With how speedy information travels, facilitated by the Internet, it is important to keep up with the latest news. Whether you’re really into cyber security or not, staying updated may help you dodge the next wave of hacking or other malicious online crime.

The Latest Cyber Security News

Was Sharyl Attkisson’s Computer Hacked?

Experts report that former CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson’s claims that her computer was hacked are accurate. In the editorial, “Sharyl Attkisson’s Hacking Analyst Blew It”, they concluded that a private contractor may have exposed the computer to hacking software. A federal investigation reveals that Attkisson’s computer was infected by a technician who checked it for known viruses. Attkisson claims that her computer was hacked in an alleged effort to monitor her critical reports of the current Obama Administration. Based on an examination of her personal computer, the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General found that the OIG “was not able to substantiate the allegations that Attkisson’s computers were subject to remote intrusion by the FBI, other government personnel, or otherwise.”

Upon concluding the investigation, an abbreviated report of the review was entered into the congressional record when Attkisson testified before Congress on January 29. Attkisson’s book, “Stonewalled,” describes a private computer forensics analyst who came to her house in February 2013 to examine her computers for potential intrusions. The findings revealed that at least one of the private technicians used by Attkisson likely contaminated any evidence that may have been on her computer. CBS maintained that the hacking was done by a private technician.

Administrative Efforts to Combat Cyber Crime

In other related news, Reuters reported that cooperation between governmental agencies will be a crucial component for the United States if they are to face cyber threats. This article came out a day after Barack Obama’s executive order to better defend against cyber attacks. Obama reiterated that no governmental authority can combat cyber threats alone. In another article, Reuters claimed that regulators revealed a directive that laid out ways in which hackers are stopped so that Wall Street is secured.

Cyber Caliphate Vs Malaysia Airlines

Malaysia Airlines’ website was recently attacked by a known terrorist group who calls themselves the “Cyber Caliphate”. They claim association with ISIS. The beleaguered airline company, the recent victim of two horrific crashes, provided new evidence of the Islamic State’s plan to bring down the Airlines with a series of planned cyber attacks. Glorifying the carnage of the victims, the hackers broke into the Airlines servers and wrote the words, “404-Plane Not Found”, “Hacked by Cyber Caliphate”, and “ISIS will prevail”. The incident was reported to the country’s cyber security department which took action against the better judgment of the Airlines which was quick to claim that there was no known attack.

Attacks against the United States Central Command

Bloomberg reported that the United States Central Command’s Twitter and YouTube accounts were compromised. The cyber criminals sent tweets of unknown groups supporting the Islamic State. The governmental agency which oversees US operations in the Middle East focused on threats posed by the Islamic State extremists or ISIS. The hacking of the federal computer systems increased to 46,605 from 26,942 in 2009.

According to the Washington Post’s article, “Russia and US Agree on Cyber Security…. not Snowden” the importance of news on cyber security is front and centre. The newspaper’s recent statements describe that, despite the debacle of the case of Edward Snowden, the NSA hacker who leaked confidential information, the US and Russia moved forward with a cyber agreement. The two countries decided to exchange real-time communications on cyber risks coming from their borders.

The Sony hacking incident of 2015

The Sony Hack incident was described by the US Director of National Intelligence as the “most serious” cyberattack yet made on U.S. interests. FBI reports confirm that the North Korean government was behind the hacking attack. The attack led to massive information dumped on Sony’s systems, causing the studio to cancel its release of “The Interview”.

On a different note, Sony CEO, speaking in Las Vegas, had a question for the enthusiasts who came to learn about the company’s plans. He asked the auditorium, “How many of you went to see a great Sony movie this holiday?’ Continuing, “Annie is a fantastic movie”. Of course, everyone in the crowd was voicing their appreciation for the movie “The Interview” which covers the story of two American journalists who go to North Korea to meet with its Dictator, Kim Jong Il. Amid these threats, several major movie theatre chains opted to not show the film in their theatres, instead of prompting Sony to release the film online and on more than 580 independent screens. “I think it would be remiss if I didn’t mention Sony Pictures Entertainment and the comedy movie “The Interview”, Hirai said. “Freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of association, those are very important lifelines of Sony…and our business.”

Despite the setback, the movie turned out to be a digital success for Sony, pulling in more than $15 million in the first four days of its release.

The US Justice Department Confronts China on Cyber Espionage

The US Department of Justice announced charges against China for cyber-spying on American major companies. Prior to this, in the fall of 2011, US Representative Mike Rogers, head of the House Intelligence Committee, made an appeal to Europe and Asia to confront the Chinese with their economic espionage by saying: “China’s economic espionage has reached an intolerable level. I believe that the United States and our allies in Europe and Asia have an obligation to confront Beijing and demand that they put a stop to this piracy”.

In a seminal article, the Washington Post reported that China is back in the cyber spotlight again. The Washington Post reported that China had infiltrated networks to gain access to more than two dozen of defence and combat aircraft and ship design plans.

The report claims that “China, which is pursuing a comprehensive long-term strategy to modernize its military, is investing in ways to overcome the US military advantage — and cyber-espionage is seen as a key tool in that effort,” the Post reported. “For the first time, the Pentagon specifically named the Chinese government and military as the culprit behind intrusions into government and other computer systems”. While the news may not come as a surprise to many in the cyber world, President Obama is preparing to confront China on the issue timely.

The Mandiant Report

Last year, security company Mandiant published their report on a special Cyber Crime unit formulated in China, called Advanced Persistent Threat or APT. Twenty of these organizations were spotted by Mandiant. Their analysis has led to their conclusion that “APT is likely government-sponsored” and “It’s believed to be the 2nd bureau of the People’s Liberation Army”. Upon careful reading of the report, it becomes clear that the ties between hacker organizations and the Chinese government are very close. The response of the Chinese Defense Ministry was that it is “unprofessional and groundless to accuse the Chinese military of launching cyber attacks without any conclusive evidence.” “Proof” of collaboration between nation states and these kinds of organizations is seldom published, but the Mandiant report looks quite convincing. Mandiant expected reprisals from China, as well as an onslaught of criticism. That criticism would be related to the fact that the blacklisted unit 61398 would change its techniques after being published, making it harder to continue to track them.

Mandiant warned of the risks of the Chinese government’s theft of intellectual property “and beyond” such as executive emails, negotiation plans, meeting minutes, and HR records. In 2014, they released an update in their security briefing stating that “(A)cross numerous industries, we’ve increasingly observed the Chinese government conduct expansive intrusion campaigns to obtain information to support state-owned enterprises. This translates into data stealing that goes far beyond the core intellectual property of a company, to include information about how these businesses work and how executives and key figures make decisions”. But what makes the headlines compelling is the theft of information about weapon systems, and spying on companies in manufacturing, energy, media and entertainment, and NGOs.