Bitcoin, future currency for us all or get rich quick scheme for a select few? (via Bitcoin)
As we move further into a world reliant on technologies capable of guiding us to a pre-selected destination, or services that can electronically store your hard-earned money, we must too learn to master the ins and outs of these services to be better protected from harm. The growing popularity of Bitcoins, the online digital currency, is putting many at risk of cybercrime thanks to the growing number of skilled, but devious hackers capable of easily penetrating through government-enforced security efforts. As the per Bitcoin price jumps to almost $80 USD, more people will be looking to capitalize. The same can be said about an over-reliance on GPS navigation system that are easily jammable, leaving transport carriers vulnerable to digital-age pirate hijackings. So, where are these cyber-attacks coming from and what is being done to stop them?
Bitinstant, one of the many developing Bitcoin exchange processors, was hit by a cyber-attack that claimed $12,480 USD worth of Bitcoins this past weekend. With public knowledge of one of the company worker’s birthplace and mother’s maiden name in hand, the hackers easily took control of the Bitinstant DNS servers. With access to Bitinstant’s email account, the cyber criminals performed a simple password reset and began emptying their account on the VirWox Bitcoin exchange. The attack was successful due to a lack of multi-factor authentication required to access the Bitinstant account on VirWox - all that was needed was a username and password. The attack demonstrated that online security of the nascent Bitcoin currency is still developing to keep up with the experienced expertise of the online hacking community.
"Right now, we're in the Wild West days of Bitcoins," he says. "And some of the smaller exchanges and smaller services just don't have their security up to snuff yet." Gaven Andresen, chief scientist with the Bitcoin Foundation.
GPS jamming device. (via Navigadget)
GPS jamming is another serious problem that is plaguing the technological security of transportation systems that heavily rely on GPS for navigation. The main concern is how easy it is to jam the signal - small devices that will do the trick, otherwise known as personal privacy devices, can be bought online for less than $40 USD. Most criminals, however, employ a multi-spectrum jamming device that will also take out mobile and data networks in addition to GPS. The UK government, in response to the increasing number of boat hijackings, has begun testing out the eLoran navigation system as a backup to failing GPS devices. Unlike GPS, the eLoran uses long wave radio signals from land-based beacons to direct a sailing ship and has already successfully demonstrated its ability to work under a failing GPS signal. The UK is now hoping to implement the back-up system in seven major ports by 2014 and establish complete coverage by 2019.
Another approach to fighting cyber-crime is also beginning to prove its worth as it entices security researches with a growing cash-prize incentive.
The Pwn2Own is a hacking competition held at the annual CanSecWest conference in Vancouver, British Columbia. The 3-day contest, which ended on March 8th, matched up leading security research professionals in a competition to compromise internet browsers on Windows 8 and Mac OS X systems. All successful attack details were handed over to Hewlett Packard’s Zero-Day Initiative, which will subsequently pass the information along to the proper vendors and award the “researchers” with lofty cash prizes in the range of $20,000 - $100,000 USD per exploit found.
“...it is bleeding edge research, especially when it comes to bypassing the sandboxes and the various plugins and browsers, which is why we offer the money we do,” said Brian Gorenc, manager of vulnerability research at HP’s Security Research Labs.
It seems there is still much work to be done to keep up with the hacking abilities of technological opportunists around the world. At least we can take that the cyber-criminal activity is encouraging further advancement of our evolving technologies for the time being - one day it may no longer be necessary.
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