Stark Industries Solutions: An Iron Hammer in the Cloud

May 23, 2024

The homepage of Stark Industries Solutions.

Two weeks before Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, a large, mysterious new Internet hosting firm called Stark Industries Solutions materialized and quickly became the epicenter of massive distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks on government and commercial targets in Ukraine and Europe. An investigation into Stark Industries reveals it is being used as a global proxy network that conceals the true source of cyberattacks and disinformation campaigns against enemies of Russia.

At least a dozen patriotic Russian hacking groups have been launching DDoS attacks since the start of the war at a variety of targets seen as opposed to Moscow. But by all accounts, few attacks from those gangs have come close to the amount of firepower wielded by a pro-Russia group calling itself “NoName057(16).”

This graphic comes from a recent report from NETSCOUT about DDoS attacks from Russian hacktivist groups.

As detailed by researchers at Radware, NoName has effectively gamified DDoS attacks, recruiting hacktivists via its Telegram channel and offering to pay people who agree to install a piece of software called DDoSia. That program allows NoName to commandeer the host computers and their Internet connections in coordinated DDoS campaigns, and DDoSia users with the most attacks can win cash prizes.

The NoName DDoS group advertising on Telegram. Image: SentinelOne.com.

A report from the security firm Team Cymru found the DDoS attack infrastructure used in NoName campaigns is assigned to two interlinked hosting providers: MIRhosting and Stark Industries. MIRhosting is a hosting provider founded in The Netherlands in 2004. But Stark Industries Solutions Ltd was incorporated on February 10, 2022, just two weeks before the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

PROXY WARS

Security experts say that not long after the war started, Stark began hosting dozens of proxy services and free virtual private networking (VPN) services, which are designed to help users shield their Internet usage and location from prying eyes.

Proxy providers allow users to route their Internet and Web browsing traffic through someone else’s computer. From a website’s perspective, the traffic from a proxy network user appears to originate from the rented IP address, not from the proxy service customer.

These services can be used in a legitimate manner for several business purposes — such as price comparisons or sales intelligence — but they are also massively abused for hiding cybercrime activity because they can make it difficult to trace malicious traffic to its original source.

What’s more, many proxy services do not disclose how they obtain access to the proxies they are renting out, and in many cases the access is obtained through the dissemination of malicious software that turns the infected system into a traffic relay — usually unbeknownst to the legitimate owner of the Internet connection. Other proxy services will allow users to make money by renting out their Internet connection to anyone.

Spur.us is a company that tracks VPNs and proxy services worldwide. Spur finds that Stark Industries (AS44477) currently is home to at least 74 VPN services, and 40 different proxy services. As we’ll see in the final section of this story, just one of those proxy networks has over a million Internet addresses  available for rent across the globe.

Raymond Dijkxhoorn operates a hosting firm in The Netherlands called Prolocation. He also co-runs SURBL, an anti-abuse service that flags domains and Internet address ranges that are strongly associated with spam and cybercrime activity, including DDoS.

Dijkxhoorn said last year SURBL heard from multiple people who said they operated VPN services whose web resources were included in SURBL’s block lists.

“We had people doing delistings at SURBL for domain names that were suspended by the registrars,” Dijkhoorn told KrebsOnSecurity. “And at least two of them explained that Stark offered them free VPN services that they were reselling.”

Dijkxhoorn added that Stark Industries also sponsored activist groups from Ukraine.

“How valuable would it be for Russia to know the real IPs from Ukraine’s tech warriors?” he observed. Continue reading

Why Your Wi-Fi Router Doubles as an Apple AirTag

May 21, 2024

Image: Shutterstock.

Apple and the satellite-based broadband service Starlink each recently took steps to address new research into the potential security and privacy implications of how their services geo-locate devices. Researchers from the University of Maryland say they relied on publicly available data from Apple to track the location of billions of devices globally — including non-Apple devices like Starlink systems — and found they could use this data to monitor the destruction of Gaza, as well as the movements and in many cases identities of Russian and Ukrainian troops.

At issue is the way that Apple collects and publicly shares information about the precise location of all Wi-Fi access points seen by its devices. Apple collects this location data to give Apple devices a crowdsourced, low-power alternative to constantly requesting global positioning system (GPS) coordinates.

Both Apple and Google operate their own Wi-Fi-based Positioning Systems (WPS) that obtain certain hardware identifiers from all wireless access points that come within range of their mobile devices. Both record the Media Access Control (MAC) address that a Wi-FI access point uses, known as a Basic Service Set Identifier or BSSID.

Periodically, Apple and Google mobile devices will forward their locations — by querying GPS and/or by using cellular towers as landmarks — along with any nearby BSSIDs. This combination of data allows Apple and Google devices to figure out where they are within a few feet or meters, and it’s what allows your mobile phone to continue displaying your planned route even when the device can’t get a fix on GPS.

With Google’s WPS, a wireless device submits a list of nearby Wi-Fi access point BSSIDs and their signal strengths — via an application programming interface (API) request to Google — whose WPS responds with the device’s computed position. Google’s WPS requires at least two BSSIDs to calculate a device’s approximate position.

Apple’s WPS also accepts a list of nearby BSSIDs, but instead of computing the device’s location based off the set of observed access points and their received signal strengths and then reporting that result to the user, Apple’s API will return the geolocations of up to 400 hundred more BSSIDs that are nearby the one requested. It then uses approximately eight of those BSSIDs to work out the user’s location based on known landmarks.

In essence, Google’s WPS computes the user’s location and shares it with the device. Apple’s WPS gives its devices a large enough amount of data about the location of known access points in the area that the devices can do that estimation on their own.

That’s according to two researchers at the University of Maryland, who theorized they could use the verbosity of Apple’s API to map the movement of individual devices into and out of virtually any defined area of the world. The UMD pair said they spent a month early in their research continuously querying the API, asking it for the location of more than a billion BSSIDs generated at random.

They learned that while only about three million of those randomly generated BSSIDs were known to Apple’s Wi-Fi geolocation API, Apple also returned an additional 488 million BSSID locations already stored in its WPS from other lookups.

UMD Associate Professor David Levin and Ph.D student Erik Rye found they could mostly avoid requesting unallocated BSSIDs by consulting the list of BSSID ranges assigned to specific device manufacturers. That list is maintained by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), which is also sponsoring the privacy and security conference where Rye is slated to present the UMD research later today.

Plotting the locations returned by Apple’s WPS between November 2022 and November 2023, Levin and Rye saw they had a near global view of the locations tied to more than two billion Wi-Fi access points. The map showed geolocated access points in nearly every corner of the globe, apart from almost the entirety of China, vast stretches of desert wilderness in central Australia and Africa, and deep in the rainforests of South America.

A “heatmap” of BSSIDs the UMD team said they discovered by guessing randomly at BSSIDs.

The researchers said that by zeroing in on or “geofencing” other smaller regions indexed by Apple’s location API, they could monitor how Wi-Fi access points moved over time. Why might that be a big deal? They found that by geofencing active conflict zones in Ukraine, they were able to determine the location and movement of Starlink devices used by both Ukrainian and Russian forces.

The reason they were able to do that is that each Starlink terminal — the dish and associated hardware that allows a Starlink customer to receive Internet service from a constellation of orbiting Starlink satellites — includes its own Wi-Fi access point, whose location is going to be automatically indexed by any nearby Apple devices that have location services enabled.

A heatmap of Starlink routers in Ukraine. Image: UMD.

The University of Maryland team geo-fenced various conflict zones in Ukraine, and identified at least 3,722 Starlink terminals geolocated in Ukraine.

“We find what appear to be personal devices being brought by military personnel into war zones, exposing pre-deployment sites and military positions,” the researchers wrote. “Our results also show individuals who have left Ukraine to a wide range of countries, validating public reports of where Ukrainian refugees have resettled.”

In an interview with KrebsOnSecurity, the UMD team said they found that in addition to exposing Russian troop pre-deployment sites, the location data made it easy to see where devices in contested regions originated from.

“This includes residential addresses throughout the world,” Levin said. “We even believe we can identify people who have joined the Ukraine Foreign Legion.”

A simplified map of where BSSIDs that enter the Donbas and Crimea regions of Ukraine originate. Image: UMD.

Levin and Rye said they shared their findings with Starlink in March 2024, and that Starlink told them the company began shipping software updates in 2023 that force Starlink access points to randomize their BSSIDs. Continue reading

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Patch Tuesday, May 2024 Edition

May 14, 2024

Microsoft today released updates to fix more than 60 security holes in Windows computers and supported software, including two “zero-day” vulnerabilities in Windows that are already being exploited in active attacks. There are also important security patches available for macOS and Adobe users, and for the Chrome Web browser, which just patched its own zero-day flaw.

First, the zero-days. CVE-2024-30051 is an “elevation of privilege” bug in a core Windows library. Satnam Narang at Tenable said this flaw is being used as part of post-compromise activity to elevate privileges as a local attacker.

“CVE-2024-30051 is used to gain initial access into a target environment and requires the use of social engineering tactics via email, social media or instant messaging to convince a target to open a specially crafted document file,” Narang said. “Once exploited, the attacker can bypass OLE mitigations in Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Office, which are security features designed to protect end users from malicious files.”

Kaspersky Lab, one of two companies credited with reporting exploitation of CVE-2024-30051 to Microsoft, has published a fascinating writeup on how they discovered the exploit in a file shared with Virustotal.com.

Kaspersky said it has since seen the exploit used together with QakBot and other malware. Emerging in 2007 as a banking trojan, QakBot (a.k.a. Qbot and Pinkslipbot) has morphed into an advanced malware strain now used by multiple cybercriminal groups to prepare newly compromised networks for ransomware infestations.

CVE-2024-30040 is a security feature bypass in MSHTML, a component that is deeply tied to the default Web browser on Windows systems. Microsoft’s advisory on this flaw is fairly sparse, but Kevin Breen from Immersive Labs said this vulnerability also affects Office 365 and Microsoft Office applications.

“Very little information is provided and the short description is painfully obtuse,” Breen said of Microsoft’s advisory on CVE-2024-30040.

Continue reading

How Did Authorities Identify the Alleged Lockbit Boss?

May 13, 2024

Last week, the United States joined the U.K. and Australia in sanctioning and charging a Russian man named Dmitry Yuryevich Khoroshev as the leader of the infamous LockBit ransomware group. LockBit’s leader “LockBitSupp” claims the feds named the wrong guy, saying the charges don’t explain how they connected him to Khoroshev. This post examines the activities of Khoroshev’s many alter egos on the cybercrime forums, and tracks the career of a gifted malware author who has written and sold malicious code for the past 14 years.

Dmitry Yuryevich Khoroshev. Image: treasury.gov.

On May 7, the U.S. Department of Justice indicted Khoroshev on 26 criminal counts, including extortion, wire fraud, and conspiracy. The government alleges Khoroshev created, sold and used the LockBit ransomware strain to personally extort more than $100 million from hundreds of victim organizations, and that LockBit as a group extorted roughly half a billion dollars over four years.

Federal investigators say Khoroshev ran LockBit as a “ransomware-as-a-service” operation, wherein he kept 20 percent of any ransom amount paid by a victim organization infected with his code, with the remaining 80 percent of the payment going to LockBit affiliates responsible for spreading the malware.

Financial sanctions levied against Khoroshev by the U.S. Department of the Treasury listed his known email and street address (in Voronezh, in southwest Russia), passport number, and even his tax ID number (hello, Russian tax authorities). The Treasury filing says Khoroshev used the emails sitedev5@yandex.ru, and khoroshev1@icloud.com.

According to DomainTools.com, the address sitedev5@yandex.ru was used to register at least six domains, including a Russian business registered in Khoroshev’s name called tkaner.com, which is a blog about clothing and fabrics.

A search at the breach-tracking service Constella Intelligence on the phone number in Tkaner’s registration records  — 7.9521020220 — brings up multiple official Russian government documents listing the number’s owner as Dmitri Yurievich Khoroshev.

Another domain registered to that phone number was stairwell[.]ru, which at one point advertised the sale of wooden staircases. Constella finds that the email addresses webmaster@stairwell.ru and admin@stairwell.ru used the password 225948.

DomainTools reports that stairwell.ru for several years included the registrant’s name as “Dmitrij Ju Horoshev,” and the email address pin@darktower.su. According to Constella, this email address was used in 2010 to register an account for a Dmitry Yurievich Khoroshev from Voronezh, Russia at the hosting provider firstvds.ru.

Image: Shutterstock.

Cyber intelligence firm Intel 471 finds that pin@darktower.ru was used by a Russian-speaking member called Pin on the English-language cybercrime forum Opensc. Pin was active on Opensc around March 2012, and authored 13 posts that mostly concerned data encryption issues, or how to fix bugs in code.

Other posts concerned custom code Pin claimed to have written that would bypass memory protections on Windows XP and Windows 7 systems, and inject malware into memory space normally allocated to trusted applications on a Windows machine.

Pin also was active at that same time on the Russian-language security forum Antichat, where they told fellow forum members to contact them at the ICQ instant messenger number 669316.

NEROWOLFE

A search on the ICQ number 669316 at Intel 471 shows that in April 2011, a user by the name NeroWolfe joined the Russian cybercrime forum Zloy using the email address d.horoshev@gmail.com, and from an Internet address in Voronezh, RU.

Constella finds the same password tied to webmaster@stairwell.ru (225948) was used by the email address 3k@xakep.ru, which Intel 471 says was registered to more than a dozen NeroWolfe accounts across just as many Russian cybercrime forums between 2011 and 2015.

NeroWolfe’s introductory post to the forum Verified in Oct. 2011 said he was a system administrator and C++ coder.

“Installing SpyEYE, ZeuS, any DDoS and spam admin panels,” NeroWolfe wrote. This user said they specialize in developing malware, creating computer worms, and crafting new ways to hijack Web browsers.

“I can provide my portfolio on request,” NeroWolfe wrote. “P.S. I don’t modify someone else’s code or work with someone else’s frameworks.”

In April 2013, NeroWolfe wrote in a private message to another Verified forum user that he was selling a malware “loader” program that could bypass all of the security protections on Windows XP and Windows 7.

“The access to the network is slightly restricted,” NeroWolfe said of the loader, which he was selling for $5,000. “You won’t manage to bind a port. However, it’s quite possible to send data. The code is written in C.”

In an October 2013 discussion on the cybercrime forum Exploit, NeroWolfe weighed in on the karmic ramifications of ransomware. At the time, ransomware-as-a-service didn’t exist yet, and many members of Exploit were still making good money from “lockers,” relatively crude programs that locked the user out of their system until they agreed to make a small payment (usually a few hundred dollars via prepaid Green Dot cards).

Lockers, which presaged the coming ransomware scourge, were generally viewed by the Russian-speaking cybercrime forums as harmless moneymaking opportunities, because they usually didn’t seek to harm the host computer or endanger files on the system. Also, there were still plenty of locker programs that aspiring cybercriminals could either buy or rent to make a steady income.

NeroWolfe reminded forum denizens that they were just as vulnerable to ransomware attacks as their would-be victims, and that what goes around comes around.

“Guys, do you have a conscience?,” NeroWolfe wrote. “Okay, lockers, network gopstop aka business in Russian. The last thing was always squeezed out of the suckers. But encoders, no one is protected from them, including the local audience.” Continue reading

U.S. Charges Russian Man as Boss of LockBit Ransomware Group

May 7, 2024

The United States joined the United Kingdom and Australia today in sanctioning 31-year-old Russian national Dmitry Yuryevich Khoroshev as the alleged leader of the infamous ransomware group LockBit. The U.S. Department of Justice also indicted Khoroshev and charged him with using Lockbit to attack more than 2,000 victims and extort at least $100 million in ransomware payments.

Image: U.K. National Crime Agency.

Khoroshev (Дмитрий Юрьевич Хорошев), a resident of Voronezh, Russia, was charged in a 26-count indictment by a grand jury in New Jersey.

“Dmitry Khoroshev conceived, developed, and administered Lockbit, the most prolific ransomware variant and group in the world, enabling himself and his affiliates to wreak havoc and cause billions of dollars in damage to thousands of victims around the globe,” U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger said in a statement released by the Justice Department.

The indictment alleges Khoroshev acted as the LockBit ransomware group’s developer and administrator from its inception in September 2019 through May 2024, and that he typically received a 20 percent share of each ransom payment extorted from LockBit victims.

The government says LockBit victims included individuals, small businesses, multinational corporations, hospitals, schools, nonprofit organizations, critical infrastructure, and government and law-enforcement agencies.

“Khoroshev and his co-conspirators extracted at least $500 million in ransom payments from their victims and caused billions of dollars in broader losses, such as lost revenue, incident response, and recovery,” the DOJ said. “The LockBit ransomware group attacked more than 2,500 victims in at least 120 countries, including 1,800 victims in the United States.”

The unmasking of LockBitSupp comes nearly three months after U.S. and U.K. authorities seized the darknet websites run by LockBit, retrofitting it with press releases about the law enforcement action and free tools to help LockBit victims decrypt infected systems.

The feds used the existing design on LockBit’s victim shaming website to feature press releases and free decryption tools.

One of the blog captions that authorities left on the seized site was a teaser page that read, “Who is LockbitSupp?,” which promised to reveal the true identity of the ransomware group leader. That item featured a countdown clock until the big reveal, but when the site’s timer expired no such details were offered.

Following the FBI’s raid, LockBitSupp took to Russian cybercrime forums to assure his partners and affiliates that the ransomware operation was still fully operational. LockBitSupp also raised another set of darknet websites that soon promised to release data stolen from a number of LockBit victims ransomed prior to the FBI raid.

One of the victims LockBitSupp continued extorting was Fulton County, Ga. Following the FBI raid, LockbitSupp vowed to release sensitive documents stolen from the county court system unless paid a ransom demand before LockBit’s countdown timer expired. But when Fulton County officials refused to pay and the timer expired, no stolen records were ever published. Experts said it was likely the FBI had in fact seized all of LockBit’s stolen data.

LockBitSupp also bragged that their real identity would never be revealed, and at one point offered to pay $10 million to anyone who could discover their real name.

KrebsOnSecurity has been in intermittent contact with LockBitSupp for several months over the course of reporting on different LockBit victims. Reached at the same ToX instant messenger identity that the ransomware group leader has promoted on Russian cybercrime forums, LockBitSupp claimed the authorities named the wrong guy.

“It’s not me,” LockBitSupp replied in Russian. “I don’t understand how the FBI was able to connect me with this poor guy. Where is the logical chain that it is me? Don’t you feel sorry for a random innocent person?”

LockBitSupp, who now has a $10 million bounty for his arrest from the U.S. Department of State, has been known to be flexible with the truth. The Lockbit group routinely practiced “double extortion” against its victims — requiring one ransom payment for a key to unlock hijacked systems, and a separate payment in exchange for a promise to delete data stolen from its victims.

But Justice Department officials say LockBit never deleted its victim data, regardless of whether those organizations paid a ransom to keep the information from being published on LockBit’s victim shaming website. Continue reading

Why Your VPN May Not Be As Secure As It Claims

May 6, 2024

Virtual private networking (VPN) companies market their services as a way to prevent anyone from snooping on your Internet usage. But new research suggests this is a dangerous assumption when connecting to a VPN via an untrusted network, because attackers on the same network could force a target’s traffic off of the protection provided by their VPN without triggering any alerts to the user.

Image: Shutterstock.

When a device initially tries to connect to a network, it broadcasts a message to the entire local network stating that it is requesting an Internet address. Normally, the only system on the network that notices this request and replies is the router responsible for managing the network to which the user is trying to connect.

The machine on a network responsible for fielding these requests is called a Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) server, which will issue time-based leases for IP addresses. The DHCP server also takes care of setting a specific local address — known as an Internet gateway — that all connecting systems will use as a primary route to the Web.

VPNs work by creating a virtual network interface that serves as an encrypted tunnel for communications. But researchers at Leviathan Security say they’ve discovered it’s possible to abuse an obscure feature built into the DHCP standard so that other users on the local network are forced to connect to a rogue DHCP server.

“Our technique is to run a DHCP server on the same network as a targeted VPN user and to also set our DHCP configuration to use itself as a gateway,” Leviathan researchers Lizzie Moratti and Dani Cronce wrote. “When the traffic hits our gateway, we use traffic forwarding rules on the DHCP server to pass traffic through to a legitimate gateway while we snoop on it.”

The feature being abused here is known as DHCP option 121, and it allows a DHCP server to set a route on the VPN user’s system that is more specific than those used by most VPNs. Abusing this option, Leviathan found, effectively gives an attacker on the local network the ability to set up routing rules that have a higher priority than the routes for the virtual network interface that the target’s VPN creates.

“Pushing a route also means that the network traffic will be sent over the same interface as the DHCP server instead of the virtual network interface,” the Leviathan researchers said. “This is intended functionality that isn’t clearly stated in the RFC [standard]. Therefore, for the routes we push, it is never encrypted by the VPN’s virtual interface but instead transmitted by the network interface that is talking to the DHCP server. As an attacker, we can select which IP addresses go over the tunnel and which addresses go over the network interface talking to our DHCP server.”

Leviathan found they could force VPNs on the local network that already had a connection to arbitrarily request a new one. In this well-documented tactic, known as a DHCP starvation attack, an attacker floods the DHCP server with requests that consume all available IP addresses that can be allocated. Once the network’s legitimate DHCP server is completely tied up, the attacker can then have their rogue DHCP server respond to all pending requests.

“This technique can also be used against an already established VPN connection once the VPN user’s host needs to renew a lease from our DHCP server,” the researchers wrote. “We can artificially create that scenario by setting a short lease time in the DHCP lease, so the user updates their routing table more frequently. In addition, the VPN control channel is still intact because it already uses the physical interface for its communication. In our testing, the VPN always continued to report as connected, and the kill switch was never engaged to drop our VPN connection.”

The researchers say their methods could be used by an attacker who compromises a DHCP server or wireless access point, or by a rogue network administrator who owns the infrastructure themselves and maliciously configures it. Alternatively, an attacker could set up an “evil twin” wireless hotspot that mimics the signal broadcast by a legitimate provider.

ANALYSIS

Bill Woodcock is executive director at Packet Clearing House, a nonprofit based in San Francisco. Woodcock said Option 121 has been included in the DHCP standard since 2002, which means the attack described by Leviathan has technically been possible for the last 22 years.

“They’re realizing now that this can be used to circumvent a VPN in a way that’s really problematic, and they’re right,” Woodcock said.

Woodcock said anyone who might be a target of spear phishing attacks should be very concerned about using VPNs on an untrusted network.

“Anyone who is in a position of authority or maybe even someone who is just a high net worth individual, those are all very reasonable targets of this attack,” he said. “If I were trying to do an attack against someone at a relatively high security company and I knew where they typically get their coffee or sandwich at twice a week, this is a very effective tool in that toolbox. I’d be a little surprised if it wasn’t already being exploited in that way, because again this isn’t rocket science. It’s just thinking a little outside the box.” Continue reading

Man Who Mass-Extorted Psychotherapy Patients Gets Six Years

April 30, 2024

A 26-year-old Finnish man was sentenced to more than six years in prison today after being convicted of hacking into an online psychotherapy clinic, leaking tens of thousands of patient therapy records, and attempting to extort the clinic and patients.

On October 21, 2020, the Vastaamo Psychotherapy Center in Finland became the target of blackmail when a tormentor identified as “ransom_man” demanded payment of 40 bitcoins (~450,000 euros at the time) in return for a promise not to publish highly sensitive therapy session notes Vastaamo had exposed online.

Ransom_man announced on the dark web that he would start publishing 100 patient profiles every 24 hours. When Vastaamo declined to pay, ransom_man shifted to extorting individual patients. According to Finnish police, some 22,000 victims reported extortion attempts targeting them personally, targeted emails that threatened to publish their therapy notes online unless paid a 500 euro ransom.

Finnish prosecutors quickly zeroed in on a suspect: Julius “Zeekill” Kivimäki, a notorious criminal hacker convicted of committing tens of thousands of cybercrimes before he became an adult. After being charged with the attack in October 2022, Kivimäki fled the country. He was arrested four months later in France, hiding out under an assumed name and passport.

Antti Kurittu is a former criminal investigator who worked on an investigation involving Kivimäki’s use of the Zbot botnet, among other activities Kivimäki engaged in as a member of the hacker group Hack the Planet (HTP).

Kurittu said the prosecution had demanded at least seven years in jail, and that the sentence handed down was six years and three months. Kurittu said prosecutors knocked a few months off of Kivimäki’s sentence because he agreed to pay compensation to his victims, and that Kivimäki will remain in prison during any appeal process.

“I think the sentencing was as expected, knowing the Finnish judicial system,” Kurittu told KrebsOnSecurity. “As Kivimäki has not been sentenced to a non-suspended prison sentence during the last five years, he will be treated as a first-timer, his previous convictions notwithstanding.”

But because juvenile convictions in Finland don’t count towards determining whether somebody is a first-time offender, Kivimäki will end up serving approximately half of his sentence.

“This seems like a short sentence when taking into account the gravity of his actions and the life-altering consequences to thousands of people, but it’s almost the maximum the law allows for,” Kurittu said. Continue reading

FCC Fines Major U.S. Wireless Carriers for Selling Customer Location Data

April 29, 2024

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) today levied fines totaling nearly $200 million against the four major carriers — including AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon — for illegally sharing access to customers’ location information without consent.

The fines mark the culmination of a more than four-year investigation into the actions of the major carriers. In February 2020, the FCC put all four wireless providers on notice that their practices of sharing access to customer location data were likely violating the law.

The FCC said it found the carriers each sold access to its customers’ location information to ‘aggregators,’ who then resold access to the information to third-party location-based service providers.

“In doing so, each carrier attempted to offload its obligations to obtain customer consent onto downstream recipients of location information, which in many instances meant that no valid customer consent was obtained,” an FCC statement on the action reads. “This initial failure was compounded when, after becoming aware that their safeguards were ineffective, the carriers continued to sell access to location information without taking reasonable measures to protect it from unauthorized access.”

The FCC’s findings against AT&T, for example, show that AT&T sold customer location data directly or indirectly to at least 88 third-party entities. The FCC found Verizon sold access to customer location data (indirectly or directly) to 67 third-party entities. Location data for Sprint customers found its way to 86 third-party entities, and to 75 third-parties in the case of T-Mobile customers.

The commission said it took action after Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) sent a letter to the FCC detailing how a company called Securus Technologies had been selling location data on customers of virtually any major mobile provider to law enforcement officials.

That same month, KrebsOnSecurity broke the news that LocationSmart — a data aggregation firm working with the major wireless carriers — had a free, unsecured demo of its service online that anyone could abuse to find the near-exact location of virtually any mobile phone in North America. Continue reading

Russian FSB Counterintelligence Chief Gets 9 Years in Cybercrime Bribery Scheme

April 22, 2024

The head of counterintelligence for a division of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) was sentenced last week to nine years in a penal colony for accepting a USD $1.7 million bribe to ignore the activities of a prolific Russian cybercrime group that hacked thousands of e-commerce websites. The protection scheme was exposed in 2022 when Russian authorities arrested six members of the group, which sold millions of stolen payment cards at flashy online shops like Trump’s Dumps.

A now-defunct carding shop that sold stolen credit cards and invoked 45’s likeness and name.

As reported by The Record, a Russian court last week sentenced former FSB officer Grigory Tsaregorodtsev for taking a $1.7 million bribe from a cybercriminal group that was seeking a “roof,” a well-placed, corrupt law enforcement official who could be counted on to both disregard their illegal hacking activities and run interference with authorities in the event of their arrest.

Tsaregorodtsev was head of the counterintelligence department for a division of the FSB based in Perm, Russia. In February 2022, Russian authorities arrested six men in the Perm region accused of selling stolen payment card data. They also seized multiple carding shops run by the gang, including Ferum Shop, Sky-Fraud, and Trump’s Dumps, a popular fraud store that invoked the 45th president’s likeness and promised to “make credit card fraud great again.”

All of the domains seized in that raid were registered by an IT consulting company in Perm called Get-net LLC, which was owned in part by Artem Zaitsev — one of the six men arrested. Zaitsev reportedly was a well-known programmer whose company supplied services and leasing to the local FSB field office. Continue reading

Who Stole 3.6M Tax Records from South Carolina?

April 16, 2024

For nearly a dozen years, residents of South Carolina have been kept in the dark by state and federal investigators over who was responsible for hacking into the state’s revenue department in 2012 and stealing tax and bank account information for 3.6 million people. The answer may no longer be a mystery: KrebsOnSecurity found compelling clues suggesting the intrusion was carried out by the same Russian hacking crew that stole of millions of payment card records from big box retailers like Home Depot and Target in the years that followed.

Questions about who stole tax and financial data on roughly three quarters of all South Carolina residents came to the fore last week at the confirmation hearing of Mark Keel, who was appointed in 2011 by Gov. Nikki Haley to head the state’s law enforcement division. If approved, this would be Keel’s third six-year term in that role.

The Associated Press reports that Keel was careful not to release many details about the breach at his hearing, telling lawmakers he knows who did it but that he wasn’t ready to name anyone.

“I think the fact that we didn’t come up with a whole lot of people’s information that got breached is a testament to the work that people have done on this case,” Keel asserted.

A ten-year retrospective published in 2022 by The Post and Courier in Columbia, S.C. said investigators determined the breach began on Aug. 13, 2012, after a state IT contractor clicked a malicious link in an email. State officials said they found out about the hack from federal law enforcement on October 10, 2012.

KrebsOnSecurity examined posts across dozens of cybercrime forums around that time, and found only one instance of someone selling large volumes of tax data in the year surrounding the breach date.

On Oct. 7, 2012 — three days before South Carolina officials say they first learned of the intrusion — a notorious cybercriminal who goes by the handle “Rescator” advertised the sale of “a database of the tax department of one of the states.”

“Bank account information, SSN and all other information,” Rescator’s sales thread on the Russian-language crime forum Embargo read. “If you purchase the entire database, I will give you access to it.”

A week later, Rescator posted a similar offer on the exclusive Russian forum Mazafaka, saying he was selling information from a U.S. state tax database, without naming the state. Rescator said the data exposed included Social Security Number (SSN), employer, name, address, phone, taxable income, tax refund amount, and bank account number.

“There is a lot of information, I am ready to sell the entire database, with access to the database, and in parts,” Rescator told Mazafaka members. “There is also information on corporate taxpayers.” Continue reading