Monthly Archives: December 2014

Iran hackers target airlines, energy, defense companies

Iran hackers target airlines, energy, defense companies

Iranian hackers have infiltrated major airlines, energy companies, and defense firms around the globe over the past two years. (shutterstock)

Iranian hackers have infiltrated major airlines, energy companies, and defense firms around the globe over the past two years in a campaign that could eventually cause physical damage, according to U.S. cyber security firm Cylance.

The report comes as governments scramble to better understand the extent of Iran’s cyber capabilities, which researchers say have grown rapidly as Tehran seeks to retaliate for Western cyber attacks on its nuclear program.

“We believe that if the operation is left to continue unabated, it is only a matter of time before the team impacts the world’s physical safety,” Cylance said in an 87-page report on the hacking campaign released on Tuesday.

The California-based company said its researchers uncovered breaches affecting more than 50 entities in 16 countries, and had evidence they were committed by the same Tehran-based group that was behind a previously reported 2013 cyber attack on a U.S. Navy network.

It did not identify the companies targeted, but said they included major aerospace firms, airports and airlines, universities, energy firms, hospitals, and telecommunications operators based in the United States, Israel, China, Saudi Arabia, India, Germany, France, England and others.

Cylance said it had evidence the hackers were Iranian, and added the scope and sophistication of the attacks suggested they had state backing.

A diplomatic representative for Iran told Reuters that Cylance’s claim that that Tehran was behind the campaign was groundless.
“This is a baseless and unfounded allegation fabricated to tarnish the Iranian government image, particularly aimed at hampering current nuclear talks,” said Hamid Babaei, spokesman for Iran’s mission to the United Nations.
Reuters was unable to independently vet the research ahead of its publication. Cylance said it has reported the alleged hacking operation to some victims as well as to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation. An FBI spokesman declined comment.
Cylance’s research provides a new example of how governments may be using cyber technology as a tool for spying and staging attacks on rival states.

Russian and Chinese hackers have been blamed for a variety of corporate and government cyber attacks, while the United States and Israel are believed to have used a computer worm to slow development of Iran’s nuclear program.

Tehran has been investing heavily in its cyber capabilities since 2010, when its nuclear program was hit by the Stuxnet computer virus, widely believed to have been launched by the United States and Israel. Iran has said its nuclear program is intended for the production of civilian electricity, and denies Western accusations it is seeking to build a nuclear bomb.

Cylance Chief Executive Stuart McClure said the Iranian hacking group has so far focused its campaign – dubbed Operation Cleaver – on intelligence gathering, but that it likely has the ability to launch attacks.

He said researchers who succeeded in gaining access to some of the hackers’ infrastructure found massive databases of user credentials and passwords from organizations including energy, transportation, and aerospace companies, as well as universities. He said they also found diagrams of energy plants, screen shots demonstrating control of the security system for a major Middle Eastern energy company, and encryption keys for a major Asian airline.

“If they already have that access, the ability to get access to do real damage is trivial,” he said.

In 2012, cyber attackers damaged some 30,000 computers at Saudi Arabia’s national oil company with a virus known as Shamoon, in one of the most destructive such strikes conducted against a single business. Some U.S. officials have said they believe Iran was behind that attack.

Cylance said its researchers also obtained hundreds of files apparently stolen by the Iranian group from the U.S. Navy’s Marine Corps Intranet (NMCI). U.S. government sources had confirmed that Iran was behind the 2013 NMCI breach, but did not provide further details.

A U.S. defense official said on Monday it took about four months to “maneuver the (NMCI) network” to ensure that it was free of intruders. The official said that while the incident was officially characterized as a “serious intrusion,” no networks were damaged as a result of the breach.

Cylance said that among the companies targeted in Operation Cleaver, 10 were U.S.-based. They included a major airline, natural gas production firm, an automaker, and large defense contractor.

Cylance’s report is the latest to show evidence of Iranian hacking of U.S. interests. Cyber security firm FireEye Inc in May said that an Iranian hacking group called the Ajax Security Team was behind an ongoing series of attacks on U.S. defense companies.
The cyber intelligence firm iSight Partners also reported in May that it had uncovered an unprecedented, three-year campaign in which Iranian hackers had created false social networking accounts and a bogus news website to spy on leaders in the United States, Israel and other countries.

Last Update: Tuesday, 2 December 2014 KSA 17:18 – GMT 14:18
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World’s Oldest Computer Is Really Old

World’s Oldest Computer Is Really Old

BY DAMON POETER NOVEMBER 29, 2014 02:49PM EST (http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2472919,00.asp)

The Antikythera Mechanism, sometimes called the “world’s oldest computer,” is even older than previously thought, according to researchers.

The remarkable astronomical mechanism was discovered in 1901 amongst the wreckage of a Greek ship believed to have sunk sometime between 85 B.C. and 60 B.C., near the island of Antikythera between Crete and Greece.

Since its discovery, scholars have marveled at the Antikythera Mechanism, given that its origin appears to predate other devices of equal complexity by as much as a millennium or more, as noted by The New York Times.

“The complex clocklike assembly of bronze gears and display dials predates other known examples of similar technology by more than 1,000 years. It accurately predicted lunar and solar eclipses, as well as solar, lunar and planetary positions,” the Times described the ancient mechanism, which measures just about 8 inches across.

Previous estimates placed the mechanism’s construction at around 125 B.C., but new research pushes that date back further, to 205 B.C., according to Christián Carman of Argentina’s National University of Quilmes and James Evans of the University of Puget Sound.

In a paper appearing in the Archive for History of Exact Science, Carman and Evans describe how they arrived at the new date. They began by comparing the “hundreds of ways that the Antikythera’s eclipse patterns could fit Babylonian records” reconstructed by Brown University’s John Steele, Evans said in an article published by the University of Puget Sound. By process of elimination, the researchers concluded that 205 B.C. was the likeliest date for the mechanism’s construction.

Carman and Evans said their work was made more difficult by the fact that “only about a third of the Antikythera’s eclipse predictor is preserved.” The mechanism began falling apart immediately after it was brought to the surface back in 1901, as described in the video below

In recent years, computer-aided scanning and analysis techniques have made it possible to digitally reconstruct the Antikythera Mechanism with what scientists believe is great accuracy. This has paved the way for a number of new theories about its origins and capabilities.

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