Normal view

There are new articles available, click to refresh the page.
Before yesterdayKrebs on Security

Okta: Breach Affected All Customer Support Users

29 November 2023 at 19:41

When KrebsOnSecurity broke the news on Oct. 20, 2023 that identity and authentication giant Okta had suffered a breach in its customer support department, Okta said the intrusion allowed hackers to steal sensitive data from fewer than one percent of its 18,000+ customers. But today, Okta revised that impact statement, saying the attackers also stole the name and email address for nearly all of its customer support users.

Okta acknowledged last month that for several weeks beginning in late September 2023, intruders had access to its customer support case management system. That access allowed the hackers to steal authentication tokens from some Okta customers, which the attackers could then use to make changes to customer accounts, such as adding or modifying authorized users.

In its initial incident reports about the breach, Okta said the hackers gained unauthorized access to files inside Okta’s customer support system associated with 134 Okta customers, or less than 1% of Okta’s customer base.

But in an updated statement published early this morning, Okta said it determined the intruders also stole the names and email addresses of all Okta customer support system users.

“All Okta Workforce Identity Cloud (WIC) and Customer Identity Solution (CIS) customers are impacted except customers in our FedRamp High and DoD IL4 environments (these environments use a separate support system NOT accessed by the threat actor),” Okta’s advisory states. “The Auth0/CIC support case management system was also not impacted by this incident.”

Okta said that for nearly 97 percent of users, the only contact information exposed was full name and email address. That means about three percent of Okta customer support accounts had one or more of the following data fields exposed (in addition to email address and name): last login; username; phone number; SAML federation ID; company name; job role; user type; date of last password change or reset.

Okta notes that a large number of the exposed accounts belong to Okta administrators — IT people responsible for integrating Okta’s authentication technology inside customer environments — and that these individuals should be on guard for targeted phishing attacks.

“Many users of the customer support system are Okta administrators,” Okta pointed out. “It is critical that these users have multi-factor authentication (MFA) enrolled to protect not only the customer support system, but also to secure access to their Okta admin console(s).”

While it may seem completely bonkers that some companies allow their IT staff to operate company-wide authentication systems using an Okta administrator account that isn’t protected with MFA, Okta said fully six percent of its customers (more than 1,000) persist in this dangerous practice.

In a previous disclosure on Nov. 3, Okta blamed the intrusion on an employee who saved the credentials for a service account in Okta’s customer support infrastructure to their personal Google account, and said it was likely those credentials were stolen when the employee’s personal device using the same Google account was compromised.

Unlike standard user accounts, which are accessed by humans, service accounts are mostly reserved for automating machine-to-machine functions, such as performing data backups or antivirus scans every night at a particular time. For this reason, they can’t be locked down with multifactor authentication the way user accounts can.

Dan Goodin over at Ars Technica reckons this explains why MFA wasn’t set up on the compromised Okta service account. But as he rightly points out, if a transgression by a single employee breaches your network, you’re doing it wrong.

“Okta should have put access controls in place besides a simple password to limit who or what could log in to the service account,” Goodin wrote on Nov. 4. “One way of doing this is to put a limit or conditions on the IP addresses that can connect. Another is to regularly rotate access tokens used to authenticate to service accounts. And, of course, it should have been impossible for employees to be logged in to personal accounts on a work machine. These and other precautions are the responsibility of senior people inside Okta.”

Goodin suggested that people who want to delve further into various approaches for securing service accounts should read this thread on Mastodon.

“A fair number of the contributions come from security professionals with extensive experience working in sensitive cloud environments,” Goodin wrote.

ID Theft Service Resold Access to USInfoSearch Data

28 November 2023 at 15:57

One of the cybercrime underground’s more active sellers of Social Security numbers, background and credit reports has been pulling data from hacked accounts at the U.S. consumer data broker USinfoSearch, KrebsOnSecurity has learned.

Since at least February 2023, a service advertised on Telegram called USiSLookups has operated an automated bot that allows anyone to look up the SSN or background report on virtually any American. For prices ranging from $8 to $40 and payable via virtual currency, the bot will return detailed consumer background reports automatically in just a few moments.

USiSLookups is the project of a cybercriminal who uses the nicknames JackieChan/USInfoSearch, and the Telegram channel for this service features a small number of sample background reports, including that of President Joe Biden, and podcaster Joe Rogan. The data in those reports includes the subject’s date of birth, address, previous addresses, previous phone numbers and employers, known relatives and associates, and driver’s license information.

JackieChan’s service abuses the name and trademarks of Columbus, OH based data broker USinfoSearch, whose website says it provides “identity and background information to assist with risk management, fraud prevention, identity and age verification, skip tracing, and more.”

“We specialize in non-FCRA data from numerous proprietary sources to deliver the information you need, when you need it,” the company’s website explains. “Our services include API-based access for those integrating data into their product or application, as well as bulk and batch processing of records to suit every client.”

As luck would have it, my report was also listed in the Telegram channel for this identity fraud service, presumably as a teaser for would-be customers. On October 19, 2023, KrebsOnSecurity shared a copy of this file with the real USinfoSearch, along with a request for information about the provenance of the data.

USinfoSearch said it would investigate the report, which appears to have been obtained on or before June 30, 2023. On Nov. 9, 2023, Scott Hostettler, general manager of USinfoSearch parent Martin Data LLC shared a written statement about their investigation that suggested the ID theft service was trying to pass off someone else’s consumer data as coming from USinfoSearch:

Regarding the Telegram incident, we understand the importance of protecting sensitive information and upholding the trust of our users is our top priority. Any allegation that we have provided data to criminals is in direct opposition to our fundamental principles and the protective measures we have established and continually monitor to prevent any unauthorized disclosure. Because Martin Data has a reputation for high-quality data, thieves may steal data from other sources and then disguise it as ours. While we implement appropriate safeguards to guarantee that our data is only accessible by those who are legally permitted, unauthorized parties will continue to try to access our data. Thankfully, the requirements needed to pass our credentialing process is tough even for established honest companies.

USinfoSearch’s statement did not address any questions put to the company, such as whether it requires multi-factor authentication for customer accounts, or whether my report had actually come from USinfoSearch’s systems.

After much badgering, on Nov. 21 Hostettler acknowledged that the USinfoSearch identity fraud service on Telegram was in fact pulling data from an account belonging to a vetted USinfoSearch client.

“I do know 100% that my company did not give access to the group who created the bots, but they did gain access to a client,” Hostettler said of the Telegram-based identity fraud service. “I apologize for any inconvenience this has caused.”

Hostettler said USinfoSearch heavily vets any new potential clients, and that all users are required to undergo a background check and provide certain documents. Even so, he said, several fraudsters each month present themselves as credible business owners or C-level executives during the credentialing process, completing the application and providing the necessary documentation to open a new account.

“The level of skill and craftsmanship demonstrated in the creation of these supporting documents is incredible,” Hostettler said. “The numerous licenses provided appear to be exact replicas of the original document. Fortunately, I’ve discovered several methods of verification that do not rely solely on those documents to catch the fraudsters.”

“These people are unrelenting, and they act without regard for the consequences,” Hostettler continued. “After I deny their access, they will contact us again within the week using the same credentials. In the past, I’ve notified both the individual whose identity is being used fraudulently and the local police. Both are hesitant to act because nothing can be done to the offender if they are not apprehended. That is where most attention is needed.”


JackieChan is most active on Telegram channels focused on “SIM swapping,” which involves bribing or tricking mobile phone company employees into redirecting a target’s phone number to a device the attackers control. SIM swapping allows crooks to temporarily intercept the target’s text messages and phone calls, including any links or one-time codes for authentication that are delivered via SMS.

Reached on Telegram, JackieChan said most of his clients hail from the criminal SIM swapping world, and that the bulk of his customers use his service via an application programming interface (API) that allows customers to integrate the lookup service with other web-based services, databases, or applications.

“Sim channels is where I get most of my customers,” JackieChan told KrebsOnSecurity. “I’m averaging around 100 lookups per day on the [Telegram] bot, and around 400 per day on the API.”

JackieChan claims his USinfoSearch bot on Telegram abuses stolen credentials needed to access an API used by the real USinfoSearch, and that his service was powered by USinfoSearch account credentials that were stolen by malicious software tied to a botnet that he claims to have operated for some time.

This is not the first time USinfoSearch has had trouble with identity thieves masquerading as legitimate customers. In 2013, KrebsOnSecurity broke the news that an identity fraud service in the underground called “SuperGet[.]info” was reselling access to personal and financial data on more than 200 million Americans that was obtained via the big-three credit bureau Experian.

The consumer data resold by Superget was not obtained directly from Experian, but rather via USinfoSearch. At the time, USinfoSearch had a contractual agreement with a California company named Court Ventures, whereby customers of Court Ventures had access to the USinfoSearch data, and vice versa.

When Court Ventures was purchased by Experian in 2012, the proprietor of SuperGet — a Vietnamese hacker named Hieu Minh Ngo who had impersonated an American private investigator — was grandfathered in as a client. The U.S. Secret Service agent who oversaw Ngo’s capture, extradition, prosecution and rehabilitation told KrebsOnSecurity he’s unaware of any other cybercriminal who has caused more material financial harm to more Americans than Ngo.


JackieChan also sells access to hacked email accounts belonging to law enforcement personnel in the United States and abroad. Hacked police department emails can come in handy for ID thieves trying to pose as law enforcement officials who wish to purchase consumer data from platforms like USinfoSearch. Hence, Mr. Hostettler’s ongoing battle with fraudsters seeking access to his company’s service.

These police credentials are mainly marketed to criminals seeking fraudulent “Emergency Data Requests,” wherein crooks use compromised government and police department email accounts to rapidly obtain customer account data from mobile providers, ISPs and social media companies.

Normally, these companies will require law enforcement officials to supply a subpoena before turning over customer or user records. But EDRs allow police to bypass that process by attesting that the information sought is related to an urgent matter of life and death, such as an impending suicide or terrorist attack.

In response to an alarming increase in the volume of fraudulent EDRs, many service providers have chosen to require all EDRs be processed through a service called Kodex, which seeks to filter EDRs based on the reputation of the law enforcement entity requesting the information, and other attributes of the requestor.

For example, if you want to send an EDR to Coinbase or Twilio, you’ll first need to have valid law enforcement credentials and create an account at the Kodex online portal at these companies. However, Kodex may still throttle or block any requests from any accounts if they set off certain red flags.

Within their own separate Kodex portals, Twilio can’t see requests submitted to Coinbase, or vice versa. But each can see if a law enforcement entity or individual tied to one of their own requests has ever submitted a request to a different Kodex client, and then drill down further into other data about the submitter, such as Internet address(es) used, and the age of the requestor’s email address.

In August, JackieChan was advertising a working Kodex account for sale on the cybercrime channels, including redacted screenshots of the Kodex account dashboard as proof of access.

Kodex co-founder Matt Donahue told KrebsOnSecurity his company immediately detected that the law enforcement email address used to create the Kodex account pictured in JackieChan’s ad was likely stolen from a police officer in India. One big tipoff, Donahue said, was that the person creating the account did so using an Internet address in Brazil.

“There’s a lot of friction we can put in the way for illegitimate actors,” Donahue said. “We don’t let people use VPNs. In this case we let them in to honeypot them, and that’s how they got that screenshot. But nothing was allowed to be transmitted out from that account.”

Massive amounts of data about you and your personal history are available from USinfoSearch and dozens of other data brokers that acquire and sell “non-FCRA” data — i.e., consumer data that cannot be used for the purposes of determining one’s eligibility for credit, insurance, or employment.

Anyone who works in or adjacent to law enforcement is eligible to apply for access to these data brokers, which often market themselves to police departments and to “skip tracers,” essentially bounty hunters hired to locate others in real life — often on behalf of debt collectors, process servers or a bail bondsman.

There are tens of thousands of police jurisdictions around the world — including roughly 18,000 in the United States alone. And the harsh reality is that all it takes for hackers to apply for access to data brokers (and abuse the EDR process) is illicit access to a single police email account.

The trouble is, compromised credentials to law enforcement email accounts show up for sale with alarming frequency on the Telegram channels where JackieChan and their many clients reside. Indeed, Donahue said Kodex so far this year has identified attempted fake EDRs coming from compromised email accounts for police departments in India, Italy, Thailand and Turkey.

Alleged Extortioner of Psychotherapy Patients Faces Trial

16 November 2023 at 19:59

Prosecutors in Finland this week commenced their criminal trial against Julius Kivimäki, a 26-year-old Finnish man charged with extorting a once popular and now-bankrupt online psychotherapy practice and thousands of its patients. In a 2,200-page report, Finnish authorities laid out how they connected the extortion spree to Kivimäki, a notorious hacker who was convicted in 2015 of perpetrating tens of thousands of cybercrimes, including data breaches, payment fraud, operating a botnet and calling in bomb threats.

In November 2022, Kivimäki was charged with attempting to extort money from the Vastaamo Psychotherapy Center. In that breach, which occurred in October 2020, a hacker using the handle “Ransom Man” threatened to publish patient psychotherapy notes if Vastaamo did not pay a six-figure ransom demand.

Vastaamo refused, so Ransom Man shifted to extorting individual patients — sending them targeted emails threatening to publish their therapy notes unless paid a 500-euro ransom. When Ransom Man found little success extorting patients directly, they uploaded to the dark web a large compressed file containing all of the stolen Vastaamo patient records.

Security experts soon discovered Ransom Man had mistakenly included an entire copy of their home folder, where investigators found many clues pointing to Kivimäki’s involvement. By that time, Kivimäki was no longer in Finland, but the Finnish government nevertheless charged Kivimäki in absentia with the Vastaamo hack. The 2,200-page evidence document against Kivimäki suggests he enjoyed a lavish lifestyle while on the lam, frequenting luxury resorts and renting fabulously expensive cars and living quarters.

But in February 2023, Kivimäki was arrested in France after authorities there responded to a domestic disturbance call and found the defendant sleeping off a hangover on the couch of a woman he’d met the night before. The French police grew suspicious when the 6′ 3″ blonde, green-eyed man presented an ID that stated he was of Romanian nationality.

A redacted copy of an ID Kivimaki gave to French authorities claiming he was from Romania.

Finnish prosecutors showed that Kivimäki’s credit card had been used to pay for the virtual server that hosted the stolen Vastaamo patient notes. What’s more, the home folder included in the Vastaamo patient data archive also allowed investigators to peer into other cybercrime projects of the accused, including domains that Ransom Man had access to as well as a lengthy history of commands he’d executed on the rented virtual server.

Some of those domains allegedly administered by Kivimäki were set up to smear the reputations of different companies and individuals. One of those was a website that claimed to have been authored by a person who headed up IT infrastructure for a major bank in Norway which discussed the idea of legalizing child sexual abuse.

Another domain hosted a fake blog that besmirched the reputation of a Tulsa, Okla. man whose name was attached to blog posts about supporting the “white pride” movement and calling for a pardon of the Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.

Kivimäki appears to have sought to sully the name of this reporter as well. The 2,200-page document shows that Kivimäki owned and operated the domain krebsonsecurity[.]org, which hosted various hacking tools that Kivimäki allegedly used, including programs for mass-scanning the Internet for systems vulnerable to known security flaws, as well as scripts for cracking database server usernames and passwords, and downloading databases.

Ransom Man inadvertently included a copy of his home directory in the leaked Vastaamo patient data. A lengthy history of the commands run by that user show they used krebsonsecurity-dot-org to host hacking and scanning tools.

Mikko Hyppönen, chief research officer at WithSecure (formerly F-Secure), said the Finnish authorities have done “amazing work,” and that “it’s rare to have this much evidence for a cybercrime case.”

Petteri Järvinen is a respected IT expert and author who has been following the trial, and he said the prosecution’s case so far has been strong.

“The National Bureau of Investigation has done a good job and Mr Kivimäki for his part some elementary mistakes,” Järvinen wrote on LinkedIn. “This sends an important message: online crime does not pay. Traces are left in the digital world too, even if it is very tedious for the police to collect them from servers all around the world.”

Antti Kurittu is an information security specialist and a former criminal investigator. In 2013, Kurittu worked on an investigation involving Kivimäki’s use of the Zbot botnet, among other activities Kivimäki engaged in as a member of the hacker group Hack the Planet (HTP). Kurittu said it remains to be seen if the prosecution can make their case, and if the defense has any answers to all of the evidence presented.

“Based on the public pretrial investigation report, it looks like the case has a lot of details that seem very improbable to be coincidental,” Kurittu told KrebsOnSecurity. “For example, a full copy of the Vastaamo patient database was found on a server that belonged to Scanifi, a company with no reasonable business that Kivimäki was affiliated with. The leaked home folder contents were also connected to Kivimäki and were found on servers that were under his control.”

The Finnish daily reports that Kivimäki’s lawyers sought to have their client released from confinement for the remainder of his trial, noting that the defendant has already been detained for eight months.

The court denied that request, saying the defendant was still a flight risk. Kivimäki’s trial is expected to continue until February 2024, in part to accommodate testimony from a large number of victims. Prosecutors are seeking a seven-year sentence for Kivimäki.

Microsoft Patch Tuesday, November 2023 Edition

14 November 2023 at 23:00

Microsoft today released updates to fix more than five dozen security holes in its Windows operating systems and related software, including three “zero day” vulnerabilities that Microsoft warns are already being exploited in active attacks.

The zero-day threats targeting Microsoft this month include CVE-2023-36025, a weakness that allows malicious content to bypass the Windows SmartScreen Security feature. SmartScreen is a built-in Windows component that tries to detect and block malicious websites and files. Microsoft’s security advisory for this flaw says attackers could exploit it by getting a Windows user to click on a booby-trapped link to a shortcut file.

Kevin Breen, senior director of threat research at Immersive Labs, said emails with .url attachments or logs with processes spawning from .url files “should be a high priority for threat hunters given the active exploitation of this vulnerability in the wild.”

The second zero day this month is CVE-2023-36033, which is a vulnerability in the “DWM Core Library” in Microsoft Windows that was exploited in the wild as a zero day and publicly disclosed prior to patches being available. It affects Microsoft Windows 10 and later, as well as Microsoft Windows Server 2019 and subsequent versions.

“This vulnerability can be exploited locally, with low complexity and without needing high-level privileges or user interaction,” said Mike Walters, president and co-founder of the security firm Action1. “Attackers exploiting this flaw could gain SYSTEM privileges, making it an efficient method for escalating privileges, especially after initial access through methods like phishing.”

The final zero day in this month’s Patch Tuesday is a problem in the “Windows Cloud Files Mini Filter Driver” tracked as CVE-2023-36036 that affects Windows 10 and later, as well as Windows Server 2008 at later. Microsoft says it is relatively straightforward for attackers to exploit CVE-2023-36036 as a way to elevate their privileges on a compromised PC.

Beyond the zero day flaws, Breen said organizations running Microsoft Exchange Server should prioritize several new Exchange patches, including CVE-2023-36439, which is a bug that would allow attackers to install malicious software on an Exchange server. This weakness technically requires the attacker to be authenticated to the target’s local network, but Breen notes that a pair of phished Exchange credentials will provide that access nicely.

“This is typically achieved through social engineering attacks with spear phishing to gain initial access to a host before searching for other vulnerable internal targets – just because your Exchange Server doesn’t have internet-facing authentication doesn’t mean it’s protected,” Breen said.

Breen said this vulnerability goes hand in hand with three other Exchange bugs that Microsoft designated as “exploitation more likely:” CVE-2023-36050, CVE-2023-36039 and CVE-2023-36035.

Finally, the SANS Internet Storm Center points to two additional bugs patched by Microsoft this month that aren’t yet showing signs of active exploitation but that were made public prior to today and thus deserve prioritization. Those include: CVE-2023-36038, a denial of service vulnerability in ASP.NET Core, with a CVSS score of 8.2; and CVE-2023-36413: A Microsoft Office security feature bypass. Exploiting this vulnerability will bypass the protected mode when opening a file received via the web.

Windows users, please consider backing up your data and/or imaging your system before applying any updates. And feel free to sound off in the comments if you experience any difficulties as a result of these patches.

It’s Still Easy for Anyone to Become You at Experian

11 November 2023 at 17:59

In the summer of 2022, KrebsOnSecurity documented the plight of several readers who had their accounts at big-three consumer credit reporting bureau Experian hijacked after identity thieves simply re-registered the accounts using a different email address. Sixteen months later, Experian clearly has not addressed this gaping lack of security. I know that because my account at Experian was recently hacked, and the only way I could recover access was by recreating the account.

Entering my SSN and birthday at Experian showed my identity was tied to an email address I did not authorize.

I recently ordered a copy of my credit file from Experian via, but as usual Experian declined to provide it, saying they couldn’t verify my identity. Attempts to log in to my account directly at also failed; the site said it didn’t recognize my username and/or password.

A request for my Experian account username required my full Social Security number and date of birth, after which the website displayed portions of an email address I never authorized and did not recognize (the full address was redacted by Experian).

I immediately suspected that Experian was still allowing anyone to recreate their credit file account using the same personal information but a different email address, a major authentication failure that was explored in last year’s story, Experian, You Have Some Explaining to Do. So once again I sought to re-register as myself at Experian.

The homepage said I needed to provide a Social Security number and mobile phone number, and that I’d soon receive a link that I should click to verify myself. The site claims that the phone number you provide will be used to help validate your identity. But it appears you could supply any phone number in the United States at this stage in the process, and Experian’s website would not balk. Regardless, users can simply skip this step by selecting the option to “Continue another way.”

Experian then asks for your full name, address, date of birth, Social Security number, email address and chosen password. After that, they require you to successfully answer between three to five multiple-choice security questions whose answers are very often based on public records. When I recreated my account this week, only two of the five questions pertained to my real information, and both of those questions concerned street addresses we’ve previously lived at — information that is just a Google search away.

Assuming you sail through the multiple-choice questions, you’re prompted to create a 4-digit PIN and provide an answer to one of several pre-selected challenge questions. After that, your new account is created and you’re directed to the Experian dashboard, which allows you to view your full credit file, and freeze or unfreeze it.

At this point, Experian will send a message to the old email address tied to the account, saying certain aspects of the user profile have changed. But this message isn’t a request seeking verification: It’s just a notification from Experian that the account’s user data has changed, and the original user is offered zero recourse here other than to a click a link to log in at

If you don’t have an Experian account, it’s a good idea to create one. Because at least then you will receive one of these  emails when someone hijacks your credit file at Experian.

And of course, a user who receives one of these notices will find that the credentials to their Experian account no longer work. Nor do their PIN or account recovery question, because those have been changed also. Your only option at this point is recreate your account at Experian and steal it back from the ID thieves!

In contrast, if you try to modify an existing account at either of the other two major consumer credit reporting bureaus — Equifax or TransUnion — they will ask you to enter a code sent to the email address or phone number on file before any changes can be made.

Reached for comment, Experian declined to share the full email address that was added without authorization to my credit file.

“To ensure the protection of consumers’ identities and information, we have implemented a multi-layered security approach, which includes passive and active measures, and are constantly evolving,” Experian spokesperson Scott Anderson said in an emailed statement. “This includes knowledge-based questions and answers, and device possession and ownership verification processes.”

Anderson said all consumers have the option to activate a multi-factor authentication method that’s requested each time they log in to their account. But what good is multi-factor authentication if someone can simply recreate your account with a new phone number and email address?

Several readers who spotted my rant about Experian on Mastodon earlier this week responded to a request to validate my findings. The Mastodon user @Jackerbee is a reader from Michican who works in the biotechnology industry. @Jackerbee said when prompted by Experian to provide his phone number and the last four digits of his SSN, he chose the option to “manually enter my information.”

“I put my second phone number and the new email address,” he explained. “I received a single email in my original account inbox that said they’ve updated my information after I ‘signed up.’ No verification required from the original email address at any point. I also did not receive any text alerts at the original phone number. The especially interesting and egregious part is that when I sign in, it does 2FA with the new phone number.”

The Mastodon user PeteMayo said they recreated their Experian account twice this week, the second time by supplying a random landline number.

“The only difference: it asked me FIVE questions about my personal history (last time it only asked three) before proclaiming, ‘Welcome back, Pete!,’ and granting full access,” @PeteMayo wrote. “I feel silly saving my password for Experian; may as well just make a new account every time.”

I was fortunate in that whoever hijacked my account did not also thaw my credit freeze.  Or if they did, they politely froze it again when they were done. But I fully expect my Experian account will be hijacked yet again unless Experian makes some important changes to its authentication process.

It boggles the mind that these fundamental authentication weaknesses have been allowed to persist for so long at Experian, which already has a horrible track record in this regard.

In December 2022, KrebsOnSecurity alerted Experian that identity thieves had worked out a remarkably simple way to bypass its security and access any consumer’s full credit report — armed with nothing more than a person’s name, address, date of birth, and Social Security number. Experian fixed the glitch, and acknowledged that it persisted for nearly seven weeks, between Nov. 9, 2022 and Dec. 26, 2022.

In April 2021, KrebsOnSecurity revealed how identity thieves were exploiting lax authentication on Experian’s PIN retrieval page to unfreeze consumer credit files. In those cases, Experian failed to send any notice via email when a freeze PIN was retrieved, nor did it require the PIN to be sent to an email address already associated with the consumer’s account.

A few days after that April 2021 story, KrebsOnSecurity broke the news that an Experian API was exposing the credit scores of most Americans.

More greatest hits from Experian:

2022: Class Action Targets Experian Over Account Security
2017: Experian Site Can Give Anyone Your Credit Freeze PIN
2015: Experian Breach Affects 15 Million Customers
2015: Experian Breach Tied to NY-NJ ID Theft Ring
2015: At Experian, Security Attrition Amid Acquisitions
2015: Experian Hit With Class Action Over ID Theft Service
2014: Experian Lapse Allowed ID Theft Service Access to 200 Million Consumer Records
2013: Experian Sold Consumer Data to ID Theft Service

Who’s Behind the SWAT USA Reshipping Service?

6 November 2023 at 13:51

Last week, KrebsOnSecurity broke the news that one of the largest cybercrime services for laundering stolen merchandise was hacked recently, exposing its internal operations, finances and organizational structure. In today’s Part II, we’ll examine clues about the real-life identity of “Fearlless,” the nickname chosen by the proprietor of the SWAT USA Drops service.

Based in Russia, SWAT USA recruits people in the United States to reship packages containing pricey electronics that are purchased with stolen credit cards. As detailed in this Nov. 2 story, SWAT currently employs more than 1,200 U.S. residents, all of whom will be cut loose without a promised payday at the end of their first month reshipping stolen goods.

The current co-owner of SWAT, a cybercriminal who uses the nickname “Fearlless,” operates primarily on the cybercrime forum Verified. This Russian-language forum has tens of thousands of members, and it has suffered several hacks that exposed more than a decade’s worth of user data and direct messages.

January 2021 posts on Verified show that Fearlless and his partner Universalo purchased the SWAT reshipping business from a Verified member named SWAT, who’d been operating the service for years. SWAT agreed to transfer the business in exchange for 30 percent of the net profit over the ensuing six months.

Cyber intelligence firm Intel 471 says Fearlless first registered on Verified in February 2013. The email address Fearlless used on Verified leads nowhere, but a review of Fearlless’ direct messages on Verified indicates this user originally registered on Verified a year earlier as a reshipping vendor, under the alias “Apathyp.”

There are two clues supporting the conclusion that Apathyp and Fearlless are the same person. First, the Verified administrators warned Apathyp he had violated the forum’s rules barring the use of multiple accounts by the same person, and that Verified’s automated systems had detected that Apathyp and Fearlless were logging in from the same device.  Second, in his earliest private messages on Verified, Fearlless told others to contact him on an instant messenger address that Apathyp had claimed as his.

Intel 471 says Apathyp registered on Verified using the email address [email protected]. A search on that email address at the breach intelligence service Constella Intelligence found that a password commonly associated with it was “niceone.” But the [email protected] account isn’t connected to much else that’s interesting except a now-deleted account at Vkontakte, the Russian answer to Facebook.

However, in Sept. 2020, Apathyp sent a private message on Verified to the owner of a stolen credit card shop, saying his credentials no longer worked. Apathyp told the proprietor that his chosen password on the service was “12Apathy.”

A search on that password at Constella reveals it was used by just four different email addresses, two of which are particularly interesting: [email protected] and [email protected]. Constella discovered that both of these addresses were previously associated with the same password as [email protected] — “niceone,” or some variation thereof.

Constella found that years ago gezz[email protected] was used to create a Vkontakte account under the name Ivan Sherban (former password: “12niceone“) from Magnitogorsk, an industrial city in the southern region of Russia. That same email address is now tied to a Vkontakte account for an Ivan Sherban who lists his home as Saint Petersburg, Russia. Sherban’s profile photo shows a heavily tattooed, muscular and recently married individual with his beautiful new bride getting ready to drive off in a convertible sports car.

A pivotal clue for validating the research into Apathyp/Fearlless came from the identity intelligence firm myNetWatchman, which found that [email protected] at one time used the passwords “геззи1991” (gezze1991) and “gezze18081991.”

Care to place a wager on when Vkontakte says is Mr. Sherban’s birthday? Ten points if you answered August 18 (18081991).

Mr. Sherban did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Russian Reshipping Service ‘SWAT USA Drop’ Exposed

2 November 2023 at 19:55

The login page for the criminal reshipping service SWAT USA Drop.

One of the largest cybercrime services for laundering stolen merchandise was hacked recently, exposing its internal operations, finances and organizational structure. Here’s a closer look at the Russia-based SWAT USA Drop Service, which currently employs more than 1,200 people across the United States who are knowingly or unwittingly involved in reshipping expensive consumer goods purchased with stolen credit cards.

Among the most common ways that thieves extract cash from stolen credit card accounts is through purchasing pricey consumer goods online and reselling them on the black market. Most online retailers grew wise to these scams years ago and stopped shipping to regions of the world most frequently associated with credit card fraud, including Eastern Europe, North Africa, and Russia.

But such restrictions have created a burgeoning underground market for reshipping scams, which rely on willing or unwitting residents in the United States and Europe to receive stolen goods and relay them to crooks living in the embargoed areas.

Services like SWAT are known as “Drops for stuff” on cybercrime forums. The “drops” are people who have responded to work-at-home package reshipping jobs advertised on and job search sites. Most reshipping scams promise employees a monthly salary and even cash bonuses. In reality, the crooks in charge almost always stop communicating with drops just before the first payday, usually about a month after the drop ships their first package.

The packages arrive with prepaid shipping labels that are paid for with stolen credit card numbers, or with hijacked online accounts at FedEx and the US Postal Service. Drops are responsible for inspecting and verifying the contents of shipments, attaching the correct shipping label to each package, and sending them off via the appropriate shipping company.

SWAT takes a percentage cut (up to 50 percent) where “stuffers” — thieves armed with stolen credit card numbers — pay a portion of each product’s retail value to SWAT as the reshipping fee. The stuffers use stolen cards to purchase high-value products from merchants and have the merchants ship the items to the drops’ address. Once the drops receive and successfully reship the stolen packages, the stuffers then sell the products on the local black market.

The SWAT drop service has been around in various names and under different ownership for almost a decade. But in early October 2023, SWAT’s current co-owner — a Russian-speaking individual who uses the handle “Fearlless” — took to his favorite cybercrime forum to lodge a formal complaint against the owner of a competing reshipping service, alleging his rival had hacked SWAT and was trying to poach his stuffers and reshippers by emailing them directly.

Milwaukee-based security firm Hold Security shared recent screenshots of a working SWAT stuffer’s user panel, and those images show that SWAT currently lists more than 1,200 drops in the United States that are available for stuffers to rent. The contact information for Kareem, a young man from Maryland, was listed as an active drop. Contacted by KrebsOnSecurity, Kareem agreed to speak on condition that his full name not be used in this story.

A SWAT panel for stuffers/customers. This page lists the rules of the service, which do not reimburse stuffers for “acts of god,” i.e. authorities seizing stolen goods or arresting the drop.

Kareem said he’d been hired via an online job board to reship packages on behalf of a company calling itself CTSI, and that he’s been receiving and reshipping iPads and Apple watches for several weeks now. Kareem was less than thrilled to learn he would probably not be getting his salary on the promised payday, which was coming up in a few days.

Kareem said he was instructed to create an account at a website called portal-ctsi[.]com, where each day he was expected to log in and check for new messages about pending shipments. Anyone can sign up at this website as a potential reshipping mule, although doing so requires applicants to share a great deal of personal and financial information, as well as copies of an ID or passport matching the supplied name.

A SWAT panel for stuffers/customers, listing hundreds of drops in the United States by their status. “Going to die” are those who are about to be let go without promised payment, or who have quit on their own.

On a suspicion that the login page for portal-ctsi[.]com might be a custom coding job, KrebsOnSecurity selected “view source” from the homepage to expose the site’s HTML code. Grabbing a snippet of that code (e.g., “smarty/default/jui/js/jquery-ui-1.9.2.min.js”) and searching on it at reveals more than four dozen other websites running the same login panel. And all of those appear to be geared toward either stuffers or drops.

In fact, more than half of the domains that use this same login panel actually include the word “stuffer” in the login URL, according to publicwww. Each of the domains below that end in “/user/login.php” are sites for active and prospective drops, and each corresponds to a unique fake company that is responsible for managing its own stable of drops:


Why so many websites? In practice, all drops are cut loose within approximately 30 days of their first shipment — just before the promised paycheck is due. Because of this constant churn, each stuff shop operator must be constantly recruiting new drops. Also, with this distributed setup, even if one reshipping operation gets shut down (or exposed online), the rest can keep on pumping out dozens of packages a day.

A 2015 academic study (PDF) on criminal reshipping services found the average financial hit from a reshipping scheme per cardholder was $1,156.93. That study looked into the financial operations of several reshipping schemes, and estimated that approximately 1.6 million credit and debit cards are used to commit at least $1.8 billion in reshipping fraud each year.

It’s not hard to see how reshipping can be a profitable enterprise for card crooks. For example, a stuffer buys a stolen payment card off the black market for $10, and uses that card to purchase more than $1,100 worth of goods. After the reshipping service takes its cut (~$550), and the stuffer pays for his reshipping label (~$100), the stuffer receives the stolen goods and sells them on the black market in Russia for $1,400. He has just turned a $10 investment into more than $700. Rinse, wash, and repeat.

The breach at SWAT exposed not only the nicknames and contact information for all of its stuffers and drops, but also the group’s monthly earnings and payouts. SWAT apparently kept its books in a publicly accessible Google Sheets document, and that document reveals Fearlless and his business partner each routinely made more than $100,000 every month operating their various reshipping businesses.

The exposed SWAT financial records show this crime group has tens of thousands of dollars worth of expenses each month, including payments for the following recurring costs:

-advertising the service on crime forums and via spam;
-people hired to re-route packages, usually by voice over the phone;
-third-party services that sell hacked/stolen USPS/Fedex labels;
-“drops test” services, contractors who will test the honesty of drops by sending them fake jewelry;
-“documents,” e.g. sending drops to physically pick up legal documents for new phony front companies.

The spreadsheet also included the cryptocurrency account numbers that were to be credited each month with SWAT’s earnings. Unsurprisingly, a review of the blockchain activity tied to the bitcoin addresses listed in that document shows that many of them have a deep association with cybercrime, including ransomware activity and transactions at darknet sites that peddle stolen credit cards and residential proxy services.

The information leaked from SWAT also has exposed the real-life identity and financial dealings of its principal owner — Fearlless, a.k.a. “SwatVerified.” We’ll hear more about Fearlless in Part II of this story. Stay tuned.

.US Harbors Prolific Malicious Link Shortening Service

31 October 2023 at 13:26

The top-level domain for the United States — .US — is home to thousands of newly-registered domains tied to a malicious link shortening service that facilitates malware and phishing scams, new research suggests. The findings come close on the heels of a report that identified .US domains as among the most prevalent in phishing attacks over the past year.

Researchers at Infoblox say they’ve been tracking what appears to be a three-year-old link shortening service that is catering to phishers and malware purveyors. Infoblox found the domains involved are typically three to seven characters long, and hosted on bulletproof hosting providers that charge a premium to ignore any abuse or legal complaints. The short domains don’t host any content themselves, but are used to obfuscate the real address of landing pages that try to phish users or install malware.

A graphic describing the operations of a malicious link shortening service that Infoblox has dubbed “Prolific Puma.”

Infoblox says it’s unclear how the phishing and malware landing pages tied to this service are being initially promoted, although they suspect it is mainly through scams targeting people on their phones via SMS. A new report says the company mapped the contours of this link shortening service thanks in part to pseudo-random patterns in the short domains, which all appear on the surface to be a meaningless jumble of letters and numbers.

“This came to our attention because we have systems that detect registrations that use domain name generation algorithms,” said Renee Burton, head of threat intelligence at Infoblox. “We have not found any legitimate content served through their shorteners.”

Infoblox determined that until May 2023, domains ending in .info accounted for the bulk of new registrations tied to the malicious link shortening service, which Infoblox has dubbed “Prolific Puma.” Since then, they found that whoever is responsible for running the service has used .US for approximately 55 percent of the total domains created, with several dozen new malicious .US domains registered daily.

.US is overseen by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), an executive branch agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce. But Uncle Sam has long outsourced the management of .US to various private companies, which have gradually allowed the United States’s top-level domain to devolve into a cesspool of phishing activity.

Or so concludes The Interisle Consulting Group, which gathers phishing data from multiple industry sources and publishes an annual report on the latest trends. As far back as 2018, Interisle found .US domains were the worst in the world for spam, botnet (attack infrastructure for DDOS etc.) and illicit or harmful content.

Interisle’s newest study examined six million phishing reports between May 1, 2022 and April 30, 2023, and identified approximately 30,000 .US phishing domains. Interisle found significant numbers of .US domains were registered to attack some of the United States’ most prominent companies, including Bank of America, Amazon, Apple, AT&T, Citi, Comcast, Microsoft, Meta, and Target. Others were used to impersonate or attack U.S. government agencies.

Under NTIA regulations, domain registrars processing .US domain registrations must take certain steps (PDF) to verify that those customers actually reside in the United States, or else own organizations based in the U.S. However, if one registers a .US domain through GoDaddy — the largest domain registrar and the current administrator of the .US contract — the way one “proves” their U.S. nexus is simply by choosing from one of three pre-selected affirmative responses.

In an age when most domain registrars are automatically redacting customer information from publicly accessible registration records to avoid running afoul of European privacy laws, .US has remained something of an outlier because its charter specifies that all registration records be made public. However, Infoblox said it found more than 2,000 malicious link shortener domains ending in .US registered since October 2023 through NameSilo that have somehow subverted the transparency requirements for the usTLD and converted to private registrations.

“Through our own experience with NameSilo, it is not possible to select private registration for domains in the usTLD through their interface,” Infoblox wrote. “And yet, it was done. Of the total domains with private records, over 99% were registered with NameSilo. At this time, we are not able to explain this behavior.”

NameSilo CEO Kristaps Ronka said the company actively responds to reports about abusive domains, but that it hasn’t seen any abuse reports related to Infoblox’s findings.

“We take down hundreds to thousands of domains, lots of them proactively to combat abuse,” Ronka said. “Our current abuse rate on abuseIQ for example is currently at 0%. AbuseIQ receives reports from countless sources and we are yet to see these ‘Puma’ abuse reports.”

Experts who track domains associated with malware and phishing say even phony information supplied at registration is useful in identifying potentially malicious or phishous domains before they can be used for abuse.

For example, when it was registered through NameSilo in July 2023, the domain 1ox[.]us — like thousands of others — listed its registrant as “Leila Puma” at a street address in Poland, and the email address [email protected]. But according to, on Oct. 1, 2023 those records were redacted and hidden by NameSilo.

Infoblox notes that the username portion of the email address appears to be a reference to the song October 33 by the Black Pumas, an Austin, Texas based psychedelic soul band. The Black Pumas aren’t exactly a household name, but they did recently have a popular Youtube video that featured a cover of the Kinks song “Strangers,” which included an emotional visual narrative about Ukrainians seeking refuge from the Russian invasion, titled “Ukraine Strangers.” Also, Leila Puma’s email address is at a Ukrainian email provider.

DomainTools shows that hundreds of other malicious domains tied to Prolific Puma previously were registered through NameCheap to a “Josef Bakhovsky” at a different street address in Poland. According to, the anglicized version of this surname — Bakovski — is the traditional name for someone from Bakowce, which is now known as Bakivtsi and is in Ukraine.

This possible Polish and/or Ukrainian connection may or may not tell us something about the “who” behind this link shortening service, but those details are useful for identifying and grouping these malicious short domains. However, even this meager visibility into .US registration data is now under threat.

The NTIA recently published a proposal that would allow registrars to redact all registrant data from WHOIS registration records for .US domains. A broad array of industry groups have filed comments opposing the proposed changes, saying they threaten to remove the last vestiges of accountability for a top-level domain that is already overrun with cybercrime activity.

Infoblox’s Burton says Prolific Puma is remarkable because they’ve been able to facilitate malicious activities for years while going largely unnoticed by the security industry.

“This exposes how persistent the criminal economy can be at a supply chain level,” Burton said. “We’re always looking at the end malware or phishing page, but what we’re finding here is that there’s this middle layer of DNS threat actors persisting for years without notice.”

Infoblox’s full report on Prolific Puma is here.

NJ Man Hired Online to Firebomb, Shoot at Homes Gets 13 Years in Prison

23 October 2023 at 13:08

A 22-year-old New Jersey man has been sentenced to more than 13 years in prison for participating in a firebombing and a shooting at homes in Pennsylvania last year. Patrick McGovern-Allen was the subject of a Sept. 4, 2022 story here about the emergence of “violence-as-a-service” offerings, where random people from the Internet hire themselves out to perform a variety of local, physical attacks, including firebombing a home, “bricking” windows, slashing tires, or performing a drive-by shooting at someone’s residence.

McGovern-Allen, of Egg Harbor Township, N.J., was arrested Aug. 12, 2022 on an FBI warrant, which showed he was part of a group of cybercriminals who are settling scores with one another by hiring people to carry out violent attacks on their rivals.

That Sept. 2022 story about his arrest included links to two videos released on Telegram that were recorded and shared by McGovern-Allen and/or a co-conspirator as “proof” that they had carried out the attacks as hired.

The first showed two young men tossing a Molotov Cocktail at the side of a residence in Abington Township, Pa, setting it ablaze. The second featured two men with handguns unloading multiple rounds haphazardly into the first story of a house in West Chester, Pa. Fortunately in both cases, the occupants of the homes were unharmed in the attacks.

Federal prosecutors said McGovern-Allen went by the alias “Tongue” on Discord, and that in one chat he was quite explicit about his violence-as-a-service offering.

“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 against McGovern-Allen explains. “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.”

The chat channels that Tongue 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.

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 copy of McGovern-Allen’s sentencing statement says he pleaded guilty to three criminal counts, including two for stalking, and one for the use of fire in commission of a federal felony. The judge in the case gave McGovern-Allen 160 months in prison — about 13.3 years. After completing his sentence, McGovern-Allen will be on supervised release for three years.

Hackers Stole Access Tokens from Okta’s Support Unit

20 October 2023 at 18:39

Okta, a company that provides identity tools like multi-factor authentication and single sign-on to thousands of businesses, has suffered a security breach involving a compromise of its customer support unit, KrebsOnSecurity has learned. Okta says the incident affected a “very small number” of customers, however it appears the hackers responsible had access to Okta’s support platform for at least two weeks before the company fully contained the intrusion.

In an advisory sent to an undisclosed number of customers on Oct. 19, Okta said it “has identified adversarial activity that leveraged access to a stolen credential to access Okta’s support case management system. The threat actor was able to view files uploaded by certain Okta customers as part of recent support cases.”

Okta explained that when it is troubleshooting issues with customers it will often ask for a recording of a Web browser session (a.k.a. an HTTP Archive or HAR file). These are sensitive files because they can include the customer’s cookies and session tokens, which intruders can then use to impersonate valid users.

“Okta has worked with impacted customers to investigate, and has taken measures to protect our customers, including the revocation of embedded session tokens,” their notice continued. “In general, Okta recommends sanitizing all credentials and cookies/session tokens within a HAR file before sharing it.”

The security firm BeyondTrust is among the Okta customers who received Thursday’s alert from Okta. BeyondTrust Chief Technology Officer Marc Maiffret said that alert came more than two weeks after his company alerted Okta to a potential problem.

Maiffret emphasized that BeyondTrust caught the attack earlier this month as it was happening, and that none of its own customers were affected. He said that on Oct 2., BeyondTrust’s security team detected that someone was trying to use an Okta account assigned to one of their engineers to create an all-powerful administrator account within their Okta environment.

When BeyondTrust reviewed the activity of the employee account that tried to create the new administrative profile, they found that — just 30 minutes prior to the unauthorized activity — one of their support engineers shared with Okta one of these HAR files that contained a valid Okta session token, Maiffret said.

“Our admin sent that [HAR file] over at Okta’s request, and 30 minutes after that the attacker started doing session hijacking, tried to replay the browser session and leverage the cookie in that browser recording to act on behalf of that user,” he said.

Maiffret said BeyondTrust followed up with Okta on Oct. 3 and said they were fairly confident Okta had suffered an intrusion, and that he reiterated that conclusion in a phone call with Okta on October 11 and again on Oct. 13.

In an interview with KrebsOnSecurity, Okta’s Deputy Chief Information Security Officer Charlotte Wylie said Okta initially believed that BeyondTrust’s alert on Oct. 2 was not a result of a breach in its systems. But she said that by Oct. 17, the company had identified and contained the incident — disabling the compromised customer case management account, and invalidating Okta access tokens associated with that account.

Wylie declined to say exactly how many customers received alerts of a potential security issue, but characterized it as a “very, very small subset” of its more than 18,000 customers.

The disclosure from Okta comes just weeks after casino giants Caesar’s Entertainment and MGM Resorts were hacked. In both cases, the attackers managed to social engineer employees into resetting the multi-factor login requirements for Okta administrator accounts.

In March 2022, Okta disclosed a breach from the hacking group LAPSUS$, which specialized in social-engineering employees at targeted companies. An after-action report from Okta on that incident found that LAPSUS$ had social engineered its way onto the workstation of a support engineer at Sitel, a third-party outsourcing company that had access to Okta resources.

Okta’s Wylie declined to answer questions about how long the intruder may have had access to the company’s case management account, or who might have been responsible for the attack. However, she did say the company believes this is an adversary they have seen before.

“This is a known threat actor that we believe has targeted us and Okta-specific customers,” Wylie said.

Update, 2:57 p.m. ET: Okta has published a blog post about this incident that includes some “indicators of compromise” that customers can use to see if they were affected. But the company stressed that “all customers who were impacted by this have been notified. If you’re an Okta customer and you have not been contacted with another message or method, there is no impact to your Okta environment or your support tickets.”

Update, 3:36 p.m. ET: BeyondTrust has published a blog post about their findings.

Update, Oct. 24, 10:20 a.m. ET: 1Password and Cloudflare have disclosed compromises of their Okta authentication platforms as a result of the Okta breach. Both companies say an investigation has determined no customer information or systems were affected. Meanwhile, an Okta spokesperson told TechCrunch that the company notified about 1 percent of its customer base (~170 customers), so we are likely to see more such disclosures in the days and weeks ahead.

The Fake Browser Update Scam Gets a Makeover

18 October 2023 at 14:03

One of the oldest malware tricks in the book — hacked websites claiming visitors need to update their Web browser before they can view any content — has roared back to life in the past few months. New research shows the attackers behind one such scheme have developed an ingenious way of keeping their malware from being taken down by security experts or law enforcement: By hosting the malicious files on a decentralized, anonymous cryptocurrency blockchain.

an image of a warning that the Chrome browser needs to be updated, showing several devices (phone, monitor, etc.) open to Google and an enticing blue button to click in the middle.

In August 2023, security researcher Randy McEoin blogged about a scam he dubbed ClearFake, which uses hacked WordPress sites to serve visitors with a page that claims you need to update your browser before you can view the content.

The fake browser alerts are specific to the browser you’re using, so if you’re surfing the Web with Chrome, for example, you’ll get a Chrome update prompt. Those who are fooled into clicking the update button will have a malicious file dropped on their system that tries to install an information stealing trojan.

Earlier this month, researchers at the Tel Aviv-based security firm Guardio said they tracked an updated version of the ClearFake scam that included an important evolution. Previously, the group had stored its malicious update files on Cloudflare, Guardio said.

But when Cloudflare blocked those accounts the attackers began storing their malicious files as cryptocurrency transactions in the Binance Smart Chain (BSC), a technology designed to run decentralized apps and “smart contracts,” or coded agreements that execute actions automatically when certain conditions are met.

Nati Tal, head of security at Guardio Labs, the research unit at Guardio, said the malicious scripts stitched into hacked WordPress sites will create a new smart contract on the BSC Blockchain, starting with a unique, attacker-controlled blockchain address and a set of instructions that defines the contract’s functions and structure. When that contract is queried by a compromised website, it will return an obfuscated and malicious payload.

“These contracts offer innovative ways to build applications and processes,” Tal wrote along with his Guardio colleague Oleg Zaytsev. “Due to the publicly accessible and unchangeable nature of the blockchain, code can be hosted ‘on-chain’ without the ability for a takedown.”

Tal said hosting malicious files on the Binance Smart Chain is ideal for attackers because retrieving the malicious contract is a cost-free operation that was originally designed for the purpose of debugging contract execution issues without any real-world impact.

“So you get a free, untracked, and robust way to get your data (the malicious payload) without leaving traces,” Tal said.

Attacker-controlled BSC addresses — from funding, contract creation, and ongoing code updates. Image: Guardio

In response to questions from KrebsOnSecurity, the BNB Smart Chain (BSC) said its team is aware of the malware abusing its blockchain, and is actively addressing the issue. The company said all addresses associated with the spread of the malware have been blacklisted, and that its technicians had developed a model to detect future smart contracts that use similar methods to host malicious scripts.

“This model is designed to proactively identify and mitigate potential threats before they can cause harm,” BNB Smart Chain wrote. “The team is committed to ongoing monitoring of addresses that are involved in spreading malware scripts on the BSC. To enhance their efforts, the tech team is working on linking identified addresses that spread malicious scripts to centralized KYC [Know Your Customer] information, when possible.”

Guardio says the crooks behind the BSC malware scheme are using the same malicious code as the attackers that McEoin wrote about in August, and are likely the same group. But a report published today by email security firm Proofpoint says the company is currently tracking at least four distinct threat actor groups that use fake browser updates to distribute malware.

Proofpoint notes that the core group behind the fake browser update scheme has been using this technique to spread malware for the past five years, primarily because the approach still works well.

“Fake browser update lures are effective because threat actors are using an end-user’s security training against them,” Proofpoint’s Dusty Miller wrote. “In security awareness training, users are told to only accept updates or click on links from known and trusted sites, or individuals, and to verify sites are legitimate. The fake browser updates abuse this training because they compromise trusted sites and use JavaScript requests to quietly make checks in the background and overwrite the existing website with a browser update lure. To an end user, it still appears to be the same website they were intending to visit and is now asking them to update their browser.”

More than a decade ago, this site published Krebs’s Three Rules for Online Safety, of which Rule #1 was, “If you didn’t go looking for it, don’t install it.” It’s nice to know that this technology-agnostic approach to online safety remains just as relevant today.

Tech CEO Sentenced to 5 Years in IP Address Scheme

17 October 2023 at 16:23

Amir Golestan, the 40-year-old CEO of the Charleston, S.C. based technology company Micfo LLC, has been sentenced to five years in prison for wire fraud. Golestan’s sentencing comes nearly two years after he pleaded guilty to using an elaborate network of phony companies to secure more than 735,000 Internet Protocol (IP) addresses from the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN), the nonprofit which oversees IP addresses assigned to entities in the U.S., Canada, and parts of the Caribbean.

Amir Golestan, the former CEO of Micfo.

In 2018, ARIN sued Golestan and Micfo, alleging they had obtained hundreds of thousands of IP addresses under false pretenses. ARIN and Micfo settled that dispute in arbitration, with Micfo returning most of the addresses that it hadn’t already sold.

ARIN’s civil case caught the attention of federal prosecutors in South Carolina, who in May 2019 filed criminal wire fraud charges against Golestan, alleging he’d orchestrated a network of shell companies and fake identities to prevent ARIN from knowing the addresses were all going to the same buyer.

Prosecutors showed that each of those shell companies involved the production of notarized affidavits in the names of people who didn’t exist. As a result, the government was able to charge Golestan with 20 counts of wire fraud — one for each payment made by the phony companies that bought the IP addresses from ARIN.

Golestan initially sought to fight those charges. But on just the second day of his trial in November 2021, Golestan changed his mind and pleaded guilty to 20 counts of wire fraud in connection with the phantom companies he used to secure the IP addresses. Prosecutors estimated those addresses were valued at between $10 million and $14 million.

ARIN says the 5-year sentence handed down by the South Carolina judge “sends an important message of deterrence to other parties contemplating fraudulent schemes to obtain or transfer Internet resources.”

“Those who seek to defraud ARIN (or other Regional Internet Registries) are subject to costly and serious civil litigation, criminal charges, and, ultimately, a lengthy term of incarceration,” reads a statement from ARIN on Golestan’s sentencing.

By 2013, a number of Micfo’s customers had landed on the radar of Spamhaus, a group that many network operators rely upon to stem the tide of junk email. Shortly after Spamhaus started blocking Micfo’s IP address ranges, Micfo shifted gears and began reselling IP addresses mainly to companies marketing “virtual private networking” or VPN services that help customers hide their real IP addresses online.

Golestan did not respond to a request for comment. But in a 2020 interview with KrebsOnSecurity, Golestan claimed that Micfo was at one point responsible for brokering roughly 40 percent of the IP addresses used by the world’s largest VPN providers. Throughout that conversation, Golestan maintained his innocence, even as he explained that the creation of the phony companies was necessary to prevent entities like Spamhaus from interfering with his business going forward.

There are fewer than four billion so-called “Internet Protocol version 4” or IPv4 addresses available for use, but the vast majority of them have already been allocated. The global dearth of available IP addresses has turned them into a commodity wherein each IPv4 address can fetch between $15-$25 on the open market.

This has led to boom times for those engaged in the acquisition and sale of IP address blocks, but it has likewise emboldened those who specialize in absconding with and spamming from dormant IP address blocks without permission from the rightful owners.

The U.S Department of Justice says Golestan will serve 60 months in prison, followed by a 2-year term of court-ordered supervision. The Micfo CEO also was ordered to pay nearly $77,000 in restitution to ARIN for its work in assisting federal prosecutors.

Patch Tuesday, October 2023 Edition

10 October 2023 at 22:51

Microsoft today issued security updates for more than 100 newly-discovered vulnerabilities in its Windows operating system and related software, including four flaws that are already being exploited. In addition, Apple recently released emergency updates to quash a pair of zero-day bugs in iOS.

Apple last week shipped emergency updates in iOS 17.0.3 and iPadOS 17.0.3 in response to active attacks. The patch fixes CVE-2023-42724, which attackers have been using in targeted attacks to elevate their access on a local device.

Apple said it also patched CVE-2023-5217, which is not listed as a zero-day bug. However, as Bleeping Computer pointed out, this flaw is caused by a weakness in the open-source “libvpx” video codec library, which was previously patched as a zero-day flaw by Google in the Chrome browser and by Microsoft in Edge, Teams, and Skype products. For anyone keeping count, this is the 17th zero-day flaw that Apple has patched so far this year.

Fortunately, the zero-days affecting Microsoft customers this month are somewhat less severe than usual, with the exception of CVE-2023-44487. This weakness is not specific to Windows but instead exists within the HTTP/2 protocol used by the World Wide Web: Attackers have figured out how to use a feature of HTTP/2 to massively increase the size of distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, and these monster attacks reportedly have been going on for several weeks now.

Amazon, Cloudflare and Google all released advisories today about how they’re addressing CVE-2023-44487 in their cloud environments. Google’s Damian Menscher wrote on Twitter/X that the exploit — dubbed a “rapid reset attack” — works by sending a request and then immediately cancelling it (a feature of HTTP/2). “This lets attackers skip waiting for responses, resulting in a more efficient attack,” Menscher explained.

Natalie Silva, lead security engineer at Immersive Labs, said this flaw’s impact to enterprise customers could be significant, and lead to prolonged downtime.

“It is crucial for organizations to apply the latest patches and updates from their web server vendors to mitigate this vulnerability and protect against such attacks,” Silva said. In this month’s Patch Tuesday release by Microsoft, they have released both an update to this vulnerability, as well as a temporary workaround should you not be able to patch immediately.”

Microsoft also patched zero-day bugs in Skype for Business (CVE-2023-41763) and Wordpad (CVE-2023-36563). The latter vulnerability could expose NTLM hashes, which are used for authentication in Windows environments.

“It may or may not be a coincidence that Microsoft announced last month that WordPad is no longer being updated, and will be removed in a future version of Windows, although no specific timeline has yet been given,” said Adam Barnett, lead software engineer at Rapid7. “Unsurprisingly, Microsoft recommends Word as a replacement for WordPad.”

Other notable bugs addressed by Microsoft include CVE-2023-35349, a remote code execution weakness in the Message Queuing (MSMQ) service, a technology that allows applications across multiple servers or hosts to communicate with each other. This vulnerability has earned a CVSS severity score of 9.8 (10 is the worst possible). Happily, the MSMQ service is not enabled by default in Windows, although Immersive Labs notes that Microsoft Exchange Server can enable this service during installation.

Speaking of Exchange, Microsoft also patched CVE-2023-36778,  a vulnerability in all current versions of Exchange Server that could allow attackers to run code of their choosing. Rapid7’s Barnett said successful exploitation requires that the attacker be on the same network as the Exchange Server host, and use valid credentials for an Exchange user in a PowerShell session.

For a more detailed breakdown on the updates released today, see the SANS Internet Storm Center roundup. If today’s updates cause any stability or usability issues in Windows, will likely have the lowdown on that.

Please consider backing up your data and/or imaging your system before applying any updates. And feel free to sound off in the comments if you experience any difficulties as a result of these patches.

Phishers Spoof USPS, 12 Other Natl’ Postal Services

9 October 2023 at 20:39

The fake USPS phishing page.

Recent weeks have seen a sizable uptick in the number of phishing scams targeting U.S. Postal Service (USPS) customers. Here’s a look at an extensive SMS phishing operation that tries to steal personal and financial data by spoofing the USPS, as well as postal services in at least a dozen other countries.

KrebsOnSecurity recently heard from a reader who received an SMS purporting to have been sent by the USPS, saying there was a problem with a package destined for the reader’s address. Clicking the link in the text message brings one to the domain usps.informedtrck[.]com.

The landing page generated by the phishing link includes the USPS logo, and says “Your package is on hold for an invalid recipient address. Fill in the correct address info by the link.” Below that message is a “Click update” button that takes the visitor to a page that asks for more information.

The remaining buttons on the phishing page all link to the real website. After collecting your address information, the fake USPS site goes on to request additional personal and financial data.

This phishing domain was recently registered and its WHOIS ownership records are basically nonexistent. However, we can find some compelling clues about the extent of this operation by loading the phishing page in Developer Tools, a set of debugging features built into Firefox, Chrome and Safari that allow one to closely inspect a webpage’s code and operations.

Check out the bottom portion of the screenshot below, and you’ll notice that this phishing site fails to load some external resources, including an image from a link called fly.linkcdn[.]to.

Click the image to enlarge.

A search on this domain at the always-useful shows that fly.linkcdn[.]to is tied to a slew of USPS-themed phishing domains. Here are just a few of those domains (links defanged to prevent accidental clicking):


As we can see in the screenshot below, the developer tools console for informedtrck[.]com complains that the site is unable to load a Google Analytics code — UA-80133954-3 — which apparently was rejected for pointing to an invalid domain.

Notice the highlighted Google Analytics code exposed by a faulty Javascript element on the phishing website. Click to enlarge. That code actually belongs to the USPS.

The valid domain for that Google Analytics code is the official website. According to, that same analytics code has shown up on at least six other nearly identical USPS phishing pages dating back nearly as many years, including onlineuspsexpress[.]com, which says was registered way back in September 2018 to an individual in Nigeria.

A different domain with that same Google Analytics code that was registered in 2021 is peraltansepeda[.]com, which shows was running a similar set of phishing pages targeting USPS users. indicates this website name was registered by phishers based in Indonesia.

DomainTools says the above-mentioned USPS phishing domain stamppos[.]com was registered in 2022 via Singapore-based, but the registrant city and state listed for that domain says “Georgia, AL,” which is not a real location.

Alas, running a search for domains registered through Alibaba to anyone claiming to reside in Georgia, AL reveals nearly 300 recent postal phishing domains ending in “.top.” These domains are either administrative domains obscured by a password-protected login page, or are .top domains phishing customers of the USPS as well as postal services serving other countries.

Those other nations include the Australia Post, An Post (Ireland), (Spain), the Costa Rican post, the Chilean Post, the Mexican Postal Service, Poste Italiane (Italy), PostNL (Netherlands), PostNord (Denmark, Norway and Sweden), and Posti (Finland). A complete list of these domains is available here (PDF).

A phishing page targeting An Post, the state-owned provider of postal services in Ireland.

The Georgia, AL domains at Alibaba also encompass several that spoof sites claiming to collect outstanding road toll fees and fines on behalf of the governments of Australia, New Zealand and Singapore.

An anonymous reader wrote in to say they submitted fake information to the above-mentioned phishing site usps.receivepost[.]com via the malware sandbox A video recording of that analysis shows that the site sends any submitted data via an automated bot on the Telegram instant messaging service.

The traffic analysis just below the video shows that any data collected by the phishing site is being sent to the Telegram user @chenlun, who offers to sell customized source code for phishing pages. From a review of @chenlun’s other Telegram channels, it appears this account is being massively spammed at the moment — possibly thanks to public attention brought by this story.

Meanwhile, researchers at DomainTools recently published a report on an apparently unrelated but equally sprawling SMS-based phishing campaign targeting USPS customers that appears to be the work of cybercriminals based in Iran.

Phishers tend to cast a wide net and often spoof entities that are broadly used by the local population, and few brands are going to have more household reach than domestic mail services. In June, the United Parcel Service (UPS) disclosed that fraudsters were abusing an online shipment tracking tool in Canada to send highly targeted SMS phishing messages that spoofed the UPS and other brands.

With the holiday shopping season nearly upon us, now is a great time to remind family and friends about the best advice to sidestep phishing scams: Avoid clicking on links or attachments that arrive unbidden in emails, text messages and other mediums. Most phishing scams invoke a temporal element that warns of negative 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 so as to avoid potential typosquatting sites.

Update: Added information about the Telegram bot and analysis.

Don’t Let Zombie Zoom Links Drag You Down

2 October 2023 at 15:43

Many organizations — including quite a few Fortune 500 firms — have exposed web links that allow anyone to initiate a Zoom video conference meeting as a valid employee. These company-specific Zoom links, which include a permanent user ID number and an embedded passcode, can work indefinitely and expose an organization’s employees, customers or partners to phishing and other social engineering attacks.

Image: @Pressmaster on Shutterstock.

At issue is the Zoom Personal Meeting ID (PMI), which is a permanent identification number linked to your Zoom account and serves as your personal meeting room available around the clock. The PMI portion forms part of each new meeting URL created by that account, such as:

Zoom has an option to include an encrypted passcode within a meeting invite link, which simplifies the process for attendees by eliminating the need to manually enter the passcode. Following the previous example, such a link might look something like this:

Using your PMI to set up new meetings is convenient, but of course convenience often comes at the expense of security. Because the PMI remains the same for all meetings, anyone with your PMI link can join any ongoing meeting unless you have locked the meeting or activated Zoom’s Waiting Room feature.

Including an encrypted passcode in the Zoom link definitely makes it easier for attendees to join, but it might open your meetings to unwanted intruders if not handled responsibly. Particularly if that Zoom link is somehow indexed by Google or some other search engine, which happens to be the case for thousands of organizations.

Armed with one of these links, an attacker can create meetings and invite others using the identity of the authorized employee. And many companies using Zoom have made it easy to find recently created meeting links that include encrypted passcodes, because they have dedicated subdomains at

Using the same method, KrebsOnSecurity also found working Zoom meeting links for The National Football League (NFL), LinkedIn, Oracle, Humana, Disney, Warner Bros, and Uber. And that was from just a few minutes of searching. And to illustrate the persistence of some of these Zoom links, says several of the links were first created as far back as 2020 and 2021.

KrebsOnSecurity received a tip about the Zoom exposures from Charan Akiri, a researcher and security engineer at Reddit. In April 2023, this site featured research by Akiri showing that many public Salesforce websites were leaking private data, including banks and healthcare organizations (Akiri said Salesforce also had these open Zoom meeting links before he notified them).

The Zoom links that exposed working meeting rooms all had enabled the highlighted option.

Akiri said the misuse of PMI links, particularly those with passcodes embedded, can give unauthorized individuals access to meetings.

“These one-click links, which are not subject to expiration or password requirement, can be exploited by attackers for impersonation,” Akiri said. “Attackers exploiting these vulnerabilities can impersonate companies, initiating meetings unknowingly to users. They can contact other employees or customers while posing as the company, gaining unauthorized access to confidential information, potentially for financial gain, recruitment, or fraudulent advertising campaigns.”

Akiri said he built a simple program to crawl the web for working Zoom meeting links from different organizations, and so far it has identified thousands of organizations with these perfectly functional zombie Zoom links.

According to Akiri, here are several tips for using Zoom links more safely:

Don’t Use Personal Meeting ID for Public Meetings: Your Personal Meeting ID (PMI) is the default meeting that launches when you start an ad hoc meeting. Your PMI doesn’t change unless you change it yourself, which makes it very useful if people need a way to reach you. But for public meetings, you should always schedule new meetings with randomly generated meeting IDs. That way, only invited attendees will know how to join your meeting. You can also turn off your PMI when starting an instant meeting in your profile settings.

Require a Passcode to Join: You can take meeting security even further by requiring a passcode to join your meetings. This feature can be applied to both your Personal Meeting ID, so only those with the passcode will be able to reach you, and to newly scheduled meetings. To learn all the ways to add a passcode for your meetings, see this support article.

Only Allow Registered or Domain Verified Users: Zoom can also give you peace of mind by letting you know exactly who will be attending your meeting. When scheduling a meeting, you can require attendees to register with their email, name, and custom questions. You can even customize your registration page with a banner and logo. By default, Zoom also restricts participants to those who are logged into Zoom, and you can even restrict it to Zoom users whose email address uses a certain domain.

Further reading: How to Keep Uninvited Guests Out of Your Zoom Meeting

Update 12:33 p.m.: The list of affected organizations was updated, because several companies listed apparently only exposed links that let anyone connect to existing, always-on meeting rooms — not initiate and completely control a Zoom meeting. The real danger with the zombie links described above is that anyone can find and use them to create new meetings and invite others.

A Closer Look at the Snatch Data Ransom Group

30 September 2023 at 19:47

Earlier this week, KrebsOnSecurity revealed that the darknet website for the Snatch ransomware group was leaking data about its users and the crime gang’s internal operations. Today, we’ll take a closer look at the history of Snatch, its alleged founder, and their claims that everyone has confused them with a different, older ransomware group by the same name.

According to a September 20, 2023 joint advisory from the FBI and the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Administration (CISA), Snatch was originally named Team Truniger, based on the nickname of the group’s founder and organizer — Truniger.

The FBI/CISA report says Truniger previously operated as an affiliate of GandCrab, an early ransomware-as-a-service offering that closed up shop after several years and claims to have extorted more than $2 billion from victims. GandCrab dissolved in July 2019, and is thought to have become “REvil,” one of the most ruthless and rapacious Russian ransomware groups of all time.

The government says Snatch used a customized ransomware variant notable for rebooting Microsoft Windows devices into Safe Mode — enabling the ransomware to circumvent detection by antivirus or endpoint protection — and then encrypting files when few services are running.

“Snatch threat actors have been observed purchasing previously stolen data from other ransomware variants in an attempt to further exploit victims into paying a ransom to avoid having their data released on Snatch’s extortion blog,” the FBI/CISA alert reads. It continues:

“Prior to deploying the ransomware, Snatch threat actors were observed spending up to three months on a victim’s system. Within this timeframe, Snatch threat actors exploited the victim’s network moving laterally across the victim’s network with RDP for the largest possible deployment of ransomware and searching for files and folders for data exfiltration followed by file encryption.”

New York City-based cyber intelligence firm Flashpoint said the Snatch ransomware group was created in 2018, based on Truniger’s recruitment both on Russian language cybercrime forums and public Russian programming boards. Flashpoint said Truniger recruited “pen testers” for a new, then-unnamed cybercrime group, by posting their private Jabber instant messenger contact details on multiple Russian language coding forums, as well as on Facebook.

“The command requires Windows system administrators,” Truniger’s ads explained. “Experience in backup, increase privileges, mikicatz, network. Details after contacting on jabber: truniger@xmpp[.]jp.”

In at least some of those recruitment ads — like one in 2018 on the forum sysadmins[.]ru –the username promoting Truniger’s contact information was Semen7907. In April 2020, Truniger was banned from two of the top Russian cybercrime forums, where members from both forums confirmed that Semen7907 was one of Truniger’s known aliases.

[SIDE NOTE: Truniger was banned because he purchased credentials to a company from a network access broker on the dark web, and although he promised to share a certain percentage of whatever ransom amount Truniger’s group extracted from the victim, Truniger paid the access broker just a few hundred dollars off of a six-figure ransom].

According to Constella Intelligence, a data breach and threat actor research platform, a user named Semen7907 registered in 2017 on the Russian-language programming forum pawno[.]ru using the email address [email protected].

That same email address was assigned to the user “Semen-7907” on the now defunct gaming website, which suffered a data breach in 2020. Semen-7907 registered at Tunngle from the Internet address 31.192.175[.]63, which is in Yekaterinburg, RU.

Constella reports that [email protected] was also used to register an account at the online game stalker[.]so with the nickname Trojan7907.

There is a Skype user by the handle semen7907, and which has the name Semyon Tretyakov from Yekaterinburg, RU. Constella also found a breached record from the Russian mobile telephony site tele2[.]ru, which shows that a user from Yekaterinburg registered in 2019 with the name Semyon Sergeyvich Tretyakov and email address [email protected].

The above accounts, as well as the email address [email protected], were all registered or accessed from the same Yekaterinburg Internet address mentioned previously: The Russian mobile phone number associated with that tele2[.]ru account is connected to the Telegram account “Perchatka,” (“glove” in Russian).


Reached via Telegram, Perchatka (a.k.a. Mr. Tretyakov) said he was not a cybercriminal, and that he currently has a full-time job working in IT at a major company (he declined to specify which).

Presented with the information gathered for this report (and more that is not published here), Mr. Tretyakov acknowledged that Semen7907 was his account on sysadmins[.]ru, the very same account Truniger used to recruit hackers for the Snatch Ransomware group back in 2018.

However, he claims that he never made those posts, and that someone else must have assumed control over his sysadmins[.]ru account and posted as him. Mr. Tretyakov said that KrebsOnSecurity’s outreach this week was the first time he became aware that his sysadmins[.]ru account was used without his permission.

Mr. Tretyakov suggested someone may have framed him, pointing to an August 2023 story at a Russian news outlet about the reported hack and leak of the user database from sysadmins[.]ru, allegedly at the hands of a pro-Ukrainian hacker group called CyberSec.

“Recently, because of the war in Ukraine, a huge number of databases have been leaked and finding information about a person is not difficult,” Tretyakov said. “I’ve been using this login since about 2013 on all the forums where I register, and I don’t always set a strong password. If I had done something illegal, I would have hidden much better :D.”

[For the record, KrebsOnSecurity does not generally find this to be the case, as the ongoing Breadcrumbs series will attest.]

A Semyon Sergeyvich Tretyakov is listed as the composer of a Russian-language rap song called “Parallels,” which seems to be about the pursuit of a high-risk lifestyle online. A snippet of the song goes:

“Someone is on the screen, someone is on the blacklist
I turn on the timer and calculate the risks
I don’t want to stay broke And in the pursuit of money
I can’t take these zeros Life is like a zebra –
everyone wants to be first Either the stripes are white,
or we’re moving through the wilds I won’t waste time.”

Mr. Tretyakov said he was not the author of that particular rhyme, but that he has been known to record his own rhythms.

“Sometimes I make bad beats,” he said. “Soundcloud.”


The FBI/CISA alert on Snatch Ransomware (PDF) includes an interesting caveat: It says Snatch actually deploys ransomware on victim systems, but it also acknowledges that the current occupants of Snatch’s dark and clear web domains call themselves Snatch Team, and maintain that they are not the same people as Snatch Ransomware from 2018.

Here’s the interesting bit from the FBI/CISA report:

“Since November 2021, an extortion site operating under the name Snatch served as a clearinghouse for data exfiltrated or stolen from victim companies on Clearnet and TOR hosted by a bulletproof hosting service. In August 2023, individuals claiming to be associated with the blog gave a media interview claiming the blog was not associated with Snatch ransomware and “none of our targets has been attacked by Ransomware Snatch…”, despite multiple confirmed Snatch victims’ data appearing on the blog alongside victims associated with other ransomware groups, notably Nokoyawa and Conti.”

Avid readers will recall a story here earlier this week about Snatch Team’s leaky darknet website based in Yekaterinburg, RU that exposed their internal operations and Internet addresses of their visitors. The leaked data suggest that Snatch is one of several ransomware groups using paid ads on to trick people into installing malware disguised as popular free software, such as Microsoft TeamsAdobe ReaderMozilla Thunderbird, and Discord.

Snatch Team claims to deal only in stolen data — not in deploying ransomware malware to hold systems hostage.

Representatives of the Snatch Team recently answered questions from about the claimed discrepancy in the FBI/CISA report.

“First of all, we repeat once again that we have nothing to do with Snatch Ransomware, we are Security Notification Attachment, and we have never violated the terms of the concluded transactions, because our honesty and openness is the guarantee of our income,” the Snatch Team wrote to in response to questions.

But so far the Snatch Team has not been able to explain why it is using the very same domain names that the Snatch ransomware group used?

Their claim is even more unbelievable because the Snatch Team members told they didn’t even know that a ransomware group with that name already existed when they initially formed just two years ago.

This is difficult to swallow because even if they were a separate group, they’d still need to somehow coordinate the transfer of the Ransomware group’s domains on the clear and dark webs. If they were hoping for a fresh start or separation, why not just pick a new name and new web destination?

“Snatchteam[.]cc is essentially a data market,” they continued. “The only thing to underline is that we are against selling leaked information, sticking to the idea of free access. Absolutely any team can come to us and offer information for publication. Even more, we have heard rumors that a number of ransomware teams scare their clients that they will post leaked information on our resource. We do not have our own ransomware, but we are open to cooperation on placement and monetization of dates (sic).”

Maybe Snatch Team does not wish to be associated with Snatch Ransomware because they currently believe stealing data and then extorting victim companies for money is somehow less evil than infecting all of the victim’s servers and backups with ransomware.

It is also likely that Snatch Team is well aware of how poorly some of their founders covered their tracks online, and are hoping for a do-over on that front.

‘Snatch’ Ransom Group Exposes Visitor IP Addresses

27 September 2023 at 11:48

The victim shaming site operated by the Snatch ransomware group is leaking data about its true online location and internal operations, as well as the Internet addresses of its visitors, KrebsOnSecurity has found. The leaked data suggest that Snatch is one of several ransomware groups using paid ads on to trick people into installing malware disguised as popular free software, such as Microsoft Teams, Adobe Reader, Mozilla Thunderbird, and Discord.

First spotted in 2018, the Snatch ransomware group has published data stolen from hundreds of organizations that refused to pay a ransom demand. Snatch publishes its stolen data at a website on the open Internet, and that content is mirrored on the Snatch team’s darknet site, which is only reachable using the global anonymity network Tor.

The victim shaming website for the Snatch ransomware gang.

KrebsOnSecurity has learned that Snatch’s darknet site exposes its “server status” page, which includes information about the true Internet addresses of users accessing the website.

Refreshing this page every few seconds shows that the Snatch darknet site generates a decent amount of traffic, often attracting thousands of visitors each day. But by far the most frequent repeat visitors are coming from Internet addresses in Russia that either currently host Snatch’s clear web domain names or recently did.

The Snatch ransomware gang’s victim shaming site on the darknet is leaking data about its visitors. This “server status” page says that Snatch’s website is on Central European Summer Time (CEST) and is powered by OpenSSL/1.1.1f, which is no longer supported by security updates.

Probably the most active Internet address accessing Snatch’s darknet site is 193.108.114[.]41, which is a server in Yekaterinburg, Russia that hosts several Snatch domains, including snatchteam[.]top, sntech2ch[.]top, dwhyj2[.]top and sn76930193ch[.]top. It could well be that this Internet address is showing up frequently because Snatch’s clear-web site features a toggle button at the top that lets visitors switch over to accessing the site via Tor.

Another Internet address that showed up frequently in the Snatch server status page was 194.168.175[.]226, currently assigned to Matrix Telekom in Russia. According to, this address also hosts or else recently hosted the usual coterie of Snatch domains, as well as quite a few domains phishing known brands such as Amazon and Cashapp.

The Moscow Internet address 80.66.64[.]15 accessed the Snatch darknet site all day long, and that address also housed the appropriate Snatch clear-web domains. More interestingly, that address is home to multiple recent domains that appear confusingly similar to known software companies, including libreoff1ce[.]com and www-discord[.]com.

This is interesting because the phishing domains associated with the Snatch ransomware gang were all registered to the same Russian name — Mihail Kolesnikov, a name that is somewhat synonymous with recent phishing domains tied to malicious Google ads.

Kolesnikov could be a nod to a Russian general made famous during Boris Yeltsin’s reign. Either way, it’s clearly a pseudonym, but there are some other commonalities among these domains that may provide insight into how Snatch and other ransomware groups are sourcing their victims.

DomainTools says there are more than 1,300 current and former domain names registered to Mihail Kolesnikov between 2013 and July 2023. About half of the domains appear to be older websites advertising female escort services in major cities around the United States (e.g. the now-defunct pittsburghcitygirls[.]com).

The other half of the Kolesnikov websites are far more recent phishing domains mostly ending in “.top” and “.app” that appear designed to mimic the domains of major software companies, including www-citrix[.]top, www-microsofteams[.]top, www-fortinet[.]top, ibreoffice[.]top, www-docker[.]top, www-basecamp[.]top, ccleaner-cdn[.]top, adobeusa[.]top, and www.real-vnc[.]top.

In August 2023, researchers with Trustwave Spiderlabs said they encountered domains registered to Mihail Kolesnikov being used to disseminate the Rilide information stealer trojan.

But it appears multiple crime groups may be using these domains to phish people and disseminate all kinds of information-stealing malware. In February 2023, Spamhaus warned of a huge surge in malicious ads that were hijacking search results in, and being used to distribute at least five different families of information stealing trojans, including AuroraStealer, IcedID/Bokbot, Meta Stealer, RedLine Stealer and Vidar.

For example, Spamhaus said victims of these malicious ads would search for Microsoft Teams in, and the search engine would often return a paid ad spoofing Microsoft or Microsoft Teams as the first result — above all other results. The malicious ad would include a logo for Microsoft and at first glance appear to be a safe and trusted place to download the Microsoft Teams client.

However, anyone who clicked on the result was whisked away instead to mlcrosofteams-us[.]top — yet another malicious domain registered to Mr. Kolesnikov. And while visitors to this website may believe they are only downloading the Microsoft Teams client, the installer file includes a copy of the IcedID malware, which is really good at stealing passwords and authentication tokens from the victim’s web browser.

Image: Spamhaus

The founder of the Swiss anti-abuse website told Spamhaus it is likely that some cybercriminals have started to sell “malvertising as a service” on the dark web, and that there is a great deal of demand for this service.

In other words, someone appears to have built a very profitable business churning out and promoting new software-themed phishing domains and selling that as a service to other cybercriminals. Or perhaps they are simply selling any stolen data (and any corporate access) to active and hungry ransomware group affiliates.

The tip about the exposed “server status” page on the Snatch darkweb site came from @htmalgae, the same security researcher who alerted KrebsOnSecurity earlier this month that the darknet victim shaming site run by the 8Base ransomware gang was inadvertently left in development mode.

That oversight revealed not only the true Internet address of the hidden 8Base site (in Russia, naturally), but also the identity of a programmer in Moldova who apparently helped to develop the 8Base code.

@htmalgae said the idea of a ransomware group’s victim shaming site leaking data that they did not intend to expose is deliciously ironic.

“This is a criminal group that shames others for not protecting user data,” @htmalgae said. “And here they are leaking their user data.”

All of the malware mentioned in this story is designed to run on Microsoft Windows devices. But Malwarebytes recently covered the emergence of a Mac-based information stealer trojan called AtomicStealer that was being advertised through malicious Google ads and domains that were confusingly similar to software brands.

Please be extra careful when you are searching online for popular software titles. Cracked, pirated copies of major software titles are a frequent source of infostealer infections, as are these rogue ads masquerading as search results. Make sure to double-check you are actually at the domain you believe you’re visiting *before* you download and install anything.

Stay tuned for Part II of this post, which includes a closer look at the Snatch ransomware group and their founder.

Further reading:

@HTMalgae’s list of the top Internet addresses seen accessing Snatch’s darknet site

Ars Technica: Until Further Notice Think Twice Before Using Google to Download Software

Bleeping Computer: Hackers Abuse Google Ads to Spread Malware in Legit Software

LastPass: ‘Horse Gone Barn Bolted’ is Strong Password

22 September 2023 at 23:41

The password manager service LastPass is now forcing some of its users to pick longer master passwords. LastPass says the changes are needed to ensure all customers are protected by their latest security improvements. But critics say the move is little more than a public relations stunt that will do nothing to help countless early adopters whose password vaults were exposed in a 2022 breach at LastPass.

LastPass sent this notification to users earlier this week.

LastPass told customers this week they would be forced to update their master password if it was less than 12 characters. LastPass officially instituted this change back in 2018, but some undisclosed number of the company’s earlier customers were never required to increase the length of their master passwords.

This is significant because in November 2022, LastPass disclosed a breach in which hackers stole password vaults containing both encrypted and plaintext data for more than 25 million users.

Since then, a steady trickle of six-figure cryptocurrency heists targeting security-conscious people throughout the tech industry has led some security experts to conclude that crooks likely have succeeded at cracking open some of the stolen LastPass vaults.

KrebsOnSecurity last month interviewed a victim who recently saw more than three million dollars worth of cryptocurrency siphoned from his account. That user signed up with LastPass nearly a decade ago, stored their cryptocurrency seed phrase there, and yet never changed his master password — which was just eight characters. Nor was he ever forced to improve his master password.

That story cited research from Adblock Plus creator Wladimir Palant, who said LastPass failed to upgrade many older, original customers to more secure encryption protections that were offered to newer customers over the years.

For example, another important default setting in LastPass is the number of “iterations,” or how many times your master password is run through the company’s encryption routines. The more iterations, the longer it takes an offline attacker to crack your master password.

Palant said that for many older LastPass users, the initial default setting for iterations was anywhere from “1” to “500.” By 2013, new LastPass customers were given 5,000 iterations by default. In February 2018, LastPass changed the default to 100,100 iterations. And very recently, it upped that again to 600,000. Still, Palant and others impacted by the 2022 breach at LastPass say their account security settings were never forcibly upgraded.

Palant called this latest action by LastPass a PR stunt.

“They sent this message to everyone, whether they have a weak master password or not – this way they can again blame the users for not respecting their policies,” Palant said. “But I just logged in with my weak password, and I am not forced to change it. Sending emails is cheap, but they once again didn’t implement any technical measures to enforce this policy change.”

Either way, Palant said, the changes won’t help people affected by the 2022 breach.

“These people need to change all their passwords, something that LastPass still won’t recommend,” Palant said. “But it will somewhat help with the breaches to come.”

LastPass CEO Karim Toubba said changing master password length (or even the master password itself) is not designed to address already stolen vaults that are offline.

“This is meant to better protect customers’ online vaults and encourage them to bring their accounts up to the 2018 LastPass standard default setting of a 12-character minimum (but could opt out from),” Toubba said in an emailed statement. “We know that some customers may have chosen convenience over security and utilized less complex master passwords despite encouragement to use our (or others) password generator to do otherwise.”

A basic functionality of LastPass is that it will pick and remember lengthy, complex passwords for each of your websites or online services. To automatically populate the appropriate credentials at any website going forward, you simply authenticate to LastPass using your master password.

LastPass has always emphasized that if you lose this master password, that’s too bad because they don’t store it and their encryption is so strong that even they can’t help you recover it.

But experts say all bets are off when cybercrooks can get their hands on the encrypted vault data itself — as opposed to having to interact with LastPass via its website. These so-called “offline” attacks allow the bad guys to conduct unlimited and unfettered “brute force” password cracking attempts against the encrypted data using powerful computers that can each try millions of password guesses per second.

A chart on Palant’s blog post offers an idea of how increasing password iterations dramatically increases the costs and time needed by the attackers to crack someone’s master password. Palant said it would take a single high-powered graphics card about a year to crack a password of average complexity with 500 iterations, and about 10 years to crack the same password run through 5,000 iterations.


However, these numbers radically come down when a determined adversary also has other large-scale computational assets at their disposal, such as a bitcoin mining operation that can coordinate the password-cracking activity across multiple powerful systems simultaneously.

Meaning, LastPass users whose vaults were never upgraded to higher iterations and whose master passwords were weak (less than 12 characters) likely have been a primary target of distributed password-cracking attacks ever since the LastPass user vaults were stolen late last year.

Asked why some LastPass users were left behind on older security minimums, Toubba said a “small percentage” of customers had corrupted items in their password vaults that prevented those accounts from properly upgrading to the new requirements and settings.

“We have been able to determine that a small percentage of customers have items in their vaults that are corrupt and when we previously utilized automated scripts designed to re-encrypt vaults when the master password or iteration count is changed, they did not complete,” Toubba said. “These errors were not originally apparent as part of these efforts and, as we have discovered them, we have been working to be able to remedy this and finish the re-encryption.”

Nicholas Weaver, a researcher at University of California, Berkeley’s International Computer Science Institute (ICSI) and lecturer at UC Davis, said LastPass made a huge mistake years ago by not force-upgrading the iteration count for existing users.

“And now this is blaming the users — ‘you should have used a longer passphrase’ — not them for having weak defaults that were never upgraded for existing users,” Weaver said. “LastPass in my book is one step above snake-oil. I used to be, ‘Pick whichever password manager you want,’ but now I am very much, ‘Pick any password manager but LastPass.'”

Asked why LastPass isn’t recommending that users change all of the passwords secured by the encrypted master password that was stolen when the company got hacked last year, Toubba said it’s because “the data demonstrates that the majority of our customers follow our recommendations (or greater), and the probability of successfully brute forcing vault encryption is greatly reduced accordingly.”

“We’ve been telling customers since December of 2022 that they should be following recommended guidelines,” Toubba continued. “And if they haven’t followed the guidelines we recommended that they change their downstream passwords.”

Who’s Behind the 8Base Ransomware Website?

19 September 2023 at 02:12

The victim shaming website operated by the cybercriminals behind 8Base — currently one of the more active ransomware groups — was until earlier today leaking quite a bit of information that the crime group probably did not intend to be made public. The leaked data suggests that at least some of website’s code was written by a 36-year-old programmer residing in the capital city of Moldova.

The 8Base ransomware group’s victim shaming website on the darknet.

8Base maintains a darknet website that is only reachable via Tor, a freely available global anonymity network. The site lists hundreds of victim organizations and companies — all allegedly hacking victims that refused to pay a ransom to keep their stolen data from being published.

The 8Base darknet site also has a built-in chat feature, presumably so that 8Base victims can communicate and negotiate with their extortionists. This chat feature, which runs on the Laravel web application framework, works fine as long as you are *sending* information to the site (i.e., by making a “POST” request).

However, if one were to try to fetch data from the same chat service (i.e., by making a “GET” request), the website until quite recently generated an extremely verbose error message:

The verbose error message when one tries to pull data from 8Base’s darknet site. Notice the link at the bottom of this image, which is generated when one hovers over the “View commit” message under the “Git” heading.

That error page revealed the true Internet address of the Tor hidden service that houses the 8Base website: 95.216.51[.]74, which according to is a server in Finland that is tied to the Germany-based hosting giant Hetzner.

But that’s not the interesting part: Scrolling down the lengthy error message, we can see a link to a private Gitlab server called Jcube-group: gitlab[.]com/jcube-group/clients/apex/8base-v2. Digging further into this Gitlab account, we can find some curious data points available in the JCube Group’s public code repository.

For example, this “status.php” page, which was committed to JCube Group’s Gitlab repository roughly one month ago, includes code that makes several mentions of the term “KYC” (e.g. KYC_UNVERIFIED, KYC_VERIFIED, and KYC_PENDING).

This is curious because a FAQ on the 8Base darknet site includes a section on “special offers for journalists and reporters,” which says the crime group is open to interviews but that journalists will need to prove their identity before any interview can take place. The 8base FAQ refers to this vetting process as “KYC,” which typically stands for “Know Your Customer.”

“We highly respect the work of journalists and consider information to be our priority,” the 8Base FAQ reads. “We have a special program for journalists which includes sharing information a few hours or even days before it is officially published on our news website and Telegram channel: you would need to go through a KYC procedure to apply. Journalists and reporters can contact us via our PR Telegram channel with any questions.”

The 8Base FAQ (left) and the KYC code in Kolev’s Gitlab account (right)

The 8Base darknet site also has a publicly accessible “admin” login page, which features an image of a commercial passenger plane parked at what appears to be an airport. Next to the airplane photo is a message that reads, “Welcome to 8Base. Admin Login to 8Base dashboard.”

The login page on the 8Base ransomware group’s darknet website.

Right-clicking on the 8Base admin page and selecting “View Source” produces the page’s HTML code. That code is virtually identical to a “login.blade.php” page that was authored and committed to JCube Group’s Gitlab repository roughly three weeks ago.

It appears the person responsible for the JCube Group’s code is a 36-year-old developer from Chisinau, Moldova named Andrei Kolev. Mr. Kolev’s LinkedIn page says he’s a full-stack developer at JCube Group, and that he’s currently looking for work. The homepage for Jcubegroup[.]com lists an address and phone number that Moldovan business records confirm is tied to Mr. Kolev.

The posts on the Twitter account for Mr. Kolev (@andrewkolev) are all written in Russian, and reference several now-defunct online businesses, including pluginspro[.]ru.

Reached for comment via LinkedIn, Mr. Kolev said he had no idea why the 8Base darknet site was pulling code from the “clients” directory of his private JCube Group Gitlab repository, or how the 8Base name was even included.

“I [don’t have] a clue, I don’t have that project in my repo,” Kolev explained. “They [aren’t] my clients. Actually we currently have just our own projects.”

Mr. Kolev shared a screenshot of his current projects, but very quickly after that deleted it. However, KrebsOnSecurity captured a copy of the image before it was removed:

A screenshot of Mr. Kolev’s current projects that he quickly deleted.

Within minutes of explaining why I was reaching out to Mr. Kolev and walking him through the process of finding this connection, the 8Base website was changed, and the error message that linked to the JCube Group private Gitlab repository no longer appeared. Instead, trying the same “GET” method described above caused the 8Base website to return a “405 Method Not Allowed” error page:

Mr. Kolev claimed he didn’t know anything about the now-removed error page on 8Base’s site that referenced his private Gitlab repo, and said he deleted the screenshot from our LinkedIn chat because it contained private information.

Ransomware groups are known to remotely hire developers for specific projects without disclosing exactly who they are or how the new hire’s code is intended to be used, and it is possible that one of Mr. Kolev’s clients is merely a front for 8Base. But despite 8Base’s statement that they are happy to correspond with journalists, KrebsOnSecurity is still waiting for a reply from the group via their Telegram channel.

The tip about the leaky 8Base website was provided by a reader who asked to remain anonymous. That reader, a legitimate security professional and researcher who goes by the handle @htmalgae on Twitter, said it is likely that whoever developed the 8Base website inadvertently left it in “development mode,” which is what caused the site to be so verbose with its error messages.

“If 8Base was running the app in production mode instead of development mode, this Tor de-anonymization would have never been possible,” @htmalgae said.

A recent blog post from VMware/Carbon Black called the 8Base ransomware group “a heavy hitter” that has remained relatively unknown despite the massive spike in activity in Summer of 2023.

“8Base is a Ransomware group that has been active since March 2022 with a significant spike in activity in June of 2023,” Carbon Black researchers wrote. “Describing themselves as ‘simple pen testers,’ their leak site provided victim details through Frequently Asked Questions and Rules sections as well as multiple ways to contact them. ”

According to VMware, what’s particularly interesting about 8Base’s communication style is the use of verbiage that is strikingly familiar to another known cybercriminal group: RansomHouse.

“The group utilizes encryption paired with ‘name-and-shame’ techniques to compel their victims to pay their ransoms,” VMware researchers wrote. “8Base has an opportunistic pattern of compromise with recent victims spanning across varied industries. Despite the high amount of compromises, the information regarding identities, methodology, and underlying motivation behind these incidents still remains a mystery.”

Update, Sept. 21, 10:43 a.m. ET: The author of was lurking in the 8Base Telegram channel when I popped in to ask the crime group a question, and reports that 8Base did eventually reply: ““hi at the moment we r not doing interviews. we have nothing to say. we r a little busy.”

FBI Hacker Dropped Stolen Airbus Data on 9/11

14 September 2023 at 00:22

In December 2022, KrebsOnSecurity broke the news that a cybercriminal using the handle “USDoD” had infiltrated the FBI‘s vetted information sharing network InfraGard, and was selling the contact information for all 80,000 members. The FBI responded by reverifying InfraGard members and by seizing the cybercrime forum where the data was being sold. But on Sept. 11, 2023, USDoD resurfaced after a lengthy absence to leak sensitive employee data stolen from the aerospace giant Airbus, while promising to visit the same treatment on top U.S. defense contractors.

USDoD’s avatar used to be the seal of the U.S. Department of Defense. Now it’s a charming kitten.

In a post on the English language cybercrime forum BreachForums, USDoD leaked information on roughly 3,200 Airbus vendors, including names, addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses. USDoD claimed they grabbed the data by using passwords stolen from a Turkish airline employee who had third-party access to Airbus’ systems.

USDoD didn’t say why they decided to leak the data on the 22nd anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, but there was definitely an aircraft theme to the message that accompanied the leak, which concluded with the words, “Lockheed martin, Raytheon and the entire defense contractos [sic], I’m coming for you [expletive].”

Airbus has apparently confirmed the cybercriminal’s account to the threat intelligence firm Hudson Rock, which determined that the Airbus credentials were stolen after a Turkish airline employee infected their computer with a prevalent and powerful info-stealing trojan called RedLine.

Info-stealers like RedLine typically are deployed via opportunistic email malware campaigns, and by secretly bundling the trojans with cracked versions of popular software titles made available online. Credentials stolen by info-stealers often end up for sale on cybercrime shops that peddle purloined passwords and authentication cookies (these logs also often show up in the malware scanning service VirusTotal).

Hudson Rock said it recovered the log files created by a RedLine infection on the Turkish airline employee’s system, and found the employee likely infected their machine after downloading pirated and secretly backdoored software for Microsoft Windows.

Hudson Rock says info-stealer infections from RedLine and a host of similar trojans have surged in recent years, and that they remain “a primary initial attack vector used by threat actors to infiltrate organizations and execute cyberattacks, including ransomware, data breaches, account overtakes, and corporate espionage.”

The prevalence of RedLine and other info-stealers means that a great many consequential security breaches begin with cybercriminals abusing stolen employee credentials. In this scenario, the attacker temporarily assumes the identity and online privileges assigned to a hacked employee, and the onus is on the employer to tell the difference.

In addition to snarfing any passwords stored on or transmitted through an infected system, info-stealers also siphon authentication cookies or tokens that allow one to remain signed-in to online services for long periods of time without having to resupply one’s password and multi-factor authentication code. By stealing these tokens, attackers can often reuse them in their own web browser, and bypass any authentication normally required for that account.

Microsoft Corp. this week acknowledged that a China-backed hacking group was able to steal one of the keys to its email kingdom that granted near-unfettered access to U.S. government inboxes. Microsoft’s detailed post-mortem cum mea culpa explained that a secret signing key was stolen from an employee in an unlucky series of unfortunate events, and thanks to TechCrunch we now know that the culprit once again was “token-stealing malware” on the employee’s system.

In April 2023, the FBI seized Genesis Market, a bustling, fully automated cybercrime store that was continuously restocked with freshly hacked passwords and authentication tokens stolen by a network of contractors who deployed RedLine and other info-stealer malware.

In March 2023, the FBI arrested and charged the alleged administrator of BreachForums (aka Breached), the same cybercrime community where USDoD leaked the Airbus data. In June 2023, the FBI seized the BreachForums domain name, but the forum has since migrated to a new domain.

USDoD’s InfraGard sales thread on Breached.

Unsolicited email continues to be a huge vector for info-stealing malware, but lately the crooks behind these schemes have been gaming the search engines so that their malicious sites impersonating popular software vendors actually appear before the legitimate vendor’s website. So take special care when downloading software to ensure that you are in fact getting the program from the original, legitimate source whenever possible.

Also, unless you really know what you’re doing, please don’t download and install pirated software. Sure, the cracked program might do exactly what you expect it to do, but the chances are good that it is also laced with something nasty. And when all of your passwords are stolen and your important accounts have been hijacked or sold, you will wish you had simply paid for the real thing.

Adobe, Apple, Google & Microsoft Patch 0-Day Bugs

12 September 2023 at 22:36

Microsoft today issued software updates to fix at least five dozen security holes in Windows and supported software, including patches for two zero-day vulnerabilities that are already being exploited. Also, Adobe, Google Chrome and Apple iOS users may have their own zero-day patching to do.

On Sept. 7, researchers at Citizen Lab warned they were seeing active exploitation of a “zero-click,” zero-day flaw to install spyware on iOS devices without any interaction from the victim.

“The exploit chain was capable of compromising iPhones running the latest version of iOS (16.6) without any interaction from the victim,” the researchers wrote.

According to Citizen Lab, the exploit uses malicious images sent via iMessage, an embedded component of Apple’s iOS that has been the source of previous zero-click flaws in iPhones and iPads.

Apple says the iOS flaw (CVE-2023-41064) does not seem to work against devices that have its ultra-paranoid “Lockdown Mode” enabled. This feature restricts non-essential iOS features to reduce the device’s overall attack surface, and it was designed for users concerned that they may be subject to targeted attacks. Citizen Lab says the bug it discovered was being exploited to install spyware made by the Israeli cyber surveillance company NSO Group.

This vulnerability is fixed in iOS 16.6.1 and iPadOS 16.6.1. To turn on Lockdown Mode in iOS 16, go to Settings, then Privacy and Security, then Lockdown Mode.

Not to be left out of the zero-day fun, Google acknowledged on Sept. 11 that an exploit for a heap overflow bug in Chrome is being exploited in the wild. Google says it is releasing updates to fix the flaw, and that restarting Chrome is the way to apply any pending updates. Interestingly, Google says this bug was reported by Apple and Citizen Lab.

On the Microsoft front, a zero-day in Microsoft Word is among the more concerning bugs fixed today. Tracked as CVE-2023-36761, it is flagged as an “information disclosure” vulnerability. But that description hardly grasps at the sensitivity of the information potentially exposed here.

Tom Bowyer, manager of product security at Automox, said exploiting this vulnerability could lead to the disclosure of Net-NTLMv2 hashes, which are used for authentication in Windows environments.

“If a malicious actor gains access to these hashes, they can potentially impersonate the user, gaining unauthorized access to sensitive data and systems,” Bowyer said, noting that CVE-2023-36761 can be exploited just by viewing a malicious document in the Windows preview pane. “They could also conduct pass-the-hash attacks, where the attacker uses the hashed version of a password to authenticate themselves without needing to decrypt it.”

The other Windows zero-day fixed this month is CVE-2023-36802. This is an “elevation of privilege” flaw in the “Microsoft Streaming Service Proxy,” which is built into Windows 10, 11 and Windows Server versions. Microsoft says an attacker who successfully exploits the bug can gain SYSTEM level privileges on a Windows computer.

Five of the flaws Microsoft fixed this month earned its “critical” rating, which the software giant reserves for vulnerabilities that can be exploited by malware or malcontents with little or no interaction by Windows users.

According to the SANS Internet Storm Center, the most serious critical bug in September’s Patch Tuesday is CVE-2023-38148, which is a weakness in the Internet Connection Sharing service on Windows. Microsoft says an unauthenticated attacker could leverage the flaw to install malware just sending a specially crafted data packet to a vulnerable Windows system.

Finally, Adobe has released critical security updates for its Adobe Reader and Acrobat software that also fixes a zero-day vulnerability (CVE-2023-26369). More details are at Adobe’s advisory.

For a more granular breakdown of the Windows updates pushed out today, check out Microsoft Patch Tuesday by Morphus Labs. In the meantime, consider backing up your data before updating Windows, and keep an eye on for reports of any widespread problems with any of the updates released as part of September’s Patch Tuesday.

Update: Mozilla also has fixed zero-day flaw in Firefox and Thunderbird, and the Brave browser was updated as well. It appears the common theme here is any software that uses a code library called “libwebp,” and that this vulnerability is being tracked as CVE-2023-4863.

“This includes Electron-based applications, for example – Signal,” writes “Electron patched the vulnerability yesterday. Also, software like Honeyview (from Bandisoft) released an update to fix the issue. CVE-2023-4863 was falsely marked as Chrome-only by Mitre and other organizations that track CVE’s and 100% of media reported this issue as “Chrome only”, when it’s not.”

Experts Fear Crooks are Cracking Keys Stolen in LastPass Breach

6 September 2023 at 00:21

In November 2022, the password manager service LastPass disclosed a breach in which hackers stole password vaults containing both encrypted and plaintext data for more than 25 million users. Since then, a steady trickle of six-figure cryptocurrency heists targeting security-conscious people throughout the tech industry has led some security experts to conclude that crooks likely have succeeded at cracking open some of the stolen LastPass vaults.

Taylor Monahan is lead product manager of MetaMask, a popular software cryptocurrency wallet used to interact with the Ethereum blockchain. Since late December 2022, Monahan and other researchers have identified a highly reliable set of clues that they say connect recent thefts targeting more than 150 people. Collectively, these individuals have been robbed of more than $35 million worth of crypto.

Monahan said virtually all of the victims she has assisted were longtime cryptocurrency investors, and security-minded individuals. Importantly, none appeared to have suffered the sorts of attacks that typically preface a high-dollar crypto heist, such as the compromise of one’s email and/or mobile phone accounts.

“The victim profile remains the most striking thing,” Monahan wrote. “They truly all are reasonably secure. They are also deeply integrated into this ecosystem, [including] employees of reputable crypto orgs, VCs [venture capitalists], people who built DeFi protocols, deploy contracts, run full nodes.”

Monahan has been documenting the crypto thefts via Twitter/X since March 2023, frequently expressing frustration in the search for a common cause among the victims. Then on Aug. 28, Monahan said she’d concluded that the common thread among nearly every victim was that they’d previously used LastPass to store their “seed phrase,” the private key needed to unlock access to their cryptocurrency investments.

MetaMask owner Taylor Monahan on Twitter. Image:

Armed with your secret seed phrase, anyone can instantly access all of the cryptocurrency holdings tied to that cryptographic key, and move the funds to anywhere they like.

Which is why the best practice for many cybersecurity enthusiasts has long been to store their seed phrases either in some type of encrypted container — such as a password manager — or else inside an offline, special-purpose hardware encryption device, such as a Trezor or Ledger wallet.

“The seed phrase is literally the money,” said Nick Bax, director of analytics at Unciphered, a cryptocurrency wallet recovery company. “If you have my seed phrase, you can copy and paste that into your wallet, and then you can see all my accounts. And you can transfer my funds.”

Bax said he closely reviewed the massive trove of cryptocurrency theft data that Taylor Monahan and others have collected and linked together.

“It’s one of the broadest and most complex cryptocurrency investigations I’ve ever seen,” Bax said. “I ran my own analysis on top of their data and reached the same conclusion that Taylor reported. The threat actor moved stolen funds from multiple victims to the same blockchain addresses, making it possible to strongly link those victims.”

Bax, Monahan and others interviewed for this story say they’ve identified a unique signature that links the theft of more than $35 million in crypto from more than 150 confirmed victims, with roughly two to five high-dollar heists happening each month since December 2022.

KrebsOnSecurity has reviewed this signature but is not publishing it at the request of Monahan and other researchers, who say doing so could cause the attackers to alter their operations in ways that make their criminal activity more difficult to track.

But the researchers have published findings about the dramatic similarities in the ways that victim funds were stolen and laundered through specific cryptocurrency exchanges. They also learned the attackers frequently grouped together victims by sending their cryptocurrencies to the same destination crypto wallet.

A graphic published by @tayvano_ on Twitter depicting the movement of stolen cryptocurrencies from victims who used LastPass to store their crypto seed phrases.

By identifying points of overlap in these destination addresses, the researchers were then able to track down and interview new victims. For example, the researchers said their methodology identified a recent multi-million dollar crypto heist victim as an employee at Chainalysis, a blockchain analysis firm that works closely with law enforcement agencies to help track down cybercriminals and money launderers.

Chainalysis confirmed that the employee had suffered a high-dollar cryptocurrency heist late last month, but otherwise declined to comment for this story.

Bax said the only obvious commonality between the victims who agreed to be interviewed was that they had stored the seed phrases for their cryptocurrency wallets in LastPass.

“On top of the overlapping indicators of compromise, there are more circumstantial behavioral patterns and tradecraft which are also consistent between different thefts and support the conclusion,” Bax told KrebsOnSecuirty. “I’m confident enough that this is a real problem that I’ve been urging my friends and family who use LastPass to change all of their passwords and migrate any crypto that may have been exposed, despite knowing full well how tedious that is.”

LastPass declined to answer questions about the research highlighted in this story, citing an ongoing law enforcement investigation and pending litigation against the company in response to its 2022 data breach.

“Last year’s incident remains the subject of an ongoing investigation by law enforcement and is also the subject of pending litigation,” LastPass said in a written statement provided to KrebsOnSecurity. “Since last year’s attack on LastPass, we have remained in contact with law enforcement and continue to do so.”

Their statement continues:

“We have shared various technical information, Indicators of Compromise (IOCs), and threat actor tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) with our law enforcement contacts as well as our internal and external threat intelligence and forensic partners in an effort to try and help identify the parties responsible. In the meantime, we encourage any security researchers to share any useful information they believe they may have with our Threat Intelligence team by contacting [email protected].”


On August 25, 2022, LastPass CEO Karim Toubba wrote to users that the company had detected unusual activity in its software development environment, and that the intruders stole some source code and proprietary LastPass technical information. On Sept. 15, 2022, LastPass said an investigation into the August breach determined the attacker did not access any customer data or password vaults.

But on Nov. 30, 2022, LastPass notified customers about another, far more serious security incident that the company said leveraged data stolen in the August breach. LastPass disclosed that criminal hackers had compromised encrypted copies of some password vaults, as well as other personal information.

In February 2023, LastPass disclosed that the intrusion involved a highly complex, targeted attack against a DevOps engineer who was one of only four LastPass employees with access to the corporate vault.

“This was accomplished by targeting the DevOps engineer’s home computer and exploiting a vulnerable third-party media software package, which enabled remote code execution capability and allowed the threat actor to implant keylogger malware,” LastPass officials wrote. “The threat actor was able to capture the employee’s master password as it was entered, after the employee authenticated with MFA, and gain access to the DevOps engineer’s LastPass corporate vault.”

Dan Goodin at Ars Technica reported and then confirmed that the attackers exploited a known vulnerability in a Plex media server that the employee was running on his home network, and succeeded in installing malicious software that stole passwords and other authentication credentials. The vulnerability exploited by the intruders was patched back in 2020, but the employee never updated his Plex software.

As it happens, Plex announced its own data breach one day before LastPass disclosed its initial August intrusion. On August 24, 2022, Plex’s security team urged users to reset their passwords, saying an intruder had accessed customer emails, usernames and encrypted passwords.


A basic functionality of LastPass is that it will pick and remember lengthy, complex passwords for each of your websites or online services. To automatically populate the appropriate credentials at any website going forward, you simply authenticate to LastPass using your master password.

LastPass has always emphasized that if you lose this master password, that’s too bad because they don’t store it and their encryption is so strong that even they can’t help you recover it.

But experts say all bets are off when cybercrooks can get their hands on the encrypted vault data itself — as opposed to having to interact with LastPass via its website. These so-called “offline” attacks allow the bad guys to conduct unlimited and unfettered “brute force” password cracking attempts against the encrypted data using powerful computers that can each try millions of password guesses per second.

“It does leave things vulnerable to brute force when the vaults are stolen en masse, especially if info about the vault HOLDER is available,” said Nicholas Weaver, a researcher at University of California, Berkeley’s International Computer Science Institute (ICSI) and lecturer at UC Davis. “So you just crunch and crunch and crunch with GPUs, with a priority list of vaults you target.”

How hard would it be for well-resourced criminals to crack the master passwords securing LastPass user vaults? Perhaps the best answer to this question comes from Wladimir Palant, a security researcher and the original developer behind the Adblock Plus browser plugin.

In a December 2022 blog post, Palant explained that the crackability of a LastPass master password depends largely on two things: The complexity of the master password, and the default settings for LastPass users, which appear to have varied quite a bit based on when those users began patronizing the service.

LastPass says that since 2018 it has required a twelve-character minimum for master passwords, which the company said “greatly minimizes the ability for successful brute force password guessing.”

But Palant said while LastPass indeed improved its master password defaults in 2018, it did not force all existing customers who had master passwords of lesser lengths to pick new credentials that would satisfy the 12-character minimum.

“If you are a LastPass customer, chances are that you are completely unaware of this requirement,” Palant wrote. “That’s because LastPass didn’t ask existing customers to change their master password. I had my test account since 2018, and even today I can log in with my eight-character password without any warnings or prompts to change it.”

Palant believes LastPass also failed to upgrade many older, original customers to more secure encryption protections that were offered to newer customers over the years. One important setting in LastPass is the number of “iterations,” or how many times your master password is run through the company’s encryption routines. The more iterations, the longer it takes an offline attacker to crack your master password.

Palant noted last year that for many older LastPass users, the initial default setting for iterations was anywhere from “1” to “500.” By 2013, new LastPass customers were given 5,000 iterations by default. In February 2018, LastPass changed the default to 100,100 iterations. And very recently, it upped that again to 600,000.

Palant said the 2018 change was in response to a security bug report he filed about some users having dangerously low iterations in their LastPass settings.

“Worse yet, for reasons that are beyond me, LastPass didn’t complete this migration,” Palant wrote. “My test account is still at 5,000 iterations, as are the accounts of many other users who checked their LastPass settings. LastPass would know how many users are affected, but they aren’t telling that. In fact, it’s painfully obvious that LastPass never bothered updating users’ security settings. Not when they changed the default from 1 to 500 iterations. Not when they changed it from 500 to 5,000. Only my persistence made them consider it for their latest change. And they still failed implementing it consistently.”

A chart on Palant’s blog post offers an idea of how increasing password iterations dramatically increases the costs and time needed by the attackers to crack someone’s master password. Palant said it would take a single GPU about a year to crack a password of average complexity with 500 iterations, and about 10 years to crack the same password run through 5,000 iterations.


However, these numbers radically come down when a determined adversary also has other large-scale computational assets at their disposal, such as a bitcoin mining operation that can coordinate the password-cracking activity across multiple powerful systems simultaneously.

Weaver said a password or passphrase with average complexity — such as “Correct Horse Battery Staple” is only secure against online attacks, and that its roughly 40 bits of randomness or “entropy” means a graphics card can blow through it in no time.

“An Nvidia 3090 can do roughly 4 million [password guesses] per second with 1000 iterations, but that would go down to 8 thousand per second with 500,000 iterations, which is why iteration count matters so much,” Weaver said. “So a combination of ‘not THAT strong of a password’ and ‘old vault’ and ‘low iteration count’ would make it theoretically crackable but real work, but the work is worth it given the targets.”

Reached by KrebsOnSecurity, Palant said he never received a response from LastPass about why the company apparently failed to migrate some number of customers to more secure account settings.

“I know exactly as much as everyone else,” Palant wrote in reply. “LastPass published some additional information in March. This finally answered the questions about the timeline of their breach – meaning which users are affected. It also made obvious that business customers are very much at risk here, Federated Login Services being highly compromised in this breach (LastPass downplaying as usual of course).”

Palant said upon logging into his LastPass account a few days ago, he found his master password was still set at 5,000 iterations.


KrebsOnSecurity interviewed one of the victims tracked down by Monahan, a software engineer and startup founder who recently was robbed of approximately $3.4 million worth of different cryptocurrencies. The victim agreed to tell his story in exchange for anonymity because he is still trying to claw back his losses. We’ll refer to him here as “Connor” (not his real name).

Connor said he began using LastPass roughly a decade ago, and that he also stored the seed phrase for his primary cryptocurrency wallet inside of LastPass. Connor chose to protect his LastPass password vault with an eight character master password that included numbers and symbols (~50 bits of entropy).

“I thought at the time that the bigger risk was losing a piece of paper with my seed phrase on it,” Connor said. “I had it in a bank security deposit box before that, but then I started thinking, ‘Hey, the bank might close or burn down and I could lose my seed phrase.'”

Those seed phrases sat in his LastPass vault for years. Then, early on the morning of Sunday, Aug. 27, 2023, Connor was awoken by a service he’d set up to monitor his cryptocurrency addresses for any unusual activity: Someone was draining funds from his accounts, and fast.

Like other victims interviewed for this story, Connor didn’t suffer the usual indignities that typically presage a cryptocurrency robbery, such as account takeovers of his email inbox or mobile phone number.

Connor said he doesn’t know the number of iterations his master password was given originally, or what it was set at when the LastPass user vault data was stolen last year. But he said he recently logged into his LastPass account and the system forced him to upgrade to the new 600,000 iterations setting.

“Because I set up my LastPass account so early, I’m pretty sure I had whatever weak settings or iterations it originally had,” he said.

Connor said he’s kicking himself because he recently started the process of migrating his cryptocurrency to a new wallet protected by a new seed phrase. But he never finished that migration process. And then he got hacked.

“I’d set up a brand new wallet with new keys,” he said. “I had that ready to go two months ago, but have been procrastinating moving things to the new wallet.”

Connor has been exceedingly lucky in regaining access to some of his stolen millions in cryptocurrency. The Internet is swimming with con artists masquerading as legitimate cryptocurrency recovery experts. To make matters worse, because time is so critical in these crypto heists, many victims turn to the first quasi-believable expert who offers help.

Instead, several friends steered Connor to, a cryptocurrency recovery firm that employs several custom techniques to help clients claw back stolen funds — particularly those on the Ethereum blockchain.

According to Connor, Flashbots helped rescue approximately $1.5 million worth of the $3.4 million in cryptocurrency value that was suddenly swept out of his account roughly a week ago. Lucky for him, Connor had some of his assets tied up in a type of digital loan that allowed him to borrow against his various cryptocurrency assets.

Without giving away too many details about how they clawed back the funds, here’s a high level summary: When the crooks who stole Connor’s seed phrase sought to extract value from these loans, they were borrowing the maximum amount of credit that he hadn’t already used. But Connor said that left open an avenue for some of that value to be recaptured, basically by repaying the loan in many small, rapid chunks.


According to MetaMask’s Monahan, users who stored any important passwords with LastPass — particularly those related to cryptocurrency accounts — should change those credentials immediately, and migrate any crypto holdings to new offline hardware wallets.

“Really the ONLY thing you need to read is this,” Monahan pleaded to her 70,000 followers on Twitter/X: “PLEASE DON’T KEEP ALL YOUR ASSETS IN A SINGLE KEY OR SECRET PHRASE FOR YEARS. THE END. Split up your assets. Get a hw [hardware] wallet. Migrate. Now.”

If you also had passwords tied to banking or retirement accounts, or even just important email accounts — now would be a good time to change those credentials as well.

I’ve never been comfortable recommending password managers, because I’ve never seriously used them myself. Something about putting all your eggs in one basket. Heck, I’m so old-fashioned that most of my important passwords are written down and tucked away in safe places.

But I recognize this antiquated approach to password management is not for everyone. Connor says he now uses 1Password, a competing password manager that recently earned the best overall marks from Wired and The New York Times.

1Password says that three things are needed to decrypt your information: The encrypted data itself, your account password, and your Secret Key. Only you know your account password, and your Secret Key is generated locally during setup.

“The two are combined on-device to encrypt your vault data and are never sent to 1Password,” explains a 1Password blog post ‘What If 1Password Gets Hacked?‘ “Only the encrypted vault data lives on our servers, so neither 1Password nor an attacker who somehow manages to guess or steal your account password would be able to access your vaults – or what’s inside them.

Weaver said that Secret Key adds an extra level of randomness to all user master passwords that LastPass didn’t have.

“With LastPass, the idea is the user’s password vault is encrypted with a cryptographic hash (H) of the user’s passphrase,” Weaver said. “The problem is a hash of the user’s passphrase is remarkably weak on older LastPass vaults with master passwords that do not have many iterations. 1Password uses H(random-key||password) to generate the password, and it is why you have the QR code business when adding a new device.”

Weaver said LastPass deserves blame for not having upgraded iteration counts for all users a long time ago, and called the latest forced upgrades “a stunning indictment of the negligence on the part of LastPass.”

“That they never even notified all those with iteration counts of less than 100,000 — who are really vulnerable to brute force even with 8-character random passwords or ‘correct horse battery staple’ type passphrases — is outright negligence,” Weaver said. “I would personally advocate that nobody ever uses LastPass again: Not because they were hacked. Not because they had an architecture (unlike 1Password) that makes such hacking a problem. But because of their consistent refusal to address how they screwed up and take proactive efforts to protect their customers.”

Bax and Monahan both acknowledged that their research alone can probably never conclusively tie dozens of high-dollar crypto heists over the past year to the LastPass breach. But Bax says at this point he doesn’t see any other possible explanation.

“Some might say it’s dangerous to assert a strong connection here, but I’d say it’s dangerous to assert there isn’t one,” he said. “I was arguing with my fiance about this last night. She’s waiting for LastPass to tell her to change everything. Meanwhile, I’m telling her to do it now.”

Why is .US Being Used to Phish So Many of Us?

1 September 2023 at 15:38

Domain names ending in “.US” — the top-level domain for the United States — are among the most prevalent in phishing scams, new research shows. This is noteworthy because .US is overseen by the U.S. government, which is frequently the target of phishing domains ending in .US. Also, .US domains are only supposed to be available to U.S. citizens and to those who can demonstrate that they have a physical presence in the United States.

.US is the “country code top-level domain” or ccTLD of the United States. Most countries have their own ccTLDs: .MX for Mexico, for example, or .CA for Canada. But few other major countries in the world have anywhere near as many phishing domains each year as .US.

That’s according to The Interisle Consulting Group, which gathers phishing data from multiple industry sources and publishes an annual report on the latest trends. Interisle’s newest study examined six million phishing reports between May 1, 2022 and April 30, 2023, and found 30,000 .US phishing domains.

.US is overseen by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), an executive branch agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce. However, NTIA currently contracts out the management of the .US domain to GoDaddy, by far the world’s largest domain registrar.

Under NTIA regulations, the administrator of the .US registry must take certain steps to verify that their customers actually reside in the United States, or own organizations based in the U.S. But Interisle found that whatever GoDaddy was doing to manage that vetting process wasn’t working.

“The .US ‘nexus’ requirement theoretically limits registrations to parties with a national connection, but .US had very high numbers of phishing domains,” Interisle wrote. “This indicates a possible problem with the administration or application of the nexus requirements.”

Dean Marks is emeritus executive director for a group called the Coalition for Online Accountability, which has been critical of the NTIA’s stewardship of .US. Marks says virtually all European Union member state ccTLDs that enforce nexus restrictions also have massively lower levels of abuse due to their policies and oversight.

“Even very large ccTLDs, like .de for Germany — which has a far larger market share of domain name registrations than .US — have very low levels of abuse, including phishing and malware,” Marks told KrebsOnSecurity. “In my view, this situation with .US should not be acceptable to the U.S. government overall, nor to the US public.”

Marks said there are very few phishing domains ever registered in other ccTLDs that also restrict registrations to their citizens, such as .HU (Hungary), .NZ (New Zealand), and .FI (Finland), where a connection to the country, a proof of identity, or evidence of incorporation are required.

“Or .LK (Sri Lanka), where the acceptable use policy includes a ‘lock and suspend’ if domains are reported for suspicious activity,” Marks said. “These ccTLDs make a strong case for validating domain registrants in the interest of public safety.”

Sadly, .US has been a cesspool of phishing activity for many years. As far back as 2018, Interisle found .US domains were the worst in the world for spam, botnet (attack infrastructure for DDOS etc.) and illicit or harmful content. Back then, .US was being operated by a different contractor.

In response to questions from KrebsOnSecurity, GoDaddy said all .US registrants must certify that they meet the NTIA’s nexus requirements. But this appears to be little more than an affirmative response that is already pre-selected for all new registrants.

Attempting to register a .US domain through GoDaddy, for example, leads to a U.S. Registration Information page that auto-populates the nexus attestation field with the response, “I am a citizen of the US.” Other options include, “I am a permanent resident of the US,” and “My primary domicile is in the US.” It currently costs just $4.99 to obtain a .US domain through GoDaddy.

GoDaddy said it also conducts a scan of selected registration request information, and conducts “spot checks” on registrant information.

“We conduct regular reviews, per policy, of registration data within the Registry database to determine Nexus compliance with ongoing communications to registrars and registrants,” the company said in a written statement.

GoDaddy says it “is committed to supporting a safer online environment and proactively addressing this issue by assessing it against our own anti-abuse mitigation system.”

“We stand against DNS abuse in any form and maintain multiple systems and protocols to protect all the TLDs we operate,” the statement continued. “We will continue to work with registrars, cybersecurity firms and other stakeholders to make progress with this complex challenge.”

Interisle found significant numbers of .US domains were registered to attack some of the United States’ most prominent companies, including Bank of America, Amazon, AppleAT&T, Citi, Comcast, Microsoft, Meta, and Target.

“Ironically, at least 109 of the .US domains in our data were used to attack the United States government, specifically the United States Postal Service and its customers,” Interisle wrote. “.US domains were also used to attack foreign government operations: six .US domains were used to attack Australian government services, six attacked Great’s Britain’s Royal Mail, one attacked Canada Post, and one attacked the Denmark Tax Authority.”

The NTIA recently published a proposal that would allow GoDaddy to redact registrant data from WHOIS registration records. The current charter for .US specifies that all .US registration records be public.

Interisle argues that without more stringent efforts to verify a United States nexus for new .US domain registrants, the NTIA’s proposal will make it even more difficult to identify phishers and verify registrants’ identities and nexus qualifications.

In a written statement, the NTIA said DNS abuse is a priority issue for the agency, and that NTIA supports “evidence-based policymaking.”

“We look forward to reviewing the report and will engage with our contractor for the .US domain on steps that we can take not only to address phishing, but the other forms of DNS abuse as well,” the statement reads.

Interisle sources its phishing data from several places, including the Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG), OpenPhish, PhishTank, and Spamhaus. For more phishing facts, see Interisle’s 2023 Phishing Landscape report (PDF).’

Update, Sept. 5, 1:44 p.m. ET: Updated story with statement provided today by the NTIA.

U.S. Hacks QakBot, Quietly Removes Botnet Infections

29 August 2023 at 18:35

The U.S. government today announced a coordinated crackdown against QakBot, a complex malware family used by multiple cybercrime groups to lay the groundwork for ransomware infections. The international law enforcement operation involved seizing control over the botnet’s online infrastructure, and quietly removing the Qakbot malware from tens of thousands of infected Microsoft Windows computers.

Dutch authorities inside a data center with servers tied to the botnet. Image: Dutch National Police.

In an international operation announced today dubbed “Duck Hunt,” the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) said they obtained court orders to remove Qakbot from infected devices, and to seize servers used to control the botnet.

“This is the most significant technological and financial operation ever led by the Department of Justice against a botnet,” said Martin Estrada, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of California, at a press conference this morning in Los Angeles.

Estrada said Qakbot has been implicated in 40 different ransomware attacks over the past 18 months, intrusions that collectively cost victims more than $58 million in losses.

Emerging in 2007 as a banking trojan, QakBot (a.k.a. Qbot and Pinkslipbot) has morphed into an advanced malware strain now used by multiple cybercriminal groups to prepare newly compromised networks for ransomware infestations. QakBot is most commonly delivered via email phishing lures disguised as something legitimate and time-sensitive, such as invoices or work orders.

Don Alway, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles field office, said federal investigators gained access to an online panel that allowed cybercrooks to monitor and control the actions of the botnet. From there, investigators obtained court-ordered approval to instruct all infected systems to uninstall Qakbot and to disconnect themselves from the botnet, Alway said.

The DOJ says their access to the botnet’s control panel revealed that Qakbot had been used to infect more than 700,000 machines in the past year alone, including 200,000 systems in the United States.

Working with law enforcement partners in France, Germany, Latvia, the Netherlands, Romania and the United Kingdom, the DOJ said it was able to seize more than 50 Internet servers tied to the malware network, and nearly $9 million in ill-gotten cryptocurrency from QakBot’s cybercriminal overlords. The DOJ declined to say whether any suspects were questioned or arrested in connection with Qakbot, citing an ongoing investigation.

According to recent figures from the managed security firm Reliaquest, QakBot is by far the most prevalent malware “loader” — malicious software used to secure access to a hacked network and help drop additional malware payloads. Reliaquest says QakBot infections accounted for nearly one-third of all loaders observed in the wild during the first six months of this year.

Qakbot/Qbot was once again the top malware loader observed in the wild in the first six months of 2023. Source:

Researchers at AT&T Alien Labs say the crooks responsible for maintaining the QakBot botnet have rented their creation to various cybercrime groups over the years. More recently, however, QakBot has been closely associated with ransomware attacks from Black Basta, a prolific Russian-language criminal group that was thought to have spun off from the Conti ransomware gang in early 2022.

Today’s operation is not the first time the U.S. government has used court orders to remotely disinfect systems compromised with malware. In May 2023, the DOJ quietly removed malware from computers around the world infected by the “Snake” malware, an even older malware family that has been tied to Russian intelligence agencies.

Documents published by the DOJ in support of today’s takedown state that beginning on Aug. 25, 2023, law enforcement gained access to the Qakbot botnet, redirected botnet traffic to and through servers controlled by law enforcement, and instructed Qakbot-infected computers to download a Qakbot Uninstall file that uninstalled Qakbot malware from the infected computer.

“The Qakbot Uninstall file did not remediate other malware that was already installed on infected computers,” the government explained. “Instead, it was designed to prevent additional Qakbot malware from being installed on the infected computer by untethering the victim computer from the Qakbot botnet.”

The DOJ said it also recovered more than 6.5 million stolen passwords and other credentials, and that it has shared this information with two websites that let users check to see if their credentials were exposed: Have I Been Pwned, and a “Check Your Hack” website erected by the Dutch National Police.

Further reading:

The DOJ’s application for a search warrant application tied to Qakbot uninstall file (PDF)
The search warrant application connected to QakBot server infrastructure in the United States (PDF)
The government’s application for a warrant to seize virtual currency from the QakBot operators (PDF)
A technical breakdown from SecureWorks

Kroll Employee SIM-Swapped for Crypto Investor Data

25 August 2023 at 18:05

Security consulting giant Kroll disclosed today that a SIM-swapping attack against one of its employees led to the theft of user information for multiple cryptocurrency platforms that are relying on Kroll services in their ongoing bankruptcy proceedings. And there are indications that fraudsters may already be exploiting the stolen data in phishing attacks.

Cryptocurrency lender BlockFi and the now-collapsed crypto trading platform FTX each disclosed data breaches this week thanks to a recent SIM-swapping attack targeting an employee of Kroll — the company handling both firms’ bankruptcy restructuring.

In a statement released today, New York City-based Kroll said it was informed that on Aug. 19, 2023, someone targeted a T-Mobile phone number belonging to a Kroll employee “in a highly sophisticated ‘SIM swapping’ attack.”

“Specifically, T-Mobile, without any authority from or contact with Kroll or its employees, transferred that employee’s phone number to the threat actor’s phone at their request,” the statement continues. “As a result, it appears the threat actor gained access to certain files containing personal information of bankruptcy claimants in the matters of BlockFi, FTX and Genesis.”

T-Mobile has not yet responded to requests for comment.

Countless websites and online services use SMS text messages for both password resets and multi-factor authentication. This means that stealing someone’s phone number often can let cybercriminals hijack the target’s entire digital life in short order — including access to any financial, email and social media accounts tied to that phone number.

SIM-swapping groups will often call employees on their mobile devices, pretend to be someone from the company’s IT department, and then try to get the employee to visit a phishing website that mimics the company’s login page.

Multiple SIM-swapping gangs have had great success using this method to target T-Mobile employees for the purposes of reselling a cybercrime service that can be hired to divert any T-Mobile user’s text messages and phone calls to another device.

In February 2023, KrebsOnSecurity chronicled SIM-swapping attacks claimed by these groups against T-Mobile employees in more than 100 separate incidents in the second half of 2022. The average cost to SIM swap any T-Mobile phone number was approximately $1,500.

The unfortunate result of the SIM-swap against the Kroll employee is that people who had financial ties to BlockFi, FTX, or Genesis now face increased risk of becoming targets of SIM-swapping and phishing attacks themselves.

And there is some indication this is already happening. Multiple readers who said they got breach notices from Kroll today also shared phishing emails they received this morning that spoofed FTX and claimed, “You have been identified as an eligible client to begin withdrawing digital assets from your FTX account.”

A phishing message targeting FTX users that went out en masse today.

A major portion of Kroll’s business comes from helping organizations manage cyber risk. Kroll is often called in to investigate data breaches, and it also sells identity protection services to companies that recently experienced a breach and are grasping at ways to demonstrate that they doing something to protect their customers from further harm.

Kroll did not respond to questions. But it’s a good bet that BlockFi, FTX and Genesis customers will soon enjoy yet another offering of free credit monitoring as a result of the T-Mobile SIM swap.

Kroll’s website says it employs “elite cyber risk leaders uniquely positioned to deliver end-to-end cyber security services worldwide.” Apparently, these elite cyber risk leaders did not consider the increased attack surface presented by their employees using T-Mobile for wireless service.

The SIM-swapping attack against Kroll is a timely reminder that you should do whatever you can to minimize your reliance on mobile phone companies for your security. For example, many online services require you to provide a phone number upon registering an account, but that number can often be removed from your profile afterwards.

Why do I suggest this? Many online services allow users to reset their passwords just by clicking a link sent via SMS, and this unfortunately widespread practice has turned mobile phone numbers into de facto identity documents. Which means losing control over your phone number thanks to an unauthorized SIM swap or mobile number port-out, divorce, job termination or financial crisis can be devastating.

If you haven’t done so lately, take a moment to inventory your most important online accounts, and see how many of them can still have their password reset by receiving an SMS at the phone number on file. This may require stepping through the website’s account recovery or lost password flow.

If the account that stores your mobile phone number does not allow you to delete your number, check to see whether there is an option to disallow SMS or phone calls for authentication and account recovery. If more secure options are available, such as a security key or a one-time code from a mobile authentication app, please take advantage of those instead. The website is a good starting point for this analysis.

Now, you might think that the mobile providers would share some culpability when a customer suffers a financial loss because a mobile store employee got tricked into transferring that customer’s phone number to criminals. But earlier this year, a California judge dismissed a lawsuit against AT&T that stemmed from a 2017 SIM-swapping attack which netted the thieves more than $24 million in cryptocurrency.

Tourists Give Themselves Away by Looking Up. So Do Most Network Intruders.

22 August 2023 at 17:45

In large metropolitan areas, tourists are often easy to spot because they’re far more inclined than locals to gaze upward at the surrounding skyscrapers. Security experts say this same tourist dynamic is a dead giveaway in virtually all computer intrusions that lead to devastating attacks like data theft and ransomware, and that more organizations should set simple virtual tripwires that sound the alarm when authorized users and devices are spotted exhibiting this behavior.

In a blog post published last month, Cisco Talos said it was seeing a worrisome “increase in the rate of high-sophistication attacks on network infrastructure.” Cisco’s warning comes amid a flurry of successful data ransom and state-sponsored cyber espionage attacks targeting some of the most well-defended networks on the planet.

But despite their increasing complexity, a great many initial intrusions that lead to data theft could be nipped in the bud if more organizations started looking for the telltale signs of newly-arrived cybercriminals behaving like network tourists, Cisco says.

“One of the most important things to talk about here is that in each of the cases we’ve seen, the threat actors are taking the type of ‘first steps’ that someone who wants to understand (and control) your environment would take,” Cisco’s Hazel Burton wrote. “Examples we have observed include threat actors performing a ‘show config,’ ‘show interface,’ ‘show route,’ ‘show arp table’ and a ‘show CDP neighbor.’ All these actions give the attackers a picture of a router’s perspective of the network, and an understanding of what foothold they have.”

Cisco’s alert concerned espionage attacks from China and Russia that abused vulnerabilities in aging, end-of-life network routers. But at a very important level, it doesn’t matter how or why the attackers got that initial foothold on your network.

It might be zero-day vulnerabilities in your network firewall or file-transfer appliance. Your more immediate and primary concern has to be: How quickly can you detect and detach that initial foothold?

The same tourist behavior that Cisco described attackers exhibiting vis-a-vis older routers is also incredibly common early on in ransomware and data ransom attacks — which often unfurl in secret over days or weeks as attackers methodically identify and compromise a victim’s key network assets.

These virtual hostage situations usually begin with the intruders purchasing access to the target’s network from dark web brokers who resell access to stolen credentials and compromised computers. As a result, when those stolen resources first get used by would-be data thieves, almost invariably the attackers will run a series of basic commands asking the local system to confirm exactly who and where they are on the victim’s network.

This fundamental reality about modern cyberattacks — that cybercriminals almost always orient themselves by “looking up” who and where they are upon entering a foreign network for the first time — forms the business model of an innovative security company called Thinkst, which gives away easy-to-use tripwires or “canaries” that can fire off an alert whenever all sorts of suspicious activity is witnessed.

“Many people have pointed out that there are a handful of commands that are overwhelmingly run by attackers on compromised hosts (and seldom ever by regular users/usage),” the Thinkst website explains. “Reliably alerting when a user on your code-sign server runs whoami.exe can mean the difference between catching a compromise in week-1 (before the attackers dig in) and learning about the attack on CNN.”

These canaries — or “canary tokens” — are meant to be embedded inside regular files, acting much like a web beacon or web bug that tracks when someone opens an email.

The Canary Tokens website from Thinkst Canary lists nearly two-dozen free customizable canaries.

“Imagine doing that, but for file reads, database queries, process executions or patterns in log files,” the Canary Tokens documentation explains. “Canarytokens does all this and more, letting you implant traps in your production systems rather than setting up separate honeypots.”

Thinkst operates alongside a burgeoning industry offering so-called “deception” or “honeypot” services — those designed to confuse, disrupt and entangle network intruders. But in an interview with KrebsOnSecurity, Thinkst founder and CEO Haroon Meer said most deception techniques involve some degree of hubris.

“Meaning, you’ll have deception teams in your network playing spy versus spy with people trying to break in, and it becomes this whole counterintelligence thing,” Meer said. “Nobody really has time for that. Instead, we are saying literally the opposite: That you’ve probably got all these [security improvement] projects that are going to take forever. But while you’re doing all that, just drop these 10 canaries, because everything else is going to take a long time to do.”

The idea here is to lay traps in sensitive areas of your network or web applications where few authorized users should ever trod. Importantly, the canary tokens themselves are useless to an attacker. For example, that AWS canary token sure looks like the digital keys to your cloud, but the token itself offers no access. It’s just a lure for the bad guys, and you get an alert when and if it is ever touched.

One nice thing about canary tokens is that Thinkst gives them away for free. Head over to, and choose from a drop-down menu of available tokens, including:

-a web bug / URL token, designed to alert when a particular URL is visited;
-a DNS token, which alerts when a hostname is requested;
-an AWS token, which alerts when a specific Amazon Web Services key is used;
-a “custom exe” token, to alert when a specific Windows executable file or DLL is run;
-a “sensitive command” token, to alert when a suspicious Windows command is run.
-a Microsoft Excel/Word token, which alerts when a specific Excel or Word file is accessed.

Much like a “wet paint” sign often encourages people to touch a freshly painted surface anyway, attackers often can’t help themselves when they enter a foreign network and stumble upon what appear to be key digital assets, Meer says.

“If an attacker lands on your server and finds a key to your cloud environment, it’s really hard for them not to try it once,” Meer said. “Also, when these sorts of actors do land in a network, they have to orient themselves, and while doing that they are going to trip canaries.”

Meer says canary tokens are as likely to trip up attackers as they are “red teams,” security experts hired or employed by companies seeking to continuously probe their own computer systems and networks for security weaknesses.

“The concept and use of canary tokens has made me very hesitant to use credentials gained during an engagement, versus finding alternative means to an end goal,” wrote Shubham Shah, a penetration tester and co-founder of the security firm Assetnote. “If the aim is to increase the time taken for attackers, canary tokens work well.”

Thinkst makes money by selling Canary Tools, which are honeypots that emulate full blown systems like Windows servers or IBM mainframes. They deploy in minutes and include a personalized, private Canarytoken server.

“If you’ve got a sophisticated defense team, you can start putting these things in really interesting places,” Meer said. “Everyone says their stuff is simple, but we obsess over it. It’s really got to be so simple that people can’t mess it up. And if it works, it’s the best bang for your security buck you’re going to get.”

Further reading:

Dark Reading: Credential Canaries Create Minefield for Attackers
NCC Group: Extending a Thinkst Canary to Become an Interactive Honeypot
Cruise Automation’s experience deploying canary tokens

Karma Catches Up to Global Phishing Service 16Shop

17 August 2023 at 19:58

You’ve probably never heard of “16Shop,” but there’s a good chance someone using it has tried to phish you.

A 16Shop phishing page spoofing Apple and targeting Japanese users. Image:

The international police organization INTERPOL said last week it had shuttered the notorious 16Shop, a popular phishing-as-a-service platform launched in 2017 that made it simple for even complete novices to conduct complex and convincing phishing scams. INTERPOL said authorities in Indonesia arrested the 21-year-old proprietor and one of his alleged facilitators, and that a third suspect was apprehended in Japan.

The INTERPOL statement says the platform sold hacking tools to compromise more than 70,000 users in 43 countries. Given how long 16Shop has been around and how many paying customers it enjoyed over the years, that number is almost certainly highly conservative.

Also, the sale of “hacking tools” doesn’t quite capture what 16Shop was all about: It was a fully automated phishing platform that gave its thousands of customers a series of brand-specific phishing kits to use, and provided the domain names needed to host the phishing pages and receive any stolen credentials.

Security experts investigating 16Shop found the service used an application programming interface (API) to manage its users, an innovation that allowed its proprietors to shut off access to customers who failed to pay a monthly fee, or for those attempting to copy or pirate the phishing kit.

16Shop also localized phishing pages in multiple languages, and the service would display relevant phishing content depending on the victim’s geolocation.

Various 16Shop lures for Apple users in different languages. Image: Akamai.

For example, in 2019 McAfee found that for targets in Japan, the 16Shop kit would also collect Web ID and Card Password, while US victims will be asked for their Social Security Number.

“Depending on location, 16Shop will also collect ID numbers (including Civil ID, National ID, and Citizen ID), passport numbers, social insurance numbers, sort codes, and credit limits,” McAfee wrote.

In addition, 16Shop employed various tricks to help its users’ phishing pages stay off the radar of security firms, including a local “blacklist” of Internet addresses tied to security companies, and a feature that allowed users to block entire Internet address ranges from accessing phishing pages.

The INTERPOL announcement does not name any of the suspects arrested in connection with the 16Shop investigation. However, a number of security firms — including Akamai, McAfee and ZeroFox, previously connected the service to a young Indonesian man named Riswanda Noor Saputra, who sold 16Shop under the hacker handle “Devilscream.”

According to the Indonesian security blog, Saputra admitted being the administrator of 16Shop, but told the publication he handed the project off to others by early 2020.

16Shop documentation instructing operators on how to deploy the kit. Image: ZeroFox.

Nevertheless, Cyberthreat reported that Devilscream was arrested by Indonesian police in late 2021 as part of a collaboration between INTERPOL and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Still, researchers who tracked 16Shop since its inception say Devilscream was not the original proprietor of the phishing platform, and he may not be the last.


It is not uncommon for cybercriminals to accidentally infect their own machines with password-stealing malware, and that is exactly what seems to have happened with one of the more recent administrators of 16Shop.

Constella Intelligence, a data breach and threat actor research platform, now allows users to cross-reference popular cybercrime websites and denizens of these forums with inadvertent malware infections by information-stealing trojans. A search in Constella on 16Shop’s domain name shows that in mid-2022, a key administrator of the phishing service infected their Microsoft Windows desktop computer with the Redline information stealer trojan — apparently by downloading a cracked (and secretly backdoored) copy of Adobe Photoshop.

Redline infections steal gobs of data from the victim machine, including a list of recent downloads, stored passwords and authentication cookies, as well as browser bookmarks and auto-fill data. Those records indicate the 16Shop admin used the nicknames “Rudi” and “Rizki/Rizky,” and maintained several Facebook profiles under these monikers.

It appears this user’s full name (or at least part of it) is Rizky Mauluna Sidik, and they are from Bandung in West Java, Indonesia. One of this user’s Facebook pages says Rizky is the chief executive officer and founder of an entity called BandungXploiter, whose Facebook page indicates it is a group focused mainly on hacking and defacing websites.

A LinkedIn profile for Rizky says he is a backend Web developer in Bandung who earned a bachelor’s degree in information technology in 2020. Mr. Rizky did not respond to requests for comment.

Diligere, Equity-Invest Are New Firms of U.K. Con Man

14 August 2023 at 20:13

John Clifton Davies, a convicted fraudster estimated to have bilked dozens of technology startups out of more than $30 million through phony investment schemes, has a brand new pair of scam companies that are busy dashing startup dreams: A fake investment firm called Equity-Invest[.]ch, and Diligere[.], a scam due diligence company that Equity-Invest insists all investment partners use.

A native of the United Kingdom, Mr. Davies absconded from justice before being convicted on multiple counts of fraud in 2015. Prior to his conviction, Davies served 16 months in jail before being cleared on suspicion of murdering his third wife on their honeymoon in India.

The scam artist John Bernard (left) in a recent Zoom call, and a photo of John Clifton Davies from 2015.

John Clifton Davies was convicted in 2015 of swindling businesses throughout the U.K. that were struggling financially and seeking to restructure their debt. For roughly six years, Davies ran a series of firms that pretended to offer insolvency services. Instead, he simply siphoned what little remaining money these companies had, spending the stolen funds on lavish cars, home furnishings, vacations and luxury watches.

In a three-part series published in 2020, KrebsOnSecurity exposed how Davies — wanted by authorities in the U.K. — had fled the country, taken on the surname Bernard, remarried, and moved to his new (and fourth) wife’s hometown in Ukraine.

After eluding justice in the U.K., Davies reinvented himself as The Private Office of John Bernard, pretending to be a billionaire Swiss investor who made his fortunes in the dot-com boom 20 years ago and who was seeking private equity investment opportunities.

In case after case, Bernard would promise to invest millions in hi-tech startups, only to insist that companies pay tens of thousands of dollars worth of due diligence fees up front. However, the due diligence company he insisted on using — another Swiss firm called The Inside Knowledge — also was secretly owned by Bernard, who would invariably pull out of the deal after receiving the due diligence money.

Bernard found a constant stream of new marks by offering extraordinarily generous finders fees to investment brokers who could introduce him to companies seeking an infusion of cash. Inside Knowledge and The Private Office both closed up shop not long after being exposed here in 2020.

In April 2023, KrebsOnSecurity wrote about Codes2You, a recent Davies venture which purports to be a “full cycle software development company” based in the U.K. The company’s website no longer lists any of Davies’ known associates, but the site does still reference software and cloud services tied to those associates — including MySolve, a “multi-feature platform for insolvency practitioners.”

Earlier this month, KrebsOnSecurity heard from an investment broker who found out his client had paid more than $50,000 in due diligence fees related to a supposed multi-million dollar investment offer from a Swiss concern called Equity-Invest[.]ch.

The investment broker, who spoke on condition that neither he nor his client be named, said Equity-Invest began getting cold feet after his client plunked down the due diligence fees.

“Things started to go sideways when the investor purportedly booked a trip to the US to meet the team but canceled last minute because ‘his pregnant wife got in a car accident,'” the broker explained. “After that, he was radio silent until the contract expired.”

The broker said he grew suspicious when he learned that the Equity-Invest domain name was less than six months old. The broker’s suspicions were confirmed after he discovered the due diligence company that Equity-Invest insisted on using — Diligere[.] — included an email address on its homepage for another entity called Ardelis Solutions.

A corporate entity in the UK called Ardelis Solutions was key to showing the connection to Davies’ former scam investment and due diligence firms in the Codes2You investigation published earlier this year.

Although Diligere’s website claims the due diligence firm has “13 years of experiance” [sic], its domain name was only registered in April 2023. What’s more, virtually all of the vapid corporate-speak published on Diligere’s homepage is identical to text on the now-defunct InsideKnowledge[.]ch — the fake due diligence firm secretly owned for many years by The Private Office of John Bernard (John Clifton Davies).

A snippet of text from the now-defunct website of the fake Swiss investor John Bernard, in real life John Clifton Davies.

“Our steadfast conviction and energy for results is what makes us stand out,” both sites state. “We care for our clients’ and their businesses, we share their ambitions and align our goals to complement their objectives. Our clients know we’re in this together. We work in close partnership with our clients to deliver palpable results regardless of geography, complexity or controversy.”

The copy on Diligere’s homepage is identical to that once on Insideknowledge[.]com, a phony due diligence company run by John Clifton Davies.

Requests for comment sent to the contact address listed on Diligere — info@ardelissolutions[.]com — went unreturned. Equity-Invest did not respond to requests for comment.

Microsoft Patch Tuesday, August 2023 Edition

9 August 2023 at 02:22

Microsoft Corp. today issued software updates to plug more than 70 security holes in its Windows operating systems and related products, including multiple zero-day vulnerabilities currently being exploited in the wild.

Six of the flaws fixed today earned Microsoft’s “critical” rating, meaning malware or miscreants could use them to install software on a vulnerable Windows system without any help from users.

Last month, Microsoft acknowledged a series of zero-day vulnerabilities in a variety of Microsoft products that were discovered and exploited in-the-wild attacks. They were assigned a single placeholder designation of CVE-2023-36884.

Satnam Narang, senior staff research engineer at Tenable, said the August patch batch addresses CVE-2023-36884, which involves bypassing the Windows Search Security feature.

“Microsoft also released ADV230003, a defense-in-depth update designed to stop the attack chain associated that leads to the exploitation of this CVE,” Narang said. “Given that this has already been successfully exploited in the wild as a zero-day, organizations should prioritize patching this vulnerability and applying the defense-in-depth update as soon as possible.”

Redmond patched another flaw that is already seeing active attacks — CVE-2023-38180 — a weakness in .NET and Visual Studio that leads to a denial-of-service condition on vulnerable servers.

“Although the attacker would need to be on the same network as the target system, this vulnerability does not require the attacker to have acquired user privileges,” on the target system, wrote Nikolas Cemerikic, cyber security engineer at Immersive Labs.

Narang said the software giant also patched six vulnerabilities in Microsoft Exchange Server, including CVE-2023-21709, an elevation of privilege flaw that was assigned a CVSSv3 (threat) score of 9.8 out of a possible 10, even though Microsoft rates it as an important flaw, not critical.

“An unauthenticated attacker could exploit this vulnerability by conducting a brute-force attack against valid user accounts,” Narang said. “Despite the high rating, the belief is that brute-force attacks won’t be successful against accounts with strong passwords. However, if weak passwords are in use, this would make brute-force attempts more successful. The remaining five vulnerabilities range from a spoofing flaw and multiple remote code execution bugs, though the most severe of the bunch also require credentials for a valid account.”

Experts at security firm Automox called attention to CVE-2023-36910, a remote code execution bug in the Microsoft Message Queuing service that can be exploited remotely and without privileges to execute code on vulnerable Windows 10, 11 and Server 2008-2022 systems. Microsoft says it considers this vulnerability “less likely” to be exploited, and Automox says while the message queuing service is not enabled by default in Windows and is less common today, any device with it enabled is at critical risk.

Separately, Adobe has issued a critical security update for Acrobat and Reader that resolves at least 30 security vulnerabilities in those products. Adobe said it is not aware of any exploits in the wild targeting these flaws. The company also issued security updates for Adobe Commerce and Adobe Dimension.

If you experience glitches or problems installing any of these patches this month, please consider leaving a comment about it below; there’s a fair chance other readers have experienced the same and may chime in here with useful tips.

Additional reading:

-SANS Internet Storm Center listing of each Microsoft vulnerability patched today, indexed by severity and affected component., which keeps tabs on any developing problems related to the availability or installation of these updates.