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Syrian Electronic Army Tangos with Messaging App

Syrian Electronic Army Tangos with Messaging App
By Jennifer LeClaire

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"The convergence of mobile device usage, the popularity of applications like Tango, and the increasing sophistication of criminal hackers is accelerating the number of security events that are making headlines, as well as raising the stakes for the end-users whose data is being obtained," said CloudLock's Kevin O'Brien.
 


Apparently, it only takes one to Tango. The messaging app known as Tango has fallen victim to the hactivist group that calls itself Syrian Electronic Army (SEA). The hackers broke into the company's databases and stole user information.

"The Syrian Electronic Army hacked the Tango app (video/text messages service) website and database," SEA wrote on its Web site. "The databases content a [sic] of millions of the app users phone numbers and contacts and their emails. More than 1.5 TB of the daily-backups of the servers network has been downloaded successfully."

The SEA also posted what it claims are screen shots of Tango's app logs and backup folders. The group went on to say that, "Much of the information in the databases that were downloaded will be delivered to the Syrian government."

Been There, Done That

Tango acknowledged the breach in a Twitter post over the weekend: "Tango experienced a cyber intrusion that resulted in unauthorized access to some data. We are working on increasing our security systems. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this breach may have caused our members."

For analysis on the security threat, we caught up with Kevin O'Brien, an enterprise solutions architect at CloudLock. He told is, in general, this type of criminal activity is unfortunately common.

In other words, we've seen this story before in one way or another. He explains the mechanics this way: An application that stores end-user information is compromised. That breach is then used to either perpetrate secondary criminal activities -- such as identify or credit card theft -- or it is sold on the black market to fund other engagements.

"What is interesting -- and perhaps unique -- here is that this appears to be a politically motivated group perpetrating these hacks, and then leveraging them as part of a larger campaign around the Syrian conflict," O'Brien said.

Playing it Safe

He hopes Tango will respond to this event by taking precautions that arguably should have been in place already: securely encrypt user passwords and databases, air-gap servers that contain backup data, and minimize the exposure of internal systems to the public facing web. O'Brien said data residency and the management of sensitive data within network-accessible systems is a foundational component of any framework for avoiding these kinds of security issues.

"Moreover, the convergence of mobile device usage, the popularity of applications like Tango, and the increasing sophistication of criminal hackers is accelerating the number of security events that are making headlines, as well as raising the stakes for the end-users whose data is being obtained," O'Brien said.

"In response, organizations and groups using application like Tango would do well to take steps to monitor where and how the Tango application is being used, and what real-world information -- geo-IP information, for example -- could be obtained from compromised systems."
 

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