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Former NSA Contractor Reality Winner Sentenced to 63 month in Jail Over Leak of Russian Hacking Reports

Former NSA Contractor Reality Winner Sentenced to 63 month in Jail Over Leak of Russian Hacking Reports

Former NSA Contractor Reality Winner Sentenced to 63 month in Jail Over Leak of Russian Hacking Reports. Reality Leigh Winner, the former contractor of the National Security Agency (NSA) and Air Force linguist who pleaded guilty to leaking sensitive information about Russia hacking was on Thursday (23Aug18) sentenced to five years and three months in federal prison along with 3 years of supervised release.

Winner, aged 26, was arrested in June 2017 and has spent more than a year in jail already while prosecutors built a case. She pleaded guilty in June 2018 to a felony count charge for the unauthorized transmission of national defense information about Russian interference in the build-up to the 2016 election to an online news outlet agency – The Intercept.

Winner confessed to leaking the top-secret report when FBI agents questioned her at her home in June 2017. She stated that she did it because she was frustrated at work. She confessed that she printed a “sources and method” report from her work computer that detailed hacking attacks of Florida-based voting registration software and accounts of local election officials by Russian intelligence service, prior to the 2016 presidential election.

She later told FBI agents that she smuggled the classified documents out of the Augusta, Georgia facility of NSA contractor – Pluribus International, in her underwear and then mailed it to The Intercept. Following a trail of investigation, the F.B.I. soon arrested Winner two days before The Intercept published the top-secret information.

Addressing the chief prosecutor – Chief Judge Randall Hall in court the day of her sentencing, Winner apologized and said she takes “full responsibility” for the “silly, undeniable mistake I made.”

Yeah, I screwed up royally,” Winner told the prosecutors.

I would like to apologize profusely for my actions. I want to apologize to my family. Nothing is worth time spent away from loved ones, she said.

Winner would be the first person since the inauguration of President Trump to be sentenced under the Espionage Act. Prosecutors stressed that her actions merited a stiff sentence. Winner’s sentence is the longest sentence ever imposed in a federal court for the unauthorized transmission of national security information to the media.

Winner was recruited by the Air Force after graduating from high school in Kingsville, Texas. Her parents said she became a professional linguist, speaking Farsi and Arabic. She spent 4 years at a facility in Fort Mead, Maryland. Around that time, Winner provided real time translation to American investigators conducting field missions.

After leaving the military, Winner soon got a civilian contract job with the NSA and was transferred to Augusta at a $286 million complex where the NSA had operated since 2012. Court records show that Winner translated classified information from Farsi to English for the security agency.

Prosecutors later used the 77-page transcript of her FBI interview as part of the court file in her case. Despite warnings from prosecutors that Winner might have stolen other US top-secrets, she was never charged for any additional crimes.


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UK Fines Facebook over Cambridge Analytica Scandal


UK Fines Facebook over Cambridge Analytica Scandal. The UK has hit Facebook a fine of $645,000 for the Cambridge Analytica Scandal. It was revealed earlier this year that they had harvested the personal data of millions of profiles without the user’s consent and used it for political purposes. It is estimated that 87 million users were affected.


The fine has been enforced by the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and was calculated using a pre-GDPR formula for data breach fines. Using the UK’s old Data Protection Act to fine Facebook, rather than GDPR they can only give a maximum penalty of £500,000, which is equal to what the social media giant earns every 18 minutes.


GDPR rules dictate a maximum fine of 4% of annual global turnover, which would be $1.6 billion. Unfortunately the the GDPR regulation wasn’t in place when the Cambridge Analytica story broke, coming into force in May 2018.


The UK investigation concluded that Facebook’s APIs had been allowing developers access to users information without them providing proper consent, for a long period of time between 2007 and 2014. Once they realized this loophole existed and patched it up, they did nothing to investigate the data compromised or ensure it was deleted.


[FACEBOOK] should have known better and it should have done better… We considered these contraventions to be so serious we imposed the maximum penalty under the previous legislation. The fine would inevitably have been significantly higher under the GDPR

Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said in a statement


Facebook has said they are reviewing the ICO’s findings and stated they “respectfully disagree” with some of the report, but admit they should have done more to protect users data. They also added that they found no evidence that British users profile information was shared with Cambridge Analytica.

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Libssh Security Flaw leaves thousands of servers vulnerable to hijacking

Libssh Security Flaw leaves thousands of servers vulnerable to hijacking

Libssh Security Flaw leaves thousands of servers vulnerable to hijacking. A security flaw in libssh leaves thousands, and potentially more, servers vulnerable to an attack. Libssh is a multiplatform C library which allows users to remotely execute programs, transfer files, manage public keys and use a secure and transparent tunnel.


The security flaw, discovered by Peter Winter-Smith from NCC Group, allows a hacker to bypass the authentication process on the servers and gain access to the system without having to enter a password.


An attacker can do this by sending the SSH server “SSH2_MSG_USERAUTH_SUCCESS” message instead of the “SSH2_MSG_USERAUTH_REQUEST” message that a server usually expects and which libssh uses as a sign that an authentication procedure needs to initiate.


The libssh system will treat this message to mean the authentication has already taken place and allow the attacker access to the server. The flaw (CVE-2018-10933) was released in January 2014 in release 0.6.0.


It’s estimated that the vulnerability currently affects at least 3000 servers, however this is based on a small search and the scale of the problem is not yet known. There were concerns that the popular version control site for developers to work collaboratively on projects, GitHub, was affected but they have released a statement denying this. Github claims the way they use libssh means they are not vulnerable to this exploit.


“We use a custom version of libssh; SSH2_MSG_USERAUTH_SUCCESS with the libssh server is not relied upon for pubkey-based auth, which is what we use the library for,”

a GitHub security official said on twitter


The security flaw is only on the server side, meaning users who have a libssh based SSH client installed on their computer will be safe from potential attackers looking to exploit this vulnerability.


While there are currently no public exploits available for the vulnerability, they are easy to put together so these are likely to pop up online in the coming days and weeks.

The team at libssh released versions 0.8.4 and 0.7.6 yesterday to handle this bug.


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Ad Clicker Disguised as a Google Photos App has been Hosted on Microsoft Store.

Ad Clicker Disguised as a Google Photos App has been Hosted on Microsoft Store

Ad Clicker Disguised as a Google Photos App has been Hosted on Microsoft Store.


A malicious app called “Album by Google Photos” was found to be hosted on the Microsoft store. The app was pretending to be part of Google Photos, but was in fact an ad clicker that generates hidden adverts within the Windows 10 Operating System.


The ad clicker app seemed credible to users because of its name, and also the fact it claimed to be created by Google LLC, Google’s actual Microsoft store account is Google Inc, but it looks unsuspecting to users. Microsoft came under some criticism for not realising the app was actually malicious software since the user reviews did highlight that the app was fake, with plenty of 1* reviews. One review states “ My paid Anti-malware solution detected several attempts to download malware by this app. Watch out”. The App was first released on the Microsoft store in May.


What did the application do?


The “Album by Google Photos” app is a Progressive Web Application (PWA), which acts as the front end for Google Photos and includes a legitimate login screen. Hidden in the app bundle is also an ad clicker which runs in the background and generates income for the app developers.


The app connects to ad URLS, and the ads were very similar to what users would see from typical adware, including tech support scams, random chrome extensions, fake flash and java installs and general low-quality sites.


Microsoft haven’t commented how this app managed to pass the Microsoft review process before ending up on the store.  This is somewhat concerning since it could mean other malicious apps of a similar nature have flown under the radar and are still infecting user’s computers. We are waiting for Microsoft to comment on the issue.

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