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Over 2 million Facebook and Gmail Twitter passwords stolen by hackers

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December 4, 2013

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A massive hacker attack from many parts of the world has resulted in the theft of usernames and passwords for about 2.1 million accounts at Facebook, Gmail, Twitter, Yahoo and a few others, according to a report released this week by cybersecurity firm Trustwave.

The huge data breach was a result of keylogging software maliciously installed on an untold number of computers around the globe, Trustwave said.

The worm virus was capturing log-in credentials for key websites over the past month and sending those usernames and passwords to a server controlled by the hackers, and located in the Netherlands.

On November 24, Trustwave researchers tracked that server, and they discovered compromised credentials for more than 93,000 websites, including:

  • 318,000 Facebook accounts
  • 70,000 Gmail, Google+ and YouTube accounts
  • 60,000 Yahoo accounts
  • 22,000 Twitter accounts
  • 9,000 Odnoklassniki accounts (a Russian social network)
  • 8,000 ADP accounts
  • 8,000 LinkedIn accounts
  • Trustwave immediately notified these companies of the security breach. They posted their findings publicly on Tuesday.

    "We don't have evidence they logged into these accounts, but they probably did," said John Miller, a security research manager at Trustwave.

    Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter say they have notified and reset passwords for compromised users. Google declined to comment. Yahoo and ADP did not provide immediate responses as of 4.00 PM EST today.

    Miller added that his team doesn't yet know how the virus got onto so many personal computers. The hackers set up the keylogging software to route information through a proxy server, so it's impossible to track down which computers are infected.

    Among the compromised data are 41,000 credentials used to connect to File Transfer Protocol (FTP, the standard protocol used when sending files to the internet) and 6,000 remote log-ins.

    The hacking campaign started secretly collecting passwords on October 21, and it might be ongoing. Although Trustwave discovered the Netherlands proxy server, Miller said there are several other similar servers they haven't yet tracked down as of today.

    There could be a lot more Miller warned. If you need to know whether your computer is infected, just searching for programs and files won't be enough, because the virus running in the background is hidden, Miller said.

    Your best bet is to update your antivirus software and download the latest patches for Internet browsers, Adobe and Java.

    Of all the compromised services, Miller said he is mostly concerned with ADP. Those log-ins are typically used by payroll personnel who manage workers' paychecks. Any information they can see can be viewed by hackers.

    "They might be able to cut checks, modify people's payments, delete users or employes, etc," Miller speculated. The attack is very critical and should be considered serious.

    In other internet security news

    The Chinese government is pressuring Microsoft to extend support for its Windows XP operating system in order to escalate Beijing’s anti-piracy efforts and head off a potentially huge security threat to the country.

    Yan Xiaohong, deputy director of China’s National Copyright Administration, met Microsoft and other software companies in a bid to put some pressure on.

    He apparently claimed that ending support for Windows XP would create serious security risks for many computers in the country, with opportunistic cyber criminals looking to exploit security vulnerabilities in the OS once security updates end on April 8, 2014.

    It’s no secret that China is still heavily reliant on the outdated OS. According to StatCounter, it had a market share of just over 50 per cent in China last month, so there would appear to be some justification to Yan’s concerns.

    Having played that security card, he also appeared to suggest that Microsoft had made things difficult for Chinese users by halting sales of a low-priced version of Windows 7-– the second most popular operating system in the country with around a 40 percent market share.

    The argument here is that funnelling Chinese users towards a higher-priced Windows 8 will only result in greater instances of software piracy, something the central government appears finally to be acting upon.

    In July, Beijing spent US $160 million to replace pirated software in central and provincial government offices with the genuine product-- the second phase in a national plan to completely eradicate software piracy in the public sector.

    But to be fair to Microsoft, if some of this outlay was on XP licenses, the Chinese government really has only itself to blame. For the past 2 1/2 years, Microsoft has been warning Windows XP users that it will end its support of the OS in April 2014.

    For the record, China remains one of the world's worst offenders when it comes to software piracy. It had a piracy rate of 77 percent, or an industry worth around US $9 billion in 2011 alone, according to the Business Software Alliance.

    In other internet security news

    Overall, about 39 percent of all personal computers submitted for testing to a browser security test from Qualys were inflicted by critical security vulnerabilities that are mostly related to browser plug-ins.

    The findings are based on 1.4 million Browser Check computer scans, and they paint a picture of eCommerce buyers left wide open to potential attacks by cybercriminals just before the busiest online shopping period of the year.

    Overall, browser security vulnerabilities are routinely used to push malware at victims from compromised (often otherwise legitimate) websites through drive-by download attacks.

    For instance, Google's Chrome browser has close to 40 percent of its instances afflicted with a critical security vulnerability. And similar numbers also apply to Firefox and especially Internet Explorer, which have 35 percent and 41 percent of their instances vulnerable to attacks.

    Safari (at 29 percent) and Opera (at 34 percent) came in as the best of a bad bunch, according to the numbers from Qualys.

    The overall net population might be somewhat more secure simply because Qualys is looking at a sample of users who have taken the trouble to check their browser security in the first place.

    Qualys CTO Wolfgang Kandek says that browser plug-ins were a bigger part of the issue than core security software, and that the trend appears to be growing.

    "The browsers themselves are only part of the issue. More and more, we see most of them quite up-to-date, with Chrome leading the pack with 90 percent, Firefox at 85 percent and Internet Explorer trailing with 75 percent," Kandek explained.

    "The larger part of the puzzle is contributed by the plug-ins that we use to extend the capabilities of our browsers, led by Adobe Shockwave and followed by Oracle Java and Apple Quicktime," Kandek added.

    The overall message is very simple-- PC users should patch their computers, and particularly their browser plugins if they don't want to run a higher risk of getting victimized by banking trojans, spyware or similar annoyances.

    There are various tools available. Kandek has published further commentary on his findings, alongside a chart depicting the distribution of security vulnerabilities between browsers on the Qualys website.

    In other internet security news

    Symantec said this morning that it has discovered a new worm that exploits various security vulnerabilities in PHP to infect Intel x86-powered Linux devices.

    Symantec added that the malware threatens to compromise home broadband routers as well as other, similar equipment.

    But home internet equipment with x86 chips are few and far between. Most network-connected embedded devices are powered by ARM or MIPS processors, so the threat seems almost non-existent, at least to a certain degree.

    However, the security company claims that ARM and MIPS flavors of the Linux worm may be available anyway, which could compromise broadband routers, TV set-top boxes and similar gadgets.

    The software appears to exhibit some nasty attempts to use username and password pairs commonly used to log into home internet gear while still compromising a device.

    Specifically, the software nasty Linux.Darlloz takes advantage of web servers running PHP that can't follow query strings safely, allowing a hacker to execute arbitrary commands.

    Once a system is infected, the virus scans the network for other systems running a similar web server and PHP. It then tries to compromise those devices by exploiting PHP to download and run an ELF x86 binary, if necessary, logging in with trivial username-password pairs such as admin-admin, as found in poorly secured broadband routers and similar equipment.

    Once running on the newly infiltrated gadget, the worm kills off access to any telnet services running on it. The malware does not appear to perform any malicious activity other than silently spreading itself and wiping a load of system files.

    But again, this software is built for x86 processors, which aren't really used widely in embedded devices anymore, but ARM, PPC and MIPS versions may be available to download that could be more effective at targeting vulnerable equipment present in millions of homes today.

    "Overall, many users may not be aware that they are using vulnerable devices in their homes or offices, at least not now anyway" Symantec's Kaoru Hayashi wrote in a report about the malicious code.

    "Another nasty issue we could face is that even if users notice vulnerable devices, no updates have been provided to some products by the vendor, because of outdated technology or hardware limitations, such as not having enough memory or a CPU that is too slow to support new versions of the software," he added.

    To protect devices from potential attacks, Symantec recommends users and administrators place basic security protections in place, such as changing device passwords from default settings, updating the software and its firmware on their devices, and monitoring network connections and architecture to make sure that everything is safe.

    In other internet security news

    Internet hackers based in Russia have cooked up a set of very nasty Trojan viruses that communicate over peer-to-peer networks using an encrypted darknet protocol that's arguably even stealthier than TOR: I2P.

    Dubbed the i2Ninja virus, the malware offers a similar set of capabilities to other major banking malware such as ZeuS and SpyEye, including an HTML injection and form-grabbing for all major browsers (Internet Explorer, Firefox and even Chrome), as well as an FTP grabber and a soon-to-be released VNC (Virtual Network Connection) module, which will allow remote control of compromised desktops.

    Additionally, the Trojan worm also provides a PokerGrabber module targeting major online poker sites and an email grabber.

    But what really sets the malware apart from the rest is its arcane communications technology, as a blog post by transaction security firm Trusteer explains.

    The i2Ninja takes its name from the malware’s use of I2P-– a networking layer that uses cryptography to allow secure communication between its peer-to-peer users. While that concept is somewhat similar to TOR services, I2P was designed to maintain a true Darknet, an Internet within an Internet where secure and anonymous messaging and the use of various services can be maintained.

    The I2P network also offers HTTP proxies to allow anonymous internet browsing. Using the I2P network, i2Ninja can maintain secure communications between the infected devices and command and control servers. Everything from delivering configuration updates to receiving stolen data and sending commands is done via the encrypted I2P channels.

    The i2Ninja malware also offers users a proxy for anonymous internet browsing, promising complete online anonymity. Trusteer, which was recently acquired by IBM, came across the i2Ninja malware through posting on a Russian cybercrime forum.

    Etay Maor, a fraud prevention manager at Trusteer, explains that around-the-clock support is on hand for potential customers of the cybercrime tool.

    "Another feature of I2P with the i2Ninja virus is an integrated help desk via a ticketing system within the malware’s command and control," Maor explains. "A potential buyer can communicate with the authors/support team, open tickets and get answers – all while enjoying the security and anonymity provided by I2P’s encrypted messaging nature," he said.

    "While some malware offerings have offered an interface with a support team in the past (Citadel and Neosploit to name two), i2Ninja’s 24/7 secure help desk channel is a first," added Maor.

    The post advertising i2Ninja was actually copied from a different source and shared within the forum on a thread discussing P2P Trojans, Maor adds.

    "The cybercriminal who originally made the offer commented on this thread and confirmed that indeed this malware is for sale at this time. As the thread progressed, that same cybercriminal also requested that the thread be shut down as he had received many requests for purchasing the i2Ninja malware," he adds.

    Trusteer says the malware would most likely spread via the usual vectors-- drive-by-download infection, fake ads, email attachments, etc. The purchase or rental price of Trojan remains undetermined at this time.

    In other internet security news

    System admins that are given the task of managing JBoss application servers are advised to get busy hardening their systems, since a sudden increase in the number of attacks against the system has been reported by internet security firm Imperva.

    The JBoss attacks are based on an exploit that was published last month by Andrea Micalizzi. The exploit code gave remote attackers arbitrary code execution access to HP's PCM Plus and Application Lifecycle Management systems without authentication.

    The attack also works against McAfee, Symantec and IBM systems using JBoss 4.x and 5.x. Imperva's advisory states that the compay is now seeing an increasing amount of attack traffic using the exploit.

    What's surprising, Imperva says, is that while the Micalizzi exploit code only hit the waiting world this year, the security vulnerability has been known since 2011.

    The attack works by exploiting the HTTP invoker service in JBoss, used to provide access to Enterprise Java Beans. Imperva says the Micalizzi exploit “abuses invoker/EJBInvokerServlet to deploy a web shell code that enables the hacker to execute arbitrary Operating System commands on the victim sever’s system.”

    In the HP environment, this would provide access to the PCM Plus and ALM management consoles. There are currently about 23,000 servers exposing their JBoss management interfaces to the Internet, up from 7,000 in 2011, Imperva says, with several infections spotted in the wild.

    Last month, HP said that it updated its JBoss implementation, although we're still waiting for the details. We should have them soon, the company said.

    In other internet security news

    Internet security agency FireEye has identified specific links between 11 APT campaigns, including the utilization of the same malware tools, shared code, binaries with the same timestamps, and signed binaries with the same digital certificates.

    To be sure, state-sponsored hackers are looking less like traditional hacking crews and more like well organized military units as they share infrastructure and adopt strict hierarchies, according to new data released late yesterday.

    The 11 APT campaigns targeted a wide range of various industries and appeared unrelated at first, until cyber-sleuths uncovered digital evidence that clearly linked the attacks.

    If you need reliability when it comes to SMTP servers, get the best, get Port 587.

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    Source: Trustwave.

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