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Before yesterdayKrebs on Security

Microsoft: Two New 0-Day Flaws in Exchange Server

30 September 2022 at 16:51

Microsoft Corp. is investigating reports that attackers are exploiting two previously unknown vulnerabilities in Exchange Server, a technology many organizations rely on to send and receive email. Microsoft says it is expediting work on software patches to plug the security holes. In the meantime, it is urging a subset of Exchange customers to enable a setting that could help mitigate ongoing attacks.

In customer guidance released Thursday, Microsoft said it is investigating two reported zero-day flaws affecting Microsoft Exchange Server 2013, 2016, and 2019. CVE-2022-41040, is a Server-Side Request Forgery (SSRF) vulnerability that can enable an authenticated attacker to remotely trigger the second zero-day vulnerability — CVE-2022-41082 — which allows remote code execution (RCE) when PowerShell is accessible to the attacker.

Microsoft said Exchange Online has detections and mitigation in place to protect customers. Customers using on-premises Microsoft Exchange servers are urged to review the mitigations suggested in the security advisory, which Microsoft says should block the known attack patterns.

Vietnamese security firm GTSC on Thursday published a writeup on the two Exchange zero-day flaws, saying it first observed the attacks in early August being used to drop “webshells.” These web-based backdoors offer attackers an easy-to-use, password-protected hacking tool that can be accessed over the Internet from any browser.

“We detected webshells, mostly obfuscated, being dropped to Exchange servers,” GTSC wrote. “Using the user-agent, we detected that the attacker uses Antsword, an active Chinese-based opensource cross-platform website administration tool that supports webshell management. We suspect that these come from a Chinese attack group because the webshell codepage is 936, which is a Microsoft character encoding for simplified Chinese.”

GTSC’s advisory includes details about post-compromise activity and related malware, as well as steps it took to help customers respond to active compromises of their Exchange Server environment. But the company said it would withhold more technical details of the vulnerabilities for now.

In March 2021, hundreds of thousands of organizations worldwide had their email stolen and multiple backdoor webshells installed, all thanks to four zero-day vulnerabilities in Exchange Server.

Granted, the zero-day flaws that powered that debacle were far more critical than the two detailed this week, and there are no signs yet that exploit code has been publicly released (that will likely change soon). But part of what made last year’s Exchange Server mass hack so pervasive was that vulnerable organizations had little or no advance notice on what to look for before their Exchange Server environments were completely owned by multiple attackers.

Microsoft is quick to point out that these zero-day flaws require an attacker to have a valid username and password for an Exchange user, but this may not be such a tall order for the hackers behind these latest exploits against Exchange Server.

Steven Adair is president of Volexity, the Virginia-based cybersecurity firm that was among the first to sound the alarm about the Exchange zero-days targeted in the 2021 mass hack. Adair said GTSC’s writeup includes an Internet address used by the attackers that Volexity has tied with high confidence to a China-based hacking group that has recently been observed phishing Exchange users for their credentials.

In February 2022, Volexity warned that this same Chinese hacking group was behind the mass exploitation of a zero-day vulnerability in the Zimbra Collaboration Suite, which is a competitor to Microsoft Exchange that many enterprises use to manage email and other forms of messaging.

If your organization runs Exchange Server, please consider reviewing the Microsoft mitigations and the GTSC post-mortem on their investigations.

Fake CISO Profiles on LinkedIn Target Fortune 500s

29 September 2022 at 20:52

Someone has recently created a large number of fake LinkedIn profiles for Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) roles at some of the world’s largest corporations. It’s not clear who’s behind this network of fake CISOs or what their intentions may be. But the fabricated LinkedIn identities are confusing search engine results for CISO roles at major companies, and they are being indexed as gospel by various downstream data-scraping sources.

If one searches LinkedIn for the CISO of the energy giant Chevron, one might find the profile for a Victor Sites, who says he’s from Westerville, Ohio and is a graduate of Texas A&M University.

The LinkedIn profile for Victor Sites, who is most certainly NOT the CISO of Chevron.

Of course, Sites is not the real CISO of Chevron. That role is currently occupied by Christopher Lukas of Danville, Calif. If you were confused at this point, you might ask Google who it thinks is the current Chief Information Security Officer of Chevron. When KrebsOnSecurity did that earlier this morning, the fake CISO profile was the very first search result returned (followed by the LinkedIn profile for the real Chevron CISO).

Helpfully, LinkedIn seems to be able to detect something in common about all these fake CISO profiles, because it suggested I view a number of them in the “People Also Viewed” column seen in the image above. There are two fake CISO profiles suggested there, including one for a Maryann Robles, who claims to be the CISO of another energy giant — ExxonMobil.

Maryann’s profile says she’s from Tupelo, Miss., and includes this detail about how she became a self-described “old-school geek.”

“Since playing Tradewars on my Tandy 1000 with a 300 baud modem in the early ’90s, I’ve had a lifelong passion for technology, which I’ve carried with me as Deputy CISO of the world’s largest health plan,” her profile reads.

However, this description appears to have been lifted from the profile for the real CISO at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services in Baltimore, Md.

Interestingly, Maryann’s LinkedIn profile was accepted as truth by Cybercrime Magazine’s CISO 500 listing, which claims to maintain a list of the current CISOs at America’s largest companies:

The fake CISO for ExxOnMobil was indexed in Cybercrime Magazine’s CISO 500.

Rich Mason, the former CISO at Fortune 500 firm Honeywell, began warning his colleagues on LinkedIn about the phony profiles earlier this week.

“It’s interesting the downstream sources that repeat LinkedIn bogus content as truth,” Mason said. “This is dangerous, Apollo.io, Signalhire, and Cybersecurity Ventures.”

Google wasn’t fooled by the phony LinkedIn profile for Jennie Biller, who claims to be CISO at biotechnology giant Biogen (the real Biogen CISO is Russell Koste). But Biller’s profile is worth mentioning because it shows how some of these phony profiles appear to be quite hastily assembled. Case in point: Biller’s name and profile photo suggest she is female, however the “About” description of her accomplishments uses male pronouns. Also, it might help that Jennie only has 18 connections on LinkedIn.

Again, we don’t know much about who or what is behind these profiles, but in August the security firm Mandiant (recently acquired by Google) told Bloomberg that hackers working for the North Korean government have been copying resumes and profiles from leading job listing platforms LinkedIn and Indeed, as part of an elaborate scheme to land jobs at cryptocurrency firms.

None of the profiles listed here responded to requests for comment (or to become a connection).

In a statement provided to KrebsOnSecurity, LinkedIn said its teams were actively working to take these fake accounts down.

“We do have strong human and automated systems in place, and we’re continually improving, as fake account activity becomes more sophisticated,” the statement reads. “In our transparency report we share how our teams plus automated systems are stopping the vast majority of fraudulent activity we detect in our community – around 96% of fake accounts and around 99.1% of spam and scam.”

LinkedIn could take one simple step that would make it far easier for people to make informed decisions about whether to trust a given profile: Add a “created on” date for every profile. Twitter does this, and it’s enormously helpful for filtering out a great deal of noise and unwanted communications.

The former CISO Mason said LinkedIn also could experiment with offering something akin to Twitter’s verified mark to users who chose to validate that they can respond to email at the domain associated with their stated current employer.

“If I saw that a LinkedIn profile had been domain-validated, then my confidence in that profile would go way up,” Mason said, noting that many of the fake profiles had hundreds of followers, including dozens of real CISOs. Maryann’s profile grew by a hundred connections in just the past few days, he said.

“If we have CISOs that are falling for this, what hopes do the masses have?” Mason said.

Mason said LinkedIn also needs a more streamlined process for allowing employers to remove phony employee accounts. He recently tried to get a phony profile removed from LinkedIn for someone who falsely claimed to have worked for his company.

“I shot a note to LinkedIn and said please remove this, and they said, well, we have to contact that person and arbitrate this,” he said. “They gave the guy two weeks and he didn’t respond, so they took it down. But that doesn’t scale, and there needs to be a mechanism where an employer can contact LinkedIn and have these fake profiles taken down in less than two weeks.”

Accused Russian RSOCKS Botmaster Arrested, Requests Extradition to U.S.

23 September 2022 at 18:19

A 36-year-old Russian man recently identified by KrebsOnSecurity as the likely proprietor of the massive RSOCKS botnet has been arrested in Bulgaria at the request of U.S. authorities. At a court hearing in Bulgaria this month, the accused hacker requested and was granted extradition to the United States, reportedly telling the judge, “America is looking for me because I have enormous information and they need it.”

A copy of the passport for Denis Kloster, as posted to his Vkontakte page in 2019.

On June 22, KrebsOnSecurity published Meet the Administrators of the RSOCKS Proxy Botnet, which identified Denis Kloster, a.k.a. Denis Emelyantsev, as the apparent owner of RSOCKS, a collection of millions of hacked devices that were sold as “proxies” to cybercriminals looking for ways to route their malicious traffic through someone else’s computer.

A native of Omsk, Russia, Kloster came into focus after KrebsOnSecurity followed clues from the RSOCKS botnet master’s identity on the cybercrime forums to Kloster’s personal blog, which featured musings on the challenges of running a company that sells “security and anonymity services to customers around the world.” Kloster’s blog even included a group photo of RSOCKS employees.

“Thanks to you, we are now developing in the field of information security and anonymity!,” Kloster’s blog enthused. “We make products that are used by thousands of people around the world, and this is very cool! And this is just the beginning!!! We don’t just work together and we’re not just friends, we’re Family.”

The Bulgarian news outlet 24Chasa.bg reports that Kloster was arrested in June at a co-working space in the southwestern ski resort town of Bansko, and that the accused asked to be handed over to the American authorities.

“I have hired a lawyer there and I want you to send me as quickly as possible to clear these baseless charges,” Kloster reportedly told the Bulgarian court this week. “I am not a criminal and I will prove it in an American court.”

Launched in 2013, RSOCKS was shut down in June 2022 as part of an international investigation into the cybercrime service. According to the Justice Department, the RSOCKS botnet initially targeted Internet of Things (IoT) devices, including industrial control systems, time clocks, routers, audio/video streaming devices, and smart garage door openers; later in its existence, the RSOCKS botnet expanded into compromising additional types of devices, including Android devices and conventional computers, the DOJ said.

The Justice Department’s June 2022 statement about that takedown cited a search warrant from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California, which also was named by Bulgarian news outlets this month as the source of Kloster’s arrest warrant.

When asked about the existence of an arrest warrant or criminal charges against Kloster, a spokesperson for the Southern District said, “no comment.”

Update, Sept. 24, 9:00 a.m. ET: Kloster was named in a 2019 indictment (PDF) unsealed Sept. 23 by the Southern District court.

The employees who kept things running for RSOCKS, circa 2016. Notice that nobody seems to be wearing shoes.

24Chasa said the defendant’s surname is Emelyantsev and that he only recently adopted the last name Kloster, which is his mother’s maiden name.

As KrebsOnSecurity reported in June, Kloster also appears to be a major player in the Russian email spam industry. In several private exchanges on cybercrime forums, the RSOCKS administrator claimed ownership of the RUSdot spam forum. RUSdot is the successor forum to Spamdot, a far more secretive and restricted forum where most of the world’s top spammers, virus writers and cybercriminals collaborated for years before the community’s implosion in 2010.

Email spam — and in particular malicious email sent via compromised computers — is still one of the biggest sources of malware infections that lead to data breaches and ransomware attacks. So it stands to reason that as administrator of Russia’s most well-known forum for spammers, the defendant in this case probably knows quite a bit about other top players in the botnet spam and malware community.

A Google-translated version of the Rusdot spam forum.

Despite maintaining his innocence, Kloster reportedly told the Bulgarian judge that he could be useful to American investigators.

“America is looking for me because I have enormous information and they need it,” Kloster told the court, according to 24Chasa. “That’s why they want me.”

The Bulgarian court agreed, and granted his extradition. Kloster’s fiancee also attended the extradition hearing, and reportedly wept in the hall outside the entire time.

Kloster turned 36 while awaiting his extradition hearing, and may soon be facing charges that carry punishments of up to 20 years in prison.

SIM Swapper Abducted, Beaten, Held for $200k Ransom

21 September 2022 at 16:17

A Florida teenager who served as a lackey for a cybercriminal group that specializes in cryptocurrency thefts was beaten and kidnapped last week by a rival cybercrime gang. The teen’s captives held guns to his head while forcing him to record a video message pleading with his crew to fork over a $200,000 ransom in exchange for his life. The youth is now reportedly cooperating with U.S. federal investigators, who are responding to an alarming number of reports of physical violence tied to certain online crime communities.

The grisly kidnapping video has been circulating on a number of Telegram chat channels dedicated to SIM-swapping — the practice of tricking or bribing mobile phone store employees into diverting a target’s phone number, text messages and calls to a device the attackers control.

The teen, known to the SIM-swapping community by the handle “Foreshadow,” appears to have served as a “holder” — a term used to describe a low-level member of any SIM-swapping group who agrees to carry out the riskiest and least rewarding role of the crime: Physically keeping and managing the various mobile devices and SIM cards that are used in SIM-swapping scams.

“Yo, Dan, please bro send the 200k,” Foreshadow said in the video, which was shot on Sept. 15 in the backseat of a moving car. Bleeding from a swollen mouth with two handguns pointed at his head, Foreshadow pleaded for his life. A still shot from that video is available here [Warning: the image is quite graphic].

“They’re going to kill me if you don’t,” Foreshadow continued, offering to get a job as a complicit mobile store employee or “plug” to help with future SIM-swaps. “I’ll pay you back. Just let me know what you need. I got you, for real. Any work for free. Whatever. However long you need me, too. I’ll apply to any store you need me to apply to. I can be a plug. I don’t care if I get caught by the cops or anything. I’ll get that money back for you. I used to do that work.”

It’s not clear where in the world the hostage video was recorded. But at one point in the video, the vehicle’s radio can be heard in the background mentioning WMIB, which is a hip-hop station in South Florida that serves both Ft. Lauderdale and Miami.

As Foreshadow’s hostage video began making the rounds on SIM-swapping Telegram channels, a rumor surfaced that Foreshadow had died after being shot in the leg. It soon emerged that Foreshadow had not died, and that he was cooperating with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Members of the SIM-swapping community were then warned to delete any messages to or from Foreshadow. One of those messages read:

JUST IN: FORESHADOW IS NOT DEAD!!!!

HES CURRENTLY CO-OPERATING WITH THE FBI DUE TO HIM BEING KIDNAPPED AND AN ATTEMPT TO EXTORT HIM FOR 200K

IF YOU HAVE CHATS WITH HIM CLEAR THEM

Foreshadow appears to be a teenager from Florida whose first name is Justin. Foreshadow’s main Telegram account was converted from a user profile into a channel on Sept. 15 — the same day he was assaulted and kidnapped — and it is not currently responding to messages.

Foreshadow’s erstwhile boss Jarik told KrebsOnSecurity that the youth was indeed shot by his captors, and blamed the kidnapping on a rival SIM-swapper from Australia who was angry over getting shortchanged of the profits from a previous SIM-swapping escapade.

The FBI did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Reached via Telegram, the alleged mastermind of the kidnapping — a SIM-swapper who uses the handle “Gus” — confirmed that he ordered the attack on Foreshadow because the holder had held back some of his stolen funds. In the same breath, Gus said Jarik was “gonna get done in next” for sharing Gus’ real name and address with KrebsOnSecurity.

“No1 cared about that nigga anyway, he snaked targs [targets] and flaunted it everywhere,” Gus said of Foreshadow. “I’ve been fucked over so many times I’ve lost millions. I am just a guy trying to make more money.”

Foreshadow’s experience is the latest example of a rapidly escalating cycle of physical violence that is taking hold of criminal SIM-swapping communities online. Earlier this month, KrebsOnSecurity detailed how multiple SIM-swapping Telegram channels are now replete with “violence-as-a-service” offerings, wherein denizens of the underground hire themselves out to perform various forms of physical violence — from slashing tires and throwing a brick through someone’s window, to conducting drive-by shootings, firebombings and home invasions.

On Aug. 12, 2022, 21-year-old Patrick McGovern-Allen of Egg Harbor Township, N.J. was arrested by the FBI and charged with stalking in connection with several of these violence-as-a-service jobs. Prosecutors say the defendant fired a handgun into a Pennsylvania home, and helped to torch another residence in the state with a Molotov Cocktail — all allegedly in service of a beef over stolen cryptocurrency.

Earlier this month, three men in the United Kingdom were arrested for attempting to assault a local man and steal his virtual currencies. The local man’s neighbor called the cops and said the three men were acting suspiciously and that one of them was wearing a police uniform. U.K. police stopped the three men allegedly fleeing the scene, and found a police uniform and weapons in the trunk of the car. All three defendants in that case were charged with “intent to cause loss to another to make an unwarranted demand of Crypto Currency from a person.”

Dina Temple-Raston and Sean Powers over at The Record recently interviewed several members of the SIM-swapping community about this escalation in violence. That story is also available on the Click Here podcast — Throwing Bricks for $$$: Violence-as-a-Service Comes of Age.

Botched Crypto Mugging Lands Three U.K. Men in Jail

16 September 2022 at 17:55

Three men in the United Kingdom were arrested this month for attempting to assault a local man and steal his virtual currencies. The incident is the latest example of how certain cybercriminal communities are increasingly turning to physical violence to settle scores and disputes.

Shortly after 11 p.m. on September 6, a resident in the Spalding Common area in the district of Lincolnshire, U.K. phoned police to say three men were acting suspiciously, and had jumped a nearby fence.

“The three men made off in a VW Golf and were shortly stopped nearby,” reads a statement by the Lincolnshire Police. “The car was searched by officers who found an imitation firearm, taser, a baseball bat and police uniform in the boot.”

Thomas Green, 23, Rayhan Miah, 23, and Leonardo Sapiano, 24 were all charged with possession of the weapons, and “with intent to cause loss to another to make an unwarranted demand of Crypto Currency from a person.”

KrebsOnSecurity has learned that the defendants were in Spalding Common to pay a surprise visit to a 19-year-old hacker known by the handles “Discoli,” “Disco Dog,” and “Chinese.” In December 2020, Discoli took credit for hacking and leaking the user database for OGUsers, a forum overrun with people looking to buy, sell and trade access to compromised social media accounts.

Reached via Telegram, Discoli confirmed that police believe the trio was trying to force their way into his home in Spalding Common, and that one of them was wearing a police uniform when they approached his residence.

“They were obvious about being fake police, so much so that one of our neighbours called,” Discoli said in an instant message chat. “That call led to the arrests. Their intent was for robbery/blackmail of crypto, I just happened to not be home at the time.”

The Lincolnshire Police declined to comment for this story, citing an ongoing investigation.

Discoli said he didn’t know any of the men charged, but believes they were hired by one of his enemies. And he said his would-be assailants didn’t just target him specifically.

“They had a list of people they wanted to hit consecutively as far as I know,” he said.

The foiled robbery is the latest drama tied to members of certain criminal hacking communities who are targeting one another with physical violence, by making a standing offer to pay thousands of dollars to anyone in the target’s region who agrees to carry out the assaults.

Last month, a 21-year-old New Jersey man was arrested and charged with stalking in connection with a federal investigation into groups of cybercriminals who are settling scores by hiring people to carry out physical attacks on their rivals.

Prosecutors say Patrick McGovern-Allen recently participated in several of these schemes — including firing a handgun into a Pennsylvania home and torching a residence in another part of the state with a Molotov Cocktail.

McGovern-Allen and the three U.K. defendants are part of an online community that is at the forefront of a dangerous escalation in coercion and intimidation tactics increasingly used by competing cybercriminal groups to steal cryptocurrency from one another and to keep their rivals in check.

The Telegram chat channels where these young men transact have hundreds to thousands of members each, and some of the more interesting solicitations on these communities are job offers for in-person assignments and tasks that can be found if one searches for posts titled, “If you live near,” or “IRL job” — short for “in real life” job.

A number of these classified ads are in service of performing “brickings,” where someone is hired to visit a specific address and toss a brick through the target’s window. Indeed, prior to McGovern-Allen’s arrest, his alleged Telegram persona bragged that he’d carried out several brickings for hire.

Many of the individuals involved in paying others to commit these physical attacks are also frequent participants in Telegram chat channels focused singularly on SIM swapping, a crime in which identity thieves hijack a target’s mobile phone number and use that to wrest control over the victim’s various online accounts and identities.

Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of people currently being targeted for brickings and other real-life physical assaults via Telegram tend to be other cybercriminals involved in SIM swapping crimes (or individuals on the periphery of that scene).

The United Kingdom is home to a number of young men accused of stealing millions of dollars worth of cryptocurrencies via SIM swapping. Joseph James O’Connor, a.k.a. “Plugwalk Joe”, was arrested in Spain in July 2021 under an FBI warrant on 10 counts of offenses related to unauthorized computer access and cyber bullying. U.S. investigators say O’Connor also played a central role in the 2020 intrusion at Twitter, wherein Twitter accounts for top celebrities and public figures were forced to tweet out links to cryptocurrency scams. O’Connor is currently fighting extradition to the United States.

Robert Lewis Barr, a 25-year-old Scottish man who allegedly stole more than $8 million worth of crypto, was arrested on an FBI warrant last year and is also fighting his extradition. U.S. investigators say Barr SIM swapped a U.S. bitcoin broker in 2017, and that he spent much of the stolen funds throwing lavish parties at rented luxury apartments in central Glasgow.

In many ways, these violence-as-a-service incidents are a natural extension of “swatting,” wherein fake bomb threats, hostage situations and other violent scenarios are phoned in to police as part of a scheme to trick them into visiting potentially deadly force on a target’s address. According to prosecutors, both Barr and O’Connor have a history of swatting their enemies and their SIM swapping victims.

Say Hello to Crazy Thin ‘Deep Insert’ ATM Skimmers

14 September 2022 at 21:46

A number of financial institutions in and around New York City are dealing with a rash of super-thin “deep insert” skimming devices designed to fit inside the mouth of an ATM’s card acceptance slot. The card skimmers are paired with tiny pinhole cameras that are cleverly disguised as part of the cash machine. Here’s a look at some of the more sophisticated deep insert skimmer technology that fraud investigators have recently found in the wild.

This ultra thin and flexible “deep insert” skimmer recently recovered from an NCR cash machine in New York is about half the height of a U.S. dime. The large yellow rectangle is a battery. Image: KrebsOnSecurity.com.

The insert skimmer pictured above is approximately .68 millimeters tall. This leaves more than enough space to accommodate most payment cards (~.54 mm) without interrupting the machine’s ability to grab and return the customer’s card. For comparison, this flexible skimmer is about half the height of a U.S. dime (1.35 mm).

These skimmers do not attempt to siphon chip-card data or transactions, but rather are after the cardholder data still stored in plain text on the magnetic stripe on the back of most payment cards issued to Americans.

Here’s what the other side of that insert skimmer looks like:

The other side of the deep insert skimmer. Image: KrebsOnSecurity.com.

The thieves who designed this skimmer were after the magnetic stripe data and the customer’s 4-digit personal identification number (PIN). With those two pieces of data, the crooks can then clone payment cards and use them to siphon money from victim accounts at other ATMs.

To steal PINs, the fraudsters in this case embedded pinhole cameras in a false panel made to fit snugly over the cash machine enclosure on one side of the PIN pad.

Pinhole cameras were hidden in these false side panels glued to one side of the ATM, and angled toward the PIN pad. Image: KrebsOnSecurity.com.

The skimming devices pictured above were pulled from a brand of ATMs made by NCR called the NCR SelfServ 84 Walk-Up. In January 2022, NCR produced a report on motorized deep insert skimmers, which offers a closer look at other insert skimmers found targeting this same line of ATMs.

Here are some variations on deep insert skimmers NCR found in recent investigations:

Image: NCR.

Image: NCR

The NCR report included additional photos that show how fake ATM side panels with the hidden cameras are carefully crafted to slip over top of the real ATM side panels.

Image: NCR.

Sometimes the skimmer thieves embed their pinhole spy cameras in fake panels directly above the PIN pad, as in these recent attacks targeting a similar NCR model:

Image: NCR

In the image below, the thieves hid their pinhole camera in a “consumer awareness mirror” placed directly above an ATM retrofitted with an insert skimmer:

Image: NCR

The financial institution that shared the images above said it has seen success in stopping most of these insert skimmer attacks by incorporating a solution that NCR sells called an “insert kit,” which it said stops current insert skimmer designs. NCR also is conducting field trials on a “smart detect kit” that adds a standard USB camera to view the internal card reader area, and uses image recognition software to identify any fraudulent device inside the reader.

Skimming devices will continue to mature in miniaturization and stealth as long as payment cards continue to hold cardholder data in plain text on a magnetic stripe. It may seem silly that we’ve spent years rolling out more tamper- and clone-proof chip-based payment cards, only to undermine this advance in the name of backwards compatibility. However, there are a great many smaller businesses in the United States that still rely on being able to swipe the customer’s card.

Many newer ATM models, including the NCR SelfServ referenced throughout this post, now include contactless capability, meaning customers no longer need to insert their ATM card anywhere: They can instead just tap their smart card against the wireless indicator to the left of the card acceptance slot (and right below the “Use Mobile Device Here” sign on the ATM).

For simple ease-of-use reasons, this contactless feature is now increasingly prevalent at drive-thru ATMs. If your payment card supports contactless technology, you will notice a wireless signal icon printed somewhere on the card — most likely on the back. ATMs with contactless capabilities also feature this same wireless icon.

Once you become aware of ATM skimmers, it’s difficult to use a cash machine without also tugging on parts of it to make sure nothing comes off. But the truth is you probably have a better chance of getting physically mugged after withdrawing cash than you do encountering a skimmer in real life.

So keep your wits about you when you’re at the ATM, and avoid dodgy-looking and standalone cash machines in low-lit areas, if possible. When possible, stick to ATMs that are physically installed at a bank. And be especially vigilant when withdrawing cash on the weekends; thieves tend to install skimming devices on Saturdays after business hours — when they know the bank won’t be open again for more than 24 hours.

Lastly but most importantly, covering the PIN pad with your hand defeats one key component of most skimmer scams: The spy camera that thieves typically hide somewhere on or near the compromised ATM to capture customers entering their PINs.

Shockingly, few people bother to take this simple, effective step. Or at least, that’s what KrebsOnSecurity found in this skimmer tale from 2012, wherein we obtained hours worth of video seized from two ATM skimming operations and saw customer after customer walk up, insert their cards and punch in their digits — all in the clear.

If you enjoyed this story, check out these related posts:

Crooks Go Deep With Deep Insert Skimmers

Dumping Data from Deep Insert Skimmers

How Cyber Sleuths Cracked an ATM Shimmer Gang

Wormable Flaw, 0days Lead Sept. 2022 Patch Tuesday

14 September 2022 at 00:23

This month’s Patch Tuesday offers a little something for everyone, including security updates for a zero-day flaw in Microsoft Windows that is under active attack, and another Windows weakness experts say could be used to power a fast-spreading computer worm. Also, Apple has also quashed a pair of zero-day bugs affecting certain macOS and iOS users, and released iOS 16, which offers a new privacy and security feature called “Lockdown Mode.” And Adobe axed 63 vulnerabilities in a range of products.

Microsoft today released software patches to plug at least 64 security holes in Windows and related products. Worst in terms of outright scariness is CVE-2022-37969, which is a “privilege escalation” weakness in the Windows Common Log File System Driver that allows attackers to gain SYSTEM-level privileges on a vulnerable host. Microsoft says this flaw is already being exploited in the wild.

Kevin Breen, director of cyber threat research at Immersive Labs, said any vulnerability that is actively targeted by attackers in the wild must be put to the top of any patching list.

“Not to be fooled by its relatively low CVSS score of 7.8, privilege escalation vulnerabilities are often highly sought after by cyber attackers,” Breen said. “Once an attacker has managed to gain a foothold on a victim’s system, one of their first actions will be to gain a higher level of permissions, allowing the attacker to disable security applications and any device monitoring. There is no known workaround to date, so patching is the only effective mitigation.”

Satnam Narang at Tenable said CVE-2022-24521 — a similar vulnerability in the same Windows log file component — was patched earlier this year as part of Microsoft’s April Patch Tuesday release and was also exploited in the wild.

“CVE-2022-37969 was disclosed by several groups, though it’s unclear if CVE-2022-37969 is a patch-bypass for CVE-2022-24521 at this point,” Narang said.

Another vulnerability Microsoft patched this month — CVE-2022-35803 — also seems to be related to the same Windows log file component. While there are no indications CVE-2022-35803 is being actively exploited, Microsoft suggests that exploitation of this flaw is more likely than not.

Trend Micro’s Dustin Childs called attention to CVE-2022-34718, a remote code execution flaw in the Windows TCP/IP service that could allow an unauthenticated attacker to execute code with elevated privileges on affected systems without user interaction.

“That officially puts it into the ‘wormable’ category and earns it a CVSS rating of 9.8,” Childs said. “However, only systems with IPv6 enabled and IPSec configured are vulnerable. While good news for some, if you’re using IPv6 (as many are), you’re probably running IPSec as well. Definitely test and deploy this update quickly.”

Cisco Talos warns about four critical vulnerabilities fixed this month — CVE-2022-34721 and CVE-2022-34722 — which have severity scores of 9.8, though they are “less likely” to be exploited, according to Microsoft.

“These are remote code execution vulnerabilities in the Windows Internet Key Exchange protocol that could be triggered if an attacker sends a specially crafted IP packet,” wrote Jon Munshaw and Asheer Malhotra. “Two other critical vulnerabilities, CVE-2022-35805 and CVE-2022-34700 exist in on-premises instances of Microsoft Dynamics 365. An authenticated attacker could exploit these vulnerabilities to run a specially crafted trusted solution package and execute arbitrary SQL commands. The attacker could escalate their privileges further and execute commands as the database owner.”

Not to be outdone, Apple fixed at least two zero-day vulnerabilities when it released updates for iOS, iPadOS, macOS and Safari. CVE-2022-32984 is a problem in the deepest recesses of the operating system (the kernel). Apple pushed an emergency update for a related zero-day last month in CVE-2022-32983, which could be used to foist malware on iPhones, iPads and Macs that visited a booby-trapped website.

Also listed under active attack is CVE-2022-32817, which has been fixed on macOS 12.6 (Monterey), macOS 11.7 (Big Sur), iOS 15.7 and iPadOS 15.7, and iOS 16. The same vulnerability was fixed in Apple Watch in July 2022, and credits Xinru Chi of Japanese cybersecurity firm Pangu Lab.

“Interestingly, this CVE is also listed in the advisory for iOS 16, but it is not called out as being under active exploit for that flavor of the OS,” Trend Micro’s Childs noted. “Apple does state in its iOS 16 advisory that ‘Additional CVE entries to be added soon.’ It’s possible other bugs could also impact this version of the OS. Either way, it’s time to update your Apple devices.”

Apple’s iOS 16 includes two new security and privacy features — Lockdown Mode and Safety Check. Wired.com describes Safety Check as a feature for users who are at risk for, or currently experiencing, domestic abuse.

“The tool centralizes a number of controls in one place to make it easier for users to manage and revoke access to their location data and reset privacy-related permissions,” wrote Lily Hay Newman.

“Lockdown Mode, on the other hand, is meant for users who potentially face targeted spyware attacks and aggressive state-backed hacking. The feature comprehensively restricts any nonessential iOS features so there are as few potential points of entry to a device as possible. As more governments and repressive entities around the world have begun purchasing powerful commodity spyware to target individuals of particular importance or interest, iOS’s general security defenses haven’t been able to keep pace with these specialized threats.”

To turn on Lockdown Mode in iOS 16, go to Settings, then Privacy and Security, then Lockdown Mode. Safety Check is located in the same area.

Finally, Adobe released seven patches addressing 63 security holes in Adobe Experience Manager, Bridge, InDesign, Photoshop, InCopy, Animate, and Illustrator. More on those updates is here.

Don’t forget to back up your data and/or system before applying any security updates. If you experience glitches or problems installing any of these patches this month, please consider leaving a comment about it below; there’s a decent chance other readers have experienced the same and may chime in here with useful tips.

Transacting in Person with Strangers from the Internet

9 September 2022 at 12:40

Communities like Craigslist, OfferUp, Facebook Marketplace and others are great for finding low- or no-cost stuff that one can pick up directly from a nearby seller, and for getting rid of useful things that don’t deserve to end up in a landfill. But when dealing with strangers from the Internet, there is always a risk that the person you’ve agreed to meet has other intentions.

Nearly all U.S. states now have designated safe trading stations — mostly at local police departments — which ensure that all transactions are handled in plain view of both the authorities and security cameras.

These safe trading places exist because sometimes in-person transactions from the Internet don’t end well for one or more parties involved. The website Craigslistkillers has catalogued news links for at least 132 murders linked to Craigslist transactions since 2015. Many of these killings involved high-priced items like automobiles and consumer electronics, where the prospective buyer apparently intended all along to kill the owner and steal the item offered for sale. Others were motivated simply by a desire to hurt people.

This is not to say that using Craigslist is uniquely risky or dangerous; I’m sure the vast majority of transactions generated by the site end amicably and without physical violence. And that probably holds true for all of Craigslist’s competitors.

Still, the risk of a deal going badly when one meets total strangers from the Internet is not zero, and so it’s only sensible to take a few simple precautions. For example, choosing to transact at a designated safe place such as a police station dramatically reduces the likelihood that anyone wishing you harm would even show up.

I recently stumbled upon one of these designated exchange places by accident, hence my interest in learning more about them. The one I encountered was at a Virginia county sheriff’s office, and it has two parking spots reserved with a sign that reads, “Internet Purchase & Exchange Location: This Area is Under 24 Hour Video Surveillance” [image above].

According to the list maintained at Safetradestations.com, there are four other such designated locations in Northern Virginia. And it appears most states now have them in at least some major cities. Safeexchangepoint.com also has a searchable index of safe trading locations in the United States and Canada.

Granted, not everyone is going to live close to one of these designated trading stations. Or maybe what you want to buy, sell or trade you’d rather not have recorded in front of police cameras. Either way, here are a few tips on staying safe while transacting in real life with strangers from the Internet (compliments of the aforementioned safe trading websites).

The safest exchange points are easily accessible and in a well-lit, public place where transactions are visible to others nearby. Try to arrange a meeting time that is during daylight hours, and consider bringing a friend along — especially when dealing with high-value items like laptops and smart phones.

Safeexchangepoint.com also advises that police or merchants that host their own exchange locations generally won’t get involved in the details of your transaction unless specified otherwise, and that many police departments (but not all) are willing to check the serial number of an item for sale to make sure it’s not known to be stolen property.

Of course, it’s not always practical or possible to haul that old sofa to the local police department, or a used car that isn’t working. In those situations, safetradestations.com has some decent suggestions:

  • Meet at a police station where you can exchange and photocopy each others’ identification papers, such as a driver’s license. Do NOT carry cash to this location.
  • Photocopy the license or identification paper, or use your phone to photograph it.
  • Email the ID information to a friend, or to someone trusted (not to yourself).
  • If you’re selling at home, or going to someone’s home, never be outnumbered. If you’re at home, make sure you have two or three people there — and tell the person who is coming that you will have others with you.
  • At home or an apartment, NEVER let someone go anywhere unaccompanied. Always make sure they are escorted.
  • Never let more than one group come to your home at one time to buy or sell.
  • Beware of common scams, like checks for an amount higher than the amount of the deal; “cashier’s checks” that are forged and presented when the bank is closed.
  • If you are given a cashier’s check, money order or other equivalent, call the bank — at the number listed online, not a number the buyer gives you — to verify the validity of the check.

Violence-as-a-Service: Brickings, Firebombings & Shootings for Hire

4 September 2022 at 14:59

A 21-year-old New Jersey man has been arrested and charged with stalking in connection with a federal investigation into groups of cybercriminals who are settling scores by hiring people to carry out physical attacks on their rivals. Prosecutors say the defendant recently participated in several of these schemes — including firing a handgun into a Pennsylvania home and torching a residence in another part of the state with a Molotov Cocktail.

Patrick McGovern-Allen of Egg Harbor Township, N.J. was arrested on Aug. 12 on a warrant from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation. An FBI complaint alleges McGovern-Allen was part of a group of co-conspirators who are at the forefront of a dangerous escalation in coercion and intimidation tactics increasingly used by competing cybercriminal groups.

Prosecutors say that around 2 a.m. on Jan 2, 2022, McGovern-Allen and an unidentified co-conspirator fired multiple handgun rounds into a residence in West Chester, Pa. Fortunately, none of the residents inside the home at the time were injured. But prosecutors say the assailants actually recorded video of the attack as “proof” that the shooting had been carried out.

A copy of that video was obtained by KrebsOnSecurity. According to investigators, McGovern-Allen was one of the shooters, who yelled “Justin Active was here” as they haphazardly fired at least eight rounds into the lower story of the West Chester residence.

On Dec. 18, 2021, police in Abington Township, Pa., responded to reports of a house fire from homeowners who said it sounded like something was thrown at their residence just prior to the fire.

Weeks later, on the day of the shooting in West Chester, a detective with the Westtown East Goshen Police Department contacted the Abington police and shared another video that was circulating on several online message boards that appeared to show two individuals setting fire to the Abington Township residence. The criminal complaint said the two police officers agreed the same suspect was present in both videos.

A copy of that video also was obtained by KrebsOnSecurity, and it shows at least two individuals smashing a window, then lighting a rag-soaked Mad Dog 20/20 grape wine bottle and hurling it at the side of the home [Update: My apologies for the file download link, but YouTube just deleted both of the videos included in this story — for allegedly violating their community standards].

“The Molotov cocktail caused the immediate surrounding area to ignite, including the siding of the house, grass, and the wooden chair,” the government’s complaint against McGovern-Allen states. “The two suspects then fled on foot toward the street and begin yelling something when the video stops.”

The government mentions the victims only by their initials — “K.M.” in the shooting and “A.R.” in the firebombing — but said both had been the target of previous harassment by rival cybercriminal groups that included swatting attacks, wherein the perpetrators spoof a distress call to the police about a hostage situation, suicide or bomb threat with the goal of sending a heavily-armed police response to a targeted address.

A number of previous swatting incidents have turned deadly. But these more “hands-on” and first person attacks are becoming increasingly common within certain cybercriminal communities, particularly those engaged in SIM swapping, a crime in which identity thieves hijack a target’s mobile phone number and use that to wrest control over the victim’s various online accounts and identities.

The complaint mentions a handle and user ID allegedly used by McGovern-Allen’s online persona “Tongue” on the Discord chat service, (user: “Tongue#0001”).

“In the chats, [Tongue] tells other Discord users that he was the person who shot K.M.’s house and that he was willing to commit firebombings using Molotov Cocktails,” the complaint alleges. “For example, in one Discord chat from March 2022, [the defendant] states ‘if you need anything done for $ lmk [“let me know”]/I did a shooting/Molotov/but I can also do things for ur entertainment.”

KrebsOnsecurity reviewed hundreds of chat records tied to this Tongue alias, and it appears both attacks were motivated by a desire to get back at a rival cybercriminal by attacking the female friends of that rival.

Recall that the shooters in the West Chester, Pa. incident shouted “Justin Active was here.” Justin Active is the nickname of an individual who is just as active in the same cybercriminal channels, but who has vehemently denied knowledge of or participation in the shooting. Justin Active said on Telegram that the person targeted in the shooting was his ex-girlfriend, and that the firebombing targeted another friend of his.

Justin Active has claimed for months that McGovern-Allen was responsible for both attacks, saying they were intended as an intimidation tactic against him. “DO THE PATRICK MCGOVERN ALLEN RAID DANCE!,” Justin Active’s alias “Nutcase68” shouted on Telegram on Aug. 12, the same day McGovern-Allen was arrested by authorities.

Justin Active’s version of events seems to be supported by a reference in the criminal complaint to an April 2, 2022 chat in which Tongue explained the reason for the shooting.

“The video/is [K]’s house/getting shit/shot/justin active/ was her current bf/ the reason it happened,” Tongue explained. “So that’s why Justin active was there.”

The Telegram chat channels that Justin Active and Tongue both frequented have hundreds to thousands of members each, and some of the more interesting solicitations on these communities are job offers for in-person assignments and tasks that can be found if one searches for posts titled, “If you live near,” or “IRL job” — short for “in real life” job.

A number of these classified ads are in service of performing “brickings,” where someone is hired to visit a specific address and toss a brick through the target’s window.

“If you live near Edmonton Canada dm me need someone bricked,” reads on Telegram message on May 31, 2022.

“If you live near [address redacted] Lakewood, CA, dm [redacted] Paying 3k to slash the tires,” reads another help wanted ad in the same channel on Feb. 24, 2022. “If you live near here and can brick them, dm [address omitted] Richland, WA,” reads another from that same day.

McGovern-Allen was in the news not long ago. According to a Sept. 2020 story from The Press of Atlantic City, a then 19-year-old Patrick McGovern Allen was injured after driving into a building and forcing residents from their home.

“Police found a 2007 Lexus, driven by Patrick McGovern-Allen, 19, that had lost control and left the road, crashing into the eastern end of the 1600 building,” the story recounted. “The car was driven through the steps that provide access to the second-floor apartments, destroying them, and also caused damage to the outer wall.”

A search on the Inmate Locator of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons website shows that McGovern-Allen remains in federal custody at a detention facility in Philadelphia. He’s currently represented by a public defender who has not responded to requests for comment.

A copy of the criminal complaint against McGovern-Allen is available here (PDF).

ANALYSIS

Many of the individuals involved in paying others to commit these physical attacks are also frequent participants in several Telegram channels focused singularly on SIM swapping activity. As a result, the vast majority of the people being targeted for brickings and other real-life physical assaults tend to be other cybercriminals involved in SIM swapping crimes (or individuals on the periphery of that scene).

There are dozens of SIM swappers who are now teenage or 20-something millionaires, by virtue of having stolen vast sums of cryptocurrencies from SIM swapping victims. And now many of these same individuals are finding that communities like Telegram can be leveraged to hire physical harassment and intimidation of their rivals and competitors.

The primary barrier to hiring someone to brick a home or slash some tires seems to be the costs involved: A number of solicitations for these services advertised payment of $3,000 or more upon proof of successful completion, which usually involves recording the attack and hiring a getaway driver in the town where the crime is to take place (calling a cab or hailing an Uber from the scene of a bricking isn’t the brightest idea).

My fear is these violence-as-a-service offerings will at some point migrate outside of the SIM swapping communities. This is precisely what happened with swatting, which for years was a crime perpetrated almost exclusively against online gamers and people streaming their games online. These days, swatting attacks are commonly used by SIM swapping groups as a way to harass and extort regular Internet users into giving up prized social media account names that can be resold for thousands of dollars.

Final Thoughts on Ubiquiti

31 August 2022 at 15:14

Last year, I posted a series of articles about a purported “breach” at Ubiquiti. My sole source for that reporting was the person who has since been indicted by federal prosecutors for his alleged wrongdoing – which includes providing false information to the press.

As a result of the new information that has been provided to me, I no longer have faith in the veracity of my source or the information he provided to me. I always endeavor to ensure that my articles are properly sourced and factual.

This time, I missed the mark and, as a result, I would like to extend my sincerest apologies to Ubiquiti, and I have decided to remove those articles from my website.

How 1-Time Passcodes Became a Corporate Liability

30 August 2022 at 14:53

Phishers are enjoying remarkable success using text messages to steal remote access credentials and one-time passcodes from employees at some of the world’s largest technology companies and customer support firms. A recent spate of SMS phishing attacks from one cybercriminal group has spawned a flurry of breach disclosures from affected companies, which are all struggling to combat the same lingering security threat: The ability of scammers to interact directly with employees through their mobile devices.

In mid-June 2022, a flood of SMS phishing messages began targeting employees at commercial staffing firms that provide customer support and outsourcing to thousands of companies. The missives asked users to click a link and log in at a phishing page that mimicked their employer’s Okta authentication page. Those who submitted credentials were then prompted to provide the one-time password needed for multi-factor authentication.

The phishers behind this scheme used newly-registered domains that often included the name of the target company, and sent text messages urging employees to click on links to these domains to view information about a pending change in their work schedule.

The phishing sites leveraged a Telegram instant message bot to forward any submitted credentials in real-time, allowing the attackers to use the phished username, password and one-time code to log in as that employee at the real employer website. But because of the way the bot was configured, it was possible for security researchers to capture the information being sent by victims to the public Telegram server.

This data trove was first reported by security researchers at Singapore-based Group-IB, which dubbed the campaign “0ktapus” for the attackers targeting organizations using identity management tools from Okta.com.

“This case is of interest because despite using low-skill methods it was able to compromise a large number of well-known organizations,” Group-IB wrote. “Furthermore, once the attackers compromised an organization they were quickly able to pivot and launch subsequent supply chain attacks, indicating that the attack was planned carefully in advance.”

It’s not clear how many of these phishing text messages were sent out, but the Telegram bot data reviewed by KrebsOnSecurity shows they generated nearly 10,000 replies over approximately two months of sporadic SMS phishing attacks targeting more than a hundred companies.

A great many responses came from those who were apparently wise to the scheme, as evidenced by the hundreds of hostile replies that included profanity or insults aimed at the phishers: The very first reply recorded in the Telegram bot data came from one such employee, who responded with the username “havefuninjail.”

Still, thousands replied with what appear to be legitimate credentials — many of them including one-time codes needed for multi-factor authentication. On July 20, the attackers turned their sights on internet infrastructure giant Cloudflare.com, and the intercepted credentials show at least three employees fell for the scam.

Image: Cloudflare.com

In a blog post earlier this month, Cloudflare said it detected the account takeovers and that no Cloudflare systems were compromised. Cloudflare said it does not rely on one-time passcodes as a second factor, so there was nothing to provide to the attackers. But Cloudflare said it wanted to call attention to the phishing attacks because they would probably work against most other companies.

“This was a sophisticated attack targeting employees and systems in such a way that we believe most organizations would be likely to be breached,” Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince wrote. “On July 20, 2022, the Cloudflare Security team received reports of employees receiving legitimate-looking text messages pointing to what appeared to be a Cloudflare Okta login page. The messages began at 2022-07-20 22:50 UTC. Over the course of less than 1 minute, at least 76 employees received text messages on their personal and work phones. Some messages were also sent to the employees family members.”

On three separate occasions, the phishers targeted employees at Twilio.com, a San Francisco based company that provides services for making and receiving text messages and phone calls. It’s unclear how many Twilio employees received the SMS phishes, but the data suggest at least four Twilio employees responded to a spate of SMS phishing attempts on July 27, Aug. 2, and Aug. 7.

On that last date, Twilio disclosed that on Aug. 4 it became aware of unauthorized access to information related to a limited number of Twilio customer accounts through a sophisticated social engineering attack designed to steal employee credentials.

“This broad based attack against our employee base succeeded in fooling some employees into providing their credentials,” Twilio said. “The attackers then used the stolen credentials to gain access to some of our internal systems, where they were able to access certain customer data.”

That “certain customer data” included information on roughly 1,900 users of the secure messaging app Signal, which relied on Twilio to provide phone number verification services. In its disclosure on the incident, Signal said that with their access to Twilio’s internal tools the attackers were able to re-register those users’ phone numbers to another device.

On Aug. 25, food delivery service DoorDash disclosed that a “sophisticated phishing attack” on a third-party vendor allowed attackers to gain access to some of DoorDash’s internal company tools. DoorDash said intruders stole information on a “small percentage” of users that have since been notified. TechCrunch reported last week that the incident was linked to the same phishing campaign that targeted Twilio.

This phishing gang apparently had great success targeting employees of all the major mobile wireless providers, but most especially T-Mobile. Between July 10 and July 16, dozens of T-Mobile employees fell for the phishing messages and provided their remote access credentials.

“Credential theft continues to be an ongoing issue in our industry as wireless providers are constantly battling bad actors that are focused on finding new ways to pursue illegal activities like this,” T-Mobile said in a statement. “Our tools and teams worked as designed to quickly identify and respond to this large-scale smishing attack earlier this year that targeted many companies. We continue to work to prevent these types of attacks and will continue to evolve and improve our approach.”

This same group saw hundreds of responses from employees at some of the largest customer support and staffing firms, including Teleperformanceusa.com, Sitel.com and Sykes.com. Teleperformance did not respond to requests for comment. KrebsOnSecurity did hear from Christopher Knauer, global chief security officer at Sitel Group, the customer support giant that recently acquired Sykes. Knauer said the attacks leveraged newly-registered domains and asked employees to approve upcoming changes to their work schedules.

Image: Group-IB.

Knauer said the attackers set up the phishing domains just minutes in advance of spamming links to those domains in phony SMS alerts to targeted employees. He said such tactics largely sidestep automated alerts generated by companies that monitor brand names for signs of new phishing domains being registered.

“They were using the domains as soon as they became available,” Knauer said. “The alerting services don’t often let you know until 24 hours after a domain has been registered.”

On July 28 and again on Aug. 7, several employees at email delivery firm Mailchimp provided their remote access credentials to this phishing group. According to an Aug. 12 blog post, the attackers used their access to Mailchimp employee accounts to steal data from 214 customers involved in cryptocurrency and finance.

On Aug. 15, the hosting company DigitalOcean published a blog post saying it had severed ties with MailChimp after its Mailchimp account was compromised. DigitalOcean said the MailChimp incident resulted in a “very small number” of DigitalOcean customers experiencing attempted compromises of their accounts through password resets.

According to interviews with multiple companies hit by the group, the attackers are mostly interested in stealing access to cryptocurrency, and to companies that manage communications with people interested in cryptocurrency investing. In an Aug. 3 blog post from email and SMS marketing firm Klaviyo.com, the company’s CEO recounted how the phishers gained access to the company’s internal tools, and used that to download information on 38 crypto-related accounts.

A flow chart of the attacks by the SMS phishing group known as 0ktapus and ScatterSwine. Image: Amitai Cohen for Wiz.io. twitter.com/amitaico.

The ubiquity of mobile phones became a lifeline for many companies trying to manage their remote employees throughout the Coronavirus pandemic. But these same mobile devices are fast becoming a liability for organizations that use them for phishable forms of multi-factor authentication, such as one-time codes generated by a mobile app or delivered via SMS.

Because as we can see from the success of this phishing group, this type of data extraction is now being massively automated, and employee authentication compromises can quickly lead to security and privacy risks for the employer’s partners or for anyone in their supply chain.

Unfortunately, a great many companies still rely on SMS for employee multi-factor authentication. According to a report this year from Okta, 47 percent of workforce customers deploy SMS and voice factors for multi-factor authentication. That’s down from 53 percent that did so in 2018, Okta found.

Some companies (like Knauer’s Sitel) have taken to requiring that all remote access to internal networks be managed through work-issued laptops and/or mobile devices, which are loaded with custom profiles that can’t be accessed through other devices.

Others are moving away from SMS and one-time code apps and toward requiring employees to use physical FIDO multi-factor authentication devices such as security keys, which can neutralize phishing attacks because any stolen credentials can’t be used unless the phishers also have physical access to the user’s security key or mobile device.

This came in handy for Twitter, which announced last year that it was moving all of its employees to using security keys, and/or biometric authentication via their mobile device. The phishers’ Telegram bot reported that on June 16, 2022, five employees at Twitter gave away their work credentials. In response to questions from KrebsOnSecurity, Twitter confirmed several employees were relieved of their employee usernames and passwords, but that its security key requirement prevented the phishers from abusing that information.

Twitter accelerated its plans to improve employee authentication following the July 2020 security incident, wherein several employees were phished and relieved of credentials for Twitter’s internal tools. In that intrusion, the attackers used Twitter’s tools to hijack accounts for some of the world’s most recognizable public figures, executives and celebrities — forcing those accounts to tweet out links to bitcoin scams.

“Security keys can differentiate legitimate sites from malicious ones and block phishing attempts that SMS 2FA or one-time password (OTP) verification codes would not,” Twitter said in an Oct. 2021 post about the change. “To deploy security keys internally at Twitter, we migrated from a variety of phishable 2FA methods to using security keys as our only supported 2FA method on internal systems.”

Update, 6:02 p.m. ET: Clarified that Cloudflare does not rely on TOTP (one-time multi-factor authentication codes) as a second factor for employee authentication.

PayPal Phishing Scam Uses Invoices Sent Via PayPal

18 August 2022 at 15:27

Scammers are using invoices sent through PayPal.com to trick recipients into calling a number to dispute a pending charge. The missives — which come from Paypal.com and include a link at Paypal.com that displays an invoice for the supposed transaction — state that the user’s account is about to be charged hundreds of dollars. Recipients who call the supplied toll-free number to contest the transaction are soon asked to download software that lets the scammers assume remote control over their computer.

KrebsOnSecurity recently heard from a reader who received an email from paypal.com that he immediately suspected was phony. The message’s subject read, “Billing Department of PayPal updated your invoice.”

A copy of the phishing message included in the PayPal.com invoice.

While the phishing message attached to the invoice is somewhat awkwardly worded, there are many convincing aspects of this hybrid scam. For starters, all of the links in the email lead to paypal.com. Hovering over the “View and Pay Invoice” button shows the button indeed wants to load a link at paypal.com, and clicking that link indeed brings up an active invoice at paypal.com.

Also, the email headers in the phishing message (PDF) show that it passed all email validation checks as being sent by PayPal, and that it was sent through an Internet address assigned to PayPal.

Both the email and the invoice state that “there is evidence that your PayPal account has been accessed unlawfully.” The message continues:

“$600.00 has been debited to your account for the Walmart Gift Card purchase. This transaction will appear in the automatically deducted amount on PayPal activity after 24 hours. If you suspect you did not make this transaction, immediately contact us at the toll-free number….”

Here’s the invoice that popped up when the “View and Pay Invoice” button was clicked:

The phony PayPal invoice, which was sent and hosted by PayPal.com.

The reader who shared this phishing email said he logged into his PayPal account and could find no signs of the invoice in question. A call to the toll-free number listed in the invoice was received by a man who answered the phone as generic “customer service,” instead of trying to spoof PayPal or Walmart. Very quickly into the conversation he suggested visiting a site called globalquicksupport[.]com to download a remote administration tool. It was clear then where the rest of this call was going.

I can see this scam tricking a great many people, especially since both the email and invoice are sent through PayPal’s systems — which practically guarantees that the message will be successfully delivered. The invoices appear to have been sent from a compromised or fraudulent PayPal Business account, which allows users to send invoices like the one shown above. Details of this scam were shared Wednesday with PayPal’s anti-abuse ([email protected]) and media relations teams.

PayPal said in a written statement that phishing attempts are common and can take many forms.

“We have a zero-tolerance policy on our platform for attempted fraudulent activity, and our teams work tirelessly to protect our customers,” PayPal said. “We are aware of this well-known phishing scam and have put additional controls in place to mitigate this specific incident. Nonetheless, we encourage customers to always be vigilant online and to contact Customer Service directly if they suspect they are a target of a scam.”

It’s remarkable how well today’s fraudsters have adapted to hijacking the very same tools that financial institutions have long used to make their customers feel safe transacting online. It’s no accident that one of the most prolific scams going right now — the Zelle Fraud Scam — starts with a text message about an unauthorized payment that appears to come from your bank. After all, financial institutions have spent years encouraging customers to sign up for mobile alerts via SMS about suspicious transactions, and to expect the occasional inbound call about possibly fraudulent transactions.

Also, today’s scammers are less interested in stealing your PayPal login than they are in phishing your entire computer and online life with remote administration software, which seems to be the whole point of so many scams these days. Because why rob just one online account when you can plunder them all?

The best advice to sidestep phishing scams is to avoid clicking on links that arrive unbidden in emails, text messages and other mediums. Most phishing scams invoke a temporal element that warns of dire consequences should you fail to respond or act quickly. If you’re unsure whether the message is legitimate, take a deep breath and visit the site or service in question manually — ideally, using a browser bookmark to avoid potential typosquatting sites.

When Efforts to Contain a Data Breach Backfire

16 August 2022 at 17:06

Earlier this month, the administrator of the cybercrime forum Breached received a cease-and-desist letter from a cybersecurity firm. The missive alleged that an auction on the site for data stolen from 10 million customers of Mexico’s second-largest bank was fake news and harming the bank’s reputation. The administrator responded to this empty threat by purchasing the stolen banking data and leaking it on the forum for everyone to download.

On August 3, 2022, someone using the alias “Holistic-K1ller” posted on Breached a thread selling data allegedly stolen from Grupo Financiero Banorte, Mexico’s second-biggest financial institution by total loans. Holistic-K1ller said the database included the full names, addresses, phone numbers, Mexican tax IDs (RFC), email addresses and balances on more than 10 million citizens.

There was no reason to believe Holistic-K1ller had fabricated their breach claim. This identity has been highly active on Breached and its predecessor RaidForums for more than two years, mostly selling databases from hacked Mexican entities. Last month, they sold customer information on 36 million customers of the Mexican phone company Telcel; in March, they sold 33,000 images of Mexican IDs — with the front picture and a selfie of each citizen. That same month, they also sold data on 1.4 million customers of Mexican lending platform Yotepresto.

But this history was either overlooked or ignored by Group-IB, the Singapore-based cybersecurity firm apparently hired by Banorte to help respond to the data breach.

“The Group-IB team has discovered a resource containing a fraudulent post offering to buy Grupo Financiero Banorte’s leaked databases,” reads a letter the Breach administrator said they received from Group-IB. “We ask you to remove this post containing Banorte data. Thank you for your cooperation and prompt attention to this urgent matter.”

The administrator of Breached is “Pompompurin,” the same individual who alerted this author in November 2021 to a glaring security hole in a U.S. Justice Department website that was used to spoof security alerts from the FBI. In a post to Breached on Aug. 8, Pompompurin said they bought the Banorte database from Holistic-K1ller’s sales thread because Group-IB was sending emails complaining about it.

“They also attempted to submit DMCA’s against the website,” Pompompurin wrote, referring to legal takedown requests under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. “Make sure to tell Banorte that now they need to worry about the data being leaked instead of just being sold.”

Group-IB CEO Dmitriy Volkov said the company has seen some success in the past asking hackers to remove or take down certain information, but that making such requests is not a typical response for the security firm.

“It is not a common practice to send takedown notifications to such forums demanding that such content be removed,” Volkov said. “But these abuse letters are legally binding, which helps build a foundation for further steps taken by law enforcement agencies. Actions contrary to international rules in the regulated space of the Internet only lead to more severe crimes, which — as we know from the case of Raidforums — are successfully investigated and stopped by law enforcement.”

Banorte did not respond to requests for comment. But in a brief written statement picked up on Twitter, Banorte said there was no breach involving their infrastructure, and the data being sold is old.

“There has been no violation of our platforms and technological infrastructure,” Banorte said. “The set of information referred to is inaccurate and outdated, and does not put our users and customers at risk.”

That statement may be 100 percent true. Still, it is difficult to think of a better example of how not to do breach response. Banorte shrugging off this incident as a nothingburger is baffling: While it is almost certainly true that the bank balance information in the Banorte leak is now out of date, the rest of the information (tax IDs, phone numbers, email addresses) is harder to change.

“Is there one person from our community that think sending cease and desist letter to a hackers forum operator is a good idea?,” asked Ohad Zaidenberg, founder of CTI League, a volunteer emergency response community that emerged in 2020 to help fight COVID-19 related scams. “Who does it? Instead of helping, they pushed the organization from the hill.”

Kurt Seifried, director of IT for the CloudSecurityAlliance, was similarly perplexed by the response to the Banorte breach.

“If the data wasn’t real….did the bank think a cease and desist would result in the listing being removed?” Seifried wondered on Twitter. “I mean, isn’t selling breach data a worse crime usually than slander or libel? What was their thought process?”

A more typical response when a large bank suspects a breach is to approach the seller privately through an intermediary to ascertain if the information is valid and what it might cost to take it off the market. While it may seem odd to expect cybercriminals to make good on their claims to sell stolen data to only one party, removing sold stolen items from inventory is a fairly basic function of virtually all cybercriminal markets today (apart from perhaps sites that traffic in stolen identity data).

At a minimum, negotiating or simply engaging with a data seller can buy the victim organization additional time and clues with which to investigate the claim and ideally notify affected parties of a breach before the stolen data winds up online.

It is true that a large number of hacked databases put up for sale on the cybercrime underground are sold only after a small subset of in-the-know thieves have harvested all of the low-hanging fruit in the data — e.g., access to cryptocurrency accounts or user credentials that are recycled across multiple websites. And it’s certainly not unheard of for cybercriminals to go back on their word and re-sell or leak information that they have sold previously.

But companies in the throes of responding to a data security incident do themselves and customers no favors when they underestimate their adversaries, or try to intimidate cybercrooks with legal threats. Such responses generally accomplish nothing, except unnecessarily upping the stakes for everyone involved while displaying a dangerous naiveté about how the cybercrime underground works.

Update, Aug. 17, 10:32 a.m.: Thanks to a typo by this author, a request for comment sent to Group-IB was not delivered in advance of this story. The copy above has been updated to include a comment from Group-IB’s CEO.

Sounding the Alarm on Emergency Alert System Flaws

12 August 2022 at 15:26

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is urging states and localities to beef up security around proprietary devices that connect to the Emergency Alert System — a national public warning system used to deliver important emergency information, such as severe weather and AMBER alerts. The DHS warning came in advance of a workshop to be held this weekend at the DEFCON security conference in Las Vegas, where a security researcher is slated to demonstrate multiple weaknesses in the nationwide alert system.

A Digital Alert Systems EAS encoder/decoder that Pyle said he acquired off eBay in 2019. It had the username and password for the system printed on the machine.

The DHS warning was prompted by security researcher Ken Pyle, a partner at security firm Cybir. Pyle said he started acquiring old EAS equipment off of eBay in 2019, and that he quickly identified a number of serious security vulnerabilities in a device that is broadly used by states and localities to encode and decode EAS alert signals.

“I found all kinds of problems back then, and reported it to the DHS, FBI and the manufacturer,” Pyle said in an interview with KrebsOnSecurity. “But nothing ever happened. I decided I wasn’t going to tell anyone about it yet because I wanted to give people time to fix it.”

Pyle said he took up the research again in earnest after an angry mob stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

“I was sitting there thinking, ‘Holy shit, someone could start a civil war with this thing,”’ Pyle recalled. “I went back to see if this was still a problem, and it turns out it’s still a very big problem. So I decided that unless someone actually makes this public and talks about it, clearly nothing is going to be done about it.”

The EAS encoder/decoder devices Pyle acquired were made by Lyndonville, NY-based Digital Alert Systems (formerly Monroe Electronics, Inc.), which issued a security advisory this month saying it released patches in 2019 to fix the flaws reported by Pyle, but that some customers are still running outdated versions of the device’s firmware. That may be because the patches were included in version 4 of the firmware for the EAS devices, and many older models apparently do not support the new software.

“The vulnerabilities identified present a potentially serious risk, and we believe both were addressed in software updates issued beginning Oct 2019,” EAS said in a written statement. “We also provided attribution for the researcher’s responsible disclosure, allowing us to rectify the matters before making any public statements. We are aware that some users have not taken corrective actions and updated their software and should immediately take action to update the latest software version to ensure they are not at risk. Anything lower than version 4.1 should be updated immediately. On July 20, 2022, the researcher referred to other potential issues, and we trust the researcher will provide more detail. We will evaluate and work to issue any necessary mitigations as quickly as possible.”

But Pyle said a great many EAS stakeholders are still ignoring basic advice from the manufacturer, such as changing default passwords and placing the devices behind a firewall, not directly exposing them to the Internet, and restricting access only to trusted hosts and networks.

Pyle, in a selfie that is heavily redacted because the EAS device behind him had its user credentials printed on the lid.

Pyle said the biggest threat to the security of the EAS is that an attacker would only need to compromise a single EAS station to send out alerts locally that can be picked up by other EAS systems and retransmitted across the nation.

“The process for alerts is automated in most cases, hence, obtaining access to a device will allow you to pivot around,” he said. “There’s no centralized control of the EAS because these devices are designed such that someone locally can issue an alert, but there’s no central control over whether I am the one person who can send or whatever. If you are a local operator, you can send out nationwide alerts. That’s how easy it is to do this.”

One of the Digital Alert Systems devices Pyle sourced from an electronics recycler earlier this year was non-functioning, but whoever discarded it neglected to wipe the hard drive embedded in the machine. Pyle soon discovered the device contained the private cryptographic keys and other credentials needed to send alerts through Comcast, the nation’s third-largest cable company.

“I can issue and create my own alert here, which has all the valid checks or whatever for being a real alert station,” Pyle said in an interview earlier this month. “I can create a message that will start propagating through the EAS.”

Comcast told KrebsOnSecurity that “a third-party device used to deliver EAS alerts was lost in transit by a trusted shipping provider between two Comcast locations and subsequently obtained by a cybersecurity researcher.

“We’ve conducted a thorough investigation of this matter and have determined that no customer data, and no sensitive Comcast data, were compromised,” Comcast spokesperson David McGuire said.

The company said it also confirmed that the information included on the device can no longer be used to send false messages to Comcast customers or used to compromise devices within Comcast’s network, including EAS devices.

“We are taking steps to further ensure secure transfer of such devices going forward,” McGuire said. “Separately, we have conducted a thorough audit of all EAS devices on our network and confirmed that they are updated with currently available patches and are therefore not vulnerable to recently reported security issues. We’re grateful for the responsible disclosure and to the security research community for continuing to engage and share information with our teams to make our products and technologies ever more secure. Mr. Pyle informed us promptly of his research and worked with us as we took steps to validate his findings and ensure the security of our systems.”

The user interface for an EAS device.

Unauthorized EAS broadcast alerts have happened enough that there is a chronicle of EAS compromises over at fandom.com. Thankfully, most of these incidents have involved fairly obvious hoaxes.

According to the EAS wiki, in February 2013, hackers broke into the EAS networks in Great Falls, Mt. and Marquette, Mich. to broadcast an alert that zombies had risen from their graves in several counties. In Feb. 2017, an EAS station in Indiana also was hacked, with the intruders playing the same “zombies and dead bodies” audio from the 2013 incidents.

“On February 20 and February 21, 2020, Wave Broadband’s EASyCAP equipment was hacked due to the equipment’s default password not being changed,” the Wiki states. “Four alerts were broadcasted, two of which consisted of a Radiological Hazard Warning and a Required Monthly Test playing parts of the Hip Hop song Hot by artist Young Thug.”

In January 2018, Hawaii sent out an alert to cell phones, televisions and radios, warning everyone in the state that a missile was headed their way. It took 38 minutes for Hawaii to let people know the alert was a misfire, and that a draft alert was inadvertently sent. The news video clip below about the 2018 event in Hawaii does a good job of walking through how the EAS works.

It Might Be Our Data, But It’s Not Our Breach

11 August 2022 at 17:45

Image: Shutterstock.

A cybersecurity firm says it has intercepted a large, unique stolen data set containing the names, addresses, email addresses, phone numbers, Social Security Numbers and dates of birth on nearly 23 million Americans. The firm’s analysis of the data suggests it corresponds to current and former customers of AT&T. The telecommunications giant stopped short of saying the data wasn’t theirs, but it maintains the records do not appear to have come from its systems and may be tied to a previous data incident at another company.

Milwaukee-based cybersecurity consultancy Hold Security said it intercepted a 1.6 gigabyte compressed file on a popular dark web file-sharing site. The largest item in the archive is a 3.6 gigabyte file called “dbfull,” and it contains 28.5 million records, including 22.8 million unique email addresses and 23 million unique SSNs. There are no passwords in the database.

Hold Security founder Alex Holden said a number of patterns in the data suggest it relates to AT&T customers. For starters, email addresses ending in “att.net” accounted for 13.7 percent of all addresses in the database, with addresses from SBCGLobal.net and Bellsouth.net — both AT&T companies — making up another seven percent. In contrast, Gmail users made up more than 30 percent of the data set, with Yahoo addresses accounting for 24 percent. More than 10,000 entries in the database list “[email protected]” in the email field.

Hold Security found these email domains account for 87% of all domains in the data set. Nearly 21% belonged to AT&T customers.

Holden’s team also examined the number of email records that included an alias in the username portion of the email, and found 293 email addresses with plus addressing. Of those, 232 included an alias that indicated the customer had signed up at some AT&T property; 190 of the aliased email addresses were “[email protected]”; 42 were “[email protected],” an oddly specific reference to an AT&T entity that included broadband Internet. In September 2016, AT&T rebranded U-verse as AT&T Internet.

According to its website, AT&T Internet is offered in 21 states, including Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin. Nearly all of the records in the database that contain a state designation corresponded to those 21 states; all other states made up just 1.64 percent of the records, Hold Security found.

Image: Hold Security.

The vast majority of records in this database belong to consumers, but almost 13,000 of the entries are for corporate entities. Holden said 387 of those corporate names started with “ATT,” with various entries like “ATT PVT XLOW” appearing 81 times. And most of the addresses for these entities are AT&T corporate offices.

How old is this data? One clue may be in the dates of birth exposed in this database. There are very few records in this file with dates of birth after 2000.

“Based on these statistics, we see that the last significant number of subscribers born in March of 2000,” Holden told KrebsOnSecurity, noting that AT&T requires new account holders to be 18 years of age or older. “Therefore, it makes sense that the dataset was likely created close to March of 2018.”

There was also this anomaly: Holden said one of his analysts is an AT&T customer with a 13-letter last name, and that her AT&T bill has always had the same unique misspelling of her surname (they added yet another letter). He said the analyst’s name is identically misspelled in this database.

KrebsOnSecurity shared the large data set with AT&T, as well as Hold Security’s analysis of it. AT&T ultimately declined to say whether all of the people in the database are or were at some point AT&T customers. The company said the data appears to be several years old, and that “it’s not immediately possible to determine the percentage that may be customers.”

“This information does not appear to have come from our systems,” AT&T said in a written statement. “It may be tied to a previous data incident at another company. It is unfortunate that data can continue to surface over several years on the dark web. However, customers often receive notices after such incidents, and advice for ID theft is consistent and can be found online.”

The company declined to elaborate on what they meant by “a previous data incident at another company.”

But it seems likely that this database is related to one that went up for sale on a hacker forum on August 19, 2021. That auction ran with the title “AT&T Database +70M (SSN/DOB),” and was offered by ShinyHunters, a well-known threat actor with a long history of compromising websites and developer repositories to steal credentials or API keys.

Image: BleepingComputer

ShinyHunters established the starting price for the auction at $200,000, but set the “flash” or “buy it now” price at $1 million. The auction also included a small sampling of the stolen information, but that sample is no longer available. The hacker forum where the ShinyHunters sales thread existed was seized by the FBI in April, and its alleged administrator arrested.

But cached copies of the auction, as recorded by cyber intelligence firm Intel 471, show ShinyHunters received bids of up to $230,000 for the entire database before they suspended the sale.

“This thread has been deleted several times,” ShinyHunters wrote in their auction discussion on Sept. 6, 2021. “Therefore, the auction is suspended. AT&T will be available on WHM as soon as they accept new vendors.”

The WHM initialism was a reference to the White House Market, a dark web marketplace that shut down in October 2021.

“In many cases, when a database is not sold, ShinyHunters will release it for free on hacker forums,” wrote BleepingComputer’s Lawrence Abrams, who broke the news of the auction last year and confronted AT&T about the hackers’ claims.

AT&T gave Abrams a similar statement, saying the data didn’t come from their systems.

“When asked whether the data may have come from a third-party partner, AT&T chose not to speculate,” Abrams wrote. “‘Given this information did not come from us, we can’t speculate on where it came from or whether it is valid,'” AT&T told BleepingComputer.

Asked to respond to AT&T’s denial, ShinyHunters told BleepingComputer at the time, “I don’t care if they don’t admit. I’m just selling.”

On June 1, 2022, a 21-year-old Frenchman was arrested in Morocco for allegedly being a member of ShinyHunters. Databreaches.net reports the defendant was arrested on an Interpol “Red Notice” at the request of a U.S. federal prosecutor from Washington state.

Databreaches.net suggests the warrant could be tied to a ShinyHunters theft in May 2020, when the group announced they had exfiltrated 500 GB of Microsoft’s source code from Microsoft’s private GitHub repositories.

“Researchers assess that Shiny Hunters gained access to roughly 1,200 private repositories around March 28, 2020, which have since been secured,” reads a May 2020 alert posted by the New Jersey Cybersecurity & Communications Integration Cell, a component within the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness.

“Though the breach was largely dismissed as insignificant, some images of the directory listing appear to contain source code for Azure, Office, and some Windows runtimes, and concerns have been raised regarding access to private API keys or passwords that may have been mistakenly included in some private repositories,” the alert continues. “Additionally, Shiny Hunters is flooding dark web marketplaces with breached databases.”

Last month, T-Mobile agreed to pay $350 million to settle a consolidated class action lawsuit over a breach in 2021 that affected 40 million current and former customers. The breach came to light on Aug. 16, 2021, when someone starting selling tens of millions of SSN/DOB records from T-Mobile on the same hacker forum where the ShinyHunters would post their auction for the claimed AT&T database just three days later.

T-Mobile has not disclosed many details about the “how” of last year’s breach, but it said the intruder(s) “leveraged their knowledge of technical systems, along with specialized tools and capabilities, to gain access to our testing environments and then used brute force attacks and other methods to make their way into other IT servers that included customer data.”

A sales thread tied to the stolen T-Mobile customer data.

The Security Pros and Cons of Using Email Aliases

10 August 2022 at 15:10

One way to tame your email inbox is to get in the habit of using unique email aliases when signing up for new accounts online. Adding a “+” character after the username portion of your email address — followed by a notation specific to the site you’re signing up at — lets you create an infinite number of unique email addresses tied to the same account. Aliases can help users detect breaches and fight spam. But not all websites allow aliases, and they can complicate account recovery. Here’s a look at the pros and cons of adopting a unique alias for each website.

What is an email alias? When you sign up at a site that requires an email address, think of a word or phrase that represents that site for you, and then add that prefaced by a “+” sign just to the left of the “@” sign in your email address. For instance, if I were signing up at example.com, I might give my email address as [email protected] Then, I simply go back to my inbox and create a corresponding folder called “Example,” along with a new filter that sends any email addressed to that alias to the Example folder.

Importantly, you don’t ever use this alias anywhere else. That way, if anyone other than example.com starts sending email to it, it is reasonable to assume that example.com either shared your address with others or that it got hacked and relieved of that information. Indeed, security-minded readers have often alerted KrebsOnSecurity about spam to specific aliases that suggested a breach at some website, and usually they were right, even if the company that got hacked didn’t realize it at the time.

Alex Holden, founder of the Milwaukee-based cybersecurity consultancy Hold Security, said many threat actors will scrub their distribution lists of any aliases because there is a perception that these users are more security- and privacy-focused than normal users, and are thus more likely to report spam to their aliased addresses.

Holden said freshly-hacked databases also are often scrubbed of aliases before being sold in the underground, meaning the hackers will simply remove the aliased portion of the email address.

“I can tell you that certain threat groups have rules on ‘+*@’ email address deletion,” Holden said. “We just got the largest credentials cache ever — 1 billion new credentials to us — and most of that data is altered, with aliases removed. Modifying credential data for some threat groups is normal. They spend time trying to understand the database structure and removing any red flags.”

According to the breach tracking site HaveIBeenPwned.com, only about .03 percent of the breached records in circulation today include an alias.

Email aliases are rare enough that seeing just a few email addresses with the same alias in a breached database can make it trivial to identify which company likely got hacked and leaked said database. That’s because the most common aliases are simply the name of the website where the signup takes place, or some abbreviation or shorthand for it.

Hence, for a given database, if there are more than a handful of email addresses that have the same alias, the chances are good that whatever company or website corresponds to that alias has been hacked.

That might explain the actions of Allekabels, a large Dutch electronics web shop that suffered a data breach in 2021. Allekabels said a former employee had stolen data on 5,000 customers, and that those customers were then informed about the data breach by Allekabels.

But Dutch publication RTL Nieuws said it obtained a copy of the Allekabels user database from a hacker who was selling information on 3.6 million customers at the time, and found that the 5,000 number cited by the retailer corresponded to the number of customers who’d signed up using an alias. In essence, RTL argued, the company had notified only those most likely to notice and complain that their aliased addresses were suddenly receiving spam.

“RTL Nieuws has called more than thirty people from the database to check the leaked data,” the publication explained. “The customers with such a unique email address have all received a message from Allekabels that their data has been leaked – according to Allekabels they all happened to be among the 5000 data that this ex-employee had stolen.”

HaveIBeenPwned’s Hunt arrived at the conclusion that aliases account for about .03 percent of registered email addresses by studying the data leaked in the 2013 breach at Adobe, which affected at least 38 million users. Allekabels’s ratio of aliased users was considerably higher than Adobe’s — .14 percent — but then again European Internet users tend to be more privacy-conscious.

While overall adoption of email aliases is still quite low, that may be changing. Apple customers who use iCloud to sign up for new accounts online automatically are prompted to use Apple’s Hide My Email feature, which creates the account using a unique email address that automatically forwards to a personal inbox.

What are the downsides to using email aliases, apart from the hassle of setting them up? The biggest downer is that many sites won’t let you use a “+” sign in your email address, even though this functionality is clearly spelled out in the email standard.

Also, if you use aliases, it helps to have a reliable mnemonic to remember the alias used for each account (this is a non-issue if you create a new folder or rule for each alias). That’s because knowing the email address for an account is generally a prerequisite for resetting the account’s password, and if you can’t remember the alias you added way back when you signed up, you may have limited options for recovering access to that account if you at some point forget your password.

What about you, Dear Reader? Do you rely on email aliases? If so, have they been useful? Did I neglect to mention any pros or cons? Feel free to sound off in the comments below.

Microsoft Patch Tuesday, August 2022 Edition

9 August 2022 at 23:01

Microsoft today released updates to fix a record 141 security vulnerabilities in its Windows operating systems and related software. Once again, Microsoft is patching a zero-day vulnerability in the Microsoft Support Diagnostics Tool (MSDT), a service built into Windows. Redmond also addressed multiple flaws in Exchange Server — including one that was disclosed publicly prior to today — and it is urging organizations that use Exchange for email to update as soon as possible and to enable additional protections.

In June, Microsoft patched a vulnerability in MSDT dubbed “Follina” that had been used in active attacks for at least three months prior. This latest MSDT bug — CVE-2022-34713 — is a remote code execution flaw that requires convincing a target to open a booby-trapped file, such as an Office document. Microsoft this month also issued a different patch for another MSDT flaw, tagged as CVE-2022-35743.

The publicly disclosed Exchange flaw is CVE-2022-30134, which is an information disclosure weakness. Microsoft also released fixes for three other Exchange flaws that rated a “critical” label, meaning they could be exploited remotely to compromise the system and with no help from users. Microsoft says addressing some of the Exchange vulnerabilities fixed this month requires administrators to enable Windows Extended protection on Exchange Servers. See Microsoft’s blog post on the Exchange Server updates for more details.

“If your organization runs local exchange servers, this trio of CVEs warrant an urgent patch,” said Kevin Breen, director of cyber threat research for Immerse Labs. “Exchanges can be treasure troves of information, making them valuable targets for attackers. With CVE-2022-24477, for example, an attacker can gain initial access to a user’s host and could take over the mailboxes for all exchange users, sending and reading emails and documents. For attackers focused on Business Email Compromise this kind of vulnerability can be extremely damaging.”

The other two critical Exchange bugs are tracked as CVE-2022-24516 and CVE-2022-21980. It’s difficult to believe it’s only been a little more than a year since malicious hackers worldwide pounced in a bevy of zero-day Exchange vulnerabilities to remotely compromise the email systems for hundreds of thousands of organizations running Exchange Server locally for email. That lingering catastrophe is reminder enough that critical Exchange bugs deserve immediate attention.

The SANS Internet Storm Center‘s rundown on Patch Tuesday warns that a critical remote code execution bug in the Windows Point-to-Point Protocol (CVE-2022-30133) could become “wormable” — a threat capable of spreading across a network without any user interaction.

“Another critical vulnerability worth mentioning is an elevation of privilege affecting Active Directory Domain Services (CVE-2022-34691),” SANS wrote. “According to the advisory, ‘An authenticated user could manipulate attributes on computer accounts they own or manage, and acquire a certificate from Active Directory Certificate Services that would allow elevation of privilege to System.’ A system is vulnerable only if Active Directory Certificate Services is running on the domain. The CVSS for this vulnerability is 8.8.”

Breen highlighted a set of four vulnerabilities in Visual Studio that earned Microsoft’s less-dire “important” rating but that nevertheless could be vitally important for the security of developer systems.

“Developers are empowered with access to API keys and deployment pipelines that, if compromised, could be significantly damaging to organizations,” he said. “So it’s no surprise they are often targeted by more advanced attackers. Patches for their tools should not be overlooked. We’re seeing a continued trend of supply-chain compromise too, making it vital that we ensure developers, and their tools, are kept up-to-date with the same rigor we apply to standard updates.”

Greg Wiseman, product manager at Rapid7, pointed to an interesting bug Microsoft patched in Windows Hello, the biometric authentication mechanism for Windows 10.  Microsoft notes that the successful exploitation of the weakness requires physical access to the target device, but would allow an attacker to bypass a facial recognition check.

Wiseman said despite the record number of vulnerability fixes from Redmond this month, the numbers are slightly less dire.

“20 CVEs affect their Chromium-based Edge browser and 34 affect Azure Site Recovery (up from 32 CVEs affecting that product last month),” Wiseman wrote. “As usual, OS-level updates will address a lot of these, but note that some extra configuration is required to fully protect Exchange Server this month.”

As it often does on Patch Tuesday, Adobe has also released security updates for many of its products, including Acrobat and Reader, Adobe Commerce and Magento Open Source. More details here.

Please consider backing up your system or at least your important documents and data before applying system updates. And if you run into any problems with these updates, please drop a note about it here in the comments.

Class Action Targets Experian Over Account Security

6 August 2022 at 01:54

A class action lawsuit has been filed against big-three consumer credit bureau Experian over reports that the company did little to prevent identity thieves from hijacking consumer accounts. The legal filing cites liberally from an investigation KrebsOnSecurity published in July, which found that identity thieves were able to assume control over existing Experian accounts simply by signing up for new accounts using the victim’s personal information and a different email address.

The lawsuit, filed July 28, 2022 in California Central District Court, argues that Experian’s documented practice of allowing the re-registration of accounts without first verifying that the existing account authorized the changes is a violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

In July’s Experian, You Have Some Explaining to Do, we heard from two different readers who had security freezes on their credit files with Experian and who also recently received notifications from Experian that the email address on their account had been changed. So had their passwords and account PIN and secret questions. Both had used password managers to pick and store complex, unique passwords for their accounts.

Both were able to recover access to their Experian account simply by recreating it — sharing their name, address, phone number, social security number, date of birth, and successfully gleaning or guessing the answers to four multiple choice questions that are almost entirely based on public records (or else information that is not terribly difficult to find).

Here’s the bit from that story that got excerpted in the class action lawsuit:

KrebsOnSecurity sought to replicate Turner and Rishi’s experience — to see if Experian would allow me to re-create my account using my personal information but a different email address. The experiment was done from a different computer and Internet address than the one that created the original account years ago.

After providing my Social Security Number (SSN), date of birth, and answering several multiple choice questions whose answers are derived almost entirely from public records, Experian promptly changed the email address associated with my credit file. It did so without first confirming that new email address could respond to messages, or that the previous email address approved the change.

Experian’s system then sent an automated message to the original email address on file, saying the account’s email address had been changed. The only recourse Experian offered in the alert was to sign in, or send an email to an Experian inbox that replies with the message, “this email address is no longer monitored.”

After that, Experian prompted me to select new secret questions and answers, as well as a new account PIN — effectively erasing the account’s previously chosen PIN and recovery questions. Once I’d changed the PIN and security questions, Experian’s site helpfully reminded me that I have a security freeze on file, and would I like to remove or temporarily lift the security freeze?

To be clear, Experian does have a business unit that sells one-time password services to businesses. While Experian’s system did ask for a mobile number when I signed up a second time, at no time did that number receive a notification from Experian. Also, I could see no option in my account to enable multi-factor authentication for all logins.

In response to my story, Experian suggested the reports from readers were isolated incidents, and that the company does all kinds of things it can’t talk about publicly to prevent bad people from abusing its systems.

“We believe these are isolated incidents of fraud using stolen consumer information,” Experian’s statement reads. “Specific to your question, once an Experian account is created, if someone attempts to create a second Experian account, our systems will notify the original email on file.”

“We go beyond reliance on personally identifiable information (PII) or a consumer’s ability to answer knowledge-based authentication questions to access our systems,” the statement continues. “We do not disclose additional processes for obvious security reasons; however, our data and analytical capabilities verify identity elements across multiple data sources and are not visible to the consumer. This is designed to create a more positive experience for our consumers and to provide additional layers of protection. We take consumer privacy and security seriously, and we continually review our security processes to guard against constant and evolving threats posed by fraudsters.”

That sounds great, but since that story ran I’ve heard from several more readers who were doing everything right and still had their Experian accounts hijacked, with little left to show for it except an email alert from Experian saying they had changed the address on file for the account.

I’d like to believe this class action lawsuit will change things, but I do not. Likely, the only thing that will come from this lawsuit — if it is not dismissed outright — is a fat payout for the plaintiffs’ attorneys and “free” credit monitoring for a few years compliments of Experian.

Credit bureaus do not view consumers as customers, who are instead the product that is being sold to third party companies. Often that data is sold based on the interests of the entity purchasing the data, wherein consumer records can be packaged into categories like “dog owner,” “expectant parent,” or “diabetes patient.”

A chat conversation between the plaintiff and Experian’s support staff shows he experienced the same account hijack as described by our readers, despite his use of a computer-generated, unique password for his Experian account.

Most lenders rely on the big-three consumer credit reporting bureaus, including Equifax, Experian and Trans Union — to determine everyone’s credit score, fluctuations in which can make or break one’s application for a loan or job.

On Tuesday, The Wall Street Journal broke a story saying Equifax sent lenders incorrect credit scores for millions of consumers this spring.

Meanwhile, the credit bureaus keep enjoying record earnings. For its part, Equifax reported a record fourth quarter 2021 revenue of 1.3 billion. Much of that revenue came from its Workforce Solutions business, which sells information about consumer salary histories to a variety of customers.

The Biden administration reportedly wants to create a public entity within the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) that would incorporate factors like rent and utility payments into lending decisions. Such a move would require congressional approval but CFPB officials are already discussing how it might be set up, Reuters reported.

“Credit reporting firms oppose the move, saying they are already working to provide fair and affordable credit to all consumers,” Reuters wrote. “A public credit bureau would be bad for consumers because it would expand the government’s power in an inappropriate way and its goals would shift with political winds, the Consumer Data Industry Association (CDIA), which represents private rating firms, said in a statement.”

A public credit bureau is likely to meet fierce resistance from the Congress’s most generous constituents — the banking industry — which detests rapid change and is heavily reliant on the credit bureaus.

And there is a preview of that fight going on right now over the bipartisan American Data Privacy and Protection Act, which The Hill described as one of the most lobbied bills in Congress. The idea behind the bill is that companies can’t collect any more information from you than they need to provide you with the service you’re seeking.

“The bipartisan bill, which represents a breakthrough for lawmakers after years of negotiations, would restrict the kind of data companies can collect from online users and the ways they can use that data,” The Hill reported Aug. 3. “Its provisions would impact companies in every consumer-centric industry — including retailers, e-commerce giants, telecoms, credit card companies and tech firms — that compile massive amounts of user data and rely on targeted ads to attract customers.”

According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit digital rights group, the bill as drafted falls short in protecting consumers in several areas. For starters, it would override or preempt many kinds of state privacy laws. The EFF argues the bill also would block the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from enforcing federal privacy laws that now apply to cable and satellite TV, and that consumers should still be allowed to sue companies that violate their privacy.

A copy of the class action complaint against Experian is available here (PDF).

Scammers Sent Uber to Take Elderly Lady to the Bank

4 August 2022 at 15:41

Email scammers sent an Uber to the home of an 80-year-old woman who responded to a well-timed email scam, in a bid to make sure she went to the bank and wired money to the fraudsters.  In this case, the woman figured out she was being scammed before embarking for the bank, but her story is a chilling reminder of how far crooks will go these days to rip people off.

Travis Hardaway is a former music teacher turned app developer from Towson, Md. Hardaway said his mother last month replied to an email she received regarding an appliance installation from BestBuy/GeekSquad. Hardaway said the timing of the scam email couldn’t have been worse: His mom’s dishwasher had just died, and she’d paid to have a new one delivered and installed.

“I think that’s where she got confused, because she thought the email was about her dishwasher installation,” Hardaway told KrebsOnSecurity.

Hardaway said his mom initiated a call to the phone number listed in the phony BestBuy email, and that the scammers told her she owed $160 for the installation, which seemed right at the time. Then the scammers asked her to install remote administration software on her computer so that they could control the machine from afar and assist her in making the payment.

After she logged into her bank and savings accounts with scammers watching her screen, the fraudster on the phone claimed that instead of pulling $160 out of her account, they accidentally transferred $160,000 to her account. They said they they needed her help to make sure the money was “returned.”

“They took control of her screen and said they had accidentally transferred $160,000 into her account,” Hardaway said. “The person on the phone told her he was going to lose his job over this transfer error, that he didn’t know what to do. So they sent her some information about where to wire the money, and asked her to go to the bank. But she told them, ‘I don’t drive,’ and they told her, “No problem, we’re sending an Uber to come help you to the bank.'”

Hardaway said he was out of town when all this happened, and that thankfully his mom eventually grew exasperated and gave up trying to help the scammers.

“They told her they were sending an Uber to pick her up and that it was on its way,” Hardaway said. “I don’t know if the Uber ever got there. But my mom went over to the neighbor’s house and they saw it for what it was — a scam.”

Hardaway said he has since wiped her computer, reinstalled the operating system and changed her passwords. But he says the incident has left his mom rattled.

“She’s really second-guessing herself now,” Hardaway said. “She’s not computer-savvy, and just moved down here from Boston during COVID to be near us, but she’s living by herself and feeling isolated and vulnerable, and stuff like this doesn’t help.”

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), seniors are often targeted because they tend to be trusting and polite. More importantly, they also usually have financial savings, own a home, and have good credit—all of which make them attractive to scammers.

“Additionally, seniors may be less inclined to report fraud because they don’t know how, or they may be too ashamed of having been scammed,” the FBI warned in May. “They might also be concerned that their relatives will lose confidence in their abilities to manage their own financial affairs. And when an elderly victim does report a crime, they may be unable to supply detailed information to investigators.”

In 2021, more than 92,000 victims over the age of 60 reported losses of $1.7 billion to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). The FBI says that represents a 74 percent increase in losses over losses reported in 2020.

The abuse of ride-sharing services to scam the elderly is not exactly new. Authorities in Tampa, Fla. say they’re investigating an incident from December 2021 where fraudsters who’d stolen $700,000 from elderly grandparents used Uber rides to pick up bundles of cash from their victims.

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