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Cisco Talos Thwarts Massive Ransomware Campaign Netting $30M+ Annually

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Cisco Talos managed to disrupt a major ransomware campaign that researchers believe netted a hacker more than $30 million per year. The team determined that the Angler Exploit Kit used proxy servers of service provider Limestone Networks with the primary threat actor responsible for up to 50 percent of Angler Exploit Kit activity, according to a report on the Talos website. The attackers targeted as many as 90,000 victims per day.

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Talos gained visibility into the network’s global activity through a collaboration with Level 3 Threat Research Labs. Thanks to this collaboration, the researchers were able to gain visibility into the attackers’ domain activity, Talos noted.

The disruption marks a victory in efforts to eliminate the Angler Exploit Kit, which is considered one of the most sophisticated kits available, according to an analysis on threatpost.com.

Unique IP Addresses Seen By Hour Angler Proxy Server.

Unique IP Addresses Seen By Hour Angler Proxy Server.

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Team Thwarts Angler Exploit Kit

There was a total of 17 unique ASNs observed in the month, according to Talos. Among these, Hetzner and Limestone Networks were responsible for almost three-quarters of the total volume for the month. These two providers appeared at first to handle most of the Angler infections. But when the data was plotted against the unique IP addresses, a different story emerged.

Almost three-quarters of the exploits that were served to users were Adobe-Flash-related. This outcome was expected with two Adobe Flash 0days Angler leveraged during the month. But the
remaining two exploit groups were surprising. The Internet Explorer vulnerability CVE-2014-6332 accounted for a little more than 20% of the infections and was the second largest group.

Most surprising was the final group; Silverlight vulnerabilities were served to about 2% of the users.

The three exploit classes that Angler leveraged were Flash, IE and Silverlight. Talos noted the omission of Java was shocking. Historically, most exploit kits have exploited Java since there is significant user pool running older Java versions.

Limestone Teams With Talos

Limestone provided Talos with disk images of the servers that carried out the activity. The researchers were then able to get a better idea of the campaign’s scope and scale, including how the attacker was monetizing the malware. Working together, Limestone and Talos were able to take the servers offline.

Breakdown of User Agent Activity Seen.

Breakdown of User Agent Activity Seen.

The attacker relied on a proxy/server setup, by which one exploit server directs multiple proxy servers. This allowed the attacker to change the malware and prevent the attacker from getting caught. Talos observed one server connecting to 147 other proxy servers that obscured malicious traffic over 30 days.

Angler ultimately compromises 40 percent of users hit with exploits, according to Talos. Each of the 147 servers compromised 3,600 users; 529,000 systems over the course of the month. If around three percent of users paid the ransom, this attacker netted $3 million a month, or $34 million a year. The researchers predict Angler could have raked in $60 million annually had they not halted the campaign.

In one day, Talos found 9,000 unique IP addresses with around 3,600 compromised users. The average amount per user that pays the ransom is $300, delivering more than $34 million annually. cisco

The “smoke and mirrors” proxy/server technique is still in the developmental stages, according to Dan Hubbard, CTO of OpenDNS (recently acquired by Cisco), but it can be effective until the servers are dismantled.

Hubbard noted that criminals can build proxy networks that allow them to scale linearly, similar to a CDN or real web service. They can remove these proxies without affecting service. This technique also allows them to obscure their real infrastructure.

According to OpenDNS, the campaign used 15,000 unique sites to push Angler. Sixty percent of the infections delivered either CryptoWall 3.0 or TeslaCrypt 2.0 to its victims.

Also read: Cisco Talos Warns against Windows 10 Ransomware Spam Campaign

Targets: Adobe Flash And IE

Users running unpatched versions of Adobe Flash and Internet Explorer were common targets, particularly those who navigated to adult websites and obituary websites frequently. The attacker used obituary websites as a means to target the elderly, according to Talos. Conventional wisdom holds the elderly are more likely to use unpatched versions of IE and be susceptible to ransomware.

Angler Has Expanded

Angler was first identified back in 2013 and has grown over the past 12 months.

The kit began using a technique in March called domain shadowing, whereby attackers use stolen domain registrant credentials to build lists of subdomains to redirect victims to, to attack sites, or to serve as hosts for malicious payloads.

The kit added CryptoWall 3.0 in May and added new Flash vulnerabilities in 2015 —one in January, May, and one in July, just after the Hacking Team breach was reported.

Images from Shutterstock.

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Breaches

Uber Is Paying Hackers to Keep Quiet

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Uber Technologies Inc. has reportedly paid hackers to delete scores of private data stolen from the company in a security breach that was concealed for over a year. The revelation provides further confirmation that, when it comes to cyber security, crime does pay.

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Massive Data Breach

According to Bloomberg Technology, hackers retrieved the personal data of 57 million Uber customers and drivers at some point last year. Nobody heard about it because the rideshare company paid the hackers $100,000 to keep quiet. A purge at the front office of Uber also ensured that the massive cyber breach was kept under wraps.

The compromised data was from October 2016 and included the names, phone numbers and addressed of 50 million Uber riders globally. About seven million drivers had their personal information accessed as well.

At the time of the cyber attack, Uber was inundated with a slew of legal issues stemming from alleged privacy violations. Rather than shine even more negative spotlight on the company, Uber executives decided to pay hackers to stay quiet.

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“None of this should have happened, and I will not make excuses for it,” Dara Khosrowshahi, who took over as CEO in September, said in a statement that was published by Bloomberg. “We are changing the way we do business.”

Hackers have done a masterful job infiltrating companies and governments in recent years. As a reminder, recent cyber attacks levied against Yahoo!, Target Corp and Equifax Inc. dwarf Uber’s 57 million compromised accounts.

Various reports indicate that cyber attacks are bleeding the global economy dry. One report, issued by the World Economic Forum, suggests that cyber crime cost the world economy $445 billion in 2016. If cyber crime were its own market cap, it would exceed Microsoft Inc., Facebook Inc. and ExxonMobil Corp

The Fall of Uber?

Uber revolutionized the ride-hailing business over the span of seven years by giving more power to the consumer. Several missteps later, the company finds itself in legal hot water, with its future appearing less certain than it did just one year ago.

The rideshare company faces at least five U.S. probes ranging from bribes to illicit software and right up to unethical pricing schemes. According to another Bloomberg report, Uber is under investigation for violating price transparency regulations, not to mention the alleged theft of documents for Google’s autonomous cars.

Some governments are sensing weakness in the ride-hailing service, and are moving toward banning the Uber app entirely. London is the most prominent example of a city that has taken definitive steps to outlaw the service over a “lack of corporate responsibility.”

Even with its legal troubles, Uber is a revolutionary technology that has influenced a bevy of other innovations aimed at improving the human experience.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock. 

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Cybersecurity

The Pirate Bay is Hijacking PCs to Stealth-Mine Cryptocurrency

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For the second time in as many months, The Pirate Bay has been caught mining cryptocurrency on your computer without consent. The torrent platform was actually test-driving cryptocurrency mining in your browser – no doubt a lucrative revenue stream.

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The Pirates Are At It Again

The Pirate Bay has been caught using software called Coinhive, a JavaScript library that essentially serves as a cryptocurrency miner. It basically connects to visitors’ computers to mine Monero, one of the world’s most profitable cryptocurrencies.

The news was later confirmed by Bleeping Computer, which reported that,”The Pirate Bay, the internet’s largest torrent portal, is back at running a cryptocurrency miner after it previously ran a short test in mid-September.”

Estimates indicate that the scheme has earned the pirates a total of $43,000 over a three-week period.

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Users had no way to opt their computers out of being test-driven by the torrent network. Back in September, The Pirate Bay got away by telling people it was just a test. The site’s owners cannot use the same excuse this time around.

CoinHive advises websites to let their visitors  know their browser is being used to mine cryptocurrency.

“We’re a bit saddened to see that some of our customers integrate CoinHive into their pages without disclosing to their users what’s going on, let alone asking for their permission,” the company said.

The good news is most ad-blockers and antivirus programs will block CoinHive, given its recent abuses. That means not all visitors of The Pirate Pay were being used as a conduit for mining Monero.

Monero Joins Global Crypto Rally

The value of Monero (XMR) shot up nearly 8% on Friday, and was last seen trading at $94.17. With more than 15.2 million XMR tokens in circulation, the total market cap for Monero is $1.4 billion, according to CoinMarketCap. That’s enough for ninth on the global cryptocurrency list.

Twelve cryptos have now crossed the $1 billion valuation mark. A handful of others have made their way north of $500 million.

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Breaches

Ethereum Notches Two-Month High as Bitcoin Offspring Triggers Volatility

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Digital currency Ethereum climbed to a two-month high on Monday, taking some of the heat off Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash, which have slumped since the weekend.

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Ethereum Forges Higher Path

Concerns over Bitcoin created a favourable tailwind for Ethereum (ETH/USD), which is the world’s No. 2 digital currency by total assets. Ether’s price topped $340.00 on Monday and later settled at $323.54. That was the highest since June 20.

At its peak, ether was up 10% on the day and 70% for the month of August.

The ETH/USD was last down 2.2% at $315.02, according to Bitfinex. Prices are due for a brisk recovery, based on the daily momentum indicators.

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Fractured Bitcoin Community

Bitcoin and its offshoot, Bitcoin Cash, retreated on Monday following a volatile weekend. The BTC/USD slumped at the start of the week and was down more than 3% on Tuesday, with prices falling below $3,900.00. Just last week, Bitcoin was trading at new records near $4,500.00.

Bitcoin Cash, which emerged after the Aug. 1 hard fork, climbed to new records on Saturday, but has been in free-fall ever since. The BTH was down another 20% on Tuesday to $594.49, according to CoinMarketCap. Its total market value has dropped by several billion over the past two days.

Analysts say that a “fractured” Bitcoin community has made Ethereum a more attractive bet this week. The ether token has shown remarkable poise over the past seven days, despite trading well shy of a new record.

Other drivers behind Ethereum’s advance are steady demand from South Korean investors and growing confidence in a smooth upgrade for the the ETH network. The upgrade, which has been dubbed “Metropolis,” is expected in the next several weeks. Its key benefits include tighter transaction privacy and greater efficiency.

Ethereum Prices Unaffected by ICO Heist

Fin-tech developer Enigma was on the receiving end of a cyber-heist on Monday after hackers took over the company’s website, mailing list and instant messaging platforms. The hack occurred three weeks before Enigma’s planned Initial Coin Offering (ICO) for September 11.

In addition to defacing the company’s website, the hackers pushed a special “pre-sale” ahead of the ICO. While many users realized it was a scam, 1,492 ether tokens – valued at $495,000 – were directed into the hackers’ cryptocurrency wallet by unsuspecting backers.

The irony in all this is that Engima is a cryptography company that prides itself on top-notch security protocols. The company issued a statement that its servers had not been compromised.

ETH/USD (Bitfinex)

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