September, 2010


30
Sep 10

U.S. Charges 37 Alleged Money Mules

Troy Owen never thought he’d see the day when the cyber thieves who robbed his company of $800,000 would ever be charged with any crime. Owen said investigators had warned him early on that the perpetrators were mostly overseas in places like Ukraine and Moldova, and that it might be tough to pursue those responsible.

But earlier today, authorities in New York announced they had charged more than 60 individuals — and arrested 20 — in connection with international cyber heists perpetrated against dozens of companies in the United States, including Owen’s.

In November 2009, cyber crooks used a sophisticated password stealing Trojan horse program called “ZeuS” to hack into computers at Owen’s firm — Plano, Texas-based Hillary Machinery. The program swiped the company’s online banking passwords, allowing the attackers to initiate more than $800,000 in bogus transfers out of the company’s online account to dozens of people in the United States who helped launder the money and send it to the attackers in Eastern Europe.

Fraudulent wire transfers from Hillary Machinery.

More than $14,100 of Hillary’s money was wired to Stanislav Rastorgeuv, a 22-year-old Russian national who entered the United States in June 2009 on a “J1″ student visa. According to charging documents, Rastorgeuv was the poster child for money launderers looking to recruit new mules to help retrieve the proceeds of ZeuS Trojan virus attacks.

Authorities say almost all of those arrested or charged in this case are young Eastern Europe men and women who were either planning to travel to, or were already present in, the United States on J1 student visas. Once the students  were in the United States, the organizers  of the mule organization gave  the recruits fake foreign passports to open accounts at local banks.

Then, days or weeks after those accounts were opened, other actors in the group would transfer money from cybercrime victims into the mule accounts, typically in amounts close to $10,000. Once the transfers were complete, the mules would quickly withdraw the money, keep a portion for themselves (usually 8 to 10 percent) and transfer the remaining amount to other participants in the fraud scheme, usually individuals overseas.

Some mules were asked to open a large number of bank accounts to help launder stolen funds. Charging documents say Rastogeuv opened up multiple bank accounts under his own name and using fake passports for fictitious individuals, including the names “Petr Rubsashkin” and “Alexey Iankov.” In addition to the unauthorized transfer sent to him by Hillary Machinery, Rastogeuv allegedly helped to launder nearly $30,000 from other victim companies over the next two months.

U.S. authorities say the ringleader of the New York-based money mule gang was Artem “Artur” Tsygankov, a Russian citizen living in New York who allegedly recruited Rastogeuv and other mules, supplied them with fake identity documents, and managed their daily activities. In all, the New York gang cleared more than $3 million from victim corporations using hundreds of accounts opened under false identities.

Others are charged with hacking into and siphoning funds from online brokerage accounts. Jamal Beyrouti, 53, Lorenzo Babbo, 20, and 29-year-old Vincenzo Vitello worked with hackers who infiltrated trading accounts at E-Trade and TD Ameritrade, executing fraudulent sales of securities and transferring the proceeds to accounts the mules controlled. At the same time, the attackers blasted victims’ phones with a barrage of calls to prevent the brokerage firms from contacting them to confirm the legitimacy of the transactions. The scam allowed mules to transfer roughly $1.2 million from hacked brokerage accounts.

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30
Sep 10

11 Charged In ZeuS & Money Mule Ring

Authorities in the United Kingdom on Wednesday charged 11 individuals with running an international cybercrime syndicate that laundered millions of dollars stolen from consumers and businesses with the help of the help of the ultra-sophisticated ZeuS banking Trojan.

Yevhen Kulibaba

The gang is believed to be responsible for stealing more than $30 million from banks worldwide between October 2009 and September 28, 2010, and roughly £6 million (US$9.5 million) from financial institutions in the United Kingdom over a three-month period.

Karina Kostromina, in undated photo.

According to sources close to the case, members of the group also were heavily involved in online banking thefts perpetrated against dozens of small businesses and organizations based in the United States. Eight gang members were charged with money laundering, and 10 were charged with conspiracy to defraud. Police arrested 20 people in a pre-dawn raid on Tuesday; nine were bailed on Wednesday. The Metropolitan Police’s Central e-Crime Unit said those individuals may face charges at a later date. Those charged were due to appear in Westminster Magistrates’ Court court early this morning.

The individuals arrested in the U.K. are thought to be a subset of a global cybercrime operation. The Wall Street Journal now reports that the U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan is preparing to announce that 60 people have been charged in connection with a major ZeuS crime ring.

Sources say the ringleader of the U.K. gang, 32-year-old Ukrainian property developer Yevhen Kulibaba (pictured above right), shuttled some of the stolen funds from the U.K. to Ukraine and to Latvia, where he has been building a home with his wife. Information obtained by KrebsOnSecurity indicates that Kulibaba’s wife may be Karina Kostromina (pictured above left), a 33-year-old Latvian woman who was among those charged with money laundering and conspiracy in connection with this case. The U.K. Metropolitan Police declined to confirm or deny whether Kulibaba and Kostromina were married, although their public statement puts the two in the same neighborhood – Nevada Heights, Chingford, Essex.

Yuriy Konovalenko

Kulibaba’s right-hand man, 28-year-old Yuriy Konovalenko — also of Nevada Heights — is described by the e-Crime Unit as a self-employed Web designer from Ukraine. Sources say Konovalenko was chiefly responsible for managing a large number of “money mules,” people hired to withdraw, carry or transmit cash stolen by the gang. A review of Konovalenko’s social networking site identities suggests he is a blood relative of Kulibaba’s, but U.K. police declined to confirm or deny this information.

Also charged with conspiracy and stealing money from online bank accounts is Milka Valerij (pictured below), a 29-year-old Ukrainian whom U.K. police say was a building laborer.

Milka Valerij

The oldest alleged member of the group — 34 year-old Georgian Zurab Revazishvili — is facing violations of the U.K. Identity Cards Act of 2005, which makes it a crime to possess false identity documents. The Metropolitan Police statement on the crimes doesn’t specify what Revazishvili’s role was, but sources say he may have been responsible for creating false identity documents for the gang’s money mules.

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29
Sep 10

19 Arrested in Multi-Million Dollar ZeuS Heists

Authorities in the United Kingdom on Tuesday arrested 19 individuals alleged to be connected to a massive fraud ring that has stolen tens of millions of dollars from hundreds of consumers and small to mid-sized businesses in the U.K. and the United States.

Members of the group — described as 15 men and 4 women between the ages of 23 and 47 — are thought to be part of a sophisticated, multinational computer crime operation that stole almost $10 million over a three month period and may have netted more than $30 million, according to an article in today’s  Daily Mail.

Investigators say the gang plundered bank accounts with the help of the ZeuS Trojan, which steals online banking credentials, and allows the thieves to connect back through the victim’s PC and Internet connection to initiate unauthorized transfers.

The Daily Mail story has some nice photos of those arrested, but the piece is otherwise light on details. According to several of my sources who have helped with or participated in the investigation that led to this week’s arrests, the group used ZeuS to steal online banking credentials from tens of thousands of victims, but it focused on extracting money from high-dollar accounts belonging to businesses.

Sources say the UK gang is part of a larger organization that is directly responsible for most of the e-banking heists that I have been writing about for the past 14 months. These attacks targeted bank accounts belonging to schools, libraries, towns, cities, law firms, and a broad range of small to mid-sized companies and nonprofit organizations.

In nearly every case, the gang initiated large batches of bogus payroll payments from victim businesses, sending the money in sub-$10,000 chunks to money mules, unwitting or willing individuals recruited through job search sites. The mules would then withdraw the funds in cash from their banks, and wire the loot – minus a small “commission” — to additional Eastern European mules recruited by the gang.

More to come. Stay tuned.


28
Sep 10

Fake LinkedIn Invite Leads to ZeuS Trojan

A major new malware spam campaign mimicking invites sent via business networking site LinkedIn.com leverages user trust and a kitchen sink of browser exploits in a bid to install the password-stealing ZeuS Trojan.

The spam campaign began Monday morning, according to security experts at networking giant Cisco Systems, and for a while the fake LinkedIn invitations accounted for as much as 24 percent of all spam. Recipients who click links in the message are taken to a Web page that reads, “Please Waiting, 4 seconds,” and then sent on to Google.com.

On the way to Google, however, the victim’s browser is silently passed through a site equipped with what appears to be the SEO Exploit Pack, a commercial crimeware kit that tries to exploit more than a dozen browser vulnerabilities in an attempt to install ZeuS.

This attack will no doubt fool a large number of people. Dan Tynan, a reporter for IT World, said he was tricked into clicking the link and possibly infecting his system.

It’s a good idea to avoid clicking social networking site invites that arrive by e-mail, especially if you don’t recognize the name of the person who’s inviting you. Instead, consider just browsing to the social networking site and handling any invites there. Also, this attack is a good reminder that it pays to stay up-to-date on the latest security patches.

What interests me most about this scam is that it shows that criminals wielding ZeuS are now using employment-oriented online services both to infect new PCs and to “cash out” these same victims, thanks to money mules recruited at job search sites like Monster.com and Careerbuilder.com.

I asked Cisco to supply more information about the domains used in this attack. Some of that information is included at the summary listed here (please take care with the domains on this list — they all should be considered hostile).


27
Sep 10

Spam Affiliate Program Spamit.com to Close

Spamit, a closely guarded affiliate program that for years has paid some of the world’s top spammers to promote counterfeit pharmacy Web sites, now says that it will close up shop at the end of September.

Spamit administrators blamed the impending closure on increased public attention to its program, which interacted with affiliates via several sites bearing the spamit brand, including spamit.com, spamit.biz, and spamdot.biz.

The program’s homepage was replaced with the following message (pictured above) a few days ago:

Because of the numerous negative events happened last year and the risen attention to our affiliate program we’ve decided to stop accepting the traffic from 1.10.2010 [Oct. 1, 2010]. We find the decision the most appropriate in this situation. It provides avoiding the sudden work stop which leads to the program collapse and not paying your profit.

In our case the whole profit will be paid normally. All possible frauds are excluded. Please transfer your traffic to other affiliate programs till 1.10.2010.

Thank you for your cooperation! We appreciate your trust very much!

Dmitry Samosseiko, senior manager of SophosLabs Canada, wrote last year in his excellent Partnerka paper (PDF) that Spamit affiliates are thought to responsible for managing some of the world’s most disruptive, infectious and sophisticated collections of hacked PCs or “botnets,” including Storm, Waledec and potentially Conficker.

A Canadian Pharmacy site advertised by Glavmed/Spamit

Spamit affiliates are best known for promoting the ubiquitous ‘Canadian Pharmacy’ Web sites, such as the one pictured to the left (zithmed.com). While at any given time there are thousands of these fly-by-night Canadian Pharmacy sites online selling prescription drugs without requiring a prescription, these pharmacies are about as Canadian as caviar: Experts say most of the drugs sent to buyers are made in and shipped from India and/or China.

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22
Sep 10

I’ll Take 2 MasterCards and a Visa, Please

When you’re shopping for stolen credit and debit cards online, there are so many choices these days. A glut of stolen data — combined with innovation and cutthroat competition among vendors — is conspiring to keep prices for stolen account numbers exceptionally low. Even so, many readers probably have no idea that their credit card information is worth only about $1.50 on the black market.

Don’t you just hate it, though, when online stores nickel and dime you to death? I started to get that chintzy vibe when I opened an account at rock3d.cc, one of many sites where one can buy stolen Visa, MasterCard, Discover and Amex card information. The purloined card numbers — no doubt lifted from PCs infected with data-stealing malware like the ZeuS Trojan — fetch $1.50 for U.S. accounts, and $4 (USD) for accounts belonging to U.K. residents.

And for a premium, you can obtain “fullz,” or the card data plus other useful information about cardholders, such as their date of birth, mother’s maiden name, etc.

The trouble is, the minute you seek to narrow your search using the built-in tools, the site starts adding all these extra convenience fees (sound familiar?). For example, if I wanted to buy a card stolen from anyone around the Washington, D.C. area, it would probably be from a resident of McLean, Va., which is more or less a tony place where there are plenty of well-to-do folk. Anyway, the site found me a card (a MasterCard) belonging to a McLean resident alright, but then the service wanted to tack on an extra $.60 just because I isolated my search by city and state — raising the cost in my shopping cart to $2.10! No way, Jose. Not this bargain shopper.

Have you seen:

Virus Scanners for Virus Authors…The very first entry I posted at Krebs on Security, Virus Scanners for Virus Authors, introduced readers to two services that let virus writers upload their creations to see how well they are detected by numerous commercial anti-virus scanners. In this follow-up post, I take you inside of a pair of similar services that allow customers to periodically scan a malware sample and receive alerts via instant message or e-mail when a new anti-virus product begins to detect the submission as malicious.


21
Sep 10

Nasty Twitter Worm Outbreak

Several new Internet worms are spreading quite rapidly via a newly-found vulnerability in Twitter.com. While the flaw that powers these attackers will most likely be sewn shut in a matter of hours, if you’re going to frequent Twitter today you’d be wise to use a Twitter client or at least block Javascript on the site, as these worms appear to be spreading with little or no interaction on the part of users.

According to security firm F-Secure Corp., the trouble started earlier today, when several worms began quickly spreading by leveraging a cross-site scripting vulnerability in Twitter that used “onmouseover” techniques, meaning it was enough to move your computer mouse on top of a malicious Tweet to resend the nasty message to all of your followers.

The initial worms apparently began as a proof-of-concept, but a number of new Tweets in the Twitter trending topics page indicate that newer versions are silently redirecting victim PCs to fetch more malicious payloads.

Until this mess gets cleaned up, F-Secure is warning Twitter users to use a Twitter client like TweetDeck to access Twitter instead of using Twitter.com, or to disable Javascript on the domain (always a sound idea). Several readers have pointed out another solution: Use mobile twitter (m.twitter.com), which has no Javascript. Alternatively, just stay logged out of Twitter for the next few hours.

The Twitter user who reportedly discovered the vulnerability — programmer Magnus Holm – remarked on his Twitter feed that in hindsight he probably should have reported the flaw to Twitter, “but when I discovered it, it had already been in the wild for some time, so I assumed they knew it. I’m not responsible for the tweets that blocks the whole screen and retweet. my worm was much less obtrusive.”

Update, 10:05 a.m. ET: I’m reminded now of why I generally don’t write about the Twitter/Facebook malware threats-of-the-day: Because they’re usually no longer a threat by the time you write a blog post about them! Twitter is now reporting that it has fixed the vulnerability.

Update, 1:31 p.m. ET: Twitter’s security chief Bob Lord now has a blog post describing what happened with this worm. Lord writes: “This exploit affected Twitter.com and did not impact our mobile web site or our mobile applications. The vast majority of exploits related to this incident fell under the prank or promotional categories. Users may still see strange retweets in their timelines caused by the exploit. However, we are not aware of any issues related to it that would cause harm to computers or their accounts. And, there is no need to change passwords because user account information was not compromised through this exploit.” More here.


20
Sep 10

Security Fix for Critical Adobe Flash Flaw

Adobe Systems Inc. today rushed out a software update to remedy a dangerous security hole in its ubiquitous Flash Player that hackers have been exploiting to break into vulnerable systems.

Adobe recommends users of Adobe Flash Player 10.1.82.76 and earlier versions for Windows, Macintosh, Linux, and Solaris update to Adobe Flash Player 10.1.85.3, and users of Adobe Flash Player 10.1.92.10 for Android update to Adobe Flash Player 10.1.95.1. Updates are available from this link.

Adobe’s advisory on this flaw is here. The same security vulnerability also exists in the latest versions of Adobe Reader and Acrobat, although Adobe says it doesn’t plan to fix this vulnerability in those products until the week of Oct. 4.

Note that if you use both Internet Explorer and non-IE browsers, you’re going to need to apply this update at least twice, once by visiting the Flash Player installation page with IE and then again with Firefox, Opera or Safari. Google Chrome users can update to Chrome 6.0.472.62 to grab this latest Flash update. To check which version of Flash you have installed, visit this link.

Also, unless you want some “free” software — like McAfee Security Scan or whatever browser toolbar Adobe is bundling with Flash player this month — remember to uncheck that option before you agree to download the software.


20
Sep 10

Google Adds 2-Factor Security to Gmail, Apps

Google said today that it will begin offering users greater security protections for signing in to Gmail and other Google Apps offerings. This “two-step verification” process — which requires participating users to input a user ID, password and six-digit code sent to their mobile phones — effectively means Google will be offering more secure authentication than many U.S. financial institutions currently provide for their online banking customers.

The search giant will be making the technology available to its enterprise (paying) customers immediately, and it will be free to consumers within the next few months.  Users who choose to take advantage of the technology can have the codes sent via text message or a special Google mobile app. All devices that are successfully authenticated can then be set to not require the two-step process for the next 30 days.

Travis McCoy, product manager of Google Security, said the company was looking for a way to prevent Google account takeovers made possible by weak or stolen passwords.

“We wanted to look and see what single area could we work on that would have the greatest impact on user security,” McCoy said. “We found user names and passwords often end up being the weak link in the chain in terms of how accounts are being compromised.”

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17
Sep 10

SpyEye Botnet’s Bogus Billing Feature

Miscreants who control large groupings of hacked PCs or “botnets” are always looking for ways to better monetize their crime machines, and competition among rival bot developers is leading to devious innovations. The SpyEye botnet kit, for example, now not only allows botnet owners to automate the extraction of credit card and other financial data from infected systems, but it also can be configured to use those credentials to generate bogus sales at online stores set up by the botmaster.

The "billing" section from SpyEye admin pageAs I noted in a post in April, SpyEye is a software package that promises to make running a botnet a point-and-click exercise. A unique component of SpyEye is a feature called “billinghammer,” which automates the purchase of worthless or copycat software using credit card data stolen from victims of the botnet.

The SpyEye author explained this feature in detail on several hacking forums where his kit is sold, even including a video that walks customers through the process of setting it up. Basically, the scam works like this: The botmaster acquires some freeware utility or legitimate program, renames it, claims it as his own and places it up for sale at one of several pre-selected software sales and distribution platforms, including ClickBank, FastSpring, eSellerate, SetSystems, or Shareit. The botmaster then logs in to his SpyEye control panel (picture above), feeds it a list of credit card numbers and corresponding cardholder data, after which SpyEye opens an Internet Explorer Window and — at user-defined intervals — starts auto-filling the proper fields at the botmaster’s online store and making purchases.

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