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How to read news posts
According to SüddeutscheZeitung, criminals mounted an attack against O2-Telefonica’s subscribers, and, consequently, a number of customers saw their bank accounts drained. In the course of the attack, the hackers exploited an SS7 protocol vulnerability and intercepted two-factor authentication codes.
News about SS7 vulnerabilities have drawn considerable attention from the general public: indeed, many banks use SMS messages to confirm transactions. With criminals able to interfere with this procedure, the money transfer process can be paralysed completely. SMS messages are used to confirm a transaction—without them a money transfer can't be completed. However, in order to change a transaction amount or destination, hackers need to do more than just intercept an SMS.
The two-stage attack occurred in January 2017. During the first phase, the miscreants infected the computers they targeted with a banking Trojan that stole bank account logins and passwords, as well as mobile phone numbers, and checked user account balances.
During the second phase, the hackers logged in under the victims' accounts—often at night to reduce the probability that their actions would be discovered—and transferred money using the confirmation codes they intercepted from the SMS confirmations.
Now, let’s look at what actually happened. Criminals compromised a banking infrastructure, deployed a Trojan and performed their tasks from within the compromised network. The intercepted short messages were only necessary to confirm the transactions. Thus, it was not the intercepted messages that made the money theft possible but a trivial malware infection, and not a protocol vulnerability but a failure on the part of the anti-virus in use. Yet, news posts instead emphasise the vulnerability, omitting the actual reasons behind the attack—which must have come as a relief to those responsible for the shortcomings in their anti-virus’s defences.#online_banking #hacking #SMS #cyber-crime
- If you come across a news post of this kind, make the effort to read it to the very end. It may turn out that the headline has almost nothing to do with what actually happened.
- News reports of this kind benefit companies that strive to sell additional software or services. But will this help change the situation for the better? That is unlikely.
- Information security is not only about an anti-virus. Proper software configuration, timely updates and restricted user permissions are also important—that's what we are always writing about in the Anti-virus Times. And despite our efforts, these factors cause security problems over and over again. Re-read our past issues and you'll see that for yourself.