Nov 20, 2019

Microsoft: Iranian hacker group homing in on industrial systems

llustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A hacker group believed to carry out some of the Iranian government's destructive attacks is focusing on makers of industrial control systems, according to a presentation a Microsoft employee will give at Thursday's CyberWarCon detailed in a new Wired article.

Why it matters: The group, nicknamed APT 33, Refined Kitten and Elfin, has been known to use malware to damage computer systems in the past, leading the Microsoft researcher presenting the talk on Thursday, Ned Moran, to speculate that the hackers may be laying the groundwork for future destructive attacks on industrial systems.

To be clear: The group has also been associated with traditional, fact-finding and source producing espionage as well. It's tough to guess the endgame of most hackers from their opening moves.

Industrial control systems, as the name implies, are the computerized systems that interface with pumps, fans and robots carrying out industrial tasks.

What they found: Moran told Wired that APT 33 has changed its tactics in recent months. In the past, the group had hacked systems by guessing passwords of employees at tens of thousands of different organizations at a time, but has now shifted to focusing on more employees at each of a smaller number—roughly 2,000—targets.

  • Around half the top 25 targets were makers or maintainers of industrial systems.

APT 33 has a history of attacking aerospace and oil operations, as well as politicians, academics and the water source for a U.S. military facility.

  • It has been connected to two strains of hard drive erasing "wiper" malware known: ShapeShift and Shamoon. Shamoon has been used in some of the most destructive cyber attacks in history, including an attack on Saudi Aramco.

Go deeper: Infamous Shamoon malware re-emerges.

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Disney+ accounts hacked, likely due to password reuse


Photo: SOPA Images/Getty Images

Hacked Disney+ accounts showed up for sale on dark web criminal markets almost immediately after Disney's new streaming service went live, reported ZDNet.

The big picture: The hijacking of account credentials no doubt came as a shock to the affected users, who suddenly found their passwords changed and their accounts inaccessible. But it's a commonplace occurrence in a world where many users reuse passwords from one service to another.

Go deeperArrowNov 19, 2019

Iran cuts internet during, and after, protests

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Photo: Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

As protests over gas prices erupted last weekend, Iranian officials cut the nation's access to the internet. On Wednesday, according to state media, the government declared victory over the protests. Yet the internet has only begun to trickle back online.

Why it matters: Keeping the internet off prevented global reporting of police abuses and prevents domestic coordination between protestors, Adrian Shahbaz of the human rights group Freedom House told Axios.

Go deeperArrowNov 21, 2019

A tug-of-war over biased AI

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The idea that AI can replicate or amplify human prejudice, once argued mostly at the field's fringes, has been thoroughly absorbed into its mainstream: Every major tech company now makes the necessary noise about "AI ethics."

Yes, but: A critical split divides AI reformers. On one side are the bias-fixers, who believe the systems can be purged of prejudice with a bit more math. (Big Tech is largely in this camp.) On the other side are the bias-blockers, who argue that AI has no place at all in some high-stakes decisions.

Go deeperArrowDec 14, 2019