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SMS Security & Privacy Gaps Make It Clear Users Need a Messaging Upgrade

Google Security Blog - 27 Září, 2023 - 18:50
Posted by Eugene Liderman and Roger Piqueras Jover

SMS texting is frozen in time.

People still use and rely on trillions of SMS texts each year to exchange messages with friends, share family photos, and copy two-factor authentication codes to access sensitive data in their bank accounts. It’s hard to believe that at a time where technologies like AI are transforming our world, a forty-year old mobile messaging standard is still so prevalent.

Like any forty-year-old technology, SMS is antiquated compared to its modern counterparts. That’s especially concerning when it comes to security.

The World Has Changed, But SMS Hasn’t Changed With It

According to a recent whitepaper from Dekra, a safety certifications and testing lab, the security shortcomings of SMS can notably lead to:

  • SMS Interception: Attackers can intercept SMS messages by exploiting vulnerabilities in mobile carrier networks. This can allow them to read the contents of SMS messages, including sensitive information such as two-factor authentication codes, passwords, and credit card numbers due to the lack of encryption offered by SMS.
  • SMS Spoofing: Attackers can spoof SMS messages to launch phishing attacks to make it appear as if they are from a legitimate sender. This can be used to trick users into clicking on malicious links or revealing sensitive information. And because carrier networks have independently developed their approaches to deploying SMS texts over the years, the inability for carriers to exchange reputation signals to help identify fraudulent messages has made it tough to detect spoofed senders distributing potentially malicious messages.

These findings add to the well-established facts about SMS’ weaknesses, lack of encryption chief among them.

Dekra also compared SMS against a modern secure messaging protocol and found it lacked any built-in security functionality.

According to Dekra, SMS users can’t answer ‘yes’ to any of the following basic security questions:

  • Confidentiality: Can I trust that no one else can read my SMSs?
  • Integrity: Can I trust that the content of the SMS that I receive is not modified?
  • Authentication: Can I trust the identity of the sender of the SMS that I receive?

But this isn’t just theoretical: cybercriminals have also caught on to the lack of security protections SMS provides and have repeatedly exploited its weakness. Both novice hackers and advanced threat actor groups (such as UNC3944 / Scattered Spider and APT41 investigated by Mandiant, part of Google Cloud) leverage the security deficiencies in SMS to launch different types of attacks against users and corporations alike.

Malicious cyber attacks that exploit the insecurity of SMS have resulted in identity theft, personal or corporate financial losses, unauthorized access to accounts and services, and worse.

Users Care About Messaging Security and Privacy Now More Than Ever

Both iOS and Android users understand the importance of security and privacy when sending and receiving messages, and now, they want more protection than what SMS can provide.

A new YouGov study examined how device users across platforms think and feel about SMS texting as well as their desire for more security to protect their text messages.

It’s Time to Move on From SMS

The security landscape as it relates to SMS is simple:

  • SMS is widely used
  • SMS is easily abused because it has so few protections
  • Smartphone users across mobile platforms care more about security than ever before

The continued evolution of the mobile ecosystem will depend on users' ability to trust and feel safe, regardless of the phone they may be using. The security of the mobile ecosystem is only as strong as its weakest link and, unfortunately, SMS texting is both a large and weak link in the chain largely because texts between iPhones and Androids revert to SMS.

As a mobile ecosystem, we collectively owe it to all users, across platforms, to enable them to be as safe as possible. It’s a shame that a problem like texting security remains as prominent as it is, particularly when new protocols like RCS are well-established and would drastically improve security for everyone.

Today, most global carriers and over 500 Android device manufacturers already support RCS and RCS is enabled by default on Messages by Google. However, whether the solution is RCS or something else, it’s important that our industry moves towards a solution to a problem that should have been fixed before the smartphone era ever began.

Kategorie: Hacking & Security

Red Cross-Themed Phishing Attacks Distributing DangerAds and AtlasAgent Backdoors

The Hacker News - 27 Září, 2023 - 16:42
A new threat actor known as AtlasCross has been observed leveraging Red Cross-themed phishing lures to deliver two previously undocumented backdoors named DangerAds and AtlasAgent. NSFOCUS Security Labs described the adversary as having a "high technical level and cautious attack attitude," adding that "the phishing attack activity captured this time is part of the attacker's targeted strike on THN / Cyber Attack37.09024 -95.7128918.780006163821156 -130.869141 65.400473836178847 -60.556641
Kategorie: Hacking & Security

Researchers Uncover New GPU Side-Channel Vulnerability Leaking Sensitive Data

The Hacker News - 27 Září, 2023 - 14:55
A novel side-channel attack called renders virtually all modern graphics processing units (GPU) vulnerable to information leakage. "This channel exploits an optimization that is data dependent, software transparent, and present in nearly all modern GPUs: graphical data compression," a group of academics from the University of Texas at Austin, Carnegie Mellon University, University of THN / Endpoint Security37.09024 -95.7128918.780006163821156 -130.869141 65.400473836178847 -60.556641
Kategorie: Hacking & Security

New Survey Uncovers How Companies Are Confronting Data Security Challenges Head-On

The Hacker News - 27 Září, 2023 - 13:23
Data security is in the headlines often, and it’s almost never for a positive reason. Major breaches, new ways to hack into an organization’s supposedly secure data, and other threats make the news because well, it’s scary — and expensive.  Data breaches, ransomware and malware attacks, and other cybercrime might be pricey to prevent, but they are even more costly when they occur, with the The Hacker News Security / Cyber Attack37.09024 -95.7128918.780006163821156 -130.869141 65.400473836178847 -60.556641
Kategorie: Hacking & Security

QR codes in email phishing

Kaspersky Securelist - 27 Září, 2023 - 12:00

QR codes are everywhere: you can see them on posters and leaflets, ATM screens, price tags and merchandise, historical buildings and monuments. People use them to share information, promote various online resources, pay for their goodies, and pass verification. And yet you don’t see lots of QR codes in email: users often read messages on their phones without any other device handy for scanning. As such, most letters come with ordinary hyperlinks instead. Nevertheless, the attackers increasingly turn to QR codes delivered through email.

Unlike phishing links that are easy to check and block, QR code is a headache for security solutions. It takes costly and resource-heavy computer vision technology to analyze QR codes and find out what information they contain. Worse yet, while a regular link can be sorted out just by looking at it, with QR you cannot tell where it is going to take you until you scan it.

What is a QR code?

A QR code, or Quick Response code, is a 2D matrix bar code consisting of several squares and multiple dots (modules) arranged in a square pattern on a white background. QR codes can be scanned using an image processing device. It will first identify the code’s location by the squares and then read the information encoded in the dots. In addition to the actual code, the square field can accommodate decorative elements, such as a company logo.

QR codes allow to encode more data than 1D bar codes. They are often used to encode hyperlinks to various resources, such as a store catalog, a checkout page, or a building info page.

Malevolent uses of QR codes in email

Fraudsters use QR codes to encode links to phishing and scam pages. We registered the first attempts to use the trick for rogue email campaigns at the end of 2021. Those were scam messages imitating emails from delivery services, such as FedEx and DHL. The victims would be tricked into paying custom duties by scanning a QR code. The encoded link was redirecting to a fake bank card data entry page. The campaign was not very large scale and dwindled by around mid-2022. We observed new email campaigns featuring QR codes in the spring of 2023. Unlike the first one, these were after the logins and passwords of corporate users of Microsoft products.

The attackers were distributing messages advising their victims that their corporate email account passwords would soon expire. To preserve access to their accounts, the users were to scan a QR code. Some emails would come from free mail addresses, others, from domains registered recently. In some messages, the scammers added the Microsoft Security logo to the QR code to improve credibility.

Phishing email with a QR code

After receiving a phishing letter and scanning the code, the user would be redirected to a fake login page styled as a Microsoft sign-in page. As soon as the login and password were typed in, the attackers would gain access to the account.

Phishing form

In addition to messages urging users to change their password or update their personal data, we detected an undelivered email notification activity that also employed QR codes redirecting to a fake Microsoft account sign-in page.

The letter shown in the screenshot below has no QR code logo but features a “This email is from a trusted source” line to put users off their guard.

Undelivered email notification

Some pages you get to see on scanning a QR code reside on IPFS resources. We explained previously how and why scammers use this distributed file system.

Use of IPFS in QR phishing


From June through August 2023, we detected 8,878 phishing emails containing QR codes. The malevolent activities peaked in June with 5,063 letters, reduced to 762 letters by August.

Trends in number of phishing emails with QR codes in June-August 2023 (download)


Scammers benefit from using QR codes in a number of ways. First, the codes allow them to avoid detection and blocking of their emails. It is not that easy to check a QR code content, and there are no phishing links in the message. Moreover, a letter cannot be blocked for merely having a QR code inside: even though not a popular email element, a QR code can be used in legitimate correspondence as well, for example, in the sender’s automatic signature. Secondly, since the messages contain no links, there is no need to register additional accounts or domains to redirect users and thus conceal phishing. Finally, most users scan QR codes using their smartphone cameras and prefer to have the problem sorted as quickly as possible. As a result, they may overlook the address line of the page they are being redirected to, as it is not very conspicuous in a mobile browser.

On the other hand, legitimate senders hardly ever use QR codes in their mailings, so the mere presence of a QR code in an email may trigger suspicion. Furthermore, scanning a QR code requires another device, and the user may not have one readily available. Currently, we do not observe many messaging campaigns based on QR codes. We assume there aren’t many recipients who actually scan codes. Nevertheless, considering how easily the mechanism can be employed, we can also expect such attacks to increase in the near term, the campaigns themselves becoming more sophisticated and tailored to specific targets.

New ZenRAT Malware Targeting Windows Users via Fake Password Manager Software

The Hacker News - 27 Září, 2023 - 10:38
A new malware strain called ZenRAT has emerged in the wild that's distributed via bogus installation packages of the Bitwarden password manager. "The malware is specifically targeting Windows users and will redirect people using other hosts to a benign web page," enterprise security firm Proofpoint said in a technical report. "The malware is a modular remote access trojan (RAT) with information THN / Cyber Threat37.09024 -95.7128918.780006163821156 -130.869141 65.400473836178847 -60.556641
Kategorie: Hacking & Security

Critical libwebp Vulnerability Under Active Exploitation - Gets Maximum CVSS Score

The Hacker News - 27 Září, 2023 - 07:23
Google has assigned a new CVE identifier for a critical security flaw in the libwebp image library for rendering images in the WebP format that has come under active exploitation in the wild. Tracked as CVE-2023-5129, the issue has been given the maximum severity score of 10.0 on the CVSS rating system. It has been described as an issue rooted in the Huffman coding algorithm - With a specially THN Day / Vulnerability37.09024 -95.7128918.780006163821156 -130.869141 65.400473836178847 -60.556641
Kategorie: Hacking & Security

Microsoft is Rolling out Support for Passkeys in Windows 11

The Hacker News - 26 Září, 2023 - 19:04
Microsoft is officially rolling out support for passkeys in Windows 11 today as part of a major update to the desktop operating system. The feature allows users to login to websites and applications without having to provide a username and password, instead relying on their device PIN or biometric information to complete the step. Based on FIDO standards, Passkeys were first announced in May THN Security / Password37.09024 -95.7128918.780006163821156 -130.869141 65.400473836178847 -60.556641
Kategorie: Hacking & Security

ShadowSyndicate: A New Cybercrime Group Linked to 7 Ransomware Families

The Hacker News - 26 Září, 2023 - 17:56
Cybersecurity experts have shed light on a new cybercrime group known as ShadowSyndicate (formerly Infra Storm) that may have leveraged as many as seven different ransomware families over the past year. "ShadowSyndicate is a threat actor that works with various ransomware groups and affiliates of ransomware programs," Group-IB and Bridewell said in a joint technical report. The actor, active THN / Malware37.09024 -95.7128918.780006163821156 -130.869141 65.400473836178847 -60.556641
Kategorie: Hacking & Security

Essential Guide to Cybersecurity Compliance

The Hacker News - 26 Září, 2023 - 13:50
SOC 2, ISO, HIPAA, Cyber Essentials – all the security frameworks and certifications today are an acronym soup that can make even a compliance expert’s head spin. If you’re embarking on your compliance journey, read on to discover the differences between standards, which is best for your business, and how vulnerability management can aid compliance. What is cybersecurity compliance? The Hacker News / Penetration Testing37.09024 -95.7128918.780006163821156 -130.869141 65.400473836178847 -60.556641
Kategorie: Hacking & Security

Xenomorph Banking Trojan: A New Variant Targeting 35+ U.S. Financial Institutions

The Hacker News - 26 Září, 2023 - 13:49
An updated version of an Android banking trojan called Xenomorph has set its sights on more than 35 financial institutions in the U.S. The campaign, according to Dutch security firm ThreatFabric, leverages phishing web pages that are designed to entice victims into installing malicious Android apps that target a broader list of apps than its predecessors. Some of the other targeted prominent THN Security / Malware37.09024 -95.7128918.780006163821156 -130.869141 65.400473836178847 -60.556641
Kategorie: Hacking & Security

Threat Report: High Tech Industry targeted the most with 46% of attack traffic tagged by NLX

The Hacker News - 26 Září, 2023 - 12:32
How To Use This Report Enhance situational awareness of techniques used by threat actors Identify potential attacks targeting your industry Gain insights to help improve and accelerate your organization’s threat response Summary of Findings The Network Effect Threat Report offers insights based on unique data from Fastly’s Next-Gen WAF from Q2 2023 (April 1, 2023 to June 30, 2023). This reportThe Hacker News Threat / DDoS Protection37.09024 -95.7128919.5819625045790815 -130.869141 64.598517495420921 -60.556641
Kategorie: Hacking & Security

Update on Naked Security

Sophos Naked Security - 26 Září, 2023 - 12:00
To consolidate all of our security intelligence and news in one location, we have migrated Naked Security to the Sophos News platform.

Chinese Hackers TAG-74 Targets South Korean Organizations in a Multi-Year Campaign

The Hacker News - 26 Září, 2023 - 11:49
A "multi-year" Chinese state-sponsored cyber espionage campaign has been observed targeting South Korean academic, political, and government organizations. Recorded Future's Insikt Group, which is tracking the activity under the moniker TAG-74, said the adversary has been linked to "Chinese military intelligence and poses a significant threat to academic, aerospace and defense, government, THN Espionage / Malware37.09024 -95.7128918.780006163821156 -130.869141 65.400473836178847 -60.556641
Kategorie: Hacking & Security

Critical JetBrains TeamCity Flaw Could Expose Source Code and Build Pipelines to Attackers

The Hacker News - 26 Září, 2023 - 07:00
A critical security vulnerability in the JetBrains TeamCity continuous integration and continuous deployment (CI/CD) software could be exploited by unauthenticated attackers to achieve remote code execution on affected systems. The flaw, tracked as CVE-2023-42793, carries a CVSS score of 9.8 and has been addressed in TeamCity version 2023.05.4 following responsible disclosure on September 6, THN / Source Code37.09024 -95.7128919.5819625045790815 -130.869141 64.598517495420921 -60.556641
Kategorie: Hacking & Security

Ukrainian Military Targeted in Phishing Campaign Leveraging Drone Manuals

The Hacker News - 25 Září, 2023 - 15:05
Ukrainian military entities are the target of a phishing campaign that leverages drone manuals as lures to deliver a Go-based open-source post-exploitation toolkit called Merlin. "Since drones or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) have been an integral tool used by the Ukrainian military, malware-laced lure files themed as UAVs service manuals have begun to surface," Securonix researchers Den THN Attack / Phishing37.09024 -95.7128918.780006163821156 -130.869141 65.400473836178847 -60.556641
Kategorie: Hacking & Security

Webinar — AI vs. AI: Harnessing AI Defenses Against AI-Powered Risks

The Hacker News - 25 Září, 2023 - 13:41
Generative AI is a double-edged sword, if there ever was one. There is broad agreement that tools like ChatGPT are unleashing waves of productivity across the business, from IT, to customer experience, to engineering. That's on the one hand.  On the other end of this fencing match: risk. From IP leakage and data privacy risks to the empowering of cybercriminals with AI tools, generative AI The Hacker News Intelligence / Cybersecurity37.09024 -95.7128918.780006163821156 -130.869141 65.400473836178847 -60.556641
Kategorie: Hacking & Security

Are You Willing to Pay the High Cost of Compromised Credentials?

The Hacker News - 25 Září, 2023 - 13:19
Weak password policies leave organizations vulnerable to attacks. But are the standard password complexity requirements enough to secure them? 83% of compromised passwords would satisfy the password complexity and length requirements of compliance standards. That’s because bad actors already have access to billions of stolen credentials that can be used to compromise additional accounts by The Hacker News Security / Cybersecurity37.09024 -95.7128918.780006163821156 -130.869141 65.400473836178847 -60.556641
Kategorie: Hacking & Security Migrates to Joomla 4 and PHP 8: Our Experience & Key Takeaways - 25 Září, 2023 - 13:00 has been using the open-source Joomla content management system (CMS) and PHP scripting language for nearly three decades and recently completed a migration to the latest versions, Joomla 4 and PHP 8, to take advantage of new features and optimizations to provide visitors with an enhanced user experience. We've decided to pull back the curtain on our experience with the migration to Joomla 4 and PHP 8 to provide users who are planning to migrate their websites with insight into the lessons we learned.
Kategorie: Hacking & Security

From Watering Hole to Spyware: EvilBamboo Targets Tibetans, Uyghurs, and Taiwanese

The Hacker News - 25 Září, 2023 - 12:34
Tibetan, Uyghur, and Taiwanese individuals and organizations are the targets of a persistent campaign orchestrated by a threat actor codenamed EvilBamboo to gather sensitive information. "The attacker has created fake Tibetan websites, along with social media profiles, likely used to deploy browser-based exploits against targeted users," Volexity security researchers Callum Roxan, Paul THN / Cyber Espionage37.09024 -95.7128918.780006163821156 -130.869141 65.400473836178847 -60.556641
Kategorie: Hacking & Security
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