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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.

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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Samburaj is the contributing editor at Hacked and keeps tabs on science, technology and cyber security.




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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.

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 417 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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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 417 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 417 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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