Database of key Dark Web hosting provider hacked- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

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In a classing case of hacker breaking into another hacking service, a cybercriminal has leaked online the database of the largest free web-hosting provider for Dark Web services that contains email addresses, site admin passwords, and .onion domain private keys.
The hacker going by the name of KingNull breached Daniel’s Hosting (DH), stole the database, and then wiped all servers, reports ZDNet. Around 7,600 websites, a third of all Dark Web portals, went down after the hacking.
DH has shut down its service, urging users to move their sites to new dark web hosting providers.
“The hacker uploaded a copy of DH’s stolen database on a file-hosting portal and notified ZDNet”.
The leaked data includes 3,671 email addresses, 7,205 account passwords, and 8,580 private keys for .onion (Dark Web) domains.
The data dump can be used to tie the owners of leaked email addresses to certain dark web portals.
“This information could substantially help law enforcement track the individuals running or taking part in illegal activities on these darknet sites,” said Under the Breach which is a data breach monitoring and prevention service.
The hack was the second time that DH suffered a security breach. The site had been previously hacked in November 2018.
In 2017, the same Anonymous hacker took down Freedom Hosting II after discovering that the hosting provider was sheltering child abuse portals, said the report.

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A New Free Monitoring Tool to Measure Your Dark Web Exposure – Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

Last week, application security company ImmuniWeb released a new free tool to monitor and measure an organization’s exposure on the Dark Web.
To improve the decision-making process for cybersecurity professionals, the free tool crawls Dark Web marketplaces, hacking forums, and Surface Web resources such as Pastebin or GitHub to provide you with a classified schema of your data being offered for sale or leaked.
All you need to launch a Dark Web search is to enter your domain name.

The volume of stolen credentials on the Dark Web is booming

This week, over 26 million user records, including plaintext passwords, stolen from LiveJournal appeared on a Dark Web marketplace for as low as $35. The present week is likewise sadly marked with a compromise of 31 SQL databases (with 1.6 million rows of client data) from webshop owners.
There were 7,098 breaches reported in 2019, exposing over 15.1 billion records, a new worst year on record according to Risk Based Security report. Over 80% of data breaches within the hacking category involve usage of lost or stolen credentials, says the Data Breach Investigations Report 2020 by Verizon.
While over 21 million of stolen login credentials from Fortune 500 companies were readily available for sale in the Dark Web, according to ImmuniWeb report from 2019.

ImmuniWeb Dark Web monitoring tool in action

ImmuniWeb says that its Deep Learning AI technology is capable of distinguishing and removing duplicates and fake records, providing actionable and risk-scored data to its clients.
Here is an example of findings for a well-known financial institution:

Interestingly, for Gartner, there are over 100,000 mentions of detected login credentials and other data. However only 14% pass the AI-enabled validation, and as low as 466 were assigned a critical risk, potentially exposing apparently valid passwords from business-critical web resources:

In its press release, ImmuniWeb also mentions that on top visibility across 30 billion of stolen credentials, the free online test likewise detects and provides full technical details:

Phishing Campaigns
Domain Squatting
Trademark Infringement
Fake Social Networks Accounts

For example, for Yahoo, 131 ongoing phishing campaigns are targeting its clients, over 1,000 cybersquatted or typosquatted domains, many of which redirect to malware and ransomware doorways.
The hyperlinks to the malicious websites are displayed in a safe manner, with each entry also equipped with a screenshot to enable security professionals to assess the risk without the need to open dangerous web resources in their browser.
The tool is also available via a free API, making it an invaluable instrument for SOC security analysts to timely spot security emerging web security and privacy threats.
Last time we mentioned ImmuniWeb was among Top 10 Most Innovative Cybersecurity Companies after RSA 2020, and it seems that while successfully pursuing its growth track, their team doesn’t forget to contribute to the cybersecurity community. Good work!

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Vumatel and Dark Fibre Africa Prepare for Massive Demand in Data Services | Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

Since the onset of COVID-19 and the consequential lockdown, reliable and fast Internet connectivity has become a vital requirement for businesses and individuals working and learning from home. Expansion in the digital economy and the resultant exponential growth in demand for connectivity is driving the laying of underground fibre-optic cable to feed internet-hungry homes and businesses. It is arguably the highest-growth industry in South Africa today, outstripping other sectors of the economy – even before the current crisis.
That’s according to Jessica Spira, Business Development Director at Rand Merchant Bank (RMB). The bank was the joint mandated lead arranger and co-funder of an $8.7-million (R16-billion) senior debt financing package provided to Community Investment Ventures Holdings (CIVH), concluded in December 2019, to help fund the expansion of their operating companies Vumatel and Dark Fibre Africa, the country’s two largest privately-owned providers of fibre infrastructure.
“Funders don’t put that kind of money into a business unless it has solid, long-term growth potential. The R16-billion transaction is one of the largest of its kind in recent South African corporate history.”
Spira describes the growth of fibre in recent years as “explosive” driven by the massive demand for data services and video streaming.

Dark Fibre Africa, which builds underground fibre-optic rings around major cities and provides enterprise connectivity, has laid approximately 13 000 km of cable largely in the major metropolitan areas across the country – that’s more than nine times the distance between Johannesburg and Cape Town.
Vumatel specialises in providing fibre to the home. In the five years since it started operating, the company has installed fibre running past more than 600,000 homes, of which around 30% are now connected to the Internet.
“What started out as a luxury installation for homes in wealthy suburbs has spread rapidly into middle-class homes and is now starting to appear in townships and high-density suburbs,” says Spira, referring to a recent successful pilot project in Mitchells Plain in Cape Town.
“Just like the cellphone, fibre is becoming a mass-market product that is connecting millions of South Africans and giving them reliable, affordable access to broadband Internet at home. Demand for movie-streaming services such as Netflix and Showmax are major drivers, and this is even more amplified by the latest needs to work and learn from home.”
Vumatel, Dark Fibre Africa and other companies in this sector build the infrastructure, lay the fibre and maintain it. Any Internet service provider can then provide the user with services on the network.
“To draw a parallel, Vumatel provides the railway tracks, but not the trains. It’s an open-access infrastructure that anyone can use. This encourages competition and helps to keep prices down.”
Businesses were the first to get into fibre and continue to expand their connectivity. Spira says nearly 300 000 companies, large and small, are already connected to these fibre networks, and the number is growing every day. The advantages are speed, security and reliability.
“In these times of great economic uncertainty, the fibre industry is a great South African success story and proof of how the private sector can drive economic development,” says Spira.
Edited by Luis MonzonFollow Luis Monzon on TwitterFollow Tempemail on Twitter

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An investigation into dark web marketplace- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

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What are the key findings of your report on the dark web regarding the Covid-19 crisis?Cyfirma researchers observed that hackers are cognizant of the dangers of putting millions of lives at risk as families of those who have been infected by the Covid-19, would likely be desperately seeking a medical remedy. Any news of a vaccine availability could also send masses of people into a state of frenzy and cause major turmoil across many societies.
Kumar Ritesh, Founder & CEO, Cyfirma
While hackers and scammers have been leveraging the pandemic to push out malware and phishing emails as part of their cyber- attack campaigns to steal data from businesses and consumers, or to cause social unrest amongst various communities, there has been an understanding amongst hackers groups to not ‘cross the line of humanity’ by selling fictitious vaccines.
A marketplace in the dark web called Monopoly has restricted the sale of fake vaccines for Covid 19 on their platform. While they sell all sorts of illicit stuff. And the ‘founder’ of the marketplace wrote a post, ’Any vendor caught flogging goods as a cure to Coronavirus will not only be permanently removed from this market but should be avoided like the Spanish Flu’. The forum post also stated the gravity of the pandemic and asked sellers not to use the crisis as a marketing tool.
However, there is a group of hackers who have ignored this warning and are choosing to sell fake vaccines and making anywhere from US$ 99 to US$ 25000. According to a Cyfirma report, the hackers are from North Korea and have got interest from Italy, Spain, France and the US. Payment is being made via bitcoin, few bitcoin accounts have collected to the tune of US$ 400K just in the last six days.
The obvious fallout of this malicious act is loss of money by the users but in order to get the vaccine, they have shared their personal identifiable information including health and social security details. Theft of personal information will also fetch additional financial gains for the hackers. Cyfirma predicts that personal information provided to buy fake vaccines could be used for the next wave of cyber attacks.
How are cyber criminals taking advantage of the ongoing global pandemic?Due to the Covid-19, now a global pandemic, has enforced social distancing. Many employees are now working remotely in distributed operations. This increase in remote work arrangements, both temporarily and permanently, is creating significant growth in network access and traffic which provides more opportunities for threat actors to strike. Cyber criminals quickly recognised the opportunities the pandemic provided them. As the volume of emails from employers, governments and health agencies related to the outbreak increased, so did the number of phishing emails concerning Covid-19. Numerous scams, phishing campaigns, and malicious websites are proliferating. Covid-19’s impact is quickly shifting how businesses operate.
Cyber criminals are sending emails that resemble legitimate coronavirus-related notices in phishing attacks targeting anxious individuals expecting such communications. The attacks aim to get readers to click through on false links that promise coronavirus guidance. Covid-19 themed phishing campaigns using Word and PDF documents that include names like ‘ coronavirus response’, ‘coronavirus practices,’ and ‘coronavirus safety.’ Attackers are also using images and names of entities like the UN, WHO, CDC, FDA, and commercial companies in targeted fraud and phishing campaigns.
As a result of these activities, what are the security threats that have emerged, for organisations as well as individuals?We also noticed coronavirus-themed emails designed to look like emails from the organisations’ leadership team and sent to all employees. Embedded with malware that would infect corporate networks, these phishing attacks deploy social engineering tactics to steal data and assets.
Other than unleashing cyberattacks to steal data, we also witnessed the planning of fake websites to sell face masks and other health apparatus using bitcoin in China, Japan, and the US.
To aggravate matters, hackers were also strategising to spread fake news to create further confusion. By investigating the dark web marketplace, Cyfirma uncovered illicit groups selling organic medicine claiming to cure and eradicate the Covid-19 virus (this is separate from fake vaccines). These discussions in the hackers’ communities were carried out in Mandarin, Japanese and English.
A new malware called ‘CoronaVP’ was being discussed by a Russian hacking community; this could lead to a new ransomware or EMOTET strain, designed to steal personal information.
Hackers leveraging on the Covid-19 pandemic are motivated by a combination of personal financial gain as well as political espionage to cause social upheavals. Threat actors in the world of cyber crime are well-equipped with tools, technology, expertise and financing to further both commercial and political agendas. In our hyper-connected digital world, cyber crime is a lucrative business, and we should expect attacks to be more frequent and more sophisticated as the pandemic continues to cast a shadow over the global economy.
What we have witnessed in the field of cyber intelligence has taught us the importance of staying vigilant, and frequently, the most dangerous forces at work are those we cannot see. The importance of relevant and timely threat intelligence cannot be over-emphasised as early detection of cyber threats could save organisations from hefty financial penalties and irreversible brand damage.
Which sectors/businesses face the maximum risk of cyber attacks, particularly in India?
As observed by Cyfirma researchers, state nation activities involving Pakistani or Arabic groups, North Korean and Chinese groups have taken interest in the Indian government and businesses. 
Government agencies, large telecommunications, retail, transportation, healthcare, manufacturing, B2C and supply chain companies are within the radar of hacker groups.
While all businesses are at risk of cyberattacks, SMEs tend to be most vulnerable as they typically have fewer measures in place to protect their systems and data.
As a cyber intelligence company, what have been your efforts to mitigate risks for your client organisations, in the current scenario?As a cyber intelligence company, we are focused on bringing early warnings to our clients. Our key focus is always to ensure we detect these threats before the hacker gets the opportunity to mount an attack. We decode threats, help our clients make sense of them (who is the hacker, why is he interested, what does he want, when is he launching an attack, and how does he intend to do it), and provide remediation recommendations so clients can take swift actions to close security gaps.

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Fake coronavirus ‘vaccines’ going for $25k on the dark web – Strategy- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

The number of items on dark web marketplaces touted as cures, vaccines or protection from COVID-19 has exploded in recent weeks as criminals seek to make the most of the healthcare crisis.
The Australian Institute of Criminology commissioned an analysis of 20 darknet markets by Australian Tempemail University’s Cybercrime Observatory to understand the scope of online sales of items related to COVID-19.
One of the researchers involved, Professor Rod Broadhurst, said the pandemic is an opportunity where criminals can cash in on fear and shortages.
“We found unsafe vaccines, repurposed antivirals – which are in very short supply – and quite a lot of bulk PPE on the dark web.
“The biosecurity hazardous products are the most dangerous because some are marketed as if they have been leaked from real trials. But, they could be fake and we don’t know what they are made from.”
Of the 12 markets found posting COVID-19 products, just three accounted for 85 percent of all the 645 listings.
Around half of the listings were for personal protective equipment such as surgical masks, often in bulk quantities.
A third of the listing were for anti-viral or repurposed medicines touted as treatments for the disease.
Less than 10 percent of the listings were drugs promoted as vaccines, however, the fake vaccines along with full-body PPE gear and temperature scanners were among the most expensive items.
The most expensive vaccine was listed at $24,598 – shipped from the USA – with the average cost of a vaccine around $575.
Vaccines allegedly sourced from China were costly, fetching up to more than $23,000.
Broadhurst said the underground sale of vaccines and experimental drugs needs to be shut down due to the potential for any number of “nasty” side effects.
“Apart from likely fraud, details about the origin or composition of vaccines were sparse,” he said.
“These products may have been diverted from animal or human trials, or even sourced from recovered COVID-19 patients.
“They could also undo a lot of the work done in limiting the spread of the virus and ‘flattening the curve.
“Fake vaccines could assist in the spread of the virus because users may behave as if they are immune but nevertheless become exposed to the coronavirus.
“The premature release of vaccines undergoing animal or human trial would also misguide users as to immunity but may also impact on the success of these crucial clinical trials.”
And, he added, this may just be the tip of the iceberg.
“We think we will see more of that and we need some basic monitoring to start shutting it down,” Broadhurst said.
Australian Institute of Criminology deputy director Dr Rick Brown, said the results of the survey will help inform the government’s response to people trying to profit from the sale of medical supplies during a pandemic.
“The sale of fake vaccines and other compromised medical items poses a real risk to the health and safety of the public and needs to be dealt with swiftly,” he said.
“These results will assist our law enforcement partners in tackling this concerning issue.”

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Dark Data to Waste Up to 5.8 Million Tonnes of CO2 in 2020 | Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

Digitisation can be part of the solution to climate change but storing digital data that is never used can also consume an enormous amount of energy and, as a result, produce CO2 that need never have been wasted.
According to South African Tech Solutions company, Veritas, an estimated 5.8 million tonnes of CO2 will be unnecessarily pumped into the atmosphere as a result of powering the storage of this kind of data this year alone.
In order to protect the planet from this waste, businesses need to get on top of their data management strategies, use the right tools to identify which data is valuable, and rid their data centres of ‘dark data’.
On average 52 per cent of all data stored by organisations worldwide is ‘dark’ as those responsible for managing it don’t have any idea about its content or value. Much has been said about the financial cost of dark data but the environmental cost has, so far, often been overlooked.
Analysts predict that the amount of data that the world will be storing will grow from 33ZB in 2018 to 175ZB by 2025. This implies that, unless people change their habits, there will be 91ZB of dark data in five years’ time – with all the energy associated with powering the infrastructure in which it lives.
“Around the world, individuals and companies are working to reduce their carbon footprints, but dark data doesn’t often feature on people’s action lists. However, dark data is producing more carbon dioxide than 80 different countries do individually, so it’s clear that this is an issue that everyone needs to start taking really seriously,” says Phil Brace, Executive VP of Appliances and Software-defined Storage at Veritas,
“Filtering dark data, and deleting the information that’s not needed, should become a moral imperative for businesses everywhere.”
With this in mind, here are five things organisations can do to reduce data waste:
1. Identify all data stores and gain overview: Data Mapping and Data Discovery are the first steps in understanding how information flows through an organisation. Gaining visibility and insight into where data and sensitive information is being stored, who has access to it and how long it is being retained is a critical first step in pursuit of dark data and the key foundation to build from.
2. Illuminate dark data: a proactive Data Management approach allows organisations to gain visibility into their data, storage and backup infrastructure, so they can take control of data associated risks and make well-educated decisions which data can be deleted with confidence.
3. Automate the discovery and data insight routines: to keep pace with the data explosion, companies should automate the analytics, tracking, and reporting necessary to deliver organisational accountability for dark data, file use and security. Companies might need to handle petabytes of data and billions of files, so their Data Insight approach should integrate with archiving, backup and security solutions to prevent data loss and ensure policy-based data retention.
4. Minimise and place controls around Data: data minimisation and purpose limitation ensure organisations reduce the amount of data being stored and establish what is retained is directly related to the purpose in which it was collected. Classification, flexible retention and compliant policy engines allow confident deletion of non-relevant information providing a cornerstone of any dark data project and company-wide compliance.
5. Monitor to ensure continual adherence to compliance standards: compliance rules like GDPR introduce a duty on all organisations to report certain types of data breaches to the relevant supervisory authority, and in some cases to the individuals affected. Organisations must evaluate their ability to monitor breach activity and quickly trigger reporting procedures to ensure compliance.

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Over 500,000 Zoom Accounts Sold on the Dark Web | Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

Over 500,000 Zoom accounts are being sold on the dark web and hacker forums for less than $0.01, and in some cases, given away for free, via Bleeping Computer.
These credentials are gathered through credential stuffing attacks where cybercriminals attempt to login to Zoom using accounts leaked in older data breaches. The successful logins are then compiled and sold to other hackers. The company has been undergoing a long and highly publicized series of security issues with their service, and this could be one of the outcoming consequences.
Zoom accounts offered to gain Hacker rep. Sourced from Bleeping Computer
Some of the accounts are being offered for free on hacker forums so that they can be used for zoom-bombing pranks and other malicious activity.
Cybersecurity intelligence firm Cyble says that around 1 April 2020, they began to see free Zoom accounts being posted on hacker forums to gain increased reputations amongst hacker communities.
These accounts are shared via text-sharing sites where cybercriminals are posting lists of email addresses and password combinations.
Zoom accounts offered for free. Sourced from Bleeping Computer
Bleeping Computer has confirmed that many of the credentials are correct as they have been contacting emails on the list to test their authenticity.
After seeing a seller post accounts on a hacker forum, Cyble resorted to purchasing a large number of the accounts in bulk so that they could be used to warn their customers of the potential breach.
Zoom accounts sold on hacker forum. Sourced from Bleeping Computer
Cyble was able to purchase approximately 530,000 Zoom credentials for less than a penny each at $0.0020 per account.
The purchased accounts include a victim’s email address, password, personal meeting URL, and their HostKey.
Some of the accounts Cyble purchased include ones for well-known companies like Chase, Citibank, as well as several educational institutions and more.
For the accounts that belonged to clients of Cyble, the intelligence firm was able to confirm with Bleeping Computer that they were valid account credentials.
Last week, Zoom’s CEO Eric Yuan publicly apologized for Zoom’s shortcomings with security and privacy, promising that his team is hard at work to fix these issues.
Edited by Luis Monzon
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Hackers love to find exploits in Zoom, sell on Dark Web- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

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Video meet app Zoom that has gained immense popularity among the enterprises, SMBs and schools in India and elsewhere to connect remotely, has also become a treasure trove for both ethical and not-ethical hackers who have zeroed in on the video conferencing app to find privacy and security bugs and make money.
One hacker interviewed by Motherboard who claims to have traded exploits found in Zoom on the black market said that Zoom flaws typically sell for between $5,000 to $30,000.
The vulnerabilities – everything from webcam or microphone security to sensitive data like passwords, emails, or device information – are being sold on the Dark Web.
However, hackers said that Zoom flaws don’t sell for high figures compared to other exploits.
With this context in mind, we have the below commentary from Flock – the leading workplace communication and collaboration platform.
According to Devashish Sharma, CTO at workplace communication and collaboration platform Flock, it is crucial for businesses to have to right security apparatus in place to avoid confidential organisational data falling into the wrong hands.
“The recent incident where hackers posted pornographic content on the user screens of video conferencing app Zoom, shows us how cybercriminals are working overtime to find vulnerabilities and steal user data. In such a situation, it is vital that communication platforms support end-to-end encryption and multi-factor authentication to avoid such untoward incidents,” Sharma said in a statement.
While Zoom has emerged as a leading teleconferencing provider during the COVID-19 pandemic, the app is marred by daily news about it being prone to hacking.
Issues that have affected its credibility is data-sharing with Facebook, exposed LinkedIn profiles, and a “malware-like” installer for macOS.
Zoom Video Communications has also been sued by one of its shareholders who alleged that the company kept some of its security flaws hidden.
The lawsuit, filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of California, alleged that Zoom failed to disclose some vulnerabilities and that the services did not provide end-to-end encryption.
Zoom has started facing criticism as reports of “Zoombombing” and other privacy issues started surfacing from different parts of the world.
Citing privacy and security concerns, Google has banned video meeting app Zoom for its employees.
According to Rafi Kretchmer, Head of Product Marketing at cyber security firm Check Point, cybercriminals will always seek to capitalize on the latest trends to try and boost the success rates of attacks, and the coronavirus pandemic has created a perfect storm of a global news event together with dramatic changes in working practices and the technologies used by organizations.
“This has meant a significant increase in the attack surface of many organizations, which is compromising their security postures. To ensure security and business continuity in this rapidly evolving situation, organizations need to protect themselves with a holistic, end-to-end security architecture,” Kretchmer said in a statement.
This means ensuring accessible and reliable connections between corporate networks and remote devices 24/7, promoting collaboration and productivity between teams, networks and offices, and deploying robust protection against advanced threats and cybercrime techniques at all points on the enterprise network fabric.
Zoom Founder and CEO Eric Yuan has apologized for the privacy and security issues or Zoombombing being reported in his app.
The video meet app has also been slammed for the lack of users’ privacy and security by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

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Hackers’ forum hacked, database dumped on Dark Web- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

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Cybercriminals have broken into a fellow rival hackers forum that trades in stolen Instagram, Twitter and other accounts, and dumped the database on the Dark Web for all to grab. OGUsers is a forum where hackers come to trade SIM swappers’ stolen phone numbers and Bitcoin accounts.
According to the ‘Naked Security’ team by cybersecurity firm Sophos, this is the second attack on OGUsers in the recent past, first spotted by data breach monitoring service Under the Breach.
“Under the Breach tweeted a screengrab of a notice posted that day by OGUsers’ admin, who goes by the username Ace. In that post, Ace claimed that a hacker successfully pulled off the breach by uploading a shell to the avatar uploading feature,” said the Sophos team.
Within a few hours, a rival forum dumped OGUsers’ database of about 200,000 user records.
Those users’ passwords apparently weren’t encrypted, given Under the Breach’s claim that over half of them had already been converted to plaintext as of the time the service posted.
Ace announced in May last year that an outage had been caused by hard drive failure that erased months’ worth of private forum posts and prestige points.
It later turned out that the outage coincided with the theft of the forum’s user database and the erasure of its hard drives.
Launched in April 2017, the forum is a market for buying and selling “OG” (original gangster) usernames which refer to usernames that are considered desirable, whether it’s because they’re short – such as @t or @ty.
According to Motherboard, OGUsers have traded in hijacked social media accounts, as well as in PlayStation Network, Steam, Domino’s Pizza, and other online accounts.

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Shipbuilder Austal was hacked with stolen creds sold on dark web – Security- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

Austal, the ASX-listed shipbuilder and defence contractor, was compromised in late 2018 by an attacker who used login credentials purchased on a dark web forum, but who then failed to extract much of value or secure a ransom to have it returned.
CEO David Singleton provided a full post-mortem of the mid-October 2018 breach last week – which he said included a grilling from senior government ministers – and revealed cyber defences put in place afterwards had saved the company from credential phishes as recently as the past fortnight.
Singleton said the company was breached in October 2018 using stolen credentials sold on the dark web, a place he characterised as a kind of “parallel universe… where criminals hide and where criminality is rife”.
“I still don’t really know what [the dark web] is,” Singleton told a recent industry event. 
“[But] in this parallel universe, you can buy company addresses, and you can buy the passwords that go with those addresses, and you can use those passwords to enter somebody’s system. And that’s what happened to us at Austal. 
“Somebody bought passwords from the internet.”
It appeared the stolen credentials were also relatively weak, being either ‘Password123’ or ‘Austal123’.
The attacker used the stolen credentials to gain access to Austal’s system on a Sunday afternoon, and was then able to move laterally “quite easily”.
“The criminal walked around the ‘virtual rooms’ in our ‘house’, and collected things as [they] went,” Singleton said.
While the attacker did collect data from several systems, they inexplicably passed over the most valuable material. 
“In very many ways we’re fortunate in that on the wall in our main living room was a very expensive Rembrandt – [but] what he actually ended up doing was stealing the TV set, which is highly replaceable and has less value,” Singleton said.
“So we were fortunate in many ways, but fortunate only by luck.”
Austal also experienced a second piece of “luck”, with the attacker triggering an alarm as they stockpiled data for exfiltration.
“The way that we found out what was going on was none other than [they] took information from rooms inside of the ‘house’, loaded them into a particular memory drive from which they were then extracting … to the outside, and [they] overloaded the memory drive,” Singleton said.
“As a result of overloading the memory drive, it set off an alarm late on a Sunday night, when everybody was away from the office.
“That was the first trigger that we had that something was amiss and going on.”
Incident response and a ransom demand
When Singleton arrived at the office early Monday, incident response actions by the company’s Information Systems & Technology (IS&T) team were already underway.
“The first thing we did was to lock the system up,” he said.
“The IT department was able to move really quickly on that. They shut down all the external ports and made sure that no more information could move in or out.”
However, that quickly tipped off the company’s thousands of staff, and eventually suppliers and customers, that something was wrong.
“All of a sudden, hundreds of your employees know that there’s something amiss. They can’t get an email out, they can’t get an email back, they can’t access anything and there’s a demand to understand what’s going on and the urgency of the situation is increasing moment by moment,” Singleton said.
“After a few hours you start to get suppliers ringing in and other people ring in, [asking] ‘what’s going on, we’re not getting any information out of you, why can’t we send you some data?’. 
“So things start to move very very rapidly, and you have to be ready for that.”
Early on, Austal called its insurance company, which – “to show you the urgency of it – sent somebody from the UK immediately” to help mop up.
“Within four hours of us placing a call to our insurance company, they had somebody on a flight in London, coming down to Perth, to help us with the recovery action, and the reason for that is that they knew better than anybody the lightning speed of what’s going on is so profound that you have to react to it quickly to minimise the damage,” Singleton said.
The company also called upon the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC), which helped to “lock the doors, clean the ‘rooms’ and deal with the after-effects of what had happened.”
Singleton said that a motive for the attack quickly became apparent.
“The hacker made a ransom demand,” he said.
“This was just plain criminality. This was an individual who just wanted to extort money from the company in order to return data, and the way [they] did that was [to] send an email to 50 or 60 people in the organisation saying, ‘You’ve been hacked. These are the bitcoins I need for me to return the data that I have stolen’.
“Fortunately for us as I said earlier, we hadn’t lost our Rembrandt, we’d lost our TV set, and we weren’t in a mind at all to deal with extortion.”
The spring clean
With the assistance of the ACSC, Austal embarked on a “spring clean” of its systems.
“At that point, we had no idea what was going on inside of our systems,” Singleton said.
“We didn’t know whether somebody put a bug in there. We didn’t know whether our data was being eaten away and destroyed quickly. We didn’t know whether somebody had left some backdoors in so they could come along later on.”
Austal’s systems – and data – was largely cloud-based, and the company was confident it had backups.
“About a year before we’d moved our data and our systems to the cloud, so that helped enormously because it made us really confident that we had backup files going back as far as we needed to go because of the quality of the services that we could get from there,” Singleton said.
“So we were never in a position where we were worried about losing our core data, and that was a great relief to me because the idea that you could lose vast swathes of data because it’s been eaten by some malignant bug would have been a pretty scary idea.
“It was a lesson to me that the move to the cloud for us had been really important in us being able to stabilise the situation quickly and be able to move on.”
Tackling password security, lateral movement
Austal has put significant effort into improving password security in the wake of the breach.
“The thing that caused the problem was passwords, so immediately after the event – bear in mind now all of our employees knew what had happened, and they knew it was as a result of passwords – we forced two password changes,” Singleton said.
“Everybody had to change their passwords twice over a 24 hour period. And then at the end of that, we ran [code] that allowed us to look through everybody’s passwords in the company.
“There were 40 versions of these two passwords – Password123 and Austal123 – which taught me something really important in all of this … that the weak link in any system can often be your people. 
“Even after a cyber break, people were using Password123, and Austal123 as a password, the very passwords that had gotten cyber criminals into the system in the first place.”
Singleton said Austal had since put in an Australian-developed software tool that forces users to set more complex passwords and to change them frequently.
It also turned on multi-factor authentication so it no longer granted access to systems using a simple username-password combination alone; and tightened access privileges to a range of internal systems.
“That means that if somebody got through the front door again, their ability to move around the system and gather more data is now much more limited than it would have been before,” Singleton said.
Austal then engaged an external pentester to check its defences. The pentester was unable to gain access from outside, and – when Austal let them in – was also unable to perform lateral movement.
“The next thing they did was they sent an individual to walk into the site,” Singleton said.
“He was an expert at this – and managed to gain entry to the site.
“He had a handful of USB drives, and he went around our organisation and asked people to put a USB drive into their computer to check the data that was on it. On that USB drive was a piece of malware that he had specifically put on that showed that he’d been able to do that. 
“He then left a USB drive in our IT department, and somebody in the IT department picked up the USB drive and put it in their computer, and also transferred the malware onto our system.“Again, it taught us the importance of not only electronic security, but also physical security in our environment as well.”
The company’s authentication systems and internal readiness also received a real-world test within the past fortnight when a phishing email from a supposed project engineer from Lithuania arrived in multiple inboxes. 
“What happened was … 40 people in our organisation in the first hour clicked on a ‘download proposal’ [button in the email],” Singleton said. 
“When you go to that download proposal, it asks you to put in your email address and your password. 
“Believe it or not, after all that had happened to us, five people put in their email address and password, which would have given them access to the system. The thing that saved us was the multi-factor authentication.”
Victim-blaming
Singleton said he had been advised by the then head of the ACSC, Alastair MacGibbon, that Austal would wind up copping blame for the incident.
MacGibbon previously expressed similar sentiments on other hacks.
“The head of the ACSC said to me at the beginning of all of this, ‘You need to remember all the way through this process you are going to go through that you are the victim, because what will happen is you will be shamed as a victim, and people will start to point to you as being the problem’,” he said.
“He described it to me as some of those really unfortunate stories we’ve heard in the past of judges who have apportioned some element of blame to people who’ve been the victim of crime: ‘Why were you out at two o’clock in the morning in that particular area of town? You were asking for it’.”
This would wind up ringing true.
“I got called up by the Australian government to go and explain myself to … some very senior ministers … about how we had managed to be hacked when we have defence information on our site,” Singleton said.
“You start to create an environment where people forget you were the victim and start to think you were in some way the perpetrator.”
Singleton said he had decided to go public in a bid to help other major companies enable simple protections.
“If enough people talk about the pain of this, the difficulty of this, the cost of cleaning up afterwards, the disruption to your business, then maybe more people will do some of these simple things that I’ve talked about that really can make a fundamental difference,” he said.

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