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These Illicit SIM Cards Are Making Hacks Like Twitter’s Easier



Next time your phone rings and the caller ID says it’s your bank, telecom company or employer’s IT department, it might be someone else.

That’s because little-discussed types of SIM cards offer the ability to spoof any number, can be encrypted and in some cases allows the user’s voice to be altered and cloaked. Such SIM cards are favored by criminals, and they can make social engineering attacks like those that struck Twitter last month easier to execute. 

A SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) card is essentially what stores information about a phone’s user, including country, service provider and a unique idea that matches it to its owner. 

While spoofing a phone number is an old trick, these SIMs offer a streamlined way to do it. They underscore the wide array of vulnerabilities companies and individuals face when trying to protect against social engineering attacks. 

Twitter was the victim of a phone spear-phishing attack, in which a person posing as a company insider (often supposedly from the IT department) calls a real employee to extract information. That attack, which led to the takeover of 130 accounts, including high-profile ones such as Elon Musk and Kanye West, to scam their followers out of $120,000 worth of bitcoin, has brought increased attention to the practice. Tools like these SIMs are one way for attackers to try and stay ahead of suspecting companies. 

See also: ‘Crypto Instagram’ Is Becoming a Thing, Scams and All

“Other companies might be a softer target for these same techniques,” said Allison Nixon, chief research officer at Unit221B, a cybersecurity firm. “And they’re just not going to be prepared in the same way that battle-scarred telecommunications companies have been.”

Indeed, since the Twitter hack, there has reportedly been a rise in spear-phishing attacks across companies, individuals, and cryptocurrency exchanges.

White SIMs

The cards are known as White SIMs, owing to their color and lack of branding. 

“White SIMs make it extremely easy to conduct outgoing spoofed calls,” said Hartej Sawhney, Principal at cybersecurity agency Zokyo. “They are illegal basically everywhere.”

Given the wide array of services SIMs such as these offer, they make social engineering just a little easier, and sometimes that’s all an attacker needs. SIMS can generally be bought on the Dark Web or related sites, using bitcoin. 

Social engineering often relies on an attacker tricking someone into doing something he or she shouldn’t. It can look as simple as a phishing attack, but can also involve more elaborate means such as SIM swapping, voice spoofing or extensive phone conversations, all to gain access to someone’s information or data. 

See also: Student Gets 10-Year Jail Term for SIM-Swap Crypto Thefts Worth $7.5 Million

For years the cryptocurrency community has been the target of SIM swaps, a subset of social engineering. It involves an attacker fooling a telecommunications company employee into porting the victim’s number to the attacker’s device, which lets them bypass two-factor authentication protections to an exchange account or social media profile. 

“Spoof calling is a flaw at the protocol layer and is not something that can be fixed overnight. It requires essentially rewriting the internet,” said Sawhney. “What’s interesting to note is that 99% of telecom employees have access to all customer accounts, meaning you only need to social engineer one of them.”

These SIMs present challenges for those working to protect against social engineering, including banks and other financial institutions. 

A business like any other

Social engineering attackers pick their targets by weighing the money, time and effort required to dupe them against the payoff, said Paul Walsh, CEO of the cybersecurity company MetaCert.

“It’s easier, cheaper and faster to compromise a person through social engineering than it is to try and take advantage of a computer or computer network,” said Walsh. “So any tools or processes like these that make that job quicker and easier for them is obviously good, in their eyes.”

The ability to mimic a specific phone number is what makes these SIMs dangerous. For example, spam callers often spoof their number to make it seem they’re calling from a number in the recipient’s local area. But these SIM cards allow an attacker to spoof a specific number, making it more likely someone will answer the phone. 

See also: A New Ultrasonic Hack Can Exploit Your Siri

A person with a number-spoofing SIM could easily imitate the number of Bank of America, for example, said Walsh, making it more likely people would give out sensitive personal information. If the number comes up as Bank of America, why would you have reason to immediately think otherwise?

Walsh also said a lot of systems will automatically detect the number you’re calling from, and use that as a piece of information verifying your identity. 

“So you call your bank and if you can confirm with your phone number and maybe one other piece of information, you gain access to all kinds of information like your bank balance and last transaction,” said Walsh. “That information alone might be useful in the context of social engineering by calling the bank without additional information you need to target someone, and acquiring it through the bank.”

Voice-mimicking tech on the way

What concerns Haseeb Awan, CEO of Efani, a company that specifically works to protect against SIM hacks, is the way these SIMs might be used with other tech, such as voice spoofing. Technology that can be used to recreate someone’s voice is readily available online, and people’s voices can be reconstructed from just a few snippets of speech. 

“If you’re able to replicate anyone’s voice, and couple that with their phone number, that’s what starts to worry me the most,” said Awan. “A lot of companies are now using your voice as an authentication method, so this is where the risk of fraud is going to get really high.”

See also: North Korean Hackers Ramp Up Efforts to Steal Crypto Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

And while most people might think they’d be able to tell if someone’s voice was altered, or sounded off, Awan, who was born in Pakistan but lives in the U.S., is quick to point out the tech has gotten so good he’s seen it able to replicate his accent. In fact, one study found our brains fare poorly at differentiating a fake voice from a real one, even when we’re told it is going to be fake. 

Unlike the near-universally illegal White SIMs, encrypted anonymous SIMs that also alter your voice in real time can be easily purchased in the open. For example, the U.K. company Secure Sims, which did not respond to a request for comment by press time, offers one for sale that disables your location and encrypts data, among a variety of other features. 

It’s listed for sale for £600-£1,000 ($794-$1,322).


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General Motors (GM) Posts Strong Q2 2021 Earnings Report; Misses Wall Street Expectations




Despite a strong profit and raising its guidance for the year, General Motors announced second-quarter earnings, which did not meet Wall Street’s estimates.

General Motors (NYSE: GM) posted second-quarter (Q2) earnings of $34.2 billion in revenue and $1.97 in adjusted EPS, which missed Wall Street expectations. In comparison, Wall Street projected that General Motors would hit a $30.9 billion revenue, and a $2.23 adjusted EPS. 

The discrepancies in figures were due to several challenges the automakers have been weathering since last year. They include a $1.3 billion warranty recall deficit, including $800 million from the Chevrolet Bolt EV. Also, its electric vehicles have been recalled twice in the past year due to fire risks.

In addition, GM, just like other automobile companies worldwide, has been grappling with a shortage of semiconductor chips. This led to factory shutdowns and cost the automobile industry billions of dollars in 2021. Only on Tuesday, GM announced plans to shut down its three North American full-size pickup truck assembly plants next week. As a result, the reduced number of available vehicle units produced now cost higher, leading to bigger profits.

General Motors Forecasts

GM Financial forecasted earnings for the year to initially range between $10 billion and $11 billion. The company also forecasted $4.50 to $5.25 per share in adjusted pretax profits. In addition, there was also an adjusted automotive free cash flow of between $1 billion and $2 billion. These forecasts factored in the potential impact of the chip shortage currently plaguing the industry. Consequently, the company projected a drawdown of between $1.5 billion and $2 billion in earnings. 

Despite this, General Motors’ shares rose. Although at the time of this writing, GM’s shares saw a 3% dip during premarket trading to $56.35 a share, the carmakers on Wednesday, raised its full-year guidance to between $11.5 billion and $13.5 billion. This roughly translates to earnings of $5.40 to $6.40 a share, which is a significant increase from $4.50 to $5.25 YoY. Furthermore, the overall compounded value now sits at $11 billion from $10 billion. In the face of strong demand, the car company anticipates its first-half EBIT-adjusted to range between $8.5 billion and $9.5 billion. This represents a rise from an earlier year forecast of $5.5 billion.

GM Earnings in 2020

Last year, General Motors reported a $536 million adjusted pretax loss in the Q2 of 2020. Its revenue was $16.8 billion, and it had a Financial EBT-adjustment of $0.2 billion. A net income loss of $758 million was also reported, and the automakers had to shut down several production plants. This wasn’t surprising and was a similar fate shared by many other companies in the industry in the face of the pandemic.

As a follow-through to its recent quarterly report, company GM CFO Paul Jacobson intends to hold a conference call for investors and analysts to discuss recent developments as well as the company’s growth blueprint.

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Tolu is a cryptocurrency and blockchain enthusiast based in Lagos. He likes to demystify crypto stories to the bare basics so that anyone anywhere can understand without too much background knowledge.
When he’s not neck-deep in crypto stories, Tolu enjoys music, loves to sing and is an avid movie lover.

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Elon Musk, Tim Cook Deny Meeting to Discuss Tesla Acquisition




Besides Musk, Cook has also owned up to not having met with Musk on no occasion when he appeared on the New York Times Sway Podcast.

Elon Musk, Tim Cook Deny Meeting to Discuss Tesla Acquisition

The claims published in Tim Higgins new book ‘Power Play: Tesla, Elon Musk and the Bet of the Century,’ that the Tesla Inc (NASDAQ: TSLA) CEO and Tim Cook, the Chief Executive Officer of Apple Inc (NASDAQ: AAPL) had a meeting to discuss the possible acquisition of the electric automaker has been refuted by both parties.

According to Insideevs, the conversation in which Tim Cook said ‘f*** you’ to Musk via a phone call has been adjudged as false. According to the book from Higgins, a New York Times reporter, the Apple boss called Musk to discuss a possible acquisition deal as far back as 2016. Higgins claims that both CEOs’ discussions fell apart when Musk demanded to continue being the CEO of Apple following the acquisition. The proposition was not well received by Cook who said ‘f*** you’ and hung up the phone.

While there has been a consideration to give up Tesla to Apple as Musk agreed to, that was when the former’s valuation is just about 6% of what it is today. Moreover, Musk said despite requesting to meet with Cook for the takeover consideration, the meeting never actually happened.

“Cook & I have never spoken or written to each other ever. There was a point where I requested to meet with Cook to talk about Apple buying Tesla. There were no conditions of acquisition proposed whatsoever. He refused to meet. Tesla was worth about 6% of today’s value,” Musk revealed via his official Twitter account.

Besides Musk, Cook has also owned up to not having met with Musk on no occasion when he appeared on the New York Times Sway Podcast according to an earlier Bloomberg report.

Elon Musk Says He Had No Interest Running Apple and Tim Cook

As the most valuable automaker in the world by market capitalization, there appear to be no signs that Tesla is up for sale as Musk once intended close a decade ago. Moreso, Elon Musk has said via his Twitter account that he never at any time expressed interest in taking over Apple. Per his words:

“Indeed. Both Cook & I have been clear publicly that we have never spoken or otherwise communicated. I tried to speak to him & he declined. Nor have I ever expressed any interest in running Apple to anyone. Cook is, all things considered, obviously doing an incredible job.”

The doubled-checked claim from both Cook and Musk leaves Higgins’s assertions to be questionable. Despite the book being reviewed by the Los Angeles Times, Musk duly noted that the author has “managed to make his book both false *and* boring.”


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Benjamin Godfrey

Benjamin Godfrey is a blockchain enthusiast and journalists who relish writing about the real life applications of blockchain technology and innovations to drive general acceptance and worldwide integration of the emerging technology. His desires to educate people about cryptocurrencies inspires his contributions to renowned blockchain based media and sites. Benjamin Godfrey is a lover of sports and agriculture.

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Li Auto Set for Secondary Listing in Hong Kong to Raise $1.93 Billion




Chinese carmaker Li Auto set to offer secondary listing in Hong Kong as a hedge against geopolitical risks between America and China.

Automobile manufacturer Li Auto (NASDAQ: LI), is going ahead with a secondary listing on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange (HKEX) despite regulatory crackdowns in the country. The Chinese electric vehicle startup, which is already listed on the NASDAQ, is looking to raise $1.93 billion. It plans to do this by offering 100 million Class A ordinary shares to investors at 150 Hong Kong dollars or $19.29. Li Auto plans to funnel the proceeds from its share offering into research and development of technology and future models. The automobile company is also looking to scale production and increase retail activities around its products. 

Li Auto will announce a final price on August 6th amid the crackdown on Chinese listings. The recent regulatory actions have sparked a huge recent sell-off in Chinese technology stocks. The sell-off has affected everything from food delivery to ride-hailing.

The Chinese government looks to tighten its grip over Chinese technology companies in a bid to avoid a tech-led bubble bursting. This comes on the back of the US SEC imposing stricter listing requirements for Chinese-based companies in America. Amid the excitement and uncertainty of the crackdown, Chinese electric vehicle makers are also looking to capitalize.

Li Auto Is One of Many Chinese Tech Companies with Secondary Listings in Hong Kong

Several Chinese companies already listed on Wall Street have secondary listings in Hong Kong to hedge against Chinese-American tensions. In July, Xpeng (NYSE: XPEV) generated $1.8 billion in a Hong Kong listing. The Li Auto rival issued 85 million Class A ordinary shares and is also already listed in the US. Other Wall Street Chinese technology companies with secondary listings back home are Alibaba, NetEase, and 

Owing to the increasing growth of Chinese electric vehicles, the competition has become very intense in recent times, especially among startups. Li Auto, Xpeng, and Nio are all jockeying for dominance in the playing field. In addition to this, all three companies are also directly competing with established companies such as Tesla and BYD. Even the more traditional automakers are always looking to take a sizable market share in the automobile industry. As far as the electrical startups go, Xpeng has already proven to be a force in coming years and is already being dubbed ‘The Chinese Tesla Rival’.

In July 2021, Li Auto recorded a record number of monthly vehicle sales. The company said it delivered 8,589 of its Li One vehicles, the only model in its current model lineup. The Li One is a hybrid vehicle with a fuel tank for charging the battery, giving the car an increased mile range.

Li Auto sold the highest number of vehicles among the trio of Chinese electric vehicle startups listed in the US. Xpeng delivered 8,040 vehicles which was also a company record. In comparison, Nico sold 7,931 cars in the same period.

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Tolu is a cryptocurrency and blockchain enthusiast based in Lagos. He likes to demystify crypto stories to the bare basics so that anyone anywhere can understand without too much background knowledge.
When he’s not neck-deep in crypto stories, Tolu enjoys music, loves to sing and is an avid movie lover.

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