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Reverse Tunnelling & URL Shortening Services Used in Evasive Phishing

 

Researchers are detecting an increase in the usage of reverse tunnel services, as well as URL shorteners, for large-scale phishing operations, leaving malicious activity more difficult to detect. This strategy differs from the more typical practise of registering domains with hosting providers, who are more inclined to answer complaints and remove phishing sites. 

Threat actors can use reverse tunnels to host phishing websites locally on their own computers and route connections through an external service. They can evade detection by using a URL shortening service to produce new links as frequently as they desire. Many phishing URLs are renewed in less than 24 hours, making tracing and eliminating the domains more complex. 

CloudSEK, a digital risk prevention company, has seen a rise in the number of phishing efforts that combine reverse tunnelling and URL shortening services. According to a report shared with BleepingComputer by the business, researchers discovered more than 500 sites hosted and disseminated in this manner. CloudSEK discovered that the most extensively misused reverse tunnel services are Ngrok, LocalhostRun, and Cloudflare's Argo. They also saw an increase in the use of URL shortening services such as Bit.ly, is.gd, and cutt.ly. 

Reverse tunnel services protect the phishing site by managing all connections to the local server where it is housed. The tunnel service resolves any incoming connections and forwards them to the local computer. Victims who interact with these phishing sites have their personal data saved directly on the attacker's computer. Thus according to CloudSEK, the threat actor conceals the name of the URL, which is often a string of random characters, by utilising URL shorteners. 

As a result, a suspicious domain name is masked under a short URL. Opponents, according to CloudSEK, are disseminating these links using popular communication channels such as WhatsApp, Telegram, emails, SMS, or bogus social media pages. It is important to note that the abuse of these services is not new. 

In February 2021, for example, Cyble produced proof of Ngrok misuse. However, according to CloudSEK's results, the situation is worsening. CloudSEK discovered one phishing campaign that impersonated YONO, a digital banking platform provided by the State Bank of India. The attacker's URL was masked under "cutt[.]ly/UdbpGhs" and directed to the site "ultimate-boy-bacterial-generates[.]trycloudflare[.]com/sbi," which made advantage of Cloudflare's Argo tunnelling service. 

This phishing page asked for bank account information, PAN card numbers, Aadhaar unique identification numbers, and mobile phone numbers. CloudSEK did not disclose the effectiveness of this operation, but it did point out that threat actors seldom use the same domain name for more than 24 hours, however, they do recycle the phishing page designs.

"Even if a URL is reported or blocked, threat actors can easily host another page, using the same template" - CloudSEK 

This sensitive information may be sold on the dark web or utilised by attackers to deplete bank accounts. If the information comes from a business, the threat actor might use it to execute ransomware attacks or business email compromise (BEC) fraud. 

Users should avoid clicking on links obtained from unknown or dubious sources to protect themselves from this sort of danger. Manually typing a bank's domain name into the browser is an excellent way to avoid being exposed to a bogus website.

HR Manager of Private Company Duped of ₹28 Lakh

 

The cybercrime police are looking for a person who pretended to be the managing director of a private company and duped the firm's HR manager into transferring 28.8 lakh online before fleeing. 

On Sunday, the police lodged a case against the unknown individual, accusing him of different sections of the IT Act as well as cheating and impersonation under the IPC, based on a complaint filed by Nirmal Jain, the owner of the private enterprise. 

According to Mr. Jain's allegation, the accused sent a WhatsApp message to HR manager Thirupathi Rao pretending to be Paras Jain, the company's MD. The MD's image was on the WhatsApp profile, and the message stated that it was his personal number and that he was at a meeting and should not be disturbed. 

The individual then requested that Mr. Rao move the funds to three bank accounts online on an emergency basis. Mr. Rao followed the instructions and transferred a total of 28.89,807 to the private bank account numbers specified in the communication. When he told higher officials about the transactions, the scam was discovered. 

Based on the transaction information, the authorities are now attempting to locate the accused. This is a new trend among internet fraudsters who download the profile images of senior executives of organisations in order to scam their office staff, according to experts.

Bad Bot Traffic is Significantly Contributing to Rise of Online Scam

 

Recently, many organizations have been left wrestling with the challenge of overcoming the rise in bot traffic, which is also sometimes referred to as non-human traffic. According to an Imperva analysis, bad bots, or software applications that conduct automated operations with malicious intent, accounted for a record-breaking 27.7% of all global internet traffic in 2021, up from 25.6 percent in 2020. Account takeover (ATO), content or price scraping, and scalping to purchase limited-availability items were the three most typical bot attacks. 

Bot traffic has the potential to damage organisations if they do not learn how to recognise, control, and filter it. Sites that rely on advertising in addition to sites that sell limited-quantity products and merchandise are particularly vulnerable. Bad bots are frequently the first sign of online fraud, posing a threat to both digital enterprises and their customers. 

Evasive bad bots accounted for 65.6 percent of all bad bot traffic in 2021, a grouping of moderate and advanced bad bots that circumvent ordinary security protections. This type of bot employs the most advanced evasion strategies, such as cycling through several IP addresses, using anonymous proxies, changing identities, and imitating human behaviour. 

Bad bots make it possible to exploit, misuse, and assault websites, mobile apps, and APIs at high speed. Personal information, credit card details, and loyalty points can all be stolen if an attack is successful. Organizations' non-compliance with data privacy and transaction requirements is exacerbated by automated misuse and online fraud. 

Bad bot traffic is increasing at a time when businesses are making investments to improve online customer experiences. More digital services, greater online functionality, and the creation of broad API ecosystems have all emerged.

Unfortunately, evil bot operators will use this slew of new endpoints to launch automated assaults. The key findings of the research are:
  • Account takeover grew148% in 2021: In 2021, 64.1% of ATO attacks used an advanced bad bot. Financial Services was the most targeted industry (34.6%), followed by Travel (23.2%). The United States was the leading origin country of ATO attacks (54%) in 2021. The implications of account takeover are extensive; successful attacks lock customers out of their accounts, while fraudsters gain access to sensitive information that can be stolen and abused. For businesses, ATO contributes to revenue loss, risk of non-compliance with data privacy regulations, and tarnished reputations.
  • Travel, retail, and financial services targeted by bad bots: The volume of attacks originating from sophisticated bad bots was most notable across Travel (34.2%), Retail (33.8%), and Financial Services (8.8%) in 2021. These industries remain a prime target because of the valuable personal data they store behind user login portals on their websites and mobile apps.
  • The proportion of bad bot traffic differs by country: In 2021, Germany (39.6%), Singapore (39.1%), and Canada (30.2%) experienced the highest volumes of bad bot traffic, while the United States (29.1%) and the United Kingdom (29.7%) were also higher than the global average (27.7%) of bad bot traffic.
  • 35.6% of bad bots disguise as mobile web browsers: Mobile user agents were a popular disguise for bad bot traffic in 2021, accounting for more than one-third of all internet traffic, increasing from 28.1% in 2020. Mobile Safari was a popular agent in 2021 because bots exploited the browser’s improved user privacy settings to mask their behaviour, making them harder to detect.
According to the findings, no industry will be immune to negative bot activity in 2021. Bots hoarding popular gaming consoles and clogging vaccine appointment scheduling sites gained attention in 2021, but any degree of bot activity on a website can create considerable downtime, degrade performance, and reduce service reliability.

YouTube Scammers Steal $1.7M in Fake Crypto Giveaway

 

According to Group-IB, a group of online scammers made approximately $1.7 million by promising cryptocurrency giveaways on YouTube. 

The group allegedly aired 36 YouTube videos between February 16 and 18, gaining at least 165,000 views, according to the Singapore-based security company. To give validity to their efforts, they included footage of tech entrepreneurs and crypto enthusiasts like Elon Musk, Brad Garlinghouse, Michael Saylor, Changpeng Zhao, and Cathie Wood. 

According to Group-IB, the channels were either hacked or bought on the black market. They included links to at least 29 websites with instructions on how to double cryptocurrency investments in the streams they built. 

'Investors' were encouraged to send a tiny sum of virtual currency and promised that they would be paid back twice that amount. Some victims were prompted to enter seed phrases to 'link' their wallets, depending on the cryptocurrency and wallet type utilised. 

However, the fraudsters were able to take control of their wallet and withdraw all of their funds as a result of this. The scammers received 281 transactions totalling nearly $1.7 million into their crypto wallets in just three days. The precise number of victims and the overall amount stolen, however, are unknown. 

Group-IB stated, “The fake crypto giveaway scheme is not new, but apparently is still having a moment. Further analysis of the scammers’ domain infrastructure revealed that the 29 websites were part of a massive network of 583 interconnected resources all set up in the first quarter of 2022. Notably, there were three times as many domains registered for this scheme in less than three months of 2022 compared to the whole of last year.” 

Crypto enthusiasts should be wary of freebies and avoid sharing personal information online, according to Group-IB. Users were also encouraged to double-check the authenticity of any promos and use a password manager to store any seed phrases.

Payment Card Skimming Resurfaces with an Internet Twist

 

Card skimming has existed prior to the mainstream internet and is experiencing a revival as financial fraudsters recognise new potential to combine physical world data theft with online intrusion to steal even more money and information than ever. Only a week ago, it was announced that over 500 online retail sites were victims of a large "card skimming" incident, in which threat actors placed a device that allowed them to duplicate and steal the data from valid debit and credit cards as they were used for purchases. 

Card skimming fraudsters used to implant a physical device into ATMs or payment terminals to steal information from genuine consumers' payment cards. Nowadays, since online shopping is more popular than ever, cyber thieves are utilising malware placed into the checkout pages of online commerce sites to acquire credit card information, which they can then resell or use in their own nefarious schemes. 

Sansec, a malware and vulnerability detection firm that works with over 7,000 online retailers, was among the first to notice this fraudulent card skimming activity earlier this month. The vendor proposes "cleaning" the affected retail sites in order to remove the harmful code, but experts fear that these cyber-skimmers may just shift their strategy and look for "backdoors" through which they can implement their viruses. 

Many of these new card-skimming attacks, as well as other card information theft tactics where the card is not physically present at the moment of transaction, have been linked to the Magecart cybercriminal gang. Furthermore, if mobile phones begin to have card readers, this situation may worsen. 

The cybersecurity firm was able to speak with the administrators of the hijacked websites, according to another report by Ars Technica. They noticed that the hackers used a SQL injection flaw as well as a PHP object injection attack. Both were apparently using Quickview, a Magento 2 extension that allows buyers to quickly view product information without having to load the listings. 

The hackers were able to add an additional validation rule to the customer_eav_attribute table by misusing the Magento plugin. Furthermore, the credit card skimming group injected a payload onto the site. In order for the code to run successfully, the hackers must first "unserialize" the data on Magento. They would then log in as a new guest on the website.

SquirrelWaffle Adds a Spin of Fraud to Exchange Server Malspamming

 

Squirrelwaffle, ProxyLogon, and ProxyShell are being utilized against Microsoft Exchange Servers to conduct financial fraud via email hijacking. Sophos researchers revealed that a Microsoft Exchange Server that had not been fixed to safeguard it against a set of serious vulnerabilities identified last year was used to hijack email threads and disseminate malspam. 

On March 2, 2021, Microsoft released emergency updates to address zero-day vulnerabilities that could be exploited to take over servers. At the time, Hafnium, an advanced persistent threat (APT) group, was constantly exploiting the bugs, and other APTs swiftly followed suit. Despite the fact that the ProxyLogon/ProxyShell flaws are now widely known, some servers remain unpatched and vulnerable to assaults. 

Sophos has described an instance that combined Microsoft Exchange Server vulnerabilities with Squirrelwaffle, a malware loader that was first discovered in malicious spam operations last year. Malicious Microsoft Office documents or DocuSign content tacked on to phishing emails are frequently used to spread the loader. Squirrelwaffle is frequently used to fetch and execute CobaltStrike beacons via a VBS script if an intended victim has permitted macros in the compromised documents. 

According to Sophos, the loader was used in the recent campaign once the Microsoft Exchange Server had been compromised. By hijacking existing email threads between employees, the server of an undisclosed organisation was utilised to "mass distribute" Squirrelwaffle to internal and external email addresses. 

Email Hijacking can take a variety of forms. Social engineering and impersonation, such as an attacker posing as an executive to dupe accounting departments into signing off on a fraudulent transaction, or sending email blasts with links to malware payloads, can disrupt communication channels. The spam campaign was utilized to disseminate Squirrelwaffle in this example, but attackers also extracted an email thread and used the internal knowledge contained within to execute financial fraud. Customer information was obtained, and a victim organization was chosen. The attackers generated email accounts using a domain to reply to the email thread outside of the server, using a technique known as typo-squatting to register a domain with a name that was very similar to the victim. 

Sophos explained, "To add further legitimacy to the conversation, the attackers copied additional email addresses to give the impression that they were requesting support from an internal department. In fact, the additional addresses were also created by the attacker under the typo-squatted domain." 

The attackers attempted for six days to divert a legitimate financial transaction to a bank account they owned. The money was about to be processed, and the victim escaped the attack only because a bank involved in the transaction realized the transfer was most likely fake. 

Matthew Everts, Sophos researcher commented, "This is a good reminder that patching alone isn't always enough for protection. In the case of vulnerable Exchange servers, for example, you also need to check the attackers haven't left behind a web shell to maintain access. And when it comes to sophisticated social engineering attacks such as those used in email thread hijacking, educating employees about what to look out for and how to report it is critical for detection."

Spanish Police Arrested SIM Swappers who Stole Money from Victims Bank Accounts

 

The Spanish National Police have arrested eight suspected members of a criminal organisation who used SIM swapping assaults to steal money from the victims' bank accounts. 

SIM switching assaults are used by criminals to get control of victims' phone numbers by duping mobile operator workers into transferring their numbers to SIMs controlled by the fraudsters. The attackers can steal money, cryptocurrency, and personal information, including contacts linked with online accounts, once a SIM has been stolen. Criminals could take over social media accounts and utilise SMS to circumvent 2FA services utilized by online services, including financial services. 

In the incident under investigation by Spanish police, the cybercriminal gained the victims' personal information and bank details via fraudulent emails in which they pretended to be their bank. The fraudsters were able to falsify the victims' official documents and use them to dupe phone store staff into issuing them with replica SIM cards. They were able to overcome SMS-based 2FA needed to access bank accounts and take the money once they had the SIM cards. 

The press release published by the Spanish National Police stated, “Agents of the National Police have dismantled a criminal organization dedicated, presumably, to bank fraud through the duplication of SIM cards. There are eight detainees based in Catalonia and acting throughout Spain who, through malicious messages and posing as a bank, obtained personal information and bank details to access the accounts of the victims whose identity they usurped through the falsification of official documents. With this, they deceived the employees of phone stores to obtain duplicate SIM cards and, in this way, have access to the bank’s security confirmation messages. In this way they could operate in online banking and access bank accounts to empty them after receiving security confirmation messages from the banks.”

The first SIM swapping attack linked to this group occurred in March 2021, when Spanish authorities received two reports about fraudulent transactions in different parts of the country. Crooks used bank transfers and digital quick payment services based in the region of Barcelona to launder the stolen funds. Seven people were arrested in Barcelona and one in Seville as a byproduct of the operation. The suspects' bank accounts were also banned by the authorities. 

The FBI announced this week that SIM swap attacks have increased, with the objective of stealing millions of dollars from victims by hijacking their mobile phone numbers. According to the FBI, US individuals have lost more than $68 million as a result of SIM switching assaults in 2021, with the number of complaints and damages nearly doubling since 2018. The FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) received 1,611 SIM switching assault reports in 2018, compared to 320 complaints between 2018 and 2002, resulting in a total loss of $12 million. 

Individuals should take the following steps, as per the FBI: 

• Do not post details regarding financial assets, such as bitcoin ownership or investment, on social networking platforms or forums. 
• Do not disclose the mobile number account details to representatives who ask for the account password or pin over the phone. Verify the call by calling the mobile carrier's customer support number. • Posting personal information online, such as your phone number, address, or other identifying information, is not a good idea. 
• To access online accounts, use a variety of unique passwords. 
• Any changes in SMS-based connectivity should be noted. 
• To gain access to online accounts, use strong multi-factor authentication solutions such as biometrics, physical security tokens, or standalone authentication software. 
• For easy login on mobile device applications, do not save passwords, usernames, or other information. 

On the other hand, mobile providers should take the following safety measures, according to the FBI: 

• Employees should be instructed and training sessions on SIM swapping should be held. 
• Examine incoming email addresses containing formal correspondence for minor differences that could make fraudulent addresses appear real and match the names of actual clients. 
• Establish stringent security standards that allow workers to effectively check customer credentials before transferring their phone numbers to a new device.

Attackers Revive 20-Year-Old Tactic in Microsoft 365 Phishing Attacks

 

A classic phishing tactic using mislabeled files is being used to deceive Microsoft 365 users into revealing their credentials. Malicious actors are dusting off Right-to-Left Override (RLO) attacks to fool victims into running files with altered extensions, as per cybersecurity researchers at Vade. Victims are requested to enter their Microsoft 365 login details when they open the files. 

In the previous two weeks, Vade's threat analysis team has discovered more than 200 RLO attacks targeting Microsoft 365 users. The technique of assault was: 

Within the Unicode encoding system, the RLO character [U+202e] is a special non-printing character. The symbol was created to support languages like Arabic and Hebrew, which are written and read from right to left. 

The special character, which can be found in the Windows and Linux character maps, can be used to mask the file type. The executable file abc[U+202e]txt.exe, for example, will display in Windows as abcexe.txt, misleading people to believe it is a.txt file. 

The threat has been present for more than a decade, and CVE-2009-3376 was first identified in 2008 in Mozilla Foundation and Unicode technical reports. 

"While Right-to-Left Override (RLO) attack is an old technique to trick users into executing a file with a disguised extension, this spoofing method is back with new purposes," noted researchers. 

RLO spoofing was previously a common technique for hiding malware in attachments. According to Vade researchers, the approach is currently being used to phish Microsoft 365 business users in order to gain access to a company's data. The team encountered one RLO attack in which an email was delivered with what seemed to be a voicemail.mp3 attachment. 

Researchers stated, "This kind of scam preys on the curiosity of the recipient, who is not expecting a voicemail, and who maybe intrigued enough to click the phishing link in the body of the email or the attachment, which is often an html file."
  
"Most likely attackers are taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the expansion of remote working," hypothesized the analysts, who also noted that "RLO spoofing attachments is more convincing with the lack of interpersonal communication due to teleworking."

Intuit Alerted About Phishing Emails Threatening to Delete Accounts

 

Customers of accounting and tax software supplier Intuit have been warned of an ongoing phishing attack masquerading the organisation and attempting to mislead victims with fraudulent account suspension notifications. 

Customers who were notified and told that their Intuit accounts had been disabled as a result of a recent server security upgrade prompted Intuit to issue the advisory. 

The attackers stated in the phishing messages, masquerading as the Intuit Maintenance Team, "We have temporarily disabled your account due to inactivity. It is compulsory that you restore your access within next 24 hours. This is a result of recent security upgrade on our server and database, to fight against vulnerability and account theft as we begin the new tax season." 

To regain access to their accounts, the receivers need to visit https://proconnect.intuit.com/Pro/Update right away. By clicking the link, they will most likely be redirected to a phishing site controlled by the attacker, which will seek to infect them with malware or steal their financial or personal information. 

Those who hesitate before clicking the embedded link are warned that they risk losing access to their accounts permanently. The financial software company stated the sender "is not associated with Intuit, is not an approved agent of Intuit, nor is their use of Intuit's brands authorised by Intuit," and that it isn't behind the emails. 

Customers who have received phishing emails are advised not to click any embedded links or open attachments, according to the maker of TurboTax and QuickBooks. 

To avoid being infected with malware or redirected to a phishing landing page that would try to steal the credentials, it's best to delete the emails. Customers who have already opened attachments or clicked links in phishing emails should take the following steps: 
  • Delete any downloaded files immediately. 
  • Scan their systems using an up-to-date anti-malware solution. 
  • Change their passwords
On its support page, Intuit also provides information on how users can safeguard themselves from phishing assaults. 

QuickBooks clients were also cautioned in October about phishing attacks that used bogus renewal charges as bait. Fraudsters contacted QuickBooks users via websites in the same month, telling them to upgrade to prevent their databases from being destroyed or corporate backup files automatically erased, with the intent of taking over their accounts.  

$50 Million Lost to Fraudsters Impersonating as Broker-Dealers

 

A California man admitted his involvement in a large-scale and long-running Internet-based fraud scam that allowed him and other fraudsters to drain about $50 million from hundreds of investors.

Between 2012 and October 2020 Allen Giltman, 56, and his co-conspirators constructed phoney websites to collect money from people via the internet by advertising various investment opportunities (mainly the purchase of certificates of deposit). 

According to court documents, "The Fraudulent Websites advertised higher than average rates of return on the CDs, which enhanced the attractiveness of the investment opportunities to potential victims. At times, the fraudulent websites were designed to closely resemble websites being operated by actual, well-known, and publicly reputable financial institutions; at other times, the fraudulent websites were designed to resemble legitimate-seeming financial institutions that did not exist." 

They advertised the phoney investment sites in Google and Microsoft Bing search results for phrases like "best CD rates" and "highest cd rates." The scammers pretended to be FINRA broker-dealers in interactions with victims seeking investment possibilities, claiming to be employed by the financial companies they imitated on the scam sites. 

They employed virtual private networks (VPNs), prepaid gift cards to register web domains, prepaid phones, and encrypted applications to interact with their targets, and false invoices to explain the huge wire transfers they obtained from their victims to mask their genuine identities during their fraud schemes. 

"To date, law enforcement has identified at least 150 fraudulent websites created as part of the scheme," the Justice Department stated. 

"At least 70 victims of the fraud scheme nationwide, including in New Jersey, collectively transmitted approximately $50 million that they believed to be investments." 

The charge of wire fraud conspiracy, which Giltman consented, carries a possible sentence of 20 years in jail, while the charge of securities fraud carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. Both are punishable by fines of $250,000 or double the gross gain or loss from the offence, whichever is greater. Giltman is scheduled to be sentenced on May 10, 2022. 

Stay Vigilant

The FBI's Criminal Investigative Division and the Securities and Exchange Commission cautioned investors in July 2021 that scammers posing as registered financial professionals such as brokers and investment advisers were posing as them. 

The July alert came after FINRA issued a similar fraud alert the same week regarding broker imposter frauds involving phishing sites that impersonate brokers and faked SEC or FINRA registration documents. 

"Fraudsters may falsely claim to be registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) or a state securities regulator in order to lure investors into scams, or even impersonate real investment professionals who actually are registered with these organizations," the FBI and SEC stated. 

Investors should first use the Investor.gov search engine to see if people marketing investment possibilities are licensed or registered, and then ensure they're not scammers by contacting the seller using independently confirmed contact information from the firm's Client Relationship Summary (Form CRS).

Scam Spotter Warns the American Public of a Gift Card Scam

 

A cyber-security platform has come up with a humorous approach to alert Americans about gift card scams ahead of the Christmas season. With its new awareness campaign geared at thwarting scammers' complicated con efforts, Scam Spotter, a platform established by Cybercrime Support Network (CSN) with support from Google, is sounding the warning to consumers ahead of the busy shopping season. 

A grandma steals a helicopter and breaks into a jail in a foreign country to set her granddaughter free using gift cards as a bail payment in one Hollywood blockbuster-style dramatization. In another, a man narrowly avoids an armed police raid on his home after paying his tax debt with gift cards over the phone. "Your computer has been hacked," "you've been pre-approved for a loan," and "it's your boss – I need you to buy gift cards ASAP" are among the fraud tactics used in other commercials. 

A spokesperson for the Scam Spotter platform said: “This comprehensive campaign highlights the most common gift card scam scenarios in a series of absurd and hyperbolic videos to show that if the stories scammers use sound unbelievable, it’s because they are.” 

Scams are more common than many people know, and they've progressed far beyond the unlikely "Nigerian Prince" call, with the fraud industry being worth more than $3.3 billion every year. Scammers feed on people's fears and catch them off guard by using more personal methods of communication, such as a direct message on social media. They accomplish by creating "urgent" situations and instilling terror in their victims, making them feel compelled to act immediately without a chance to think. People are typically overwhelmed with embarrassment after being cheated, and they don't report or talk about it, leaving others vulnerable to fall for the same fraud. 

Gift cards have topped the list of reported fraud payment methods every year since 2018, according to the Federal Trade Commission. People reported losing roughly $245 million during that time, with a median individual loss of $840. 

Scams involving gift cards target people of all ages. “While baby boomers tend to lose more money per scam on average, younger generations are far from safe, with millennials reporting losses of around $300m in 2020,” said a Scam Spotter spokesperson. In its 2021 Holiday Shopping Forecast, global branded payments provider Blackhawk Network anticipated that gift card spending will rise by 27% this year.

Cloud Cryptomining Scam in Google Play Rakes in Cash

 

Researchers stated that fraudulent crypto mining applications available for download on Google Play have scammed more than 93,400 people so far, taking at least $350,000. 

The applications, which are divided into “BitScam” and “CloudScam” variants, market themselves as delivering bitcoin mining services for a charge, according to Lookout. 

“These apps were able to fly under the radar because they don’t actually do anything malicious,” said Ioannis Gasparis, a mobile application security researcher at Lookout, in an analysis released on Wednesday. 

“They are simply shells set up to attract users caught up in the cryptocurrency craze and collect money for services that don’t exist. Purchasing goods or services online always requires a certain degree of trust — these scams prove that cryptocurrency is no exception.” 

In addition to charging for the “apps,” the fraudsters push extra services and upgrades that users may buy within the apps, either directly by transferring Bitcoin to the creators' wallets (the BitScam version) or through the Google Play in-app billing system (the CloudScam version). On the official Google Play store, there were 25 similar apps, with a total of 170 when third-party app shops are included. Although the crypto mining applications have been deleted from Google Play, there are still hundreds more accessible for side-loading, according to Gasparis. 

He said in the report, “Cloud mining introduces both convenience and cybersecurity risks. Because of the simplicity and agility of cloud computing, it is quick and easy to set up a realistic-looking crypto-mining service that is really a scam. Cybercriminals have set up similar schemes to steal from desktop users, [but this is] the first scam that packages this scheme into mobile apps.” 

Working of mobile, socially engineered cryptomining scams: 

After downloading the app and creating an account, users are presented with an activity dashboard that claims to show the “available hash mining rate.” It also has a counter for the number of coins the victims are supposed to have earned. 

“The hash rate displayed is typically very low to lure the user into buying upgrades that promise faster mining rates,” Gasparis noted. Such “virtual hardware” upgrades can range from $12.99 to $259.99, Lookout found. Other “upgrades” include spendier subscription plans with lower minimum withdrawal balances and higher supposed mining rates. Users also are told they’ll earn “20 percent” of their friend’s earnings if they refer someone to the app, and are offered “daily rewards.” 

In terms of the coin counter, the applications just show a fake balance. The counter progressed only when the app was running in the foreground in some of the applications examined, and it was reset to zero when the mobile device was rebooted or the app was resumed. Some of the totals were limited: After counting to 10 on the CloudScam software "BTC Cash," for example, the counter resets to zero. 

“If cloud mining was actually taking place in either BitScam or CloudScam, we would expect the coin amount displayed to be stored in a secure cloud database and queried via an API,” Gasparis stated. 

Users are also prevented from withdrawing any coins unless they achieve a certain minimum balance in the applications (not that any coins actually exist). Even if such balance is purportedly attained, the applications merely display a notification informing the user that the withdrawal transaction is pending while simultaneously resetting the user's coin balance to zero. The user may receive an error message stating that the balance is inadequate for withdrawal in some situations. 

According to Gasparis, the first samples of these crypto-scam apps were disseminated through third-party app stores in the second half of 2019. He went on to say that it's possible that since then, rival entities have emerged to market their products in this area. 

He added, “My conclusion that CloudScam and BitScam are run by competing groups is based on the fact that each family has completely different codebases. There are a lot of mentions of Android bitcoin miners in general on the Dark Web, though nothing specific to the apps we found.” Gasparis informed Threatpost that he had no idea how to fix the applications, including how to halt subscriptions and reclaim any costs. 

“Purchasing goods or services online always requires a certain degree of trust in the vendor or at least the app store processing the transaction,” Gasparis noted in the report.

“While this is true for any online transaction, it is even more important with respect to financial services such as cryptocurrency investments. The scammers running this scheme were able to tap into the existing frenzy created by the hot cryptocurrency market. But no matter how high cryptocurrency valuations climb, there is no substitute for appropriate due diligence before purchasing a cryptocurrency mining app.” 

Lookout has five suggestions for identifying bitcoin scammers: 

1.Get to know the app's creators. What certifications or credentials do they have, what other applications have they created, do they have a website, and can you contact them? 

2.Install it from a reputable app store. While it's difficult to identify fraud, downloading from an official shop decreases your chances of getting malware. 

3.Take the time to read the terms and conditions. The majority of scam applications contain fictitious information or lack any terms. 

4.Use the app's reviews from other users to your advantage. When it comes to spotting frauds, reading other users' experiences with the app may be eye-opening. 

5. Understand the app's permissions and functions. Examine the app's actions for any red flags. Is the program requesting rights that it doesn't require to function? Is there a sudden crash or reset of the app, a sudden reset of the bitcoin balance, and a sudden reset of the displayed numbers? 

Cryptoming Scam Apps:

The scam apps that were available on Google Play and may still be installed on victims’ phones are:

1. BitScam (18): Top Coins, Mr Bitcoin, Star BTC, Bitcoin Burn, Moon BAT, Bito Holic, Bito Hash,  BitHash, Multi Coins, BitcoinCash Miner, Airdrop, Bright Miner, Pink BTC, XMR Miner, COIN Master, ETHMINER PRO, crypto cloud mining pro and Btc Miner pro.

2. CloudScam (7): Bito Miner, Mining Machine, BTC CLOUD, BTC Cash, Black Crypto, Cloud Mining, and Crypto Pro-Miner.

Mackenzie Scott Scam: Fraudsters asking Fake Donations in Billionaire's name

 

A major phishing campaign that reached tens of thousands of inboxes impersonated as MacKenzie Bezos-Scott grant foundation promising monetary advantages to recipients of the e-mail in exchange for a processing fee. 

The processing fee is referred to as an "advance fee," and it has been used since before the internet, with the "Nigerian prince" version popularising it. But this phishing campaign took advantage of the charitable acts last year from author MacKenzie Scott, ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. 

The scam surfaced after Mackenzie Scott revealed in December that she had donated $4.2 billion of her fortune to over 300 organizations, including food banks and other charities that assist the people in need. Ironically, one food bank in Arkansas, which had received an authentic email from Scott about a legitimate donation, initially mistook it for a hoax. 

Eyal Benishti, the CEO of tech security company Ironscales said, “That may have primed fraudsters to develop a phishing scam based on Scott's donations in the hope that some organizations would believe that they, too, are receiving valid emails”. About 200 of its customers have received the bogus Mackenzie Scott emails, although none have fallen for the bait, he added. 

Fraudsters initiated the scam by sending out spoofed emails that claimed, MacKenzie Bezos-Scott grant foundation is distributing funds from their foundation. In fact, the emails were sent not to distribute billions to charity, but fleece victims. 

However, the fake Mackenzie Scott emails had a few tip-offs that hints they weren't real: 

1. Sender’s title appeared as “Mackenzie Scott Grant” but the return email address was to the domain ‘@mintme.com’ 
2. Multiple grammatical errors in the email body 
3. Sender’s name and signature were different 

The fraudsters alleged that they are from the "MacKenzie Bezos-Scott foundation" and have chosen a recipient for a grant. Further, they ask for the recipients' full name and address, and if they answer, recipients are required to submit a small processing fee to unlock the grant. Of course, there's no grant; it's just a tactic to extort money from the victims.

Scams have escalated as a result of large-scale relief programs such as stimulus checks and the Paycheck Protection Program, which has drawn out fraudsters trying to trick people into giving away sensitive data, such as Social Security numbers. With the ongoing levels of hardship due to the coronavirus pandemic, people are more susceptible to scams at the moment.

E-Sim Fraud and Prevention

 

Some mobile service providers have eSIM-enabled cell phones which don't need an actual SIM card. They have a little chip inside the phone and the data on this eSIM is rewritable so the client can change the operator without any problem. The victim normally gets a message cautioning that his/her SIM card will be blocked, which says: “Dear customer, your SIM card will be blocked in 24 hours.” Or “Please update your eKYC verification.” These criminals call the network clients in the name of customer care executives and ask them to request e-SIM activation.

After the message, fraudsters call their victim claiming to be telecom organization's customer care executive; say from Airtel, Reliance Jio, or Vodafone-Idea. The message, which looks like from the customer care cell of a mobile service provider, requests that clients click on a link and fill a form. This form can ask for multiple types of data like Bank Details, PII, and so on. Clients are then approached to forward an email ID, sent by the fraudsters, to the customer care of that specific telecom operator. The email ID belongs to the scamsters so that they can register their mail IDs.

In the wake of getting their own email ID enrolled with the victim’s mobile number, the caller at that point requests the victim to forward an eSIM request to the service provider with an enlisted email ID. They deceive the client into sending an email sent by the service provider on their enlisted email addresses.

When the eSIM service gets activated, the activation QR code for eSIM goes to the email ID given by the fraudster. After eSIM activation, the actual SIM that is running in the victims' phone consequently gets blocked. The fraudster registers the eSIM with digital wallets and links it to the victim's bank accounts to steal money. Following this, the casualties are made to fill in their details, including bank details, in a google form. That is the way cybercriminals gain admittance to the bank accounts of these users. 

 A few safety measures to prevent e-SIM frauds: 

1. Go to the SIM provider directly to get your e-SIM. 

2. Your SIM is never blocked in the wake of upgrading from physical sim to e-SIM. Never believe scammers threatening that your SIM will be hindered unless you upgrade. 

3. Never give your details for SIM up-gradation or share any OTP/click on given un-verified links.


Reference: Rahul Tyagi, Co-founder, SAFE Security. 

Fraudsters are Exploiting Google Apps to Steal Credit Card Details

 

Threat actors are using a novel approach to steal the credit card details of e-commerce shoppers by exploiting Google’s Apps Script business application platform. Threat actors are abusing Google Apps Script domain ‘script.google.com’ to hide their malicious activities from malware scan engines and evade Content Security Policy (CSP) controls.

Eric Brandel, a cybersecurity researcher unearthed the scam while analyzing Early Breach Detection data provided by Sansec, a cybersecurity firm focused on fighting digital skimming. Brandel explained that threat actors bank on the fact that the majority of the online stores would have whitelisted all Google subdomains in their respective CSP configuration (a security protocol for blocking suspicious code execution in web apps). They take advantage of this trust and abuse the App script domain to route the stolen data to a server under their possession. 

Once, the malicious script was injected by the fraudsters in the e-commerce site, all the payment details stolen from the exploited e-commerce site were transferred as base64 encoded JSON data to a Google Apps Script custom app, using script.google.com as an exfiltration endpoint. Then, the stolen data was transferred to another server - Israel-based site analit. tech – handled by fraudsters.

Sansec stated that “the malware domain analit[.]tech was registered on the same day as previously discovered malware domains hotjar[.]host and pixelm[.]tech, who are hosted on the same network.” Google services such as Google Forms and Google Sheets are also exploited in the past by FIN7 cybercriminal gang for malware command-and-control communications. This gang has targeted banks and point-of-sale (POS) terminals EU and US firms using the Carbanak backdoor.

“Typically, a digital skimmer (aka Magecart) runs on dodgy servers in tax havens, and its location reveals its nefarious intent. But when a skimming campaign runs entirely on trusted Google servers, very few security systems will flag it as ‘suspicious’. And more importantly, popular countermeasures like Content-Security-Policy (CSP) will not work when a site administrator trusts Google”, Sansec explained the workings of the fraudsters.

Fraudsters are Using Fake W-8BEN Forms for 2021 Tax Season

 

A huge number of US citizens get ready for the 2021 tax season, swarms of fraudsters and scammers are getting ready to rip off residents and non-residents alike. Fraudsters had a promising beginning foreseeing the buzz encompassing tax filing season, with phishing efforts impersonating the government agency as early as November 25, 2020, as indicated by Bitdefender Antispam Lab. Spikes in IRS-related phishing tricks scams were seen on January 19 and 21 when a large portion of the incoming agency-related correspondence was set apart as spam. 

Authorities say a huge number of individuals—from regular residents to sophisticated professionals—fall prey to IRS and other scams every year, losing millions of dollars in the process. As per a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) report, imposter scams cost Americans some $667 million in 2019—and those were only the cases reported to authorities. Numerous victims never document reports, regularly out of shame.

This warm-up was no happenstance, since the 2020 fiscal year rounded up, round about $2.3 billion were involved in tax fraud, as indicated by the agency’s annual report. Identity thieves utilized stolen Social Security numbers and other personally identifiable information (PII) to file early tax returns in the name of legitimate taxpayers, or utilized frivolous tactics to startle recipients into making prompt payments to stay away from arrest or deportation. 

Fraudsters are focusing on non-residents in the US utilizing a phony variant of the W-8BEN Form (Certificate of Foreign Status of Beneficial Owner for United States Tax Withholding and Reporting) to steal sensitive information. This rendition of the scam has been spotted more than 80,000 times since November 25, 2020, with more recognizable spikes expected to hit inboxes until April 15. Unlike traditional phishing, which expects recipients to get to a spoofed website or download a malicious attachment, scammers have set up a phony fax number where recipients should forward their data. The fake version will advise you to give specific data excluded from the genuine W-8BEN US tax exemption document, for example, your passport number, profession, mother's maiden name, bank account name and number and investments. 

Fraudsters have additionally reused older renditions of IRS impersonation scams by utilizing the Economic Impact Payments as a feature of The Coronavirus Aid Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Cyber criminals convicted of stealing more than £1 million using Fake job ads

Organized criminal network of five men and one woman have been convicted for stealing more than £1million from job hunters using fake job advertisements.

The members of the criminal are Adjibola Akinlabi (aged 26), Damilare Oduwole (26), Michael Awosile (27), Nadine Windley (26) and Temitope Araoye (29) and a malware writer "Tyrone Ellis (27)".

The evidence gathered by authorities including phone and online chat records shows that they made more than £300,000 from their fraud scheme. However, the officers believe it could be much higher , possibly more than £1million ($1.6m).

According to the National Crime Agency report, the fraudsters targeted innocent job hunters with fake job ads. Those who responded to the ads were sent a link via email asking them to complete an application form. Once the user clicks the link , it inadvertently install malware in victim's system.

The malware is capable of recording keystrokes and capturing victim's financial and personal data.

The compromised information is used by the fraudsters to get a new credit and debit cards, pin numbers.

The crooks will remain in custody and expected to be sentenced on Thursday 14 November.