U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) disclosed on Wednesday intentions of implementing the False Claims Act as an additional measure to follow-up on cybersecurity cases intertwined with federal contractors playing a role in exposing the country’s security ecosystem to cybersecurity threats.
Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco introduced this week the Civil Cyber-Fraud Initiative that will influence the current False Claims Act (FCA) to “pursue cybersecurity-related fraud by government contractors and grant recipients.”
The initiative will hold federal contractors or individuals accountable for exposing U.S. Cyberinfrastructure to threats by intentionally equipping federal agencies with defective cybersecurity equipment or services, according to the DOJ’s press release.
In parallel, federal contractors could be facing heavy penalties for breaching commitments to observe and report cybersecurity threats and breaches.
“Today, we are launching a Civil Cyber Fraud Initiative,” Lisa Monaco said at the virtual Aspen Institute Cyber Summit.
“For too long, companies have chosen silence under the mistaken belief that it’s less risky to hide a breach than to bring forward and to report it. Well, that changes today. We are going to go after that behavior and extract very hefty fines, so this is a tool that we have to ensure that taxpayer dollars are used appropriately and to guard the public trust, and that is what we are going to do with respect to this civil fraud initiative,” she added.
With the surfacing presence of whistleblowers exposing Big Tech companies for their misleading demeanor with U.S. federal agencies, the Deputy Attorney General added that safety will be provided to whistleblowers who seek to report any kind of federal cybersecurity standards violation, be it by governmental or private contractors.
As a wave of cyberattacks overtook strategic federal organizations, such as the SolarWinds hack giving Russian governmental hackers access to a multitude of U.S. federal agencies in 2020, the Colonial Pipeline breach, the UAE’s Project Raven, and IT company Kaseya has brought absolute chaos to the U.S. federal “secure” infrastructure.
As a consequence of the ever-growing hacking emergence, the House of Representatives and Senates have implemented various bills demanding federal agencies, significant infrastructure owners, and operators to vocalize critical cybersecurity threats and breaches to federal authorities.
The DOJ’s approach to scrap ransomware threats is the first step for Congress to ratify a national benchmark to expose cyber incidents that expose the country to hazardous threats that expose “critical infrastructure and their supply chain.”
The Department will create a National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team in an attempt to deconstruct cryptocurrency exchanges adopted by hackers to ease up the process of obtaining ransomware payments by exposed victims.
The initial step will be picking the appropriate personnel to be positioned as the team leader to “identify, investigate, support, and pursue cases against cryptocurrency exchanges, infrastructure providers, and other entities that are enabling the misuse of the cryptocurrency.”
Member of the team that will revolt against incriminating cryptocurrency exchanges will be extracted from various DOJ entities, such as the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section, the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section, and Criminal Division employees derived from U.S. attorneys’ offices from various areas in the U.S.
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.
Apple suing Israeli hacker-for-hire company NSO Group
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)
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.
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