The Roots Behind Criminality: Cyber and Regular

April 8, 2020

Coronavirus scams, global Internet traffic hijacking, and attacks on work-from-homers. Where does crime originate?

In the United States, true crime documentaries and fictional detective shows are popular. People love these shows because it explores the human psyche and tries to answer why people commit crimes. Mental health professionals have explored criminals motivations for centuries, including University of California Santa Cruz professor of psychology Craig Haney. Phys.org shares more on Haney’s work in the article, “New Book Debunks Myths About Who Causes Crime And Why.”

For over forty years, Haney researched the real causes behind crimes and he formulated the hypothesis that criminal behavior could be tied to childhood suffering, such as abuse, trauma, and maltreatment. Haney had interviewed many death row inmates and noticed trauma patterns in them. His colleagues were skeptical about his findings, because there was not much research not the idea and few studies. Haney wrote about his findings in a new book, Criminality in Context: The Psychological Foundations of Criminal Justice Reform. In his new book, Haney discusses forty years of research and what believes to be the root causes of criminal behavior, how it differs from accepted conventions, and what reforms are needed in the criminal justice system. Haney stated:

‘“The nation’s dominant narrative about crime is that it is committed by bad people who freely choose to make bad decisions, persons who are fundamentally different from the rest of us,’ said Haney, who holds psychology and law degrees. “The only thing that is fundamentally different about them is the lives they’ve lived and the structural impediments they’ve faced.’”

Haney found that the people most at risk to commit crimes were those exposed to childhood trauma and often experienced even more maltreatment in places meant to protect them: school, foster care systems, and juvenile justice systems.

He also argues that poverty and racism are key contributors to criminal behaviors. Poverty is a gateway to criminal behavior, because it leads to trauma, unmet needs, and less opportunities. Unfortunately ethnic minorities who experience poverty and trauma are more likely to end up imprisoned. By proxy ethnic minorities receive differential treatment and represent the largest criminal populations.

Haney’s research exposes bigger holes in the already broken criminal justice system. He points that bigger reforms need to be made than simple criminal justice. Crime prevention strategies need to start at the cradle, most importantly combating social inequality and and poverty.

While Haney’s research may sound new, it only augments what other mental health professionals have been spouting for years. Everything is connected when it comes to mental health, but humans usually are not taught how to properly care for their minds.

Whitney Grace, April 8, 2020

Global Internet Routing: About Security and Big Time Actors

April 6, 2020

In my lectures about changes in Internet security last year, I mentioned the targeted efforts to undermine the servers responsible for certain core functionality. I described attacks directed at a foundation server in Scandinavia. One point I stressed was that redirecting traffic was an objective of a bad actor—a bad actor with considerable resources.

Not Just Another BGP Hijack” reports that on April Fool’s Day, a large scale border gateway protocol event took place. Companies like Amazon and Akamai, among others, had their traffic routed through the Russian telecommunications operator Rostelecom.

Yes, there is a global pandemic. No, bad actors or careless system administrators are still chugging along. The rerouting is a reminder that the “Internet” is not a construct that can be ignored, assumed to be secure, and resistant to attacks.

Far from it. The “talk” about firms providing cybersecurity are themselves vulnerable when bad actors target underlying functions. The report about this attack, if true, is a grim reminder that marketing talk about security may disguise deeper and larger criminal activities.

Stephen E Arnold, April 6, 2020

Cellebrite: Low Profile Outfit Shares Some High Value Information

March 27, 2020

Cellebrite, now owned by Japanese interests, is not a household word. That’s good from DarkCyber’s point of view. If you want to know more about this company, navigate to the company’s Web site.

Cellebrite Unveils the Top Global Digital Intelligence Trends for 2020” provides observations / finds in its Annual Digital Intelligence Industry Benchmark Report for 2020. Our video program will consider some of these findings in the context of cyber intelligence. However, there are four items of interest which DarkCyber wants to highlight in this short article.

Intelligence and other enforcement agencies are slow to adapt. This finding is in line with DarkCyber’s experience. We reported on March 24, 2020, in our DarkCyber video that the Canadian medical intelligence firm Bluedot identified the threat of the corona virus in November 2019. How quickly did the governments of major countries react? How is the US reacting now? The “slowness” is bureaucratic friction. Who wants to be identified as the person who was wrong? In terms of cyber crime, Cellebrite’s data suggest “43 percent of agencies report either a poor or mediocre strategy or no digital intelligence strategy at all.” [emphasis added].

Government agency managers want modernization to help attract new officers. The Cellebrite study reports, “Most agency managers believe police forces that embrace mobile tech to collect digital evidence in the field will help reduce turnover and be significantly more prepared to meet the digital evidence challenges of 2020.” DarkCyber wants to point out that skilled cyber professionals do not grow on trees. Incentives, salaries, and work magnetism are more important than “hopes.”

Budgets are an issue. This is a “duh” finding. DarkCyber is not being critical of Cellebrite. Anyone involved directly or indirectly in enforcement or intelligence knows that bad actors seem to have infinite scalability. Government entities do not. The report says, “With the deluge of digital devices and cloud data sources, examiners face an average 3-month backlog and an average backlog of 89 devices per station. The push for backdoors is not designed to compromise user privacy; it is a pragmatic response to the urgent need to obtain information as close to real time as possible. Cellebrite’s tools have responded to the need for speed, but for many governments’ enforcement and intelligence agencies, a 90 day period of standing around means that bad actors have an advantage.

DarkCyber will consider more findings from this report in an upcoming video news program. Watch this blog for the release date for the program.

Stephen E Arnold, March 27, 2020

Want a Line Up of AI-Fueled Cybersecurity Firms?

March 25, 2020

Artificial intelligence and cybersecurity seem like a natural pairing. Check out a list of firms that think so, too, in Built In’s write-up, “30 Companies Merging AI and Cybersecurity to Keep us Safe and Sound.” Reporter Alyssa Schroer explains:

“By the year 2021, cybercrime losses will cost upwards of $6 trillion annually. It’s no surprise, then, that the cybersecurity industry is exploding as it grows to protect the networks and systems on which companies and organizations operate and store data. Because effective information security requires smarter detection, many cybersecurity companies are upping their game by using artificial intelligence to achieve that goal. A new wave of AI-powered solutions and products keep bad actors on their toes while giving IT teams much needed relief. Here are 30 companies merging artificial intelligence and cybersecurity to make the virtual world safer.”

Navigate to the article for the names of all 30 companies. They include well established firms like Symantec, Darktrace, and Fortinet alongside many less familiar names. Several serve specific industries. Schroer lists the location of each entry and describes how it is applying AI tech to cybersecurity. For example, for Shape Security she writes:

“Shape Security provides software that fights imitation attacks like fake accounts, credential stuffing and credit application fraud for businesses in retail, finance, government, tech and travel. Shape’s machine learning models have been given access to data resembling attackers, enabling the system to learn what human activity looks like against fraud. The company’s solutions, Enterprise Defense and Blackfish, use this AI to identify the differences between real and artificial users and then block, redirect or flag the fraudulent source.”

Hacking tools and procedures have become prolific and incredibly efficient. It makes sense to fight them with well-crafted machine learning solutions. Any organization looking to employ one of these (or similar) firms should do its research and choose a well-designed solution that meets its particular needs.

Cynthia Murrell, March 25, 2020

DarkCyber for March 24, 2020, Now Available

March 24, 2020

DarkCyber for March 24, 2020, covers four stories. You can view the video on YouTube or on Vimeo.

The first story explains that phishing is a contentious issue in many organizations. Managers see phishing one way; information and security professionals often have a different view. The divide can create more vulnerabilities for organizations ignoring the escalating risk from weaponized email.

The second story provides some information about Banjo (a US firm engaged in providing specialized services to law enforcement) and BlueDot (a Canadian company applying advanced analysis to open source and limited access medical information). The story makes clear that the methods of these firms provide excellent insight into how some specialized software systems deliver high value intelligence to law enforcement and intelligence professionals worldwide.

The third story provides information about a Department of Justice report aimed at Dark Web researchers. The document is available without charge from the url provided in the program. Failure to follow the guidelines in the document can convert a researcher into a bad actor.

The final story reviews recent steps taken by the Russian government to exert tighter control over Internet applications. The affected software includes Tor and the Telegram Open Network. Mr. Putin has become Russia’s first digital tsar.

Kenny Toth, March 24, 2020

Secret No More: An Alternative to VPNs

March 20, 2020

Dor Knafo founded Axis Security. (The name may create some confusion for those familiar with an event planning outfit.) The company seeks to deliver what Tech.eu reported as:

a single managed solution for access, security, control, and scalability without the complexity…. Built on a zero trust approach, the startup’s Axis Application Access Cloud offers an agentless model that connects users on any device to private apps, without touching the network or the applications. This separation shrinks the attack surface, or reduces the chances of a cyber attack.

Don’t VPNs deliver this?

Nope.

The Axis approach is an SaaS solution. Here’s the explanation in “Israeli startup Axis Security emerges from stealth mode with $17 million Series A.”

Built on a zero trust approach, the startup’s Axis Application Access Cloud offers an agentless model that connects users on any device to private apps, without touching the network or the applications. This separation shrinks the attack surface, or reduces the chances of a cyber attack.

The funding comes from, according to the write up:

Ten Eleven Ventures’ Alex Doll led the round, joined by Cyberstarts, Palo Alto Networks, Check Point, Imperva, among others. Angel investors include Dan Amiga, founder of Fireglass, and board of director member Michael Fey, former president of Symantec and Blue Coat.

Note that Mr. Knafo previously Symantec.

Net net: The solution has been rumored for more than a year. With its more public approach, the company is likely to signal a flow of related start up innovations for cyber security markets.

Stephen E Arnold, March 20, 2020

DOJ Suggestions for Threat Research and Cyber Intelligence Gathering

March 13, 2020

DarkCyber spotted “Legal Considerations when Gathering Online Cyber Threat Intelligence and Purchasing Data from Illicit Sources.” The Department of Justice has assembled what a mini best practices for those who are gathering certain types of cyber security information; for example, Dark Web fora.

The document states:

The application of federal criminal law to activities occurring online can be complicated.

That should be a yellow warning signal to those who embark on digital journeys into certain parts of the datasphere. The document provides some information about different ways to gather information from online discussion groups.

Online storefronts can appear to provide a way to purchase products or services which, in some jurisdictions, are problematic.

The document is informative and, in DarkCyber’s opinion, a useful contribution to the literature related to obtaining threat intelligence.

Net net: Don’t intentionally or unintentionally become what some authorities would consider a criminal. Plus, any spelunking in certain areas of the datasphere can change a curious eager beaver into a target for bad actors.

Stephen E Arnold, March 13, 2020

Phishing Faces a Tough Competitor

March 13, 2020

DarkCyber spotted a factoid which could be marketing dressed up in factual finery or a datum which is accurate. You will have to figure out which.

Navigate to “Adware Accounts for 72% of Mobile Malware: Avast.” The write up states:

Adware or software that hijacks a device in order to spam the user with unwanted ads now accounts for 72 per cent of all mobile malware, says a new report from cybersecurity firm Avast.

But what about the other 28 percent of digital legerdemain?

The remaining 28 per cent consist of banking Trojans, fake apps, lockers, and downloaders, according to statistics gathered by Avast’s Threat Lab experts.

The write up points out:

Adware often disguises itself in the form of gaming and entertainment apps, or other app types that are trending and therefore are interesting targets with a high potential to spread far. These apps may appear harmless, but once they have infected a device they will surreptitiously click on ads in the background. Sometimes, adware also serves ads with malicious content.

Phishing may lose its pride of place among bad actors.

By the way, the data in the write up, if on the money, does not explain how malware on a mobile phone can perform a number of other useful services for the developer. These services can be helpful to certain types of professionals working in field other than Madison Avenue pursuits.

Stephen E Arnold, March 13, 2020

DarkCyber for March 10, 2020, Now Available

March 10, 2020

DarkCyber for March 10, 2020, includes four stories. The first is a look at how BriefCam’s smart software generates video synopses of surveillance viden. The second presents information about the geotracking capabilities enabled by aggregated data from vendors like Venntel and Oracle, among others. The third story dips bnack into phishing-rich data flows. There’s is a reason why bogus email exploits are increasing. Watch to find out the reason. The final story discloses the Amflyfi and Deep Web Technologies mergers. Is a new intelware giant taking shape. Check out this week’s video to learn what DarkCyber thinks.

Kenny Toth, March 10, 2020

UK Authorities: A Stiff Upper Lip

February 18, 2020

They were not going to tell anyone what had happened. A confidential report reveals the United Nations fell victim to a massive data breach last year, we learn from The New Humanitarian’s report, “Exclusive: The Cyber Attack the UN Tried to Keep Under Wraps.” Why the organization felt justified keeping this information secret even from those it affected is a mystery, but the cover up does emphasize the power of diplomatic immunity. TNH senior editor Ben Parker describes what his team learned about the extent of the damage:

“Although it is unclear what documents and data the hackers obtained in the 2019 incident, the report seen by TNH implies that internal documents, databases, emails, commercial information, and personal data may have been available to the intruders – sensitive data that could have far-reaching repercussions for staff, individuals, and organizations communicating with and doing business with the UN. The compromised servers included 33 in the UN Office at Geneva, three at OHCHR in Geneva, and at least four in the Vienna office. According to the report, the breach also grabbed ‘active directories’, with each likely to list hundreds of users as well as human resources and health insurance systems, other databases, and network resources. The three affected offices have in total about 4,000 staff. The report, prepared by the UN Office at Geneva in the midst of containment efforts, suggests the cyber attack most seriously affected their office, which houses 1,600 staff working in a range of political and development units, including Syria peace talks, the humanitarian coordination office (OCHA), and the Economic Commission for Europe.”

The scope of the UN’s operations makes such a breach particularly troubling, but it is not entirely unexpected. An audit in 2012 identified an “unacceptable level of risk” in the organization’s cybersecurity. Despite taking measures to address the concerns, a 2018 review found its security-assessment project to be severely lacking.

News of the breach is sure to concern anyone in sensitive regions working with the United Nations, particularly on human rights issues. In many countries, those who share information with the UN’s human rights office can be subject to surveillance, imprisonment, and even torture. Though it is not known who was behind the attack, it is said to look like the work of a “sophisticated threat actor”—a good description of nation states’ hacking programs. Failing to prevent the breach is bad enough. Refusing to notify everyone who might have been affected, notes Parker, is a dangerous breach of trust.

Cynthia Murrell, February 18, 2020

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