Tech giant Apple announced Tuesday it is suing Israel’s NSO Group, seeking to block the world’s most infamous hacker-for-hire company from breaking into Apple’s products, like the iPhone.
Apple said in a complaint filed in federal court in California that NSO Group employees are “amoral 21st century mercenaries who have created highly sophisticated cyber-surveillance machinery that invites routine and flagrant abuse.” Apple said NSO Group’s spyware, called Pegasus, had been used to attack a small number of Apple customers worldwide.
“State-sponsored actors like the NSO Group spend millions of dollars on sophisticated surveillance technologies without effective accountability. That needs to change,” said Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering.
NSO Group has broadly denied wrongdoing and said its products have been used by governments to save lives.
“Pedophiles and terrorists can freely operate in technological safe-havens, and we provide governments the lawful tools to fight it. NSO group will continue to advocate for the truth,” the company said in a statement.
It’s the latest blow to the hacking firm, which was recently blacklisted by the U.S. Commerce Department and is currently being sued by social media giant Facebook.
Security researchers have found Pegasus being used around the world to break into the phones of human rights activists, journalists and even members of the Catholic clergy.
Pegasus infiltrates phones to vacuum up personal and location data and surreptitiously controls the smartphone’s microphones and cameras. Researchers have found several examples of NSO Group tools using so-called “zero click” exploits that infect targeted mobile phones without any user interaction.
The Biden administration announced this month that NSO Group and another Israeli cybersecurity firm called Candiru were being added to the “entity list,” which limits their access to U.S. components and technology by requiring government permission for exports.
Also this month, security researchers disclosed that Pegasus spyware was detected on the cellphones of six Palestinian human rights activists. And Mexican prosecutors recently announced they have arrested a businessman on charges he used the Pegasus spyware to spy on a journalist.
Facebook has sued NSO Group over the use of a somewhat similar exploit that allegedly intruded via its globally popular encrypted WhatsApp messaging app. A U.S. federal appeals court issued a ruling this month rejecting an effort by NSO Group to have the lawsuit thrown out.
Apple also announced Tuesday that it was donating $10 million, as well as any damages won in the NSO Group lawsuit, to cybersurveillance researchers and advocates.
RICHMOND, Va. (AP)
Panasonic confirms cyber breach to its access data
Japanese manufacturing titan, Panasonic, confirmed Friday its network has been infiltrated by a cyberattack directed at its access data, on November 11, by gaining entry via third party.
In its statement, the company revealed that “some data on a file server had been accessed during the intrusion.”
This marks the only information publicized by the tech manufacturing giant. However, homegrown publications Mainichi and NHK alleged the breach was initiated June 22 and terminated November 23.
“After detecting the unauthorized access, the company immediately reported the incident to the relevant authorities and implemented security countermeasures, including steps to prevent external access to the network,” Panasonic said in its statement.
“In addition to conducting its own investigation, Panasonic is currently working with a specialist third-party organization to investigate the leak and determine if the breach involved customers’ personal information and/ or sensitive information related to social infrastructure,” it added.
In parallel, NHK disclosed that the breached servers contained data about Panasonic business partners and the manufacturer’s own technology, adding that a previous cyberattack directed at a subsidiary also obtained personal business data.
Panasonic also stated that aside from directing its own probe into the matter, the company is also seeking experts’ assistance by working with a third-party establishment to examine all aspects of the cyberattack. This will help the entity identify whether the infiltration was directed towards clients’ personal data.
“We cannot predict whether it will affect our business or business performance, but we cannot deny the possibility of a serious incident,” the Japanese titan said told one of the publications on Friday.
Earlier in March, Panasonic joined forces with cyber security company McAfee to institute a cybersecurity operations center (SOS) to address the rising risks of these attacks on its infrastructure. The pact will prioritize and strictly focus on detection and response.
Thousands of Phone Numbers Compromised During Robinhood Hack
Popular investment and trading platform Robinhood stated that “limited information” had been stolen during a cyber-attack targeting the company last week but highlighted that among them were thousands of personal phone numbers.
Robinhood said on Tuesday, that the list obtained by the hackers, which contained email addresses for about five million people and full names for a different group of roughly two million people, included “several thousand entries” with phone numbers.
While the company failed to reveal how many phone numbers were on the list, Motherboard reported that it’s about 4,400.
Motherboard got a copy of the stolen phone numbers “from a source who presented themselves as a proxy for the hackers.” In a statement, Robinhood did not confirm whether the phone numbers Motherboard had obtained, were authentic but did acknowledge that the stolen information included thousands of phone numbers.
However, the blog added: “We continue to believe that the list did not contain Social Security numbers, bank account numbers, or debit card numbers and that there has been no financial loss to any customers as a result of the incident. We’ll continue making appropriate disclosures to affected people.”
The company added: “After we contained the intrusion, the unauthorized party demanded an extortion payment. We promptly informed law enforcement and are continuing to investigate the incident with the help of Mandiant, a leading outside security firm.”
On his side, Robinhood Chief Security Officer Caleb Sima said, “As a Safety-First company, we owe it to our customers to be transparent and act with integrity.”
“Following a diligent review, putting the entire Robinhood community on notice of this incident now is the right thing to do,” he noted.
FBI email system spammed by hackers’ cybersecurity spam alerts
Cybersecurity spam alerts reached Friday and Saturday the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) external email servers by unleashing a wave of fake emails addressing a misleading cyberattack warnings to thousands of people and companies.
In a statement, the FBI revealed that the spam alerts emitted from its Law Enforcement Enterprise Portal (LEEP) system, utilized for communicational purposes between local officials and the states. LEEP’s system acts as a gateway for these authorities to disclose intel on ongoing investigations.
Contradictory to emerging public opinion on the matter, the cybersecurity breach did not address the FBI’s largest corporate email service.
“No actor was able to access or compromise any data or (personally identifiable information) on FBI’s network,” the federal entity disclosed.
“Once we learned of the incident we quickly remediated the software vulnerability, warned partners to disregard the fake emails, and confirmed the integrity of our networks,” it added.
The cybercriminals gained access to LEEP by implementing a “software misconfiguration,” followed by an email blast addressing what happened from a digital ID ending with “@ic.fbi.gov,” to ensure legitimacy, according to the Bureau’s press release.
Once the Federal entity detected the malicious threat, the FBI took offline all its compromised hardware, and any existing vulnerability was “quickly remediated.” In parallel, with reference to the governmental agency, the hackers foundered in accessing the FBI files.
“While the illegitimate email originated from an FBI operated server, that server was dedicated to pushing notifications for LEEP and was not part of the FBI’s corporate email service,” the agency revealed in its updated statement on Sunday.
The compromised cybersecurity spam alerts informed people of a high threat of a “sophisticated chain attack,” with the emails incorporating cybersecurity expert Vinny Troia as the mastermind behind the misleading attacks. The emails also went to wrongly allege that Troia has close associations with the cybercriminal group The Dark Overlord.
The non-profit entity that trails spam and cyber threats, The Spamhaus Project’s research revealed that intruders sent the digital alerts to addresses extracted from the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) database. In parallel, different non-ARIN-associated emails were incorporated into the spam lead deployed to more than 100,000 inboxes, according to the organization’s Twitter account.
Also, computer security reporter Brian Krebs connected an individual who goes by the label Prompompurin to the scene, claiming that the individual contacted him via an FBI email address the minute the attacks were deployed.
“Hi, it Prompmpurin. Check header to this email it’s actually coming from FBI server,” the email states. Then, KrebsOnSecurity also revealed that had the opportunity to communicate with the individual, who for his part alleges that the hack was mostly directed at showcasing security weaknesses with the bureau’s email system.
“I could’ve 1000 percent used this to send more legit-looking emails, trick companies into handing over data, etc.,” he stated to KerbsOnSecurity.
Then, he further elaborated that he and his team manipulated a security flaw on LEEP’s portal and succeeded in registering for an account by utilizing a one-time credential inserted in the page’s HTML, to control email addresses and their body, resulting in the execution of the colossal spam campaign.
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