Security

Why Hackers Reuse Malware (helpnetsecurity.com) 26

Orome1 shares a report from Help Net Security: Software developers love to reuse code wherever possible, and hackers are no exception. While we often think of different malware strains as separate entities, the reality is that most new malware recycles large chunks of source code from existing malware with some changes and additions (possibly taken from other publicly released vulnerabilities and tools). This approach makes sense. Why reinvent the wheel when another author already created a working solution? While code reuse in malware can make signature-based detection methods more effective in certain cases, more often than not it frees up time for attackers to do additional work on detection avoidance and attack efficacy -- which can create a more dangerous final product.

There are multiple reasons why hackers reuse code when developing their own malware. First, it saves time. By copying code wherever possible, malware authors have more time to focus on other areas, like detection avoidance and attribution masking. In some cases, there may be only one way to successfully accomplish a task, such as exploiting a vulnerability. In these instances, code reuse is a no-brainer. Hacker also tend to reuse effective tactics such as social engineering, malicious macros and spear phishing whenever possible simply because they have a high rate of success.

Spam

Spam Is Back (theoutline.com) 149

Jon Christian, writing for The Outline: For a while, spam -- unsolicited bulk messages sent for commercial or fraudulent purposes -- seemed to be fading away. The 2003 CAN-SPAM Act mandated unsubscribe links in email marketing campaigns and criminalized attempts to hide the sender's identity, while sophisticated filters on what were then cutting-edge email providers like Gmail buried unwanted messages in out-of-sight spam folders. In 2004, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates told a crowd at the World Economic Forum that "two years from now, spam will be solved." In 2011, cybersecurity reporter Brian Krebs noted that increasingly tech savvy law enforcement efforts were shutting down major spam operators -- including SpamIt.com, alleged to be a major hub in a Russian digital criminal organization that was responsible for an estimated fifth of the world's spam. These efforts meant that the proportion of all emails that are spam has slowly fallen to a low of about 50 percent in recent years, according to Symantec research.

But it's 2017, and spam has clawed itself back from the grave. It shows up on social media and dating sites as bots hoping to lure you into downloading malware or clicking an affiliate link. It creeps onto your phone as text messages and robocalls that ring you five times a day about luxury cruises and fictitious tax bills. Networks associated with the buzzy new cryptocurrency system Ethereum have been plagued with spam. Facebook recently fought a six-month battle against a spam operation that was administering fake accounts in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, and other countries. Last year, a Chicago resident sued the Trump campaign for allegedly sending unsolicited text message spam; this past November, ZDNet reported that voters were being inundated with political text messages they never signed up for. Apps can be horrid spam vectors, too. Repeated mass data breaches that include contact information, such as the Yahoo breach in which 3 billion user accounts were exposed, surely haven't helped. Meanwhile, you, me, and everyone we know is being plagued by robocalls.

Security

Internal Kaspersky Investigation Says NSA Worker's Computer Was Infested with Malware (vice.com) 139

A reader shares a report: The personal computer of an NSA worker who took government hacking tools and classified documents home with him was infected with a backdoor trojan, unrelated to these tools, that could have been used by criminal hackers to steal the US government files, according to a new report being released Thursday by Kaspersky Lab in response to recent allegations against the company. The Moscow-based antivirus firm, which has been accused of using its security software to improperly grab NSA hacking tools and classified documents from the NSA worker's home computer and provide them to the Russian government, says the worker had at least 120 other malicious files on his home computer in addition to the backdoor, and that the latter, which had purportedly been created by a Russian criminal hacker and sold in an underground forum, was trying to actively communicate with a malicious command-and-control server during the time Kaspersky is accused of siphoning the US government files from the worker's computer. Costin Raiu, director of the company's Global Research and Analysis Team, told Motherboard that his company's software detected and prevented that communication but there was a period of time when the worker had disabled his Kaspersky software and left his computer unprotected. Raiu says they found evidence that the NSA worker may have been infected with a second backdoor as well, though they saw no sign of it trying to communicate with an external server so they don't know if it was active on his computer.
Firefox

Firefox 57 Brings Better Sandboxing on Linux (bleepingcomputer.com) 124

Catalin Cimpanu, writing for BleepingComputer: Firefox 57, set to be released tomorrow, will ship with improvements to the browser's sandbox security feature for Linux users. The Firefox sandboxing feature isolates the browser from the operating system in a way to prevent web attacks from using a vulnerability in the browser engine and its legitimate functions to attack the underlying operating system, place malware on the filesystem, or steal local files. Chrome has always run inside a sandbox. Initially, Firefox ran only a few plugins inside a sandbox -- such as Flash, DRM, and other multimedia encoding plugins.
Security

How AV Can Open You To Attacks That Otherwise Wouldn't Be Possible (arstechnica.com) 34

Antivirus suites expose a user's system to attacks that otherwise wouldn't be possible, a security researcher reported on Friday. From a report: On Friday, a researcher documented a vulnerability he had found in about a dozen name-brand AV programs that allows attackers who already have a toehold on a targeted computer to gain complete system control. AVGater, as the researcher is calling the vulnerability, works by relocating malware already put into an AV quarantine folder to a location of the attacker's choosing. Attackers can exploit it by first getting a vulnerable AV program to quarantine a piece of malicious code and then moving it into a sensitive directory such as C:\Windows or C:\Program Files, which normally would be off limits to the attacker. Six of the affected AV programs have patched the vulnerablity after it was privately reported. The remaining brands have yet to fix it, said Florian Bogner, a Vienna, Austria-based security researcher who gets paid to hack businesses so he can help them identify weaknesses in their networks. Bogner said he developed a series of AVGater exploits during several assignments that called for him to penetrate deep inside customer networks. Using malicious phishing e-mails, he was able to infect employee PCs, but he still faced a significant challenge. Because company administrators set up the PCs to run with limited system privileges, Bogner's malware was unable to access the password database -- known as the Security Account Manager -- that stored credentials he needed to pivot onto the corporate network.
Security

WikiLeaks Starts Releasing Source Code For Alleged CIA Spying Tools (vice.com) 102

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: WikiLeaks published new alleged material from the CIA on Thursday, releasing source code from a tool called Hive, which allows its operators to control malware it installed on different devices. WikiLeaks previously released documentation pertaining to the tool, but this is the first time WikiLeaks has released extensive source code for any CIA spying tool. This release is the first in what WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange says is a new series, Vault 8, that will release the code from the CIA hacking tools revealed as part of Vault 7. "This publication will enable investigative journalists, forensic experts and the general public to better identify and understand covert CIA infrastructure components," WikiLeaks said in its press release for Vault 8. "Hive solves a critical problem for the malware operators at the CIA. Even the most sophisticated malware implant on a target computer is useless if there is no way for it to communicate with its operators in a secure manner that does not draw attention." In its release, WikiLeaks said that materials published as part of Vault 8 will "not contain zero-days or similar security vulnerabilities which could be repurposed by others."
Microsoft

Microsoft To Integrate 3rd-party Security Info Into Its Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection Service (zdnet.com) 26

Microsoft is partnering with other security vendors to integrate their macOS, Linux, iOS, and Android security wares with its Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) service From a report: Microsoft has announced the first three such partners: Bitdefender, Lookoutm and Ziften. These companies will feed any threats detected into the single Windows Defender ATP console. With Defender ATP, every device has its own timeline with event history dating back up to six months. According to Microsoft, no additional infrastructure is needed to onboard events from macOS, Linux, iOS and/or Android devices. Integration with Bitdefender's GravityZone Cloud -- which allows users to get macOS and Linux threat intelligence on malware and suspicious files -- is in public preview as of today. A trial version is available now. Integration with Lookout's Mobile Endpoint Security for iOS and Android and Ziften's Zenith systems and security operations platform for macOS and Linux will be in public preview "soon," Microsoft's blog post says.
Botnet

Malware Developer Who Used Spam Botnet To Pay For College Gets No Prison Time (bleepingcomputer.com) 57

An anonymous reader writes: The operator of a 77,000-strong spam botnet was sentenced to two years probation and no prison time after admitting his crime and completely reforming his life. The former botnet operator is now working for a cybersecurity company, and admitted his actions as soon as the FBI knocked on his door back in 2013. The botnet operator, a 29-year-old from Santa Clara, California, says he was tricked by fellow co-schemers who told him they were not doing anything wrong by infecting computers with malware because they were not accessing private information such as banking or financial records. Furthermore, the botnet operator escaped prison time because he used all the money he earned in getting a college degree at Cal Poly instead of using it on a lavish lifestyle or drugs. This case is similar to the one that MalwareTech (aka Marcus Hutchins) now faces in the U.S. for his role in developing the Kronos trojan, but also after turning his life around and working as a cybersecurity researcher for years.
Bug

Google Explains Tuesday's Drive, Docs Bug That Marked Some Files As Violating Terms of Service (9to5google.com) 97

On Tuesday, Google's cloud-based word processing software was randomly flagging files for supposedly "violating" Google's Terms of Service, resulting in some users not being able to access or share their files. Google today explained the issue and addressed concerns that arose. 9to5Google reports: Several users on Tuesday morning reported no longer being able to open certain files they were working on in Docs, while others were locked out mid-edit. "On Tuesday, October 31, we mistakenly blocked access to some of our users' files, including Google Docs," Google said in a blog post. "This was due to a short-lived bug that incorrectly flagged some files as violating our terms of service (TOS)." Afterwards, Google provided a comment to Gizmodo noting that a code push made earlier that morning was at fault and that full access had been restored to users hours after the bug first arose. Today's clarification goes on to explain how that error on Tuesday caused Drive to "misinterpret" responses from the antivirus system designed to protect against malware, phishing, and spam. As a result, Docs "erroneously mark[ed] some files as TOS violations, thus causing access denials for users of those files."
Data Storage

CIA Releases 321GB of Bin Laden's Digital Library (arstechnica.com) 125

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Today, the Central Intelligence Agency posted a cache of files obtained from Osama Bin Laden's personal computer and other devices recovered from his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan by Navy SEALs during the raid in which he was killed on May 2, 2011. The 470,000 files, 321 gigabytes in all, include documents, images, videos, and audio recordings, including Al Qaeda propaganda and planning documents, home videos of Bin Laden's son Hazma, and "drafts" of propaganda videos. There is also a lot of digital junk among the files.

The CIA site presents a raft of warnings about the content of the downloads: "The material in this file collection may contain content that is offensive and/or emotionally disturbing. This material may not be suitable for all ages. Please view it with discretion. Prior to accessing this file collection, please understand that this material was seized from a terrorist organization. While the files underwent interagency review, there is no absolute guarantee that all malware has been removed."

Medicine

NotPetya Outbreak Left Merck Short of HPV Vaccine Gardasil (securityledger.com) 63

chicksdaddy shares a report from The Security Ledger: The NotPetya malware infection shut down pharmaceutical giant Merck's production of the pediatric vaccine GARDASIL last June, forcing the company to borrow the drug from a stockpile maintained by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to meet demand, The Security Ledger reports. The anecdote was contained in a quarterly filing by Merck with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Friday. That filing also showed that the company continues to suffer financial fallout from the outbreak of the NotPetya malware in June, reducing both sales and revenue for the quarter by hundreds of millions of dollars. In its quarterly 8-k filing, Merck said that revenue for the quarter was "unfavorably impacted" by around $135 million due to "lost sales in certain markets related to the cyber-attack." Sales in the third quarter of 2017 were also reduced by around $240 million, which Merck chalked up to production shutdowns resulting from NotPetya. In a chilling insight into the extent of the disruption the malware caused to Merck's operations, the company disclosed that part of its quarterly losses were linked to the interruption of its production of GARDASIL, a vaccine used to prevent Human Papillomavirus (HPV) which is linked to certain cancers and other diseases. To make up for what it described as "overall higher demand than originally planned," Merck was forced to borrow the vaccine from a stockpile maintained by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the company said.
The Almighty Buck

North Korea Could Be Secretly Mining Cryptocurrency On Your Computer (qz.com) 102

An anonymous reader shares a report: North Korea has a cryptocurrency infatuation. Its government has been accused of unleashing a global ransomware attack to raise bitcoin, mining the cryptocurrency within its borders, and hacking South Korean bitcoin exchanges. Now, research firm Recorded Future says there's a strong chance Kim Jong-un's regime is experimenting with malware that secretly mines currency using other people's computers. Malware crypto-mining is a new global trend among hackers, says a new report from Recorded Future, which monitors discussions among "the criminal underground" on the so-called dark web. Starting this year, hackers seem to be shifting away from high-intensity, widespread ransomware attacks, towards "long-term, low velocity" crypto-mining in the background. Recorded Future has not detected specific instances of North Korean malware mining, but believes that the regime has the knowhow, motive, and interest in cryptocurrencies to execute similar attacks. "North Korean threat actors have prior experience in assembling and managing botnets, bitcoin mining, and cryptocurrency theft, as well as in custom altering publicly available malware; three elements that would be key to effectively creating and managing a network of covert cryptocurrency miners," Recorded Future's report reads.
Privacy

Dell Lost Control of Key Customer Support Domain for a Month in 2017 (krebsonsecurity.com) 73

Brian Krebs reports: A web site set up by PC maker Dell to help customers recover from malicious software and other computer maladies may have been hijacked for a few weeks this summer by people who specialize in deploying said malware, KrebsOnSecurity has learned. There is a program installed on virtually all Dell computers called "Dell Backup and Recovery Application." It's designed to help customers restore their data and computers to their pristine, factory default state should a problem occur with the device. That backup and recovery program periodically checks a rather catchy domain name -- DellBackupandRecoveryCloudStorage.com -- which until recently was central to PC maker Dell's customer data backup, recovery and cloud storage solutions. Sometime this summer, DellBackupandRecoveryCloudStorage.com was suddenly snatched away from a longtime Dell contractor for a month and exposed to some questionable content. More worryingly, there are signs the domain may have been pushing malware before Dell's contractor regained control over it.
Network

Legal Hack Back Lets You Go After Attackers In Your Network (csoonline.com) 47

itwbennett writes: Security startup Cymmetria has a new offering for customers: "legal hack back." The hack back tools have been added to the company's MazeHunter deception technology and will enable "tracking down the attack servers and wiping data originally stolen from their servers, probing the attack infrastructure for weaknesses to exploit, disabling the systems controlling malware, looking for information about the attackers to use in attribution, and launching distributed denial-of-service attacks to slow down criminal operations," but security teams are restricted to taking these actions on systems within their organizations, writes Fahmida Rashid in CSO Online. "Legal hack back via MazeHunter is more than traditional incident response because the organization can run a payload on the infected machine to engage with the attacker even before the forensics part of the investigation is complete," said Gadi Evron, founder and CEO of Cymmetria.
Canada

Canada's 'Super Secret Spy Agency' Is Releasing a Malware-Fighting Tool To the Public (www.cbc.ca) 66

Matthew Braga, reporting for CBC News: Canada's electronic spy agency says it is taking the "unprecedented step" of releasing one of its own cyber defence tools to the public, in a bid to help companies and organizations better defend their computers and networks against malicious threats. The Communications Security Establishment (CSE) rarely goes into detail about its activities -- both offensive and defensive -- and much of what is known about the agency's activities have come from leaked documents obtained by U.S. National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden and published in recent years. But as of late, CSE has acknowledged it needs to do a better job of explaining to Canadians exactly what it does. Today, it is pulling back the curtain on an open-source malware analysis tool called Assemblyline that CSE says is used to protect the Canadian government's sprawling infrastructure each day. "It's a tool that helps our analysts know what to look at, because it's overwhelming for the number of people we have to be able to protect things," Scott Jones, who heads the agency's IT security efforts, said in an interview with CBC News. On the one hand, open sourcing Assemblyline's code is a savvy act of public relations, and Jones readily admits the agency is trying to shed its "super secret spy agency" reputation in the interest of greater transparency.
Security

The Internet Is Ripe With In-Browser Miners and It's Getting Worse Each Day (bleepingcomputer.com) 362

Catalin Cimpanu, reporting for BleepingComputer: Ever since mid-September, when Coinhive launched and the whole cryptojacking frenzy started, the Internet has gone crazy with in-browser cryptocurrency miners, and new sites that offer similar services are popping up on a weekly basis. While one might argue that mining Monero in a site's background is an acceptable alternative to viewing intrusive ads, almost none of these services that have recently appeared provide a way to let users know what's happening, let alone a way to stop mining behavior. In other words, most are behaving like malware, intruding on users' computers and using resources without permission. [...] Bleeping Computer spotted two new services named MineMyTraffic and JSEcoin, while security researcher Troy Mursch also spotted Coin Have and PPoi, a Coinhive clone for Chinese users. On top of this, just last night, Microsoft spotted two new services called CoinBlind and CoinNebula, both offering similar in-browser mining services, with CoinNebula configured in such a way that users couldn't report abuse. Furthermore, none of these two services even have a homepage, revealing their true intentions to be deployed in questionable scenarios.
Security

Kaspersky Lab Finds Flash Vulnerability Through Microsoft Word (neowin.net) 50

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Neowin: Kaspersky Lab, which has been under fire by the U.S. government as possibly being an agent of the Russian government and spying on U.S. computers, has found a previously unknown bug in Adobe Flash that was apparently exploited by a hacker group on October 10. Adobe issued a patch to fix the bug today. According to Kaspersky, "the exploit is delivered through a Microsoft Word document and deploys the FinSpy commercial malware." The company worked with Adobe to get a patch ready as quickly as possible, with Adobe releasing it a few hours ago. Users and agencies running the following versions of Adobe Flash will need to update immediately, as the vulnerability has been labeled as critical. The patch updates all versions of Adobe Flash to version 27.0.0.170.
Government

Ask Slashdot: Should Users Uninstall Kaspersky's Antivirus Software? (slashdot.org) 313

First, here's the opinion of two former NSA cybersecurity analysts (via Consumer Reports): "It's a big deal," says Blake Darche, a former NSA cybersecurity analyst and the founder of the cybersecurity firm Area 1. "For any consumers or small businesses that are concerned about privacy or have sensitive information, I wouldn't recommend running Kaspersky." By its very nature antivirus software is an appealing tool for hackers who want to access remote computers, security experts say. Such software is designed to scan a computer comprehensively as it searches for malware, then send regular reports back to a company server. "One of the things people don't realize, by installing that tool you give [the software manufacturer] the right to pull any information that might be interesting," says Chris O'Rourke, another former NSA cybersecurity expert who is the CEO of cybersecurity firm Soteria.
But for that reason, Bloomberg View columnist Leonid Bershidsky suggests any anti-virus software will be targetted by nation-state actors, and argues that for most users, "non-state criminal threats are worse. That's why Interpol this week signed a new information-sharing agreement with Kaspersky despite all the revelations in the U.S. media: The international police cooperation organization deals mainly with non-state actors, including profit-seeking hackers, rather than with the warring intelligence services."

And long-time Slashdot reader freddieb is a loyal Kaspersky user who is wondering what to do, calling the software "very effective and non-intrusive." And in addition, "Numerous recent hacks have gotten my data (Equifax, and others) so I expect I have nothing else to fear except ransomware."

Share your own informed opinions in the comments. Should users uninstall Kaspersky's antivirus software?
Chrome

Microsoft Edge Beats Chrome and Firefox in Malware-Blocking Tests (computerworld.com) 126

An anonymous reader quotes Computerworld:Microsoft's Edge easily beat rival browsers from Google and Mozilla in third-party tests of the behind-the-scenes services which power anti-malware warnings and malicious website-blocking... NSS Labs says Windows 10's default browser is better at blocking phishing and socially-engineered malware attacks than Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox... According to NSS Labs of Austin, Texas, Edge automatically blocked 92% of all in-browser credential phishing attempts and stymied 100% of all socially-engineered malware (SEM) attacks. The latter encompassed a wide range of attacks, but their common characteristic was that they tried to trick users into downloading malicious code. The tactics that SEM attackers deploy include links from social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, and bogus in-browser notifications of computer infections or other problems.

Edge bested Chrome and Firefox by decisive margins. For instance, Chrome blocked 74% of all phishing attacks, and 88% of SEM attacks. Meanwhile, Firefox came in third in both tests, stopping just 61% of the phishing attacks and 70% of all SEM attempts... Both Chrome and Mozilla's Firefox rely on the Safe Browsing API (application programing interface), but historically, Mozilla's implementation has performed poorly compared to Google's. No shock: Google created the API. Edge also took top prize in blocking attacks from the get-go. In NSS's SEM attack testing, for example, the Microsoft browser stopped nearly every attempt from the first moments a new attack was detected. Chrome and Firefox, on the other hand, halted 75% and 54% of the brand-new attacks, respectively. Over a week's time, Chrome and Firefox improved their blocking scores, although neither reached Edge's impressive 99.8%.

The researchers spent three weeks continuously monitoring the browsers on Windows 10 computers. But in the real world, Edge runs on just 5% of all personal computers, while Firefox runs on 13% and Chrome on 60%.
The Internet

Not Just Equifax. Rival Site Transunion Served Malware Too -- and 1,000 More Sites (arstechnica.com) 68

An anonymous reader quotes Ars Technica: Equifax isn't the only credit-reporting behemoth with a website redirecting visitors to fake Adobe Flash updates. A security researcher from AV provider Malwarebytes said transunioncentroamerica.com, a TransUnion site serving people in Central America, [was] also sending visitors to the fraudulent updates and other types of malicious pages... Malwarebytes security researcher Jerome Segura says he was able to repeatedly reproduce a similar chain of fraudulent redirects when he pointed his browser to the transunioncentroamerica.com site. On some occasions, the final link in the chain would push a fake Flash update. In other cases, it delivered an exploit kit that tried to infect computers with unpatched browsers or browser plugins... "This is not something users want to have," Segura told Ars...

Equifax on Thursday was quick to say that its systems were never compromised in the attacks. TransUnion said much the same thing. This is an important distinction in some respects because it means that the redirections weren't the result of attackers having access to restricted parts of either company's networks. At the same time, the incidents show that visitors to both sites remain much more vulnerable to malicious content than they should be.

Both sites hosted fireclick.js, an old script from a small web analytics company which pulls pages from sites like Akamai, SiteStats.info, and Ostats.net. "It appears that attackers have compromised the third-party library," writes BankInfoSecurity, adding that Malwarebytes estimates over a 1,000 more sites are using the same library.

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