US federal alert warns of the discovery of malicious cyber tools

Cybersecurity officials said the evidence suggests Russia is behind the tools – configured to target North American energy concerns

Multiple US government agencies issued a joint alert Wednesday warning of the discovery of malicious cyber tools created by unnamed advanced threat actors that they said were capable of gaining “full system access” to multiple industrial control systems.

The public alert from the Energy and Homeland Security departments, the FBI and National Security Agency did not name the actors or offer details on the find. But their private sector cybersecurity partners said the evidence suggests Russia is behind the tools – and that they were configured to initially target North American energy concerns.

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Home Office’s visa service apologises for email address data breach

Private contractor running UKVCAS sent email to visa applicants with over 170 email addresses copied

The Home Office’s visa service has apologised for a data breach in which the email addresses of more than 170 people were mistakenly copied into an email circulated last week.

More than 170 email addresses were accidentally copied into a message on 7 April 2022 about the change of location for a visa appointment with the UK Visa and Citizenship Application Service. The UKVCAS is run on behalf of the Home Office by the private contractor Sopra Steria. Some of the email addresses appeared to be private Gmail accounts, while others belonged to lawyers from a variety of firms.

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Not using a password manager? Here’s why you should be…

Experts recommend password managers for convenience and enhanced online safety, yet few of us use them

In a competitive field, passwords are one of the worst things about the internet. Long and complex passwords are more secure but difficult to remember, leaving many people using weak and easy-to-guess credentials. One study by the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) revealed how millions are using their pet’s name, football team names, ‘password’ and “123456” to access online services.

But this leaves you wide open to attack: cybercriminals can crack weak passwords in seconds using automated tools. “A hacker needs roughly two seconds to crack an 11-character password made up of numbers,” says Alex Balan, director of security research at security company Bitdefender. If the password is more complex, containing numbers, symbols and uppercase and lowercase letters, the time needed to break it jumps to 400 years.

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How the tech community has rallied to Ukraine’s cyber-defence | Joyce Hakmeh and Esther Naylor

From an army of volunteers to EU and Nato teams, the variety of online actors working for the cause is unprecedented

As the conflict in Ukraine escalates, expert cyber-watchers have been speculating about the kind of cyber-attacks that Russia might conduct. Will the Kremlin turn off Ukraine’s power grid, dismantle Ukraine’s transport system, cut off the water supply or target the health system? Or would cybercriminals operating from Russia, who could act as proxies for the Russian regime, conduct these activities?

Over the past decade, Ukraine has experienced many major cyber-attacks, most of which have been attributed to Russia. From election interference in 2014, which compromised the central electoral system and jeopardised the integrity of the democratic process; to a hack and blackout attack in a first-of-its-kind fully remote cyber-attack on a power grid in 2015, resulting in countrywide power outages; to one of the costliest malicious software attacks, NotPetya, in 2017, which significantly disrupted access to banking and government services in Ukraine and, subsequently, spilled over to France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Russia, the UK, the US and Australia.

Joyce Hakmeh is a senior research fellow for the International Security Programme at Chatham House. Esther Naylor is a research analyst at the International Security Programme

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Russia unleashed data-wiper virus on Ukraine, say cyber experts

UK government and banks on alert for new form of malware said to have infected hundreds of machines

Cyber experts have identified a new strain of computer-disabling malware unleashed on Ukrainian targets as part of Russia’s offensive, as the UK government and banks said they were on alert for online attacks.

Russia has been widely expected to launch a cyber assault alongside its military campaign and the run-up to theinvasion of Ukraine was marked by the deployment of a “wiper” virus. A distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack, which paralyses websites by bombarding them with spurious information requests, also hit Ukrainian government sites.

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Police use of Pegasus malware not illegal, Israeli inquiry finds

Police have been accused of spying on at least 26 individuals who are not criminal suspects

An inquiry into allegations that Israel’s police force systematically hacked into the mobile phones of Israeli citizens has found that while the police did use NSO Group’s controversial Pegasus malware, there is no evidence suggesting illegality.

In a series of explosive reports over the last two months, the local financial daily newspaper Calcalist accused the police of spying on at least 26 individuals who were not criminal suspects. Those named included politicians, protesters, and members of the former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s inner circle – claims Netanyahu used to delay proceedings in his corruption trial.

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Russian ransomware attacks ‘increased during 2021’, joint review finds

Britain, the US and Australia point to growth in ‘sophisticated, high-impact ransomware incidents’

There have been further increases in “sophisticated, high-impact ransomware incidents” coming from Russia and other former Soviet states during 2021, Britain, the US and Australia said in a joint review of cyber-extortion trends.

Universities and schools were one of the top sectors targeted in the UK last year, the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) said, as well as businesses, charities, law firms plus councils and the NHS. Hackers are increasingly offering services or exploits “for hire”.

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How the growing Russian ransomware threat is costing companies dear

With KP Snacks the latest cyber-attack victim, firms must learn to defend themselves against a mounting menace

The January snow lay thick on the Moscow ground, as masked officers of the FSB – Russia’s fearsome security agency – prepared to smash down the doors at one of 25 addresses they would raid that day.

Their target was REvil, a shadowy conclave of hackers that claimed to have stolen more than $100m (£74m) a year through “ransomware” attacks, before suddenly disappearing.

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Cyber-attack on UK’s Defence Academy caused ‘significant’ damage

Former senior officer says unsolved hack of MoD training school systems did not succeed but still had costs

A cyber-attack on the UK’s Defence Academy caused “significant” damage, a retired high-ranking officer has revealed.

Air Marshal Edward Stringer, who left the armed forces in August, told Sky News the attack, which was discovered in March 2021, meant the Defence Academy was forced to rebuild its network.

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Polish opposition says government use of spyware is ‘crisis for democracy’

Opposition leader Donald Tusk calls for inquiry after watchdog says rivals were targeted by Pegasus spyware

Polish opposition leader Donald Tusk said on Tuesday reports that the government spied on its opponents represented the country’s biggest “crisis for democracy” since the end of communism.

A cybersecurity watchdog last week said the Pegasus spyware had been used to target prominent opposition figures, with Polish media dubbing the scandal a “Polish Watergate”.

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