December, 2012


28
Dec 12

Attackers Target Internet Explorer Zero-Day Flaw

Attackers are breaking into Microsoft Windows computers using a newly discovered vulnerability in Internet Explorer, security experts warn. While the flaw appears to have been used mainly in targeted attacks so far, this vulnerability could become more widely exploited if incorporated into commercial crimeware kits sold in the underground.

IEwarningIn a blog posting Friday evening, Milpitas, Calif. based security vendor FireEye said it found that the Web site for the Council on Foreign Relations was compromised and rigged to exploit a previously undocumented flaw in IE8 to install malicious software on vulnerable PCs used to browse the site.

According to FireEye, the attack uses Adobe Flash to exploit a vulnerability in the latest (fully-patched) version of IE8. Dustin Childs, group manager for response communications at Microsoft, said the vulnerability appears to exist in previous versions of IE.

“We are actively investigating reports of a small, targeted issue affecting Internet Explorer 6-8,” Childs said in an emailed statement. “We will take appropriate action to help keep customers protected once our analysis is complete. People using Internet Explorer 9-10 are not impacted.”

As FireEye notes, this is another example of a “watering hole” attack, which involves the targeted compromise of legitimate websites thought to be of interest to or frequented by end users who belong to organizations that attackers wish to infiltrate. Earlier this year, I wrote about similar zero-day attacks against visitors to the Web sites of the National Democratic Institute, The Carter Center, and Radio Free Europe.

Update, Dec. 30, 9:25 a.m. ET: Microsoft has officially acknowledged this vulnerability in an advisory, which contains some advice for IE users about how to mitigate the threat. As IE versions 9 and 10 are not impacted, users running Windows Vista or higher can upgrade to the latest browser version here.

Update, Jan.1 8:56 p.m. ET: Microsoft’s advisory now includes a link to a stopgap “FixIt” solution that may help to blunt attacks until the company issues an official patch for this vulnerability.


28
Dec 12

Happy 3rd Birthday KrebsOnSecurity.com!

It’s difficult to believe I’ve been doing this solo thing for so long, but as a thoughtful reader just reminded me, Dec. 29 marks the third anniversary of the KrebsOnSecurity.com blog!

3rdThis past year, KrebsOnSecurity featured nearly 200 blog posts, entries that have generated some 5,700 reader comments. Reader feedback and comments add tremendous value to this site, and are frequently the source of inspiration for future blog posts. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and experience with the rest of us!

Readers sometimes ask why I am not writing about the latest report or story-du-jour. The short answer is that this is precisely why I remain an independent investigative reporter: To be able to focus on subjects and topics that few others are examining, and to do original reporting. That will continue to be my goal going into 2013.

Some readers have been especially generous: So far this year KrebsOnSecurity.com has received more than 40 donations via the PayPal Donate! button in the sidebar. Several readers (particularly Aleksey and Alek) have been extremely generous with their time in helping with professional translations of certain Russian texts.

My work in 2012 involved numerous public speaking engagements, including talks and/or keynotes in Halifax, Qatar, Alabama, California, Connecticut, Illinois, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon and Pennsylvania.

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, Happy Holidays, and a very Happy New Year to all.


26
Dec 12

Exploring the Market for Stolen Passwords

Not long ago, PCs compromised by malware were put to a limited number of fraudulent uses, including spam, click fraud and denial-of-service attacks. These days, computer crooks are extracting and selling a much broader array of data stolen from hacked systems, including passwords and associated email credentials tied to a variety of online retailers.

This shop sells credentials to active accounts at dozens of leading e-retailers.

This shop sells credentials to active accounts at dozens of leading e-retailers.

At the forefront of this trend are the botnet creation kits like Citadel, ZeuS and SpyEye, which make it simple for miscreants to assemble collections of compromised machines. By default, most bot malware will extract any passwords stored in the victim PC’s browser, and will intercept and record any credentials submitted in Web forms, such as when a user enters his credit card number, address, etc. at an online retail shop.

Some of the most valuable data extracted from hacked PCs is bank login information. But non-financial logins also have value, particularly for shady online shops that collect and resell this information.

Logins for everything from Amazon.com to Walmart.com often are resold — either in bulk, or separately by retailer name — on underground crime forums. A miscreant who operates a Citadel botnet of respectable size (a few thousand bots, e.g.) can expect to quickly accumulate huge volumes of “logs,” records of user credentials and browsing history from victim PCs. Without even looking that hard, I found several individuals on Underweb forums selling bulk access to their botnet logs; for example, one Andromeda bot user was selling access to 6 gigabytes of bot logs for a flat rate of $150.

The "Freshotools" service sells a variety of hacked e-retailer credentials.

The “Freshotools” service sells a variety of hacked e-retailer credentials.

Increasingly, miscreants are setting up their own storefronts to sell stolen credentials for an entire shopping mall of online retail establishments. Freshtools, for example, sells purloined usernames and passwords for working accounts at overstock.com, dell.com, walmart.com, all for $2 each. The site also sells fedex.com and ups.com accounts for $5 a pop, no doubt to enable fraudulent reshipping schemes. Accounts that come with credentials to the email addresses tied to each site can fetch a dollar or two more.

Continue reading →


19
Dec 12

Shocking Delay in Fixing Adobe Shockwave Bug

The Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) is warning about a dangerous security hole in Adobe’s Shockwave Player that could be used to silently install malicious code. The truly shocking aspect of this bug? U.S. CERT first warned Adobe about the vulnerability in October 2010, and Adobe says it won’t be fixing it until February 2013.

shockwaveShockwave is a browser plug-in that some sites require. At issue is a feature of Adobe Shockwave that allows the installation of “Xtras,” downloadable components meant to interact with the media player. According to an advisory from US-CERT the problem is that Shockwave installs Xtras that are signed by Adobe or Macromedia without prompting, which can allow an attacker to target vulnerabilities in older Xtras.

From the advisory:

When a Shockwave movie attempts to use an Xtra, it will download and install it as necessary. If the Xtra is signed by Adobe or Macromedia, it will be installed automatically without any user interaction. Because the location from which Shockwave downloads the Xtra is stored in the Shockwave movie itself, this can allow an attacker to host old, vulnerable Xtras that can be installed and exploited automatically when a Shockwave movie is played.

US-CERT warned that by convincing a user to view a specially crafted Shockwave content (e.g., a web page or an HTML email message or attachment), an attacker may be able to execute arbitrary code with the privileges of the user.

Reached via email, an Adobe spokeswoman confirmed that US-CERT had alerted the company about the flaw in October 2010, but said Adobe is not aware of any active exploits or attacks in the wild using this vulnerability.

“Adobe has been working on addressing this issue in the next major release of Adobe Shockwave Player, which is currently scheduled to be released in February 2013,” Adobe’s Wiebke Lips wrote.

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18
Dec 12

Point-of-Sale Skimmers: No Charge…Yet

If you hand your credit or debit card to a merchant who is using a wireless point-of-sale (POS) device, you may want to later verify that the charge actually went through. A top vendor of POS skimmers ships devices that will print out “transaction approved” receipts, even though the machine is offline and is merely recording the customer’s card data and PIN for future fraudulent use.

This skimmer seller is a major vendor on one of the Underweb’s most active fraud forums. Being a “verified” vendor on this fraud forum — which comes with the stamp of approval from the forum administrators, thus, enhancing the seller’s reputation — costs $5,000 annually. But this seller can make back his investment with just two sales, and judging from the volume of communications he receives from forum members, business is brisk.

This miscreant sells two classes of pre-hacked wireless Verifone POS devices: The Verifone vx670, which he sells for $2,900 plus shipping, and a Verifone vx510, which can be had for $2,500. Below is a video he posted to youtube.com showing a hacked version of the vx510 printing out a fake transaction approval receipt.

From the seller’s pitch: “POS is ‘fake’ and stores D+P [card data and PIN], prints out approved receipt or can be setup for connection error. Software to decrypt the data is provided. It keeps d+p inside memory for manual retrieval via USB cable.”

These types of hacked POS systems, known as “offline POS skimmers” in the Underweb, are marketed for suggested use by miscreants employed in seasonal or temporary work, such as in restaurants, bars or retail establishments.

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14
Dec 12

LogMeIn, DocuSign Investigate Breach Claims

Customers of remote PC administration service Logmein.com and electronic signature provider Docusign.com are complaining of a possible breach of customer information after receiving malware-laced emails to accounts they registered exclusively for use with those companies. Both companies say they are investigating the incidents, but so far have found no evidence of a security breach.

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13
Dec 12

Feds Convict Stock Scammers, Overlook Spammers

On Wednesday, the U.S. Justice Department announced that it had obtained convictions against a cybercrime gang that committed securities fraud through the use of botnets and spam. Oddly enough, none of the botmasters or spammers who assisted in the scheme were brought to justice or identified beyond their hacker handles. This blog post may change that.

Rahul, a.k.a. “be3ez12″ pimps his spam business on an adult Webmaster forum.

The defendants who pleaded or were found guilty in this case were convicted of orchestrating “pump-and-dump” stock scams. These are schemes in which fraudsters buy up low-priced stock, blast out millions of spam e-mails touting the stock as a hot buy and then dump their shares as soon as the share price ticks up from all of the spam respondents buying into the scam.

A press release from the U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey noted that ringleader of the scam, 44-year-old Christopher Rad, of Cedar Park, Texas, communicated with the spammers via Skype, addressing them by their hacker aliases, such as “breg,” “ega,” “billybob6001″ and “be3ez12″. But something in my memory clicked when I saw that last nickname.

So I had a look at the data on the top spammers who worked for SpamIt, a cybercrime organization that paid spammers to promote rogue Internet pharmacies. Sure enough, it turns out that a SpamIt affiliate who used the screen name “be3ez12” made more than USD $186,000 blasting junk email for SpamIt between 2007 and 2010. Be3ez12 registered with SpamIt using the email address dpsmteam4@yahoo.com, which has a rich history dating back to at least 2003. A hacker using the nickname “be3ez12″ also spammed for a competing rogue online pharmacy program — Rx-Promotion — although I don’t have earnings data for that account (for more on how I acquired the SpamIt and Rx-Promotion data, see my Pharma Wars series).

In 2003, prior to the creation of either pharmacy program, a user named Rahul123 registered with that dpsmteam4@yahoo.com address on the (NSFW) adult Webmaster forum gofuckyourself.com. Over the course of the next year or so, Rahul123 posted at least 40 discussion threads blatantly offering to spam just about anything for anyone who would hire his services.

It’s not clear yet what botnet or other method Rahul/be3ez12 used to blast out his spam during the time he allegedly aided in these stock scams, but there are some intriguing clues about his identity in real life. The dpsmteam4@yahoo.com address is tied to a single Facebook account, which features the identity of a Rahul Sachdeva, a 26-year-old currently living in Deer Park, NY. Further searching on this individual shows that he is the owner of a company in Deer Park called Online Business Marketing Management Inc.

Granted, this could all be a hoax or a strange coincidence. To my knowledge, Mr. Sachdeva has not been charged with any crime. Nobody answered at the phone numbers assigned to Sachdeva or his company, and requests for comment sent to the dpsmteam4@yahoo.com address went unanswered.


12
Dec 12

New Findings Lend Credence to Project Blitzkrieg

“Project Blitzkrieg,” a brazen Underweb plan for hiring 100 botmasters to fuel a blaze of ebanking heists against 30 U.S. financial institutions in the Spring of 2013, was met with skepticism from some in the security community after news of the scheme came to light in October. Many assumed it was a law enforcement sting, or merely the ramblings of a wannabe criminal mastermind. But new research suggests the crooks who hatched the plan were serious and have painstakingly built up a formidable crime machine in preparation for the project.

McAfee says it tracked hundreds of infections from Gozi Prinimalka since Project Blitzkrieg was announced in early September.

The miscreant who posted the call-to-arms — a bald, stocky guy using the nickname vorVzakone (literally, “thief in law”) — also posted a number of screen shots that he said were taken from a working control panel for the botnet he was building. Those images contained several Internet addresses of PCs that were allegedly part of his botnet. According to RSA Security, the botnet consisted of systems infected with Gozi Prinimalka, a closely-held, custom version of the powerful password-stealing Gozi banking Trojan.

In an analysis (PDF) to be published Dec. 13, security vendor McAfee said it was able to combine the data in those screen shots with malware detections on its own network to correlate both victim PCs and the location of the control server. It found that the version of the Prinimalka Trojan used in the attack has two unique identifiers (“Campaign ID” and “Bot ID”) that identify what variant is being deployed on infected computers. McAfee said that all of the systems it identified from the screen shots posted by vorVzakone carried the Campaign ID 064004, which was discovered in the wild on April 14, 2012.

Ryan Sherstobitoff, a threat researcher at McAfee, said the company’s analysis indicates that Project Blitzkrieg is a credible threat to the financial industry and appears to be moving forward.

“There is much speculation whether Project Blitzkrieg is real or simply a creation of Russian law enforcement as a sting operation. Our analysis suggests it is authentic, though the timing of the fraudulent activity is unknown,” Sherstobitoff said.. “We do know that the thieves have had an active system since April 2012, with at least 500 victims who can be linked to vorVzakone.”

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11
Dec 12

Critical Updates for Flash Player, Microsoft Windows

Adobe and Microsoft have each released security updates to fix critical security flaws in their software. Microsoft issued seven update bundles to fix at least 10 vulnerabilities in Windows and other software. Separately, Adobe pushed out a fix for its Flash Player and AIR software that address at least three critical vulnerabilities in these programs.

A majority of the bugs quashed in Microsoft’s patch batch are critical security holes, meaning that malware or miscreants could exploit them to seize control over vulnerable systems with little or no help from users. Among the critical patches is an update for Internet Explorer versions 9 and 10 (Redmond says these flaws are not present in earlier versions of IE).

Other critical patches address issues with the Windows kernel, Microsoft Word, and Microsoft Exchange Server. The final critical bug is a file handling vulnerability in Windows XP, Vista and 7 that Microsoft said could allow remote code execution if a user browses to a folder that contains a file or subfolder with a specially crafted name. Yikes. Updates are available through Windows Update or via Automatic Updates.

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11
Dec 12

A Closer Look at Two Bigtime Botmasters

Over the past 18 months, I’ve published a series of posts that provide clues about the possible real-life identities of the men responsible for building some of the largest and most disruptive spam botnets on the planet. I’ve since done a bit more digging into the backgrounds of the individuals thought to be responsible for the Rustock and Waledac spam botnets, which has produced some additional fascinating and corroborating details about these two characters.

In March 2011, KrebsOnSecurity featured never-before-published details about the financial accounts and nicknames used by the Rustock botmaster. That story was based on information leaked from SpamIt, a cybercrime business that paid spammers to promote rogue Internet pharmacies (think Viagra spam). In a follow-up post, I wrote that the Rustock botmaster’s personal email account was tied to a domain name ger-mes.ru, which at one time featured a résumé of a young man named Dmitri A. Sergeev.

Then, on Jan. 26. 2012, I ran a story featuring a trail of evidence suggesting a possible identity of “Severa (a.k.a. “Peter Severa”), another SpamIt affiliate who is widely considered the author of the Waledac botnet (and likely the Storm Worm). In that story, I included several screen shots of Severa chatting on Spamdot.biz, an extremely secretive Russian forum dedicated to those involved in the spam business. In one of the screen shots, Severa laments the arrest of Alan Ralsky, a convicted American spam kingpin who specialized in stock spam and who — according to the U.S. Justice Department – was partnered with Severa. Anti-spam activists at Spamhaus.org maintain that Peter Severa’s real name is Peter Levashov (although the evidence I gathered also turned up another name, Viktor Sergeevich Ivashov).

It looks now like Spamhaus’s conclusion on Severa was closer to the truth. More on that in a second. I was able to feature the Spamdot discussions because I’d obtained a backup copy of the forum. But somehow in all of my earlier investigations I overlooked a handful of private messages between Severa and the Rustock botmaster, who used the nickname “Tarelka” on Spamdot. Apparently, the two worked together on the same kind of pump-and-dump stock spam schemes, but also knew each other intimately enough to be on a first-name basis.

Spamdot.biz chat between Tarelka and Severa

The following is from a series of private Spamdot message exchanged between Tarelka and Severa on May 25 and May 26, 2010. In it, Severa refers to Tarelka as “Dimas,” a familiar form of “Dmitri.” Likewise, Tarelka addresses Severa as “Petka,” a common Russian diminutive of “Peter.” They discuss a mysterious mutual friend named John, who apparently used the nickname “Apple.”

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