A proposal to let Internet service providers conceal the contact information for their business customers is drawing fire from a number of experts in the security community, who say the change will make it harder to mitigate the threat from spam and malicious software.
The American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) — one of five regional registries worldwide that is responsible for allocating blocks of Internet addresses – later this month will consider a proposal to ease rules that require ISPs to publish address and phone number information for their business customers.
The idea has support from several ISPs that claim the current policy forces ISPs to effectively publish their customer lists.
“I operate in a very competitive business, and there are instances where I can show that my competitors have gone out and harvested customers’ contact information and used that to try to take those customers away,” said Aaron Wendel, chief technical officer at Kansas City based Wholesale Internet Inc., and the author of the proposal. “I have yet to find another private industry that is not government-related that requires you to make your customer lists publicly available on the Internet.”
Critics of the plan say it will only lead to litigation and confusion, while aiding spammers and other shady actors who obtain blocks of addresses by posing as legitimate businesses.
A rash of home foreclosures and abandoned dwellings had already taken its toll on the tax revenue for the Village of Summit, a town of 10,000 just outside Chicago. Then, in March, computer crooks broke into the town’s online bank account, making off with nearly $100,000.
“As little as we are, $100,000 represents a good chunk of money, and it hurts,” said Judy Rivera, the town’s administrator. “We were already on a very lean budget, because the tax money just isn’t coming in.”
Summit is just the latest in a string of towns, cities, counties and municipalities across America that have seen their coffers cleaned out by organized thieves who specialize in looting online bank accounts. Recently, crooks stole $100,000 from the New Jersey township of Egg Harbor; $130,000 from a public water utility in Arkansas; $378,000 from a New York town; $160,000 from a Florida public library; $500,000 from a New York middle school district; $415,000 from a Kentucky county (this is far from a comprehensive list).
One bit of criticism I’ve heard about my stories on small businesses losing their shirts over online banking fraud is that I don’t often enough point out what banks and customers should be doing differently to lessen the chance of suffering one of these incidents. As it happens, a source of mine was recently at a conference where one of the key speakers was a senior official from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, one of the main banking industry regulators.
Foxit Software has issued an update to make it easier for users to spot PDF files that may contain malicious content. Also, Apple has pushed out new versions of QuickTime and iTunes that correct nearly two dozen security problems in those programs.
Last month, researcher Didier Stevens said he’d discovered that he could embed an executable file — such as a malicious program — inside of a PDF file. Worse, Stevens found that PDF readers from Adobe Systems and Foxit contained a feature that would run those embedded files upon request, in some cases without even warning the user.
Stevens found that when he triggered the feature in Adobe Reader the program throws up a warning that launching code could harm the computer (although he also discovered he could change the content of that warning in Adobe Reader).
Foxit, however, displayed no warning at all and executed the action without user approval. According to Stevens, the Foxit fix shipped last week changes the reader so that it now warns users if a PDF document tries to launch an embedded program.
The very first entry I posted at Krebs on Security, Virus Scanners for Virus Authors, introduced readers to two services that let virus writers upload their creations to see how well they are detected by numerous commercial anti-virus scanners. In this follow-up post, I take you inside of a pair of similar services that allow customers to periodically scan a malware sample and receive alerts via instant message or e-mail when a new anti-virus product begins to detect the submission as malicious.
While there are free services like VirusTotal and Jotti that will let visitors upload a suspicious file and scan it against dozens of commercial anti-virus tools, the reports produced by the scans are shared with all of the participating anti-virus makers so that those vendors can incorporate detection for newly discovered malware into their products. While virus writers probably would love to use such services to fine-tune the stealth of their malware, they may not want their unique malware samples broadly shared among the anti-virus community before the malware has even had a chance to infect PCs.
So it’s not hard to see why some malware authors and purveyors choose to avoid these free services in favor of subscription products that scan submitted files with multiple anti-virus engines, yet prevent those results from being shared with the anti-virus vendors. Such is the business model behind scan4you.net, a service that charges 15 cents for each file checked. Scan4you will scan your malware against 30 anti-virus products, but promises it will bar those products from snarfing up a copy of the malware:
A new version of Java is available that fixes at least 27 security vulnerabilities in the ubiquitous software.
To see which version of Java you have installed, visit this link and click the “Do I Have Java?” link under the big red “Free Java Download” button. The newest version that includes these 27 fixes is Java 6 Update 19.
It seems Java’s built-in updater has gotten better about notifying users in a more timely fashion about available security updates. On one of my Windows 7 test machines, I received a prompt today to install the update. If you didn’t get that prompt yet and want to force an update, go to the Windows Control Panel, click the Java icon, then on the window that pops up click the “Update” tab, and then the “Update Now” button.
It’s common for malware writers to taunt one another with petty insults nested within their respective creations. Competing crime groups also often seek to wrest infected machines from one another. A very public turf war between those responsible for maintaining the Netsky and Bagle worms back in 2005, for example, caused a substantial increase in the volume of threats generated by both gangs.
The latest rivalry appears to be budding between the authors of the Zeus Trojan — a crime kit used by a large number of cyber thieves — and “SpyEye,” a relatively new kit on the block that is taking every opportunity to jeer at, undercut and otherwise siphon market share from the mighty Zeus.
Symantec alluded to this in a February blog post that highlighted a key selling point of the SpyEye crimeware kit: If the malware created with SpyEye lands on a computer that is already infected with Zeus, it will hijack and/or remove the Zeus infection.
Now, just a few months later, the SpyEye author is releasing a new update (v. 1.1) that he claims includes the ability to inject content into Firefox and Internet Explorer browsers, just as Zeus does (this screen shot shows the result of a demo configuration file on the left, which instructs the malware to inject SpyEye and “Zeuskiller” banner ads into a live Bank of America Web site). It is precisely this injection ability that allows thieves using Zeus to defeat the security tokens that many banks require commercial customers to use for online banking.
The new version comes as the Zeus author is pushing out his own updates (v. 1.4), along with a hefty price tag hike. The old Zeus kit started at around $4,000, while the base price of the newer version is double that. According to research from Atlanta-based security firm SecureWorks, Zeus plug-ins that offer additional functionality raise the price even more. For example:
A crackdown by the Chinese government on anonymous domain name registrations has chased spammers from Chinese registrars (.cn) to those that handle the registration of Russian (.ru) Web site names, new spam figures suggest. Yet, those spammy domains may soon migrate to yet another country, as Russia is set to enforce a policy similar to China’s beginning April 1.
In mid-December 2009, the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) announced that it was instituting steps to make it much harder to register a Web site anonymously in China, by barring individuals from registering domains ending in .cn. Under the new policy, those who want to register a new .cn domain name need to hand in written application forms, complete with a business license and an identity card.
Chinese authorities called the move a crackdown on phishing and pornographic Web sites, but human rights and privacy groups marked it as yet another effort by Chinese leaders to maintain tight control over their corner of the Internet. Nevertheless, the policy clearly caught the attention of the world’s most profligate spammers, who spam experts say could always count on Chinese registrars as a cheap and reliable place to buy domains for Web sites that would later be advertised in junk e-mail.
According to data obtained from two anti-spam experts, new registrations for sites advertised in spam began migrating from .cn to .ru just a few weeks after the Chinese domain policy took effect.
Apple released a software update on Monday that includes fixes for a massive number of security vulnerabilities in Mac OS X and associated software.
The update corrects more than 90 security flaws and weaknesses in a variety of Apple and third-party products included in versions of OS X, such as ClamAV, Firewall, iChat, Mail, PHP and QuickTime.
Updates are available for Mac OS X v10.5.8, Mac OS X Server v10.5.8, Mac OS X v10.6 through v10.6.2, Mac OS X Server v10.6 through v10.6.2, through Software Update or via Apple Downloads. You might want to schedule the download when you have some time to be away from the computer: Depending on which version you’re downloading, the size of the update may weigh in at more than 750 megabytes.