December, 2011


29
Dec 11

New Tools Bypass Wireless Router Security

Security researchers have released new tools that can bypass the encryption used to protect many types of wireless routers. Ironically, the tools take advantage of design flaws in a technology pushed by the wireless industry that was intended to make the security features of modern routers easier to use.

At issue is a technology called “Wi-Fi Protected Setup” (WPS) that ships with many routers marketed to consumers and small businesses. According to the Wi-Fi Alliance, an industry group, WPS is “designed to ease the task of setting up and configuring security on wireless local area networks. WPS enables typical users who possess little understanding of traditional Wi-Fi configuration and security settings to automatically configure new wireless networks, add new devices and enable security.”

Setting up a home wireless network to use encryption traditionally involved navigating a confusing array of Web-based menus, selecting from a jumble of geeky-sounding and ill-explained encryption options (WEP, WPA, WPA2, TKIP, AES), and then repeating many of those procedures on the various wireless devices the user wants to connect to the network. To make matters worse, many wireless routers come with little or no instructions on how to set up encryption.

Enter WPS. Wireless routers with WPS built-in ship with a personal identification number (PIN – usually 8 digits) printed on them. Using WPS, the user can enable strong encryption for the wireless network simply by pushing a button on the router and then entering the PIN in a network setup wizard designed to interact with the router.

But according to new research, routers with WPS are vulnerable to a very basic hacking technique: The brute-force attack. Put simply, an attacker can try thousands of combinations in rapid succession until he happens on the correct 8-digit PIN that allows authentication to the device.

One way to protect against such automated attacks is to disallow authentication for a specified amount of time after a certain number of unsuccessful attempts. Stefan Viehböck, a freelance information security researcher, said some wireless access point makers implemented such an approach. The problem, he said, is that most of the vendors did so in ways that make brute-force attacks slower, but still feasible.

Earlier today, Viehböck released on his site a free tool that he said can be used to duplicate his research and findings, detailed in this paper (PDF). He said his tool took about four hours to test all possible combinations on TP-Link and D-Link routers he examined, and less than 24 hours against a Netgear router.

“The Wi-Fi alliance members were clearly opting for usability” over security, Viehböck said in a instant message conversation with KrebsOnSecurity.com. “It is very unlikely that nobody noticed that the way they designed the protocol makes a brute force attack easier than it ever should.”

Continue reading →


29
Dec 11

Happy 2nd Birthday, KrebsOnSecurity.com!

I’m taking a short break from some year-end downtime to observe that KrebsOnSecurity.com turns two years old today!

This past year, KrebsOnSecurity.com has featured more than 200 blog posts, and attracted 5,000+ reader comments. It has been humbling to watch the audience here steadily grow and mature into a community. The expertise and conversations offered by readers in the blog comments have added immeasurably to the value and usefulness of this site.

My research and reporting involved more than a dozen public speaking events around the globe in 2011. The highlights of my work-related travel included trips to Austria, Canada, Poland, Russia, and The Netherlands. 2012 promises more interesting destinations.

When I founded Krebs On Security LLC in late 2009, I had no idea if it would work out. This past year, I’ve respectfully turned down some very flattering offers to work at important publications. The money and (apparent) stability those opportunities held out were certainly enticing, but I’m having way too much fun on my own, and today I can scarcely imagine doing anything else.

I look forward to continuing my investigative reporting on cybercrime, cybersecurity, and the underground economy. Most of all, I look forward to your continued readership and support. Thank you.

In case you missed them, here are some of the most-read investigative stories on KrebsOnsecurity.com from 2011:

Russian Cops Crash Pill Pusher Party

SpamIt, Glavmed Pharmacy Networks Exposed

Is Your Computer Listed “For Rent”?

Rent-a-Bot Networks Tied to TDSS Botnet

Who’s Behind the TDSS Botnet?

Gang Used 3D Printers for ATM Skimmers

Digital Hit Men for Hire

Beware of Juice-Jacking

Coordinated ATM Heists Net Thieves $13 Million

Rustock Botnet Suspect Sought Job at Google

Apple Took 3+ Years to Fix FinFisher Trojan Hole

Advanced Persistent Tweets: Zero-Day in 140 Characters

Pro-Grade (3D-Printer Made?) ATM Skimmer

How Much is Your Identity Worth?


22
Dec 11

Amnesty International Site Serving Java Exploit

Amnesty International‘s homepage in the United Kingdom is currently serving malware that exploits a recently-patched vulnerability in Java. Security experts say the attack appears to be part of a nefarious scheme to target human rights workers.

The site’s home page has been booby trapped with code that pulls a malicious script from an apparently hacked automobile site in Brazil.  The car site serves a malicious Java applet that uses a public exploit to attack a dangerous Java flaw that I’ve warned about several times this past month. The applet in turn retrieves an executable file detected by Sophos antivirus as Trojan Spy-XR, a malware variant first spotted in June 2011.

A woman who answered the phone this morning at Amnesty International’s research and policy branch in the U.K. declined to give her name, but said she would pass on the information about the break-in. The site remains compromised.

This is hardly the first time Amnesty International’s sites have been hacked to serve up malware. The organization’s site was hacked in April 2011 with a drive-by attack.  In November 2010, security firm Websense warned Amnesty International’s Hong Kong Web site was hacked and seeded with an exploit that dropped malware using a previously unknown Internet Explorer vulnerability.  Continue reading →


20
Dec 11

Busy Signal Service Targets Cyberheist Victims

A new service on the cyber criminal underground can be hired to tie up the phone lines of any targeted mobile or land line around the world. The service is marketed as a diversionary tactic to assist e-thieves in robbing commercial customers of banks that routinely call customers to verify large financial transfers.

For just $5 an hour, or $40 per day, you can keep anyone’s phone so tied up with incoming junk calls that the number is unable to receive legitimate calls.

The seller offers discounts for frequent buyers of his service, and promises that each call to the targeted number will appear to come from a unique phone number, thereby foiling any efforts to block the bogus calls by caller ID. The vendor also is offering this service under escrow payment, which many fraud forums use to ensure both parties to a transaction are happy before payment is rendered.

The FBI first warned about these attacks in June 2010, advising that that receiving rapid-fire “dead air” calls could be a sign that your bank account is being emptied. From that advisory:

“Denial-of-service attacks, by themselves, are nothing new—computer hackers use them to take down websites by flooding them with large amounts of traffic.”

“In a recent twist, criminals have transferred this activity to telephones, using automated dialing programs and multiple accounts to overwhelm the phone lines of unsuspecting citizens.”

“Why are they doing it? Turns out the calls are simply a diversionary tactic: while the lines are tied up, the criminals—masquerading as the victims themselves—are raiding the victims’ bank accounts and online trading or other money management accounts.”

Continue reading →


16
Dec 11

NY ID Theft Ring Used Insiders, Gang Members

Authorities in Manhattan today unsealed indictments against 55 people suspected of operating an identity theft and financial fraud ring, including a number of insiders at banks and companies throughout New York who allegedly helped to steal more than $2 million from hundreds of customers and clients.

Prosecutors say the 18-month-long investigation is notable because it underscores the ways in which traditional street crooks are moving their activity online: New York authorities maintain that more than a dozen of the defendants have violent criminal records and belong to different street gangs in Brooklyn.

At the center of the alleged conspiracy are employees at New York institutions that had access to large amounts of sensitive consumer and business data. Among those being arraigned today in a New York state court are JP Morgan Chase employees Karen Chance, Mercy Adebandjo and Joanna Gierczack; Tracey Nelson, an employee of the United Jewish Appeal-Federation; Roberto “Robbie” Millar, a car salesman for Open Road-Audi in Brooklyn; and Nicola Bennett, a compliance officer employed by AKAM Associates Inc., a residential property management company.

“These insiders used their positions to gain access to client data, and then sold that data to make money for themselves and their accomplices,” District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said in a written statement. “We will continue to work with our partners to build significant cases to disrupt identity theft and dismantle these criminal organizations.”

The indictments allege that middlemen named in the conspiracy purchased personal information on customers and donors from Nelson and Millar, and then either re-sold the data or used it themselves to commit fraudulent financial transactions.

Prosecutors also charge that the Chase employees abused their access to steal personal data on account holders, and sold the information to counterfeit check makers and to individuals who specialized in setting up and executing fraudulent bank transfers.

Some of the defendants are alleged to have recruited other indicted members for the purpose of using their bank accounts to conduct fraudulent transactions. Prosecutors say the recruiters played a dual role: trafficking in stolen personal information bought from others, and recruiting people to provide bank accounts through which they could commit fraud.

These so-called “collusive account holders” — effectively complicit money mules — make up the bulk of the individuals named in the indictments. New York authorities charge that when defendants wanted to withdraw money quickly from collusive accounts, they purchased US Postal Service money orders with the debit cards linked to the accounts.

The indictments state that some the defendants arraigned today used automated systems set up by Citibank and TD Bank to change the personal information on ID theft victims’ bank records, including the victims’ contact address, phone numbers and email addresses.

For example, prosecutor alleged that one of the defendants,  Josiah “Pespi” Boatwains, would request that stolen credit cards be mailed to an address where a co-conspirator Richard Ramos, an employee at United Parcel Service (UPS) would intercept the cards on Boatwain’s behalf in exchange for money.

Boatwains and two other defendants allegedly then used those stolen cards to purchase luxury items that other defendants sold to co-conspirators named in the indictments. Other defendants allegedly used hijacked credit card account numbers to make online purchases buying airline tickets, movie ticket, credit reports, pizza and iTunes products.

A statement of facts filed with the New York State Supreme Court notes that there is a large amount of violent activity that surrounds the defendants in this case. The statement reads:

“During the course of our investigation 2 targets of the investigation were murdered. One of the deceased was brutally murdered. When his body was found by the police, they recovered personal identifying information of victims linked to our case. Specifically, on his person, a copy of a check was found that was from one of our identity theft victims that had donated to the United Jewish Appeal.” Continue reading →


16
Dec 11

Ukrainian General Arrested in Cyber Heists

A decorated Ukrainian general was arrested last week in Romania along with two other men suspected of being part of an organized cybercrime gang that laundered at least $1.4 million stolen from U.S. and Italian firms.

Gen. Valeriu Gaichuck, far right.

Apprehended in Iasi, Romania last week were Matei Vitalie, 37, of Moldova; Konstantin Ossipov, a 42-year-old Israeli citizen; and 54-year-old Valeriu Gaichuk, a Ukrainian general who, according to his Facebook page, once studied at Florida International University in Miami.

Romanian prosecutors allege that the men created fake companies and business contracts to help to launder funds that were stolen from at least two firms, including $952,800 from the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics, an organization based in Minneapolis. Roy Snell, the society’s chief executive, declined to comment for this story.

Continue reading →


13
Dec 11

Security Updates for Microsoft Windows, Java

Microsoft today issued software updates to patch at least 19 security holes in Windows, including three flaws that earned the company’s most serious “critical” rating. Separately, Oracle released a security update that fixes several issues in its Java software.

The most talked-about vulnerability fixed in December’s patch batch is a critical flaw in all supported versions of Windows that’s been exploited for at least the past two months (and probably much longer) by the Duqu Trojan, a sophisticated information-stealer that experts say was an espionage tool constructed to extract sensitive data from industrial control systems. Continue reading →


13
Dec 11

Bugs Money

Talk about geek chic. Facebook has started paying researchers who find and report security bugs by issuing them custom branded “White Hat” debit cards that can be reloaded with funds each time the researchers discover new flaws.

Facebook's Bug Bounty debit card for security researchers who report security flaws in its site and applications.

I first read about this card on the Polish IT security portal Niebezpiecznik.pl, which recently published an image of a bug bounty card given to Szymon Gruszecki, a Polish security researcher and penetration tester. A sucker for most things credit/debit card related, I wanted to hear more from researchers who’d received the cards.

Like many participants in Facebook’s program, Gruszecki also is hunting bugs for other companies that offer researchers money in exchange for privately reporting vulnerabilities, including Google, Mozilla, CCBill and Piwik. That’s not to say he only finds bugs for money.

“I regularly report Web app vulnerabilities to various companies [that don’t offer bounties], including Microsoft, Apple, etc.,” Gruszecki wrote in an email exchange.

The bug bounty programs are a clever way for Internet-based companies to simultaneously generate goodwill within the security community and to convince researchers to report bugs privately. Researchers are rewarded if their bugs can be confirmed, and if they give the affected companies time to fix the flaws before going public with the information.

As an added bonus, some researchers — like Gruszecki — choose not to disclose the bugs at all.

Continue reading →


12
Dec 11

Who Knows What Youhavedownloaded.com?

You may have never heard of youhavedownloaded.com, but if you recently grabbed movies, music or software from online file-trading networks, chances are decent that the site has heard of you. In fact, you may find that the titles you downloaded are now listed and publicly searchable at the site, indexed by your Internet address.

In many ways, the technology behind the site merely recreates in a publicly searchable way what the entertainment industry has been doing for years: It tracks and records information that users share when they download and upload files on public peer-to-peer file-trading networks. But the free service does have the potential to make people think twice about downloading pirated movies, games and music, because it shows how easily this information can be discovered and archived.

So far, youhavedownloaded.com has recorded more than 50 million unique Internet addresses belonging to file-sharing users. The site is searchable by file name and by Internet address. When you visit, it automatically checks and lets you know if your Internet address is in the database.

Youhavedownloaded.com offers only limited information about its founders. One of them is Suren Ter-Saakov, a Russian native who now lives in a suburb of Philadelphia. I first interviewed Ter-Saakov for a story I wrote in 2009 about the Federal Trade Commission’s unprecedented takedown of troubled Web hosting firm Triple Fiber Network (3FN). The FTC alleged it was hard to find any customers at 3FN that had legitimate, legal content. Ter-Saakov, better known in the Russian Webmaster industry as Mauser, disagreed and successfully sued the FTC to retrieve his domains and servers.

Ter-Saakov said he believes youhavedownloaded.com indexes about 20 percent of the file-sharing activity on the Internet. He maintains that the site was created merely as a proof-of-concept, and that it doesn’t have any commercial application.

“The whole thing started with a theoretical discussion I had with some friends about what is possible to track through software and what is not possible,” Ter-Saakov said in a phone interview. Continue reading →


8
Dec 11

Twitter Bots Drown Out Anti-Kremlin Tweets

Thousands of Twitter accounts apparently created in advance to blast automated messages are being used to drown out Tweets sent by bloggers and activists this week who are protesting the disputed parliamentary elections in Russia, security experts said.

Image: Twitterbot.info

Amid widespread reports of ballot stuffing and voting irregularities in the election, thousands of Russians have turned out in the streets to protest. Russian police arrested hundreds of protesters who had gathered in Moscow’s Triumfalnaya Square, including notable anti-corruption blogger Alexei Navalny. In response, protesters began tweeting their disgust in a Twitter hashtag #триумфальная (Triumfalnaya), which quickly became one of the most-tweeted hashtags on Twitter.

But according to several experts, it wasn’t long before messages sent to that hashtag were drowned out by pro-Kremlin tweets that appear to have been sent by countless Twitter bots. Maxim Goncharov, a senior threat researcher at Trend Micro, observed that “if you currently check this hash tag on twitter you’ll see a flood of 5-7 identical tweets from accounts that have been inactive for months and that only had 10-20 tweets before this day. To this point those hacked accounts have already posted 10-20 more tweets in just one hour.”

“Whether the attack was supported officially or not is not relevant, but we can now see how social media has become the battlefield of a new war for freedom of speech,” Goncharov wrote.

I’ve been working with a few security researchers inside of Russia who asked not to be named for fear of retribution by patriotic Russian hackers or the government. Since Trend’s posting, they’ve identified thousands of additional accounts (e.g., @ALanskoy, @APoluyan, @AUstickiy, @AbbotRama, @AbrahamCaldwell…a much longer list is available here) that are rapidly posting anti-protester or pro-Kremlin sentiments to more than a dozen hashtags and keywords that protesters are using to share news, including #Navalny. Continue reading →