The 5 Most Embarrassing Hacks Ever

What is the worst thing about being hacked?  Is it losing your data? The financial costs?  Having to spend tedious hours getting your system back to where it was?  Or is it the embarrassment?

According to Wikipedia, a hacker is someone who displays “playful cleverness.” Hackers take “the serious humorously and their humor seriously.”  And in the beginning, most hacks were done by hobbyists, intent on having some serious fun at their targets’ expense. Breaking into networks was a way to demonstrate skill, to prove it could be done. And many hackers still have a code that they live by.

However, we are now in the age of cybercrime when crackers and cyber gangs employ every possible hack, malware and scam to make much money as possible. Criminals know that our PCs facilitate in the most intimate activities in our lives. We bank, shop and flirt via our PCs, as if no one can see what we’re doing. Yet, if our system becomes compromised, every byte of our personal data is there for a criminal to use.

Crackers have rarely gotten into the business of exposing private details, unless they were trying to satisfy a personal or political vendetta. But now—as social networks increasingly entwine or real and our digital lives—criminals recognize that our private lives can be used against us. They can play with their victims’ consciences to soak money out of even the most rational computer user. This has given rise to a new generation of extortionware that is designed to threaten both our wallets and our reputations.

From the harmless to the heartless, here are the 5 most embarrassing hacks in history:

1. Bearded
If you ever received the message “You have been bearded”, you know how humiliating it can be to have your PC hit by a Trojan. In the summer of 2000, this nasty Trojan installed a vile, not-safe-for-work desktop wallpaper that once seen can never be deleted from your memory.

2. Sober.
The Sober worm didn’t do much damage to your system, but it did give all of your email contacts something to think about. Disguised as a computer security warning (as many attacks often are), Sober included a SMTP engine that sent out to every email address it could find. If the person who received the email—which often used a provocative subject line like “You have sent me a virus!”—installed the attached executable file, the attack spread and spread and spread. It was quickly disarmed up by most antivirus software, but the embarrassment still lingers.

3. You got phished.
For most of us, getting phished can result in our accounts being hijacked and our contacts being harassed. But if you’re a Facebook board member, a phishing attack can make international news. Facebook investor Jim Breyer’s 2301 Facebook friends found out that even insiders at the world’s largest social network are vulnerable. It isn’t clear whether Breyer’s account was hacked or he fell for a scam himself. What is clear is that when you use a social network, any mistake you make can affect both your friends and your reputation.

4. Hentai virus.
This virus took embarrassment to a whole new level. Users who were infected by it had their web history was published online. The victim was then instructed to pay 1,500 yen to have the history deleted. What was particularly insidious about this attack is that the criminals knew the victim probably had something to hide since the virus was hidden to a Hentai porn video game (IF YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT “HENTAI” IS, PLEASE DO NOT GOOGLE IT WHILE AT WORK). Every virus teaches a lesson, and as PC magazine said, this virus taught us all, “Don’t enter any personal information in the videogame porn that you download from Japanese torrent sites.”

5. ICPP Copyright Foundation
The F-Secure Labs is familiar with Trojans that extort users to get their own documents back. But this newly discovered Trojan played on the nearly universal fear of profound legal trouble. Infected users were told that illegal torrents had been found on their system. The choice: Pay $400 or face jail time and fines. (Of course, the real solution was to delete the Trojan using a tool like our free Online Scanner.) What was most impressive about this attack was the detail and professionalism of the design. The use of legalese and small print tapped into a latent fear of many computer users: Someday you’re going to have to pay for all that music on your iPod.

Guilt and shame are powerful motivators. But when your computer starts acting suspiciously or your software starts making demands, the smartest thing you can do is to scan your system.



CC image credit:  Perfecto Insecto

More posts from this topic

The Dukes

“The Dukes” – Ask the Experts

Last week, F-Secure Labs published a new study that provides a detailed analysis of a hacking group called “the Dukes”. The Dukes are what’s known as an advanced persistent threat (APT) – a type of hacking campaign in which a group of attackers is able to covertly infiltrate an organization’s IT network and steal data, often over a long period of time while remaining undetected. The report provides a comprehensive analysis of the Dukes’ history, and provides evidence that security researchers and analysts say proves the various attacks discussed in the report are attributable to the Duke group. Furthermore, the new information contained in the report strengthens previous claims that the group is operating with support from the Russian government. Mikko Hypponen has said that attacker attribution is important, but it’s also complex and notoriously difficult, so the findings of the report have considerable security implications. I contacted several people familiar with the report to get some additional insights into the Dukes, the research, and what this information means to policy makers responsible for issues pertaining to national cybersecurity. Artturi Lehtiö (AL) is the F-Secure Researcher who headed the investigation and authored the report. He has published previous research on attacks that are now understood to have been executed by the Dukes. Patrik Maldre (PM) is a Junior Research Fellow at the International Center for Defense and Security, and has previously written about the Dukes, and the significance of this threat for global security. Mika Aaltola (MA) is the Program Director for the Global Security research program at the Finnish Institute for International Affairs. He published an article of his own examining how groups like the Dukes fit into the geopolitical ambitions of nations that employ them.   Q: What is the one thing that people must absolutely know about the Dukes? PM: They are using their capabilities in pursuit of Russian strategic interests, including economic and political domination in Central and Eastern Europe, as well as the Caucasus region, and a return to higher status at the international level. AL: They are a long-standing key part of Russian espionage activity in the cyber domain. MA: The geopolitical intention behind the vast majority of targets. Q: We now know the Dukes are responsible for a number of high profile attacks, and seemingly target information about politics and defense. But what kind of information might they obtain with their attacks, and why would it be valuable? AL: They might obtain information like meeting notes, memos, plans, and internal reports, not to mention email conversations. In essence, the Dukes aim to be a fly on the wall behind the closed doors of cabinets, meeting rooms, and negotiating tables. PM: The targets of the Dukes include government ministries, militaries, political think tanks, and parliaments. The information that can be gained from these organizations includes, among other things, sensitive communication among high-level officials, details of future political postures, data about strategic arms procurement plans, compromising accounts of ongoing intelligence operations, positions regarding current diplomatic negotiations, future positioning of strategic military contingents, plans for future economic investments, and internal debates about policies such as sanctions. MA: The targets are high value assets. Two things are important: data concerning the plans and decisions taken by the targeted organizations. Second, who is who in the organizations, what are the key decision-making networks, what possible weaknesses can be used and exploited, and how the organization can be used to gain access to other organizations. Q: The Dukes are typically classified as an APT. What makes the Dukes different from other APTs? MA: APT is a good term to use with the Dukes. However, there are some specific characteristics. The multi-year campaigning with relatively simple tools sets Dukes apart from e.g. Stuxnet. Also, the Dukes are used in psychological warfare. The perpetrators can even benefit from they actions becoming public as long as some deniability remains. AL: The sophistication of the Dukes does not come as much from the sophistication of their own methods as it comes from their understanding of their targets’ methods, what their targets’ weaknesses are, and how those can be exploited. PM: They are among the most capable, aggressive, and determined actors that have been publicly identified to be serving Russian strategic interests. The Dukes provide a very wide array of different capabilities that can be chosen based on the targets, objectives, and constraints of a particular operation. They appear to be acting in a brazen manner that indicates complete confidence in their immunity from law enforcement or domestic oversight by democratic bodies. Q: There are 9 distinctive Duke toolsets. Why would a single group need 9 different malware toolsets instead of just 1? AL: The Dukes attempt to use their wide arsenal of tools to stay one-step ahead of the defenders by frequently switching the toolset used. MA: They are constantly developing the tools and using them for different targets. Its an evolutionary process meant to trick different “immunity” systems. Much like drug cocktails can trick the HIV virus. PM: The different Duke toolsets provide flexibility and can be used to complement each other. For example, if various members of the Dukes are used to compromise a particular target and the infection is discovered, the incident responders may be led to believe that quarantines and remediation have been successful even though another member of the Dukes is still able to extract valuable information. Q: Many people reading this aren’t involved in geopolitics. What do you think non-policy makers can take away from this whitepaper? AL: This research aims to provide a unique window into the world of the Dukes, allowing people not traditionally involved with governmental espionage or hacking to gauge for themselves how their lives may be affected by activity like the Dukes. PM: It is important for people to understand the threats that are associated with these technological developments. The understanding of cybersecurity should grow to the point where it is on par with the wider public’s understanding of other aspects of international security, such as military strategy or nuclear non-proliferation. This knowledge is relevant for the exercise of fundamental liberties that are enjoyed in democratic societies, including freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of association, as well as of basic rights such as voting in elections. MA: The geopolitical intent is clearly present in this activity. However, the developments in this realm affects other types of cyber-attacks. Same methods spread. There is cross-fertilization, as in the case of Stuxnet that was soon adapted for other purposes by other groups.   F-Secure’s Business Security Insider blog recently posted a quick breakdown on how the Dukes typically execute their attacks, and what people can do to prevent becoming a victim of the Dukes or similar threats. Check it out for some additional information about the Dukes.

September 22, 2015
graveyard, RIP Flash, Is Flash dead

RIP Flash? Has Chrome signed Flash’s death warrant?

The first day of September may go down in internet security history -- and not just because it's the day when F-Secure Labs announced that its blog, which was the first antivirus industry blog ever, has moved to a new home. It's also the day that Google's Chrome began blocking flash ads from immediately loading, with the goal of moving advertisers to develop their creative in HTML5. Google is joining Amazon, whose complete rejection of Flash ads also begins on September 1. "This is a very good move on Amazon’s part and hopefully other companies will follow suit sooner than later," F-Secure Security Advisor Sean Sullivan wrote in August when Amazon made its announcement. "Flash-based ads are now an all-too-common security risk. Everybody will be better off without them." Last month, Adobe issued its 12th update in 2015 for the software addressing security and stability concerns. An estimated 90 percent of rich media ads are delivered through Flash. Having the world's largest online retailer reject your ad format is a significant nudge away from the plugin. But it would be difficult to overstate the impact of Chrome actively encouraging developers to drop Flash. About 1 out of every 2 people, 51.74 percent, who access the internet through a desktop browser do it via Chrome, according to StatCounter. This makes it the world's most popular web interface by far.   Facebook's Chief Security Officer has also recently called for the end of Flash and YouTube moved away from the format by default in January. “Newer technologies are available and becoming more popular anyway, so it would really be worth the effort to just speed up the adoption of newer, more secure technologies, and stop using Flash completely," F-Secure Senior Researcher Timo Hirvonen told our Business Insider blog. So what's keeping Flash alive? Massive adoption and advertisers. “Everyone in every agency’s creative department grew up using Adobe’s creative suite, so agencies still have deep benches of people who specialize in this,”Media Kitchen managing partner Josh Engroff told Digiday. “Moving away from it means new training and calibration.” And Flash does have some advantages over the format that seems fated to replace it. "HTML5 ads may be more beautiful, and are perceived to be more secure, but the files can be a lot larger than Flash," Business Insider's Laura O'Reilly wrote. In markets, stability can breed instability and it seems that our familiarity and reliance on Flash has resulted in unnecessary insecurity for our data. Has Flash hit its moment when its dominance rapidly evaporates? We can have hope. "I sincerely hope this is the end of Flash," Timo told us. Cheers, Sandra [Image by Sean MacEntee | Flickr]    

September 1, 2015