Have you been having computer issues, specifically on Independent News websites or free email services? Did those issues start after the NSA hacking tools were released in April 2017, or after they were used to conduct "the worlds biggest cyber attack" in early May 2017, which hit over 150 countries?
If you said yes to either of those questions, first you are not alone and second, this article is for you.
Over the last month we have seen a range of issues being reported in comment sections across the internet, including here at ANP, from people seeing strange "symbols," above or through their letters when commenting, with others saying their cursors jump around, pages scrolling by themselves, being logged out of programs, with others saying their emails are being "hammered," (meaning sometimes it takes hours to receive an email) as just a few examples from our own comment section.
While many readers at ANP say this appears to be happening randomly at a number of websites, the commonality seems to be three-fold. 1) The majority are using Windows, and: 2) It is happening the most on independent News sites, and; 3) These issues started after Wikileaks released the NSA hacking tools in April, but ramped up considerably after the massive cyber attacks across the world in May 2017.
As an Independent Media website owner, the first thing we do when we see any type of problem reported in run to VirusTotal, which uses 65 different website scanners to see if anything that would cause problems somehow got inserted into the site, the report is issued and comes back looking like the small sample of results captured in the screen shot below, taken from today's URL scan.
As website owners, I will tell you there is a sigh of relief every time we run these scans (multiple times a month) and see every service, which includes Google Safe Browsing, come up "clean," but that does not help general users or readers, so I started digging a little deeper. While the majority of MSM reports all deal with the massive cyber attack in May, with little or no mention of regular Internet users and what those NSA tools could mean for them, I did find that topic addressed in April after Wikileaks first released the Vault 7 files.
The ShadowBrokers, an entity previously confirmed by The Intercept to have leaked authentic malware used by the NSA to attack computers around the world, today released another cache of what appears to be extremely potent (and previously unknown) software capable of breaking into systems running Windows.The software could give nearly anyone with sufficient technical knowledge the ability to wreak havoc on millions of Microsoft users.
The leak includes a litany of typically codenamed software “implants” with names like ODDJOB, ZIPPYBEER, and ESTEEMAUDIT, capable of breaking into — and in some cases seizing control of — computers running version of the Windows operating system earlier than the most recent Windows 10. The vulnerable Windows versions ran more than 65 percent of desktop computers surfing the web last month, according to estimates from the tracking firm Net Market Share.
The same day, the co-founder and director of My Hacker House, issued the following tweet: "This is really bad, in about an hour or so any attacker can download simple toolkit to hack into Microsoft based computers around the globe."
"Most people assumed that these leaks would not affect them. But now, it is clear that no one is immune. The scary thing about this situation, that unlike other attacks, you do not have to do anything to be infected. You do not have to click a phony link or take the bait on an email scam. A computer has to be sitting there, running Windows, without the latest update. This is the perfect chance for the cyber criminals to pounce."
Well...... that is concerning.
While a stupid amount of ink was dedicated to the ransomware attacks across over 100 countries in May 2017 because the hackers used the NSA hacking tools in order to infiltrate those systems, the vulnerabilities of everyday, regular Internet users was hardly addressed at all by the MSM, but those very same tools can reportedly "wreak havoc" on millions of users using Windows.
Why is it the complaints we see about it are mentioning Independent News sites more than establishment media sites? Well, while there is no way to prove this conclusively or say it with 100% confidence, they are NSA tools, and it is Independent Media that reports the most on the deep state agents within the intelligence community.
Feel free to call me a "conspiracy theorist," but that seems quite coincidental to me.
WHAT CAN USERS DO?
Being technologically challenged myself, my first go-to is always scans, more scans, then HEY, lets run another scan! When my computer does anything strange, I run a malware scan, then an adware scan, then a virus scan, and BAM, everything starts running smoothly again, even when they found nothing. There are free scans all over the internet, I don't offer recommendations because a service I use may not be one you trust, but a simple search for "free malware scan" will bring up a number of options, then after picking one, run the name through another search with the word "reviews" after it, then find one with an overwhelming amount of good reviews.
My next step is usually researching the issue, so I did find the following articles which do address specific vulnerabilities and how to protect yourself from these types of hacking tools.
The majority of sites address protection from "ransomware," but the hackers used the NSA tools in order to attack using ransomware, which means the hackers chose to use ransomware, but the NSA tools themselves are not ransomware, they simply allow the NSA, intel communities and now hackers to use those NSA tools for whatever purpose they want.
Hackers aside, we now know the NSA and intel communities can hack into most devices at will to target whoever they want, and using those tools, they can basically "wreak havoc" as the Intercept so succinctly put it.
Most importantly, from what I have been reading, it is imperative that all your programs, scans and anti-virus protections be updated and in one case, some even recommend uninstalling your virus protections and re-downloading it and re-installing it.
While it is very "coincidental" that the majority of these issues are happening to Windows users, I did see reference to MAC users having vulnerabilities to the NSA tools as well, and another coincidence being that users are experiencing these strange issues mostly on Independent News websites, it is still only a "theory" that those coincidences mean you could have been hacked.
Either way, there is zero harm that can be done by running scans, including a virus scan. There is also no harm in using some of the suggestions offered in the links above, backing up your files, white-listing certain apps you trust, using your firewalls, etc..
The term "better safe than sorry" applies.
This last video offers some suggestions to protect your computer for free and while not everyone uses Google Chrome and the protection addon he suggests at the end, for those that do use it, it is another safety tool. As always, pick and choose options and products that work best for you and that you favor.
As always we encourage readers to offer others safety methods,including links and videos, that have worked for them, in the comment section.