Security: VFEmail Incident, Spectre Mitigation, Open Source Voting and More

  • VFEmail

    As this issue goes to print, news is circulating about a catastrophic hack on the mail provider VFEmail. According to reports, two decades of saved data for all US users is lost – totally wiped out. Email providers are accustomed to getting attacked, and most of the attacks are stopped at the front door. Attackers sometimes get through, in which case, the most common scenario is that they encrypt some data and ask for a ransom. In this case, however, the attacker didn’t seem to really want anything, other than a chance to go on a rampage and destroy all the data.

    No attempt was made to deliver ransom demands. The crime did not look like extortion or theft but resembled something more like ordinary vandalism. The attacker careened around the network, reformatting disks and destroying data. Mail servers, file servers, VM servers, database servers, and even backup servers were lost. Although vandalism tends to appear random, this attack seems to have been carefully planned. According to reports, the attacker needed multiple passwords to access all these servers and therefore must have been lurking and listening on the network for some time to acquire the necessary access information.

    I won’t solve the mystery in the time it takes to write this column. Too much is unknown at this time. Was the attack from a disturbed loner who just wanted to destroy something? Was it a disgruntled customer or a former employee out for revenge? Was it an inside job? Another possible scenario is that the attacker was a customer with a secret who decided to destroy the evidence by destroying every account, rather than just deleting personal emails and risking leaving a trail.

    The VFEmail attack caught the imagination of the high tech press because it was just so weird. Nefarious as ransomware attacks might be, we are at least able to classify them as being somehow related to the quest for money (which we all secretly understand). A wanton attack of vengeance or vandalism scares us the way we are scared by a tornado or a madman with a knife. This attack underscores the dark reality that the Internet really is an unsafe place. Criminals and sociopaths from all over the world can ride a magic carpet to your front door, and the onus is on you to find the right kind of lock – and to continually change the lock as new techniques render old locks ineffective. It is actually profoundly strange that our whole economy and trillions of dollars in business interests are based on this model.

  • Linux Kernel Continues to Offer Mitigation for Spectre Mitigation
  • Open Source Voting

    Attempts by Russia to interfere with US elections have been headline news in the last year. But the problems with the election process in the United States goes deeper than the public generally realizes and includes obsolete, proprietary systems, a lack of funds for upgrades, and near monopolies on voting machines. As the 2020 US elections near, academics are working to provide solutions to these issues – and open source software and hardware are at the core of these solutions, together with modern interface design.

  • OpenShift Commons Briefing: State of Open Source Security Report Review with Liran Tal (Snyk) [Ed: Red Hat is entertaining anti-FOSS and Microsoft-connected FUDsters from Snyk]
  • When an internet emergency strikes

    Research shows that we spend more time on phones and computers than with friends. This means we’re putting out more and more information for hackers to grab. It’s better to be safe than sorry in an internet emergency, but how you prepare depends on the type of emergency you’re facing.

  • Critical WinRAR Flaw Found Actively Being Exploited

    A critical 19-year-old WinRAR vulnerability disclosed last week has now been spotted actively being exploited in a spam campaign spreading malware.

    The campaign, discovered by researchers with 360 Threat Intelligence Center, takes advantage of a path-traversal WinRAR vulnerability, which could allow bad actors to remotely execute malicious code on victims’ machines simply by persuading them to open a file.

  • WinRAR Flaw Being Actively Used To Load Malware In Windows PCs

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