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How Cybercriminals Target Victims: Report Cites Top Information Resources

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Cybercriminals, whose attacks cost organizations millions of dollars a year, do extensive research on their targets. They gather organizational and personal information before deciding which vulnerabilities to exploit.

SurfWatch Labs, a security consultancy, has released a report on research resources cybercriminals use. The purpose of the report is to provide organizations a tool to prevent cyber attacks. The report includes an overview of information resources cybercriminals use to target the victims. Knowing about these resources can help organizations defend against cyber attacks.

Adam Meyer

Adam Meyer

The majority of threat awareness training is taking place in medium to large sized businesses, according to Adam Meyer, SurfWatch Labs’ chief security strategist. “However, much of this training is geared toward protecting the employer and less about employees protecting themselves and their personal lives, even though some would transfer over and provide benefit to the employer,” Meyer told Hacked.com.

Lack Of Public Awareness

“Many organizations, and individuals for that matter, do not know their ‘level of presence’ out there,” he said. “They don’t know what their true exposure to cyber threats is, and therefore are not making fully informed risk decisions. We all use technology every day in our lives and have become completely dependent on it, but we don’t place much effort in trying to live a cyber safe lifestyle. A well-rounded cyber safety awareness program is one of the cheapest and most impactful efforts you can do to combat cyber crime, yet is the least utilized,” he said.

awareness

SurfWatch Labs searches the public Internet and the Dark Web to gather information about criminal activity.

The company’s website offers an example of a Dark Web screen shot showing where an organization’s stolen credit cards are for sale. The screen shot shows bank identification numbers corresponding to credit cards, searchable location information that makes it easy for criminals to evade conventional fraud detection, multiple base names that indicate batches of stolen card information, and a number indicating how many cards are for sale.

Criminals Use Security Websites

One takeaway from the report is that websites that appear to be intended to help protect people from cyber attack are actually resources for cyber attackers.

Most tools can be used for both positive and negative purposes with the only difference being the intent of the individual, Meyer said.

Asked if SurfWatch could also serve as a resource for cyber criminals, Meyers was adamant that it cannot. “No, our core resources are not publicly available and the information we do share is only shared with the organization who is entitled to it,” he said.

Top Three Public Resources

The top three public web sources criminals use for gathering information are Shodan.io, virustotal.com and companies’ own individual websites.

Shodan.io, launched in 2009 by John Matherly, has become the top site cyber criminals use. It constantly scans the Internet to find what is accessible publicly. The report dubs Shodan as the “Google for the Internet of Things (IoT).”

Shodan, which calls itself a search engine for security, has expanded from a list of ports and IPs to maps indicating where devices are located. It includes screenshots from unsecured servers, workstations and webcams.

shodan

The website notes that it has servers worldwide scanning the Internet to provide the latest Internet intelligence. “Who buys Smart TVs? Which countries are building the most wind farms? What companies are affected by Heartbleed?” the site advertises.

Shodan also allows organizations to keep track of all of the computers in their network that are directly accessible on the Internet. It provides a public API that allows access to all of Shodan’s data. Integrations are available for Chrome, Firefox, Nmap, FOCA, Metasploit, Maltego and many more.

Matherly’s original focus was problems associated with connected hard goods like thermostats and refrigerators, the report noted. He expanded the focus to open computer systems, industrial control systems, unsecured cameras and other things.

Shodan demonstrates the seriousness of the risk associated with putting information online. There is not much online that can be hidden from Shodan. Organizations must find a way to protect any information that goes online if they don’t want Shodan to find it.

Virustotal.com

VirusTotal presents itself as a free service that analyzes suspicious URLs and helps detect malware. The reality is that it helps malicious actors test their wares. Attackers upload new malware to test it against at least 56 anti-virus vendors to find out how their new malware will be detected.

virustotal

The time frame for detecting malware is short, so it has to be used rapidly. Otherwise, the criminals would be testing a new “obfuscating” tool to hide a known malware from being detected for use in future campaigns.

The website states that anyone can send a suspicious file and receive a report with antivirus scanner results. In exchange, antivirus companies receive new malware samples to improve protections for their users. It claims to be an ecosystem where everyone works together to improve Internet security.

VirusTotal saves metadata from the files it analyzes. A user can view the IP history of the domain to get the current WHOIS, but VirusTotal will also provide a list each time it detects something malicious on the site, in addition to all samples that tried to communicate with the domain.

What About Your Own Site?

The best way for an attacker to learn about a target is from their own website. Most company websites include information about officers and key employees, such as names, email addresses, pictures, LinkedIn profiles and more.

SurfWatch noted word documents, PDFs and powerpoint presentations include metadata that has additional information about companies, including software versions of the program used to create these documents.

Google searches reveal more information about a company that many people are not aware of.

google-pdf

Top Dark Web Sources

The top three dark web sources are AlphaBay Market and Forum, TheRealDealMarket and HANSA Market.

AlphaBay has become the most popular Dark Web market, providing tens of thousands of things for sale, including stolen credentials, drugs, fraudulent items, bank account logins, personal information about individuals, hacking tools and more. Launched by “alpha01” in 2014, it mimics Amazon and eBay in its organization. Users purchase items anonymously using bitcoin.

Criminals access AlphaBay with the Tor browser. Since the Tor browser is available to anyone, legitimate parties can also see what is for sale.

The AlphaBay Market website claims to be the largest Darknet Market, four times larger than its closest competitor, with more than 120,000 listings. The website includes an easy-to-understand overview of how the Dark Web works, including the Tor browser, which is used to access the Dark Web.

alphabay

It notes that the government is monitoring people who download Tor, but it adds that one can get around this problem by using a VPN. It encourages users to visit a site for such VPNs: https://topvpnsoftware.com.

By visiting the website, users are invited to sign up for a newsletter that provides information on how to remain anonymous online to hide Dark Web activities.

The site notes Tor has some issues with exit nodes, and that someone who has access to all nodes in the chain can track a user. The best approach is to pair Tor with a VPN that keeps no logs.

TheRealDeal Market

TheRealDeal, launched in 2015, focuses on selling code and exploits. Law enforcement in July of 2015 arrested some of the founders in operations against the Dark Web forums. The site shut down for a few months before relaunching in December of 2015.

therealdeal

TheRealDeal made news after selling user credentials from healthcare databases, as well as Yahoo, LinkedIn and MySpace. The site also offers source code, zero-day vulnerabilities and other items. Legitimate parties will gain insight into the types of tools and information that cyber criminals use.

While TheRealDeal Market site has reportedly relaunched, it is hard to access. Another website, deepdotweb, has a section on how to sign up for TheRealDeal Market.

On Sept. 17, deepdotweb noted that TheRealDeal’s evolution code (or at least a large portion of it) was bought from a hacking forum, but lacked some major parts. It noted the site would be providing free vendor accounts for 24 to 48 hours.

Deepdotweb, for its part, includes a lot of information about how to secure anonymity on the Dark Web. It notes that law enforcement is actively scrutinizing Dark Web users. There is a lot of information on finding the best VPN to ensure anonymity. There is even a chart ranking and comparing VPNs. There is also a list of 23 Dark Web sites that rates the sites and gives information on registration requirements, active warnings, security issues and more.

HANSA Market

HANSA Market resembles an eBay for illicit goods and was created to improve Dark Web users’ security in response to the numerous exit scams. It claims that its multi-signature escrow payment process protects against theft.

hansa

HANSA vendors offer tools and information, but pirated products are the most common, including video games, software, movies and credentials for related accounts.

Top Public Payload Destinations

Public payload destinations are places from which malware is sent to end users. The three main avenues are social media, email and “malvertising.”

socialmedia-targets-data

Source: SurfWatch Labs Data

Social media provides the greatest avenue cyber criminals use for reaching victims. Malicious “shortened URLs” target Twitter’s text limitation. Malicious Facebook apps attract people looking to add a new application using Facebook as their login tool. Social media also gives a lot of information about people and provides attackers avenues for approaching targets.

Email Spearphishing

Email spearphishing remains the leading tool for attacking victims. A phishing attack succeeds by getting one recipient out of a thousand to click a link or download a file. Nearly every major attack this year has come from spearphishing.

To protect against spear-phishing, boundary protection is required at a minimum. The only mitigation is ongoing education. Organizational policies that restrict the use of email addresses when signing up for public services will reduce an organization’s chances of falling victim to a spearphising attack.

Malvertising

Cyber criminals typically use malicious ads, “malvertising,” to spread malware. They often use a third party advertising network to exploit software vulnerabilities. Malvertising works because it usually appears to be legitimate and it targets victims based on their interests.

malware-stats

The advertising provider network is massive, making it easy for attackers to inject their malware into ads without being traced.

The Fessleak campaign, exposed last year, utilized “burner” domains that expired after eight hours.

The Fessleak attacks exploited zero-day vulnerabilities in Adobe’s Flash Player, according to securityaffairs.co. Attackers spread it from an advertising network that managed ad groups on popular websites. Initially, the ransomware was sent through an exploit kit. Researchers also found an instance of the malware served via a real-time ad-bidding network, which sent the malware.

After Microsoft patched the escalation flaw in Windows systems, the hackers stopped using file-less infections and switched to zero-day exploits.

Helpful Tips

Blacklists of malicious domains are helpful tools in preventing malware. Organizations should update these lists often and automatically.

Organizations should update their software as often as possible since malware campaigns exploit known vulnerabilities in common software.

Users should also restrict the use of scripts in browsers to prevent malware from running in the first place, although this tactic is not foolproof.

Also read: Phishing malware claims 10,000 Facebook victims

Awareness Remains An Issue

“Sadly, many organizations are only relying on general cyber crime news to keep abreast on what’s going on out there because that resource is easy, and generally free to consume,” Meyer said. “As one step beyond that, an organization might also join an industry Information Sharing and Analysis Center (ISAC) where they will receive industry specific threat information of a general nature for an annual fee.

“A third and I would say the top tier step, is for the organization to resource a full-scale intelligence capability that will look at the specifics of threat capabilities, opportunities and intent and most importantly how those threats can impact the organization specifically and paint a picture of what the organization needs to do to mitigate the threat.”

Will Regulation Help?

“While more organizational regulation isn’t always the best solution in most cases, there is an increase in regulatory oversight for cyber security efforts than just a few years ago. and I see this as a positive step,” Meyer said. “Regulators still have a long ways to go in maturing what value-added, practical steps organizations need to take to meet these regulations but at least there is an effort to enforce accountability in the right places.”

Hacker

“While organizations have progressed in deploying technologies that help protect general public users, they have only done so because the market was a forcing factor due to fallout from breaches and regulatory action,” he said. “Unfortunately, too many organizations still continue to operate with heads in the sand. Additionally, the general public user is also very naïve in how they use technology and how much of their personal lives they expose on a daily basis. More education for cyber safety is needed both at the organizational level as well as for the individual.”

Images from Shutterstock and iStock/Dimitrios Stefanidis.

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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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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MyEtherWallet Compromised in Security Breach; Users Urged to Move Tokens

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Popular cryptocurrency service MyEtherWallet (MEW) is urging users to move their tokens after the platform succumbed to its second cyber attack of the year. As the company reported earlier, hackers targeted MEW’s popular VPN service in an attempt to steal cryptocurrency.

Hola VPN Users Compromised

Rather than target MEW directly, hackers took control of the Hola VPN service, which claims nearly 50 million users. For the next five hours, MEW users who had the Hola chrome extension installed and running on their computer were exposed.

MEW took to Twitter to urge users to move their funds immediately.

“Urgent! If you have Hola chrome extension installed and used MEW within the last 24 hrs, please transfer your funds immediately to a brand new account!” the company said. It added the following message shortly thereafter:”We received a report that suggest Hola chrome extension was hacked for approximately 5 hrs and the attack was logging your activity on MEW.”

At the time of writing, MEW’s Twitter feed had no further updates.

MyEtherWallet is used to access cryptocurrency wallets, where users can send and receive tokens from other people.

The company reportedly told TechCrunch that the attack originated from a Russian-based IP address.

“The safety and security of MEW users is our priority. We’d like to remind our users that we do not hold their personal data, including passwords so they can be assured that the hackers would not get their hands on that information if they have not interacted with the Hola chrome extension in the past day,” MEW said, as quoted by TechCrunch.

It’s not yet clear how many users were compromised in the attack or how much, if any, was stolen from their wallets. MEW suffered a similar incident in February after a DNS attack wiped out $365,000 worth of cryptocurrency from users’ accounts.

Cyber Attacks on the Rise

The attack on MEW came less than 24 hours after Hacked reported another major cyber breach involving Bancor, a decentralized cryptocurrency exchange. The security breach compromised roughly $23.5 million worth of digital currency, including Ethereum, NPXS and BNT, Bancor’s native token.

Last month, a pair of South Korean exchanges fell prey to cyber criminals, prompting local regulators to expedite their approval of new cryptocurrency laws.

It has been estimated that a total of $761 million has been stolen from cryptocurrency exchanges in the first half of the year, up from $266 million in all of 2017. That figure is expected to rise to $1.5 billion this year.

CipherTrace, the company behind the estimates, told Reuters last week that stolen cryptocurrencies are mainly used to launder money and aid criminals in concealing their identities.

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.

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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4.6 stars on average, based on 612 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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Mt. Gox vs. Bithumb: That Was Then, This Is Now

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Bithumb now shares something in common with the Tokyo-based shuttered bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox — both suffered a hack on about the same date, June 19. It’s a club that no exchange wants to belong to and that Bithumb happened on the seven-year anniversary of Mt. Gox’s maiden attack has to be more than an eerie coincidence.

It’s a stark reminder of the risks involved with keeping funds on an unregulated exchange, vulnerabilities that cost South Korea’s Bithumb some $36.6 million in digital cash and Mt. Gox $450 million in hacked bitcoin and its future. The Mt. Gox theft unfolded over a series of hacks that culminated in 2014. Though it’s still early on in the Bithumb hack, it appears the South Korean exchange will recover from the security breach. So what do we know now that we didn’t on June 19, 2011?

Then vs. Now

Former Coinbase official Nick Tomaino, who is also the founder of crypto fund 1 confirmation, reflected on the Mt. Gox hack in what proved to be a prescient tweet given the Bithumb attack that was about to surface.

The thing to note about Mt. Gox is that the Japan-based exchange in 2011 controlled most of the BTC trading volume, approximately three-quarters of it by average estimates — more if you ask Tomaino. Since bitcoin fever caught on in 2017, there are more than 500 cryptocurrency exchanges on which trading volume is shared. Binance boasts the highest trading volume and captures nearly 15% of bitcoin trading. It’s much less than Mt. Gox days but still a little high.

The other thing to note is that the Mt. Gox hack or actually hacks, as there were multiple attacks on the exchange over several years, was a mysterious event that was shrouded in controversy and mistrust of a key executive. Bithumb, on the other hand, confronted the hack seemingly right away on Twitter and has not let any grass grow under its feet in the interim, which is a key difference in the way Mt. Gox was handled.

Also, the bitcoin price didn’t tank in response to the Bithumb hack. It traded lower for a while, but less than 24 hours it was back in the green, which is a reflection of the fact that bitcoin trading is no longer dependent on a single exchange.

Charlie Lee, creator of Litecoin (LTC), the No. 6 cryptocurrency by market cap, was among the first to respond to the Bithumb hack. He tweeted:

Indeed, Bithumb does expect to be able to cover the losses via their reserves.

Crypto Security

It’s still early on in Bithumb’s security breach, and more details are sure to emerge in time. In the meantime, it’s a good idea to use the hack as an opportunity to examine the security of your cryptocurrency investment portfolio. There are several hardware wallet options out there for you to choose from — whether it’s Trezor or Ledger Nano S, to name a couple — and as Charlie Lee advised, “only keep on exchange coins that you are actively trading.”

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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4.6 stars on average, based on 62 rated postsGerelyn has been covering ICOs and the cryptocurrency market since mid-2017. She's also reported on fintech more broadly in addition to asset management, having previously specialized in institutional investing. She owns some BTC and ETH.




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Bithumb Hack Prompts South Korea to Hasten Cryptocurrency Regulation

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South Korea’s second-largest cryptocurrency exchange suffered a security breach on Wednesday, prompting local authorities to hasten their adoption of stricter regulations.

Bithumb Hack

Bithumb confirmed Wednesday that cyber criminals “seized” 35 billion won ($31.6 million) worth of digital cash in an apparent attack targeting user accounts. The exchange halted deposits at approximately 00:53 UTC and began a wholesale transfer of funds to cold storage to prevent further theft.

“We checked that some of cryptocurrencies valued about $30,000,000 was stolen,” Bithumb tweeted Wednesday. “Those stolen cryptocurrencies will be covered from Bithumb and all of assets are being transferring to cold wallet.”

The exchange has confirmed that it will fully compensate affected users.

An earlier update on Bithumb’s Twitter account reveals that a security upgrade was being carried out last week where it transferred to a cold wallet for safe storage. However, it is unclear whether the upgrade is linked to the theft.

In terms of trade volume, Bithumb is the world’s sixth-largest cryptocurrency exchange. The platform processed more than $355 million worth of digital currency transactions in the last 24 hours, according to data provided by CoinMarketCap.

Bithumb is the second South Korean exchange this month to have been hacked. Less than two weeks ago, more than $37 million was compromised in a coordinated attack on Coinrail. The attackers went after the exchange’s coins and lesser-known ERC-20 tokens.

South Korea to Boost Regulation

South Korea’s financial regulators have announced plans to implement stricter guidelines for virtual exchanges, and to do so more expeditiously than previously planned. The announcement, which came on the heels of the Bitthumb attack, follows months of deliberation about whether to regulate cryptocurrency exchanges like banks and other financial institutions.

As CCN notes, cryptocurrency exchanges are presently regulated as “communication vendors,” which means virtually anyone can launch an online trading platform. This designation prevents direct oversight of digital currency exchanges by financial regulators.

New crypto regulations are expected to be rolled out in the coming months, which will put South Korea’s financial authorities on par with their counterparts in the United States and Japan. In those countries, cryptocurrency exchanges must comply with laws pertaining to security and consumer protection.

Park Yong-kin, a committee member of the National Assembly, has championed stricter regulations since last year. According to local media, his views are now being echoed by other government officials.

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.

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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4.6 stars on average, based on 612 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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