November, 2016


4
Nov 16

Ne’er-Do-Well News and Cyber Justice

Way back in the last millennium when I was a lowly copy aide at The Washington Post, I pitched the Metro Section editor on an idea for new column: “And the Good News Is…” The editor laughed me out of her office. But I still think it’s a decent idea — particularly in the context of cybersecurity — to periodically highlight the good news when people allegedly responsible for spewing so much badness online are made to face justice.

NCA officials lead away a suspect arrested in this week's raids. Image: NCA.

NCA officials lead away a suspect arrested in this week’s raids. Image: NCA.

In the United Kingdom this week, 14 people were arrested on suspicion of laundering at least £11 million (~USD $13.7M) on behalf of thieves who stole the money using sophisticated banking Trojans like Dridex and Dyre. A statement issued by the U.K.’s National Crime Agency (NCA) said 13 men and a woman, aged between 23 and 52, were arrested in the roundup, including a number of foreign nationals.

The NCA warned in a report released this year that cybercrime had overtaken traditional crime in the United Kingdom. According to the U.K.’s Office of National Statistics, there were 2.46 million cyber incidents and 2.11 million victims of cybercrime in the U.K. in 2015.

Also in the U.K., 19-year-old Adam Mudd pleaded guilty to operating and profiting from Titanium Stresser, an attack-for-hire or “booter” service that could be hired to knock Web sites offline. When U.K. authorities arrested Mudd at his home last year, they found detailed records of the attack service’s customers and victims, which included evidence of more than 1.7 million attacks. Prosecutors say Mudd launched the service when he was 15 years old.

TitaniumStresser[dot]net, as it appeared in 2014.

TitaniumStresser[dot]net, as it appeared in 2014.

As I noted in this 2014 story, the source code for Titanium Stresser was later used by miscreants with the Lizard Squad hacking group to power their Lizard Stresser attack service. Happily, two other 19-year-olds were arrested earlier this month and accused of operating the Lizard Stresser attack service. It’s nice to see authorities here and abroad sending a message that operating booter service can land you in jail, full stop. Continue reading →


2
Nov 16

Computer Virus Cripples UK Hospital System

Citing a computer virus outbreak, a hospital system in the United Kingdom has canceled all planned operations and diverted major trauma cases to neighboring facilities. The incident came as U.K. leaders detailed a national cyber security strategy that promises billions in cybersecurity spending, new special police units to pursue organized online gangs, and the possibility of retaliation for major attacks.

In a “major incident” alert posted to its Web site, the National Health Service’s Lincolnshire and Goole trust said it made the decision to cancel surgeries and divert trauma patients after a virus infected its electronic systems on Sunday, October 30.

A portion of an alert posted to the NHS's home page.

A portion of the alert posted to the NHS’s home page.

“We have taken the decision, following expert advise, to shut down the majority of our systems so we can isolate and destroy it,” the NHS said, of the unspecified malware infection. “All planned operations, outpatient appointments and diagnostic procedures have been cancelled for Wednesday, Nov. 2 with a small number of exceptions.”

The advisory continued:

“Inpatients will continue to be cared for and discharged as soon as they are medically fit. Major trauma cases will continue to be diverted to neighboring hospitals as will high risk women in labour.”

Although the NHS didn’t say what kind of virus infected its systems, it is likely an infestation of ransomware — a malware scourge whose purveyors have taken to targeting hospitals and healthcare facilities.

Ransomware scours an infected computer for documents, audio files, pictures and other things likely to be of value to the system’s owner, and then encrypts that data with very powerful encryption software. Most ransomware variants also scour the local network for other systems or network shares to infect. Victims usually can only get their files back after paying a specified ransom demand using a virtual currency, such as Bitcoin. Continue reading →