Tag Archives: Mobile Malware

Are Hackers Using Good Morning Messages To Hack You?

Can Hackers Use Good Morning Greetings To Hack You?

Can hackers use Good Morning videos, pictures and messages to hack your devices, and steal your data?

Find out what is happening, and what the FACTS really are!


Claim : Hackers Are Using Good Morning Messages To Hack You!

This post about Chinese hackers using Good Morning videos, pictures and messages to hack your devices, keeps going viral on social media and WhatsApp.

It’s a long message, so just skip to the next section for the facts!

Dear friends, please delete all welcome photos and videos in Good Morning format and the like. Read below the article to the end, which will be clear why I ask about it. From now on I will only send personally prepared greetings.

Read it all !!! Send this message urgently to as many friends as you can to stop the invasion.

Olga Nikolaevna Lawyer: Caution:


For those who like to send Good Morning pictures! Good day! Good evening!

Do not send these “good” messages.

Today, Shanghai China International News sent SOS to all subscribers (this is the third reminder) that experts recommend: please do not send good morning, good night, pictures and videos,.


Truth : Good Morning Greetings Not Being Used To Hack You!

Many of us get spammed with Good Morning or Good Night messages every day from family and friends.

While they often clog up Facebook, Telegram and WhatsApp groups, they really do NOT allow hackers to hack your devices.

Here are the reasons why Good Morning messages are very irritating, but harmless…

Fact #1 : Shanghai China International News Does Not Exist

The news organisation that was claimed to be the source of this warning – Shanghai China International News –  does not exist!

Fact #2 : Good Morning Greetings Not Created By Hackers

Hackers (from China or anywhere else) have better things to do than to create these Good Morning pictures and videos.

They are mostly created by websites and social media influencers for people to share and attract new followers.

Fact #3 : No Fraud Involving Good Morning Messages

There has been no known fraud involving Good Morning or even Good Night messages, videos or pictures.

Certainly, half a million victims of such a scam would have made front page news. Yet there is not a single report on even one case…. because it never happened.

Fact #4 : Image-Based Malware Is Possible, But…

Digital steganography is a method by which secret messages and other data can be hidden in digital files, like a photo or a video, or even a music file.

It is also possible to embed malicious code within a Good Morning photo, but it won’t be a full-fledged malware that can execute by itself.

At most, it can be used to hide the malware payload from antivirus scanners, which is pretty clever to be honest…

Fact #5 : Image-Based Malware Requires User Action

In January 2019, cybercriminals created an online advertisement with a script that appears innocuous and would pass any malware check.

However, the image itself has an “almost white” rectangle that is recognised by the script, triggering it to redirect the user to the cybercriminals’ website.

Once there, the victim is tricked into installing a Trojan disguised as an Adobe Flash Player update.

Such a clever way to bypass malware checks, but even so, this image-based malware requires user action.

You cannot get infected by the Trojan if you practice good “Internet hygiene” by not downloading or installing anything from unknown websites.

Fact #6 : Malicious Code Executes Immediately

If you accidentally download and trigger malware, it will execute immediately. It won’t wait, as the hoax message claims.

Deleting Good Morning or Good Night photos or videos will free up storage space in your phone, but it won’t prevent any malware from executing.

There is really no reason for malware to wait before it infects your devices. Waiting will only increase the risk of detection.

Whether the malware serves to take over your device, steal your information or encrypt it for ransom, it pays to do it at the first opportunity.

Now that you know the facts, please SHARE this article with your family and friends!


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Android Wallpaper Malware Explained + Solved!

Ice Universe shared a really interesting problem earlier today – a wallpaper that would set certain Android smartphones into a boot loop. Literally wallpaper malware!

Find out what this wallpaper malware is all about, and how to prevent it from bricking your Android smartphone!


Android Wallpaper Malware Explained + Solved Video

For a quick run-down, we prepared this video that explains what the wallpaper does, and how to solve the problem.


Android Wallpaper Malware : What Is It?

The wallpaper was first shared by Ice Universe whose friend was affected by it. As you can see, there is really nothing remarkable about it.

If you set it as a wallpaper on a vulnerable Android smartphone, it will force the device to go into a boot loop.

Once that happens, there is nothing more you can do, except to factory reset your smartphonedestroying all of its data.


Android Wallpaper Malware : The Cause

Ice Universe paved the way to discovering the cause when he noted that the wallpaper’s colour seemed to changed when he uploaded it to Weibo.

So we looked into the metadata of the wallpaper, and discovered that it has a specific ICC colour profile for Google Skia – E3CADAB7BD3DE5E3436874D2A9DEE126

That ICC colour profile appears to trip the Google Skia graphics engine for certain Android devices, causing them to reboot.

Technically, com.android.systemui.glwallpaper.ImageProcessHelper crashes from an ArrayIndexOutOfBoundsException while trying to load the wallpaper with the embedded colour profile.

And because the wallpaper loads when Android UI loads, it triggers another reboot. Your smartphone is now stuck in a boot loop – it will keep rebooting on loading the wallpaper.


Android Wallpaper Malware : The Solution

The solution is surprisingly simple – remove the ICC colour profile. You can do that by using a photo editor (like Photoshop) and simply saving the wallpaper without embedding the colour profile.

Alternatively, you can use an EXIF remover app or software to strip the wallpaper’s metadata. That should strip its colour profile as well. Just make sure you check before you load it into your phone!

The only problem is that stripping the colour profile makes the wallpaper look less vivid.

But the best thing to do is really just avoid the wallpaper altogether. Don’t even download it.

Google really needs to look into how such a bad colour profile in a picture can trip Google Skia and force the phone into a boot loop.

We should consider this a shot across the bow. Not only should we question whether we really “need” that nice wallpaper, we should be more proactive and :

  • offload our data from our smartphones on a regular basis
  • keep constant backups of our smartphone data
  • consider recording our photos and videos to a microSD card

This way, even if another wallpaper or picture malware comes along and bricks your phone, you won’t lose all of your data.


Recommended Reading

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Everything On The Meltdown + Spectre CPU Flaws! Rev. 3.0

The Meltdown and Spectre CPU flaws that the Google Project Zero team discovered are arguably the worst we have ever known. These vulnerabilities were built into BILLIONS of CPUs that we have been using for the last decade or so.

Not just Intel CPUs, but also CPUs made by AMD, Apple and ARM. Even those that power our smartphones and other smart devices!

Let’s take a look at what we know so far about Meltdown and Spectre, how they affect you, and what we can do about them.

This story is still developing. We will update the article as and when new details emerge. Be sure to check back and refresh the page for the latest information!


Article Update History

Click here for the Article Update History

2018-02-17 : Updated the table of CPUs vulnerable to Meltdown and Spectre. Updated four sections with new information.

2018-02-05 : Added a table of CPUs vulnerable to Meltdown and Spectre. Updated three sections with new information.

2018-01-25 : Revamped the entire article. Added a new section on the difference between Meltdown and Spectre, and a new section on InSpectre. Updated the list of vulnerable processors, mitigation efforts by Microsoft and Apple, as well as the Intel spontaneous reboot issues with their Spectre 2 patches.

2018-01-16 : Updated the list of vulnerable processors, and added a new section on Intel CPUs spontaneously rebooting after applying Meltdown and Spectre patches. Also added cautionary advice on holding off these updates.

2018-01-12 : Updated the article with the AMD confirmation that their processors are vulnerable to both Spectre exploits. Also added details on the Google Retpoline mitigation technique against Spectre attacks.

2018-01-11 : Added new sections on the performance impact of the Meltdown and Spectre mitigation patches, and reports of those patches bricking some AMD PCs. Also expanded the list of affected CPUs, and corrected information on the Intel-SA-00086 Detection Tool.

Between 2018-01-09 and 2018-01-10 : Numerous updates including details of patches and affected CPUs.

Originally posted @ 2018-01-09


The Meltdown + Spectre Vulnerabilities

  • The Project Zero team identified these vulnerabilities in 2017, reporting it to Intel, AMD and ARM on 1 June 2017.
  • These vulnerabilities take advantage of the Speculative Execution and Branch Prediction features of the modern processor, that have been used for many years to improve performance.
  • Speculative Execution lets the CPU predict and pre-execute the next instruction, allowing it to “instantly” deliver the results if it’s correct.
  • Branch Prediction helps the CPU predict future execution paths that should be speculatively-executed for better performance.
  • There are THREE (3) variants of the speculative execution CPU bug :
    • Variant 1 : Bounds Check Bypass (CVE-2017-5753)
    • Variant 2 : Branch Target Injection (CVE-2017-5715)
    • Variant 3 : Rogue Data Cache Load (CVE-2017-5754)
  • The Spectre attack (whitepaper) exploits variants 1 and 2.
  • The Meltdown attack (whitepaper) exploits variant 3.
  • There is a Variant 3a, which appears to affect only certain ARM processors.


What’s The Difference Between Meltdown & Spectre?

  • Spectre tricks the CPU branch predictor into mis-predicting the wrong path, thereby speculatively executing code that would not otherwise be executed.
  • Meltdown takes advantage of the out-of-order execution capability of modern processors, tricking them into executing malicious code that would normally not be allowed.
  • The Spectre name is based on both the root cause – speculative execution, and the fact that it is not easy to fix, and will haunt us for a long time like a spectre (ghost).
  • The Meltdown name was chosen because the vulnerability “basically melts security boundaries which are normally enforced by the hardware“.


How Bad Are Meltdown & Spectre?

  • The Spectre exploits let an attacker access and copy information from the memory space used by other applications.
  • The Meltdown exploit lets an attacker copy the entire physical memory of the computer.
  • Unless patched, the affected processors are vulnerable to malware and cyberattacks that exploits this CPU bug to steal critical information from running apps (like login and credit card information, emails, photos, documents, etc.)
  • While the Meltdown exploit can be “fixed”, it is likely that the Spectre exploit cannot be fixed, only mitigated, without a redesign of the processors. That means we will have to live with the risks of a Spectre attack for many more years to come.


How Many Processors Are Affected? Updated!

For the complete list of affected AMD, Apple, ARM and Intel processors, please see this separate article – The Complete List Of CPUs Vulnerable To Meltdown / Spectre

Company Spectre 1 Spectre 2 Meltdown
AMD 295 Server CPUs
42 Workstation CPUs
396 Desktop CPUs
208 Mobile CPUs
295 Server CPUs
42 Workstation CPUs
396 Desktop CPUs
208 Mobile CPUs
Apple 13 Mobile SoCs 13 Mobile SoCs 13 Mobile SoCs
ARM 10 Mobile CPUs
3 Server SoCs
10 Mobile CPUs
3 Server SoCs
4 Mobile CPUs
3 Server SoCs
Intel 732 Server / Workstation CPUs
443 Desktop CPUs
583 Mobile CPUs
51 Mobile SoCs
732 Server / Workstation CPUs
443 Desktop CPUs
583 Mobile CPUs
51 Mobile SoCs
732 Server / Workstation CPUs
443 Desktop CPUs
583 Mobile CPUs
51 Mobile SoCs


2786 CPUs 2786 CPUs 1839 CPUs

For the complete list of affected AMD, Apple, ARM and Intel processors, please see this separate article – The Complete List Of CPUs Vulnerable To Meltdown / Spectre


Intel Detection Tool?

The Intel-SA-00086 Detection Tool does NOT detect the processor’s susceptibility to these vulnerabilities. It only checks for different vulnerabilities affecting the Intel Management Engine.



Our reader Arthur shared that the Gibson Research Corporation has an aptly-named utility called InSpectre.

It checks for Meltdown and Spectre hardware and software vulnerabilities in a Windows system. It will help you check if your system is getting patched properly against these vulnerabilities.


What Is Being Done??? Updated!

Note : The terms “mitigate” and “mitigation” mean the possibility of a successfully attacked are reduced, not eliminated.

  • Intel has started issuing software and firmware updates for the processors introduced in the last 5 years. By the middle of January 2018, Intel expects to have issued updates for more than 90% of those CPUs. However, that does not address the other Intel processors sold between 2010 and 2012.
  • Microsoft and Linux have started to roll our the KPTI (Kernel Page Table Isolation) patch, also known as the KAISER (Kernel Address Isolation to have Side-channels Efficiently Removed) patch.
  • The KPTI or KAISER patch, however, will only protect against the Meltdown exploit. It has no effect on a Spectre attack.
  • Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer 11 received the KB4056890 security update on 3 January 2018, to prevent a Meltdown attack.
  • Firefox 57 includes changes to mitigate against both attacks.
  • Google Chrome 64 will be released on 23 January 2018, with mitigations against Meltdown and Spectre attacks.
  • For Mac systems, Apple introduced mitigations against Spectre in macOS 10.13.2 (released on 8 January 2018), with more fixes coming in macOS 10.13.3.
  • For iOS devices, Apple introduced mitigations against Meltdown in iOS 11.2 and tvOS 11.2.
  • On 8 January 2018, Apple released iOS 11.2.2, which mitigates the risk of the two Spectre exploits in Safari and WebKit, for iPhone 5s, iPad Air, and iPod touch 6th generation or later.
  • ARM has made available the KPTI / KAISER kernel patches for Linux, while Google will provide them for Android.
  • Google patched Android against both exploits with the December 2017 and January 2018 patches.
  • Google shared details of their Return Rrampoline (Retpoline) binary modification technique that can be used to protect against Spectre attacks. It is a software construct that ensures that any associated speculative execution will “bounce” (as if on a trampoline) endlessly.
  • NVIDIA issued six driver and security updates for affected devices and software between 3-9 January 2018.
  • On 11 January 2018, AMD announced that the “majority of AMD systems” have received the mitigation patches against Spectre 1, albeit some older AMD systems got bricked by bad patches. They also announced that they will make “optional” microcode updates available for Ryzen and EPYC processors by the same week.
  • In the same 11 January 2018 disclosure, AMD also shared that Linux vendors have started to roll out OS patches for both Spectre exploits, and they’re working on the “return trampoline (Retpoline)” software mitigations as well.[adrotate group=”2″]
  • On 23 January 2018, Apple released Meltdown patches for macOS Sierra and OS X El Capitan, but not macOS High Sierra.
  • On 23 January 2018, Microsoft finally revealed their Spectre and Meltdown patch schedule.
  • On 24 January 2018, AMD revealed their 11 software mitigations for both Spectre exploits.
  • The 24 January 2018 AMD whitepaper also revealed that the AMD K10 and K8 processors are vulnerable as well, adding an additional 663 CPU models to the list of vulnerable processors.
  • On 2 February 2018, Microsoft released KB4078130 to disable the Spectre 2 patches that were causing many Intel systems to randomly and spontaneously reboot.
  • On 8 February 2018, an Intel microcode update schedule revealed that their Penryn-based processors are also vulnerable, adding an additional 314 CPU models to the list of vulnerable processors.
  • On 14 February 2018, Intel revealed an expanded Bug Bounty Program, offering up to $250,000 in bounty awards.


Some AMD PCs Got Bricked

In the rush to mitigate against Meltdown and Spectre, Microsoft released Windows 10 patches that bricked some AMD PCs. They blamed the incorrect / incomplete documentation provided by AMD.

You can read more about this issue @ These Windows 10 Updates Are Bricking AMD PCs!


Buggy Intel Spectre 2 Patches Updated!

Intel’s rush to patch Meltdown and Spectre resulted in buggy microcode patches, causing several generations of their CPUs to randomly and spontaneously reboot.

So far, over 800 Intel CPU models have been identified to be affected by these spontaneous reboot issues. If you have one of the affected CPUs, please hold off BIOS / firmware updates!

Intel has identified the cause as the Spectre 2 patches in their microcode updates for some of these processors. They’re still investigating the cause of the other affected CPU models.

Fortunately for Windows users, Microsoft issued the KB4078130 emergency update to stop the reboots while Intel worked to fix the issue.

You can read more about this issue @ The Intel Spectre Reboot Issue, and the Microsoft solution @ KB4078130 : Emergency Windows Update To Disable Intel Spectre Patches!


What Should You Do? Updated!

First and foremost – DO NOT PANIC. There is no known threat or attack using these exploits.

Although we listed a number of important patches below, the buggy updates are worse than the potential threat they try to fix. So we advise HOLDING OFF these patches, and wait for properly-tested versions a few weeks down the line.

  • If you are using Windows, make sure you install the latest Microsoft Spectre and Meltdown updates.
  • If you are using a Mac system, get the latest Apple Spectre and Meltdown patches.
  • If you are using an iOS device, get updated to iOS 11.2 or tvOS 11.2.
  • If you are using Firefox, update to the latest Firefox 57.
  • If you are using Google Chrome, make sure you watch out for Chrome 64, which will be released on 23 January.
  • Download and install the latest software firmware updates from your PC, laptop, motherboard brands. In particular, install the latest driver for the Intel Management Engine (Intel ME), the Intel Trusted Execution Engine (Intel TXE), and the Intel Server Platform Services (SPS)
  • If you are running an ARM processor on Linux, grab the kernel patches.
  • IBM POWER system users can download and install these firmware updates.
  • Users of affected NVIDIA systems can download and install these driver and firmware updates.
  • If you are using an Intel system, hold off updating your firmware, unless you have already verified that your CPU is not affected by the buggy Intel patches, or Intel has already issued corrected patches.


The Performance Impact Of The Mitigation Patches

Many benchmarks have been released, showing performance impacts of between 5% to 30%, depending on the type of benchmark and workload. Microsoft has called those benchmark results into question, stating that they did not cover both operating system and silicon microcode patches.

They released an initial report on their findings, which we have summarised in our article – Pre-2016 Intel CPUs Hit Worst By Meltdown + Spectre Fix.


Meltdown + Spectre Reading Suggestions

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CommunicAsia2016 : Enterprise Security for Mobile & Cloud

by CommunicAsia2016 Summit speaker, Pierre Noel, Chief Security Officer and Advisor, Microsoft Asia

By 2020, four billion people will be online, 50 billion devices will be connected to the internet and data volumes will be an astounding 50 times greater than what we are seeing today.

This enormous explosion of connected devices and data flows and the complexity that comes with it, will make it more challenging than ever before for individuals, organizations and nations to protect themselves against cyberattacks – with greater complexity comes greater risk of malicious attacks and security exposure.

While there will always be new threats, new attacks and new technologies to keep an eye on, here are some security trends businesses in Asia Pacific ought to watch for this year:


1. Mobile Malware

As security threats continue to dominate news cycles, this year will be one where we see cybercriminals focus on targeting mobile devices by attacking underlying operating systems and releasing more malware-infected apps.

China leads the world in the number of mobile users, and malware on these devices will surface as a huge problem. A study by Tsinghua University, Microsoft Research, and China’s Ministry of Science and Technology found that only a quarter of apps in the country’s local app stores are safe.

The adoption of mobile payment systems will also lead to a surge in hack activity related to stealing information from new payment processing technologies like EMV credit cards, contactless RFID smart cards, and mobile wallets.


2. Online extortion and hacktivism

According to TrendMicro, a Microsoft Partner, rapid growth in online extortion and hacktivism is expected this year, with more sophisticated ways of stealing information and gaining control of webenabled devices being realized.

Malware programs like ransomware, are potentially one of the most dangerous types of computer malware and might be used more frequently by hacktivists in order to encrypt the victim’s personal information like photos or conversations and extort money online to regain control of online accounts and devices


3. Password recovery scams, including spear phishing and smishing

Spear phishing is an e-mail spoofing fraud attempt that targets a specific organization, seeking unauthorized access to confidential data. Spear phishing attempts are not typically initiated by “random hackers” but are more likely to be conducted by perpetrators out for financial gain, trade secrets, or military information.

Since phishing attacks are no longer limited to email, SMS phishing (smishing) is becoming more common, especially by hackers creating password recovery scams. A criminal hacker only needs a victim’s email address and a mobile phone number to start a password recovery process and compromise their account.

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A New Approach To Cyber Security

Ultimately, as Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, highlighted just last November, the digital world we live in today requires a new approach to how we protect, detect and respond to security threats. Companies must evolve from a simple, “protect and recover” model to a more holistic protect, detect and respond posture that utilizes real-time insights and predictive intelligence across networks to stay ahead of threats.

The current wave of cybersecurity evolution is centered around collecting actionable intelligence, to remain ahead of threats. Attacks such as Ransomware are targeted and follow certain patterns, Malware for example, tends to morph rapidly. To stay ahead of these threats, we need to make full use of the cloud to collect and analyze such information that will tell us what to expect, and where to expect it.

At the same time, it is also critical for companies to strengthen their core security hygiene; adopt modern platforms and comprehensive identity, security and management solutions; and leverage features offered within cloud services. It is just as important to create education and awareness across employee populations in order to build and sustain a pervasive security culture.

While organizations across the region are in various states of readiness with regards to cybersecurity, I remain optimistic as we see more organizations, government and non-governmental companies alike, making cybersecurity a priority and cooperating closely to ensure cyber threats are identified and dealt with quickly.


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