Posts Tagged: Choicepoint


20
Oct 13

Experian Sold Consumer Data to ID Theft Service

An identity theft service that sold Social Security and drivers license numbers — as well as bank account and credit card data on millions of Americans — purchased much of its data from Experian, one of the three major credit bureaus, according to a lengthy investigation by KrebsOnSecurity.

superget.info home page

superget.info home page

In November 2011, this publication ran a story about an underground service called Superget.info, a fraudster-friendly site that marketed the ability to look up full Social Security numbers, birthdays, drivers license records and financial information on millions of Americans. Registration was free, and accounts were funded via WebMoney and other virtual currencies that are popular in the cybercriminal underground.

Each SSN search on Superget.info returned consumer records that were marked with a set of varying and mysterious two- and three-letter “sourceid:” identifiers, including “TH,” “MV,” and “NCO,” among others. I asked readers who may have a clue about the meaning or source of those abbreviations to contact me. In the weeks following that post, I heard from many readers who had guesses and ideas, but none who seemed to have conclusive information.

That changed in the past week. An individual who read a story about the operators of a similar ID theft service online having broken into the networks of LexisNexis and other major data brokers wrote to say that he’d gone back and reviewed my previous stories on this topic, and that he’d identified the source of the data being resold by Superget.info. The reader said the abbreviations matched data sets produced by Columbus, Ohio-based USInfoSearch.com.

Contacted about the reader’s claim, U.S. Info Search CEO Marc Martin said the data sold by the ID theft service was not obtained directly through his company, but rather via Court Ventures, a third-party company with which US Info Search had previously struck an information sharing agreement. Martin said that several years ago US Info Search and CourtVentures each agreed to grant the other company complete access to its stores of information on US consumers.

Founded in 2001, Court Ventures described itself as a firm that “aggregates, repackages and distributes public record data, obtained from over 1,400 state and county sources.” Cached, historic copies of courtventures.com are available through archive.org.

THE ROLE OF EXPERIAN

In March 2012, Court Ventures was purchased by Costa Mesa, Calif.-based Experian, one of the three major consumer credit bureaus. According to Martin, the proprietors of Superget.info had gained access to Experian’s databases by posing as a U.S.-based private investigator. In reality, Martin said, the individuals apparently responsible for running Superget.info were based in Vietnam.

Martin said he first learned of the ID theft service after hearing from a U.S. Secret Service agent who called and said the law enforcement agency was investigating Experian and had obtained a grand jury subpoena against the company.

The "sourceid" abbreviations pointed toward Court Ventures.

The “sourceid” abbreviations pointed toward Court Ventures.

While the private investigator ruse may have gotten the fraudsters past Experian and/or CourtVentures’ screening process, according to Martin there were other signs that should have alerted Experian to potential fraud associated with the account. For example, Martin said the Secret Service told him that the alleged proprietor of Superget.info had paid Experian for his monthly data access charges using wire transfers sent from Singapore.

“The issue in my mind was the fact that this went on for almost a year after Experian did their due diligence and purchased” Court Ventures, Martin said. “Why didn’t they question cash wires coming in every month? Experian portrays themselves as the databreach experts, and they sell identity theft protection services. How this could go on without them detecting it I don’t know. Our agreement with them was that our information was to be used for fraud prevention and ID verification, and was only to be sold to licensed and credentialed U.S. businesses, not to someone overseas.”

Experian declined multiple requests for an interview. But in a written statement provided to KrebsOnSecurity, Experian acknowledged the broad outlines of Martin’s story and said it had worked with the Secret Service to bring a Vietnamese national to justice in connection with the online ID theft service. Their statement is as follows:

“Experian acquired Court Ventures in March, 2012 because of its national public records database. After the acquisition, the US Secret Service notified Experian that Court Ventures had been and was continuing to resell data from US Info Search to a third party possibly engaged in illegal activity. Following notice by the US Secret Service, Experian discontinued reselling US Info Search data and worked closely and in full cooperation with law enforcement to bring Vietnamese national Hieu Minh Ngo, the alleged perpetrator, to justice.  Experian’s credit files were not accessed.  Because of the ongoing federal investigation, we are not free to say anything further at this time.”

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1
Oct 13

Data Broker Hackers Also Compromised NW3C

The same miscreants responsible for breaking into the networks of America’s top consumer and business data brokers appear to have also infiltrated and stolen huge amounts of data from the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C), a congressionally-funded non-profit organization that provides training, investigative support and research to agencies and entities involved in the prevention, investigation and prosecution of cybercrime.

The bot that was resident for  almost 3 months inside of NW3C.

The bot that was resident for almost 3 months inside of NW3C.

Last week, KrebsOnSecurity reported that entrepreneurs behind the underground criminal identity theft service ssndob[dot]ms also were responsible for operating a small but powerful collection of hacked computers exclusively at top data brokers, including LexisNexis, Dun & Bradstreet and HireRight/Kroll. A closer analysis of the Web server used to control that collection of hacked PCs shows that the attackers also had at least one infected system for several months this summer inside of the NW3c.

Core to the NW3C’s mission is its Investigative Support division, which according to the organization’s site “provides timely, relevant and effective services to member agencies involved in the prevention, investigation and prosecution of economic and high-tech crimes. The section has no investigative authority but can provide analytical assistance and perform public database searches.”

The NW3C said its analysts are frequently called upon to assist in establishing financial transaction patterns, developing possible links between criminal targets and associated criminal activity and providing link charts, timelines and graphs for court presentations. “Information obtained through public database searches can assist investigations by locating suspects, establishing property ownership and finding hidden assets, just to name a few of the benefits,” the organization’s Web site explains.

The NW3C also works with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to run the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), which accepts online Internet crime complaints from victims of cybercrime.

Neither the NW3C nor the IC3 responded to requests for comment on this story. FBI Spokeswoman Lindsay Godwin would say only that the FBI was “looking into it,” but declined to elaborate further, citing the ongoing nature of the investigation.

THE CRIME MACHINE

A number of indicators suggest that the attackers first gained access to the NW3C’s internal network on or around May 28, 2013. According to records in the online communications panel that the miscreants used to control their network of hacked systems, the affected NW3C server was taken offline on or around Aug. 17, 2013, indicating that the organization’s networks were compromised for approximately 11 weeks this summer. It’s not clear at this point why the miscreants marked this organization’s listing with a “(hacker)” designation, as shown in the snapshot of their botnet control panel below.

nw3cBAP

The attackers appear to have compromised a public-facing server at NW3C that was designed to handle incoming virtual private network (VPN) communications. Organizations frequently set up VPNs so that their remote employees can create an encrypted communications tunnel back to an otherwise closed network, and these setups are an integral component of most modern business applications.

A page from the ColdFusion exploit server used by the attackers.

A page from the ColdFusion exploit server used by the attackers.

Alarmingly, the machine name of the compromised NW3C system was “data.” On May 28, 2013, the attackers uploaded a file — nbc.exe — designed to open up an encrypted tunnel of communications from the hacked VPN server to their botnet controller on the public Internet. This appears to be the same nbc.exe file that was found on the two hacked servers at LexisNexis.

Abundant evidence left behind by the attackers suggests that they broke into the NW3C using a Web-based attack tool that focuses on exploiting recently-patched weaknesses in servers powered by ColdFusion, a Web application platform owned by Adobe Systems. I managed to get hold of the multiple exploits used in the attack server, and shared them with Adobe and with Rob Brooks-Bilson, a ColdFusion expert and author of the O’Reilly books Programming ColdFusion MX and Programming ColdFusion.

Although some of the exploits were listed as “0day” in the attack tool — suggesting they were zero-day, unpatched vulnerabilities in Adobe ColdFusion — Bilson said all of the exploits appear to attack vulnerabilities that are fixed in the most recent versions of ColdFusion. For example, three of the four exploits seems to have involved CVE-2013-0632, a vulnerability that Adobe first patched in January 2013, not long after the flaw was first spotted in actual zero-day online attacks. The remaining exploit in the attack kit targets a bug that Adobe fixed in 2010.

“The big issue with ColdFusion is that so many people install and set it up without following any of Adobe’s hardening guidelines,” Brooks-Bilson said in an email to KrebsOnSecurity. “Most of the exploits that have come out in the recent past have all worked via a similar mechanism that is easily mitigated by following Adobe’s guide. Of course, so many people disregard that advice and end up with servers that are easily compromised.”

STEALING DATA ON VICTIMS AND FELLOW CROOKS ALIKE

The ColdFusion exploit server contains plenty of records indicating that the attackers in this case plundered many of the databases that they were able to access while inside of NW3C. Part of the reason for the persistence of this evidence has to do with the way that the attackers queried local databases and offloaded stolen data. It appears that once inside the NW3C’s network, the bad guys quickly scanned all of the organization’s systems for security vulnerabilities and database servers. They also uploaded a Web-based “shell” which let them gain remote access to the hacked server via a Web browser.

The attack server and shell also let the attackers execute system commands on the compromised hosts, which appear to be Microsoft IIS servers. Their method also left a detailed (if not complete) log of many of their activities inside the network. One of the first things the attackers did upon compromising the “Data” server on the network was run a query that forced the local database to dump a copy of itself to a file — including a list of the authorized users and passwords —  that the attackers could download.

A snippet of redacted complaint data stolen from IC3.

A snippet of redacted complaint data stolen from IC3.

The bad guys in this case also appear to have used their access to the NW3C to steal 10 years’ worth of consumer complaint information from the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), the aforementioned partnership between the NW3C and the FBI that tracks complaints about cybercrime.

Present on the attacker’s server are some 2.659 million records apparently lifted from the IC3. The records range in date from about the time of the IC3’s inception — May 8, 2000 — to Jan. 22, 2013.

It’s not clear if the stolen IC3 data set includes all of the consumer complaints ever filed, but it seems likely that the archive is lacking just the past few months of records. In a report released earlier this year, the IC3 said it was receiving about 24,000 complaints per month, and that consumers had filed 289,874 complaints last year. The IC3’s site doesn’t maintain annual complaint numbers prior to 2003, but according to the site some 2.35 million have been filed with the system since then. To put the year-over-year growth in complaints in perspective, the IC3 said it wasn’t until 2007 — nearly seven years after its birth — that the organization received its millionth complaint.

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