segmentation, which might help prevent spreading within the network.

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Earth 2050: memory chips for kids, telepathy for adults

An astonishing set of predictions for the next 30 years includes a major challenge to the privacy of our thoughts.

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Buy 2050, most kids may be fitted with the latest memory boosting implants, and adults will have replaced mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought.

These are some of the more dramatic forecasts in Earth 2050, an award-winning, interactive multimedia project that accumulates predictions about social and technological developments for the upcoming 30 years. The aim is to identify global challenges for humanity and possible ways of solving these challenges. The website was launched in 2017 to mark Kaspersky Lab’s 20th birthday. It comprises a rich variety of predictions and future scenarios, covering a wide range of topics.

Recently a number of new contributions have been added to the site. Among them Lord Martin Rees, the UK’s Astronomer Royal, Professor at Cambridge University and former President of the Royal Society; investor and entrepreneur Steven Hoffman, Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner, along withDmitry Galov, security researcher and Alexey Malanov, malware analyst at Kaspersky Lab.

The new visions for 2050 consider, among other things:

  • The replacement of mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought – able to upload skills and knowledge in return – and the impact of this on individual consciousness and privacy of thought.
  • The ability to transform all life at the genetic level through gene editing.
  • The potential impact of mistakes made by advanced machine-learning systems/AI.
  • The demise of current political systems and the rise of ‘citizen governments’, where ordinary people are co-opted to approve legislation.
  • The end of the techno-industrial age as the world runs out of fossil fuels, leading to economic and environmental devastation.
  • The end of industrial-scale meat production, as most people become vegan and meat is cultured from biopsies taken from living, outdoor reared livestock.

The hypothetical prediction for 2050 from Dmitry Galov, security researcher at Kaspersky Lab is as follows: “By 2050, our knowledge of how the brain works, and our ability to enhance or repair it is so advanced that being able to remember everything and learn new things at an outrageous speed has become commonplace. Most kids are fitted with the latest memory boosting implants to support their learning and this makes education easier than it has ever been. 

“Brain damage as a result of head injury is easily repaired; memory loss is no longer a medical condition, and people suffering from mental illnesses, such as depression, are quickly cured.  The technologies that underpin this have existed in some form since the late 2010s. Memory implants are in fact a natural progression from the connected deep brain stimulation implants of 2018.

“But every technology has another side – a dark side. In 2050, the medical, social and economic impact of memory boosting implants are significant, but they are also vulnerable to exploitation and cyber-abuse. New threats that have appeared in the last decade include the mass manipulation of groups through implanted or erased memories of political events or conflicts, and even the creation of ‘human botnets’. 

“These botnets connect people’s brains into a network of agents controlled and operated by cybercriminals, without the knowledge of the victims themselves.  Repurposed cyberthreats from previous decades are targeting the memories of world leaders for cyber-espionage, as well as those of celebrities, ordinary people and businesses with the aim of memory theft, deletion of or ‘locking’ of memories (for example, in return for a ransom).  

“This landscape is only possible because, in the late 2010s when the technologies began to evolve, the potential future security vulnerabilities were not considered a priority, and the various players: healthcare, security, policy makers and more, didn’t come together to understand and address future risks.”

For more information and the full suite of inspirational and thought-provoking predictions, visit Earth 2050.

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Pizoelectrics: Healthcare’s new gymnasts of gadgetry

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Healthcare electronics is rapidly deploying for wellness, electroceuticals, and intrusive medical procedures, among other, powered by new technologies. Much of it is trending to diagnostics and treatment on the move, and removing the need for the patient to perform procedures on time. 

Instruments become wearables, including electronic skin patches and implants. The IDTechEx Research report, “Piezoelectric Harvesting and Sensing for Healthcare 2019-2029”, notes that sensors should preferably be self-powered, non-poisonous even on disposal, and many need to be biocompatible and even biodegradable. 

We need to detect biology, vibration, force, acceleration, stress and linear movement and do imaging. Devices must reject bacteria and be useful in wearables and Internet of Things nodes. Preferably we must move to one device performing multiple tasks. 

So is there a gymnast material category that has that awesome versatility? 

Piezoelectrics has a good claim. It measures all those parameters. That even includes biosensors where the piezo senses the swelling of a biomolecule recognizing a target analyte. The most important form of self-powered (one material, two functions) piezo sensing is ultrasound imaging, a market growing at 5.1% yearly. 

The IDTechEx Research report looks at what comes next, based on global travel and interviewing by its PhD level analysts in 2018 with continuous updates.  

Click here to read how Piezo has been reinvented.

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