Carding Kingpin Sentenced Again. Yahoo Hacker Pleads Guilty

Roman Seleznev, a Russian man who is already serving a record 27-year sentence in the United States for cybercrime charges, was handed a 14-year sentence this week by a federal judge in Atlanta for his role in a credit card and identity theft conspiracy that prosecutors say netted more than $50 million. Separately, a Canadian national has pleaded guilty to charges of helping to steal more than a billion user account credentials from Yahoo.

Seleznev, 33, was given the 14-year sentence in connection with two prosecutions that were consolidated in Georgia: The 2008 heist against Atlanta-based credit card processor RBS Worldpay; and a case out of Nevada where he was charged as a leading merchant of stolen credit cards at carder[dot]su, at one time perhaps the most bustling fraud forum where members openly marketed a variety of cybercrime-oriented services.

Roman Seleznev, pictured with bundles of cash. Image: US DOJ.

Seleznev’s conviction comes more than a year after he was convicted in a Seattle court on 38 counts of cybercrime charges, including wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. The Seattle conviction earned Seleznev a 27-year prison sentence — the most jail time ever given to an individual convicted of cybercrime charges in the United States.

This latest sentence will be served concurrently — meaning it will not add any time to his 27-year sentence. But it’s worth noting because Seleznev is appealing the Seattle verdict. In the event he prevails in Seattle and gets that conviction overturned, he will still serve out his 14-year sentence in the Georgia case because he pleaded guilty to those charges and waived his right to an appeal.

Prosecutors say Seleznev, known in the underworld by his hacker nicknames “nCux” and “Bulba,” enjoyed an extravagant lifestyle prior to his arrest, driving expensive sports cars and dropping tens of thousands of dollars at lavish island vacation spots. The son of an influential Russian politician, Seleznev made international headlines in 2014 after he was captured while vacationing in The Maldives, a popular destination for Russians and one that many Russian cybercriminals previously considered to be out of reach for western law enforcement agencies.

However, U.S. authorities were able to negotiate a secret deal with the Maldivian government to apprehend Seleznev. Following his capture, Seleznev was whisked away to Guam for more than a month before being transported to Washington state to stand trial for computer hacking charges.

The U.S. Justice Department says the laptop found with him when he was arrested contained more than 1.7 million stolen credit card numbers, and that evidence presented at trial showed that Seleznev earned tens of millions of dollars defrauding more than 3,400 financial institutions.

Investigators also reportedly found a smoking gun: a password cheat sheet that linked Seleznev to a decade’s worth of criminal hacking. For more on Seleznev’s arrest and prosecution, see The Backstory Behind Carder Kingpin Roman Seleznev’s Record 27-Year Sentence, and Feds Charge Carding Kingpin in Retail Hacks.

In an unrelated case, federal prosecutors in California announced a guilty plea from Karim Baratov, one of four men indicted in March 2017 for hacking into Yahoo beginning in 2014. Yahoo initially said the intrusion exposed the usernames, passwords and account data for roughly 500 million Yahoo users, but in December 2016 Yahoo said the actual number of victims was closer to one billion (read: all of its users). 

Baratov, 22, is a Canadian and Kazakh national who lived in Canada (he’s now being held in California). He was charged with being hired by two Russian FSB officer defendants in this case — Dmitry Dokuchaev, 33, and Igor Sushchin, 43 — to hack into the email accounts of thousands of individuals. According to prosecutors, Baratov’s role in the charged conspiracy was to hack webmail accounts of individuals of interest to the FSB and send those accounts’ passwords to Dokuchaev in exchange for money.

Karim Baratov, a.k.a. “Karim Taloverov,” as pictured in 2014 on his own site, mr-karim.com.

Baratov operated several business that he advertised openly online that could be hired to hack into email accounts at the world’s largest email providers, including Google, Yahoo and Yandex. As part of his plea agreement, Baratov not only admitted to agreeing and attempting to hack at least 80 webmail accounts on behalf of one of his FSB co-conspirators, but also to hacking more than 11,000 webmail accounts in total from in or around 2010 until his arrest by Canadian authorities.

Shortly after Baratov’s arrest and indictment, KrebsOnSecurity examined many of the email hacking services he operated and that were quite clearly tied to his name. One such business advertised the ability to steal email account passwords without actually changing the victim’s password. According to prosecutors, Baratov’s service relied on “spear phishing” emails that targeted individuals with custom content and enticed recipients to click a booby-trapped link.

For example, one popular email hacking business registered to Baratov was xssmail[dot]com, which for several years advertised the ability to break into email accounts of virtually all of the major Webmail providers. XSS is short for “cross-site-scripting.” XSS attacks rely on vulnerabilities in Web sites that don’t properly parse data submitted by visitors in things like search forms or anyplace one might enter data on a Web site.

Archive.org’s cache of xssmail.com

In the context of phishing links, the user clicks the link and is actually taken to the domain he or she thinks she is visiting (e.g., yahoo.com) but the vulnerability allows the attacker to inject malicious code into the page that the victim is visiting.

This can include fake login prompts that send any data the victim submits directly to the attacker. Alternatively, it could allow the attacker to steal “cookies,” text files that many sites place on visitors’ computers to validate whether they have visited the site previously, as well as if they have authenticated to the site already.

Baratov pleaded guilty to nine counts, including one count of aggravated identity theft and eight violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for Feb. 20, 2018. The aggravated identity theft charge carries a mandatory two-year sentence; each of the other counts is punishable by up to 10 years in jail and fines of $250,000, although any sentence he receives will likely be heavily tempered by U.S. federal sentencing guidelines.

Meanwhile, Baratov’s co-defendant Dokuchaev is embroiled in his own legal worries in Russia, charges that could carry a death sentence. He and his former boss Sergei Mikhailov — once deputy chief of the FSB’s Center for Information Security — were arrested in December 2016 by Russian authorities and charged with treason. Also charged with treason in connection with that case was Ruslan Stoyanov, a senior employee at Russian security firm Kaspersky Lab.

There are many competing theories for the reasons behind their treason charges, some of which are explored in this Washington Post story. I have my own theory, detailed in my January 2017 piece, A Shakeup in Russia’s Top Cybercrime Unit.

From https://krebsonsecurity.com/2017/12/carding-kingpin-sentenced-again-yahoo-hacker-pleads-guilty/

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MacOS High Sierra Users: Change Root Password Now

A newly-discovered flaw in macOS High Sierra — Apple’s latest iteration of its operating system — allows anyone with local (and, apparently in some cases, remote) access to the machine to log in as the all-powerful “root” user without supplying a password. Fortunately, there is a simple fix for this until Apple patches this inexplicable bug: Change the root account’s password now.

For better or worse, this glaring vulnerability was first disclosed today on Twitter by Turkish software developer Lemi Orhan Ergin, who unleashed his findings onto the Internet with a tweet to @AppleSupport:

“Dear @AppleSupport, we noticed a *HUGE* security issue at MacOS High Sierra. Anyone can login as “root” with empty password after clicking on login button several times. Are you aware of it @Apple?”

High Sierra users should be able to replicate the exploit by accessing System Preferences, then Users & Groups, and then click the lock to make changes. Type “root” with no password, and simply try that several times until the system relents and lets you in.

How does one change the root password? It’s simple enough. Open up a Terminal (in the Spotlight search box just type “terminal”) and type “sudo passwd root”.

Many people responding to that tweet said they were relieved to learn that this extremely serious oversight by Apple does not appear to be exploitable remotely. However, sources who have tested the bug say it can be exploited remotely if a High Sierra user a) has not changed the root password yet and b) has enabled “screen sharing” on their Mac.

Likewise, multiple sources have now confirmed that disabling the root account does not fix the problem because the exploit actually causes the account to be re-enabled.

There may be other ways that this vulnerability can be exploited: I’ll update this post as more information becomes available. But for now, if you’re using macOS High Sierra, take a moment to change the root password now, please.

From https://krebsonsecurity.com/2017/11/macos-high-sierra-users-change-root-password-now/

Who Was the NSA Contractor Arrested for Leaking the ‘Shadow Brokers’ Hacking Tools?

In August 2016, a mysterious entity calling itself “The Shadow Brokers” began releasing the first of several troves of classified documents and hacking tools purportedly stolen from “The Equation Group,” a highly advanced threat actor that is suspected of having ties to the U.S. National Security Agency. According to media reports, at least some of the information was stolen from the computer of an unidentified software developer and NSA contractor who was arrested in 2015 after taking the hacking tools home. In this post, we’ll examine clues left behind in the leaked Equation Group documents that may point to the identity of the mysterious software developer.

The headquarters of the National Security Agency in Fort Meade, Md.

The existence of the Equation Group was first posited in Feb. 2015 by researchers at Russian security firm Kaspersky Lab, which described it as one of the most sophisticated cyber attack teams in the world.

According to Kaspersky, the Equation Group has more than 60 members and has been operating since at least 2001. Most of the Equation Group’s targets have been in Iran, Russia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Syria, and Mali.

Although Kaspersky was the first to report on the existence of the Equation Group, it also has been implicated in the group’s compromise. Earlier this year, both The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal cited unnamed U.S. intelligence officials saying Russian hackers were able to obtain the advanced Equation Group hacking tools after identifying the files through a contractor’s use of Kaspersky Antivirus on his personal computer. For its part, Kaspersky has denied any involvement in the theft.

The Times reports that the NSA has active investigations into at least three former employees or contractors, including two who had worked for a specialized hacking division of NSA known as Tailored Access Operations, or TAO.

Thanks to documents leaked from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden we know that TAO is a cyber-warfare intelligence-gathering unit of NSA that has been active since at least 1998. According to those documents, TAO’s job is to identify, monitor, infiltrate and gather intelligence on computer systems being used by entities foreign to the United States.

The third person under investigation, The Times writes, is “a still publicly unidentified software developer secretly arrested after taking hacking tools home in 2015, only to have Russian hackers lift them from his home computer.”

JEEPFLEA & EASTNETS

So who are those two unnamed NSA employees and the contractor referenced in The Times’ reporting? The hacking tools leaked by The Shadow Brokers are now in the public domain and can be accessed through this Github repository. The toolset includes reams of documentation explaining how the cyber weapons work, as well as details about their use in highly classified intelligence operations abroad.

Several of those documents are Microsoft Powerpoint (.pptx) and PDF files. These files contain interesting metadata that includes the names of at least two people who appear to be connected to the NSA’s TAO operations.

Inside the unzipped folder there are three directories: “oddjob,” “swift,” and “windows.” Looking at the “swift” folder, we can see a Powerpoint file called “JFM_Status.pptx.”

JFM stands for Operation Jeepflea Market, which appears to have been a clandestine operation aimed at siphoning confidential financial data from EastNets — a middle eastern partner in SWIFT. Short for the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, SWIFT provides a network that enables financial institutions worldwide to send and receive data about financial transactions.

A slide from a Powerpoint presentation on the top secret Jeepflea Market operation, in which hackers allegedly tied to the National Security Agency compromised EastNets, a middle eastern partner of the global SWIFT financial network.

Each of the Jeepflea Powerpoint slides contain two overlapping seals; one for the NSA and another for an organization called the Central Security Service (CSS). According to Wikipedia, the CSS was formed in 1972 to integrate the NSA and the Service Cryptologic Elements (SCE) of the U.S. armed forces.

In Figure 10 of the Jeepflea Powerpoint document, we can see the seal of the Texas Cryptologic Center, a NSA/CSS entity that is based out of Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio Texas.

The metadata contained in the Powerpoint document shows that the last person to modify it has the designation “NSA-FTS32 USA,” and that this leaked version is the 9th revision of the document. What does NSA-FTS32 mean? According to multiple sources on the internet it means Tailored Access Operations.

We can also see that the creator of the Jeepflea document is the same person who last modified it. The metadata says it was last modified on 8/12/2013 at 6:52:27 PM and created on 7/1/2013 at 6:44:46 PM.

The file JFMStatus.pptx contains metadata showing that the creator of the file is one Michael A. Pecoraro. Public record searches suggest Mr. Pecoraro is in his mid- to late 30s and is from San Antonio, Texas. Pecoraro’s name appears on multiple documents in The Shadow Brokers collection. Mr. Pecoraro could not be reached for comment.

The metadata in a Microsoft Powerpoint presentation on Operation Jeepflea shows that the document was created and last modified in 2013 by a Michael A. Pecoraro.

Another person who earned the NSA-FTS32 designation in the document metadata was Nathan S. Heidbreder. Public record searches suggest that Mr. Heidbreder is approximately 30 years old and has lived in San Antonio and at Goodfellow Air Force Base in Texas, among other locations in the state.

According to Goodfellow’s Wikipedia entry, the base’s main mission is cryptologic and intelligence training for the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Navy, and Marine Corps. Mr. Heidbreder likewise could not be reached for comment.

The metadata contained in one of the classified Jeepflea Market Microsoft Excel documents released in The Shadow Brokers trove states that a Nathan S. Heidbreder was the last person to edit the document.

Another file in the leaked Shadow Brokers trove related to this Jeepflea/EastNets operation is potentially far more revealing, mainly because it appears to have last been touched not by an NSA employee, but by an outside contractor.

That file, “Eastnets_UAE_BE_DEC2010.vsd,” is a Microsoft Visual Studio document created in Sept. 2013. The metadata inside of it says the last user to open the file was one Gennadiy Sidelnikov. Open records searches return several results for this name, including a young business analyst living in Moscow and a software developer based in Maryland.

As the NSA is based in Fort Meade, Md., this latter option seems far more likely. A brief Internet search turns up a 50-something database programmer named Gennadiy “Glen” Sidelnikov who works or worked for a company called Independent Software in Columbia, Md. (Columbia is just a few miles away from Ft. Meade).

The metadata contained within Eastnets_UAE_BE_Dec2010.vsd says Gennadiy Sidelnikov is the last author of the document. Click to enlarge.

What is Independent Software? Their Web site states that Independent Software is “a professional services company providing Information Technology products and services to mission-oriented Federal Civilian Agencies and the DoD. The company has focused on support to the Intelligence Community (IC) in Maryland, Florida, and North Carolina, as well as select commercial client markets outside of the IC.”

Indeed, this job advertisement from August 2017 for a junior software engineer at Independent Software says a qualified applicant will need a TOP SECRET clearance and should be able to pass a polygraph test.

WHO IS GLEN SIDELNIKOV?

The two NSA employees are something of a known commodity, but the third individual — Mr. Sidelnikov — is more mysterious. Sidelnikov did not respond to repeated requests for comment. Independent Software also did not return calls and emails seeking comment.

Sidelnikov’s LinkedIn page (PDF) says he began working for Independent Software in 2015, and that he speaks both English and Russian. In 1982, Sidelnikov earned his masters in information security from Kishinev University, a school located in Moldova — an Eastern European country that at the time was part of the Soviet Union.

Sildelnikov says he also earned a Bachelor of Science degree in “mathematical cybernetics” from the same university in 1981. Under “interests,” Mr. Sidelnikov lists on his LinkedIn profile Independent Software, Microsoft, and The National Security Agency.

Both The Times and The Journal have reported that the contractor suspected of leaking the classified documents was running Kaspersky Antivirus on his computer. It stands to reason that as a Russian native, Mr. Sildelnikov might be predisposed to using a Russian antivirus product.

Mr. Sidelnikov calls himself a senior consultant, but the many skills he self-described on his LinkedIn profile suggest that perhaps a better title for him would be “database administrator” or “database architect.”

A Google search for his name turns up numerous forums dedicated to discussions about administering databases. On the Web forum sqlservercentral.com, for example, a user named Glen Sidelnikov is listed as a “hall of fame” member for providing thousands of answers to questions that other users posted on the forum.

KrebsOnSecurity was first made aware of the metadata in the Shadow Brokers leak by Mike PoorRob Curtinseufert, and Larry Pesce. All three are security experts with InGuardians, a Washington, D.C.-based penetration testing firm that gets paid to break into companies and test their cybersecurity defenses.

Poor, who serves as president and managing partner of InGuardians, said he and his co-workers initially almost overlooked Sidelnikov’s name in the metadata. But he said the more they looked into Sidelnikov the less sense it made that his name was included in the Shadow Brokers metadata at all.

“He’s a database programmer, and they typically don’t have access to operational data like this,” Poor said. “Even if he did have access to an operational production database, it would be highly suspect if he accessed classified operation documents.”

Poor said that as the data owner, the NSA likely would be reviewing file access of all classified documents and systems, and it would definitely have come up as a big red flag if a software developer accessed and opened classified files during some routine maintenance or other occasion.

“He’s the only one in there that is not Agency/TAO, and I think that poses important questions,” Poor said. “Such as why did a DB programmer for a software company have access to operational classified documents? If he is or isn’t a source or a tie to Shadow Brokers, it at least begets the question of why he accessed classified operational documents.”

Curtinseufert said it may be that Sidelnikov’s skills came in handy in the Jeepflea operations, which appear to have involved compromising large financial databases, and querying those for very specific transactions.

For example, Jeepflea apparently involved surreptitiously injecting database queries into the SWIFT Alliance servers, which are responsible for handling the messaging tied to SWIFT financial transactions.

“It looks like the SWIFT data the NSA was collecting relied heavily on databases, and they were apparently also using some exploits to gather data,” Curtinseufert said. “The SWIFT databases are all records of financial transactions, and in Jeepflea they were able to query those SWIFT databases and see who’s moving money where. They were looking to pull SWIFT data on who was moving money around the Middle East. They did this with EastNets, and they tried to do it down in Venezuela. And it looks like through EastNets they were able to hack individual banks.”

The NSA did not respond to requests for comment.

InGuardians president Poor said we may never know for sure who was responsible for the Shadow Brokers leak, an incident that has been called “one of the worst security debacles ever to befall American intelligence.”  But one thing seems certain.

“I think it’s time that we state what we all know,” Poor said. “The Equation Group is Tailored Access Operations. It is the NSA.”

From https://krebsonsecurity.com/2017/11/who-was-the-nsa-contractor-arrested-for-leaking-the-shadow-brokers-hacking-tools/

Name+DOB+SSN=FAFSA Data Gold Mine

KrebsOnSecurity has sought to call attention to online services which expose sensitive consumer data if the user knows a handful of static details about a person that are broadly for sale in the cybercrime underground, such as name, date of birth, and Social Security Number. Perhaps the most eye-opening example of this is on display at fafsa.ed.gov, the Web site set up by the U.S. Department of Education for anyone interested in applying for federal student financial aid.

Short for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, FAFSA is an extremely lengthy and detailed form required at all colleges that accept and award federal aid to students.

Visitors to the login page for FAFSA have two options: Enter either the student’s FSA ID and password, or choose “enter the student’s information.” Selecting the latter brings up a prompt to enter the student’s first and last name, followed by their date of birth and Social Security Number.

Anyone who successfully supplies that information on a student who has applied for financial aid through FAFSA then gets to see a virtual colonoscopy of personal information on that individual and their family’s finances — including almost 200 different data elements.

The information returned includes all of these data fields:

1. Student’s Last Name:
2. Student’s First Name:
3. Student’s Middle Initial:
4. Student’s Permanent Mailing Address:
5. Student’s Permanent City:
6. Student’s Permanent State:
7. Student’s Permanent ZIP Code:
8. Student’s Social Security Number:
9. Student’s Date of Birth:
10. Student’s Telephone Number:
11. Student’s Driver’s License Number:
12. Student’s Driver’s License State:
13. Student’s E-mail Address:
14. Student’s Citizenship Status:
15. Student’s Alien Registration Number:
16. Student’s Marital Status:
17. Student’s Marital Status Date:
18. Student’s State of Legal Residence:
19. Was Student a Legal Resident Before January 1, 2012?
20. Student’s Legal Residence Date:
21. Is the Student Male or Female?
22. Register Student With Selective Service System?
23. Drug Conviction Affecting Eligibility?
24. Parent 1 Educational Level:
25. Parent 2 Educational Level:
26. High School or Equivalent Completed?
27a. Student’s High School Name:
27b. Student’s High School City:
27c. Student’s High School State:
28. First Bachelor’s Degree before 2017-2018 School Year?
29. Student’s Grade Level in College in 2017-2018:
30. Type of Degree/Certificate:
31. Interested in Work-study?
32. Student Filed 2015 Income Tax Return?
33. Student’s Type of 2015 Tax Form Used:
34. Student’s 2015 Tax Return Filing Status:
35. Student Eligible to File a 1040A or 1040EZ?
36. Student’s 2015 Adjusted Gross Income:
37. Student’s 2015 U.S. Income Tax Paid:
38. Student’s 2015 Exemptions Claimed:
39. Student’s 2015 Income Earned from Work:
40. Spouse’s 2015 Income Earned from Work:
41. Student’s Total of Cash, Savings, and Checking Accounts:
42. Student’s Net Worth of Current Investments:
43. Student’s Net Worth of Businesses/Investment Farms:
44a. Student’s Education Credits:
44b. Student’s Child Support Paid:
44c. Student’s Taxable Earnings from Need-Based Employment Programs:
44d. Student’s College Grant and Scholarship Aid Reported in AGI:
44e. Student’s Taxable Combat Pay Reported in AGI:
44f. Student’s Cooperative Education Earnings:
45a. Student’s Payments to Tax-Deferred Pensions & Retirement Savings:
45b. Student’s Deductible Payments to IRA/Keogh/Other:
45c. Student’s Child Support Received:
45d. Student’s Tax Exempt Interest Income:
45e. Student’s Untaxed Portions of IRA Distributions:
45f. Student’s Untaxed Portions of Pensions:
45g. Student’s Housing, Food, & Living Allowances:
45h. Student’s Veterans Noneducation Benefits:
45i. Student’s Other Untaxed Income or Benefits:
45j. Money Received or Paid on Student’s Behalf:
46. Student Born Before January 1, 1994?
47. Is Student Married?
48. Working on Master’s or Doctorate in 2017-2018?
49. Is Student on Active Duty in U.S. Armed Forces?
50. Is Student a Veteran?
51. Does Student Have Children He/She Supports?
52. Does Student Have Dependents Other than Children/Spouse?
53. Parents Deceased?/Student Ward of Court?/In Foster Care?
54. Is or Was Student an Emancipated Minor?
55. Is or Was Student in Legal Guardianship?
56. Is Student an Unaccompanied Homeless Youth as Determined by High School/Homeless Liaison?
57. Is Student an Unaccompanied Homeless Youth as Determined by HUD?
58. Is Student an Unaccompanied Homeless Youth as Determined by Director of Homeless Youth Center?
59. Parents’ Marital Status:
60. Parents’ Marital Status Date:
61. Parent 1 (Father’s/Mother’s/Stepparent’s) Social Security Number:
62. Parent 1 (Father’s/Mother’s/Stepparent’s) Last Name:
63. Parent 1 (Father’s/Mother’s/Stepparent’s) First Name Initial:
64. Parent 1 (Father’s/Mother’s/Stepparent’s) Date of Birth:
65. Parent 2 (Father’s/Mother’s/Stepparent’s) Social Security Number:
66. Parent 2 (Father’s/Mother’s/Stepparent’s) Last Name:
67. Parent 2 (Father’s/Mother’s/Stepparent’s) First Name Initial:
68. Parent 2 (Father’s/Mother’s/Stepparent’s) Date of Birth:
69. Parents’ E-mail Address:
70. Parents’ State of Legal Residence:
71. Were Parents Legal Residents Before January 1, 2012?
72. Parents’ Legal Residence Date:
73. Parents’ Number of Family Members in 2017-2018:
74. Parents’ Number in College in 2017-2018 (Parents Excluded):
75. Parents Received Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income?
76. Parents Received SNAP?
77. Parents Received Free/Reduced Price Lunch?
78. Parents Received TANF?
79. Parents Received WIC?
80. Parents Filed 2015 Income Tax Return?
81. Parents’ Type of 2015 Tax Form Used:
82. Parents’ 2015 Tax Return Filing Status:
83. Parents Eligible to File a 1040A or 1040EZ?
84. Is Parent a Dislocated Worker?
85. Parents’ 2015 Adjusted Gross Income:
86. Parents’ 2015 U.S. Income Tax Paid:
87. Parents’ 2015 Exemptions Claimed:
88. Parent 1 (Father’s/Mother’s/Stepparent’s) 2015 Income Earned from Work:
89. Parent 2 (Father’s/Mother’s/Stepparent’s) 2015 Income Earned from Work:
90. Parents’ Total of Cash, Savings, and Checking Accounts:
91. Parents’ Net Worth of Current Investments:
92. Parents’ Net Worth of Businesses/Investment Farms:
93a. Parents’ Education Credits:
93b. Parents’ Child Support Paid:
93c. Parents’ Taxable Earnings from Need-Based Employment Programs:
93d. Parents’ College Grant and Scholarship Aid Reported in AGI:
93e. Parents’ Taxable Combat Pay Reported in AGI:
93f. Parents’ Cooperative Education Earnings:
94a. Parents’ Payments to Tax-Deferred Pensions & Retirement Savings:
94b. Parents’ Deductible Payments to IRA/Keogh/Other:
94c. Parents’ Child Support Received:
94d. Parents’ Tax Exempt Interest Income:
94e. Parents’ Untaxed Portions of IRA Distributions:
94f. Parents’ Untaxed Portions of Pensions:
94g. Parents’ Housing, Food, & Living Allowances:
94h. Parents’ Veterans Noneducation Benefits:
94i. Parents’ Other Untaxed Income or Benefits:
95. Student’s Number of Family Members in 2017-2018:
96. Student’s Number in College in 2017-2018:
97. Student Received Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income?
98. Student Received SNAP?
99. Student Received Free/Reduced Price Lunch?
100. Student Received TANF?
101. Student Received WIC?
102. Is Student or Spouse a Dislocated Worker?
103a. First Federal School Code:
103b. First Housing Plans:
103c. Second Federal School Code:
103d. Second Housing Plans:
103e. Third Federal School Code:
103f. Third Housing Plans:
103g. Fourth Federal School Code:
103h. Fourth Housing Plans:
103i. Fifth Federal School Code:
103j. Fifth Housing Plans:
103k. Sixth Federal School Code:
103l. Sixth Housing Plans:
103m. Seventh Federal School Code:
103n. Seventh Housing Plans:
103o. Eighth Federal School Code:
103p. Eighth Housing Plans:
103q. Ninth Federal School Code:
103r. Ninth Housing Plans:
103s. Tenth Federal School Code:
103t. Tenth Housing Plans:
104. Date Completed:
105. Signed By:
106. Preparer’s Social Security Number:
107. Preparer’s Employer Identification Number (EIN):
108. Preparer’s Signature:

From an identity thief’s perspective, it seems like the only question missing from this list is, “What was the name of your first pet?” Seriously though, armed with this bounty of data identity thieves would likely have little trouble impersonating a student (or parents of a student) who had applied for federal financial aid.

According to the Education Department, nearly 20 million students filled out this form in the 2015/2016 application cycle.

What indications are there that ID thieves might already be aware of this personal data treasure trove? In March 2017, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) disabled an automated tool on its Web site that was used to help students and their families apply for federal financial aid — citing evidence that identity thieves were abusing it to siphon data used to commit tax refund fraud with the IRS.

The IRS found that identity thieves were abusing the automated tool — which pulled data directly from the FAFSA Web site — in order to learn the adjusted gross income (AGI) of applicant families. The AGI is crucial to successfully filing a tax refund request in someone’s name at the IRS.

While the IRS’s tool is no longer online, this post shows how easy it remains for identity thieves to gather this same information directly from the FAFSA Web site.

Think it’s hard to find someone’s SSN and DOB? Think again. There are a multitude of Web sites on the open Internet and Dark Web alike that sell access to SSN and DOB data on hundreds of millions of Americans — all for the price of about $4-5 worth of Bitcoin.

Somehow, we need to move away from allowing online access to such a deep vein of consumer data just by supplying static data points that are broadly compromised in a thousand breaches and on sale very cheaply in the cybercrime underground.

Until that happens, anyone who is applying for federal student aid or has a child who applied should strongly consider taking several steps:

-Get on a schedule to request a free copy of your credit report. By law, consumers are entitled to a free copy of their report from each of the major bureaus once a year. Put it on your calendar to request a copy of your file every three to four months, each time from a different credit bureau. Dispute any unauthorized or suspicious activity. This is where credit monitoring services are useful: Part of their service is to help you sort this out with the credit bureaus, so if you’re signed up for credit monitoring make them do the hard work for you.

Consider placing a “security freeze” on your credit files with the major credit bureaus. See this tutorial about why a security freeze — also known as a “credit freeze,” may be more effective than credit monitoring in blocking ID thieves from assuming your identity to open up new lines of credit. Keep in mind that having a security freeze on your credit file won’t stop thieves from committing tax refund fraud in your name; the only real defense against that is to file your taxes as early as possible — before the fraudsters can do it for you.

Monitor, then freeze. Take advantage of any free credit monitoring available to you, and then freeze your credit file with the four major bureaus. Instructions for doing that are here.

From https://krebsonsecurity.com/2017/11/namedobssnfafsa-data-gold-mine/

Correcting the Record on vDOS Prosecutions

KrebsOnSecurity recently featured a story about a New Mexico man who stands accused of using the now-defunct vDOS attack-for-hire service to hobble the Web sites of several former employers. That piece stated that I wasn’t aware of any other prosecutions related to vDOS customers, but as it happens there was a prosecution in the United Kingdom earlier this year of a man who’s admitted to both using and helping to administer vDOS. Here’s a look at some open-source clues that may have led to the U.K. man’s arrest.

Jack Chappell, outside of a court hearing in the U.K. earlier this year.

In early July 2017, the West Midlands Police in the U.K. arrested 19-year-old Stockport resident Jack Chappell and charged him with aiding the vDOS co-founders — two Israeli men who were arrested late year and charged with running the service.

Until its demise in September 2016, vDOS was by far the most popular and powerful attack-for-hire service, allowing even completely unskilled Internet users to launch crippling assaults capable of knocking most Web sites offline. vDOS made more than $600,000 in just two of the four years it was in operation, launching more than 150,000 attacks against thousands of victims (including this site).

For his part, Chappell was charged with assisting in attacks against Web sites for some of the world’s largest companies, including Amazon, BBC, BT, Netflix, T-Mobile, Virgin Media, and Vodafone, between May 1, 2015 and April 30, 2016.

At the end of July 2017, Chappell pleaded guilty to those allegations, as well as charges of helping vDOS launder money from customers wishing to pay for attacks with PayPal accounts.

A big factor in that plea was the leak of the vDOS attacks, customer support and payments databases to this author and to U.S. law enforcement officials in the fall of 2016. Those databases provided extremely detailed information about co-conspirators, paying customers and victims.

But as with many other cybercrime investigations, the perpetrator in this case appears to have been caught thanks to a combination of several all-too-common factors, including password re-use, an active presence on the sprawling English-language hacking community Hackforums, and domain names registered in his real name. In combination, these clues provide a crucial bridge between Chappell’s online and real-world identities.

A simple search at domaintools.com for the name Jack Chappell and “UK” returns a handful of results, including the domain fractal[dot]hf. That domain was registered in June 2015 to a Jack Chappell in Stockport, using the email address me@jackchappell.co[dot]uk [full disclosure: Domaintools is an advertiser on this site].

Neither domain is online anymore, but a Google search on fractal[dot]hf reveals several mentions of this site on Hackforums — a sprawling English-language forum that until very recently hosted the most bustling open-air market for competing attack-for-hire services.

According to a review of those Hackforums postings, fractal[dot]hf was a free service that allowed users to test the size and impact of any DDoS attack tool — displaying detailed graphs showing how much data a given attack tool could hurl at an intended target. Multiple forum members told interested users that fractal[dot]hf was owned and operated by a friendly and helpful Hackforums user named Fractal.

A screenshot of the user Fractal advertising his service for measuring the size of attacks. Fractal posted this graphic to illustrate the power of an IRC-based botnet that was being sold on Hackforums in mid-2015.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, there was a very active user on vDOS who went by the same Fractal nickname, using the password “HelloWorld1998” and email address smellyjelly01@gmail.com.

The above-mentioned domain Jackchappell.co[dot]uk appears in the leaked vDOS payments database, which states that a PayPal account tied to the email address “paypal@jackchappell.co[dot]uk” was one of several PayPal accounts used to launder customer payments for online attacks.

As noted in my June 2017 piece Following the Money Hobbled vDOS Attack-for-Hire Service, vDOS was forced to round-robin customer PayPal payments through a series of accounts after academic researchers began signing up for a variety of attack-for-hire services (including vDOS) and then reporting to PayPal the email addresses tied to accounts being used to receive payments.

The paypal@jackchappell.co[dot]uk address was linked to a vDOS user account called “portalKiller” which used the password “HelloWorld8991.” Note that this password is very similar to the one used by the vDOS user Fractal — only the numbers at the end of the password have been reversed (1998/8991).

Portalkiller changed his password several times during his time on vDOS, and one of the passwords he used was “Smith8991.” An Internet search on this password turns up an account in the user database that was hacked and posted online from a similar attack-for-hire service previously run by a hacker group known as the Lizard Squad. The email address tied to that account? Smellyjelly01@gmail.com.

From reviewing Fractal’s posts and reputation on Hackforums it appears that on Dec. 28, 2015 his account received praise and positive reputation points (similar to eBay’s user “feedback” system) from M30w and AppleJ4ck, the nicknames used by the alleged co-founders of vDOS.

Positive reputation points awarded to Chappell by the co-owners of vDOS, who used the aliases “M30W” and “AppleJ4ck.”

Comments in the leaked vDOS databases also suggest Chappell was for a time one of several trusted administrators and/or support personnel of the service. vDOS routinely banned accounts for members who shared their logins, or who logged on via virtual private network (VPN) services to anonymize their connections, but many members ignored this advice.

For example, in one support ticket dated March 13, 2016, a vDOS subscriber named “Bears” who had his account banned pleaded with the administrators to reactivate (or “unban”) his account.

“Hi jeremy pls unban hi p1st i love you hi AJ i love you hi fractal i love you hi whoever else is support is swagdaddy still support?” Bears pleads.

Ironically, both of Chappell’s accounts on vDOS — Fractal and portalKiller — were ultimately banned, the latter supposedly for flouting vDOS’s no-VPN restrictions. In one customer support ticket, portalKiller explains the reason for his use of a VPN: He routinely used a VPN so that he could tunnel his connection to the United States and watch the U.S. catalog of Netflix videos.

“Account Banned’,85801,’portalKiller’,’Hi, My account was banned a couple of days ago for logging in from a VPN. Let me explain, the 82.132.234.244 IP is not a VPN it is my mobile provider (O2), which is not a proxy/VPN. The second IP was a mistake I made, I logged out and logged back in from my normal IP (81.103.71.50) after I noticed my VPN was on (I use it for Netflix). I really want you to re-consider my ban. Thanks, portalKiller.”

Fractal also was eventually banned from using vDOS, although it’s less clear why that account was banished. Perhaps Chappell no longer offered the ability to help the other vDOS administrators launder funds, or maybe he had a falling out with M30W/p1st and AppleJ4ck.

Chappell did not respond to requests for comment. His sentencing has been delayed several times since his guilty plea; it is currently slated for December 2017.

Chappell’s guilty plea reminds me that there are many others who helped launder funds for vDOS that are in all likelihood similarly exposed. Stay tuned for more updates on that front.

From https://krebsonsecurity.com/2017/11/correcting-the-record-on-vdos-prosecutions/

Fund Targets Victims Scammed Via Western Union

If you, a friend or loved one lost money in a scam involving Western Union, some or all of those funds may be recoverable thanks to a more than half-billion dollar program set up by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.

In January 2017, Englewood, Colo.-based Western Union settled a case with the FTC and the Department of Justice wherein it admitted to multiple criminal violations, including willfully failing to maintain an effective anti-money laundering program and aiding and abetting wire fraud. As part of the settlement, the global money transfer business agreed to forfeit $586 million.

Last week, the FTC announced that individuals who lost money to scammers who told them to pay via Western Union’s money transfer system between January 1, 2004 and January 19, 2017 can now file a claim to get their money back by going to FTC.gov/WU before February 12, 2018.

Scammers tend to rely on money transfer businesses like Western Union and MoneyGram because once the money is sent and picked up by the recipient the transaction is generally irreversible. Such scams include transfers made for fraudulent lottery and prizesfamily emergenciesadvance-fee loans, and online dating, among others.

Affected consumers can visit FTC.gov/WU to file claims, learn more, or get updates on the claims process, which could take up to a year. The graphic below seeks to aid victims in filing claims.

The FTC says some people who have already reported their losses to Western Union, the FTC, or another government agency will receive a form in the mail from the claims administrator, Gilardi & Co., which has been hired by the DOJ to return victims’ money as part of the settlement. The form will have a Claim ID and a PIN number to use when filing a claim online via FTC.gov/WU.

The agency emphasized that filing a claim is free, so consumers should not pay anyone to file a claim on their behalf. “No one associated with the claims process will call to ask for consumers’ bank account or credit card number,” the FTC advised.

This isn’t the first time a major money transfer business admitted to criminally facilitating wire fraud. In November 2012, MoneyGram International agreed to pay a $100 million fine and admit to criminally aiding and abetting wire fraud and failing to maintain an effective anti-money laundering program.

From https://krebsonsecurity.com/2017/11/fund-targets-victims-scammed-via-western-union/

R.I.P. root9B, We Hardly Knew Ya!

root9B, a company that many in the security industry consider little more than a big-name startup aimed at cashing in on the stock market’s insatiable appetite for cybersecurity firms, surprised no one this week when it announced it was ceasing operations at the end of the year.

Founded in 2011, Colorado Springs, Colo. based root9B Technologies touted itself as an IT security training firm staffed by an impressive list of ex-military leaders with many years of cybersecurity experience at the Department of Defense and National Security Agency (NSA). As it began to attract more attention from investors, root9B’s focus shifted to helping organizations hunt for cyber intruders within their networks.

By 2015, root9B was announcing lucrative cybersecurity contracts with government agencies and the infusion of millions from investors. The company’s stock was ballooning in price, reaching an all-time high in mid-May 2015.

That was just days after root9B issued a headline-grabbing report about how its cyber intelligence had single-handedly derailed a planned Russian cyber attack on several U.S. financial institutions.

The report, released May 12, 2015, claimed root9B had uncovered plans by an infamous Russian hacking group to target several banks. The company said the thwarted operation was orchestrated by Fancy Bear/Sofacy, a so-called “advanced persistent threat” (APT) hacking group known for launching sophisticated phishing attacks aimed at infiltrating some of the world’s biggest corporations.  root9B released its Q1 2015 earnings two days later, reporting record revenues.

On May 20, 2015, KrebsOnSecurity published a rather visceral dissection of that root9B report: Security Firm Redefines APT; African Phishing Threat. The story highlighted the thinness of the report’s claims, pointing to multiple contradictory findings by other security firms which suggested the company had merely detected several new phishing domains being erected by a comparatively low-skilled African phishing gang that was well-known to investigators and U.S. banks.

In mid-June 2015, an anonymous researcher who’d apparently done a rather detailed investigation into root9B’s finances said the company was “a worthless reverse-merger created by insiders with [a] long history of penny-stock wipeouts, fraud allegations, and disaster.”

That report, published by the crowd-sourced financial market research site SeekingAlpha.com, sought to debunk claims by root9B that it possessed “proprietary” cybersecurity hardware and software, noting that the company mainly acts as a reseller of a training module produced by a third party.

root9B’s stock price never recovered from those reports, and began a slow but steady decline after mid-2015. In Dec. 2016, root9B Technologies announced a reverse split of its issued and outstanding common stock, saying it would be moving to the NASDAQ market with the trading symbol RTNB and a new name — root9B Holdings. On January 18, 2017, a reshuffled root9B rang the market opening bell at NASDAQ, and got a bounce when it said it’d been awarded a five-year training contract to support the U.S. Defense Department.

The company’s founders remained upbeat even into mid-2017. On June 6, 2017 it announced that Michael Hayden, the four-star general who until recently served as director of the U.S. National Security Agency, had joined the company’s board.

On June 23, 2017, root9B issued a press release reminding everyone that the company had remained #1 on the Cybersecurity 500 for the 6th consecutive quarter. The Cybersecurity 500, by the way, rates cybersecurity firms based on their “branding and marketing.”

Nobody ever accused root9B of bad marketing. But all the press releases in the world couldn’t hide the fact that the company had never turned a profit. It lost more than $18.3 million in 2016, more than doubling a $8.03 million loss in 2015.

Since August 2017, shares of the company’s stock have fallen more than 90 percent. On Sept. 28, 2017, all of root9B’s assets were acquired by venture investment firm Tracker Capital Management LLC, and then sold at auction.

On Nov. 13, root9B Holdings issued a press release saying NASDAQ was de-listing the firm on Nov. 15 and that it was ceasing operations at the end of this year. The statement seemed to emphasize there was nothing left for the firm’s creditors to pick over.

“With the absence of any operating assets remaining after the Foreclosure, the Company will cease any and all operations effective, December 31, 2017,” the (final?) root9B press release concludes.

The demise of root9B resonates loudly with that of Norse Corp., another flashy, imploded cybersecurity startup that banked heavily on attracting and touting top talent, while managing to produce very little that was useful to or actionable by anybody.

Companies like these are a reminder that your success or failure in business as in life is directly tied to what you produce — not what you promise or represent. There is no shortcut to knowledge, success or mastery, and this goes for infosec students as well as active practitioners of the craft. Focus on consistently producing quality, unique content and/or services that are of real value to others, and the rest will take care of itself.

From https://krebsonsecurity.com/2017/11/r-i-p-root9b-we-hardly-knew-ya/