January, 2012


30
Jan 12

Glavmed Sister Program ‘GlavTorg’ to Close

A prominent affiliate program that pays people to promote knockoff luxury goods is closing its doors at the end of January. The program — GlavTorg.com — is run by the same individuals who launched the infamous Glavmed and SpamIt rogue pharmacy operations.

Launched on July 4, 2010 and first announced on the Glavmed pharmacy affiliate forum, GlavTorg marketed sites that sold cheap imitations of high priced goods, such as designer handbags, watches, sunglasses and shoes.

“July 4 – U.S. Independence Day! Now, Russian craftsmen have a reason to celebrate this holiday. And on this occasion, the launch of GlavTorg.com. The all-new niche for all Russian search engine optimization (SEO) masters. Adult has died, online pharmacies are under pressure, and [fake anti-]spyware is dying. It’s time to move into a new direction. FASHION – that’s the trend this year! High demand, myriad of opportunities… Competition is almost non-existent.  High commissions.”

The program apparently was not profitable, or there was a mismatch between supply and demand, because on Dec. 21, 2011, GlavTorg affiliates were told it was being shut down and that they would not be paid after Jan. 31, 2012:

“Dear partners, We would like to inform you that we have decided to close the trade direction replica handbags and clothing. The reasons for this decision and are associated with economic deterioration in the quality of products provided by our suppliers. We believe that any business should be to balance the interests of buyers and sellers, which has recently become disturbed.”

GlavTorg’s failure may have had more to do with pressure from brand owners. In September 2011, handbag maker Chanel filed suit to shutter dozens of sites selling knockoff versions of its products. Among the domains seized and handed over to the company was topbrandclub.com, a primary GlavTorg merchandising site whose home page now bears a warning from Chanel about buying counterfeit goods. Continue reading →


27
Jan 12

Warnings About Windows Exploit, pcAnywhere

Security experts have spotted drive-by malware attacks exploiting a critical security hole in Windows that Microsoft recently addressed with a software patch. Separately, Symantec is warning users of its pcAnywhere remote administration tool to either update or remove the program, citing a recent data breach at the security firm that the company said could help attackers find holes in the aging software title.

Continue reading →


26
Jan 12

Mr. Waledac: The Peter North of Spamming

Microsoft on Monday named a Russian man as allegedly responsible for running the Kelihos botnet, a spam engine that infected an estimated 40,000 PCs. But closely held data seized from a huge spam affiliate program suggests that the driving force behind Kelihos is a different individual who commanded a much larger spam empire, and who is still coordinating spam campaigns for hire.

Kelihos shares a great deal of code with the infamous Waledac botnet, a far more pervasive threat that infected hundreds of thousands of computers and pumped out tens of billions of junk emails promoting shady online pharmacies. Despite the broad base of shared code between the two malware families, Microsoft classifies them as fundamentally different threats. The company used novel legal techniques to seize control over and shutter both botnets, sucker punching Waledac in early 2010 and taking out Kelihos last fall.

On Monday, Microsoft filed papers with a Virginia court stating that Kelihos was operated by Andrey N. Sabelnikov, a St. Petersburg man who once worked at Russian antivirus and security firm Agnitum. But according to the researcher who shared that intelligence with Microsoft — and confidentially with Krebs On Security weeks prior to Microsoft’s announcement — Sabelnikov is likely only a developer of Kelihos.

“It’s the same code with modifications,” said Brett Stone-Gross, a security analyst who came into possession of the Kelihos source code last year and has studied the two malware families extensively.

Rather, Stone-Gross said, the true coordinator of both Kelihos and Waledac is likely another Russian who is well known to anti-spam activists.

WHO IS SEVERA?

A variety of indicators suggest that the person behind Waledac and later Kelihos is a man named “Peter Severa” — known simply as “Severa” on underground forums. For several years running, Severa has featured in the Top 10 worst spammers list published by anti-spam activists at Spamhaus.org (he currently ranks at #5). Spamhaus alleged that Severa was the Russian partner of convicted U.S. pump-and-dump stock spammer Alan Ralsky, and indeed Peter Severa was indicted by the U.S. Justice Department in a related and ongoing spam investigation.

It turns out that the connection between Waledac and Severa is supported by data leaked in 2010 after hackers broke into the servers of pharmacy spam affiliate program SpamIt. The data also include tantalizing clues about Severa’s real identity.

In multiple instances, Severa gives his full name as “Peter North;” Peter Severa translates literally from Russian as “Peter of the North.” (The nickname may be a nod to the porn star Peter North, which would be fitting given that Peter North the spammer promoted shady pharmacies whose main seller was male enhancement drugs).

Spamdot.biz moderator Severa listing prices to rent his Waledac spam botnet.

According to SpamIt records, Severa brought in revenues of $438,000 and earned commissions of $145,000 spamming rogue online pharmacy sites over a 3-year period. He also was a moderator of Spamdot.biz (pictured at right), a vetted-members-only forum that included many of SpamIt’s top earners, as well as successful spammers/malware writers from other affiliate programs such as EvaPharmacy and Mailien.

Severa seems to have made more money renting his botnet to other spammers. For $200, vetted users could hire his botnet to send 1 million pieces of spam; junk email campaigns touting employment/money mule scams cost $300 per million, and phishing emails could be blasted out through Severa’s botnet for the bargain price of $500 per million.

Spamhaus says Severa’s real name may be Peter Levashov. The information Severa himself provided to SpamIt suggests that Spamhaus’s intelligence is not far off the mark.

Severa had his SpamIt earnings deposited into an account at WebMoney, a virtual currency popular in Russia and Eastern Europe. According to a source that has the ability to look up identity information tied to WebMoney accounts, the account was established in 2001 by someone who entered a WebMoney office and presented the Russian passport #454345544. The passport bore the name of a then 26-year-old from Moscow — Viktor Sergeevich Ivashov.

Continue reading →


24
Jan 12

Microsoft: Worm Operator Worked at Antivirus Firm

In a surprise filing made late Monday, Microsoft said a former technical expert at a Russian antivirus firm was the person responsible for operating the Kelihos botnet, a global spam machine that Microsoft dismantled in a coordinated takedown last year.

Andrey Sabelnikov

In a post to the Official Microsoft Blog, the company identified 31-year-old Andrey N. Sabelnikov of St. Petersburg, Russia as responsible for the operations of the botnet. Microsoft’s amended complaint (PDF) filed with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia states that Sabelnikov worked as a software engineer and project manager at a company that provided firewall, antivirus and security software.

Microsoft doesn’t specify where Sabelnikov worked, but according to Sabelnikov’s LinkedIn page, from 2005 to 2007 he was a senior system developer and project manager for Agnitum, a Russian antivirus firm based in St. Petersburg. One of the company’s most popular products is Outpost, a free firewall program. Sabelnikov’s profile says he most recently worked for a firm called Teknavo, which makes software for companies in the financial services sector.

A source close to the investigation told Krebs On Security that Sabelnikov’s alleged role was discovered after a security researcher obtained a copy of the source code to Kelihos. The researcher noticed that the source contained debug code that downloaded a Kelihos malware installer from the domain sabelnikov.net, a photography site registered to Sabelnikov’s name. That site currently links to Sabelnikov’s profile page at Russian social networking site Vkontakte.ru, which includes the same pictures found in the LinkedIn profile mentioned above.

Microsoft doesn’t mention the source code discovery in its amended complaint, but it does reference the availability of new evidence in naming Sabelnikov. The company said it also had cooperation from the original defendants in the case — Dominique Alexander Piatti and the dotFREE Group, which owned the domains allegedly used to control the botnet.

Update, Jan. 27 9:38 a.m. ET: Sabelnikov on Thursday posted a response on his blog denying Microsoft’s allegations, saying he had never participated in the management of botnets and any other similar programs. Sabelnikov also stated that he has just returned from a business trip to the United States earlier this month. Interestingly, he says he arrived in the U.S. on Jan. 21, and stayed for two days — meaning he left either the same day or a day after Microsoft filed its brief with the court.

Also on Thursday, I published a follow-up investigation which suggests that Kelihos and its predecessor Waledac were almost certainly the work of a well-known spammer named Peter Severa.


23
Jan 12

‘Citadel’ Trojan Touts Trouble-Ticket System

Underground hacker forums are full of complaints from users angry that a developer of some popular banking Trojan or bot program has stopped supporting his product, stranding buyers with buggy botnets. Now, the proprietors of a new ZeuS Trojan variant are marketing their malware as a social network that lets customers file bug reports, suggest and vote on new features in upcoming versions, and track trouble tickets that can be worked on by the developers and fellow users alike.

A screenshot of the Citadel botnet panel.

The ZeuS offshoot, dubbed Citadel and advertised on several members-only hacker forums, is another software-as-a-service malware development. Its target audience? Those frustrated with virus writers who decide that coding their next creation is more lucrative and interesting than supporting current clients.

“Its no secret that the products in our field — without support from the developers — result in a piece of junk on your hard drive. Therefore, the product should be improved according to the wishes of our customers,” Citadel’s developers claim in an online posting. “One problem is that you have probably experienced developers who ignore your instant messages, because there are many customers but there is only one developer.”

In the following excerpt, taken from a full description of Citadel’s innovations, the developers of this malware strain describe its defining feature as a social networking platform for malware users that is made available through a Web-based portal created by the malware itself.

“We have created for you a special system — call it the social network for our customers. Citadel CRM Store allows you to take part in product development in the following ways:

– Report bugs and other errors in software. All tickets are looked at by technical support you will receive a timely response to your questions. No more trying to reach the author via ICQ or Jabber.

-Each client has the right to create an unlimited number of applications within the system. Requests can contain suggestions on a new module or improvements of existing module. Such requests can be public or private.

-Each client has a right to vote on new ideas suggested by other members and offer his/her price for development of the enhancement/module. The decision is made by the developers on whether to go forward with certain enhancement or new module depending on the voting results.

-Each client has the right to comment on any application and talk to any member. Now it is going to be interesting for you to find partners and like-minded people and also to take active parts in discussions with the developers.

– You can see all stages of module development, if it is approved other members. We update the status and time to completion.

Continue reading →


18
Jan 12

‘MegaSearch’ Aims to Index Fraud Site Wares

A new service aims to be the Google search of underground Web sites, connecting buyers to a vast sea of shops that offer an array of dodgy goods and services, from stolen credit card numbers to identity information and anonymity tools.

MegaSearch results for BIN #423953

A glut of data breaches and stolen card numbers has spawned dozens of stores that sell the information. The trouble is that each shop requires users to create accounts and sign in before they can search for cards.

Enter MegaSearch.cc, which lets potential buyers discover which fraud shops hold the cards they’re looking for without having to first create accounts at each store. This free search engine aggregates data about compromised payment cards, and points searchers to various fraud shops selling them.

According to its creator, the search engine does not store the compromised card numbers or any information about the card holders. Instead, it works with card shop owners to index the first six digits of all compromised account numbers that are for sale.  These six digits, also known the “Bank Identification Number” — or BIN — identify which bank issued the cards. Searching by BIN, MegaSearch users are given links to different fraud shops that are currently selling cards issued by the corresponding bank.

I first read about this offering in a blog post by RSA Fraud Action Research Labs. It didn’t take much time poking around a few hacker boards to find the brains behind MegaSearch pitching his idea to the owners of different fraud shops. He agreed to discuss his offering with me via instant message, using the search service as his screen name.

“I’m standing on a big startup that is going to be [referred to as] the ‘underground Google,'” MegaSearch told KrebsOnSecurity. “Many users spend a lot of time looking [through] shops, and I thought why not make that convenient?”

Continue reading →


17
Jan 12

Phishing Your Employees 101

A new open source toolkit makes it ridiculously simple to set up phishing Web sites and lures. The software was designed to help companies test the phishing awareness of their employees, but as with most security tools, this one could be abused by miscreants to launch malicious attacks.

Simple Phishing Toolkit admin page

The Simple Phishing Toolkit includes a site scraper that can clone any Web page — such as a corporate Intranet or Webmail login page — with a single click, and ships with an easy-to-use phishing lure creator.

An education package is bundled with the toolkit that allows administrators to record various metrics about how recipients respond, such as whether a link was clicked, the date and time the link was followed, and the user’s Internet address, browser and operating system. Lists of targets to receive the phishing lure can be loaded into the toolkit via a spreadsheet file.

The makers of the software, two longtime system administrators who asked to be identified only by their first names so as not to jeopardize their day jobs, say they created it to help companies educate employees about the dangers of phishing scams.

“The whole concept with this project started out with the discussion of, “Hey, wouldn’t it be great if we could phish ourselves in a safe manner,'” said Will, one of the toolkit’s co-developers. “It seems like in every organization there is always a short list of people we know are phishable, who keep falling for the same thing every six to eight weeks, and some of this stuff is pretty lame.”

Continue reading →


11
Jan 12

Flying the Fraudster Skies

Given the heightened security surrounding air travel these days, it may be hard to believe that fraudsters would try to board a plane using stolen tickets. But incredibly, there are a number of criminal travel agencies doing business in the underground, and judging from the positive feedback left by patrons, business appears to be booming.

Ad above says: Maldives Turkey Goa Bora-Bora, Carribes, Any country, any hotels and resorts of the world.

The tickets often are purchased at the last minute and placed under the criminal buyer’s real name. The reservations are made using either stolen credit cards or hijacked accounts belonging to independent contractors in the travel industry.  Customers are charged a fraction of the cost of the tickets and/or reservations, typically between 25 and 35 percent of the actual cost.

Criminal travel services are contributing to a recent spike in airline ticket fraud. In December, the Airlines Reporting Corporation, an industry clearinghouse, said it was seeing a marked increase in unauthorized tickets issued. Between August and November of last year, 113 incidents of fraudulently booked tickets were reported to ARC, up from just 18 such incidents reported in all of 2010. The aggregate face value of the unauthorized tickets in 2011 was more than $1 million. The ARC believes the increase in fraud is mainly due to an surge in phishing emails targeting travel agency employees and contractors.

Some of the travel agencies in the criminal underground are full-service, pitching package deals that  include airfare, car rentals and even hotel stays. A hacker using the nickname “Yoshimo” on one prominent fraudster forum offers “80-95 percent working flight tickets in most countries (some restrictions apply),” for 25 percent of the original price, and 40 percent of the price for carded hotel stays and car rentals. He has been offering this service for more than two years, and has at least 275 positive reviews from current and former customers.

Continue reading →


10
Jan 12

Adobe, Microsoft Issue Critical Security Fixes

Adobe and Microsoft today each issued software fixes to tackle dangerous security flaws in their  products. If you use Acrobat, Adobe Reader or Windows, it’s time to patch.

Microsoft released seven security bulletins addressing at least eight vulnerabilities in Windows. The lone “critical” Microsoft patch addresses a pair of bugs in Windows Media Player. Microsoft warns that attackers could exploit these flaws to break into Windows systems without any help from users; the vulnerability could be triggered just by browsing to a site that hosts specially crafted video content.

Continue reading →


9
Jan 12

Virtual Sweatshops Defeat Bot-or-Not Tests

Jobs in the hi-tech sector can be hard to find, but employers in one corner of the industry are creating hundreds of full-time positions, offering workers on-the-job training and the freedom to work from home. The catch? Employees will likely toil for cybercrooks, and their weekly paychecks may barely cover the cost of a McDonald’s Happy Meal.

Kolotibablo.com home page

The abundance of these low-skilled, low-paying jobs is coming from firms that specialize in the shadowy market of mass-solving CAPTCHAs, those blurry and squiggly words that some websites force you to retype. One big player in this industry is KolotiBablo.com, a service that appeals to spammers and exploits low cost labor in China, India, Pakistan, and Vietnam.

KolotiBablo, which means “earn money” in transliterated Russian, helps clients automate the solving of puzzles designed to prevent automated activity by bots, such as leaving spammy comments or mass-registering accounts at Webmail providers and social networking sites. The service offers an application programming interface (API) that allows clients to feed kolotibablo.com CAPTCHAs served in real time by various sites, which are then solved by KolotiBablo workers and fed back to the client’s system.

Paying clients interface with the service at antigate.com, a site hosted on the same server as kolotibablo.com. Antigate charges clients 70 cents to $1 for each batch of 1,000 CAPTCHAs solved, with the price influenced heavily by volume. KolotiBablo says employees can expect to earn between $0.35 to $1 for every thousand CAPTCHAs they solve.

The twin operations say they do not condone the use of their services to promote spam, or “all those related things that generate butthurt for the ‘big guys,'” mostly likely a reference to big free Webmail providers like Google and Microsoft. Still, both services can be found heavily advertised and recommended in several underground forums that cater to spammers and scam artists.

Registered antigate.com users can read more about why customers typically purchase the service, and how KolotiBablo is run. From the description:

“All CAPTCHAs in our service are completely solved by real humans, there are usually 500-1000 (and growing) workers online from all the world. That’s why we can process any CAPTCHAs at any volume for a fixed price $1 per 1000 CAPTCHAs.

You may probably think that using human resource inappropriate or inhumane. However, keep in mind that we pay the most of collected money to our workers who sit in the poorest corners of our planet and this work gives them a stable ability to buy food, clothes for themselves and their families. Most of our staff is from China, India, Pakistan and Vietnam.”

Continue reading →