Jan 19, 2018

History of public key cryptography: RSA Encryption Algorithm

We recently posted a video showing the history of the Diffie-Hellman Key Exchange. Today we are showing a video showing the history of the RSA Public Key Encryption Algorithm (cryptography).

How & why it works. Introduces Euler's Theorem, Euler's Phi function, prime factorization, modular exponentiation & time complexity.

Jan 18, 2018

OS Creators Have Released Patches for Meltdown and Spectre, But You May Not Get a BIOS Update

Like pretty much every IT professional out there, my company is scrambling to get our systems patched since the announcement of Meltdown and Spectre a couple of weeks ago. Just yesterday I wrote about how to tell if your Microsoft system was fully patched, and showed a screenshot from my Lenovo laptop where everything was patched. Here it is again:

Well, while going through all of my higher end systems at my day job I started to see a disturbing trend. That is that some budget systems like SuperMicro, and older HP systems either don't have a BIOS update to fix the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities, or won't release one at all due to age. I'm sure other server vendors like Dell and IBM are in the same boat.

Here are a couple of examples. The first one is a SuperMicro server I have that isn't terribly old. The motherboard on it is a X9DRD-7LN4F. If you look at their support website, the last BIOS update for this motherboard was created in 2015! 

SuperMicro has said the following in regards to releasing BIOS updates for side channel speculative execution and indirect branch prediction information disclosure, however they have not given any specific dates when their systems will be patched:
We are working around the clock to integrate, test and release the updates as soon as they are made available. To address the issue systems will need both an Operating System update and a BIOS update. Please check with operating system or VM vendors for related information.
Similarly, we have several G6 HP Proliant servers that are still in operation. They have been rock solid machines, and we get third party support from Curvature for them.  Curvature's hardware replacement, and technical support has always been top notch, so why get rid of these older servers? Well, no BIOS updates is one reason now...

For instance, we still use an HP Proliant DL585 G6 for QA testing. Looking at their BIOS downloads, the last one available was created in 2014!

HP has issued a bulletin on Meltdown and Spectre, and as of now it looks like they are only going to be patching Gen 8, Gen 9 and Gen 10 servers. Those of us with older servers supported by third parties are probably going to be SOL.

If you are in a similar situation, you may need to start researching other ways to mitigate for this attack. Look into products like Sonicwall UTM firewalls with IPS built in. I specifically mention Sonicwall because they have released the following statement on their protection against exploits that use Meltdown and Spectre:
The SonicWall Capture Threat Research team is releasing protection against attacks that leverage these vulnerabilities to help defend our customers’ extended infrastructure.
  • 13149 Suspicious Javascript Code (Speculative Execution)
  • GAV: Exploit.Spectre.A (Exploit)
Long story short, if you thought you were out of the woods because your OS of choice released an update, you're not there yet. In fact, there is a good chance you will never fully get out of the woods on this one.

Jan 17, 2018

Tai Lopez NEEDS TO STOP Selling Me His #Bitcoin Course

Tai Lopez is famous for hanging out in his garage, showing off Lamborghinis, reading thousands of books, chilling with celebrities, and aggressively marketing his courses on YouTube. Unfortunately for us, he has now set his sights on the world of Bitcoin and cryptocurrency. PLEASE STOP!

Find out if your Windows PC or Server is fully patched for Meltdown and Spectre

We posted an article from Reuters a little while ago talking about the biggest security vulnerabilities that were recently discovered that impacts pretty much every system in the wild. These vulnerabilities are collectively known as Meltdown and Spectre.

Microsoft has released a number of patches for their systems recently, but that's not quite enough. On many systems, you must also installed your hardware vendor's latest BIOS updates as well.

To see if your Microsoft Windows system is fully patched for Meltdown and Spectre, Microsoft has created a Powershell script that can tell you, and give you recommendations on getting fully patched.

Here's what you need to do to run the script:
  • Load an elevated PowerShell prompt. Tap on the Windows-key, type PowerShell, hold down the Shift-key and the Ctrl-key and select the PowerShell entry to load it.
  • Type Install-Module SpeculationControl
  • You may get a prompt stating that “NuGet provider is required to continue.” Select Y to accept that.
  • You may get a prompt stating that you are installing an “untrusted repository.” Select Y to continue.
  • Type Import-Module SpeculationControl.
  • You may get an error stating that “running scripts” is disabled. If you do, type Set-ExecutionPolicy RemoteSigned. Repeat the command Import-Module SpeculationControl.
  • Type Get-SpeculationControlSettings.
Tip: You can restore the default ExecutionPolicy setting by running the command Set-ExecutionPolicy Default.

If you are fully patched, this is what you should see:

If you see any red outputs, follow the suggested actions provided by the script.

Are you are your systems fully patched for Meltdown and Spectre yet? Let us know in the comments!

[H/T Ghacks]

Jan 16, 2018

Top 5 Computer Security Threats

With increasing cyber community and vast system users’ computer security threats have increased significantly. In this article, we can discuss some computer security threats of recent times.

In recent times computer security of users has been at stake due to increased cyber and malware attacks. Computer users are prone to these threats as attacks have increased multifold in recent times. These computer security threats come in various forms and malicious content like malware, viruses, spyware, adware, Botnet, ransomware, and others. Let’s discuss top 5 computer security threats of recent times.

Virus: A Virus can replicate itself and infect a system without the knowledge or permission of the user. This small piece of software can spread when it is transmitted by a user via the Internet or over a network. It can also infect system removable media or external devices such as CDs or USB drives. These viruses can delete your important data, reformat the system hard disk, cause system crash or other losses. Even these viruses take up system memory and may cause erratic behavior on your system. These virus threats can be prevented significantly using anti-virus programs.

Ransomware: Ransomware is a malware which attacks user’s system and gets installed on it without user’s consent. It executes a malicious Crypto virology attacks to affect user’s computer adversely. Advanced Ransomware encrypts the victim’s files and other data making them inaccessible to the user and demands a ransom payment to decrypt it. It can also encrypt the system’s Master File Table or the entire hard disk. Ransomware is a form of denial-of-access attack where it prevents users from using their own system. These attacks are generally carried out using Trojan.

Phishing: In Phishing attacks, a phony web page is created and produced by the user that looks similar to a legitimate web page. This phony web page remains on a server of the attacker thus the attacker keeps full control of the page. Using these phony web pages’ users are tricked by attackers as users think they are on the legitimate page or trusted website. These phony web pages are created to steal user’s information like their names, passwords, credit & debit card details, and other sensitive information. Phishing attacks are generally carried out by email or instant messaging where compromised links are shared with the users.

Spyware: Spyware is a small piece of software program that is secretly installed on a system without the user’s consent. Spyware programs are used to keep a tab on user’s activities. These programs can collect a lot of sensitive and personal information of user like credit & debit card details, financial transactions, website visited, usernames & passwords etc. These programs can redirect web browsers to malicious websites or can install other malware easily.  Spyware can affect system speed and performance negatively.

Botnet:  A Botnet is also known as “Zombie Army” is a collection of software robots (or bots) that run automated tasks over the Internet. The term “Botnet” is commonly used to refer to a distributed network or compromised system (called “Zombie computer”) This “Zombie Army” run programs such as Trojan horses, worms or backdoors. Recent Botnet versions can automatically scan its environment and propagate themselves using various vulnerabilities on the system. They are used to launch Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks against various websites.

Above mentioned computer security threats can affect computers significantly. These threats can cause data loss or can block user access to their own system. Apart from these threats, there are many other threats as well like Worm, Trojan Horse, Keystroke logging, Adware, Spoofing, Pharming and lot others that can make your system crawl or sometimes halt the operations on it.

Jan 15, 2018

#Bitcoin and #Ethereum plummet as South Korea decides on total crypto shutdown

The value of ethereum slid by around $60 starting its decline at 10.00pm UTC to start Tuesday in free fall.

While Bitcoin’s fortunes mirrored its competitor losing $380 in a single day.

South Korea has announced a curb on crypto futures and vowed the come down hard on any criminal activities involving illegal currencies.

The country, which had been a big player in the cryptocurrency boom, is now considering a full shutdown of all exchanges.

The government has also vowed to support research and development into the blockchain on which cryptocurrencies are based.

On Wednesday it was revealed by Justice Minister Park Sang-ki that the government was preparing a law to close all the nation’s exchanges.

AMD CEO: Our processors are more affordable than Intel's

Despite some recent concerns over security flaws in its chips, AMD (AMD) is poised for another solid year.

The Austin, Texas-based chipmaker announced half a dozen new desktop and laptop processors sporting major performance upgrades over the past year, priced at a fraction of Intel’s (INTC) chips. “Our goal is to make sure that we provide step-function improvements for our customers,” AMD CEO Lisa Su told Yahoo Finance during a wide-ranging conversation at CES 2018 last week. “If you look at our Ryzen product line, for example, at every price point we offer more threads, more multithreaded performance.”

At CES 2018 last week, AMD claimed one of its Ryzen products, which puts computer processing and graphics on one chip, offers comparable data-crunching performance to an Intel Core i5-8400 with Nvidia GT 1030 graphics card, but for $120 less, translating to significant savings for shoppers who want to save a few bucks without compromising computer performance.

History of public key cryptography - Diffie-Hellman Key Exchange

The history behind public key cryptography & the Diffie-Hellman key exchange algorithm.

Jan 14, 2018

Chinese #bitcoin miners consider setting up in energy-rich Canada

The mounting pressure by Chinese authorities on the country’s cryptocurrency industry is forcing mining companies to look for alternatives, and Canada is one of the preferred hot spots.

Bitmain Technologies, the operator of some of the largest mining farms in China, is among several companies looking to expand overseas. The company’s spokesman, Nishant Sharma, told Reuters that it is eyeing bitcoin mining sites in Canada’s Québec province, which currently enjoys an energy surplus. He added that the company is in talks with regional power authorities in the province, and that it is also planning to expand in Switzerland.

Two Chinese miners said local authorities in China are increasingly unwilling to allow expansion and had started to shut down some mines in late 2017, as China clamped down on cryptocurrencies.

“We, and from what I understand many of our peers, are already making plans to go overseas,” said Li Wei, chief executive of ZQMiner, a Wuhan-based company which sells bitcoin mining equipment and has mines in three Chinese provinces.

According to public utility Hydro Québec, the energy surplus of the province is equivalent to up to 100 Terawatt hours over the course of ten years. One Terawatt hour powers about 60,000 homes in Québec during one year.

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