Posts Tagged: Techcrunch


15
Jun 17

Inside a Porn-Pimping Spam Botnet

For several months I’ve been poking at a decent-sized spam botnet that appears to be used mainly for promoting adult dating sites. Having hit a wall in my research, I decided it might be good to publish what I’ve unearthed so far to see if this dovetails with any other research out there.

In late October 2016, an anonymous source shared with KrebsOnSecurity.com a list of nearly 100 URLs that — when loaded into a Firefox browser — each displayed what appeared to be a crude but otherwise effective text-based panel designed to report in real time how many “bots” were reporting in for duty.

Here’s a set of archived screenshots of those counters illustrating how these various botnet controllers keep a running tab of how many “activebots” — hacked servers set up to relay spam — are sitting idly by and waiting for instructions.

One of the more than 100 panels linked to the same porn spamming operation. In October 2016, these 100 panels reported a total of 1.2 million active bots operating simultaneously.

At the time, it was unclear to me how this apparent botnet was being used, and since then the total number of bots reporting in each day has shrunk considerably. During the week the above-linked screen shots were taken, this botnet had more than 1.2 million zombie machines or servers reporting each day (that screen shot archive includes roughly half of the panels found). These days, the total number of servers reporting in to this spam network fluctuates between 50,000 and 100,000.

Thanks to a tip from an anti-spam activist who asked not to be named, I was able to see that the botnet appears to be busy promoting a seemingly endless network of adult dating Web sites connected to just two companies: CyberErotica, and Deniro Marketing LLC (a.k.a. AmateurMatch).

As affiliate marketing programs go, CyberErotica stretches way back — perhaps to the beginning. According to TechCrunch, CyberErotica is said to have launched the first online affiliate marketing firm in 1994.

In 2001, CyberErotica’s parent firm Voice Media settled a lawsuit with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, which alleged that the adult affiliate program was misrepresenting its service as free while it dinged subscribers for monthly charges and made it difficult for them to cancel.

In 2010, Deniro Marketing found itself the subject of a class-action lawsuit that alleged the company employed spammers to promote an online dating service that was overrun with automated, fake profiles of young women. Those allegations ended in an undisclosed settlement after the judge in the case tossed out the spamming claim because the statute of limitations on those charges had expired.

What’s unusual (and somewhat lame) about this botnet is that — through a variety of botnet reporting panels that are still displaying data — we can get live, real-time updates about the size and status of this crime machine. No authentication or credentials needed. So much for operational security!

The “mind map” pictured below contains enough information for nearly anyone to duplicate this research, and includes the full Web address of the botnet reporting panels that are currently online and responding with live updates. I was unable to load these panels in a Google Chrome browser (perhaps the XML data on the page is missing some key components), but they loaded fine in Mozilla Firefox.

But a note of caution: I’d strongly encourage anyone interested in following my research to take care before visiting these panels, preferably doing so from a disposable “virtual” machine that runs something other than Microsoft Windows.

That’s because spammers are usually involved in the distribution of malicious software, and spammers who maintain vast networks of apparently compromised systems are almost always involved in creating or at least commissioning the creation of said malware. Worse, porn spammers are some of the lowest of the low, so it’s only prudent to behave as if any and all of their online assets are actively hostile or malicious.

A “mind map” tracing some of the research mentioned in this post.

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23
Dec 15

Expect Phishers to Up Their Game in 2016

Expect phishers and other password thieves to up their game in 2016: Both Google and Yahoo! are taking steps to kill off the password as we know it.

passcrackNew authentication methods now offered by Yahoo! and to a beta group of Google users let customers log in just by supplying their email address, and then responding to a notification sent to their mobile device.

According to TechCrunch, Google is giving select Gmail users a password-free means of signing in. It uses a “push” notification sent to your phone that then opens an app where you approve the log-in.

The article says the service Google is experimenting with will let users sign in without entering a password, but that people can continue to use their typed password if they choose. It also says Google may still ask for your password as an additional security measure if it notices anything unusual about a login attempt.

The new authentication feature being tested by some Gmail users comes on the heels of a similar service Yahoo! debuted in October 2015. That offering, called “on-demand passwords,” will text users a random four-character code (the ones I saw were all uppercase letters) that needs to be entered into a browser or mobile device.

yahoogetstarted

This is not Yahoo!’s first stab at two-factor authentication. Another security feature it has offered for years — called “two-step verification” — sends a security code to your phone when you log in from new devices, but only after you supply your password. Yahoo! users who wish to take advantage of the passwords-free, on-demand password feature will need to disable two-step verification for on-demand passwords to work.

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24
Mar 15

Kreditech Investigates Insider Breach

Kreditech, a consumer finance startup that specializes in lending to “unbanked” consumers with little or no credit rating, is investigating a data breach that came to light after malicious hackers posted thousands of applicants’ personal and financial records online.

A screen shot of the Tor site that links to the documents stolen from Kreditech.

A screen shot of the Tor site that links to the documents stolen from Kreditech.

Earlier this month, a source pointed KrebsOnSecurity to a Web site reachable only via Tor, a software package that directs Internet traffic through a free, global network of relays. That page, pictured in screen shot to the right, included links to countless documents, scanned passports, drivers licenses, national IDs and credit agreements apparently taken from Kreditech’s servers.

The site announced that a group of hackers calling itself “A4” put the information online after finding “hundreds of gigabytes” of Kreditech’s documents, including what appear to be configuration files from the company’s Intranet and internal servers.

“The company, getting multimillion investments, probably decided to spend them for anything but security of their clients’ data,” the hacker group wrote. “As explain by a member of A4, not that the company’s security is at a low level, it is absent as such.All data to which the group А4 got access will be put online in open access although its curb price is rather considerable.”

Anna Friedrich, head of communications at the Hamburg, Germany-based lender, acknowledged that the company had an “isolated internal security incident” in November 2014, and that Hamburg police are investigating.

Friedrich said Kreditech believes the data was stolen not from customers but only from credit applicants. She added that Kreditech believes the information was leaked from within by someone who worked at the company — although she declined to say whether the suspect was a current or former employee.

“There is no access to any customer data,” Friedrich said. “This incident stemmed from a form on our Web site that was stored data in a caching system that deleted data every few days. What happened was that a subset of application data was affected. We are collaborating with the police, but unfortunately there is no more further information that I have to share. ”

Corey Wells, the 19-year-old security researcher from West Virginia who alerted this author to the compromise, said he discovered the breach after building a crawler to identify and index Web sites on the Tor network.

The hacker group didn’t say how it obtained the documents. Wells said the leaked data includes raw logs from a system that appears to have been running MongoDB, a cross-platform document-oriented database. Those logs include a date and time stamp of Aug. 19. 2014, suggesting the breach may have started seven months ago. Continue reading →