source: securityweek.com

A member of the US National Security Agency's elite hacking team has been charged with illegally removing top secret materials, in an embarrassing breach for the crucial electronic espionage body.

The Justice Department said Friday that Nghia Hoang Pho, 67, a 10-year veteran of the NSA's Tailored Access Operations unit, which broke into computer systems, agreed to plead guilty to a single charge of removing and retaining top-secret documents from the agency.

He kept the material at his Ellicott City, Maryland home.

According to The New York Times, it was Vietnam-born Pho's computer that apparent Russian hackers accessed via his use of Kaspersky software to steal files and programs the NSA developed for its own hacking operations.

The Justice Department said Pho had taken printed and digital copies of documents and writings labelled "secret," and containing sensitive "national defense information," and stored them in his home from 2010 until he was caught in 2015.

It gave no detail on why he did that, and did not say whether Pho had revealed or lost any of the information.

Pho faces up to 10 years in prison, though could negotiate a lighter punishment.

He was the third NSA employee charged in the past two years for taking home top-secret information.

The NSA declined to respond to questions on the case.

In October The Wall Street Journal reported that Russian hackers exploited anti-virus software made by Kaspersky Lab to steal top secret materials from an unnamed NSA employee.

The Journal said the 2015 hack led to the Russians obtaining information on how the NSA itself penetrates foreign computer networks and protects itself from cyberattacks.

The incident was a key reason why the US government earlier this year announced a ban on use of Kaspersky anti-virus software on government computers, warning that the Moscow-based company has suspect links to Russian intelligence.

Kaspersky denies any ties to the Russian government, but said its own forensic investigation did show that hackers made use of its software to break into the NSA worker's home computer.

Kaspersky said what was stolen included essential source code for so-called Equation Group hacking software from the NSA.

 source: cnet.com

No really, get ready. Do these security basics now, because online criminals are going to get even more aggressive next year.

 
 

After the year we've had, do you need any more convincing that your personal information is constantly being exposed to hackers?

It wasn't just the Equifax hack, which leaked 145.5 million Social Security numbers, or the WannaCry ransomware attack that locked up our computers and demanded a ransom paid in bitcoins.

Even the security software on millions of our computers became suspect when, for example, the US government banned the widely popular Kaspersky Lab software over concerns about connections to the Russian government. And experts made us question whether we can trust the invisible systems that connect our devices to the internet, like Wi-Fi.

But as scary as all this news is, I don't recommend putting your fingers in your ears and chanting "fa la la la" until the next hack (though sometimes I'm tempted to do that myself).

The good news is that even as things get worse, you can still do a lot to protect yourself from many types of cyberattacks. In fact, it's because these trends aren't likely to turn around in 2018 that you should do all of the following:

Sound like too much work? You should really carve out some time for this stuff. If you'll permit me to be Debbie Downer for a moment, our security situation is likely to get worse, not better in 2018. Here's how.

Ransomware will get sneakier, so your backups will be even more important

It's hard to imagine how ransomware could get much worse. In the WannaCry attack, hackers used NSA hacking tools that leaked into the criminal underworld, repurposing them to launch ransomware at regular computer users.

 source:  wired.com

YOU'RE USING STRONG and unique passwords. You're on the lookout for phishing emails. And you've set up two-factor authentication on every account that offers it. Basically, you're acing Personal Cybersecurity 101. But with new threats popping up all the time, you may be looking for other proactive steps you can take to protect yourself. Here's an easy one: Clean up your digital junk.

Most people have old email accounts floating around, forgotten thumb drives in a drawer, and years-worth of crap in a downloads folder. All that stuff is a liability. Saving data that you want or that will someday come in handy is...sort of the whole point of the digital revolution, but holding on to accounts and files that you don't actually want anymore needlessly exposes you to all sorts of risks. Your devices can be lost or stolen (or hacked) and big companies can suffer data breaches that incidentally expose your information. So the less there is out there, the better off you are.

"The physical presence of data is so small that sometimes we don’t think about it as being clutter," says Michael Kaiser, the executive director of the National Cyber Security Alliance. "But we accumulate massive amounts of it and some of it can be harmful if it gets lost or stolen."

Here's some tips from the experts on how to clean that clutter before it comes back to haunt you.

Digital Dumping Ground

First, address your physical devices. Destroy old CDs, thumb drives, and external hard drives you don't need anymore. (Don't forget the box of floppy disks in your basement. Seriously.) Consider old PCs, gaming consoles, and smart home gadgets, and back up anything you want from those devices before wiping them.

 

Next, deal with your current devices. Sort through your desktop and clean out your documents folder. Eliminating old PDFs of credit card statements or medical forms that you no longer need will go a long way toward keeping you safer. And it's a good opportunity to make a plan for sensitive documents that you do want to hold on to. You might back them up to a cloud service or a password-protected external hard drive and then take them off the devices you use every day that could be lost or stolen.

 source: Carmen Middleton, thecipherbrief.com

There has been growing discussion about the importance of open source information – both in terms of the power and potential of creating and disseminating news and narratives worldwide, whether genuine or fake, and for the pressing need to evolve the open source intelligence (OSINT) discipline.

“Devaluing OSINT has become a more significant problem as Russia and China use social media as an arena to wage disinformation operations,” wrote Dana Priest, commenting in the New Yorker about the Russian meddling in the U.S election.

Europe has been sensitized not only to the speed by which information, including disinformation, can be conveyed to its citizenry, but also to the power of such messaging to create confusion, mistrust and even a distortion of attitudes and actions.

In response to this threat, Denmark announced in July that it had begun to train its troops, designated for deployment in Estonia, in combating disinformation. And on Nov. 13, the European Commission launched a public consultation on fake news and online disinformation and set up a High-Level Expert Group representing academics, online platforms, news media and civil society organizations.

The open source landscape continues to evolve at a head-spinning pace, and this dynamic evolution is challenging, in earnest, long-held perceptions of what practitioners fondly refer to as the “’INT’ of first resort.”

“I don’t think it has had its heyday,” Jason Matheny, director of IARPA, recently told The Cipher Brief about the state of open source intelligence. “We don’t invest very much in open source intelligence compared to classified sources of intelligence as the intelligence community.”

As a former director of the Open Source Center, now the Open Source Enterprise, I cannot agree more with this statement. Over the course of its 76-year history, the U.S. government’s OSINT venture has experienced all-too-fleeting moments of high-level attention and committed investment only to fall back into longer periods of disinterest and flattened or reduced budgets.