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.

Cheers,

Jason

CC image credit:  Perfecto Insecto

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Help! I lost my wallet, phone and everything! I need 1000 €!

“Sorry for the inconvenience, I'm in Limassol, Cyprus. I am here for a week and I just lost my bag containing all my important items, phone and money at the bus station. I need some help from you. Thanks” Many of you have seen these messages and some of you already know what the name of the game is. Yes, it’s another type of Internet scam, an imposter scam variant. I got this message last week from a photo club acquaintance. Or to be precise, the message was in bad Swedish from Google translate. Here’s what happened. First I got the mail. Needless to say, I never suspected that he was in trouble in Limassol. Instead I called him to check if he was aware of the scam. He was, I wasn’t the first to react. Several others had contacted him before me and some were posting warnings to his friends on Facebook. These scams start by someone breaking in to the victim’s web mail, which was Gmail in this case. This can happen because of a bad password, a phishing attack, malware in the computer or a breach in some other system. Then the scammer checks the settings and correspondence to find out what language the victim is using. The next step is to send a message like the above to all the victim’s contacts. The victim had reacted correctly and changed the Gmail password ASAP. But I wanted to verify and replied to the scam mail anyway, asking what I can do to help. One hour later I got this: “Thanks, I need to borrow about 1000 euros, will pay you back as soon as I get home. Western Union Money Transfer is the fastest option to wire funds to me. All you need to do is find the nearest Western Union shop and the money will be sent in minutes. See details needed WU transfer below. Name: (Redacted) Address: Limassol, Cyprus you must email me the reference number provided on the payment slip as soon as you make the transfer so I can receive money here. Thank you,” Now it should be obvious for everyone how this kind of scam works. Once the scammers get the reference number they just go to Western Union to cash in. Most recipients will not fall for this, but the scammers will get a nice profit if even one or two contacts send money. But wait. To pull this off, the scammers need to retain control over the mail account. They need to send the second mail and receive the reference number. How can this work if the victim had changed his password? This works by utilizing human’s inability to notice tiny details. The scammers will register a new mail account with an address that is almost identical to the victim’s. The first mail comes from the victim’s account, but directs replies to the new account. So the conversation can continue with the new account that people believe belongs to the victim. The new address may have a misspelled name or use a different separator between the first and last names. Or be in a different domain that is almost the same as the real one. The two addresses are totally different for computers, but a human need to pay close attention to notice the difference. How many of you would notice if a mail address changes from say Bill.Gates@gmail.com to BiII_Gates@mail.com? (How many differences do you notice, right answer at the end?) To be honest, I was sloppy too in this case and didn’t at first see the tiny difference. In theory it is also possible that webmail servers may leave active sessions open and let the scammers keep using the hacked account for a while after the password has been changed. I just tested this on Gmail. They close old sessions automatically pretty quickly, but it is anyway a good idea to use the security settings and manually terminate any connection the scammers may have open. I exchanged a couple of mails with this person the day after. He told that the scammers had changed the webmail user interface to Arabic, which probably is a hint about where they are from. I was just about to press send when I remembered to check the mail address. Bummer, the scammer’s address was still there so my reply would not have reached him unless I had typed the address manually. The account’s reply-to was still set to the scammer’s fake account. OK, let’s collect a checklist that helps identifying these scams. If someone asks for urgent help by mail, assume it’s a scam. These scams are a far more common than real requests for help. We are of course all ready to help friends, but are YOU really the one that the victim would contact in this situation? Are you close enough? How likely is it that you are close enough, but still had no clue he was travelling in Cyprus? Creating urgency is a very basic tool for scammers. Something must be done NOW so that people haven't got time to think or talk to others. The scammers may or may not be able to write correct English, but other languages are most likely hilarious Google-translations. Bad grammar is a strong warning sign. Requesting money using Western Union is another red flag. Wire transfer of money provides pretty much zero security for the sender, and scammers like that. Many scammers in this category try to fake an embarrassing situation and ask the recipient to not tell anyone else, to reduce the risk that someone else sees through it. These messages often state that the phone is lost to prevent the recipient from calling to check. But that is exactly what you should do anyway. Next checklist, how to deal with a situation where your account has been hijacked and used for scams. Act promptly. Change the mail account’s passwords. Check the webmail settings and especially the reply-to address. Correct any changed settings. Check for a function in the web mail that terminates open sessions from other devices. Gmail has a “Secure your account” -wizard under the account’s security settings. It’s a good idea to go through it. Inform your friends. A fast Facebook update may reach them before they see the scammer’s mail and prevent someone from falling for it. It also helps raising awareness. And finally, how to not be a victim in the first place. This is really about account security basics. Make sure you use a decent password. It’s easier to maintain good password habits with a password manager. Activate two-factor authentication on your important accounts. I think anyone’s main mail account is important enough for it. Learn to recognize phishing scams as they are a very common way to break into accounts. Maintain proper malware protection on all your devices. Spyware is a common way to steal account passwords. The last checklist is primarily about protecting your account. But that’s not the full picture. Imagine one of your friends falls for the scam and loses 1000 € when your account is hacked. It is kind of nice that someone cares that much about you, but losing money for it is not nice. Yes, the criminal scammer is naturally the primarily responsible. And yes, people who fall for the scam can to some extent blame themselves. But the one with the hacked account carries a piece of responsibility too. He or she could have avoided the whole incident with the tools described above. Caring about your account security is caring about your friends too! And last but not least. Knowledge is as usual the strongest weapon against scams. They work only as long as there are people who don’t recognize the scam pattern. Help fighting scam by spreading the word!   Safe surfing, Micke   PS. The two mail addresses above have 3 significant differences. 1. The name separator has changed from a dot to an underscore. 2. The domain name is mail.com instead of gmail.com. 3. The two lower case Ls in Bill has been replaced with capital I. Each of these changes is enough to make it a totally separate mail address.   Image by Yumi Kimura

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5 ways to get ready to ask Mikko anything

It's like a press conference anyone can join from anywhere. And even if you don't have a question, you can upvote the ones you don't like and downvote the ones you do. President Obama did one. Snoop Dogg/Snoop Lion did one. An astronaut did one from outer space. And our Mikko Hypponen will sit down for his second Reddit AMA on December 2 at 8 AM ET. If you have something you've wanted to ask him about online security, great. If not, here are five resources that document some of Mikko's more than two decades in the security industry to prod you or prepare you. 1. Check out this 2004 profile of his work from Vanity Fair. 2. Watch his 3 talks that have been featured on TED.com. [protected-iframe id="7579bbf790267cc081ac7d92d951262c-10874323-9129869" info="https://embed-ssl.ted.com/talks/mikko_hypponen_fighting_viruses_defending_the_net.html" width="640" height="360" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" webkitallowfullscreen="" mozallowfullscreen="" allowfullscreen=""] [protected-iframe id="fdf818f4afa2f7dcb179c5516c44918c-10874323-9129869" info="https://embed-ssl.ted.com/talks/mikko_hypponen_three_types_of_online_attack.html" width="640" height="360" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" webkitallowfullscreen="" mozallowfullscreen="" allowfullscreen=""] [protected-iframe id="54be2fe9bce28ae991becbe3d4291e56-10874323-9129869" info="https://embed-ssl.ted.com/talks/mikko_hypponen_how_the_nsa_betrayed_the_world_s_trust_time_to_act.html" width="640" height="360" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" webkitallowfullscreen="" mozallowfullscreen="" allowfullscreen=""] 3. Check out his first AMA, which took place just after his first talk at TEDglobal was published. 4. Take a trip to Pakistan with Mikko to meet the creators of the first PC virus. [protected-iframe id="8c0605f62076aa901ed165dbd3f4fcd7-10874323-9129869" info="//www.youtube-nocookie.com/v/lnedOWfPKT0?version=3&hl=en_US&rel=0" width="640" height="360"] 5. To get a sense of what he's been thinking about recently, watch his most recent talk at Black Hat "Governments as Malware Creators". [protected-iframe id="54b24406f022e81b15ad6dadf2adfc93-10874323-9129869" info="//www.youtube-nocookie.com/v/txknsq5Z5-8?hl=en_US&version=3&rel=0" width="640" height="360"] BONUS: Make sure you follow him on Twitter to get a constant stream of insight about online security, privacy and classic arcade games. Cheers, Sandra

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Shellshock only concerns server admins – WRONG

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