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The Cybercrime Ecosystem Knits a Profitable Underground Gig Economy

 

Over a 30-month period, cybercriminal groups and threat groups advertised for workers with expertise in software development, IT infrastructure maintenance, and designing fraudulent websites and email campaigns. In accordance with a new report from cybersecurity firm Kaspersky, demand for technically skilled individuals continues, but it spiked during the coronavirus pandemic, with double the average job advertisements coming during March 2020, the first month of the pandemic. 

The analysis gathered messages from 155 Dark Web forums between January 2020 and June 2022, focusing on those that mentioned employment — either by cybercriminal groups or individuals looking for work. The majority of job postings (83%) were from threat groups looking for highly skilled workers, such as developers (61%), attack specialists (16%), and fraudulent website designers (10%).

As per Polina Bochkareva, a security services analyst at Kaspersky, enhancing defenses has compelled attackers to optimize their tools and techniques, driving the need for more technical experts.

"Business related to illegal activities is growing on underground markets, and technologies are developing along with it," she says. "All this leads to the fact that attacks are also developing, which requires more skilled workers."

The data on underground jobs reveals a spike in activity in cybercriminal services as well as the professionalization of the cybercrime ecosystem. According to a December report, ransomware groups have become much more efficient as they have turned specific aspects of operations into services, such as offering ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS), running bug bounties, and forming sales teams.

Furthermore, initial access brokers have productized the opportunistic compromise of enterprise networks and systems, frequently selling that access to third parties. According to the Kaspersky report, such a segment of labor necessitates the use of technically skilled individuals to develop and support complex features.

"The ads we analyzed also suggest that a substantial number of people are willing to engage in illicit or semilegal activities despite the accompanying risks," the report stated. "In particular, many turn to the shadow market for extra income in a crisis."

Pandemic caused spike 

A similar crisis sparked a surge in activity on Dark Web forums in early 2020. The pandemic, with its sudden layoffs and work-from-home mandates, fueled significant activity in the cybercrime underground, with 2020 seeing the highest number of employment-related posts. Overall, 41% of advertisements and job-seeking inquiries were posted on the Dark Web during the year, which is about average. However, March 2020 was the first month of worldwide lockdowns and saw approximately 6% of all postings, roughly double the average rate.

"Some ... living in the region suffered from the reduction of income, took a mandatory furlough, or lost their jobs altogether, which subsequently resulted in rising unemployment levels," Kaspersky stated in the report. "Some job seekers lost all hope to find steady, legitimate employment and began to search on Dark Web forums, spawning a surge of resumes there. As a result, we observed the highest ad numbers, both from prospective employers and job seekers."

Personal crises emerged to drive some technically inclined workers to seek employment with cybercriminal organizations. A common refrain in job advertisements is that applicants should not be addicted to drugs or alcohol.

"Teamwork skills, stable connection, no alcohol or drug addictions," read one job posting's translated requirements in the Kaspersky report.

"Dirty Work"

In many cases, the terms of the Dark Web jobs were similar to those of legitimate jobs, such as full-time employment, paid time off, and regular pay increases, with salaries ranging from $1,300 to $4,000 per month. However, the majority did not have an employment contract, and only 10% included a promise to pay salaries on time. The underground employment opportunities were dubbed "dirty jobs" in the report.

"Many are drawn by expectations of easy money and large financial gain," the report stated. "Most times, this is only an illusion. Salaries offered on the Dark Web are seldom significantly higher than those you can earn legally."

Reverse engineers had the highest potential median salary of $4,000 per month, with attack specialists and developers coming in second and third with promises of $2,500 and $2,000, respectively. However, the majority of offers (61%) were geared toward developers. According to Kaspersky's Bochkareva, these workers are the key to the cybercriminal underground.

"The most sought-after professionals were developers and attack specialists, particularly for coding malicious programs, phishing websites, and planning and implementing attacks," she says.

Report: Tax Preparation Software Returned Personal Consumer Data to Meta and Google

 

As per The Markup, popular tax preparation software such as TaxAct, TaxSlayer, and H&R Block sent sensitive financial information to Facebook's parent company Meta via its widely used code known as a pixel, which helps developers track user activity on their sites. 

In accordance with a report published on Tuesday by The Verge, Meta pixel trackers in the software sent information such as names, email addresses, income information, and refund amounts to Meta, violating its policies. The Markup also discovered that TaxAct sent similar financial data to Google via its analytics tool, though the data did not include names.

According to CNBC, Meta employs tiny pixels that publishers and businesses embed on their websites. When you visit, the dots send a message back to Facebook. It also enables businesses to target advertisements to people based on previous websites they have visited.

Based on the report, Facebook could use data from tax websites to power its advertising algorithms even if the person using the tax service does not have a Facebook account. It's yet another example of how Facebook's tools can be utilized to track people across the internet, even if users are unaware of it. According to some statements provided to The Markup, it could have been a mistake.

Ramsey Solutions, a financial advice and software company that uses TaxSlayer, told The Markup that it "NOT KNEW and was never alerted that personal tax information was being gathered by Facebook from the Pixel," and that the company informed TaxSlayer to deactivate the Pixel tracking from SmartTax.

An H&R Block spokesperson said the company takes “protecting our clients’ privacy very seriously, and we are taking steps to mitigate the sharing of client information via pixels.” 

H&R Block further stated in a statement on Wednesday that it had "removed the pixels from its DIY online product to stop any client tax information from being collected."

The Markup discovered the data trail earlier this year while working with Mozilla Rally on a project called "Pixel Hunt," in which participants installed a browser extension that sent the group a copy of data shared with Meta via its pixel.

“Advertisers should not send sensitive information about people through our Business Tools,” a Meta spokesperson told CNBC in a statement. “Doing so is against our policies and we educate advertisers on properly setting up Business tools to prevent this from occurring. Our system is designed to filter out potentially sensitive data it is able to detect.”

Meta considers potentially sensitive data to contain information about income, loan amounts, and debt status.

“Any data in Google Analytics is obfuscated, meaning it is not tied back to an individual and our policies prohibit customers from sending us data that could be used to identify a user,” a Google spokesperson told CNBC. “Additionally, Google has strict policies against advertising to people based on sensitive information.”

A TaxAct spokesperson said in a statement, “The privacy of our customers is very important to all of us at TaxAct, and we continue to comply with all laws and IRS regulations. Data provided to Facebook is used at an aggregate level, not the individual level, by TaxAct to analyze our advertising effectiveness. TaxAct is not using the information provided by its customers and referenced in the report issued by The Markup to target advertising with Facebook.”

A TaxSlayer representative did not immediately respond to CNBC's request for comment.

French Cybercriminals Opera1or Stole up to $30m from Banks

 

Based on a new report published by cybersecurity firm Group-IB, a French-speaking cybercrime group may have stolen more than $30 million from banks and other types of organizations in recent years. 

Group-IB has identified the threat actor as Opera1er. Others have previously investigated some of its activities, naming it Common Raven, Desktop-Group, and NXSMS. The cybersecurity firm is aware of 30 successful attacks carried out between 2019 and 2021, with many of the victims being attacked multiple times. 

The majority of the attacks targeted African banks, but victims also included financial services, mobile banking services, and telecommunications companies. Victims were discovered in 15 countries across Africa, Latin America, and Asia.

Group-IB has confirmed stealing $11 million from victims since 2019, but believes cybercriminals may have stolen more than $30 million. The typical Opera1er attack begins with a spear-phishing email sent to a small number of people within the targeted organisation. Access to domain controllers and banking back-office systems is the goal.

The hackers waited 3-12 months after gaining access to an organization's systems before stealing money. The cybercriminals used the banking infrastructure in the final phase of the operation to transfer money from bank customers to mule accounts, from which it was withdrawn at ATMs by money mules, typically on weekends and public holidays.

“In at least two banks, Opera1er got access to the SWIFT messaging interface,” Group-IB explained. “In one incident, the hackers obtained access to an SMS server which could be used to bypass anti-fraud or to cash out money via payment systems or mobile banking systems. In another incident, Opera1er used an antivirus update server which was deployed in the infrastructure as a pivoting point.”

There does not appear to be any zero-day vulnerabilities or custom malware used by Opera1er. They have exploited old software flaws as well as widely available malware and tools. The majority of the attackers' emails were written in French, according to Group-analysis, IB's and their English and Russian are "quite poor."  

Chrome Extensions with 1M+ Installs Hijack Targets’ Browsers

 

Guardio Labs researchers have discovered Dormant Colors, a new malvertising campaign to deliver malicious Google Chrome extensions. 

Chrome extensions are used to hijack searches and insert affiliate links into web pages. The campaign was dubbed Dormant Colors by experts because the extensions permit color customization. 

“It starts with the trickery malvertising campaign, continues with a crafty novel way to side-load the real malicious code without anyone noticing (until now!), and finally with stealing not only your searches and browsing data, but also affiliation to 10,000 targeted sites — a capability that is easily leveraged for targeted spear phishing, account takeover and credential extraction — all using this powerful network of millions of infected computers worldwide!” reads the post published by the Guardio Labs. 

The researchers discovered at least 30 variants of these extensions in both the Chrome and Edge web stores by mid-October 2022. Over a million people installed malicious browser extensions. Experts discovered that the code of Chrome extensions does not contain malicious components in its initial state, but malicious snippets are later added to the code. The attack chain is based on malvertising messages designed to trick victims into clicking on the install button, as seen in the video. Victims are prompted to install a color-changing extension after clicking the 'OK' or 'Continue' button.

Once installed, these extensions redirect users to various pages that side-load malicious scripts that alter browser behavior. The extensions can hijack searches and return affiliate links in the results. This scheme enables threat actors to profit from traffic to these websites while also stealing data.

According to experts, these malicious extensions are more than just other search hijackers because they include "stealth modules for code updating and telemetry collection, as well as a backbone of servers harvesting data from millions of users." The collected data is used to categorize potential targets and select the best social engineering attack vectors to target and steal from them.

Dormant Colors' operations rely on affiliation with 10,000 targeted sites and a global network of millions of infected computers. The attackers add affiliate tags to the URL, and any purchases made on the site result in a commission for the operators. The researchers released a video that depicts affiliate hijacking for the shopping site 365games.co.uk. The video depicts the address bar being filled with data from affiliation sources. The same method can clearly be used to redirect victims to phishing pages in order to steal credentials for popular services such as Microsoft 365, online banking, and social media platforms.

“This campaign is still up and running, shifting domains, generating new extensions, and re-inventing more color and style-changing functions you can for sure manage without. Adding to that, the code injection technique analyzed here is a vast infrastructure for mitigation and evasion and allows leveraging the campaign to even more malicious activities in the future.” concludes the report that also includes Indicators of Compromise (IoCs) for this campaign. 

“At the end of the day, it’s not only affiliation fees being collected on your back, this is your privacy as well as your internet experience being compromised here, in ways that can target organizations by harvesting credentials and hijacking accounts and financial data. No extension that makes a fine-looking website look dark and ugly is worth it…”

Extended DDoS Attack With 25.3B+ Requests Thwarted

 

On June 27, 2022, the cybersecurity firm Imperva mitigated a DDoS attack with over 25.3 billion requests. The attack, according to experts, sets a new record for Imperva's application DDoS mitigation solution. The attack, which targeted an unnamed Chinese telecommunications company, was notable for its duration, lasting more than four hours and peaking at 3.9 million RPS. 

“On June 27, 2022, Imperva mitigated a single attack with over 25.3 billion requests, setting a new record for Imperva’s application DDoS mitigation solution” reads the announcement. “While attacks with over one million requests per second (RPS) aren’t new, we’ve previously only seen them last for several seconds to a few minutes. On June 27, Imperva successfully mitigated a strong attack that lasted more than four hours and peaked at 3.9 million RPS.”

The Chinese telecommunications company had previously been targeted by large attacks, and experts added that two days later, a new DDoS attack hit its website, albeit for a shorter period of time. This record-breaking attack had an average rate of 1.8 million RPS. To send multiple requests over individual connections, threat actors used HTTP/2 multiplexing or combining multiple packets into one.

The attackers' technique is difficult to detect and can bring down targets with a limited number of resources.

“Since our automated mitigation solution is guaranteed to block DDoS in under three seconds, we estimate that the attack could have reached a much greater rate than our tracked peak of 3.9 million RPS.” continues Imperva.

This attack was launched by a botnet comprised of nearly 170,000 different IP addresses, including routers, security cameras, and compromised servers. The compromised devices can be found in over 180 countries, with the majority of them in the United States, Indonesia, and Brazil.

Akamai mitigated the largest DDoS attack ever against one of its European customers on Monday, September 12, 2022. The malicious traffic peaked at 704.8 Mpps and appears to be the work of the same threat actor as the previous record, which Akamai blocked in July and hit the same customer.

Attackers Abuse Facebook Ad Manager in Credential-Harvesting Campaign

 

Attackers are capitalising on the power of the Facebook brand by sending emails that appear to be from Facebook Ads Manager. The plan is to trick victims into providing their credentials and credit card information on a Facebook lead generation form. 

According to a report published on Tuesday by Avanan's security research team, attackers are sending phishing messages that seem to be urgent warnings from Meta's "Facebook AdManager" team. The messages claim that the victim is not following the company's ad policies and that the ad account will be terminated if the target does not appeal to the fictional violation. 

The "appeal form" link takes visitors to a credential-harvesting site that collects passwords and credit card information using a real Facebook lead-generation form.

An intriguing aspect of the campaign is that, rather than using a harvesting site hosted on a suspect IP somewhere, attackers are exploiting the Facebook ads system to create malicious lead-generation forms. This method kills two birds with one stone: For starters, it deceives many automated checks for malicious links used by email platforms. The Avanan team refers to using legitimate sites as the Static Expressway.

Jeremy Fuchs, cybersecurity researcher for Avanan explained in the report, "Hackers are leveraging sites that appear on static Allow Lists. That means that email security services have broadly decided that these sites are trustworthy, and thus anything related to them comes through to the inbox."

Furthermore, using Facebook Ads forms provides a high level of realism for any of Facebook's eight billion advertising users who are already familiar with the Ads Manager platform and the lead-generation forms it generates.

"For the end user, seeing that their Facebook ad account has been suspended is cause for concern," Fuchs said. "Since it’s a legitimate Facebook link, the user would feel confident continuing on."

While the sites used in this credential harvesting campaign appeared to be legitimate, Fuchs discovered a red flag in the phishing messages: These are typically sent from Outlook accounts such as pageguidelinesfacebook@outlook.com.

Furthermore, the physical address footer in the emails is incorrect. However, if users did not notice these details, they could easily be duped by this hoax. According to earlier this year's research, brand impersonations, or brandjacking, like these elevated by 274% last year as attackers continue to peddle their scams by appearing to come from trustworthy sources. Facebook is a popular platform for phishers to imitate. 

According to a Vade report released this spring, Facebook was the most impersonated brand last year, edging out perennial favourite Microsoft for the top spot. Email attacks increased by 48% in the first half of 2022, as per Abnormal Security research, with more than one in ten attacks impersonating well-known brands. So far in 2022, 256 individual brands have been impersonated, with LinkedIn and Microsoft appearing to be the favourites.

Feds, npm Issue Supply Chain Security Alert to Avoid Another SolarWinds

 

The lessons learned from the SolarWinds software supply chain attack were turned into tangible guidance this week when the United States Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency (CISA), the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), and the National Security Agency (NSA) released a joint best practises framework for developers to prevent future supply chain attacks.

In addition to the recommendations from the US government, developers received npm Best Practices from the Open Source Security Foundation in order to establish supply chain security open-source best practices.

"The developer holds a critical responsibility to the security of our software," the agencies said about the publication, titled Securing the Software Supply Chain for Developers. "As ESF examined the events that led up to the SolarWinds attack, it was clear that investment was needed in creating a set of best practices that focused on the needs of the software developer."

Meanwhile, OpenSSF announced that the npm code repository has grown to encompass 2.1 million packages.

Developers like Michael Burch, director of application security for Security Journey, praise the industry's proactive framework, but Burch adds that it is now up to the cybersecurity sector to put these guidelines into action, particularly a recommendation to implement software bills of materials (SBOMs).

Burch  concluded, "What we need now is the AppSec community to come together on the back of this guidance, and create a standard format and implementation for SBOMs to boost software supply chain security." 

Montenegro's State Infrastructure Struck by Cyber Attack Officials

 

An unprecedented cyber attack on Montenegro's government digital infrastructure occurred, and the government promptly implemented measures to mitigate its impact. Montenegro immediately reported the attack to other NATO members. 

“Certain services were switched off temporarily for security reasons but the security of accounts belonging to citizens and companies and their data have not been jeopardised,” said Public Administration Minister Maras Dukaj. 

The attack, according to the Minister, began on Thursday night. The US embassy in Montenegro recommended US citizens limit their movement and travel within the country to the necessities and keep their travel documents up to date and easily accessible, fearing that the attack would disrupt government infrastructure for identifying people living in Montenegro and transportation. The National Security Agency issued a warning to critical infrastructure organisations.

“A persistent and ongoing cyber-attack is in process in Montenegro,” reported the website of the U.S. Embassy in the capital Podgorica. 

“The attack may include disruptions to the public utility, transportation (including border crossings and airport), and telecommunication sectors.” 

EPCG, the state-owned power utility, has switched to manual handling to avoid any potential damage, according to Milutin Djukanovic, president of EPCG. The company decided to temporarily disable some of its clients' services as a safety measure. The government believes the attack was carried out by a nation-state actor.

“Outgoing Prime Minister Dritan Abazovic called a session of the National Security Council for Friday evening to discuss the attack. Abazovic said it was politically motivated following the fall of his government last week,” reported Reuters.

Previous Attacks

Montenegro was targeted by the Russia-linked hacker group APT28 in June 2017 after it officially joined the NATO alliance, amidst strong opposition from the Russian government, which threatened retaliation.

Montenegro experienced massive and prolonged cyberattacks against government and media websites in February 2017, for the second time in a few months. FireEye researchers who analysed the attacks discovered malware and exploits associated with the notorious Russia-linked APT group known as APT28 (aka Fancy Bear, Pawn Storm, Strontium, Sofacy, Sednit, and Tsar Team).

Another massive attack was launched against the country's institutions during the October 2016 elections, sparking speculation that the Russian Government was involved. At the time, hackers launched spear phishing attacks against Montenegro, using weaponized documents related to a NATO secretary meeting and a visit by a European army unit to the country.

The hackers distributed the GAMEFISH backdoor (also known as Sednit, Seduploader, JHUHUGIT, and Sofacy), a malware used only by the APT28 group in previous attacks. Marshal Sir Stuart Peach, Chairman of NATO's Military Committee (MC), announced the Alliance's effort to counter Russian hybrid attacks in January 2020.

The term "hybrid warfare" refers to a military strategy that combines political warfare, irregular warfare, and cyberwarfare with other methods of influencing, such as fake news, diplomacy, lawfare, and foreign electoral intervention.

'RedAlpha': This Chinese Cyberspy Group is Targeting Governments & Humanitarian Entities

 

RedAlpha, a Chinese state-sponsored cyberespionage group, has been observed targeting numerous government organisations, humanitarian organisations, and think tanks over the last three years. 

The advanced persistent threat (APT) actor, also known as Deepcliff and Red Dev 3, has been active since at least 2015, focusing on intelligence collection and surveillance of ethnic and religious minorities such as the Tibetan and Uyghur communities. 

According to cybersecurity firm Recorded Future, RedAlpha has registered hundreds of domains impersonating global government, think tank, and humanitarian organisations such as Amnesty International, the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), the Mercator Institute for China Studies (MERICS), and Radio Free Asia (RFA).

According to Recorded Future, the attacks are consistent with previous RedAlpha targeting of entities of interest to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Taiwanese organisations were also targeted, most likely for intelligence gathering. The campaign's goal has been to collect credentials from targeted individuals and organisations in order to gain access to their email and other communication accounts.

“RedAlpha’s humanitarian and human rights-linked targeting and spoofing of organizations such as Amnesty International and FIDH is particularly concerning given the CCP’s reported human rights abuses in relation to Uyghurs, Tibetans, and other ethnic and religious minority groups in China,” Recorded Future notes.

The cyberespionage group is known for using weaponized websites - which mimics well-known email service providers or specific organisations - as part of its credential-theft campaigns, but the APT registered more than 350 domains last year.

This activity was distinguished by the use of resellerclub[.]com nameservers, as well as the use of virtual private server (VPS) hosting provider Virtual Machine Solutions LLC (VirMach), overlapping WHOIS registrant information (including names, email addresses, and phone numbers), consistent domain naming conventions, and the use of specific server-side components.

About RedAlpha:

The group has recorded hundreds of domains typosquatting major email and storage service providers, including Yahoo (135 domains), Google (91 domains), and Microsoft (70), as well as domains typosquatting multiple countries' ministries of foreign affairs (MOFAs), Purdue University, Taiwan's Democratic Progressive Party, and the aforementioned and other global government, think tank, and humanitarian organisations.

The cyberespionage group registered at least 16 domains impersonating the Berlin-based non-profit organisation MERICS during the first half of 2021, which coincided with the Chinese MOFA sanctioning the think tank.

“In many cases, observed phishing pages mirrored legitimate email login portals for the specific organizations named above. We suspect that this means they were intended to target individuals directly affiliated with these organizations rather than simply imitating these organizations to target other third parties,” Recorded Future says.

RedAlpha has also shown a consistent focus on targeting Taiwanese entities over the last three years, including through multiple domains mimicking the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), the de facto embassy of the United States of America. The hacking group was also noticed spreading its campaigns to target Brazilian, Portuguese, Taiwanese, and Vietnamese ministries of foreign affairs, as well as India's National Informatics Centre (NIC).

“We identified multiple overlaps with previous publicly reported RedAlpha campaigns that allowed us to assess this is very likely a continuation of the group’s activity. Of note, in at least 5 instances the group appeared to re-register previously owned domains after expiry,” Recorded Future notes.

The cybersecurity firm has discovered a connection between RedAlpha and a Chinese information security firm - email addresses used to register spoofing domains appear in job listings and other web pages associated with the organisation - and believes the threat actor is based in China.

“The group’s targeting closely aligns with the strategic interests of the Chinese government, such as the observed emphasis on China-focused think tanks, civil society organizations, and Taiwanese government and political entities. This targeting, coupled with the identification of likely China-based operators, indicates a likely Chinese state-nexus to RedAlpha activity,” Recorded Future concludes.

Singapore Increases its Investment in Quantum Computing, to Keep Ahead of Security Risks

 

Singapore aims to improve its quantum computing capabilities through new initiatives to build necessary skill sets and quantum equipment. It emphasises the importance of doing so in order to keep encryption technology resilient and capable of withstanding "brute force" attacks. 

The Singapore government announced on Tuesday that it will set aside SG$23.5 million (17.09 million) to support three national platforms under its Quantum Engineering Programme (QEP) for a period of up to 3.5 years. The scheme is a component of the country's Research, Innovation, and Enterprise 2020 (RIE2020) strategy. 

Two of these platforms were presented today, including the National Quantum Computing Hub, which will pool knowledge and resources from the Centre for Quantum Technologies (CQT), as well as local universities and research institutes, to strengthen key skill sets. 

Teams from CQT, the National University of Singapore, Nanyang Technological University, A*STAR's Institute of High Performance Computing (IHPC), and the National Supercomputing Centre (NSCC) would seek to establish international collaborations and train new talent in order to address a skills shortage in the emerging industry. CQT and IHPC researchers would also create quantum computing hardware and middleware, with potential applications in finance, supply chain, and chemistry. 

The National Supercomputing Center (NSCC) would offer the supercomputing capacity required to design and train algorithms for usage on quantum computers. A second initiative, National Quantum Fabless Foundry, was launched to facilitate the micro and nano-fabrication of quantum devices in cleanrooms run by industrial partners. 

The platform, which would be hosted at A*STAR's Institute of Materials Research and Engineering, would aid in the creation of products in quantum computations, communication, and sensing. Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies, Heng Swee Keat, stated in his address announcing the new efforts that the country needs to stay alert in the face of growing dangers. Heng compared cyber threats to a "cat and mouse game," saying that efforts were made to keep ahead of hostile actors who were always looking for new holes to attack. 

With the cyber world rapidly developing, he believes quantum technology has the potential to be a "game changer." "Strong encryption is key to the security of digital networks. The current encryption standard, AES 256, has held up, as few have the computing power to use brute force to break the encryption. But this could change with quantum computing," he cautioned. 

"For some cryptographic functions, the fastest quantum computer is more than 150 million times faster than the fastest supercomputer. Quantum computers can solve in minutes a problem which takes a supercomputer 10,000 years." 

This underscored the importance of quantum technology research, the minister said. "Our investment in quantum computing and quantum engineering is part of our approach of trying to anticipate the future and proactively shaping the future that we want." 

He said that as digitalisation increased, so did cyber concerns and that Singapore must continue to spend to keep ahead of possible threats. He went on to say that the fabless foundry will use the country's manufacturing skills to create quantum devices that would tackle "real-world difficulties" in collaboration with industry partners.

This Path Traversal Bug Enabled Hackers to Delete Server Files

 

Due to a security flaw in the file transfer programme CompleteFTP, unauthenticated attackers were able to delete arbitrary files on vulnerable installations. 

CompleteFTP is a proprietary FTP and SFTP server for Windows developed by EnterpriseDT of Australia that supports FTPS, SFTP, and HTTPS. A security researcher known as rgod uncovered a problem in the HttpFile class that stems from the failure to properly validate a user-supplied path before utilising it in file operations. 

A security advisory explains, “This vulnerability allows remote attackers to delete arbitrary files on affected installations of EnterpriseDT CompleteFTP server. An attacker can leverage this vulnerability to delete files in the context of SYSTEM.” 

The vulnerability was given CVE-2022-2560 and was addressed in CompleteFTP version 22.1.1. Other security changes in this release include the SHA-2 cryptographic hash algorithm for RSA signatures and a new format for PuTTY private keys.

Sharing below a brief capture of the vulnerability:
  • CVSS SCORE: 8.2, (AV:N/AC:L/PR:N/UI:N/S:U/C:N/I:L/A:H)
  • AFFECTED VENDORS: EnterpriseDT
  • AFFECTED PRODUCTS: CompleteFTP
  • ADDITIONAL DETAILS: Fixed in version 22.1.1.

This Malware is Spreading Via Fake Cracks

 

An updated sample of the CopperStealer malware has been detected, infecting devices via websites providing fraudulent cracks for applications and other software.

Cyber attackers employ these bogus apps to perform a range of assaults. The hackers in this assault operation took advantage of the desire for cracks by releasing a phoney cracked programme that actually contained malware. 

The infection starts with a website or Telegram channel offering/presenting false cracks for downloading and installing the needed cracks. The downloaded archive files include a password-protected text file and another encrypted archive. 

The decrypted archive displays the executable files when the password specified in the text file is typed. There are two files in this sample: CopperStealer and VidarStealer. 

What are the impacts of Copper Stealer and Vidar Stealer on the systems? 

CopperStealer and Vidar stealer can cause many system infections, major privacy problems, financial losses, and identity theft. 
  • CopperStealer: The primary function of CopperStealer is to steal stored login information - usernames and passwords - as well as internet cookies from certain browsers. Mostly focuses on the login details for business-oriented Facebook and Instagram accounts. CopperStealer variants also seek login credentials for platforms and services such as Twitter, Tumblr, Apple, Amazon, Bing, and Apple. The malware can steal Facebook-related credentials from browsers such as Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox, Opera, and Yandex.
  • Vidar stealer: The most common ways for this malware to propagate are through pirated software and targeted phishing efforts. Vidar stealer is capable of stealing credit cards, usernames, passwords, data, and screenshots of the user's desktop. The malware steals data from a range of browsers and other system apps. It can also steal cryptocurrency wallets such as Bitcoin and Ethereum. 
Safety first

Attackers can utilise data stealers like CopperStealer to steal sensitive information for more illegal reasons. Users can stay secure by taking the following precautions: 
  • Downloading cracks from third-party websites should be avoided. 
  • Keep the systems up to date with the newest patches. 
  • It is highly advised that security detection and prevention technologies be enabled to safeguard systems from attacks.

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.

BlackCat Ransomware Group Demands $5Million to Unlock Austrian State

 

The BlackCat ransomware group, also known as ALPHV, has targeted the Austrian federal state Carinthia, demanding $5 million to open encrypted computer systems. The threat actor allegedly locked thousands of workstations during the attack on Tuesday, causing serious operational interruption to government services. 

The website and email service for Carinthia are temporarily down, and the government is unable to issue new passports or traffic penalties. Furthermore, the intrusion hampered the completion of COVID-19 testing and contact tracking through the region's administrative offices. 

For $5 million, the hackers offered to deliver a functioning decryption tool. Gerd Kurath, a state spokesperson, told Euractiv that the attacker's demands will not be fulfilled. 

According to the press spokesperson, there is presently no proof that BlackCat was able to take any data from the state's systems, and the aim is to restore the workstations using accessible backups. Kurath stated that the first of the 3,000 impacted systems are likely to be operational again soon. 

At the time of writing, there is no material from Carinthia on BlackCat's data leak site, where hackers post files taken from victims who did not pay a ransom. This might imply a recent incident or that discussion with the victim are still ongoing. 

In November 2021, the ALPHV/BlackCat ransomware group emerged as one of the more advanced ransomware attacks. They are a rebranded version of the DarkSide/BlackMatter gang, which is responsible for the Colonial Pipeline attack last year. 

BlackCat affiliates launched attacks on high-profile companies and brands such as the Moncler fashion firm and the Swissport airline freight handling services provider in early 2022. 

By the completion of the first quarter of the current year, the FBI issued a warning that BlackCat had breached at least 60 businesses globally, adopting the position that it was expected to achieve as one of the most active and dangerous ransomware projects out there. 

The attack on Carinthia and the hefty ransom demands demonstrate that the threat actor targets firms that can pay substantial sums of money to get their systems decrypted and prevent additional financial losses due to lengthy operational interruption.

FBI: Business Email Compromise is a $43 Billion Scam

 

The FBI recently announced that the amount of money lost to business email compromise (BEC) scams is increasing each year, with a 65 per cent rise in identified global exposure losses between July 2019 and December 2021.

From June 2016 to July 2019, IC3 received victim complaints about 241,206 domestic and international occurrences, totalling $43,312,749,946 in exposed cash loss. 

The FBI stated, "Based on the financial data reported to the IC3 for 2021, banks located in Thailand and Hong Kong were the primary international destinations of fraudulent funds. China, which ranked in the top two destinations in previous years, ranked third in 2021 followed by Mexico and Singapore." 

This was revealed in a new public service announcement issued on the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) site as an update to a prior PSA dated September 2019, in which the FBI stated victims reported losses to BEC attacks totalling more than $26 billion between June 2016 and July 2019. 

About BEC scams:

BEC scams were the cybercrime type with the highest recorded overall victim losses last year, according to the IC3 2021 Internet Crime Report [PDF]. Based on 19,954 registered complaints relating to BEC attacks against individuals and businesses in 2021, victims reported losses of about $2.4 billion. BEC scammers use a variety of techniques to infiltrate business email accounts, including social engineering, phishing, and hacking, to transfer payments to attacker-controlled bank accounts. 

Small, medium and big enterprises are frequently targeted in this form of scam (also known as EAC or Email Account Compromise). Nonetheless, if the payout is high enough, they will attack individuals. Given that they often imitate someone who has the target's trust, their success rate is also very high. 

However, "the scam is not always associated with a transfer-of-funds request," as the FBI explained in the PSA alert. "One variation involves compromising legitimate business email accounts and requesting employees' Personally Identifiable Information, Wage and Tax Statement (W-2) forms, or even cryptocurrency wallets."

The FBI also offered advice on how to protect yourself from BEC scams:
  • Use secondary channels or two-factor authentication to verify requests for changes in account information.
  • Ensure the URL in emails is associated with the business/individual it claims to be from.
  • Be alert to hyperlinks that may contain misspellings of the actual domain name.
  • Refrain from supplying log-in credentials or PII of any sort via email. Be aware that many emails requesting your personal information may appear to be legitimate.
  • Verify the email address used to send emails, especially when using a mobile or handheld device, by ensuring the sender's address appears to match who it is coming from.
  • Ensure the settings in employees' computers are enabled to allow full email extensions to be viewed.
  • Monitor your personal financial accounts on a regular basis for irregularities, such as missing deposits.

Microweber Creators Patched XSS Flaw in CMS Software

 

Microweber, an open-source website builder and content management system, has a stored cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerability, according to security researchers. 

The security flaw, identified as CVE-2022-0930 by researchers James Yeung and Bozhidar Slaveykov, was patched in Microweber version 1.2.12. The issue developed as a result of flaws in older versions of Microweber's content filtering protections. 

Because of these flaws, attackers could upload an XSS payload as long as it contained a file ending in 'html' — a category that encompasses far more than simply plain.html files. Once this payload is uploaded, a URL with malicious HTML can be viewed and malicious JavaScript performed. 

An attacker could steal cookies before impersonating a victim, potentially the administrator of a compromised system, by controlling a script that runs in the victim's browser. A technical blog article by Yeung and Slaveykov, which includes a proof-of-concept exploit, gives additional detail about the assault. Microweber was asked to comment on the researchers' findings via a message sent through a webform on The Daily Swig's website. Microweber responded by confirming that the "issue is already fixed." 

When asked how they found Microweber as a target, Yeung told The Daily Swig, “I came across huntr.dev and found other researchers had found vulnerabilities on Microweber and that's why I joined that mania!” 

The vulnerabilities discovered in Microweber are similar to those found in other comparable enterprise software packages. The researcher explained, “I have found similar vulnerabilities in multiple CMS like Microweber, and I found that most of them are lacking user input sanitization from HTTP requests (some of which are not intended to be submitted from client).” 

To avoid issues in this area, Yeung determined that developers should gradually shift toward allow-lists and away from utilising block-lists.

Attackers UtilizingDefault Credentials to Target Businesses, Raspberry Pi and Linux Top Targets

 

While automated attacks remain a major security concern to enterprises, findings from a Bulletproof analysis highlight the challenge created by inadequate security hygiene. According to research conducted in 2021, bot traffic currently accounts for 70% of total web activity.

Default credentials are the most popular passwords used by malicious attackers, acting as a 'skeleton key' for criminal access. With attackers increasingly deploying automated attack methods 

Brian Wagner, CTO at Bulletproof stated, “On the list are the default Raspberry Pi credentials (un:pi/pwd:raspberry). There are more than 200,000 machines on the internet running the standard Raspberry Pi OS, making it a reasonable target for bad actors. We also can see what looks like credentials used on Linux machines (un:nproc/pwd:nproc). This highlights a key issue – default credentials are still not being changed.”

“Using default credentials provides one of the easiest entry points for attackers, acting as a ‘skeleton key’ for multiple hacks. Using legitimate credentials can allow attackers to avoid detection and makes investigating and monitoring attacks much harder.” 

According to the findings, attackers are continuously utilising the same typical passwords to gain access to systems. Some are default passwords that haven't been updated since the company started using them. The RockYou database leak from December 2009 is accountable for a quarter of all passwords used by attackers today. This degree of activity suggests that these passwords are still valid. 

During the period of the research, threat actors started almost 240,000 sessions. The top IP address, which came from a German server, started 915 sessions and stayed on the Bulletproof honeypot for a total of five hours. Another attacker spent 15 hours on the honeypot, successfully logging in 29 times with more than 30 different passwords. In sum, 54 per cent of the more than 5,000 distinct IP addresses had intelligence indicating they were bad actor IP addresses.

Wagner continued, “Within milliseconds of a server being put on the internet, it is already being scanned by all manner of entities. Botnets will be targeting it and a host of malicious traffic is then being driven to the server.” 

“Although some of our data shows legitimate research companies scanning the internet, the greatest proportion of traffic we encountered to our honeypot came from threat actors and compromised hosts. These insights, combined with our data, highlight the importance of proactive monitoring to ensure you are aware of the threats to your business on a daily basis, as well as a tried and tested incident response plan.”

Attackers Gained Access to the Systems of the National Games of China

 

China has recently had its own national sporting event: the National Games of China began on September 15, 2021, in the Chinese city of Shaanxi. This is a comparable event to the Olympics, however, it only features athletes from China. The National Games of the People's Republic of China, also known as the All-China Games, are China's biggest national sporting event. It is typically held every four years. 

David Álvarez, an Avast security researcher, discovered a malware sample with a peculiar file extension in early September and started to examine where it came from. Following that, he discovered a report submitted to VirusTotal by the National Games IT team on an attack against a server associated with the Games.

The data suggests that the attackers acquired initial code execution on September 3, 2021, about 10:00AM local time, and deployed their first reverse shell executing scripts called runscript.lua. Researchers believe this occurred as a result of an arbitrary file-read vulnerability targeting either route .lua which, according to the API (Application User Interface) extracted from various JavaScript files, is a LUA script containing a lot of functionality ranging from login authentication to file manipulation or index.lua in combination with index.lua?a=upload API that was not used by anyone else in the rest of the network log. It's also worth noticing that runscript.lua was not included in the report or among the files uploaded by the attacker. 

After gaining initial access, the attackers uploaded numerous other reverse shells, such as conf.lua, miss1.php, or admin2.php, to gain a more permanent foothold in the network in the event that one of the shells was found. Because these reverse shells receive commands via POST requests, the data is not contained in the logs attached to the report, which simply show the URL path. Furthermore, the logs in the report do not contain enough information about network traffic for researchers to understand how and when the attackers obtained their initial web shell. 

The method used by the attackers to hack the 14th National Games of China is not novel. They got access to the system by taking advantage of a flaw in the webserver. This highlights the importance of updating software, correctly configuring it, and being aware of potential new vulnerabilities in apps by employing vulnerability scanners.

The most essential security countermeasure for defenders is to maintain the infrastructure patched up to date (especially for the internet-facing infrastructure). The primary priority for both internal and internet-facing infrastructure should be prevention. According to the researchers, in order to fight against this type of attack, more layers of protection must be deployed so that users can identify and respond immediately when a successful breach occurs.

Telco Penalized €9 Million for Obscuring Cyberattack Impact from Customers

 

The Greek data protection authority imposed a fine on COSMOTE of 5,850,000 EUR ($6.55 million) and OTE was fined 3,250,000 EUR ($3.65 million) for exposing sensitive customer data due to a cyberattack. 

COSMOTE violated at least eight articles of the GDPR, according to the agency, including its responsibility to inform impacted customers of the full consequences of the incident. 

COSMOTE and OTE (Hellenic Telecommunications Organization) are both parts of the OTE Group, Greece's largest technological business, which provides fixed and mobile telephony, broadband, and network communication services. 

COSMOTE launched an internal investigation in 2020 and discovered that a hacker utilized LinkedIn to social engineer one of its employees and then used brute-forcing techniques to obtain the target's account credentials. According to the investigation's results, the attacker repeatedly utilized a Lithuanian IP address to access one of OTE's servers. On five consecutive occasions, the threat actor used the account credentials to extract database files and the data that was stolen and was 48GB in size. 

COSMOTE keeps call details on its servers for 90 days for service quality assurance and further 12 months for statistical analysis that aids in targeted service enhancement. The anonymization process wasn't done effectively, and the data holding periods weren't fully adhered to, as the data protection authority investigation discovered. 

The compromised server included sensitive subscriber information and call data for the dates September 1, 2020, to September 5, 2020. 

The following are some of the details that have been revealed: 
• Rough positional data of 4,792,869 unique COSMOTE subscribers. 
• Age, gender, plan, and ARPU of 4,239,213 unique COSMOTE subscribers. 
• MSISDN/CLI of 6,939,656 users of other telecommunication providers who communicated with customers of COSMOTE. 
• MSISDN, IMEI, IMSI, and connected tower position for 281,403 roaming subscribers of COSMOTE. 

In some circumstances, the above data could be utilised for highly targeted social engineering, phishing, and even extortion. Nonetheless, for targeted subscribers who may be high-interest personalities, the consequences of the hacking attack could be substantial.

Attackers Could Gain Access to User Data due to a 'Powerdir' Flaw in macOS

 

On January 11th, Microsoft disclosed a vulnerability in Apple's macOS that might let an attacker to get unauthorised access to protected user data by circumventing the operating system's Transparency, Consent, and Control (TCC) technology. On July 15, 2021, the Microsoft Security Vulnerability Research (MSVR) team disclosed its discovery to Apple's product security team. In a security update released on December 13, Apple fixed CVE-2021-30970, dubbed "Powerdir." 

TCC is an Apple subsystem that was first introduced in macOS Mountain Lion in 2012. The technology was created to assist users in configuring the privacy settings of their device's applications, such as access to the camera or microphone, or access to their calendar or iCloud account. 

Previously, apps could directly access TCC databases to see and even edit their contents. Apple made two adjustments in response to the possibility of bypass. First, Apple used System Integrity Protection (SIP) to safeguard the system-wide TCC.db, a macOS feature that prohibits illegal code execution. Second, Apple implemented a TCC policy requiring that only apps with full disk access can access the TCC.db files.

The vulnerability discovered by Microsoft would allow attackers to circumvent this feature and start an attack on a macOS device. When an app asks for access to protected user data, one of two things can happen: If the app and request type have a record in the TCC databases, a flag in the database entry indicates whether the request should be allowed or denied without the need for user intervention. If they do not have a record, the user is asked whether they want to allow or restrict access. 

Researchers discovered that it is easy to programmatically modify a target's home directory and plant a bogus TCC database, which maintains the consent history of app requests, wrote Jonathan Bar, with the Microsoft 365 Defender Research Team, in a blog post on the findings. If abused on an unpatched system, this issue might allow an attacker to launch an attack using the victim's protected personal data, according to him. 

This is the latest in a long line of TCC flaws fixed by Apple in recent years. Apple fixed CVE-2021-30713, a flaw that allowed attackers to bypass TCC protections and deliver XCSSET malware, last year. According to Jamf researchers who identified the problem, once on a machine, XCSSET used the bypass to take a screenshot of the user's desktop without requiring rights. 

Other reported vulnerabilities linked to TCC bypass in the previous year included CVE-2020-9771 and CVE-2020-9934. Apple's remedy for the latter piqued Microsoft's interest, and during their investigation, the team found an exploit that an attacker could use to change settings on any app.