Posts tagged ‘Conficker’
More than 74,000 PCs at nearly 2,500 organizations around the globe were compromised over the past year and a half in a botnet infestation designed to steal login credentials to bank sites, social networks, and e-mail systems, a security firm said Wednesday.
The systems were infected with the Zeus Trojan and the botnet was dubbed “Kneber” after a username that linked the infected PCs on corporate and government systems, according to NetWitness.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Merck, Cardinal Health, Paramount Pictures, and Juniper Networks were among the targets in the attack. NetWitness speculated that criminals in Eastern Europe using a command-and-control server in Germany sent attachments containing the malware in e-mails or links to the malware on Web sites that employees within the companies clicked on.
NetWitness said it discovered more than 75 gigabytes worth of stolen data during routine analytic tasks as part of an evaluation of a client network on January 26. The cache of stolen data included 68,000 corporate login credentials, access to e-mail systems, online banking sites, Facebook, Yahoo, Hotmail, 2,000 SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate files and data on individuals, NetWitness said in a statement and in a whitepaper available for download from its Web site.
In addition to stealing specific data, Zeus can be used to search for and steal any file on the computer, download and execute programs and allow someone to remotely control the computer.
More than half of the compromised machines were also infected with peer-to-peer bot malware called Waledac, the company said. Nearly 200 countries were affected, with most of the infections found in Egypt, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States.
The news comes after Google announced an attack targeting it and what is believed to be more than 30 other companies and which was linked back to China. McAfee dubbed that attack “Operation Aurora.”
“While Operation Aurora shed light on advanced threats from sponsored adversaries, the number of compromised companies and organizations pales in comparison to this single botnet,” said Amit Yoran, chief executive of NetWitness and former Director of the National Cyber Security Division. “These large-scale compromises of enterprise networks have reached epidemic levels.”
February 17, 2010 6:59 PM PST
by Elinor Mills
Call us today 1-800-905-GEEK (4335) or visit us online www.geeksoncall.com
Global Offensive Snagged Corporate, Personal Data at nearly 2,500 Companies; Operation Is Still Running
Hackers in Europe and China successfully broke into computers at nearly 2,500 companies and government agencies over the last 18 months in a coordinated global attack that exposed vast amounts of personal and corporate secrets to theft, according to a computer-security company that discovered the breach.
The damage from the latest cyberattack is still being assessed, and affected companies are still being notified. But data compiled by NetWitness, the closely held firm that discovered the breaches, showed that hackers gained access to a wide array of data at 2,411 companies, from credit-card transactions to intellectual property.
The hacking operation, the latest of several major hacks that have raised alarms for companies and government officials, is still running and it isn’t clear to what extent it has been contained, NetWitness said. Also unclear is the full amount of data stolen and how it was used. Two companies that were infiltrated, pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co. and Cardinal Health Inc., said they had isolated and contained the problem.
Starting in late 2008, hackers operating a command center in Germany got into corporate networks by enticing employees to click on contaminated Web sites, email attachments or ads purporting to clean up viruses, NetWitness found.
In more than 100 cases, the hackers gained access to corporate servers that store large quantities of business data, such as company files, databases and email.
They also broke into computers at 10 U.S. government agencies. In one case, they obtained the user name and password of a soldier’s military email account, NetWitness found. A Pentagon spokesman said the military didn’t comment on specific threats or intrusions.
At one company, the hackers gained access to a corporate server used for processing online credit-card payments. At others, stolen passwords provided access to computers used to store and swap proprietary corporate documents, presentations, contracts and even upcoming versions of software products, NetWitness said.
Data stolen from another U.S. company pointed to an employee’s apparent involvement in criminal activities; authorities have been called in to investigate, NetWitness said. Criminal groups have used such information to extort sensitive information from employees in the past.
The spyware used in this attack allows hackers to control computers remotely, said Amit Yoran, chief executive of NetWitness. NetWitness engineer Alex Cox said he uncovered the scheme Jan. 26 while installing technology for a large corporation to hunt for cyberattacks.
That discovery points to the growing number of attacks in recent years that have drafted computers into cyber armies known as botnets—intrusions not blocked by standard antivirus software. Researchers estimate millions of computers are conscripted into these armies.
“It highlights the weaknesses in cyber security right now,” said Adam Meyers, a senior engineer at government contractor SRA International Inc. who reviewed the NetWitness data. “If you’re a Fortune 500 company or a government agency or a home DSL user, you could be successfully victimized.”
Disclosure of the attack comes on the heels of Google Inc.’s allegation that it and more than 20 other companies were breached by Chinese hackers. This operation appears to be more far-reaching, infiltrating some 75,000 computers and touching 196 countries. The highest concentrations of infected computers are in Egypt, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the U.S.
NetWitness, based in Herndon, Va., said it was sharing information with the companies infected. Mr. Yoran declined to name them. The company provides computer security for U.S. government agencies and companies. Mr. Yoran is a former Air Force officer who also served as cyber security chief at the Department of Homeland Security.
Besides Merck and Cardinal Health, people familiar with the attack named several other companies infiltrated, including Paramount Pictures and software company Juniper Networks Inc.
Merck said in a statement that one computer had been infected. It said it had isolated the attack and that “no sensitive information was compromised.”
Cardinal said it removed the infected computer from its network. Paramount declined to comment. Juniper’s security chief, Barry Greene, wouldn’t speak about any specific incidents but said the company worked aggressively to counter infections.
“The key is not to pour money into protecting information, but to develop a global approach to neutralizing its value. By creating secrets, we have created value, which is pursued by opportunists. ”
—John M. Brock
NetWitness, which does extensive work for the U.S. government and private-sector clients, said it was sharing its information with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The FBI said it received numerous allegations about potential compromises of network systems and responded promptly, in coordination with law-enforcement partners.
The computers were infected with spyware called ZeuS, which is available free on the Internet in its basic form. It works with the FireFox browser, according to computer-security firm SecureWorks. This version included a $2,000 feature that works with FireFox, according to SecureWorks.
Evidence suggests an Eastern European criminal group is behind the operation, likely using some computers in China because it’s easier to operate there without being caught, said NetWitness’s Mr. Yoran.
There are some electronic fingerprints suggesting the same group was behind a recent effort to dupe government officials and others into downloading spyware via emails purporting to be from the National Security Agency and the U.S. military, NetWitness’s Mr. Yoran said.
That attack was described in a Feb. 5 report from the Department of Homeland Security, which said it was issuing an alert to the government and other organizations to “prevent further compromises.”
A DHS official said that ZeuS was among the top five reported tools for malware infections.
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By SIOBHAN GORMAN
Microsoft announced on Tuesday that it has set up a new deal to swap patents with LCD TV maker Funai.
Funai, which makes TVs sold in the U.S. under the brands Philips, Magnavox, Sylvania, and Emerson, will gain access to Microsoft’s exFAT file system, an enhanced version of the company’s older FAT (file allocation table) used to store and organize data on a disk.
The exFAT (extended FAT) system supports much higher-capacity drives and devices than can FAT and will quickly save files onto SD cards, USB drives, and other portable gadgets. Microsoft sees it as the ideal option for handling huge chunks of audio and video on digital photo frames, cameras, camcorders, smartphones, and of course TVs.
The cross-licensing agreement lets Funai use exFAT to develop new consumer audio and video products, including LCD TVs, for which the company is compensating Microsoft.
Microsoft was mum about what specific patents it might gain from Funai, only saying in a statement that this “exchange of innovation” would help both companies design new technologies to benefit consumers of audio/video products, including LCD TVs.
“Consumers want TVs to offer experiences that were once available primarily on personal computers. A patent license like this one allows two industry leaders to deliver the type of cutting-edge innovations that today’s consumers demand,” said David Kaefer, general manager of Intellectual Property Licensing at Microsoft, in a statement.
Microsoft initially rolled out exFAT for mobile phones, PDAs, audio and video appliances, and other devices running Windows Embedded edition. The company also added exFAT to its newer operating systems–Windows Vista SP1, Windows 7, and Windows Server 2008–hoping that more electronics companies would adopt it to store audio and video files on their consumer devices.
In December, Microsoft set up a new licensing program for exFAT, charging a flat $300,000 fee to manufacturers who want to use the file system in their products. But Microsoft’s license for FAT technology has been the subject of controversy as Redmond has long argued that certain uses of Linux infringe on its patents in this area. The company hasn’t hesitated to go after companies, such as GPS-maker Tom Tom, suing them for alleged patent violation.
Microsoft’s actions prompted Linux defenders, such as the Open Invention Network, to try to overturn the patents in question, an effort that eventually helped the group land several key patents that it said could have been used against Linux.
January 20, 2010 10:23 AM PST
by Lance Whitney
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By LOLITA C. BALDOR, Associated Press Writer Lolita C. Baldor, Associated Press Writer
The powerful attack that overwhelmed computers at U.S. and South Korean government agencies for days was even broader than initially realized, also targeting the White House, the Pentagon and the New York Stock Exchange.
Other targets of the attack included the National Security Agency, Homeland Security Department, State Department, the Nasdaq stock market and The Washington Post, according to an early analysis of the malicious software used in the attacks. Many of the organizations appeared to successfully blunt the sustained computer assaults.
The Associated Press obtained the target list from security experts analyzing the attacks. It was not immediately clear who might be responsible or what their motives were. South Korean intelligence officials believe the attacks were carried out by North Korea or pro-Pyongyang forces.
The attack was remarkably successful in limiting public access to victim Web sites, but internal e-mail systems are typically unaffected in such attacks. Some government Web sites — such as the Treasury Department, Federal Trade Commission and Secret Service — were still reporting problems days after the attack started during the July 4 holiday. South Korean Internet sites began experiencing problems Tuesday.
South Korea’s National Intelligence Service, the nation’s principal spy agency, told a group of South Korean lawmakers Wednesday it believes that North Korea or North Korean sympathizers in the South were behind the attacks, according to an aide to one of the lawmakers briefed on the information.
The aide spoke on condition of anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the information. The National Intelligence Service — South Korea’s main spy agency — said it couldn’t immediately confirm the report, but it said it was cooperating with American authorities.
The attacks will be difficult to trace, said Professor Peter Sommer, an expert on cyberterrorism at the London School of Economics. “Even if you are right about the fact of being attacked, initial diagnoses are often wrong,” he said Wednesday.
Amy Kudwa, spokeswoman for the Homeland Security Department, said the agency’s U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team issued a notice to federal departments and other partner organizations about the problems and “advised them of steps to take to help mitigate against such attacks.”
New York Stock Exchange spokesman Ray Pellecchia could not confirm the attack, saying the company does not comment on security issues.
Attacks on federal computer networks are common, ranging from nuisance hacking to more serious assaults, sometimes blamed on China. U.S. security officials also worry about cyber attacks from al-Qaida or other terrorists.
This time, two government officials acknowledged that the Treasury and Secret Service sites were brought down, and said the agencies were working with their Internet service provider to resolve the problem. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the matter.
Ben Rushlo, director of Internet technologies at Keynote Systems, said problems with the Transportation Department site began Saturday and continued until Monday, while the FTC site was down Sunday and Monday.
Keynote Systems is a mobile and Web site monitoring company based in San Mateo, Calif. The company publishes data detailing outages on Web sites, including 40 government sites it watches.
According to Rushlo, the Transportation Web site was “100 percent down” for two days, so that no Internet users could get through to it. The FTC site, meanwhile, started to come back online late Sunday, but even on Tuesday Internet users still were unable to get to the site 70 percent of the time.
Web sites of major South Korean government agencies, including the presidential Blue House and the Defense Ministry, and some banking sites were paralyzed Tuesday. An initial investigation found that many personal computers were infected with a virus ordering them to visit major official Web sites in South Korea and the U.S. at the same time, Korea Information Security Agency official Shin Hwa-su said.
Associated Press writers Hyung-Jin Kim in Seoul, South Korea; Andrew Vanacore in New York; and Pan Pylas in London contributed to this report.