News briefs: Jeremy Hammond's sentence and more Snowden leaks
News briefs: Jeremy Hammond's sentence and more Snowden leaks

» Jeremy Hammond was sentenced to 10 years in prison for exposing millions of emails by way of hacking intelligence firm Stratfor. The 28-year-old, who once worked with LulzSec, an Anonymous offshot, received the verdict in November. The hack occurred in December 2011 and led to the theft of 60,000 credit card numbers from clients, which hackers purportedly used to make donations to charities. 

»The PCI Security Standards Council (PCI SSC) published its new global guidelines for securing card data. In November, version 3.0 of the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) and Payment Application Data Security Standard (PA-DSS) became available for merchants – who had until January 1 before most of the standards became required. The new rules entail 10 new PCI DSS requirements, including guidelines for assessing evolving malware threats affecting payment systems and for requiring service providers with remote access to card data to have unique authentication credentials.

» Researchers discovered a treasure trove of nearly two million pilfered credentials from a variety of companies, including Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Twitter, LinkedIn and payroll service provider ADP. According to Trustwave's SpiderLabs research team, the theft specifically involved data tied to 1.5 million websites, 320,000 email accounts, 41,000 FTP accounts, 3,000 remote desktops and 3,000 secure shell accounts. The credentials were plundered courtesy of a Pony botnet controller that has a robust array of features, such as statistics, a control panel, user management, logging features and a database to manage all the data.

» More than 12,000 victims were claimed in less than a week by a nasty piece of malware known as CryptoLocker, which locked up computers with ransomware. Bitdefender Labs revealed the latest campaign in November, though CryptoLocker came on the radar in September as a trojan spreading through fake emails. The virus infiltrates then encrypts files in a user's computer and any mapped network drives. Once it has locked the user out, it demands a MoneyPak or Bitcoin payment within three days as “ransom.”

» The Maricopa County Community College District (MCCCD) in Arizona suffered a major data breach that affected millions of individuals, and ended up costing the education system millions of dollars. In December, news broke that MCCD was informing nearly 2.5 million students, former students, employees and vendors that hackers may have compromised their personal information. The district's governing board approved up to $7 million to be spent on notifying victims and other response-related costs.

» Newly revealed information from leaks by Edward Snowden describe how the National Security Agency (NSA) is using a sophisticated analytics tool to decipher sweeping amounts of cell phone location data belonging to people around the globe. In December, The Washington Post revealed the findings, which came collectively from leaked classified documents and interviews with U.S. intelligence officials. In total, NSA is believed to collect nearly five billion phone records daily. In addition, the agency reportedly uses a tool, called “Co-Traveler,” to gain insight on its targets indirectly, through tracking the cell phone data of passerbys.

» While investigating the breach of a large internet hosting provider, Symantec researchers discovered a new backdoor, dubbed “Fokirtor,” that targets the Linux operating system and is capable of stealing login credentials from secure shell (SSH) connections. Symantec found that, through leveraging Fokirtor, attackers could have accessed the encryption key that secured the unnamed organizations' internal communications. Ultimately the malware could allow an attacker to execute commands of their choosing and even collect data from individual SSH connections, like the connecting hostname, IP address, port and SSH key used to authenticate users.