Googling for Software Downloads Is Extra Risky Right Now
If you heard rumblings this week that Netflix is finally cracking down on password sharing in the United States and other markets, you heard wrong—but only for now. The company told WIRED that while it plans to make an announcement in the next few weeks about limiting account sharing, nothing has happened yet. Meanwhile, lawmakers in Congress are eager to overhaul systems for dealing with secret US government data as classified documents keep turning up in the wrong places.
We did a deep dive this week into a ransomware attack that crippled the digital infrastructure of London’s Hackney Council. The assault happened more than two years ago, but it was so impactful that the local authority is still working to recover. A project that’s looking far into the future, meanwhile, is developing prototype pursuit satellites for real-world testing that could someday be used in space battles.
In other military news from the skies, we examined the situation with the apparent Chinese spy balloon over the US and the pros and cons of using balloons as espionage tools. And if you want to improve your personal digital security this weekend, we’ve got a roundup of the most important software updates to install right away, including fixes for Android and Firefox vulnerabilities.
Plus, there’s more. Each week we round up the stories we didn’t cover in-depth ourselves. Click on the headlines to read the full stories. And stay safe out there.
If you’re looking for legit software downloads by searching Google, your clicks just got riskier. The spam- and malware-tracking nonprofit Spamhaus says it has detected a “massive spike” in malware spread via Google Ads in the past two months. This includes “malvertizing” that appears to be authentic downloads of tools like Slack, Mozilla’s Thunderbird email client, and the Tor Browser. Security firm SentinelOne further identified a handful of malicious loaders spread through Google Ads, which researchers collectively dubbed MalVirt. They say MalVirt loaders are used to distribute malware like XLoader, which an attacker can use to steal data from an infected machine. Google told Ars Technica in a statement that it is aware of the malvertizing uptick. “Addressing it is a critical priority, and we are working to resolve these incidents as quickly as possible,” the company said.
The Federal Trade Commission this week issued its first-ever fine under the Health Breach Notification Rule (HBNR). Online pharmacy GoodRx was ordered to pay a $1.5 million fine for allegedly sharing its users’ medication data with third parties like Meta and Google without informing those users of the “unauthorized disclosures,” as is required under the HBNR. The FTC’s enforcement action follows investigations by Consumer Reports and Gizmodo into GoodRx’s data-sharing practices. In addition to violating the HBNR, GoodRx misrepresented its claims of HIPAA compliance, the FTC alleges. GoodRx claims it fixed the issues at the heart of the FTC’s complaint years ago and rejects any admission of guilt. “We do not agree with the FTC’s allegations and we admit no wrongdoing,” a spokesperson told Gizmodo. “Entering into the settlement allows us to avoid the time and expense of protracted litigation.”
Microsoft this week announced that it had disabled accounts of threat actors who managed to get verified under the Microsoft Cloud Partner Program. Posing as legitimate businesses, the threat actors used their verified account status to create malicious OAuth applications. “The applications created by these fraudulent actors were then used in a consent phishing campaign, which tricked users into granting permissions to the fraudulent apps,” Microsoft said in a blog detailing the issue. “This phishing campaign targeted a subset of customers primarily based in the UK and Ireland.” The company says the people behind the phishing attacks likely used their access to steal emails and that it has notified all victims.
Researchers at the security firm Saiflow this week exposed two vulnerabilities in versions of the open source protocol used in the operation of many electric-vehicle charging stations, called the Open Charge Point Protocol (OCPP). By exploiting vulnerable instances of the OCPP standard, which is used to communicate between chargers and management software, an attacker could take over a charger, disable groups of chargers, or siphon off electricity from a charger for their own use. Saiflow says it’s working with EV charger companies to mitigate the risks of the vulnerabilities.
The 37 million customers exposed by the most recent T-Mobile hack may not be the only people impacted by the breach. Google this week informed customers of the Google Fi mobile service that hackers had obtained “limited” account information, including phone numbers, SIM serial numbers, and information about their accounts. The hackers did not access payment information, passwords, or the contents of communications, like text messages. Still, it’s possible the information could have been used for SIM swap attacks. TechCrunch reports that the intrusion was detected by Google Fi’s “primary network provider,” which noticed “suspicious activity relating to a third-party support system.” The timing of the hack, which comes two weeks after the latest T-Mobile breach, suggests the two are related.