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#infosec | Google Pulls 600 Apps from Play Store

Source: National Cyber Security – Produced By Gregory Evans

Google has removed almost 600 Android apps from its Play Store for violating its policy on disruptive advertising.

The tech giant has not only removed the titles from the Android marketplace but also banned them from Google AdMob and Ad Manager, meaning their developers will not be able to monetize them on its platforms.

The disruptive ad practices highlighted by Google included “out of context” advertising, which pops up when the user isn’t even logged into a specific app.

“This is an invasive maneuver that results in poor user experiences that often disrupt key device functions and this approach can lead to unintentional ad clicks that waste advertiser spend,” argued Per Bjorke, senior product manager for Ad Traffic Quality.

“For example, imagine being unexpectedly served a full-screen ad when you attempt to make a phone call, unlock your phone, or while using your favorite map app’s turn-by-turn navigation.”

Bjorke explained that Google had developed machine learning functionality to help detect such “out of context” ads, which led to this enforcement action.

“Mobile ad fraud is an industry-wide challenge that can appear in many different forms with a variety of methods, and it has the potential to harm users, advertisers and publishers,” he added.

Google is also getting better at finding and removing apps on its Play Store that contain malware. Last year, it claimed to have increased rejected app submissions by over 55% and app suspensions by more than 66% in 2018.

That doesn’t stop the black hats trying, however: malicious apps still make their way onto the platform and sometimes are downloaded millions of times before being blocked.

In June last year, adware was found in 238 apps on the Play Store, installed by an estimated 440 million Android users.

However, downloading apps from the official marketplace is still the recommended option: last year, Android malware dubbed “Agent Smith” was downloaded over 25 million times from a popular third-party store.

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#deepweb | HMS and Huawei app store target Google, Apple: When it all changed

Source: National Cyber Security – Produced By Gregory Evans

The year 2020 will prove to the world just how ready Huawei is to live in a world without Google on Android. Huawei was blocked last year from working with Google directly, leading them to seek an alternative to GMS: Google Mobile Services, aka official license from Google to include Google apps and the Google Play digital content store on Android devices. Here in 2020, Huawei’s about to release their first phone with both the Huawei app store and HMS: Huawei Mobile Services, and it won’t be the last.

The launch

Honor President Zhao Ming spoke in an interview with WEMP/ Tencent Deep Web via author Ma Guanxia, confirming the release of the Honor V30 for an event in Barcelona “next week.” That’ll probably be on or after the 24th of February, 2020. At that time, though MWC 2020 was cancelled due to NCoV-2019 (novel coronavirus), local European Huawei/Honor employees will take up the mantle and hold a Huawei conference / press event via the web.

Huawei will reveal the Huawei V30 series smartphone line as well as at least one new Huawei smartwatch and Huawei notebook / laptop computer. This will be the first time a smartphone is released anywhere in the world with HMS, Huawei Mobile Services, the Huawei-made alternative to GMS, Google Mobile Services, on Android OS.

Development and growth

“Our solid hardware capabilities and distributed operating system capabilities, as well as our ability to share future-oriented industry development with the industry, will help the rapid development of the entire Huawei Mobile Services,” said Zhao Ming [roughly translated]. “Because of this,” said Zhao Ming, “[HMS deployment] may exceed many original pre-judgments and expectations.”

Zhao Ming went on to state that at some point in the future, Huawei expects HMS to have one massive set of their own apps that exist within their own app store, or “app gallery” as he put it. “The app gallery will be the third largest application platform,” said Zhao Ming, “after Apple and GMS.”

Ditching Google or not

At the end of January, 2020, Huawei leadership had some differing opinions – or some messaging that ended up a bit lost in translation. A report in Der Standard suggested that a Huawei official* stated they’d no longer be working with Google services.

“Even if the United States trade ban were cancelled, Huawei will no longer return to Google-Diensten (Google services), the company stressed when asked by Der Standard,” wrote Andreas Proschofsky for Der Standard. “The reason for this is simple: After all, one can not rely on the possibility that a new ban will not be enacted soon afterwards. We want to get rid of this dependence on US politics.”

*UPDATE: The official’s name: Fred Wangfei, Huawei Country Manager for Austria.

Huawei Germany went on to make a statement with the publication T3N. “An open Android system and ecosystem are still Huawei’s first choice,” said a Huawei Germany representative. “However, if we are prevented from using it, we will be able to develop our own operating and ecosystem.”

At the same time, journalist Arnoud Wokke of the publication Tweakers spoke with a Huawei Netherlands general manager, who said that Huawei would go back to using Google Services saying, “Google has been a partner for many years and is a priority for us. We believe in choice for consumers in services on their devices.”

Added once other statements were made, Proschofsky wrote the following: “Just as a note for others who read this. There was no wiggle room in what Huawei told me, I asked them several times (as I was rather surprised myself) and they insisted on not going back to Google – even if the US ban falls.”

Clear as mud

One way or the other, events that took place in 2019 between Huawei and the United States government affected the course of the entire mobile smart device industry from this point forward. We’ll get our next big update on how this is all going to play out next week, as Huawei reveals their hand in Barcelona.

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How Tweets Could Prevent War, an App Store Dilemma, and More News

Source: National Cyber Security – Produced By Gregory Evans Twitter is shocking and Apple is balking, but first: a cartoon about posthumous photo sharing. Here’s the news you need to know, in two minutes or less. Want to receive this two-minute roundup as an email every weekday? Sign up here! Today’s News Did Twitter help […] View full post on AmIHackerProof.com

#comptia | #ransomware | What’s in store for cybersecurity as we head into the ’20s

Source: National Cyber Security – Produced By Gregory Evans

In 2020 we will see more and more sophisticated attacks perpetrated by a larger number of threat actors, including many who are backed by organised crime or nation-states. According to the 2019 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR), organised criminal groups were behind 39 per cent of breaches in 2019, and actors identified as nation-state or state-affiliated were involved in 23 per cent of breaches.

These attacks may leverage side-channel attack techniques (similar to Spectre, Meltdown and the slew of other discovered hardware-related vulnerabilities that are so hard to address purely through software fixes), attacks living in firmware and others going beyond a traditional file-based or even living-off-the-land (aka fileless) malware. While the industry is still struggling with old known malware, these types of attacks will proliferate mostly unchecked.

For the first time, we may see an attack that results in death(s). Internet of Things (IoT) devices incorporated into critical infrastructure systems (e.g. electric grid, water treatment, communications), as well as life-critical medical devices, will see a slew of new disclosed vulnerabilities that could prove deadly, particularly to the most vulnerable patients in intensive care units (ICU). Attackers will become more specialised in different areas of IoT device types.

The evolution of ransomware

Ransomware has been around since 1989, yet it will remain a very effective malware type for attackers in 2020. McAfee’s researchers found that ransomware attacks have more than doubled this year, including a Q1 increase of 118 per cent.

“After a periodic decrease in new families and developments at the end of 2018, the first quarter of 2019 was game on again for ransomware, with code innovations and a new, much more targeted approach,” said Christiaan Beek, lead scientist and senior principal engineer at McAfee.

To that point, we can not only expect the number of ransomware attacks to increase in 2020, but as the discovery of the RIPlace evasion technique demonstrates, they will become more difficult — if not impossible — to detect.

All organisations across all industries are potential targets, but healthcare and government organisations appear to have the biggest targets on their backs. CNN reports 140 attacks targeting public state and local governments and health care providers this year (and counting).

The attacks hit schools, local government offices and hospitals, wreaking havoc and costing victims hundreds of millions of dollars. The victims included:

A network of Alabama hospitals had to stop accepting new patients.

The city of Baltimore, which ended up spending more than $18 million recovering from an attack.

Louisiana schools – Governor John Bel Edwards was forced to activate a state of emergency after ransomware took down three school districts’ IT systems

Three Florida cities – Key Biscayne, Lake City and Riviera Beach – were unable to provide residents with access to many vital government services while officials scrambled to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to bring downed IT systems back online. The attackers collected ransoms totaling over $1.1 million.

The most recent victim (as of this writing) was the city of Pensacola, Florida, was hit by ransomware that took phones, email, electronic “311” service requests, and electronic payment systems offline.

As Dave Hylender, a senior risk analyst at Verizon and one of the authors of the 2019 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report said, “There’s an impression that ransomware has sort of run its course. It hasn’t. I don’t think ransomware is ‘back’ this year because I don’t think it ever left.”

Gone phishing

An organisation’s employees will continue to initiate some of the most devastating losses. Companies rely on awareness training to educate users on how to avoid falling victim to attacks,  but that cannot eliminate user error entirely.

Consider that nearly a third of all breaches in 2019 were the result of phishing attacks, according to the Verizon DBIR. Worse, it’s easy for attackers to secure and use well-built, off-the-shelf tools, lowering the skill required to launch a phishing campaign. According to the IDG Security Priorities Study, 44 per cent of companies will increase their security awareness programs and make staff training priorities is a top priority.

Attackers will respond by improving the quality of their phishing campaigns by minimising or hiding common signs of a phish. Expect greater use of business email compromise (BEC), too, where an attacker sends legitimate-looking phishing attempts through fraudulent or compromised internal or third-party accounts.

Organisations in 2020 need to prioritise strengthening the environment around users to reduce the opportunity for them to be presented with attacks, strengthening the technology around the user to ensure that users cannot initiate losses, and then proactively anticipating the losses that users can initiate and putting technologies in place to mitigate the resulting losses.

Look for both the bad and the good

The reason for ransomware and other malware so easily being able to inflict damage is our continued reliance on security tools that chase badness (rather than ensuring good). It is impossible to detect all badness with a high degree of confidence by relying on the enumeration of badness approach.

Organisations should complement their existing security layers with an approach that does the exact opposite – ensuring what’s good. The emphasis is on the word “complement.” Do not rip out your existing solutions. When you combine your existing tools focusing on the bad with ones that track the good, by applying a whitelisting-like approach, you create the most effective defense in depth posture.

Rene Kolga, CISSP, heads Product Management and Business Development for North America, Nyotron

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Instagram stalker app Ghosty yanked from Play store – Naked Security

Source: National Cyber Security – Produced By Gregory Evans

Ever wanted to view hidden profiles on Instagram? To stalk users who’ve chosen to make their profiles private?

Up until Tuesday morning, you could do that by using a stalker service called Ghosty. Here’s what the app developer promised on versions available on Google Play and Apple’s App Store:

Ghosty – View Hidden Instagram Profile. You can view all the profiles you want to view including hidden profiles on Instagram. You can download or share photos or videos from your Instagram profiles to your gallery. In addition, you will soon be able to access many new features related to your instagram account.

“Soon” won’t come for the app, the logo for which was the profile of snooper extraordinaire Sherlock Holmes. Ghosty was removed from Google’s Play store after Android Police found the service creating what the publication called a “stalker paradise.” Nor could I find it on Apple’s store.

In that stalker paradise/privacy dystopia, anyone could view the many private profiles Ghosty amassed by signing up users who handed over their own accounts’ data – including whatever private accounts those users follow.

As Android Police tells it, this was the deal you had to make with the devil: in order to view whatever private accounts Ghosty had managed to crowd-source, you handed over your Instagram login credentials. You also had to invite at least one other person to Ghosty in order to view private profiles. Thus did Ghosty keep expanding the pool of content it could show its users: if any of those users followed a private account, that profile got added to the content Ghosty would make available.

Android Police noted that when it looked into the app, the media outlet managed to skip past that invitation step and was still able to view at least one private profile.

Not only was the service brazenly exploiting users’ desires to get at private accounts; it was also charging them for bundles or flinging ads at them.

Ghosty isn’t new; it appeared on the Play Store in April 2019. It had been downloaded over half a million times as of 13 November.

That’s a long time for an app to be amassing content while breaking Instagram’s rules. The relevant terms of service clause that forbids what Ghosty was up to:

You can’t attempt to buy, sell, or transfer any aspect of your account (including your username) or solicit, collect, or use login credentials or badges of other users.

As Android Police points out, during the half year that Ghosty was operating, neither Facebook (Instagram’s owners) nor Google apparently did anything about it – at least, not until now.