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WJLX, a radio station in Jasper, Alabama, had its station’s AM tower stolen this week

A radio station in Jasper, Alabama, has been forced to cease operations temporarily following an audacious theft of its 200-foot radio tower. WJLX, a small station in the area, was directed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to go off the air after thieves absconded with its AM tower, an act deemed “unbelievable” by the station’s general manager, Brett Elmore.

The discovery of the theft was made by a landscaping crew last week, who notified Elmore of the tower’s disappearance in utter disbelief. The tower, situated in a wooded area behind a local poultry plant, was found with its wires severed and removed entirely from the premises. Additionally, the thieves made off with the station’s AM transmitter from a nearby building, compounding the loss for WJLX.

Local authorities were equally flabbergasted by the daring robbery, echoing Elmore’s sentiments of disbelief. With the station’s property uninsured, the financial ramifications of replacing the tower are staggering, ranging from $100,000 to $150,000 – a sum far beyond the station’s means.

In a further blow, the FCC mandated WJLX to halt its operations due to the theft, as the station’s FM transmitter is not permitted to operate independently while the AM station is offline. Elmore lamented the situation, acknowledging the outpouring of support from concerned individuals but expressing uncertainty about how they could assist without the necessary equipment.

The news of the tower’s theft has spread rapidly, prompting various theories from the public. Elmore recounted receiving speculative calls, including one suggesting that a helicopter might have been involved in the tower’s disappearance, highlighting the surreal nature of the incident.

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TETRA:BURST Update: Strengthening Security in Radio Communication

In a digital landscape where cybersecurity is paramount, updates on vulnerabilities within widely used systems are crucial for maintaining the integrity of communication networks. Recently, a set of five security vulnerabilities dubbed TETRA:BURST were disclosed, shedding light on potential risks within the Terrestrial Trunked Radio (TETRA) standard, a widely adopted radio communication system utilized by government entities and critical infrastructure sectors worldwide.

Discovered by Midnight Blue in 2021 and revealed now, TETRA:BURST uncovered vulnerabilities within TETRA, including what appears to be an intentional backdoor that could potentially expose sensitive information. Despite the disclosure, there is no conclusive evidence indicating exploitation of these vulnerabilities in the wild to date.

The vulnerabilities disclosed by Midnight Blue pose a range of risks, from real-time decryption to message injection and user deanonymization, depending on infrastructure and device configurations. These vulnerabilities could facilitate practical interception and manipulation attacks by both passive and active adversaries, potentially compromising the confidentiality and integrity of communication over TETRA networks.

TETRA, standardized by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) in 1995, serves as a critical communication system in more than 100 countries, including police radio communication systems outside the U.S. Moreover, it plays a pivotal role in controlling essential systems such as power grids, gas pipelines, and railways, highlighting the significance of addressing vulnerabilities within the standard.

In response to the vulnerabilities, efforts are underway to strengthen the security of TETRA-based communication systems. While TETRA radios are estimated to be used in at least two dozen critical infrastructures in the U.S., including electric utilities, state border control agencies, and major transportation systems, steps are being taken to mitigate potential risks and enhance the resilience of these networks.

The TETRA Authentication Algorithm (TAA1) suite and TETRA Encryption Algorithm (TEA) suite, proprietary cryptographic algorithms underpinning the TETRA standard, are receiving renewed scrutiny to address the vulnerabilities uncovered by Midnight Blue. Additionally, collaboration between stakeholders within the industry is crucial for implementing robust security measures and safeguarding communication networks against emerging threats.

As organizations and government entities continue to rely on TETRA for secure communication, ongoing vigilance and proactive measures are essential for addressing vulnerabilities and ensuring the resilience of radio communication systems in the face of evolving cyber threats. By prioritizing cybersecurity and implementing effective risk mitigation strategies, stakeholders can uphold the integrity and trustworthiness of communication networks, bolstering the security of critical infrastructure and safeguarding sensitive information.

  • CVE-2022-24400 – A flaw in the authentication algorithm allows attackers to set the Derived Cypher Key (DCK) to 0.
  • CVE-2022-24401 – The Air Interface Encryption (AIE) keystream generator relies on the network time, which is publicly broadcast in an unauthenticated manner. This allows for decryption oracle attacks.
  • CVE-2022-24402 – The TEA1 algorithm has a backdoor that reduces the original 80-bit key to a key size which is trivially brute-forceable on consumer hardware in minutes.
  • CVE-2022-24403 – The cryptographic scheme used to obfuscate radio identities has a weak design that allows attackers to deanonymize and track users.
  • CVE-2022-24404 – Lack of ciphertext authentication on AIE allows for malleability attacks.

“The impact of the issues above is highly dependent on how TETRA is used by organizations, such as whether it transmits voice or data and which cryptographic algorithm is in place,” cybersecurity company Forescout said.

One of the most severe issues is CVE-2022-24401, an oracle decryption attack that can be weaponized to reveal text, voice, or data communications without knowledge of the encryption key.

CVE-2022-24402, the second critical flaw uncovered in TETRA’s TEA1 algorithm, permits attackers to inject data traffic that is used for monitoring and control of industrial equipment, the San Jose firm pointed out.

“Decrypting this traffic and injecting malicious traffic allows an attacker to achieve denial of control/view or manipulation of control/view, thus performing dangerous actions such as opening circuit breakers in electrical substations, which can lead to blackout events similar to the impact of the Industroyer malware,” it elaborated.

“The vulnerability in the TEA1 cipher (CVE-2022-24402) is obviously the result of intentional weakening,” the Midnight Blue team noted, describing the engineering weakness as having a “computational step which serves no other purpose than to reduce the key’s effective entropy.”

But ETSI, in a statement shared with Vice, has pushed back against the term “backdoor,” stating that “the TETRA security standards have been specified together with national security agencies and are designed for and subject to export control regulations which determine the strength of the encryption.”

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Unveiling the Stealthy Operations of Chinese Hackers in U.S. Critical Infrastructure

Chinese hackers are operating covertly within critical infrastructure in the United States without being detected

For half a decade, a shadowy threat has lurked within the heart of U.S. critical infrastructure, operating undetected and posing a significant risk to national security. The U.S. government, in a stunning revelation on Wednesday, disclosed that a Chinese state-sponsored hacking group known as Volt Typhoon had infiltrated vital networks across the country, including communications, energy, transportation, and water and wastewater systems sectors.

According to a joint advisory released by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), National Security Agency (NSA), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Volt Typhoon had been embedded within these critical infrastructure networks for at least five years. The scope of their activities extended beyond traditional cyber espionage, with a clear intent to disrupt functions by pre-positioning themselves on IT networks to enable lateral movement to Operational Technology (OT) assets.

The revelation sent shockwaves through the cybersecurity community and raised urgent concerns about the vulnerabilities within the nation’s infrastructure. “Volt Typhoon’s choice of targets and pattern of behavior is not consistent with traditional cyber espionage or intelligence gathering operations,” the U.S. government said, underscoring the gravity of the situation.

The threat posed by Volt Typhoon, also known as Bronze Silhouette, Insidious Taurus, UNC3236, Vanguard Panda, or Voltzite, is compounded by their sophisticated tactics and stealthy operations. Leveraging living-off-the-land (LotL) techniques, the group managed to evade detection for years, blending malicious activity with legitimate system and network behavior.

In addition to LotL techniques, Volt Typhoon utilized multi-hop proxies like KV-botnet to mask their true origins, routing malicious traffic through compromised routers and firewalls in the U.S. Cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike highlighted the group’s reliance on an extensive arsenal of open-source tooling against a narrow set of victims, underscoring their strategic approach.

The ultimate goal of Volt Typhoon’s campaign is to maintain long-term, undiscovered persistence within compromised environments, with a meticulous focus on obtaining and retaining access to domain credentials. Their strong operational security, coupled with targeted log deletion to conceal their actions, has allowed them to evade detection and maintain persistence over the years.

The disclosure of Volt Typhoon’s activities comes amid growing concerns about Chinese influence operations targeting Western democracies. The Citizen Lab recently uncovered a network of websites impersonating local news outlets in a widespread influence campaign pushing pro-China content. While the connection between Volt Typhoon and these influence operations remains unclear, the revelations underscore the multifaceted nature of China’s cyber and information warfare capabilities.

As the U.S. government and its allies grapple with the threat posed by Volt Typhoon, the incident serves as a stark reminder of the evolving cybersecurity landscape and the urgent need for enhanced measures to safeguard critical infrastructure from malicious actors.

Unveiling the Stealthy Operations of Chinese Hackers in U.S. Critical Infrastructure

In a revelation that sent shockwaves through the cybersecurity community, the U.S. government disclosed on Wednesday that Chinese state-sponsored hackers had infiltrated critical infrastructure networks in the country for at least five years. The hacking group, known as Volt Typhoon, had embedded itself within key sectors such as communications, energy, transportation, and water and wastewater systems, raising urgent concerns about national security vulnerabilities.

According to a joint advisory released by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), National Security Agency (NSA), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Volt Typhoon’s activities extended beyond traditional cyber espionage, with a clear intent to disrupt functions by pre-positioning themselves on IT networks to enable lateral movement to Operational Technology (OT) assets.

The revelation underscored the sophisticated tactics employed by Volt Typhoon to evade detection and maintain persistent access within critical infrastructure networks. Leveraging living-off-the-land (LotL) techniques, the group operated discreetly, blending malicious activity with legitimate system and network behavior to evade detection for years.

In addition to LotL techniques, Volt Typhoon utilized multi-hop proxies like KV-botnet to mask their true origins, routing malicious traffic through compromised routers and firewalls in the U.S. The group’s reliance on an extensive arsenal of open-source tooling against a narrow set of victims further highlighted their strategic approach to cyber operations.

CrowdStrike, a leading cybersecurity firm, emphasized Volt Typhoon’s meticulous pre-exploitation reconnaissance, tailored tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs), and ongoing dedication to maintaining persistence within compromised environments. The group’s focus on obtaining and retaining access to domain credentials, combined with strong operational security and targeted log deletion, allowed them to evade detection and maintain persistence over the years.

The disclosure of Volt Typhoon’s activities comes amid growing concerns about Chinese influence operations targeting Western democracies. The Citizen Lab recently uncovered a network of websites impersonating local news outlets in a widespread influence campaign pushing pro-China content. While the connection between Volt Typhoon and these influence operations remains unclear, the revelations underscore the multifaceted nature of China’s cyber and information warfare capabilities.

As the U.S. government and its allies grapple with the threat posed by Volt Typhoon, the incident serves as a stark reminder of the evolving cybersecurity landscape and the urgent need for enhanced measures to safeguard critical infrastructure from malicious actors. The joint advisory issued by the U.S. government, supported by other nations part of the Five Eyes (FVEY) intelligence alliance, underscores the collaborative efforts to address the growing threat posed by state-sponsored cyber actors.

In the face of evolving cyber threats, it is imperative for governments, organizations, and cybersecurity professionals to remain vigilant and adopt proactive measures to enhance the resilience of critical infrastructure and mitigate the risks posed by sophisticated threat actors like Volt Typhoon. Only through concerted efforts and collaboration can we effectively defend against emerging cyber threats and safeguard the integrity of essential systems and services.

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