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Mirai Is Evolving as a DDoS Attack Tool
Mirai, the malware that nearly brought down the internet, is evolving and being refined by cybercriminals as a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack tool.
Symantec's Principal Threat Analysis Engineer Dinesh Venkatesan recently disclosed that he uncovered multiple Mirai variants. Venkatesan said that these multiple Mirai variants are hosted in a live remote server.
Each of these Mirai variants is described to be aimed for a particular platform, making the Mirai portable across different platforms.
According to Venkatesan, one of the major obstacles encountered by script-kiddies, also known as copy/paste malware authors, is portability – the ability of a malware to run on different platforms “in a self-contained capsule without any runtime surprises or misconfiguration”.
The newly uncovered Mirai variants found an answer to the problem of portability by leveraging on the open source tool called “Aboriginal Linux”. According to the author of Aboriginal Linux, this open source tool "automatically create cross compilers and bootable system images for various targets, such as arm, mips, powerpc, and x86".
Using the Aboriginal Linux, the author or authors of the newly uncovered Mirai variants were able to develop versions of the malware tailored for a targeted platform, ranging from routers, IP cameras and even Android devices.
Symantec's Venkatesan said that the newly uncovered Mirai variants spread by scanning devices with default factory login details or known security vulnerabilities.
Original Mirai Botnet
In December last year, 21-year old Paras Jha, along with his two college-age friends Josiah White and Dalton Norman, pleaded guilty for creating the Mirai botnet.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, in the summer and fall of 2016, Jha, White and Norman created and launched the Mirai botnet – referring to computers infected by the Mirai malware and controlled by Jha’s group without the knowledge or permission of the owners of the computers.
The U.S. Department of Justice said the trio used the Mirai botnet, which at its peak consisted of hundreds of thousands of compromised IoT devices, to launch DDoS attacks.
DDoS attacks refer to cyberattacks which use multiple computers (like the Mirai botnet), controlling these computers without the computers’ owners knowledge for the purpose of making an online service unavailable by overwhelming it with traffic.
"The defendants [Jha, White and Norman] used the botnet to conduct a number of powerful distributed denial-of-service, or ‘DDOS’ attacks, which occur when multiple computers, acting in unison, flood the Internet connection of a targeted computer or computers,” the U.S. Department of Justice said.
While the latest Mirai variants infect not just IoT devices but also Android devices, the computers infected by the original Mirai malware were limited to IoT devices, including routers, wireless cameras, digital video and recorders.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the trio’s involvement with the original Mirai ended when Jha posted the source code of Mirai on an online forum in September 2016. “Since then, other criminal actors have used Mirai variants in a variety of other attacks,” the U.S. Department of Justice said.
Jha’s group was able to infect hundreds of thousands of IoT devices with the Mirai malware and turned it into a botnet or zombie army for DDoS attacks by using a short list of 62 common default usernames and passwords.
In October 2016, the DDoS attack against the internet infrastructure company Dynbrought down a big part of the internet on the U.S. east coast. The DDoS attack against Dyn made the world’s top websites, such as Amazon, Twitter and Netflix, temporarily inaccessible. “We are able to confirm that a significant volume of attack traffic originated from Mirai-based botnets,” Dyn said in a statement.
Other Mirai Variants
Early variants of Mirai include Satori, a Mirai variant that morphed into several versions as well. One version of Satori targets Huawei home router HG532. Satori was first observed in the wild by Check Pointresearchers in November 2017. Similar to the original Mirai, Satori has DDoS capabilities and has been reported to launch several DDoS attacks.
According to Check Point, Huawei was informed prior to the public disclosure of Satori. Before the public disclosure of Satori as well Huawei patched the vulnerability.
In May 2018, researchers at FortiGuard Labsuncovered another variant of Mirai called “Wicked”. This Mirai variant particularly infects Netgear routers and CCTV-DVR devices.
According to FortiGuard Labs, Wicked infects Netgear routers and CCTV-DVR devices by using known and available cyberexploits, many of them are old exploits. Similar to the original Mirai and other Mirai variants, Wicked can also be used for DDoS attacks.
Here are some measures in preventing attackers from turning your organization’s IoT devices into a zombie soldier for DDoS attacks:
-Change default login details into something strong and unique
-Install firmware updates in a timely manner
-When setting up Wi-Fi network access, use a strong encryption method
-Use wired connections instead of wireless connections
-Disable the following:
If your organization has an online presence, it's imperative that your organization is equipped in stopping DDoS attacks.
A successful DDoS attack against your organization’s online service negatively impacts your organization’s reputation, can cause loss of customer trust and financial losses. Prolong and unmitigated DDoS attacks can also result in permanent business closure.
Contact us today if you need assistance in securing your organization’s online services from DDoS attacks and if your organization needs assistance in securing IoT devices from being turned into zombie devices for DDoS attacks.
Nearly Half of the World’s Top Websites Are Risky to Visit, Study Finds
A new study from Menlo Security showed that almost half of the world’s top websites are risky to visit.
According to Menlo Security'sState of the Web (First Half 2018), 42% or nearly half of the Alexa top 100,000 websites are “risky”. The Menlo Security study considers a website as risky when it falls in one of these three criteria:
According to Menlo researchers, the practice of classifying the world’s websites into logical categories is no longer defendable as more than a third of all sites in categories including News and Media, Entertainment and Arts, Shopping and Travel are risky.
Even websites categorized as safe aren’t safe by deﬁnition, with 49% of “News and Media” sites falling within Menlo’s criteria as risky, as 45% of Entertainment and Arts, 41% Travel, 40% Personal Sites and Blogs, 39% Society, 39% Business and Economy and 38% Shopping.
3 Variables that Can Put A Website at Risk
Here are 3 variables that can make a website risky:
1. Risks Linked with Background Websites
Menlo researchers found that every time a visitor visits a website, the site calls on average 25 other sites – also as known as background sites – to fetch a content, for instance, a viral video from a content delivery network (CDN) or an advertisement display from an advertisement delivery network.
Every time you visit a website, therefore, you’re not just visiting one website, but 25 sites on average. Any of these background sites could be used by cyberattackers to compromise the main site and eventually website visitors.
An example of a background site which cybercriminals could compromise the main site is through malvertisement, short for malware advertisement. In malvertisement, the advertisement being displayed on the main site could be infected by a malware. If a visitor clicks on a malvertisement, the visitor's computer then becomes infected with a malware.
2. Risks Linked with Use of Active Content
Active content refers to a software that web developers use to produce personalized and dynamic websites. By using software like Flash, active content allows stock tickers to continuously update, and animated images, maps or drop-down boxes to function.
The trade-off with these active contents is that while these contents make websites personalized and dynamic, web developers lose the control in securing the sites as similar to malvertisements, these contents have to be fetched from background sites. These background sites could be compromised and used to deliver a malware.
Adobe Flash, one of the software used for active content, is known to be packed with security loopholes, making this software the favorite tool by cyberattackers. While Adobe tries to make Flash more secure, the product is simply unfortunate enough to rank as one of the most frequently exploited software by cybercriminals.
3. Risk Linked with Use of Vulnerable Web Software
According to Menlo Security, many of today’s top websites and their accompanying background sites run on vulnerable web software.
"Many of the world’s most popular websites run on back-end web servers that are outdated, including some that have not been updated for years or even decades,” Menlo Security said. “This leaves those websites extremely vulnerable to web-borne malware, exposing site visitors to possible infections, incursions, or breaches. Use of outdated server software also threatens any site to which it serves as a ‘background website.’ Simply put, the older the software, the higher the risk.”
Vulnerable web software refers to a software that has been repeatedly attacked over the years. It also refers to a software that has reached its end of mainstream support, including the end of security updates or patches from the software vendor.
Menlo researchers found that many Business and Economy websites still use Microsoft’s IIS version 5 web server, a software that Microsoft stopped providing updates or patches more than 12 years ago.
Microsoft’s IIS version 5 web server has been exploited by cybercriminals in the past. An example of a malware that exploited the security vulnerability in Microsoft’s IIS version 5 web server is the infamous Code Red, a malware that appeared in three versions from July 2001 to August 2001. The first version of this malware defaced webpages and launched a denial of service attack against www.whitehouse.gov.
Code Red, also known as ISS Buffer Overflow vulnerability, allows an attacker to gain full system level access to any server that’s using the Microsoft Internet Information Services (IIS) Web server software. An attacker that exploits the Code Red or ISS Buffer Overflow vulnerability can perform any system level action, including installing malware, adding, changing or deleting files, and manipulating web server content.
Here are some of the best practices to the lower the odds of being victimized from risky websites:
If you’re a website owner, make sure that your server runs up-to-date software. Running your company website on Microsoft’s IIS 5 web server, a software that Microsoft no longer supports, is a big security risk for your company. Attackers have been known to exploit computer programs that no longer receive security updates or patches from vendors. To keep your website safe, it’s also important to use technologies that prevent the introduction of malicious code via background sites.
As a website visitor, you can lower your odds of being victimized by a risky website by making sure that your computer programs are up-to-date. It’s also important to avoid vulnerable software like Adobe Flash.
Reddit Data Breach Highlights Weaknesses of SMS-Based 2-Factor Authentication
Reddit recently announced that it succumbed to a cyberattack, an attack that was born out of the weaknesses inherent to SMS-based 2-factor authentication (2FA).
Reddit, in a statement, said that an attacker managed to access the company’s complete copy of a database backup containing user data starting from the site’s launch in 2005 up to May 2007. The data accessed during this period include passwords of users and public and private messages.
The company added that email address of current users, source code, internal logs, configuration files and other employee workspace files have also been accessed by the attacker.
While acknowledging that the recent cyberattack was a serious attack, according to Reddit, the attacker didn’t do much damage to the site itself as the attacker only gained read-only access, not write access to Reddit systems.
Reddit said that the attacker entered the company’s systems as a result of the weaknesses inherent to SMS-based 2FA. “Already having our primary access points for code and infrastructure behind strong authentication requiring two factor authentication (2FA), we learned that SMS-based authentication is not nearly as secure as we would hope, and the main attack was via SMS intercept,” Reddit said.
What Is Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)?
Two-Factor Authentication, also known as 2FA, is an added layer of protection that’s meant to ensure that security of online accounts goes further than a username and a password.
Here are the 3 most common types of 2FA or security keys for securing your online accounts:
1. SMS-Based 2FA
In SMS-based 2FA, whenever you log-in to your online account, after entering your username and password, a verification code will be sent in a form of an SMS message to your mobile phone. Once the correct verification code is entered after entering the correct username and password, you’ll then gain access to your online account.
In the case of the Reddit cyberattack, it wasn’t disclosed how the attacker carried out the "SMS intercept".
The publicly known scenario for SMS intercept is via SIM swapping, also known as SIM hijacking. In SIM swapping, an attacker calls a cell phone carrier’s tech support pretending to be the target victim and claims that the target’s SIM card is lost. The attacker then requests that the phone number of the target be transferred (also known as ported) to a new SIM card that the attacker already owns.
The attacker in this scam convinces the phone carrier’s tech support to make the necessary transfer of phone number to a new SIM card by providing the target’s personally identifiable information, including Social Security Number or home address, details that are available online after many data breaches from other companies in the past.
Once an attacker convinces the phone carrier’s tech support for the SIM-swap, it’s game over for the target. The immediate effect is that the target loses phone service and any 2FA verification code delivered via SMS is sent to the new SIM card that the attacker controls.
2. App-Based 2FA
In app-based 2FA, you need to download an app, such as Google Authenticatoror Authy, to your mobile phone or PC. Once installed and configured, you can get the verification code, after entering your correct username and password, through your device.
Unlike the SMS-based 2FA, you can still get the verification code when your phone service gets shut off. The downside of app-based 2FA is that the verification code needs to be entered into the same login page on a website along with the username and password. This allows cyberattackers to subvert the username, password and verification code by cyberattacks such as phishing and man-in-the-middle.
In a phishing attack, a user is duped into revealing sensitive data, including username and password. In man-in-the-middle attack, the attacker positions himself in a conversation between a user and an application, making it appear as if a normal exchange of information is conducted.
3. Hardware-Based 2FA
Hardware-based 2FA, also known as physical security key, comes in the form of a USB device. Login process can be completed by inserting the USB device to the USB port and by pressing a button in the USB device, eliminating the need for retyping verification codes. This is also meant to verify that you’re not a remote malicious hacker.
Unlike the SMS-based 2FA and app-based 2FA, in hardware-based 2FA, you don’t need your mobile phone to access your online accounts.
Yubico, the most popular maker of hardware-based security keys, sells its basic model for only $20. Last month, Googleannounced that its own hardware-based security keys called “Titan Security Keys” are available to Google Cloud customers and will soon be available for anyone to purchase on the Google Store.
Last month also, Google told cybersecurity journalist Brian Krebsthat since early 2017, more than 85,000 of its employees have been using physical security keys. Since then, the tech giant said that 85,000+ of its employees haven’t fallen prey to phishing attacks on their work-related accounts.
Google said that Titan Security Keys enhanced protection against phishing as the “2-step verification with a security key uses cryptography to provide two-way verification: it makes sure you're logging into the service you originally registered the security key with, and the service verifies that it's the correct security key as well”.
The downside of having physical security keys is that it’s a security risk to carry these devices around as once attackers get hold of them, it’s also game over for the targets. Physical security keys, therefore, have to be kept in a safe and secure place.
When you have questions concerning your options of better protecting mission critical data, our experts are a phone call away.
AI-Powered Cyberthreats Coming Our Way
Researchers at IBM recently developed a malicious software (malware) called “DeepLocker” as a proof-of-concept to raise awareness that AI-powered cyberthreats are coming our way.
What Is DeepLocker?
DeepLocker is a malware that uses as its secret weapon the infamous WannaCry – a malware that locked more than 300,000 computers in over 150 countries in less than 24 hours on May 12, 2017 and demanded ransom payment from victims for unlocking the computers.
DeepLocker hides the notorious WannaCry in a seemingly innocent video conference app to evade anti-virus and malware scanners. The video conference app operates as a normal video conference software until such time that it detects its target. Once it detects its target it unleashes this hidden cyberweapon.
IBM researchers trained the embedded AI model in DeepLocker to recognize the face of a target individual to act as a triggering condition to unlock WannaCry. The face of the target is, therefore, used as the preprogrammed key to unlock WannaCry.
Once the target sits in front of the computer and uses the malicious video conference app, the camera then feeds the app with the target’s face, and WannaCry will then be secretly executed, locking the victim’s computer and asking the victim to pay ransom to unlock the compromised computer.
DeepLocker is also designed in such a way that other malware, not just WannaCry can be embedded in it. Different AI models, including voice recognition, geolocation and system-level features can also be embedded in this IBM proof-of-concept malware.
Marc Ph. Stoecklin, Principal Research Scientist and Manager of the Cognitive Cybersecurity Intelligence (CCSI) group at the IBM T.J. Watson Research Center, in a blog postsaid, DeepLocker is similar to a sniper attack – a marked contrast to the traditional malware the employs “spray and pray” approach.
Stoecklin added that DeepLocker is good at evasion as it allows 3 layers of attack concealment. “That is, given a DeepLocker AI model alone, it is extremely difficult for malware analysts to figure out what class of target it is looking for,” Stoecklin said. “Is it after people’s faces or some other visual clues? What specific instance of the target class is the valid trigger condition? And what is the ultimate goal of the attack payload?”
There’s no evidence yet that a class of malware similar to DeepLocker is out in the wild. It won’t surprise the community though if this type of malware were already being deployed in the wild. The likelihood of AI-powered malware being deployed in the wild is high as the type of malware used as secret weapon by DeepLocker like WannaCry is publicly available. WannaCry, together with other spying tools, believed to be created by the US National Security Agency (NSA) was leaked to the public more than a year ago. AI models, including facial and voice recognition, are also publicly available.
Trustwaverecently released an open-sourced tool called “Social Mapper”, a tool that uses facial recognition to match social media profiles across a number of different sites on a large scale.
This tool automates the process of searching for names and pictures of individuals in popular social media sites, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, VKontakte, Weibo and Douban. After scanning the internet, Social Mapper then spits out a report with links to targets’ profile pages as well as photos of the targets.
Trustwave’s Jacob Wilkins said that Social Mapper is meant for penetration testers and red teamers. "Once social mapper has finished running and you've collected the reports, what you do then is only limited by your imagination …,” Wilkins said.
For target lists of 1000 individuals, Wilkins said that it can take more than 15 hours and can eat up large amount of bandwidth.
Getting Ready for AI-Powered Cyberthreats
Even as cybercriminals are learning the ways of AI to their advantage or weaponize it, cybersecurity professionals, on the other hand, are leveraging the power of artificial intelligence for cybersecurity.
Once such approach is IBM’s proof-of-concept malware, believing that similar to the medical field, examining the virus is necessary to create the vaccine.
AI-powered cyberthreats present a new challenge to cybersecurity professionals. According to IBM’s Stoecklin, AI-powered cyberthreats are characterized by increased evasiveness against rule-based security tools as AI can learn the rules and evade them. AI allows new scales and speeds of acting autonomously and adaptively, Stoecklin added.
To fight against AI-powered threats, Stoecklin said that cybersecurity professionals should focus on the following:
There are existing AI tools that cybersecurity professionals can depend upon. An example of an AI tool is Imperva’s Attack Analytics. This tool uses the power of artificial intelligence to automatically group, consolidate and analyze thousands of web application firewall (WAF) security alerts across different environments, including on-premises WAF, in the cloud or across hybrid environments.
Imperva’s Attack Analytics identifies the most critical security alerts, providing security teams a faster way to respond to critical threats.
A survey conducted by Imperva at the recent RSA security conference found that cybersecurity analysts receive more than 1 million security alerts a day. Artificial intelligence tools like Imperva’s Attack Analytics reduce the time-consuming tasks of identifying and prioritizing security alerts from days or weeks of work into mere minutes of work.
Fighting cyberthreats becomes more and more difficult. You don’t have to do it alone. Contact our expert team today and protect your data.
Steve E. Driz