Posts Tagged: trend micro

Aug 16

HostSailor Threatens to Sue KrebsOnSecurity

Earlier this month, KrebsOnSecurity published The Reincarnation of a Bulletproof Hoster, which examined evidence suggesting that a Web hosting company called HostSailor was created out of the ashes of another, now-defunct hosting firm notorious for harboring spammers, scammers and other online ne’er-do-wells. Today, HostSailor’s lawyers threatened to sue this author unless the story is removed from the Web.

Obviously, I stand by my reporting and have no intention of unpublishing stories. But I’m writing about HostSailor again here because I promised to post an update if they ever responded to my requests for comment.

The letter, signed by Abdullah Alzarooni Advocates in Dubai — where HostSailor says it is based — carries the subject line, “Warning from Acts of Extortion and Abuse of the Privacy of Third Parties.” It lists a number of links to content the company apparently finds objectionable.

Could this same kind of legal pressure be why security industry giant Trend Micro removed all reference to HostSailor from the report that started all this? Trend hasn’t responded to direct questions about that.

Astute readers will notice in the letter (pasted below) a link to a Twitter message from this author among the many things HostSailor’s lawyers will like me to disappear from the Internet. That tweet to HostSailor’s Twitter account read:

“Potential downside of reporting ISIS sites: The hosting firm (ahem @HostSailor) may share your info/name/report with ISIS. Opsec, people!”

I sent that tweet after hearing from a source with whom I’ve been working to report sites affiliated with the jihadist militant group ISIS. The source had reported to HostSailor several of its Internet addresses that were being used by a propaganda site promoting videos of beheadings and other atrocities by ISIS, and he shared emails indicating that HostSailor had simply forwarded his abuse email on to its customer — complete with my source’s name and contact information. Thankfully, he was using a pseudonym and throwaway email address.

HostSailor’s twitter account responded by saying that the company doesn’t share information about its customers. But of course my tweet was regarding information shared about someone who is not a HostSailor customer. Continue reading →

Aug 16

Visa Alert and Update on the Oracle Breach

Credit card industry giant Visa on Friday issued a security alert warning companies using point-of-sale devices made by Oracle‘s MICROS retail unit to double-check the machines for malicious software or unusual network activity, and to change passwords on the devices. Visa also published a list of Internet addresses that may have been involved in the Oracle breach and are thought to be closely tied to an Eastern European organized cybercrime gang.


The Visa alert is the first substantive document that tries to help explain what malware and which malefactors might have hit Oracle — and by extension many of Oracle’s customers — since KrebsOnSecurity broke news of the breach on Aug. 8. That story cited sources close to the investigation saying hackers had broken into hundreds of servers at Oracle’s retail division, and had completely compromised Oracle’s main online support portal for MICROS customers.

MICROS is among the top three point-of-sale vendors globally. Oracle’s MICROS division sells point-of-sale systems used at more than 330,000 cash registers worldwide. When Oracle bought MICROS in 2014, the company said MICROS’s systems were deployed at some 200,000+ food and beverage outlets, 100,000+ retail sites, and more than 30,000 hotels.

In short, tens of millions of credit cards are swiped at MICROS terminals monthly, and a breach involving the theft of credentials that might have granted remote access to even just a small percentage of those systems is potentially a big and costly problem for all involved.

So far, however, most MICROS customers are left scratching their heads for answers. A frequently asked questions bulletin (PDF) Oracle also released last Monday held little useful information. Oracle issued the same cryptic response to everyone who asked for particulars about how far the breach extended. “Oracle has detected and addressed malicious code in certain legacy MICROS systems.”

Oracle also urged MICROS customers to change their passwords, and said “we also recommend that you change the password for any account that was used by a MICROS representative to access your on-premises systems.”

One of two documents Oracle sent to MICROS customers and the sum total of information the company has released so far about the breach.

One of two documents Oracle sent to MICROS customers and the sum total of information the company has released so far about the breach.

Some technology and fraud experts, including Gartner Analyst Avivah Litan, read that statement highlighted in yellow above as an acknowledgement by Oracle that hackers may have abused credentials gained in the MICROS portal breach to plant malicious code on the point-of-sale devices run by an unknown number of MICROS customers.

“This [incident] could explain a lot about the source of some of these retail and merchant point-of-sale hacks that nobody has been able to definitively tie to any one point-of-sale services provider,” Litan told me last week. “I’d say there’s a big chance that the hackers in this case found a way to get remote access” to MICROS customers’ on-premises point-of-sale devices.”

Clearly, Visa is concerned about this possibility as well.


In my original story about the breach, I wasn’t able to reveal all the data I’d gathered about the apparent source of the attacks and attackers. A key source in that story asked that I temporarily delay publishing certain details of the investigation, specifically those known as indicators of compromise (IOCs). Basically, IOCs are list of suspect Internet addresses, domain names, filenames and other curious digital clues that are thought to connect the victim with its attacker.

I’ve been inundated all week with calls and emails from security experts asking for that very data, but sharing it wasn’t my call. That is, until yesterday (8/12/16), when Visa published a “merchant communication alert” to some customers. In that alert (PDF), Visa published IOCs that may be connected with the intrusion. These IOCs could be extremely useful to MICROS customers because the presence of Internet traffic to and from these online destinations would strongly suggest the organization’s point-of-sale systems may be similarly compromised.

Some of the addresses on this list from Visa are known to be associated with the Carbanak Gang, a group of Eastern European hackers that Russian security firm Kaspersky Lab estimates has stolen more than $1 billion from banks and retailers. Here’s the IOCs list from the alert Visa pushed out Friday:

VISA warned merchants to check their systems for any communications to and from these Internet addresses and domain names associated with a Russian organized cybercrime gang called "Carbanak."

Visa warned merchants to check their systems for any communications to and from these Internet addresses and domain names associated with a Russian organized cybercrime gang called “Carbanak.”

Thankfully, since at least one of the addresses listed above ( matched what’s on my source’s list, the source agreed to let me publish the entire thing. Here it is. I checked my source’s list and found at least five Internet addresses that were seen in both the Oracle attack and in a Sept. 2015 writeup about Carbanak by ESET Security, a Slovakian antivirus and security company. [NB: If you are unskilled at safely visiting malicious Web sites and/or handling malware, it’s probably best not to visit the addresses in the above-linked list.]

Visa also mentioned a specific POS-malware threat in its alert called “MalumPOS.” According to researchers at Trend Micro, MalumPOS is malware designed to target point-of-sale systems in hotels and related industries. In fact, Trend found that MalumPOS is set up to collect data specifically from point-of-sale systems running on Oracle’s MICROS platform.

It should come as no surprise then that many of Oracle’s biggest customers in the hospitality industry are starting to make noise, accusing Oracle of holding back key information that could help MICROS-based companies stop and clean up breaches involving malware and stolen customer credit card data.

“Oracle’s silence has been deafening,” said Michael Blake, chief executive officer at HTNG, a trade association for hotels and technology. “They are still grappling and trying to answer questions on the extent of the breach. Oracle has been invited to the last three [industry] calls this week and they are still going about trying to reach each customer individually and in the process of doing so they have done nothing but given the lame advice of changing passwords.”

The hospitality industry has been particularly hard hit by point-of-sale compromises over the past two years. Last month, KrebsOnSecurity broke the news of a breach at Kimpton Hotels (Kimpton appears to run MICROS products, but the company declined to answer questions for this story).

Kimpton joins a long list of hotel brands that have acknowledged card breaches over the last year, including Trump Hotels (twice), Hilton, Mandarin Oriental, and White Lodging (twice), Starwood Hotels and Hyatt. In many of those incidents, thieves had planted malicious software on the point-of-sale devices at restaurants and bars inside of the hotel chains. And, no doubt, many of those cash registers were run on MICROS systems.

If Oracle doesn’t exactly know which — if any — of its MICROS customers had malware on their point-of-sale systems as a result of the breach, it may be because the network intruders didn’t have any reason to interact with Oracle’s customers via the MICROS portal after stealing usernames and passwords that would allow them to remotely access customer on-premises systems. In theory, at that point the fraudsters could have bypassed Oracle altogether from then on. Continue reading →

Aug 16

The Reincarnation of a Bulletproof Hoster

In April 2016, security firm Trend Micro published a damning report about a Web hosting provider referred to only as a “cyber-attack facilitator in the Netherlands.” If the Trend analysis lacked any real punch that might have been because — shortly after the report was published — names were redacted so that it was no longer immediately clear who the bad hosting provider was. This post aims to shine a bit more light on the individuals apparently behind this mysterious rogue hosting firm — a company called HostSailor[dot]com.

The Trend report observes that the unnamed, Netherlands-based virtual private sever (VPS) hosting provider appears to have few legitimate customers, and that the amount of abuse emanating from it “is so staggering that this company will remain on our watchlist in the next few months.”


What exactly is the awfulness spewing from the company that Trend takes great pains not to name as For starters, according to Trend’s data (PDF) HostSailor has long been a home for attacks tied to a Russian cyber espionage campaign dubbed “Pawn Storm.” From the report:

“Pawn Storm seems to feel quite at home. They used the VPS hosting company for at least 80 attacks since May 2015. Their attacks utilized C&C servers, exploit sites, spear-phishing campaigns, free Webmail phishing sites targeting high profile users, and very specific credential phishing sites against Government agencies of countries like Bulgaria, Greece, Malaysia, Montenegro, Poland, Qatar, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Ukraine, and United Arab Emirates. Pawn Storm also uses the VPS provider in the Netherlands for domestic espionage in Russia regularly.”

“Apart from Pawn Storm, a less sophisticated group of threat actors called DustySky (PDF link added) is using the VPS provider. These actors target Israel, companies who do business in Israel, Egypt and some other Middle Eastern governments.”


Trend’s report on HostSailor points to a LinkedIn profile for an Alexander Freeman at HostSailor who lists his location as Dubai. HostSailor’s Web site says the company has servers in The Netherlands and in Romania, and that it is based in Dubai. The company first came online in early 2013.

Ron Guilmette, an anti-spam researcher who tipped me off to the Trend report and whose research has been featured several times on this blog, reached out to Freeman via email. Guilmette later posted at the mailing list the vitriolic and threatening response he said he received in reply.

A snippet from the response that Guilmette said he received from a HostSailor employee named Alexander Freeman.

A snippet from the response that Guilmette said he received from a HostSailor employee named Alexander Freeman.

Perhaps Mr. Freeman’s ire was previously leveled at Trend Micro, which could explain their redaction of the name “HostSailor” from its report. A spokesperson for Trend Micro declined to explain why the company redacted its own report post-publication, saying only that “at the time of publication, we were following our standard disclosure protocol.”

In any case, I began to suspect that “Alexander Freeman” was just a pseudonym (Trend noted this suspicion in its report as well). In combing through the historic WHOIS registration records for the domain, I noticed that the domain name changed hands sometime in late 2012. Sure enough, a simple Google search popped up this thread at back in Dec. 2012, which was started by a Jordan Peterson who says he’s looking to sell

Contacted by KrebsOnSecurity, Mr. Peterson said the person who responded about purchasing the domain was named Ali Al-Attiyah, and that this individual used the following email addresses:

“I remember Ali telling me he didn’t have a paypal so a friend sent me the money for the domain, I looked up the paypal info for you and [Ali’s friend’s] name is Khalid Cook,,” Peterson told me. “The legal information for the domain transfer was given as:

152-160 City Road
London ec1v 2nx

That street address corresponds to a business named “,” which offers call answering services for companies that wish to list a prestigious London address without actually having a physical presence there.

Ali Al-Attiyah is listed as the official registrant of and several other very similar domains. More interesting, however, is that email address given for Mr. Khalid Cook: According to a “reverse WHOIS” search ordered from, that Yahoo email address was used in the original registration records for exactly one domain:

Santrex (better known on as “Scamtrex“) was an extremely dodgy “bulletproof hosting” company — essentially a mini-ISP that specializes in offering services that are largely immune from takedown requests and pressure from Western law enforcement agencies. At the time, Google’s Safebrowsing database warned that almost 90 percent of the sites on Santrex’s network were attempting to foist malicious software on visitors or were hosting malware used in online attacks.

Santrex was forced out of business in early 2013, after the company’s core servers were massively hacked and the PayPal and credit card accounts it used to accept payments from customers were reportedly seized by unknown parties. In its final days as a hosting provider, Santrex’s main voice on — a user named “khalouda” — posted many rants that eerily echo the invective leveled at Guilmette by HostSailor’s Mr. Freeman.

Google’s take on the world’s most densely malicious networks over the past 12 months.

Google’s take on the world’s most densely malicious networks over the past 12 months.


Continue reading →

Apr 16

US-CERT to Windows Users: Dump Apple Quicktime

Microsoft Windows users who still have Apple Quicktime installed should ditch the program now that Apple has stopped shipping security updates for it, warns the Department of Homeland Security‘s U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT). The advice came just as researchers are reporting two new critical security holes in Quicktime that likely won’t be patched.

quicktimeUS-CERT cited an April 14 blog post by Christopher Budd at Trend Micro, which runs a program called Zero Day Initiative (ZDI) that buys security vulnerabilities and helps researchers coordinate fixing the bugs with software vendors. Budd urged Windows users to junk Quicktime, citing two new, unpatched vulnerabilities that ZDI detailed which could be used to remotely compromise Windows computers.

“According to Trend Micro, Apple will no longer be providing security updates for QuickTime for Windows, leaving this software vulnerable to exploitation,” US-CERT wrote. The advisory continued:

“Computers running QuickTime for Windows will continue to work after support ends. However, using unsupported software may increase the risks from viruses and other security threats. Potential negative consequences include loss of confidentiality, integrity, or availability of data, as well as damage to system resources or business assets. The only mitigation available is to uninstall QuickTime for Windows. Users can find instructions for uninstalling QuickTime for Windows on the Apple Uninstall QuickTime page.”

While the recommendations from US-CERT and others apparently came as a surprise to many, Apple has been distancing itself from QuickTime on Windows for some time now. In 2013, the Cupertino, Calif. tech giant deprecated all developer APIs for Quicktime on Windows.

Apple shipped an update to Quicktime in January 2016 that removed the Quicktime browser plugin on Windows systems, meaning the threat from browser-based attacks on Quicktime flaws was largely mitigated over the past few months for Windows users who have been keeping up to date with the latest version. Nevertheless, if you have Quicktime on a Windows box — do yourself a favor and get rid of it.

Update, Apr. 21, 10:00 a.m. ET: Apple has finally posted a support document online that explains QuickTime 7 for Windows is no longer supported by Apple. See the full advisory here.

Aug 15

Extortionists Target Ashley Madison Users

People who cheat on their partners are always open to extortion by the parties involved. But when the personal details of millions of cheaters get posted online for anyone to download — as is the case with the recent hack of infidelity hookup site — random blackmailers are bound to pounce on the opportunity.

An extortion email sent to an AshleyMadison user.

An extortion email sent to an AshleyMadison user.

According to security firms and to a review of several emails shared with this author, extortionists already see easy pickings in the leaked AshleyMadison user database.

Earlier today I heard from Rick Romero, the information technology manager at VF IT Services, an email provider based in Milwaukee. Romero said he’s been building spam filters to block outgoing extortion attempts against others from rogue users of his email service. Here’s one that he blocked this morning (I added a link to the bitcoin address in the message, which shows nobody has paid into this particular wallet yet):


Unfortunately, your data was leaked in the recent hacking of Ashley Madison and I now have your information.

If you would like to prevent me from finding and sharing this information with your significant other send exactly 1.0000001 Bitcoins (approx. value $225 USD) to the following address:

1B8eH7HR87vbVbMzX4gk9nYyus3KnXs4Ez [link added]

Sending the wrong amount means I won’t know it’s you who paid.

You have 7 days from receipt of this email to send the BTC [bitcoins]. If you need help locating a place to purchase BTC, you can start here…..

The individual who received that extortion attempt — an AshleyMadison user who agreed to speak about the attack on condition that only his first name be used — said he’s “loosely concerned” about future extortion attacks, but not especially this one in particular.

“If I put myself in [the extortionist’s] shoes, the likelihood of them disclosing stuff doesn’t increase their chance of getting money,” said Mac. “I just not going to respond.” Continue reading →

Jul 15

Third Hacking Team Flash Zero-Day Found

For the third time in a week, researchers have discovered a zero-day vulnerability in Adobe’s Flash Player browser plugin. Like the previous two discoveries, this one came to light only after hackers dumped online huge troves of documents stolen from Hacking Team — an Italian security firm that sells software exploits to governments around the world.

News of the latest Flash flaw comes from Trend Micro, which said it reported the bug (CVE-2015-5123) to Adobe’s Security Team. Adobe confirmed that it is working on a patch for the two outstanding zero-day vulnerabilities exposed in the Hacking Team breach.

We are likely to continue to see additional Flash zero day bugs surface as a result of this breach. Instead of waiting for Adobe to fix yet another flaw in Flash, please consider removing or at least hobbling this program.


Continue reading →

Jul 15

Adobe to Patch Hacking Team’s Flash Zero-Day

Adobe Systems Inc. says its plans to issue a patch on Wednesday to fix a zero-day vulnerability in its Flash Player software that is reportedly being exploited in active attacks. The flaw was disclosed publicly over the weekend after hackers broke into and posted online hundreds of gigabytes of data from Hacking Team, a controversial Italian company that’s long been accused of helping repressive regimes spy on dissident groups.

A knowledge base file stolen from Hacking Team explaining how to use the company's zero-day Flash exploit.

A knowledge base file stolen from Hacking Team explaining how to use a Flash exploit developed by the company.

In an advisory published today, Adobe said “a critical vulnerability (CVE-2015-5119) has been identified in Adobe Flash Player and earlier versions for Windows, Macintosh and Linux. Successful exploitation could cause a crash and potentially allow an attacker to take control of the affected system.”

Update, July 8, 12:13 p.m. ET: The patch is now available in Flash Player for Windows and Mac systems. See this advisory for more information and for links to downloads.

Original story:

Several reports on Twitter suggested the exploit could be used to bypass Google Chrome‘s protective “sandbox” technology, a security feature that forces the program to run in a heightened security mode designed to block attacks that target vulnerabilities in Flash. A spokesperson for Google confirmed that attackers could evade the Chrome sandbox by using the Flash exploit in tandem with another Windows vulnerability that appears to be unpatched at the moment. Google also says its already in the process of pushing the Flash fix out to Chrome users.

The Flash flaw was uncovered after Hacking Team’s proprietary information was posted online by hacktivists seeking to disprove the company’s claims that it does not work with repressive regimes (the leaked data suggests that Hacking Team has contracted to develop exploits for a variety of countries, including Egypt, Lebanon, Ethiopia, Sudan and Thailand). Included in the cache are several exploits for unpatched flaws, including apparently a Windows vulnerability. Continue reading →

Feb 15

Yet Another Flash Patch Fixes Zero-Day Flaw

For the third time in two weeks, Adobe has issued an emergency security update for its Flash Player software to fix a dangerous zero-day vulnerability that hackers already are exploiting to launch drive-by download attacks.

brokenflash-aThe newest update, version, addresses a critical security bug (CVE-2015-0313) present in the version of Flash that Adobe released on Jan. 27 (v. Adobe said it is are aware of reports that this vulnerability is being actively exploited in the wild via drive-by-download attacks against systems running Internet Explorer and Firefox on Windows 8.1 and below.

Adobe’s advisory credits both Trend Micro and Microsoft with reporting this bug. Trend Micro published a blog post three days ago warning that the flaw was being used in malvertising attacks – booby-trapped ads uploaded by criminals to online ad networks. Trend also published a more in-depth post examining this flaw’s use in the Hanjuan Exploit Kit, a crimeware package made to be stitched into hacked Web sites and foist malware on visitors via browser plug-in flaws like this one. Continue reading →

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 →

Dec 14

Be Wary of ‘Order Confirmation’ Emails

If you receive an email this holiday season asking you to “confirm” an online e-commerce order or package shipment, please resist the urge to click the included link or attachment: Malware purveyors and spammers are blasting these missives by the millions each day in a bid to trick people into giving up control over their computers and identities.

An "order confirmation" malware email blasted out by the Asprox spam botnet recently.

An “order confirmation” malware email blasted out by the Asprox spam botnet recently.

Seasonal scams like these are a perennial scourge of the holidays, mainly because the methods they employ are reliably successful. Crooks understand that it’s easier to catch would-be victims off-guard during the holidays. This goes even for people who generally know better than to click on links and attachments in emails that spoof trusted brands and retailers, because this is a time of year when many people are intensely focused on making sure their online orders arrive before Dec. 25.

This Asprox malware email poses as a notice about a wayward package from a WalMart  order.

This Asprox malware email poses as a notice about a wayward package from a WalMart order.

According to Malcovery, a company that closely tracks email-based malware attacks, these phony “order confirmation” spam campaigns began around Thanksgiving, and use both booby-trapped links and attached files in a bid to infect recipients’ Windows PCs with the malware that powers the Asprox spam botnet. Continue reading →