Google Rolls Out a Faster, More Secure Android Oreo

Today’s topics include the release of Android 8.0 Oreo; the risk of weaponized virtual machines on the cloud; Mimecast reporting of a new type of email exploit called “Ropemaker”; and Red Hat OpenShift supporting Windows Server containers.

On Aug. 21, Google officially released Android 8.0 Oreo, the latest version of its mobile operating system and the first to be named after a Nabisco sandwich cookie.

The new features in Oreo include a picture-in-picture capability, an autofill feature for logging into mobile applications more quickly and support for Android Instant Apps, which enables users to use applications directly from their browser without the need for installing them first. Also available with Android Oreo are stronger security protections via Google Play Protect, Google's technology for scanning Android apps for malware and other security threats.

As always, the new Android version will first become available on Google's own Pixel and Nexus line of hardware. By year end, several hardware makers including Nokia, Motorola, Samsung, Sony and Kyocera will roll out devices featuring the new operating system, Google noted.

Microsoft has some bad news for businesses hoping to find a safe haven from cyber-attackers in the cloud. IT departments can now add weaponized virtual machines on the cloud to their ever-expanding list of cyber-security concerns.

As explained in Microsoft’s latest Security Intelligence Report, "In a cloud weaponization threat scenario, an attacker establishes a foothold within a cloud infrastructure by compromising and taking control of one or more virtual machines. The attacker can then use these virtual machines to launch attacks, including brute force attacks against other virtual machines, spam campaigns that can be used for email phishing attacks, reconnaissance such as port scanning to identify new attack targets, and other malicious activities."

Microsoft advises IT departments to implement risk-based conditional access policies, whereby they can restrict access to trusted devices and IP addresses, mitigating the risk of weak or compromised credentials.

Mimecast is warning of a new type of email exploit it has named "Ropemaker" that could be exposing hundreds of millions of desktop email client users to security risks. The Ropemaker attack abuses desktop email client functionality that enables email messages to pull Cascading Style Sheet information from a remote location.

Mimecast's researchers found that an attacker can inject or replace CSS information with malicious information that could lead to exploitation.

According to Mimecast's advisory, the remote-control capabilities in the Ropemaker exploit "… could enable bad actors to direct unwitting users to malicious Web sites using a technique that could bypass both common security controls as well as fool even the most sophisticated users."

Microsoft and Linux server software provider Red Hat are building on their existing cloud partnership with new initiatives aimed at helping businesses incorporate containers into their hybrid cloud application strategies.

On Aug. 22, the companies announced that Red Hat OpenShift, an enterprise container application platform that includes Kubernetes container management, will natively support Windows Server containers.

The technology was first demonstrated in May during the Red Hat Summit in San Francisco, and when it finally hits the market, it will earn OpenShift the distinction of being the first Kubernetes-based container application platform to support both Windows and Linux container workloads, according to the two companies.