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Cyber spies, miners and worms attack energy sector

Kaspersky solutions were triggered on almost half of industrial control system (ICS) computers in the energy sector globally in the first six months of 2019.

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The top three cyberthreats were worms, spyware, and cryptocurrency miners – together, they combined to make almost 14% of the share of targeted computers. These are among the main findings of the Kaspersky ICS CERT report on the industrial threat landscape in the first half of 2019.

Industrial cyber incidents are among the most dangerous as they may result in production downtime and tangible financial losses and are quite hard to overcome. This is especially the case when the incident occurs in critical, life-supporting sectors, such as energy. Statistics for H1 2019, automatically processed by Kaspersky security technologies, have shown that those who manage energy solutions should not let their guard down. Overall, during the observed period of time, Kaspersky products were triggered on 41.6% of ICS computers in the energy sector. A large number of conventional malware samples –– not designed for ICS — were blocked.

Among the malicious programmes which were blocked, the greatest danger was posed by cryptocurrency miners (2.9%), worms (7.1%), and a variety of versatile spyware (3.7%). Infection with such malware can negatively affect the availability and integrity of ICS and other systems that are part of the industrial network. Among these detected threats, some are of particular interest.

This includes AgentTesla, specialised Trojan Spy malware, designed to steal authentication data, screenshots, and data captured from the web camera and keyboard. In all of the analysed cases, the attackers sent data via compromised mailboxes at various companies. Aside from malware threat, Kaspersky products also identified and blocked cases of the Meterpreter backdoor which was being used to remotely control computers on the industrial networks of energy systems. Attacks that use the backdoor are targeted and stealthy and are often conducted in manual mode. The ability of the attackers to control infected ICS computers stealthily and remotely poses a huge threat to industrial systems. Last but not least, the company’s solutions detected and blocked Syswin, a new wiper worm written in Python and packed into the Windows executable format. This threat can have a significant impact on ICS computers due to its ability to self-propagate and destroy data.

The energy sector was not the only one to face malicious objects and activities. Other industries, analysed by Kaspersky experts, have also shown no reason for relief with automotive manufacturing (39.3%) and building automation (37.8%) taking the second and the third places in terms of percentage of the number of ICS computers on which malicious objects were blocked.

Other findings of the report include:

  • On average, ICS computers do not operate entirely inside a security perimeter typical of corporate environments, and are, to a large extent, protected from many threats, which are also relevant to home users, using their own measures and tools. In other words, tasks related to protecting the corporate segment and the ICS segment are to some extent unrelated.
  • In general, the level of malicious activity inside the ICS segment is connected with the ‘background’ malware activity in the country.
  • On average, in countries where the situation with the security of the ICS segment is favorable, the low levels of attacked ICS computers are attributable to protection measures and tools that are used rather than a generally low background level of malicious activity.
  • Self-propagating malicious programmes are very active in some countries. In the cases analysed, these were worms (malicious Worm class objects) designed to infect removable media (USB flash drives, removable hard drives, mobile phones, etc.). It appears that infections with worms via removable media is the most common scenario that could happen to ICS computers.

Kirill Kruglov, security researcher at Kaspersky, says: “The collected statistics, as well as analysis into industrial cyberthreats, are a proven asset for assessing current trends and predicting what type of danger we should all prepare for. This report has identified that security experts should be particularly cautious about malicious software that aims to steal data, spy on critically important objects, penetrate the perimeter and destroy the data. All of these types of incident could cause lots of trouble for industry.”

Kaspersky ICS CERT recommends implementing the following technical measures:

  • Regularly update operating systems, application software and security solutions on systems that are part of the enterprise’s industrial network.
  • Restrict network traffic on ports and protocols used on edge routers and inside the organisation’s OT networks.
  • Audit access control for ICS components in the enterprise’s industrial network and at its boundaries.
  • Provide dedicated regular training and support for employees as well as partners and suppliers with access to your OT/ICS network.
  • Deploy dedicated endpoint protection solution such asKaspersky Industrial CyberSecurity on ICS servers, workstations and HMIs to secure OT and industrial infrastructure from random cyberattacks; and network traffic monitoring, analysis and detection solutions for better protection from targeted attacks. 

Read the full version on Kaspersky ICS CERT.

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Huge appetite for foldable phones – when prices fall

Samsung, Huawei and Motorola have all shown their cards, but consumers are concerned about durability, size, and enhanced use cases, according to Strategy Analytics

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Foldable devices are a long-awaited disrupter in the smartphone market, exciting leading-edge early adopters keen for a bold new type of device. But the acceptance of foldable devices by mainstream segments will depend on the extent to which the current barriers to adoption are addressed.

Major brands have been throwing their foldable bets into the hat to see what the market wants from a foldable, namely how big the screens should be and how the devices should fold. Samsung and Huawei have both designed devices that unfold from smartphones to tablets, each with their own method of how the devices go about folding. Motorola has recently designed a smartphone that folds in half, and it resembles a flip phone.

Assessing consumer desire for foldable smartphones, a new report from the User Experience Strategies group at Strategy Analytics has found that the perceived value of the foldable form does not outweigh the added cost.

Key report findings include:

  • The idea of having a larger-displayed smartphone in a portable size is perceived as valuable to the vast majority of consumers in the UK and the US. But, willingness to pay extra for a foldable device does not align with the desire to purchase one. Manufacturers must understand that there will be low sell-through until costs come down.
  • But as the acceptance for traditional smartphone display sizes continues to increase, so does the imposed friction of trying to use them one-handed. Unless a foldable phone has a wider folded state, entering text when closed is too cumbersome, forcing users to utilize two hands to enter text, when in the opened state.
  • Use cases need to be adequately demonstrated for consumers to fully understand and appreciate the potential for a foldable phone, though their priorities seemed fixed on promoting ‘two devices in one’ equaling a better video viewing experience. Identification and promotion of meaningful new use cases will be vital to success.

Christopher Dodge, Associate Director, UXIP and report author said: “As multitasking will look to be a core selling point for foldable phones, it is imperative that the execution be simplified and intuitive. Our data suggests there are a lot of uncertainties that come with foldable phone ownership, stemming mainly from concerns with durability and size, in addition to concerns over enhanced use cases.

“But our data also shows that when the consumers are able to use a foldable phone in hand, there is a solid reduction of doubt and concern about the concept. This means that the in-store experience may more important than ever in driving awareness, capabilities, and potential use cases.”

Said Paul Brown, Director, UXIP: “The big question is whether the perceived value will outweigh the added cost; and the initial response from consumers is ‘no.’ The ability for foldable displays to resolve real consumer pain-points is, in our view critical to whether these devices will become a niche segment of the smartphone market or the dominant form-factor of the future. Until costs come down, these devices will not take off.”

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New exploit exposes credit cards on mobile phones

Check Point Security has found that handsets using Qualcomm chipsets that hold credit and debit card credentials are at risk of a new exploit.

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Now it’s more important than ever to update your phone.
Check Point security has found a vulnerability in mobile devices that run Android, which allows credit card details to be accessed by hackers.

Mobile operating systems like Android offer a Rich Execution Environment (REE), providing a hugely extensive and versatile runtime environment, which allows apps to run on the device. However, while bringing flexibility and capability, REE leaves devices vulnerable to a wide range of security threats. A Trusted Execution Environment (TEE) is designed to reside alongside the REE and provide a safe area on the device to protect assets and to execute trusted code. Qualcomm makes use of a secure virtual processor, which is often referred to as the “secure world”, in comparison to the “non-secure world”, where REE resides. 

But Check Point “fuzzed” a “hole” into this secure world 

In a 4-month research project, Check Point researchers attempted and succeeded to reverse Qualcomm’s “Secure World” operating system. Check Point researchers leveraged a “fuzzing” technique to expose the hole. Fuzz testing (fuzzing) is a quality assurance technique used to discover coding errors and security loopholes in software, operating systems or networks. It involves inputting massive amounts of random data, called fuzz, to the test subject in an attempt to make it crash.

Check Point implemented a custom-made fuzzing tool, which tested trusted code on Samsung, LG, and Motorola devices. Through fuzzing, Check Point found 4 vulnerabilities in trusted code implemented by Samsung (including S10), 1 in Motorola, 1 in LG, but all code sourced by Qualcomm itself. To address the vulnerability, the runtime of Android needs to be protected from both attackers and users. This is typically achieved by moving the secure storage software to a hardware-supported TEE.

Check Point Research disclosed its findings directly to the companies and gave them time to patch vulnerabilities. Samsung patched three vulnerabilities and LG patched one. Motorola and Qualcomm responded, but have yet to provide a patch, and there is no confirmation of a release date yet.

Check Point Research has urged mobile phone users to stay vigilant and check their credit and debit card providers for any unusual activity. In the meantime, they are working with the vendors mentioned to issue patches.

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