DHS-FBI Report Provides Details on Russian Hacks of U.S. Targets

Today's topics include a federal government report detailing the tools and techniques Russian hackers used against the U.S, hacking and insider trading charges against three Chinese nationals, Microsoft's security warning about the resurgence of the Cerber ransomware and Microsoft's update to Office.com that provides easier access to Office 365 apps.

After months of speculation allegations about Russian hacking aimed at influencing the U.S election, the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation issued a Joint Analysis Report late in December detailing the tools and techniques used by Russian intelligence services against the U.S.

The 13-page reports states that two different groups affiliated with Russian Intelligence Services were involved in an attack against the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

The report notes that one group identified as APT28, hacked the DNC in the summer of 2015, while APT 29 breached the DNC in spring 2016. On June 14, 2016, eWEEK reported on the DNC breaches, which were identified by security firm CrowdStrike.

Federal prosecutors charged three Chinese nationals with hacking the networks of U.S.-based international law firms and using information from those firms to conduct insider trading, making more than $4 million from the scheme, according to a statement by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The three men targeted at least seven firms which advised companies involved in acquiring or being acquired by other companies, according to a statement released by Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

After successfully compromising two law firms, the group then allegedly bought shares in companies that were about to be acquired or which planned to acquire the other firms. They then sold the shares after the M&A deals were announced.

After noticing a decline in the widely-used Cerber ransomware family earlier this month, the Microsoft Malware Protection Center warns that attackers have ratcheted up their efforts during what is considered a slow period at many businesses, but a prime shopping time for online bargain hunters.

Microsoft's security researchers have uncovered a pair of new cyber-campaigns, including a flood of new spam that exploits the uptick in ecommerce transactions during the season.

The researchers note that the Cerber ransomeware is constantly evolving. Not content with encrypting user files and holding them for ransom, last month Cerber's authors expanded into databases and files associated with critical business applications.

Office.com provides users with access to their Office 365 apps and content anywhere and on practically any device that supports a modern web browser.

With its co-authoring capabilities, it enables users to work collaboratively on Word documents, PowerPoint presentations and other types of Office documents in real-time. The co-authoring feature was eventually ported to the Office 2016 desktop applications.

Now, with an update to the Web application suite that Microsoft is currently rolling out, getting to those apps and files requires less effort.

Apart from a user interface updates where the current candy-colored visuals are making way for a more sedate, business-friendly blue color scheme—the new Office.com homepage prioritizes frequently used online apps, placing the tiled application icons more prominently just under the search bar.

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