26
Nov 14

Skimmer Innovation: ‘Wiretapping’ ATMs

Banks in Europe are warning about the emergence of a rare, virtually invisible form of ATM skimmer involving a so-called “wiretapping” device that is inserted through a tiny hole cut in the cash machine’s front. The hole is covered up by a fake decal, and the thieves then use custom-made equipment to attach the device to ATM’s internal card reader.

According to the European ATM Security Team (EAST), a nonprofit that represents banks in 29 countries, financial institutions in two countries recently reported ATM attacks in which the card data was compromised internally by “wire-tapping” or “eavesdropping” on the customer transaction. The image below shows some criminal equipment used to perpetrate these eavesdropping attacks.

Equipment used by crooks to conduct "eavesdropping" or "wiretapping" attacks on ATMs.

Equipment used by crooks to conduct “eavesdropping” or “wiretapping” attacks on ATMs. Source: EAST.

“The criminals cut a hole in the fascia around the card reader where the decal is situated,” EAST described in a recent, non-public report. “A device is then inserted and connected internally onto the card reader, and the hole covered with a fake decal”
[pictured, bottom right].

Pictured above are what appear to be wires that are fed into the machine with some custom-made rods. It looks like the data is collected by removing the decal, fishing out the wire attached to the ATM’s card reader, and connecting it to a handheld data storage device.

I sought clarification from EAST about how the device works. Most skimmers are card slot overlay devices work by using a built-in component that reads the account data off of the magnetic stripe when the customer inserts the card. But Lachlan Gunn, EAST’s executive director, suggested that this device intercepts the card data from the legitimate card reader on the inside of the ATM. He described the wiretapping device this way:

“It’s where a tap is attached to the pre-read head or read head of the card reader,” Lachlan said. “The card data is then read through the tap. We still classify it as skimming, but technically the magnetic stripe [on the customer/victim’s card] is not directly skimmed as the data is intercepted.”

The last report in my ATM skimming series showcased some major innovations in so-called “insert skimmers,” card-skimming devices made to fix snugly and invisibly inside the throat of the card acceptance slot. EAST’s new report includes another, slightly more advanced, insert skimmer that’s being called an “insert transmitter skimmer.”

Like the one pictured below, an insert transmitter skimmer is made up of two steel plates and an internal battery that lasts approximately one to two weeks. “They do not store data, but transmit it directly to a receiving device — probably placed less than 1 meter from the ATM. Continue reading →


25
Nov 14

Adobe Pushes Critical Flash Patch

For the second time this month, Adobe has issued a security update for its Flash Player software. New versions are available for Windows, Mac and Linux versions of Flash. The patch provides additional protection on a vulnerability that Adobe fixed earlier this year for which attackers appear to have devised unique and active exploits.

brokenflash-aAdobe recommends users of the Adobe Flash Player desktop runtime for Windows and Macintosh update to v. 15.0.0.239 by visiting the Adobe Flash Player Download Center, or via the update mechanism within the product when prompted. Adobe Flash Player for Linux has been updated to v. 11.2.202.424. 

According to Adobe, these updates provide additional hardening against CVE-2014-8439, which was fixed in a Flash patch that the company released in October 2014. The bulletin for this update is here. Finnish security firm F-Secure says it reported the flaw to Adobe after receiving information from independent researcher Kafeine that indicated the vulnerability was being exploited in-the-wild by an exploit kit (malicious software designed to be stitched into hacked Web sites and foist malware on visitors via browser flaws like this one). Continue reading →


24
Nov 14

Spam Nation Book Tour Highlights

Greetings from sunny Austin, Texas, where I’m getting ready to wrap up a week-long book tour that began in New York City, then blazed through Chicago, San Francisco, and Seattle. I’ve been trying to tweet links to various media interviews about Spam Nation over the past week, but wanted to offer a more comprehensive account and to share some highlights of the tour.

For three days starting last Sunday, I was in New York City — doing a series of back-to-back television and radio interviews. Prior to leaving for New York, I taped television interviews with Jeffrey Brown at the PBS NewsHour; the first segment delves into some of the points touched on in the book, and the second piece is titled “Why it’s harder than you think to go ‘off the grid’.”

cbs-tm

On Monday, I was fortunate to once again be a guest on Terri Gross‘s show Fresh Air, which you can hear at this link. Tuesday morning began with a five-minute appearance on CBS This Morning, which included a sit-down with Charlie Rose, Gayle King and Norah O’Donnell. Later in the day, I was interviewed by the MarketPlace Tech ReportMSNBC’s The Cycle, as well as the Tavis Smiley show. Wednesday was a mercifully light day, with just two interviews: KGO-AM and the Jim Bohannon Radio Show. Continue reading →


21
Nov 14

Convicted ID Thief, Tax Fraudster Now Fugitive

In April 2014, this blog featured a story about Lance Ealy, an Ohio man arrested last year for buying Social Security numbers and banking information from an underground identity theft service that relied in part on data obtained through a company owned by big-three credit bureau Experian. Earlier this week, Ealy was convicted of using the data to fraudulently claim tax refunds with the IRS in the names of more than 175 U.S. citizens, but not before he snipped his monitoring anklet and skipped town.

Lance Ealy, in self-portrait he uploaded to twitter before absconding.

Lance Ealy, in selfie he uploaded to Twitter before absconding.

On Nov. 18, a jury in Ohio convicted Ealy, 28, on all 46 charges, including aggravated identity theft, and wire and mail fraud. Government prosecutors presented evidence that Ealy had purchased Social Security numbers and financial data on hundreds of consumers, using an identity theft service called Superget.info (later renamed Findget.me). The jury found that Ealy used that information to fraudulently file at least 179 tax refund requests with the Internal Revenue Service, and to open up bank accounts in other victims’ names — accounts he set up to receive and withdraw tens of thousand of dollars in refund payments from the IRS.

The identity theft service that Ealy used was dismantled in 2013, after investigators with the U.S. Secret Service arrested its proprietor and began tracking and finding many of his customers. Investigators later discovered that the service’s owner had obtained much of the consumer data from data brokers by posing as a private investigator based in the United States.

In reality, the owner of Superget.info was a Vietnamese man paying for his accounts at data brokers using cash wire transfers from a bank in Singapore. Among the companies that Ngo signed up with was Court Ventures, a California company that was bought by credit bureau Experian nine months before the government shut down Superget.info.

Court records show that Ealy went to great lengths to delay his trial, and even reached out to this reporter hoping that I would write about his allegations that everyone from his lawyer to the judge in the case was somehow biased against him or unfit to participate in his trial. Early on, Ealy fired his attorney, and opted to represent himself. When the court appointed him a public defender, Ealy again choose to represent himself.

“Mr. Ealy’s motions were in a lot of respects common delay tactics that defendants use to try to avoid the inevitability of a trial,” said Alex Sistla, an assistant U.S. attorney in Ohio who helped prosecute the case.

Ealy also continued to steal peoples’ identities while he was on trial (although no longer buying from Superget.info), according to the government. His bail was revoked for several months, but in October the judge in the case ordered him released on a surety bond. Continue reading →


18
Nov 14

Microsoft Releases Emergency Security Update

Microsoft today deviated from its regular pattern of releasing security updates on the second Tuesday of each month, pushing out an emergency patch to plug a security hole in all supported versions of Windows. The company urged Windows users to install the update as quickly as possible, noting that miscreants already are exploiting the weaknesses to launch targeted attacks.

brokenwindowsThe update (MS14-068) addresses a bug in a Windows component called Microsoft Windows Kerberos KDC, which handles authenticating Windows PCs on a local network. It is somewhat less of a problem for Windows home users (it is only rated critical for server versions of Windows) but it poses a serious threat to organizations. According to security vendor Shavlik, the flaw allows an attacker to elevate domain user account privileges to those of the domain administrator account.

“The attacker could forge a Kerberos Ticket and send that to the Kerberos KDC which claims the user is a domain administrator,” writes Chris Goettl, product manager with Shavlik. “From there the attacker can impersonate any domain accounts, add themselves to any group, install programs, view\change\delete date, or create any new accounts they wish.  This could allow the attacker to then compromise any computer in the domain, including domain controllers.  If there is a silver lining in this one it is in the fact that the attacker must have a valid domain user account to exploit the vulnerability, but once they have done so, they have the keys to the kingdom.”

The patch is one of two that Microsoft had expected to release on Patch Tuesday earlier this month, but unexpectedly pulled at the last moment.  “This is pretty severe and definitely explains why Microsoft only delayed the release and did not pull it from the November Patch Tuesday release all together,” Goettl said. Continue reading →


17
Nov 14

Link Found in Staples, Michaels Breaches

The breach at office supply chain Staples impacted roughly 100 stores and was powered by some of the same criminal infrastructure seen in the intrusion disclosed earlier this year at Michaels craft stores, according to sources close to the investigation.

staplesMultiple banks interviewed by this author say they’ve received alerts from Visa and MasterCard about cards impacted in the breach at Staples, and that to date those alerts suggest that a subset of Staples stores were compromised between July and September 2014.

Sources briefed on the ongoing investigation say it involved card-stealing malicious software that the intruders installed on cash registers at approximately 100 Staples locations. Framingham, Mass.-based Staples has more than 1,800 stores nationwide.

In response to questions about these details, Staples spokesman Mark Cautela would say only that the company believes it has found and removed the malware responsible for the attack.  Continue reading →


17
Nov 14

Amazon: Spam Nation one of “Best of Month”

A quick update on my new book, Spam Nation, The Inside Story of Organized Cybercrime — From Global Epidemic to Your Front Door debuting on bookstore shelves  Tuesday, Nov. 18: Amazon has selected Spam Nation as one of their “Best Books of the Month” picks for November, listed alongside such notable authors as Stephen King and Nora Roberts.

abbotm-cIn addition, my publisher has graciously extended the freeZeusGard offer until Nov. 25 for the next 500 people who order more than one copy of the book.

In early October we launched a promotion in which the first 1,000 readers to preorder more than one copy of the book, audio recording and/or e-book version of Spam Nation would receive a free, KrebsOnSecurity-branded ZeusGard, a USB-based technology that’s designed to streamline the process of adopting the Live CD approach for online banking.

Approximately 500 readers took us up on this offer, but that means we still have about 500 left! Thankfully, my publisher (Sourcebooks) has agreed to extend this offer by one week (until Nov. 25, 2014).

Finally, if you live in Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle or Austin and would like a personalized copy of Spam Nation, please consider joining me this week as I drop by a local bookstore near you! See the tour schedule for dates, times and locations.


14
Nov 14

‘Microsoft Partner’ Claims Fuel Support Scams

You can’t make this stuff up: A tech support company based in the United States that outsources its work to India says its brand is being unfairly maligned by — wait for it…..tech support scammers based in India. In an added twist, the U.S.-based tech support firm acknowledges that the trouble may be related to its admittedly false statements about being a Microsoft Certified Partner — the same false statements made by most telephone-based tech support scams.

Tech support scams are, unfortunately, an extremely common scourge. Most such scams are the telephonic equivalent of rogue antivirus attacks, which try to frighten consumers into purchasing worthless security software and services. Both types of scams try to make the consumer believe that the caller is somehow associated with Microsoft or with a security company, and each caller tries to cajole or scare the consumer into giving up control over his or her PC.

Earlier this month, a reader shared a link to a lengthy Youtube video by freelance journalist Carey Holzman, in which Holzman turns the tables on the tech support scammers. During the video, Holzman plays along and gives the scammer remote control access to a test computer he’s set up specifically for this video.  The scammer, who speaks with a strong Indian accent but calls himself “Steve Wilson” from the “Microsoft technical department,” tries to convince Holzman that he works for a company that is a legitimate Microsoft support partner.

“Let me show you who we are,” the scammer says, opening up Google.com and typing SB3 Inc. Clicking on the first result brings up sb3inc[dot]com, which proudly displays an icon in the upper right corner of its home page stating that it is a Microsoft Certified Partner. “This is our mother company. Can you see that we are a Microsoft certified partner?”

When Holzman replies that this means nothing and that anyone can just put a logo on their site saying they’re associated with Microsoft, the scammer runs a search on Microsoft.com for SB3. The scammer shows true chutzpah when he points to the first result, which — if clicked — leads to a page on Microsoft’s community site where members try to warn the poster away from SB3 as a scam.

When Holzman tries to get the scammer to let him load the actual search result link about SB3 on Microsoft.com, the caller closes the browser window and proceeds to enable the SysKey utility on Windows, which allows the scammer to set a secret master password that must be entered before the computer will boot into Windows (effectively an attempt at locking Holzman out of his test computer if he tries to reboot).

The video goes on for some time more, but I decided to look more closely at SB3. The Web site registration records for the company state that it is based in New Jersey, and it took less than a minute to find the Facebook page of the company’s owner — a Suvajit “Steve” Basu in Ridgewood, NJ. Basu’s Facebook feed has him traveling the world, visiting the World Cup in Brazil in 2014, the Ryder Cup in 2012, and more recently taking delivery on a brand new Porsche. Continue reading →


13
Nov 14

Network Hijackers Exploit Technical Loophole

Spammers have been working methodically to hijack large chunks of Internet real estate by exploiting a technical and bureaucratic loophole in the way that various regions of the globe keep track of the world’s Internet address ranges.

Last week, KrebsOnSecurity featured an in-depth piece about a well-known junk email artist who acknowledged sending from two Bulgarian hosting providers. These two providers had commandeered tens of thousands of Internet addresses from ISPs around the globe, including Brazil, China, India, Japan, Mexico, South Africa, Taiwan and Vietnam.

For example, a closer look at the Internet addresses hijacked by one of the Bulgarian providers — aptly named “Mega-Spred” with an email contact of “abuse@grimhosting” — shows that this provider has been slowly  gobbling up far-flung IP address ranges since late August 2014.

This table, with data from the RIPE NCC -- of the regional Internet Registries, shows IP address hijacking activity by Bulgarian host Mega-Spred.

This table, with data from the RIPE NCC — of the regional Internet Registries, shows IP address hijacking activity by Bulgarian host Mega-Spred.

According to several security and anti-spam experts who’ve been following this activity, Mega-Spred and the other hosting provider in question (known as Kandi EOOD) have been taking advantage of an administrative weakness in the way that some countries and regions of the world keep tabs on the IP address ranges assigned to various hosting providers and ISPs. Neither Kandi nor Mega-Spred responded to requests for comment.

IP address hijacking is hardly a new phenomenon. Spammers sometimes hijack Internet address ranges that go unused for periods of time. Dormant or “unannounced” address ranges are ripe for abuse partly because of the way the global routing system works: Miscreants can “announce” to the rest of the Internet that their hosting facilities are the authorized location for given Internet addresses. If nothing or nobody objects to the change, the Internet address ranges fall into the hands of the hijacker.

Experts say the hijackers also are exploiting a fundamental problem with record-keeping activities of RIPE NCC, the regional Internet registry (RIR) that oversees the allocation and registration of IP addresses for Europe, the Middle East and parts of Central Asia. RIPE is one of several RIRs, including ARIN (which handles mostly North American IP space) and APNIC (Asia Pacific), LACNIC (Latin America) and AFRINIC (Africa). Continue reading →


11
Nov 14

Adobe, Microsoft Issue Critical Security Fixes

Adobe and Microsoft today each issued security updates to fix critical vulnerabilities in their software. Microsoft pushed 14 patches to address problems in Windows, Office, Internet Explorer and .NET, among other products. Separately, Adobe issued an update for its Flash Player software that corrects at least 18 security issues.

brokenwindowsMicrosoft announced 16 bulletins, but curiously two of those are listed as pending. Topping the list of critical updates from Microsoft is a fix for a zero-day vulnerability disclosed last month that hackers have been using in targeted cyber espionage attacks. Another critical patch targets 17 weaknesses in Internet Explorer, including a remotely exploitable vulnerability in all supported versions of Windows that earned a CVSS score of 9.3 (meaning it is highly likely to be exploited in drive-by attacks, and probably soon).

That flaw is a rare “unicorn-like” bug according to IBM X-Force, which discovered and reported the issue privately to Microsoft. In a blog post published today, IBM researchers described how the vulnerability can be used to sidestep the Enhanced Protected Mode sandbox in IE11, as well as Microsoft’s EMET anti-exploitation tool that Microsoft offers for free.

“In this case, the buggy code is at least 19 years old, and has been remotely exploitable for the past 18 years,” writes IBM researcher Robert Freeman. “Looking at the original release code of Windows 95, the problem is present. In some respects this vulnerability has been sitting in plain sight for a long time, despite many other bugs being discovered and patched in the same Windows library (OleAut32).”

Freeman said while unpatched Internet Explorer users are most at risk from this bug, the vulnerability also could be exploited through Microsoft Office files. “The other attack vectors this vulnerability could work with are Microsoft Office with script macros, for example in Excel documents,” Freeman told KrebsOnSecurity. “Most versions of Office (since about 2003) have macros disabled by default so the user would have to enable them (which can be a fairly mindless YES click at the top of the screen). Or if a user is using an old enough version of Office, the macros will be enabled by default.”

macrosms

Continue reading →