Kaspersky Lab researchers have investigated a global forum where cybercriminals can buy and sell access to compromised servers for as little as $6 each.
The xDedic marketplace, which appears to be run by a Russian-speaking group, currently lists 70,624 hacked Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) servers for sale. Many of the servers host or provide access to popular consumer websites and services and some have software installed for direct mail, financial accounting and Point-of-Sale (PoS) processing. They can be used to target the owners’ infrastructures or as a launch-pad for wider attacks, while the owners, including government entities, corporations and universities, have little or no idea of what’s happening.
xDedic is a powerful example of a new kind of cybercriminal marketplace: well-organised and supported and offering everyone from entry-level cybercriminals to APT groups fast, cheap and easy access to legitimate organisational infrastructure that keeps their crimes below the radar for as long as possible.
A European internet service provider (ISP) alerted Kaspersky Lab to the existence of xDedic and the companies worked together to investigate how the forum operates. The process is simple and thorough: hackers break into servers, often through brute-force attacks, and bring the credentials to xDedic. The hacked servers are then checked for their RDP configuration, memory, software, browsing history and more – all features that customers can search through before buying. After that, they are added to a growing online inventory that includes access to:
· Servers belonging to government networks, corporations and universities
· Servers tagged for having access to or hosting certain websites and services, including gaming, betting, dating, online shopping, online banking and payment, cell phone networks, ISPs and browsers
· Servers with pre-installed software that could facilitate an attack, including direct mail, financial and PoS software
· All supported by a range of hacking and system information tools.
From as little as $6 per server, members of the xDedic forum can access all of a server’s data and also use it as a platform for further malicious attacks. This could potentially include targeted attacks, malware, DDoS, phishing, social-engineering and adware attacks, among others.
The servers’ legitimate owners, reputable organisations including: government networks, corporations and universities, are often unaware that their IT infrastructure has been compromised. Further, once a campaign has been completed, the attackers can put access to the server back up for sale and the whole process can begin again.
The xDedic marketplace seems to have opened for business some time in 2014, and has grown significantly in popularity since the middle of 2015. In May 2016, it listed 70,624 servers from 173 countries for sale, posted in the names of 416 different sellers. The top 10 countries affected are: South Africa, Brazil, China, Russia, India, Spain, Italy, France, Australia and Malaysia.
The group behind xDedic claims that it merely provides a trading platform and has no links or affiliations to the sellers.
“xDedic is further confirmation that cybercrime-as-a-service is expanding through the addition of commercial ecosystems and trading platforms. Its existence makes it easier than ever for everyone, from low-skilled malicious attackers to nation-state backed APTs, to engage in potentially devastating attacks in a way that is cheap, fast and effective. The ultimate victims are not just the consumers or organisations targeted in an attack, but also the unsuspecting owners of the servers: they are likely to be completely unaware that their servers are being hijacked again and again for different attacks, all conducted right under their nose,” said Costin Raiu, Director, Global Research and Analysis Team, Kaspersky Lab.
Kaspersky Lab advises organisations to:
· Install a robust security solution as part of a comprehensive, multi-layered approach to IT infrastructure security
· Enforce the use of strong passwords as part of the server authentication process
· Implement a continuous process of patch management
· Undertake a regular security audit of the IT infrastructure
· Consider investing in threat intelligence services which will keep the organisation informed of emerging threats and offer an insight into the criminal perspective to help them assess their level of risk.
Data journalism takes top prize in revamped awards
The entries to the 2018 Vodacom Journalist of the Year Awards were extraordinarily varied and of an excellent standard, with new categories introduced which are based on content as opposed to platforms. This year, the judges decided that two entries were equally worthy of the coveted Vodacom Journalist of the Year Award.
The first co-winning entry, in the new Data Journalism category, is a set of stories by Alastair Otter and Laura Grant of Media Hack which showed how Data Journalism is shaping the future. The second co-winning entrant is Bongani Fuzile of the Daily Dispatch for his articles in the investigative category on how migrant workers were being ripped off by pension deductions (full citations below).
Convenor of the judging panel Ryland Fisher says: “This year we modernised the 12 categories that journalists could enter their work in and the change was embraced by entrants. In a turbulent time for media, the 2018 entries once again proved that there are excellent South African journalists delivering praiseworthy work, and we commend them for finding new and innovative ways to cover the news.”
Takalani Netshitenzhe, Chief Officer for Corporate Affairs at the Vodacom Group, says: “Vodacom is proud of its 17-year association with these prestigious awards, which make an important contribution to our society through the recognition of journalistic excellence. I’d like to congratulate all of tonight’s winners and, as always, I’d like to pay tribute to our hardworking judges. Ryland Fisher, Mathatha Tsedu, Arthur Goldstuck, Collin Nxumalo, Elna Rossouw, Patricia McCracken, Megan Rusi, Mary Papayya, Albe Grobbelaar and Obed Zilwa: thank you for making these awards a continued success.”
Veteran journalist and media stalwart Ms Amina Frense is the winner of the 2018 Vodacom Journalist of the Year Lifetime Achiever Award. She has spent decades in mainstream media both locally and internationally. She is a former Managing Editor: News and Current Affairs at the SA Broadcasting Corporation. She has worked in many countries abroad as a producer and a foreign correspondent, has written two books and is also a founding member of SANEF where she still serves as a council member (full citation below).
The overall winners share the R100 000 main prize. National winners in the various categories are as follows, with each winner taking home R10 000:
The entries in this category were of an exceptionally high standard. One entrant stood out and became the unanimous winner. This journalist showed an exceptional skill for story-telling and for finding unexpected angles and unknown facts. For his stories about Musangwe’s fight for recognition, Age cheating in SA football, and Hansie Cronje revisited, the winner is Ronald Masinda, and the team of Gift Kganyago, Nceba Ntlanganiso and Charles Lombard from eSAT TV.
Cons exploit Telegram ICO
Kaspersky Lab researchers have uncovered dozens of highly convincing fake websites claiming to be investment sites for an initial coin offering (ICO) by the Telegram messaging service. Many of these websites appear to belong to the same group. In one case alone, tens of thousands of US dollars’ worth of cryptocurrency were stolen from victims believing they were investing in ‘Grams’, Telegram’s rumoured new currency. Telegram has not officially confirmed an ICO and has warned people about fraudulent investor sites.
In late 2017, stories started to circulate that the Telegram messaging service was launching an initial coin offering (ICO) to finance a blockchain platform based on its TON (Telegram Open Network) technology. Unverified technical documentation was posted online, but there appears to have been no confirmation from Telegram itself. The resulting confusion seems to have allowed fraudsters to capitalise on investor interest by creating fake sites and stealing vast sums of money.
Kaspersky Lab researchers have discovered dozens of such sites, possibly belonging to the same group, claiming to sell tokens for ‘Grams’ and inviting investors to pay with cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin, Ethereum, lice litecoin, dash and Bitcoin dash. A record of transactions on one site revealed that the scammers were able to steal at least $35,000 US dollars’ worth of Ethereum from investors.
The researchers found that some of the websites were so convincing that even after Telegram and others began to issue warnings, they were still able to recruit potential investors. Most use a secure connection, require registration and generate a unique online wallet for each new victim, making it harder to track the money.
Judging by the content of the fake websites, it appears they may have common ownership. For example, several have the exactly the same ‘Our Team’ section.
“ICOs are a fairly risky investment and many people don’t yet fully understand how they work, so it is not surprising that high quality fake websites, with seemingly reassuring features such as a secure connection and registration are successful at luring people in. People wishing to invest in an ICO would do well to check with the company behind it and make sure they know exactly who they are giving their money to, or they may never see it again,” said Nadezhda Demidova, Lead Web-Content Analyst, Kaspersky Lab.
Kaspersky Lab offers the following advice for users considering investing in an ICO:
- Check for warning signs: for example, some of the fake Telegram ICO websites had the same wrong image next to the name of Telegram’s Chief Product Officer.
- Do your homework: always check with the brand’s official site to verify the legitimacy of the investment site and, if necessary contact the company’s ICO teams before investing any money or currency.
- Use reliable security solutions such as Kaspersky Internet Security and Kaspersky Internet Security for Android, which will warn you if you try to visit fake internet pages.