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Tech News

Security Minister Seeks to ID Net Users

The UK Governments Security Minister, Ben Wallace, has called for a new system of Digital IDs in order to end mob rule on the internet by preventing people from being able to hide behind anonymity online. You know, like Russia, Syria and China have tried repeatedly to do. Should we be more like them? People are flawed. Sometimes it can seem like for every polite, law abiding and well-mannered person there is another individual who seems intent upon highlighting the very worst of humanity. In our personal off-line lives we can often avoid such people, but in the online world you are bound to cross a few of them eventually or see their impact upon others and much of the time they do this anonymously.  But you can still avoid most of them, if you so choose. Equally we can all have our off-moments, when we let down our guard and say something that we probably should not have. In keeping with that, some topics are more likely to divide and ignite argument than they are to unite and those tend to be the biggest sparks. This is one area where Politicians are perhaps more of a target than most due to the impact they can have upon our everyday lives (e.g. Brexit). Anger quickly turns into abuse. In this context it is easier to understand Ben Wallaces otherwise odd claim of mob rule, since you would only see that if you were deliberately exposing yourself to it and that is something which politicians open the floodgates to (some of them thrive on the divisions they create). Sadly for them the easy option of simply avoiding social media altogether does not work, especially when so many of the electorate use it. Admittedly Wallace does make a fair point about the level of trolling and abuse online, although attempting to solve that via compulsory Digital IDs and then applying it only in the UK (while excluding other countries) could be rather challenging and may even be impossible, without turning the entire internet into a walled garden. Totalitarian states also happen to love walled gardens that only they and the thought police control. The logical progression of such an approach may also result in the banning of Virtual Private Networks (VPN), which are often legitimately used as a privacy or security tool and also for remote working or avoiding unfair geographic restrictions. Equally civil rights campaigners in non-democratic countries have been able to use such tools to campaign for freedom etc.

MyHeritage breach exposes 92M emails and hashed passwords

A data breach has exposed 92 million accounts on DNA testing and genealogy website MyHeritage, the company said on Tuesday. The breach was discovered by a security researcher who notified MyHeritage on Tuesday that a trove of email addresses and hashed passwords were sitting on a private server somewhere outside of the company. Because the passwords were hashed, the actual passwords were not exposed - hackers only got access to a scrambled string of text compiled by crytogaphic algorithms.

5 Backdoored Ad Blockers Removed from Chrome Store

Google removed five fake ad blockers from the Chrome Store after they were flagged by a researcher, but they had already been downloaded more than 20 million times. The malicious ad blockers were discovered by Andrey Meshkov, co-founder of Adguard, who detailed his findings in a blog post. While he noted that hackers have long created cloned versions of popular ad blockers, they have grown more sophisticated. These criminals still use simple rip-offs of popular products, with a few lines of code added by the new authors.  But instead of using similar names like Adguard Hardline or Adblock Plus Premium, they spam keywords into the extensions description, trying to move it to the top search results and increase the likelihood of getting a victim to download it.

Android malware found hidden inside QR code apps

A new malware family recently infiltrated Google Play by presenting itself as a bunch of handy utilities. This malware is now detected as Andr/HiddnAd-AJ, and the name gives you an inkling of what the rogue apps do: blast you with ads, but only after lying low for a while to lull you into a fals sense of security. The offending apps have now been pulled from the Play Store, but not before some of them attracted more than 500,000 downloads. The subterfuge used by the developers to keep the Google Play Protect app-vetting process sweet seems surprisingly simple. First, the apps were, at least on the surface, what they claimed: six were QR code reading apps; and one was a so-called smart compass. In other words, if you were just trying out apps for fun, or for a one-off purpose, you would be inclined to judge them by their own descriptions.

Blizzard silently patches exploit, gives Googler cold shoulder

Blizzard games – played every month by half a billion netizens, apparently – could be hijacked by malicious websites visited by gamers, according to Googles Project Zero team. Googler Tavis Ormandy spotted the vulnerability in the Blizzard Update Agent, which is installed alongside all Blizzard titles. This particular application allows games to fetch and install upgrades and patches on the fly. The update engine also accepts commands to change settings, perform maintenance, and so on. The code does this by running a JSON RPC HTTP server on port 1120, and uses a customized authentication system to check that whatever is asking it to make changes is authorized to do so. Script code on webpages can talk to the local server using XMLHttpRequest(), yet the mechanism can be bypassed. I do not think this design will work because of an attack called DNS rebinding, Ormandy explained in his advisory. Any website can simply create a dns name that they are authorized to communicate with, and then make it resolve to localhost. To be clear, this means that any website can send privileged commands to the agent. Exploitation would involve using network drives, or setting destination to Downloads and making the browser install dlls, datafiles, etc." Ormandy wrote a proof-of-concept exploit, and found that a successful attack should take about 15 minutes, but could be speeded up by forcing a DNS cache eviction. He warned Blizzard in early December, exchanged messages, and then the biz froze him out. The games maker then silently hacked in a fix to its software: rather than white list its backend update server hostnames, it instead black lists common browsers from talking to the update mechanism. Blizzard were replying to emails, but stopped communicating on December 22nd, Ormandy reported. Blizzard are no longer replying to any enquiries, and it looks like in version 5996 the agent now has been silently patched with a bizarre solution. Their solution appears to be to query the client command line, get the 32-bit FNV-1a string hash of the exe name, and then check if it is in a blacklist. I proposed they whitelist hostnames, but apparently that solution was too elegant and simple. I am not pleased that Blizzard pushed this patch without notifying me, or consulted me on this. Blizzard is taking a similarly silent approach to answering press questions on the topic. We will update as soon as the games giant decides to comment. Ormandy has already said he is checking other big games vendors to see if the problem can be replicated.

PlayStation 4 hackers bring PS2 games to the console

The Nintendo Switch is not the only console that is a popular target for hackers and homebrew enthusiasts – the PlayStation 4 system has been hacked, bringing a flood of pirated software and the chance for tinkerers to play their own PlayStation 2 games on the more modern console. According to Eurogamer, the exploit in the consoles software was discovered earlier this month, but it is limited to consoles running system software 4.05. Given that most people automatically update their consoles and we are now on system software 5.05, it is safe to say there are very few PlayStation 4 consoles out there right now that will be able to actually take advantage of the exploit. However, that has not stopped a sudden flurry of activity in the hacking community. Not long after the release of the exploit, we are seeing Linux support and the creation of a homebrew enabler called PS4HEN. Now, hackers are able to install package files on PS4 consoles, use tools to decrypt games, and then re-package and install them on hacked consoles. Hack happy Such is the popularity of the idea of backwards compatibility, work is also underway on reverse engineering popular PlayStation 2 games so that they can be played on the PlayStation 4. PlayStation 2 emulation is a feature that exists at system-level on the PlayStation 4 console and it offers games which tap into it a resolution and performance boost. it is not been possible until now, however, for users to emulate all of their PlayStation 2 games. Instead they’ve had to rely on the very limited number of titles on the PlayStation Store. With this hack, though, there are now tools which allow users to place their own ISO files into a package which can be installed and operated on exploited consoles. Not every game will operate perfectly using this method, however. But given the clamor for backwards compatibility from PlayStation 4 owners it is unsurprising that it is being thoroughly tested. This and the access to pirated software is, of course, moot for the vast majority of users who are running the latest system software which cannot be exploited with the same method. It is worth bearing in mind that there are inherent risks and downsides when it comes to hacks such as these – running such old system software will mean that you’ll be unable to run more recent releases which have been mastered for later firmware updates; exploiting consoles will naturally void their warranty; and, of course, there’s the damage that piracy can do to the games industry and the people that work in it.