20
Dec 18

Feds Charge Three in Mass Seizure of Attack-for-hire Services

Authorities in the United States this week brought criminal hacking charges against three men as part of an unprecedented, international takedown targeting 15 different “booter” or “stresser” sites — attack-for-hire services that helped paying customers launch tens of thousands of digital sieges capable of knocking Web sites and entire network providers offline.

The seizure notice appearing on the homepage this week of more than a dozen popular “booter” or “stresser” DDoS-for-hire Web sites.

As of Thursday morning, a seizure notice featuring the seals of the U.S. Justice Department, FBI and other law enforcement agencies appeared on the booter sites, including:

anonsecurityteam[.]com
booter[.]ninja
bullstresser[.]net
critical-boot[.]com
defcon[.]pro
defianceprotocol[.]com
downthem[.]org
layer7-stresser[.]xyz
netstress[.]org
quantumstress[.]net
ragebooter[.]com
request[.]rip
str3ssed[.]me
torsecurityteam[.]org
vbooter[.]org

Booter sites are dangerous because they help lower the barriers to cybercrime, allowing even complete novices to launch sophisticated and crippling attacks with the click of a button.

Cameron Schroeder, assistant U.S. attorney for the Central District of California, called this week’s action the largest simultaneous seizure of booter service domains ever.

“This is the biggest action U.S. law enforcement has taken against booter services, and we’re doing this in cooperation with a large number of industry and foreign law enforcement partners,” Schroeder said.

Booter services are typically advertised through a variety of methods, including Dark Web forums, chat platforms and even youtube.com. They accept payment via PayPal, Google Wallet, and/or cryptocurrencies, and subscriptions can range in price from just a few dollars to several hundred per month. The services are priced according to the volume of traffic to be hurled at the target, the duration of each attack, and the number of concurrent attacks allowed.

Purveyors of stressers and booters claim they are not responsible for how customers use their services, and that they aren’t breaking the law because — like most security tools — stresser services can be used for good or bad purposes. For example, all of the above-mentioned booter sites contained wordy “terms of use” agreements that required customers to agree they will only stress-test their own networks — and that they won’t use the service to attack others.

But experts say today’s announcement shreds that virtual fig leaf, and marks several important strategic shifts in how authorities intend to prosecute booter service operators going forward.

“This action is predicated on the fact that running a booter service itself is illegal,” said Allison Nixon, director of security research at Flashpoint, a security firm based in New York City. “That’s a slightly different legal argument than has been made in the past against other booter owners.”

For one thing, the booter services targeted in this takedown advertised the ability to “resolve” or determine the true Internet address of a target. This is especially useful for customers seeking to harm targets whose real address is hidden behind mitigation services like Cloudflare (ironically, the same provider used by some of these booter services to withstand attacks by competing booter services).

Some resolvers also allowed customers to determine the Internet address of a target using nothing more than the target’s Skype username.

“You don’t need to use a Skype resolver just to attack yourself,” assistant U.S. Attorney Schroeder said. “Clearly, the people running these booter services know their services are being used not by people targeting their own infrastructure, and have built in capabilities that specifically allow customers to attack others.”

Another important distinction between this week’s coordinated action and past booter site takedowns was that the government actually tested each service it dismantled to validate claims about attack firepower and to learn more about how each service conducted assaults.

In a complaint unsealed today, the Justice Department said that although FBI agents identified at least 60 different booter services operating between June and December 2018, they discovered not all were fully operational and capable of launching attacks. Hence, the 15 services seized this week represent those that the government was able to use to conduct successful, high-volume attacks against their own test sites.

“This is intended to send a very clear message to all booter operators that they’re not going to be allowed to operate openly anymore,” Nixon said. “The message is that if you’re running a DDoS-for-hire service that can attack an Internet address in such a way that the FBI can purchase an attack against their own test servers, you’re probably going to get in trouble.” Continue reading →


19
Dec 18

Microsoft Issues Emergency Fix for IE Zero Day

Microsoft today released an emergency software patch to plug a critical security hole in its Internet Explorer (IE) Web browser that attackers are already using to break into Windows computers.

The software giant said it learned about the weakness (CVE-2018-8653) after receiving a report from Google about a new vulnerability being used in targeted attacks.

Satnam Narang, senior research engineer at Tenable, said the vulnerability affects the following installations of IE: Internet Explorer 11 from Windows 7 to Windows 10 as well as Windows Server 2012, 2016 and 2019; IE 9 on Windows Server 2008; and IE 10 on Windows Server 2012.

“As the flaw is being actively exploited in the wild, users are urged to update their systems as soon as possible to reduce the risk of compromise,” Narang said. Continue reading →


18
Dec 18

A Chief Security Concern for Executive Teams

Virtually all companies like to say they take their customers’ privacy and security seriously, make it a top priority, blah blah. But you’d be forgiven if you couldn’t tell this by studying the executive leadership page of each company’s Web site. That’s because very few of the world’s biggest companies list any security executives in their highest ranks. Even among top tech firms, less than half list a chief technology officer (CTO). This post explores some reasons why this is the case, and why it can’t change fast enough.

KrebsOnSecurity reviewed the Web sites for the global top 100 companies by market value, and found just five percent of top 100 firms listed a chief information security officer (CISO) or chief security officer (CSO). Only a little more than a third even listed a CTO in their executive leadership pages.

The reality among high-tech firms that make up the top 50 companies in the NASDAQ market was even more striking: Fewer than half listed a CTO in their executive ranks, and I could find only three that featured a person with a security title.

Nobody’s saying these companies don’t have CISOs and/or CSOs and CTOs in their employ. A review of LinkedIn suggests that most of them in fact do have people in those roles (although I suspect the few that aren’t present or easily findable on LinkedIn have made a personal and/or professional decision not to be listed as such).

But it is interesting to note which roles companies consider worthwhile publishing in their executive leadership pages. For example, 73 percent of the top 100 companies listed a chief of human resources (or “chief people officer”), and about one-third included a chief marketing officer.

Not that these roles are somehow more or less important than that of a CISO/CSO within the organization. Nor is the average pay hugely different among all three roles. Yet, considering how much marketing (think consumer/customer data) and human resources (think employee personal/financial data) are impacted by your average data breach, it’s somewhat remarkable that more companies don’t list their chief security personnel among their top ranks.

Julie Conroy, research director at the market analyst firm Aite Group, said she initially hypothesized that companies with a regulatory mandate for strong cybersecurity controls (e.g. banks) would have this role in their executive leadership team.

“But a quick look at Bank of America and Chase’s websites proved me wrong,” Conroy said. “It looks like the CISO in those firms is one layer down, reporting to the executive leadership.”

Conroy says this dynamic reflects the fact that revenue centers like human capital and the ability to drum up new business are still prioritized and valued by businesses more than cost centers — including loss prevention and cybersecurity.

“Marketing and digital strategy roles drive top line revenue for firms—the latter is particularly important in retail and banking businesses as so much commerce moves online,” Conroy said. “While you and I know that cybersecurity and loss prevention are critical functions for all types of businesses, I don’t think that reality is reflected in the organizational structure of many businesses still. A common theme in my discussions with executives in cost center roles is how difficult it is for them to get budget to fund the tech they need for loss prevention initiatives.” Continue reading →


13
Dec 18

Spammed Bomb Threat Hoax Demands Bitcoin

A new email extortion scam is making the rounds, threatening that someone has planted bombs within the recipient’s building that will be detonated unless a hefty bitcoin ransom is paid by the end of the business day.

Sources at multiple U.S. based financial institutions reported receiving the threats, which included the subject line, “I advise you not to call the police.”

The email reads:

My man carried a bomb (Hexogen) into the building where your company is located. It is constructed under my direction. It can be hidden anywhere because of its small size, it is not able to damage the supporting building structure, but in the case of its detonation you will get many victims.

My mercenary keeps the building under the control. If he notices any unusual behavior or emergency he will blow up the bomb.

I can withdraw my mercenary if you pay. You pay me 20.000 $ in Bitcoin and the bomb will not explode, but don’t try to cheat -I warrant you that I will withdraw my mercenary only after 3 confirmations in blockchain network.

Here is my Bitcoin address : 1GHKDgQX7hqTM7mMmiiUvgihGMHtvNJqTv

You have to solve problems with the transfer by the end of the workday. If you are late with the money explosive will explode.

This is just a business, if you don’t send me the money and the explosive device detonates, other commercial enterprises will transfer me more money, because this isnt a one-time action.

I wont visit this email. I check my Bitcoin wallet every 35 min and after seeing the money I will order my recruited person to get away.

If the explosive device explodes and the authorities notice this letter:
We are not terrorists and dont assume any responsibility for explosions in other buildings.

The bitcoin address included in the email was different in each message forwarded to KrebsOnSecurity. In that respect, this scam is reminiscent of the various email sextortion campaigns that went viral earlier this year, which led with a password the recipient used at some point in the past and threatened to release embarrassing videos of the recipient unless a bitcoin ransom was paid.

I could see this spam campaign being extremely disruptive in the short run. There is little doubt that some businesses receiving this extortion email will treat it as a credible threat. This is exactly what happened today at one of the banks that forwarded me their copy of this email. Also, KrebsOnSecurity has received reports that numerous school districts across the country have closed schools early today in response to this hoax email threat.

“There are several serious legal problems with this — people will be calling the police, and they cannot ignore even a known hoax,” said Jason McNew, CEO and founder of Stronghold Cyber Security, a consultancy based in Gettysburg, Pa.

This is a developing story, and may be updated throughout the day.

Update: 4:46 p.m. ET: Added bit about school closings.


12
Dec 18

Scanning for Flaws, Scoring for Security

Is it fair to judge an organization’s information security posture simply by looking at its Internet-facing assets for weaknesses commonly sought after and exploited by attackers, such as outdated software or accidentally exposed data and devices? Fair or not, a number of nascent efforts are using just such an approach to derive security scores for companies and entire industries. What’s remarkable is how many organizations don’t make an effort to view their public online assets as the rest of the world sees them — until it’s too late.

Image: US Chamber of Commerce.

For years, potential creditors have judged the relative risk of extending credit to consumers based in part on the applicant’s credit score — the most widely used being the score developed by FICO, previously known as Fair Isaac Corporation. Earlier this year, FICO began touting its Cyber Risk Score (PDF), which seeks to measure an organization’s chances of experiencing a data breach in the next 12 months, based on a variety of measurements tied to the company’s public-facing online assets.

In October, FICO teamed up with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to evaluate more than 2,500 U.S. companies with the Cyber Risk Score, and then invited these companies to sign up and see how their score compares with that of other organizations in their industry. The stated use cases for the Cyber Risk Score include the potential for cyber insurance pricing and underwriting, and evaluating supply chain risk (i.e., the security posture of vendor partners).

The company-specific scores are supposed to be made available only to vetted people at the organization who go through FICO’s signup process. But in a marketing email sent to FICO members on Tuesday advertising its new benchmarking feature, FICO accidentally exposed the FICO Cyber Risk Score of energy giant ExxonMobil.

The marketing email was quickly recalled and reissued in a redacted version, but it seems ExxonMobil’s score of 587 puts it in the “elevated” risk category and somewhat below the mean score among large companies in the Energy and Utilities sector, which was 637. The October analysis by the Chamber and FICO gives U.S. businesses an overall score of 687 on a scale of 300-850.

Data accidentally released by FICO about the Cyber Risk Score for ExxonMobil.

How useful is such a score? Mike Lloyd, chief technology officer at RedSeal, was quoted as saying a score “taken from the outside looking in is similar to rating the fire risk to a building based on a photograph from across the street.”

“You can, of course, establish some important things about the quality of a building from a photograph, but it’s no substitute for really being able to inspect it from the inside,” Lloyd told Dark Reading regarding the Chamber/FICO announcement in October.

Naturally, combining external scans with internal vulnerability probes and penetration testing engagements can provide organizations with a much more holistic picture of their security posture. But when a major company makes public, repeated and prolonged external security foibles, it’s difficult to escape the conclusion that perhaps it isn’t looking too closely at its internal security either. Continue reading →


11
Dec 18

Patch Tuesday, December 2018 Edition

Adobe and Microsoft each released updates today to tackle critical security weaknesses in their software. Microsoft’s December patch batch is relatively light, addressing more than three dozen vulnerabilities in Windows and related applications. Adobe has issued security fixes for its Acrobat and PDF Reader products, and has a patch for yet another zero-day flaw in Flash Player that is already being exploited in the wild.

At least nine of the bugs in the Microsoft patches address flaws the company deems “critical,” meaning they can be exploited by malware or ne’er-do-wells to install malicious software with little or no help from users, save for perhaps browsing to a hacked or booby-trapped site.

Microsoft patched a zero-day flaw that is already being exploited (CVE-2018-8611) and allows an attacker to elevate his privileges on a host system. The weakness, which is present on all supported versions of Windows, is tagged with the less severe “important” rating by Microsoft mainly because it requires an attacker to be logged on to the system first.

According to security firm Rapid7, other notable vulnerabilities this month are in Internet Explorer (CVE-2018-8631) and Edge (CVE-2018-8624), both of which Microsoft considers most likely to be exploited. Similarly, CVE-2018-8628 is flaw in all supported versions of PowerPoint which is also likely to be used by attackers. Continue reading →


10
Dec 18

How Internet Savvy are Your Leaders?

Back in April 2015, I tweeted about receiving a letter via snail mail suggesting the search engine rankings for a domain registered in my name would suffer if I didn’t pay a bill for some kind of dubious-looking service I’d never heard of. But it wasn’t until the past week that it become clear how many organizations — including towns, cities and political campaigns — actually have fallen for this brazen scam.

Image: Better Business Bureau.

The letter I tweeted about was from a company called Web Listings Inc., and it said I should pay a $85 charge for an “annual web site search engine” service.

The first clue that this was probably a scam was the letter said halfway down in capital letters “THIS IS NOT A BILL,” although it sure was made to look like one. Also, the domain it referenced was “fuckbriankrebs.com,” which was indeed registered using my street address but certainly not by me.

The sad truth is plenty of organizations *are* paying the people behind this charade, which is probably why Web Listings has been running it continuously for more than a decade. Most likely that’s because some percentage of recipients confuse this notice with a warning about a domain name they own that is about to expire and needs to be renewed.

We know plenty of people are getting snookered thanks to searchable online records filed by a range of political campaigns, towns, cities and municipalities — all of which are required to publicly report how they spend their money (or at least that of their constituents).

According to a statement filed with the Federal Election Commission, one of the earliest public records involving a payment to Web Listings dates back to 2008 and comes from none other than the the 2008 Hillary Clinton for President fund.

The documents unearthed in this story all came compliments of Ron Guilmette, a most dogged and intrepid researcher who usually spends his time tracking down and suing spammers. Guilmette said most of the public references he found regarding payments to Web Services Inc. are from political campaigns and small towns.

“Which naturally raises the question: Should we really be trusting these people with our money?” Guilmette said. “What kind of people or organizations are most likely to pay a bill that is utterly phony baloney, and that actually isn’t due and payable? The answer is people and organizations that are not spending their own money.”

Also paying $85 (PDF) to Web Listings was the 2015 campaign for Democrat Jim Kenney, the current mayor of Philadelphia.

A fund for the New York City Council campaign of Zead Ramadan (D) forked over $85 to Web Listings in 2013.

Also in 2013, the Committee to Elect Judge Victor Heutsche (D) paid $85 to keep his Web site in good standing with Web Listings. Paul T. Davis, a former Democratic state representative from Kansas handed $85 (PDF) to Web Listings in 2012.
Continue reading →


07
Dec 18

Bomb Threat Hoaxer, DDos Boss Gets 3 Years

The ringleader of a gang of cyber hooligans that made bomb threats against hundreds of schools and launched distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks against Web sites — including KrebsOnSecurity on multiple occasions — has been sentenced to three years in a U.K. prison, and faces the possibility of additional charges from U.S.-based law enforcement officials.

George Duke-Cohan, 19, caused a massive uproar earlier this year after communicating a series of bomb threats against 1,700 schools, colleges and universities across the United Kingdom. But shortly after being arrested on suspicion of the threats and released, Duke-Cohan was back at it again — this time expanding his threats to include schools in the United States.

One of many tweets from the attention-starved Apophis Squad, which launched multiple DDoS attacks against KrebsOnsecurity over the past few months.

At the same time, authorities in the U.K. and U.S. discovered that Duke-Cohan was responsible for falsely reporting the hijack of a plane bound for the United States. That flight, which had almost 300 passengers on board, was later quarantined in San Francisco pending a full security check.

Duke-Cohan was part of an attention-seeking group of ne’er-do-wells who called themselves the Apophis Squad. Duke-Cohan and his crew modeled themselves after the actions of the Lizard Squad, another group of e-fame seeking online hoodlums who also ran a DDoS-for-hire service, called in bomb threats to airlines, DDoSed this Web site repeatedly and whose members were nearly all subsequently arrested and charged with various cybercrimes.

Indeed, until recently the Apophis Squad’s Web site and DDoS-for-hire service was hosted on the same Internet server used by a handful of other domains that were tied to the Lizard Squad. Continue reading →


04
Dec 18

A Breach, or Just a Forced Password Reset?

Software giant Citrix Systems recently forced a password reset for many users of its Sharefile content collaboration service, warning it would be doing this on a regular basis in response to password-guessing attacks that target people who re-use passwords across multiple Web sites. Many Sharefile users interpreted this as a breach at Citrix and/or Sharefile, but the company maintains that’s not the case. Here’s a closer look at what happened, and some ideas about how to avoid a repeat of this scenario going forward.

The notice sent to ShareFile users looked like this:

Dozens of readers forwarded the above message to KrebsOnSecurity, saying they didn’t understand the reasoning for the mass password reset and that they suspected a breach at ShareFile.

I reached out to ShareFile and asked them point blank whether this reset effort was in response to any sort of intrusion at Citrix or ShareFile; they said no. I asked if this notice had been sent to everyone, and inquired whether ShareFile offers any form(s) of multi-factor authentication options that customers could use to supplement the security of passwords.

A Citrix spokesperson referred me to this page, which says ShareFile users have a number of options when it comes to locking down their accounts with multi-factor authentication, including a one-time code sent via SMS/text message, as well as one-time passwords generated by support authenticator mobile apps from Google and Microsoft (app-based multi-factor is the more secure option, as discussed here).

More importantly, the Citrix spokesperson said the company did not enforce a password reset on accounts that were using its most robust form of multi-factor authentication (single sign-on solutions, or SSOs). To wit:

“This is not in response to a breach of Citrix products or services,” wrote spokesperson Jamie Buranich. “Citrix forced password resets with the knowledge that attacks of this nature historically come in waves. Attacker’s additional efforts adapt to the results, often tuning the volume and approach of their methods. Our objective was to minimize the risk to our customers. We did not enforce a password reset on accounts that are using more stringent authentication controls. Citrix also directly integrates with common SSO solutions, which significantly reduces risk.” Continue reading →


03
Dec 18

Jared, Kay Jewelers Parent Fixes Data Leak

The parent firm of bling retailers Jared and Kay Jewelers has fixed a bug in the Web sites of both companies that exposed the order information for all of their online customers.

In mid-November 2018, KrebsOnSecurity heard from a Jared customer who found something curious after receiving a receipt via email for a pair of earrings he’d just purchased as a surprise gift for his girlfriend.

Dallas-based Web developer Brandon Sheehy discovered that slightly modifying the link in the confirmation email he received and pasting that into a Web browser revealed another customer’s order, including their name, billing address, shipping address, phone number, email address, items and total amount purchased, delivery date, tracking link, and the last four digits of the customer’s credit card number.

Sheehy said after discovering the weakness, his mind quickly turned to the various ways that crooks might exploit it.

“My first thought was they could track a package of jewelry to someone’s door and swipe it off their doorstep,” he said. “My second thought was that someone could call Jared’s customers and pretend to be Jared, reading the last four digits of the customer’s card and saying there’d been a problem with the order, and if they could get a different card for the customer they could run it right away and get the order out quickly. That would be a pretty convincing scam. Or just targeted phishing attacks.”

Concerned that his own information was similarly exposed, Sheehy contacted Jared parent company Signet Jewelers and asked them to fix the data exposure. When several weeks passed and Sheehy could still view his information and that of other Jared customers, he reached out to KrebsOnSecurity.

Scott Lancaster, chief information security officer at Signet, said the company did fix the problem for all future orders shortly after receiving a customer’s complaint. But Lancaster said Signet neglected to remedy the data exposure for all past orders until contacted by KrebsOnSecurity.

“When a customer first brought this matter to our attention in early November, we fixed it for all new orders going forward,” Lancaster said. “But we didn’t notice at the time that this applied to all past orders as well as future orders.” Continue reading →