Piracy Group Suspends New Cracks to Gauge Sales Impact

There’s always a heated discussion regarding the reason why people illegally download content. Some argue it’s simply down to wanting the latest film/games/album without paying, while other figures like Gabe Newell have suggested piracy is a “service problem”. Whatever the case, it’s evidently clear that there are quite a lot of people downloading torrents, or files directly from hosting sites. Obviously, when it comes to games, pirates rely on cracking groups to circumvent various forms of DRM including Steamworks. One particular group, is based in China and goes by the name of 3DM. This is one of the most popular organizations especially when you consider the high piracy rate in China. Not so long ago, pirates eagerly awaited the group to create a crack for Just Cause 3. However, the group’s leader, ‘Bird Sister’ claimed the game was incredibly challenging to crack and suggested advanced anti-piracy technologies such as Denuvo could eliminate pirated games within the next two years.

Recently, ‘Bird Sister’ made a shocking announcement and said the piracy group will no longer provide any new cracks for at least a year:

“We just had an internal meeting. Starting at the Chinese New Year, 3DM will not crack any single-player games,”

“Cracks by overseas warez groups will still get posted on the [3DM] forum, and we will actively deal with these,”

“We’ll take a look at the situation in a year’s time to see if genuine sales have grown,”

It will be interesting to see if the lack of new cracks will have an impact on sales figures. However, this will be very difficult to judge unless the figures are taken from very successful new releases. Plus, surely it won’t have an impact if another cracking group comes out with a cracked version. Perhaps, this is just an excuse to forgo the difficult encryption from Denuvo. This is a cynical viewpoint, but there’s some merit to it.

Researchers Catch Cyber-Espionage Groups After Hackers Infect Their Own Systems

A cyber-espionage group who is believed to be tied to the Iranian Government, and has targeted over 1,600 defense officials, diplomats, researchers, journalists and more, may have just landed themselves in their own hacking trap. The group known as “Rocket Kitten” has been going since 2014, and for quite some time, their attacks have been analyzed by security teams trying to not only track them down, but to also prevent further security breaches. However, a team of researchers at Check Point Software Technologies caught a lucky break when they obtained access to the attacker’s command-and-control server.

It’s reported that Rocket Kitten is not very sophisticated, but rather persistent with their attacks. Using social engineering and phishing attacks to infect targets with malware. Researchers say the team left a major weakness in their infrastructure, allowing them to extract messages between members of the hacking group, as well as a list of over 1,600 intended victims in Saudi Arabia, the U.S., Iran, the Netherlands and Israel, that were targeted between August 2014 and 2015.

“It seems that the attackers did not take into consideration the possible compromise of their own command-and-control server and have infected their own computers with their custom keylogger-type malware, most likely for testing purposes.” reported CIO

By infecting their own computers with the malware they’ve been using to attack others, researchers believe they have been able to identify an Iranian software engineer who developed the tools for Rocket Kitten.

“In this case, as in other previously reported cases, it can be assumed that an official body recruited local hackers and diverted them from defacing web sites to targeted espionage at the service of their country,” the Check Point researchers said. “Such inexperienced personnel with limited training often lack operational security awareness.” they added.

Well there you go. If you’re going to breaking computer security, learn how to apply it in the first place.

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Anonymous Attacks The Canadian Government and Leaks Classified Data

In the real world, the establishment counteracts instances of criminality by an extensive array of resources and a structured organisation. In cyberspace, groups such as Anonymous are organised, well versed in operational hacking activities and are able to use tools which are inexpensive, perhaps this is why governments and companies have yet to get a grip on data which has metaphorically walked out the door, hitched a plane and ended up on someone else’s computer.

The fore mentioned Anonymous have looked to be using techniques to again prise open the gates to documents, as reports have begun to circulate over the leaking of yet another high-level federal document concerning the redevelopment of Canada’s key diplomatic centres in Britain. This alleged leak is the second in a campaign against the Canadian government with the information purporting to include budgetary deficits and the “selling, relocating and refurbishing of Canada’s diplomatic buildings in London”

The documents belong to the Treasury Board of Canada and are dated 6th February 2014, or if this is as many are believing to be authentic, a now very irritated Treasury Board of Canada. These leaks are an attempt by the Cyber infiltration group “to pressure the government over the fatal shooting of a protester in B.C. and the passing of Bill C-51, the controversial anti-terrorism bill that gave expanded powers to police and Canada’s spy agency”.

Meanwhile, sources say that federal authorities are comparing versions of the documents and scanning for discrepancies that may help track down from whose hands it may have slipped.

Have I any sympathy for the Canadian government? Well, you know me don’t you; it demonstrates poor Cyber awareness and a lack of safe practise in the storage of classified documents, remember, the infrastructure has not been breached by a country attacking another state but by a hacktivist group.

Governments are losing the argument when it comes to attacking the criminality of these acts, after all, the actions by this group are against the law, but for me, so are the increased surveillance capabilities of agencies and the implementation and recruitment of external hacking teams, as in the case of, well Hacking Team to be precise.

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same”. Ronald Regan

Thank you nationalpost for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of occupycorporatism

99% Of Women Profiles On Ashley Madison Were Fake

Oh, well I am not surprised but here we go, the well reported data breach on dating website Ashley Madison has exposed a wealth of information including a huge proportion of fake profiles.

Impact Team who were the group behind the hack, announced that it was releasing the information in part because Ashley Madison had duped consumers over the male to female account ratio on its website. At the time, the hackers claimed that 90-95% of the accounts on Ashley Madison were male with “thousands” of fake female profiles. It turns out the group were correct but underestimated the figures ever so slightly.

After careful scrutiny of the data in order to verify that 5.5 million female accounts were indeed fake, the information reveals that many accounts were created with a single localhost IP of 127.0.0.1. This was along with thousands of accounts which listed AshleyMadison.com email address as their primary contact point including organized accounts which stated 100@ashleymadison.com, 200@ashleymadison.com and so on.

Another piece of information which is certainly revealing conveys the last log in date a user has checked their inbox, this data is logged by the site even if the user only checks it once. It reveals a huge 20,269,675 men checked their messages while only 1492 woman viewed their inbox. Well, just look at those odds, even Ray Winstone cannot market this appealingly for Bet 365.

I do feel these sites offer the majority a false sense of possibility with reality far less forgiving; it conveys the level of information which can be harvested by third parties if not stored correctly. The irony to all this is that Ashley Madison offered a platform where people could cheat on their other half which is deplorable, yet far less possible than previously thought considering the number of fake profiles.

Thank you extremetech for providing us with this information

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Daybreak Games Under Attack after CEO Threatening Lizard Squad

Publicly attacking the cyber bullies Lizard Squad might not have been the best idea that Daybreak Games CEO John Smedley ever had. A day after he made headlines with his twitter posts, the massively multiplayer online zombie game, H1Z1, is experiencing trouble and people can’t login. Other Daybreak releases also experienced trouble, including their website and even the server-status page.

Lizard Squad is known to brag about their takedowns and they are also the group that took responsibility for the attack on the PS4 and Xbox One over Christmas. First there was the twitter announcement and just minutes later people started to complain that they weren’t able to connect.

https://twitter.com/LizardLands/status/619253044207718401

Daybreak Games CEO John Smedley confirmed via twitter that they were getting a minor DDOS attack and they’re working on getting everything back up.

The whole thing started after the sentencing of Julius Kivimaki, one of the kids that outed themselves as Lizard Squad members, where John Smedley voiced that the sentence was too mild. Julius Kivimaki was convicted of 50000 counts of computer crime and harassing people including calling swat teams on Smedley and calling in bomb threats to ground flights he was taking. Julius Kivimaki only got a commuted two-year sentence which means no jail-time.

Thank You VentureBeat for providing us with this information

WhatsApp Messages Led to Belgian Terror Arrests

The FBI have been trying hard to get unlimited access messages passed by encrypted messaging services. However, it apparently didn’t need that level of access to WhatsApp messages sent between members of an alleged Chechen jihadist group operating in Belgium. According to reports released. A pair of men were arrested and warrants were issued for three others for allegedly preparing for a terrorist attack in Belgium.

Ars Technica posted:

“The arrests followed raids in which 16 people were detained, which Belgian law enforcement officials said was the result of “working with U.S. authorities to monitor suspects’ communications on WhatsApp Inc.’s messaging service,” Bloomberg’s Gaspard Sebag reported. The police investigation began after they obtained information about a man who had returned to Belgium after fighting as a jihadi in Syria.

Ars reached out to WhatsApp and to Facebook, which completed its acquisition of WhatsApp in October. A spokesperson from Facebook declined to comment on the matter.”

WhatsApp began encrypting their messages last November. In theory, if the encryption service was in use by the alleged terrorists, the content of their messages would have been very difficult to read; the protocol continuously changes pairs of encryption keys with each new message. But it’s uncertain that the messages were encrypted—particularly since the version of encryption is not supported by the Apple iOS version of WhatsApp, and group messages and images aren’t supported by WhatsApp for Andriod yet.

“Even if some of the messages remained protected by encryption, it’s possible that the FBI or NSA gathered metadata at the server for the messages. That metadata could have been used to establish the connections between the suspects and the wounded jihadi, which would have allowed the US agencies or Belgian law enforcement to do more targeted surveillance.”

Thank you to ArsTechnica for providing us with this information

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Internet Access Makes You Think You Are Smarter than You Actually Are

Yale University has made a study regarding the psychological impact of searching for answers on the internet, having some interesting results regarding people and how well prepared they believe to be.

“The internet is such a powerful environment, where you can enter any question, and you basically have access to the world’s knowledge at your fingertip,” lead researcher Matthew Fisher told the Telegraph. “It becomes easier to confuse your own knowledge with this external source. When people are truly on their own, they may be wildly inaccurate about how much they know and how dependent they are on the internet.”

For the study, 1000 students were split into two groups and were asked how a zipper works, having the first group given the information on the internet and the second was given a printout of the same information. Both groups have then been asked to explain how cloudy nights are warmer, but none of the participants were given the answer this time around.

When asked about their confidence in knowing the answer, the group who previously researched the answer on the internet appeared to be more confident and more knowledgeable compared to the others. Researches said the study showed that the cognitive effects of using search engines are so powerful that people still feel smarter even when they haven’t had access to the internet.

“In cases where decisions have big consequences, it could be important for people to distinguish their own knowledge and not assume they know something when they actually don’t,” Fisher said.”The internet is an enormous benefit in countless ways, but there may be some trade-offs that aren’t immediately obvious and this may be one of them. Accurate personal knowledge is difficult to achieve, and the internet may be making that task even harder.”

People believe they are smarter if they research the answer on the internet and this proves to be a worrying fact that we depend more and more on a piece of technology for information instead of having the confidence of going out there and finding the answer for ourselves.

Thank you News.com.au for providing us with this information

Walking Bio-Bots Powered By Muscles Becoming a Reality

First of all, a ‘bio-bot’ is a machine which uses synthetic 3D-printed material with biological muscle tissue. Having stated the latter, researchers from the University of Illinois have apparently developed the so-called bio-bots in question, taking us one step further into the future of technological advancements.

Some might wonder how the bio-bots work and what is so special about them. The answer lies in the muscle fibers, having them spiked with electricity in order to contract. The muscles are attached to flexible 3D-printed skeleton frameworks, resulting in bending the skeleton when the muscles contract and reverting back to its original state when they relax. This in the end produces movement, combining biological and synthetic material to achieve such an action, thus the name ‘bio-bot’.

It is said that researchers have been working on similar projects since 2012. At that time, a walking bio-bot prototype used rat heart cells in order to provide motion. However, the researchers found out that the rat cells were not responding well to the induced electricity and couldn’t control when they fired. However, it appears that the ‘new version’ has solved this problem.

“Skeletal muscles cells are very attractive because you can pace them using external signals,” head researcher Rashid Bashir said. “We want to have different options that could be used by engineers to design these things.”

The group of researchers from Illinois sees bio-bots potentially useful for surgical aids and drug delivery vehicles. The group also emphasized that, having their own neurons, they could even recognize and respond to light and chemical stimuli. The group has apparently published their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which is a good place to get more details about the bio-bots in question.

Thank you Mashable for providing us with this information
Image courtesy of The University of Illinois and Nature World News

Nanoparticles Could Lead to Cheaper , Lighter and More Flexible Solar Cells

When hearing the name ‘Colloidal Quantum Dots’, minds fly away to science-fiction scenarios and technologies far from reach. Actually, the name has been given to a new form of solid nanoparticles.

It is said that the newly discovered nanoparticles could eventually contribute to the creation of cheaper, lighter and more flexible solar cells. A few examples were also given, having the nanoparticles in question considered to make better sensors, infrared lasers, remote controls, LEDs and even satellites.

The colloidal quantum dots were discovered at the University of Toronto by a group of scientists led by researcher Zhijun Ning and professor Ted Sargent, having the group achieve more efficient light absorption in the material by solving a problem in which a type of semiconductor would lose its electrons when exposed to the oxygen in the air. In the end, the group came up with the new material which remains rich in electrons despite being exposed to the oxygen.

The scientists find a lot of potential in the colloidal quantum dots, having been stated that they could eventually be added to inks or paints. Considering the latter, roofs and other buildings could eventually become solar panels themselves, leading to cheaper solar power and electricity.

However, the technology is not yet fully understood and tested. Considering its potential though, a lot of indie entrepreneurs should be extremely eager to get their hands on the new technology and flood the Kickstarter campaigns with new ideas and gadgets.

Thank you CNET for providing us with this information
Image courtesy of CNET

Australian Apple Devices Get Hijacked Using ‘Find My iPhone’ Feature

Apple’s Find My iPhone feature is one of the most important features of the company’s security, having the ability to find, lock and even erase and iPhone, iPad, iPod or Mac’s data in case it is stolen or lost. However, what would happen if it would somehow got ‘hijacked’? Some Apple users from Australia might have an idea on that now since their devices were hijacked by a hacker or a group of hackers.

The hacker (or group of hackers), no details confirming the number or identity has been officially confirmed, locked the devices using Apple’s own Find My iPhone feature and held them for ransom having set a PayPal account to transfer the money in order to regain access to the devices.

What is known about the individual(s) is that he/they go by the name of “Oleg Pliss”. The ransom amount varied from $50 to $100 and the instructions were quite clear, to transfer the named amount of money to the PayPal account displayed in the message. Fortunately, users who have set a passcode on their accounts were able to regain access to it quickly due to the fact that nobody can add or change a passcode on a device that already has one.

Less fortunate users however had to deal directly with Apple Support and solve their hijacking problems. The reports indicate that the incident occurred only in Australia, though there are some reports indicating similar issues in New Zealand and the UK.

The exact method of hacking has not yet been confirmed, though it is believed that it has something to do with users recycling the same passwords captured in other internet breaches.

Either way, Apple users have been recommended to change their passwords to a more unique combination or even enable the two-factor authentication and set passcodes on all of their devices.

Thank you Endgadget for providing us with this information
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CNN and Twitter Become Official Partners, Said To ‘Revolutionize’ News Gatherings

It appears that head Twitter’s head of news, Vivian Schiller, has announced their first project, namely a partnership with CNN and the New York startup Dataminr. It is said that the partnership, along with Dataminr, will help journalists cover breaking news and making sense of the flood of public information on Twitter.

Dataminr is a five-year-old startup that has raised $48 million from investors like Box Group, Venrock and IVP. Until now it has worked with clients in financial services, helping banks and hedge funds make real-time investment decisions by processing huge amounts of social media content and extracting the high-value information. Dataminr uses machine learning algorithms to analyze the Twitter firehose of data and highlight the needle in the haystack so CNN reporters can find the most important, relevant, and reliable facts and images from around the world.

“There is actually a very different set of algorithms that help us determine if information spreading on Twitter will move markets, as opposed to becoming a big news story,” said Dataminr CEO Ted Bailey. “So it’s not a matter of more or less data, but of how the service is focused and tuned.”

CNN is one of the companies that set up Twitter accounts in their news gathering since 2009. Now it wants to bring a purpose-built product and official partnership. For example, CNN first learned about a shooting this weekend at a mall in Maryland through Dataminr, which has been deployed in-house for several months now, and picked up on a tweet from a first responder on the scene. The alert helped CNN be one of the first on the story. The company says it now produces about two stories a day based off tips from its Dataminr alerts.

Thank you The Verge for providing us with this information
Image courtesy of The Verge