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Bahrain: Government Official Hails Blockchain as ‘True Mark Of Progress’

The government of Bahrain has stressed the importance of blockchain technology for the country’s economy while urging cybersecurity vigilance, local media outlet News of Bahrain reported Tuesday, September 4.

As part of an address to audiences at the country’s SmartSec Cyber Security and Blockchain Conference 2018, Abdulhussain Mirza, Bahrain’s minister of electricity and water affairs, appeared to confirm the government’s commitment to fostering blockchain.

“Technologies such as blockchain take us a huge step forward in finding a secure way to facilitate transactions,” Mirza said, adding:

“Blockchain’s ability to protect user’s data is a true mark of progress, especially due to the fact that it can be applied in different companies from different industries including cyber security.”

Bahrain has traditionally remained somewhat silent regarding its stance on both blockchain and cryptocurrencies. While neighboring Dubai has sought to revolutionize its economy using blockchain, the Internet of Things (IoT), and artificial intelligence (AI) in recent years, Mirza’s words mark a rare official comment in this sphere for Bahrain.

Nonetheless, in June, the country issued its first “sandbox” license to cryptocurrency exchange Palmex, allowing the latter to trial its services while regulators look on and consider necessary controls.

Mirza, meanwhile, further cautioned about the need to increase safety through the use of blockchain, noting that “this is the kind of initiative that we would like Bahraini companies to have so that innovation can arise amongst the great minds of this community”:

“Cyber-security is an essential part of our lives because most of our daily lives involve the use of technology in one way or another.”

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North Korean Hackers Unleash Mac Malware On Crypto Exchanges

It seems that the only thing on the rise in the crypto industry at the moment is malware, not prices. Cyber security researchers have recently revealed more crypto-centric malware emerging from North Korea.

According to a detailed summary by Russian computer security firm Kaspersky, North Korean hacker group Lazarus has been highly active in recent months. The cyber criminals have “successfully compromised several banks and infiltrated a number of global cryptocurrency exchanges and fintech companies,” according to the report.

The malware, named ‘AppleJeus’, was inadvertently downloaded by an employee of an unnamed crypto exchange. The security researchers claim to have made the unexpected discovery while investigating the attack by the group on the exchange. It revealed the victim had been attacked by a trojan crypto trading application recommended to the company via email.

After downloading the malicious software the victim’s computer was infected by Fallchill malware which Lazarus had previously used. Kaspersky went on to state that it was the first time the group had deployed malware for other operating systems;

“To ensure that the OS platform was not an obstacle to infecting targets, it seems the attackers went the extra mile and developed malware for other platforms, including for macOS. A version for Linux is apparently coming soon, according to the website. It’s probably the first time we see this APT group using malware for macOS.”

The payload came via a convincing but fake website as the group strives to reach new levels of sophistication. The actual Trojan arrived as an update to the trading app which is a further attempt to mask its presence. The Celas Trade Pro software from Celas Limited showed no signs of malicious behavior and looked genuine according to the research.

In addition to the Mac version was a Windows version of the spurious trading program in a downloadable file called celastradepro_win_installer_1.00.00.msi. Once installed the Updater.exe module will deliver the payload which is designed to steal cryptocurrency.

Kaspersky continued with a lengthy breakdown of how the malware operates and what they have discovered about the bogus company. In reference to Lazarus it added “Recent investigation shows how aggressive the group is and how its strategies may evolve in the future.” South Korean exchanges have been the target of Lazarus before with a number of reports of attacks earlier this year.

Crypto markets may be in decline but attempts to steal digital assets by hacker groups are definitely taking the opposite trend.

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Attacker Installs Crypto Mining Malware on Over 170,000 Devices

More than 170,000 devices in Brazil were targeted in a cryptojacking attack last month.

According to a blog post published by security firm Trustwave, a wide-scale cyberattack was launched on MicroTik routers late last month. The effort led to the installation of the Coinhive mining software in a “mass” infection of more than 17,000 devices.

Trustwave security researcher Simon Kenin wrote that all of the devices used “the same sitekey,” indicating that one entity reaped the mined tokens from all of the devices.

He wrote:

“This attack may currently be prevalent in Brazil, but during the final stages of writing this blog, I also noticed other geo-locations being affected as well, so I believe this attack is intended to be on a global scale.”

According to a previous post by Trustwave, also co-authored by Kenin, Coinhive gained traction in 2017 as a service that claimed to provide monetizing solutions for websites without using any advertisements. Instead, site owners were to embed JavaScript code that would take hold of the central processing unit (CPU) power of site visitors to mine the cryptocurrency monero.

However, mining reportedly ended up costing site visitors up to 99 percent of their CPU processing power, leading to further issues for consumers as their devices generated more heat and used up large amounts of electricity.

Trustwave has since released a detection tool to block the mining malware, and as Kenin explains in his most recent post, readers should heed his “warning call” and patch any MikroTik devices “as soon as possible,” emphasizing that the severity of the attacks could reach “hundreds of thousands” of consumers around the globe.

Kenin also reports that illicit cryptocurrency mining operations such as these are “a trend we’ve been seeing a lot of over the last three years, as attackers shift from ransomware into the world of miners.”

Such sentiments are being echoed by other cybersecurity firms such as Skybox Security which also reported in their 2018 mid-year update that among cybercriminals, crypto mining now accounted for 32 percent of all cyberattacks, with ransomware making up 8 percent.

Typing image via Shutterstock

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.

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Iranian Crypto Ransomware Threat Will Rise in Today’s Geopolitical Climate, Report Predicts

Iran-based malware that demands a digital ransom in cryptocurrencies is on the rise and will further escalate in the present geopolitical climate, according to a report published by global management consulting firm Accenture on August 7.

After two years of analysis, Accenture Security iDefense predicts that emerging trends in the Iranian cyber threat landscape will intensify as the country is forced into a defensive and economically straitened position in the wake of the U.S. exit from the Obama-era Iran nuclear accord this spring.

With the US set to imminently to reimpose tough economic sanctions, Accenture has warned that the ransomware it has found “could have been created by government-backed actors or Iranian criminals, or both,” as the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) further reports.

Accenture has tracked five new types of ransomware — some of which demand “staggering” crypto ransoms — that its analysis has traced back to hackers in Iran based on samples that contain messages in Farsi as well as other clues pointing to Iranian computer systems.

“WannaSmile” —- a zCrypt variant that Accenture discovered in November 2017 — asks for a 20 Bitcoin (BTC) payment in a Farsi ransom note and also advertises local Iran-based payment processors and exchanges through which victims can acquire the cryptocurrency.

Another sample, “Black Ruby,” has been programmed to spare computers with an Iranian IP address, but otherwise encrypts and scrambles the target’s files, as well as infects the machine with a resource-hungry Monero (XML) miner. The ransom for so-called Black Ruby, which Accenture discovered in February 2018, is $650 in BTC.

The report says that the increase in ransomware activity suggests that Iran-based actors are “financially motivated to target global organizations by using ransomware and cryptocurrency miners for financial gain,” although it notes that

“Based on current Iranian policy, the feud may not lead to any disruptive or destructive cyberattack against the United States or European counterparts in the near future.”

Accenture’s report adds that the Iranian government might instead target its neighbors — like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Israel —as they supported the U.S. decision to pull out of the nuclear agreement.

Jim Guinn, head of Accenture’s industrial cybersecurity business, told the WSJ that stealth crypto-mining attacks — also known as cryptojacking — have already caused “significant issues in some oil and gas facilities in the Middle East,” estimating that “millions of dollars of compute cycles have been hijacked over the past 12 months and continue to be hijacked every day.”

Amid the geopolitical fallout, economic turmoil in Iran has seen some citizens turn to crypto in an attempt to protect their funds. As of May, Iranians were estimated to have siphoned $2.5 billion out of the country in crypto, notwithstanding the central bank’s move to ban local financial institutions from dealing in crypto earlier this spring.

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Monero Glitch Allowed Hackers To Steal XMR From Exchanges

The Next Web’s in-house cryptocurrency column recently reported that Monero, the foremost privacy-centric cryptocurrency, was subject to a relatively minor cybersecurity vulnerability.

According to the technology news outlet, “inventive” hackers could create false transaction data via the copying of a simple line of code from the Monero wallet code base, which is open-sourced and easily accesible online.

These malicious actors could then manipulate the amount of cryptocurrency shown by the wallet however they wanted, with each new line of copied code multiplying the Monero amount displayed.

While this bug doesn’t facilitate the materialization of XMR out of thin air, attackers could use this as a medium of attack against a cryptocurrency exchange. More specifically, malicious users could trick exchange support staff teams into crediting their account with Monero that doesn’t exist, with one coder noting that users could bluff a value of up to 8,000 times over the original transaction amount.

A security researcher who originally revealed this glitch said the following on the matter:

“An attacker could exploit this repeatedly to siphon of all of the exchange’s balance.”

It is also important to note that this vulnerability has also had an effect on other Monero-based cryptocurrencies, that utilize variations of the CryptoNote protocol to function sufficiently. This development came about after cybersecurity researchers disclosed that ARQ tokens, a hard-fork of Monero, was also subject to the aforementioned glitch.

However, the flaw has since been amended, or at least for Monero anyways, as it still remains unknown whether the other developers of CryptoNote-based coins responded to the issue.

The Altex Exchange Falls Victim To The Bug

While developers were quick to patch the issue for Monero, a lesser-known exchange named Altex took to Twitter to let its users know that hackers had used the security flaw to their advantage. The Altex team wrote:

We have been experiencing issues with two of our listed coins (they were still affected by the double-counting bug recently found in the Monero codebase, even after updating the software). That bug caused a big loss in coins for the exchange and we have put our main currency under maintenance so the people who exploited the bug can no longer withdraw… We will suspend trading for now and keep writing updates on our twitter. We are trying to resolve this situation ASAP, we hope you understand.

Upon further investigation, it became apparent that the exchange in question began to experience this issue in early July, issuing a tweet noting that “every CryptoNote-based coin” will be under maintenance due to a bug.

As the exchange relies heavily on the trading and use of Monero and other CryptoNote cryptocurrencies, it is likely that they were put in a tough financial situation due to this cybersecurity flaw. While Altex may be having a rough time, there are currently no public reports of other exchanges falling victim to the use of this bug.

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Russian Military Is Building a Blockchain Research Facility

The Russian Ministry of Defence has no taboos when it comes to researching new technologies. In a press release published by the Izvestia news portal, the nation is investigating the use of DLTs to combat and track cyber attacks.

The ERA will be a scientific laboratory that will initially be in charge of evaluating and identifying different cyber attacks and protecting sensitive data and infrastructure through various technological tools such as blockchain.

According to Izvestia’s information, the laboratory has already started its activities even though it is still in development stage.

Blockchain: The New Anti-Hack Tool?

Alexei Malanov, a cybersecurity expert at Kaspersky Labs, commented that the use of a blockchain-based platform could be advantageous as it would prevent hackers from deleting their logs, making them much easier to capture, as well as allowing authorities to know the hackers’ modus operandi and perform the corresponding security patches.

“When an unauthorized intrusion happens, an attacker often cleans the access log located on it, hiding the traces of the attack… Using a log distributed to several devices (for example, in the form of a blockchain), you can minimize such risk.”

Alexei Malanov

Also, German Klimenko, a former technology advisor to President Vladimir Putin, commented on how research into the development of DLTs could be of great use to the industry:

“Viruses change the software or data code and try to disguise this fact from data integrity controllers, Blockchain by nature can be a repository of the reference code and provide independent verification and validity of the data/code”.

German Klimenko

The ERA will have an extension of 17 acres in the town of Anapa near the coast of the Black Sea. Once completed, it will report to the Operations Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, a body led by Colonel Sergey Rudskoy.

Up to now, Russia has acquired more than 600 different technological pieces of equipment for the ERA. The opening of the complex will be on September of this year if everything goes fine.

Russia is Not the Only Country With Eyes Put On The Blockchain

According to the portal, there is information that not only is Russia investigating possible military applications of Blockchain technologies.

“NATO’s leadership structures intend to use blockchain to protect financial information and logistics chains. The Pentagon, in its turn, intends to create a hacker-proof data transfer system based on this technology, also seeking to develop codes that the hackers will not be able to do.”

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The Russian Military Is Building a Blockchain Research Lab

The Russian Ministry of Defense is launching a research lab to analyze how blockchain technology can be used to mitigate cybersecurity attacks, a local newspaper reported Friday.

The nation’s military technology accelerator, referred to as the ERA, is launching a special scientific lab to determine whether blockchain technology can be used to identify cyber attacks and protect critical infrastructure, according to Russian daily Izvestia.

The newspaper reported that research has already begun to explore possible applications for blockchain technology, though the lab itself is still being developed.

One of the priorities at ERA is the development of an intelligent system to detect and prevent cyber attacks on critical information. To that end, the organization has formed a team of information security specialists.

Alexei Malanov, an antivirus expert at Kaspersky Lab, a cybersecurity firm based in Moscow, told the newspaper that blockchain-based platforms can make it more difficult to hide traces of cyber attacks.

He explained that online intruders often clean up access logs on devices to hide traces of unauthorized access to the device. But, by using a distributed ledger, the risk of this happening is minimized.

German Klimenko, a former technology advisor to Russian President Vladimir Putin similarly said that work on blockchain studies has been “useful” for the cybersecurity industry in the nation.

The lab, which is being built in the Russian coastal town of Anapa, will ultimately fall under the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation’s Eighth Directorate, which likewise focuses on information security.

Russian flag image via Shutterstock

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.

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Platform to Launch Security Audit Contests for Crypto Exchanges With $2 Million Reward Pool

An Ethereum blockchain-powered platform Buglab aims to strengthen information security by transforming the process of finding vulnerabilities into challenges — or “contests” — for certified cybersecurity testers. By setting time limits for these experts to find vulnerabilities, they will then be rewarded for their cumulative discoveries. Buglab also plans to secure cryptocurrency exchanges, by hosting the testings with a reward pool of $2 million.

The company says that their methods can help overcome the current problems of traditional security testing: cost inefficiency, lack of resources and irrelevance in reporting. Clients would benefit as several cybersecurity researchers are assigned to the task in a competitive manner. Additionally, these testers could add in-depth analysis of any issues discovered.

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In addition to the contests, Buglab has a program called Vigilante Protocol where ‘whitehat’ hackers can share what they have discovered as system vulnerabilities. Buglab would then work with computer emergency response teams (CERTs) worldwide to ensure that the vulnerabilities are not repeated in other instances.

Baglab says they aim to help companies for free, and whitehat hackers will be rewarded by the Vigilante Protocol reserve, which will be funded by 20 percent of the tokens created by the platform.

Addressing cybersecurity gaps

In the current arms race between cybersecurity and online hackers, it appears that the security side is losing. As cyber professionals adopt new methods to block hackers, the criminals, in turn, are able to evolve their methods in new and more imaginative ways. This is not helped by the lack of manpower on the security side. In 2017, data from a Global Information Security Workforce Study projects that by 2022, there will be a shortfall of 1.8 million information security workers.

With Gartner predicting the need for $93 billion spent on information security this year, Buglab’s white paper claims that their service will provide a “unique, competitive, incentivized and easy-to-use platform to address this widespread and growing business need.” They highlight that many companies that already have cybersecurity systems in place may not be aware of gaps or weak spots in their defences. Buglab’s aim is to help these companies identify, and thus mitigate, any cybersecurity gaps that are present.

Recently, Buglab were finalists in the ICO RACE in Lugano, Switzerland, and — from June 16 to 19 — pitched themselves to the Blockchain Economic Forum in San Francisco.

According to the company’s website, the diverse team behind Buglab has a vast range of experience and expertise in blockchain and crypto. Backend developer Alexander Belokon has worked in code for over 15 years. Founder and CEO Reda Cherqaoui has worked in a range of tech environments — from banks to electronics. He said he helped internet giants including Google and Yahoo to find vulnerabilities for free, and in 2011 his platform called Agatha reportedly found a flaw in the security system of Facebook, which gave access to users’ accounts without passwords.

Buglab token and a roadmap

The platform’s own crypto token, BGL, is based on the ERC-20 compatible token, and is used to power all transactions in the Buglab ecosystem, and as a reward incentive for researchers.

Buglab will be running a token distribution event (whitelisting required) from the June 30, 2018, for a period of four weeks.

According to the company, in total Buglab will create 425 million BGL tokens, of which, 40 percent, or 170 million will be allocated to the token distribution event. The BGL token sale price is locked at $0.15 for the duration of the the token sale. Buglab will offer participants a 25 percent token bonus during the presale.

The company says they planned to release public beta version of the platform in Q3 2018, but due to the recent hacks of Bithumb an Coinrail exchanges the team decided to release a private beta and host security testing on crypto exchanges for free.

Every exchange will get the enterprise plan of $10,000 and $10,000 as a bonus. If no vulnerability is found the exchanges will get $10,000 to make them able to run a security contest later. The reward will be paid to researchers in tokens after the sales end.

Buglab’s 2018 roadmap following the presale will see the public sale in Q3, along with the beginning of blockchain migration and the public beta release. Q4 will see the launch of Contest and Vigilante Protocol.

Disclaimer. Cointelegraph does not endorse any content or product on this page. While we aim at providing you all important information that we could obtain, readers should do their own research before taking any actions related to the company and carry full responsibility for their decisions, nor this article can be considered as an investment advice.

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Mobiles Next? Kaspersky Warns on Rapid Spread of Malicious Crypto Miners

Malicious actors are moving from ransomware to crypto-jacking, a leading cybersecurity firm reported Thursday.

Kaspersky Lab, the Russian cybersecurity company, said in a new report that ransomware attacks – where a malicious file locks a computer until a ransom is paid – have declined by nearly half as the perpetrators instead move to deploy crypto-mining malware instead. This is largely because crypto mining is now more profitable than ransomware, according to the report.

In a press release, Kaspersky explained that it compared data from April 2016–March 2017 with data from April 2017–March 2018. It found that ransomware that encrypts users’ computers declined by nearly 44.6 percent from 2017 to 2018. In that same time period, crypto-mining malware rose by 44.5 percent.

Moreover, at the number of illicit mining instances jumped from 1.87 million in 2016 to roughly 2.7 million at the end of 2017, the company reported.

Kaspersky said that it expects these numbers to continue growing, particularly with the advance of mobile miners.

The report states:

“It is highly likely that the additional growth of mining will come at the expense of mobile miners. For now, they are growing, but at a very steady pace. However, once criminals find a technological solution that makes the profits from mining on mobile devices equivalent to those from mining on PCs, mobile mining will quickly become equal.”

The report expressed particular concern for residents of China and India, which own roughly one third of all smartphones worldwide.

“While ransomware has provided a potentially large but one-off income for its cybercriminals, miners will provide a lower, but longer lasting one. Last year we asked what tips the scales for cybercriminals? Today, this is no longer a question. Miners will keep spreading across the globe, attracting more people.”

Crypto mining image via Shutterstock

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.

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Crypto-Related Crimes to Exceed All Other Cyberattacks in 2018, Says Israeli Expert

According to an expert at the Israeli cybersecurity firm Check Point Software Technologies (CHKP), crypto-related crimes would exceed the number of all other cyberattacks in 2018, the Times Of Israel reports June 22. The expert defined “cryptocurrency-related cyberattacks” as any form of cybercrime that involves crypto, including scams and hacks.

Speaking on a panel at the “Blockchain, The New Digital Age” event at Tel Aviv University, CHKP expert Lotem Finkelsteen said that illegal activity in the initial coin offering (ICO) market is the main obstacle to the development of blockchain technology.

“Not a day goes by without our hearing about a new ICO scam or mining attack,” said Finkelsteen. He argued that blockchain is now “suffering from reputational damage,” because it is associated cryptocurrencies and ICOs.

Despite optimism from other panel participants about the potential of blockchain and crypto technology, Haim Pinto, the CTO of Israel’s largest bank Hapoalim argued that blockchain is “still in a hype cycle.” Pinto said that there are no existing blockchain-powered deployments “that are dependably usable,” particularly regarding the banking system.

Pinto stated that the technology is not ready for broad adoption, saying, “We can’t just take it and use it.” He added:

“Distributed general ledgers cannot erase anything… In addition, there are mathematical challenges. Distributed general ledgers can’t scale up to the volume of transactions we need to serve.”

While blockchain technology has been recently considered not mature enough by the Russian Central Bank, the benefits of the technology are still being explored globally by banking and financial institutions.

Earlier this week, major Spanish banking consortium Niuron revealed plans to introduce a blockchain-based client identification verification system. Earlier in June, the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) unveiled a blockchain-powered project to digitize paper checks. In May, seven of India’s largest banks launched a blockchain-based trade finance initiative led by Indian IT giant InfoSys.