Episode 541 – Aussie Tech Heads Shownotes

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How ‘NotPetya’ cyber attack spread from Ukraine, and why it may still be a threat

The Ukrainian software firm used to launch last week’s global cyber attack has warned that all computers sharing a network with its infected accounting software had been compromised by hackers.

The attack used a virus — dubbed “NotPetya” by some experts — to take down thousands of computers in dozens of countries, disrupting shipping and businesses. Investigators now say the hack may be far more nefarious than previously thought.

A video released by Ukrainian police showed masked men in combat fatigues and armed with assault rifles raiding the offices of software developer Intellect Service this week after cyber security researchers said they had found a “back door” written into some of the updates issued by its M.E.Doc accounting software.

M.E.Doc is used by 80 per cent of Ukrainian companies and installed on about 1 million computers in the country. Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said police had blocked a second cyber attack from servers hosting the software.

The company previously denied its servers had been compromised but when asked after the police raid whether a back door had been inserted, Chief Executive Olesya Bilousova said: “Yes, there was. And the fact is that this back door needs to be closed.”

Any computer on the same network as machines using M.E.Doc was now vulnerable to another attack, she said.

“I am looking through the analysis that has been done on the M.E.Doc server, and from what I’m seeing, that’s worrying. Worrying is a very light word for this,” he said. “How many back doors are still open? We don’t know.”

He also said M.E.Doc’s servers had not been updated since 2013, providing some indication as to how the hackers were able to access the system.

Intellect Service said Shymkiv’s comments referred to a disk used to store M.E.Doc’s software updates.

 

Confusion grows over Medicare ‘dark web’ breach, as the Tax Office briefly stopped taking cards as ID

GOVERNMENT departments warned staff not to accept Medicare cards as a form of identity proof after reports surfaced that card numbers were being sold on the dark web.

An internal memo sent to Australian Taxation Office staff yesterday advised them not to accept Medicare cards as proof of identity “until further notice”.

“As a result of recent media coverage on Medicare Card details being sold on the dark web, the Medicare card has been removed from the list of DVS documents until further notice,” the email said

“Effective immediately do not accept this item of proof as of the PORO (Proof of Record Ownership) process,” it said.

The ATO then reportedly backtracked on the directive shortly after, blaming confusion between it and the government on how to deal with the dark web breach.

Human Services Minister Alan Tudge confirmed on Tuesday that the sale of Australians’ Medicare card numbers on the ‘dark web’ had been referred to Australian Federal Police for investigation.

Mr Tudge said it was believed the information was being obtained by “traditional criminal activity” rather than a cyber attack.

He would not clarify while the matter was being investigated by police but said it was believed “very small” numbers of card details had been obtained.

Tech-savvy Australians are being held back by expensive, slow broadband connections

Australians lag behind New Zealand and Iceland when it comes to being “connected”.

Because while we’re among the world’s most prolific technology users, embracing everything from smartphones to smart fridges, expensive and slow broadband connections are holding us back.

The lack of world-class internet connections pushed Australia’s “digital readiness” down beneath the likes of New Zealand and Iceland, according to a new report from Ernst and Young.

This is despite Australians embracing new trends including music and TV streaming, and adopting more devices than ever.

The Digital Australia: Station of the Nation report, which surveyed more than 1551 people and 131 “digital opinion leaders,” placed Australia in 18th spot for digital readiness worldwide — falling two places from last year.

While our use of mobile internet connections boosted Australia’s ranking, it was “brought down by the cost of fixed broadband” connections, the report found, and slow download speeds.

“As the world’s 13th largest mixed-market economy, boasting an AAA rating from all three global rating agencies, Australia should be further up the global digital rankings,” the report said.

“However, Australia remains caught in the shadow of other advanced nations.”

The cost of Australian broadband connections was rated at 57th out of 139 countries, while download speeds put the country in 50th spot, well behind other nations in Asia Pacific.

 

Volvo has announced that starting in 2019, all of the new models it produces will be electric or hybrid. From a report:”This announcement marks the end of the solely combustion engine-powered car,” said Hakan Samuelsson, Volvo president and chief executive, in a statement. “Volvo Cars has stated that it plans to have sold a total of 1 million electrified cars by 2025. When we said it we meant it. This is how we are going to do it.” The move makes Volvo the first traditional automaker to set a date to phase out cars powered only by internal combustion engines, Reuters reports. The company said it will launch five fully electric cars between 2019 and 2021. Three of these will be Volvos, and two will be sold under the company’s Polestar “electrified performance brand.”

 

Europe’s Parliament called on the Commission, Member States and producers Tuesday to take measures to ensure consumers can enjoy durable, high-quality products that can be repaired and upgraded. At their plenary session in Strasbourg, MEPs said tangible goods and software should be easier to repair and update, and made a plea to tackle built-in obsolescence and make spare parts affordable. 77 per cent of EU consumers would rather repair their goods than buy new ones, according to a 2014 Eurobarometer survey, but they ultimately have to replace or discard them because they are discouraged by the cost of repairs and the level of service provided. “We must reinstate the reparability of all products put on the market,” said Parliament’s rapporteur Pascal Durand MEP: “We have to make sure that batteries are no longer glued into a product, but are screwed in so that we do not have to throw away a phone when the battery breaks down. We need to make sure that consumers are aware of how long the products last and how they can be repaired.”

 

FriendlyARM, the maker of compact NanoPi developer boards, has released the NanoPi Neo Plus2 for $25. From a report:This board is an update to the recently released NanoPi Neo 2, a $15 cookie-sized developer board measuring 40mm x 40mm (1.6in) with a 64-bit Allwinner H5 processor, 512MB RAM, and one USB port. The NanoPi Neo Plus2 is slightly larger at 52mm x 40mm (2in x 1.6in) and has two USB ports. It has the same H5 quad-core A53 ARM Cortex processor, but comes with 1GB RAM and 8GB eMMC storage. The NeoPlus2’s storage in addition to Gigabit Ethernet puts it ahead of the Raspberry Pi 3 on paper, and at $25 undercuts the better-known board by $10.

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