Posts Tagged: bulletproof hosting


27
Oct 16

Are the Days of “Booter” Services Numbered?

It may soon become easier for Internet service providers to anticipate and block certain types of online assaults launched by Web-based attack-for-hire services known as “booter” or “stresser” services, new research released today suggests.

The findings come from researchers in Germany who’ve been studying patterns that emerge when miscreants attempt to mass-scan the entire Internet looking for systems useful for launching these digital sieges — known as “distributed denial-of-service” or DDoS attacks.

ddosbomb

To understand the significance of their research, it may help to briefly examine how DDoS attacks have evolved. Not long ago, if one wanted to take down large Web site, one had to build and maintain a large robot network, or “botnet,” of hacked computers — which is a fairly time intensive, risky and technical endeavor.

These days, however, even the least sophisticated Internet user can launch relatively large DDoS attacks just by paying a few bucks for a subscription to one of dozens of booter or stresser services, some of which even accept credit cards and PayPal payments.

These Web-based DDoS-for-hire services don’t run on botnets: They generally employ a handful of powerful servers that are rented from some dodgy “bulletproof” hosting provider. The booter service accepts payment and attack instructions via a front end Web site that is hidden behind Cloudflare (a free DDoS protection service).

But the back end of the booter service is where the really interesting stuff happens. Virtually all of the most powerful and effective attack types used by booter services rely on a technique called traffic amplification and reflection, in which the attacker can reflect or “spoof” his traffic from one or more third-party machines toward the intended target.

In this type of assault, the attacker sends a message to a third party, while spoofing the Internet address of the victim. When the third party replies to the message, the reply is sent to the victim — and the reply is much larger than the original message, thereby amplifying the size of the attack.

To find vulnerable systems that can be leveraged this way, booters employ large-scale Internet scanning services that constantly seek to refresh the list of systems that can be used for amplification and reflection attacks. They do this because, as research has shown (PDF), anywhere from 40-50 percent of the amplifiers vanish or are reassigned new Internet addresses after one week.

Enter researchers from Saarland University in Germany, as well as the Yokohama National University and National Institute of Information and Communications Technology — both in Japan. In a years-long project first detailed in 2015, the researchers looked for scanning that appeared to be kicked off by ne’er-do-wells running booter services.

To accomplish this, the research team built a kind of distributed “honeypot” system — which they dubbed “AmpPot” — designed to mimic services known to be vulnerable to amplification attacks, such as DNS and NTP floods.

“To make them attractive to attackers, our honeypots send back legitimate responses,” the researchers wrote in a 2015 paper (PDF). “Attackers, in turn, will abuse these honeypots as amplifiers, which allows us to observe ongoing attacks, their victims, and the DDoS techniques. To prevent damage caused by our honeypots, we limit the response rate. This way, while attackers can still find these ratelimited honeypots, the honeypots stop replying in the face of attacks.”

In that 2015 paper, the researchers said they deployed 21 globally-distributed AmpPot instances, which observed more than 1.5 million attacks between February and May 2015. Analyzing the attacks more closely, they found that more than 96% of the attacks stem from single sources, such as booter services.

“When focusing on amplification DDoS attacks, we find that almost all of them (>96%) are caused by single sources (e.g. booters), and not botnets,” the team concluded. “However, we sadly do not have the numbers to compare this [to] DoS attacks in general.”

Many large-scale Internet scans like the ones the researchers sought to measure are launched by security firms and other researchers, so the team needed a way to differentiate between scans launched by booter services and those conducted for research or other benign purposes.

“To distinguish between scans performed by researchers and scans performed with malicious intent we relied on a simple assumption: That no attack would be based on the results of a scan performed by (ethical) researchers,” said Johannes Krupp, one of the main authors of the report. “In fact, thanks to our methodology, we do not have to make this distinction upfront, but we can rather look at the results and say: ‘We found attacks linked to this scanner, therefore this scanner must have been malicious.’ If a scan was truly performed by benign parties, we will not find attacks linked to it.”

SECRET IDENTIFIERS

What’s new in the paper being released today by students at Saarland University’s Center for IT-Security, Privacy and Accountability (CISPA) is the method by which the researchers were able to link these mass-scans to the very amplification attacks that follow soon after.

The researchers worked out a way to encode a secret identifier into the set of AmpPot honeypots that any subsequent attack will use, which varies per scan source. They then tested to see if the scan infrastructure was also used to actually launch (and not just to prepare) the attacks. Continue reading →


17
Oct 16

Hackers Hit U.S. Senate GOP Committee

The national news media has been consumed of late with reports of Russian hackers breaking into networks of the Democratic National Committee. Lest the Republicans feel left out of all the excitement, a report this past week out of The Netherlands suggests Russian hackers have for the past six months been siphoning credit card data from visitors to the Web storefront of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC).

nrscThat’s right: If you purchased a “Never Hillary” poster or donated funds to the NRSC through its Web site between March 2016 and the first week of this month, there’s an excellent chance that your payment card data was siphoned by malware and is now for sale in the cybercrime underground.

News of the break-in comes from Dutch researcher Willem De Groot, co-founder and head of security at Dutch e-commerce site byte.nl. De Groot said the NRSC was one of more than 5,900 e-commerce sites apparently hacked by the same actors, and that the purloined card data was sent to a network of servers operated by a Russian-language Internet service provider incorporated in Belize.

De Groot said he dissected the malware planted on the NRSC’s site and other servers (his analysis of the malware is available here) and found that the hackers used security vulnerabilities or weak passwords to break in to the various e-commerce sites.

The researcher found the malware called home to specific Web destinations made to look like legitimate sites associated with e-commerce activity, such as jquery-cloud[dot]net, visa-cdn[dot]com, and magento-connection[dot]com.

“[The attackers] really went out of their way to pick domain names that look legitimate,” De Groot said.

The NRSC did not respond to multiple requests for comment, but a cached copy of the site’s source code from October 5, 2016 indicates the malicious code was on the site at the time (load this link, click “view source” and then Ctrl-F for “jquery-cloud.net”).

A majority of the malicious domains inserted into the hacked sites by the malware map back to a few hundred Internet addresses assigned to a company called dataflow[dot]su.

Dataflow markets itself as an “offshore” hosting provider with presences in Belize and The Seychelles. Dataflow has long been advertised on Russian-language cybercrime forums as an offshore haven that offers so-called “bulletproof hosting,” a phrase used to describe hosting firms that court all manner of sites that most legitimate hosting firms shun, including those that knowingly host spam and phishing sites as well as malicious software.

De Groot published a list of the sites currently present at Dataflow. The list speaks for itself as a collection of badness, including quite a number of Russian-language sites selling synthetic drugs and stolen credit card data.

According to De Groot, other sites that were retrofitted with the malware included e-commerce sites for the shoe maker Converse as well as the automaker Audi, although he says those sites and the NRSC’s have been scrubbed of the malicious software since his report was published. Continue reading →


25
Jan 13

Inside the Gozi Bulletproof Hosting Facility

Nate Anderson at Ars Technica has a good story about how investigators tracked down “Virus,” the nickname allegedly used by a Romanian man accused by the U.S. Justice Department of running the Web hosting operations for a group that created and marketed the Gozi banking Trojan. Turns out, I’ve been sitting on some fascinating details about this hosting provider for many months without fully realizing what I had.

On Wednesday, federal prosecutors unveiled criminal charges against three men who allegedly created and distributed Gozi. Among them was Mihai Ionut Paunescu, a 28-year-old Romanian national accused of providing the gang “bulletproof hosting” services. Bulletproof hosting is an Underweb term for a hosting provider that will host virtually any content, from phishing and carding sites to botnet command centers and browser exploit kits. After I read the Ars story, I took a closer look at the Paunescu complaint (PDF), and several details immediately caught my eye.

For one thing, the feds say Paunescu was an administrator of powerhost.ro (virus@powerhost.ro). In December 2011, a source shared with KrebsOnSecurity several massive database dumps from that server, which had apparently been hacked. Included in that archive was a screenshot of the administration panel for the powerhost.ro server. It visually depicts many of the details described in the government’s indictment and complaint against Paunescu, such as how the BP provider was home to more than 130 servers, and that it charged exorbitant prices — sometimes more than 1,000 euros per month for a single server.

powerhost1

The above screenshot (which is a snippet taken from this full-screen version) shows that this server was used for projects that were “50%SBL,” meaning that about half of the properties on it were listed on the Spamhaus Block List (SBL), which flags Web sites that participate in malicious activity online, particularly sending or benefiting from spam and hosting malware. Some of the names chosen for the servers are fairly telling, such as “darkdeeds1,” “darkdeeds2,” “phreak-bots” and “phis1.” The data dump from powerhost.ro included multiple “drop” sites, where ZeuS and SpyEye botnets would deposit passwords, bank account information and other data stolen from tens of thousands of victim PCs.

Continue reading →


9
Nov 10

Body Armor for Bad Web Sites

Hacked and malicious sites designed to steal data from unsuspecting users via malware and phishing are a dime a dozen, often located in the United States, and are a key target for takedown by ISPs and security researchers. But when online miscreants seek stability in their Web projects, they often turn to so-called “bulletproof hosting” providers, mini-ISPs that specialize in offering services that are largely immune from takedown requests and pressure from Western law enforcement agencies.

Until recently, you more or less had gain access to and lurk on the right underground forums to be able to rent services from bulletproof hosting providers. These days, it’s becoming easier to find these badware havens advertising out in the open. Last week, I traced the activities of one particular service frequented by criminals back to a bulletproof provider whose slogan says it all: “You’ll Never Get Any Abuse From Us!

Of course, just how insulated this particular provider’s services are and how much illicit activity you can get away with while using them depends largely on how much you’re willing to shell out each month. For example, an entry level “default bulletproof server” allows customers to host things like rogue online pharmacies, replica, gambling, and MP3 sites for $270 per month. But this service level bars customers from hosting nastier content, such as malware, spyware, adware, exploits, viruses, and phishing sites.

Upgrade to the “Super BulletProof Virtual Dedicated Servers in China” — and pay almost $500 a month — and the only activities that are prohibited are sending spam and hosting any type of porn.

The provider pictured here also upsells potential customers by offering a variety of handy add-on services. For extra coin each month, one can rent a bulletproof server with a license for XRumer, a black hat search engine manipulation tool that automates the registration of new Web forum accounts and the spamming of links on those forums, all in a bid to boost the search engine rankings of the spamvertized site. If you operate a blog and have had to deal with what appear to be automated, link-filled comments, chances are good that XRumer was involved in some way.

For a $20 one-time setup fee, your server will come pre-packaged with links for forums that XRumer is able to spam, including thousands of Web pages in top-level domains that are often given more ranking weight by search engines, such as .edu, .gov and .mil.

[EPSB]

Have you seen:

Earn a Diploma from Scam U…Since the dawn of the Internet, tutorials showing would-be scammers how to fleece others have been available online. But for novices who can’t be bothered to scour the Net for these far flung but free resources, the tricks of the trade now can be learned through the equivalent of community college classes in e-thievery, or or via intensive, one-on-one online apprenticeships.

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