Here are the stories that caught our eye this week:
Nobody planned for the current situation, but because of COVID-19, all types of education, all around the world, whether K-12, university, or continuing professional education, have at least partially moved learning to the Internet. With summer breaks coming to an end, the issue of how online learning can be conducted as conveniently, effectively, and safely as possible for both students and teachers is once again top of mind. Selecting the tools you will use to teach your online classes — the videoconferencing platform, testing service, messaging app, and so forth — gives you the most flexibility. If your school or university provides you with access to Office 365 or G Suite, for example, clarify with your administrator the full list of resources you can access and use for your classes. Gain access as soon as possible and learn how to use the services. The school may have a policy forbidding the use of personal accounts for work purposes, or it may insist that everyone use a specific messaging app. The IT tools you select to conduct classes should be convenient for both teachers and students. Teachers and students should reach an agreement about class procedures. For example, that everyone’s camera should be turned on by default, but only the teacher’s microphone should be on at the start of class. Following the code makes conducting class easier for teachers and helps students learn the material with fewer distractions. If you teach classes for several grade levels, you may be able to hold one rule-setting session for everyone at once, saving everyone time. Actively test the code of conduct, so that teacher and students share common expectations for the school year. To avoid having to make up classes, figure out in advance which service your class will use if the default one isn’t working. Ten people waiting for one person to start class is a pointless waste of time, which is why maintaining punctuality is imperative. It is a best practice to connect to the videoconferencing service several minutes before the start of class to make sure everything is working correctly and that everyone has any necessary documents on hand. Pay careful attention to the accounts you use for educational purposes. An attacker who gains access to your account can obtain the personal data of the other students in the class, which could lead to legal consequences. All educational accounts need protection. It would be best if you had reliable protection on every device you use to access educational resources.
The likelihood of election results being impacted by an attack are slim, security researchers say. “We saw with the U.S presidential cycle in 2016 that there were some attempts to potentially gain some access into election voting systems themselves and ballot systems, but the biggest impact we saw was the targeting of campaigns, the targeting of candidates, and not just of the parties and ancillary groups surrounding those candidates and parties,” said Ron Bushar, SVP, and CTO, Government Solutions Consulting at Mandiant, speaking at the recent FireEye Virtual Summit. “Those hacking efforts, especially if they’re timed properly, can really have devastating effects on the perception of a voting system by the people participating in that election.” From our perspective, while those obviously are the most important systems in the voting ecosystem, and they’re certainly targeted, it’s very, very difficult to impact the outcome of an election by hacking the results.” Social-media giants have worked to reduce the ability of nation-state actors to use their platforms for these campaigns: Twitter in June took down three separate nation-sponsored influence operations, attributed to the People’s Republic of China, Russia, and Turkey.
The plant worker informed Tesla, which contacted the FBI and won the employee’s cooperation. Defendant Egor Igorevich Kriuchkov tried to recruit a fellow Russian speaker who worked at the plant, according to a criminal complaint filed in U.S District Court in Nevada. Kriuchkov allegedly took the worker, who he’d first met in 2016, on a road trip to Lake Tahoe before offering the person $1 million to plant malware on computer systems at “Victim Company A.” Kriuchkov floated the scheme at a Reno-area bar on Aug. 3 after the two drank heavily until last call, the complaint says. Kriuchkov was quoted as saying the inside job would be camouflaged with a distributed denial of service attack on plant computers from outside. If Tesla didn’t pay, the purloined data would be dumped on the open internet. The complaint says Kriuchkov told the Tesla worker that his organization had executed similar “special projects” on other companies on multiple occasions, with one victim supposedly surrendering a $4 million ransom payment. Kriuchkov added that his organization employed sophisticated encryption that would mask the Tesla worker’s participation and mentioned that one hacker in his group was a high-level employee of a government bank in Russia.
The campaigns, which began in July, attempt to target Israeli academic scholars as well as U.S government employees through messages and WhatsApp calls that supposedly come from Persian-speaking journalists working for well-known media organizations, the report notes. “This is the first time we identified an attack by Charming Kitten conducted through WhatsApp and LinkedIn, including attempts to conduct phone calls between the victim and the Iranian hackers,” the researchers note in the report. “These two platforms enable the attacker to reach the victim spending minimum time in creating the fictitious social media profile. The attackers posed as an Iranian journalist working with Deutsche Welle – a German broadcasting company, the report notes. “If the victim is not willing to share their phone number, the attacker will send him a message from the fake LinkedIn account,” the report notes. “This message will contain a promise that the webinar is secured by Google.” Since the campaign largely targeted academics who were familiar with Charming Kitten’s activities, the ClearSky report notes most of the phishing attempts were unsuccessful.