The decision to release a ransomware decryptor involves a delicate balancing act between helping victims recover their data and alerting criminals to errors in their code

The post The downside of ‘debugging’ ransomware appeared first on WeLiveSecurity

Can you spot the tell-tale signs of a phishing attempt and check if an email that has landed in your inbox is legit?

The post How to spot and avoid a phishing attack – Week in security with Tony Anscombe appeared first on WeLiveSecurity

The ‘it won’t happen to me’ mindset leaves you unprepared – here are some common factors that put any of us at risk of online fraud

The post 10 reasons why we fall for scams appeared first on WeLiveSecurity

Every year at I/O we share the latest on privacy and security features on Android. But we know some users like to go a level deeper in understanding how we’re making the latest release safer, and more private, while continuing to offer a seamless experience. So let’s dig into the tools we’re building to better secure your data, enhance your privacy and increase trust in the apps and experiences on your devices.

Low latency, frictionless security

Regardless of whether a smartphone is used for consumer or enterprise purposes, attestation is a key underpinning to ensure the integrity of the device and apps running on the device. Fundamentally, key attestation lets a developer bind a secret or designate data to a device. This is a strong assertion: “same user, same device” as long as the key is available, a cryptographic assertion of integrity can be made.

With Android 13 we have migrated to a new model for the provisioning of attestation keys to Android devices which is known as Remote Key Provisioning (RKP). This new approach will strengthen device security by eliminating factory provisioning errors and providing key vulnerability recovery by moving to an architecture where Google takes more responsibility in the certificate management lifecycle for these attestation keys. You can learn more about RKP here.

We’re also making even more modules updatable directly through Google Play System Updates so we can automatically upgrade more system components and fix bugs, seamlessly, without you having to worry about it. We now have more than 30 components in Android that can be automatically updated through Google Play, including new modules in Android 13 for Bluetooth and ultra-wideband (UWB).

Last year we talked about how the majority of vulnerabilities in major operating systems are caused by undefined behavior in programming languages like C/C++. Rust is an alternative language that provides the efficiency and flexibility required in advanced systems programming (OS, networking) but Rust comes with the added boost of memory safety. We are happy to report that Rust is being adopted in security critical parts of Android, such as our key management components and networking stacks.

Hardening the platform doesn’t just stop with continual improvements with memory safety and expansion of anti-exploitation techniques. It also includes hardening our API surfaces to provide a more secure experience to our end users.

In Android 13 we implemented numerous enhancements to help mitigate potential vulnerabilities that app developers may inadvertently introduce. This includes making runtime receivers safer by allowing developers to specify whether a particular broadcast receiver in their app should be exported and visible to other apps on the device. On top of this, intent filters block non-matching intents which further hardens the app and its components.

For enterprise customers who need to meet certain security certification requirements, we’ve updated our security logging reporting to add more coverage and consolidate security logs in one location. This is helpful for companies that need to meet standards like Common Criteria and is useful for partners such as management solutions providers who can review all security-related logs in one place.

Privacy on your terms

Android 13 brings developers more ways to build privacy-centric apps. Apps can now implement a new Photo picker that allows the user to select the exact photos or videos they want to share without having to give another app access to their media library.

With Android 13, we’re also reducing the number of apps that require your location to function using the nearby devices permission introduced last year. For example, you won’t have to turn on location to enable Wi-fi for certain apps and situations. We’ve also changed how storage works, requiring developers to ask for separate permissions to access audio, image and video files.

Previously, we’ve limited apps from accessing your clipboard in the background and alerted you when an app accessed it. With Android 13, we’re automatically deleting your clipboard history after a short period so apps are blocked from seeing old copied information.

In Android 11, we began automatically resetting permissions for apps you haven’t used for an extended period of time, and have since expanded the feature to devices running Android 6 and above. Since then, we’ve automatically reset over 5 billion permissions.

In Android 13, app makers can go above and beyond in removing permissions even more proactively on behalf of their users. Developers will be able to provide even more privacy by reducing the time their apps have access to unneeded permissions.

Finally, we know notifications are critical for many apps but are not always of equal importance to users. In Android 13, you’ll have more control over which apps you would like to get alerts from, as new apps on your device are required to ask you for permission by default before they can send you notifications.

Apps you can trust

Most app developers build their apps using a variety of software development kits (SDKs) that bundle in pre-packaged functionality. While SDKs provide amazing functionality, app developers typically have little visibility or control over the SDK code or insight into their performance.

We’re working with developers to make their apps more secure with a new Google Play SDK Index that helps them see SDK safety and reliability signals before they build the code into their apps. This ensures we’re helping everyone build a more secure and private app ecosystem.

Last month, we also started rolling out a new Data safety section in Google Play to help you understand how apps plan to collect, share, and protect your data, before you install it. To instill even more trust in Play apps, we’re enabling developers to have their apps independently validated against OWASP’s MASVS, a globally recognized standard for mobile app security.

We’re working with a small group of developers and authorized lab partners to evolve the program. Developers who have completed this independent validation can showcase this on their Data safety section.

Additional mobile security and safety

Just like our anti-malware protection Google Play, which now scans 125 billion apps a day, we believe spam and phishing detection should be built in. We’re proud to announce that in a recent analyst report, Messages was the highest rated built-in messaging app for anti-phishing and scams protection.

Messages is now also helping to protect you against 1.5 billion spam messages per month, so you can avoid both annoying texts and attempts to access your data. These phishing attempts are increasingly how bad actors are trying to get your information, by getting you to click on a link or download an app, so we are always looking for ways to offer another line of defense.

Last year, we introduced end-to-end encryption in Messages to provide more security for your mobile conversations. Later this year, we’ll launch end-to-end encryption group conversations in beta to ensure your personal messages get even more protection.

As with a lot of features we build, we try to do it in an open and transparent way. In Android 11 we announced a new platform feature that was backed by an ISO standard to enable the use of digital IDs on a smartphone in a privacy-preserving way. When you hand over your plastic license (or other credential) to someone for verification it’s all or nothing which means they have access to your full name, date of birth, address, and other personally identifiable information (PII). The mobile version of this allows for much more fine-grained control where the end user and/or app can select exactly what to share with the verifier. In addition, the verifier must declare whether they intend to retain the data returned. In addition, you can present certain details of your credentials, such as age, without revealing your identity.

Over the last two Android releases we have been improving this API and making it easier for third-party organizations to leverage it for various digital identity use cases, such as driver’s licenses, student IDs, or corporate badges. We’re now announcing that Google Wallet uses Android Identity Credential to support digital IDs and driver’s licenses. We’re working with states in the US and governments around the world to bring digital IDs to Wallet later this year. You can learn more about all of the new enhancements in Google Wallet here.

Protected by Android

We don’t think your security and privacy should be hard to understand and control. Later this year, we’ll begin rolling out a new destination in settings on Android 13 devices that puts all your device security and data privacy front and center.

The new Security & Privacy settings page will give you a simple, color-coded way to understand your safety status and will offer clear and actionable guidance to improve it. The page will be anchored by new action cards that notify you of critical steps you should take to address any safety risks. In addition to notifications to warn you about issues, we’ll also provide timely recommendations on how to enhance your privacy.

We know that to feel safe and in control of your data, you need to have a secure foundation you can count on. Because if your device isn’t secure, it’s not private either. We’re working hard to make sure you’re always protected by Android. Learn more about these protections on our website.


Every year, security technologies improve: browsers get better, encryption becomes ubiquitous on the Web, authentication becomes stronger. But phishing persistently remains a threat (as shown by a recent phishing attack on the U.S. Department of Labor) because users retain the ability to log into their online accounts, often with a simple password, from anywhere in the world. It’s why today at I/O we announced new ways we’re reducing the risks of phishing by: scaling phishing protections to Google Docs, Sheets and Slides, continuing to auto enroll people in 2-Step Verification and more. This blog will deep dive into the method of phishing and how it has evolved today.

As phishing adoption has grown, multi-factor authentication has become a particular focus for attackers. In some cases, attackers phish SMS codes directly, by following a legitimate “one-time passcode” (triggered by the attacker trying to log into the victim’s account) with a spoofed message asking the victim to “reply back with the code you just received.”

Left: legitimate Google SMS verification. Right: spoofed message asking victim to share verification code.

In other cases, attackers have leveraged more sophisticated dynamic phishing pages to conduct relay attacks. In these attacks, a user thinks they’re logging into the intended site, just as in a standard phishing attack. But instead of deploying a simple static phishing page that saves the victim’s email and password when the victim tries to login, the phisher has deployed a web service that logs into the actual website at the same time the user is falling for the phishing page.

The simplest approach is an almost off-the-shelf “reverse proxy” which acts as a “person in the middle”, forwarding the victim’s inputs to the legitimate page and sending the response from the legitimate page back to the victim’s browser.

These attacks are especially challenging to prevent because additional authentication challenges shown to the attacker—like a prompt for an SMS code—are also relayed to the victim, and the victim’s response is in turn relayed back to the real website. In this way, the attacker can count on their victim to solve any authentication challenge presented.

Traditional multi-factor authentication with PIN codes can only do so much against these attacks, and authentication with smartphone approvals via a prompt — while more secure against SIM-swap attacks — is still vulnerable to this sort of real-time interception.

The Solution Space

Over the past year, we’ve started to automatically enable device-based two-factor authentication for our users. This authentication not only helps protect against traditional password compromise but, with technology improvements, we can also use it to help defend against these more sophisticated forms of phishing.

Taking a broad view, most efforts to protect and defend against phishing fall into the following categories:

  • Browser UI improvements to help users identify authentic websites.
  • Password managers that can validate the identity of the web page before logging in.
  • Phishing detection, both in email—the most common delivery channel—and in the browser itself, to warn users about suspicious web pages.
  • Preventing the person-in-the-middle attacks mentioned above by preventing automated login attempts.
  • Phishing-resistant authentication using FIDO with security keys or a Bluetooth connection to your phone.
  • Hardening the Google Prompt challenge to help users identify suspicious sign-in attempts, or to ask them to take additional steps that can defeat phishing (like navigating to a new web address, or to join the same wireless network as the computer they’re logging into).

Expanding phishing-resistant authentication to more users

Over the last decade we’ve been working hard with a number of industry partners on expanding phishing-resistant authentication mechanisms, as part of FIDO Alliance. Through these efforts we introduced physical FIDO security keys, such as the Titan Security Key, which prevent phishing by verifying the identity of the website you’re logging into. (This verification protects against the “person-in-the-middle” phishing described above.) Recently, we announced a major milestone with the FIDO Alliance, Apple and Microsoft by expanding our support for the FIDO Sign-in standards, helping to launch us into a truly passwordless, phishing-resistant future.

Even though security keys work great, we don’t expect everyone to add one to their keyring.

Instead, to make this level of security more accessible, we’re building it into mobile phones. Unlike physical FIDO security keys that need to be connected to your device via USB, we use Bluetooth to ensure your phone is close to the device you’re logging into. Like physical security keys, this helps prevent a distant attacker from tricking you into approving a sign-in on their browser, giving us an added layer of security against the kind of “person in the middle” attacks that can still work against SMS or Google Prompt.

(But don’t worry: this doesn’t allow computers within Bluetooth range to login as you—it only grants that approval to the computer you’re logging into. And we only use this to verify that your phone is near the device you’re logging into, so you only need to have Bluetooth on during login.)

Over the next couple of months we’ll be rolling out this technology in more places, which you might notice as a request for you to enable Bluetooth while logging in, so we can perform this additional security check. If you’ve signed into your Google account on your Android phone, we can enroll your phone automatically—just like with Google Prompt—allowing us to give this added layer of security to many of our users without the need for any additional setup.

But unfortunately this secure login doesn’t work everywhere—for example, when logging into a computer that doesn’t support Bluetooth, or a browser that doesn’t support security keys. That’s why, if we are to offer phishing-resistant security to everyone, we have to offer backups when security keys aren’t available—and those backups must also be secure enough to prevent attackers from taking advantage of them.

Hardening existing challenges against phishing

Over the past few months, we’ve started experimenting with making our traditional Google Prompt challenges more phishing resistant.

We already use different challenge experiences depending on the situation—for example, sometimes we ask the user to match a PIN code with what they’re seeing on the screen in addition to clicking “allow” or “deny”. This can help prevent static phishing pages from tricking you into approving a challenge.

We’ve also begun experimenting with more involved challenges for higher-risk situations, including more prominent warnings when we see you logging in from a computer that we think might belong to a phisher, or asking you to join your phone to the same Wi-Fi network as the computer you’re logging into so we can be sure the two are near each other. Similar to our use of Bluetooth for Security Keys, this prevents an attacker from tricking you into logging into a “person-in-the-middle” phishing page.

Bringing it all together

Of course, while all of these options dramatically increase account security, we also know that they can be a challenge for some of our users, which is why we’re rolling them out gradually, as part of a risk-based approach that also focuses on usability. If we think an account is at a higher risk, or if we see abnormal behavior, we’re more likely to use these additional security measures.

Over time, as FIDO2 authentication becomes more widely available, we expect to be able to make it the default for many of our users, and to rely on stronger versions of our existing challenges like those described above to provide secure fallbacks.

All these new tools in our toolbox—detecting browser automation to prevent “person in the middle” attacks, warning users in Chrome and Gmail, making the Google Prompt more secure, and automatically enabling Android phones as easy-to-use Security Keys—work together to allow us to better protect our users against phishing.

Phishing attacks have long been seen as a persistent threat, but these recent developments give us the ability to really move the needle and help more of our users stay safer online.

What can organizations do to capitalize on the current fluidity in the job market and bring fresh cybersecurity talent into the fold?

The post Opportunity out of crisis: Tapping the Great Resignation to close the cybersecurity skills gap appeared first on WeLiveSecurity

LinkedIn scammers attack when we may be at our most vulnerable – here’s what to look out for and how to avoid falling victim to fraud when using the platform

The post Common LinkedIn scams: Beware of phishing attacks and fake job offers appeared first on WeLiveSecurity

The conflict in Ukraine has highlighted the risks of cyberespionage attacks that typically involve Advanced Persistent Threat groups and often target organizations’ most valuable data

The post Defending against APT attacks – Week in security with Tony Anscombe appeared first on WeLiveSecurity

The bitter truth about how fraudsters dupe online daters in this new twist on romance fraud

The post There’s no sugarcoating it: That online sugar daddy may be a scammer appeared first on WeLiveSecurity

Here’s what you should know about some of the nastiest mobile malware – from malicious software that takes phones and data hostage to RATs that allow hackers to control devices remotely

The post 3 most dangerous types of Android malware appeared first on WeLiveSecurity