White House Orders New Measures to Combat Breaches In Digital Security

Earlier we mentioned how OPM (Office of Personal Mangement) in the US found they had been hacked with thousands of records accessed, including those relating to background checks for security clearances, something which if true leaves their employees open to blackmail and a whole host of actions that are unpleasant and unwanted by the government.

The White House has now taken action, directing all agencies to take a series of steps in order to prevent and detect any unwanted access into their networks. Tony Scott, U.S. Chief Information Officer, has launched what is being called a 30-day cyber security sprint.

The emergency measures listed include:

  • patching “critical-level” software holes “without delay”
  • Tightening security and access restrictions for “privileged users”, this includes cutting the number of users with this level of access and to monitor their access to the systems for suspicious behavior
  • Increase level of two-factor authentication, where a user is asked to confirm their login attempt, normally by receiving a text or phone call with a code in it

According to the released information, agencies have to report on their progress and problems implementing these steps within the next 30 days. With a “Cybersecurity Sprint Team” task force being deployed to lead the month long view and analysis of the US’s digital defenses, many organizations could find their technology changing.

While the actions are greatly appreciated, if the documents have been copied or accessed, a lot of personal information has been released to people who may use it for harm. Here’s hoping they don’t and that the government has stepped up their security because of this revelation.

Thank you NextGov for the information.

Image courtesy of NMINews.

OPM Hack Believed To Be Worse Than First Revealed

publically exposed hacks are almost an everyday occurrences in modern times, with everything from cloud storage hacks revealing personal pictures to large time security software companies being hacked. These can be anywhere from personally and professionally devastating to something which can become on a whole new level, such as the hack that took place on the Office of Personal Management (OPM) in America.

The Office of Personal Management is basically the human resources division for the American government, and while the government first addressed the breach they stated that details for approximately four million people were exposed, including dates of birth, addresses and the social security numbers.

The problem is, it may be a lot worse. SF-86 forms are used to conduct background checks for security clearance, and like you would expect on these forms they contain a whole spread of sensitive information, not only about the applicant but also their family and friends. This means the level of information revealed, accessed and possibly copied in the breach could be a lot worse than first admitted.

Initial reports stated that EINSTEIN, the governments hack detection software detected the breach. According to the Wall Street Journal today, however, it would seem that the breach was actually discovered during a sales demonstration by a company looking to show off its forensics product. So not only was the breach undersold to the public, but it looks like the governments detection software was beaten in a sales presentation.

If the new reports are true, everything from a person’s family’s names and addresses and  medical details could be in the hand of the very people they are meant to be protected from. This could be the start of a very painful message that governments need to work harder to protect the people they serve, both offline and online.

Thank you Wall Street Journal and Wired for the information.

Image courtesy of PCWorld.

Apple Surpasses Samsung as World’s Largest Smartphone Manufacturer

Apple has surpassed Samsung as the world’s largest manufacturer of smartphones, marking the first time that Apple has held the top spot since 2011. In the last quarter of 2014, Apple sold 74.8 million and Samsung sold a slightly less 73 million phones.

While the difference is highly negligible, it’s a significant shift when you consider the range of smartphones Apple sells compared to that of Samsung. While Samsung produces cheap phones, mid-range phones and premium phones, Apple largely specialises in so-called premium devices.

“With Apple dominating the premium phone market and the Chinese vendors increasingly offering quality hardware at lower prices, it is through a solid ecosystem of apps, content and services unique to Samsung devices that Samsung can secure more loyalty and longer-term differentiation at the high end of the market,” Roberta Cozza, at Gartner

Apple’s ability to sell such ‘high end’ products at such volume has been described as unprecedented; with its strong ecosystem and extraordinary success in China being targeted as the main reasons for their success. Apple’s decision to produce phones with larger displays is also a big factor, as it appears consumers had been longing to have the iOS experience on a larger screen.

Will Samsung be able to catch up with the new S6 and S6 Edge? The phones garnered a positive reaction from those who were at their unveiling in Barcelona. Both devices have a full metal case, leading to a more pleasing design compared to their previous plastic-y phones. That design has been a point of contention too – a number have called out their similarities to the iPhone 6.

Source: MacRumors

UK’s NHS Breaches Data 6 Times a Day, Including on Social Media

Privacy pressure group Big Brother Watch has conducted research revealing a startling number of sensitive data breaches by the UK’s National Health Service.

On average, data including sensitive medical records, is breached 6 times a day. They discovered that there had been 7,255 reported breaches in the past 3 years.

“The information held in medical records is of huge personal significance and for details to be wrongly disclosed, maliciously accessed or lost is completely unacceptable. With an increasing number of people having access to patients’ information, the threat of data breaches will only get worse.” – Emma Carr, director of Big Brother Watch.

The report revealed the rather frightening fact that there were at least 50 examples of patient information being posted on social networking sites. Another 143 cases involved staff accessing data for “personal reasons”.

Source: The Next Web

Game of Thrones Held The Title Of The Most Pirated Show In 2013

HBO’s Game of Thrones is a very popular TV series, there is no denying that fact. We often get to hear exactly how popular this series is when it smashes all piracy records. Earlier this year we reported that Game of Thrones season 3 finale had become the top BitTorrent download and also the most pirated show in the U.S. “sprint season.” So it shouldn’t come as surprise to see that this very series has turned out to be the most pirated show of 2013. It has actually held on that title for two years in a row.

AMC came in second and third, its insanely popular series Breaking Bad was at No.2 with the series finale being downloaded illegally over 4.2 million times. Breaking Bad was trailed by AMC’s The Walking Dead, another hit series, which saw roughly 3.6 million downloads for an episode that hasn’t been named. The Big Bang Theory, Dexter, How I Met Your Mother, Suits, Homeland, Viking and Arrow complete the rest of the list, released by the folks at TorrentFreak. Sure there has been a lot of hue and cry about online piracy and how these illegal downloads are costing studios an insane amount of money, its safe to say that the pirates aren’t going away anytime soon.

Thank you Ubergizmo for providing us with this information

Removing DRM Can Lead To Boosts In Music Sales

According to researcher Laurina Zhang from the University of Toronto, it is more profitable to sell music online without digital rights management protection. Higher revenue would benefit both the record labels and artists in addition to making it more convenient for legitimate music buyers to manage and consume their digital purchases. Now there is a matter of putting theory into practice, which does not always go as planned.

The researcher used 5,864 albums from 643 artists in her study, comparing sales before and after each of the four major record labels, the EMI, Sony, Universal and Warner decided to remove their DRM. She found a 10% increase in revenue after the protections had been removed which also accounts for other factors like release date, music genre and typical sales variations.

Looking deeper into the study, not all albums were affected the same. Zhang found that older releases selling less than 25,000 copies saw their sales increase by 41% while overall lower-selling music saw an increase of 30%. When we get to top-selling albums however, Removing DRM appears to not have any effect on revenue whatsoever.

When it comes to DRM and its function, it appears that it did exactly the opposite, meaning it did not stop people from illegally acquiring music through piracy and instead lowered legitimate music purchase due to its restriction. Fortunately a lot of labels are now realizing this mistake and are dropping traditional DRM.

Thank you Tech Spot for providing us with this information
Image courtesy of randomstringofwords