A new strain of ransomware dubbed “Petya” is worming its way around the world with alarming speed. The malware appears to be spreading using a vulnerability in Microsoft Windows that the software giant patched in March 2017 — the same bug that was exploited by the recent and prolific WannaCry ransomware strain.
Identity thieves who specialize in tax refund fraud had big help this past tax year from Equifax, one of the nation’s largest consumer data brokers and credit bureaus. The trouble stems from TALX, an Equifax subsidiary that provides online payroll, HR and tax services. Equifax says crooks were able to reset the 4-digit PIN given to customer employees as a password and then steal W-2 tax data after successfully answering personal questions about those employees.
In a boilerplate text sent to several affected customers, Equifax said the unauthorized access to customers’ employee tax records happened between April 17, 2016 and March 29, 2017.
Beyond that, the extent of the fraud perpetrated with the help of hacked TALX accounts is unclear, and Equifax refused requests to say how many consumers or payroll service customers may have been impacted by the authentication weaknesses.
A steady stream of card breaches at retailers, restaurants and hotels has flooded underground markets with a historic glut of stolen debit and credit card data. Today there are at least hundreds of sites online selling stolen account data, yet only a handful of them actively court bulk buyers and organized crime rings. Faced with a buyer’s market, these elite shops set themselves apart by focusing on loyalty programs, frequent-buyer discounts, money-back guarantees and just plain old good customer service.
Many readers have asked for a primer summarizing the privacy and security issues at stake in the the dispute between Apple and the U.S. Justice Department, which last week convinced a judge in California to order Apple to unlock an iPhone used by one of assailants in the recent San Bernardino massacres. I don’t have much original reporting to contribute on this important debate, but I’m visiting it here because it’s a complex topic that deserves the broadest possible public scrutiny.
Imagine buying an internet-enabled surveillance camera, network attached storage device, or home automation gizmo, only to find that it secretly and constantly phones home to a vast peer-to-peer (P2P) network run by the Chinese manufacturer of the hardware. Now imagine that the geek gear you bought doesn’t actually let you block this P2P communication without some serious networking expertise or hardware surgery that few users would attempt.
Chinese government censors at the helm of the “Great Firewall of China” appear to have errantly blocked Chinese Web surfers from visiting pages that call out to connect.facebook.net, a resource used by Facebook’s “like” buttons. While the apparent screw-up was quickly fixed, the block was cached by many Chinese networks — effectively preventing millions of Chinese Web surfers from visiting a huge number of sites that are not normally censored.
China has been actively diverting unencrypted Web traffic destined for its top online search service — Baidu.com — so that some visitors from outside of the country were unwittingly enlisted in a novel and unsettling series of denial-of-service attacks aimed at sidelining sites that distribute anti-censorship tools, according to research released this week.
The longer one lurks in the Internet underground, the more difficult it becomes to ignore the harsh reality that for nearly every legitimate online business there is a cybercrime-oriented anti-business. Case in point: Today’s post looks at a popular service that helps crooked online marketers exhaust the Google AdWords budgets of their competitors.
State authorities in Florida on Thursday announced criminal charges targeting three men who allegedly ran illegal businesses moving large amounts of cash in and out of the Bitcoin virtual currency. Experts say this is the first case in which Bitcoin vendors have been prosecuted under state anti-money laundering laws, and that prosecutions like these could smother one of the last remaining avenues for purchasing Bitcoins anonymously.
Federal authorities last week arrested a Washington state man accused of being one of the most active and sought-after drug dealers on the online black market known as the “Silk Road.” Meanwhile, new details about the recent coordinated takedown of the Silk Road became public, as other former buyers and sellers on the fraud bazaar pondered who might be next and whether competing online drug markets will fill the void.