Posts Tagged: Mazafaka


18
Nov 19

Why Were the Russians So Set Against This Hacker Being Extradited?

The Russian government has for the past four years been fighting to keep 29-year-old alleged cybercriminal Aleksei Burkov from being extradited by Israel to the United States. When Israeli authorities turned down requests to send him back to Russia — supposedly to face separate hacking charges there — the Russians then imprisoned an Israeli woman for seven years on trumped-up drug charges in a bid to trade prisoners. That effort failed as well, and Burkov had his first appearance in a U.S. court last week. What follows are some clues that might explain why the Russians are so eager to reclaim this young man.

Aleksei Burkov, seated second from right, attends a hearing in Jerusalem in 2015. Andrei Shirokov / Tass via Getty Images.

On the surface, the charges the U.S. government has leveled against Burkov may seem fairly unremarkable: Prosecutors say he ran a credit card fraud forum called CardPlanet that sold more than 150,000 stolen cards.

However, a deep dive into the various pseudonyms allegedly used by Burkov suggests this individual may be one of the most connected and skilled malicious hackers ever apprehended by U.S. authorities, and that the Russian government is probably concerned that he simply knows too much.

Burkov calls himself a specialist in information security and denies having committed the crimes for which he’s been charged. But according to denizens of several Russian-language cybercrime forums that have been following his case in the Israeli news media, Burkov was by all accounts an elite cybercrook who primarily operated under the hacker alias “K0pa.”

This is the same nickname used by an individual who served as co-administrator of perhaps the most exclusive Russian-language hacking forums ever created, including Mazafaka and DirectConnection.

A screen shot from the Mazafaka cybercrime forum, circa 2011.

Since their inception in the mid-aughts, both of these forums have been among the most difficult to join — admitting only native Russian speakers and requiring each applicant to furnish a non-refundable cash deposit and “vouches” or guarantees from at least three existing members. Also, neither forum was accessible or even visible to anyone without a special encryption certificate supplied by forum administrators that allowed the sites to load properly in a Web browser.

DirectConnection, circa 2011. The identity shown at the bottom of this screenshot — Severa — belonged to Peter Levashov, a prolific spammer who pleaded guilty in the United States last year to operating the Kelihos spam botnet.

Notably, some of the world’s most-wanted cybercriminals were members of these two highly exclusive forums, and many of those individuals have already been arrested, extradited and tried for various cybercrime charges in the United States over the years. Those include convicted credit card fraudsters Vladislav “Badb” Horohorin and Sergey “zo0mer” Kozerev, as well as the infamous spammer and botnet master Peter “Severa” Levashov.

A user database obtained by KrebsOnSecurity several years back indicates K0pa relied on the same email address he used to register at Mazafaka and DirectConnection to register the user account “Botnet” on Spamdot, which for years was the closely-guarded stomping ground of the world’s most prolific spammers and virus writers, as well as hackers who created services catering to both professions.

As a reporter for The Washington Post in 2008, I wrote about the core offering that K0pa/Botnet advertised on Spamdot and other exclusive forums: A botnet-based anonymity service called FraudCrew. This service sold access to hacked computers, which FraudCrew customers used for the purposes of hiding their real location online while conducting cybercriminal activities.

FraudCrew, a botnet-based anonymity service offered by K0pa.

K0pa also was a top staff member at Verified, among the oldest and most venerated of Russian language cybercrime forums. Specifically, K0pa’s role at Verified was in maintaining its blacklist, a dispute resolution process designed to weed out “dishonest” cybercriminals who seek only to rip off less experienced crooks. From this vantage point, K0pa would have held considerable sway on the forum, and almost certainly played a key role in vetting new applicants to the site. Continue reading →


10
Jan 13

Police Arrest Alleged ZeuS Botmaster “bx1”

A man arrested in Thailand this week on charges of stealing millions from online bank accounts fits the profile of a miscreant nicknamed “bx1,” a hacker fingered by Microsoft as a major operator of botnets powered by the ZeuS banking trojan.

Photo: Bangkok Post

Photo: Bangkok Post

As reported by The Bangkok Post, 24-year-old Hamza Bendelladj, an Algerian national, was detained this weekend at Bangkok’s Suvarnnabhumi airport, as he was in transit from Malaysia to Egypt. This young man captured news media attention when he was brought out in front of Thai television cameras handcuffed but smiling broadly, despite being blamed by the FBI for hacking into customer accounts at 217 financial institutions worldwide.

Thai investigators told reporters that Bendelladj had amassed “huge amounts” in illicit earnings, and that “with just one transaction he could earn 10 to 20 million dollars. He’s been travelling the world flying first class and living a life of luxury.”

I didn’t fully appreciate why I found this case so interesting until I started searching the Internet and my own servers for his email address. Turns out that in 2011, I was contacted via instant message by a hacker who said he was operating botnets using the Zeus and SpyEye Trojans. This individual reached out to me repeatedly over the next year, for no apparent reason except to brag about his exploits. He contacted me via Microsoft’s MSN instant message platform, using the email address daniel.h.b@universityofsutton.com. That account used the alias “Daniel.” I later found out that Daniel also used the nickname bx1.

According to several forums on which bx1 hung out until very recently, the man arrested in Thailand and bx1 were one and the same. A review of the email addresses and other contact information bx1 shared on these forums suggests that bx1 was the 19th and 20th John Doe named in Microsoft’s 2012 legal suit seeking to discover the identities of 39 alleged ZeuS botmasters. From the complaint Microsoft submitted to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, and posted at Zeuslegalnotice.com:

msjohndoes“Plaintiffs are informed and believe and thereupon allege that John Doe 19/20 goes by the aliases “Daniel,” “bx1,” “Daniel Hamza” and “Danielbx1” and may be contacted at messaging email and messaging addresses “565359703,” airlord1988@gmail.com, bx1@hotmail.com, i_amhere@hotmail.fr, daniel.h.b@universityof sutton.com, princedelune@hotmail.fr, bx1_@msn.com, danibx1@hotmail.fr, and danieldelcore@hotmail.com. Upon information and belief, John Doe 19/20 has purchased and used the Zeus/SpyEye code.”

The Daniel I chatted with was proud of his work, and seemed to enjoy describing successful attacks. In one such conversation, dated January 2012, bx1 bragged about breaking into the systems of a hacker who used the nickname “Symlink” and was renowned in the underground for writing complex, custom Web injects for ZeuS and SpyEye users. Specifically, Symlink’s code was designed to automate money transfers out of victim banks to accounts that ZeuS and SpyEye botmasters controlled. Here’s an excerpt from that chat:

(12:31:22 AM) Daniel: if you wanna write up a story

(12:31:34 AM) Daniel: a very perfect

(12:31:34 AM) Daniel: even Interpol will get to you

(12:31:35 AM)  Brian Krebs: ?

Continue reading →