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By Ather Fawaz
Hundreds arrested, drugs and arms seized in the wake of police infiltration of a texting app
by Ather Fawaz
Following a Europe-wide operation by police forces, more than 800 criminals have been put behind bars and over two tons of drugs, several dozen guns, and £54 million in suspect cash have been seized. To enable this, the National Security Agency (NSA) worked in collaboration with police forces across Europe, including the Europol, to hack a texting application to obtain information about the criminals.
Dubbed 'Operation Venetic,' the mission took root in 2017 and entailed intercepting and decrypting messages on the allegedly secure texting app called EncroChat. By working over customized Android phones, the French app garnered over 60,000 users and provided features like the ability to send self-destructing messages and edit previously-sent messages.
A few months back, police were able to introduce malware into the app that decrypted and exposed the conversations and images of its users who were found to be openly discussing drug deals and other illegal operations on the platform. BBC wrote in its report that:
Last month, reports started surfacing claiming that the app had been compromised by law enforcement agencies via malware. Around the same time, EncroChat sent out a message to its users stating that it can no longer guarantee security and anonymity on the platform.
Image via EncroCchat Consequently, according to reports by police units, people started throwing away their phones but it was too little too late at that point. Law enforcement agencies and police moved swiftly to arrest over 800 criminals, including major crime figures, and seized over two tonnes of drugs, several dozen guns, and £54 million in suspect cash. In the wake of the operation, EncroChat has been shut down as well.
Five Eyes reportedly targeted Yandex in late 2018 to spy on user accounts
by Paul Hill
The Russian search engine Yandex has reportedly been attacked by one or more Western intelligence agencies, possibly from the United States, Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and/or Canada, which make up the so-called ‘Five Eyes’. The attack, according to four people with insider information, said it took place in late 2018 and included rare malware called Regin which the hackers hoped to use in order to spy on user accounts hosted by Yandex.
Yandex has acknowledged the attack which took place between October and November 2018. Ilya Grabovsky, a spokesman at the firm, said:
When the attack was discovered, Yandex called in the Russian security company Kaspersky which learned that the attack was actually targeting several developers at Yandex. According to the sources, the infiltrators were trying to work out how Yandex authenticates user accounts so that they could impersonate users and gain access to private messages.
The Regin malware that was used was revealed to be a Five Eyes utility back in 2014 after The Intercept published information obtained from the former NSA contractor, Edward Snowden. The sources that spoke with Reuters claimed that the Regin code found on Yandex systems is newer than what has been used before which only increases the likelihood that Western nations are behind the attack.
If it is Western intelligence agencies or associated parties behind the attack, a conclusion deemed likely by Kaspersky's own private assessment, it’s doubtful that we’ll hear any more of the attack unless Yandex or Kaspersky are willing to share more details about what they’ve uncovered.
By Namerah S
Cyber criminals are using a stolen NSA tool to carry out digital attacks in Baltimore
by Namerah Saud Fatmi
Back in April 2017, a hacking group known as Shadow Brokers leaked a set of hacking tools targeted at Windows systems allegedly stolen from inside the National Security Agency (NSA). One of these tools was "EternalBlue", a vulnerability which has since been used to carry out multiple large scale ransomware attacks around the world including the infamous "Wannacry" and "Petya" attacks in May and June of 2017.
Now, The New York Times reports that the leaked hacking tool called EternalBlue has resurfaced, and this time it's being used to carry out cyber attacks in Baltimore and a few other cities in the U.S. According to security experts, the number of attacks based on EternalBlue is skyrocketing, with victims across the United States.
Apparently, the city of Baltimore has been under siege for the last three weeks at the hands of cyber criminals who are using the NSA's own creation to attack the organization's home turf. Reports suggest that thousands of PCs owned by the local government have been subjected to malware and digital attacks, causing complete chaos. Government systems such as email are broken-down, due to which services such as bill payment, health alerts, and buying homes are all unavailable to the local residents.
The ransomware attacks carried out in 2017 enabled by the stolen EternalBlue vulnerability targeted over 70 countries, including the U.K., Turkey, France, Spain and the U.S. Although Microsoft had released security patches to fix the vulnerability beforehand, many users had still not updated their devices, leaving them at risk. The Baltimore attack is similar in nature, and asks for a $100,000 ransom in Bitcoin to unlock affected files. City officials have refused to pay, though some services have been restored through the use of workarounds.
As of right now, the National Security Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have both refused to comment on the ongoing cyber attacks in Baltimore.
Source: The New York Times
The NSA collected over 530 million call detail records in 2017
by Paul Hill
Several years ago, Edward Snowden revealed to what extent the National Security Agency was spying on people all around the world. Since then, other scandals on the political scene have come and gone and the NSA snooping has gone a bit quiet. Now a new report from Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) has found that NSA call snooping tripled during 2017 from the year before.
According to the new report, the ODNI found that the NSA collected 534,396,285 call detail records, up from 151,230,968 in 2016. According to the reports, a call detail record consists of a source number, the destination number, and the duration of the call, however, it does not include the content of the communication, the name, address, or financial information of the callers, or their cell site location nor their GPS information. The NSA is allowed to collect the records thanks to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
Also included in the document is the number of records collected from non-U.S. citizens under the FISA Section 702. Section 702 is quite controversial because targets do not have to be a suspected terrorist, spy, or foreign agent, nor does the NSA need to get judicial approval to target someone. In 2017, the estimated number of targets of Section 702 orders stood at 129,080 – up from 89,138 in 2013.
According to the report, the call record metrics are likely overstated because the records may be counted more than once when received from other providers.
Source: The Hill via RT | Image via Nation of Change