$10M Is Yours If You Can Get This Guy to Leave Russia

May 4, 2023

The U.S. government this week put a $10 million bounty on a Russian man who for the past 18 years operated Try2Check, one of the cybercrime underground’s most trusted services for checking the validity of stolen credit card data. U.S. authorities say 43-year-old Denis Kulkov‘s card-checking service made him at least $18 million, which he used to buy a Ferrari, Land Rover, and other luxury items.

Denis Kulkov, a.k.a. “Nordex,” in his Ferrari. Image: USDOJ.

Launched in 2005, Try2Check soon was processing more than a million card-checking transactions per month — charging 20 cents per transaction. Cybercriminals turned to services like this after purchasing stolen credit card data from an underground shop, with an eye toward minimizing the number of cards that are inactive by the time they are put to criminal use.

Try2Check was so reliable that it eventually became the official card-checking service for some of the underground’s most bustling crime bazaars, including Vault Market, Unicc, and Joker’s Stash. Customers of these carding shops who chose to use the shop’s built-in (but a-la-carte) card checking service from Try2Check could expect automatic refunds on any cards that were found to be inactive or canceled at the time of purchase.

Many established stolen card shops will allow customers to request refunds on dead cards based on official reports from trusted third-party checking services. But in general, the bigger shops have steered customers toward using their own white-labeled version of the Try2Check service — primarily to help minimize disputes over canceled cards.

On Wednesday, May 3, Try2Check’s websites were replaced with a domain seizure notice from the U.S. Secret Service and U.S. Department of Justice, as prosecutors in the Eastern District of New York unsealed an indictment and search warrant naming Denis Gennadievich Kulkov of Samara, Russia as the proprietor.

Try2Check’s login pages have been replaced with a seizure notice from U.S. law enforcement.

At the same time, the U.S. Department of State issued a $10 million reward for information leading to the arrest or conviction of Kulkov. In November 2021, the State Department began offering up to to $10 million for the name or location of any key leaders of REvil, a major Russian ransomware gang.

As noted in the Secret Service’s criminal complaint (PDF), the Try2Check service was first advertised on the closely-guarded Russian cybercrime forum Mazafaka, by someone using the handle “KreenJo.” That handle used the same ICQ instant messenger account number (555724) as a Mazafaka denizen named “Nordex.”

In February 2005, Nordex posted to Mazafaka that he was in the market for hacked bank accounts, and offered 50 percent of the take. He asked interested partners to contact him at the ICQ number 228427661 or at the email address polkas@bk.ru. As the government noted in its search warrant, Nordex exchanged messages with forum users at the time identifying himself as a then-24-year-old “Denis” from Samara, RU.

In 2017, U.S. law enforcement seized the cryptocurrency exchange BTC-e, and the Secret Service said those records show that a Denis Kulkov from Samara supplied the username “Nordexin,” email address nordexin@ya.ru, and an address in Samara.

Investigators had already found Instagram accounts where Kulkov posted pictures of his Ferrari and his family. Authorities were able to identify that Kulkov had an iCloud account tied to the address nordexin@icloud.com, and upon subpoenaing that found passport photos of Kulkov, and well as more photos of his family and pricey cars.

Like many other top cybercriminals based in Russia or in countries with favorable relations to the Kremlin, the proprietor of Try2Check was not particularly difficult to link to a real-life identity. In Kulkov’s case, it no doubt was critical to U.S. investigators that they had access to a wealth of personal information tied to a cryptocurrency exchange Kulkov had used.

However, the link between Kulkov and Try2Check can be made — ironically — based on records that have been plundered by hackers and published online over the years — including Russian email services, Russian government records, and hacked cybercrime forums. Continue reading

Promising Jobs at the U.S. Postal Service, ‘US Job Services’ Leaks Customer Data

May 2, 2023

A sprawling online company based in Georgia that has made tens of millions of dollars purporting to sell access to jobs at the United States Postal Service (USPS) has exposed its internal IT operations and database of nearly 900,000 customers. The leaked records indicate the network’s chief technology officer in Pakistan has been hacked for the past year, and that the entire operation was created by the principals of a Tennessee-based telemarketing firm that has promoted USPS employment websites since 2016.

The website FederalJobsCenter promises to get you a job at the USPS in 30 days or your money back.

KrebsOnSecurity was recently contacted by a security researcher who said he found a huge tranche of full credit card records exposed online, and that at first glance the domain names involved appeared to be affiliated with the USPS.

Further investigation revealed a long-running international operation that has been emailing and text messaging people for years to sign up at a slew of websites that all promise they can help visitors secure employment at the USPS.

Sites like FederalJobsCenter[.]com also show up prominently in Google search results for USPS employment, and steer applicants toward making credit card “registration deposits” to ensure that one’s application for employment is reviewed. These sites also sell training, supposedly to help ace an interview with USPS human resources.

FederalJobsCenter’s website is full of content that makes it appear the site is affiliated with the USPS, although its “terms and conditions” state that it is not. Rather, the terms state that FederalJobsCenter is affiliated with an entity called US Job Services, which says it is based in Lawrenceville, Ga.

“US Job Services provides guidance, coaching, and live assistance to postal job candidates to help them perform better in each of the steps,” the website explains.

The site says applicants need to make a credit card deposit to register, and that this amount is refundable if the applicant is not offered a USPS job within 30 days after the interview process.

But a review of the public feedback on US Job Services and dozens of similar names connected to this entity over the years shows a pattern of activity: Applicants pay between $39.99 and $100 for USPS job coaching services, and receive little if anything in return. Some reported being charged the same amount monthly.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has sued several times over the years to disrupt various schemes offering to help people get jobs at the Postal Service. Way back in 1998, the FTC and the USPS took action against several organizations that were selling test or interview preparation services for potential USPS employees.

“Companies promising jobs with the U.S. Postal Service are breaking federal law,” the joint USPS-FTC statement said.

In that 1998 case, the defendants behind the scheme were taking out classified ads in newspapers. Ditto for a case the FTC brought in 2005. By 2008, the USPS job exam preppers had shifted to advertising their schemes mostly online. And in 2013, the FTC won a nearly $5 million judgment against a Kentucky company purporting to offer such services.

Tim McKinlay authored a report last year at Affiliateunguru.com on whether the US Job Services website job-postal[.]com was legitimate or a scam. He concluded it was a scam based on several factors, including that the website listed multiple other names (suggesting it had recently switched names), and that he got nothing from the transaction with the job site.

“They openly admit they’re not affiliated with the US Postal Service, but claim to be experts in the field, and that, just by following the steps on their site, you easily pass the postal exams and get a job in no time,” McKinlay wrote. “But it’s really just a smoke and mirrors game. The site’s true purpose is to collect $46.95 from as many people as possible. And considering how popular this job is, they’re probably making a killing.”


KrebsOnSecurity was alerted to the data exposure by Patrick Barry, chief information officer at Charlotte, NC based Rebyc Security. Barry said he found that not only was US Job Services leaking its customer payment records in real-time and going back to 2016, but its website also leaked a log file from 2019 containing the site administrator’s contact information and credentials to the site’s back-end database.

Barry shared screenshots of that back-end database, which show the email address for the administrator of US Job Services is tab.webcoder@gmail.com. According to cyber intelligence platform Constella Intelligence, that email address is tied to the LinkedIn profile for a developer in Karachi, Pakistan named Muhammed Tabish Mirza.

A search on tab.webcoder@gmail.com at DomainTools.com reveals that email address was used to register several USPS-themed domains, including postal2017[.]com, postaljobscenter[.]com and usps-jobs[.]com.

Mr. Mirza declined to respond to questions, but the exposed database information was removed from the Internet almost immediately after KrebsOnSecurity shared the offending links.

A “Campaigns” tab on that web panel listed several advertising initiatives tied to US Job Services websites, with names like “walmart drip campaign,” “hiring activity due to virus,” “opt-in job alert SMS,” and “postal job opening.”

Another page on the US Job Services panel included a script for upselling people who call in response to email and text message solicitations, with an add-on program that normally sells for $1,200 but is being “practically given away” for a limited time, for just $49.

An upselling tutorial for call center employees.

“There’s something else we have you can take advantage of that can help you make more money,” the script volunteers. “It’s an easy to use 12-month career development plan and program to follow that will result in you getting any job you want, not just at the post office….anywhere…and then getting promoted rapidly.”

It’s bad enough that US Job Services was leaking customer data: Constella Intelligence says the email address tied to Mr. Mirza shows up in more than a year’s worth of “bot logs” created by a malware infection from the Redline infostealer. Continue reading


Many Public Salesforce Sites are Leaking Private Data

April 27, 2023

A shocking number of organizations — including banks and healthcare providers — are leaking private and sensitive information from their public Salesforce Community websites, KrebsOnSecurity has learned. The data exposures all stem from a misconfiguration in Salesforce Community that allows an unauthenticated user to access records that should only be available after logging in.

A researcher found DC Health had five Salesforce Community sites exposing data.

Salesforce Community is a widely-used cloud-based software product that makes it easy for organizations to quickly create websites. Customers can access a Salesforce Community website in two ways: Authenticated access (requiring login), and guest user access (no login required). The guest access feature allows unauthenticated users to view specific content and resources without needing to log in.

However, sometimes Salesforce administrators mistakenly grant guest users access to internal resources, which can cause unauthorized users to access an organization’s private information and lead to potential data leaks.

Until being contacted by this reporter on Monday, the state of Vermont had at least five separate Salesforce Community sites that allowed guest access to sensitive data, including a Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program that exposed the applicant’s full name, Social Security number, address, phone number, email, and bank account number.

This misconfigured Salesforce Community site from the state of Vermont was leaking pandemic assistance loan application data, including names, SSNs, email address and bank account information.

Vermont’s Chief Information Security Officer Scott Carbee said his security teams have been conducting a full review of their Salesforce Community sites, and already found one additional Salesforce site operated by the state that was also misconfigured to allow guest access to sensitive information.

“My team is frustrated by the permissive nature of the platform,” Carbee said.

Carbee said the vulnerable sites were all created rapidly in response to the Coronavirus pandemic, and were not subjected to their normal security review process.

“During the pandemic, we were largely standing up tons of applications, and let’s just say a lot of them didn’t have the full benefit of our dev/ops process,” Carbee said. “In our case, we didn’t have any native Salesforce developers when we had to suddenly stand up all these sites.”

Earlier this week, KrebsOnSecurity notified Columbus, Ohio-based Huntington Bank that its recently acquired TCF Bank had a Salesforce Community website that was leaking documents related to commercial loans. The data fields in those loan applications included name, address, full Social Security number, title, federal ID, IP address, average monthly payroll, and loan amount.

Huntington Bank has disabled the leaky TCF Bank Salesforce website. Matthew Jennings, deputy chief information security officer at Huntington, said the company was still investigating how the misconfiguration occurred, how long it lasted, and how many records may have been exposed. Continue reading

3CX Breach Was a Double Supply Chain Compromise

April 20, 2023

We learned some remarkable new details this week about the recent supply-chain attack on VoIP software provider 3CX. The lengthy, complex intrusion has all the makings of a cyberpunk spy novel: North Korean hackers using legions of fake executive accounts on LinkedIn to lure people into opening malware disguised as a job offer; malware targeting Mac and Linux users working at defense and cryptocurrency firms; and software supply-chain attacks nested within earlier supply chain attacks.

Researchers at ESET say this job offer from a phony HSBC recruiter on LinkedIn was North Korean malware masquerading as a PDF file.

In late March 2023, 3CX disclosed that its desktop applications for both Windows and macOS were compromised with malicious code that gave attackers the ability to download and run code on all machines where the app was installed. 3CX says it has more than 600,000 customers and 12 million users in a broad range of industries, including aerospace, healthcare and hospitality.

3CX hired incident response firm Mandiant, which released a report on Wednesday that said the compromise began in 2022 when a 3CX employee installed a malware-laced software package distributed via an earlier software supply chain compromise that began with a tampered installer for X_TRADER, a software package provided by Trading Technologies.

“This is the first time Mandiant has seen a software supply chain attack lead to another software supply chain attack,” reads the April 20 Mandiant report.

Mandiant found the earliest evidence of compromise uncovered within 3CX’s network was through the VPN using the employee’s corporate credentials, two days after the employee’s personal computer was compromised.

“Eventually, the threat actor was able to compromise both the Windows and macOS build environments,” 3CX said in an April 20 update on their blog.

Mandiant concluded that the 3CX attack was orchestrated by the North Korean state-sponsored hacking group known as Lazarus, a determination that was independently reached earlier by researchers at Kaspersky Lab and Elastic Security.

Mandiant found the compromised 3CX software would download malware that sought out new instructions by consulting encrypted icon files hosted on GitHub. The decrypted icon files revealed the location of the malware’s control server, which was then queried for a third stage of the malware compromise — a password stealing program dubbed ICONICSTEALER.

The double supply chain compromise that led to malware being pushed out to some 3CX customers. Image: Mandiant.

Meanwhile, the security firm ESET today published research showing remarkable similarities between the malware used in the 3CX supply chain attack and Linux-based malware that was recently deployed via fake job offers from phony executive profiles on LinkedIn. The researchers said this was the first time Lazarus had been spotted deploying malware aimed at Linux users.

As reported in a series last summer here, LinkedIn has been inundated this past year by fake executive profiles for people supposedly employed at a range of technology, defense, energy and financial companies. In many cases, the phony profiles spoofed chief information security officers at major corporations, and some attracted quite a few connections before their accounts were terminated.

Mandiant, Proofpoint and other experts say Lazarus has long used these bogus LinkedIn profiles to lure targets into opening a malware-laced document that is often disguised as a job offer. This ongoing North Korean espionage campaign using LinkedIn was first documented in August 2020 by ClearSky Security, which said the Lazarus group operates dozens of researchers and intelligence personnel to maintain the campaign globally.

Microsoft Corp., which owns LinkedIn, said in September 2022 that it had detected a wide range of social engineering campaigns using a proliferation of phony LinkedIn accounts. Microsoft said the accounts were used to impersonate recruiters at technology, defense and media companies, and to entice people into opening a malicious file. Microsoft found the attackers often disguised their malware as legitimate open-source software like Sumatra PDF and the SSH client Putty.

Microsoft attributed those attacks to North Korea’s Lazarus hacking group, although they’ve traditionally referred to this group as “ZINC“. That is, until earlier this month, when Redmond completely revamped the way it names threat groups; Microsoft now references ZINC as “Diamond Sleet.” Continue reading

Giving a Face to the Malware Proxy Service ‘Faceless’

April 18, 2023

For the past seven years, a malware-based proxy service known as “Faceless” has sold anonymity to countless cybercriminals. For less than a dollar per day, Faceless customers can route their malicious traffic through tens of thousands of compromised systems advertised on the service. In this post we’ll examine clues left behind over the past decade by the proprietor of Faceless, including some that may help put a face to the name.

The proxy lookup page inside the malware-based anonymity service Faceless. Image: spur.us.

Riley Kilmer is co-founder of Spur.us, a company that tracks thousands of VPN and proxy networks, and helps customers identify traffic coming through these anonymity services. Kilmer said Faceless has emerged as one of the underground’s most reliable malware-based proxy services, mainly because its proxy network has traditionally included a great many compromised “Internet of Things” devices — such as media sharing servers — that are seldom included on malware or spam block lists.

Kilmer said when Spur first started looking into Faceless, they noticed almost every Internet address that Faceless advertised for rent also showed up in the IoT search engine Shodan.io as a media sharing device on a local network that was somehow exposed to the Internet.

“We could reliably look up the [fingerprint] for these media sharing devices in Shodan and find those same systems for sale on Faceless,” Kilmer said.

In January 2023, the Faceless service website said it was willing to pay for information about previously undocumented security vulnerabilities in IoT devices. Those with IoT zero-days could expect payment if their exploit involved at least 5,000 systems that could be identified through Shodan.

Notices posted for Faceless users, advertising an email flooding service and soliciting zero-day vulnerabilities in Internet of Things devices.

Recently, Faceless has shown ambitions beyond just selling access to poorly-secured IoT devices. In February, Faceless re-launched a service that lets users drop an email bomb on someone — causing the target’s inbox to be filled with tens of thousands of junk messages.

And in March 2023, Faceless started marketing a service for looking up Social Security Numbers (SSNs) that claims to provide access to “the largest SSN database on the market with a very high hit rate.”

Kilmer said Faceless wants to become a one-stop-fraud-shop for cybercriminals who are seeking stolen or synthetic identities from which to transact online, and a temporary proxy that is geographically close to the identity being sold. Faceless currently sells this bundled product for $9 — $8 for the identity and $1 for the proxy.

“They’re trying to be this one-stop shop for anonymity and personas,” Kilmer said. “The service basically says ‘here’s an SSN and proxy connection that should correspond to that user’s location and make sense to different websites.'”


Faceless is a project from MrMurza, a particularly talkative member of more than a dozen Russian-language cybercrime forums over the past decade. According to cyber intelligence firm Flashpoint, MrMurza has been active in the Russian underground since at least September 2012. Flashpoint said MrMurza appears to be extensively involved in botnet activity and “drops” — fraudulent bank accounts created using stolen identity data that are often used in money laundering and cash-out schemes.

Faceless grew out of a popular anonymity service called iSocks, which was launched in 2014 and advertised on multiple Russian crime forums as a proxy service that customers could use to route their malicious Web traffic through compromised computers.

Flashpoint says that in the months before iSocks went online, MrMurza posted on the Russian language crime forum Verified asking for a serious partner to assist in opening a proxy service, noting they had a botnet that was powered by malware that collected proxies with a 70 percent infection rate.

MrMurza’s Faceless advertised on the Russian-language cybercrime forum ProCrd. Image: Darkbeast/Ke-la.com.

In September 2016, MrMurza sent a message to all iSocks users saying the service would soon be phased out in favor of Faceless, and that existing iSocks users could register at Faceless for free if they did so quickly — before Faceless began charging new users registration fees between $50 and $100.

Verified and other Russian language crime forums where MrMurza had a presence have been hacked over the years, with contact details and private messages leaked online. In a 2014 private message to the administrator of Verified explaining his bona fides, MrMurza said he received years of positive feedback as a seller of stolen Italian credit cards and a vendor of drops services.

MrMurza told the Verified admin that he used the nickname AccessApproved on multiple other forums over the years. MrMurza also told the admin that his account number at the now-defunct virtual currency Liberty Reserve was U1018928.

According to cyber intelligence firm Intel 471, the user AccessApproved joined the Russian crime forum Zloy in Jan. 2012, from an Internet address in Magnitogorsk, RU. In a 2012 private message where AccessApproved was arguing with another cybercriminal over a deal gone bad, AccessApproved asked to be paid at the Liberty Reserve address U1018928.

In 2013, U.S. federal investigators seized Liberty Reserve and charged its founders with facilitating billions of dollars in money laundering tied to cybercrime. The Liberty Reserve case was prosecuted out of the Southern District of New York, which in 2016 published a list of account information (PDF) tied to thousands of Liberty Reserve addresses the government asserts were involved in money laundering.

That document indicates the Liberty Reserve account claimed by MrMurza/AccessApproved — U1018928 — was assigned in 2011 to a “Vadim Panov” who used the email address lesstroy@mgn.ru. Continue reading

Why is ‘Juice Jacking’ Suddenly Back in the News?

April 14, 2023

KrebsOnSecurity received a nice bump in traffic this week thanks to tweets from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) about “juice jacking,” a term first coined here in 2011 to describe a potential threat of data theft when one plugs their mobile device into a public charging kiosk. It remains unclear what may have prompted the alerts, but the good news is that there are some fairly basic things you can do to avoid having to worry about juice jacking.

On April 6, 2023, the FBI’s Denver office issued a warning about juice jacking in a tweet.

“Avoid using free charging stations in airports, hotels or shopping centers,” the FBI’s Denver office warned. “Bad actors have figured out ways to use public USB ports to introduce malware and monitoring software onto devices. Carry your own charger and USB cord and use an electrical outlet instead.”

Five days later, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a similar warning. “Think twice before using public charging stations,” the FCC tweeted. “Hackers could be waiting to gain access to your personal information by installing malware and monitoring software to your devices. This scam is referred to as juice jacking.”

The FCC tweet also provided a link to the agency’s awareness page on juice jacking, which was originally published in advance of the Thanksgiving Holiday in 2019 but was updated in 2021 and then again shortly after the FBI’s tweet was picked up by the news media. The alerts were so broadly and breathlessly covered in the press that a mention of juice jacking even made it into this week’s Late Late Show with James Corden.

The term juice jacking crept into the collective paranoia of gadget geeks in the summer of 2011, thanks to the headline for a story here about researchers at the DEFCON hacker convention in Vegas who’d set up a mobile charging station designed to educate the unwary to the reality that many mobile devices connected to a computer would sync their data by default.

Since then, Apple, Google and other mobile device makers have changed the way their hardware and software works so that their devices no longer automatically sync data when one plugs them into a computer with a USB charging cable. Instead, users are presented with a prompt asking if they wish to trust a connected computer before any data transfer can take place.

On the other hand, the technology needed to conduct a sneaky juice jacking attack has become far more miniaturized, accessible and cheap. And there are now several products anyone can buy that are custom-built to enable juice jacking attacks.

Probably the best known example is the OMG cable, a $180 hacking device made for professional penetration testers that looks more or less like an Apple or generic USB charging cable. But inside the OMG cable is a tiny memory chip and a Wi-Fi transmitter that creates a Wi-Fi hotspot, to which the attacker can remotely connect using a smartphone app and run commands on the device.

The $180 “OMG cable.” Image: hak5.org.

Brian Markus is co-founder of Aries Security, and one of the researchers who originally showcased the threat from juice jacking at the 2011 DEFCON. Markus said he isn’t aware of any public accounts of juice jacking kiosks being found in the wild, and said he’s unsure what prompted the recent FBI alert.

But Markus said juice jacking is still a risk because it is far easier and cheaper these days for would-be attackers to source and build the necessary equipment.

“Since then, the technology and components have become much smaller and very easy to build, which puts this in the hands of less sophisticated threat actors,” Markus said. “Also, you can now buy all this stuff over the counter. I think the risk is possibly higher now than it was a decade ago, because a much larger population of people can now pull this off easily.” Continue reading

Microsoft (& Apple) Patch Tuesday, April 2023 Edition

April 11, 2023

Microsoft today released software updates to plug 100 security holes in its Windows operating systems and other software, including a zero-day vulnerability that is already being used in active attacks. Not to be outdone, Apple has released a set of important updates addressing two zero-day vulnerabilities that are being used to attack iPhones, iPads and Macs.

On April 7, Apple issued emergency security updates to fix two weaknesses that are being actively exploited, including CVE-2023-28206, which can be exploited by apps to seize control over a device. CVE-2023-28205 can be used by a malicious or hacked website to install code.

Both vulnerabilities are addressed in iOS/iPadOS 16.4.1, iOS 15.7.5, and macOS 12.6.5 and 11.7.6. If you use Apple devices and you don’t have automatic updates enabled (they are on by default), you should probably take care of that soon as detailed instructions on how to attack CVE-2023-28206 are now public.

Microsoft’s bevy of 100 security updates released today include CVE-2023-28252, which is a weakness in Windows that Redmond says is under active attack. The vulnerability is in the Windows Common Log System File System (CLFS) driver, a core Windows component that was the source of attacks targeting a different zero-day vulnerability in February 2023.

“If it seems familiar, that’s because there was a similar 0-day patched in the same component just two months ago,” said Dustin Childs at the Trend Micro Zero Day Initiative. “To me, that implies the original fix was insufficient and attackers have found a method to bypass that fix. As in February, there is no information about how widespread these attacks may be. This type of exploit is typically paired with a code execution bug to spread malware or ransomware.”

According to the security firm Qualys, this vulnerability has been leveraged by cyber criminals to deploy Nokoyawa ransomware.

“This is a relatively new strain for which there is some open source intel to suggest that it is possibly related to Hive ransomware – one of the most notable ransomware families of 2021 and linked to breaches of over 300+ organizations in a matter of just a few months,” said Bharat Jogi, director of vulnerability and threat research at Qualys.

Jogi said while it is still unclear which exact threat actor is targeting CVE-2023-28252, targets have been observed in South and North America, regions across Asia and at organizations in the Middle East. Continue reading

FBI Seizes Bot Shop ‘Genesis Market’ Amid Arrests Targeting Operators, Suppliers

April 4, 2023

Several domain names tied to Genesis Market, a bustling cybercrime store that sold access to passwords and other data stolen from millions of computers infected with malicious software, were seized by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) today. The domain seizures coincided with more than a hundred arrests in the United States and abroad targeting those who allegedly operated the service, as well as suppliers who continuously fed Genesis Market with freshly-stolen data.

Several websites tied to the cybercrime store Genesis Market had their homepages changed today to this seizure notice.

Active since 2018, Genesis Market’s slogan was, “Our store sells bots with logs, cookies, and their real fingerprints.” Customers could search for infected systems with a variety of options, including by Internet address or by specific domain names associated with stolen credentials.

But earlier today, multiple domains associated with Genesis had their homepages replaced with a seizure notice from the FBI, which said the domains were seized pursuant to a warrant issued by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Wisconsin did not respond to requests for comment. The FBI declined to comment.

Update, April 5, 11:40 a.m. ET: The U.S. Department of Justice just released a statement on its investigation into Genesis Market. In a press briefing this morning, FBI and DOJ officials said the international law enforcement investigation involved 14 countries and resulted in 400 law enforcement actions, including 119 arrests and 208 searches and interviews worldwide. The FBI confirmed that some American suspects are among those arrested, although officials declined to share more details on the arrests.

The DOJ said investigators were able to access the user database for Genesis Market, and found the invite-only service had more than 59,000 registered users. The database contained the purchase and activity history on all users, which the feds say helped them uncover the true identities of many users.

Original story: But sources close to the investigation tell KrebsOnSecurity that law enforcement agencies in the United States, Canada and across Europe are currently serving arrest warrants on dozens of individuals thought to support Genesis, either by maintaining the site or selling the service bot logs from infected systems.

The seizure notice includes the seals of law enforcement entities from several countries, including Australia, Canada, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

When Genesis customers purchase a bot, they’re purchasing the ability to have all of the victim’s authentication cookies loaded into their browser, so that online accounts belonging to that victim can be accessed without the need of a password, and in some cases without multi-factor authentication.

“You can buy a bot with a real fingerprint, access to e-mail, social networks, bank accounts, payment systems!,” a cybercrime forum ad for Genesis enthused. “You also get all previous digital life (history) of the bot – most services won’t even ask for login and password and identify you as their returning customer. Purchasing a bot kit with the fingerprint, cookies and accesses, you become the unique user of all his or her services and other web-sites. The other use of our kit of real fingerprints is to cover-up the traces of your real internet activity.”

The Genesis Store had more than 450,000 bots for sale as of Mar. 21, 2023. Image: KrebsOnSecurity.

The pricing for Genesis bots ranged quite a bit, but in general bots with large amounts of passwords and authentication cookies — or those with access to specific financial websites such as PayPal and Coinbase — tended to fetch far higher prices.

New York based cyber intelligence firm Flashpoint says that in addition to containing a large number of resources, the most expensive bots overwhelmingly seem to have access to accounts that are easy to monetize.

“The high incidence of Google and Facebook is expected, as they are such widely used platforms,” Flashpoint noted in an analysis of Genesis Market, observing that all ten of the ten most expensive bots at the time included Coinbase credentials.

Genesis Market has introduced a number of cybercriminal innovations throughout its existence. Probably the best example is Genesis Security, a custom Web browser plugin which can load a Genesis bot profile so that the browser mimics virtually every important aspect of the victim’s device, from screen size and refresh rate to the unique user agent string tied to the victim’s web browser. Continue reading

A Serial Tech Investment Scammer Takes Up Coding?

April 3, 2023

John Clifton Davies, a 60-year-old con man from the United Kingdom who fled the country in 2015 before being sentenced to 12 years in prison for fraud, has enjoyed a successful life abroad swindling technology startups by pretending to be a billionaire investor. Davies’ newest invention appears to be “CodesToYou,” which purports to be a “full cycle software development company” based in the U.K.

The scam artist John Bernard a.k.a. Alan John Mykailov (left) in a recent Zoom call, and a mugshot of John Clifton Davies from nearly a decade earlier.

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.

John Bernard’s real name is John Clifton Davies, a convicted fraudster from the United Kingdom who is currently a fugitive from justice. 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.

The Private Office of John Bernard” let it be known to investment brokers that he had tens of millions of dollars to invest in tech startups, and he attracted a stream of new victims by offering extraordinarily generous finder’s fees to brokers who helped him secure new clients. But those brokers would eventually get stiffed because Bernard’s company would never consummate a deal.

John Bernard’s former website, where he pretended to be a billionaire tech investor.

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 The Inside Knowledge GmbH — also was secretly owned by Bernard, who would invariably pull out of the deal after receiving the due diligence money.

A variety of clues suggest Davies has recently adopted at least one other identity — Alan John Mykhailov — who is listed as chairman of a British concern called CodesToYou LTD, incorporated in May 2022. The CodesToYou website says the company employs talented coders in several countries, and that its programmers offer “your ultimate balance between speed, cost and quality.”

The team from CodesToYou.

In response to questions from KrebsOnSecurity, CodesToYou’s marketing manager — who gave their name only as “Zhena” — said the company was not affiliated with any John Bernard or John Clifton Davies, and maintained that CodesToYou is a legitimate enterprise.

But publicly available information about this company and its leadership suggests otherwise. Official incorporation documents from the U.K.’s Companies House represent that CodesToYou is headed by an Alan John Mykhailov, a British citizen born in March 1958.

Companies House says Mykhailov is an officer in three other companies, including one called Blackstone Corporate Alliance Ltd. According to the Swiss business tracking service business-monitor.ch, Blackstone Corporate Alliance Ltd. is currently the entity holding a decision-making role in John Bernard’s fake due diligence company — The Inside Knowledge GmbH — which is now in liquidation.

A screen shot of the stock photos and corporate-speak on John Bernard’s old website. Image: Archive.org

Also listed as a partner in Blackstone Corporate Alliance Limited is Igor Hubskyi (a.k.a. Igor Gubskyi), a Ukrainian man who was previously president of The Inside Knowledge GmbH.

The CodesToYou website says the company’s marketing team lead is Maria Yakovleva, and the photo of this employee matches the profile for the LinkedIn account name “Maria Y.” That same LinkedIn profile and photo previously listed Maria by a different first and last name — Mariya Kulikova; back then, Ms. Kulikova’s LinkedIn profile said she was an executive assistant in The Private Office of Mr. John Bernard.

Companies House lists Alan John Mykhailov as a current officer in two other companies, including Frisor Limited, and Ardelis Solutions Limited. A cached copy of the now-defunct Ardelis Solutions website says it was a private equity firm.

CodesToYou’s Maria also included Ardelis Solutions in the work history section of her LinkedIn resume. That is, until being contacted by this author on LinkedIn, after which Maria’s profile picture and any mention of Ardelis Solutions were deleted. Continue reading

German Police Raid DDoS-Friendly Host ‘FlyHosting’

March 31, 2023

Authorities in Germany this week seized Internet servers that powered FlyHosting, a dark web offering that catered to cybercriminals operating DDoS-for-hire services, KrebsOnSecurity has learned. FlyHosting first advertised on cybercrime forums in November 2022, saying it was a Germany-based hosting firm that was open for business to anyone looking for a reliable place to host malware, botnet controllers, or DDoS-for-hire infrastructure.

A seizure notice left on the FlyHosting domains.

A statement released today by the German Federal Criminal Police Office says they served eight search warrants on March 30, and identified five individuals aged 16-24 suspected of operating “an internet service” since mid-2021. The German authorities did not name the suspects or the Internet service in question.

“Previously unknown perpetrators used the Internet service provided by the suspects in particular for so-called ‘DDoS attacks’, i.e. the simultaneous sending of a large number of data packets via the Internet for the purpose of disrupting other data processing systems,” the statement reads.

News of a raid on FlyHosting first surfaced Thursday in a Telegram chat channel that is frequented by people interested or involved in the DDoS-for-hire industry, where a user by the name Dstatcc broke the news to FlyHosting customers:

“So Flyhosting made a ‘migration’ with it[s] systems to new rooms of the police ;),” the warning read. “Police says: They support ddos attacks, C&C/C2 and stresser a bit too much. We expect the police will take a deeper look into the files, payment logs and IP’s. If you had a server from them and they could find ‘bad things’ connected with you (payed with private paypal) you may ask a lawyer.”

An ad for FlyHosting posted by the the user “bnt” on the now-defunct cybercrime forum BreachForums. Image: Ke-la.com.

The German authorities said that as a result of the DDoS attacks facilitated by the defendants, the websites of various companies as well as those of the Hesse police have been overloaded in several cases since mid-2021, “so that they could only be operated to a limited extent or no longer at times.”

The statement says police seized mobile phones, laptops, tablets, storage media and handwritten notes from the unnamed defendants, and confiscated servers operated by the suspects in Germany, Finland and the Netherlands.

In response to questions from KrebsOnSecurity, Germany’s Hessen Police confirmed that the seizures were executed against FlyHosting.

The raids on FlyHosting come amid a broader law enforcement crackdown on DDoS-for-hire services internationally. The U.K.’s National Crime Agency announced last week that it’s been busy setting up phony DDoS-for-hire websites that seek to collect information on users, remind them that launching DDoS attacks is illegal, and generally increase the level of paranoia for people looking to hire such services.

In mid-December 2022, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced “Operation Power Off,” which seized four-dozen DDoS-for-hire domains responsible for more than 30 million DDoS attacks, and charged six U.S. men with computer crimes related to their alleged ownership of popular DDoS-for-hire services.

Update, April 3, 9:30 a.m. ET: Added confirmation from Hesse Police.