Tag Archives: social engineering

T-Mobile Sued For Lack of Security

I am always skeptical about these lawsuits.  One issue is usually “standing”, but in this case, I don’t think this will be an issue.  Often, if the party being sued thinks they are going to lose, they tend to settle, quietly, with no precedent from a court decision.  In this case, I predict this one may be settled quietly by T-Mobile.  UNLESS, the person filing the lawsuit is more interested in creating a precedent.  We shall see.

OK, here is the story.

Carlos Tapang is suing T-Mobile because someone was able to take over his phone account, transfer it to another carrier and use that new account to compromise his cryptocurrency account to the tune of $20,000 plus.  The good news (not really) is that this occurred when Bitcoin was selling for about $7,000, not the high price of $20,000.

The reason T-Mobile will likely lose if this goes to trial is that T-Mobile said that they would put a PIN on his account, BUT DID NOT.  Ooops.

Also, the hacker socially engineered T-Mobile customer service until one customer service person believed the hacker’s story and allowed him into the account without knowing the proper information.

THIS HAPPENS ALL THE TIME – CUSTOMER SERVICE PEOPLE ARE TRAINED TO KEEP CUSTOMERS HAPPY, NOT SECURE.

If this goes to trial and T-Mobile loses – big if – then it could cause the carrier to improve security.  That is part of what they say they want T-Mobile to do.

Tapang was able to recover his phone number – actually, he is lucky.  Many people lose their number permanently.  But it was too late.

While the article doesn’t say, what probably happened is this.

The attacker somehow figured out that he had a cyptocurrency account.  He either knew or guessed that it was tied to his phone number.  This is the typical “two factor” authentication which uses your phone number and a text message .

Using a text message as the second factor is relatively unsecure because if someone is able to get control of your phone number, they can receive the necessary information for a PASSWORD RESET and the TWO FACTOR text message code.  That is probably exactly what the hacker did.  Then  he emptied Tapang’s cryptocurrency wallet.

And, as we see all the time. the cell phone carriers are horrible when it comes to security.  It is hard to train call center employees, especially with the high employee turnover (for some call centers it is more than 100% turnover per year).  And, if security is good and they won’t hand over information, they wind up with upset customers.  On the other hand, if you do turn over the information without proper authentication, you wind up getting sued.  It is a challenge for the carriers because people want convenience over security.  Until is costs them $20,000.

Well, what can you do?

Number one – do set up a PIN on your cellular account and be a pain in the rear until they actually do it. TEST IT!  With Sprint they seem to be very good about the PIN, but if you don’t know it, they will sometimes let you answer other questions – which is bad security.  More than once I had to go into a Sprint retail store and show them my government issued photo ID to get a PIN reset.  THAT will deter most hackers.  Not all, but most.

Second, DO turn on two factor authentication for any account that that you would be upset about if you lost control of and hackers were able to “empty it out” – such as a bank account, brokerage account or cryptocurrency account.

IF YOU DO NOT CARE WHETHER HACKERS ARE ABLE TO EMPTY YOUR BANK ACCOUNT, SET YOUR PASSWORD TO 123456 AND DON’T WORRY.  IT WILL GET EMPTIED.

Second, if at all possible, do not use a text message as the second factor.  Use an app on your phone such as Microsoft authenticator, Google authenticator or Authy.  These apps are tied to your device once they are set up and NOT tied to your phone number.  If you phone number is stolen it will not help a hacker steal your money.

But this is up to you.  If you figure that it won’t happen to you, choose convenience.  If you think that it might happen to you and you would be upset if your account was emptied out, then use two factor.  Even though it is less convenient.  Google says that less than 10% of GMail users use two factor.

Information for this post came from The Verge.

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Phishing Still Works

CSO Magazine has a great piece on social engineering/phishing scams.  The article quotes both vendors that we resell – Wombat and KnowBe4.

Bottom line – the Verizon 2016 data breach report says that 30 percent of the phishing emails were opened compared to 23 percent last year.  12 percent clicked on the link.

If 12 percent of the folks in your company clicked on a malicious link, YOU. ARE. TOAST!

Stu Sjouwerman, CEO and Founder of KnowBe4, an anti-phishing and security education provider says that “a handful of competing cyber mafias are casting their nets wider and wider.”  What this means is that the bad guys have launched an all out assault and situations like the ones that I wrote about the last two days – one company closed its doors, the other lost north of $40 million  – are likely the tip of the iceberg.

One cyber mafia alone netted close to $100 million during the first half of 2016.  That’s a pretty good incentive to hack since it is all tax free.

McAfee recorded 1.3 million new ransomware samples in the first half of this year.

The most commonly successful phishes?

  1. It looked official. – Wombat, a competitor to KnowBe4, says that users are better at detecting personal phishing attacks but do poorly with work related ones.  I guess that is how the hack of Leoni worked.  Send an email from the CFO to accounting, asking them to wire $40 mil to the Czech Republic and DONE!
  2. You missed a voicemail.  Attachments that are designed to look like voicemail messages get people to click,.  And get their computers infected.  You click on it and they own your computer.
  3. Free stuff. People cannot resist free stuff.  Even stuff that they down’t want and won’t use.  if it is free, they want it.  Of course the hackers attach an extra prize to the free stuff.  Once that piece of malware is installed after you click, things won’t seem so free any more.
  4. Fake social media invitations.  LinkedIn, Facebook.  Whatever.  If YOU don’t have a FB or LI account then a scammer can create one using your name.  Then invite your friends.  Or maybe the fake account belongs to the CEO.  Who wouldn’t accept his invitation.  Now they can steal your information or get you to click on a malicious link.
  5. Social Media at Work.  If your company allows you to use twitter, etc.  Wombat says that employees missed an average of 31 percent of the social media question on their tests.  Since most organizations allow employees to use social media at work but a third of the time users cannot detect malicious activities, what does that say about keeping the bad guys out?

Part of it is that the bad guys are getting better.  Much better.  I look at some of the malware and it is very impressive.

What is an organization to do?

If you are not actively phishing your employees on a regular basis (at least once a month, if not more) with very realistic phishing emails, you are missing a training opportunity.  And the cost is very reasonable.  Contact us for details.

Information for this post came from CSO Magazine.

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