Imagine if the Oscars’ categories applied to cybersecurity
The Academy Awards, or “Oscars,” is one of the major film industry awards for excellence in cinematic achievements. In anticipation of this year’s Oscar awards, we created our own Oscar-style mentioning of recent major cybersecurity events.
Best Leading Role. Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs) are a smooth and sophisticated nemesis of governmental and commercial entities that originated from state-sponsored hacking activities and leaked to cyber criminals. In 2015, banks, investment funds, stock and currency exchanges (including those handling cryptocurrencies) fell victim to Cryptolocker APT attacks. The infamous Carbanak APT attack caused immense losses across the globe ranging from $2.5 million to approximately $10 million per attacked bank. The Darkhotel APT attacks targeted high-value executives via the Wi-Fi networks of hotels by using zero-day exploits for spear-phishing attacks and kernel-mode keystroke logger for siphoning data from the victims’ devices.
Best Supporting Role. The hacking of “supporting player” service provider credit-monitoring firm Experian led to the “main player” T-Mobile. By gaining access to Experian’s servers, hackers got hold of the personal data of 15 million people who applied for telecommunication services with T-Mobile, current customers or not. The data included: names, addresses, birth dates, Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers and passport numbers.
Best Comedy. It’s always funny in a good karma kind of way to see a hacker get “pwned” or humiliated, like in the Avira-Dridex botnet case. The Dridex banking Trojan is typically distributed, via phishing attacks, by opening macros that are in malicious email attachments. Once the file has been opened, the macro downloads the payload infecting the computer. The Dridex Trojan program creates a keylogger and uses transparent redirects and web-injects to steal the victim’s personal data (e.g. usernames and passwords) to break into bank accounts and withdraw money. In this case, the malware download URL downloaded a valid, signed copy of the Avira antivirus instead of instead of the Dridex loader. As a result, the victims received a copy of an antivirus instead of the malware. Avira claimed they were not behind this and the identity of the hacker is still unknown.
Best Drama. The winner, no doubt is the Ashley Madison hack. The hacking of the extramarital affairs website exposed millions of users and 10GB of its customers’ personal data, including their names and email addresses. The fallout from the hack included compromised passwords and credit card information, countless cases of extortion, resignations and sadly, even suicides. To add to the drama, until today, it is still unclear who stands behind the Ashley Madison hackers who call themselves the Impact Team.
Best Foreign Language Film. If foreign state-backed hackers were nominated, Russia and China might have a tie with their notorious state-sponsored hacking groups like the Chinese Emissary Panda and Russian Sandworm. Russia and China are the possible suspects in the exploitation of the weakness in an unauthorized back-door discovered in Juniper Networks’ VPN encryption scheme (allegedly created by the NSA), which enabled the decryption of encrypted communications by U.S. government agencies and officials that passed through Juniper’s devices. China and Russia also recently allegedly stepped up their cyber-attacks on Australia.
Best Writing – original screenplay. Ransomware the malware that holds data hostage by making it inaccessible through encryption in exchange for ransom, usually in bitcoin, is growing exponentially. The latest high-profile victim is the Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in Los Angeles. As a result of the ransomware, the hospital’s computer systems were shut down, emails got lost, medical records couldn’t be accessed, staff had to resort to using hardcopies and fax machines, and several patients had to be transferred to other hospitals. The hospital ended up paying the ransom in bitcoins equivalent to about $17,000.
Best Writing – adapted screenplay. The winner goes to ransomware on mobile devices. Having your files held hostage for ransom is scary, but when you stop to think about all the personal information you have on your smartphone, it’s terrifying. In Android OS, ransomware can appear in apps that are offered in forums, torrent sites and third-party app stores outside Google Play. Porn Droid, disguised as a pornography app, reset the device’s screen-lock PIN and offered unlocking in exchange for $500. In iOS, jailbroken devices can be vulnerable to ransomware from malicious apps offered outside of iTunes. Ransomware that appeared on webpages and pop ups on the Safari browsing app of legitimate devices turned out to be phony. However, as mobile is predicted as one of the major upcoming risks, it might be a matter of time until we hear about the real deal on legitimate devices.
As we look forward to hearing who gets to go home with an Oscar award, let’s hope that in the future, breaches, hacks, and malware will appear more on film and less in real-life media.