One of the operating system updates Microsoft released on Tuesday of this week — KB3033929 — is causing a reboot loop for a fair number of Windows 7 users, according to postings on multiple help forums. The update in question does not appear to address a pressing security vulnerability, so users who have not yet installed it should probably delay doing so until Microsoft straightens things out. Continue reading →
The Coming Storm
Lost amid the media firestorm these past few weeks about fraudsters turning to Apple Pay is this stark and rather unsettling reality: Apple Pay makes it possible for cyber thieves to buy high-priced merchandise from brick-and-mortar stores using stolen credit and debit card numbers that were heretofore only useful for online fraud.
To understand what’s going on here, a quick primer on card fraud is probably in order. If you’re a fraudster and you wish to walk into a Best Buy store and walk out with a big screen TV or xBox console on someone else’s dime, you’re going to buy “dumps,” which are data stolen straight off the magnetic stripe on the backs of cards.
Typically, dumps are stolen via malware planted on point-of-sale devices, as in the breaches at brick-and-mortar stores like Target, Home Depot and countless others over the past year. Dumps buyers encode the data onto new plastic, which they then use “in-store” at retailers and walk out with armloads full of high-priced goods that can be easily resold for cash. The average price of a single dump is between $10-$30, but the payoff in stolen merchandise per card is often many times that amount.
When fraudsters want to order something online using stolen credit cards, they go buy what the crooks call “CVVs” — i.e., card data stolen from hacked online stores. CVV stands for “card verification code,” and refers to the three-digit code on the back of cards that’s required for most online transactions. Fraudsters buying CVVs get the credit card number, the expiration date, the card verification code, as well as the cardholder’s name, address and phone number. Because they’re less versatile than dumps, CVVs cost quite a bit less — typically around $1-$5 per stolen account.
So in summary, dumps are stolen from main-street merchants, and are sought after by crooks mainly for use at main street merchants. CVVs, on the other hand, are stolen from online stores, and are useful only for fraud against online stores.
Enter Apple Pay, which potentially erases that limitation of CVVs because it allows users to sign up online for an in-store payment method using little more than a hacked iTunes account and CVVs. That’s because most banks that are enabling Apple Pay for their customers do little, if anything, to require that customers prove they have the physical card in their possession.
Avivah Litan, a fraud analyst with Gartner Inc. explained a blog post published earlier this month that Apple provides banks with a fair amount of data to aid banks in their efforts at “identity proofing” the customer, such as device name, its current geographic location, and whether or not the customer has a long history of transactions with iTunes.
All useful data points, of course, unless the iTunes account that all of this information is based on is hijacked by fraudsters. And as we know from previous stories on this blog, there is a robust trade in the cybercrime underground for hijacked iTunes accounts, which retail for about $8 per account.
Judy came within a whisker of losing $315,000 in cash belonging to her employer, a mid-sized manufacturing company in northeast Ohio. Judy’s boss had emailed her, asking her to wire the money to China to pay for some raw materials. The boss, who was traveling abroad at the time, had requested such transfers before — at even higher amounts to manufacturers in China and elsewhere — so the request didn’t seem unusual or suspicious.
Until it did. After Judy sent the wire instructions on to the finance department, something about the email stuck in her head: The message was far more formal-sounding than the tone of voice her boss normally used to express himself via email.
By the time she went back to review the missive and found she’d been scammed by an imposter, it was too late — the employee in charge of initiating wires at her company had already sent it on to the bank. Luckily, the bank hadn’t yet processed the wire, and they were able to claw back the funds.
“Judy” is a pseudonym; she asked to remain anonymous so as not to further embarrass herself or her employer. But for every close call like Judy’s there are many more small businesses each week that fall for these scams and lose millions in the process.
Known variously as “CEO fraud,” and the “business email compromise,” this swindle is a sophisticated and increasingly common one targeting businesses working with foreign suppliers and/or businesses that regularly perform wire transfer payments. In January 2015, the FBI warned that cyber thieves stole nearly $215 million from businesses in the previous 14 months through such scams, which start when crooks spoof or hijack the email accounts of business executives or employees.
In February, con artists made off with a whopping $17.2 million from one of Omaha, Nebraska’s oldest companies — The Scoular Co., an employee-owned commodities trader. According to Omaha.com, an executive with the 800-employee company wired the money in installments last summer to a bank in China after receiving emails ordering him to do so.
The scam email that nearly cost Judy her job appeared to have come from her company’s chief financial officer, who she said is not usually in the office. The message was made to appear as though it was a conversation between the CFO and the CEO, in which the CEO told the CFO that money needed to be wired to China.
“$315,000 is definitely a high amount, but I did a transaction for $1.4 million before, and I wire money to China for goods that we buy from there,” she said. “But truly, the email did bother me. It didn’t feel quite right when it came in, but at no point did I think, ‘this is someone imitating the boss.'”
After sending a co-worker in finance instructions to execute the wire transfer, Judy sent a note to the CFO asking if she should also notify the CEO that the wire had been sent. When the response came back in wording she couldn’t imagine the CFO putting in writing, she studied the forwarded email more closely. Sure enough, Judy discovered the message had been sent from a domain name that was one look-alike letter different from her employer’s true domain name. Continue reading →
Anthem Inc., the nation’s second largest health insurer, disclosed Wednesday that hackers had broken into its servers and stolen Social Security numbers and other personal data from all of its business lines. Given the company’s size, this breach could end up impacting tens of millions of Americans.
Anthem didn’t specify how many consumer records may have been breached, but it did say all of the company’s business units are affected. The figures from Anthem’s Web site offer a glimpse at just how big this breach could be: “With nearly 69 million people served by its affiliated companies including more than 37 million enrolled in its family of health plans, Anthem is one of the nation’s leading health benefits companies.”
The company said it is conducting an extensive IT forensic investigation to determine what members are impacted.
“We are working around the clock to determine how many people have been impacted and will notify all Anthem members who are impacted through a written communication,” Anthem said in question and answer page released about the breach.
Formerly known as Wellpoint Inc., Anthem said in a statement that the company was the target of a “very sophisticated external cyber attack” that exposed names, dates of birth, member ID/ Social Security numbers, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses and employment information. The company stressed that the exposed data did not include medical records or financial information. Continue reading →
Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks designed to silence end users and sideline Web sites grew with alarming frequency and size last year, according to new data released this week. Those findings dovetail quite closely with the attack patterns seen against this Web site over the past year.
Arbor Networks, a major provider of services to help block DDoS assaults, surveyed nearly 300 companies and found that 38% of respondents saw more than 21 DDoS attacks per month. That’s up from a quarter of all respondents reporting 21 or more DDoS attacks the year prior.
KrebsOnSecurity is squarely within that 38 percent camp: In the month of December 2014 alone, Prolexic (the Akamai-owned company that protects my site from DDoS attacks) logged 26 distinct attacks on my site. That’s almost one attack per day, but since many of the attacks spanned multiple days, the site was virtually under constant assault all month.
Arbor also found that attackers continue to use reflection/amplification techniques to create gigantic attacks. The largest reported attack was 400 Gbps, with other respondents reporting attacks of 300 Gbps, 200 Gbps and 170 Gbps. Another six respondents reported events that exceeded the 100 Gbps threshold. In February 2014, I wrote about the largest attack to hit this site to date — which clocked in at just shy of 200 Gbps.
According to Arbor, the top three motivations behind attacks remain nihilism vandalism, online gaming and ideological hacktivism— all of which the company said have been in the top three for the past few years.
“Gaming has gained in percentage, which is no surprise given the number of high-profile, gaming-related attack campaigns this year,” the report concludes.
Longtime readers of this blog will probably recall that I’ve written plenty of stories in the past year about the dramatic increase in DDoS-for-hire services (a.k.a. “booters” or “stressers”). In fact, on Monday, I published Spreading the Disease and Selling the Cure, which profiled two young men who were running both multiple DDoS-for-hire services and selling services to help defend against such attacks. Continue reading →
Several media outlets are reporting that authorities in the United Kingdom early this morning arrested an 18-year-old in connection with the denial-of-service attacks on Sony Playstation and Microsoft Xbox systems over Christmas. The arrest is one of several tied to a joint U.K. and U.S. law enforcement investigation into a group calling itself the “Lizard Squad,” and comes as the group’s attack-for-hire online service was completely compromised and leaked to investigators.
A BBC story does not name the individual, saying only that the youth was arrested at an address in Southport, near Liverpool, and that he was accused of unauthorized access to computer material and knowingly providing false information to law enforcement agencies in the United States. The notice about the arrest on the Web site of the Southeast Regional Organized Crime Unit states that this individual has been actively involved in several “swatting” incidents — phoning in fake hostage situations or bomb threats to prompt a police raid at a targeted address.
U.K. police declined to publicly name the individual arrested. But according to the Daily Mail, the youth is one Jordan Lee-Bevan. Known online variously as “Jordie,” “EvilJordie” and “GDKJordie,” the young man frequently adopts the persona of an African American gang member from Chicago, as evidenced in this (extremely explicit) interview he and other Lizard Squad members gave late last year. Jordie’s Twitter account also speaks volumes, although it hasn’t been saying much for the past 13 hours.
Update: Added link to Daily Mail story identifying Jordie as Lee-Bevan.
An individual using variations on the “Jordie” nickname was named in this FBI criminal complaint (PDF) from Sept. 2014 as one of three from the U.K. suspected in a string of swatting attacks and bomb threats to schools and universities across the United States in the past year. According to that affidavit, Jordie was a member of a group of males aged 16-18 who called themselves the “ISISGang.”
In one of their most appalling stunts from September 2014, Jordie and his ISIS pals allegedly phoned in a threat to Sandy Hook Elementary — the site of the 2012 school massacre in Newtown, Ct. in which 20 kids and 6 adults were gunned down. According to investigators, the group told the school they were coming to the building with an assault rifle to “kill all your asses.”
In an unrelated development, not long after this publication broke the news that the Lizard Squad’s attack infrastructure is built on a network of thousands of hacked home Internet routers, someone hacked LizardStresser[dot]su, the Web site the group uses to coordinate attacks and sell subscriptions to its attacks-for-hire service. As I noted in a previous story, the attacks on Microsoft and Sony were merely meant to be commercials for this very “stresser” (a.k.a. “booter”) service, which allows paying customers to knock any Web site or individual offline for a small fee.
A copy of the LizardStresser customer database obtained by KrebsOnSecurity shows that it attracted more than 14,241 registered users, but only a few hundred appear to have funded accounts at the service. Interestingly, all registered usernames and passwords were stored in plain text. Also, the database indicates that customers of the service deposited more than USD $11,000 worth of bitcoins to pay for attacks on thousands of Internet addresses and Web sites (including this one).
It seems nearly every day we’re reading about Internet attacks aimed at knocking sites offline and breaking into networks, but it’s often difficult to visualize this type of activity. In this post, we’ll take a look at multiple ways of tracking online attacks and attackers around the globe and in real-time.
A couple of notes about these graphics. Much of the data that powers these live maps is drawn from a mix of actual targets and “honeypots,” decoy systems that security firms deploy to gather data about the sources, methods and frequency of online attacks. Also, the organizations referenced in some of these maps as “attackers” typically are compromised systems within those organizations that are being used to relay attacks launched from someplace else.
The Cyber Threat Map from FireEye recently became famous in a 60 Minutes story on cyberattacks against retailers and their credit card systems. This graphic reminds me of the ICBM monitors from NORAD, as featured in the 1984 movie War Games (I’m guessing that association is intentional). Not a lot of raw data included in this map, but it’s fun to watch.
My favorite — and perhaps the easiest way to lose track of half your workday (and bandwidth) comes from the folks at Norse Corp. Their map — IPViking — includes a wealth of data about each attack, such as the attacking organization name and Internet address, the target’s city and service being attacked, as well as the most popular target countries and origin countries.
Sources at several U.S. financial institutions say they have traced a pattern of credit card fraud back to accounts that all were used at different Chick-fil-A fast food restaurants around the country. Chick-fil-A told KrebsOnSecurity that it has received similar reports and is working with IT security firms and law enforcement in an ongoing investigation.
KrebsOnSecurity first began hearing from banks about possible compromised payment systems at Chick-fil-A establishments in November, but the reports were spotty at best. Then, just before Christmas, one of the major credit card associations issued an alert to several financial institutions about a breach at an unnamed retailer that lasted between Dec. 2, 2013 and Sept. 30, 2014.
One financial institution that received that alert said the bank had nearly 9,000 customer cards listed in that alert, and that the only common point-of-purchase were Chick-fil-A locations.
“It’s crazy because 9,000 customer cards is more than the total number of cards we had impacted in the Target breach,” the banking source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The source said his institution saw Chick-fil-A locations across the country impacted, but that the bulk of the fraud seemed concentrated at locations in Georgia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia.
Reached for comment about the findings, Chick-fil-A issued the following statement:
“Chick-fil-A recently received reports of potential unusual activity involving payment cards used at a few of our restaurants. We take our obligation to protect customer information seriously, and we are working with leading IT security firms, law enforcement and our payment industry contacts to determine all of the facts.”
“We want to assure our customers we are working hard to investigate these events and will share additional facts as we are able to do so. If the investigation reveals that a breach has occurred, customers will not be liable for any fraudulent charges to their accounts — any fraudulent charges will be the responsibility of either Chick-fil-A or the bank that issued the card. If our customers are impacted, we will arrange for free identity protection services, including credit monitoring.”
The FBI today said it has determined that the North Korean government is responsible for the devastating recent hack attack against Sony Pictures Entertainment. Here’s a brief look the FBI’s statement, what experts are learning about North Korea’s cyberattack capabilities, and what this incident means for other corporations going forward.
In a statement released early Friday afternoon, the FBI said that its investigation — along with information shared by Sony and other U.S. government departments and agencies — found that the North Korean government was responsible.
The FBI said it couldn’t disclose all of its sources and methods, but that the conclusion was based, in part, on the following:
-“Technical analysis of the data deletion malware used in this attack revealed links to other malware that the FBI knows North Korean actors previously developed. For example, there were similarities in specific lines of code, encryption algorithms, data deletion methods, and compromised networks.”
-“The FBI also observed significant overlap between the infrastructure used in this attack and other malicious cyber activity the U.S. government has previously linked directly to North Korea. For example, the FBI discovered that several Internet protocol (IP) addresses associated with known North Korean infrastructure communicated with IP addresses that were hardcoded into the data deletion malware used in this attack.”
-“Separately, the tools used in the SPE attack have similarities to a cyber attack in March of last year against South Korean banks and media outlets, which was carried out by North Korea.”
The agency added that it was “deeply concerned” about the destructive nature of this attack on a private sector entity and the ordinary citizens who work there, and that the FBI stands ready to assist any U.S. company that is the victim of a destructive cyber attack or breach of confidential information.
“Further, North Korea’s attack on SPE reaffirms that cyber threats pose one of the gravest national security dangers to the United States,” the FBI said. “Though the FBI has seen a wide variety and increasing number of cyber intrusions, the destructive nature of this attack, coupled with its coercive nature, sets it apart. North Korea’s actions were intended to inflict significant harm on a U.S. business and suppress the right of American citizens to express themselves. Such acts of intimidation fall outside the bounds of acceptable state behavior. The FBI takes seriously any attempt—whether through cyber-enabled means, threats of violence, or otherwise—to undermine the economic and social prosperity of our citizens.”
SPE was hit with a strain of malware designed to wipe all computer hard drives within the company’s network. The attackers then began releasing huge troves of sensitive SPE internal documents, and, more recently, started threatening physical violence against anyone who viewed the Sony movie “The Interview,” a comedy that involves a plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Not long after a number of top movie theater chains said they would not show the film, Sony announced that it would cancel the movie’s theatrical release.
Apparently emboldened by Sony’s capitulation, the attackers are now making even more demands. According to CNN, Sony executives on Thursday received an email apparently from the attackers said they would no longer release additional stolen Sony Pictures data if the company announced that it would also cancel any plans to release the movie on DVD, Netflix or elsewhere. The attackers also reportedly demanded that any teasers and trailers about The Interview online be removed from the Internet.
A ‘MAGIC WEAPON’
Little is publicly known about North Korea’s cyber warfare and hacking capabilities, but experts say North Korean leaders view cyber warfare capabilities as an important asymmetric asset in the face of its perceived enemies — the United States and South Korea. An in-depth report (PDF) released earlier this year by HP Security Research notes that in November 2013, North Korea’s “dear leader” Kim Jong Un referred to cyber warfare capabilities as a “magic weapon” in conjunction with nuclear weapons and missiles.
“Although North Korea’s limited online presence makes a thorough analysis of their cyber warfare capabilities a difficult task, it must be noted that what is known of those capabilities closely mirrors their kinetic warfare tactics,” HP notes. “Cyber warfare is simply the modern chapter in North Korea’s long history of asymmetrical warfare. North Korea has used various unconventional tactics in the past, such as guerilla warfare, strategic use of terrain, and psychological operations. The regime also aspires to create viable nuclear weapons.”
Sources familiar with the investigation tell KrebsOnSecurity that the investigators believe there may have been as many as several dozen individuals involved in the attack, the bulk of whom hail from North Korea. Nearly a dozen of them are believed to reside in Japan.
According to HP, a group of ethnic North Koreans residing in Japan known as the Chongryon are critical to North Korea’s cyber and intelligence programs, and help generate hard currency for the regime. The report quotes Japanese intelligence officials stating that “the Chongryon are vital to North Korea’s military budget, raising funds via weapons trafficking, drug trafficking, and other black market activities.” HP today published much more detail about specific North Korean hacking groups that may have played a key role in the Sony incident given previous such attacks. Continue reading →