FY2019 Budget Sees Cyber Funding Boost, Research Cuts. President Trump’s recently revealed budget for fiscal year 2019 increases #cybersecurity funding across the government, but also includes significant cuts in funding for #cyber #research.

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Trump’s 2019 Budget Boosts Cyber Spending but Cuts Research

Nextgov | By Joseph Marks

President Donald Trump’s 2019 fiscal year budget request boosts cybersecurity funding by about 4 percent across the government, including significant hikes at the Homeland Security Department and Pentagon.

The overall increase includes even larger cyber funding spikes at key agencies, including a 23 percent jump at the Energy Department, a 33 percent jump at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and a 16 percent hike at the Veterans Affairs Department. The budget, however, includes a massive cut of 18 percent to the government’s main cyber standards organization, the National Institute of Standards and Technology. That cut comes as NIST is working on an update to its cybersecurity framework, which is now mandatory for all federal agencies.

The budget also marks a major shift for cyber research and development funding inside the Homeland Security Department. Cyber research was formerly housed primarily in the department’s Science and Technology Directorate. Going forward, that funding, which totals $41 million in the president’s budget request, will be inside the cyber and infrastructure protection division—called the National Protection and Programs Directorate, or NPPD. The move is another blow for the Science and Technology Directorate, which has faced significant budget cuts since the start of the Trump administration.

The shift was made so “operators on the ground have influence over research and development,” a senior administration official said during a press call. The cyber and infrastructure protection division will work closely with the science and technology division on research priorities, the official said.The budget also calls for a small spike in government-wide information technology spending.

The president’s budget request is as much an ideological document as a budgeting one. The request lays out the executive branches’ funding priorities, but those numbers are only a rough starting point when Congress begins its own budgeting process and they’re often ignored entirely. Funding Hikes at Homeland Security and Defense, Homeland Security cyber spending overall will stay roughly flat at about $1.72 billion.

The cyber division of the department’s cyber and infrastructure protection wing, however, will get a 7 percent spike from $665 million in the 2018 fiscal year to $712 million this year.

In addition to protecting federal civilian government computer networks, that division is also helping states secure their election systems against cyberattacks.

The budget includes $238 million for Homeland Security’s continuous diagnostics and mitigation program, which delivers a suite of cybersecurity tools to federal agencies and will eventually track federal computer systems on a government-wide dashboard. That’s down from $279 million in last year’s request.

The budget commits $407 million for a government-wide intrusion detection program called Einstein. That’s up from $397 million in last year’s request.

At the Pentagon, total cyber funding jumps to $8.5 billion in this year’s request, a 4.2 percent hike over the prior year.

That jump comes as U.S. Cyber Command, which was elevated last year to a unified combatant command, is in the process of reaching full operational capability.

The budget released Monday also:

  • Includes $8 million for the White House Office of Management and Budget’s cybersecurity oversight responsibilities, down from $19 million last year.
  • Includes $25 million for a cybersecurity enhancements account at the Treasury Department, which will help upgrade high-value Treasury computer systems that rely on outdated technology. The fund will also help the department respond more nimbly to cyber incidents. Overall cyber funding at Treasury will drop from about $529 million last year to $500 this year.
  • Raises funding for the Justice Department’s national security division, which prosecutes cyber crimes, from $95 million to $101 million. Overall Justice Department cyber funding is at $721 million, up from $704 million last year but down from $735 during the final year of the Obama administration.
  • Includes $10 million for cyber upgrades at the Transportation Department.
  • Hikes Veterans Affairs Department cyber funding 16 percent from $360 million last year to $418 million this year.
  • Raises cyber funding at the Office of Personnel Management 18 percent, from about $39 million to about $46 million.
  • Hikes Nuclear Regulatory Commission cyber funding 33 percent, from about $24 million to about $32 million.

Hikes Energy Department cyber funding 23 percent, from about $379 million to about $465 million.

Cryptocurrency Malware Hits #UK, #US, Australian #Government Websites. A security researcher uncovered over 4,000 websites compromised by malware that mines for crypto currency. Websites affected include several government websites in the UK, US, and Australia.

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UK Government Websites, ICO Hijacked by Cryptocurrency Mining Malware

ZDNet | By Charlie Osborne

A number of government websites in the UK, US, and Australia, including the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), have been compromised by cryptojacking malware. According to security researcher Scott Helme, over 4,000 websites have been affected. The security consultant was made aware of the scheme after another security expert, Ian Thornton-Trump, pointed out that the ICO’s website had a cryptominer installed within the domain’s coding.

Helme confirmed the findings on Twitter, and upon further exploration, discovered that the mining code was present on all of the ICO’s web pages. It was not long before the researcher realized far more than the ICO had been compromised. Websites including the UK’s Student Loans Company (SLC), the UK National Health Service (NHS) Scotland, the Australian Queensland government portal, and US websites were also affected, such as uscourts.gov.

Cryptocurrency mining software is not illegal and some websites have begun tinkering with plugins that borrow visitor CPU power to mine virtual currency, potentially as an alternative for advertising. However, malware which installs such mining software without consent is fraudulent and can slow down visitor systems when legitimate websites are serving up mining scripts. The researcher traced the code found in the ICO website to a third-party plugin, Browsealoud, which is intended to assist visually impaired visitors to website domains. The plugin’s developers, Texthelp, confirmed that the plugin had been compromised to mine cryptocurrency.

In a blog post, the researcher said that the script for the Browsealoud plugin, ba.js, was altered to include the Coinhive cryptocurrency miner, which specializes in Monero.Any website using the plugin and loading the file would then unwittingly load the cryptocurrency miner with it. As a result, it is not the websites themselves that have been internally compromised, but rather a third-party service that was tampered with for the purpose of cryptojacking.

“If you want to load a crypto miner on 1,000+ websites you don’t attack 1,000+ websites, you attack the one website that they all load content from,” Helme noted. “In this case, it turned out that Texthelp, an assistive technology provider, had been compromised and one of their hosted script files changed.”

A public search on PublicWWW revealed that up to 4,275 websites may have loaded the infected script and mined cryptocurrency by borrowing visitor processing power as a result.

At the time of writing, the Browsealoud website is not accessible.

Texthelp said no customer information has been exposed due to the security lapse, and “Browsealoud [was removed] from all our customer sites immediately, addressing the security risk without our customers having to take any action.”

The exploit was active for roughly four hours on Sunday.

Texthelp intends to keep the plugin offline until 12.00pm GMT on Tuesday to “allow time for Texthelp customers to learn about the issue and the company’s response plan.”

Helme says that this attack vector is nothing new, but it would have taken a simple tweak to the loading script to prevent it happening in the first place. By altering the standard coding to load a .js file to include the SRI Integrity Attribute, which allows a browser to determine whether or not a file had been modified, the entire campaign could have been “completely neutralized.”

“In short, this could have been totally avoided by all of those involved even though the file was modified by hackers,” the researcher says. “I guess, all in all, we really shouldn’t be seeing events like this happen on this scale to such prominent sites.”

At the time of writing, the ICO website is not available.

On Sunday, the UK National Cyber Security Center (NCSC), part of the GCHQ intelligence agency, said that there is “nothing to suggest that members of the public are at risk.”

“NCSC technical experts are examining data involving incidents of malware being used to illegally mine cryptocurrency,” an NCSC spokesperson said. “The affected service has been taken offline, largely mitigating the issue. Government websites continue to operate securely.”

Dark Caracal Targets Thousands in Over 21 Countries. The Electronic Frontier Foundation and Lookout Security released a report detailing several active Dark Caracal #hacking campaigns that successfully targeted mobile devices of #military personnel, medical #professionals, #journalists, #activists, and others in over 21 countries.

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Dark Caracal: Hackers Spied on Targets in Over 21 Countries and Stole Hundreds of Gigabytes of Data

International Business Times UK | By India Ashok

A new and massive cyberespionage campaign, believed to be the work of Lebanese hackers linked to Lebanese General Security Directorate (GDGS) in Beirut, has been uncovered.

A new report by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Lookout Security revealed that the cyberespionage group, dubbed Dark Caracal, has conducted numerous attacks against thousands of targets in over 21 countries in North America, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.

The hacker group successfully targeted mobile devices of military personnel, medical professionals, journalists, lawyers, activists and more. It has stolen hundreds of gigabytes of data, including photos, text messages, call records, audio recordings, contact information and more.

The cyberespionage group stole this massive trove of information using its custom-developed mobile spyware called Pallas. The spyware, which Lookout discovered in 2017, is found in malware-laced Android apps — knock-offs of popular apps like WhatsApp, Telegram and others that users downloaded from third-party online stores.

“People in the US, Canada, Germany, Lebanon, and France have been hit by Dark Caracal,” EFF director of Cybersecurity Eva Galperin said in a statement. “This is a very large, global campaign, focused on mobile devices. Mobile is the future of spying, because phones are full of so much data about a person’s day-to-day life.”

According to the report, Dark Caracal has been active in several different campaigns, running parallel, with its backend infrastructure also having been used by other threat actors. For instance, Operation Manul, which according to the EFF targeted journalists, lawyers and dissidents of the Kazakhistan government, was launched using Dark Caracal’s infrastructure.

According to Galperin, the Dark Caracal group may be offering its spyware services to various clients, including governments, The Register reported.

Dark Caracal hackers also make use of other malware variants such as the Windows malware called Bandook RAT. The group also uses a previously unknown multi-platform malware dubbed CrossRAT by Lookout and EFF, which is capable of targeting Windows, Linux and OSX systems. The report states that the APT group also borrows or purchases hacking tools from other hackers on the dark web.

“Dark Caracal is part of a trend we’ve seen mounting over the past year whereby traditional APT actors are moving toward using mobile as a primary target platform,” said Mike Murray, VP of security intelligence at Lookout. “The Android threat we identified, as used by Dark Caracal, is one of the first globally active mobile APTs we have spoken publicly about.”

“One of the interesting things about this ongoing attack is that it doesn’t require a sophisticated or expensive exploit. Instead, all Dark Caracal needed was application permissions that users themselves granted when they downloaded the apps, not realizing that they contained malware,” said EFF staff technologist Cooper Quintin. “This research shows it’s not difficult to create a strategy allowing people and governments to spy on targets around the world.”

Ransomware Posing as Flash Player Download A new strain of ransomware hit organizations throughout Eastern Europe earlier this week. Spread through compromised websites, the Bad Rabbit ransomware poses as an Adobe Flash Player download, and after infecting one machine, can quickly spread through an organization’s network without being detected.

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The Latest Ransomware Presents Itself as an Adobe Flash Player Download

Nextgov | By Keith Collins |

A new strain of ransom ware, called Bad Rabbit, began hitting organizations throughout Russia and Eastern Europe on Wednesday (Oct. 25). The malware is being spread through compromised websites, presenting itself as an Adobe Flash Player download.

“When users visited one of the compromised websites, they were redirected to 1dnscontrol[.]com, the site which was hosting the malicious file,” according to a blog post by Talos, Cisco’s threat intelligence team.

Once infected with the ransom ware, victims are directed to a web page on the dark web, which demands they pay 0.05 bit coin (roughly $285 USD) to get their files back.

After one computer on a network is infected, Bad Rabbit can quickly and covertly spread through an organization without being detected. Although the ransom ware has been detected in several countries, it appears to be concentrated in organizations in Russia and Ukraine, particularly media outlets.

U.S. Takes Down International #ID #Theft Ring the U.S. Justice Department indicted 36 people in connection with an international identity theft ring known as #Infraud. #cyberfraud

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International Cyber Crime Ring Smashed After More Than $530 Million Stolen

CNN | By Ben Westcott

US authorities have indicted 36 people for stealing more than $530 million from victims across the world in one of the “largest cyber fraud enterprises ever prosecuted.” In a statement, US investigators claimed the accused were taking part in a massive operation known as the Infraud Organization, which stole and then sold other people’s personal information, including credit card and banking information. “Today’s indictment and arrests mark one of the largest cyberfraud enterprise prosecutions ever undertaken by the US Department of Justice,” Acting Assistant US Attorney General John Cronan said in a statement. Cronan said it was believed the group had intended to cause losses totaling more than $2.2 billion during their seven years of operation. Authorities have already arrested 13 people from a range of countries including the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, France and Italy. The Infraud Organization has been in operation since October 2010, according to the statement from the US Justice Department, when it was launched by a 34-year-old Ukrainian man Svyatoslav Bondarenko. He had wanted to grow the organization into the internet’s largest “carding” group — that is, a criminal group who buy retail purchases with counterfeit or stolen credit card information. Their motto was, “In Fraud We Trust.” According to the Justice Department statement, there were 10,901 registered members of the Infraud Organization as of March 2017, who were divided into specific roles. They ranged from the “administrators” who oversaw the organization’s strategic planning and approved membership, all the way down to the “members” who used the Infraud forum to facilitate their criminal activities. Law enforcement agencies from across the world collaborated on the investigation into Infraud, including Italy, Australia, the United Kingdom, France and Luxembourg, among many others.