This Week In Security - 06/22/2020

Publish date June 22, 2020

Was That The Biggest Cyber Attack in History?

Last week, a flurry of headlines announced that US mobile phone operators, among others, were fighting off the largest cyber attack in history”. 

As consumers complained of outages affecting mobile phone companies, streaming services, internet providers, banks, and social media platforms, an online Digital Attack Map showed unprecedented distributed denial of service (DDoS) traffic.

Reports were misleading, however, and visualizations of the attack deemed inaccurate by cybersecurity experts who said it merely showed a random sample of global DDOS traffic badly plotted on a world map”.

It turned out that there was no actual evidence that a significant DDoS attack was underway and that the widespread outages were actually caused by “a leased fiber circuit failure from a third-party provider in the Southeast”.

The “largest cyber attack in history” seems to have been a social media storm-in-a-teacup fueled by hacktivists and “retweeted complaints going viral”.

The notorious hacking group, Anonymous, seems to be at the heart of that storm, propelling “a single network incident” into global news with a simple retweet.

ESET cybersecurity specialist, Jake Moore, warned that “rumors spread like wildfire on the internet”, with many users sharing headlines without checking the facts beforehand.

National Security Concerns Leave UK-Huawei Deal Wavering

Ex-Google boss, Eric Schmidt, says there is “no question that Huawei has engaged in some practices that are not acceptable in national security”.

Schmidt’s comments will be music to the ears of UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, as he attempts to negotiate a U-turn on his previous Huawei 5G deal in response to pressure from the US.

Congressman Mike Turner recently warned that the special relationship between the UK and US “would be fundamentally altered” if the UK continued to use Huawei as part of its 5G network.

Meanwhile, the US appears to be reversing its position on Huawei, amending “its prohibitions on US companies doing business with China’s Huawei to allow them to work together on setting standards for next-generation 5G networks”.

Huawei isn’t taking any chances, however, and is extending its UK advertising campaign in an effort “to preserve its role in the country’s 5G network rollout”. It’s also denied Schmidt’s allegations that “information from Huawei routers has ultimately ended up in hands that would appear to be the state”.

Huawei vice-president, Victor Zhang, defended the company, saying, “Huawei is a private company… [and] is independent from any government, including the Chinese government”.

Zoom To Roll-Out End-to-End Encryption to All

When Zoom introduced end-to-end encryption last month, it said it could only make it available to paid users in case it needed to comply with subpoenas from police or the FBI.

The video communications company CEO, Eric Yuan, explained that it could only provide end-to-end encryption to users for whom we can verify identity”.

Free users wouldn’t qualify as they “sign up with an email address, which does not provide enough information to verify identity”.

The digital rights group, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), teamed up with the internet services provider, Mozilla, to criticize the decision in an open letter.

The letter suggested that “Zoom’s plan not to provide end-to-end encryption to free users will leave exactly those populations that would benefit most from these technologies unprotected”.

Zoom reversed its previous decision after having “identified a path forward that balances the legitimate right of all users to privacy and the safety of users on our platform… while maintaining the ability to prevent and fight abuse”.

A trial version of the video-conferencing software will be rolled out in July, giving free users access to end-to-end encryption once they complete a one-time verification process.

Lax Cybersecurity to Blame for CIA Leaks

Senator Ron Wyden wrote to the Director of National Intelligence, John Ratcliffe, last week informing him that the CIA’s WikiLeaks Task Force report revealed widespread cybersecurity problems across the intelligence community”.

Congress exempted intelligence agencies from basic cybersecurity practices in 2014 in the misguided belief that such agencies would “go above and beyond the steps taken by the rest of the government to secure their systems” and protect the “nation’s most valuable secrets”.

The 2017 WikiLeaks Task Force report highlighted similar issues, few of which have been addressed. According to Wyden, “the intelligence community is still lagging behind, and has failed to adopt even the most basic cybersecurity practices”.

Lindsay Gorman, of the Alliance for Securing Democracy, said, “Lax cybersecurity puts U.S. operations at risk and in the case of exposing vulnerabilities and offensive tools can enable foreign adversaries to further exploit U.S. and allied systems. The Task Force report indicates that a truly staggering amount of data was compromised”.

Wyden concluded the letter by asking Ratcliffe if he intended to “adopt each of the 22 cybersecurity recommendations of the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community” and requested an estimate for when each recommendation would be implemented.

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