On Jan. 9, 2024, U.S. authorities arrested a 19-year-old Florida man charged with wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, and conspiring with others to use SIM-swapping to steal cryptocurrency. Sources close to the investigation tell KrebsOnSecurity the accused was a key member of a criminal hacking group blamed for a string of cyber intrusions at major U.S. technology companies during the summer of 2022.
Prosecutors say Noah Michael Urban of Palm Coast, Fla., stole at least $800,000 from at least five victims between August 2022 and March 2023. In each attack, the victims saw their email and financial accounts compromised after suffering an unauthorized SIM-swap, wherein attackers transferred each victim’s mobile phone number to a new device that they controlled.
The government says Urban went by the aliases “Sosa” and “King Bob,” among others. Multiple trusted sources told KrebsOnSecurity that Sosa/King Bob was a core member of a hacking group behind the 2022 breach at Twilio, a company that provides services for making and receiving text messages and phone calls. Twilio disclosed in Aug. 2022 that an intrusion had exposed a “limited number” of Twilio customer accounts through a sophisticated social engineering attack designed to steal employee credentials.
Shortly after that disclosure, the security firm Group-IB published a report linking the attackers behind the Twilio intrusion to separate breaches at more than 130 organizations, including LastPass, DoorDash, Mailchimp, and Plex. Multiple security firms soon assigned the hacking group the nickname “Scattered Spider.”
Group-IB dubbed the gang by a different name — 0ktapus — which was a nod to how the criminal group phished employees for credentials. The missives asked users to click a link and log in at a phishing page that mimicked their employer’s Okta authentication page. Those who submitted credentials were then prompted to provide the one-time password needed for multi-factor authentication.
0ktapus used newly-registered domains that often included the name of the targeted company, and sent text messages urging employees to click on links to these domains to view information about a pending change in their work schedule. The phishing sites used a Telegram instant message bot to forward any submitted credentials in real-time, allowing the attackers to use the phished username, password and one-time code to log in as that employee at the real employer website.
0ktapus often leveraged information or access gained in one breach to perpetrate another. As documented by Group-IB, the group pivoted from its access to Twilio to attack at least 163 of its customers. Among those was the encrypted messaging app Signal, which said the breach could have let attackers re-register the phone number on another device for about 1,900 users.
Also in August 2022, several employees at email delivery firm Mailchimp provided their remote access credentials to this phishing group. According to an Aug. 12 blog post, the attackers used their access to Mailchimp employee accounts to steal data from 214 customers involved in cryptocurrency and finance.
On August 25, 2022, the password manager service LastPass disclosed a breach in which attackers stole some source code and proprietary LastPass technical information, and weeks later LastPass said an investigation revealed no customer data or password vaults were accessed.
However, on November 30, 2022 LastPass disclosed a far more serious breach that the company said leveraged data stolen in the August breach. LastPass said criminal hackers had stolen encrypted copies of some password vaults, as well as other personal information.
In February 2023, LastPass disclosed that the intrusion involved a highly complex, targeted attack against a DevOps engineer who was one of only four LastPass employees with access to the corporate vault. In that incident, the attackers exploited a security vulnerability in a Plex media server that the employee was running on his home network, and succeeded in installing malicious software that stole passwords and other authentication credentials. The vulnerability exploited by the intruders was patched back in 2020, but the employee never updated his Plex software.
As it happens, Plex announced its own data breach one day before LastPass disclosed its initial August intrusion. On August 24, 2022, Plex’s security team urged users to reset their passwords, saying an intruder had accessed customer emails, usernames and encrypted passwords.
KING BOB’S GRAILS
A review of thousands of messages that Sosa and King Bob posted to several public forums and Discord servers over the past two years shows that the person behind these identities was mainly focused on two things: Sim-swapping, and trading in stolen, unreleased rap music recordings from popular artists.
Indeed, those messages show Sosa/King Bob was obsessed with finding new “grails,” the slang term used in some cybercrime discussion channels to describe recordings from popular artists that have never been officially released. It stands to reason that King Bob was SIM-swapping important people in the music industry to obtain these files, although there is little to support this conclusion from the public chat records available.
“I got the most music in the com,” King Bob bragged in a Discord server in November 2022. “I got thousands of grails.”
King Bob’s chats show he was particularly enamored of stealing the unreleased works of his favorite artists — Lil Uzi Vert, Playboi Carti, and Juice Wrld. When another Discord user asked if he has Eminem grails, King Bob said he was unsure.
“I have two folders,” King Bob explained. “One with Uzi, Carti, Juicewrld. And then I have ‘every other artist.’ Every other artist is unorganized as fuck and has thousands of random shit.”
King Bob’s posts on Discord show he quickly became a celebrity on Leaked[.]cx, one of most active forums for trading, buying and selling unreleased music from popular artists. The more grails that users share with the Leaked[.]cx community, the more their status and access on the forum grows.
And King Bob shared a large number of his purloined tunes with this community. Still others he tried to sell. It’s unclear how many of those sales were ever consummated, but it is not unusual for a prized grail to sell for anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000.
In mid-January 2024, several Leaked[.]cx regulars began complaining that they hadn’t seen King Bob in a while and were really missing his grails. On or around Jan. 11, the same day the Justice Department unsealed the indictment against Urban, Leaked[.]cx started blocking people who were trying to visit the site from the United States.
Days later, frustrated Leaked[.]cx users speculated about what could be the cause of the blockage.
“Probs blocked as part of king bob investigation i think?,” wrote the user “Plsdontarrest.” “Doubt he only hacked US artists/ppl which is why it’s happening in multiple countries.” Continue reading