Internet threat news

Metasploit Penetration Testing Software

Metasploit is a tool that white hat hackers use to do penetration testing. No doubt criminals use it too.

What Metasploit does is take exploits gathered by thousands of contributors and package them into scripts and a command line and web interface so that security admins and analysts can test if any of the computers on their network are subject to any known vulnerabilities. If they are then they need to be patched against that vulnerability.

The product is open-sourced, Metasploit says, but you still have to pay for it. You can download the Community Edition and use that free for 1 year. The Professional version is free for 14 days.  Both are open-sourced in that anyone can write code that exploits a vulnerability and then contribute that to Metasploit.

To get you started with learning this tool, Metasploit provides a virtual machine called Metasploitable that you can run with VMWare or VirtualBox. This is an Ubuntu VM that has been deliberately loaded up with security flaws, such as out-dated versions of software and misconfigured software and using default passwords that Metasploit can guess.

You download and install Metasploit. Then it sets up a web interface. But that is mainly useful for scanning hosts. It’s easier to run exploits from the command line. On Ubuntu, that is /opt/metasploit/msfpro. The name is “pro” even for the Community Edition. You have to remember to run this with sudo privileges or it will throw an error.

Microsoft Security Bulletins and Advisories

Microsoft publishes security bulletins and advisories here. Those warn of vulnerabilities in Microsoft products.  You can sign up for updates via RSS or email here. They say:

“To improve security protections for customers, Microsoft provides vulnerability information to major security software providers in advance of each monthly security update release.”

Microsoft says that Security Advisories flag security problems with Microsoft products. They are released as issues are found. Security Bulletins are issued monthly as a update for the issues found that month. The Advisory updates only the component mentioned in the Advisory.  Bulletins update the whole OS or a packaged bundle, like the .Net runtime. Advisories are targeted to programmers who can update the single subroutine mentioned in the advisory. So it is a way to issue the fix ahead of the bulletin. But it is not always going to help people who are using apps written by 3rd parties until the 3rd parties update those. Microsoft keeps older versions of its run-time components in Windows to support apps that have not been updated to use the newer components.

Notorious Carbank Hackers Embed Visual Basic Code in RTF and Exploit Google Services

A group of hackers known as Carbank, who in 2015 stole an incredible $1 billion USD from banks, have been again using RTF documents with embedded OLE objects to plant malware on computers. They send these documents in emails using phishing attacks. Then they use Google services on the machine to plant further instructions.
OLE is an object (Object Linking and Embedding) in old Microsoft technology, still in use, that lets programmers create objects with relative ease, like push buttons, drop box lists, or to execute code that they wrote themselves in Visual Basic.

Visual Basic has been in Microsoft Windows and DOS since Bill Gates and some other people wrote that when Gates was in Harvard. Visual Basic is one of the easiest languages to code.  But it is dangerous, since it can access low level functions, like copying files.

VB in a spreadsheet is similar to a Macro, except VB is a full programming language. Macros just do simple steps. For example, with OLE, users of any Microsoft Office product can put buttons on screens in Microsoft Excel or Microsoft Access and then they can write their own VB code and attach it to those buttons or kick it off automatically when those docs are loaded.

Tor Releases Alpha Version of Browser to Block certain De-anonymization Exploits

The Tor browser is a tool used by Edward Snowden, journalists, US government workers traveling overseas, terrorists, criminals, pedophiles, and people downloading movies and doing chat to protect their IP address from discovery. But recently there was a zero day defect that unmasked the identity of whoever was using it. So Tor has hardened its browser against that.   Here we given an overview of that.

The hardened Alpha version of Tor is here. You have to build that one from source code. The production version is here. Just download that one to use it.

Using Tor to Hide Your IP Address
When you visit a web set, you transmit your IP address to that site. That is necessary so that the website knows where to send the page you requested.

Tor, is opensource software that lets you mask your IP address. Tor, ironically, was developed with American Department of Defense funding. This is ironic because now their enemies are using it.

NSA tell Congress Russia was behind Spying While Trump says Not

The drama, some might say circus, keeps unfolding around the Russian spying on the US election. What is remarkable is that President-elect Trump is at odds with the security apparatus he will soon inherit. He is saying he does not agree that the Russian government did the hacking. The US intelligence agencies say they have proof they did. Trump is also at odds with members of his own Republican Party. And the former head of the CIA under Bill Clinton, who had become a security advisor to Trump, quit, saying that he was not even invited to meetings where this subject was discussed.

The NSA says they have definitive proof of where the spying came from. Last week we wrote about the technical analysis the NSA provided on our website here. But what is less clear is whether this spying was directed by top Russian officials or President Putin himself.

Obama has already seen and Trump will see this week classified information that the NSA will not show the public. That information, it is said, reveals two items. First, Russians sent communications back to their country celebrating Trump’s win.  Second, they say they have proof that Russian officials provided the stolen documents to Wikileaks, a charge Julian Assange denies. They even know their names.  It is not clear what proof those documents contain that could show that President Putin or the people around him directed the spying.

Americans Release Technical Details of Russian Hacking

The Department of Homeland Security and FBI Have released technical details of the hacking of the Democrat Party and Clinton Campaign that they first described in this document in October. As President Obama promised, the government has released proof that this hacking came from Russian intelligence agencies. Now he has punished them by expelling 35 spies and putting banking and travel sanctions on certain Russians. Americans have a unique ability to effectively punish people around the world that way, since most international commerce uses American dollars and some part of the US banking infrastructure.

Obama also promised that any technical analysis would not reveal all the details of how they uncovered what the Russians did, saying that would give away secret techniques. Instead the document includes a list of malware, exploit kits, viruses, domains, techniques, and IP addresses used by the Russians. The document also gives advice how system administrators can help secure their network against these attacks.

Phishing Attack tied to DNS Record Update

It seems hackers also go after people who are supposed to be educated about the dangers of phishing: tech professionals.

Last week I updated the DNS records for my personal email domain. So I was easily tricked when a few hours later I got this email that looks very much like it came from Google support. Luckily this was a harmless ad rotator and not malware. Or it could be that this switched to an ad rotator when it queried my browser and OS and found no match for whatever attack they had planned.

British Tesco Bank Halts all Online Banking, Russian Central Bank Hacked

In what one could characterize as the worst banking hacker attack this year - and the only one to have ever caused a bank to shut down its site - Tesco Bank shut off online banking for all of its accounts after 40,000 of them were attacked. Hackers stole £2.5 million from 9,000 accounts. The bank stopped all online activity, but the site is back up now. The bank has not said specifically what steps they have taken to harden their site.

An employee who spoke to the media says the problem most likely could be blamed on Tesco grocery. Tesco also operates an online and brick and mortar grocery business. The employee said the bank’s employees are carefully vetted and its security is good. But the bank’s system is connected to the grocery system which has unpatched servers and poor security in general, the employee said.

It could be that the banking regulator shut down the online bank. The regulator issued a statement scolding the bank for lax security. Now the bank faces fines that could run into the millions of pounds.

Chinese Planted Spyware on Massive number of Android Phones

The The New York Times, under the scary headline “Secret Backdoor in Some U.S. Phones Sent Data to China, Analysts Say,” reported that Kryptowire security researchers reported that a Chinese firm Shanghai Adups Technology Co. Ltd has planted software on hundreds of thousands of Android devices and is siphoning off phone data. It did this at the request of an unnamed Chinese manufacturer, they said.

The NYT wrote, “Security contractors recently discovered pre installed software in some Android phones that monitors where users go, whom they talk to and what they write in text messages.”

This is the worrying part: “... this case is exceptional. It was not a bug. Rather, Adups intentionally designed the software to help a Chinese phone manufacturer monitor user behavior …”

This news was broadcast on November 15. So far the US Department of Homeland Security has said it will post a bulletin, but it has not yet. Regarding Europe, it seems that this spyware might have been only intended for the Chinese market but ended up on BLU phones sold in the USA through Amazon and Best Buy by mistake. There is no news so far of this spyware being on phones in Europe or anywhere else besides China and the USA.

35% of Websites Could Stop Working in January 2017 unless their Owners Update their Encryption

SHA-1 (Secure Hashing Algorithm 1) is an encryption algorithm used to encrypt traffic to and from SSL/HTTPS websites. It has some known security weaknesses. So it is being phased out and replaced with SHA-2 and SHA-3. Certificate authorities will quit issuing SHA-1 certificates in January 2017. Microsoft, Google, and Mozilla web browsers will quit supporting those then. That is all good, but the problem is 35% of websites still use these older certificates says research firm Venafi. Web browsers tell you exactly how strong the encryption in a website is when you go there by color coding the address bar. Green is good. Red is bad.

Lock means the site is safely encrypted and you can feel safe entering data there. Info means the site does not use encryption at all or in all places. And the red warning means the SSL certificate is expired, the site has been flagged by the Safe Browsing organization, or there is what Google calls “a weak security setup,” meaning SHA-1.

Should you panic? Is the internet going to stop working on January 2017? Doubtful.

First of all, the security weakness of SHA-1 is probably exaggerated where you consider practical details.

Windows 2016 Server New Security Features

What are some of the new security features in Windows 2016?

Windows 2016 is the soon-to-be released version of Windows server software. The Server version of Windows is the software designed to power business, engineering, and other applications. It is not for desktop users. Prior to Windows 2016 there was Windows 2012 and Windows 2008. So it looks like Microsoft releases a new version about every 4 years.

Changes to Windows 2016 this time can be said to be incremental rather than wholesale. The basic architecture is the same.

One addition to Windows is containers. These have gained a wide following with Linux servers. A container lets a user download and start running application software in just a few minutes or seconds as opposed to hours, days, or weeks to install that by hand. It is like a virtual machine, but it is much smaller since it is not a full operating system.

Nano Server
The Nano Server is something in between the container and hypervisor.

Now you can install Windows as a Nano server. This is a small operating system that lacks, for example, a graphical interface. A Nano server would be used to run databases and other applications on the cloud. The idea is if it is small then there are less components to attack. For example there are less security updates to install. It is the minimum OS needed to run applications. The Nano server is stripped of many Windows features, thus making it suitable for doing just one task.

Microsoft Bounty Bug Program

Some software companies invite security researchers to look for weaknesses in their software and then pay they for finding those. That is called a Bounty Bug program. Microsoft is one company that does that. Google has a bounty program for Android. Apple is late to the game, only launching its program this year. But they pay the highest bounty, up to $200,000 for zero day vulnerabilities. Many smaller companies offer bounty bug programs too.

Not only does Microsoft pay a reward for finding bugs in Windows—some of them are sizeable—they feature the researcher’s name in their bulletins and invite some of them to come to the Researcher Appreciation Party in Las Vegas.

Researchers have to be at least 14 years old and cannot come from countries against which the USA has sanctions. And they agree not to publish their exploit code.   

Microsoft discusses weaknesses and their fixes in their Microsoft Security Bulletins.

But Microsoft says researchers can write about the bug as well as show the exploit code, but only once the vulnerability is fixed. They say, “Please do not discuss the vulnerability in any form prior to Microsoft notifying you that it is fixed. And they say “This does not prevent you from discussing the vulnerability once it is fixed or showing the effects of the exploit in code.”

Recent Massive DDoS Attack caused by IoT Devices

Last week we wrote about a massive DDoS attack on that cut off access to Netflix, Amazon, and many other sites for users in large parts of the USA. Now we know that this was caused by IoT devices.

IoT (The Internet of Things) is a technology that is rolling out quickly. What this does is connect everything from smart home appliances to industrial machinery and even physical inventory to the cloud. The idea is to both monitor offices, homes, buildings, traffic, manufacturing, medical patients, and agriculture, but also control those devices.

IoT has taken off in recent years because of the plunging cost of technology and the growth of companies that have made it easier to connect many of these devices to their clouds. Companies exist to let manufacturers and other companies control hundreds or thousands of IoT devices from the cloud. Home IoT systems for the most part operate without a cloud central-control mechanism.

An IoT device is usually some kind of sensor, like humidity or motion, plus a computing card and controller. These computing cards are, for example, Raspberry Pi or Intel Edison computing cards that for the most part run some version of Linux. The cards are not much larger than a wallet.

Twitter, Amazon, Netflix, The New York Times, Spotify, Reddit, and others Impacted by Massive DDoS

Someone, no one is quite sure who, yet, has managed to take Twitter, SoundCloud, Spotify, Shopify, and other sites offline using a DDoS (distributed denial of service) attack this week. The outage affected much of the USA and parts of Europe.

These sites are all customers of They are a company that operates a massive DNS system around the world that lets companies failover from one set of servers to another and provides redundancy. It also serves as a content distribution network (CDN) to reduce latency by locating data closer to users by locating that around the world.

The US government is responding to this attack by questioning whether this is a criminal DDoS attack, as Brian Krebs and others have speculated, or a state cyberattack. Congressmen on Capitol Hill have raised questions about that and the White House has gotten involved.

This comes on the heels of allegations, and apparently proof as well, that the Russian government has been hacking into the computer systems at Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and the Democratic Party headquarters. Pundits on TV, in the news, and the Clinton campaign say Russian President Putin’s goal is to embarrass Secretary Clinton, thus favoring Donald Trump.


Page 42 of 51

<< Start < Prev 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 Next > End >>
About PCrisk

PCrisk logo

PCrisk is a cyber security portal, informing Internet users about the latest digital threats. Our content is provided by security experts and professional malware researchers. Read more about us.

Malware activity

Global malware activity level today:

Medium threat activity

Increased attack rate of infections detected within the last 24 hours.

Virus and malware removal

This page provides information on how to avoid infections by malware or viruses and is useful if your system suffers from common spyware and malware attacks.

Learn about malware removal