May, 2010


12
May 10

Phished Brands Seize on Teachable Moments

Not long ago, most companies whose brands were being abused in phishing scams focused their efforts mainly on shuttering the counterfeit sites as quickly as possible. These days, an increasing number of phished brands are not only disabling the sites, but also seizing on the opportunity to teach would-be victims how to spot future scams.

Instead of simply dismantling a phishing site and leaving the potential phishing victims with a “Site not found” error, some frequent targets of phishing sites are setting up redirects to phishing education pages.

For the past 20 months, Jason Hong, assistant professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University‘s Human Computer Interaction Institute, has been measuring referrals from phishing sites to an education page set up by the Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG), an industry consortium. Hong said the site now receives close to 25,000 referrals per month from phishing sites that brand owners have modified.

The redirect process works like this: The brand owner or company whose customers are targeted by the phishing site verifies it as a scam site, and then the site’s ISP, hosting provider or domain registrar will redirect the phishing site to the APWG education page.

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12
May 10

Microsoft, Adobe Push Critical Security Updates

Microsoft Corp. and Adobe Systems each released security updates on Tuesday. Microsoft issued two “critical” patches that address one security flaw apiece, while Adobe’s patches fix a whole mess of serious vulnerabilities in its software.

One of the critical updates pushed by Microsoft fixes a flaw in Outlook Express, Windows Mail and Windows Live Mail. On older versions of Windows (Windows XP for example) Outlook Express is installed by default, while Windows Mail and Windows Live Mail generally require users to affirmatively download and install the program.

The other MS patch addresses a vulnerability in Microsoft Office, but the problem may turn out to be more complex down the road for some users. The trouble is that the vulnerable component, Microsoft Visual Basic for Applications is used not only by Microsoft Office products, but it’s also a component that is potentially installed by many third-party software apps built to work with Windows.

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11
May 10

FBI Promises Action Against Money Mules

The FBI’s top anti-cyber crime official today said the agency is planning a law enforcement action against so-called “money mules,” individuals willingly or unwittingly roped into helping organized computer crooks launder money stolen through online banking fraud.

Patrick Carney, acting chief of the FBI’s cyber criminal section, said mules are an integral component of an international crime wave that is costing U.S. banks and companies hundreds of millions of dollars. He said the agency hopes the enforcement action will help spread awareness that money mules are helping to perpetrate crimes.

“We want to make sure that public understands this is illegal activity and one of the best ways we can think of to give that message is to have some prosecutions,” Carney said at a Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) symposium in Arlington, Va. today on combating commercial payments fraud. “We realize it’s not going to make the problem go away, but it should help raise awareness and send a signal.”

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10
May 10

A Stroll Down Victim Lane

Last week I traveled to Cooperstown, N.Y. to deliver a keynote address about the scourge of online banking fraud that I’ve written about so frequently this past year. I flew into Albany, and in the short, 60 minute drive west to Cooperstown, I passed through tiny Duanesburg, a town whose middle school district is still out a half million dollars from e-banking fraud. On my way to Cooperstown, I also passed within a few minutes of several other recent victims — including a wrecking firm based on Schenectady that lost $70,000 last month when organized thieves raided its online bank account.

Alexander “Sandy” Jackson‘s world started crashing down on Apr. 20, the day he learned that more than $70,000 of company’s cash had been transferred to 10 complete strangers scattered about the United States. Since then, the owner of Jackson Demolition Service has spent a good deal of time trying to retrieve that money. So far, he and his bank have recovered about one-third of the amount stolen.

Oddly enough, Jackson first learned of the fraud after being contacted by an individual who received close to $5,000 of the firm’s money.

That individual was Montgomery, Ala. resident April Overton. In March, Overton responded to an e-mail from a company that said it found her resume on Careerbuilder.com, and would she be interested in a work-at-home job entering tax information on behalf of American tax filers? Overton said she accepted the job, and for more than a month worked several hours each day completing various tax forms with personal tax information sent to her via e-mail, forms that she then had to fax back to her employers, who claimed to be Tax World LLC, at www.taxreturnsworld.com.

“I was basically processing tax returns, and they’d have me log in to a site every morning between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m., and would send me information, have me filing out [IRS Form] 1040 tax returns,” Overton said.

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8
May 10

Visa Warns of Fraud Attack from Criminal Group

Visa is warning financial institutions that it has received reliable intelligence that an organized criminal group plans to attempt to move large amounts of fraudulent payments through a merchant account in Eastern Europe, possibly as soon as this weekend.

In an alert sent to banks, card issuers and processors this week, Visa said it “has received intelligence from a third-party entity indicating that a criminal group has plans to execute “a large batch settlement fraud scheme.”

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7
May 10

Fun with ATM Skimmers, Part III

ATM skimmers, or devices that thieves secretly attach to cash machines in order to capture and ultimately clone ATM cards, have captured the imagination of many readers. Past posts on this blog about ATM skimmers have focused on their prevalence and stealth in attacking cash machines in the United States, but these devices also are a major problem in Europe as well.

According to the European ATM Security Team (EAST), a not-for-profit payment security organization, ATM crimes in Europe jumped 149 percent form 2007 to 2008, and most of that increase has been linked to a dramatic increase in ATM skimming attacks. During 2008, a total of 10,302 skimming incidents were reported in Europe. Below is a short video authorities in Germany released recently showing two men caught on camera there installing a skimmer and a pinhole camera panel above to record PINs.

EAST estimates that European ATM fraud losses in 2008 were nearly 500 million Euros, although roughly 80 percent of those losses resulted from fraud committed outside Europe by criminals using stolen card details. EAST believes this is because some 90 percent of European ATMs now are compliant with the so-called “chip and pin” or EMV (an initialism for Europay, Mastercard and VISA) standard.

ATM cards store account data on magnetic strips on the backs of the cards, and thieves have focused their attention on lifting the data from customer cards — either through handheld skimmers — or via magnetic strip readers on ATM skimmers. The data can then be re-encoded onto blank ATM cards, and used at ATM along with the victim’s PIN to withdraw cash. The EMV approach uses a secret algorithm embedded in the chip planted into each ATM card. The chip encodes the card data, making it harder (but certainly not impossible) for fraudsters to read information from them or clone them. RSA‘s Idan Aharoni wrote an informative post about this technology earlier this year.

Needless to say, U.S. based financial institutions do not require chip-and-PIN, and that may be a contributor to the high fraud rates in the United States. The U.S. Secret Service estimates that annual losses from ATM fraud totaled about $1 billion in 2008, or about $350,000 each day.

While many of the images below are not new, they showcase some of the actual ATM skimmers deployed against European cash machines (click any of the images to view a slideshow).

Have you seen:

All-in-one Skimmers…ATM skimmers come in all shapes and sizes, and most include several components — such as a tiny spy cam hidden in a brochure rack, or fraudulent PIN pad overlay. The problem from the thief’s perspective is that the more components included in the skimmer kit, the greater the chance that he will get busted attaching or removing the devices from ATMs. Thus, the appeal of the all-in-one ATM skimmer: It stores card data using an integrated magnetic stripe reader, and it has a built-in hidden camera designed to record the PIN sequence after an unsuspecting customer slides his bank card into the compromised machine.


6
May 10

New Software Turns iPad into iSpy

A new commercial software program marketed to employers, parents and suspicious spouses lets customers surreptitiously monitor their Apple iPads remotely and view a record of all e-mail and Web use on the devices.

The software-as-a-service is the latest offering from Jacksonville, Fla. based Retina-X Studios, a company whose  Mobile Spy products have long allowed people to remotely spy on iPhones, Blackberries and other smartphones. For $99.97 a year, customers get access to a Web interface that allows them to view a list of every Web site visited, every e-mail sent and received, as well as any contacts added to the iPad.

Mobile Spy pitches the product thusly:

Are your kids viewing pornography while you are alseep? [sic] Are your employees sending company secrets through their personal email? You will have the answers to all these questions answered. Logs are instantly uploaded and viewable inside your control panel.

The company said in a press release that it plans to roll out even more capabilities for its iPadspy product, such as the ability to record the target’s location (by tapping the built-in GPS), and rifle through photos and notes stored on the device.

I haven’t used the service (I don’t even own an iPad, sadly). But these kinds of services are a good reminder about the importance of physical security for your computers and gadgets: In most cases, once an attacker has physical access to a device, it’s game over.

The software only works on jailbroken iPads, as the iPad is not able to run more than one program at a time unless it’s jailbroken.


5
May 10

Opera Plugs ‘Extremely Severe’ Security Hole

The makers of the Opera Web browser are urging users to apply an update that fixes what the company described as an “extremely severe” security flaw in Windows and Mac versions of the software. The vulnerability is fixed in the latest version, v. 10.53, available from this link. Alternatively, Opera users can click “Help” then “Check for Updates” from within the browser.


3
May 10

Accused Mariposa Botnet Operators Sought Jobs at Spanish Security Firm

Luis Corrons spent much of the last year helping Spanish police with an investigation that led to the arrest of three local men suspected of operating and renting access to a massive and global network of hacked computers. Then, roughly 60 days after their arrest, something strange happened:  Two of them unexpectedly turned up at Corrons’ office and asked to be hired as security researchers.

Corrons, a technical director and blogger for Spanish security firm Panda Security, said he received a visit from the hackers on the morning of March 22. The two men, known by the online nicknames “Netkairo” and “Ostiator,” were arrested in February by Spanish police for their alleged role in running the “Mariposa” botnet, a malware distribution platform that spread malicious software  to more than 12 million Internet addresses from 190 countries (mariposa is Spanish for “butterfly”).

Now, here the two Mariposa curators were at Panda’s headquarters in Bilbao, their resumes in hand, practically begging for a job, Corrons said.

“At first, I couldn’t believe it, and I thought someone in the office was playing a practical joke on me,” Corrons said. “But these guys were the real guys, and they were serious.

“Ostiator told me, ‘The thing is, with everything that’s been happening, we’re not earning any money at the moment,” Corrons recalled. “He said, ‘We thought we could look for some kind of agreement in which both sides would benefit. We think we have knowledge [that] could be useful to Panda and thought we could have some kind of agreement with Panda.'”

Spanish police do not typically release the names of individuals who have been arrested, and Netkairo and Ostiator haven’t yet been charged with any crime. But Corrons recognized that the names and addresses on the resumes matched those that police had identified as residences belonging to Netkairo and Ostiator.

Corrons said Panda’s lawyers were unwilling to release the full names of the two men that visited Panda Labs, but said Ostiator’s first name is Juan Jose, and that he is a 25-year-old male from Santiago de Compostela. Corrons said Netkairo is a 31-year-old from Balmaseda named Florencio.

Shortly after the arrests were announced, local Spanish media said the third individual arrested by Spanish authorities in connection with Mariposa — a 30-year-old identified by his initials “JPR” — used the hacker nickname “Johny Loleante” and lived in Molina de Segura, Murcia.

On Mar. 3, I had the opportunity to interview Captain Cesar Lorenzana, deputy head technology crime division of the Spanish Civil Guard. Lorenzana told Krebsonsecurity.com that Netkairo and his associate were earning about 3,000 Euros each month renting out the Mariposa botnet to other hackers.

Interviewing the same hackers less than three weeks later, Corrons asked them how they got started creating Mariposa.

“Basically, they said they started it as kind of a hobby, and that they weren’t working at the time,” Corrons said. “Suddenly, they started to earn money, a few hundred Euros a week to start, and then discovered they couldn’t stop. And the whole time, their network kept growing.”

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