Why these companies love hacking attacks

Wednesday, 20 February 2019
Adelaide, Australia
By Bernd Struben

  • ‘Sitting ducks’
  • Smaller is better
  • ‘Brexit No Hurdle for Australia’s Wine Industry’

We open today’s Port Phillip Insider with a question. One that only a decade ago I would never have asked you. That’s because it would have made no sense then.

Today, for better or worse, it’s actually quite important.

So here it is:

Do you know what your printer is up to?

If you answered ‘yes’, good on you. So long as you’re sure.

I’m looking at my printer right now. A two year old Canon MG model. And I’ll be honest, I have absolutely no idea what it gets up to before, during, or after it prints my documents.

This wasn’t a problem with my old printer. That one was physically hooked up to my computer with a cable. Quaint, right? Thus hobbled, it sat there quietly until it was asked to print something. And then it printed it. Right away.

The new printer is a different beast entirely.

Although it resides just a metre from my computer, the two communicate via the internet. When I ask it to print something it can take a minute or longer before it’s ready to have a go. And when I hit the power button to turn it off, it keeps on running until it’s good and ready to shut down.

It’s also constantly demanding new updates. Seriously? You’re a printer! Not to mention its dubious dealings with ‘the cloud’, where it’s happy to store records of my printed files.

The reason I bring this up is because your internet connected printer — and those at your bank and local government offices — often don’t have the same level of cyber security as the computers they’re meant to support.

Meaning they can offer hackers a backdoor into your personal files.

More, after the markets.

Markets

Overnight, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed up 8.07 points, or 0.03%.

The S&P 500 gained 4.16 points, or 0.15%

In Europe the Euro Stoxx 50 index finished down 5.38 points, or 0.17%. Meanwhile, the FTSE 100 fell 0.56%, and Germany’s DAX closed down 10.01 points, or 0.09%.

In Asian markets, Japan’s Nikkei 225 is up 149.60 points, or 0.70%. China’s CSI 300 is up 0.32%.

In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 is down 23.33 points, or 0.38%.

On the commodities markets, West Texas Intermediate crude oil is US$55.98 per barrel. Brent crude is US$66.45 per barrel.

Turning to gold, the yellow metal is trading for US$1,346.51 (AU$1,879.29) per troy ounce. Silver is US$15.97 (AU$22.29) per troy ounce.

One bitcoin is worth US$3,891.55.

The Aussie dollar is worth 71.65 US cents.

‘Sitting ducks’

Speaking of hackers, you’ve probably heard about the data breaches affecting the Liberal, Labor and Nationals parties.

We don’t know yet if the potential weakness posed by ‘smart’ printers was exploited by Chinese ‘sophisticated state’ actors who hacked into the parties’ computer systems a few weeks ago.

In fact, the government doesn’t even know what data may have been stolen…or why.

From The Sydney Morning Herald:

In what sources have branded an “A-team” attack, the Liberal, Labor and National parties have all been subjected to cyber operations by a skilled foreign government that was also responsible for a breach of federal Parliament’s computer systems.

While authorities say there is no evidence the hacking is an effort at political interference, they have also acknowledged they do not know what data was taken, nor what the motives were.

Sources say the sophistication of malicious software – or malware – that was used is restricted to a handful of countries worldwide, most of whom are friendly towards Australia, leaving China and Russia as possible culprits…

The attacks raise significant questions about political parties’ cyber security, with one leading expert – the Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s Fergus Hanson – saying they were “sitting ducks”.’

China, of course, denies any involvement. That’s despite new evidence that Chinese hackers are working at record levels.

As Bloomberg reports:

China largely abandoned a hacking truce negotiated by Barack Obama as President Donald Trump embarked on a trade war with Beijing last year, according to the cybersecurity firm Crowdstrike Inc…

“By 2017 they started coming back and throughout 2018 they were back in full force,” said Adam Meyers, vice president of intelligence at Crowdstrike. “They have been very active and we expect to see that continue.”

The Chinese government begs to differ. In fact, the Communist Party says that China is the world’s biggest victim of cyber attacks.

From The Sydney Morning Herald:

Beijing security firm Knownsec Information Technology reported on Monday that Chinese organisations suffered an average of 800 million cyber attacks daily in 2018, hitting a peak of 4.9 billion a day in August.’

But the ‘world’s biggest victim’ claim comes with an awkward caveat. It seems 97% of the cyber attacks in China are carried out by Chinese hackers.

Ahem.

Regardless of the perpetrators, the fact is that whatever data the Aussie government may have filed about you could now be up for sale.

And it’s not just the government putting your personal data at risk.

New rules were put in place last year requiring businesses to report data breaches. Since then the number of companies admitting they’ve exposed their customers’ data to serious harm has soared.

According to the AAP, 812 data breaches were reported over the past year. That compares to 114 the previous year. Some incidents were due to human error. But most were carried out by criminal hackers.

None of this should come as any surprise. In a world where our appliances will soon join our computers and printers so they can all converse on the web, you can expect to hear a lot more about cyber intrusions.

That’s not good news for government agencies, banks, or your local retailers. But it’s music to the ears of a select group of tech companies.

Over at his premium advisory service, Revolutionary Tech Investor, Sam has a word for these companies. He calls the stocks he’s recommended to his subscribers ‘Cyber Defenders’. 

And with hackers more active today than ever before, the ‘Cyber Defenders’ should see more business knocking on their virtual security doors. And that in turn could see a big boost in their share price.

You can find out more about the investment opportunities Sam offers over at Revolutionary Tech Investor here.

Smaller is better

Moving from investment opportunities that didn’t exists a few decades ago to one of the oldest investments out there, have you been watching the price of gold?

Just have a look at the year-to-date chart below:



chart image

Source: Bloomberg
Click to enlarge


At time of writing one ounce of gold is trading for US$1,346.51. That’s up from US$1,281.21 on 24 January — a gain of 5.1%.

As you’d expect, this has been good news for shareholders in some of Australia’s largest gold miners.

Newcrest Mining Limited [ASX:NCM], for example, is up 12.6% since 24 January. That puts its market cap at AU$19.5 billion.

Northern Star Resources Ltd [ASX:NST], with a market cap of AU$6.3 billion, is up 20.3% over that same time.

Not that you’re likely to find the likes of these big players in the Dutch-based Plethora Precious Metals Fund.

Why?

Too big.

From The Australian Financial Review:

The key to getting monster-sized returns in mining equities is to be small, according to managers of the Plethora Precious Metals Fund…

“We invest in small teams of geologists that are looking for ore deposits,” the fund’s founder Peter Vermeulen said in an interview.

“Those companies are so small that it is practically impossible to allocate a lot of money there. “However, their returns – when they have found gold – are huge.”

The Utrecht-based fund invests in young mining exploration companies – mostly in gold.’

According to the fund’s data, they’ve returned an impressive 502% during the past six years. Though the article notes heavy losses in the fund’s main holding has seen it decline 17% so far this year.

But dealing with setbacks is part and parcel for investors in small gold companies.

It’s a risky field. One with huge gains up for grabs when a relatively unknown minnow strikes a rich load of ore…and big losses if they run out of funds first.

It’s not the kind of investing I recommend for the faint of heart.

But if you can stomach the risk and are looking to potentially turn a $1,000 investment into $10,000…or more…have a look at what resources analyst Jason Stevenson is up to over at Gold & Commodities Stock Trader.

Just click here.

Finally, here’s the latest from The Australian Tribune:

‘Brexit No Hurdle for Australia’s Wine Industry’

EU and British negotiators, still deadlocked on Brexit details, would do well to look towards Australia and the local wine industry lobbyists. They might even consider pouring a few glasses before returning to the negotiating table.

That’s because wine lovers in the United Kingdom will…

If you’re fed up with sanitised, politically correct dogma cut and pasted from one mainstream source to another then The Australian Tribune is for you.

And it’s absolutely free.

Sign up here to get The Australian Tribune delivered free to your inbox five days per week.

You can visit our website at https://www.theaustraliantribune.com.au/ to read the complete article above now.

Cheers,
Bernd