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Google Bringing Privacy Sandbox to Android to Limit Sharing of User Data

Google Bringing Privacy Sandbox to Android to Limit Sharing of User Data
February 17, 2022Ravie Lakshmanan
Google on Wednesday announced plans to bring its Privacy Sandbox initiatives to Android in a bid to expand its privacy-focused, but also less disruptive, advertising technology beyond the desktop web. To that end, the internet giant said it will work towards building solutions that prevent cross-app tracking à la Apple's App Tracking Transparency ( ATT ) framework, effectively limiting sharing of user data with third-parties as well as eliminating identifiers such as advertising IDs on mobile devices. "The Privacy Sandbox on Android builds on our existing efforts on the web, providing a clear path forward to improve user privacy without putting access to free content and services at risk," Anthony Chavez, vice president of product management for Android security and privacy,  said . Privacy Sandbox , launched in 2019, is Google's umbrella term for a set of technologies that will phase out third-party cookies and curb covert tracking, like  fingerprinting , by redu

SolarMarker Malware Uses Novel Techniques to Persist on Hacked Systems

SolarMarker Malware Uses Novel Techniques to Persist on Hacked Systems
February 01, 2022Ravie Lakshmanan
In a sign that threat actors continuously shift tactics and update their defensive measures, the operators of the SolarMarker information stealer and backdoor have been found leveraging stealthy Windows Registry tricks to establish long-term persistence on compromised systems. Cybersecurity firm Sophos, which spotted the new behavior, said that the remote access implants are still being detected on targeted networks despite the campaign witnessing a decline in November 2021. Boasting of information harvesting and backdoor capabilities, the .NET-based malware has been linked to at least three different attack waves in 2021. The first set,  reported in April , took advantage of search engine poisoning techniques to trick business professionals into visiting sketchy Google sites that installed SolarMarker on the victim's machines. Then in August, the malware was  observed  targeting healthcare and education sectors with the goal of gathering credentials and sensitive information.

Google Drops FLoC and Introduces Topics API to Replace Tracking Cookies for Ads

Google Drops FLoC and Introduces Topics API to Replace Tracking Cookies for Ads
January 25, 2022Ravie Lakshmanan
Google on Tuesday announced that it is abandoning its controversial plans for replacing third-party cookies in favor of a new Privacy Sandbox proposal called  Topics , which categorizes users' browsing habits into approximately 350 topics. The new mechanism , which takes the place of  FLoC  (short for Federated Learning of Cohorts), slots users' browsing history for a given week into a handful of top pre-designated interests (i.e., topics), which are retained only on the device for a revolving period of three weeks. Subsequently, when a user visits a participating site, the Topics API selects three of the interests — one topic from each of the past three weeks — to share with the site and its advertising partners. To give more control over the framework, users can not only see the topics but also remove topics or disable it altogether. By labeling each website with a recognizable, high-level topic and sharing the most frequent topics associated with the browsing history,

Google Details Two Zero-Day Bugs Reported in Zoom Clients and MMR Servers

Google Details Two Zero-Day Bugs Reported in Zoom Clients and MMR Servers
January 20, 2022Ravie Lakshmanan
An exploration of zero-click attack surface for the popular video conferencing solution Zoom has yielded two previously undisclosed security vulnerabilities that could have been exploited to crash the service, execute malicious code, and even leak arbitrary areas of its memory. Natalie Silvanovich of Google Project Zero, who  discovered  and reported the  two   flaws  last year, said the issues impacted both Zoom clients and Multimedia Router (MMR) servers, which transmit audio and video content between clients in  on-premise deployments . The weaknesses have since been addressed by Zoom as part of  updates  shipped on November 24, 2021. The goal of a zero-click attack is to stealthily gain control over the victim's device without requiring any kind of interaction from the user, such as clicking on a link. While the specifics of the exploit will vary depending on the nature of vulnerability being exploited, a key trait of zero-click hacks is their ability not to leave behind

Chrome Limits Websites' Direct Access to Private Networks for Security Reasons

Chrome Limits Websites' Direct Access to Private Networks for Security Reasons
January 17, 2022Ravie Lakshmanan
Google Chrome has announced plans to prohibit public websites from directly accessing endpoints located within private networks as part of an upcoming major security shakeup to prevent intrusions via the browser. The proposed change is set to be rolled out in two phases consisting of releases Chrome 98 and Chrome 101 scheduled in the coming months via a newly implemented W3C specification called private network access ( PNA ). "Chrome will start sending a  CORS  preflight request ahead of any private network request for a subresource, which asks for explicit permission from the target server," Titouan Rigoudy and Eiji Kitamura  said . "This preflight request will carry a new header, Access-Control-Request-Private-Network: true, and the response to it must carry a corresponding header, Access-Control-Allow-Private-Network: true." What this means is that starting with Chrome version 101, any website accessible via the internet will be made to seek explicit permi

France Fines Google, Facebook €210 Million Over Privacy Violating Tracking Cookies

France Fines Google, Facebook €210 Million Over Privacy Violating Tracking Cookies
January 06, 2022Ravie Lakshmanan
The Commission nationale de l'informatique et des libertés (CNIL), France's data protection watchdog, has slapped Facebook (now Meta Platforms) and Google with fines of €150 million ($170 million) and €60 million ($68 million) for violating E.U. privacy rules by failing to provide users with an easy option to reject cookie tracking technology. "The websites facebook.com, google.fr and youtube.com offer a button allowing the user to immediately accept cookies," the  authority   said . "However, they do not provide an equivalent solution (button or other) enabling the Internet user to easily refuse the deposit of these cookies." Facebook told  TechCrunch  that it was reviewing the ruling, while Google said it's working to change its practices in response to the CNIL fines. HTTP cookies are small pieces of data created while a user is browsing a website and placed on the user's computer or other device by the user's web browser to track online

Google Releases New Chrome Update to Patch Dozens of New Browser Vulnerabilities

Google Releases New Chrome Update to Patch Dozens of New Browser Vulnerabilities
January 05, 2022Ravie Lakshmanan
Google has rolled out the first round of updates to its Chrome web browser for 2022 to fix 37 security issues, one of which is rated Critical in severity and could be exploited to pass arbitrary code and gain control over a victim's system. Tracked as  CVE-2022-0096 , the flaw relates to a  use-after-free bug  in the Storage component, which could have devastating effects ranging from corruption of valid data to the execution of malicious code on a compromised machine. Security researcher Yangkang ( @dnpushme ) of Qihoo 360 ATA, who has previously disclosed  zero-day vulnerabilities  in Apple's WebKit, has been credited with discovering and reporting the flaw on November 30, 2021. It's also worth pointing out that 24 of the 37 uncovered flaws came from external researchers, including its Google Project Zero initiative, while the others were flagged as part of its ongoing internal security work. Of the 24 bugs, 10 are rated High, another 10 are rated Medium, and three

Google Disrupts Blockchain-based Glupteba Botnet; Sues Russian Hackers

Google Disrupts Blockchain-based Glupteba Botnet; Sues Russian Hackers
December 08, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
Google on Tuesday said it took steps to disrupt the operations of a sophisticated "multi-component" botnet called Glupteba that approximately infected more than one million Windows computers across the globe and stored its command-and-control server addresses on Bitcoin's blockchain as a resilience mechanism. As part of the efforts, Google's Threat Analysis Group (TAG) said it partnered with the CyberCrime Investigation Group over the past year to terminate around 63 million Google Docs that were observed to have distributed the malware, alongside 1,183 Google Accounts, 908 Cloud Projects, and 870 Google Ads accounts that were associated with its distribution. Google TAG further said it worked with internet infrastructure providers and hosting providers, such as CloudFlare, to dismantle the malware by taking down servers and placing interstitial warning pages in front of the malicious domains. In tandem, the internet giant also announced a lawsuit against two Russ

Critical Bug in Mozilla's NSS Crypto Library Potentially Affects Several Other Software

Critical Bug in Mozilla’s NSS Crypto Library Potentially Affects Several Other Software
December 01, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
Mozilla has rolled out fixes to address a critical security weakness in its cross-platform Network Security Services ( NSS ) cryptographic library that could be potentially exploited by an adversary to crash a vulnerable application and even execute arbitrary code. Tracked as CVE-2021-43527, the flaw affects NSS versions prior to 3.73 or 3.68.1 ESR, and concerns a  heap overflow  vulnerability when verifying digital signatures such as  DSA  and  RSA-PSS  algorithms that are encoded using the  DER  binary format. Credited with reporting the issue is Tavis Ormandy of Google Project Zero, who codenamed it " BigSig ." "NSS (Network Security Services) versions prior to 3.73 or 3.68.1 ESR are vulnerable to a heap overflow when handling DER-encoded DSA or RSA-PSS signatures," Mozilla  said  in an advisory published Wednesday. "Applications using NSS for handling signatures encoded within CMS, S/MIME, PKCS #7, or PKCS #12 are likely to be impacted." NSS is a

Italy's Antitrust Regulator Fines Google and Apple for "Aggressive" Data Practices

Italy's Antitrust Regulator Fines Google and Apple for "Aggressive" Data Practices
November 26, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
Italy's antitrust regulator has fined both Apple and Google €10 million each for what it calls are "aggressive" data practices and for not providing consumers with clear information on commercial uses of their personal data during the account creation phase. The Autorità Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato (AGCM)  said  "Google and Apple did not provide clear and immediate information on the acquisition and use of user data for commercial purposes," adding the tech companies chose to emphasize the data collection as only necessary to improve their own services and personalize user experience without offering any indication that the data could be transferred and used for other reasons. The concerns have to do with how the companies omit relevant information when creating an account and using their services, details which the authority said are critical to making an informed decision as to whether or not to give permission for utilizing their data for comme

Google Warns of New Android 0-Day Vulnerability Under Active Targeted Attacks

Google Warns of New Android 0-Day Vulnerability Under Active Targeted Attacks
November 02, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
Google has rolled out its monthly security patches for Android with fixes for 39 flaws, including a zero-day vulnerability that it said is being actively exploited in the wild in limited, targeted attacks. Tracked as CVE-2021-1048 , the zero-day bug is described as a  use-after-free vulnerability  in the kernel that can be exploited for local privilege escalation. Use-after-free issues are dangerous as it could enable a threat actor to access or referencing memory after it has been freed, leading to a " write-what-where " condition that results in the execution of arbitrary code to gain control over a victim's system. "There are indications that CVE-2021-1048 may be under limited, targeted exploitation," the company  noted  in its November advisory without revealing technical details of the vulnerability, the nature of the intrusions, and the identities of the attackers that may have abused the flaw. Also remediated in the security patch are two critical re

Google to Pay Hackers $31,337 for Exploiting Patched Linux Kernel Flaws

Google to Pay Hackers $31,337 for Exploiting Patched Linux Kernel Flaws
November 02, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
Google on Monday announced that it will pay security researchers to find exploits using vulnerabilities, previously remediated or otherwise, over the next three months as part of a new bug bounty program to improve the security of the Linux kernel. To that end, the company is expected to issue rewards worth $31,337 (a reference to Leet ) for exploiting privilege escalation in a lab environment for each patched vulnerability, an amount that can climb up to $50,337 for working exploits that take advantage of zero-day flaws in the kernel and other undocumented attack techniques. Specifically, the program aims to uncover attacks that could be launched against Kubernetes-based infrastructure to defeat process isolation barriers (via NSJail) and break out of the sandbox to leak secret information. The program is expected to last until January 31, 2022. "It is important to note, that the easiest exploitation primitives are not available in our lab environment due to the hardening

Google Releases Urgent Chrome Update to Patch 2 Actively Exploited 0-Day Bugs

Google Releases Urgent Chrome Update to Patch 2 Actively Exploited 0-Day Bugs
October 28, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
Google on Thursday rolled out an emergency update for its Chrome web browser, including fixes for two zero-day vulnerabilities that it says are being actively exploited in the wild. Tracked as  CVE-2021-38000  and  CVE-2021-38003 , the weaknesses relate to insufficient validation of untrusted input in a feature called Intents as well as a case of inappropriate implementation in V8 JavaScript and WebAssembly engine. The internet giant's Threat Analysis Group (TAG) has been credited with discovering and reporting the two flaws on September 15, 2021, and October 26, 2021, respectively. "Google is aware that exploits for CVE-2021-38000 and CVE-2021-38003 exist in the wild," the company  noted  in an advisory without delving into technical specifics about how the two vulnerabilities were used in attacks or the threat actors that may have weaponized them. Also addressed as part of this stable channel update is a  use-after-free  vulnerability in the Web Transport component

Over 10 Million Android Users Targeted With Premium SMS Scam Apps

Over 10 Million Android Users Targeted With Premium SMS Scam Apps
October 26, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
A global fraud campaign has been found leveraging 151 malicious Android apps with 10.5 million downloads to rope users into premium subscription services without their consent and knowledge. The  premium SMS scam  campaign — dubbed " UltimaSMS " — is believed to commenced in May 2021 and involved apps that cover a wide range of categories, including keyboards, QR code scanners, video and photo editors, spam call blockers, camera filters, and games, with most of the fraudulent apps downloaded by users in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, the U.A.E., Turkey, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, the U.S., and Poland. Although a significant  chunk of the apps  in question has since been removed from the Google Play Store, 82 of them have continued to remain available in the online marketplace as of October 19, 2021. It all starts with the apps prompting users to enter their phone numbers and email addresses to gain access to the advertised features, only to subscribe the victims to premium SM

Hackers Stealing Browser Cookies to Hijack High-Profile YouTube Accounts

Hackers Stealing Browser Cookies to Hijack High-Profile YouTube Accounts
October 21, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
Since at least late 2019, a network of hackers-for-hire have been hijacking the channels of YouTube creators, luring them with bogus collaboration opportunities to broadcast cryptocurrency scams or sell the accounts to the highest bidder. That's according to a new report published by Google's Threat Analysis Group (TAG), which said it disrupted financially motivated phishing campaigns targeting the video platform with cookie theft malware. The actors behind the infiltration have been attributed to a group of hackers recruited in a Russian-speaking forum. "Cookie Theft, also known as 'pass-the-cookie attack,' is a session hijacking technique that enables access to user accounts with session cookies stored in the browser," TAG's Ashley Shen  said . "While the technique has been around for decades, its resurgence as a top security risk could be due to a wider adoption of multi-factor authentication (MFA) making it difficult to conduct abuse, and shif

Google: We're Tracking 270 State-Sponsored Hacker Groups From Over 50 Countries

Google: We're Tracking 270 State-Sponsored Hacker Groups From Over 50 Countries
October 14, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
Google's Threat Analysis Group (TAG) on Thursday  said  it's tracking more than 270 government-backed threat actors from more than 50 countries, adding it has approximately sent 50,000 alerts of state-sponsored phishing or malware attempts to customers since the start of 2021. The warnings mark a 33% increase from 2020, the internet giant said, with the spike largely  stemming  from "blocking an unusually large campaign from a Russian actor known as APT28 or Fancy Bear." Additionally, Google said it disrupted a number of campaigns mounted by an Iranian state-sponsored attacker group tracked as  APT35  (aka Charming Kitten, Phosphorous, or Newscaster), including a sophisticated social engineering attack dubbed "Operation SpoofedScholars" aimed at think tanks, journalists, and professors with the goal of soliciting sensitive information by masquerading as scholars with the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). Details

Google to turn on 2-factor authentication by default for 150 million users

Google to turn on 2-factor authentication by default for 150 million users
October 06, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
Google has announced plans to automatically enroll about 150 million users into its two-factor authentication scheme by the end of the year as part of its ongoing efforts to prevent unauthorized access to accounts and improve security. In addition, the internet giant said it also intends to require 2 million YouTube creators to switch on the setting, which it calls two-step verification (2SV), to protect their channels from potential takeover attacks. "2SV is strongest when it combines both 'something you know' (like a password) and 'something you have' (like your phone or a security key)," Google's AbdelKarim Mardini and Guemmy Kim  said  in a post, adding "having a second form of authentication dramatically decreases an attacker's chance of gaining access to an account." The rollout follows the  company's proposals  to beef up account sign-ins earlier this May, when it said it intends to "automatically enrolling users in 2SV i

A New APT Hacking Group Targeting Fuel, Energy, and Aviation Industries

A New APT Hacking Group Targeting Fuel, Energy, and Aviation Industries
October 04, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
A previously undocumented threat actor has been identified as behind a string of attacks targeting fuel, energy, and aviation production industries in Russia, the U.S., India, Nepal, Taiwan, and Japan with the goal of stealing data from compromised networks. Cybersecurity company Positive Technologies dubbed the advanced persistent threat (APT) group ChamelGang — referring to their chameleellonic capabilities, including disguising "its malware and network infrastructure under legitimate services of Microsoft, TrendMicro, McAfee, IBM, and Google."  "To achieve their goal, the attackers used a trending penetration method—supply chain," the researchers  said  of one of the incidents investigated by the firm. "The group compromised a subsidiary and penetrated the target company's network through it. Trusted relationship attacks are rare today due to the complexity of their execution. Using this method […], the ChamelGang group was able to achieve its goal a

Google now requires app developers to verify their address and use 2FA

Google now requires app developers to verify their address and use 2FA
June 29, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
Google on Monday announced  new measures  for the Play Store, including requiring developer accounts to turn on 2-Step Verification (2SV), provide an address, and verify their contact details later this year. The new identification and two-factor authentication requirements are a step towards strengthening account security and ensuring a safe and secure app marketplace, Google Play Trust and Safety team said. As part of the changes, individual users and businesses in possession of Google Play developer accounts will be asked to specify an account type (personal or organization), a contact name, their physical address, as well as verifying the email address and phone number provided during account creation. In addition, the search giant is also mandating users of Google Play Console to sign in using Google's 2-Step Verification to prevent account takeover attacks. According to the timeline shared by Google, developer account owners will be able to declare their account type a

Mozilla Says Google's New Ad Tech—FLoC—Doesn't Protect User Privacy

Mozilla Says Google's New Ad Tech—FLoC—Doesn't Protect User Privacy
June 11, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
Google's upcoming plans to replace third-party cookies with a less invasive ad targeted mechanism have a number of issues that could defeat its privacy objectives and allow for significant linkability of user behavior, possibly even identifying individual users. "FLoC is premised on a compelling idea: enable ad targeting without exposing users to risk,"  said  Eric Rescorla, author of TLS standard and chief technology officer of Mozilla. "But the current design has a number of privacy properties that could create significant risks if it were to be widely deployed in its current form." Short for Federated Learning of Cohorts,  FLoC  is part of Google's fledgling  Privacy Sandbox  initiative that aims to develop alternate solutions to satisfy cross-site use cases without resorting to third-party cookies or other opaque tracking mechanisms. Essentially, FLoC allows marketers to guess users' interests without having to uniquely identify them, thereby eli
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