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Feds and White Hats Put the Brakes on Bank-Swindling Botnet – Dridex

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Law enforcement agencies from around the world and private cybersecurity companies have come together to stop a far-reaching botnet that infected hundreds of thousands of computers every year to steal money from targeted banks. The mastermind behind malicious botnet has also been arrested.

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Multiple law enforcement agencies and several cybersecurity firms have seized control of a network of infected computers that spread the infamous Dridex (formerly Bugat) malware, a malicious exploit designed to spy on victim’s machines to steal banking credentials with the ultimate aim of breaking into bank accounts and steal cash.

According to estimates, the botnet is responsible for siphoning $10 million from U.S. banks in the past year along with another £20m stolen from UK banks.

Furthermore, a 30-year old man named Andrey Ghinkul, allegedly the mastermind of the botnet has been arrested in Cyprus with the U.S. Department of Justice filing charges against him, reports CNN Money.

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The Dridex Botnet

The first discovered version of the Dridex strain of malware – Bugat, was originally discovered by security researchers at Dell SecureWorks in 2010. Even five years ago, the malware had the Credentials stealmeans to spy on victims’ internet habits directly tapping into network traffic and even taking screenshots of the user’s activities on the browser.

The malware quickly evolved into the botnet the world now knows as Dridex, wherein the infected computer is harnessed into a network of other infected computers to form a botnet. The
controller of the botnet, with an army of infected computers at one’s disposal, had the means to evade law enforcement by communicating with the infected computer through others on the wide-reaching network.

Unlike other malware with worm-like capabilities, Dridex does not spread on its own and relies on a comprehensive phishing effort by the attackers behind the malware. One report from Fujitsu revealed that authors tapped into a database containing 385 million email addresses. The botnet operators who allegedly call themselves “Evil Corp,” were rolling out up to 350,000 emails laced with Dridex every day, according to a cybersecurity firm.

Typically, the emails contain an infected MS Office file, usually a Word document or an Excel spreadsheet. When opened, a tiny embedded program called a “macro” is triggered. The macro in turn downloads the malware onto the computer, activating the Trojan program. Over time, this Trojan quietly assimilates the victim’s browsing habits through a serious of screenshots that are communicated back to the malware operator.

The Takedown

Security researchers at Dell SecureWorks, while teaming up with law enforcement agencies, started drawing plans to hijack the botnet this year. After gaining the required legal permissions, the researchers put together the framework to hack the botnet network.

The big break occurred on August 28, this year when police in Cyprus apprehended Ghinkul, an event that immediately curbed the spreading of the Dridex malware.

Then, security professionals at Dell SecureWorks from around the world began a multi-day clandestine operation to gain access to the all-important and significant ‘host’ computers that control a massive network of infected computers adding up to make the botnet.

Jeff Williams, a Dell SecureWorks researcher, said:

We were able to wrestle away the network of infected computers out of the control of the hackers. They can’t continue to harvest data.

The FBI released a statement through a press release to claim a significant advantage against the malware operation.

U.S. Attorney David J. Hickton of Pennsylvania said:

Through a technical disruption and criminal indictment we have struck a blow to one of the most pernicious malware threats in the world.

The press release also revealed that:

  • Ghinkul and his accomplices or Evil Corp, managed to steal $3.5 million from Penneco Oil in Pennsylvania, 2012 before transferring the money to different banks in Ukraine and Belarus.
  • Ghinkul also tried to steal $999,000 from the Sharon City School district but was unable to siphon the money away.

The operation to take down the botnet and its instigators were orchestrated by agents and personnel in the FBI, the National Crime Agency in Britain, Europol and the German Bundeskriminalamt.

The Shadowserver Foundation, a group of volunteering professional white-hats now have control of the botnet.

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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