Russian hackers are trying to take advantage of the millions of employees working from home because of shelter-in-place orders.
Security firm Symantec said this week that it had discovered and then notified businesses that the Russian hacking group Evil Corp has been targeting remote employees with so-called ransomware attacks.
In a typical ransomware attack, criminals send victims an email—often created to look like it’s from a colleague—that contains a link to a malicious site. When users access the fraudulent site, criminals can then take over their computers and demand payment—typically in cryptocurrency like Bitcoin—to regain control of their devices.
In the case of Evil Corp’s ransomware attack, Symantec said the hackers wanted to “cripple” a company’s “IT infrastructure by encrypting most of their computers and servers in order to demand a multimillion-dollar ransom.”
Symantec said that 31 U.S.-based organizations were compromised in the latest series of attacks, “eight of which are Fortune 500 companies.” The security firm did not reveal the names of the impacted organizations nor whether they paid any ransoms. The security firm said that while the hackers “breached the networks of targeted organizations,” the criminals were only “in the process of laying the groundwork for staging ransomware attacks,” implying that they didn’t complete their intended extortion plans.
This recent hacking attempt used a specific type of ransomware known as WastedLocker, which Symantec said was developed by Evil Corp. Two of Evil Corp’s alleged members have been previously charged by the U.S. Department of Justice for a separate “decade-long cybercrime spree” affecting unspecified banks and financial firms, Symantec said.
Eric Chien, Symantec’s technical director, said in an interview with the New York Times, that hackers were able to launch ransomware attacks on workers via malware that “was deployed on common websites and even one news site,” without describing those compromised websites containing the malicious code. From those compromised websites, users inadvertently downloaded a bogus software update that installs the malware onto their computers.
That malware inspects people’s computers to see if they have installed a corporate virtual private network, or VPN, that businesses typically require their remote employees to use in order to access sensitive corporate data. The malware learns the name of the employee’s company from the VPN and is then able to infect people’s computers once those workers visit another website.
“Once the machine is reconnected to the corporate network, the code is deployed, in hopes of gaining access to corporate systems,” the Times said.
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Giving employees a day off may not seem like the top way for multi-billion-dollar companies to fight systemic racism. But a new trend in corporate America—the declaration of June 19, or Juneteenth, as a company holiday—makes a powerful statement, according to historians.
Juneteenth celebrates the date in 1865, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation, when enslaved people in Galveston, Texas learned that they had been freed through Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger’s “General Orders, Number 3.” The day is the oldest commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States, but it hasn’t been honored as a holiday or taught in history classes throughout much of the country.
Last week, Twitter and Square became the first major companies to announce they would make the day a paid holiday for their workforces. The duo were quickly followed by Fortune 500 companies like Mastercard and Target; media companies like the New York Times and Vox; and fellow Silicon Valley and tech firms like TikTok and Lyft. Some companies committed to an annual holiday, while others made the change for this year only. About 200 total companies have now pledged to honor the date with a paid holiday.
The gesture has resonance beyond its show of solidarity. The original Juneteenth proclamation was, at its core, about labor, says Tamika Nunley, an assistant professor of American history at Oberlin College who studies slavery, gender, and the Civil War. The first, most often quoted sentence of the message informs “the people of Texas” that “in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.” But the rest continues: “The connection heretofore existing between [former masters and slaves] becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages.” The message is meant to inform formerly enslaved people about the “new labor relationship,” Nunley says.
“There’s no other place that’s more fitting to acknowledge [Juneteenth],” says Nunley about modern-day employers.
The Juneteenth message also warns formerly enslaved people “that they will not be supported in idleness,” a message “controlling how they respond to Juneteenth,” Nunley adds. Companies, then, sending a clear signal that the day is one for celebration and not for work adds another dimension to the decision. “The order was designed to silence them—telling them to be quiet, not to be idle,” she says. “It makes the celebratory component of Juneteenth that much more important.”
Juneteenth’s closest equivalent among the holidays traditionally acknowledged by corporate America may be Labor Day, Nunley adds. The labor movement fought for the date honoring workers, which became a federal holiday in 1894. No other holiday on the American calendar specifically honors the end of slavery.
Of course, giving employees a day off for Juneteenth is only as meaningful as a company makes it through a broader commitment to racial justice. “Is it just a holiday, or is it a signifier in recognizing how systemic racism and inequity has constrained employees’ lives on all fronts?” Nunley asks.
The movement in corporate America to honor Juneteenth may contribute to more widespread recognition, including the longtime goal of a federal holiday. Almost all 50 states recognize Juneteenth as a holiday, but that doesn’t mean they provide a day off for state employees, as for other holidays. Some, including New York, have moved over the past several days to further honor the date as a paid holiday for state employees. Campaigns including “HellaJuneteenth” and the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation have long pushed for an acknowledgment from the federal government; their efforts have gained new momentum over the past few weeks.
The movement among corporate leaders to acknowledge the day’s significance to their workforces has been unprecedented. Says Nunley: “This is something entirely new for corporate America.”
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Forget wiretapping — researchers have developed a new way for spies to eavesdrop on targets using lightbulbs.
The technique is called “lamphone” and was developed by researchers at Israeli’s Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and the Weizmann Institute of Science. It uses a special sensor to analyze a hanging lightbulb’s frequency response to sound through fluctuations in air pressure that cause vibrations.
Using lamphone, attackers can recover speech and sounds from an individual in another location. The tactic, first reported by Wired, is said to only require a laptop, a telescope and an electro-optical sensor to carry out.
Unlike other spying methods, researchers note that lamphone attacks can be carried out in real-time and cannot be detected by targeted individuals. There are no “bugs” that need to be planted in the room, for example.
It is so accurate that the results can even be accurately transcribed by Google speech or recognized by Shazam (if the unsuspecting individual happens to be singing a song).
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In a test run of the technology, Shazam was able to identify the song “Clocks” by Coldplay playing in a room 25 meters away. Researchers were also able to recover President Trump saying “We will make America great again,” which was played over speakers and accurately transcribed by Google text to speech API.
Lamphone does, however, require a visible hanging light in the room. Targets could mitigate the effects of the process by using heavier bulbs, which would vibrate less, or weaker bulbs that emit less light for capture.
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Researchers said that there is the possibility that sound could be recovered off of other light sources, such as decorative LED flowers.