Report: Missouri Governor’s Office Responsible for Teacher Data Leak

February 22, 2022

Missouri Governor Mike Parson made headlines last year when he vowed to criminally prosecute a journalist for reporting a security flaw in a state website that exposed personal information of more than 100,000 teachers. But Missouri prosecutors now say they will not pursue charges following revelations that the data had been exposed since 2011 — two years after responsibility for securing the state’s IT systems was centralized within Parson’s own Office of Administration.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson (R), vowing to prosecute the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for reporting a security vulnerability that exposed teacher SSNs.

In October 2021, St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Josh Renaud alerted Missouri education department officials that their website was exposing the Social Security numbers of more than 100,000 primary and secondary teachers in the state. Renaud found teachers’ SSNs were accessible in the HTML source code of some Missouri education department webpages.

After confirming that state IT officials had secured the exposed teacher data, the Post-Dispatch ran a story about their findings. Gov. Parson responded by holding a press conference in which he vowed his administration would seek to prosecute and investigate “the hackers” and anyone who aided the publication in its “attempt to embarrass the state and sell headlines for their news outlet.”

“The state is committed to bringing to justice anyone who hacked our systems or anyone who aided them to do so,” Parson said in October. “A hacker is someone who gains unauthorized access to information or content. This individual did not have permission to do what they did. They had no authorization to convert or decode, so this was clearly a hack.”

Parson tasked the Missouri Highway Patrol to produce a report on their investigation into “the hackers.”  On Monday, Feb. 21, The Post-Dispatch published the 158-page report (PDF), which concluded after 175 hours of investigation that Renaud did nothing wrong and only accessed information that was publicly available.

Emails later obtained by the Post-Dispatch showed that the FBI told state cybersecurity officials that there was “not an actual network intrusion” and the state database was “misconfigured.” The emails also revealed the proposed message when education department leaders initially prepared to respond in October:

“We are grateful to the member of the media who brought this to the state’s attention,” was the proposed quote attributed to the state’s education commissioner before Parson began shooting the messenger. Continue reading

Red Cross Hack Linked to Iranian Influence Operation?

February 16, 2022

A network intrusion at the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) in January led to the theft of personal information on more than 500,000 people receiving assistance from the group. KrebsOnSecurity has learned that the email address used by a cybercriminal actor who offered to sell the stolen ICRC data also was used to register multiple domain names the FBI says are tied to a sprawling media influence operation originating from Iran.

On Jan. 19, the ICRC disclosed the compromise of servers hosting the personal information of more than 500,000 people receiving services from the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. The ICRC said the hacked servers contained data relating to the organization’s Restoring Family Links services, which works to reconnect people separated by war, violence, migration and other causes.

The same day the ICRC went public with its breach, someone using the nickname “Sheriff” on the English-language cybercrime forum RaidForums advertised the sale of data from the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. Sheriff’s sales thread suggests the ICRC was asked to pay a ransom to guarantee the data wouldn’t be leaked or sold online.

“Mr. Mardini, your words have been heard,” Sheriff wrote, posting a link to the Twitter profile of ICRC General Director Robert Mardini and urging forum members to tell him to check his email. “Check your email and send a figure you can pay.”

RaidForums member “unindicted” aka Sheriff selling access to the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement data. Image:

In their online statement about the hack (updated on Feb. 7) the ICRC said it had not had any contact with the hackers, and no ransom demand had been made.

“In line with our standing practice to engage with any actor who can facilitate or impede our humanitarian work, we are willing to communicate directly and confidentially with whoever may be responsible for this operation to impress upon them the need to respect our humanitarian action,” the ICRC statement reads.

Asked to comment on Sheriff’s claims, the ICRC issued the following statement:

“Right now, we do not have any conclusive evidence that this information from the data breach has been published or is being traded. Our cybersecurity team has looked into any reported allegation of data being available on the dark web.”

Update, 2:00 p.m., ET: The ICRC just published an update to its FAQ on the breach. The ICRC now says the hackers broke in on Nov. 9, 2021, using an unpatched critical vulnerability (CVE-2021-40539). “This vulnerability allows malicious cyber actors to place web shells and conduct post-exploitation activities such as compromising administrator credentials, conducting lateral movement, and exfiltrating registry hives and Active Directory files. Once inside our network, the hackers were able to deploy offensive security tools which allowed them to disguise themselves as legitimate users or administrators. This in turn allowed them to access the data, despite this data being encrypted.”

Original story:

The email address that Sheriff used to register at RaidForums — — appears in an affidavit for a search warrant filed by the FBI roughly a year ago. That FBI warrant came on the heels of an investigation published by security firm FireEye, which examined an Iranian-based network of inauthentic news sites and social media accounts aimed at the United States., U.K. and other western audiences.

“This operation is leveraging a network of inauthentic news sites and clusters of associated accounts across multiple social media platforms to promote political narratives in line with Iranian interests,” FireEye researchers wrote. “These narratives include anti-Saudi, anti-Israeli, and pro-Palestinian themes, as well as support for specific U.S. policies favorable to Iran.”

The FBI says the domains registered by the email address tied to Sheriff’s RaidForums account were used in service of the Liberty Front Press, a network of phony news sites thought to originate from Iran.

According to the FBI affidavit, the address was used to register at least three different domains for phony news sites, including awdnews[.]com, sachtimes[.]com, and whatsupic[.]com. A reverse WHOIS search on that email address at (an advertiser on this site) shows it was used to register 17 domains between 2012 and 2021, including moslimyouthmedia[.]com, moslempress[.]com, and realneinovosti[.]net. Continue reading


Wazawaka Goes Waka Waka

February 14, 2022

In January, KrebsOnSecurity examined clues left behind by “Wazawaka,” the hacker handle chosen by a major ransomware criminal in the Russian-speaking cybercrime scene. Wazawaka has since “lost his mind” according to his erstwhile colleagues, creating a Twitter account to drop exploit code for a widely-used virtual private networking (VPN) appliance, and publishing bizarre selfie videos taunting security researchers and journalists.

Wazawaka, a.k.a. Mikhail P. Matveev, a.k.a. “Orange,” a.k.a. “Boriselcin,” showing off his missing ring finger.

In last month’s story, we explored clues that led from Wazawaka’s multitude of monikers, email addresses, and passwords to a 30-something father in Abakan, Russia named Mikhail Pavlovich Matveev. This post concerns itself with the other half of Wazawaka’s identities not mentioned in the first story, such as how Wazawaka also ran the Babuk ransomware affiliate program, and later became “Orange,” the founder of the ransomware-focused Dark Web forum known as “RAMP.”

The same day the initial profile on Wazawaka was published here, someone registered the Twitter account “@fuck_maze,” a possible reference to the now-defunct Maze Ransomware gang.

The background photo for the @fuck_maze profile included a logo that read “Waka Waka;” the bio for the account took a swipe at Dmitry Smilyanets, a researcher and blogger for The Record who was once part of a cybercrime group the Justice Department called the “largest known data breach conspiracy ever prosecuted.”

The @fuck_maze account messaged me a few times on Twitter, but largely stayed silent until Jan. 25, when it tweeted three videos of a man who appeared identical to Matveev’s social media profile on Vkontakte (the Russian version of Facebook). The man seemed to be slurring his words quite a bit, and started by hurling obscenities at Smilyanets, journalist Catalin Cimpanu (also at The Record), and a security researcher from Cisco Talos.

At the beginning of the videos, Matveev holds up his left hand to demonstrate that his ring finger is missing. This he smugly presents as evidence that he is indeed Wazawaka.

The story goes that Wazwaka at one point made a bet wherein he wagered his finger, and upon losing the bet severed it himself. It’s unclear if that is the real story about how Wazawaka lost the ring finger on his left hand; his remaining fingers appear oddly crooked.

“Hello Brian Krebs! You did a really great job actually, really well, fucking great — it’s great that journalism works so well in the US,” Matveev said in the video. “By the way, it is my voice in the background, I just love myself a lot.”

In one of his three videos, Wazawaka says he’s going to release exploit code for a security vulnerability. Later that same day, the @fuck_maze account posted a link to a Pastebin-like site that included working exploit code for a recently patched security hole in SonicWall VPN appliances (CVE-2021-20028).

When KrebsOnSecurity first started researching Wazawaka in 2021, it appeared this individual also used two other important nicknames on the Russian-speaking crime forums. One was Boriselcin, a particularly talkative and brash personality who was simultaneously the public persona of Babuk, a ransomware affiliate program that surfaced on New Year’s Eve 2020.

The other handle that appeared tied to Wazawaka was “Orange,” the founder of the RAMP ransomware forum. I just couldn’t convincingly connect those two identities with Wazawaka using the information available at the time. This post is an attempt to remedy that. Continue reading

Russian Govt. Continues Carding Shop Crackdown

February 9, 2022

Russian authorities have arrested six men accused of operating some of the most active online bazaars for selling stolen payment card data. The crackdown — the second closure of major card fraud shops by Russian authorities in as many weeks — comes closely behind Russia’s arrest of 14 alleged affiliates of the REvil ransomware gang, and has many in the cybercrime underground asking who might be next.

Dept. K’s message for Trump’s Dumps users.

On Feb. 7 and 8, the domains for the carding shops Trump’s Dumps, Ferum Shop, Sky-Fraud and UAS were seized by Department K, a division of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation that focuses on computer crimes. The websites for the carding stores were retrofitted with a message from Dept. K asking, “Which one of you is next?”

According to cyber intelligence analysts at Flashpoint, that same message was included in the website for UniCC, another major and venerated carding shop that was seized by Dept. K in January.

Around the same time Trump’s Dumps and the other three shops began displaying the Dept. K message, the Russian state-owned news outlet TASS moved a story naming six Russian men who were being charged with “the illegal circulation of means of payment.”

TASS reports the six detained include Denis Pachevsky, general director of Saratovfilm Film Company LLC; Alexander Kovalev, an individual entrepreneur; Artem Bystrykh, an employee of Transtekhkom LLC; Artem Zaitsev; an employee of Get-net LLC; and two unemployed workers, Vladislav Gilev and Yaroslav Solovyov.

None of the stories about the arrests tie the men to the four carding sites. But Flashpoint found that all of the domains seized by Dept. K. were registered and hosted through Zaitsev’s company — Get-net LLC.

“All four sites frequently advertised one another, which is generally atypical for two card marketplaces competing in the same space,” Flashpoint analysts wrote.

Stas Alforov is director of research for Gemini Advisory, a New York firm that monitors underground cybercrime markets. Alforov said it is most unusual for the Russians to go after carding sites that aren’t selling data stolen from Russian citizens.

“It’s not in their business to be taking down Russian card shops,” Alforov said. “Unless those shops were somehow selling data on Russian cardholders, which they weren’t.”

A carding shop that sold stolen credit cards and invoked 45’s likeness and name was among those taken down this week by Russian authorities.

Debuting in 2011, Ferum Shop is one of the oldest observed dark web marketplaces selling “card not present” data (customer payment records stolen from hacked online merchants), according to Gemini.

“Every year for the last 5 years, the marketplace has been a top 5 source of card not present records in terms of records posted for sale,” Gemini found. “In this time period, roughly 66% of Ferum Shop’s records have been from United States financial institutions. The remaining 34% have come from over 200 countries.”

In contrast, Trump’s Dumps focuses on selling card data stolen from hacked point-of-sale devices, and it benefited greatly from the January 2021 retirement of Joker’s Stash, which for years dwarfed most other carding shops by volume. Gemini found Trump’s Dumps gained roughly 40 percent market share after Joker’s closure, and that more than 87 percent of the payment card records it sells are from U.S. financial institutions.

“In the past 5 years, Ferum Shop and Trump’s Dumps have cumulatively added over 64 million compromised payment cards,” Alforov wrote. “Based on average demand for CP and CNP records and the median price of $10, the total revenue from these sales is estimated to be over $430 million. Due to the 20 to 30% commission that shops generally receive, the administrators of Ferum Shop and Trump’s Dumps likely generated between $86 and $129 million in profits from these card sales.” Continue reading

Microsoft Patch Tuesday, February 2022 Edition

February 8, 2022

Microsoft today released software updates to plug security holes in its Windows operating systems and related software. This month’s relatively light patch batch is refreshingly bereft of any zero-day threats, or even scary critical vulnerabilities. But it does fix four dozen flaws, including several that Microsoft says will likely soon be exploited by malware or malcontents.

While none of the patches address bugs that earned Microsoft’s most dire “critical” rating, there are multiple “remote code execution” vulnerabilities that Redmond believes are ripe for exploitation. Among those is CVE-2022-22005, a weakness in Microsoft’s Sharepoint Server versions 2013-2019 that could be exploited by any authenticated user.

“The vulnerability does require an attacker to be authenticated in order to exploit it, which is likely why Microsoft only labeled it ‘Important,'” said Allan Liska, senior security architect at Recorded Future. “However, given the number of stolen credentials readily available on underground markets, getting authenticated could be trivial. Organizations that have public-facing SharePoint Servers should prioritize implementing this patch.”

Kevin Breen at Immersive Labs called attention to CVE-2022-21996, an elevation of privilege vulnerability in the core Windows component “Win32k.”

“In January we saw CVE-2022-21882, a vulnerability in Win32k that was being actively exploited in the wild, which prompted CISA to issue a directive to all federal agencies to mandate that patches be applied,” Breen said. “February sees more patches for the same style of vulnerability in this same component. It’s not clear from the release notes whether this is a brand new vulnerability or if it is related to the previous month’s update. Either way, we have seen attackers leverage this vulnerability so it’s safer to err on the side of caution and update this one quickly.”

Another elevation of privilege flaw CVE-2022-21989 — in the Windows Kernel — was the only vulnerability fixed this month that was publicly disclosed prior to today.

“Despite the lack of critical fixes, it’s worth remembering that attackers love to use elevation of privilege vulnerabilities, of which there are 18 this month,” said Greg Wiseman, product manager at Rapid7. “Remote code execution vulnerabilities are also important to patch, even if they may not be considered ‘wormable.’ In terms of prioritization, defenders should first focus on patching server systems.”

February’s Patch Tuesday is once again brought to you by Print Spooler, the Windows component responsible for handling printing jobs. Four of the bugs quashed in this release relate to our friend Mr. Print Spooler. In July 2021, Microsoft issued an emergency fix for a Print Spooler flaw dubbed “PrintNightmare” that was actively being exploited to remotely compromise Windows PCs. Redmond has been steadily spooling out patches for this service ever since. Continue reading

IRS To Ditch Biometric Requirement for Online Access

February 7, 2022

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) said today it will be transitioning away from requiring biometric data from taxpayers who wish to access their records at the agency’s website. The reversal comes as privacy experts and lawmakers have been pushing the IRS and other federal agencies to find less intrusive methods for validating one’s identity with the U.S. government online.

Late last year, the login page for the IRS was updated with text advising that by the summer of 2022, the only way for taxpayers to access their records at will be through, an online identity verification service that collects biometric data — such as live facial scans using a mobile device or webcam.

The IRS first announced its partnership with in November, but the press release received virtually no attention. On Jan. 19, KrebsOnSecurity published the story IRS Will Soon Require Selfies for Online Access, detailing a rocky experience signing up for IRS access via That story immediately went viral, bringing this site an almost unprecedented amount of traffic. A tweet about it quickly garnered more than two million impressions.

It was clear most readers had no idea these new and more invasive requirements were being put in place at the IRS and other federal agencies (the Social Security Administration also is steering new signups to says it has approximately 64 million users, with 145,000 new users signing up each day. Still, the bulk of those users are people who have been forced to sign up with as a condition of receiving state or federal financial assistance, such as unemployment insurance, child tax credit payments, and pandemic assistance funds.

In the face of COVID, dozens of states collectively lost tens of billions of dollars at the hands of identity thieves impersonating out-of-work Americans seeking unemployment insurance. Some 30 states and 10 federal agencies now use to screen for ID thieves applying for benefits in someone else’s name.

But has been problematic for many legitimate applicants who saw benefits denied or delayed because they couldn’t complete’s verification process.  Critics charged the IRS’s plan would unfairly disadvantage people with disabilities or limited access to technology or Internet, and that facial recognition systems tend to be less accurate for people with darker skin.

Many readers were aghast that the IRS would ask people to hand over their biometric and personal data to a private company that begin in 2010 as a way to help veterans, teachers and other public servants qualify for retail discounts. These readers had reasonable questions: Who has (or will have) access to this data? Why should it be stored indefinitely (post-verification)? What happens if gets breached?

The Washington Post reported today that in a meeting with lawmakers, IRS officials said they were considering another identity verification option that wouldn’t use facial recognition. At the same time, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) challenged the Treasury Department and IRS to reconsider the biometric requirements.

In a statement published today, the IRS said it was transitioning away from using a third-party service for facial recognition to help authenticate people creating new online accounts.

“The transition will occur over the coming weeks in order to prevent larger disruptions to taxpayers during filing season,” the IRS said. “During the transition, the IRS will quickly develop and bring online an additional authentication process that does not involve facial recognition. The IRS will also continue to work with its cross-government partners to develop authentication methods that protect taxpayer data and ensure broad access to online tools.” Continue reading

How Phishers Are Slinking Their Links Into LinkedIn

February 3, 2022

If you received a link to via email, SMS or instant message, would you click it? Spammers, phishers and other ne’er-do-wells are hoping you will, because they’ve long taken advantage of a marketing feature on the business networking site which lets them create a link that bounces your browser to other websites, such as phishing pages that mimic top online brands (but chiefly Linkedin’s parent firm Microsoft).

At issue is a “redirect” feature available to businesses that chose to market through The LinkedIn redirect links allow customers to track the performance of ad campaigns, while promoting off-site resources. These links or “Slinks” all have a standard format: “” followed by a short alphanumeric variable.

Here’s the very first Slink created:, which redirects to the homepage for LinkedIn Marketing Solutions.

The trouble is, there’s little to stop criminals from leveraging newly registered or hacked LinkedIn business accounts to create their own ad campaigns using Slinks., a free service that provides detailed reports on any scanned URLs, also offers a historical look at suspicious links submitted by other users. This search via Urlscan reveals dozens of recent phishing attacks that have leveraged the Slinks feature.

Here’s one example from Jan. 31 that uses links to redirect anyone who clicks to a site that spoofs Adobe, and then prompts users to log in to their Microsoft email account to view a shared document.

A recent phishing site that abused LinkedIn’s marketing redirect. Image:

Urlscan also found this phishing scam from Jan. 12 that uses Slinks to spoof the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. Here’s a Feb. 3 example that leads to a phish targeting Amazon customers. This Nov. 26 sample from Urlscan shows a LinkedIn link redirecting to a Paypal phishing page. Continue reading

Fake Investor John Bernard Sinks Norwegian Green Shipping Dreams

January 29, 2022

Several articles here have delved into the history of John Bernard, the pseudonym used by a fake billionaire technology investor who tricked dozens of startups into giving him tens of millions of dollars. Bernard’s latest victim — a Norwegian company hoping to build a fleet of environmentally friendly shipping vessels — is now embroiled in a lawsuit over a deal gone bad, in which Bernard falsely claimed to have secured $100 million from six other wealthy investors, including the founder of Uber and the artist Abel Makkonen Tesfaye, better known as The Weeknd.

John Bernard is a pseudonym used by John Clifton Davies, a convicted fraudster from the United Kingdom who is currently a fugitive from justice and residing in Ukraine. Davies’ Bernard persona has fleeced dozens of technology companies out of an estimated $30 million with the promise of lucrative investments.

For several years until reinventing himself again quite recently, Bernard pretended to be a billionaire Swiss investor who made his fortunes in the dot-com boom 20 years ago and who was seeking investment opportunities. Bernard generated a stream of victims by offering extraordinarily generous finder’s fees for investment brokers who helped him secure new clients. But those brokers would eventually get stiffed as well because Bernard’s company would never consummate a deal.

In case after case, Bernard would promise to invest millions in tech startups, and then insist that companies pay tens of thousands of dollars worth of due diligence fees up front. However, the due diligence company he insisted on using — another Swiss firm called Inside Knowledge — also was secretly owned by Bernard, who would invariably pull out of the deal after receiving the due diligence money.

The scam artist John Bernard (left) in a recent Zoom call, and a photo of John Clifton Davies from 2015.

But Bernard would adopt a slightly different approach to stealing from Freidig Shipping Ltd., a Norwegian company formed in 2017 that was seeking the equivalent of USD $100 million investment to bring its green fleet of 30 new offshore service vessels to fruition.

Journalists Harald Vanvik and Harald Berglihn from the Norwegian Business Daily write that through investment advisors in London, Bernard was introduced to Nils-Odd Tønnevold, co-founder of Freidig Shipping and an investment advisor with 20 years of experience.

“Both Bernard and Inside Knowledge appeared to be professionals,” the reporters wrote in a story that’s behind a paywall. “Bernard appeared to be experienced. He knew a lot about start-ups and got into things quickly. Credible and reliable was the impression of him, said Tønnevold.”

“Bernard eventually took on the role of principal investor, claiming he had six other wealthy investors on the team, including artist Abel Makkonen Tesfaye, known as The Weeknd, Uber founder Garrett Camp and Norilsk Nickel owner Russian Vladimir Potanin,” the Norwegian journalists wrote. “These committed to contribute $99.25 million to Freidig.”

So in this case Bernard conveniently claimed he’d come up with almost all of the investment, which came $750,000 short of the goal. Another investor, a Belgian named Guy Devos, contributed the remaining $750,000.

But by the spring of 2020, it was clear that Devos and others involved in the shipping project had been tricked, and that all the money which had been paid to Bernard — an estimated NOK 15 million (~USD $1.67 million) — had been lost. By that time the two co-founders and their families had borrowed USD $1.5 million, and had transferred the funds to Inside Knowledge. Continue reading

Who Wrote the ALPHV/BlackCat Ransomware Strain?

January 28, 2022

In December 2021, researchers discovered a new ransomware-as-a-service named ALPHV (a.k.a. “BlackCat“), considered to be the first professional cybercrime group to create and use a ransomware strain written in the Rust programming language. In this post, we’ll explore some of the clues left behind by a developer who was reputedly hired to code the ransomware variant.

Image: Varonis.

According to an analysis released this week by Varonis, ALPHV is actively recruiting operators from several ransomware organizations — including REvil, BlackMatter and DarkSide — and is offering affiliates up to 90 percent of any ransom paid by a victim organization.

“The group’s leak site, active since early December 2021, has named over twenty victim organizations as of late January 2022, though the total number of victims, including those that have paid a ransom to avoid exposure, is likely greater,” Varonis’s Jason Hill wrote.

One concern about more malware shifting to Rust is that it is considered a much more secure programming language compared to C and C++, writes Catalin Cimpanu for The Record. The upshot? Security defenders are constantly looking for coding weaknesses in many ransomware strains, and if more start moving to Rust it could become more difficult to find those soft spots.

Researchers at Recorded Future say they believe the ALPHV/BlackCat author was previously involved with the infamous REvil ransomware cartel in some capacity. Earlier this month the Russian government announced that at the United States’ request it arrested 14 individuals in Russia thought to be REvil operators.

Still, REvil rolls on despite these actions, according to Paul Roberts at ReversingLabs. “The recent arrests have NOT led to a noticeable change in detections of REvil malicious files,” Roberts wrote. “In fact, detections of files and other software modules associated with the REvil ransomware increased modestly in the week following the arrests by Russia’s FSB intelligence service.”

Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department has a standing $10 million reward for information leading to the identification or location of any individuals holding key leadership positions in REvil.


A confidential source recently had a private conversation with a support representative who fields questions and inquiries on several cybercrime forums on behalf of a large and popular ransomware affiliate program. The affiliate rep confirmed that a coder for ALPHV was known by the handle “Binrs” on multiple Russian-language forums.

On the cybercrime forum RAMP, the user Binrs says they are a Rust developer who’s been coding for 6 years. “My stack is Rust, nodejs, php, golang,” Binrs said in an introductory post, in which they claim to be fluent in English. Binrs then signs the post with their identification number for ToX, a peer-to-peer instant messaging service.

That same ToX ID was claimed by a user called “smiseo” on the Russian forum BHF, in which smiseo advertises “clipper” malware written in Rust that swaps in the attacker’s bitcoin address when the victim copies a cryptocurrency address to their computer’s temporary clipboard.

The nickname “YBCatadvertised that same ToX ID on Carder[.]uk, where this user claimed ownership over the Telegram account @CookieDays, and said they could be hired to do software and bot development “of any level of complexity.” YBCat mostly sold “installs,” offering paying customers to ability to load malware of their choice on thousands of hacked computers simultaneously.

There is also an active user named Binrs on the Russian crime forum wwh-club[.]co who says they’re a Rust coder who can be reached at the @CookieDays Telegram account.

On the Russian forum Lolzteam, a member with the username “DuckerMan” uses the @CookieDays Telegram account in his signature. In one thread, DuckerMan promotes an affiliate program called CookieDays that lets people make money by getting others to install cryptomining programs that are infected with malware. In another thread, DuckerMan is selling a different clipboard hijacking program called Chloe Clipper.

The CookieDays moneymaking program.

According to threat intelligence firm Flashpoint, the Telegram user DuckerMan employed another alias — Sergey Duck. These accounts were most active in the Telegram channels “Bank Accounts Selling,” “Malware developers community,” and “Raidforums,” a popular English-language cybercrime forum. Continue reading

Scary Fraud Ensues When ID Theft & Usury Collide

January 25, 2022

What’s worse than finding out that identity thieves took out a 546 percent interest payday loan in your name? How about a 900 percent interest loan? Or how about not learning of the fraudulent loan until it gets handed off to collection agents? One reader’s nightmare experience spotlights what can happen when ID thieves and hackers start targeting online payday lenders.

The reader who shared this story (and copious documentation to go with it) asked to have his real name omitted to avoid encouraging further attacks against his identity. So we’ll just call him “Jim.” Last May, someone applied for some type of loan in Jim’s name. The request was likely sent to an online portal that takes the borrower’s loan application details and shares them with multiple prospective lenders, because Jim said over the next few days he received dozens of emails and calls from lenders wanting to approve him for a loan.

Many of these lenders were eager to give Jim money because they were charging exorbitant 500-900 percent interest rates for their loans. But Jim has long had a security freeze on his credit file with the three major consumer credit reporting bureaus, and none of the lenders seemed willing to proceed without at least a peek at his credit history.

Among the companies that checked to see if Jim still wanted that loan he never applied for last May was Mountain Summit Financial (MSF), a lending institution owned by a Native American tribe in California called the Habematelol Pomo of Upper Lake.

Jim told MSF and others who called or emailed that identity thieves had applied for the funds using his name and information; that he would never take out a payday loan; and would they please remove his information from their database? Jim says MSF assured him it would, and the loan was never issued.

Jim spent months sorting out that mess with MSF and other potential lenders, but after a while the inquiries died down. Then on Nov. 27 — Thanksgiving Day weekend — Jim got a series of rapid-fire emails from MSF saying they’ve received his loan application, that they’d approved it, and that the funds requested were now available at the bank account specified in his MSF profile.

Curiously, the fraudsters had taken out a loan in Jim’s name with MSF using his real email address — the same email address the fraudsters had used to impersonate him to MSF back in May 2021. Although he didn’t technically have an account with MSF, their authentication system is based on email addresses, so Jim requested that a password reset link be sent to his email address. That worked, and once inside the account Jim could see more about the loan details:

The terms of the unauthorized loan in Jim’s name from MSF.

Take a look at that 546.56 percent interest rate and finance charges listed in this $1,000 loan. If you pay this loan off in a year at the suggested bi-weekly payment amounts, you will have paid $3,903.57 for that $1,000.

Jim contacted MSF as soon as they opened the following week and found out the money had already been dispersed to a Bank of America account Jim didn’t recognize. MSF had Jim fill out an affidavit claiming the loan was the result of identity theft, which necessitated filing a report with the local police and a number of other steps. Jim said numerous calls to Bank of America’s fraud team went nowhere because they refused to discuss an account that was not in his name.

Jim said MSF ultimately agreed that the loan wasn’t legitimate, but they couldn’t or wouldn’t tell him how his information got pushed through to a loan — even though MSF was never able to pull his credit file.

Then in mid-January, Jim heard from MSF via snail mail that they’d discovered a data breach.

“We believe the outsider may have had an opportunity to access the accounts of certain customers, including your account, at which point they would be able to view personal information pertaining to that customer and potentially obtain an unauthorized loan using the customer’s credentials,” MSF said.

MSF said the personal information involved in this incident may have included name, date of birth, government-issued identification numbers (e.g., SSN or DLN), bank account number and routing number, home address, email address, phone number and other general loan information.

A portion of the Jan. 14, 2022 breach notification letter from tribal lender Mountain Summit Financial.

Nevermind that his information was only in MSF’s system because of an earlier attempt by ID thieves: The intruders were able to update his existing (never-deleted) record with new banking information and then push the application through MSF’s systems.

“MSF was the target of a suspected third-party attack,” the company said, noting that it was working with the FBI, the California Sheriff’s Office, and the Tribal Commission for Lake County, Calif.  “Ultimately, MSF confirmed that these trends were part of an attack that originated outside of the company.”

MSF has not responded to questions about the aforementioned third party or parties that may be involved. But it is possible that other tribal lenders could have been affected: Jim said that not long after the phony MSF payday loan was pushed through, he received at least three inquiries in rapid succession from other lenders who were all of a sudden interested in offering him a loan.

In a statement sent to KrebsOnSecurity, MSF said it was “the victim of a malicious attack that originated outside of the company, by unknown perpetrators.”

“As soon as the issue was uncovered, the company initiated cybersecurity incident response measures to protect and secure its information; and notified law enforcement and regulators,” MSF wrote. “Additionally, the company has notified individuals whose personal identifiable information may have been impacted by this crime and is actively working with law enforcement in its investigation. As this is an ongoing criminal investigation, we can make no additional comment at this time.”

According to the Native American Financial Services Association (NAFSA), a trade group in Washington, D.C. representing tribal lenders, the short-term installment loan products offered by NAFSA members are not payday loans but rather “installment loans” — which are amortized, have a definite loan term, and require payments that go toward not just interest, but that also pay down the loan principal.

NAFSA did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Nearly all U.S. states have usury laws that limit the amount of interest a company can charge on a loan, but those limits traditionally haven’t applied to tribal lenders. Continue reading