Here are a few stories published over the holidays about hacker attacks in the United States and internationally and how the attacks affect individuals’ privacy.
Update on Ease of Voicemail Hacking
Last year, there was a scandal about the alleged hacking of thousands of British citizens’ phones by the News of the World. USA Today reported on the ease with which a voicemail system can be hacked — especially if the hacker uses applications that can “spoof” Caller ID numbers. With spoofing, the number that shows up on a call recipient’s Caller ID display is different from the actual phone number the dialer is using. Recently, the New York Times reported on a study detailing the lax security surrounding voicemail systems, which can allow for easy hacks to violate a person’s privacy:
But according to a study to be presented Tuesday, cellphone users in Europe and the rest of the world may be just as vulnerable as the actor Hugh Grant and other celebrities to having their personal voice mail hacked — or worse — because of outdated mobile network security.
In a study of 31 mobile operators in Europe, Morocco and Thailand, Karsten Nohl, a Berlin hacker and mobile security expert, found that many operators provided poor or weak defenses to protect consumers from illicit surveillance and identity theft.
Mr. Nohl said he was able to hack into mobile conversations and text messages and could impersonate the account identities of cellphone users in 11 countries using an inexpensive, 7-year-old Motorola cellphone and free decryption software available on the Internet. He has tested each mobile operator more than 100 times, he said, and has ranked the quality of their defenses. […]
The technique he uses focuses on deciphering the predictable, standard electronic “conversations” that take place between a cellphone and a mobile network at the beginning of each call. Typically, Mr. Nohl said, as many as 40 packets of coded information are sent back and forth, many just simple commands like, “I have a call for you,” or “Wait.”
Most operators vary little from this set-up procedure, which Mr. Nohl said allowed him to use hacking software to make high-speed, educated guesses to decipher the complex algorithmic keys networks use to encrypt transmissions. Once he derived this key, Mr. Nohl said, he was able to intercept voice and data conversations by impersonating another user to listen to their voice mails or make calls or send text messages on their mobile accounts.
Mr. Nohl said operators could easily fix this vulnerability in the GSM system, which is found in older 2G networks used by almost every cellphone, including smartphones, with a simple software patch. His research found that only two operators, T-Mobile in Germany and Swisscom in Switzerland, were already using this enhanced security measure, which involves adding a random digit to the end of each set-up command to thwart decoding. (For example, “I have a call for you 4.”)
The Antisec wing of Anonymous revealed on Saturday that it had compromised the servers of the private intelligence firm Strategic Forecasting Inc. — allegedly seizing millions of internal documents and thousands of credit card numbers from the company, more commonly known as Stratfor.
That would be a major breach of private information from any firm. But this hack could prove particularly significant, because Stratfor serves as an information-gathering resource and open source intelligence analysis for both the U.S. military and for major corporations.
Antisec breached Stratfor’s networks several weeks ago, according to sources within the group that attacked the firm. On Saturday, Antisec began posting credit card details of a few Stratfor customers on Internet Relay Chats. But that’s just the start of a much larger data dump, the group claims. Anonymous is planning to release much more information — up to 200 gigabytes worth, in parts throughout the week leading up to New Year’s Eve. That trove allegedly includes 860,000 usernames, emails, and md5-hashed passwords; data from 75,000 credit cards, including security codes used for no card present transactions; and over 2.5 million Stratfor emails, internal Stratfor documents from the company’s intranet, and support tickets from it.stratfor.com. […]
Stratfor’s website is currently down. But on its Facebook page, the company admitted that “an unauthorized party disclosed personally identifiable information and related credit card data of some of our members. We have reason to believe that your personal and credit card data could have been included in the information that was illegally obtained and disclosed.”
Two or three hackers are responsible for releasing the credit card information of hundreds of thousands of Israelis on Monday, an internet security firm said on Tuesday. According to Maglan Internet Defense Technologies, the hackers are probably citizens of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Croatia. Among those whose credit card details were revealed is Labor leader Shelly Yachimovich.
According to Shai Blitzblau, Managing Director of Maglan, the group is also responsible for hacking other websites around the world, including Islamic ones. For this reason, said Blitzblau, the claim that the hackers targeted Israel’s economy is probably unfounded. […]
The websites that were hit include sale365.co.il and bizmakebiz.co.il. Representatives of the latter said however that the website does not keep its costumers’ credit card details and that the only details obtained by the hackers were names of businesses and users.
Another website targeted was ezpay.co.il, which claims to use a more secure standard called PCI DSS. The hackers also hit a database of a website which sells Jewish gifts to the U.S. and a business network of Jewish American youth.
Wall Street Journal: China Hackers Hit U.S. Chamber
A group of hackers in China breached the computer defenses of America’s top business-lobbying group and gained access to everything stored on its systems, including information about its three million members, according to several people familiar with the matter.
The break-in at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is one of the boldest known infiltrations in what has become a regular confrontation between U.S. companies and Chinese hackers. The complex operation, which involved at least 300 Internet addresses, was discovered and quietly shut down in May 2010. […]
It is possible the hackers had access to the network for more than a year before the breach was uncovered, according to two people familiar with the Chamber’s internal investigation.
One of these people said the group behind the break-in is one that U.S. officials suspect of having ties to the Chinese government. The Chamber learned of the break-in when the Federal Bureau of Investigation told the group that servers in China were stealing its information, this person said. The FBI declined to comment on the matter. […]
The Chamber, which has 450 employees and represents the interests of U.S. companies in Washington, might look like a juicy target to hackers. Its members include most of the nation’s largest corporations, and the group has more than 100 affiliates around the globe.
While members are unlikely to share any intellectual property or trade secrets with the group, they sometimes communicate with it about trade and policy.