Posts Tagged: BlackHole Exploit Kit


9
Dec 13

Who Is Paunch?

Last week, the world got the first glimpses of a man Russian authorities have accused of being “Paunch,” a computer crime kingpin whose “Blackhole” crimeware package has fueled an explosion of cybercrime over the past several years. So far, few details about the 27-year-old defendant have been released, save for some pictures of a portly lad and a list of his alleged transgressions. Today’s post follows a few clues from recent media coverage that all point to one very likely identity for this young man.

Dmitry Fedotov from Togliatti, Russia.

Dmitry Fedotov from Togliatti, Russia.

The first story in the Western media about Paunch’s arrest came on Oct. 8, 2013 from Reuters, which quoted an anonymous former Russian police detective.  But the initial news of Paunch’s arrest appears to have broken on Russian news blogs several days earlier. On Oct. 5, Russian news outlet neslushi.info posted that a hacker by the name of Dmitry Fedotov had been arrested the night before in Togliatti, a city in Samara Oblast, Russia. The story noted that Fedotov was wanted for creating a program that was used by various organized crime groups to siphon roughly 26 billion rubles (USD $866 million) from unnamed banks. Another story from local news site Samara.ru on Oct. 8 references a Dmitry F. from Togliatti.

This is an interesting lead; last week’s story on Paunch cited information released by Russian forensics firm Group-IB, which did not include Paunch’s real name but said that he resided in Togliatti.

Fast-forward to this past week, and we see out of the Russian publication Vedomosti.ru a story stating that Paunch owned his own Web-development company. That story also cited Group-IB saying that Paunch had experience as an advertising manager. This Yandex profile includes a resume for a Dmitry Fedotov from Togliatti who specializes in Web programming and advertising, and lists “hack money” under his “professional goals” section. It also states that Fedotov attended the Volga State University of Service from 2003-2005.

That Yandex profile for Fedotov says his company is a site called “neting.ru,” a Web development firm. The current Web site registration records for that domain do not include an owner’s name, but a historic WHOIS record ordered from domaintools.com shows that neting.ru was originally registered in 2004 by a Dmitry E. Fedotov, using the email addresses box@neting.ru and tolst86@mail.ru.

A cached contact page for neting.ru at archive.org shows the same box@neting.ru email address and includes an ICQ instant messenger address, 360022. According to ICQ.com, that address belongs to a user who picked the nickname “tolst,” which roughly translates to “fatty.”

A user who picked the nickname "tolst" or "fatty" posted this image of his new Porsche Cayenne in March 2013

A user who picked the nickname “tolst” or “fatty” posted this image of his new Porsche Cayenne in March 2013

This brings up something I want to address from last week’s story: Some readers said they thought it was insensitive of me to point out that Paunch himself called attention to his most obvious physical trait. But this seems to be a very important detail: Paunch had a habit of picking self-effacing nicknames.

The pictures of Paunch released by Group-IB show a heavyset young man, and Paunch seems to have picked nicknames that called attention to his size. One email address known to have been used by the Blackhole author was “paunchik@googlemail.com” (“paunchik” means “doughnut” in Russian). Blackhole exploit kit users who wished to place their advertisements in the crimeware kit itself so that other customers would see the ads were instructed to pay for the advertisements by sending funds to a Webmoney purse Z356971281174, which is tied to the Webmoney ID 561656619879; that Webmoney ID uses the alias “puzan,” a variant of the Russian word пузо, or “potbelly.”

Turns out, “tolst” was a common nickname picked by Paunch. We can see a user who picked that same “tolst” nickname posting in a Russian car forum in March 2013 about his new ride: a white Porsche Cayenne. According to this photo released by Group-IB, Paunch also owned a white Porsche Cayenne. Tolst posted pictures of the interior of his Porsche here.

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6
Dec 13

Meet Paunch: The Accused Author of the BlackHole Exploit Kit

In early October, news leaked out of Russia that authorities there had arrested and charged the malware kingpin known as “Paunch,” the alleged creator and distributor of the Blackhole exploit kit. Today, Russian police and computer security experts released additional details about this individual, revealing a much more vivid picture of the cybercrime underworld today.

Paunch, the accused creator of the Blackhole Exploit Kit, stands in front of his Porche Cayenne.

Paunch, the accused creator of the Blackhole Exploit Kit, stands in front of his Porsche Cayenne.

A statement released by the Russian Interior Ministry (MVD) — the entity which runs the police departments in each Russian city — doesn’t include Paunch’s real name, but it says the Blackhole exploit kit creator was arrested in October along with a dozen other individuals who allegedly worked to sell, develop and profit from the crimeware package.

Russian security and forensics firm Group-IB, which assisted in the investigation, released additional details, including several pictures of the 27-year-old accused malware author. According to Group-IB, Paunch had more than 1,000 customers and was earning $50,000 per month from his illegal activity. The image at right shows Paunch standing in front of his personal car, a Porsche Cayenne.

First spotted in 2010, BlackHole is commercial crimeware designed to be stitched into hacked or malicious sites and exploit a variety of Web-browser vulnerabilities for the purposes of installing malware of the customer’s choosing. The price of renting the kit ran from $500 to $700 each month. For an extra $50 a month, Paunch also rented customers “crypting” services; cryptors are designed to obfuscate malicious software so that it remains undetectable by antivirus software.

If the pictured man truly is Paunch, he certainly lived up to his nickname.

If the 27-year-old pictured here truly is Paunch, he certainly lived up to his nickname.

Paunch worked with several other cybercriminals to purchase new exploits and security vulnerabilities that could be rolled into Blackhole and help increase the success of the software. Paunch bought the exploits to fund a pricier ($10,000/month) and more exclusive exploit pack called “Cool Exploit Kit.”

As documented on this blog in January 2013 (see Crimeware Author Funds Exploit Buying Spree), Paunch contracted with a third-party exploit broker who announced that he had a $100,000 budget for buying new, previously undocumented “zero-day” vulnerabilities.

Not long after that story, the individual with whom Paunch worked to purchase those exclusive exploits — a miscreant who uses the nickname “J.P. Morgan” — posted a message to the Darkode[dot]com crime forum, stating that he was doubling his exploit-buying budget to $200,000.

In October, shortly after news of Paunch’s arrest leaked to the media, J.P. Morgan posted to Darkode again, this time more than doubling his previous budget — to $450,000.

“Dear ladies and gentlemen! In light of recent events, we look to build a new exploit kit framework. We have budgeted $450,000 to buy vulnerabilities of a browser and its plugins, which will be used only by us afterwards! ”

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13
Feb 13

Exploit Sat on LA Times Website for 6 Weeks

The Los Angeles Times has scrubbed its Web site of malicious code that served browser exploits and malware to potentially hundreds of thousands of readers over the past six weeks.

On Feb. 7, KrebsOnSecurity heard from two different readers that a subdomain of the LA Times’ news site (offersanddeals.latimes.com) was silently redirecting visitors to a third-party Web site retrofitted with the Blackhole exploit kit. I promptly asked my followers on Twitter if they had seen any indications that the site was compromised, and in short order heard from Jindrich Kubec, director of threat intelligence at Czech security firm Avast. 

latimesKubec checked Avast’s telemetry with its user base, and discovered that the very same LA Times subdomain was indeed redirecting visitors to a Blackhole exploit kit, and that the data showed this had been going on since at least December 23, 2012.

Contacted via email, LA Times spokeswoman Hillary Manning initially said a small number of users trying to access a subdomain of the site were instead served a malicious script warning on Feb. 2 and 3. But Manning said this was the result of a glitch in Google’s display ad exchange, not a malware attack on the company’s site.

“The LA Times, along with dozens of other Google ad exchange users including the New York Times, the Guardian, CNET, Huffington Post and ZDNet, were, to varying degrees, blocked by malicious script warnings,” Manning wrote in an email to KrebsOnSecurity. “The impacted sections of our site were quickly cleared and there was never any danger to users.”

Unfortunately, Avast and others continued to detect exploits coming from the news site. Manning subsequently acknowledged that the Google display ad issue was a separate and distinct incident, and that the publication’s tech team was working to address the problem.

Malicious code served by offersanddeals.latimes.com

Malicious code served by offersanddeals.latimes.com

It’s not clear how many readers may have been impacted by the attack, which appears to have been limited to the Offers and Deals page of the latimes.com Web site. Site metrics firm Alexa.com says this portion of the newspaper’s site receives about .12 percent of the site’s overall traffic, which according to the publication is about 18 million unique visitors per month. Assuming the site was compromised from Dec. 23, 2012 through the second week in February 2013, some 324,000 LA Times readers were likely exposed to the attack.

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7
Jan 13

Crimeware Author Funds Exploit Buying Spree

The author of Blackhole, an exploit kit that booby-traps hacked Web sites to serve malware, has done so well for himself renting his creation to miscreants that the software has emerged as perhaps the most notorious and ubiquitous crimeware product in the Underweb. Recently, however, the author has begun buying up custom exploits to bundle into a far more closely-held and expensive exploit pack, one that appears to be fueling a wave of increasingly destructive online extortion schemes.

Cool Exploit Kit.

Cool Exploit Kit.

An exploit pack is a software toolkit that gets injected into hacked or malicious sites, allowing the attacker to foist a kitchen sink full of browser exploits on visitors. Those visiting such sites with outdated browser plugins may have malware silently installed. In early October  2012, security researchers began noticing that a new exploit pack called Cool Exploit Kit was showing up repeatedly in attacks from “ransomware,” malicious software that holds PCs hostage in a bid to extract money from users.

Kafeine,” a French researcher and blogger who has been tracking the ties between ransomware gangs and exploit kits, detailed Cool’s novel use of a critical vulnerability in Windows (CVE-2011-3402) that was first discovered earlier in the year in the Duqu computer worm. Duqu is thought to be related to Stuxnet, a sophisticated cyber weapon that experts believe was designed to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program.

About a week after Kafeine highlighted the Duqu exploit’s use in Cool, the same exploit showed up in Blackhole. As Kafeine documented in another blog post, he witnessed the same thing happen in mid-November after he wrote about a never-before-seen exploit developed for a Java vulnerability (CVE-2012-5076) that Oracle patched in October. Kafeine said this pattern prompted him to guess that Blackhole and Cool were the work of the same author or malware team.

“It seems that as soon as it is publicly known [that Cool Exploit Kit] is using a new exploit, that exploit shows up in Blackhole,” Kafeine said in an interview with KrebsOnSecurity.

As detailed in an excellent analysis by security firm Sophos, Blackhole is typically rented to miscreants who pay for the use of the hosted exploit kit for some period of time. A three-month license to use Blackhole runs $700, while a year-long license costs $1,500. Blackhole customers also can take advantage of a hosting solution provided by the exploit kit’s proprietors, which runs $200 a week or $500 per month.

Blackhole is the brainchild of a crimeware gang run by a miscreant who uses the nickname “Paunch.” Reached via instant message, Paunch acknowledged being responsible for the Cool kit, and said his new exploit framework costs a whopping $10,000 a month.

At first I thought Paunch might be pulling my leg, but that price tag was confirmed in a discussion by members of a very exclusive underground forum. Not long after Kafeine first wrote about Cool Exploit Kit, an associate of Paunch posted a message to a semi-private cybercrime forum, announcing that his team had been given an initial budget of $100,000 to buy unique Web browser exploits, as well as information on unpatched software flaws. Here is a portion of that post, professionally translated from Russian:

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7
Nov 12

Experts Warn of Zero-Day Exploit for Adobe Reader

Software vendor Adobe says it is investigating claims that instructions for exploiting a previously unknown critical security hole in the latest versions of its widely-used PDF Reader software are being sold in the cybercriminal underground.

The finding comes from malware analysts at Moscow-based forensics firm Group-IB, who say they’ve discovered that a new exploit capable of compromising the security of computers running Adobe X and XI  (Adobe Reader 10 and 11) is being sold in the underground for up to $50,000. This is significant because — beginning with Reader X– Adobe introduced a “sandbox” feature  aimed at blocking the exploitation of previously unidentified security holes in its software, and so far that protection has held its ground.

But according to Andrey Komarov, Group-IB’s head of international projects, this vulnerability allows attackers to sidestep Reader’s sandbox protection. Komarov said the finding is significant because “in the past there was no documented method of how to bypass” Adobe Reader X’s sandbox to run code of the attacker’s choice on the target’s computer. The Russian firm produced the following video which they say demonstrates a sanitized version of the attack.

The exploit does have some limitations, Komarov said. For example, it can’t be fully executed until the user closes his Web browser (or Reader). And so far, they have only seen the attack work against Microsoft Windows installations of Adobe Reader.

Adobe spokeswoman Wiebke Lips said the company was not contacted by Group-IB, and is unable to verify their claims, given the limited amount of information currently available.

“Adobe will reach out to Group-IB,” Lips said. “But without additional details, there is nothing we can do, unfortunately— beyond continuing to monitor the threat landscape and working with our partners in the security community, as always.”

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27
Aug 12

Attackers Pounce on Zero-Day Java Exploit

Attackers have seized upon a previously unknown security hole in Oracle’s ubiquitous Java software to break into vulnerable systems. So far, the attacks exploiting this weakness have been targeted and not widespread, but it appears that the exploit code is now public and is being folded into more widely-available attack tools such as Metasploit and exploit kits like BlackHole.

A Metasploit module developed to target this Java 0-day.

News of the vulnerability (CVE-2012-4681) surfaced late last week in a somewhat sparse blog post by FireEye, which said the exploit seemed to work against the latest version of Java 7, which is version 1.7, Update 6. This morning, researchers Andre’ M. DiMino & Mila Parkour published additional details on the targeted attacks seen so far, confirming that the zero-day affects Java 7 Update 0 through 6, but does not appear to impact Java 6 and below.

Initial reports indicated that the exploit code worked against all versions of Internet Explorer, Firefox and Opera, but did not work against Google Chrome. But according to Rapid 7, there is a Metasploit module in development that successfully deploys this exploit against Chrome (on at least Windows XP).

Also, there are indications that this exploit will soon be rolled into the BlackHole exploit kit. Contacted via instant message, the curator of the widely-used commercial attack tool confirmed that the now-public exploit code worked nicely, and said he planned to incorporate it into BlackHole as early as today. “The price of such an exploit if it were sold privately would be about $100,000,” wrote Paunch, the nickname used by the BlackHole author.

Oracle is not scheduled to release another security update for Java until October. In the meantime, it’s a good idea to either unplug Java from your browser or uninstall it from your computer completely.

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3
Aug 12

Uptick in Cyber Attacks on Small Businesses

New data suggests that cyber attacks aimed at small businesses have doubled over the past six months, a finding that dovetails with my own reporting on companies that are suffering six-figure losses from sophisticated cyber heists.

According to Symantec, attacks against small businesses rose markedly in the first six months of 2012 compared to the latter half of 2011. In its June intelligence report, the security firm found that 36 percent of all targeted attacks (58 per day) during the last six months were directed at businesses with 250 or fewer employees. That figure was 18 percent at the  end of Dec. 2011.

“There appears to be a direct correlation between the rise in attacks against smaller businesses and a drop in attacks against larger ones,” said Paul Wood, a security intelligence manager at Symantec. “It almost seems attackers are diverting their resources directly from the one group to the other.”

I’m seeing the same uptick, and have been hearing from more small business victims than at any time before — often several times per week.

In the second week of July, for example, I spoke with three different small companies that had just been hit by cyberheists (one of the victims asked not to be named, and the other didn’t want their case publicized). On July 10, crooks who’d broken into the computers of a fuel supplier in southern Georgia attempted to transfer $1.67 million out of the company’s accounts. When that failed, they put through a fraudulent payroll batch totaling $317,000, which the victim’s bank allowed.

The bank, First National Bank of Coffee County, managed to claw back an unusually large amount — approximately $260,000. The fuel company hired an outside forensics firm to investigate, and found that the trouble started on July 9, when the firm’s controller clicked a link embedded in an image in an email designed to look as though it was sent by the U.S. Postal Service and alerting the recipient about a wayward parcel. The link in the image loaded content from a site hosting the BlackHole exploit kit, which downloaded the ZeuS Trojan to the controller’s PC.

Interestingly, the fuel company and its bank said one of the money mules that the attackers recruited to help launder the stolen funds turned out to be an employee of Wells Fargo from Alabama. Many money mules are simply not the brightest bulbs, and it is usually difficult to prove that they weren’t scammed as well (because more often than not, the mules end up losing money).  But one would think people who work for banks should be at least be aware of these schemes, and held to a higher standard. What’s more, if this mule wasn’t complicit then he probably suspected something wasn’t right, because he had the funds sent to an account he controlled at a local credit union in Birmingham — rather than an account at Wells Fargo.

By the way, this is the second time I’ve encountered a money mule working at a major bank. Last year, I tracked down a woman at PNC Bank in Maryland who was hired by a mule recruitment gang and later helped move nearly $4,500 from a victim business in North Carolina to cybercriminals in Ukraine. She claimed she did not understand what she had done until I contacted her.

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10
Jul 12

Plesk 0Day For Sale As Thousands of Sites Hacked

Hackers in the criminal underground are selling an exploit that extracts the master password needed to control Parallels’ Plesk Panel, a software suite used to remotely administer hosted servers at a large number of Internet hosting firms. The attack comes amid reports from multiple sources indicating a spike in Web site compromises that appear to trace back to  Plesk installations.

A hacker selling access to a Plesk exploit.

A miscreant on one very exclusive cybercrime forum has been selling the ability to hack any site running Plesk Panel version 10.4.4 and earlier. The hacker, a longtime member of the forum who has a history of selling reliable software exploits, has even developed a point-and-click tool that he claims can recover the admin password from a vulnerable Plesk installation, as well as read and write files to the Plesk Panel (see screen shot at right).

The exploit is being sold for $8,000 a pop, and according to the seller the vulnerability it targets remains unpatched. Multiple other members appear to have used it and vouched for its value.

It’s unclear whether this claimed exploit is related to a rash of recent attacks against Plesk installations. Sucuri Malware Labs, a company that tracks mass Web site compromises, told SC Magazine that some 50,000 sites have recently been compromised as part of a sustained malware injection attack, and that a majority of the hacked sites involved Plesk installations.

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