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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.

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3.9 stars on average, based on 8 rated postsLester Coleman is a veteran business journalist based in the United States. He has covered the payments industry for several years and is available for writing assignments.




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Cybersecurity

Three Hours After Re-Launch, BitGrail Shuts Down Again

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Embattled digital currency exchange BitGrail has reportedly suspended operations a mere three hours after re-launching, a move that could signal the death knell for the controversial trading platform.

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BitGrail Shuts Down After Court Order

The Italian exchange received an order from the Court of Florence on Tuesday to cease operations immediately. BitGrail was open for all of three hours before the order was handed down. All cryptocurrencies that were previously supported on the exchange were available for trade with the notable exception of Nano XRB.

On Wednesday, BitGrail issued the following statement:

“This morning, following the re-opening, we were notified of a deed by the court of Florence requesting the immediate closure of BitGrail and this situation will persist until a decision is made by the courts, about the precautionary suspension request made by the Bonelli law office on behalf of a client.”

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A final decision by the court is scheduled for May 16 2018.

Embroiled in Controversy

The Italian exchange has been mired in controversy after 17 million Nano XRB tokens went missing in February. At the time, the total value of the theft was $170 million.

At the time, BitGrail said the shortfall was caused by “unauthorized transactions,” but didn’t indicate exactly when the hack took place.

A Twitter user by the name of “Francesco the Bomber,” who apparently runs the exchange, later confirmed that the funds were stolen and that the exchange didn’t have the capital to repay its customers. However, developers who used to work with Francesco claimed that the exchange was solvent long before the attack took place. This fact was concealed by BitGrail for as long as possible.

For its part, Nano XRB managed to recovery in the wake of the attacks, with prices reaching a high near $17 in early March. The cryptocurrency has nearly doubled in value over the last three weeks as part of a broader upward correction in the market.

The Nano Foundation has established a fund to assist BitGrail users affected by the attack. The Foundation says it will match donations to the fund for up to $1 million.

BitGrail was the second largest attack of a digital currency exchange this year. In January, cyber criminals made off with around $530 million worth of NEM tokens following an attack on Coincheck, a Japanese exchange.

Disclaimer: The author owns bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies. He holds investment positions in the coins, but does not engage in short-term or day-trading.

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Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.5 stars on average, based on 413 rated postsSam Bourgi is Chief Editor to Hacked.com, where he specializes in cryptocurrency, economics and the broader financial markets. Sam has nearly eight years of progressive experience as an analyst, writer and financial market commentator where he has contributed to the world's foremost newscasts.




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Cybersecurity

Facebook Stock Has Best Day in Two Years as Zuckerberg Testifies

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Shares of Facebook Inc. (FB) gained on Tuesday, as CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before U.S. lawmakers over allegations of data misuse.

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Zuckerberg Gets Likes

Mark Zuckerberg apologized and defended his company on Tuesday as he appeared before a joint U.S. Senate committee hearing. “It was my mistake, and I’m sorry,” the 33-year-old CEO said when questioned about Facebook’s misuse of user data.

Lawmakers grilled Zuckerberg on issues ranging from Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal to its failure in addressing provocative messages during the most recent Myanmar crisis. He took it all in stride, appearing confident and poised throughout the question-and-answer period (at least, that’s what professional PR experts quoted by Bloomberg had to say).

Zuckerberg took full responsibility not just for Cambridge Analytica, but for Facebook’s negligence in safeguarding consumer data. That said, Republican Senator from Iowa Chick Grassley sent a strong signal that new regulations are on the way.

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“The status quo no longer works,” said Grassley, who chairs the Judiciary Committee. “Congress must determine if and how we need to strengthen privacy standards to ensure transparency and understanding for the billions of consumers who utilize these products.”

Wall Street Responds

The testimony resonated with Wall Street, as investors scooped up shares of the battered social media company. Facebook shares added 4.5%, their best in two years. By comparison, the S&P 500 Index gained 1.7% on Tuesday and the index’s technology component rose 2.5%.

The stock surge grew Zuckerberg’s personal fortune by $2.8 billion to $66 billion, according to Forbes. That makes him the world’s seventh richest person.

Despite the gain, FB is down almost 15% from its all-time high and its current price point lags behind the 50-day and 200-day moving averages. An RSI of 48 also signals weak underlying momentum for the social media stock.

Facebook’s Declining Usage

Facebook experienced a public backlash last month amid reports that a political research firm had scraped data on 87 million people. The revelation sparked a growing debate over Facebook’s privacy standards at a time when the company was battling a noticeable decline in usage.

The social media platform declined by roughly 50 million hours per day in the fourth quarter, or 5% overall. Meanwhile, independent research from a company named Edison found a steady drop in usage among Americans aged 12 and up.

While Zuckerberg has tried to spin the decline as a good thing, it’s apparent that the platform is experiencing fewer meaningful interactions, which partially explains recent efforts to transform the News Feed.

It remains to be seen how much damage the declines will do to top and bottom line results. Facebook is expected to report its quarterly earnings report Apr. 25. Analysts are expecting per-share earnings of $1.37 for the quarter, up from $1.04 the same time a year ago.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.5 stars on average, based on 413 rated postsSam Bourgi is Chief Editor to Hacked.com, where he specializes in cryptocurrency, economics and the broader financial markets. Sam has nearly eight years of progressive experience as an analyst, writer and financial market commentator where he has contributed to the world's foremost newscasts.




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Cybersecurity

Facebook Admits It Has Failed to Protect User Privacy

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In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook has had to come clean about its privacy standards. The company recently admitted that the data on most of its 2 billion users could be compromised by malicious actors, a strong sign that the social media giant is not only misusing consumer data, but failing to protect it.

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Data on the Loose

Facebook recently announced that it has removed a feature that allows users to search for people using email addresses or phone numbers. The feature, which accounts for 7% of all searches in some regions, is being discontinued over fears that malicious users were using it to “scrape” profiles.

Mike Shcroepfer, the company’s chief technology officer, issued the following statement on Wednesday:

“Given the scale and sophistication of the activity we’ve seen, we believe most people on Facebook could have had their public profile scraped in this way. So we have now disabled this feature. We’re also making changes to account recovery to reduce the risk of scraping as well.”

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CEO Mark Zuckerberg told reporters that it was “reasonable to expect” that your information may have been accessed in this way.

The Cambridge Analytica scandal, which surfaced last month, blew the lid wide open on Facebook’s privacy standards. Since 2014, Cambridge Analytica legally obtained information on as many as 87 million Facebook users for the purpose of influencing elections. In the wake of the scandal, Zuckerberg is being summoned by U.S. Congress to testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, currently scheduled for Apr. 11. The CEO has acknowledged that his company made mistakes, but this has largely failed to resonate with Facebook’s growing list of critics.

Facebook Tanks

Many say that Facebook has suffered irreversible damage since the scandal was brought to light. Faced with declining usage, severed business ties and a severe backlash from the public, Facebook shares have tanked more than 16% over the last three weeks.

Prices have fallen below the 50-day and 200-day simple moving averages, with the short-term average converging on the longer one. An RSI in the low-30s makes a strong case for Facebook’s bearish downturn, although current levels indicate that an oversold bounce is likely.

FB’s share price shed another 0.7% on Wednesday even as the major indexes gained. The S&P 500’s information technology index rose 1.4%, capping off a solid recovery for the market.

Along with the other so-called FAANG stocks, Facebook has been largely responsible for the recent tech rollover and subsequent turbulence on Wall Street. Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google parent Alphabet lost a combined $324 billion in market cap between Mar. 12 and Apr. 2.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.5 stars on average, based on 413 rated postsSam Bourgi is Chief Editor to Hacked.com, where he specializes in cryptocurrency, economics and the broader financial markets. Sam has nearly eight years of progressive experience as an analyst, writer and financial market commentator where he has contributed to the world's foremost newscasts.




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