April Hacktivists & Conspiracies

There seems to be a lot of stories involving hacking and privacy in the headlines, so I thought I would touch base on a few that are making news.

  • With the advent of smart meter installations over the last few years, an FBI cyber intelligence briefing reveals that has stated that a series of hacks perpetrated has cost hundreds of millions of dollars. The FBI reports that this is the first known official report of criminals compromising the high-tech meters and that they expect this type of fraud it increase and to spread across the country as more utilities implement smart grid technology.
  • The Utah Department of Health has reported that on March 30th, 2012, that 181, 604 Medicaid and CHIP recipients had their personal information stolen and that 25,096 had their SSNs compromised. The hackers that perpetrated the attack appear to be located in Eastern Europe. The hackers were able to obtain client names, addresses, birthdates, doctor’s names, tax information and other sensitive client data.
  • The well known hacktivist group Anonymous has hacked several U.K. government websites over what they claim to be "draconian surveillance proposals" and the "derogation of human rights." Several sites were brought down due to the attack including the Home Office, the Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry of Justice. The group is employing a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack with multiple targets. Rather than stealing data, the Anonymous group floods servers with more incoming connection than can be accommodated, causing the website and/or server to crash. Hacktivists can also leave a backdoor open to facilitate future attacks.

…and from the conspiracy room:

  • Broadcom has just released a new microchip called the Broadcom 4752 for smartphones that will allow for ultra-accurate location determination to within a few centimeters, both vertically and horizontally, indoors and out. The chip pulls data in from a variety of sources including global navigation satellites, cell towers and Wi-Fi hot spots and incorporate data from gyroscopes, accelerometers, step counters and altimeters. The developer hopes that this "ubiquitous navigation" will be used to target offer location based advertising for prospective customers who may be shopping or passing by.
  • The U.S. government recently posted a project asking for the "Development of Tools for Extracting Information from Video Game Systems." The U.S. Navy will be paying a company a six figure salary to hack into used video game consoles in an effort of extract sensitive information for both online and offline data. They state that will only be targeting consoles belonging to oversea nations since United States law dictates that they cannot perform these actions against any U.S. persons.

Surely we live in a unique time when technology in capable of enriching our lives in so many ways; but just like any technology it can be exploited and used against us (aka 1984 by George Orwell).

I think the lesson here is not to be so frightened of technology running amuck, but rather to be selective in where you release your personal information. Tragically, the only way to truly protect ourselves is to stay completely offline which is an ironic impossibility if the age we live in.

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