27
Jun 17

‘Petya’ Ransomware Outbreak Goes Global

A new strain of ransomware dubbed “Petya” is worming its way around the world with alarming speed. The malware is spreading using a vulnerability in Microsoft Windows that the software giant patched in March 2017 — the same bug that was exploited by the recent and prolific WannaCry ransomware strain.

The ransom note that gets displayed on screens of Microsoft Windows computers infected with Petya.

The ransom note that gets displayed on screens of Microsoft Windows computers infected with Petya.

According to multiple news reports, Ukraine appears to be among the hardest hit by Petya. The country’s government, some domestic banks and largest power companies all warned today that they were dealing with fallout from Petya infections.

Danish transport and energy firm Maersk said in a statement on its Web site that “We can confirm that Maersk IT systems are down across multiple sites and business units due to a cyber attack.” In addition, Russian energy giant Rosneft said on Twitter that it was facing a “powerful hacker attack.” However, neither company referenced ransomware or Petya.

Security firm Symantec confirmed that Petya uses the “Eternal Blue” exploit, a digital weapon that was believed to have been developed by the U.S. National Security Agency and in April 2017 leaked online by a hacker group calling itself the Shadow Brokers.

Microsoft released a patch for the Eternal Blue exploit in March (MS17-010), but many businesses put off installing the fix. Many of those that procrastinated were hit with the WannaCry ransomware attacks in May. U.S. intelligence agencies assess with medium confidence that WannaCry was the work of North Korean hackers.

Organizations and individuals who have not yet applied the Windows update for the Eternal Blue exploit should patch now. However, there are indications that Petya may have other tricks up its sleeve to spread inside of large networks. Continue reading →


25
Jun 17

Got Robocalled? Don’t Get Mad; Get Busy.

Several times a week my cell phone receives the telephonic equivalent of spam: A robocall. On each occasion the call seems to come from a local number, but when I answer there is that telltale pause followed by an automated voice pitching some product or service. So when I heard from a reader who chose to hang on the line and see where one of these robocalls led him, I decided to dig deeper. This is the story of that investigation. Hopefully, it will inspire readers to do their own digging and help bury this annoying and intrusive practice.

robocallThe reader — Cedric (he asked to keep his last name out of this story) had grown increasingly aggravated with the calls as well, until one day he opted to play along by telling a white lie to the automated voice response system that called him: Yes, he said, yes he definitely was interested in credit repair services.

“I lied about my name and played like I needed credit repair to buy a home,” Cedric said. “I eventually wound up speaking with a representative at creditfix.com.”

The number that called Cedric — 314-754-0123 — was not in service when Cedric tried it back, suggesting it had been spoofed to make it look like it was coming from his local area. However, pivoting off of creditfix.com opened up some useful avenues of investigation.

Creditfix is hosted on a server at the Internet address 208.95.62.8. According to records maintained by Farsight Security — a company that tracks which Internet addresses correspond to which domain names — that server hosts or recently hosted dozens of other Web sites (the full list is here).

Most of these domains appear tied to various credit repair services owned or run by a guy named Michael LaSala and registered to a mail drop in Las Vegas. Looking closer at who owns the 208.95.62.8 address, we find it is registered to System Admin, LLC, a Florida company that lists LaSala as a manager, according to a lookup at the Florida Secretary of State’s office.

An Internet search for the company’s address turns up a filing by System Admin LLC with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC). That filing shows that the CEO of System Admin is Martin Toha, an entrepreneur probably best known for founding voip.com, a voice-over-IP (VOIP) service that allows customers to make telephone calls over the Internet.

Emails to the contact address at Creditfix.com elicited a response from a Sean in Creditfix’s compliance department. Sean told KrebsOnSecurity that mine was the second complaint his company had received about robocalls. Sean said he was convinced that his employer was scammed by a lead generation company that is using robocalls to quickly and illegally gin up referrals, which generate commissions for the lead generation firm.

Creditfix said the robocall leads it received appear to have been referred by Little Brook Media, a marketing firm in New York City. Little Brook Media did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Robocalls are permitted for political candidates, but beyond that if the recording is a sales message and you haven’t given your written permission to get calls from the company on the other end, the call is illegal. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), companies are using auto-dialers to send out thousands of phone calls every minute for an incredibly low cost. Continue reading →


23
Jun 17

FBI: Extortion, CEO Fraud Among Top Online Fraud Complaints in 2016

Online extortion, tech support scams and phishing attacks that spoof the boss were among the most costly cyber scams reported by consumers and businesses last year, according to new figures from the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).

The IC3 report released Thursday correctly identifies some of the most prevalent and insidious forms of cybercrimes today, but the total financial losses tied to each crime type also underscore how infrequently victims actually report such crimes to law enforcement.

Source: Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).

Source: Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).

For example, the IC3 said it received 17,146 extortion-related complaints, with an adjusted financial loss totaling just over $15 million. In that category, the report identified 2,673 complaints identified as ransomware — malicious software that scrambles a victim’s most important files and holds them hostage unless and until the victim pays a ransom (usually in a virtual currency like Bitcoin).

According to the IC3, the losses associated with those ransomware complaints totaled slightly more than $2.4 million. Writing for BleepingComputer.com — a tech support forum I’ve long recommended that helps countless ransomware victims — Catalin Cimpanu observes that the FBI’s ransomware numbers “are ridiculously small compared to what happens in the real world, where ransomware is one of today’s most prevalent cyber-threats.”

“The only explanation is that people are paying ransoms, restoring from backups, or reinstalling PCs without filing a complaint with authorities,” Cimpanu writes.

It’s difficult to know how what percentage of ransomware victims paid the ransom or were able to restore from backups, but one thing is for sure: Relatively few victims are reporting cyber fraud to federal investigators.

The report notes that only an estimated 15 percent of the nation’s fraud victims report their crimes to law enforcement. For 2016, 298,728 complaints were received, with a total victim loss of $1.33 billion.

If that 15 percent estimate is close to accurate, that means the real cost of cyber fraud for Americans last year was probably closer to $9 billion, and the losses from ransomware attacks upwards of $16 million. Continue reading →


22
Jun 17

Why So Many Top Hackers Hail from Russia

Conventional wisdom says one reason so many hackers seem to hail from Russia and parts of the former Soviet Union is that these countries have traditionally placed a much greater emphasis than educational institutions in the West on teaching information technology in middle and high schools, and yet they lack a Silicon Valley-like pipeline to help talented IT experts channel their skills into high-paying jobs. This post explores the first part of that assumption by examining a breadth of open-source data.

The supply side of that conventional wisdom seems to be supported by an analysis of educational data from both the U.S. and Russia, which indicates there are several stark and important differences between how American students are taught and tested on IT subjects versus their counterparts in Eastern Europe.

computered

Compared to the United States there are quite a few more high school students in Russia who choose to specialize in information technology subjects. One way to measure this is to look at the number of high school students in the two countries who opt to take the advanced placement exam for computer science.

According to an analysis (PDF) by The College Board, in the ten years between 2005 and 2016 a total of 270,000 high school students in the United States opted to take the national exam in computer science (the “Computer Science Advanced Placement” exam).

Compare that to the numbers from Russia: A 2014 study (PDF) on computer science (called “Informatics” in Russia) by the Perm State National Research University found that roughly 60,000 Russian students register each year to take their nation’s equivalent to the AP exam — known as the “Unified National Examination.” Extrapolating that annual 60,000 number over ten years suggests that more than twice as many people in Russia — 600,000 — have taken the computer science exam at the high school level over the past decade.

In “A National Talent Strategy,” an in-depth analysis from Microsoft Corp. on the outlook for information technology careers, the authors warn that despite its critical and growing importance computer science is taught in only a small minority of U.S. schools. The Microsoft study notes that although there currently are just over 42,000 high schools in the United States, only 2,100 of them were certified to teach the AP computer science course in 2011.

A HEAD START

If more people in Russia than in America decide to take the computer science exam in secondary school, it may be because Russian students are required to study the subject beginning at a much younger age. Russia’s Federal Educational Standards (FES) mandate that informatics be compulsory in middle school, with any school free to choose to include it in their high school curriculum at a basic or advanced level.

“In elementary school, elements of Informatics are taught within the core subjects ‘Mathematics’ and ‘Technology,” the Perm University research paper notes. “Furthermore, each elementary school has the right to make [the] subject “Informatics” part of its curriculum.” Continue reading →


17
Jun 17

Credit Card Breach at Buckle Stores

The Buckle Inc., a clothier that operates more than 450 stores in 44 U.S. states, disclosed Friday that its retail locations were hit by malicious software designed to steal customer credit card data. The disclosure came hours after KrebsOnSecurity contacted the company regarding reports from sources in the financial sector about a possible breach at the retailer.

buckle

On Friday morning, KrebsOnSecurity contacted The Buckle after receiving multiple tips from sources in the financial industry about a pattern of fraud on customer credit and debit cards which suggested a breach of point-of-sale systems at Buckle stores across the country.

Later Friday evening, The Buckle Inc. released a statement saying that point-of-sale malware was indeed found installed on cash registers at Buckle retail stores, and that the company believes the malware was stealing customer credit card data between Oct. 28, 2016 and April 14, 2017. The Buckle said purchases made on its online store were not affected.

As with the recent POS-malware based breach at Kmart, The Buckle said all of its stores are equipped with EMV-capable card terminals, meaning the point-of-sale machines can accommodate newer, more secure chip-based credit and debit cards. The malware copies account data stored on the card’s magnetic stripe. Armed with that information, thieves can clone the cards and use them to buy high-priced merchandise from electronics stores and big box retailers. Continue reading →


15
Jun 17

Inside a Porn-Pimping Spam Botnet

For several months I’ve been poking at a decent-sized spam botnet that appears to be used mainly for promoting adult dating sites. Having hit a wall in my research, I decided it might be good to publish what I’ve unearthed so far to see if this dovetails with any other research out there.

In late October 2016, an anonymous source shared with KrebsOnSecurity.com a list of nearly 100 URLs that — when loaded into a Firefox browser — each displayed what appeared to be a crude but otherwise effective text-based panel designed to report in real time how many “bots” were reporting in for duty.

Here’s a set of archived screenshots of those counters illustrating how these various botnet controllers keep a running tab of how many “activebots” — hacked servers set up to relay spam — are sitting idly by and waiting for instructions.

One of the more than 100 panels linked to the same porn spamming operation. In October 2016, these 100 panels reported a total of 1.2 million active bots operating simultaneously.

At the time, it was unclear to me how this apparent botnet was being used, and since then the total number of bots reporting in each day has shrunk considerably. During the week the above-linked screen shots were taken, this botnet had more than 1.2 million zombie machines or servers reporting each day (that screen shot archive includes roughly half of the panels found). These days, the total number of servers reporting in to this spam network fluctuates between 50,000 and 100,000.

Thanks to a tip from an anti-spam activist who asked not to be named, I was able to see that the botnet appears to be busy promoting a seemingly endless network of adult dating Web sites connected to just two companies: CyberErotica, and Deniro Marketing LLC (a.k.a. AmateurMatch).

As affiliate marketing programs go, CyberErotica stretches way back — perhaps to the beginning. According to TechCrunch, CyberErotica is said to have launched the first online affiliate marketing firm in 1994.

In 2001, CyberErotica’s parent firm Voice Media settled a lawsuit with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, which alleged that the adult affiliate program was misrepresenting its service as free while it dinged subscribers for monthly charges and made it difficult for them to cancel.

In 2010, Deniro Marketing found itself the subject of a class-action lawsuit that alleged the company employed spammers to promote an online dating service that was overrun with automated, fake profiles of young women. Those allegations ended in an undisclosed settlement after the judge in the case tossed out the spamming claim because the statute of limitations on those charges had expired.

What’s unusual (and somewhat lame) about this botnet is that — through a variety of botnet reporting panels that are still displaying data — we can get live, real-time updates about the size and status of this crime machine. No authentication or credentials needed. So much for operational security!

The “mind map” pictured below contains enough information for nearly anyone to duplicate this research, and includes the full Web address of the botnet reporting panels that are currently online and responding with live updates. I was unable to load these panels in a Google Chrome browser (perhaps the XML data on the page is missing some key components), but they loaded fine in Mozilla Firefox.

But a note of caution: I’d strongly encourage anyone interested in following my research to take care before visiting these panels, preferably doing so from a disposable “virtual” machine that runs something other than Microsoft Windows.

That’s because spammers are usually involved in the distribution of malicious software, and spammers who maintain vast networks of apparently compromised systems are almost always involved in creating or at least commissioning the creation of said malware. Worse, porn spammers are some of the lowest of the low, so it’s only prudent to behave as if any and all of their online assets are actively hostile or malicious.

A “mind map” tracing some of the research mentioned in this post.

Continue reading →


13
Jun 17

Microsoft, Adobe Ship Critical Fixes

Microsoft today released security updates to fix almost a hundred flaws in its various Windows operating systems and related software. One bug is so serious that Microsoft is issuing patches for it on Windows XP and other operating systems the company no longer officially supports. Separately, Adobe has pushed critical updates for its Flash and Shockwave players, two programs most users would probably be better off without.

brokenwindowsAccording to security firm Qualys, 27 of the 94 security holes Microsoft patches with today’s release can be exploited remotely by malware or miscreants to seize complete control over vulnerable systems with little or no interaction on the part of the user.

Microsoft this month is fixing another serious flaw (CVE-2017-8543) present in most versions of Windows that resides in the feature of the operating system which handles file and printer sharing (also known as “Server Message Block” or the SMB service).

SMB vulnerabilities can be extremely dangerous if left unpatched on a local (internal) corporate network. That’s because a single piece of malware that exploits this SMB flaw within a network could be used to replicate itself to all vulnerable systems very quickly.

It is this very “wormlike” capability — a flaw in Microsoft’s SMB service — that was harnessed for spreading by WannaCry, the global ransomware contagion last month that held files for ransom at countless organizations and shut down at least 16 hospitals in the United Kingdom.

According to Microsoft, this newer SMB flaw is already being exploited in the wild. The vulnerability affects Windows Server 2016, 2012, 2008 as well as desktop systems like Windows 10, 7 and 8.1.

The SMB flaw — like the one that WannaCry leveraged — also affects older, unsupported versions of Windows such as Windows XP and Windows Server 2003. And, as with that SMB flaw, Microsoft has made the unusual decision to make fixes for this newer SMB bug available for those older versions. Users running XP or Server 2003 can get the update for this flaw here.

“Our decision today to release these security updates for platforms not in extended support should not be viewed as a departure from our standard servicing policies,” wrote Eric Doerr, general manager of Microsoft’s Security Response Center.

“Based on an assessment of the current threat landscape by our security engineers, we made the decision to make updates available more broadly,” Doerr wrote. “As always, we recommend customers upgrade to the latest platforms. “The best protection is to be on a modern, up-to-date system that incorporates the latest defense-in-depth innovations. Older systems, even if fully up-to-date, lack the latest security features and advancements.”

The default browsers on Windows — Internet Explorer or Edge — get their usual slew of updates this month for many of these critical, remotely exploitable bugs. Qualys says organizations using Microsoft Outlook should pay special attention to a newly patched bug in the popular mail program because attackers can send malicious email and take complete control over the recipient’s Windows machine when users merely view a specially crafted email in Outlook. Continue reading →


06
Jun 17

Following the Money Hobbled vDOS Attack-for-Hire Service

A new report proves the value of following the money in the fight against dodgy cybercrime services known as “booters” or “stressers” — virtual hired muscle that can be rented to knock nearly any website offline.

Last fall, two 18-year-old Israeli men were arrested for allegedly running vDOS, perhaps the most successful booter service of all time. The young men were detained within hours of being named in a story on this blog as the co-proprietors of the service (KrebsOnSecurity.com would later suffer a three-day outage as a result of an attack that was alleged to have been purchased in retribution for my reporting on vDOS).

The vDos home page.

The vDos home page.

That initial vDOS story was based on data shared by an anonymous source who had hacked vDOS and obtained its private user and attack database. The story showed how the service made approximately $600,000 over just two of the four years it was in operation. Most of those profits came in the form of credit card payments via PayPal.

But prior to vDOS’s takedown in September 2016, the service was already under siege thanks to work done by a group of academic researchers who teamed up with PayPal to identify and close accounts that vDOS and other booter services were using to process customer payments. The researchers found that their interventions cut profits in half for the popular booter service, and helped reduce the number of attacks coming out of it by at least 40 percent.

At the height of vDOS’s profitability in mid-2015, the DDoS-for-hire service was earning its proprietors more than $42,000 a month in PayPal and Bitcoin payments from thousands of subscribers. That’s according to an analysis of the leaked vDOS database performed by researchers at New York University.

As detailed in August 2015’s “Stress-Testing the Booter Services, Financially,” the researchers posed as buyers of nearly two dozen booter services — including vDOS —  in a bid to discover the PayPal accounts that booter services were using to accept payments. In response to their investigations, PayPal began seizing booter service PayPal accounts and balances, effectively launching their own preemptive denial-of-service attacks against the payment infrastructure for these services.

Those tactics worked, according to a paper the NYU researchers published today (PDF) at the Weis 2017 workshop at the University of California, San Diego.

“We find that VDoS’s revenue was increasing and peaked at over $42,000/month for the month before the start of PayPal’s payment intervention and then started declining to just over $20,000/month for the last full month of revenue,” the paper notes.

subscribersThe NYU researchers found that vDOS had extremely low costs, and virtually all of its business was profit. Customers would pay up front for a subscription to the service, which was sold in booter packages priced from $5 to $300. The prices were based partly on the overall number of seconds that an attack may last (e.g., an hour would be 3,600 worth of attack seconds).

In just two of its four year in operation vDOS was responsible for launching 915,000 DDoS attacks, the paper notes. In adding up all the attack seconds from those 915,000 DDoS attacks, the researchers found vDOS was responsible for 48 “attack years” — the total amount of DDoS time faced by the victims of vDOS. Continue reading →


01
Jun 17

OneLogin: Breach Exposed Ability to Decrypt Data

OneLogin, an online service that lets users manage logins to sites and apps from a single platform, says it has suffered a security breach in which customer data was compromised, including the ability to decrypt encrypted data.

oneloginHeadquartered in San Francisco, OneLogin provides single sign-on and identity management for cloud-base applications. OneLogin counts among its customers some 2,000 companies in 44 countries, over 300 app vendors and more than 70 software-as-a-service providers.

A breach that allowed intruders to decrypt customer data could be extremely damaging for affected customers. After OneLogin customers sign into their account, the service takes care of remembering and supplying the customer’s usernames and passwords for all of their other applications.

In a brief blog post Wednesday, OneLogin chief information security officer Alvaro Hoyos wrote that the company detected unauthorized access to OneLogin data.

“Today we detected unauthorized access to OneLogin data in our US data region. We have since blocked this unauthorized access, reported the matter to law enforcement, and are working with an independent security firm to determine how the unauthorized access happened and verify the extent of the impact of this incident. We want our customers to know that the trust they have placed in us is paramount.”

“While our investigation is still ongoing, we have already reached out to impacted customers with specific recommended remediation steps and are actively working to determine how best to prevent such an incident from occurring in the future and will update our customers as these improvements are implemented.”

OneLogin’s blog post includes no other details, aside from a reference to the company’s compliance page. The company has not yet responded to request for comment. However, Motherboard has obtained a copy of a message OneLogin reportedly sent to its customers about the incident, and that missive contains a critical piece of information:

“Customer data was compromised, including the ability to decrypt encrypted data,” reads the message OneLogin sent to customers.

According to Motherboard, the message also directed customers to a list of required steps to minimize any damage from the breach, such as generating new API keys and OAuth tokens (OAuth being a system for logging into accounts), creating new security certificates as well as credentials; recycling any secrets stored in OneLogin’s Secure Notes feature; and having end-users update their passwords.

Gartner Inc. financial fraud analyst Avivah Litan said she has long discouraged companies from using cloud-based single sign-on services, arguing that they are the digital equivalent to an organization putting all of its eggs in one basket.

“It’s just such a massive single point of failure,” Litan said. “And this breach shows that other [cloud-based single sign-on] services are vulnerable, too. This is a big deal and it’s disruptive for victim customers, because they have to now change the inner guts of their authentication systems and there’s a lot of employee inconvenience while that’s going on.”

KrebsOnSecurity will likely update this story throughout the day as more details become available.

Update 7:54 p.m ET: OneLogin posted an update to its blog with more details about the breach:

“Our review has shown that a threat actor obtained access to a set of AWS keys and used them to access the AWS API from an intermediate host with another, smaller service provider in the US. Evidence shows the attack started on May 31, 2017 around 2 am PST. Through the AWS API, the actor created several instances in our infrastructure to do reconnaissance. OneLogin staff was alerted of unusual database activity around 9 am PST and within minutes shut down the affected instance as well as the AWS keys that were used to create it.”

Customer impact

“The threat actor was able to access database tables that contain information about users, apps, and various types of keys. While we encrypt certain sensitive data at rest, at this time we cannot rule out the possibility that the threat actor also obtained the ability to decrypt data. We are thus erring on the side of caution and recommending actions our customers should take, which we have already communicated to our customers.”


31
May 17

Credit Card Breach at Kmart Stores. Again.

For the second time in less than three years, Kmart Stores is battling a malware-based security breach of its store credit card processing systems. kmart

Last week I began hearing from smaller banks and credit unions who said they strongly suspected another card breach at Kmart. Some of those institutions received alerts from the credit card companies about batches of stolen cards that all had one thing in common: They were all used at Kmart locations.

Asked to respond to rumors about a card breach, Kmart’s parent company Sears Holdings said some of its payment systems were infected with malicious software:

“We recently became aware that Sears Holdings was a victim of a security incident involving unauthorized credit card activity following certain customer purchases at some of our Kmart stores. We immediately launched a thorough investigation and engaged leading third party forensic experts to review our systems and secure the affected part of our network.”

“Our Kmart store payment data systems were infected with a form of malicious code that was undetectable by current anti-virus systems and application controls. Once aware of the new malicious code, we quickly removed it and contained the event. We are confident that our customers can safely use their credit and debit cards in our retail stores.”

Based on the forensic investigation, NO PERSONAL identifying information (including names, addresses, social security numbers, and email addresses) was obtained by those criminally responsible. However, we believe certain credit card numbers have been compromised. Nevertheless, in light of our EMV compliant point of sale systems, which rolled out last year, we believe the exposure to cardholder data that can be used to create counterfeit cards is limited. There is also no evidence that kmart.com or Sears customers were impacted.”

Sears spokesman Chris Brathwaite said the company is not commenting on how many of Kmart’s 735 locations nationwide may have been impacted or how long the breach is believed to have persisted, saying the investigation is ongoing.

“Given the criminal nature of this attack, Kmart is working closely with federal law enforcement authorities, our banking partners, and IT security firms in this ongoing investigation,” Sears Holdings said in its statement. “We are actively enhancing our defenses in light of this new form of malware. Data security is of critical importance to our company, and we continuously review and improve the safeguards that protect our data in response to changing technology and new threats.”

In October 2014, Sears announced a very similar breach in which the company also stressed that the data stolen did not include customer names, email addresses or other personal information.  Continue reading →