Tag Archive: Abbotsford Computer Repairs


The Heartbleed bug: Am I at risk and do I really have to change my password?

The discovery of Heartbleed, a flaw in one of the most widespread encryption standards used online, has panicked webmasters and users alike.

The bug has gone unnoticed for more than two years and could have potentially given hackers access to an unlimited array of secure data — everything from passwords and login details to credit card numbers and addresses.

Although it’s difficult to say exactly how many websites have been exposed, the lower estimates are around 500 million with a large number of major web companies (Google, Facebook, Yahoo, etc) all forced to update their software to protect against the bug.

However, there have been quite a lot of mixed messages as to whether or not users should change their passwords, with some outlets urging that you should create new ones immediately while others are advising that you wait.

To add to the confusion there’s also been reports of hackers sending out phishing emails related to Heartbleed — in order to trick users into giving up passwords that have yet to be compromised. Be on the look out for these and don’t follow any links in suspicious looking emails – if you want to change a password go to the site directly.

Which sites are affected?
Most Google sites and services (including Gmail and YouTube – but not Chrome) were affected, as were sites maintained by Yahoo (including Tumblr and Flickr). Facebook was also hit by the bug although Twitter and LinkedIn were not.

Other big sites that have confirmed that they weren’t affected include Amazon, Hotmail and Outlook, eBay, PayPal and all of Apple’s properties — including iCloud and iTunes. If you want to check whether or not a site you use is still affected then you can do so here — just enter the URL.

Another big worry is for online banking, but thankfully we have some good news in that department. Lloyds, HSBC, RBS, Natwest, Santander and the Co-Op have all confirmed that they were not affected by the bug (they were using different encryption standards). Barclays has yet to issue a statement.

However, this does not mean that your credit card details are completely safe — as they could have been compromised via your Gmail or another third-party site. The security of mobile banking apps is still a developing situation as well.

So do I need to change my passwords?
In a word: Yes. For the sites we’ve listed above as being affected (including Gmail, Yahoo, Tumblr, Flickr, Facebook) it definitely won’t hurt to change your password some time in the next couple of weeks.

Although security experts have warned that you shouldn’t be too quick to change passwords, this is because not all website have patched their servers and changing your password before this happens could make matters worse. The sites we’ve listed above have patched their servers and if you want to check one we’ve not mentioned — click here and enter the URL.

Unfortunately, some sites (including Google) have specifically said that users don’t need to change their passwords. While it’s true that some sites are confident that they fixed the bug a while back, as most of us are guilty of changing our passwords less frequently than we should do (aka never) we think that this is as good an opportunity as ever to be a bit more security-conscious.

What should my new password be?
In lists of the most frequently used passwords online there’s some obvious clangers that we know you’re too smart to use (these include old standbys such as ‘123456’ and ‘password’ itself) but just because a password doesn’t look obvious to you that doesn’t make it safe.

This means that you shouldn’t really use any single words that are found in the dictionary, any words connected to you (place of birth or pets’ names), nor should you use any obvious ‘substitutions’ (eg pa55w0rd — more complicated variations are required) or patterns derived from your keyboard layout (eg ‘1qaz2wsx’ or ‘zxcvbnm’).

It’s wise to use a variety of characters in your password (including upper and lower case as well as numbers) but an easy way to get more secure is to start thinking of your password as a passphrase.

The easiest way of increasing the difficulty of a password is by simply making it longer — so try combining multiple words together and then adding in numbers between them.

You could pick a number of some significance to you (for example a loved one’s birthday, ie 12/08/1970) and then splicing this with a nonsensical phrase (‘shoesplittingwatchwizard’) to get a suitably difficulty password: Shoe12Splitting08Watch1970Wizard.

Other suggested methods for making a strong and memorable password include taking a sentence or a favourite line from a song as a starting point. So you might take the line “When you call my name it’s like a little prayer” and turn it into wuCmNilaLP. Madonna is optional of course, but we think this a fun method — especially if you can work in numbers somewhere.

You should also use different passwords for your different accounts (perhaps the most difficult piece of advice to follow of all) and if you want to be really secure you should also set up two-step authentication where available.

Ryan says: I recommend everyone on any of the sites mentioned in this article to change their passwords ASAP.

Bitcoins, other digital currencies stolen in massive ‘Pony’ botnet attack

Cybercriminals have infected the computers of digital currency holders, using a virus known as “Pony” to make off with account credentials, bitcoins and other digital currencies in one of the largest attacks on the technology, security services firm Trustwave said.

The attack was carried out using the “Pony” botnet, a group of infected computers that take orders from a central command-and-control server to steal private data. A small group of cybercriminals were likely behind the attack, Trustwave said.

Over 700,000 credentials, including website, email and FTP account log-ins, were stolen in the breach. The computers belonging to between 100,000 and 200,000 people were infected with the malware, Trustwave said.

The Pony botnet has been identified as the source of some other recent attacks, including the theft of some 2 million log-ins for sites like Facebook, Google and Twitter. But the latest exploit is unique due to its size and because it also targeted virtual wallets storing bitcoins and other digital currencies like Litecoins and Primecoins.

Eighty-five wallets storing the equivalent of $220,000, as of Monday, were broken into, Trustwave said. That figure is low because of the small number of people using Bitcoin now, the company said, though instances of Pony attacks against Bitcoin are likely to increase as adoption of the technology grows. The attackers behind the Pony botnet were active between last September and mid-January.

“As more people use digital currencies over time, and use digital wallets to store them, it’s likely we’ll see more attacks to capture the wallets,” said Ziv Mador, director of security research at Chicago-based Trustwave.

Most of the wallets that were broken into were unencrypted, he said.

“The motivation for stealing wallets is obviously high—they contain money,” Trustwave said in a blog post describing the attack. Stealing bitcoins might be appealing to criminals because exchanging them for another currency is easier than stealing money from a bank, Trustwave said.

There have been numerous cyberattacks directed at Bitcoin over the last year or so as its popularity grew. Last year, a piece of malware circulating over Skype was identified as running a Bitcoin mining application. Bitcoin mining is a process by which computers monitor the Bitcoin network to validate transactions.

“Like with many new technologies, malware can be an issue,” said a spokesman for the Bitcoin Foundation, a trade group that promotes the use of Bitcoin, via email. Wallet security should improve, the spokesman said, as more security features are introduced, like multisignature transactions, he said.

Digital currency users can go to this Trustwave site to see if their wallets and credentials have been stolen.

Source: PC World