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19
May 14

‘Blackshades’ Trojan Users Had It Coming

The U.S. Justice Department today announced a series of actions against more than 100 people accused of purchasing and using “Blackshades,” a password-stealing Trojan horse program designed to infect computers throughout the world to spy on victims through their web cameras, steal files and account information, and log victims’ key strokes. While any effort that discourages the use of point-and-click tools for ill-gotten gains is a welcome development, the most remarkable aspect of this crackdown is that those who were targeted in this operation lacked any clue that it was forthcoming.

The Blackshades user forum.

The Blackshades user forum.

To be sure, Blackshades is an effective and easy-to-use tool for remotely compromising and spying on your targets. Early on in its development, researchers at CitzenLab discovered that Blackshades was being used to spy on activists seeking to overthrow the regime in Syria.

The product was sold via well-traveled and fairly open hacker forums, and even included an active user forum where customers could get help configuring and wielding the powerful surveillance tool. Although in recent years a license to Blackshades sold for several hundred Euros, early versions of the product were sold via PayPal for just USD $40.

In short, Blackshades was a tool created and marketed principally for buyers who wouldn’t know how to hack their way out of a paper bag. From the Justice Department’s press release today:

“After purchasing a copy of the RAT, a user had to install the RAT on a victim’s computer – i.e., “infect” a victim’s computer. The infection of a victim’s computer could be accomplished in several ways, including by tricking victims into clicking on malicious links or by hiring others to install the RAT on victims’ computers.

The RAT contained tools known as ‘spreaders’ that helped users of the RAT maximize the number of infections. The spreader tools generally worked by using computers that had already been infected to help spread the RAT further to other computers. For instance, in order to lure additional victims to click on malicious links that would install the RAT on their computers, the RAT allowed cybercriminals to send those malicious links to others via the initial victim’s social media service, making it appear as if the message had come from the initial victim.”

News that the FBI and other national law enforcement organizations had begun rounding up Blackshades customers started surfacing online last week, when multiple denizens of the noob-friendly hacker forum Hackforums[dot]net began posting firsthand experiences of receiving a visit from local authorities related to their prior alleged Blackshades use. See the image gallery at the end of this post for a glimpse into the angst that accompanied that development.

While there is a certain amount of schadenfreude in today’s action, the truth is that any longtime Blackshades customer who didn’t know this day would be coming should turn in his hacker card immediately. In June 2012, the Justice Department announced a series of indictments against at least two dozen individuals who had taken the bait and signed up to be active members of “Carderprofit,” a fraud forum that was created and maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Among those arrested in the CarderProfit sting was Michael Hogue, the alleged co-creator of Blackshades. That so many of the customers of this product are teenagers who wouldn’t know a command line prompt from a hole in the ground is evident by the large number of users who vented their outrage over their arrests and/or visits by the local authorities on Hackforums, which by the way was the genesis of the CarderProfit sting from Day One.

In June 2010, Hackforums administrator Jesse Labrocca — a.k.a. “Omniscient” — posted a message to all users of the forum, notifying them that the forum would no longer tolerate the posting of messages about ways to buy and use the ZeuS Trojan, a far more sophisticated remote-access Trojan that is heavily used by cybercriminals worldwide and has been implicated in the theft of hundreds of millions of dollars from small- to mid-sized businesses worldwide.

Hackforums admin Jesse "Omniscient" LaBrocca urging users to register at a new forum -- Carderprofit.eu -- a sting Web site set up by the FBI.

Hackforums admin Jesse “Omniscient” LaBrocca urging users to register at a new forum — Carderprofit.cc — a sting Web site set up by the FBI.

Continue reading →


19
May 14

Experian Breach Tied to NY-NJ ID Theft Ring

Last year, a top official from big-three credit bureau Experian told Congress that the firm was not aware of any consumers that had been harmed by an incident in which a business unit of Experian sold consumer records directly to an online identity theft service for nearly 10 months. Today’s post presents evidence that among the ID theft service’s clients was an identity theft and credit card fraud ring of at least 32 people who were arrested last year for allegedly using the information to steal millions from more  than 1,000 victims across the country.

Ngo's ID theft service superget.info

Ngo’s ID theft service superget.info

On March 31, 2014, 26-year-old Idris Soyemi of Brooklyn, New York pleaded guilty in a New Hampshire court to one count of wire fraud. In Soyemi’s guilty plea hearing, the prosecutor laid out how Soyemi on several occasions bought Social Security numbers, dates of birth and other personal information from an online identity theft service run by guy named Hieu Minh Ngo.

Ngo is a Vietnamese national who for several years ran an online identity theft service called superget.info. Shortly after my 2011 initial story about his service, Ngo tauntingly renamed his site to findget.me. The Secret Service took him up on that challenge, and succeeded in luring him out of Vietnam into Guam, where he was arrested and brought to New Hampshire for trial. He pleaded guilty earlier this year to running the ID theft service, and the government has been working on rounding up his customers ever since.

According to Soyemi’s guilty plea transcript (PDF), U.S. Secret Service agents seized control over Ngo’s email account in February 2013 and used it to interact with his customers. Posing as Ngo, the undercover agent reached out to Soyemi and wrote, “I’m back. You doing tax refund or credit card?”, asking Soyemi whether he was buying personal data on consumers to set up new lines of credit in their names or to file fraudulent tax refund requests with the IRS — a rapidly growing form of cybercrime. Soyemi responded, “I do credit cards but can you tell me about tax refund?” (if you missed last month’s story about an Ohio man who’s accused of using Ngo’s service to file at least 150 fraudulent tax refund requests with the IRS, check that out here).

Interestingly, Soyemi was part of a huge network of nearly three dozen people who were rounded up last year and charged with taking out new credit cards in victims’ names and then using the cards to make millions of dollars in retail purchases that were then fenced on the black market. From an April 2013 story in the Jersey Journal:

“The leaders of the group, authorities say, purchased the identities of unsuspecting victims from online brokers, who got the information from computer hackers across the United States….”

“In a process known as ‘punching,’ electronic account information from the cards’ magnetic strips would be transferred onto counterfeit cards, which were provided to “strikers” who conducted the purchases at retailers all over the Eastern Seaboard, authorities say…”

….”The investigation has identified nearly 1,000 victims across the country and millions of dollars in phony transactions, authorities say.”

“Authorities say the suspects spent the proceeds on luxury cars, high-end jewelry and other lavish expenses. Some of the money was additionally sent to accounts in Nigeria, authorities say.”

Further tying this group to Ngo’s service is a four-count indictment (PDF) lodged against another man named in that identity theft ring roundup by the New Jersey prosecutor’s office: Oluwaseun Adekoya, 25, of Sewaren, NJ. Adekoya’s indictment makes numerous references to his alleged purchase of hundreds of consumer records from an online identity theft service that was taken over by U.S. Secret Service agents in February 2013 (recall that in Soyemi’s guilty plea hearing government prosecutors said that in that same month undercover Secret Service agents assumed control of the email account tied to Ngo’s identity theft service). Continue reading →


16
May 14

White-Hat Hacker Schools Security Pro School

If you’re taking an exam to test your skills as an Internet security professional, do you get extra credit for schooling the organization that hosts the test? If that organization is the International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium (ISC)² — the non-profit that administers the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) exam — the answer is “no,” but you might get a nice ‘thank you’ from the head of the organization.

isc2-2

Last month, I heard from Alex Holden, a security consultant who is quite gifted at quickly identifying security holes in Internet-facing things. Holden was visiting the site to pay his annual CISSP membership dues, and was getting ready to fork over the $85 annual fee when he noticed a glaring weakness in the organization’s checkout page: The URL listed all of his registration information in plaintext.

The site hadn’t yet requested his credit card, but Holden found that he could skip the payment process merely by changing the $85 amount in the URL produced by the checkout page to a negative number. Clicking submit after that change was made produced an email congratulating him on his successful renewal. Continue reading →


15
May 14

The Mad, Mad Dash to Update Flash

An analysis of how quickly different browser users patch Adobe Flash vulnerabilities shows a marked variation among browser makers. The data suggest that Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox users tend to get Flash updates relatively quickly, while many users on Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser consistently lag behind.

The information comes from ThreatMetrix, a company that helps retailers and financial institutions detect and block patterns of online fraud. ThreatMetrix Chief Technology Officer Andreas Baumhof looked back over the past five months across 10,000+ sites the company serves, to see how quickly visitors were updating to the latest versions of Flash.

Baumhof measured the rates of update adoption for these six Flash patches:

Jan 14, 2014 – APSB14-02 Security updates available for Adobe Flash Player (2 critical vulnerabilities)

Feb 4, 2014 – APSB14-04 Security updates available for Adobe Flash Player (2 critical flaws, including 1 zero-day)

Feb 20, 2014 – APSB14-07 Security updates available for Adobe Flash Player (1 zero-day)

Mar 11, 2014 – APSB14-08 Security updates available for Adobe Flash Player (2 critical vulnerabilities)

Apr 8, 2014, – APSB14-09 Security updates available for Adobe Flash Player (4 critical vulnerabilities)

Apr 28, 2014 - APSB14-13 Security updates available for Adobe Flash Player (1 zero-day)

Overall, Google Chrome users were protected the fastest. According to Baumhof, Chrome usually takes just a few days to push the latest update out to 90 percent of users. Chrome pioneered auto-updates for Flash several years ago, with Firefox and newer versions of IE both following suit in recent years.

The adoption rate, broken down by browser type, of the last six Adobe Flash updates.

The adoption rate, broken down by browser type, of the last six Adobe Flash updates.

Interestingly, the data show that IE users tend to receive updates at a considerably slower clip (although there are a few times in which IE surpasses Firefox users in adoption of the latest Flash updates).  This probably has to do with the way Flash is updated on IE, and the legacy versions of IE that are still out there. Flash seems to have more of a seamless auto-update process on IE 10 and 11 on Windows 8 and above, and more of a manual one on earlier versions of the browser and operating system.

Another explanation for IE’s performance here is that it is commonly used in business environments, which tend to take a few days at least to test patches before rolling them out in a coordinated fashion across the enterprise along with the rest of the Patch Tuesday updates. Continue reading →


13
May 14

Adobe, Microsoft Issue Critical Security Fixes

Adobe and Microsoft today each released software updates to plug dangerous security holes in their products. Adobe pushed patches to fix holes in Adobe Acrobat/Reader as well as Flash Player. Microsoft issued eight update bundles to nix at least 13 security vulnerabilities in Windows and software that runs on top of the operating system.

A majority of the patches released by Microsoft are fixes for products that run in enterprise environments. Chief among the consumer-facing Microsoft updates is cumulative patch for Internet Explorer that fixes a pair of flaws in all supported versions of IE. This patch also includes the emergency update that Microsoft released earlier this month to address a zero-day vulnerability in IE. Microsoft also issued fixes for several Office vulnerabilities. This month’s batch also includes a .NET fix, which in my experience is best installed separately.

Adobe released a fix for its Flash Player software that corrects at least six security flaws. The Flash update brings the media player to v. 13.0.0.214 on Windows and Mac systems, and v. 11.2.202.359 for Linux users. To see which version of Flash you have installed, check this linkContinue reading →


13
May 14

Postal Service: Beware Stamp Kiosk Skimmers

The United States Postal Inspection Service is investigating reports that fraudsters are installing skimming devices on automated stamp vending machines at Post Office locations across the United States, KrebsOnSecurity has learned.

USPS Automated Postal Center (APC) self-service stamp kiosk.

USPS Automated Postal Center (APC) self-service stamp kiosk.

Earlier this month, I began hearing from sources in the banking industry about fraudulent debit card activity on cards that were all recently used at self-service stamp vending machines at U.S. Post Offices in at least 13 states and the District of Columbia.

Asked about the activity, a spokesperson for the U.S. Postal Inspection Service confirmed that the agency has an open investigation into the matter, but declined to elaborate further beyond offering tips for consumers to help spot skimming devices that may be affixed to automated stamp vending machines at post office locations.

In an emailed response, the USPIS said it is urging USPS employees to visually inspect the Automated Postal Center (APC) machines multiple times during the day, and that it is asking customers to do the same.

“USPIS recommends customers who use the APC machine should personally visually inspect the machine prior to use,” the USPIS said. “Look for any type of plastic piece that looks like it has been slid over the actual credit card reader. Look for any other type of marking on the machine that looks as though it has been applied by a third-party.”

The USPIS is asking customers who see something that appears to be out of place on the machines to notify the local post office supervisor immediately.

The USPIS declined to answer additional questions about the investigation, such as when the fraud first began. But according to sources at two separate financial institutions whose customers have been impacted by the activity, the fraud began in late November 2013, and has been traced back to self-service stamp vending machines in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. Continue reading →


12
May 14

Teen Arrested for 30+ Swattings, Bomb Threats

A 16-year-old male from Ottawa, Canada has been arrested for allegedly making at least 30 fraudulent calls to emergency services across North America over the past few months. The false alarms — two of which targeted this reporter — involved calling in phony bomb threats and multiple attempts at “swatting” — a hoax in which the perpetrator spoofs a call about a hostage situation or other violent crime in progress in the hopes of tricking police into responding at a particular address with deadly force.

po2-swatbkOn March 9, a user on Twitter named @ProbablyOnion (possibly NSFW) started sending me rude and annoying messages. A month later (and several weeks after blocking him on Twitter), I received a phone call from the local police department. It was early in the morning on Apr. 10, and the cops wanted to know if everything was okay at our address.

Since this was not the first time someone had called in a fake hostage situation at my home, the call I received came from the police department’s non-emergency number, and they were unsurprised when I told them that the Krebs manor and all of its inhabitants were just fine.

Minutes after my local police department received that fake notification, @ProbablyOnion was bragging on Twitter about swatting me, including me on his public messages: “You have 5 hostages? And you will kill 1 hostage every 6 times and the police have 25 minutes to get you $100k in clear plastic.” Another message read: “Good morning! Just dispatched a swat team to your house, they didn’t even call you this time, hahaha.”

I told this user privately that targeting an investigative reporter maybe wasn’t the brightest idea, and that he was likely to wind up in jail soon. But @ProbablyOnion was on a roll: That same day, he hung out his for-hire sign on Twitter, with the following message: “want someone swatted? Tweet me  their name, address and I’ll make it happen.” Continue reading →


7
May 14

Antivirus is Dead: Long Live Antivirus!

An article in The Wall Street Journal this week quoted executives from antivirus pioneer Symantec uttering words that would have been industry heresy a few years ago, declaring antivirus software “dead” and stating that the company is focusing on developing technologies that attack online threats from a different angle.

Ads for various crypting services.

Ads for various crypting services.

This hardly comes as news for anyone in the security industry who’s been paying attention over the past few years, but I’m writing about it because this is a great example of how the cybercrime underground responds to — and in some cases surpasses — innovations put in place by the good guys.

About 15 years ago, when the antivirus industry was quite young, there were far fewer competitors in the anti-malware space. Most antivirus firms at the time had a couple of guys in the lab whose job it was to dissect, poke and prod at the new crimeware specimens. After that, they’d typically write reports about the new threats, and then ship “detection signatures” that would ostensibly protect customers that hadn’t already been compromised by the new nasties.

This seemed to work for while, until the smart guys in the industry started noticing that the volume of malicious software being released on the Internet each year was growing at fairly steady clip. Many of the industry’s leaders decided that if they didn’t invest heavily in technologies and approaches that could help automate the detection and classification of new malware threats, that they were going to lose this digital arms race.

So that’s exactly what these firms did: They went on a buying spree and purchased companies and technologies left and right, all in a bid to build this quasi-artificial intelligence they called “heuristic detection.” And for a while after that, the threat from the daily glut of malware seemed to be coming under control.

But the bad guys didn’t exactly take this innovation laying down; rather, they responded with their own innovations. What they came up with is known as the “crypting” service, a service that has spawned an entire industry that I would argue is one of the most bustling and lucrative in the cybercrime underground today.

Put simply, a crypting service takes a bad guy’s piece of malware and scans it against all of the available antivirus tools on the market today — to see how many of them detect the code as malicious. The service then runs some custom encryption routines to obfuscate the malware so that it hardly resembles the piece of code that was detected as bad by most of the tools out there. And it repeats this scanning and crypting process in an iterative fashion until the malware is found to be completely undetectable by all of the antivirus tools on the market. Continue reading →


1
May 14

Microsoft Issues Fix for IE Zero-Day, Includes XP Users

Microsoft has issued an emergency security update to fix a zer0-day vulnerability that is present in all versions of its Internet Explorer Web browser and that is actively being exploited. In an unexpected twist, the company says Windows XP users also will get the update, even though Microsoft officially ceased supporting XP last month.

IEwarning

The rushed patch comes less than five days after the software giant warned users about active attacks that attempt to exploit a previously unknown security flaw in every supported version of IE. This flaw can be used to silently install malicious software without any help from users, save for perhaps browsing to a hacked or malicious site.

“We have made the decision to issue a security update for Windows XP users,” writes Dustin C. Childs, group manager, response communications at Microsoft. “Windows XP is no longer supported by Microsoft, and we continue to encourage customers to migrate to a modern operating system, such as Windows 7 or 8.1. Additionally, customers are encouraged to upgrade to the latest version of Internet Explorer, IE 11.”

Microsoft says the majority of customers have automatic updates enabled and will not need to take any action because protections will be downloaded and installed automatically. Windows users who don’t take advantage of the automatic updates feature of Windows (or who don’t wish to wait around for it to install the patch) can do so by visiting Windows Update.


30
Apr 14

Tax Fraud Gang Targeted Healthcare Firms

Earlier this month, I wrote about an organized cybercrime gang that has been hacking into HR departments at organizations across the country and filing fraudulent tax refund requests with the IRS on employees of those victim firms. Today, we’ll look a bit closer at the activities of this crime gang, which appears to have targeted a large number of healthcare and senior living organizations that were all using the same third-party payroll and HR services provider.

taxfraudAs I wrote in the previous story, KrebsOnSecurity encountered a Web-based control panel that an organized criminal gang has been using to track bogus tax returns filed on behalf of employees at hacked companies whose HR departments had been relieved of W-2 forms for all employees.

Among the organizations listed in that panel were Plaintree Inc. and Griffin Faculty Practice Plan. Both entities are subsidiaries of Derby, Conn.-based Griffin Health Services Corp.

Steve Mordecai, director of human resources at Griffin Hospital, confirmed that a security breach at his organization had exposed the personal and tax data on “a limited number of employees for Griffin Health Services Corp. and Griffin Hospital.” Mordecai said the attackers obtained the information after stealing the organization’s credentials at a third-party payroll and HR management provider called UltiPro.

Mordecai said that the bad guys only managed to steal data on roughly four percent of the organization’s employees, but he declined to say how many employees the healthcare system currently has. An annual report (PDF) from 2009 states that Griffin Hospital alone had more than 1,384 employees.

Griffin employee tax records, as recorded in the fraudsters' Web-based control panel.

Griffin employee tax records, as recorded in the fraudsters’ Web-based control panel.

“Fortunately for us it was a limited number of employees who may have had their information breached or stolen,” Mordecai said. “There is a criminal investigation with the FBI that is ongoing, so I can’t say much more.”

The FBI did not return calls seeking comment. But according Reuters, the FBI recently circulated a private notice to healthcare providers, warning that the “cybersecurity systems at many healthcare providers are lax compared to other sectors, making them vulnerable to attacks by hackers searching for Americans’ personal medical records and health insurance data.”

According to information in their Web-based control panel, the attackers responsible for hacking into Griffin also may have infiltrated an organization called Medical Career Center Inc., but that could not be independently confirmed.

This crime gang also appears to have targeted senior living facilities, including SL Bella Terra LLC, a subsidiary of Chicago-based Senior Lifestyle Corp, an assisted living firm that operates in seven states. Senior Living did not return calls seeking comment.

In addition, the attackers hit  Swan Home Health LLC  in Menomonee Falls, Wisc., a company that recently changed its named to EnlivantMonica Lang, vice president of communications for Enlivant, said Swan Home Health is a subsidiary of Chicago-based Assisted Living Concepts Inc., an organization that owns and operates roughly 200 assisted living facilities in 20 states.

Swan Home Health employee's tax info, as recorded by the fraudsters.

Swan Home Health employee’s tax info, as recorded by the fraudsters.

ALC disclosed in March 2014 that a data breach in December 2013 had exposed the personal information on approximately 43,600 current and former employees. In its March disclosure, ALC said that its internal employee records were compromised after attackers stole login credentials to the company’s third-party payroll provider.

That disclosure didn’t name the third-party provider, but every victim organization I’ve spoken with that’s been targeted by this crime gang had outsourced their payroll and/or human resources operations to UltiPro.

Enlivant’s Lang confirmed that the company also relied on UltiPro, and that some employees have come forward to report attempts to file fraudulent tax refunds on their behalf with the IRS.

“We believe that [the attackers] accessed employee names, addresses, birthdays, Social Security numbers and pay information, which is plenty to get someone going from a tax fraud perspective,” Lang said in a telephone interview. Continue reading →