BadRabbit: NotPetya Hackers Likely Behind Ransomware Attack, Say Researchers

BadRabbit: NotPetya Hackers Likely Behind Ransomware Attack, Say Researchers

Technical indicators suggest a cyber-attack which hit Russia and other countries this week was carried out by hackers behind a similar but bigger assault on Ukraine in June, security researchers who analysed the two campaigns said on Wednesday.

Russia-based cyber firm Group-IB said the BadRabbitvirus used in this week’s attack shared a key piece of code with the NotPetya malware that crippled businesses in Ukraine and worldwide earlier this year, suggesting the same group was responsible.

The BadRabbit attack hit Russia, Ukraine and other countries on Tuesday, taking down Russia’s Interfax news agency and delaying flights at Ukraine’s Odessa airport.

Multiple cyber-security investigators have linked the two attacks, citing similarities in the malware coding and hacking methods, but stopped short of direct attribution.

Still, experts caution that attributing cyber-attacks is notoriously difficult, as hackers regularly use techniques to cover their tracks and sometimes deliberately mislead investigators about their identity.

Security researchers at Cisco’s Talos unit said BadRabbit bore some similarities with NotPetya as they were both based on the same malware, but large parts of code had been rewritten and the new virus distribution method was less sophisticated.

They confirmed BadRabbit used a hacking tool called Eternal Romance, believed to have been developed by the US National Security Agency (NSA) before being stolen and leaked online in April.

NotPetya also employed Eternal Romance, as well as another NSA tool called Eternal Blue. But Talos said they were used in a different way and there was no evidence Bad Rabbit contained Eternal Blue.

“It is highly likely that the same group of hackers was behind (the) BadRabbit ransomware attack on Oct. 25, 2017 and the epidemic of the NotPetya virus, which attacked the energy, telecommunications and financial sectors in Ukraine in June 2017,” Group-IB said in a technical report.

Matthieu Suiche, a French hacker and founder of the United Arab Emirates-based cyber security firm Comae Technologies, said he agreed with the Group-IB assessment that there was “serious reason to consider” that BadRabbit and NotPetya were created by the same people.

But some experts have said the conclusion is surprising as the NotPetya attack is widely thought to have been carried out by Russia, an allegation Moscow denies.

Ukrainian officials have said the NotPetya attack directly targeted Ukraine and was carried about by a hacking group widely known as Black Energy, which some cyber experts say works in favour of Russian government interests. Moscow has repeatedly denied carrying out cyber attacks against Ukraine.

The majority of BadRabbit’s victims were in Russia, with only a few in other countries such Ukraine, Bulgaria, Turkey and Japan.

Group-IB said some parts of the BadRabbit virus dated from mid-2014, however, suggesting the hackers used old tools from previous attacks. “This corresponds with BlackEnergy timeframes, as the group started its notable activity in 2014,” it said.

[“Source-gadgets.ndtv”]

Cyber-security researchers warn of messenger apps with spy software

Sonic-spy infused apps have the ability to record audio, take photos with the device’s camera, make calls, send text messages and retrieve data from contacts and call logs. Photograph: iStock

Sonic-spy infused apps have the ability to record audio, take photos with the device’s camera, make calls, send text messages and retrieve data from contacts and call logs. Photograph: iStock

Cyber-security researchers have warned against using certain phone messenger applications because they have the capability to steal data from the devices they infect.

The researchers from SophosLabs, an IT security product company, have identified three cases of “‘sonic-spy” infused apps in Google Play, the official app store for Android devices.

According to Bill Brenner from Sophos, sonic-spy infused apps have the ability to record audio, take photos with the device’s camera, make calls, send text messages, and retrieve data from contacts and call logs.

Identified apps

Mr Brenner identified the apps that can hide their spying functionality as Soniac, Hulk Messenger, and Troy Chat. It is understood that Google removed the apps from its store after they were discovered.

“Google gets criticism when these things are found on Google Play but when they are found they generally take them down. They try to screen as much of this stuff as possible, but it’s difficult,” Mr Brenner told The Irish Times.

Asked how consumers come across this sort of app in the first place, Mr Brenner said: “When a person is downloading an app that turns out to be malicious, almost never are they aware that it’s malicious. Maybe they find an app that looks like a WhatsApp type of programme and they decide that they want it, or they find an app that looks like a good delivery conduit for music . . . and its typically unbeknownst to the user that there’s code baked into some of these apps that allow the bad guys to go through their contacts, get access to their camera, go through their text messages and ultimately getting into banking apps.”

Sonic-spy apps

Added to the three apps identified on Google’s platform, SophosLabs counted 3,240 sonic-spy apps in total, while some reports put the number as high as 4,000. “The average Android user isn’t going to know what techniques the malware used to reach their device’s doorstep, but they can do much to keep it from getting in,” Mr Brenner said.

He advised users to stick to Google Play, avoid apps with a poor reputation, and ensure the software on your phone is as up-to-date as possible.

Asked whether users of Apple’s IOS system could be affected by similar apps, Mr Brenner said that while there is malware designed to affect Apple users, it’s a lot harder to get apps into its app store than it is with Google.

[“Source-irishtimes”]

MirrorLink Car Smartphone Network Has Vulnerabilities, Claim Researchers

MirrorLink Car Smartphone Network Has Vulnerabilities, Claim Researchers

MirrorLink Car Smartphone Network Has Vulnerabilities, Claim Researchers
A system of rules that allow vehicles to communicate with smartphones may be vulnerable to hacking, a new study suggests. Many of today’s automobiles leave the factory with secret passengers: prototype software features that are disabled but that can be unlocked by clever drivers, researchers said.

In what is believed to be the first comprehensive security analysis of its kind, researchers at New York University Tandon School of Engineering and George Mason University in the US found vulnerabilities in MirrorLink, a system of rules that allow vehicles to communicate with smartphones.

MirrorLink when unlocked can allow hackers to use a linked smartphone as a stepping stone to control safety-critical components such as the vehicle’s anti-lock braking system.

Damon McCoy, from the NYU Tandon School of Engineering, explained that “tuners” – people or companies which customise automobiles – might unwittingly enable hackers by unlocking insecure features.

“Tuners will root around for these kinds of prototypes, and if these systems are easy to unlock they will do it,” he said. “And there are publically available instructions describing how to unlock MirrorLink. Just one of several instructional videos on YouTube has gotten over 60,000 views,” McCoy added.
“The researchers used such publically available instructions to unlock MirrorLink on the in-vehicle infotainment system in a 2015 vehicle they purchased from eBay for their experiments,” said McCoy.

The automaker and supplier declined to release a security patch – reflecting the fact that they never enabled MirrorLink. McCoy pointed out that this could leave drivers who enable MirrorLink out on a limb.

MirrorLink is the connection protocol and allows the driver or passenger to control phone apps via the car’s dash and steering wheel controls. Created by the Connected Car Consortium, MirrorLink represents 80 per cent of the world’s automakers, is the first and leading industry standard for connecting smartphones to in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) systems.

However, some automakers disable it because they chose a different smartphone-to-IVI standard, or because the version of MirrorLink in their vehicles is a prototype that can be activated later.

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Tags: MirrorLink, Smartphones, Hackers, Hacking

[“Source-Gadgets”]

Hackers Accessed Telegram Messaging Accounts in Iran: Researchers

Hackers Accessed Telegram Messaging Accounts in Iran: Researchers

Iranian hackers have compromised more than a dozen accounts on the Telegram instant messaging service and identified the phone numbers of 15 million Iranian users, the largest known breach of the encrypted communications system, cyber researchers told Reuters.

The attacks, which took place this year and have not been previously reported, jeopardized the communications of activists, journalists and other people in sensitive positions in Iran, where Telegram is used by some 20 million people, said independent cyber researcher Collin Anderson and Amnesty International technologist Claudio Guarnieri, who have been studying Iranian hacking groups for three years.

Telegram promotes itself as an ultra secure instant messaging system because all data is encrypted from start to finish, known in the industry as end-to-end encryption. A number of other messaging services, including Facebook Inc’s WhatsApp, say they have similar capabilities.

Headquartered in Berlin, Telegram says it has 100 million active subscribers and is widely used in the Middle East, including by the Islamic State militant group, as well as in Central and Southeast Asia, and Latin America.

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Telegram’s vulnerability, according to Anderson and Guarnieri, lies in its use of SMS text messages to activate new devices. When users want to log on to Telegram from a new phone, the company sends them authorization codes via SMS, which can be intercepted by the phone company and shared with the hackers, the researchers said.

Armed with the codes, the hackers can add new devices to a person’s Telegram account, enabling them to read chat histories as well as new messages.

“We have over a dozen cases in which Telegram accounts have been compromised, through ways that sound like basically coordination with the cellphone company,” Anderson said in an interview.

Telegram’s reliance on SMS verification makes it vulnerable in any country where cellphone companies are owned or heavily influenced by the government, the researchers said.

A spokesman for Telegram said customers can defend against such attacks by not just relying on SMS verification. Telegram allows – though it does not require – customers to create passwords, which can be reset with so-called “recovery” emails.

“If you have a strong Telegram password and your recovery email is secure, there’s nothing an attacker can do,” said Markus Ra, the spokesman.

Iranian officials were not available to comment. Iran has in the past denied government links to hacking.

Rocket Kitten
The Telegram hackers, the researchers said, belonged to a group known as Rocket Kitten, which used Persian-language references in their code and carried out “a common pattern of spearphishing campaigns reflecting the interests and activities of the Iranian security apparatus.”

Anderson and Guarnieri declined to comment on whether the hackers were employed by the Iranian government. Other cyber experts have said Rocket Kitten’s attacks were similar to ones attributed to Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards.

The researchers said the Telegram victims included political activists involved in reformist movements and opposition organizations. They declined to name the targets, citing concerns for their safety.

“We see instances in which people … are targeted prior to their arrest,” Anderson said. “We see a continuous alignment across these actions.”

The researchers said they also found evidence that the hackers took advantage of a programming interface built into Telegram to identify at least 15 million Iranian phone numbers with Telegram accounts registered to them, as well as the associated user IDs. That information could provide a map of the Iranian user base that could be useful for future attacks and investigations, they said.

“A systematic de-anonymization and classification of people who employ encryption tools (of some sort, at least) for an entire nation” has never been exposed before, Guarnieri said.

Ra said Telegram has blocked similar “mapping” attempts in the past and was trying to improve its detection and blocking strategies.

Cyber experts say Iranian hackers have become increasingly sophisticated, able to adapt to evolving social media habits. Rocket Kitten’s targets included members of the Saudi royal family, Israeli nuclear scientists, NATO officials and Iranian dissidents, U.S.-Israeli security firm Check Point said last November.

Popular in the Middle East
Telegram was founded in 2013 by Pavel Durov, known for starting VKontakte, Russia’s version of Facebook, before fleeing the country under pressure from the government.

While Facebook and Twitter are banned in Iran, Telegram is widely used by groups across the political spectrum. They shared content on Telegram “channels” and urged followers to vote ahead of Iran’s parliamentary elections in February 2016.

Last October, Durov wrote in a post on Twitter that Iranian authorities had demanded the company provide them with “spying and censorship tools.” He said Telegram ignored the request and was blocked for two hours on Oct. 20, 2015.

Ra said the company has not changed its stance on censorship and does not maintain any servers in Iran.

After complaints from Iranian activists, Durov wrote on Twitter in April that people in “troubled countries” should set passwords for added security.

Amir Rashidi, an internet security researcher at the New York-based International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, has worked with Iranian hacking victims. He said he knew of Telegram users who were spied on even after they had set passwords.

Ra said that in those cases the recovery email had likely been hacked.

Anderson and Guarnieri will present their findings at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas on Thursday. Their complete research is set to be published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington-based think tank, later this year.

© Thomson Reuters 2016

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Tags: Apps, Cyber Security, Encryption, Hack, Hacking, Reuters, Telegram