Posts Tagged: Internet Identity

Jun 12

DNSChanger Trojan Still in 12% of Fortune 500

In about two weeks, hundreds of thousands of computer users are going to learn the hard way that failing to keep a clean machine comes with consequences. On July 9, 2012, any systems still infected with the DNSChanger Trojan will be summarily disconnected from the rest of the Internet, and the latest reports indicate this malware is still resident on systems at 12 percent of Fortune 500 companies, and roughly four percent of U.S. federal agencies.

DNChanger chronology. Source: InternetIdentity

In a bid to help users clean up infections, security experts won court approval last year to seize control of the infrastructure that powered the search-hijacking Trojan. But a court-imposed deadline to power down that infrastructure will sever Internet access for PCs that are not rid of the malware before July 9, 2012.

According to Internet Identity, 12 percent of all Fortune 500 companies and four percent of “major” U.S. federal agencies are still infected (a link to Internet Identity’s full infographic is here). The latest stats from the DNSChanger Working Group, an industry consortium working to eradicate the malware, more than 300,000 systems are still infected.

That number is likely conservative: The DCWG measures infections by Internet protocol (IP) addresses, not unique systems. Because many systems that are on the same local network often share the same IP address, the actual number of DNSChanger-infected machines is probably quite a bit higher than 300,000.

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Mar 12

Court: 4 More Months for DNSChanger-Infected PCs

Millions of PCs sickened by a global computer contagion known as DNSChanger were slated to have their life support yanked on March 8. But an order handed down Monday by a federal judge will delay that disconnection by 120 days to give companies, businesses and governments more time to respond to the epidemic.

The reprieve came late Monday, when the judge overseeing the U.S. government’s landmark case against an international cyber fraud network agreed that extending the deadline was necessary “to continue to provide remediation details to industry channels approved by the FBI.”

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Feb 12

Half of Fortune 500s, US Govt. Still Infected with DNSChanger Trojan

More than two months after authorities shut down a massive Internet traffic hijacking scheme, the malicious software that powered theĀ  criminal network is still running on computers at half of the Fortune 500 companies, and on PCs at nearly 50 percent of all federal government agencies, new research shows.

Source: FBI

The malware, known as the “DNSChanger Trojan,” quietly alters the host computer’s Internet settings to hijack search results and to block victims from visiting security sites that might help scrub the infections. DNSChanger frequently was bundled with other types of malware, meaning that systems infected with the Trojan often also host other, more nefarious digital parasites.

In early November, authorities in Estonia arrested six men suspected of using the Trojan to control more than four million computers in over 100 countries — including an estimated 500,000 in the United States. Investigators timed the arrests with a coordinated attack on the malware’s infrastructure. The two-pronged attack was intended to prevent miscreants from continuing to control the network of hacked PCs, and to give Internet service providers an opportunity to alert customers with infected machines.

But that cleanup process has been slow-going, according to at least one security firm. Internet Identity, a Tacoma, Wash. company that sells security services, found evidence of at least one DNSChanger infection in computers at half of all Fortune 500 firms, and 27 out of 55 major government entities.

“Yes, there are challenges with removing this malware, but you would think people would want to get this cleaned up,” said Rod Rasmussen, president and chief technology officer at Internet Identity. “This malware was sometimes bundled with other stuff, but it also turns off antivirus software on the infected machines and blocks them from getting security updates from Microsoft.”

Computers still infected with DNSChanger are up against a countdown clock. As part of the DNSChanger botnet takedown, the feds secured a court order to replace the Trojan’s DNS infrastructure with surrogate, legitimate DNS servers. But those servers are only allowed to operate until March 8, 2012. Unless the court extends that order, any computers still infected with DNSChanger may no longer be able to browse the Web.

Rasmussen said there are still millions of PCs infected with DNSChanger. “At this rate, a lot of users are going to see their Internet break on March 8.”

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Feb 11

Spammers Hijack Internet Space Assigned to Egyptian President’s Wife

Egyptian citizens calling for besieged President Hosni Mubarak to step down may have been cut off from using the Web, but spammers have been busy cutting the government off from its own Internet address space: Earlier this month, junk e-mail artists hijacked a large swath of Internet addresses assigned to Mubarak’s wife.

According to, well known spammers commandeered a chunk of more than 4,000 IP addresses that were assigned years ago to Suzanne Mubarak and the Suzanne Mubarak Science Exploration Center. Spamhaus reports that those addresses have been used recently to promote a variety of dodgy Web businesses, and that the hijacked block is under the control of an organization that has ties to alleged spammer Michael Lindsay and iMedia Networks. iMedia did not respond to requests for comment.

The high profile land grab is the latest example of how spammers are becoming more brazen in their quest for non-blacklisted Internet address space from which to send spam, said Rod Rasmussen, president and chief technology officer of Internet Identity.

Rasmussen said Internet address space hijackers tend to target chunks of addresses assigned to governments and defense contractors, because those allocations are less likely to be reported missing, and very few of them are blocked by anti-spam tools.

“The spammers doing this look for chunks of [Internet] space that are dormant, but most of all blocks of IP addresses that are whitelisted,” by anti-spam groups, Rasmussen said. “Their spam gets through anti-spam filters nicely after that, or least until the hijacking is detected.”

Sometimes, the scammers are able to hijack IP space by snatching up expired domain names that were used to register the addresses years earlier. The attackers then send an e-mail from that domain to the regional Internet registry that assigned the block of IP, requesting whatever changes they need to assume control over the addresses.In other cases, spammers use forged letters and bogus corporate fronts to impersonate the rightful owner of the addresses.

Another chunk of addresses that Spamhaus found were recently hijacked by spammers — 255 IPs originally assigned in 1994 to the now defunct Claremont Technology Group — appears to have been stolen sometime after the organization let its domain lapse. That domain now redirects to Falls Church, Va. based government contractor Computer Sciences Corp (CSC), which acquired Claremont in 1998.

Rasmussen believes we are likely to see a spike in this type hijacking activity as global supply of unassigned IPv4 addresses continues to dwindle and unallocated blocks become more valuable. Experts disagree on exactly when the pool of IPv4 addresses will be drained: Some says as mid- to late 2011, and others claim it’s only a few more days.

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Jun 10

A Spike in Phone Phishing Attacks?

A couple of readers have written in to say they recently received automated telephone calls warning about fraud on their credit card accounts and directing them to call a phone number to “verify” their credit card numbers. These voice phishing attacks, sometimes called “vishing,” are a good reminder that today’s scam artists often abuse a range of modern technologies to perpetrate old-fashioned fraud.

Graphic courtesy Internet Identity

Phone phishing schemes often begin with a pre-recorded message that prompts the recipient to call a supplied telephone number — frequently a toll-free line. Usually, the calls will be answered by an interactive voice response system designed to coax account credentials and other personal information from the caller.

Lures for these telephone phishing attacks also are sent via text message, a variant also known as smishing. Indeed, the Sacramento Bee warned last week that residents in the area were receiving text messages spoofing the Yolo Federal Credit Union.

A new report (PDF) from anti-phishing vendor Internet Identity found that credit unions continue to be a favorite target of smishing attacks, and that text-to-phone scams used a toll-free number in about half of the lures sent in the first quarter of 2010.

Internet Identity also tracked at least 118 smishing attacks in the first quarter of 2010, although the company said that number represents a 40 percent drop in these scams over the last three months of 2009.

It may be hard to imagine how many people actually fall for these scams, but you might be surprised. In March 2008, I wrote about an extremely complex vishing attack that targeted customers of multiple credit unions. A source I interviewed for that story later managed to make a copy of one of the servers that these crooks used to accept incoming calls for this scam, which ran uninterrupted from Jan. 13, 2008 to Feb. 21. From that story: “During that time, the phishers sent millions of text messages, and records from that server show that roughly 4,400 people called the fake bank phone number as directed. Out of those, 125 people entered their full credit/debit card number, expiration and PIN.”

Have you or someone you know recently received one of these scam phone calls or texts? Sound off in the comments below.