Necurs Ransomware-Spreading Botnet Will Now Screengrab Your Desktop Too

The Necurs botnet has recently undergone a resurgence, distributing millions of malicious emails – large swathes of which have most recently been spreading Locky ransomware. It’s also been known to deliver the Trickbot banking trojan, indicating the attackers behind it have their fingers in many pies. But not happy with just that, wow those behind Necurs – a zombie army of over five million hacked devices – are also attaching a downloader with the functionality to gather telemetery from infected victims.

Uncovered by researchers at Symantec, the Necurs downloader can take screengrabs of infected machines and send them back to a remote server. It also contains an error-reporting feature which sends information back to the attackers on any issues the downloader encounters when performing its activities.

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White House Chief of Staff John Kelly’s Personal Cell Phone was Compromised

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly’s personal cell phone was compromised back in December. Details may be found at: http://politi.co/2xIbaTX.

Actually, this shouldn’t surprise anyone. I hope it didn’t surprise John Kelly although I suspect it may have. Everyone should be aware that EVERY unencrypted cell phone can be hacked. The higher your position in government, military, sports, the entertainment industry, or in the business world, the greater the odds that someone is monitoring your calls and the web sites you visit with your smartphone. Those listening might be foreign governments, our own NSA, the FBI, local police departments, business competitors, identity thieves, or (in the case of celebrities) various gossip magazines and newspapers.

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U.S. Commerce Secretary says the Census needs $4.5 Billion More for the 2020 Census to be Conducted

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross asked Congress for $4.3 billion in additional funds for the 2020 Census after a federal watchdog highlighted a number of shortcomings in the Census Bureau’s preparation for the decennial count of U.S. residents.

In October 2015, the bureau estimated the 2020 Census would cost roughly $12.5 billion after adjusting for inflation, but an independent review of the process determined the expenses would total closer to $15.6 billion and require another $1.2 billion in reserve funds. In his testimony, Ross stressed how the extra funding is crucial for improving management and oversight within the agency and getting delayed IT programs back on track.

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Buggy Microsoft Outlook Sending Encrypted S/MIME Emails With Plaintext Copy For Months

Do you use Microsoft Outlook to send supposedly-encrypted S/MIME email messages? If so, for at least last 6 months, your messages have been sent in both encrypted and unencrypted forms, exposing all your secret and sensitive communications to potential eavesdroppers.

If you are using Microsoft Outlook, you need to read an article in The Hacker News at http://bit.ly/2gbfpvW before you send your next message!

Comment: There are several better, more secure email programs than Microsoft Outlook. If you have a need for email security, you should investigate other solutions! You might start by looking at past articles about encrypted email services that have published in this blog. Start at: http://bit.ly/2gafXCb.

 

New Homeland Security Plan to Gather Social Media Information has Privacy Advocates up in Arms

Yes, Big Brother is watching you, me, and everyone else more than ever before. It has special interests in immigrants, even those who later became U.S. citizens.

Back in September, the Department of Homeland Security announced in the Federal Register that it had been collecting information from social media accounts of immigrants and foreign visitors. According to that notice, US Citizenship and Immigration Services, which is part of DHS, keeps the data it collects from immigrants in what’s known as their “A File.” According to DHS, data gathered includes “social media [accounts], aliases, associated identifiable information, and search results.”

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US Deputy Attorney General Just Called for ‘Responsible Encryption.’ Don’t Fall for It.

From an article by Zack Whittaker in the ZDNet web site:

“You only need to look at the past year of data breaches, leaks, and exposures to see that some of the most precious national security and technological secrets in the US aren’t safe.

“During a speech at the US Naval Academy on Tuesday, deputy US attorney general Rod Rosenstein, one of the most senior government lawyers, called on tech giants to embrace ‘responsible encryption.'”

Perhaps the most important statement of the article is:

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Microsoft Is Using Cortana To Read Your Private Skype Conversations

Are you using Skype? If so, perhaps you should switch to something that is more secure.

Brian Fagioli shares a report from BetaNews:

“So, here’s the deal, folks. In order for this magical “in-context” technology to work, Cortana is constantly reading your private conversations. If you use Skype on mobile to discuss private matters with your friends or family, Cortana is constantly analyzing what you type. Talking about secret business plans with a colleague? Yup, Microsoft’s assistant is reading those too. Don’t misunderstand — I am not saying Microsoft has malicious intent by adding Cortana to Skype; the company could have good intentions. With that said, there is the potential for abuse. Microsoft could use Cortana’s analysis to spy on you for things like advertising or worse, and that stinks. Is it really worth the risk to have smart replies and suggested calendar entries? I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not have my Skype conversations read by Microsoft.”

Brian Fagioli’s complete report may be found at: https://slashdot.org/~BrianFagioli.