Biden Puts a $10M Bounty on Foreign Hackers

Regulators in Germany are poised to block one of the world’s biggest porn sites, according to a report from our colleagues at WIRED UK. The country imposed age verification checks for adult sites recently, which some have yet to implement. The blocking would have to be carried out by ISPs and mobile data providers, who may attempt to fight the orders in court if it comes to that.

A more aggressive form of internet censorship has played out this week in Cuba, as authorities disrupted access to major social media and messaging platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp in the face of ongoing civil unrest. Like Iran, China, and other oppressive regimes, Cuba has centralized control over the internet, which means it can block specific sites or wholesale access as it pleases. It’s an increasingly common technique, enabled by the ongoing balkanization of the internet.

As businesses around the world grappled with an ongoing ransomware catastrophe, we took a look at how hackers have increasingly turned to IT management software to pull off large-scale attacks. Zero-days remain popular as well, including for Russia’s Cozy Bear, which used one to target iPhones in a recently discovered campaign. And good old fashioned catfishing remains in style as well, particularly for Iran, which Facebook (once again) caught trying to trick targets in high-value industries with fake accounts. The good news is that Biden has a cybersecurity all-star team in place. The trickier part is figuring out how they can all work together.

Good-guy hackers had a productive week as well, demonstrating how they could fool a third-party webcam into letting them bypass Windows Hello’s facial recognition. Microsoft has addressed the issue. And WhatsApp has addressed a long-running frustration for its users, finally enabling multi-device use without having to route everything through your phone.

Don’t forget to set aside a little time this weekend to make sure your web searches are private and secure.

And there’s more. Each week we round up all the security news WIRED didn’t cover in depth. Click on the headlines to read the full stories, and stay safe out there.

There’s no simple solution to the global ransomware scourge. But the Biden administration has at least taken some proactive steps, including a new reward that offers up to $10 million in exchange for info about criminal hackers targeting US infrastructure. The Justice Department will set up a system for reporting tips on the dark web, and indicated that it was open to paying out informants with cryptocurrency.

Last week, REvil managed to lock up over 1,000 businesses in a ransomware campaign of historic propoprtions. This week, the group’s operations went offline. There are a few possibilities here. The Justice Department may have seized REvil’s servers, or Russia may have finally done a little enforcement. (OK, probably not that.) The most likely scenario, though, may be that REvil simply packed it up in the face of unwelcome scrutiny. Don’t expect them to be gone forever, though; these groups often just rebrand and reemerge once the pressure has died down. In the meantime, though, victims are left without a way to pay the ransom and get their systems back.

We talked about the balkanization of the internet earlier, and China’s Great Firewall is the most prominent example. Researchers this week shed new light on just how extensive the company’s blocking is. Not only does it deny access to around 311,000 domains out of 534 million tested, around 41,000 of those appear to have been blocked by accident. Around 1,800 of the censored sites are among the top 100,000 most-visited sites on the web.

The University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab this week released a report, in conjunction with a Microsoft investigation, indicating that spyware from a company known as Candiru has been used to target at least 100 activists, journalists, dissidents, and politicians across 10 countries. It’s a troubling confirmation that surveillance software from shadowy companies is increasingly used by authoritarian regimes to quash dissent. 


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