obfuscation

Hackers step up obfuscation attacks to break into IT networks

by | Jan 7, 2021 | IT Security

Cybercriminals are introducing obfuscation-as-a-service to enable novice hackers on the dark web to make hard-to-break infiltration into corporate networks.
Share to lead the transformation

In 2020, cyber-attacks reached a new scale, disrupting the business community and Information security professionals. Malware, phishing, denial of service attacks, DNS tunneling, SQL injection, and zero-day exploits have seen a massive explosion in every large organization. According to a report from antivirus, cloud, and endpoint security firm McAfee, since 2018, the cost of global cybercrime has reached over $1 trillion. If that wasn’t enough, the industry has noticed a new pattern of cybercriminals investing in plug-and-play obfuscation software-based toolkits to infect corporate networks for financial gains. (See: Top enterprise cybersecurity trends of 2020)

Obfuscation is a proven technology widely used by security professionals and coders to make the source code anonymous and incoherent. The technique helps businesses secure their critical data and prevent hackers from using reverse engineering techniques to discover an enterprise network’s vulnerability and launch attacks.

The recent cyber intrusion in the software  IT monitoring and management software company Solarwinds was executed by an obfuscated advanced persistent threat (APT) that mysteriously took nine months to discover. (See: SolarWinds hack: CISOs need to revisit cyber resilience?)

However, as usual, hackers appear to be a step ahead of network protectors. Call it money as a motive or an innovative mindset; cybercriminals always develop enterprising ways to infiltrate defenses. Obfuscation-as-a-service is one such recently exposed illegal business model developed by cybercriminals. Professional hackers try to make money from selling such techniques on subscription-based models to other hackers.

As-a-service model for orchestrating a hack

Those who trust that the as-a-service models are currently only transforming legitimate business models will probably live on a different planet. Over the past few years, cybercrime as a service model is swiftly making inroads into the dark-web. Professional fraudsters and cybercriminals use illegal platforms to sell cyberattack tools, procedures, services, and a host of software programs to evade detection and launch fully automated cyberattacks.

Obfuscation-as-a-service model is operating on similar lines. In 2020, many instances were discovered by cybersecurity monitoring agencies and solution providers where hackers provided automated obfuscation service and android pocket kits (APKs) on a subscription basis to fraudsters. In the wake of a growing remote workforce, most organizations are introducing workplace productivity apps that can be accessed quickly by employees through their mobile phones. As such cracking mobile applications, especially android, through obfuscation has become a prime focus area for cybercriminals.

The entire business of purchasing and selling obfuscation service happens through illegitimate darknet marketplaces, making it very challenging for governments and law-enforcement authorities to keep a consistent track. This new development of obfuscation-as-a-service is perturbing for enterprises with global footprints, which have a massive amount of data located on different clouds. This unlawful cybercrime service model can give a ready-to-launch platform to even newbie cybercriminals who regularly exploit weaker networks.

What’s the remedy?

To protect networks from obfuscation techniques or deobfuscate malicious codes launched by hackers, organizations need to ensure the uppermost security level that fills the unwanted gaps. Applying integrity controls, encrypting as much as possible, transforming program codes and making them unintelligible, inserting anti-debugging logic are some of the fields that should be strengthened.

While there is no perfect solution that can give full-proof code security, a host of commercial tools can be tested and implemented to make your security architectures robust.

Most importantly, in 2021, organizations and cybersecurity leaders should set-up quality budgets to train their in-house talents and develop innovative solutions to fortify their resilience levels and mitigate new-age obfuscation security threats.

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Clean Ganga Mission holds workshop on river flow

Clean Ganga Mission holds workshop on river flow

A two-day International Workshop on Environmental Flows Assessment and Implementation for India was held in New Delhi. Indian, European and international experiences were brought together by National Mission of Clean Ganga (NMCG), along with Indo-German Cooperation.
It is increasingly recognized that the goal of attaining healthy river ecosystems can best and most sustainably be reached by integrated environmental management. The workshop includes discussions on Environmental Flows assessment and Implementation for sustainable river basin management, and various aspects of E-Flows in depth. Relevant Indian implementers and stakeholders along with national experts and International experts including those from Germany, Austria, United Kingdom, Bhutan, Poland, The Netherlands and South Africa are present during the workshop.

In order to advance the successful e-flows implementation in India, this workshop aims to bring Indian, European and international experiences together. A rich variety of cutting- edge topics and expert speakers from various backgrounds serve to promote challenges and solutions regarding e-flows assessment and implementation.

International workshop on Environmental Flows Assessment and Implementation for India was inaugurated by Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, Union Minister for Jal Shakti at Delhi. The exchange of Indian, European and international experiences was brought together by National Mission of Clean Ganga (NMCG) along with the Indo-German Cooperation with its project “Support to Ganga Rejuvenation” (SGR). Shekhawat also formally released the first version of the Guidance Document on Environment flow assessment in India. The deliberations in this workshop and further research work would help in coming up with advanced version of this e-flow guidance document in future.

It is already accepted around the globe, that the demand for water is increasing due to population growth, rapid urbanization and industrialization and that rivers are a critical natural resource, crucial for human well-being. The Ganga River, for example, supports a population of more than 400 million people by providing a multitude of domestic, agricultural, industrial, and power generation uses, and it also serves for recreational, livelihood and spiritual purposes.

The Ganga provides a unique ecosystem, which is home to India’s National Aquatic animal the Gangetic Dolphin, as well as Gharials, turtles and several birds and other wild animals. Other rivers like Godavari, Krishna, Mahanadi etc. are also crucial ecosystems and sources for ecosystem services for us and we need to protect these towards sustainability and equitable water use.

Given the current scenario, Gajendra Singh Shekhawat said that, “We are committed to protect these lifelines for our future generations. We have the identified aim of Aviral and Nirmal Dhara- continuous and clean flows as our tribute to Mother Ganga and we intend to extend this to all other rivers in the country.” He added further that, “Maintaining Environmental-Flows in rivers is very important not only for the country but worldwide since water has become a global challenge. We have to come together and act together to tackle this global challenge.”

“Under the Namami Gange programme, we have been quite serious about maintaining the continuous flow of Ganga. Last year, we recognized the minimum river flow to be maintained and also notified. We have started monitoring for its implementation as well.

We have made a beginning, but there’s a lot to learn from experiences of other countries where this has developed over a period of time” added Rajiv Ranjan Mishra, DG, NMCG. The international workshop aims to assist in the e-flows implementation in India by answering the following questions:

  1. What are the overall aims and targets for e-flows assessment in India?
  2. What are the short- and long-term steps to implement e-flows according to the overall aims and targets.

“We will learn from their vast experience and will also learn from the national experts present regarding the different scenarios within India,” emphasized Mishra, DG, NMCG.
In India, the European Union through the India-EU Water Partnership (IEWP) as well as the Indo-German Cooperation with its project “Support to Ganga Rejuvenation” (SGR) in order to promote cooperation in the water sector, has brought together stakeholders, such as governmental institutions, businesses and the civil society. Currently, a guidance document on the “Assessment of Environmental Flows in India” is being developed as part of the IEWP Action Plan and the draft version was launched during the workshop by the Minister, Jal Shakti.

MNRE refutes doubts on meeting 2022 RE targets

MNRE refutes doubts on meeting 2022 RE targets

Reports have appeared in a section of media, citing a CRISIL report, that India may fall short of its declared renewable energy target of 1,75,000 MW by the year 2022. The Ministry of New & Renewable Energy has refuted such claims. Full text of Ministry’s rebuttal is as below –

“In some of the recent media reports apprehensions have been raised whether India would be able to achieve 1,75,000 MW renewable power installed capacity target by the year 2022. All these have cited the CRISIL report of September 2019.

However, the doubts are ill-founded and not reflective of the status on the ground and plans ahead. By the end of September 2019, India has installed more than 82,580 MW of renewable energy capacity with around 31,150 MW of capacity under various stages of installation. Thus, by the first quarter of 2021, India would have installed more than 1,13,000 MW of renewable power capacity. This would constitute nearly 65 per cent of the targeted capacity. Besides this, around 39,000 MW of renewable power capacity is at various stages of bidding which would be installed by September 2021, taking the percentage of installed capacity to over 87 percentage of the targeted capacity. With only 23,000 MW of renewable power capacity left to bid, India is confident that the target of installing 1,75,000 MW of renewable power capacity will not only be met but exceeded.

The Ministry has worked systematically to resolve various issues that arise from time to time, putting in place facilitative and ease of doing business policies and programs for achieving the goal. Renewable power industry, developers, investors and other stakeholders have lauded Ministry’s efforts nontransparent bidding and facilitation for procurement of power at competitive rates. These initiatives have resulted in significant downward trend in solar and wind power tariffs. The wind power tariffs has fallen from Rs 4.18 per unit in 2016 to Rs 2.43 per unit during last year and even today it remains below Rs 2.75 per unit. Similarly, the solar tariffs have fallen from Rs 4.43 per unit (with VGF) to Rs 2.44per unit. The Government of India’s endeavor remain that renewable power is procured at a rate which is acceptable to distribution companies.

Since March 2014, India’s renewable power capacity has increased from 34000 MW to 82,580 MW recording 138 percent growth. Globally, India stands 5th in solar power, 4th in wind power, and 4th in total renewable power installed capacity. If large hydro included, India stands 3rd in renewable power capacity globally. India’s renewable energy program is much beyond production of electricity and covers a basket of applications including use of solar thermal energy for cooling, heating, drying and other industrial applications. Renewable energy has emerged as a true multi-benefit system, combining ecological necessities with domestic priorities, economic and job creation opportunities.

The journey for expanding the share of renewables in the energy mix has not been without continuous challenges. When the State Government of Andhra Pradesh announced intention to revisit already signed Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs), the Ministry very quickly clarified that no PPAs can be revisited unless there is a clause to do so in such agreement or a case of malafide of corruption is proved beyond doubt.

The Ministry in consultation with the respective Governments is addressing the issues of allocation of land in Gujarat and revision of land facilitation charges in Rajasthan. Plan for erecting 66,500MW of additional transmission system to ensure evacuation and injection of 1,75,000 MW of power into the main grid is under implementation. The additional transmission would come by October 2021 in phases depending on location-based requirements. Also, the Ministry is in the process of developing Ultra Mega Renewable Energy Parks to overcome the problem of land allocation. These parks will have dedicated transmission. First such park is being planned in Dholera, Gujarat by SECI. These apart, the Ministry has strengthened PPA clauses for strengthening investors’ confidence. For mitigating off-takers risk and ensuring timely payments to developers, the Ministry has made letter of credit must for purchase of power by distribution companies.

The Ministry has launched three new schemes. The first is the Central Public Sector Undertaking (CPSU) Scheme Phase-ll for setting up 12,000 MW grid-connected SPV Power Projects, by the Government Producers with Viability Gap Funding (VGF) support of Rs 8,580 crore for self-use or use by Government or Government entities, both Central and State Governments. The Scheme mandates use of both SPVcells and modules manufactured domestically as per specifications and testing requirements.

The second is PM-KUSUM (Pradhan Mantri Kisan Urja Suraksha evem Utthan Mahabhiyan) scheme to be implemented over next four years for de-dieselization of the farm sector and increasing farmers’ energy independence and income. Under the scheme, India has plans to provide 1.75 million stand-alone solar agriculture pumps and carry out solarization of 1 million grid connected agriculture pumps by the year 2022. Under the same scheme, Government is also encouraging farmers to set up small solar plants of the size of 500 KW to 2 MW on barren lands for their additional income. Three components combined, the scheme aims to add a solar capacity of 25,750 MW by 2022. The total central financial support provided under the scheme would be Rs 34,422 crore. The third is Roof Top Solar Phase-II program SRISTI (Sustainable Rooftop Implementation for Solar Transfiguration of India) scheme for accelerated deployment of solar roof top systems in the country. Under this scheme Central Financial Assistance for 4000 MW of small roof top capacity and incentives to Distribution Companies for 18,000 MW capacity by 2022 have been provided. These schemes will also act as catalyst for adding solar cell and module manufacturing capacity in India. Further, the Tariff Policy is being revised to ensure timely adoption of tariffs.

The CRISIL report being referred to by the media is neither factually correct nor takes into account initiatives taken by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy to facilitate accelerated development and deployment of renewable energy in the country. This report lacks in credibility in all respects as CRISIL did not even bother to consult this Ministry for its views.  The Ministry says it is not only confident of meeting 1,75,000 MW target but exceeding it by 2022.

Tata Motors launches 213-km range Tigor EV

Tata Motors launches 213-km range Tigor EV

Following the introduction of Tigor EV for Government and fleet consumers, Tata Motors today announced the launch of its extended range Tigor EV Electric Sedan, with a range of 213 km, certified by ARAI. It will be available in 3 variants – XE+, XM+ and XT+ – for both fleet and personal segment customers. The new Tigor EV will be available across 30 cities, at a starting price of Rs. 9.44 lakh, ex-showroom Delhi (after deducting Govt. subsidies). This vehicle qualifies for a FAME II incentive for eligible commercial customers.

The new extended version offers an enhanced driving range, low cost of ownership, connectivity, comfort of a sedan and zero emissions.Speaking on the launch of this new variant, Ashesh Dhar, Head – Sales, Marketing and Customer Service, Electric Vehicle Business, Tata Motors Ltd. said, “Tigor EV Extended Range model aptly addresses the requirements of longer range applications and also provides higher revenue earning potential for our commercial customers. This new version builds on the success of the award winning Tigor EV, which is already deployed with several fleets and Government customers. This launch reinforces our commitment towards sustainable mobility solutions in India.”The new Tigor EV will have two driving modes – ‘Drive’ and ‘Sport’. It will also come with features like:

Exterior Interior
Signature EV decals Classic black & grey interior
Premium front grille Immersive sound experience by Harman™
Stylish alloys Single speed transmission
Shark-fin antenna & LED high mounted stop lamp Height adjustable seat
Three elegant colours:
Pearlescent white, Egyptian blue and Roman silver
Superior seat fabric

The Battery

  • With a 21.5 kWh battery pack, the new model offers a significantly longer range
  • Battery cooling system is designed to ensure consistent performance even in extreme ambient temperature conditions
  • The car has 2 charging ports – fast charging as well as slow AC charging

Additionally, the vehicle will be equipped with dual airbags (XE+ variant with Driver Airbag only) and an anti-lock braking system as standard safety features. The vehicle also comes with an inbuilt warranty of 3 years or 1.25 lakh kms, whichever is earlier.

 

Boost for EVs: 1 charging unit per 3 sq. km in cities

Boost for EVs: 1 charging unit per 3 sq. km in cities

In a major decision to give a boost to electric vehicles in country, the government has approved amendments in Electric Vehicle Charging Guidelines and Specifications. These Revised Guidelines and Specifications for charging infrastructure shall supersede the earlier guidelines and standards issued by the Ministry of Power on 14 Dec 2018.

Speaking about the decision, Power Minister RK Singh said that revised guidelines are more consumer friendly as they incorporate a number of suggestions received from various stakeholders. “We have tried to address the concerns of EV owners in new guidelines,” he said and expressed hope that revised guidelines will encourage faster adoption of EVs in India.

In order to address the range of issues of the electric vehicle owners, a phase-wise installation of an appropriate network of charging infrastructure throughout the country has been envisaged in the guidelines ensuring that at least one charging station should be available in a grid of 3 km x 3 km in the cities and one charging station at every 25 km on both sides of highways/roads.

It has been envisaged that in the first phase (i.e. 1-3 years) all Mega Cities with population of 4 million plus as per census 2011, all existing expressways connected to these mega cities & important highways connected with each of these mega cities may be taken up for coverage, while in the second phase (3-5 years) big cities like state capitals, UT headquarters may be covered for distributed and demonstrative effect.

Further, important highways connected with each of these mega cities may also be taken up for coverage. To address the concerns in inter-city travel and long range and/or heavy duty EVs it has been provided that Fast Charging Station for long range and/or heavy duty EVs like buses/trucks etc., shall be installed at every 100 km, shall be installed one on each side of the highways/road located preferably within/alongside the Public Charging Station (PCS) mentioned above.

The above density/distance requirements shall be used by the concerned state/UT Governments/their Agencies for the land use planning for public charging stations as well as for priority in installation of distribution network including transformers/feeders etc by the DISCOMs. This shall be done in all cases including where no central/state subsidy is provided.

Assuming that most of the charging of EVs would take place at homes or at offices where the decision of using Fast or Slow chargers would rest on the consumers, it has been clarified in the guidelines that private charging at residences/offices shall be permitted and DISCOMs may facilitate the same.

As far as the Public Charging Stations (PCS) are concerned, it has already been clarified by Ministry of Power that setting up of PCS shall be a de-licensed activity and any individual/entity is free to set up public charging stations, which has also been reiterated in the guidelines, subject to the conditions as specified in the Guidelines. Further, the guidelines specifies the type of chargers of different standards (viz. CCS, CHAdeMO, Type-2 AC, Bharat AC 001) thus ensuring that the PCS owners have the freedom to install the chargers as per the market requirement. To keep the PCS technology agnostic, it has been provided that any other fast/slow/moderate charger as per approved DST/BIS standards whenever notified can also be installed at the PCS. Thus, the Guidelines provide an extensive flexibility while ensuring a democratic choice to both EV owners and PCS providers to install the type and number of chargers.

Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE), a statutory body under Ministry of Power has been nominated as the Central Nodal Agency. Further a provision for State Nodal Agency for the respective states has been provided for in the Guidelines. The roles of the respective Nodal Agencies have been specified. These Nodal Agencies will act as the key facilitator in installation of Charging Infrastructure for Electric Vehicles throughout the country.

The tariff to be charged, from Public Charging Stations as well as from domestic consumers for domestic charging, by the DISCOMs and the Service Charges to be charged by these PCS from EV users have also been covered in the guidelines. It has been provided that the domestic charging shall be akin to domestic consumption of electricity and shall be charged as such.

However, in case of PCS, it has been provided that tariff for the supply of electricity to PCS shall be determined by the appropriate commission in accordance with the Tariff policy issued under section 3 of Electricity Act 2003, as amended from time to time. As far as the Service Chargers at PCS are concerned, while it has been clarified that charging of EV is a service, to ensure that the incentives (financial or otherwise) provided to PCS owners in installation of charging stations are transferred to the EV owners, it has been provided that the appropriate agency/commission shall fix the ceiling of Service Charges in such cases.

PM receives Gates Foundation award in NY

PM receives Gates Foundation award in NY

Prime Minister Narendra Modi received the ‘Global Goalkeeper’ Award by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, on 24 September 2019. The award ceremony took place on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) session in New York.

Prime Minister dedicated the award to those Indians who transformed the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan into a mass movement and made it a part of their daily lives.

“The success of the Swachh Bharat Mission is due to the people of India. They made this their own movement and ensured the desired results were attained,” Prime Minister said after receiving the award.

Terming it as a significant moment personally to receive the award on the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, Modi said Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is proof that when 130 crore Indians take a pledge, any challenge can be overcome. He added that India is making remarkable progress in fulfilling Mahatma Gandhi’s dream of a Swachh Bharat.

“In the last five years, a record of more than 11 crore toilets were constructed. This mission has benefitted the poor and women of the country the most,” he noted. In addition to improving sanitation and health, building of 11 crore toilets has also boosted economic activity in villages, PM added.

Speaking about improving global sanitation coverage, Prime Minister said that India was ready to share its expertise and experiences with other nations, so that there can be collective effort towards increasing sanitation coverage.

Prime Minister also mentioned about India’s efforts towards preventive healthcare through mission mode movements like Fit India Movement and Jal Jeevan Mission.

UNCCD meet concludes with Delhi Declaration

UNCCD meet concludes with Delhi Declaration

The 12-day long 14th Conference of Parties (COP14) to United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) came to a close today, with thought-provoking discussions on land management, restoration of degraded land, drought, climate change, renewable energy, women empowerment, gender equality, water scarcity and various other issues. India was the host to UNCCD COP14, which witnessed widespread participation from over 9,000 participants from all across the globe at India Expo Centre & Mart, Greater Noida from 2 to 13 September 2019.

COP14 witnessed 11 high-level, 30 committee and over 170 stakeholder meetings, 145 side-events, and 44 exhibitions.

Speaking at the Press Conference today on the outcomes of COP14, Union Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC), Prakash Javadekar exuded confidence that all three Rio conventions will work in synergy.

In an unprecedented global campaign to save productive land, country parties have agreed to make the Sustainable Development Goal target of achieving land degradation neutrality by 2030 a national target for action.

Javadekar reiterated India’s commitment to achieving land degradation neutrality by 2030. He also committed to provide an effective leadership to the UNCCD during his two-year tenure of Presidentship.

Countries will address insecurity of land tenure, including gender inequality in land tenure, promote land restoration to reduce land-related carbon emissions and mobilize innovative sources of finance from public and private sources to support the implementation of these decisions at country-level.

The framework used for reporting action will be improved to ensure it captures key issues, such as gender equality, drought response and the influence of consumption and production patterns and flows on land degradation. Through the Delhi Declaration, ministers expressed support for new initiatives or coalitions aiming to improve human health and well-being, the health of ecosystems, and to advance peace and security. The Environment Minister stated, “Delhi Declaration is an ambitious statement of global action by each country on how to achieve Land Degradation Neutrality”.

“To my mind, this was the COP where we put people at the heart of what we do,” said Ibrahim Thiaw, Executive Secretary of UNCCD, with Parties adopting a breakthrough decision on land tenure rights and drawing on the unique voices, experiences of youth and women.

COP 14 also adopted a landmark decision to buttress global efforts to better mitigate and manage the risks of drought and to build resilience.

Thiaw also highlighted the contribution of COP 14 to the Climate Action Summit, stressing that land restoration, at scale, is one of the cheapest solutions to address the global crises of climate and biodiversity loss.

Attention was also drawn to the role the private sector would play in land restoration going forward, including through promoting sustainable value chains, as well as the incentives that will draw them in, such as the regulation in support of innovation for sustainable land management and rewarding conservation, restoration and sustainable use of resources.

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