‘Wormable’ Flaw Leads January 2022 Patch Tuesday

January 11, 2022

Microsoft today released updates to plug nearly 120 security holes in Windows and supported software. Six of the vulnerabilities were publicly detailed already, potentially giving attackers a head start in figuring out how to exploit them in unpatched systems. More concerning, Microsoft warns that one of the flaws fixed this month is “wormable,” meaning no human interaction would be required for an attack to spread from one vulnerable Windows box to another.

Nine of the vulnerabilities fixed in this month’s Patch Tuesday received Microsoft’s “critical” rating, meaning malware or miscreants can exploit them to gain remote access to vulnerable Windows systems through no help from the user.

By all accounts, the most severe flaw addressed today is CVE-2022-21907, a critical, remote code execution flaw in the “HTTP Protocol Stack.” Microsoft says the flaw affects Windows 10 and Windows 11, as well as Server 2019 and Server 2022.

“While this is definitely more server-centric, remember that Windows clients can also run http.sys, so all affected versions are affected by this bug,” said Dustin Childs from Trend Micro’s Zero Day Initiative. “Test and deploy this patch quickly.”

Quickly indeed. In May 2021, Microsoft patched a similarly critical and wormable vulnerability in the HTTP Protocol Stack; less than a week later, computer code made to exploit the flaw was posted online.

Microsoft also fixed three more remote code execution flaws in Exchange Server, a technology that hundreds of thousands of organizations worldwide use to manage their email. Exchange flaws are a major target of malicious hackers. Almost a year ago, hundreds of thousands of Exchange servers worldwide were compromised by malware after attackers started mass-exploiting four zero-day flaws in Exchange.

Microsoft says the limiting factor with these three newly found Exchange flaws is that an attacker would need to be tied to the target’s network somehow to exploit them. But Satnam Narang at Tenable notes Microsoft has labeled all three Exchange flaws as “exploitation more likely.”

“One of the flaws, CVE-2022-21846, was disclosed to Microsoft by the National Security Agency,” Narang said. “Despite the rating, Microsoft notes the attack vector is adjacent, meaning exploitation will require more legwork for an attacker, unlike the ProxyLogon and ProxyShell vulnerabilities which were remotely exploitable.” Continue reading

500M Avira Antivirus Users Introduced to Cryptomining

January 8, 2022

Many readers were surprised to learn recently that the popular Norton 360 antivirus suite now ships with a program which lets customers make money mining virtual currency. But Norton 360 isn’t alone in this dubious endeavor: Avira antivirus — which has built a base of 500 million users worldwide largely by making the product free — was recently bought by the same company that owns Norton 360 and is introducing its customers to a service called Avira Crypto.

Avira Crypto

Founded in 2006, Avira Operations GmbH & Co. KG is a German multinational software company best known for their Avira Free Security (a.k.a. Avira Free Antivirus). In January 2021, Avira was acquired by Tempe, Ariz.-based NortonLifeLock Inc., the same company that now owns Norton 360.

In 2017, the identity theft protection company LifeLock was acquired by Symantec Corp., which was renamed to NortonLifeLock in 2019. LifeLock is now included in the Norton 360 service; Avira offers users a similar service called Breach Monitor.

Like Norton 360, Avira comes with a cryptominer already installed, but customers have to opt in to using the service that powers it. Avira’s FAQ on its cryptomining service is somewhat sparse. For example, it doesn’t specify how much NortonLifeLock gets out of the deal (NortonLifeLock keeps 15 percent of any cryptocurrency mined by Norton Crypto).

“Avira Crypto allows you to use your computer’s idle time to mine the cryptocurrency Ethereum (ETH),” the FAQ explains. “Since cryptomining requires a high level of processing power, it is not suitable for users with an average computer. Even with compatible hardware, mining cryptocurrencies on your own can be less rewarding. Your best option is to join a mining pool that shares their computer power to improve their chance of mining cryptocurrency. The rewards are then distributed evenly to all members in the pool.”

NortonLifeLock hasn’t yet responded to requests for comment, so it’s unclear whether Avira uses the same cryptomining code as Norton Crypto. But there are clues that suggest that’s the case. NortonLifeLock announced Avira Crypto in late October 2021, but multiple other antivirus products have flagged Avira’s installer as malicious or unsafe for including a cryptominer as far back as Sept. 9, 2021.

Avira was detected as potentially unsafe for including a cryptominer back in Sept. 2021. Image: Virustotal.com.

The above screenshot was taken on Virustotal.com, a service owned by Google that scans submitted files against dozens of antivirus products. The detection report pictured was found by searching Virustotal for “ANvOptimusEnablementCuda,” a function included in the Norton Crypto mining component “Ncrypt.exe.” Continue reading

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Norton 360 Now Comes With a Cryptominer

January 6, 2022

Norton 360, one of the most popular antivirus products on the market today, has installed a cryptocurrency mining program on its customers’ computers. Norton’s parent firm says the cloud-based service that activates the program and allows customers to profit from the scheme — in which the company keeps 15 percent of any currencies mined — is “opt-in,” meaning users have to agree to enable it. But many Norton users complain the mining program is difficult to remove, and reactions from longtime customers have ranged from unease and disbelief to, “Dude, where’s my crypto?”

Norton 360 is owned by Tempe, Ariz.-based NortonLifeLock Inc. In 2017, the identity theft protection company LifeLock was acquired by Symantec Corp., which was renamed to NortonLifeLock in 2019 (LifeLock is now included in the Norton 360 service).

According to the FAQ posted on its site, “Norton Crypto” will mine Ethereum (ETH) cryptocurrency while the customer’s computer is idle. The FAQ also says Norton Crypto will only run on systems that meet certain hardware and software requirements (such as an NVIDIA graphics card with at least 6 GB of memory).

“Norton creates a secure digital Ethereum wallet for each user,” the FAQ reads. “The key to the wallet is encrypted and stored securely in the cloud. Only you have access to the wallet.”

NortonLifeLock began offering the mining service in July 2021, and early news coverage of the program did not immediately receive widespread attention. That changed on Jan. 4, when Boing Boing co-editor Cory Doctorow tweeted that NortonCrypto would run by default for Norton 360 users.

NortonLifeLock says Norton Crypto is an opt-in feature only and is not enabled without user permission.

“If users have turned on Norton Crypto but no longer wish to use the feature, it can be disabled by temporarily shutting off ‘tamper protection’ (which allows users to modify the Norton installation) and deleting NCrypt.exe from your computer,” NortonLifeLock said in a written statement. However, many users have reported difficulty removing the mining program.

From reading user posts on the Norton Crypto community forum, it seems some longtime Norton customers were horrified at the prospect of their antivirus product installing coin-mining software, regardless of whether the mining service was turned off by default.

“How on Earth could anyone at Norton think that adding crypto mining within a security product would be a good thing?,” reads a Dec. 28 thread titled “Absolutely furious.”

“Norton should be DETECTING and killing off crypto mining hijacking, not installing their own,” the post reads. “The product people need firing. What’s the next ‘bright idea’? Norton Botnet? ‘ And I was just about to re-install Norton 360 too, but this has literally has caused me to no longer trust Norton and their direction.” Continue reading

Happy 12th Birthday, KrebsOnSecurity.com!

December 29, 2021


KrebsOnSecurity.com celebrates its 12th anniversary today! Maybe “celebrate” is too indelicate a word for a year wracked by the global pandemics of COVID-19 and ransomware. Especially since stories about both have helped to grow the audience here tremendously in 2021. But this site’s birthday also is a welcome opportunity to thank you all for your continued readership and support, which helps keep the content here free to everyone.

More than seven million unique visitors came to KrebsOnSecurity.com in 2021, generating some 12 million+ pageviews and leaving almost 8,000 comments. We also now have nearly 50,000 subscribers to our email newsletter, which is still just a text-based (non-HTML) email that goes out each time a new story is published here (~2-3 times a week).

Back when this site first began 12 years ago, I never imagined it would attract such a level of engagement. Before launching KrebsOnSecurity, I was a tech reporter for washingtonpost.com. For many years, The Post’s website was physically, financially and editorially separate from what the dot-com employees affectionately called “The Dead Tree Edition.” When the two newsrooms finally merged in 2009, my position was eliminated.

Happily, the blog I authored for four years at washingtonpost.com — Security Fix — had attracted a sizable readership, and it seemed clear that the worldwide appetite for in-depth news about computer security and cybercrime would become practically insatiable in the coming years.

Happier still, The Post offered a severance package equal to six months of my salary. Had they not thrown that lifeline, I doubt I’d have had the guts to go it alone. But at the time, my wife basically said I had six months to make this “blog thing” work, or else find a “real job.”

God bless her eternal patience with my adopted occupation, because KrebsOnSecurity has helped me avoid finding a real job for a dozen years now. And hopefully they let me keep doing this, because at this point I’m certainly unqualified to do much else.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t take this opportunity to remind Dear Readers that advertisers do help keep the content free here to everyone. For security and privacy reasons, KrebsOnSecurity does not host any third-party content on this site — and this includes the ad creatives, which are simply images or GIFs vetted by Yours Truly and served directly from krebsonsecurity.com.

That’s a long-winded way of asking: If you regularly visit KrebsOnSecurity.com with an ad blocker, please consider adding an exception for this site.

Thanks again, Dear Readers. Please stay safe, healthy and alert in 2022. See you on the other side!

NY Man Pleads Guilty in $20 Million SIM Swap Theft

December 16, 2021

A 24-year-old New York man who bragged about helping to steal more than $20 million worth of cryptocurrency from a technology executive has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Nicholas Truglia was part of a group alleged to have stolen more than $100 million from cryptocurrency investors using fraudulent “SIM swaps,” scams in which identity thieves hijack a target’s mobile phone number and use that to wrest control over the victim’s online identities.

Truglia admitted to a New York federal court that he let a friend use his account at crypto-trading platform Binance in 2018 to launder more than $20 million worth of virtual currency stolen from Michael Terpin, a cryptocurrency investor who co-founded the first angel investor group for bitcoin enthusiasts.

Following the theft, Terpin filed a civil lawsuit against Truglia with the Los Angeles Superior court. In May 2019, the jury awarded Terpin a $75.8 million judgment against Truglia. In January 2020, a New York grand jury criminally indicted Truglia (PDF) for his part in the crypto theft from Terpin.

A SIM card is the tiny, removable chip in a mobile device that allows it to connect to the provider’s network. Customers can legitimately request a SIM swap when their mobile device has been damaged or lost, or when they are switching to a different phone that requires a SIM card of another size.

Nicholas Truglia, holding bottle. Image: twitter.com/erupts

But fraudulent SIM swaps are frequently abused by scam artists who trick mobile providers into tying a target’s service to a new SIM card and mobile phone controlled by the scammers. Unauthorized SIM swaps often are perpetrated by fraudsters who have already stolen or phished a target’s password, as many financial institutions and online services rely on text messages to send users a one-time code for multi-factor authentication.

Compounding the threat, many websites let customers reset their passwords merely by clicking a link sent via SMS to the mobile phone number tied to the account, meaning anyone who controls that phone number can reset the passwords for those accounts.

Reached for comment, Terpin said his assailant got off easy.

“I am outraged that after nearly four years and hundreds of pages of evidence that the best the prosecutors could recommend was a plea bargain for a single, relatively minor count of the unauthorized use of a Binance exchange account, when all the evidence points toward Truglia being one of two masterminds of a wide-ranging criminal conspiracy to steal crypto from me and others,” Terpin told KrebsOnSecurity.

Terpin said public court records already show Truglia bragging about stealing his funds and using it to finance a lavish lifestyle.

“He at the very least withdrew 100 bitcoin (worth $1.6 million at the time and nearly $5 million today) from my theft into his wallet at a separate, US-based exchange, and then moved or spent it,” Terpin said. “The fact is that the intentional theft of $24 million, whether taken at the point of a gun in a bank or through a SIM card swap, is a major felony. Truglia should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Nicholas Truglia, showing off a diamond-studded Piaget watch while aboard a private jet. Image: twitter.com/erupts.

Continue reading

Microsoft Patch Tuesday, December 2021 Edition

December 14, 2021

Microsoft, Adobe, and Google all issued security updates to their products today. The Microsoft patches include six previously disclosed security flaws, and one that is already being actively exploited. But this month’s Patch Tuesday is overshadowed by the “Log4Shell” 0-day exploit in a popular Java library that web server administrators are now racing to find and patch amid widespread exploitation of the flaw.

Log4Shell is the name picked for a critical flaw disclosed Dec. 9 in the popular logging library for Java called “log4j,” which is included in a huge number of Java applications. Publicly released exploit code allows an attacker to force a server running a vulnerable log4j library to execute commands, such as downloading malicious software or opening a backdoor connection to the server.

According to researchers at Lunasec, many, many services are vulnerable to this exploit.

“Cloud services like Steam, Apple iCloud, and apps like Minecraft have already been found to be vulnerable,” Lunasec wrote. “Anybody using Apache Struts is likely vulnerable. We’ve seen similar vulnerabilities exploited before in breaches like the 2017 Equifax data breach. An extensive list of responses from impacted organizations has been compiled here.”

“If you run a server built on open-source software, there’s a good chance you are impacted by this vulnerability,” said Dustin Childs of Trend Micro’s Zero Day Initiative. “Check with all the vendors in your enterprise to see if they are impacted and what patches are available.”

Part of the difficulty in patching against the Log4Shell attack is identifying all of the vulnerable web applications, said Johannes Ullrich, an incident handler and blogger for the SANS Internet Storm Center. “Log4Shell will continue to haunt us for years to come. Dealing with log4shell will be a marathon,” Ullrich said. “Treat it as such.” SANS has a good walk-through of how simple yet powerful the exploit can be.

John Hultquist, vice president of intelligence analysis at Mandiant, said the company has seen Chinese and Iranian state actors leveraging the log4j vulnerability, and that the Iranian actors are particularly aggressive, having taken part in ransomware operations that may be primarily carried out for disruptive purposes rather than financial gain.

“We anticipate other state actors are doing so as well, or preparing to,” Hultquist said. “We believe these actors will work quickly to create footholds in desirable networks for follow-on activity, which may last for some time. In some cases, they will work from a wish list of targets that existed long before this vulnerability was public knowledge. In other cases, desirable targets may be selected after broad targeting.”

Researcher Kevin Beaumont had a more lighthearted take on Log4Shell via Twitter:

“Basically the perfect ending to cybersecurity in 2021 is a 90s style Java vulnerability in an open source module, written by two volunteers with no funding, used by large cybersecurity vendors, undetected until Minecraft chat got pwned, where nobody knows how to respond properly.”

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has joined with the FBI, National Security Agency (NSA) and partners abroad in publishing an advisory to help organizations mitigate Log4Shell and other Log4j-related vulnerabilities.

Continue reading

Inside Ireland’s Public Healthcare Ransomware Scare

December 13, 2021

The consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers recently published lessons learned from the disruptive and costly ransomware attack in May 2021 on Ireland’s public health system. The unusually candid post-mortem found that nearly two months elapsed between the initial intrusion and the launching of the ransomware. It also found affected hospitals had tens of thousands of outdated Windows 7 systems, and that the health system’s IT administrators failed to respond to multiple warning signs that a massive attack was imminent.

PWC’s timeline of the days leading up to the deployment of Conti ransomware on May 14.

Ireland’s Health Service Executive (HSE), which operates the country’s public health system, got hit with Conti ransomware on May 14, 2021. A timeline in the report (above) says the initial infection of the “patient zero” workstation happened on Mar. 18, 2021, when an employee on a Windows computer opened a booby-trapped Microsoft Excel document in a phishing email that had been sent two days earlier.

Less than a week later, the attacker had established a reliable backdoor connection to the employee’s infected workstation. After infecting the system, “the attacker continued to operate in the environment over an eight week period until the detonation of the Conti ransomware on May 14, 2021,” the report states.

According to PWC’s report (PDF), there were multiple warnings about a serious network intrusion, but those red flags were either misidentified or not acted on quickly enough:

  • On Mar. 31, 2021, the HSE’s antivirus software detected the execution of two software tools commonly used by ransomware groups — Cobalt Strike and Mimikatz — on the Patient Zero Workstation. But the antivirus software was set to monitor mode, so it did not block the malicious commands.”
  • On May 7, the attacker compromised the HSE’s servers for the first time, and over the next five days the intruder would compromise six HSE hospitals. On May 10, one of the hospitals detected malicious activity on its Microsoft Windows Domain Controller, a critical “keys to the kingdom” component of any Windows enterprise network that manages user authentication and network access.
  • On 10 May 2021, security auditors first identified evidence of the attacker compromising systems within Hospital C and Hospital L. Hospital C’s antivirus software detected Cobalt Strike on two systems but failed to quarantine the malicious files.
  • On May 13, the HSE’s antivirus security provider emailed the HSE’s security operations team, highlighting unhandled threat events dating back to May 7 on at least 16 systems. The HSE Security Operations team requested that the Server team restart servers.

By then it was too late. At just after midnight Ireland time on May 14, the attacker executed the Conti ransomware within the HSE. The attack disrupted services at several Irish hospitals and resulted in the near complete shutdown of the HSE’s national and local networks, forcing the cancellation of many outpatient clinics and healthcare services. The number of appointments in some areas dropped by up to 80 percent.”

Conti initially demanded USD $20 million worth of virtual currency in exchange for a digital key to unlock HSE servers compromised by the group. But perhaps in response to the public outcry over the HSE disruption, Conti reversed course and gave the HSE the decryption keys without requiring payment.

Still, the work to restore infected systems would take months. The HSE ultimately enlisted members of the Irish military to bring in laptops and PCs to help restore computer systems by hand. It wasn’t until September 21, 2021 that the HSE declared 100 percent of its servers were decrypted.

As bad as the HSE ransomware attack was, the PWC report emphasizes that it could have been far worse. For example, it is unclear how much data would have been unrecoverable if a decryption key had not become available as the HSE’s backup infrastructure was only periodically backed up to offline tape.

The attack also could have been worse, the report found:

  • if there had been intent by the Attacker to target specific devices within the HSE environment (e.g. medical devices);
  • if the ransomware took actions to destroy data at scale;
  • if the ransomware had auto-propagation and persistence capabilities, for example by using an exploit to propagate across domains and trust-boundaries to medical devices (e.g. the EternalBlue exploit used by the WannaCry and NotPetya15 attacks);
  • if cloud systems had also been encrypted such as the COVID-19 vaccination system

The PWC report contains numerous recommendations, most of which center around hiring new personnel to lead the organization’s redoubled security efforts. But it is clear that the HSE has an enormous amount of work ahead to grow in security maturity. For example, the report notes the HSE’s hospital network had over 30,000 Windows 7 workstations that were deemed end of life by the vendor.

“The HSE assessed its cybersecurity maturity rating as low,” PWC wrote. “For example, they do not have a CISO or a Security Operations Center established.” Continue reading

Canada Charges Its “Most Prolific Cybercriminal”

December 8, 2021

A 31-year-old Canadian man has been arrested and charged with fraud in connection with numerous ransomware attacks against businesses, government agencies and private citizens throughout Canada and the United States. Canadian authorities describe him as “the most prolific cybercriminal we’ve identified in Canada,” but so far they’ve released few other details about the investigation or the defendant. Helpfully, an email address and nickname apparently connected to the accused offer some additional clues.

Matthew Philbert, in 2016.

Matthew Philbert of Ottawa, Ontario was charged with fraud and conspiracy in a joint law enforcement action by Canadian and U.S. authorities dubbed “Project CODA.” The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) on Tuesday said the investigation began in January 2020 when the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) contacted them regarding ransomware attacks that were based in Canada.

“During the course of this investigation, OPP investigators determined an individual was responsible for numerous ransomware attacks affecting businesses, government agencies and private individuals throughout Canada as well as cyber-related offenses in the United States,” reads an OPP statement.

“A quantity of evidentiary materials was seized and held for investigation, including desktop and laptop computers, a tablet, several hard drives, cellphones, a Bitcoin seed phrase and a quantity of blank cards with magnetic stripes,” the statement continues.

The U.S. indictment of Philbert (PDF) is unusually sparse, but it does charge him with conspiracy, suggesting the defendant was part of a group. In an interview with KrebsOnSecurity, OPP Detective Inspector Matt Watson declined to say whether other defendants were being sought in connection with the investigation, but said the inquiry is ongoing.

“I will say this, Philbert is the most prolific cybercriminal we’ve identified to date in Canada,” Watson said. “We’ve identified in excess of a thousand of his victims. And a lot of these were small businesses that were just holding on by their fingernails during COVID.”

A DARK CLOUD

There is a now-dormant Myspace account for a Matthew Philbert from Orleans, a suburb of Ottawa, Ontario. The information tied to the Myspace account matches the age and town of the defendant. The Myspace account was registered under the nickname “Darkcloudowner,” and to the email address dark_cl0ud6@hotmail.com.

A search in DomainTools on that email address reveals multiple domains registered to a Matthew Philbert and to the Ottawa phone number 6138999251 [DomainTools is a frequent advertiser on this site]. That same phone number is tied to a Facebook account for a 31-year-old Matthew Philbert from Orleans, who describes himself as a self-employed “broke bitcoin baron.”

Mr. Philbert did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

According to cyber intelligence firm Intel 471, that dark_cl0ud6@hotmail.com address has been used in conjunction with the handle “DCReavers2” to register user accounts on a half-dozen English-language cybercrime forums since 2008, including Hackforums, Blackhatworld, and Ghostmarket.

Perhaps the earliest and most important cybercrime forum DCReavers2 frequented was Darkode, where he was among the first two-dozen members. Darkode was taken down in 2015 as part of an FBI investigation sting operation, but screenshots of the community saved by this author show that DCReavers2 was already well known to the Darkode founders when his membership to the forum was accepted in May 2009.

DCReavers2 was just the 22nd account to register on the Darkode cybercrime forum.

Most of DCReavers’s posts on Darkode appear to have been removed by forum administrators early on (likely at DCReavers’ request), but the handful of posts that survived the purge show that more than a decade ago DCReavers2 was involved in running botnets, or large collections of hacked computers.

“My exploit pack is hosted there with 0 problems,” DCReaver2 says of a shady online provider that another member asked about in May 2010. Continue reading

Who Is the Network Access Broker ‘Babam’?

December 3, 2021

Rarely do cybercriminal gangs that deploy ransomware gain the initial access to the target themselves. More commonly, that access is purchased from a cybercriminal broker who specializes in acquiring remote access credentials — such as usernames and passwords needed to remotely connect to the target’s network. In this post we’ll look at the clues left behind by “Babam,” the handle chosen by a cybercriminal who has sold such access to ransomware groups on many occasions over the past few years.

Since the beginning of 2020, Babam has set up numerous auctions on the Russian-language cybercrime forum Exploit, mainly selling virtual private networking (VPN) credentials stolen from various companies. Babam has authored more than 270 posts since joining Exploit in 2015, including dozens of sales threads. However, none of Babam’s posts on Exploit include any personal information or clues about his identity.

But in February 2016, Babam joined Verified, another Russian-language crime forum. Verified was hacked at least twice in the past five years, and its user database posted online. That information shows that Babam joined Verified using the email address “operns@gmail.com.” The latest Verified leak also exposed private messages exchanged by forum members, including more than 800 private messages that Babam sent or received on the forum over the years.

In early 2017, Babam confided to another Verified user via private message that he is from Lithuania. In virtually all of his forum posts and private messages, Babam can be seen communicating in transliterated Russian rather than by using the Cyrillic alphabet. This is common among cybercriminal actors for whom Russian is not their native tongue.

Cyber intelligence platform Constella Intelligence told KrebsOnSecurity that the operns@gmail.com address was used in 2016 to register an account at filmai.in, which is a movie streaming service catering to Lithuanian speakers. The username associated with that account was “bo3dom.”

A reverse WHOIS search via DomainTools.com says operns@gmail.com was used to register two domain names: bonnjoeder[.]com back in 2011, and sanjulianhotels[.]com (2017). It’s unclear whether these domains ever were online, but the street address on both records was “24 Brondeg St.” in the United Kingdom. [Full disclosure: DomainTools is a frequent advertiser on this website.]

A reverse search at DomainTools on “24 Brondeg St.” reveals one other domain: wwwecardone[.]com. The use of domains that begin with “www” is fairly common among phishers, and by passive “typosquatting” sites that seek to siphon credentials from legitimate websites when people mistype a domain, such as accidentally omitting the “.” after typing “www”.

A banner from the homepage of the Russian language cybercrime forum Verified.

Searching DomainTools for the phone number in the WHOIS records for wwwecardone[.]com  — +44.0774829141 — leads to a handful of similar typosquatting domains, including wwwebuygold[.]com and wwwpexpay[.]com. A different UK phone number in a more recent record for the wwwebuygold[.]com domain — 44.0472882112 — is tied to two more domains – howtounlockiphonefree[.]com, and portalsagepay[.]com. All of these domains date back to between 2012 and 2013.

The original registration records for the iPhone, Sagepay and Gold domains share an email address: devrian26@gmail.com. A search on the username “bo3dom” using Constella’s service reveals an account at ipmart-forum.com, a now-defunct forum concerned with IT products, such as mobile devices, computers and online gaming. That search shows the user bo3dom registered at ipmart-forum.com with the email address devrian27@gmail.com, and from an Internet address in Vilnius, Lithuania.

Devrian27@gmail.com was used to register multiple domains, including wwwsuperchange.ru back in 2008 (notice again the suspect “www” as part of the domain name). Gmail’s password recovery function says the backup email address for devrian27@gmail.com is bo3*******@gmail.com. Gmail accepts the address bo3domster@gmail.com as the recovery email for that devrian27 account.

According to Constella, the bo3domster@gmail.com address was exposed in multiple data breaches over the years, and in each case it used one of two passwords: “lebeda1” and “a123456“.

Searching in Constella for accounts using those passwords reveals a slew of additional “bo3dom” email addresses, including bo3dom@gmail.com.  Pivoting on that address in Constella reveals that someone with the name Vytautas Mockus used it to register an account at mindjolt.com, a site featuring dozens of simple puzzle games that visitors can play online.

At some point, mindjolt.com apparently also was hacked, because a copy of its database at Constella says the bo3dom@gmail.com used two passwords at that site: lebeda1 and a123456.

A reverse WHOIS search on “Vytautas Mockus” at DomainTools shows the email address devrian25@gmail.com was used in 2010 to register the domain name perfectmoney[.]co. This is one character off of perfectmoney[.]com, which is an early virtual currency that was quite popular with cybercriminals at the time. The phone number tied to that domain registration was “86.7273687“.

A Google search for “Vytautas Mockus” says there’s a person by that name who runs a mobile food service company in Lithuania called “Palvisa.” A report on Palvisa (PDF) purchased from Rekvizitai.vz — an official online directory of Lithuanian companies — says Palvisa was established in 2011 by a Vytautaus Mockus, using the phone number 86.7273687, and the email address bo3dom@gmail.com. The report states that Palvisa is active, but has had no employees other than its founder.

Reached via the bo3dom@gmail.com address, the 36-year-old Mr. Mockus expressed mystification as to how his personal information wound up in so many records. “I am not involved in any crime,” Mockus wrote in reply.

A rough mind map of the connections mentioned in this story.

Continue reading

Ubiquiti Developer Charged With Extortion, Causing 2020 “Breach”

December 2, 2021

In January 2021, technology vendor Ubiquiti Inc. [NYSE:UI] disclosed that a breach at a third party cloud provider had exposed customer account credentials. In March, a Ubiquiti employee warned that the company had drastically understated the scope of the incident, and that the third-party cloud provider claim was a fabrication. On Wednesday, a former Ubiquiti developer was arrested and charged with stealing data and trying to extort his employer while pretending to be a whistleblower.

Federal prosecutors say Nickolas Sharp, a senior developer at Ubiquiti, actually caused the “breach” that forced Ubiquiti to disclose a cybersecurity incident in January. They allege that in late December 2020, Sharp applied for a job at another technology company, and then abused his privileged access to Ubiquiti’s systems at Amazon’s AWS cloud service and the company’s GitHub accounts to download large amounts of proprietary data.

Sharp’s indictment doesn’t specify how much data he allegedly downloaded, but it says some of the downloads took hours, and that he cloned approximately 155 Ubiquiti data repositories via multiple downloads over nearly two weeks.

On Dec. 28, other Ubiquiti employees spotted the unusual downloads, which had leveraged internal company credentials and a Surfshark VPN connection to hide the downloader’s true Internet address. Assuming an external attacker had breached its security, Ubiquiti quickly launched an investigation.

But Sharp was a member of the team doing the forensic investigation, the indictment alleges.

“At the time the defendant was part of a team working to assess the scope and damage caused by the incident and remediate its effects, all while concealing his role in committing the incident,” wrote prosecutors with the Southern District of New York.

According to the indictment, on January 7 a senior Ubiquiti employee received a ransom email. The message was sent through an IP address associated with the same Surfshark VPN. The ransom message warned that internal Ubiquiti data had been stolen, and that the information would not be used or published online as long as Ubiquiti agreed to pay 25 Bitcoin.

The ransom email also offered to identify a purportedly still unblocked “backdoor” used by the attacker for the sum of another 25 Bitcoin (the total amount requested was equivalent to approximately $1.9 million at the time). Ubiquiti did not pay the ransom demands.

Investigators say they were able to tie the downloads to Sharp and his work-issued laptop because his Internet connection briefly failed on several occasions while he was downloading the Ubiquiti data. Those outages were enough to prevent Sharp’s Surfshark VPN connection from functioning properly — thus exposing his Internet address as the source of the downloads. Continue reading