Researcher Spots New Malware Claimed to be ‘Tailored for Air‑Gapped Networks’ – Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

A cybersecurity researcher at ESET today published an analysis of a new piece of malware, a sample of which they spotted on the Virustotal malware scanning engine and believe the hacker behind it is likely interested in some high-value computers protected behind air‑gapped networks.
Dubbed ‘Ramsay,’ the malware is still under development with two more variants (v2.a and v2.b) spotted in the wild and doesn’t yet appear to be a complex attacking framework based upon the details researcher shared.
However, before reading anything further, it’s important to note that the malware itself doesn’t leverage any extraordinary or advanced technique that could let attackers jump air-gapped networks to infiltrate or exfiltrate data from the targeted computers.

According to the researcher, Ramsay infiltrates targeted computers through malicious documents, potentially sent via a spear-phishing email or dropped using a USB drive, and then exploits an old code execution vulnerability in Microsoft Office to take hold on the system.
‘Several instances of these same malicious documents were found uploaded to public sandbox engines, labeled as testing artifacts such as access_test.docx or Test.docx denoting an ongoing effort for trial of this specific attack vector,’ the researcher said.
Ramsay malware primarily consists of two main functionalities:

Collecting all existing Word documents, PDFs, and ZIP archives within the target’s filesystem and storing them to a pre-defined location on the same system or directly to a network or removable drives.
Spreading itself to other computers being used within the same isolated facility by infecting all executable files available on a network shares and removable drives.

According to the researcher, the Ramsay samples they found do not have a network-based C&C communication protocol, nor does any attempt to connect to a remote host for communication purposes.

Now the question arises, how the attackers are supposed to exfiltrate data from a compromised system.
Honestly, there’s no clear answer to this at this moment, but researcher speculate that the malware might have been ‘tailored for air‑gapped networks’ with similar scenarios—considering that the only option left is to physically access the machine and steal the collected data with a weaponized USB.
‘It is important to notice that there is a correlation between the target drives Ramsay scans for propagation and control document retrieval,’ the ESET researcher said.

“This assesses the relationship between Ramsay’s spreading and control capabilities showing how Ramsay’s operators leverage the framework for lateral movement, denoting the likelihood that this framework has been designed to operate within air-gapped networks.’
‘The current visibility of targets is low; based on ESET’s telemetry, few victims have been discovered to date. We believe this scarcity of victims reinforces the hypothesis that this framework is under an ongoing development process, although the low visibility of victims could also be due to the nature of targeted systems being in air-gapped networks,’ he added.
However, a lack of technical and statistical evidence doesn’t support this theory yet and remains a broad guess.
Moreover, since the malware is still under development, it’s too early to decide if the malware has only been designed to target air-gapped networks.
It likely possible that the future versions of the malware could have an implication to connect with a remote attacker-controlled server for receiving commands and exfiltrating data.
We have reached out to ESET researcher for more clarity on the ‘air-gap’ claim and will update this story once he responds.

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Hubble spots liquid water on a ‘super-Earth’ 110 light-years away – gpgmail


Water is not uncommon to find in our galaxy in ice or gaseous form, but liquid water is quite rare — and liquid and gaseous water on an Earth-like exoplanet? That’s never been observed… until now. Astronomers spotted this celestial unicorn, called K2-18 b, using the venerable Hubble space telescope.

K2-18 b is a “super-Earth,” a planet with a mass and size approximately like our own. Not only that, it exists in its solar system’s “habitable zone,” meaning a range of temperatures where liquid water can continuously exist. It’s about 110 light-years away in the constellation Leo.

Of course there are many super-Earths, and many planets in habitable zones, and many planets with water — but they’re never one and the same. This is the first time we’ve found the trifecta.

Researchers used past Hubble data to examine the spectral signature of light shining from K2-18 b’s sun through its atmosphere. They found evidence of both liquid and gaseous water, suggesting a water cycle like our own: evaporation, condensation, and all that.

To be clear, this is not an indication of little green men or anything like that; K2-18 b’s red dwarf sun is absolutely bombarding it with radiation. “It is highly unlikely that this world is habitable in any way that we understand based on life as we know it,” the Space Telescope Science Institute’s Hannah Wakeford told Nature.

Too bad — but that wasn’t what scientists were hoping to find. The discovery of an Earth-like planet with an Earth-like water cycle in the habitable zone is amazing, especially considering the relatively small number of exoplanets that have been examined this way. The galaxy is full of them, after all, so finding one with these qualities suggests there are plenty more where K2-18 b came from.

This discovery is an interesting one in another fashion: It was done, like lots of others are these days, by performing after-the-fact analysis on publicly available data (from 2016 and 2017), and the analysis used open-source algorithms. Essentially both the data and the methods were out there in the open — though naturally it takes serious scientific effort to actually put them together.

Two papers were published on K2-18 b, one from the University of Montreal and one from University College London. The former appeared on preprint site Arxiv yesterday, and the other was published in the journal Nature Astronomy today.


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Curiosity Spots Unexpectedly Complex Martian Rock


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NASA’s Curiosity rover has seen a lot of rocks. In fact, that’s almost all it sees on the surface of Mars. Recently, the rover spotted a rock so strange that the team decided to move in for a closer look. The so-called “Strathdon” has dozens of sedimentary layers squished together, a geological quirk scientists didn’t expect to see on Mars. This points to a potentially complicated and watery past in the region explored by Curiosity. 

Curiosity landed on Mars in 2012, setting up shop in Gale Crater. Its goal was to make its way to nearby Mount Sharp and roll up the slope, examining the geology on the way. It reached the base of the mountain in 2014. The team has made numerous pit stops along the way to the summit in order to take a closer look at interesting regions. Currently, the rover is puttering around in an area called the “clay-bearing unit.” In the distant past, it was most likely home to streams and lakes, the only remnants of which are clay mineral deposits. 

While exploring the clay-bearing unit, Curiosity happened upon a strange boulder partially buried in the ground — the Strathdon. The rock formed from many layers of compressed sediment that had hardened into a brittle, wavy mass. It’s a stark contrast from the flat layers of lake sediment Curiosity has seen elsewhere on Mars. 

Strathdon as seen from 4 inches away.

Curiosity approached the Strathdon, taking a close-up mosaic image for scientists back on Earth to examine. The team speculates that the structure of this boulder means the clay-bearing unit has a much more complex and dynamic geological history than anyone expected. A combination of flowing water and wind could be responsible for the existence of this formation. This region might have been quite hospitable to life many eons ago, but Curiosity can’t say for certain — that’s for the next rover to find out. 

NASA’s Mars 2020 rover is being assembled at JPL as we speak. It has a robotic arm, wheels, and some of its many, many cameras. The still-unnamed rover uses the same chassis as Curiosity, but it will carry instruments that are better able to search for signs of ancient life on the red planet. The launch is scheduled for next summer when Earth and Mars are lined up for an easy journey. Mars 2020 will join Curiosity on the surface in February 2021.

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NASA’s TESS Spots 3 New Exoplanets in Rare Solar System


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The Kepler planet-hunting satellite is long gone, but NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is just getting started. This satellite has spotted a few exoplanets early in its mission, and the most recent batch includes some extremely weird worlds along with yet another super-Earth. The super-Earth is scorching hot, and the others are cooler. However, they’re not ice worlds like Neptune.  

All three planets orbit a star called TOI-270, which sits roughly 73 light-years away. TOI-270 is about 40 percent smaller than the sun and one-third cooler. Still, the smallest of the three planets (TOI 270 b) orbits close enough to the star (every 3.4 Earth days) to be inhospitable to life as we know it. It has an equilibrium surface temperature of 490 degrees Fahrenheit (254 degrees Celsius). It’s only 25 percent larger than Earth and has 1.9 times the mass, so scientists believe it’s a rocky object. 

The other two planets are chilly, and they don’t appear to have any analogs in our solar system. TOI 270 c and TOI 270 d are 2.4 and 2.1 times larger than Earth, respectively. They most likely have a mass between five and seven times that of Earth. These planets orbit closer to their star than Earth does to the sun — 5.7 days for TOI 270 c and 11.4 days for TOI 270 d. However, the cooler temperature of TOI-270 means they’re much less extreme. 

The TESS spacecraft.

Most of the gas giants we detect in other solar systems are either so-called hot Jupiters or ice giants like Neptune. TOI 270 c and TOI 270 c and TOI 270 d are fascinating because they’re a middle ground between the two. TOI 270 c is toasty, but not as warm as a hot Jupiter at 300 degrees Fahrenheit (150 degrees Celsius). TOI 270 d is not exactly cozy at 150 degrees Fahrenheit (67 degrees C), but that’s potentially habitable for very robust forms of life. Again, these are equilibrium temperatures, which is based only on the energy it receives from the star. The real temperature could be higher or lower. 

Astronomers consider the TOI-270 system an ideal place to learn more about planetary evolution. We don’t have planets like TOI 270 c and TOI 270 d in our solar system, so they could have much to teach us. Perhaps the most exciting thing about TOI-270 is its location in the sky. It will be in the James Webb Space Telescope’s field of view for over six months when it’s launched. Astronomers will be able to gather a huge amount of data about this distinctive solar system, and that could change the way we understand planetary development.

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Africa’s ride-hail markets are hot spots for startups and VC – gpgmail


When it comes to VC, vehicles, and startups, Africa’s ride-hail markets are becoming a multi-wheeled and global affair.

The big players such as Uber and Bolt are competing in Kampala and Nairobi—where in addition to car-service—they offer rickshaw taxis. On-demand motorcycle startups are multiplying and piloting EVs with funds from international partners. And many ride-hail companies in Africa are adapting unique product solutions to local transit needs.

In this analysis, I take a look at the leading startups in the mobility space and how the future of transportation on the continent will increasingly come from new entrants.

Africa’s in the midst of digital innovation boom

Africa’s in the midst of digital innovation boom, the components of which are intersecting rapidly across its 54 countries and 1.2 billion people.

Smartphone penetration is improving and in 2017, the continent saw the largest global increase in internet users—20 percent.

By Partech data, the continent surpassed the $1 billion VC mark in 2018. And greater connectivity and venture funding are fueling thousands of startups in every imaginable sector, including digital-transit.

While reliable markets stats for the size and potential of Africa’s ride-hail markets are sparse, there are some indicators of the sector’s potential.

Car ownership and cars per capita in Africa is among the lowest in the world. Parallel to that, any eyes and ears survey of the continent’s big cities reveals that shared transport by buses, cars, or motorcycles is big business that’s already ingrained in consumer culture. Millions of people daily pay fares to pack onto East and West Africa’s Mutatu and Danfo minibuses and Okada and Boda Boda motorbike taxis.

As Africa continues to urbanize, converts to smartphones, and discretionary consumer spending continues to rise—it all adds up to suggest strong potential for conversion to on-demand mobility services.

Unsurprisingly, the most active markets for ride-hail startups and investment in Africa align with the continent’s top spots for VC and tech activity: primarily Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa.



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