Weekly Tech Roundup — March 27

Weekly Tech Roundup — March 27

Data is everywhere and it’s valuable. Cybercriminals know it, lawmakers know it, and big corporations know it, too. With rising threats putting data in precarious positions, it’s important that you stay up-to-date on the threats that could be eyeing your information. Find out what’s coming your way in the tech stories below.

Is this the end of Locky ransomware?

The number of Locky ransomware infections has decreased dramatically, according to Bleeping Computer, and it’s on track to hit a record low this month.

This is a shocking twist. After it was first introduced onto the scene in February 2016, it grew to be the most prevalent ransomware family out there. From it, a number of devastating variants were formed, increasing the need for strong and active data protection.

Experts are attributing this sharp decline to the disappearance of the Necurs botnet. When Locky was at its most prominent, it was being powered by Necurs, which itself had jumped ship from the Dridex banking Trojan. It seems, however, that Necurs has moved on once again.

Since the start of the new year, the number of Locky infections has dropped—and it’s likely that Necurs changing tactics is the cause. Locky is now being outperformed by ransomware families Cerber and Spora.

Another reason for the decline is the lack of new updates. No new variant has been introduced since last year, when previously new variants were popping up regularly. But that doesn’t mean that Locky is completely dead. It’s been spotted in low-level spam campaigns.

Star Trek themed ransomware is the hot new thing

A new ransomware variant is stealing its name from a popular television series.

It’s called Kirk ransomware and comes with a Star Trek themed decoder. What makes this new ransomware so newsworthy—besides its name and the images used—is the ransom it demands. Instead a demanding a ransom in bitcoin, it demands a payment in Monero, Dark Reading reports.

It gains access to a user’s system by disguising itself as a tool for testing a website’s traffic load capacity. Once it gains access, it discretely begins creating an AES key to encrypt files. Once all the files are encrypted, an image of Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock appears in an onscreen message to tell the victim that they must pay the ransom to get their data back.

The first demand is for 50 units of Monero, worth about $1,000. After two weeks, the payment increases to 500 Monero. A month after encryption, the data is deleted.

Mr. Spock decrypts the encrypted files once the ransom has been paid. But paying the ransomware isn’t the only way to get this data back.  

Data protection is easier than many people think—by setting up regular computer backups, can save you time, money, and unnecessary back-and-forth calls to IT.

Metasploit offers upgraded IoT security testing

With IoT security becoming a major concern, Rapid7 has added radio-frequency testing to its pen-testing tool Metasploit to help ferret out IoT security weaknesses, according to The Register. "The importance of RF testing will continue to escalate as the IoT ecosystem further expands," Rapid7 said in a statement.

Previous versions of Metasploit focused on Ethernet-connected technologies. Adding RF support makes it possible to pen-test IoT devices, which malicious actors can harness for use in denial-of-service attacks and other potential attacks.  Rapid7 also recently extended its platform with a Hardware Bridge API designed to increase security detection for self-driving vehicles.

With worries around IoT security increasing, this update comes as a good news for the growing number of companies that use IoT products like Internet-connected security cameras, video recorders, and routers.

Google upping its in-app ransomware detection game

Google released its third annual Android Security Year in Review, in which it outlined its dedication to keeping its apps free of malicious malware and keeping more than 1.4 billion users safe, Google said in a blog post.

According to the report, more than 750 million daily checks were run by Google’s Verify Apps security feature. That’s a significant increase from 450 million daily checks in 2015.

The number of apps infected by trojans dropped by 51.5%; “hostile downloaders” dropped by 54.6%; apps with backdoors dropped by 30.5%; and phishing apps dropped by 73.4%.

By the close of 2016, the percentage of devices that downloaded apps from Google Play containing potentially harmful apps (PHAs) fell to 0.05%. In 2015, that number was 0.15%.

Google contributes this drop to its increased dedication towards user safety and its relationships with Android communities.

“Sharing information about security threats between Google, device manufacturers, the research community, and others helps keep all Android users safer. In 2016, our biggest collaborations were via our monthly security updates program and ongoing partnership with the security research community,” the blog post read.

They also launched their monthly security updates program in 2015 to increase patching and keep users informed. This report highlights Google’s dedication towards data protection—they hope to see these numbers continue to drop in 2017.

Can blockchain prevent food fraud?

Alibaba is proposing a plan to use blockchain technology to help stop the distribution of counterfeit food.

Alongside AusPost, Blackmores, and PwC, Alibaba hopes to explore the ways this new technology can prevent the sale of fraudulent food, beginning in Australia, according to ZDnet. The goal of the project is to develop a “Food Trust Framework.” Blockchain technology will help make the process transparent, improving the ability to track these foods along the supply chain.

Food fraud is the practice of stuffing foods with low quality ingredients because it’s cheaper—the most common foods that fall into this category include spices, grains, fruit juices, and olive oil.

Other companies are experimenting with blockchain technology as well—especially in the supply chain. Early testing indicates that blockchain technology may make preserving the integrity of the food chain simpler, more efficient and more trustworthy.

Blockchain will integrate greater transparency into this process so that both buyers and seller can see where these goods came from.

AusPost, Blackmores, and PwC will aid in this endeavor by doing market research across the supply chain.

"Building trust in our food supply chain is important at a time when public confidence in food producers, processes, vendors, and even government regulators has been rocked by a number of scandals. Global consumers expect instant gratification, and when it comes to food, that means any time, any place. As a result, food supply chains have gone global, which creates added complexity and opacity. We envisage our services will assist Alibaba to explore ways it can address this important issue,” said PwC Australia CEO Luke Sayers.