Latest Warnings


10
Mar 15

Spoofing the Boss Turns Thieves a Tidy Profit

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.

athookUntil 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 →


4
Feb 15

Data Breach at Health Insurer Anthem Could Impact Millions

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.

anthemAnthem 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 →


28
Jan 15

FBI: Businesses Lost $215M to Email Scams

It’s time once again to update my Value of a Hacked Email Account graphic: According to a recent alert from the FBI, cyber thieves stole nearly $215 million from businesses in the last 14 months using a scam that starts when business executives or employees have their email accounts hijacked.

Federal investigators say the so-called “business email compromise” (BEC) swindle is a sophisticated and increasingly common scam targeting businesses working with foreign suppliers and/or businesses that regularly perform wire transfer payments.

According to new data from the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) — a partnership between the National White Collar Crime Center and the FBI — the victims of BEC scams range from small to large businesses that may purchase or supply a variety of goods, such as textiles, furniture, food, and pharmaceuticals.

Image: IC3

Image: IC3

One variation on the BEC scam, also known as “CEO fraud,” starts with the email account compromise for high-level business executives (CFO, CTO, etc). Posing as the executive, the fraudster sends a request for a wire transfer from the compromised account to a second employee within the company who is normally responsible for processing these requests.

“The requests for wire transfers are well-worded, specific to the business being victimized, and do not raise suspicions to the legitimacy of the request,” the agency warned. “In some instances a request for a wire transfer from the compromised account is sent directly to the financial institution with instructions to urgently send funds to bank ‘X’ for reason ‘Y.'”

The IC3 notes that the fraudsters perpetrating these scams do their homework before targeting a business and its employees, monitoring and studying their selected victims prior to initiating the fraud. Continue reading →


22
Jan 15

Flash Patch Targets Zero-Day Exploit

Adobe today released an important security update for its Flash Player software that fixes a vulnerability which is already being exploited in active attacks. Compounding the threat, the company said it is investigating reports that crooks may have developed a separate exploit that gets around the protections in this latest update.

brokenflash-aEarly indicators of a Flash zero-day vulnerability came this week in a blog post by Kafeine, a noted security researcher who keeps close tabs on new innovations in “exploit kits.” Often called exploit packs — exploit kits are automated software tools that help thieves booby-trap hacked sites to deploy malicious code.

Kafeine wrote that a popular crimeware package called the Angler Exploit Kit was targeting previously undocumented vulnerability in Flash that appears to work against many different combinations of the Internet Explorer browser on Microsoft Windows systems.

Attackers may be targeting Windows and IE users for now, but the vulnerability fixed by this update also exists in versions of Flash that run on Mac and Linux as well. The Flash update brings the media player to version 16.0.0.287 on Mac and Windows systems, and 11.2.202.438 on Linux.

While Flash users should definitely update as soon as possible, there are indications that this fix may not plug all of the holes in Flash for which attackers have developed exploits. In a statement released along with the Flash update today, Adobe said its patch addresses a newly discovered vulnerability that is being actively exploited, but that there appears to be another active attack this patch doesn’t address.

“Adobe is aware of reports that an exploit for CVE-2015-0310 exists in the wild, which is being used in attacks against older versions of Flash Player,” Adobe said. “Additionally, we are investigating reports that a separate exploit for Flash Player 16.0.0.287 and earlier also exists in the wild.”

To see which version of Flash you have installed, check this link. IE10/IE11 on Windows 8.x and Chrome should auto-update their versions of Flash, although as of this writing it seems that the latest version of Chrome (40.0.2214.91) is still running v. 16.0.0.257Continue reading →


12
Dec 14

‘Security by Antiquity’ Bricks Payment Terminals

Last week, several thousand credit card payment terminals at various retailers across the country suddenly stopped working, their LCD displays showing blank screens instead of numbers and letters. Puzzled merchants began to worry that this was perhaps part of some sophisticated hacker attack on their cash registers. It turns out that the incident was indeed security-related, but for once it had nothing to do with cyber thieves.

Hypercom L4250 payment terminal.

Hypercom L4250 payment terminal.

On Dec. 7, 2014, certain older model payment terminals made by Hypercom stopped working due to the expiration of a cryptographic certificate used in the devices, according to Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Equinox Payments, the company that owns the Hypercom brand.

“The security mechanism was triggered by the rollover of the date and not by any attack on or breach of the terminal,” said Stuart Taylor, vice president of payment solutions at Equinox. “The certificate was created in 2004 with a 10 year expiry date.”

Taylor said Equinox is now working with customers, distributors and channel partners to replace the certificate to return terminals to an operational state. The company is pointing affected customers who still need assistance to this certificate expiry help page.

“Many of these terminals have been successfully updated in the field,” Taylor said. “Unfortunately, a subset of them can’t be fixed in the field which means they’ll need to be sent to our repair facility.  We are working with our customers and distribution partners to track down where these terminals are and will provide whatever assistance we can to minimize any disruption as a result of this matter.”

According to two different merchants impacted by the incident that reached out to KrebsOnSecurity, the bricking of these payment terminals occurs only after the affected devices (in the 4x version of the terminals) are power-cycled or rebooted, which some merchants do daily.

Michael Rochette, vice president at Spencer Technologies, a Northborough, Mass.-based technology installation and support company, said his firm heard last week from an East Coast supermarket chain that opened for business on Monday morning only to find all of their payment terminals unresponsive. Rochette said that the supermarket chain and other retailers impacted by the incident across the country were immediately worried that the incident was part of a hacker attack on their payment infrastructure.

“Not all stores power cycle overnight, but for those that do, they came up all blank and inoperative,” Rochette said. “If that’s something that a retail chain does as a matter of policy across a whole chain of stores, that can be pretty damaging.” Continue reading →


3
Dec 14

Be Wary of ‘Order Confirmation’ Emails

If you receive an email this holiday season asking you to “confirm” an online e-commerce order or package shipment, please resist the urge to click the included link or attachment: Malware purveyors and spammers are blasting these missives by the millions each day in a bid to trick people into giving up control over their computers and identities.

An "order confirmation" malware email blasted out by the Asprox spam botnet recently.

An “order confirmation” malware email blasted out by the Asprox spam botnet recently.

Seasonal scams like these are a perennial scourge of the holidays, mainly because the methods they employ are reliably successful. Crooks understand that it’s easier to catch would-be victims off-guard during the holidays. This goes even for people who generally know better than to click on links and attachments in emails that spoof trusted brands and retailers, because this is a time of year when many people are intensely focused on making sure their online orders arrive before Dec. 25.

This Asprox malware email poses as a notice about a wayward package from a WalMart  order.

This Asprox malware email poses as a notice about a wayward package from a WalMart order.

According to Malcovery, a company that closely tracks email-based malware attacks, these phony “order confirmation” spam campaigns began around Thanksgiving, and use both booby-trapped links and attached files in a bid to infect recipients’ Windows PCs with the malware that powers the Asprox spam botnet. Continue reading →


25
Nov 14

Adobe Pushes Critical Flash Patch

For the second time this month, Adobe has issued a security update for its Flash Player software. New versions are available for Windows, Mac and Linux versions of Flash. The patch provides additional protection on a vulnerability that Adobe fixed earlier this year for which attackers appear to have devised unique and active exploits.

brokenflash-aAdobe recommends users of the Adobe Flash Player desktop runtime for Windows and Macintosh update to v. 15.0.0.239 by visiting the Adobe Flash Player Download Center, or via the update mechanism within the product when prompted. Adobe Flash Player for Linux has been updated to v. 11.2.202.424. 

According to Adobe, these updates provide additional hardening against CVE-2014-8439, which was fixed in a Flash patch that the company released in October 2014. The bulletin for this update is here. Finnish security firm F-Secure says it reported the flaw to Adobe after receiving information from independent researcher Kafeine that indicated the vulnerability was being exploited in-the-wild by an exploit kit (malicious software designed to be stitched into hacked Web sites and foist malware on visitors via browser flaws like this one). Continue reading →


18
Nov 14

Microsoft Releases Emergency Security Update

Microsoft today deviated from its regular pattern of releasing security updates on the second Tuesday of each month, pushing out an emergency patch to plug a security hole in all supported versions of Windows. The company urged Windows users to install the update as quickly as possible, noting that miscreants already are exploiting the weaknesses to launch targeted attacks.

brokenwindowsThe update (MS14-068) addresses a bug in a Windows component called Microsoft Windows Kerberos KDC, which handles authenticating Windows PCs on a local network. It is somewhat less of a problem for Windows home users (it is only rated critical for server versions of Windows) but it poses a serious threat to organizations. According to security vendor Shavlik, the flaw allows an attacker to elevate domain user account privileges to those of the domain administrator account.

“The attacker could forge a Kerberos Ticket and send that to the Kerberos KDC which claims the user is a domain administrator,” writes Chris Goettl, product manager with Shavlik. “From there the attacker can impersonate any domain accounts, add themselves to any group, install programs, view\change\delete date, or create any new accounts they wish.  This could allow the attacker to then compromise any computer in the domain, including domain controllers.  If there is a silver lining in this one it is in the fact that the attacker must have a valid domain user account to exploit the vulnerability, but once they have done so, they have the keys to the kingdom.”

The patch is one of two that Microsoft had expected to release on Patch Tuesday earlier this month, but unexpectedly pulled at the last moment.  “This is pretty severe and definitely explains why Microsoft only delayed the release and did not pull it from the November Patch Tuesday release all together,” Goettl said. Continue reading →


11
Nov 14

Adobe, Microsoft Issue Critical Security Fixes

Adobe and Microsoft today each issued security updates to fix critical vulnerabilities in their software. Microsoft pushed 14 patches to address problems in Windows, Office, Internet Explorer and .NET, among other products. Separately, Adobe issued an update for its Flash Player software that corrects at least 18 security issues.

brokenwindowsMicrosoft announced 16 bulletins, but curiously two of those are listed as pending. Topping the list of critical updates from Microsoft is a fix for a zero-day vulnerability disclosed last month that hackers have been using in targeted cyber espionage attacks. Another critical patch targets 17 weaknesses in Internet Explorer, including a remotely exploitable vulnerability in all supported versions of Windows that earned a CVSS score of 9.3 (meaning it is highly likely to be exploited in drive-by attacks, and probably soon).

That flaw is a rare “unicorn-like” bug according to IBM X-Force, which discovered and reported the issue privately to Microsoft. In a blog post published today, IBM researchers described how the vulnerability can be used to sidestep the Enhanced Protected Mode sandbox in IE11, as well as Microsoft’s EMET anti-exploitation tool that Microsoft offers for free.

“In this case, the buggy code is at least 19 years old, and has been remotely exploitable for the past 18 years,” writes IBM researcher Robert Freeman. “Looking at the original release code of Windows 95, the problem is present. In some respects this vulnerability has been sitting in plain sight for a long time, despite many other bugs being discovered and patched in the same Windows library (OleAut32).”

Freeman said while unpatched Internet Explorer users are most at risk from this bug, the vulnerability also could be exploited through Microsoft Office files. “The other attack vectors this vulnerability could work with are Microsoft Office with script macros, for example in Excel documents,” Freeman told KrebsOnSecurity. “Most versions of Office (since about 2003) have macros disabled by default so the user would have to enable them (which can be a fairly mindless YES click at the top of the screen). Or if a user is using an old enough version of Office, the macros will be enabled by default.”

macrosms

Continue reading →