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07 Jul



Until last week, when a member posting anonymously in a hacker forum offered to sell the data, a sizable online database believed to hold the personal information of up to a billion Chinese individuals had been left unprotected and open to the public. According to cybersecurity experts, the breach could be one of the greatest ever documented, illustrating the dangers of gathering and keeping enormous volumes of sensitive personal data online, particularly in a nation where authorities have open access to such data.

According to LeakIX, a website that finds and indexes online exposed databases, the vast amount of Chinese personal data had been accessible to the public via what appeared to be an unsecured backdoor link since at least April 2021. This link is a shortcut web address that grants full access to anyone who knows it. After an anonymous user posted on a hacker forum last Thursday offering more than 23 terabytes (TB) of data for sale for 10 bitcoin — nearly $200,000 — access to the database, which had no password requirement, was shut down. According to the user, the database was compiled by the Shanghai police. It contained private data on one billion Chinese citizens, including their names, addresses, phone numbers, national ID numbers, ages, and places of birth. It also allegedly contained massive amounts of data of calls made to police to report crimes and civil disputes.

The seller’s post contained a representative of 750,000 records drawn from the database’s three primary indexes. CNN was unable to access the original database, but more than two dozen entries from the seller’s sample were authenticated by CNN.

CNN repeatedly sent written requests to respond to the Shanghai police and administration, but neither responded. The seller also stated that Alibaba Cloud, a Chinese e-commerce juggernaut Alibaba division, had housed the unprotected information. Alibaba informed CNN that it was observant and was looking into it. However, according to experts CNN spoke with, the corporation hosting the data was not at fault; instead, the data’s owner was. According to the current situation, Troy Hunt, a Microsoft regional director located in Australia, “I suppose this would be the greatest leak of public data yet — definitely regarding the magnitude of the effect in China, we’re speaking about most of the population here.”

Given that there are 1.4 billion individuals living in China, the data leak may impact more than 70% of the country’s population. “The genie won’t be able to return to the bottle in this particular instance. There is no turning back once the material is published in the manner in which it currently looks, “Hunt said. The information was made publicly accessible online for at least 14 months. However, how many individuals have visited or downloaded it during that time is unknown. Before the database was forced into the public eye last week, two Western cybersecurity specialists who spoke to CNN knew it existed, indicating that it could be easily found by those who knew where to search. Founder of the dark web intelligence company Shadowbyte and cybersecurity expert Vinny Troia claimed to have come across the dataset “around January” when looking for open databases online. All you need to do to access the website I found it on is signup for an account, according to Troia. He continued, “Any number of persons might have downloaded the data since it was opened in April 2021.”

Troia claimed to have retrieved one of the database’s primary indexes, including details on around 970 million Chinese individuals. According to Troia, it was difficult to determine whether the access was a mistake made by the database’s owners or a deliberate shortcut meant to be used by a select group of users.

He stated, referring to the authorities in charge of the database, “Either they forgot about it, or they purposefully left it open since it is easier for them to access.” “I cannot imagine why they would. It sounds incredibly sloppy.” Cybersecurity analysts claim it is not rare to encounter databases left accessible to the public. Unsecured personal data is a problem that businesses and governments worldwide face more frequently due to leaks, breaches, or other instances of ineptitude.

According to Wired, Troia learned in 2018 that a Florida-based marketing company had exposed nearly 2 TB of data that appeared to include confidential info on hundreds of millions of American adults on a server that was open to the public.

According to Reuters, in 2019, Dutch cybersecurity researcher Victor Gevers discovered an online database that contained the names, national ID numbers, birth dates, and locations of more than 2.5 million people in China’s Xinjiang region. The database had been left unprotected for months by Chinese company SenseNets Technology.

Security experts say the most recent data breach is particularly concerning given the sensitivity of the material it may include and its potentially record-breaking amount. According to a CNN review of the database sample, police files on incidents from over 20 years, from 2001 to 2019, were discovered. While civil issues make up the bulk of the entries, there are records of criminal incidents, from rape to fraud.

In one instance, a Shanghai resident was cited by police in 2018 for allegedly retweeting “reactionary sentiments involving the (Communist) Party, politics, and leaders” while circumnavigating China’s firewall through a virtual private network (VPN). According to another report, a mother reported her father-in-law to the police in 2010 on suspicion of raping her 3-year-old daughter. Hunt, the regional director for Microsoft, stated that “there might be domestic violence, child sexual abuse, all sorts of things in there, which to me is a lot more concerning.”

“Could this result in extortion? Following data breaches, we frequently witness cases of extortion, in which hackers have even tried to hold people for ransom.” Recently, the Chinese government has increased its efforts to strengthen the protection of online user privacy. The nation’s first Personal Information Protection Law, which established guidelines for collecting, using, and storing personal data, was passed last year. Although the law can control technological corporations, experts have expressed worry that it could be challenging to implement when applied to the Chinese government.

Ukrainian-based security researcher Bob Diachenko discovered the database for the first time in April. Midway through June, his business found that the database had been targeted by an unidentified hostile actor. According to Diachenko, he deleted and copied the data and left a ransom note requesting 10 bitcoin to have it recovered. It is unclear if this was created by the same individual who announced the sale of database information last week. According to Diachenko, the ransom letter had vanished by July 1, but only 7 gigabytes (GB) of data were available, not the 23 TB that had been first promised.

Diachenko said it suggested the ransom had been resolved. Still, the database owners had continued to use the exposed database for storing until it was shut down over the weekend. “Maybe there was some junior developer who noticed it and tried to remove the notes before senior management noticed them,” he said.

Shanghai Police did not respond to CNN’s request for comments on the ransom note.

Courtesy Of Kenya Citizen Digital and CNN

Looking for data leak protection services.

At East African Data Handlers we have a Digital Forensics department that deals with data leak protection services.

For assistance call now 0711 051 00 or email info@datarecovery.co.ke

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22 Jan

Data expert helping trace data crime

Data expert helping trace data crime

On many occasions during tense court proceedings for a Data Crime Related case, George Njoroge, the CEO of East Africa Data Handlers, has felt like punching the air in exasperation as he listened to his lawyer go off-script. In some of those instances, he has ended up losing data litigations he should have won with ease.

He had lost enough suits by the time he decided to enrol for a law degree at the University of Nairobi two years ago. His vision was not to become a lawyer.

“I would be very clear about the assignment at hand, but I just could not articulate the brief to the lawyer in proper legal terms. I needed a grasp of the law to be able to instruct my legal team better.”

Wearing a smile with as much swank as his blue tuxedo, he tells me that helping people and businesses to mitigate different issues through data has been the biggest fulfilment of his life. But his experiences have also been an opportunity to “understand our naivety about the complexities of data.”

That he is in the right place at the right time could not be truer. Fifteen years ago, he set up East Africa Data Handlers, the only such business in Kenya. For 10 years, the firm built a reputation for helping clients recover lost data.

Now the business has expanded to six markets in Africa. But the scene is different. He tells me the data recovery segment of the business is no longer viable. “Few people lose their data anymore. Recovering lost data constitutes only about 20 percent of our work or less.”

Instead, there is an almost infinite and untapped mine in forensics work “which is the future for data professionals.”

Forensics is exciting, lucrative but a dangerous territory with clientele spanning powerful people, corporations, and State agencies.

To get a feel of his world, George is hesitant to do this interview in either of his two labs in the city where more than 100 data engineers and analysts, forensics technicians, and reconstruction experts work.

“This work is sensitive. Essentially, we break into computers to extract vital digital information for use as evidence in court.” The last thing he wants in his labs is prying eyes, I gather.

On the day of this interview, I run into him in the lift, with a visibly agitated client in tow. From their body language, it is obvious something is off-tangent.

“Data theft or manipulation often means loss of business or reputation,” he explains about the frantic conversation with the client.

Many of those who come to see him are in this distraught state. But it is his effortless calm in the face of routine tempests that is admirable about this executive. EADH is betting on two things to grow in this relatively new market; Anton Piller and ransomware decryption.

“In Anton Piller, data experts search a suspect’s premises, including their computers, to seize evidence needed to prosecute a case.” In this principle, no prior notice is given.

The company has applied this principle in disputes involving corporations, including one between a leading telco and an associate, and during mergers and acquisitions where skulduggery often thrives.

“We’ve used Anton Piller to investigate claims of insider trading during a merger between two companies in the energy sector,” he recounts.

George acknowledges that obtaining evidence this way is often a slippery process, owing to the legal landmines involved. “The product of an [illegal process] is illegality. The first thing you do is to legalise the process by getting a court order from a judge by presenting what you believe is evidence.”

It is for the same reason that the business runs with exclusivity and, sometimes, secrecy.

Three years ago, George had toyed with the idea of listing his company. Today, he is glad he held back.

“Many of the companies who did at the time haven’t gained as much value as the owners had anticipated. Our stock market hasn’t done well in recent years. Privately held companies have dinner better.”

George does admit, though, that he is an introverted and introspective professional who believes that “things move faster when I act alone.”

A father of four, he says he wants his children to have a different outlook on education.

“I want them to appreciate how differently things are done elsewhere and that they can replicate it here by choosing whatever career paths they want.”

New-age crime

Nothing excites George quite like the applicability of technology to mitigate issues such as new-age crime.

Ransomware is his favorite.

“Today, criminals will hack into a company computer and encrypt their data (putting a password) and then demand a ransom,” he explains.

For businesses, encryption of their data, usually collected for years, is unthinkable. “It’s this data they use to draw insights that inform their business decisions.”

As such, many will pay any amount of money to have access to their data “which the hackers have no use for.”

George says the way of life has made the modern human more vulnerable to data malpractices, mostly because “we’re behavioural and instinctive.”

Passwords offer little protection for personal data. This is true for individuals and companies.

“In most cases, the IT manager keeps the password for the company’s computers. Sometimes the password is his girlfriend’s name. You only need to get this detail and all the data is yours to access.”

This vulnerability will only grow worse in the future. To him, it is up to people to change what details they keep on their phones, for instance. “We’ve our lives compressed in our phones from wallets to personal pictures, certificates, and other documents. This makes us vulnerable.”

Then there are the deep fakes, which run wide and against which no one is safe. Personalities have fallen victim to the use of footage, images, and audio from different contexts combined to create a narrative that either embarrasses them or hurts their brand.

“The complexity of telling the difference between what’s authentic and what’s fake is very high today,” George says, revealing that he is currently working on “one of the biggest cases locally” where the data of a business has been compromised.

He has a name for it: corporate thuggery. “It’s becoming an area of focus for us as a business. We’re constantly working to prove that certain things [about our clients] didn’t happen.”

On the future of data litigation, George insists that the judge, prosecutor, and lawyer of the future will have to be tech-savvy.

“I see a possibility where to study law one will be required to have an undergraduate degree in the various disciplines in technology.” His indulgence With nearly 20 timepieces, buying collector watches is George’s way of rewarding himself. He tells me that investing money in property has never appealed to him. If he could, he would invest his wealth in crypto currency, a possibility he has considered since 2015. “When I learnt about it, one Bitcoin cost $2,000 (Sh220,000). Today, the coin costs $50,000 (Sh5.5 million).” Why then didn’t he invest when he had a chance and could afford it?

“At one point, the crypto market crashed. I was also not sure whether it was the right time to invest. At the time, and even today, I still haven’t figured out how crypto currencies work.”

A General Election is coming in under seven months, and once again, data on voters is priceless in the development of campaign messaging. It is also a period that is awash with data manipulation, misinformation, and malice. George’s take is straightforward and blunt.

“The battle will be won digitally. You can’t wish away the power of technology to influence and shape the opinions and actions of people.”

If hiring a data expert is an expensive undertaking for many businesses, setting up a data department is nearly inconceivable. How has he managed to hire such a large team of highly sought-after professionals?

George argues that his focus has always been to attract and retain talent. “We’ve been around for 15 years. This has allowed us to develop the right talent and skills.”

Companies, he says, cannot continue to hold back investment in data.

“The future of business is in data-driven decision making. It’s in innovation. No CEO can afford to make decisions on a whim anymore. A must-have in many businesses today is an accountant. The must-have in companies of the future will be data analysts.”


Full Interview Courtesy of: Business Daily Africa.


Looking For  Data Digital Forensics Experts in Kenya And Africa”

Talks to out Data Experts:


+254 722 435 163 or +254 711 051 000.

WhatsApp Us On https://wa.me/254722435163


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08 Jun

Cyber Attacks Protection

How to Protect Your Organization Against Cyber Attacks?

Witnessing the extent of damage cyber attacks can cause should be reason enough to take the necessary preventive measures right away. So, here are some steps you can take to reinforce your organization’s cyber security framework and keep it shielded from cyber attacks.
1) Generate Cyber Security Awareness:
2) Implement a Phishing Incident Response Tool for Cyber Attacks
3) Carry Out Cyber VAPT
4) Keep the Systems Updated:
5) Implement MFA: Enable Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) across all the applicable endpoints of your organization’s networks to prevent Cyber Attacks.


So, don’t wait for your company’s name to be on the list of cyber attack victims and take the necessary precautions immediately.
Would you like Cyber Attacks Protection Services  for the above in your organization?
For your consultation please call us today on +254 722 435163 or +254 711 051 000. | Talk to our Experts #Fraud #Ransomwar. #cyberattack #cybercrime #hackers #ransomwareremoval #ransomwareattack #hackers Visit us here :https://goo.gl/maps/KcpRLuJBc3qi
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