Avast blog: New deepfake video effort discovered

Since I wrote about the creation and weaponization of deepfake videos back in October 2020, the situation has worsened. Earlier this month, several European mayors received video calls from Vitali Klitschko, the mayor of Kyiv. These calls turned out to be impersonations (can you tell which image above is real and which isn’t?), generated by tricksters. The mayor of Berlin, Franziska Giffey, was one such recipient and told reporters that the person on these calls looked and sounded like Klitschko, but he wasn’t an actual participant. When Berlin authorities checked with their ambassador, they were told Klitschko wasn’t calling her. Fake calls to other mayors around Europe have since been found by reporters.

Were these calls deepfakes? Hard to say for sure. I cover the issues and update you on the advances, if you can call them that, about deepfake tech for my Avast blog today.


Avast blog: RSocks criminal botnet taken down

Last week, the US Department of Justice announced the takedown of Russian IoT botnet and proxy service for hire RSocks. Working with various European law enforcement agencies, the FBI used undercover purchases of the site’s services to map out its infrastructure and operations. RSocks compromised its victims by brute forcing attacks on various IoT devices as well as smartphones and computers.

You can read my latest Avast blog post about RSocks here.

Network World: How to reduce cloud costs

The more workloads that you migrate to the cloud, the more difficult it becomes to predict monthly cloud costs. While it is great that you’re only paying for the services you need, trying to parse your monthly bill requires the skills of a CPA, a software engineer, a commodities trader and a sharp eye for the details. There are numerous helpful tools and services to help, and also several reasons to consider using them. You might be in the market to switch to a new provider in order to add features or because you aren’t happy with your provider’s downtime or level of customer support.

You can read my post for Network World here, where I provide details on more than a dozen different offerings. (Cloudorado is shown above.)

Avast blog: the evolution of self-sovereign data and Web 3.0 identity solutions

Earlier this month, Drummond Reed was one of the panelists at CoinDesk’s 2022 Consensus conference discussing “The Promise of Self-Sovereign Data and Web 3.0 Identity Solutions: Real or Mirage?” Reed, who heads Digital Trust Services for Avast, spoke about the evolution of these solutions and — like his fellow panelists — tried to frame Web 3.0 in terms of this perspective.

The session was moderated by Joe Cutler from Perkins Coie; other panelists included Richard Widmann, a strategy lead for Google Cloud; Tobias Batton, CEO of ExPopulus; and Lisa Seacat DeLuca, who is Director of Product and Engineering for Unstoppable Domains. They spoke about the evolution of Web 3.0 tech, what will tip it towards more general acceptance, and the role played by identities in the world of the blockchain.

You can read my reporting about this conference session in my latest blog for Avast here.

Avast blog: How the US government deals with zero-days

While withholding a zero-day’s existence can provide some government advantage, it can potentially harm the rest of us and break many elements of the global internet if vulnerabilities aren’t disclosed and patched.

By now, you probably know what a zero-day vulnerability is: In simple terms, it’s the discovery Lindsey Polley, PhDof software and hardware coding errors that can be exploited by attackers. Some of these errors are found by government researchers, intentionally looking for ways into foreign agency networks to spy on their enemies. Sometimes, our governments and even some private companies keep deliberately mum about these vulnerabilities for many years.

I had an opportunity to interview Lindsey Polley and how she is trying to improve our government’s response to managing its zero-days for my Avast blog.

Apple’s new privacy push

Have you seen this new TV spot from Apple called “Data Auction”? It is really bugging me. I must have seen it about 50 times on various streaming services. While it does a great job of showing how your personal information is being traded by data brokers, it takes tremendous license with its visual elements and how its iOS operating system actually works.

Apple has been improving its privacy protection over the past several years, so I give them some props for trying. But unless you are determined and really patient, fixing your phone (or other fruit-filled device) up the way you’d like it to preserve your privacy isn’t simple, and chances are you’ll probably get it wrong on the first try.

Apple’s commercial touts new features that they have added to iOS over the past couple of years: the ability to prevent third-party apps and advertisers from tracking your movements, including across your app portfolio, browsing and through using its Mail app. They both can eventually be found in the Settings/Privacy/Tracking screens. As we watch our hapless actor “Ellie” wander into her data auction, she fortunately has her iPhone at hand and is able to zap the auction audience into smoke with the press of A Single Button. Too bad that isn’t the actual iOS interface, which has a very confusingly labeled slider “Allow Apps to Request to Track” that should be off if you want to do the same thing (data oblivion). There is another button that Ellie used to rid her emails of trackers.

Okay, it is a very effective commercial. And I am glad that Apple has taken this approach to help users’ privacy. But why not use the actual UI? And better yet, why not hide it three menus deep where few can find it?

Apple has some interesting developments for iOS 16 that will be out later this fall, including one called “Safety Check” that Elllie will really love, especially if she has an abusive partner or a cyber stalker. Maybe if they use the same actor we can get a more faithful representation of what real users will have to do.

Avast blog: Key takeaways from Verizon’s 2022 DBIR

It’s time for the annual Verizon Data Breach Investigation Report (DBIR), a compendium of cybersecurity and malware trends that offers some of the best analyses in our field. It examines more than 5,000 data breaches collected from 80 partners from around the world. This year’s DBIR offers practical advice on improving your security posture and tips for making yourself much less of a target. From the SolarWinds attack to the growth in ransomware, there is a lot to discuss.

As shown above, we’re patching more and we’re patching faster. And we are generally getting better at detecting attacks in a timely manner.

Network World: New ways enterprises can use VPNs

The pandemic has accelerated the development of better ways to serve and secure remote workers, which make it a good time to re-examine VPNs. Recently VPNs have received technical boosts with the addition of protocol options that improve functionality far ahead of where they were when first invented. At the same time, new security architectures zero trust network access (ZTNA), secure access service edge (SASE), and security service edge (SSE) are making inroads into what had been the domain of remote-access VPNs.

In my latest post for Network World, I talk about ways that VPNs can complete ZTNA.

Avast blog: How license plate scanners challenge our data privacy

A security camera at one of ...As more communities install automated license plate readers (APLRs) to monitor vehicle traffic, there are growing concerns about the privacy and efficacy of these tools. Stories have appeared in local newspapers, such as those in St. LouisLouisville and Akron that document the rapid rise of Flock license plate camera data and how it can be a central source of vehicle movements.

These stories highlight some of the privacy implications of APLRs and also recall some of the same issues with the growth of other massive private data collections. In my latest blog for Avast, I describe what’s going with these APLR systems, some of the issues raised by privacy advocates, and how they compare with the DNA/genetic testing data collections.



Avast blog: How to defeat social engineering attacks

ImageIf you have heard of the process of social engineering, the ability of a hacker to trick you into divulging your private details, then you might have come across ethical hacker Rachel Tobac. She’s the CEO of SocialProof Security and board member of Women in Security and Privacy. I virtually attended one of her more recent talks, during which she explained her craft and gave some suggestions on how we all can improve our personal security and make her job more difficult.

Tobac has carried out some notable security stunts in the past, such as live hacking a CNN report’s accounts and stealing his airline points. “I hack so people can understand how hackers think and hopefully you will avoid these mistakes,” she told her audience.

You can read more about her talk — and how to harden your own defenses against social engineering attacks — in my latest blog for Avast here. And if you want to watch a great documentary about the teens behind the 2020 Twitter hack, you can find it streaming on Hulu here,