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05/07/2020
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An intelligence alert meant to inform U.S. contractors about Chinese hacking has had the opposite effect. Hackers hit production at a pharmaceutical giant. And did the FSB fund Russian propaganda on Facebook? This is CyberScoop for Thursday, May 7.

Experts baffled by Pentagon bulletin

In mid-April, an obscure agency housed under the Department of Defense issued a bulletin that a little-known, Chinese-linked hacking group is likely responsible for some suspicious activity aimed at defense contractors in the U.S. Exactly how the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency came to that conclusion, though, is more complicated than you might think. A DCSA official tells CyberScoop the document was meant to raise awareness among the contractors, but numerous sources tell CyberScoop that it is more confusing than clarifying. In the weeks since, security pros have questioned if the actions described are even technically possible. Shannon Vavra went deep.


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European health conglomerate hit with computer virus

In another sign that hackers are continuing to target medical organizations during a pandemic, Germany-based Fresenius Group says a security incident has hampered production in its pharmaceutical business. The unit, Fresenius Kabi, makes products ranging from nutritional products to pain relievers, which are in high demand as the world comes to grips with the coronavirus. There were also signs the malware had spread to other parts of Fresenius’s corporate empire, which reported $38 billion in sales for 2019. Sean Lyngaas has more details.


Russian accounts got sloppy

Two networks of inauthentic Facebook accounts and pages removed last month had spent years leveraging the social media company’s reach to amplify thinly-veiled Russian propaganda criticizing the U.S. and antagonists of the Kremlin. Facebook announced Tuesday it removed 91 accounts, 46 pages, two groups and one Instagram page connected to Crimea-based media agencies, News Front and South Front, which researchers now say have connections to Russian intelligence services. Both outlets have existed for years, though Facebook removed them last month after detecting that they used fake accounts to post content and generate engagement. Jeff Stone took a closer look.


Nigerian hackers seize on COVID-19 for phishing campaign

Three groups of scammers with roots in Nigeria are using the coronavirus pandemic to convince potential victims to download malicious software, according to Palo Alto Networks. The "SilverTerrier" hacking collective, known for its aggressive use of business email compromise scams, is exercising "minimal restraint" in its attacks against healthcare organizations, local governments, research universities, and insurers, among other targets through the U.S., Italy, and elsewhere. None of the attacks appear to have been successful, researchers say, though the 170 emails documented in Palo Alto's latest findings are just the tip of the iceberg. Here's the research.


DHS privacy office takes issue with DHS biometric storage

The Department of Homeland Security's forthcoming biometrics system comes with partial and unmitigated privacy risks, from those posed by deepfakes to unintended sharing of sensitive data, according to an assessment released recently. The forthcoming Homeland Advanced Recognition Technology system is meant to process and store digital fingerprints, facial images and iris scans from law enforcement, immigration checks and background investigations. The problem, according to DHS' Privacy Office, is that HART collects more data than necessary. It also relies on information collected from other systems, and Americans likely aren't aware that DHS is obtaining their data indirectly. FedScoop's Dave Nyczepir had the news.


US, Czech Republic to cooperate on 5G

The U.S. and the Czech Republic will work together more closely in securing 5G communication networks, the State Department said. The statement signaled a renewed effort by the U.S. to work with European allies to try to blunt the advance of Huawei, the Chinese telecommunications firm that U.S. intelligence officials accuse of being a potential arm of Chinese espionage. Czech cybersecurity officials previously warned of using gear made by Huawei and ZTE, another Chinese firm. The U.S. campaign to turn allies away from Huawei has had mixed results, with countries like Australia and Japan heeding the call, but others, like Britain, allowing Huawei equipment in some parts of their networks. Here's the announcement.


Schneider Electric fixes hard-to-exploit bugs

A researcher from Trustwave’s Spider Labs just demonstrated a pair of attacks on a popular programmable logic controller — the industrial computer used to operate machinery at energy plants — that impair the ability of operators to see or control the technology. At least one of the attacks requires access to the engineering workstation, a sensitive area of an industrial facility that is not easy for an outsider to access. Schneider Electric, the PLC vendor, has issued patches for the vulnerabilities. It’s a new twist on an old attack method that’s been around for years, and a reminder of the challenges of securing legacy PLC equipment. Here's the latest.


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