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Spy vs Spy: strange story of cybercrime underworld

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In the cyber-world, not only are everyday users at risk of having their personal details stolen, but so too are new cybercriminals as was evident on the underground site leakforums, writes PAUL DUCKLIN, Senior Security Advisor, Sophos.

Not all malware is ransomware, even though ransomware hogs the spotlight these days.

Keyloggers are still popular in the cybe runderworld, because they help crooks to steal  passwords. Armed with  email passwords, for example, crooks can pull off much more audacious crimes than ransomware, such as business email attacks, also known a CEO fraud or wire-wire scams (that’s where a crook logs in with a stolen password to send an email that doesn’t just look as though it came from your CEO’s account, it really did come from her account.)

The fraudulent email in a wire-wire scam won’t be a demand for $300 in bitcoins, which is a typical price-point in ransomware, but an official-sounding corporate instruction to put through a massive funds transfer. The amount may be $100,000 or even more, and the email will typically claim that that the funds are part of time-critical business venture such as an acquisition, to justify both the large sum and the urgency.

In other words, there’s still big money in Keyloggers, and one of the most popular keyloggers these days is KeyBase, a product that was originally sold as a legitimate application before being abandoned in apparent disgust by its author.But KeyBase lives on, with cyber crooks giving it a new home all over the cybercriminal underground.

Dishonour among thieves

Sometimes crooks turn on their own kind, as happened in this story. A user on the popular underground site leakforums, going by the name pahan12, popped up offering a PHP Remote Access Trojan called SLICK RAT.But newbie crooks who ran the installer didn’t get what they paid for. Instead, they ended up infected with the KeyBase data stealer instead, and their stolen passwords were sent off to a data-collection website. (The “Pahan” connection continued here, because the URL contained the text pahan123.)

My guess is that Pahan was after his victims’ logins for leakforums and other hacker sites, in order to build up his rank in the underground, and  went after users on other crime forums, too.,

(Interestingly, Pahan has a history of this sort of double-cross, promoting one cybercrime tool but infecting it with another. In  November 2015, Pahan was offering a malware scrambling tool called Aegis Crypter).

Cryptors take an existing malware program as input, and churn out a modified, scrambled, compressed and obfuscated program file as output, in the hope that this will bypass basic virus-blocking tools. But Pahan’s version of Aegis included its own “secret sauce”: a zombie Trojan called Troj/RxBot than hooks up infected computers to an IRC server from which remote command-and-control instructions can be sent to the network of zombies. The IRC channels on the server that were used by Pahan’s zombie were pahan12 and pahan123.

And in March 2016, a user going by pahann was promoting a version of the KeyBase toolkit, which can be used to generate keylogger files to order.

This KeyBase malware generation toolkit was itself infected, in a weird sort of “malware triangle”.

By this time, things were getting quite complicated for Pahan, who had samples of SLICK RAT for sale that were infected with KeyBase; of Aegis Crypter infected with Troj/RxBot; and of KeyBase infected with COM Surrogate, which delivered Troj/RxBot and Cyborg.

What next?

Things didn’t go so well for the duplicitous Pahan, a.k.a. Pahan12, a.k.a. Pahan123, a.k.a. Pahann, after that… Just last week, when our team of experts  were looking around to see what Pahan had been up to recently, we found a number of  intriguing data and postings relating to him. Amusingly, (if cyber criminality can ever be truly funny), it seems as if Pahan/12/123/n has managed to infect himself with one or more of the malware samples he’s been juggling recently.

So, if you’ve ever wondered what a cybercrook keeps up his sleeve, this might give you some ideas: we can see a ransomware sample, various pre-prepared malware binaries, scanners, a sniffer, remote access tools and more. Maybe his next step will be to scramble his own files with the ransomware we can see stashed there in his Google Drive account?

So, if you had to write the story “What Pahan did next?”…

…what would you say? (And if you could choose, what would you wish for?)

(This article first appeared on Sophos Naked Security, August 16, 2016: https://nakedsecurity.sophos.com/2016/08/16/you-dirty-rat-spy-versus-spy-in-the-cybercrime-underworld/?utm_source=Naked+Security+-+Sophos+List&utm_campaign=a54b497abf-naked%252Bsecurity&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_31623bb782-a54b497abf-455162573 )

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Samsung unleashes the beast

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Most new smartphone releases of the past few years have been like cat-and-mouse games with consumers and each other. It has been as if morsels of cheese are thrown into the box to make it more interesting: a little extra camera here, a little more battery there, and incremental changes to size, speed (more) and weight (less). Each change moves the needle of innovation ever-so-slightly. Until we find ourselves, a few years later, with a handset that is revolutionary compared to six years ago, but an anti-climax relative to six months before.

And then came Samsung. Probably stung by the “incremental improvement” phrase that has become almost a cliché about new Galaxy devices, the Korean giant chose to unleash a beast last week.

The new Galaxy Note 9 is not only the biggest smartphone Samsung has ever released, but one of the biggest flagship handsets that can still be called a phone. With a 6.4” display, it suddenly competes with mini-tablets and gaming consoles, among other devices that had previously faced little contest from handsets.

It offers almost ever cutting edge introduced to the Galaxy S9 and S9+ smartphones earlier this year, including the market-leading f1.5 aperture lens, and an f2.4. telephoto lens, each weighing in at 12 Megapixels. The front lens is equally impressive, with an f1.7 aperture – first introduced on the Note 8 as the widest yet on a selfie camera.

So far, so S9. However, the Note range has always been set apart by its S Pen stylus, and each edition has added new features. Born as a mere pen that writes on screens, it evolved through the likes of pressure sensitivity, allowing for artistic expression, and cut-and-paste text with translation-on-the-fly.

(Click here or below to read more about the Samsung Galaxy S Pen stylus) Samsung Galaxy S9 Features)

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SA ride permit system ‘broken’

Despite the amendments to the National Land Transport Act, ALON LITS, General Manager, Uber in Sub Saharan Africa, believes that many premature given that the necessary, well-functioning systems and processes are not yet in place to make these regulatory changes viable.

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The spirit and intention of the amendments to the National Land Transport Act No 5  (NLTA), 2009 put forward by the Ministry of Transport are to be commended. It is especially pleasing that these amendments include ridesharing and e-hailing operators and drivers as legitimate participants in the country’s public transport system, which point to government’s willingness to embrace the changes and innovation taking place in the country’s transport industry.

However, there are aspects of the proposed amendments that are, at best, premature given that the necessary, well-functioning systems and processes are not yet in place to make these regulatory changes viable.

Of particular concern are the significant financial penalties that will need to be paid by ridesharing and e-hailing companies whose independent operators are found to be transporting passengers without a legal permit issued by the relevant local authority. These fines can be as high as R100 000 per driver operating without a permit. Apart from being an excessive penalty it is grossly unfair given that a large number of local authorities don’t yet have functioning permit issuing systems and processes in place.

The truth is that the operating permit issuance system in South Africa is effectively broken. The application and issuance processes for operating licenses are fundamentally flawed and subject to extensive delays, sometimes over a year in length.  This situation is exacerbated by the fact that it is very difficult for applicants whose permit applications haven’t yet been approved to get reasons for the extensive delays on the issuing of those permits.

Uber has had extensive first-hand experience with the frustratingly slow process of applying for these permits, with drivers often having to wait months and, in some cases more than a year, for their permits.

Sadly, there appears to be no sense of urgency amongst local authorities to prioritise fixing the flawed permit issuing systems and processes or address the large, and growing, backlogs of permit applications. As such, in order for the proposed stringent permit enforcement rules to be effective and fair to all role players, the long-standing issues around permit issuance first need to be addressed. At the very least, before the proposed legislation amendments are implemented, the National Transport Ministry needs to address the following issues:

  1. Efficient processes and systems must be put in place in all local authorities to allow drivers to easily apply for the operating permits they require
  2. Service level agreements need to be put in place with local authorities whereby they are required to assess applications and issue permits within the prescribed 60-day period.
  3. Local authorities need to be given deadlines by which their current permit application backlogs must be addressed to allow for faster processing of new applications once the amendments are promulgated.

If the Transport Ministry implements the proposed legislation amendments before ensuring that these permit issuance challenges are addressed, many drivers will be faced with the difficult choice of either having to operate illegally whilst awaiting their approved permits and risking significant fines and/or arrest, or stopping operations until they receive their permits, thereby losing what is, for many of them, their only source of income.

As such, if the Ministry of Transport is not able to address these particular challenges, it is only reasonable to ask it to reconsider this amendment and delay its implementation until the necessary infrastructure is in place to ensure it does not impact negatively on the country’s transport industry. The legislators must have been aware of the challenges of passing such a significant law, as the Amendment Bill allows for the Minister to use his discretion to delay implementation of provisions for up to 5 years.

Fair trade and healthy competition are the cornerstones of any effective and growing economy. However, these clauses (Section 66 (7) and Section 66A) of the NLTA amendment, as well as the proposal that regulators be given authority to define the geographic locations or zones in which vehicles may operate, are contrary to the spirit of both. As a good corporate citizen, Uber is committed to supplementing and enhancing South Africa’s national transport system and contributing positively to the industry. If passed into law without the revisions suggested above, these new amendments will limit our business and many others from playing the supportive roles we all can, and should, in growing the SA transport and tourism industries as well as many other key economic sectors.

What’s more, if passed as they currently stand, the amendments will effectively limit South African consumers from having full access to the range of convenient transport options they deserve; which has the potential to harm the reputation and credibility of the entire transport industry.

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