Attackers have seized upon a previously unknown security hole in Oracle’s ubiquitous Java software to break into vulnerable systems. So far, the attacks exploiting this weakness have been targeted and not widespread, but it appears that the exploit code is now public and is being folded into more widely-available attack tools such as Metasploit and exploit kits like BlackHole.
Google warned on Wednesday that hackers were launching targeted phishing attacks against hundreds of Gmail account users, including senior U.S. government officials, Chinese political activists, military personnel and journalists. That story, as related in a blog post on the Official Google Blog, was retold in hundreds of media outlets today as the latest example of Chinese cyber espionage: The lead story in the print edition of The Wall Street Journal today was, “Google: China Hacked Email.”
The fact that hackers are launching extremely sophisticated email attacks that appear to trace back to China makes for great headlines, but it isn’t exactly news. I’m surprised by how few media outlets took the time to explain the mechanics behind these targeted attacks, because they offer valuable insight into why people who really ought to know better keep falling for these attacks. I also think a more complete accounting of the attacks may give regular Internet users a better sense of the caliber of scams that are likely to target them somewhere down the road.
A malware-laced e-mail that spoofed seasons greetings from The White House siphoned gigabytes of sensitive documents from dozens of victims over the holidays, including a number of government employees and contractors who work on cybersecurity matters, KrebsOnSecurity.com has learned.
The attack appears to be the latest salvo from ZeuS malware gangs whose activities over the past year have blurred the boundaries between online financial crime and espionage, by stealing financial data and documents from victim machines. This activity is unusual because most criminals using ZeuS are interested in money-making activities – such as stealing banking passwords and creating botnets – whereas the hoovering up of sensitive government documents is typically associated with threats from China that are deployed to gather industrial or military intelligence.