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Saturday, September 23, 2017

Anatomy Of An Account Takeover Attack

How organized crime rings are amassing bot armies for password-cracking attacks on personal accounts in retail, financial, gaming, and other consumer-facing services. Account takeover attacks (ATO) are a very lucrative business for cybercriminals.

They fuel the underground fraud-as-a-service economy with compromised accounts, which are sold or exchanged for a variety of downstream attacks involving retailers, financial services, reward programs, mobile games, and other consumer-facing services.

Based on the number of data breaches that took place in 2015, it’s likely that the stolen credentials will be used heavily toward ATO attacks in 2016.  What makes ATO attacks so dangerous is that they target accounts that are created by real users. Unlike mass-registered fake accounts, they contain valuable information such as financial data, and their activities are less likely to raise the suspicion of security solutions.

According to a recent Trend Micro report, a single compromised account is worth upward of $3 each on the underground market.

That’s more than 17 times the price of a stolen credit card number, which is only 22 cents. Compromised takeover accounts are commonly used for financially motivated downstream attacks, including: Financial fraud: Targets are accounts at financial or e-commerce services that store users’ banking details.

The attackers perform unauthorized withdrawal from bank accounts or fraudulent transactions using the credit/debit cards on file. Spam: Spam can appear in any service feature that accepts user-generated content, including discussion forums, direct messages, and reviews/ratings, degrading platform integrity and brand reputation. Phishing: Attackers can assume a compromised user’s identity and launch phishing attacks on others in his/her social circle to steal their credentials, personal information, or sensitive data. Virtual currency fraud: Virtual “currencies” that are worth real money include reward points, promotional credits, and in-game virtual items, which can be harvested for real world gains. ATO Campaigns Organized crime rings are performing account takeover at scale by leveraging massive bot armies to attempt password-cracking attacks at various consumer-facing websites. Just how big are these armies? In a mass ATO attack the DataVisor team recently discovered at a large retailer website, bot armies made more than 300,000 login attempts from thousands of IP addresses in the course of a single day.

Each IP address was used to attempt logins to approximately 100 distinct user accounts, with a different browser cookie used for every login, likely to skirt security solutions based on device tracking.

The map below shows the geographic distribution of the attacking IPs, which are located in residential networks from all over the world. Map of IPs from a widely-distributed “password cracking” botnet attack.     The vast majority of the attempts involved accounts that all had valid email addresses registered at this particular retailer.

The success rate of the login attempts was not very high, only 8%, so it is likely the attacker obtained the usernames from third-party data breaches. Users that have weak passwords or reuse them at other services are especially at risk (as shown by the recent attack on Fitbit accounts). Putting Compromised Accounts into Action After the initial ATO stage of the attack, the same attackers looked to immediately put these stolen credentials to use.
In this particular attack, DataVisor detected attempts to validate stolen credit card numbers by testing them within the compromised users’ payment profile page, an attack we refer to as an “oracle test.” If the credit card is invalid or known to be compromised or stolen, the site will reject the card and display a warning message.

This feedback essentially turns the service into an online credit card “oracle” where fraudsters can verify their bulk card purchases from the underground market.

This is similar to the attack technique used by botmasters to query public IP blacklists to check whether their spamming bot2s are blacklisted. Image Source: DataVisorAn example of a credit card “oracle” test. Beyond Financial Accounts Compromised accounts are exploited for financial gain, but it’s not only retailers or financial services that are vulnerable and at risk.

There are plenty of virtual “currencies” that are worth real money, including reward points that can be converted into merchandise, flights, hotel stays, and gift cards, virtual items in online games that can be sold (sometimes for hundreds of thousands of dollars), and social reputation that can be exploited to boost business sales or ad revenue.

This makes most, if not all, consumer-facing services prime targets for ATO attacks. As the saying goes, “money isn’t everything,” and these attacks can impact more than just the financials for modern online services. With consumers becoming more conscious about their online security and privacy, the impact of ATO to brand name reputation is especially harmful, and will likely to affect user growth and revenue in the long term.  Find out more about security threats at Interop 2016, May 2-6, at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center, Las Vegas. Register today and receive an early bird discount of $200. Ting-Fang Yen is a research scientist at DataVisor, Inc., a startup providing big data security analytics for consumer-facing web and mobile sites.

Before DataVisor, she was threat scientist at E8 Security and principal research scientist at RSA.

Ting-Fang received a PhD ...
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Mobile malware evolution 2015

The year in figures In 2015, Kaspersky Lab detected the following: 2,961,727 malicious installation packages 884,774 new malicious mobile programs – a threefold increase from the previous year 7,030 mobile banking Trojans Trends of the year Rise in the number of malicious attachments the user is unable to delete. Cybercriminals actively using phishing windows to conceal legitimate apps. Growth in the volume of ransomware. Programs using super-user rights to display aggressive advertising. Increase in the quantity of malware for iOS. Main methods of monetization Mobile malware continues to evolve towards monetization, with malware authors trying to ensure their creations are capable of making money from their victims. Stealing money from user bank accounts Mobile Trojans targeting user bank accounts continue to develop – in 2015, we detected 7,030 new mobile banking Trojans. Some malicious mobile programs work in combination with Windows-based Trojans to capture mTAN passwords (one-time passwords used in two-factor authentication) that are used for authorizing bank transactions. Many of the other mobile programs used to steal money from user bank accounts operate independently. Some mobile malware is capable of overlaying the on-screen display of a legitimate banking app with that of a phishing window that imitates the app.

The most notable examples of this type of program are Trojan Trojan-SMS.AndroidOS.OpFake.cc and the representatives of the Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Acecard family. One of the OpFake.cc modifications can imitate the interface of more than 100 legitimate banking and finance apps.

The Acecard family can imitate at least 30 banking apps and also has functionality to overlay any app that the C&C server commands. In Q2 2015, we wrote about Trojan-Spy.AndroidOS.SmsThief.fc whose malicious code was embedded in a legitimate banking app without affecting its performance.

This meant it was highly unlikely a user would notice the malware. The authors of mobile malware are taking an increasingly integrated approach to stealing money: it is no longer limited to special banking Trojans targeting banking apps. An example of this approach is Trojan-SMS.AndroidOS.FakeInst.ep. What the users see is a message, purportedly from Google, demanding that they open Google Wallet and go through an ‘identification’ procedure that involves entering their credit card details (one of the reasons given is the need to combat cybercrime).

The window cannot be removed until the victim enters their credit card details. Once users enter the required data, it is sent to attackers, and the window closes. Meanwhile, the Trojan continues to steal information and send additional information to its owners about the smartphone and its user. Against a background of slowing growth in the number of specialized banking Trojans, the total number of apps that can steal money from users is growing.

This comes at a time when banking Trojans are becoming more sophisticated and versatile – they are often capable of attacking customers of dozens of banks located in a variety of countries.

This means cybercriminals do not need lots of different files to attack the customers of different banks. Ransomware The amount of Trojan-Ransom families doubled in 2015 compared to the previous year, while the number of detected modifications increased 3.5 times.

This means some criminals are switching to ransomware to steal money, and those who were already doing so are continuing to create new versions of the malware. Yet another key indicator confirming the importance of this class of threat is the number of people who were attacked: in 2015, this figure increased fivefold. In most cases when these Trojans block a device, the user is accused of committing some alleged misdemeanor, and has to pay to unblock the device – the ransom can range from $12 to $100.

The blocked device is rendered inoperable – the user only sees a window with the ransom demand. Some Trojans are capable of overlaying system dialog boxes, including those used to switch off the phone. The window opened by Fusob At the end of the year we detected several Trojan downloaders that downloaded Trojan-Ransom.AndroidOS.Pletor in the system.

These Trojan downloaders exploit vulnerabilities in the system to gain super-user privileges on the device and install Trojan-Ransom malware in the system folder. Once installed, this Trojan is almost impossible to remove. SMS Trojans remained a serious threat, particularly in Russia.

These programs send paid text messages from an infected device without the user being aware.

Although their share in the overall flow of mobile threats continues to decline, the number of SMS Trojans in absolute terms remains substantial. Some SMS Trojans are not limited to the sending of text messages to premium numbers; they can also connect the user to paid subscriptions.
In 2015, we kept track of how Trojan-SMS.AndroidOS.Podec – still one of the most popular Trojans among cybercriminals – was developing.

This Trojan boasts an unusual feature: its main method of monetization is paid subscriptions.
It is capable of bypassing Captcha, and its latest modifications have “lost” the ability to send text messages as its creators have focused on subscriptions. Aggressive advertising In 2015, we recorded an increase in the number of programs that use advertising as the main means of monetization.

The trend of the year was Trojans using super-user privileges.
In the first quarter of 2015, the mobile malware TOP 20 contained just one Trojan of this type; by the end of the year they made up more than half of the rating.

Despite the fact that these Trojans are designed to download and install advertising applications without the user’s knowledge, they can cause a lot of problems. Once installed, they try to root the device and install their own components in the system making them difficult to remove. Some of them remain on a smartphone even after resetting to factory settings.

As a result, the user is inundated with annoying ads on the device.

They can also install lots of other programs, including malware, on the device without the user being aware.

There have been cases of this type of program being distributed in the official firmware of devices or being pre-installed on new phones. Malware in official stores In early October 2015 we came across several Trojans in the official Google Play Store that stole user passwords from the Russian social network VKontakte.

These were Trojan-PSW.AndroidOS.MyVk.a and Trojan-PSW.AndroidOS.Vkezo.a.

About a month later we detected a new modification of the Trojan Vkezo which was also distributed via Google Play Store.

The attackers published these Trojans 10 times in the official app store under different names over a period of several months.

The number of downloads for all versions of these Trojans was put at between 100 000 and 500 000. Yet another Trojan detected in Google Play Store was Trojan-Downloader.AndroidOS.Leech; it was also downloaded between 100 000 and 500 000 times. Malware for iOS In 2015, the number of malicious programs for iOS increased 2.1 times compared to 2014. The recent emergence of malicious apps in the App Store once again demonstrated that, contrary to popular belief, iOS is not invulnerable to malware.

The attackers did not hack App Store, but instead posted a malicious version of Apple’s Xcode, a free set of tools that developers use to create applications for iOS, on the Internet. Apple’s Xcode is officially distributed by Apple, but it is unofficially spread by third parties. Some Chinese vendors prefer to download the development tools from local servers. Someone posted an Xcode version containing malicious XcodeGhost on a third-party server in China. Malicious code is embedded in any application compiled using this version of Xcode. XcodeGhost infected dozens of applications.
Initially it was thought that 39 infected apps had bypassed the Apple testing procedure and had been successfully downloaded to the App Store.

The most popular of them was WeChat, a free messenger installed on more than 700 million user devices.

Apple removed the infected apps. However, the hacked version of Xcode was available for about six months, so the total number of infected applications might be much higher, not least because the source code for XcodeGhost was published on Github. In early June, Trojan.IphoneOS.FakeTimer.a, a malicious program for iPhone, was detected.

The Trojan targets users in Japan and can be installed on any iPhone because the attackers used an enterprise certificate to sign the Trojan.

The malicious program uses phishing techniques to steal money.

A similar version of the Trojan for Android – Trojan.AndroidOS.FakeTimer.a.that – has already been around for several years. Statistics In 2015, the volume of mobile malware continued to grow.

From 2004 to 2013 we detected nearly 200,000 samples of malicious mobile code.
In 2014 there were 295,539 new programs, while the number was 884,774 in 2015.

These figures do not tell the whole story because each malware sample has several installation packages: in 2015, we detected 2,961,727 malicious installation packages. From the beginning of January till the end of December 2015, Kaspersky Lab registered nearly 17 million attacks by malicious mobile software and protected 2,634,967 unique users of Android-based devices. The number of attacks blocked by Kaspersky Lab solutions, 2015 The number of users protected by Kaspersky Lab solutions, 2015 Geography of mobile threats Attacks by malicious mobile software were recorded in more than 200 countries. The geography of mobile threats by number of attacked users, 2015 The number of recorded attacks greatly depends on the number of users in a country.

To evaluate the danger of infection by mobile malware in various countries we calculated the percentage of our users who encountered malicious applications in 2015. TOP 10 countries by the percentage of attacked users Country % of attacked users* 1 China 37 2 Nigeria 37 3 Syria 26 4 Malaysia 24 5 Ivory Coast 23 6 Vietnam 22 7 Iran 21 8 Russia 21 9 Indonesia 19 10 Ukraine 19 * We excluded those countries in which the number of users of Kaspersky Lab mobile security products over the reported period was less than 25,000.** The percentage of attacked unique users as a percentage of all users of Kaspersky Lab mobile security products in the country China and Nigeria topped the ranking, with 37% of users of Kaspersky Lab mobile security products in those countries encountering a mobile threat at least once during the year. Most of the attacks on users in Nigeria were carried out by advertising Trojans such as the Ztrorg, Leech, and Rootnik families that make use of super-user privileges, as well as by adware. In China, a significant proportion of the attacks also involved advertising Trojans, but the majority of users encountered the RiskTool.AndroidOS.SMSreg family.

Careless use of these programs can lead to money being withdrawn from a mobile account. Types of mobile malware Over the reporting period, the number of new AdWare and RiskTool files detected grew significantly.

As a result, their share in the distribution of new mobile malware by type also increased noticeably – from 19.6% and 18.4% to 41.4% and 27.4%, respectively. Distribution of new mobile malware by type in 2014 and 2015 When distributing adware programs, rather primitive methods are used to attract the attention of users to the advertisements: apps are created using the icons and names of popular games or useful programs. Of course, there are lots of popular games and legitimate applications, so a lot of fake advertising apps can be generated.

The more fake applications that are used, the more effective the monetization of click activity is. Yet another way of distributing adware is by embedding an advertising module in a legitimate application.

This can be done by the author of the application as well as by those who want to make money by exploiting an app’s popularity: when the advertising module is embedded in a clean app without the author’s knowledge, the profits from advertising go to those who added the advert, not the author. Unlike fake apps, this complex app contains some useful functionality. The growth in the volume of adware is caused by the increasing competition among developers of these programs.

The legitimate programs that use various advertising modules are often too aggressive.
Increasingly, advertising modules are delivering as much advertising as possible to the user in a variety of ways, including the installation of new adware programs. Sometimes the adware programs installed on a device can make it almost impossible to use because the user is constantly fighting with advertising windows. RiskTool programs are especially popular in China.

This is because SMS payments for content are very popular in the country.

Almost any game that includes so-called internal purchases (for additional levels of a game, for example) contains an SMS payment module.
In most cases, the user is notified about the potential risks associated with such purchases, but we also consider it necessary to inform our users about the risks.

Because the games in question are popular, the number of RiskTool applications is constantly increasing.

The main contributor to that growth was the RiskTool.AndroidOS.SMSReg family of programs. Although AdWare and RiskTool programs do not cause direct harm to users, they can be very irritating, while RiskTool programs installed on mobile devices can lead to financial losses if used carelessly or manipulated by a cybercriminal. The proportion of SMS Trojans in the overall flow of mobile threats decreased almost 2.4 times – from 20.5% to 8.7%. However, in 2015 we detected even more new SMS Trojans than in 2014.

Activity by this type of malicious program dropped drastically in mid-2014.

This was the result of an AoC (Advice-of-Charge) system being introduced by Russian operators that led to a reduction in the number of so-called affiliate programs distributing SMS Trojans, the majority of which targeted users in Russia. Top 20 malicious mobile programs Please note that the ranking of malicious programs below does not include potentially unwanted programs such as RiskTool or AdWare. Name % of all attacked users* 1 DangerousObject.Multi.Generic 44.2 2 Trojan-SMS.AndroidOS.Podec.a 11.2 3 Trojan-Downloader.AndroidOS.Leech.a 8.0 4 Trojan.AndroidOS.Ztorg.a 7.6 5 Trojan.AndroidOS.Rootnik.d 6.9 6 Exploit.AndroidOS.Lotoor.be 6.1 7 Trojan-SMS.AndroidOS.OpFake.a 5.6 8 Trojan-Spy.AndroidOS.Agent.el 4.0 9 Trojan.AndroidOS.Guerrilla.a 3.7 10 Trojan.AndroidOS.Mobtes.b 3.6 11 Trojan-Dropper.AndroidOS.Gorpo.a 3.6 12 Trojan.AndroidOS.Rootnik.a 3.5 13 Trojan.AndroidOS.Fadeb.a 3.2 14 Trojan.AndroidOS.Ztorg.pac 2.8 15 Backdoor.AndroidOS.Obad.f 2.7 16 Backdoor.AndroidOS.Ztorg.c 2.2 17 Exploit.AndroidOS.Lotoor.a 2.2 18 Backdoor.AndroidOS.Ztorg.a 2.0 19 Trojan-Ransom.AndroidOS.Small.o 1.9 20 Trojan.AndroidOS.Guerrilla.b 1.8 * Percentage of users attacked by the malware in question, relative to all users attacked First place is occupied by DangerousObject.Multi.Generic (44.2%), used in malicious programs detected by cloud technologies.

Cloud technologies work when the antivirus database contains neither the signatures nor heuristics to detect a malicious program, but the cloud of the antivirus company already contains information about the object.

This is basically how the very latest malware is detected. Trojan-SMS.AndroidOS.Stealer.a, which was the TOP 20 leader in 2014, came 28th in 2015. Four places in the TOP 20 are occupied by Trojans that steal money from mobile or bank accounts as their main method of monetization.

They are Trojan-SMS.AndroidOS.Podec.a, Trojan-SMS.AndroidOS.OpFake.a, Trojan.AndroidOS.Mobtes.b and Backdoor.AndroidOS.Obad.f.

Trojan-SMS.AndroidOS.Podec.a (11.2%) is in second place.

This Trojan remained among the top three most popular mobile threats throughout 2015.

To recap, the latest versions of this Trojan no longer send paid text messages.

The Trojan is now fully focused on paid subscriptions, making use of CAPTCHA recognition.

Trojan-SMS.AndroidOS.OpFake.a (5.6%) in 7th place is another long-term resident of the TOP 20.
In 2014 it finished in 8th place and remained in the rating throughout all of 2015. Yet another Trojan – Trojan-Ransom.AndroidOS.Small.o (1.9%) – blocks the victim’s phone and extorts money to unblock it.

This mobile Trojan-Ransom program was very popular at the end of 2015 and became the only ransomware program to make the TOP 20.
It first appeared in the ranking in the third quarter of 2015 in 11th place; it came 19th in the overall TOP 20 for 2015.

The Trojan mostly spreads as a porn video player and targets Russian-speaking audiences. More than half (12 out of 20) of the entries in the ranking are Trojans that use aggressive advertising as their primary means of monetization.

They are Trojan-Downloader.AndroidOS.Leech.a, Trojan-Spy.AndroidOS.Agent.el, Trojan-Dropper.AndroidOS.Gorpo.a, Trojan.AndroidOS.Fadeb.a, and two modifications each of Trojan.AndroidOS.Guerrilla, Trojan.AndroidOS.Rootnik, Trojan.AndroidOS.Ztorg and Backdoor.AndroidOS.Ztorg. Unlike the usual advertising modules, these programs do not contain any useful functionality.

Their goal is to deliver as many adverts as possible to the recipient using a variety of methods, including the installation of new advertising programs.

These Trojans can use super-user privileges to conceal their presence in the system folder, from where it will be very difficult to dislodge them. We have come across such Trojans before, mostly in China.

There was a burst of activity by these programs in 2015: most of them targeting users in China, although these Trojans have started being actively distributed worldwide.

The code of the Trojans often contained the word oversea. The other two places in the TOP 20 are occupied by Exploit.AndroidOS.Lotoor modifications used to obtain local super-user privileges. Mobile banking Trojans In 2015, we detected 7,030 mobile banking Trojans, which is 2.6 times less than in 2014 when 16,586 were detected.
It should be noted that although the number of new malware programs fell from the previous year, these programs have become more adept and malign, and the areas of interest among cybercriminals now includes banks in numerous countries. Many mobile banking Trojans act independently, without any computer component, and target customers of dozens of banks around the world. Number of mobile banking Trojans detected by Kaspersky Lab solutions in 2015 56,194 users were attacked by mobile banking Trojans at least once during the year. Geography of mobile bankers The number of attacked countries is growing: attacks by mobile banking Trojan were registered in 137 countries and territories worldwide vs 90 countries in 2014. Geography of mobile banking threats in 2015 (number of users attacked) Top 10 countries attacked by mobile banking Trojans (ranked by number of users attacked): Country Number of users attacked 1 Russia 45690 2 Germany 1532 3 Ukraine 1206 4 US 967 5 Kazakhstan 804 6 Australia 614 7 South Korea 527 8 France 404 9 Belarus 380 10 Poland 324 As in the previous year, Russia topped the rating of countries attacked by mobile banking Trojans.

Among the newcomers were South Korea, Australia, France and Poland. Lithuania, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria and Uzbekistan left the TOP 10. Just how popular mobile banking Trojans are with cybercriminals in each country can be shown by the percentage of users who were attacked by these Trojans during the reporting period, relative to all attacked users. TOP 10 countries by the percentage of users attacked by mobile banking Trojans relative to all attacked users Country % of all attacked users* 1 South Korea 13.8 2 Australia 8.9 3 Russia 5.1 4 Austria 3.0 5 Belarus 1.9 6 US 1.8 7 Tajikistan 1.7 8 Ukraine 1.6 9 France 1.6 10 Uzbekistan 1.6 * Percentage of users attacked by mobile banking Trojans, relative to all attacked users of Kaspersky Lab’s mobile security products in the country. A substantial portion of mobile banking attacks in South Korea were caused by representatives of the Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Wroba family.

These Trojans are designed to steal mobile bank accounts of the largest Korean banks as well as mTans. In Australia, the Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Acecard family was responsible for most infection attempts.

This family is a new stage in the evolution of Backdoor.AndroidOS.Torec.a, the first Trojan for Android that made use of Tor. We detected this Trojan at the beginning of 2014, while the first banking modifications appeared in mid-2014.

At that time the Trojan was distributed mainly in Russia, and only in 2015 did it begin to spread actively in Australia. One modification, which we detected in November 2015, is able to overlay the interfaces of 24 banking apps with a phishing window.

Five of those apps belong to Australian banks, another four each belong to banks based in Hong Kong, Austria and New Zealand, three each to banks in Germany and Singapore, plus the PayPal app.
In addition, there are modifications which target banks in the US and Russia. Phishing windows of the Acecard Trojan Stealing user logins and passwords by displaying a phishing window instead of the genuine app interface is not a new trick. We first came across it back in 2013 in Trojan-SMS.AndroidOS.Svpeng.
In our IT threat evolution in Q1 2015 report we mentioned Trojan-SMS.AndroidOS.OpFake.cc which was capable of attacking at least 29 banking and financial apps.

The latest modification of this Trojan can now attack 114 banking and financial apps.
Its main goal is to steal the login credentials for bank accounts.
It also overlays the windows of several popular mail applications. In Russia, which ranked third in the TOP 10, Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Faketoken and Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Marcher were the most popular programs used by attackers. Starting in April, we saw a sharp drop in the number of attempts to infect users with representatives of the Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Marcher family.

During the five months from April to August, the number of attacks using this Trojan decreased fivefold.
It is possible that the cybercriminals were preparing attacks on users in other countries during that time, because until September 2015 activity by this family was limited almost exclusively to Russia.

From September, however, about 30% of the attacks using this Trojan targeted users in Australia, Germany and France. The aforementioned Trojan-Spy.AndroidOS.SmsThief.fc was distributed in Russia.

The attackers added their code to the original banking app without affecting its performance, making this Trojan more difficult to detect. Mobile Trojan-Ransom In 2015, the amount of the Trojan-Ransom families doubled compared to 2014.

The number of modifications detected during the same period increased 3.5 times and accounted for 6,924. Over the reporting period, mobile ransomware attacked 94,344 unique users which is five times more than in 2014 (18,478).

The share of unique users attacked by Trojan-Ransom programs relative to all users attacked by mobile malware increased from 1.1% to 3.8% during the year. Mobile ransomware attacks were registered in 156 countries and territories at least once during the year. Geography of mobile ransomware threats in 2015 (number of users attacked) TOP 10 countries attacked by Trojan-Ransom malware by the number of attacked users: Country Number of attacked users 1 Russia 44951 2 Germany 15950 3 Kazakhstan 8374 4 US 5371 5 Ukraine 4250 6 UK 2878 7 Italy 1313 8 Spain 1062 9 Iran 866 10 India 757 Russia, Germany and Kazakhstan were the countries attacked most often by ransomware. In Russia and Kazakhstan, the Trojan-Ransom.AndroidOS.Small family was most active, in particular the modification Trojan-Ransom.AndroidOS.Small.o, the most popular Trojan-Ransom program in 2015. The Trojan-Ransom.AndroidOS.Pletor family also remained very popular in 2015.
Interestingly, this first mobile encryptor Trojan was developed by the same group of cybercriminals as Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Acecard. In Germany, Trojan-Ransom.AndroidOS.Fusob was the most actively distributed family. Windows opened by the Fusob Trojan The US came fourth in the ranking.

The Trojan-Ransom.AndroidOS.Fusob family was especially popular in the country, although the Trojan-Ransom.AndroidOS.Svpeng family was also actively used. This ranking depends to a large extent on the number of users in each country, so it is interesting to view a rating that shows the proportion of users attacked by Trojan-Ransom malware relative to all attacked users in the country. TOP 10 countries attacked by Trojan-Ransom malware – share of users relative to all attacked users in the country. Country % of all attacked users* 1 Kazakhstan 15.1 2 Germany 14.5 3 US 10.3 4 Canada 8.9 5 Netherlands 8.8 6 UK 8.3 7 Switzerland 6.9 8 Austria 6.4 9 Ukraine 5.9 10 Australia 5.5 * Percentage of users attacked by Trojan-Ransom malware, relative to all attacked users of Kaspersky Lab’s mobile security products in the country Russia, which accounted for the largest number of attacked users, was not in the TOP 10.

The leaders of the ranking were Kazakhstan, Germany and the US. Conclusion Despite the fact that the first advertising Trojans exploiting super-user privileges for their own purposes appeared a few years ago, in 2015 their number increased substantially and started spreading rapidly.
In the first quarter of 2015 the most popular threats included just one Trojan of this type, but by the end of the year these programs accounted for more than half of the TOP 20.

They are distributed using all available means – via other advertising programs, via app stores and can be even pre-installed in some devices.

The number of advertising Trojans using super-user privileges will most likely continue to grow in 2016. We have already seen cases when advertising Trojans were used to spread malicious mobile programs.

There is every reason to believe that attackers will increasingly use these Trojans to infect mobile devices with malware. We also came across cases where super-user privileges were utilized by other types of malware, especially ransomware. Trojan-Ransom malware is likely to continue evolving in 2016. We expect the popularity of these programs among attackers to grow and their global reach to increase. Another type of Trojan that we intend to continue monitoring closely in 2016 is Trojan-Banker.

There are already lots of banking Trojans that do not require additional software on the victim’s computer.

These Trojans operate independently, and only need to infect the user’s phone to steal his money.

They are able to steal logins and passwords for mobile banking accounts by overlaying the legitimate banking app interfaces with a phishing window.

The Trojans can also steal credit card data using phishing windows.
In addition, they have functionality to intercept communications between a client and a bank – stealing incoming text messages and forwarding calls to the attacker.
In 2016, banking Trojans will attack even more banking institutions and will use new distribution channels and new data theft technologies. As the functionality of mobile devices and mobile services grows, the appetite of cybercriminals who profit from mobile malware will grow too. Malware authors will continue to improve their creations, develop new technologies and look for new ways of spreading mobile malware.

Their main aim is to make money.
In these circumstances, neglecting to protect your mobile devices is extremely risky.

Ransomware Scum Add Joomla To Their List

'Admedia' campaign decides the world of WordPress is not enough.


Bwahahahaha! The Internet Storm Center (ISC) has spotted 'admedia attacks' breaking out of their original WordPress vectors. According to a post late last week, the ISC (courtesy of author Brad Duncan) posted that “the group behind the WordPress 'admedia' campaign” is now attacking Joomla-hosted sites. The other evolution in the campaign, Duncan notes, is that since it was first noticed at the beginning of this month mostly dropping the Nuclear exploit kit on target sites, it's now added Angler. Duncan, who is also a security researcher at Rackspace, also notes that the attackers have started using “megaadvertize” in their gateway URLs (instead of “admedia” as was used when the attack was first spotted). The technique, however, stays the same: the target site is compromised to generate hidden iframes in visitors' browsers, and the malicious URLs act as a “gate between the compromised Website and the EK [exploit kit – The Register] server”. The overall process, however, remains the same.

For example: - img.belayamorda.info - admedia gate; - ssd.summerspellman.com - Angler EK - clothdiapersexpert.com - TeslaCrypt callback traffic As before, Duncan writes, a script injection was the initial attack, with the JavaScript files from the compromised site carrying appended malicious scripts.

From there it's a short walk to ransomware hell. ® Sponsored: Building secure multi-factor authentication

The Evolution of Acecard

While working on the IT Threat Evolution report for Q3 2015, we discovered that Australia had become the leading country in terms of number of users attacked by mobile banker Trojans. We decided to find out what was behind this jump in activity and managed to identify the cause: Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Acecard.

This family accounted for almost all the banker Trojan attacks in Australia. After analyzing all the known malware modifications in this family, we established that they attack a large number of different applications.
In particular, the targets include nine official social media apps that the Trojan attacks in order to steal passwords.

Two other apps are targeted by the Trojan for their credit card details.

But most interestingly, the list includes nearly 50 financial apps (client software for leading global payment systems and banks) and services, and the various modifications of Acecard make use of all the tools at their disposal to attack them – from stealing bank text messages to overlaying official app windows with phishing messages. Here is another interesting fact that we established while investigating the Trojan: the modifications of Acecard were written by the same cybercriminals who earlier created Backdoor.AndroidOS.Torec.a, the first TOR Trojan for Android, as well as Trojan-Ransom.AndroidOS.Pletor.a, the first encryptor for mobile devices.

All three Trojans run on Android. How it all started Given Acecard’s growing popularity and the rich criminal past of its creators, we decided to delve deeper into the history of this malware family. It all started with Backdoor.AndroidOS.Torec.a.

The first version of this malicious program was detected in February 2014 and could perform the following commands from the C&C server: #intercept_sms_start – start intercepting incoming SMSs; #intercept_sms_stop – stop intercepting incoming SMSs; #ussd – create a USSD request; #listen_sms_start – start stealing incoming SMSs; #listen_sms_stop – stop stealing incoming SMSs; #check – send information about the phone (phone number, country of residence, IMEI, model, OS version) to C&C; #grab_apps – send a list of applications installed on the mobile device to the C&C; #send_sms – send an SMS to numbers specified in the command; #control_number – change the phone’s control number. Then, in April 2014, a new version emerged with more capabilities.

The additional commands were: #check_gps – send the device’s coordinates to the C&C; #block_numbers – add numbers to the SMS interception list; #unblock_all_numbers – clear the SMS interception list; #unblock_numbers – remove specified numbers from the SMS interception list; #sentid – send an SMS with the Trojan’s ID to a specified number. In late May 2014, we detected the first mobile encryptor, Trojan-Ransom.AndroidOS.Pletor.a.
It encrypted files on the device and demanded a ransom for them to be decrypted. Some modifications of Pletor used TOR to communicate with the C&C. A month later, we detected a new modification, Backdoor.AndroidOS.Torec. Unlike previous versions, it did not use TOR and targeted credit card details: the Trojan overlaid the official Google Play Store app with a phishing window that included data entry fields. We assigned the verdict Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Acecard.a to this modification, and classified it as a separate family of malware.

From that moment on, all new versions of the Trojan have been detected as belonging to the Acecard family. An analysis and comparison of the code used in Backdoor.AndroidOS.Torec.a, Trojan-Ransom.AndroidOS.Pletor.a and Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Acecard.a has shown they were all written by the same cybercriminals. Here are some clear examples: Code from the SmsProcessor class of the Trojan Backdoor.AndroidOS.Torec.a Code from the SmsProcessor class of Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Acecard.a Code from the SmsProcessor class of Trojan-Ransom.AndroidOS.Pletor.a Here is another example: Code from the SmsProcessor class of the Trojan Backdoor.AndroidOS.Torec.a Code from the SmsProcessor class of Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Acecard.a Code from the SmsProcessor class of Trojan-Ransom.AndroidOS.Pletor.a A lot of the class, method and variable names are the same for all three Trojans.

The code of the corresponding methods is either the same or very similar with only minor differences. Acecard’s progress The initial Trojan, Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Acecard.a, could only handle four commands sent from the C&C: #intercept_sms_start – start intercepting incoming SMSs; #intercept_sms_stop – stop intercepting incoming SMSs; #send_sms – send an SMS to the number specified in the command; #control_number – change the phone’s control number. The next modification of Acecard was detected in late August 2014 and used the TOR network for C&C communication, just like the earlier Pletor.

Besides that, we identified two more differences.

Firstly, the list of supported commands had grown to 15; nearly all of these commands had been seen before in earlier versions of the Trojan Torec: #intercept_sms_start – start intercepting incoming SMSs; #intercept_sms_stop – stop intercepting incoming SMSs; #ussd – create a USSD request; #check_gps – send the device’s coordinates to the C&C; #block_numbers – add numbers to the list of senders from which SMSs will be intercepted; #unblock_all_numbers – clear the SMS interception list; #unblock_numbers – remove specified numbers from the SMS interception list; #listen_sms_start – start stealing incoming SMSs; #listen_sms_stop – stop stealing incoming SMSs; #check – send the Trojan’s ID to the C&C; #grab_apps – send the list of applications installed on the mobile device to the C&C; #send_sms – send an SMS to the number specified in the command; #control_number – change the phone’s control number; #sentid – send an SMS with the Trojan’s ID to a specified number; #show_dialog – show a dialog window to the user with specific objects (data entry fields, buttons etc.) depending on the C&C command parameters. The second difference was the number of phishing windows.

Along with the official Google Play Store app, this Trojan now overlaid the display of the following apps with its own windows: IM services: WhatsApp, Viber, Instagram, Skype; The apps of the VKontakte, Odnoklassniki and Facebook social networks The Gmail client The official Twitter client In the second half of October 2014, we detected the next modification of Acecard.
It no longer used TOR (neither have any of the versions of the Trojan subsequently detected). However, there was another, more important difference: starting with this version of the Trojan, there have been dramatic changes in the geography of the targeted users.

The earlier versions mostly attacked users in Russia, but starting in October 2014 the bulk of Acecard attacks targeted users in Australia, Germany and France. Russia accounted for just 10% of the attacked users.

This trend continued for another four months, until February 2015, but even then Australia, Germany and France still remained among the most frequently attacked countries. At the same time, the geography of Pletor attacks remained largely unchanged: most attacks targeted, and continue to target, users in Russia and the US.

The TOP 5 most attacked countries also includes Ukraine, Belarus and Saudi Arabia. A new modification of Acecard emerged in mid-November 2014.

As well as stealing passwords from popular social network clients, it started to overlay the banking app of Australia’s most popular bank with a phishing window. Just two days later, we managed to detect another modification of this Trojan that was already attacking the apps of four Australian banks. This functionality has persisted up to the very latest Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Acecard modifications that we detect. This version of Acecard also checks the country code and the service provider code as it launches, and if it finds itself in Russia, it shuts down.

This check is carried out in almost all subsequent modifications.
Interestingly, similar changes to Trojan-Ransom.AndroidOS.Pletor only took place in late March 2015, and did not extend to all versions of the malware. For the next nine months, there was practically no change in the functionality of the new Acecard modifications that emerged, until early August 2015 when we detected a new version that was capable of overlaying the PayPal mobile app with its own phishing window. There was also a new command that this version could perform – #wipe. When this command is received, Acecard resets the mobile device to factory settings. It should be noted that there has been a dramatic increase in Acecard developer activity since June 2015.

Before, we typically identified 2-5 files a month related to this Trojan; since June we have detected around 20 files per month. Number of Acecard files detected each month The graph above shows the number of files associated with the banking Trojan Acecard that are detected each month; these include both the modifications of Acecard and related files, such as downloader Trojans.

The dramatic rise in file numbers detected in November and especially December is down to the malware writers making active use of a commercial code obfuscator and the emergence of obfuscated versions of the Trojan. Also at this time, there was an increase in the number of attacks using this malicious program. The number of unique users attacked by Acecard per month In the first half of September, we detected a new modification of Acecard.
Its new capabilities included overlaying the windows of more mobile banking apps, including those of one Australian bank, four New Zealand banks and three German banks. It means this modification of the Trojan is capable of overlaying 20 apps – including 13 banking apps – with a phishing window. The subsequent development of Acecard’s “banking business” then got even faster: The next modification emerged just several days later, and was capable of overlaying as many as 20 banking applications.

The list of targeted apps grew to include another app belonging to an Australian bank, four apps for Hong Kong banks and three for Austrian banks. In late September, a new modification came out with a new functionality: the malicious program included a list of bank phone numbers, so text messages arriving from those banks are redirected to the cybercriminal.

The Trojan has a list of phrases, so it can compare incoming text messages and identify those with verification codes for bank operations or registration, and send just the code to the cybercriminal, rather than the full SMS.

This version of Acecard intercepts SMSs from 17 Russian banks. Early October saw the emergence of a new modification that attacked the banking apps of the three largest US banks.
Interestingly, from the very start, the US has been among the TOP 10 countries most often attacked by this Trojan; however, December 2015 saw a dramatic rise in the number of attacks on US users.
In that month, the US came third in terms of the number of unique users attacked by this malware. In mid-October, a new modification appeared capable of overlaying as many as 24 financial applications, including apps belonging to five Australian banks, four Hong Kong banks, four Austrian banks, four New Zealand banks, three German banks, three Singapore banks, and the PayPal app. A new modification was detected in early November that has a phishing window that targets an app belonging to a Spanish bank. It should also be noted that virtually all versions of Acecard can handle a C&C command that orders the Trojan to overlay any specified app with its own window. Perhaps the cybercriminals thought this option was more promising, because many of the versions detected in November and December 2015 have a dedicated window that only overlays Google Play and Google Music apps to target credit card details. No other applications will be overlaid without first receiving the appropriate C&C command. The most recent versions of the Acecard family can attack the client applications of more than 30 banks and payment systems.

Considering that these Trojans are capable of overlaying any application upon command, the overall number of attacked financial applications may be much larger. Although the Trojans belonging to this family can attack users from a long list of countries, most attacks target users in Russia, Australia, Germany, Austria and France. Number of unique users attacked by country In Germany and Australia, the Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Acecard family is the most widespread type of mobile banker Trojan targeting users. Propagation In many countries, Trojans belonging to the Acecard family are typically distributed with the names Flash Player or PornoVideo, although other names are sometimes used in a bid to imitate useful and popular software.

This malware family also propagates with the help of downloader Trojans that are detected by Kaspersky Lab’s products as Trojan-Downloader.AndroidOS.Acecard. We should note that on 28 December we were able to spot a version of the Acecard downloader Trojan – Trojan-Downloader.AndroidOS.Acecard.b – in the official Google Play Store. A Trojan-Downloader.AndroidOS.Acecard.b page in Google Play Store The Trojan propagates under the guise of a game, but in reality it has no useful functionality.

The main goal of this malicious app is to download and install a fully functional modification of the banking Trojan Acecard.
Its creators didn’t even bother to make it look like a legitimate application: when the malware is installed from Google Play, the user will only see an Adobe Flash Player icon on the desktop screen. We have also been able to detect a new modification of the downloader Trojan, Trojan-Downloader.AndroidOS.Acecard.c.
It differs in that the Trojan, once launched, uses vulnerabilities in the system to gain super-user rights. With these privileges – Trojan-Downloader.AndroidOS.Acecard.c can install the banking Trojan Acecard into the system folder, which makes it impossible to delete using standard tools. However, in most cases this propagation method is used to spread another Trojan that we are already familiar with – Trojan-Ransom.AndroidOS.Pletor. The cybercriminals are using virtually every available method to propagate the banking Trojan Acecard, be it under the guise of another program, via official app stores, or via other Trojans.

This combination of propagation methods, which includes the exploitation of vulnerabilities in the operating system, along with Acecard’s capabilities make this mobile banker one of the most dangerous threats to users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

A Proactive Approach To Incident Response: 7 Benefits

How implementing a digital forensic readiness program maximizes the value of digital evidence. The concept of digital forensic readiness focuses on two basic principles: 1) to maximize an organization's ability to gather digital evidence and 2) to minimize the cost of investigations.
Instead of the traditional reactive response to security incidents, digital forensic readiness acknowledges the fact that events will occur, and helps to make the most efficient use of electronically stored information (ESI) to mitigate data loss and risk. Here are six examples of how digital forensic readiness can enhance an organization’s proactive approach to incident response. Benefit 1: Lower Investigative Costs By operating on the expectation that events will occur, organizations can minimize business disruption by simplifying the focus of their investigative workflow specific to analysis and presentation activities. Benefit 2: Targeted Security Monitoring In “response mode,” the effectiveness of security controls is limited to notification, containment, and remediation capabilities. However, when using a proactive approach, there is greater opportunity to implement targeted security monitoring that identifies and mitigates a much wider range of cyber threats before they escalate into serious incidents. Benefit 3: Crime Deterrence Coupled with contextual intelligence, digital forensic readiness increases an organization’s ability to detect malicious activity and reduce the potential of an incident occurring.  Going forward, when a proactive approach comes more widely adopted, bad actors will be less likely to commit malicious activities because their probability of being caught will be higher.  Benefit 4: Investor Confidence With a good information management framework in place, organizations can demonstrate their ability to conduct incident prevention and response.

Displaying this level of maturity not only provides a sense of security and protection, but gives investors more confidence in the organization’s ability to minimize threats. Benefit 5: Enhanced eDiscovery International laws relating to eDiscovery, such as the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (United States), Rules of Civil Procedure (Canada), or the Practice Direction 31B (United Kingdom), require that digital evidence be provided quickly and in a forensically sound manner. Meeting this requirement involves activities such as incident response, data retention, disaster recovery, and business continuity policies, all of which are enhanced through a digital forensic readiness program. Benefit 6: Fast Disclosure & Penalty Avoidance Regulatory authorities and law enforcement agencies may require the immediate release or disclosure of electronically stored information (ESI) at any time.

An organization’s failure to produce the requested ESI can result in financial penalties. With a digital forensic readiness program in place for information management, data retention, disaster recovery, and business continuity, organizations can process and present forensically sound ESI in a timely manner. Benefit 7: You’re Probably Already Doing It Organizations may not realize it, but some of these activities are already being performed today --  for example, preserving digital information in a Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) solution.

The bottom line is that implementing a digital forensic readiness program will be a “win-win” situation because it complements and enhances the overall information security program and strategies.  This article was sourced from the forthcoming book by Jason Sachowski, titled “Implementing Digital Forensic Readiness: From Reactive To Proactive Process,” available now at the Elsevier Store and other online retailers. More on this topic: Find out more about security threats at Interop 2016, May 2-6, at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center, Las Vegas. Register today and receive an early bird discount of $200. Jason is an Information Security professional with over 10 years of experience. He is currently the Director of Security Forensics & Civil Investigations within the Scotiabank group.

Throughout his career at Scotiabank, he has been responsible for digital investigations, ...
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Beware of Backdoored Linux Mint ISOs

Background Yesterday a blog post on “The Linux Mint Blog” caught our attention.

Apparently criminals managed to compromise a vulnerable instance of WordPress which the project used to run their website.

The attackers modified download links pointing to backdoored ISO files of Linux Mint 17.3 Cinnamon edition.

This “should only impact people who downloaded this edition on February 20th”, the author of the blog stated. We managed to get our hands on the malware embedded in the ISO images. Let’s have a quick look. Malware used The criminals used a simple backdoor, which is controlled via an unencrypted IRC connection. We found five hardcoded C&C addresses.

At the time of writing only one of them was available. We saw approx. 50 connected clients just in this channel called “#mint”: The malware is capable of: running several types of UDP and TCP flooding (used in DDoS attacks) downloading arbitrary files to the victim’s machine executing arbitrary commands on the machine We’re detecting this type of malware as HEUR:Backdoor.Linux.Tsunami.bh. According to user reports, the compromised ISO images come with the backdoor’s C-source code, located in /var/lib/man.cy, which is compiled on first startup to “apt-cache” and is then executed. Activity While monitoring the C&C channel, we saw the criminal sending several SMB-related commands like “smbtree -N” to the connected bots.

Apparently the attacker tries to access SMB/CIFS shares available in the local network of the victims. Conclusion In order to detect this kind of attack, one should use PKI with strong cryptographic signatures to ensure the integrity of downloaded software. Integrity-checks based on file hashes like MD5 or SHA256 are insecure if a project’s website is compromised, since the attacker could also adjust the checksums provided on the website.

Cybercrime And Hacking Atlas

A geographic guide with cybercrime threat and target trends in 10 notable countries. 1 of 11 When we picture hackers at work, it’s easy to get caught up imagining young men quietly working in a dark Dostoevskian garret in a bleak post-Soviet town. Or, rows of uniformed Chinese in a sterile Far Eastern military office.

But are these images realistic? While the former Soviet bloc and China certainly make up their share of global hacking, cybercriminals have a broadly global reach and a great deal of international diversity.

Even though major attacks are increasingly carried out by multinational rings, there is still often a national flair to online crime, and countries in Latin America, Western Europe, and the developing world are all well-represented. Here are some of the notable countries, in no particular order whatsoever. Sources for population and economic data: CIA Factbook and Wikipedia.  Sources for photos: Pixabay Ericka Chickowski specializes in coverage of information technology and business innovation. She has focused on information security for the better part of a decade and regularly writes about the security industry as a contributor to Dark Reading.  View Full Bio 1 of 11 More Insights

The Secret Life Of Stolen Credentials

Bitglass Threat Research Team's Project Cumulus demonstrates what happens when Google Drive credentials are 'stolen.' Everyone knows that stolen credentials can have disastrous effects on people's most critical accounts, but there's often no clear timeline for how exactly criminals put them to use.

That changed this week with a new experiment from researchers with cloud access security broker (CASB) Bitglass, who put together a fictional digital identity and then leaked its credentials to the Dark Web to track the secret life of credentials once they're stolen. This is the second-year running that Bitglass has done a "where's your data?" experiment.

For this one, dubbed Project Cumulus, the Bitglass Threat Research Team created an online persona of an employee for a fictitious bank.

This included creating a phony Google Drive account with fake bank data and files containing real credit card numbers and other data made to look like something someone would produce on the job.

The drive was then tracked using Bitglass watermarks embedded in the files and its CASB technology in monitor-only mode. From there, the team leaked the credentials for the Google Drive in a way that made it appear they were stolen during a larger phishing campaign.

They found there was an immediate spike in activity when the credentials were leaked, with over 1,400 visits recorded to them and to the fictitious bank's Web portal. From there, about 94% of the hackers who accessed the drive in question then also found the victim's other online accounts, including the faked bank Web portal. One in ten of them immediately attempted to log into Google itself with the Google Drive credentials in hand.

And 12% of hackers attempted to download files containing sensitive content, with a handful cracking encrypted files after they were downloaded. "Our second data-tracking experiment reveals the dangers of reusing passwords and shows just how quickly phished credentials can spread, exposing sensitive corporate and personal data," says Nat Kausik, CEO of Bitglass. [Experiment tracked the Dark Web journey of a cache of phony names, SSNs, credit cards, and other personal information. Read What Happens When Personal Information Hits The Dark Web.] Project Cumulus was the next step in Bitglass' experimentation on tracking stolen credentials or documents in the wild. Last year, it leaked watermarked documents and found these files were viewed 200 times in just the first few days of leaking.

At that time, not many attackers used any methods to anonymize their traffic to the documents in question. In stark contrast, this second incarnation had 68% of all logins coming from Tor-anonymized IP addresses. Find out more about security threats at Interop 2016, May 2-6, at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center, Las Vegas. Register today and receive an early bird discount of $200. Ericka Chickowski specializes in coverage of information technology and business innovation. She has focused on information security for the better part of a decade and regularly writes about the security industry as a contributor to Dark Reading.  View Full Bio More Insights

Hollywood Hospital Pays Ransom To Hackers

A Los Angeles hospital has paid $17,000 (£11,800) to hackers after its computer systems were taken offline by ransomware.Systems at Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center had been affected for more than a week.Staff had been forced to carry out some tasks on paper.However, the hospital's chief executive Allen Stefanek, said that the incident had not affected the delivery or quality of patient care.Ransomware is a form of malware which infects a victim's computer, locking it, and demanding that a ransom - often in bitcoins - be paid in order to restore access.Previously, local news sources had reported that the hackers were demanding a ransom payment of $3.4m - but Mr Stefanek denied this."The amount of ransom requested was 40 bitcoins, equivalent to approximately $17,000," he wrote."The quickest and most efficient way to restore our systems and administrative functions was to pay the ransom and obtain the decryption key." All systems currently in use had been cleared of malware and thoroughly tested, he added.Ransomware attacks are increasingly common.Last year, security firm Kaspersky acknowledged what it said was a "bitter fact" - "unless precautions are taken, victims may not be able to recover their data in any other way than by paying the demanded ransom."However, when the English county council for Lincolnshire was faced with a £350 ransomware demand last month, it refused to pay.The council has since told the BBC that all systems have been restored without having to pay off the hackers.

Documentary Claims GCHQ Intel Used To Create Stuxnet

US peppered Iran with thousands of cyberwar weapons The super worm known as Stuxnet was but a cog in an active US war program in which hundreds of thousands of network implants and backdoors in Iran networks were actively maintained to facilitate a devastating barrage of hacking attacks, a documentary claims. Zero Days, due to screen at the Berlin Film Festival today, claims that Stuxnet was just one part of an operation called "Olympic Games" that is itself part of a wider effort dubbed "Nitro Zeus" that involves hundreds of US defence personnel. Nitro Zeus may also involve Israel, the film alleges. Reports from those who've seen or been briefed on the film suggest it alleges that Stuxnet's authors attempted to keep the program covert by restricting the malware to infect only Iranian machines. Forte Mead hackers worked furiously to mop-up infected computers after a leak became apparent. Israeli counterparts reportedly screwed the pooch when they later unleashed a more aggressive and noisier version of Stuxnet that infected thousands of computers across more than 115 countries. The worm was soon discovered in 2010 and promptly analysed - and gaped at askance - by the security industry and media. The film asserts that Stuxnet contained four zero day vulnerabilities and was precision-designed for the Natanz facility using intelligence supplied by Britain's GCHQ. It is not stated in the documentary whether the GCHQ had knowledge of Nitro Zeus, a fact that could breach national laws regarding use of intelligence material in that country. US State Department and National Security Agency officials expressed concern over the likelihood that Nitro Zeus would devastate civilian infrastructure. One unnamed source said Nitro Zeus planners had "no f**king clue" regarding the potential impacts of the attacks. Former CIA and NSA director Michael Hayden says while he had no knowledge of Nitro Zeus the program has prematurely legitimised state-backed network centric warfare before rules of engagement could be agreed. ® Sponsored: Building secure multi-factor authentication

Android Mazar Malware That Can 'Wipe Phones' Spread Via SMS

A Danish security company has detected an attempt to spread a powerful form of Android malware via text messages.Mazar can gain administrator rights on phones, allowing it to wipe handsets, make calls or read texts.However, it...

Hollywood Hospital Held To Ransom By Hackers

Ransomware is a growing menace for computer users - but when a hospital is targeted, it makes the disruption far more serious.Computer systems at Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center have been offline for more than a week following a ransomware attack.According to local news sources, hackers were said to have demanded $3.4m (£2.4m) to provide the codes to unlock the stolen data.The hospital has confirmed the attack took place, but has not commented on the ransom.A voicemail message at the hospital reassures patients that medical records had not been accessed by the hackers.Investigations into the source of the attack - which hospital officials said appeared to be random rather than targeted at the facility - are being conducted by the FBI, Los Angeles Police and computer forensics experts hired by the hospital.The hospital insists that day-to-day operations have not been impacted, although many tasks normally carried out on computer are now being done on paper, much to the frustration of staff.Patients are also being told they must travel to pick up medical test results in person rather than receive them electronically.Ransomware attacks are increasingly common, and are difficult to fully protect against.Malicious software is placed on a computer - often via phishing attacks - and proceed to lock up files.Ransomware will typically try to extort money from the user quickly, saying that if the demand is not met, the files will be deleted.The most common type of ransomware is a malware package known as Cryptolocker, which experts say has infected hundreds of thousands of machines around the world.Last month, the council for the English county of Lincolnshire was hit with a £350 ransomware demand - but it said it refused to pay.Follow Dave Lee on Twitter @DaveLeeBBC or on Facebook