09
Feb 15

Anthem Breach May Have Started in April 2014

Analysis of open source information on the cybercriminal infrastructure likely used to siphon 80 million Social Security numbers and other sensitive data from health insurance giant Anthem suggests the attackers may have first gained a foothold in April 2014, nine months before the company says it discovered the intrusion.

The Wall Street Journal reported last week that security experts involved in the ongoing forensics investigation into the breach say the servers and attack tools used in the attack on Anthem bear the hallmark of a state-sponsored Chinese cyber espionage group known by a number of names, including “Deep Panda,” “Axiom,” Group 72,” and the “Shell_Crew,” to name but a few.

Deep Panda is the name given to this group by security firm CrowdStrike. In November 2014, Crowdstrike published a snapshot of a graphic showing the malware and malicious Internet servers used in what security experts at PriceWaterhouseCoopers dubbed the ScanBox Framework, a suite of tools that have been used to launch a number of cyber espionage attacks.

A Maltego transform published by CrowdStrike. The graphic is intended to illustrate some tools and Internet servers that are closely tied to a Chinese cyber espionage group that CrowdStrike calls "Deep Panda."

A Maltego transform published by CrowdStrike. The graphic is intended to illustrate some tools and Internet servers thought to be closely tied to a Chinese cyber espionage group that CrowdStrike calls “Deep Panda.”

Crowdstrike’s snapshot (produced with the visualization tool Maltego) lists many of the tools the company has come to associate with activity linked to Deep Panda, including a password stealing Trojan horse program called Derusbi, and an Internet address — 198[dot]200[dot]45[dot]112.

CrowdStrike’s image curiously redacts the resource tied to that Internet address (note the black box in the image above), but a variety of open source records indicate that this particular address was until very recently the home for a very interesting domain: we11point.com. The third and fourth characters in that domain name are the numeral one, but it appears that whoever registered the domain was attempting to make it look like “Wellpoint,” the former name of Anthem before the company changed its corporate name in late 2014.

We11point[dot]com was registered on April 21, 2014 to a bulk domain registration service in China. Eight minutes later, someone changed the site’s registration records to remove any trace of a connection to China.

Intrigued by the fake Wellpoint domains, Rich Barger, chief information officer for Arlington, Va. security firm ThreatConnect Inc., dug deeper into so-called “passive DNS” records — historic records of the mapping between numeric Internet addresses and domain names. That digging revealed a host of other subdomains tied to the suspicious we11point[dot]com site. In the process, Barger discovered that these subdomains — including myhr.we11point[dot]com, and hrsolutions.we11point[dot]com - mimicked components of Wellpoint’s actual network as it existed in April 2014.

“We were able to verify that the evil we11point infrastructure is constructed to masquerade as legitimate Wellpoint infrastructure,” Barger said.

Another fishy subdomain that Barger discovered was extcitrix.we11point[dot]com. The “citrix” portion of that domain likely refers to Citrix, a software tool that many large corporations commonly use to allow employees remote access to internal networks over a virtual private network (VPN).

Interestingly, that extcitrix.we11point[dot]com domain, first put online on April 22, 2014, was referenced in a malware scan from a malicious file that someone uploaded to malware scanning service Virustotal.com. According to the writeup on that malware, it appears to be a backdoor program masquerading as Citrix VPN software. The malware is digitally signed with a certificate issued to an organization called DTOPTOOLZ Co. According to CrowdStrike and other security firms, that digital signature is the calling card of the Deep Panda Chinese espionage group. Continue reading →


07
Feb 15

Phishers Pounce on Anthem Breach

Phishers and phone fraudsters are capitalizing on public concern over a massive data breach announced this week at health insurance provider Anthem in a bid to steal financial and personal data from consumers.

The flood of phishing scams was unleashed just hours after Anthem announced publicly that a “very sophisticated cyberattack” on its systems had compromised the Social Security information and other personal details on some 80 million Americans.

In a question on its FAQ page about whether it would be offering credit monitoring to affected customers, “Anthem said All impacted members will receive notice via mail which will advise them of the protections being offered to them as well as any next steps.” Unsurprisingly, phishers took that as an invitation to blast out variations on the scam pictured below, which spoofs Anthem and offers recipients a free year’s worth of credit monitoring services for those who click the embedded link.

Don't click or respond to these phishing emails.

Don’t click or respond to these phishing emails.

According to Anthem, fraudsters also are busy perpetrating similar scams by cold-calling people via telephone. In a recording posted to its toll-free hotline for this breach (877-263-7995), Anthem said it is aware of outbound call scams targeting current and former Anthem members.

“These emails and calls are not from anthem and no notifications have been sent from anthem since the initial notification on Feb. 4, 2015,” Anthem said in a voice recording on the hotline.

It is likely that these phishing and phone scams are random and opportunistic, but there is always the possibility that the data stolen from Anthem has fallen into the hands of scam artists. According to Anthem, the information stolen includes the consumer’s name, date of birth, member ID, street address, email address, phone number and employment information. However, experts believe that the attack on Anthem was perpetrated by state-sponsored hackers from China seeking information on specific individuals for espionage purposes, although that conclusion has not been independently confirmed.

The company says it will begin sending notifications to affected consumers via snail mail in the coming weeks. In the meantime, if you’re a current or former Anthem member, be aware that these types of scams are likely to escalate in the coming days and weeks.

Update, Feb. 9, 6:15 p.m. ET: In a somewhat farcical turn of events, it appears that the image above is actually from a phishing education campaign created by a company that helps firms impress upon their employees the importance of cybersecurity. The image above, when clicked, brings users to this page, which warns visitors they’ve clicked on a link design to test awareness. That page is run by Knowbe4, whose CEO Stu Sjouwerman said in response to an inquiry that the image was likely forwarded to Anthem by a cautious employee of one of Knowbe4’s customers who received the phishing test but did not click the link. Full disclosure: Knowbe4 is an advertiser on this blog.


06
Feb 15

Citing Tax Fraud Spike, TurboTax Suspends State E-Filings

TurboTax owner Intuit Inc. said Thursday that it is temporarily suspending the transmission of state e-filed tax returns in response to a surge in complaints from consumers who logged into their TurboTax accounts only to find crooks had already claimed a refund in their name.

dyot copy2“During this tax season, Intuit and some states have seen an increase in suspicious filings and attempts by criminals to use stolen identity information to file fraudulent state tax returns and claim tax refunds,” the company said in a statement.

Intuit said a third-party security audit turned up no signs of a security breach with the company, and that the information used to file fraudulent returns appears to have been obtained from other sources outside the tax preparation process.

“As it worked with state governments to assess and resolve the recent issues, Intuit took the precautionary step Thursday, Feb. 5, of temporarily pausing its transmission of state e-filing tax returns,” the company’s statement continued.

“Intuit will be working with the states today to begin turning transmissions back on. Customers who have already filed their state tax returns using Intuit software during this temporary pause will have their returns transmitted as soon as possible. They do not need to take further action at this time. This action does not affect the filing of federal income tax returns, and is limited to those states that require residents to file returns.”

This is hardly a new problem, but I have no doubt we are seeing even more phony tax refund claims than last year (in which my own taxes were filed fraudulently). Cyber thieves have long sought stolen credentials for hijacked tax preparation accounts at TurboTax, H&R Block and related services. Typically, the usernames and passwords for consumer accounts at these services are obtained via password-stealing malware that infects end-user PCs (see my Value of a Hacked PC graphic for more such examples.)

Victims also can see their tax accounts hijacked if crooks assume control over their inboxes as well, since tax preparation services — like most sites — allow users to reset their passwords by requesting a password reset link via email (see my Value of a Hacked Email Account graphic for additional examples like this). And of course phishers frequently impersonate tax preparation firms in a bid to steal credentials.

Stolen TurboTax or H&R Block credentials are cheaper and more plentiful than most people probably would imagine. According to the below-pictured well-known seller on the Dark Web forum Evolution Market, hacked accounts currently can be had for .0002 bitcoins, which works out to about 4 cents apiece.

A seller of hacked accounts on the Dark Web community Evolution Market sells hacked TurboTax and H&R Block accounts for pennies apiece.

A seller of hacked accounts on the Dark Web community Evolution Market sells hacked TurboTax and H&R Block accounts for pennies apiece.

Continue reading →


06
Feb 15

China To Blame in Anthem Hack?

Bloomberg reports that U.S. federal investigators probing the theft of 80 million Social Security records and other sensitive data from insurance giant Anthem Inc. are pointing the finger at state-sponsored hackers from China. Although unconfirmed, that suspicion would explain a confidential alert the FBI circulated last week warning that Chinese hackers were targeting personally identifiable information from U.S. commercial and government networks.

According to this story from Bloomberg’s Michael Riley and Jordan Robertson, “the attack appears to follow a pattern of thefts of medical data by foreigners seeking a pathway into the personal lives and computers of a select group — defense contractors, government workers and others, according to a U.S. government official familiar with a more than year-long investigation into the evidence of a broader campaign.”

While the story is light on details, it adds a bit more context to an FBI “flash alert” that KrebsOnSecurity obtained independently last week. The alert said the FBI has received information regarding a group of cyber actors who have compromised and stolen sensitive business information and Personally Identifiable Information (PII) from US commercial and government networks through cyber espionage.”

fbi-pandaflash

The alert notes that analysis of malware samples used in the attack indicate a significant amount of the computer network exploitation activities emanated from infrastructure located within China. The FBI said the tools used in the attack were referenced in open source reports on Deep Panda, a claim that also shows up in the Bloomberg piece. That story references data about Deep Panda from cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike, which specializes in attributing nation state-level attacks.

According to the FBI, Deep Panda has previously used Adobe Flash zero-day exploits in order to gain initial access to victim networks. While it may be unrelated, it’s worth noting that in the past two weeks alone, Adobe has shipped no fewer than three unscheduled, emergency updates to address Flash Player vulnerabilities that were being exploited in active attacks at the time Adobe released patches.

The FBI’s flash advisory continues:

“Information obtained from victims indicates that PII was a priority target. The FBI notes that stolen PII has been used in other instances to target or otherwise facilitate various malicious activities such as financial fraud though the FBI is not aware of such activity by this group. Any activity related to this group detected on a network should be considered an indication of a compromise requiring extensive mitigation and contact with law enforcement.”

deeppanda-cs

In its own writeup on Deep Panda from mid-2014, CrowdStrike notes that “for almost three years now, CrowdStrike has monitored DEEP PANDA targeting critical and strategic business verticals including: government, defense, financial, legal, and the telecommunications industries. At the think tanks, [we have] detected targeting of senior individuals involved in geopolitical policy issues, in particular in the China/Asia Pacific region. DEEP PANDA presents a very serious threat not just to think tanks, but also multinational financial institutions, law firms, defense contractors, and government agencies.” Continue reading →


05
Feb 15

Yet Another Flash Patch Fixes Zero-Day Flaw

For the third time in two weeks, Adobe has issued an emergency security update for its Flash Player software to fix a dangerous zero-day vulnerability that hackers already are exploiting to launch drive-by download attacks.

brokenflash-aThe newest update, version 16.0.0.305, addresses a critical security bug (CVE-2015-0313) present in the version of Flash that Adobe released on Jan. 27 (v. 16.0.0.296). Adobe said it is are aware of reports that this vulnerability is being actively exploited in the wild via drive-by-download attacks against systems running Internet Explorer and Firefox on Windows 8.1 and below.

Adobe’s advisory credits both Trend Micro and Microsoft with reporting this bug. Trend Micro published a blog post three days ago warning that the flaw was being used in malvertising attacks – booby-trapped ads uploaded by criminals to online ad networks. Trend also published a more in-depth post examining this flaw’s use in the Hanjuan Exploit Kit, a crimeware package made to be stitched into hacked Web sites and foist malware on visitors via browser plug-in flaws like this one. Continue reading →


04
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 →


04
Feb 15

Hacked Hotel Phones Fueled Bank Phishing Scams

A recent phishing campaign targeting customers of several major U.S. banks was powered by text messages directing recipients to call hacked phone lines at Holiday Inn locations in the south. Such attacks are not new, but this one is a timely reminder that phishers increasingly are using lures blasted out via SMS as more banks turn to text messaging to communicate with customers about account activity.

smishThe above-mentioned phishing attacks were actually a mix of scams known as “SMiShing” — phishing lures sent via SMS text message — and voice phishing or “vishing,” where consumers are directed to call a number that answers with a voice prompt spoofing the bank and instructing the caller to enter his credit card number and expiration date.

Over the past two weeks, fraudsters have been blasting out SMS messages to hundreds of thousands of mobile users in the Houston, Texas area. The messages alerted recipients about supposed problems with their bank account, urging them to call a supplied number and follow the automated voice prompts to validate or verify their credit card account information.

On Saturday, Jan. 30, I called one of the numbers that was sent out in the smishing/vishing scam — 281-866-0500 – which is the main phone line for a Holiday Inn Express in Houston. At the time, calls to the number went straight to an automated voice prompt targeting Bank of America customers:

“Thank you for calling Bank of America. A text message has been sent to inform you that your debit card has been limited due to a security issue. To reactivate, please press one now.” After pressing one, the caller is prompted to enter the last four digits of their Social Security number, and then the full card number and expiration date.

My recording of the call was garbled, but here’s a copy of a very similar voice prompt targeting Key Bank customers earlier in January that also was run off the fax line tied to a different Holiday Inn a few miles away in Houston [number: 832-237-8999], according to Numbercop, a telephony threat intelligence firm.

Holiday Inn’s corporate office did not return calls seeking comment, but the company apparently got the message because the phone lines were answering normally on Monday. A front desk clerk who answered the line on Tuesday said the hotel received over 100 complaints from people who got text messages prompting them to call the hotel’s main number during the time it was hacked.

According to Jan Volzke, Numbercop’s chief executive, these scams typically start on a Saturday afternoon and run through the weekend when targeted banks are typically closed.

“Two separate Holiday Inns getting hijacked in such short time suggests there is a larger issue at work with their telephone system provider,” he said. “That phone line is probably sitting right next to the credit card machine of the Holiday Inn. In a way this is just another retail terminal, and if they can’t secure their phone lines, maybe you shouldn’t be giving them your credit card.” Continue reading →


03
Feb 15

Banks: Card Thieves Hit White Lodging Again

For the second time in a year, multiple financial institutions are complaining of fraud on customer credit and debit cards that were all recently used at a string of Marriott properties run by hotel franchise firm White Lodging Services Corporation. White Lodging says it is investigating, but that so far it has found no signs of a new breach.

whitelodgingIn January 31, 2014, this author first reported evidence of a breach at some White Lodging locations. The Merrillville, Ind. based company confirmed a breach three days later, saying hackers had installed malicious software on cash registers in food and beverage outlets at 14 locations nationwide, and that the intruders had been stealing customer card data from these outlets for approximately nine months.

Fast-forward to late January 2015, and KrebsOnSecurity again began hearing from several financial institutions who had traced a pattern of counterfeit card fraud back to accounts that were all used at Marriott properties across the country.

Banking sources say the cards that were compromised in this most recent incident look like they were stolen from many of the same White Lodging locations implicated in the 2014 breach, including hotels in Austin, Texas, Bedford Park, Ill., Denver, Indianapolis, and Louisville, Kentucky.  Those same sources said the compromises appear once again to be tied to hacked cash registers at food and beverage establishments within the White Lodging run hotels. The legitimate hotel transactions that predated fraudulent card charges elsewhere range from mid-September 2014 to January 2015.

Contacted about the findings, Marriott spokesman Jeff Flaherty said all of the properties cited by the banks as source of card fraud are run by White Lodging.

“We recently were made aware of the possibility of unusual credit card transactions at a number of hotels operated by one of our franchise management companies,” Flaherty said. “We understand the franchise company is looking into the matter. Because the suspected issue is related to systems that Marriott does not own or control, we do not have additional information to provide.”

I reached out to White Lodging on Jan. 31. In an emailed statement sent today, White Lodging spokesperson Kathleen Sebastian said the company engaged a security firm to investigate the reports, but so far that team has found no indication of a compromise.

“From your inquiry, we have engaged a full forensic audit of the properties in question,” Sebastian wrote. “We appreciate your concern, and we are taking this information very seriously. To this date, we have found no identifiable infection that would lead us to believe a breach has occurred. Our investigation is ongoing.”

Sebastian went on to say that in the past year, White Lodging has adopted a number of new security measures, including the installation of a third-party managed firewall system, dual-factor authentication for critical systems, and “various other systems as guided by our third-party cyber security service. While we have executed additional security protocols, we do not wish to specifically disclose full details of all security measure to the public.” Continue reading →


02
Feb 15

Target Hackers Hit Third Parking Service

Book2Park.com, an online parking reservation service for airports across the United States, appears to be the latest victim of the hacker gang that stole more than a 100 million credit and debit cards from Target and Home Depot. Book2park.com is the third online parking service since December 2014 to fall victim to this cybercriminal group.

book2parkLast week, a new batch of credit card numbers [dubbed “Denarius“] went up for sale on Rescator[dot]cm, the cybercrime bazaar that earned infamy by selling tens of millions of cards stolen from Target and Home Depot. Multiple banks contacted by this author acquired a handful of cards from this new batch, and each of those financial institutions found the same pattern: All of the cards they bought had been issued to customers who recently made airport parking reservations at Book2Park.com.

Contacted about the apparent breach, Book2park.com owner Anna Infante said she was not aware that hundreds — if not thousands — of her customers cards were for sale online. But she said a technology firm the company contracts with did recently discover and remove malicious files that were somehow planted on Book2park’s Web server.

“We already took action on this, and we are totally on it,” Infante said. “We are taking all further steps in protecting our customers and reporting this to the proper authorities.”

In December, the same hacker gang began selling card accounts stolen from the Web sites of Park ‘N Fly and OneStopParking.com. The card accounts stolen from OneStopParking and Park ‘N Fly sold for prices between $6 and $13, but the cards taken from Book2Park’s site mostly fetch prices ranging from $12 to $18. This may be because most of the cards were issued by European banks, which tend to sell for more (at least on Rescator’s site). Continue reading →


29
Jan 15

The Internet of Dangerous Things

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.

Source: Arbor Networks

Source: Arbor Networks

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.

DDoS Attacks on KrebsOnSecurity.com, logged by Akamai/Prolexic between 10/17/14 - 1/26/15.

DDoS Attacks on KrebsOnSecurity.com, logged by Akamai/Prolexic between 10/17/14 – 1/26/15.

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 →