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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Shah lauds Mission Million Trees, flags off EV buses

Shah lauds Mission Million Trees, flags off EV buses

Union Home Minister Amit Shah today participated in the concluding ceremony of “Mission Million trees” program organized by Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation. The Mission which started on World Environment Day on 5 June 2019 has been concluded with plantation of 10,87,000 trees in Ahmedabad city.

Speaking on the occasion, Shah urged people to keep away from using plastics bags while purchasing groceries and vegetables. Reminding the citizens of Paris climate accord, he outlined the danger of ozone layer depletion because of CO2 and CO emission worldover.

Union Home Minister planting a banyan tree on the concluding day of #MissionMillionTrees in Ahmedabad. (Pix tweeted by @AmitShah)

The Home Minister recalled that the Prime Minister Narendra Modi on resuming powers second time in 2019 created a separate ministry for Jal Shakti. He said that this step will guide the entire world in coming days on various fronts of environment conservation including water conservation, water saving, wastewater treatment, irrigation innovations, etc.

Shah also flagged off eight AC electric buses in the city and also inaugurated a battery charging station. Lauding the efforts of Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, Shah appreciated that Ahmedabad has taken a lead on electric Mobility with countrymade buses. He also appealed to the civic authorities to keep prepared for technological needs such as establishment of efficient battery exchanging stations which should be time saving and energy efficient.

Shah had written a special letter to the chairmen/secretaries of the resident societies in his parliamentary constituency to plant at least 5 trees in their society which have more than 100 years of age such as Banyan tree, Peepal tree, etc. Expressing satisfaction at the response, the Home Minister said that he has received 3,216 positive replies in which the societies have also made arrangement for regular watering and maintenance of the trees.

Speaking on the occasion, the state Chief Minister Vijay Bhai Rupani assured the Home Minister that Gujarat will take lead in the country on enhancement of electric mobility. He emphasized that 50 electric buses have been provisioned in Ahmedabad now but in very short span of time 500 electric buses will be put to service in Ahmedabad alone. He reiterated for green, clean, environment friendly and pollution free state of Gujarat.

Vijay Rupani also informed that the electric buses are indigenously made which echoes the sentiments of Make in India. Expressing satisfaction at sufficient rainfall this monsoon, Rupani said that numerous check dams, ponds and other water conservation efforts of the state government in last 3 years are now yielding good results following this year’s good rainfall.

Bijal Patel, Mayor, Ahmedabad; Pradipsinh Jadeja, Home Minister, Government of Gujarat; RC Faldu, Agriculture Minister, Government of Gujarat; Kaushik Bhai Patel, Revenue Minister, Government of Gujarat, and other dignitaries were also present on the occasion.

Center releases Rs 47,436 crore for afforestation

Center releases Rs 47,436 crore for afforestation

In a major boost towards promoting afforestation and achieving green objectives of the country, Union Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Prakash Javadekar, today handed over Rs 47,436 crore of CAMPA funds to various states, in presence of Minister of State, MoEF&CC, Babul Supriyo. In a meeting of State Forest Ministers and Authorities held at New Delhi, the Environment Minister stated, “The State budget for forests shall remain unaffected and the fund being transferred would be in addition to State Budget and it is expected that all States will utilize this fund towards forestry activities to achieve the objectives of the Nationally-Determined Contributions (NDCs) of increasing its forest & tree cover, which will create an additional carbon sink equivalent to 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide by the year 2030.” The Environment Minister further emphasized that the CAMPA funds cannot be used for payment of salary, travelling allowances, medical expenses, etc.

Union Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Prakash Javadekar Minister of State, MoEF&CC, Babul Supriyo with representatives from states. (Pix: PIB)

Underlining the efforts of the Government towards preserving and improving the forest wealth and ecological security of the country, Javadekar said “Important activities on which the fund will be utilized will be for the Compensatory Afforestation, Catchment Area Treatment, Wildlife Management, Assisted Natural Regeneration, Forest Fire Prevention and Control Operations, Soil and Moisture Conservation Works in the forest, Improvement of Wildlife Habitat, Management of Biological Diversity and Biological Resources, Research in Forestry and Monitoring of CAMPA works etc.”

Background of CAMPA
With the initial experience of the states regarding under-utilization of the money collected towards compensatory afforestation, Supreme Court of India ordered for establishment of Compensatory Afforestation Fund and Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) in 2001.

In 2006, separate bank accounts were opened in which the compensatory levies were deposited and ad hoc CAMPA was established for the management of Compensatory afforestation fund. In 2009, Supreme Court permitted release of Rs 1,000 crore every year to States/UTs for compensatory afforestation and other activities. In 2014, Supreme Court permitted release of 10% of total deposit of states in the fund from interest accrued on the deposits.

This Act has provisioned that CAMPA funds shall be kept in interest bearing non-lapsable Public Account. After detailed deliberations with CAG and Ministry of Finance and deliberations with other Stakeholders, the fund flow mechanism could be finalized and the CAF Rules were finally put in place in 2018.

After notification of CAF Rules, with approval of the Supreme Court on 28 Jan 2019, an amount of Rs 54,685 Crore from Ad-hoc CAMPA has been brought under the control of Government of India. So far 27 States/UTs have created accounts for receiving the Funds from Union Government and today funds to the tune of Rs 47,436 crore have been transferred to those States. The Fund shall be utilized as per the provisions of the CAF Act and CAF Rules.

India to restore 50 lakh ha of degraded land by 2030

India to restore 50 lakh ha of degraded land by 2030

India will be hosting the 14th Conference of Parties (COP14) to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) from 2–13 September 2019 at India Expo Centre & Mart, Greater Noida. Delivering the keynote address at a Curtain Raiser Press Conference in New Delhi, Union Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Prakash Javadekar, highlighted India’s resolve to combat desertification. Desertification is a worldwide problem directly affecting 250 million people and a third of the earth’s land surface. To fight this menace, India will convert degraded land of nearly 50 lakh hectares to fertile land in next 10 years; it will implement provisions of New Delhi Declaration which is to be adopted at the end of conference and a Centre for Excellence will be established at Dehradun,” said Javadekar.

The Environment Minister also expressed India’s continued commitment to stay on track on a sustainable path to land use and land management. “It is our collective responsibility to do our duty towards protecting the environment and ensuring that there is no harmful impact on it,” said Javadekar. Elaborating further on India’s key role as the President of UNCCD COP for the next two years, Javadekar said “It is the common resolve of the World to combat desertification and India will lead from the front and move the world in a positive direction, taking into cognizance the support of other countries”.

Delegates from 196 countries comprising of scientists and representatives of national and local governments, global business leaders, NGOs, gender-based organizations, youth groups, journalists, and faith and community groups will present and share their expertise and give an overview to achieve their goals at the 12-day conference .

The Convention entered into force in December 1996. It is one of the three Rio Conventions along with United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). India became a signatory to UNCCD on 14 October 1994 and ratified it on 17 December 1996.

The main objective of the convention is to combat desertification and mitigate the effects of drought in countries experiencing serious drought and/or desertification, involving long-term integrated strategies that focus simultaneously, in affected areas, on improved productivity of land, and the rehabilitation, conservation and sustainable management of land and water resources, leading to improved living conditions, in particular at the community level. The Convention’s 197 parties work together to improve the living conditions for people in drylands, to maintain and restore land and soil productivity, and to mitigate the effects of drought. The UNCCD is particularly committed to a bottom-up approach, encouraging the participation of local people in combating desertification and land degradation.

Source: PIB. 

Modi talks Biodiversity, Oceans, Climate at G7

Modi talks Biodiversity, Oceans, Climate at G7

At the G7 Summit in Biarritz, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has addressed the session on ‘Biodiversity, Oceans, Climate.’ He has highlighted India’s large scale efforts towards eliminating single use plastic, conserving water, harnessing solar energy and, protecting flora and fauna for a sustainable future.

Big policy boost coming for ocean energy sector

Big policy boost coming for ocean energy sector

In a decision that would give boost to the ocean energy in India, Union Minister of State for Power and New & Renewable Energy (IC) and Skill Development & Entrepreneurship, RK Singh has approved a proposal to declare ocean energy as renewable energy.

Accordingly, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy has clarified to all the stakeholders that energy produced using various forms of ocean energy such as tidal, wave, ocean thermal energy conversion etc. shall be considered as Renewable Energy and shall be eligible for meeting the non-solar Renewable Purchase Obligations (RPO).

The Ministry notes that oceans cover 70 percent of the earth’s surface and represent an enormous amount of energy in the form of wave, tidal, marine current and thermal gradient. A variety of different technologies are currently under development throughout the world to harness this energy in all its forms. Deployment is currently limited but the sector has the potential to grow, fueling economic growth, reduction of carbon footprint and creating jobs not only along the coasts but also inland along its supply chains.

As Government of India steps up its effort to reach the objectives to contemplate its Renewable Energy and climate change objectives post 2022, it is opportune to explore all possible avenues to stimulate innovation, create economic growth and new jobs as well as to reduce our carbon footprint. India has a long coastline with the estuaries and gulfs. MNRE looks over the horizon at development of new technology and considers the various options available to support its deployment. Most types of technologies are currently at pre-R&D / demonstration stage or the initial stage of commercialization. Basic R&D is being looked after by the Ministry of Earth Sciences (example: National Institute of Ocean Technology, Chennai). MNRE intends to support demonstration projects of proven technologies and as approved by expert committee constituted by MNRE.

Potential
Total identified potential of Tidal Energy is about 12455 MW, with potential locations identified at Khambat & Kutch regions, and large backwaters, where barrage technology could be used.
The total theoretical potential of wave energy in India along the country’s coast is estimated to be about 40,000 MW – these are preliminary estimates. This energy is however less intensive than what is available in more northern and southern latitudes.

OTEC has a theoretical potential of 180,000 MW in India subject to suitable technological evolution.

Technology
Although currently under-utilised, Ocean energy is mostly exploited by just a few technologies: Wave, Tidal, Current Energy and Ocean Thermal Energy.

Tidal Energy: The tidal cycle occurs every 12 hours due to the gravitational force of the moon. The difference in water height from low tide and high tide is potential energy. Similar to traditional hydropower generated from dams, tidal water can be captured in a barrage across an estuary during high tide and forced through a hydro-turbine during low tide. The capital cost for tidal energy power plants is very high due to high civil construction and high power purchase tariff. To capture sufficient power from the tidal energy potential, the height of high tide must be at least five meters (16 feet) greater than low tide. The Gulf of Cambay and the Gulf of Kutch in Gujarat on the west coast have the locations in the country where potential exists.

Wave Energy: Wave energy is generated by the movement of a device either floating on the surface of the ocean or moored to the ocean floor. Many different techniques for converting wave energy to electric power have been studied. Wave conversion devices that float on the surface have joints hinged together that bend with the waves. This kinetic energy pumps fluid through turbines and creates electric power. Stationary wave energy conversion devices use pressure fluctuations produced in long tubes from the waves swelling up and down. This bobbing motion drives a turbine when critical pressure is reached. Other stationary platforms capture water from waves on their platforms. This water is allowed to runoff through narrow pipes that flow through a typical hydraulic turbine.

Current Energy: Marine current is ocean water moving in one direction. This ocean current is known as the Gulf Stream. Tides also create currents that flow in two directions. Kinetic energy can be captured from the Gulf Stream and other tidal currents with submerged turbines that are very similar in appearance to miniature wind turbines. Similar to wind turbines, the movement of the marine current moves the rotor blades to generate electric power.

Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC): Ocean thermal energy conversion, or OTEC, uses ocean temperature differences from the surface to depths lower than 1,000 meters, to extract energy. A temperature difference of only 20°C can yield usable energy. Research focuses on two types of OTEC technologies to extract thermal energy and convert it to electric power: closed cycle and open cycle. In the closed cycle method, a working fluid, such as ammonia, is pumped through a heat exchanger and vaporized. This vaporized steam runs a turbine. The cold water found at the depths of the ocean condenses the vapor back to a fluid where it returns to the heat exchanger. In the open cycle system, the warm surface water is pressurized in a vacuum chamber and converted to steam to run the turbine. The steam is then condensed using cold ocean water from lower depths.

Technology Objectives
The objective of the technology program is to accelerate and enhance support for the resource assessment and deployment of ocean energy in the country and to harness it for power generation and to overcome the barriers. The technology program is open to public and private sectors to carry out projects in India. Industry lead R&D proposals are invited from stakeholders, for solving problems in Indian conditions. Basic R&D is being looked after by the Ministry of Earth Sciences (example: National Institute of Ocean Technology, Chennai).
All the stakeholders desirous of utilizing Ocean Energy are being invited by MNRE for demonstration projects of proven technologies under Research, Design, Development and Demonstration (RDD&D) program/policy of the Ministry, in force at the time.

Wind power companies to get lease rent waiver

Wind power companies to get lease rent waiver

The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate change has decided to relax the mandatory charging of lease rent of Rs 30,000 per MW for wind power projects.

In a review meeting Union Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Prakash Javadekar took a conscious decision to relax the condition of charging the lease rent of Rs 30,000 per MW for wind power projects. Javadekar said that it is expected that this step will boost the investment in wind power projects and will help in providing wind power at cheaper rate.

“The government envisages to meet maximum energy requirement by tapping renewal energy resources and, to achieve the target of clean energy in a time bound manner, various policies and regulations are being constantly updated,” said the Environment minister.

Currently, to establish wind power project over forest land, the existing procedure requires payment of mandatory charges for compensatory afforestation and Net Present value (NPV). In addition to mandatory charges, the wind power companies had to pay additional lease rent of Rs 30,000 per MW. This additional cost is not mandatory for other renewal energy projects such as solar power and hydel electric projects. Additional cost for generation of clean energy through wind power, in turn escalates the per unit cost of power at consumer level.

Promotions of such projects are part of Government of India’s growing commitments towards International Agreements. One of the National Commitment pledged in Paris in 2015 was to have 40% of the power from renewable resources by 2030 .It is noteworthy that currently India has over achieved the target and is well on track to ensure that more than 50% of the installed capacity will come from renewable by 2030.

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