Tag Archives: fbi

FBI Seizes BreachForums Website

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2024/05/fbi-seizes-breachforums-website.html

The FBI has seized the BreachForums website, used by ransomware criminals to leak stolen corporate data.

If law enforcement has gained access to the hacking forum’s backend data, as they claim, they would have email addresses, IP addresses, and private messages that could expose members and be used in law enforcement investigations.

[…]

The FBI is requesting victims and individuals contact them with information about the hacking forum and its members to aid in their investigation.

The seizure messages include ways to contact the FBI about the seizure, including an email, a Telegram account, a TOX account, and a dedicated page hosted on the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).

“The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is investigating the criminal hacking forums known as BreachForums and Raidforums,” reads a dedicated subdomain on the FBI’s IC3 portal.

“From June 2023 until May 2024, BreachForums (hosted at breachforums.st/.cx/.is/.vc and run by ShinyHunters) was operating as a clear-net marketplace for cybercriminals to buy, sell, and trade contraband, including stolen access devices, means of identification, hacking tools, breached databases, and other illegal services.”

“Previously, a separate version of BreachForums (hosted at breached.vc/.to/.co and run by pompompurin) operated a similar hacking forum from March 2022 until March 2023. Raidforums (hosted at raidforums.com and run by Omnipotent) was the predecessor hacking forum to both version of BreachForums and ran from early 2015 until February 2022.”

Surveillance through Push Notifications

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2024/03/surveillance-through-push-notifications.html

The Washington Post is reporting on the FBI’s increasing use of push notification data—”push tokens”—to identify people. The police can request this data from companies like Apple and Google without a warrant.

The investigative technique goes back years. Court orders that were issued in 2019 to Apple and Google demanded that the companies hand over information on accounts identified by push tokens linked to alleged supporters of the Islamic State terrorist group.

But the practice was not widely understood until December, when Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), in a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland, said an investigation had revealed that the Justice Department had prohibited Apple and Google from discussing the technique.

[…]

Unlike normal app notifications, push alerts, as their name suggests, have the power to jolt a phone awake—a feature that makes them useful for the urgent pings of everyday use. Many apps offer push-alert functionality because it gives users a fast, battery-saving way to stay updated, and few users think twice before turning them on.

But to send that notification, Apple and Google require the apps to first create a token that tells the company how to find a user’s device. Those tokens are then saved on Apple’s and Google’s servers, out of the users’ reach.

The article discusses their use by the FBI, primarily in child sexual abuse cases. But we all know how the story goes:

“This is how any new surveillance method starts out: The government says we’re only going to use this in the most extreme cases, to stop terrorists and child predators, and everyone can get behind that,” said Cooper Quintin, a technologist at the advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation.

“But these things always end up rolling downhill. Maybe a state attorney general one day decides, hey, maybe I can use this to catch people having an abortion,” Quintin added. “Even if you trust the U.S. right now to use this, you might not trust a new administration to use it in a way you deem ethical.”

FBI Disables Russian Malware

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2023/05/fbi-disables-russian-malware.html

Reuters is reporting that the FBI “had identified and disabled malware wielded by Russia’s FSB security service against an undisclosed number of American computers, a move they hoped would deal a death blow to one of Russia’s leading cyber spying programs.”

The headline says that the FBI “sabotaged” the malware, which seems to be wrong.

Presumably we will learn more soon.

EDITED TO ADD: New York Times story.

EDITED TO ADD: Maybe “sabotaged” is the right word. The FBI hacked the malware so that it disabled itself.

Despite the bravado of its developers, Snake is among the most sophisticated pieces of malware ever found, the FBI said. The modular design, custom encryption layers, and high-caliber quality of the code base have made it hard if not impossible for antivirus software to detect. As FBI agents continued to monitor Snake, however, they slowly uncovered some surprising weaknesses. For one, there was a critical cryptographic key with a prime length of just 128 bits, making it vulnerable to factoring attacks that expose the secret key. This weak key was used in Diffie-Hellman key exchanges that allowed each infected machine to have a unique key when communicating with another machine.

FBI Advising People to Avoid Public Charging Stations

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2023/04/fbi-advising-people-to-avoid-public-charging-stations.html

The FBI is warning people against using public phone-charging stations, worrying that the combination power-data port can be used to inject malware onto the devices:

Avoid using free charging stations in airports, hotels, or shopping centers. Bad actors have figured out ways to use public USB ports to introduce malware and monitoring software onto devices that access these ports. Carry your own charger and USB cord and use an electrical outlet instead.

How much of a risk is this, really? I am unconvinced, although I do carry a USB condom for charging stations I find suspicious.

News article.

FBI (and Others) Shut Down Genesis Market

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2023/04/fbi-and-others-shut-down-genesis-market.html

Genesis Market is shut down:

Active since 2018, Genesis Market’s slogan was, “Our store sells bots with logs, cookies, and their real fingerprints.” Customers could search for infected systems with a variety of options, including by Internet address or by specific domain names associated with stolen credentials.

But earlier today, multiple domains associated with Genesis had their homepages replaced with a seizure notice from the FBI, which said the domains were seized pursuant to a warrant issued by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Wisconsin did not respond to requests for comment. The FBI declined to comment.

But sources close to the investigation tell KrebsOnSecurity that law enforcement agencies in the United States, Canada and across Europe are currently serving arrest warrants on dozens of individuals thought to support Genesis, either by maintaining the site or selling the service bot logs from infected systems.

The seizure notice includes the seals of law enforcement entities from several countries, including Australia, Canada, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

Slashdot story.

NetWire Remote Access Trojan Maker Arrested

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2023/03/netwire-remote-access-trojan-maker-arrested.html

From Brian Krebs:

A Croatian national has been arrested for allegedly operating NetWire, a Remote Access Trojan (RAT) marketed on cybercrime forums since 2012 as a stealthy way to spy on infected systems and siphon passwords. The arrest coincided with a seizure of the NetWire sales website by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). While the defendant in this case hasn’t yet been named publicly, the NetWire website has been leaking information about the likely true identity and location of its owner for the past 11 years.

The article details the mistakes that led to the person’s address.

The FBI Identified a Tor User

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2023/01/the-fbi-identified-a-tor-user.html

No details, though:

According to the complaint against him, Al-Azhari allegedly visited a dark web site that hosts “unofficial propaganda and photographs related to ISIS” multiple times on May 14, 2019. In virtue of being a dark web site—­that is, one hosted on the Tor anonymity network—­it should have been difficult for the site owner’s or a third party to determine the real IP address of any of the site’s visitors.

Yet, that’s exactly what the FBI did. It found Al-Azhari allegedly visited the site from an IP address associated with Al-Azhari’s grandmother’s house in Riverside, California. The FBI also found what specific pages Al-Azhari visited, including a section on donating Bitcoin; another focused on military operations conducted by ISIS fighters in Iraq, Syria, and Nigeria; and another page that provided links to material from ISIS’s media arm. Without the FBI deploying some form of surveillance technique, or Al-Azhari using another method to visit the site which exposed their IP address, this should not have been possible.

There are lots of ways to de-anonymize Tor users. Someone at the NSA gave a presentation on this ten years ago. (I wrote about it for the Guardian in 2013, an essay that reads so dated in light of what we’ve learned since then.) It’s unlikely that the FBI uses the same sorts of broad surveillance techniques that the NSA does, but it’s certainly possible that the NSA did the surveillance and passed the information to the FBI.

NSA Employee Charged with Espionage

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2022/10/nsa-employee-charged-with-espionage.html

An ex-NSA employee has been charged with trying to sell classified data to the Russians (but instead actually talking to an undercover FBI agent).

It’s a weird story, and the FBI affidavit raises more questions than it answers. The employee only worked for the NSA for three weeks—which is weird in itself. I can’t figure out how he linked up with the undercover FBI agent. It’s not clear how much of this was the employee’s idea, and whether he was goaded by the FBI agent. Still, hooray for not leaking NSA secrets to the Russians. (And, almost ten years after Snowden, do we still have this much trouble vetting people before giving them security clearances?)

Mr. Dalke, who had already left the N.S.A. but told the agent that he still worked there on a temporary assignment, then revealed that had taken “highly sensitive information” related to foreign targeting of U.S. systems and information on cyber operations, the prosecutors said. He offered the information in exchange for cryptocurrency and said he was in “financial need.” Court records show he had nearly $84,000 in debt between student loans and credit cards.

EDITED TO ADD (10/5): Marcy Wheeler notes that the FBI seems to be sitting on some common recruitment point, and collecting potential Russian spies.

FBI Seizes Stolen Cryptocurrencies

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2022/09/fbi-seizes-stolen-cryptocurrencies.html

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the FBI has recovered over $30 million in cryptocurrency stolen by North Korean hackers earlier this year. It’s only a fraction of the $540 million stolen, but it’s something.

The Axie Infinity recovery represents a shift in law enforcement’s ability to trace funds through a web of so-called crypto addresses, the virtual accounts where cryptocurrencies are stored. These addresses can be created quickly without them being linked to a cryptocurrency company that could freeze the funds.

In its effort to mask the stolen crypto, Lazarus Group used more than 12,000 different addresses, according to Chainalysis. Unlike bank transactions that happen through private networks, movement between crypto accounts is visible to the world on the blockchain.

Advanced blockchain-monitoring tools and cooperation from centralized crypto exchanges enabled the FBI to trace the crypto to where Lazarus Group tried to cash out, investigators said.

The money was laundered through the Tornado Cash mixer.

US Disrupts Russian Botnet

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2022/04/us-disrupts-russian-botnet.html

The Justice Department announced the disruption of a Russian GRU-controlled botnet:

The Justice Department today announced a court-authorized operation, conducted in March 2022, to disrupt a two-tiered global botnet of thousands of infected network hardware devices under the control of a threat actor known to security researchers as Sandworm, which the U.S. government has previously attributed to the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation (the GRU). The operation copied and removed malware from vulnerable internet-connected firewall devices that Sandworm used for command and control (C2) of the underlying botnet. Although the operation did not involve access to the Sandworm malware on the thousands of underlying victim devices worldwide, referred to as “bots,” the disabling of the C2 mechanism severed those bots from the Sandworm C2 devices’ control.

The botnet “targets network devices manufactured by WatchGuard Technologies Inc. (WatchGuard) and ASUSTek Computer Inc. (ASUS).” And note that only the command-and-control mechanism was disrupted. Those devices are still vulnerable.

The Justice Department made a point that they did this before the botnet was used for anything offensive.

Four more news articles. Slashdot post.

EDITED TO ADD (4/13): WatchGuard knew and fixed it nearly a year ago, but tried to keep it hidden. The patches were reverse-engineered.

Using Foreign Nationals to Bypass US Surveillance Restrictions

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2022/01/using-foreign-nationals-to-bypass-us-surveillance-restrictions.html

Remember when the US and Australian police surreptitiously owned and operated the encrypted cell phone app ANOM? They arrested 800 people in 2021 based on that operation.

New documents received by Motherboard show that over 100 of those phones were shipped to users in the US, far more than previously believed.

What’s most interesting to me about this new information is how the US used the Australians to get around domestic spying laws:

For legal reasons, the FBI did not monitor outgoing messages from Anom devices determined to be inside the U.S. Instead, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) monitored them on behalf of the FBI, according to previously published court records. In those court records unsealed shortly before the announcement of the Anom operation, FBI Special Agent Nicholas Cheviron wrote that the FBI received Anom user data three times a week, which contained the messages of all of the users of Anom with some exceptions, including “the messages of approximately 15 Anom users in the U.S. sent to any other Anom device.”

[…]

Stewart Baker, partner at Steptoe & Johnson LLP, and Bryce Klehm, associate editor of Lawfare, previously wrote that “The ‘threat to life; standard echoes the provision of U.S. law that allows communications providers to share user data with law enforcement without legal process under 18 U.S.C. § 2702. Whether the AFP was relying on this provision of U.S. law or a more general moral imperative to take action to prevent imminent threats is not clear.” That section of law discusses the voluntary disclosure of customer communications or records.

When asked about the practice of Australian law enforcement monitoring devices inside the U.S. on behalf of the FBI, Senator Ron Wyden told Motherboard in a statement “Multiple intelligence community officials have confirmed to me, in writing, that intelligence agencies cannot ask foreign partners to conduct surveillance that the U.S. would be legally prohibited from doing itself. The FBI should follow this same standard. Allegations that the FBI outsourced warrantless surveillance of Americans to a foreign government raise troubling questions about the Justice Department’s oversight of these practices.”

I and others have long suspected that the NSA uses foreign nationals to get around restrictions that prevent it from spying on Americans. It is interesting to see the FBI using the same trick.

Stolen Bitcoins Returned

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2021/12/stolen-bitcoins-returned.html

The US has returned $154 million in bitcoins stolen by a Sony employee.

However, on December 1, following an investigation in collaboration with Japanese law enforcement authorities, the FBI seized the 3879.16242937 BTC in Ishii’s wallet after obtaining the private key, which made it possible to transfer all the bitcoins to the FBI’s bitcoin wallet.

Wire Fraud Scam Upgraded with Bitcoin

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2021/11/wire-fraud-scam-upgraded-with-bitcoin.html

The FBI has issued a bulletin describing a bitcoin variant of a wire fraud scam:

As the agency describes it, the scammer will contact their victim and somehow convince them that they need to send money, either with promises of love, further riches, or by impersonating an actual institution like a bank or utility company. After the mark is convinced, the scammer will have them get cash (sometimes out of investment or retirement accounts), and head to an ATM that sells cryptocurrencies and supports reading QR codes. Once the victim’s there, they’ll scan a QR code that the scammer sent them, which will tell the machine to send any crypto purchased to the scammer’s address. Just like that, the victim loses their money, and the scammer has successfully exploited them.

[…]

The “upgrade” (as it were) for scammers with the crypto ATM method is two-fold: it can be less friction than sending a wire transfer, and at the end the scammer has cryptocurrency instead of fiat. With wire transfers, you have to fill out a form, and you may give that form to an actual person (who could potentially vibe check you). Using the ATM method, there’s less time to reflect on the fact that you’re about to send money to a stranger. And, if you’re a criminal trying to get your hands on Bitcoin, you won’t have to teach your targets how to buy coins on the internet and transfer them to another wallet — they probably already know how to use an ATM and scan a QR code.

FBI Had the REvil Decryption Key

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2021/09/fbi-had-the-revil-decryption-key.html

The Washington Post reports that the FBI had a decryption key for the REvil ransomware, but didn’t pass it along to victims because it would have disrupted an ongoing operation.

The key was obtained through access to the servers of the Russia-based criminal gang behind the July attack. Deploying it immediately could have helped the victims, including schools and hospitals, avoid what analysts estimate was millions of dollars in recovery costs.

But the FBI held on to the key, with the agreement of other agencies, in part because it was planning to carry out an operation to disrupt the hackers, a group known as REvil, and the bureau did not want to tip them off. Also, a government assessment found the harm was not as severe as initially feared.

Fighting ransomware is filled with security trade-offs. This is one I had not previously considered.

Another news story.

Chinese Supply-Chain Attack on Computer Systems

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2021/02/chinese-supply-chain-attack-on-computer-systems.html

Bloomberg News has a major story about the Chinese hacking computer motherboards made by Supermicro, Levono, and others. It’s been going on since at least 2008. The US government has known about it for almost as long, and has tried to keep the attack secret:

China’s exploitation of products made by Supermicro, as the U.S. company is known, has been under federal scrutiny for much of the past decade, according to 14 former law enforcement and intelligence officials familiar with the matter. That included an FBI counterintelligence investigation that began around 2012, when agents started monitoring the communications of a small group of Supermicro workers, using warrants obtained under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, according to five of the officials.

There’s lots of detail in the article, and I recommend that you read it through.

This is a follow on, with a lot more detail, to a story Bloomberg reported on in fall 2018. I didn’t believe the story back then, writing:

I don’t think it’s real. Yes, it’s plausible. But first of all, if someone actually surreptitiously put malicious chips onto motherboards en masse, we would have seen a photo of the alleged chip already. And second, there are easier, more effective, and less obvious ways of adding backdoors to networking equipment.

I seem to have been wrong. From the current Bloomberg story:

Mike Quinn, a cybersecurity executive who served in senior roles at Cisco Systems Inc. and Microsoft Corp., said he was briefed about added chips on Supermicro motherboards by officials from the U.S. Air Force. Quinn was working for a company that was a potential bidder for Air Force contracts, and the officials wanted to ensure that any work would not include Supermicro equipment, he said. Bloomberg agreed not to specify when Quinn received the briefing or identify the company he was working for at the time.

“This wasn’t a case of a guy stealing a board and soldering a chip on in his hotel room; it was architected onto the final device,” Quinn said, recalling details provided by Air Force officials. The chip “was blended into the trace on a multilayered board,” he said.

“The attackers knew how that board was designed so it would pass” quality assurance tests, Quinn said.

Supply-chain attacks are the flavor of the moment, it seems. But they’re serious, and very hard to defend against in our deeply international IT industry. (I have repeatedly called this an “insurmountable problem.”) Here’s me in 2018:

Supply-chain security is an incredibly complex problem. US-only design and manufacturing isn’t an option; the tech world is far too internationally interdependent for that. We can’t trust anyone, yet we have no choice but to trust everyone. Our phones, computers, software and cloud systems are touched by citizens of dozens of different countries, any one of whom could subvert them at the demand of their government.

We need some fundamental security research here. I wrote this in 2019:

The other solution is to build a secure system, even though any of its parts can be subverted. This is what the former Deputy Director of National Intelligence Sue Gordon meant in April when she said about 5G, “You have to presume a dirty network.” Or more precisely, can we solve this by building trustworthy systems out of untrustworthy parts?

It sounds ridiculous on its face, but the Internet itself was a solution to a similar problem: a reliable network built out of unreliable parts. This was the result of decades of research. That research continues today, and it’s how we can have highly resilient distributed systems like Google’s network even though none of the individual components are particularly good. It’s also the philosophy behind much of the cybersecurity industry today: systems watching one another, looking for vulnerabilities and signs of attack.

It seems that supply-chain attacks are constantly in the news right now. That’s good. They’ve been a serious problem for a long time, and we need to take the threat seriously. For further reading, I strongly recommend this Atlantic Council report from last summer: “Breaking trust: Shades of crisis across an insecure software supply chain.

Another SolarWinds Orion Hack

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2021/02/another-solarwinds-orion-hack.html

At the same time the Russians were using a backdoored SolarWinds update to attack networks worldwide, another threat actor — believed to be Chinese in origin — was using an already existing vulnerability in Orion to penetrate networks:

Two people briefed on the case said FBI investigators recently found that the National Finance Center, a federal payroll agency inside the U.S. Department of Agriculture, was among the affected organizations, raising fears that data on thousands of government employees may have been compromised.

[…]

Reuters was not able to establish how many organizations were compromised by the suspected Chinese operation. The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss ongoing investigations, said the attackers used computer infrastructure and hacking tools previously deployed by state-backed Chinese cyberspies.

[…]

While the alleged Russian hackers penetrated deep into SolarWinds network and hid a “back door” in Orion software updates which were then sent to customers, the suspected Chinese group exploited a separate bug in Orion’s code to help spread across networks they had already compromised, the sources said.

Two takeaways: One, we are learning about a lot of supply-chain attacks right now. Two, SolarWinds’ terrible security is the result of a conscious business decision to reduce costs in the name of short-term profits. Economist Matt Stoller writes about this:

These private equity-owned software firms torture professionals with bad user experiences and shitty customer support in everything from yoga studio software to car dealer IT to the nightmarish ‘core’ software that runs small banks and credit unions, as close as one gets to automating Office Space. But they also degrade product quality by firing or disrespecting good workers, under-investing in good security practices, or sending work abroad and paying badly, meaning their products are more prone to espionage. In other words, the same sloppy and corrupt practices that allowed this massive cybersecurity hack made Bravo a billionaire. In a sense, this hack, and many more like it, will continue to happen, as long as men like Bravo get rich creating security vulnerabilities for bad actors to exploit.

SolarWinds increased its profits by increasing its cybersecurity risk, and then transferred that risk to its customers without their knowledge or consent.