As the global infosec community continues to fight back against the threat of new attacks, the cybercriminals behind the WannaCry ransomware attacks are still at it, attempting to reap as much profits as possible. Security experts have detected new ransom demands made by the WannaCry hackers. Some experts working to mitigate the attacks and come up with a decryption key for infected users have reportedly been targeted by DDoS attacks, leveraging the proliferate Mirai botnet.

The attacks are an attempt to go after the kill switch, activated by 22-year-old British security researcher working for Kryptos Logic, Marcus Hutchins aka MalwareTech, who became the "accidental hero" by stopping the first wave of global ransomware attacks that hit numerous companies and networks across 150 countries.

Mirai-powered DDoS attacks against the WannaCry kill switch

Once news broke out about MalwareTech stopping the attacks, the sinkhole – the kill switch website used to direct malware to a specific web address to contain it – almost immediately came under attack from the WannaCry hackers.

How the global WannaCry ransomware attacks were stopped by this 'accidental hero'

"Pretty much as soon as it went public what had happened, one of the Mirai botnets started on the sinkhole," MalwareTech told Wired. He added that the DDoS attacks may not have been the work of the original WannaCry authors. Instead, he believes that this may be the work of other hacker groups that want to restart the WannaCry epidemic just for fun.

"They've obviously got no financial incentive. They're not the ransomware developers," the researcher said. "They're just doing it to cause pain." He added that the attacks appear to be coming from known Mirai-based botnets that appeared when the botnet's source code was first publicly released by its creator Anna_Senpai. Hutchins believes that the attacks are the work of low-level hackers using publicly available tools.

"Now any idiot and their dog can set up a Mirai botnet," Hutchins says.

However, Hutchins is confident that he and his colleagues at Kryptos Logic can keep the attackers at bay. The firm has also enlisted the help of an unspecified DDoS mitigation company to help defend against the hackers.

New ransom demands

Despite the spread of the attacks having been stopped, the WannaCry attackers are sending out new ransom demands to victims. According to a tweet post by Symantec, as of 18 May, victims were still receiving new messages from the WannaCry hackers.

A Twitter account cataloguing the activity of the three bitcoin wallets tied to the WannaCry attacks in real time shows that numerous people have paid ransoms and some continue to do so. As of now, over $94,000 has been raked in by the attackers, according to the Twitter bot.

However, so far, none of the money has been transferred out, indicating that the attackers controlling the bitcoin wallets may be playing it safe, in efforts to avoid attracting the attention of the numerous law enforcement agencies now actively hunting them.

WannaCry: What happens if you pay the ransom?

There's still uncertainity surrounding the identity of the WannaCry authors. Although some security experts said the North Korea hacker group Lazarus, also believed to be behind the infamous Sony hack, may be linked the ransomware, a recent statement by Interpol indicates that attribution is yet to be nailed down conclusively.

Experts are tirelessly working on creating viable decryption tools that may help WannaCry victims get back access to their lost data. Find out more about how you can recover your lost data here.

Source: This article was published International Business Times By India Ashok

Categorized in Internet Privacy

WHEN THE BOTNET named Mirai first appeared in September, it announced its existence with dramatic flair. After flooding a prominent security journalist’s website with traffic from zombie Internet of Things devices, it managed to make much of the internet unavailable for millions of people by overwhelming Dyn, a company that provides a significant portion of the US internet’s backbone. Since then, the number attacks have only increased. What’s increasingly clear is that Mirai is a powerfully disruptive force. What’s increasingly not? How to stop it.

Mirai is a type of malware that automatically finds Internet of Things devices to infect and conscripts them into a botnet—a group of computing devices that can be centrally controlled. From there this IoT army can be used to mount distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks in which a firehose of junk traffic floods a target’s servers with malicious traffic. In just the past few weeks, Mirai disrupted internet service for more than 900,000 Deutsche Telekom customers in Germany, and infected almost 2,400 TalkTalk routers in the UK. This week, researchers published evidencethat 80 models of Sony cameras are vulnerable to a Mirai takeover.

These attacks have been enabled both by the massive army of modems and webcams under Mirai’s control, and the fact that a hacker known as “Anna-senpai” elected to open-source its code in September. While there’s nothing particularly novel about Mirai’s software, it has proven itself to be remarkably flexible and adaptable. As a result, hackers can develop different strains of Mirai that can take over new vulnerable IoT devices and increase the population (and compute power) Mirai botnets can draw on.

“It’s accelerating because there’s a wide-open, unprotected landscape that people can go to,” says Chris Carlson, vice president of product management at Qualys. “It’s a gold rush to capture these devices for botnets.”

Internet of Bots

The rise of Internet of Things malware is reminiscent of the viruses, worms, and intense email spam that plagued early internet users. Most PCs weren’t adequately secured, and companies racing to join the dot-com bubble didn’t necessarily understand the importance of internet security. The same is true now, but with webcams and routers instead of desktops.

What’s distinctly different in this tech generation, though, is how users interact with infected devices. An infected PC often malfunctions, slows down, or notifies users (either through operating system security alerts or through the malware itself in the case of something like ransomware). All of this encourages people to act. It’s standard practice to install some sort of security software on enterprise PCs, and anti-virus measures are popular at home as well.

IoT devices like routers, though, are workhorses that are meant to function indefinitely, with minimal direct user interaction. One reason Mirai is so difficult to contain is that it lurks on devices, and generally doesn’t noticeably affect their performance. There’s no reason the average user would ever think that their webcam—or more likely, a small business’s—is potentially part of an active botnet. And even if it were, there’s not much they could do about it, having no direct way to interface with the infected product.

“The early 2000s web security called and they want their lack of security back,” says Rick Holland, vice president of strategy at the cybersecurity defense firm Digital Shadows. “It’s not like this population of total vulnerable devices is going to be going down. It’s going to be increasing.”

Hard to Kill

Mirai isn’t the only IoT botnet out there. The broader insecurity issues of IoT devices are not easy to address, and leave billions of units vulnerable to all sorts of malware.

But Mirai is the main go-to for now because it’s easily accessible and adjustable, with different strains for different campaigns. Holland says that Digital Shadows researchers have observed a growing community of Mirai users asking for help (even bad actors need tech support sometimes!) and offering each other tips and advice.

There are some precautions consumers can take to improve their personal IoT security. By assessing the IoT devices they have in their homes and eliminating superfluous “smart” products that directly access the internet for no reason, people can reduce their exposure to attack. Additionally, for devices that offer accessible interfaces, you can change default passwords and download firmware updates to get greater protection.

The early 2000s web security called and they want their lack of security back.RICK HOLLAND, DIGITAL SHADOWS

Mirai will ultimately be a “transient threat” in the broader landscape of IoT security, as a reportpublished this week by the Institute of Critical Infrastructure Technology notes. Hackers get bored with shiny new toys just like anyone, and eventually the IoT industry will erode Mirai’s vulnerable device population.

That’s not going to happen in the near future, though. Mirai already has enough fodder to sustain it for years—and more susceptible products roll off of assembly lines every day. As the report adds, Mirai “has inspired a renaissance” in IoT vulnerability exploitation. In the meantime, expect more mayhem.

“Who knows what’s going to actually come up before the end of the year,” Digital Shadows’ Holland says. “Mirai is certainly not going away any time soon.”

AUTHOR: LILY HAY NEWMAN

Source : https://www.wired.com/2016/12/botnet-broke-internet-isnt-going-away/

Categorized in Science & Tech

when Amazon, Twitter, PayPal, Spotify and other major websites were rendered inaccessible on Friday, thousands of Americans learned firsthand what a DDoS attack feels like.

DDoS — distributed denial of service — is an unsophisticated form of attack that overwhelms sites with spam traffic so legitimate users can’t get through. DDoS is a war of economics: whoever has the most computing power, defender or attacker, usually wins.

This makes DDoS a useful tool for censorship of small and mid-level publishers, but major sites usually have defenses in place and aren’t susceptible to these attacks. However, Friday wasn’t business as usual. The series of attacks that took out Dyn, the DNS service that provides the backbone of many major sites, were powered in part by a botnet of hacked DVRs and and webcams known as Mirai. Mirai first emerged several weeks ago during a DDoS against Brian Krebs, a cybersecurity journalist who runs his own publication KrebsOnSecurity.com.

The DDoS attack on Krebs, the scramble for protection that followed, and Friday’s massive attack mark a new chapter in DDoS. More and more websites are being forced to seek shelter behind a shrinking number of powerful DDoS protection providers. But that centralization means that, as potent botnets like Mirai become stronger, larger sections of the internet can be knocked offline during attacks.

Mirai is irritating for the American internet users who couldn’t access their favorite websites Friday, and a thorn in the side of companies that are now forced to recall their easily hacked IoT devices — but the botnet is also influencing the market for DDoS protection.

 

The Krebs attack

In late September, Krebs’ website was hit with a DDoS attack of unprecedented scale. The content delivery network Akamai had protected KrebsOnSecurity from more than 250 DDoS attacks over four years, but it struggled to withstand this record-breaking onslaught of fake traffic and, after several more attacks, booted Krebs from its service.

“It was the biggest attack we’d ever seen. We were protecting someone for free and it was taking a lot of resources,” Akamai security advocate Martin McKeay told TechCrunch. “That was when the decision was made — this was a customer who we were protecting for marketing reasons but it was taking too much of our resources to make this a viable thing longterm. He looks into criminals who do DDoS, who do carding and skimming. It just was not worth the good will for us to protect someone who was thumbing their nose at the bad guys.”

But Akamai’s decision wasn’t just about conserving its human and technological resources. The DDoS attack was so large that it was overloading surrounding internet infrastructure, McKeay said. The attacks had the potential to cause slowdowns for the company’s paying customers. Many of the attacks that had hit Krebs’ website previously were sending 3-4 gigabits per second, but the Mirai attacks were in the 500 – 600 gbps range.

Still, Akamai tried to stick with Krebs. The company asked some of its paying Prolexic customers to temporarily turn off the service to make more bandwidth available in the Krebs fight, and to avoid issues on their own websites. Such requests often come during maintenance, according to Akamai, and shouldn’t cause alarm. But TechCrunch is aware of at least one Akamai customer who was shaken by the request — the company contacted a competing DDoS protection service days later.

However, Akamai says it lost no customers due to the Krebs DDoS. “After having successfully protected Krebs’ site during the attack, his was the only site that was then transitioned to another solution,” Akamai spokesperson Jeff Young told TechCrunch. “It’s common to proactively notify customers anytime we perceive the possibility of unexpected traffic flows. The vast majority of notifications sent are welcomed by the customer.”

When the news broke that Krebs was leaving Akamai, other DDoS protection services swarmed, offering their services. With the massive DDoS attack making headlines and Krebs without protection, it was the perfect opportunity for another provider to make a name for themselves.

DDoS protection services protect against online attacks that use large networks of computers to spam a site with junk traffic, ultimately knocking the site offline. Claiming Krebs as a client would be a powerful marketing moment for a DDoS protection provider, enabling the company to say they stood up to the strongest DDoS attack the internet had ever seen. Several free and paid DDoS services approached Krebs in the days following the attack on his site.

In the end, Krebs went to Project Shield, a Google-backed DDoS protection service that works exclusively with journalists, human rights organizations and elections monitoring sites. Cloudflare’s Project Galileo, which protects public interest websites that feature political or artistic content, also made a bid to protect Krebs. An unnamed company offered two weeks of free protection, followed by services that would cost $150,000 – $200,000 per year, Krebs reported.

Krebs wrote that Akamai gave him just two hours to migrate off its network, and Akamai later told the Boston Globe that the attack could have ended up costing the company millions of dollars. “We made a business decision to no longer keep this customer on our platform and prioritize our resources on our paying customers,” Young told the Globe.

Krebs wrote:

I do not fault Akamai for their decision. I was a pro bono customer from the start, and Akamai and its sister company Prolexic have stood by me through countless attacks over the past four years. It just so happened that this last siege was nearly twice the size of the next-largest attack they had ever seen before. Once it became evident that the assault was beginning to cause problems for the company’s paying customers, they explained that the choice to let my site go was a business decision, pure and simple.

Protecting Krebs is a big win for Project Shield, a project run by Google’s humanitarian think tank Jigsaw. In the DDoS arms race, Project Shield has the advantage of being backed up by Google’s massive network. “Shield is a reverse proxy,” project lead George Conard explains. “We run virtual machines in the Google Cloud Platform that are doing the reverse proxying.”

Project Shield had to go up against competition from Cloudflare’s Project Galileo to win Krebs’ business. Galileo, like Shield, is a free DDoS protection service that aims to protect sensitive content from being knocked offline.

However, getting Krebs on Project Galileo was a long shot to begin with, Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince says. Prince and Krebs butted heads at the Black Hat security conference in 2013, when Krebs criticized Cloudflare for allowing DDoS attackers to take refuge behind the company’s paid DDoS protection service. If Cloudflare kicked them out, Krebs argued, they would be taken down by DDoS themselves. Prince, who was in the audience, jumped on stage to defend his company. The ensuing debate was painfully awkward to watch, and likely cost Prince the chance to take over Krebs’ DDoS defense after the massive attack.

Prince says he offered Galileo’s protection to Krebs, but Krebs declined, claiming that accepting Cloudflare’s help after criticizing them would feel hypocritical. (Krebs did not respond to a request for comment from TechCrunch.) “During the first 24 hours, Google was struggling to keep it up,” Prince said of Krebs’ website. “We would have stopped it, absolutely.”

The competitive feeling runs both ways. Asked about Project Galileo, a Jigsaw employee demurred, “As I’m sure you know, competition drives innovation.”

“We want a little competition on the side of people building the services, because a lot of people are figuring out how to take down websites,” the employee added.

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Protecting the worthy

Because DDoS is an unsophisticated yet effective means of censorship, independent journalists like Krebs often become high-profile targets. Companies like Google, Cloudflare and Akamai have a good-will interest in protecting them, but protecting someone like Krebs is also good marketing. The message is: If we can handle this massive attack on this worthy publisher, we can handle whatever scary mess the internet hurls at your enterprise.

For Project Shield, the calculus is a little different. Unlike Cloudflare and Akamai, Google isn’t selling DDoS protection.

But Google is working hard to sell its reputation as a neutral party that can be trusted with the news. As it puts its Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) head-to-head against Facebook’s Instant Articles, Google needs to prove it’s a company that’s on the side of publishers against censorship and avoid the missteps Facebook has made with Trending Topics and deleting newsworthy content.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai appeared to acknowledge this during a February speech in Paris, when he announced the official launch of Project Shield in tandem with AMP. “There are times when news content is impossible to get to, not because the page loads slowly but because you’re under attack,” Pichai said, explaining that Shield would “provide a more sustainable news ecosystem.”

Google’s mission of organizing the world’s information and making it accessible is fundamentally in line with the mission of journalism. “We’re in the same business, Google and the news. The more news organizations, the better the internet is,” a Jigsaw spokesperson told TechCrunch.

The chance to protect Krebs came at an opportune time for Project Shield, which has worked hard this year to regain trust from journalists and human rights defenders abroad. Shield has to overcome the perception that Google is part of the American surveillance state.

“We’ve definitely encountered that,” the Jigsaw spokesperson says of the distrust. “Our philosophy is to be transparent about what data we collect, what data we never collect, why we collect, when it will be implemented and how. We let them explore if it is in their best interest. Never is it in our interest for someone to sign up for Shield more than it would be in their interest.”

Since its beta launch several years ago, Project Shield has worked to expand its presence. The service officially launched in Europe after Pichai’s speech, where it protects a few hundred sites, and in Latin America about a week ago. “It’s a tool that requires explanation,” Conard says. “We’ve learned how best to reach the people for whom this matters. We have learned a lot more about the threats these organizations are facing, how often they are DDoSed and how seldom they know why or from where.”

The expansion has come with opportunities to build trust — Project Shield now protects John-Allan Namu, a Kenyan investigative journalist who works on Africa Uncensored, and project engineers spent time in Kenya during the 2013 election to learn about the DDoS protection needs of journalists and election monitors. Jigsaw employees also stress that, as the Project Shield team collects information about the websites it protects, none of that data is shared within Google.

However, Project Shield notably misstepped in 2014, when it offered DDoS protection in partnership with Cloudflare to the Hong Kong pro-democracy website PopVote but then pulled out of the deal just 24 hours before an important referendum. Along with journalists, Shield also protects elections monitoring sites and PopVote, which faced a DDoS attack from the government, seemed like the perfect candidate.

Deciding who does and does not deserve DDoS protection is a difficult process for Google and other companies that provide the service. For Akamai, Krebs was worthy until he spent too much time “thumbing his nose” and became too expensive to protect. Cloudflare’s all-inclusive approach for its paid service was partially responsible for the debate between Krebs and Prince, and when it comes to Project Galileo, the company is similarly hands-off. Cloudflare chooses not to weigh the worthiness of Project Galileo candidates at all, instead outsourcing the decision to an external cohort of human rights and free press organizations.

“It’s really important that our whims on good and bad content don’t come in,” Prince explained. “We’re not picking winners and losers.”

Although Google abandoned the PopVote project, Project Shield is trying to take a more inclusive approach these days. Conard says Project Shield doesn’t discriminate against media outlets based on content, pointing out that it protected pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian publishers during the Crimean conflict. “DDoSing someone is never a legitimate or reasonable thing to do. I am happy to protect people we disagree with,” Conard told TechCrunch. “In general, because we don’t think there’s a legitimate use case for DDoS, I feel relatively good about taking an inclusive approach here and keeping information accessible.”

Individuals who want to put their sites behind Project Shield’s protection go through an application process and are vetted by the Jigsaw team. Jigsaw runs publishers and organizations seeking protection through an internal screening process that includes checking them against a terrorist watch list, and says it would stop short of protecting a publication like Dabiq, the online magazine published by the Islamic State. “That’s an organization that we’re not by law allowed to provide service to,” Conard says.

As enormous DDoS attacks become more common, charitable protection programs will be faced with challenging questions about who deserves protection from censorship and who doesn’t. While the propaganda arm of the Islamic State clearly falls under the U.S. definition of a terrorist group, the Chinese government might categorize an organization like PopVote in a similar way — and controversy-shy tech companies will have to decide whether they want to stand up to governments that DDoS their own citizens.

DDoS as a service

The Mirai attacks haven’t just been an opportunity for protection providers to make a name for themselves and expand their client list — there are also clues in the attacks that suggest Mirai has been good for the DDoS business.

The attack on Krebs’ website may well have been an act of censorship, intended to silence his reporting. But Cloudflare’s CEO Prince argues that Krebs might also have been targeted because taking down his site was a good way to advertise a new DDoS service. What better way to get out the word about your botnet than to take down the site of the preeminent voice on DDoS attacks? Mirai does seem to be for hire. “The targets have been really random,” Prince explains. “Attack lengths are in five-minute increments,” he added, which suggests that attacks are priced in a tiered way.

When the source code for Mirai became public, Cloudflare analyzed it and found that five percent of the code was written to get around the company’s defenses — indicating that the botnet was designed with more than just Krebs in mind.

But Akamai’s security advocate McKeay dismissed the idea that the attack on Krebs was intended as an advertisement for Mirai. “I don’t think it’s a reliable theory,” he explains. “You could have been a lot quieter in the attacks and not drawn the law enforcement attention that the attacks on Brian’s site have done. You have to know that if you are making the biggest attack ever seen, your botnet is not going to survive that. It’s going to draw law enforcement action globally.”

Rather than publicly knocking down major websites and grabbing headlines, a safer DDoS business model is the extortion-based attacks that have been on the rise over the last year, in which attackers threaten to DDoS a site unless they receive payment.

But the Mirai attacks have been huge and public, making the intentions of the attackers unclear. “You can’t launch an attack this big and not get arrested,” Prince says.

It’s possible that the attacks are meant to send a message to the DDoS defenders themselves. “It’s going to make companies that provide protection think twice,” McKeay says. “If you are a company that provides a terabyte of protection worldwide, you are really going to have to think twice about providing DDoS protection. If it’s a secondary product line, they are going to have to think about the large attacks. This is just a precursor of what we’re going to see over the next few years. You have to think about investing a lot more in infrastructure, or decide it’s not worth the investment and get out of DDoS. A lot of smaller providers are going to see these attacks coming and get out of the business.”

As smaller providers shut down, it clears the way for larger players like Cloudflare, Akamai and Google. But, as the Dyn attack demonstrated, that centralization can be dangerous.

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Source : techcrunch

Categorized in Science & Tech

Following a cyberattack at a local healthcare facility, Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse introduced legislation to deal with such cybercrime.

According to NBC News, a ransomware attack compromised the personal healthcare information of 14,000 New Englanders. Whitehouse claimed, in an interview with NBC, that the hack happened “just last month.” However, HealthITSecurity wrote that the actual breach occurred between September 23, 2014 to August 28, 2015.

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Whitehouse’s legislation, called the Botnet Prevention Act, was introduced to end this type of cybercrime in America.

During the interview, Whitehouse described botnets as an army of malicious computers, working towards the same goal. “You can do things like have every single one of those computers go hit a website, or go overload traffic to a hospital,” Whitehouse said.

Senator Lindsey Graham, the initial sponsor of the bill, explained the Botnet Prevention Act (BPA) would benefit the Justice Department. The DoJ would have expanded civil injunction authority to tear down these malicious networks, Graham explained at a Senate hearing. New criminal charges would be implemented for those who sell or rent out botnets. Similarly, the penalties for cybercrimes against critical infrastructure would be raised.

The new bill proposes changes that go far beyond the scope of the current Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the DoJ may only issue civil injunctions for specific botnet crimes. Graham explains that the current law lacks language related to modern botnet infrastructure and usage. Renting or selling botnets currently resides in a legal grey area and the BPA would change this.

Whitehouse claimed that the DoJ knows where these botnets are being built but are legally under-equipped.

“There is no such thing as a good botnet, and so we should be about the business of taking them all down,” Whitehouse said.

“It has a lot of bipartisan support, as far as I’m concerned there’s no such thing as ‘too soon,’” Whitehouse said. The legislation, according to Congress, has one Republican sponsor and two Democrat co-sponsors. Whitehouse believes this support could push the legislation to pass by the end of the year.

In October 2015, Whitehouse pushed another amendment to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. The proposed legislation was controversially pulled due to vague and ambiguous phrasing that potentially violated internet privacy. He later spoke angrily about the rejection of his changes.

C-Span has the entire event recorded online with an automated transcription. Referring to the flaws in the current Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, Whitehouse says:

THAT’S A LOOPHOLE THAT HARMS AMERICANS THAT THIS BILL WOULD CLOSE. I CAN’T BELIEVE THERE’S ONE MEMBER OF THIS INSTITUTION WHO WOULD OPPOSE CLOSING A LOOPHOLE THAT ALLOWS FOREIGN CRIMINALS ACCESS TO AMERICANS’ FINANCIAL INFORMATION FOR FRAUDULENT PURPOSES BUT PUTS THEM BEYOND THE REACH OF OUR CRIMINAL LAW. THAT’S ONE PART OF WHAT OUR BILL DOES. THE SECOND IS IT RAISES PENALTIES FOR PEOPLE WHO INTRUDE ON CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE.

Privacy advocates have already voiced concerns for the BPA. The EFF and ACLU are among several who publicly signed a letter to Congress regarding the bill.

“What we need is reform that reigns in the CFAA, not a measure that makes things worse,” the letter said.

Source : deepdotweb

Categorized in Internet Ethics

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