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Hacking North Korea, inside the Trickbot ransomware group, and more - catch up on the infosec news of the week with the Friday Five!
1. North Korea Hacked Him. So He Took Down Its Internet by Andy Greenberg
This is a wild story about a hacker who was apparently able to disrupt an entire country's internet, upset because its state-sponsored hackers were targeting him. It involves a hacker, P4x, who claims he was caught up in a hacking campaign carried out by North Korean spies. While they weren't successful, he was irked nonetheless and wanted to retaliate, aka hack hack. Exploiting vulnerabilities in North Korea's systems, he was able to launch denial of service attacks against routers and servers used by some of the country's internet-connected networks. It's had a palpable effect: As WIRED notes, at some points during P4x's hacking, it brought scores of NK sites to a standstill. While his actions may have not succeeded in much other than annoying the country in short bursts, if you read the story, it sounds like that's more than enough of a reason for him to keep going.
2. Inside Trickbot, Russia’s Notorious Ransomware Gang by Matt Burgess
Another piece from WIRED, this one peels back some of the covers on Trickbot, the ransomware gang that's targeted hospitals and healthcare organizations and even gloated about how easy of a target they can be. The story digs into chat transcripts between members of the gang, highlighting conversations around getting caught, how to work with other ransomware groups, and the gang's general business structure. While the information is a bit dated - the documents WIRED got access to included messages from the summer and autumn of 2020 - it's still a fascinating look at the cruel innerworkings of the group.
3. European Oil Port Terminals Hit By Cyberattack by Matthieu Demeestere
Barron's (via the AFP) has a report this week on a string of cyberattacks – likely ransomware - in Europe that have knocked multiple oil transport and storage companies offline. The attacks have disrupted IT systems at Oiltanking in Germany, SEA-Invest in Belgium and Evos in the Netherlands, actions that could have repercussions on delivery and the further oil supply chain. "Their software is being hijacked and they can't process barges. Basically, the operational system is down," Jelle Vreeman, senior broker at Riverlake in Rotterdam told the AFP, "The EU's Europol police agency said it was aware of the incidents in Germany and had offered support to authorities. German newspaper Handelsblatt, citing a report from Germany’s Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) said the group behind the BlackCat ransomware is responsible for the hack
4. iPhone flaw exploited by second Israeli spy firm-sources by Christopher Bing and Raphael Satter
While much of the attention regarding the abuse of state-sponsored surveillance technology over the past year has been squared on NSO Group, it turns out it wasn't the only firm hacking iPhones to carry out shady surveillance. A scoop via Reuters this week found that another, lesser known company, also based in Israel, QuaDream, also exploited a flaw in Apple's iOS software to break into iPhones remotely, just like NSO Group with its Pegasus spyware. Reuters reviewed brochures from QuaDream for its REIGN product which shows that it’s the same company as NSO. Like Pegasus, REIGN promises it can siphon up messages from WhatsApp, Telegram, Signal, photos, emails, and more. The story gives some insight into some of QuaDream's customers, governments who also happened to contract NSO's business: Singapore, Saudi Arabia and Mexico.
5. Crazy quilt of state privacy laws could cost businesses $1 trillion by John P. Mello
A new study published by a policy think tank puts a number on the cost that the patchwork of state data privacy bills could cost in the long run. The group, the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, posits that mounting compliance costs for in- and out-of-state businesses will add up, to the tune of $98 billion and $112 billion annually. That’d be more than $1 trillion over the next 10 years. To make matters worse for small businesses that could encounter stumbling blocks when it comes to compliance, the variety of state laws could cost them between $20 to $23 billion annually. The report is transparent in its motive: It’s yet another attempt by a group to sway Congress to pass a national privacy framework. The ITIF envisions legislation that would preempt state laws and ban private right-of-action for violations of the law, something which would obviously benefit businesses. It's the latest push in a series of calls to Congress to enact comprehensive privacy legislation. Last month the U.S. Chamber of Commerce published a letter to pass "bipartisan and durable national data protection legislation.”