Threat Level Thursday: Google's Encryption Obsession and a W for the Feds
Welcome back to another Threat Level Thursday. This week's edition has some good news: Google is pushing email and data encryption services and the Feds ramp up their cybersecurity efforts... sort of.
Google's Encryption Obsession
Google has come out this past week really championing encryption on the Internet. On Tuesday, the search giant released an alpha version of a new Chrome extension called "End-to-End", designed to give users an extra layer of security.
"'End-to-end' encryption means data leaving your browser will be encrypted until the message's intended recipient decrypts it, and that similarly encrypted messages sent to you will remain that way until you decrypt them in your browser," Google product manager of security and privacy Stephan Somogyi wrote in a blog post.
"While end-to-end encryption tools like PGP and GnuPG have been around for a long time, they require a great deal of technical know-how and manual effort to use. To help make this kind of encryption a bit easier, we're releasing code for a new Chrome extension that uses OpenPGP, an open standard supported by many existing encryption tools."
End-to-End will hit the Chrome Web Store after Google feels "the extension is ready for primetime."
That's not all, however. Google made some more waves by releasing a report Tuesday concerning email security. According to Google, 69 percent of outbound Gmails are now encrypted. That's up from 39 percent during December 2013. Only 48 percent of inbound emails to Gmail were encrypted, up from 27 percent in December 2013.
Although encryption has become more widely used by email service providers, it won't matter unless both the sender's and recipient's provider adopts Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocol. Google called out some providers, such as Comcast.net and Verizon.net, for having less than 1 percent of their email traffic encrypted.
A Big Win for the Feds
Last weekend brought some good news from the government: Officials say they've contained a deadly computer virus that steals money from bank accounts, known as Gameover Zeus. They had also succeeded in combating another virus known as Cryptolocker which hijacks a computer and holds the user's files ransom unless they pay hundreds of dollars by a certain time.
According to preliminary data, Gameover Zeus is thought have to infected between 500,000 and 1 million computers worldwide, while Cryptolocker has struck around 200,000 times.
The FBI is currently still on the hunt for the creator of the two viruses, Russian hacker Evgeniy Bogachev.
"Evgeniy Bogachev and the members of his criminal network devised and implemented the kind of cyber-crimes that you might not believe if you saw them in a science fiction movie," head of the Justice Department's Criminal Division Leslie Caldwell told reporters in Washington. "By secretly implanting viruses on computers around the world, they built a network of infected machines -- or 'bots' -- that they could infiltrate, spy on, and even control, from anywhere they wished."
And in other, not-so-important federal cybersecurity news, it looks like the Secret Service is looking to buy software that can detect "sarcasm" and "sentiment" on social media. Be careful of which smiley faces you use...
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