The idea of ethical hacking is hardly new, but what do you call it when unethical hackers are breached by unethical hackers? This was just one of many questions raised as Italian surveillance software developer Hacking Team was breached, with more than 400GB of internal documents published online providing a treasure trove of information.
Among this were revelations about why you shouldn't jailbreak your iPhone, details of previously unknown exploits including an Adobe Flash Player flaw that was quickly patched by Adobe. (Here's a summary of the hack for the pictorially minded).
Even as Hacking Team claimed the hack was putting its spying tools into the hands of criminals and terrorists, hackers were proving adept at adding the new exploits to their exploit kits, while some were concerned about a potential surge in banking malware after tools for building and customising ZeusVM malware were published online. Similar warnings accompanied the pending release of a fix for a flaw in a widely used cryptographic library.
Even as a Lizard Squad hacker was given a suspended sentence for a number of attacks, US FBI director James Comey warned in a blog that encrypted communications were compromising the FBI's ability to do its job. However, a number of well-known cryptographers were arguing that compromising end-to-end encryption and giving authorities back-door access would backfire by providing new attack vectors for cyber-criminals.
Little wonder US secretary of defense Ash Carter is calling for closer collaboration between the military and the technology industry. Tony Abbott was singing from the same hymnal as he called for better sharing of cyber-threat information.
Bitcoin was upgrading its software to deal with a glitch that had reared its ugly head, while some were warning that scammers were using PDF cloaking to bypass Google filters. They are also trying new forms of economic espionage and burying malware inside an Android app that purports to be a Nintendo game emulator, researchers discovered. Researchers also raised a warning about an Android app that may have stolen 1 million Facebook passwords.
Analysts of the US Office of Personnel Management (OPM) compromise said the breach included data on 21.5m people, including 1.1m fingerprints – causing the resignation of the organisation's director. Experts were warning of equally dire consequences as firms failed to upgrade their soon-to-be-deprecated Windows Server 2003 installations.
All this criminal cyber-activity is driving new thinking around online security, with an IEEE group recommending the use of random MAC addresses to boost Wi-Fi security and OwnCloud launching a new encryption framework for cloud services. Bitglass now supports fully searchable AES 256 encryption without speed degradation. And Apple, for its part, is tightening up its security by dropping its Recovery Key feature in favour of two-factor authentication for its upcoming El Capitan and iOS 9 operating systems.
This article is brought to you by Enex TestLab, content directors for CSO Australia.