Posts Tagged: FireEye


18
Feb 19

A Deep Dive on the Recent Widespread DNS Hijacking Attacks

The U.S. government — along with a number of leading security companies — recently warned about a series of highly complex and widespread attacks that allowed suspected Iranian hackers to siphon huge volumes of email passwords and other sensitive data from multiple governments and private companies. But to date, the specifics of exactly how that attack went down and who was hit have remained shrouded in secrecy.

This post seeks to document the extent of those attacks, and traces the origins of this overwhelmingly successful cyber espionage campaign back to a cascading series of breaches at key Internet infrastructure providers.

Before we delve into the extensive research that culminated in this post, it’s helpful to review the facts disclosed publicly so far. On Nov. 27, 2018, Cisco’s Talos research division published a write-up outlining the contours of a sophisticated cyber espionage campaign it dubbed “DNSpionage.”

The DNS part of that moniker refers to the global “Domain Name System,” which serves as a kind of phone book for the Internet by translating human-friendly Web site names (example.com) into numeric Internet address that are easier for computers to manage.

Talos said the perpetrators of DNSpionage were able to steal email and other login credentials from a number of government and private sector entities in Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates by hijacking the DNS servers for these targets, so that all email and virtual private networking (VPN) traffic was redirected to an Internet address controlled by the attackers.

Talos reported that these DNS hijacks also paved the way for the attackers to obtain SSL encryption certificates for the targeted domains (e.g. webmail.finance.gov.lb), which allowed them to decrypt the intercepted email and VPN credentials and view them in plain text.

On January 9, 2019, security vendor FireEye released its report, “Global DNS Hijacking Campaign: DNS Record Manipulation at Scale,” which went into far greater technical detail about the “how” of the espionage campaign, but contained few additional details about its victims.

About the same time as the FireEye report, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued a rare emergency directive ordering all U.S. federal civilian agencies to secure the login credentials for their Internet domain records. As part of that mandate, DHS published a short list of domain names and Internet addresses that were used in the DNSpionage campaign, although those details did not go beyond what was previously released by either Cisco Talos or FireEye.

That changed on Jan. 25, 2019, when security firm CrowdStrike published a blog post listing virtually every Internet address known to be (ab)used by the espionage campaign to date. The remainder of this story is based on open-source research and interviews conducted by KrebsOnSecurity in an effort to shed more light on the true extent of this extraordinary — and ongoing — attack.

The “indicators of compromise” related to the DNSpionage campaign, as published by CrowdStrike.

PASSIVE DNS

I began my research by taking each of the Internet addresses laid out in the CrowdStrike report and running them through both Farsight Security and SecurityTrails, services that passively collect data about changes to DNS records tied to tens of millions of Web site domains around the world.

Working backwards from each Internet address, I was able to see that in the last few months of 2018 the hackers behind DNSpionage succeeded in compromising key components of DNS infrastructure for more than 50 Middle Eastern companies and government agencies, including targets in Albania, Cyprus, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

For example, the passive DNS data shows the attackers were able to hijack the DNS records for mail.gov.ae, which handles email for government offices of the United Arab Emirates. Here are just a few other interesting assets successfully compromised in this cyber espionage campaign:

-nsa.gov.iq: the National Security Advisory of Iraq
-webmail.mofa.gov.ae: email for the United Arab Emirates’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs
-shish.gov.al: the State Intelligence Service of Albania
-mail.mfa.gov.eg: mail server for Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs
-mod.gov.eg: Egyptian Ministry of Defense
-embassy.ly: Embassy of Libya
-owa.e-albania.al: the Outlook Web Access portal for the e-government portal of Albania
-mail.dgca.gov.kw: email server for Kuwait’s Civil Aviation Bureau
-gid.gov.jo: Jordan’s General Intelligence Directorate
-adpvpn.adpolice.gov.ae: VPN service for the Abu Dhabi Police
-mail.asp.gov.al: email for Albanian State Police
-owa.gov.cy: Microsoft Outlook Web Access for Government of Cyprus
-webmail.finance.gov.lb: email for Lebanon Ministry of Finance
-mail.petroleum.gov.eg: Egyptian Ministry of Petroleum
-mail.cyta.com.cy: Cyta telecommunications and Internet provider, Cyprus
-mail.mea.com.lb: email access for Middle East Airlines

The passive DNS data provided by Farsight and SecurityTrails also offered clues about when each of these domains was hijacked. In most cases, the attackers appear to have changed the DNS records for these domains (we’ll get to the “how” in a moment) so that the domains pointed to servers in Europe that they controlled.

Shortly after the DNS records for these TLDs were hijacked — sometimes weeks, sometimes just days or hours — the attackers were able to obtain SSL certificates for those domains from SSL providers Comodo and/or Let’s Encrypt. The preparation for several of these attacks can be seen at crt.sh, which provides a searchable database of all new SSL certificate creations.

Let’s take a closer look at one example. The CrowdStrike report references the Internet address 139.59.134[.]216 (see above), which according to Farsight was home to just seven different domains over the years. Two of those domains only appeared at that Internet address in December 2018, including domains in Lebanon and — curiously — Sweden.

The first domain was “ns0.idm.net.lb,” which is a server for the Lebanese Internet service provider IDM. From early 2014 until December 2018, ns0.idm.net.lb pointed to 194.126.10[.]18, which appropriately enough is an Internet address based in Lebanon. But as we can see in the screenshot from Farsight’s data below, on Dec. 18, 2018, the DNS records for this ISP were changed to point Internet traffic destined for IDM to a hosting provider in Germany (the 139.59.134[.]216 address).

Source: Farsight Security

Notice what else is listed along with IDM’s domain at 139.59.134[.]216, according to Farsight:

The DNS records for the domains sa1.dnsnode.net and fork.sth.dnsnode.net also were changed from their rightful home in Sweden to the German hosting provider controlled by the attackers in December. These domains are owned by Netnod Internet Exchange, a major global DNS provider based in Sweden. Netnod also operates one of the 13 “root” name servers, a critical resource that forms the very foundation of the global DNS system.

We’ll come back to Netnod in a moment. But first let’s look at another Internet address referenced in the CrowdStrike report as part of the infrastructure abused by the DNSpionage hackers: 82.196.11[.]127. This address in The Netherlands also is home to the domain mmfasi[.]com, which Crowdstrike says was one of the attacker’s domains that was used as a DNS server for some of the hijacked infrastructure.

As we can see in the screenshot above, 82.196.11[.]127 was temporarily home to another pair of Netnod DNS servers, as well as the server “ns.anycast.woodynet.net.” That domain is derived from the nickname of Bill Woodcock, who serves as executive director of Packet Clearing House (PCH).

PCH is a nonprofit entity based in northern California that also manages significant amounts of the world’s DNS infrastructure, particularly the DNS for more than 500 top-level domains and a number of the Middle East top-level domains targeted by DNSpionage. Continue reading →


27
Jan 18

First ‘Jackpotting’ Attacks Hit U.S. ATMs

ATM “jackpotting” — a sophisticated crime in which thieves install malicious software and/or hardware at ATMs that forces the machines to spit out huge volumes of cash on demand — has long been a threat for banks in Europe and Asia, yet these attacks somehow have eluded U.S. ATM operators. But all that changed this week after the U.S. Secret Service quietly began warning financial institutions that jackpotting attacks have now been spotted targeting cash machines here in the United States.

To carry out a jackpotting attack, thieves first must gain physical access to the cash machine. From there they can use malware or specialized electronics — often a combination of both — to control the operations of the ATM.

A keyboard attached to the ATM port. Image: FireEye

On Jan. 21, 2018, KrebsOnSecurity began hearing rumblings about jackpotting attacks, also known as “logical attacks,” hitting U.S. ATM operators. I quickly reached out to ATM giant NCR Corp. to see if they’d heard anything. NCR said at the time it had received unconfirmed reports, but nothing solid yet.

On Jan. 26, NCR sent an advisory to its customers saying it had received reports from the Secret Service and other sources about jackpotting attacks against ATMs in the United States.

“While at present these appear focused on non-NCR ATMs, logical attacks are an industry-wide issue,” the NCR alert reads. “This represents the first confirmed cases of losses due to logical attacks in the US. This should be treated as a call to action to take appropriate steps to protect their ATMs against these forms of attack and mitigate any consequences.”

The NCR memo does not mention the type of jackpotting malware used against U.S. ATMs. But a source close to the matter said the Secret Service is warning that organized criminal gangs have been attacking stand-alone ATMs in the United States using “Ploutus.D,” an advanced strain of jackpotting malware first spotted in 2013.

According to that source — who asked to remain anonymous because he was not authorized to speak on the record — the Secret Service has received credible information that crooks are activating so-called “cash out crews” to attack front-loading ATMs manufactured by ATM vendor Diebold Nixdorf.

The source said the Secret Service is warning that thieves appear to be targeting Opteva 500 and 700 series Dielbold ATMs using the Ploutus.D malware in a series of coordinated attacks over the past 10 days, and that there is evidence that further attacks are being planned across the country.

“The targeted stand-alone ATMs are routinely located in pharmacies, big box retailers, and drive-thru ATMs,” reads a confidential Secret Service alert sent to multiple financial institutions and obtained by KrebsOnSecurity. “During previous attacks, fraudsters dressed as ATM technicians and attached a laptop computer with a mirror image of the ATMs operating system along with a mobile device to the targeted ATM.

Reached for comment, Diebold shared an alert it sent to customers Friday warning of potential jackpotting attacks in the United States. Diebold’s alert confirms the attacks so far appear to be targeting front-loaded Opteva cash machines.

“As in Mexico last year, the attack mode involves a series of different steps to overcome security mechanism and the authorization process for setting the communication with the [cash] dispenser,” the Diebold security alert reads. A copy of the entire Diebold alert, complete with advice on how to mitigate these attacks, is available here (PDF). Continue reading →


31
May 16

Got $90,000? A Windows 0-Day Could Be Yours

How much would a cybercriminal, nation state or organized crime group pay for blueprints on how to exploit a serious, currently undocumented, unpatched vulnerability in all versions of Microsoft Windows? That price probably depends on the power of the exploit and what the market will bear at the time, but here’s a look at one convincing recent exploit sales thread from the cybercrime underworld where the current asking price for a Windows-wide bug that allegedly defeats all of Microsoft’s current security defenses is USD $90,000.

So-called “zero-day” vulnerabilities are flaws in software and hardware that even the makers of the product in question do not know about. Zero-days can be used by attackers to remotely and completely compromise a target — such as with a zero-day vulnerability in a browser plugin component like Adobe Flash or Oracle’s Java. These flaws are coveted, prized, and in some cases stockpiled by cybercriminals and nation states alike because they enable very stealthy and targeted attacks.

The $90,000 Windows bug that went on sale at the semi-exclusive Russian language cybercrime forum exploit[dot]in earlier this month is in a slightly less serious class of software vulnerability called a “local privilege escalation” (LPE) bug. This type of flaw is always going to be used in tandem with another vulnerability to successfully deliver and run the attacker’s malicious code.

LPE bugs can help amplify the impact of other exploits. One core tenet of security is limiting the rights or privileges of certain programs so that they run with the rights of a normal user — and not under the all-powerful administrator or “system” user accounts that can delete, modify or read any file on the computer. That way, if a security hole is found in one of these programs, that hole can’t be exploited to worm into files and folders that belong only to the administrator of the system.

This is where a privilege escalation bug can come in handy. An attacker may already have a reliable exploit that works remotely — but the trouble is his exploit only succeeds if the current user is running Windows as an administrator. No problem: Chain that remote exploit with a local privilege escalation bug that can bump up the target’s account privileges to that of an admin, and your remote exploit can work its magic without hindrance.

The seller of this supposed zero-day — someone using the nickname “BuggiCorp” — claims his exploit works on every version of Windows from Windows 2000 on up to Microsoft’s flagship Windows 10 operating system. To support his claims, the seller includes two videos of the exploit in action on what appears to be a system that was patched all the way up through this month’s (May 2016) batch of patches from Microsoft (it’s probably no accident that the video was created on May 10, the same day as Patch Tuesday this month).

A second video (above) appears to show the exploit working even though the test machine in the video is running Microsoft’s Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET), a free software framework designed to help block or blunt exploits against known and unknown Windows vulnerabilities and flaws in third-party applications that run on top of Windows.

The sales thread on exploit[dot]in.

The sales thread on exploit[dot]in.

Jeff Jones, a cybersecurity strategist with Microsoft, said the company was aware of the exploit sales thread, but stressed that the claims were still unverified. Asked whether Microsoft would ever consider paying for information about the zero-day vulnerability, Jones pointed to the company’s bug bounty program that rewards security researchers for reporting vulnerabilities. According to Microsoft, the program to date has paid out more than $500,000 in bounties.

Microsoft heavily restricts the types of vulnerabilities that qualify for bounty rewards, but a bug like the one on sale for $90,000 would in fact qualify for a substantial bounty reward. Last summer, Microsoft raised its reward for information about a vulnerability that can fully bypass EMET from $50,000 to $100,000. Incidentally, Microsoft said any researcher with a vulnerability or who has questions can reach out to the Microsoft Security Response Center to learn more about the program and process.

ANALYSIS

It’s interesting that this exploit’s seller could potentially make more money by peddling his find to Microsoft than to the cybercriminal community. Of course, the videos and the whole thing could be a sham, but that’s probably unlikely in this case. For one thing, a scammer seeking to scam other thieves would not insist on using the cybercrime forum’s escrow service to consummate the transaction, as this vendor has. Continue reading →


17
Mar 15

Premera Blue Cross Breach Exposes Financial, Medical Records

Premera Blue Cross, a major provider of health care services, disclosed today that an intrusion into its network may have resulted in the breach of financial and medical records of 11 million customers. Although Premera isn’t saying so just yet, there are indicators that this intrusion is once again the work of state-sponsored espionage groups based in China.

premeraIn a statement posted on a Web site set up to share information about the breach — premeraupdate.com — the company said that it learned about the attack on January 29, 2015. Premera said its investigation revealed that the initial attack occurred on May 5, 2014.

“This incident affected Premera Blue Cross, Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alaska, and our affiliate brands Vivacity and Connexion Insurance Solutions, Inc,” the company said. Their statement continues:

“Our investigation determined that the attackers may have gained unauthorized access to applicants and members’ information, which could include member name, date of birth, email address, address, telephone number, Social Security number, member identification numbers, bank account information, and claims information, including clinical information. This incident also affected members of other Blue Cross Blue Shield plans who sought treatment in Washington or Alaska.

“Individuals who do business with us and provided us with their email address, personal bank account number or social security number are also affected. The investigation has not determined that any such data was removed from our systems.  We also have no evidence to date that such data has been used inappropriately.”

Premera said it will be notifying affected customers in letters sent out via postal mail, and that it will be offering two years of free credit monitoring services through big-three credit bureau Experian.

ANOTHER STATE-SPONSORED ATTACK?

The health care provider said it is working with security firm Mandiant and the FBI in the investigation. Mandiant specializes in tracking and blocking attacks from state-sponsored hacking groups, particularly those based in China. Asked about clues that would suggest a possible actor involved in the breach, Premera deferred to the FBI.

An official with the FBI’s Seattle field office confirmed that the agency is investigating, but declined to discuss details of its findings thus far, citing “the ongoing nature of the investigation.”

“Cybercrime remains a significant threat and the FBI will continue to devote substantial resources and efforts to bringing cyber criminals to justice,” the FBI said in an emailed statement.

There are indications that this may be the work of the Chinese espionage group tied to the breach disclosed earlier this year at Anthem, an intrusion that affected some 78 million Americans. Continue reading →


5
Jan 15

Who’s Attacking Whom? Realtime Attack Trackers

It seems nearly every day we’re reading about Internet attacks aimed at knocking sites offline and breaking into networks, but it’s often difficult to visualize this type of activity. In this post, we’ll take a look at multiple ways of tracking online attacks and attackers around the globe and in real-time.

A couple of notes about these graphics. Much of the data that powers these live maps is drawn from a mix of actual targets and “honeypots,” decoy systems that security firms deploy to gather data about the sources, methods and frequency of online attacks. Also, the organizations referenced in some of these maps as “attackers” typically are compromised systems within those organizations that are being used to relay attacks launched from someplace else.

The Cyber Threat Map from FireEye recently became famous in a 60 Minutes story on cyberattacks against retailers and their credit card systems. This graphic reminds me of the ICBM monitors from NORAD, as featured in the 1984 movie War Games (I’m guessing that association is intentional). Not a lot of raw data included in this map, but it’s fun to watch.

FireEye's "Cyber Threat Map"

FireEye’s “Cyber Threat Map”

My favorite — and perhaps the easiest way to lose track of half your workday (and bandwidth) comes from the folks at Norse Corp. Their map — IPViking — includes a wealth of data about each attack, such as the attacking organization name and Internet address, the target’s city and service being attacked, as well as the most popular target countries and origin countries.

Norse's IPViking attack map is fun to watch, but very resource-intensive.

Norse’s IPViking attack map is eye candy-addictive, but very resource-intensive.

Continue reading →


6
Aug 14

New Site Recovers Files Locked by Cryptolocker Ransomware

Until today, Microsoft Windows users who’ve been unfortunate enough to have the personal files on their computer encrypted and held for ransom by a nasty strain of malware called CryptoLocker have been faced with a tough choice: Pay cybercrooks a ransom of a few hundred to several thousand dollars to unlock the files, or kiss those files goodbye forever. That changed this morning, when two security firms teamed up to launch a free new online service that can help victims unlock and recover files scrambled by the malware.

clssFirst spotted in September 2013, CryptoLocker is a prolific and very damaging strain of malware that uses strong encryption to lock files that are likely to be the most valued by victim users, including Microsoft Office documents, photos, and MP3 files.

Infected machines typically display a warning that the victim’s files have been locked and can only be decrypted by sending a certain fraction or number of Bitcoins to a decryption service run by the perpetrators. Victims are given 72 hours to pay the ransom — typically a few hundred dollars worth of Bitcoins — after which time the ransom demand increases fivefold or more.

But early Wednesday morning, two security firms – Milpitas, Calf. based FireEye and Fox-IT in the Netherlands — launched decryptcryptolocker.com, a site that victims can use to recover their files. Victims need to provide an email address and upload just one of the encrypted files from their computer, and the service will email a link that victims can use to download a recovery program to decrypt all of their scrambled files.

The free decryption service was made possible because Fox-IT was somehow able to recover the private keys that the cybercriminals who were running the CryptoLocker scam used on their own (not free) decryption service. Neither company is disclosing much about how exactly those keys were recovered other than to say that the opportunity arose as the crooks were attempting to recover from Operation Tovar, an international effort in June that sought to dismantle the infrastructure that CryptoLocker used to infect PCs.

Continue reading →


27
Apr 14

Microsoft Warns of Attacks on IE Zero-Day

Microsoft is warning Internet Explorer users about active attacks that attempt to exploit a previously unknown security flaw in every supported version of IE. The vulnerability could be used to silently install malicious software without any help from users, save for perhaps merely browsing to a hacked or malicious site.

In an alert posted on Saturday, Microsoft said it is aware of  “limited, targeted attacks” against the vulnerability (CVE-2014-1776) so far.

Microsoft’s security advisory credits security firm FireEye with discovering the attack. In its own advisory, FireEye says the exploit currently is targeting IE9 through IE11 (although the weakness also is present in all earlier versions of IE going back to IE6), and that it leverages a well-known Flash exploitation technique to bypass security protections on Windows.

ie0daymitigationMicrosoft has not yet issued a stopgap “Fix-It” solution for this vulnerability. For now, it is urging IE users to download and install its Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET), a free tool that can help beef up security on Windows. Microsoft notes that EMET 3.0 doesn’t mitigate this attack, and that affected users should instead rely on EMET 4.1. I’ve reviewed the basics of EMET here. The latest versions of EMET are available here.

According to information shared by FireEye, the exploit also can be blocked by running Internet Explorer in “Enhanced Protected Mode” configuration and 64-bit process mode, which is available for IE10 and IE11 in the Internet Options settings as shown in the graphic above.

This is the first of many zero-day attacks and vulnerabilities that will never be fixed for Windows XP users. Microsoft last month shipped its final set of updates for XP. Unfortunately, many of the exploit mitigation techniques that EMET brings do not work in XP.


1
Mar 13

New Java 0-Day Attack Echoes Bit9 Breach

Once again, attackers are leveraging a previously unknown critical security hole in Java to break into targeted computers. Interestingly, the malware and networks used in this latest attack match those found in the recently disclosed breach at security firm Bit9.

The discovery of the Java zero-day is being co-credited to FireEye and CyberESI, two companies that specialize in tracking cyber espionage attacks. In its writeup, FireEye said multiple customers had been attacked using a newly-found flaw in the latest versions of Java — Java 6 Update 41, and Java 7 Update 15.

FireEye said the Java exploit used in this attack downloaded a remote access Trojan called McRat. This threat, also known as HiKit and Mdmbot.F, calls home to a malicious control server at the Internet address 110.173.55.187. Turns out, this is the same malware and control server that was used in the attack on Bit9, according to details that Bit9 released in a blog post this week documenting a sophisticated attack that resulted in a breach of its own systems last year.

Alex Lanstein, a senior security researcher at FireEye, said it’s unlikely in this case that multiple attack groups are using the same infrastructure and malware.

“Same malware, same [command and control server], I’d have to say it’s the same group that hit Bit9,” Lanstein said.

Continue reading →


28
Dec 12

Attackers Target Internet Explorer Zero-Day Flaw

Attackers are breaking into Microsoft Windows computers using a newly discovered vulnerability in Internet Explorer, security experts warn. While the flaw appears to have been used mainly in targeted attacks so far, this vulnerability could become more widely exploited if incorporated into commercial crimeware kits sold in the underground.

IEwarningIn a blog posting Friday evening, Milpitas, Calif. based security vendor FireEye said it found that the Web site for the Council on Foreign Relations was compromised and rigged to exploit a previously undocumented flaw in IE8 to install malicious software on vulnerable PCs used to browse the site.

According to FireEye, the attack uses Adobe Flash to exploit a vulnerability in the latest (fully-patched) version of IE8. Dustin Childs, group manager for response communications at Microsoft, said the vulnerability appears to exist in previous versions of IE.

“We are actively investigating reports of a small, targeted issue affecting Internet Explorer 6-8,” Childs said in an emailed statement. “We will take appropriate action to help keep customers protected once our analysis is complete. People using Internet Explorer 9-10 are not impacted.”

As FireEye notes, this is another example of a “watering hole” attack, which involves the targeted compromise of legitimate websites thought to be of interest to or frequented by end users who belong to organizations that attackers wish to infiltrate. Earlier this year, I wrote about similar zero-day attacks against visitors to the Web sites of the National Democratic Institute, The Carter Center, and Radio Free Europe.

Update, Dec. 30, 9:25 a.m. ET: Microsoft has officially acknowledged this vulnerability in an advisory, which contains some advice for IE users about how to mitigate the threat. As IE versions 9 and 10 are not impacted, users running Windows Vista or higher can upgrade to the latest browser version here.

Update, Jan.1 8:56 p.m. ET: Microsoft’s advisory now includes a link to a stopgap “FixIt” solution that may help to blunt attacks until the company issues an official patch for this vulnerability.


10
Dec 12

Espionage Attacks Against Ruskies?

Hardly a week goes by without news of a cyber espionage attack emanating from China that is focused on extracting sensitive data from corporations and research centers in the United States. But analysis of a recent malware campaign suggests that cyberspies in that region may be just as interested in siphoning secrets from Russian targets.

The Cyrillic text used in the decoy document.

Researchers at Milpitas, Calif. based security firm FireEye say they spotted an email attack of apparent Chinese origin that used Russian language lures to steal data from mostly Russian victims. The email malware campaign embedded a Microsoft Word exploit that displayed a decoy document containing news about a meeting of ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

According to FireEye’s Alex Lanstein, this campaign had its control infrastructure in Korea and Japan, but clues point to Chinese design and operation. The malicious Word document sample that kicked this off was authored from a Microsoft Windows system that was set to use the language pack “Windows Simplified Chinese (PRC, Singapore). The researchers also say they were able to gain access to the control server used in the attack, which revealed systems logging in from China to check on new victims.

Update, 1:05 p.m. ET: FireEye just published a blog post about this research, which indicates they now believe the likely source of this attack was Korea, not China. The headline to this story has been modified..

Continue reading →