August, 2010


30
Aug 10

Crooks Who Stole $600,000 From Catholic Diocese Said Money Was for Clergy Sex Abuse Victims

Organized cyber thieves stole more than $600,000 from the Catholic Diocese of Des Moines, Iowa earlier this month. The funds were spirited away with the help of dozens of unwitting co-conspirators hired through work-at-home job scams, at least one of whom was told the money was being distributed to victims of the Catholic Church sex abuse scandals, KrebsOnSecurity.com has learned.

In a statement released last week, the diocese said the fraud occurred between Aug. 13 and Aug. 16, apparently after criminals had stolen the diocese’s online banking credentials. The Diocese it was alerted to the fraud on Aug. 17 by its financial institution, Bankers Trust of Des Moines.

The diocese also said the FBI and U.S. Treasury Department were notified, and that the FBI had taken possession of several diocesan computers. To date, roughly $180,000 has been recovered.

The diocese added that law enforcement had advised them that the theft seems to have been the work of a highly sophisticated operation based overseas, which moved the stolen money out of the United States by recruiting people who unknowingly act as intermediaries.

“While the Diocese of Des Moines is protected by insurance and anticipates the restoration of the funds, we have been advised that such criminal activity is rampant,” Des Moines Bishop Richard Pates said. “Obviously, any entity that experiences such a crime should be significantly concerned.”

Once again, the theft involves so-called money mules willingly or unwittingly recruited by a specific money mule cash-out gang whose work I have written about several times already. Among the mules involved in this incident was a man in Newnan, Ga. who received almost $30,000 of the church’s cash. Daniel Huggins, the 29-year-old owner of Masonry Construction Group LLC, got mixed up with a company calling itself the Impeccable Group, claiming to be an international finance company operating out of New York.

Huggins said the Impeccable Group recruited him via e-mail, claiming it had found his resume on job search site Monster.com. The Impeccable Group told him he would be doing payment processing for the company, and on Aug. 16, Huggins’ erstwhile employers sent him two payments, one for almost $20,000 and another for slightly less than $10,000.

Huggins said he contacted the Impeccable Group shortly after the transfers because the amounts seemed quite high and the transfers appeared to be coming from the Catholic Church. The scammers apparently were ready for this question and were quick on their feet with a reply that was as plausible as it was diabolical: Huggins was told the money was going to be distributed as legal settlements to people who had been affected by the clergy sexual abuse scandals that have rocked the church in recent years.

“The told me it was going to be payouts to some of the settlements in the sex crimes cases against the Church,” Huggins said.

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27
Aug 10

Researchers Kneecap ‘Pushdo’ Spam Botnet

Security researchers have dealt a mighty blow to a spam botnet known as Pushdo, a massive grouping of hacked PCs that until recently was responsible for sending more than 10 percent of all junk e-mail worldwide.

According to security firm M86 Security Labs, junk e-mail being relayed by Pushdo (a.k.a. Cutwail) tapered off from a torrent to a dribble over the past few days. M86 credits researchers at LastLine Inc., a security firm made up of professors and graduate students from University of California, Santa Barbara, the Vienna University of Technology (Austria), Eurecom (France), and Ruhr-University Bochum (Germany).

LastLine’s Thorsten Holz said his group identified 30 Internet servers used to control the Pushdo/Cutwail infrastructure, located at eight different hosting providers around the globe. Holz said Lastline contacted all hosting providers and worked with them to take down the machines, which lead to the takedown of nearly 20 of those control servers.

“Unfortunately, not all providers were responsive and thus several command & control servers are still online at this  point,” Holz wrote on the company’s blog. “Nevertheless, this effort had an impact on Pushdo/Cutwail, which you can also see in new Anubis reports generated today  by re-running the analysis: Many connection attempts fail and infected machines can not receive commands anymore.”

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26
Aug 10

White House Calls Meeting on Rogue Online Pharmacies

The Obama administration is inviting leaders of the top Internet domain name registrars and registries to attend a three-hour meeting at the White House next month about voluntary ways to crack down on Web sites that are selling counterfeit prescription medications.

The invitation, sent via e-mail on Aug 13 by White House Senior Adviser for Intellectual Property Enforcement Andrew J. Klein, urges select recipients to attend a meeting on Sept. 29 with senior White House and cabinet officials, including Victoria Espinel, the Obama administration’s intellectual property enforcement coordinator.

“The purpose of this meeting is to discuss illegal activity taking place over the internet generally, and more specifically, voluntary protocols to address the illegal sale of counterfeit non-controlled prescription medications on-line,” the invitation states.

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25
Aug 10

Adobe, Apple Issue Security Updates

Both Adobe and Apple have released security updates or alerts in the past 24 hours. Adobe pushed out a critical patch that fixes at least 20 vulnerabilities in its Shockwave Player, while Apple issued updates to correct 13 flaws in Mac OS X systems.

The Adobe patch applies to Shockwave Player 11.5.7.609 and earlier on Windows and Mac operating systems. Adobe recommends that users upgrade to Shockwave Player 11.5.8.612, available at this link. But before you do that, you might want to visit this link, which will tell you whether or not you need to update, and indeed whether you currently have Shockwave installed at all. If you visit it and don’t see an animation, then you don’t have Shockwave (and probably aren’t missing it either).

One other note about Shockwave: Firefox users may notice a “Shockwave Flash” entry when they click “Tools,” “Add-0ns,” and then the “Plugins” tab. For reasons that are too complicated to explain in one breath, this is actually Adobe’s name for its regular Flash player, which most people probably do want installed because can be difficult to browse and use the Internet without it.  By the way, if you haven’t updated your Flash Player in a while, Adobe issued a new version of that software on Aug 10 that plugged a half dozen security holes.

Apple’s update affects Mac OS X Server 10.5, Mac OS X 10.5.8 , Mac OS X Server 10.6 , Mac OS X 10.6.4 and is available via Software Update or from Apple Downloads.


24
Aug 10

MalCon: A Call for ‘Ethical Malcoding’

I was pretty bummed this year when I found out that a previous engagement would prevent me from traveling to Las Vegas for the annual back-to-back Black Hat and Defcon security conventions. But I must say I am downright cranky that I will be missing MalCon, a conference being held in Mumbai later this year that is centered around people in the “malcoder community.”

According to the conference Web site, MalCon is “the worlds [sic] first platform bringing together Malware and Information Security Researchers from across the globe to share key research insights into building the next generation malwares. Spread across the world, malcoders now have a common platform to demonstrate expertise, get a new insight and be a part of the global MALCODER community. This conference features keynotes, technical presentations, workshops as well as the EMERGING CHALLENGES of creating undetectable stealthy malware.”

The call for papers shows that this security conference is encouraging malware writers of all shapes, ages and sizes to bring and share their creations. “We are looking for new techniques, tool releases,unique research and about anything that’s breath-taking, related to Malwares. If your presentation, when given with all its valid techno-Jargon can give our moderators a head-ache, you are right up there. The papers and research work could be under any of the broad categories mentioned below. You can submit working malwares as well.”

Among the “malwares” encouraged are novel phishing kits, botnets and mobile phone-based malware, malware creation tools, cross-platform malware infection techniques, and new malware self-defense mechanisms, such as anti-virus exploitation techniques.

At first, I didn’t know what to make of this conference, which was initially brought to my attention by a clueful source in the botnet underground. My hoaxmeter went positively bonkers after I pinged both of the e-mail addresses listed on the site and each e-mail bounced.

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23
Aug 10

Anti-virus Products Struggle Against Exploits

Most anti-virus products designed for use in businesses do a poor job of detecting the exploits that hacked and malicious Web sites use to foist malware, a new report concludes.

Independent testing firm NSS Labs looked at the performance of 10 commercial anti-virus products to see how well they detected 123 client-side exploits, those typically used to attack vulnerabilities in Web browsers including Internet Explorer and Firefox, as well as common desktop applications, such as Adobe Flash, Reader, and Apple QuickTime.

Roughly half of the exploits tested were exact copies of the first exploit code to be made public against the vulnerability. NSS also tested detection for an equal number of exploit variants, those which exploit the same vulnerability but use slightly different entry points in the targeted system’s memory. None of the exploits used evasion techniques commonly employed by real-life exploits to disguise themselves or hide from intrusion detection systems.

Among all ten products, NSS found that the average detection rate against original exploits was 76 percent, and that only three out of ten products stopped all of the original exploits. The average detection against exploits variants was even lower at 58 percent, NSS found.

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19
Aug 10

Adobe Issues Acrobat, Reader Security Patches

Adobe Systems Inc. today issued software updates to fix at least two security vulnerabilities in its widely-used Acrobat and PDF Reader products. Updates are available for Windows, Mac and UNIX versions of these programs.

Acrobat and Reader users can update to the latest version, v. 9.3.4, using the built-in updater, by clicking “Help” and then “Check for Updates.”

Today’s update is an out-of-cycle release for Adobe, which recently moved to a quarterly patch release schedule. The company said the update addresses a vulnerability that was demonstrated at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas last month. The release notes also reference a flaw detailed by researcher Didier Stevens back in March. Adobe said it is not aware of any active attacks that are exploiting either of these bugs.

More information on these patches, such as updating older versions of Acrobat and Reader, is available in the Adobe security advisory.


19
Aug 10

WinMHR: (Re)Introducing the Malware Hash Registry

Microsoft Windows users seeking more certainty about the security and integrity of downloaded files should take a look at a free new offering from Internet security research firm Team Cymru (pronounced kum-ree) that provides a solid backup to anti-virus scans.

The tool, called “WinMHR,” is an extension of the “Malware Hash Registry” (MHR), an anti-malware service that Team Cymru has offered for several years. The MHR is a large repository of the unique fingerprints or “hashes” that correspond to millions of files that have been identified as malicious by dozens of anti-virus firms and other security experts over the years.

The MHR has been a valuable tool for malware analysts, but until now its Web-based and command-line interface has placed it just outside the reach of most average computers users. WinMHR, on the other hand, is essentially a more user-friendly, point-and-click interface for the traditional MHR service, which Team Cyrmu described this way:

“While your AV posture helps you perform detection based on signatures, heuristics and polymorphism, the MHR provides you additional layer of detection, for known badness. Based on our research, AV packages have trouble detecting every possible piece of malware when it first appears. The MHR leverages multiple AV packages and our own malware analysis sandbox to help aid your detection rate. Coupled with AV, the MHR helps identify known problems so you can take action.”

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18
Aug 10

Apple Patch Catchup

I’ve fallen a bit behind on blog posts about notable security updates (I was counting on August to be the slowest month this year work-wise, but so far it’s actually been the busiest!). Recently, Apple released a series of important patches that I haven’t covered here, so it’s probably easiest to mention them all in one fell swoop.

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16
Aug 10

NetworkSolutions Sites Hacked By Wicked Widget

Hundreds of thousands of Web sites parked at NetworkSolutions.com have been serving up malicious software thanks to a tainted widget embedded in their pages, a security company warned Saturday.

Santa Clara, Calif. based Web application security vendor Armorize said it found the mass infection while responding to a complaint by one of its largest customers. Armorize said it traced the problem to the “Small Business Success Index” widget, an application that Network Solutions makes available to site owners through its GrowSmartBusiness.com blog.

Armorize soon discovered that not only was the widget serving up content for those who had downloaded and installed it on their sites, but also it was being served by default on some — if not all — Network Solutions pages that were parked or marked as “under construction.”

Parked domains are registered but contain no owner content. Network Solutions — like many companies that bundle Web site hosting and domain registration services – includes ads and other promotional content on these sites until customers add their own.

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