Phishing Domains Tanked After Meta Sued Freenom

May 26, 2023

The number of phishing websites tied to domain name registrar Freenom dropped precipitously in the months surrounding a recent lawsuit from social networking giant Meta, which alleged the free domain name provider has a long history of ignoring abuse complaints about phishing websites while monetizing traffic to those abusive domains.

The volume of phishing websites registered through Freenom dropped considerably since the registrar was sued by Meta. Image: Interisle Consulting.

Freenom is the domain name registry service provider for five so-called “country code top level domains” (ccTLDs), including .cf for the Central African Republic; .ga for Gabon; .gq for Equatorial Guinea; .ml for Mali; and .tk for Tokelau.

Freenom has always waived the registration fees for domains in these country-code domains, but the registrar also reserves the right to take back free domains at any time, and to divert traffic to other sites — including adult websites. And there are countless reports from Freenom users who’ve seen free domains removed from their control and forwarded to other websites.

By the time Meta initially filed its lawsuit in December 2022, Freenom was the source of well more than half of all new phishing domains coming from country-code top-level domains. Meta initially asked a court to seal its case against Freenom, but that request was denied. Meta withdrew its December 2022 lawsuit and re-filed it in March 2023.

“The five ccTLDs to which Freenom provides its services are the TLDs of choice for cybercriminals because Freenom provides free domain name registration services and shields its customers’ identity, even after being presented with evidence that the domain names are being used for illegal purposes,” Meta’s complaint charged. “Even after receiving notices of infringement or phishing by its customers, Freenom continues to license new infringing domain names to those same customers.”

Meta pointed to research from Interisle Consulting Group, which discovered in 2021 and again last year that the five ccTLDs operated by Freenom made up half of the Top Ten TLDs most abused by phishers.

Interisle partner Dave Piscitello said something remarkable has happened in the months since the Meta lawsuit.

“We’ve observed a significant decline in phishing domains reported in the Freenom commercialized ccTLDs in months surrounding the lawsuit,” Piscitello wrote on Mastodon. “Responsible for over 60% of phishing domains reported in November 2022, Freenom’s percentage has dropped to under 15%.”

Interisle collects data from 12 major blocklists for spam, malware, and phishing, and it receives phishing-specific data from Spamhaus, Phishtank, OpenPhish and the APWG Ecrime Exchange. The company publishes historical data sets quarterly, both on malware and phishing.

Piscitello said it’s too soon to tell the full impact of the Freenom lawsuit, noting that Interisle’s sources of spam and phishing data all have different policies about when domains are removed from their block lists.

“One of the things we don’t have visibility into is how each of the blocklists determine to remove a URL from their lists,” he said. “Some of them time out [listed domains] after 14 days, some do it after 30, and some keep them forever.”

Freenom did not respond to requests for comment.

This is the second time in as many years that a lawsuit by Meta against a domain registrar has disrupted the phishing industry. In March 2020, Meta sued domain registrar giant Namecheap, alleging cybersquatting and trademark infringement.

The two parties settled the matter in April 2022. While the terms of that settlement have not been disclosed, new phishing domains registered through Namecheap declined more than 50 percent the following quarter, Interisle found.

Phishing attacks using websites registered through Namecheap, before and after the registrar settled a lawsuit with Meta. Image: Interisle Consulting.

Continue reading

Interview With a Crypto Scam Investment Spammer

May 22, 2023

Social networks are constantly battling inauthentic bot accounts that send direct messages to users promoting scam cryptocurrency investment platforms. What follows is an interview with a Russian hacker responsible for a series of aggressive crypto spam campaigns that recently prompted several large Mastodon communities to temporarily halt new registrations. According to the hacker, their spam software has been in private use until the last few weeks, when it was released as open source code.

Renaud Chaput is a freelance programmer working on modernizing and scaling the Mastodon project infrastructure — including,, and Chaput said that on May 4, 2023, someone unleashed a spam torrent targeting users on these Mastodon communities via “private mentions,” a kind of direct messaging on the platform.

The messages said recipients had earned an investment credit at a cryptocurrency trading platform called moonxtrade[.]com. Chaput said the spammers used more than 1,500 Internet addresses across 400 providers to register new accounts, which then followed popular accounts on Mastodon and sent private mentions to the followers of those accounts.

Since then, the same spammers have used this method to advertise more than 100 different crypto investment-themed domains. Chaput said that at one point this month the volume of bot accounts being registered for the crypto spam campaign started overwhelming the servers that handle new signups at

“We suddenly went from like three registrations per minute to 900 a minute,” Chaput said. “There was nothing in the Mastodon software to detect that activity, and the protocol is not designed to handle this.”

One of the crypto investment scam messages promoted in the spam campaigns on Mastodon this month.

Seeking to gain a temporary handle on the spam wave, Chaput said he briefly disabled new account registrations on and Shortly after that, those same servers came under a sustained distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack.

Chaput said whoever was behind the DDoS was definitely not using point-and-click DDoS tools, like a booter or stresser service.

“This was three hours non-stop, 200,000 to 400,000 requests per second,” Chaput said of the DDoS. “At first, they were targeting one path, and when we blocked that they started to randomize things. Over three hours the attack evolved several times.”

Chaput says the spam waves have died down since they retrofitted with a CAPTCHA, those squiggly letter and number combinations designed to stymie automated account creation tools. But he’s worried that other Mastodon instances may not be as well-staffed and might be easy prey for these spammers.

“We don’t know if this is the work of one person, or if this is [related to] software or services being sold to others,” Chaput told KrebsOnSecurity. “We’re really impressed by the scale of it — using hundreds of domains and thousands of Microsoft email addresses.”

Chaput said a review of their logs indicates many of the newly registered Mastodon spam accounts were registered using the same 0auth credentials, and that a domain common to those credentials was quot[.]pw.


The domain quot[.]pw has been registered and abandoned by several parties since 2014, but the most recent registration data available through shows it was registered in March 2020 to someone in Krasnodar, Russia with the email address

This email address is also connected to accounts on several Russian cybercrime forums, including “__edman__,” who had a history of selling “logs” — large amounts of data stolen from many bot-infected computers — as well as giving away access to hacked Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

In September 2018, a user by the name “ципа” (phonetically “Zipper” in Russian) registered on the Russian hacking forum Lolzteam using the address. In May 2020, Zipper told another Lolzteam member that quot[.]pw was their domain. That user advertised a service called “Quot Project” which said they could be hired to write programming scripts in Python and C++.

“I make Telegram bots and other rubbish cheaply,” reads one February 2020 sales thread from Zipper.

Quotpw/Ahick/Edgard/ципа advertising his coding services in this Google-translated forum posting.

Clicking the “open chat in Telegram” button on Zipper’s Lolzteam profile page launched a Telegram instant message chat window where the user Quotpw responded almost immediately. Asked if they were aware their domain was being used to manage a spam botnet that was pelting Mastodon instances with crypto scam spam, Quotpw confirmed the spam was powered by their software.

“It was made for a limited circle of people,” Quotpw said, noting that they recently released the bot software as open source on GitHub.

Quotpw went on to say the spam botnet was powered by well more than the hundreds of IP addresses tracked by Chaput, and that these systems were mostly residential proxies. A residential proxy generally refers to a computer or mobile device running some type of software that enables the system to be used as a pass-through for Internet traffic from others.

Very often, this proxy software is installed surreptitiously, such as through a “Free VPN” service or mobile app. Residential proxies also can refer to households protected by compromised home routers running factory-default credentials or outdated firmware.

Quotpw maintains they have earned more than $2,000 sending roughly 100,000 private mentions to users of different Mastodon communities over the past few weeks. Quotpw said their conversion rate for the same bot-powered direct message spam on Twitter is usually much higher and more profitable, although they conceded that recent adjustments to Twitter’s anti-bot CAPTCHA have put a crimp in their Twitter earnings.

“My partners (I’m programmer) lost time and money while ArkoseLabs (funcaptcha) introduced new precautions on Twitter,” Quotpw wrote in a Telegram reply. “On Twitter, more spam and crypto scam.”

Asked whether they felt at all conflicted about spamming people with invitations to cryptocurrency scams, Quotpw said in their hometown “they pay more for such work than in ‘white’ jobs” — referring to legitimate programming jobs that don’t involve malware, botnets, spams and scams.

“Consider salaries in Russia,” Quotpw said. “Any spam is made for profit and brings illegal money to spammers.” Continue reading


Russian Hacker “Wazawaka” Indicted for Ransomware

May 16, 2023

A Russian man identified by KrebsOnSecurity in January 2022 as a prolific and vocal member of several top ransomware groups was the subject of two indictments unsealed by the Justice Department today. U.S. prosecutors say Mikhail Pavolovich Matveev, a.k.a. “Wazawaka” and “Boriselcin” worked with three different ransomware gangs that extorted hundreds of millions of dollars from companies, schools, hospitals and government agencies.

An FBI wanted poster for Matveev.

Indictments returned in New Jersey and the District of Columbia allege that Matveev was involved in a conspiracy to distribute ransomware from three different strains or affiliate groups, including Babuk, Hive and LockBit.

The indictments allege that on June 25, 2020, Matveev and his LockBit co-conspirators deployed LockBit ransomware against a law enforcement agency in Passaic County, New Jersey. Prosecutors say that on May 27, 2022, Matveev conspired with Hive to ransom a nonprofit behavioral healthcare organization headquartered in Mercer County, New Jersey. And on April 26, 2021, Matveev and his Babuk gang allegedly deployed ransomware against the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Treasury has added Matveev to its list of persons with whom it is illegal to transact financially. Also, the U.S. State Department is offering a $10 million reward for the capture and/or prosecution of Matveev, although he is unlikely to face either as long as he continues to reside in Russia.

In a January 2021 discussion on a top Russian cybercrime forum, Matveev’s alleged alter ego Wazawaka said he had no plans to leave the protection of “Mother Russia,” and that traveling abroad was not an option for him.

“Mother Russia will help you,” Wazawaka concluded. “Love your country, and you will always get away with everything.”

In January 2022, KrebsOnSecurity published Who is the Network Access Broker ‘Wazawaka,’ which followed clues from Wazawaka’s many pseudonyms and contact details on the Russian-language cybercrime forums back to a 33-year-old Mikhail Matveev from Abaza, RU (the FBI says his date of birth is Aug. 17, 1992).

A month after that story ran, a man who appeared identical to the social media photos for Matveev began posting on Twitter a series of bizarre selfie videos in which he lashed out at security journalists and researchers (including this author), while using the same Twitter account to drop exploit code for a widely-used virtual private networking (VPN) appliance.

“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 one of the videos. “By the way, it is my voice in the background, I just love myself a lot.”

Prosecutors allege Matveev used a dizzying stream of monikers on the cybercrime forums, including “Boriselcin,” a talkative and brash personality who was simultaneously the public persona of Babuk, a ransomware affiliate program that surfaced on New Year’s Eve 2020. Continue reading

Re-Victimization from Police-Auctioned Cell Phones

May 16, 2023

Countless smartphones seized in arrests and searches by police forces across the United States are being auctioned online without first having the data on them erased, a practice that can lead to crime victims being re-victimized, a new study found. In response, the largest online marketplace for items seized in U.S. law enforcement investigations says it now ensures that all phones sold through its platform will be data-wiped prior to auction.

Researchers at the University of Maryland last year purchased 228 smartphones sold “as-is” from, which bills itself as the largest auction house for police departments in the United States. Of phones they won at auction (at an average of $18 per phone), the researchers found 49 had no PIN or passcode; they were able to guess an additional 11 of the PINs by using the top-40 most popular PIN or swipe patterns.

Phones may end up in police custody for any number of reasons — such as its owner was involved in identity theft — and in these cases the phone itself was used as a tool to commit the crime.

“We initially expected that police would never auction these phones, as they would enable the buyer to recommit the same crimes as the previous owner,” the researchers explained in a paper released this month. “Unfortunately, that expectation has proven false in practice.”

The researchers said while they could have employed more aggressive technological measures to work out more of the PINs for the remaining phones they bought, they concluded based on the sample that a great many of the devices they won at auction had probably not been data-wiped and were protected only by a PIN.

Beyond what you would expect from unwiped second hand phones — every text message, picture, email, browser history, location history, etc. — the 61 phones they were able to access also contained significant amounts of data pertaining to crime — including victims’ data — the researchers found.

Some readers may be wondering at this point, “Why should we care about what happens to a criminal’s phone?” First off, it’s not entirely clear how these phones ended up for sale on PropertyRoom.

“Some folks are like, ‘Yeah, whatever, these are criminal phones,’ but are they?” said Dave Levin, an assistant professor of computer science at University of Maryland.

“We started looking at state laws around what they’re supposed to do with lost or stolen property, and we found that most of it ends up going the same route as civil asset forfeiture,” Levin continued. “Meaning, if they can’t find out who owns something, it eventually becomes the property of the state and gets shipped out to these resellers.”

Also, the researchers found that many of the phones clearly had personal information on them regarding previous or intended targets of crime: A dozen of the phones had photographs of government-issued IDs. Three of those were on phones that apparently belonged to sex workers; their phones contained communications with clients. Continue reading

Microsoft Patch Tuesday, May 2023 Edition

May 9, 2023

Microsoft today released software updates to fix at least four dozen security holes in its Windows operating systems and other software, including patches for two zero-day vulnerabilities that are already being exploited in active attacks.

First up in May’s zero-day flaws is CVE-2023-29336, which is an “elevation of privilege” weakness in Windows which has a low attack complexity, requires low privileges, and no user interaction. However, as the SANS Internet Storm Center points out, the attack vector for this bug is local.

“Local Privilege escalation vulnerabilities are a key part of attackers’ objectives,” said Kevin Breen, director of cyber threat research at Immersive Labs. “Once they gain initial access they will seek administrative or SYSTEM-level permissions. This can allow the attacker to disable security tooling and deploy more attacker tools like Mimikatz that lets them move across the network and gain persistence.”

The zero-day patch that has received the most attention so far is CVE-2023-24932, which is a Secure Boot Security Feature Bypass flaw that is being actively exploited by “bootkit” malware known as “BlackLotus.” A bootkit is dangerous because it allows the attacker to load malicious software before the operating system even starts up. Continue reading

Feds Take Down 13 More DDoS-for-Hire Services

May 9, 2023

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) this week seized 13 domain names connected to “booter” services that let paying customers launch crippling distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks. Ten of the domains are reincarnations of DDoS-for-hire services the FBI seized in December 2022, when it charged six U.S. men with computer crimes for allegedly operating booters.

Booter services are advertised through a variety of methods, including Dark Web forums, chat platforms and even 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 generally 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.

The websites that saw their homepages replaced with seizure notices from the FBI this week include booter services like cyberstress[.]org and exoticbooter[.]com, which the feds say were used to launch millions of attacks against millions of victims.

“School districts, universities, financial institutions and government websites are among the victims who have been targeted in attacks launched by booter services,” federal prosecutors in Los Angeles said in a statement.

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

But the DOJ says these disclaimers usually ignore the fact that most booter services are heavily reliant on constantly scanning the Internet to commandeer misconfigured devices that are critical for maximizing the size and impact of DDoS attacks. What’s more, none of the services seized by the government required users to demonstrate that they own the Internet addresses being stress-tested, something a legitimate testing service would insist upon.

This is the third in a series of U.S. and international law enforcement actions targeting booter services. In December 2022, the feds seized four-dozen booter domains and charged six U.S. men with computer crimes related to their alleged ownership of the popular DDoS-for-hire services. In December 2018, the feds targeted 15 booter sites, and three booter store defendants who later pleaded guilty.

While the FBI’s repeated seizing of booter domains may seem like an endless game of virtual Whac-a-Mole, continuously taking these services offline imposes high enough costs for the operators that some of them will quit the business altogether, says Richard Clayton, director of Cambridge University’s Cybercrime Centre.

In 2020, Clayton and others published “Cybercrime is Mostly Boring,” an academic study on the quality and types of work needed to build, maintain and defend illicit enterprises that make up a large portion of the cybercrime-as-a-service market. The study found that operating a booter service effectively requires a mind-numbing amount of constant, tedious work that tends to produce high burnout rates for booter service operators — even when the service is operating efficiently and profitably.

For example, running an effective booter service requires a substantial amount of administrative work and maintenance, much of which involves constantly scanning for, commandeering and managing large collections of remote systems that can be used to amplify online attacks, Clayton said. On top of that, building brand recognition and customer loyalty takes time.

“If you’re running a booter and someone keeps taking your domain or hosting away, you have to then go through doing the same boring work all over again,” Clayton told KrebsOnSecurity. “One of the guys the FBI arrested in December [2022] spent six months moaning that he lost his servers, and could people please lend him some money to get it started again.” Continue reading

$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 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, 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, 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 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 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 at 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