Baseball player getting to bat

According to 2017 reporting, Major League Baseball believed that the Boston Red Sox, at the time in first place in the American League East, used the Apple Watch to illicitly steal hand signals from opposing teams.  Allegedly, the Apple Watch was used to not only “steal” hand signals from opposing catchers in games using video recording equipment, but transmit the information likely to team trainers.  The theft of such information would help determine the type of pitch that was going to be thrown.  The recording of signals is strictly forbidden by league rules.

When it comes to targeting billion-dollar sports franchises, many would assume that cyber crime would be the foremost cyber actors behind the scenes.  Based on a 2015 report that estimated the professional sports market in North America to have an expected worth of $73.5 billion by 2019, it’s easy to see why.  Indeed, there have been several incidents where cyber crime operations have focused on professional sports teams.  In April 2016, the National Basketball Association Milwaukee Bucks players had their financial documents (player addresses, Social Security Numbers, and compensation) accidentally leaked due to a team employee falling victim to an e-mail scam.  The employee released players’ 2015 IRS W-2 documents to an emailer impersonating the team’s president. Also in 2016, a crippling TeslaCrypt ransomware attack impacted a NASCAR racing team.  An estimated $2 million worth of information was potentially lost prompting payment of the ransom to the criminals.

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Recently, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is investigating whether Facebook, Inc. used personal data by an analytics firm associated with the Trump campaign.  Specifically, the FTC is trying to determine if the company violated terms of an earlier consent decree when 50 million users’ data was transferred to  Cambridge Analytica, a data and media consultancy firm.  To date, Cambridge Analytica has been accused of misrepresenting the purpose of some of its data mining, which yielded something like 30 million Facebook profiles it could comb for data.  This calls into question how consumer information is shared with other entities, particularly when consent was not provided.

 

Social Media & GDPR

 

This revelation has called into question how social media sights harvest the personal information from their platforms.  As one article pointed out, “Some large-scale data harvesting and social manipulation is okay until the election. Some of it becomes not okay in retrospect.”  This is indeed troubling in a time when personal information is constantly used by malicious actors for monetization purposes or used in support of the conduct of other operations (e.g., social engineering, spam, phishing, credential theft, etc.).  A recent report by a content marketing agency revealed that Facebook logins can be sold for USD $5.20.  Such access provides a criminal to a compromised individual’s contact list to target other individuals.  According to the same report, an individual’s entire online identity – to include personal identifiable information and financial accounts – could be sold for USD $1,200.00.  After initially denying the claim, Facebook acknowledged the breach and promised to take action.

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According to recent reporting, a suspected nation state hacker group with alleged ties to the Iranian government issued death threats to researchers that had detected their cyber espionage activity.  The researchers were checking a server that they believed to be associated with a specific data breach when they received the message “Stop!!! I Kill You Researcher.”  According to the same report, the server was apparently attached to the attackers’ command-and-control infrastructure.  Active since 2015, the group known as “MuddyWaters” has been observed targeting organizations in Georgia, India, Iraq, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkey, and the United States.  Recently, MuddyWaters has been observed targeting oil and gas entities in the Middle East.  Notably, the group is believed to employ “false flag” operations – similar to what was believed to have been done during the recent Olympics – in which it adopted some of the tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP) of suspected Chinese hackers to obfuscate the group’s true identity.

 

On the surface, the threat made against the researchers can be viewed as knee-jerk reaction to being tracked by the private sector.  But this does raise the possibility of what hostile actors may resort to in the future.  The private sector computer security has been aggressively investigating the activities of suspected nation states actors since 2004 when the first report published the activities of a Chinese state entity.  Since that time, several subsequent reports have been provided to the public detailing “advanced persistent threat” operations detailing TTPs and targeting that have ultimately been attributed to specific nation state actors.  While the standard public reaction of these governments has been to refute or deny the claims, citing the difficulties in providing adequate evidence that supports attribution, sanctions and alleged retaliatory strikes have been know to occur as a result of these accusations.

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Healthcare Data: Everything Has a Price; Everything Has Value

Unsurprisingly, the healthcare sector continues to be an attractive target as data stolen continues to provide value to a diverse threat actor set.  Indeed, criminals and those actors associated with traditional cyber espionage activities have conducted some of the more news garnering incidents over the past few years.  What’s more, depending on the actors’ intent, all types of information have been sought after and stolen by these groups and individuals to include financial and insurance-related information, personal identifiable information, and even the health records of patients.  The targeting of these different types of data should demonstrate to the healthcare industry that there is no seemingly benign data when it comes to healthcare and that strategies must be designed to safeguard any and all types of data that relate to patients and their care treatments.

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