May was a major month for cybercrime and the fight against cybercrime. If you missed any of the important developments, here is a brief round-up of all the major events and incidents that took place.
The BlackShades Remote Access Tool is the software at the center of one of the largest malware attacks in history. The malware attack affected half a million computer users in over 100 countries. The BlackShades case is also drawing global attention because nearly 100 people from 16 countries collaborated to make it possible.
Police arrest over 100 hackers worldwide suspected behind RAT (Remote Access Trojan) “Blackshades” #wearethepeople : )
— Chris B (@chrisb9ghz) May 20, 2014
The BlackShades malware is capable of hijacking computers and their webcams. This can be used covertly so that the victim remains unaware at all times, or in a full-blown manner so that the user is locked out of his/her own system.
The attack is being linked to a similar malware-driven data theft attack on French organizations last year.
EU law enforcement, incl UK, in raids on 16 countries & 97 arrests over “BlackShades” blackmail malware that recorded keystrokes & webcams
— Sky News Business (@SkyNewsBiz) May 19, 2014
The BlackShades malware is very easy to find if you have a slight familiarity with hacking and cracking practices. Even a teenager can use the malware; as evidenced by the arrest of an 18 year old in Germany for using BlackShades to hijack over 2000 computer systems and using them to take pictures of women. The arrest is one of many that have taken place across the world in this month – all of them for either developing, circulating or using the highly exploitative BlackShades Remote Access Tool.
Charges announced from FBI’s investigation of the developers, distributors, and users of the malware, Blackshades Remote Access Tool.
— FBI New York (@NewYorkFBI) May 19, 2014
The entire BlackShades fiasco might sound like something that jumped out of nowhere. However, in reality it has taken two years to reach a point where search warrants are now being issued by countries around the globe to track, apprehend and question individuals associated with BlackShades in any way. Here is a Heat-Map published by the FBI to highlight the impact of BlackShades around the world.
Hack like a Boss, Win a Ferrari
According to a video posted on the dark net, a cybercrime boss has promised a Ferrari for the top hacker who manages to rake in the most money. This reward announcement is nothing less than an investment into the growth of cybercrime technology, putting the growth of cyber-security at risk. It also raises concerns for the regular internet user who is not fully aware of the dangers of cybercrime and the measures necessary to shield against them. And we can’t send the cavalry barging in to take down the bad guys because there is the matter of jurisdiction that makes it impossible to get to the criminals before they escape.
Speaking of cybercrime this May, who can forget the guys who managed to give eBay a run for its money. eBay had to tell over a hundred million of its customers to change their passwords. The eBay attack was well targeted and the hackers came straight for the encrypted passwords that were supposed to be hidden behind impenetrable layers of security software.
eBay users’ accounts were hacked, so if you find yourself getting scammed, it might not be from the eBay seller you originally expected — Lowtax (@lowtax) May 21, 2014
Since eBay didn’t know that the hackers had gotten in until after 2 to 3 months from the attack, it is safe to say that those layers of cyber-security worked perfectly, if the purpose was to make the detection of a hack-attack near-impossible. Needless to say, people got mighty worried when they found out.
eBay says it was hacked in February – anyone got any thoughts on how long it took for them to disclose? — Tom Brewster (@iblametom) May 21, 2014
eBay gave out press releases asking all its customers to change their usernames and passwords as soon as possible. eBay also confirmed that the hackers had been able to get into eBay’s servers by utilizing advanced technological know-how and had the task made easier by stealing eBay’s employees’ login credentials. It is unclear if the hackers stole one employee’s login credentials or multiple.
— Mark Scott (@markscott82) May 23, 2014
CyberCrime in South Africa
Cybercriminals are growing a soft corner for the African region as broadband services there are experiencing a massive and rapid upgrade. Your suspicion is correct: cybercriminals don’t like slow internet. Actually, an improved cyber infrastructure in the African region means an additional advantage on top of an already exploitable and volatile socio-political landscape.
A South African cybercrime ring was arrested after years of joint investigation by South African and American Law Enforcement authorities and Interpol. The 12 people had been scamming people online since 2011 and were utilizing stolen identities to run their operations.
The cybercrime ring was utilizing every trick in the book to pull of everything from smuggling to extortion. Quite surprisingly, this cybercrime ring was using operatives positioned in Canada to keep the cybercrime wheel spinning. A number of Nigerian individuals were also involved in the scam.
The Possible Beginning of a Cyberwar
May was also a monumental month for cyber warfare. US cyber security authorities charged five Chinese military officials with attacking the cyber infrastructure of some of the largest US organizations in the solar and nuclear industries.
Chinese officials negated the allegation and insisted that no such incident had taken place. The Chinese authorities also asserted that the allegation would have a negative impact on US-China cyber-security coalitions. Not surprisingly, Chinese authorities followed up with an announcement that the Chinese government would suspend further cooperation with the US for joint cyber-security.
According to the US government, the Chinese government has been engaged in a campaign targeting covert Pentagon programs and defense technology for a long time now.
In response, Chinese authorities continued to insist that the US has been targeting Chinese cyber assets for some time now. The allegation led to the resurfacing of claims made by Edward Snowden regarding the US government’s long-standing policy of covert cyber spying and surveillance.
Retailers come together to fight Crime
May saw some of the largest US retailers come together to form a coalition to fight cybercrime. The coalition was formed as a result of the Target hack attack earlier this year.
The personal information of over 70 million Target customers was stolen in a hack attack that sent Target shivers down the retail giant’s hierarchy.
Retailers like Gap, Walgreen, Nike and Lowe’s are part of the coalition that is meant to provide retailers with an information sharing platform. Retailers hope to avoid incidents like the Target hack attack in the future by coordinating to defend against developing cyber-security threats. It is also expected that the formation of the group will help foster an environment where the specific cyber-security needs of retailers can be addressed.
Expect big things to happen in the coming months; and we will be here to cover it all for you.
May became a cornerstone for the fight against cybercrime when the FBI announced that it was shifting gears in its strategy against cybercrime. The FBI made it clear that it was bringing about a change in its approach.
The FBI’s Director of cyber Enforcement Robert Anderson stated that
“There is a philosophy change. If you are going to attack Americans, we are going to hold you responsible… If we can reach out and touch you, we are going to reach out and touch you”
The Director further went on to make a very bold statement that made it clear that the FBI was not joking:
“There’s a lot of countries that will not extradite. That will not stop us from pressing forward and charging those individuals and making it public”
This round-up is just the tip of the iceberg. If you know of any other incidents related to cyber-security and/or cybercrime that you think will influence the way we look at matters related to them in the future, hit us up in the comments section and keep others like you informed.