PERSONAL DATA OF TAIWAN’S ENTIRE POPULATION FOR SALE

A May 2020 media report disclosed that a Taiwanese database containing personal data from over 20 million citizens (Taiwan’s entire population) was posted for sale on the Dark Web. According to researchers, the source of the leak is governmental and originates from the Department of Household Registration, under the Ministry of Interior.

The sale offer was posted on May 19, 2020 in an English language underground Dark Web marketplace. The seller indeed claimed the database contains data of the entire country’s citizens and attached a sample where one can see each line in the database is arranged by full name, landline number, ID number, home address and sex. The seller has offered to sell the database for US$ 2,500.

Taiwan’s Population Database for Sale
Source: Verint Luminar

NOT THE FIRST TIME WE’VE SEEN SUCH AN OFFER

Although this database leak was defined by the above reports as unique, this is not the first time we have seen an offer for a database consisting of personal information for the entire population of Taiwan. In Chinese sources, such offers have appeared since August 2018 at least. Our findings, detailed below, may imply the database offer is in fact a resell of a previous database offered several times in the past in Chinese underground sources. These findings show the flow of data from one underground arena to another and stress the importance of multi-language monitoring across various sources to get a full picture of the origins of leaked databases.

THE TAIWANESE DATABASE ON THE CHINESE DARK WEB

Our first indication of a Taiwanese population database was in August and September 2018. In August 2018, an offer appeared on the Chinese Darknet marketplace to sell a Taiwanese population database consisting of the full names, landline numbers, gender and home addresses of 21,141,314 people.

Taiwan’s Population Database for Sale, August 2018
Source: Chinese Dark Web marketplace

About a month later, an actor who has offered several other major database leaks on the same Chinese language Darknet marketplace (including the Marriott database), offered a full database of the Taiwanese population, consisting – according to him – of approximately 25 million lines of data, claiming the data was updated to September 2017.

Taiwan’s Population Database for Sale
Source: Chinese Dark Web marketplace

Since then, similar offers have occasionally appeared in both the Darknet marketplaces and other underground chat groups operating on Telegram.

SIMILARITIES BETWEEN LEAKED SAMPLES SHARED ON THE DARK WEB

According to our research, the last time a similar offer was published was January 2020, when an actor on a Chinese Darknet marketplace offered a 25 million line Taiwanese population database containing – once more by that order: full names, landline telephone numbers, ID numbers, home addresses and sex. The actor also attached a short sample to prove the authenticity of the database. According to the marketplace’s inner data, this transaction was completed twice, meaning two different actors have purchased the database since. Of note, the same actor also offered the same database in April 2019, attaching a similar sampler. The two screenshots below show the two offers, from January 2020, and April 2019.

Offer to Sell Taiwan’s Full Population Database, Containing ~25 million Lines, January 2020. Source: Chinese Dark Web Marketplace
Similar Offer from the Same Actor, April 2019
Source: Verint Luminar

The two samples attached to the offers – the two Chinese posts from April 2019 and January 2020 and the English post from May 2020 – show different names but look strikingly similar. The pattern of the data is identical, and it is arranged in the exact same order: full name, landline number, ID number, home address and sex. Furthermore, the current seller admitted he obtained the data in 2019, which is in line with the date the same offer was published on a Chinese marketplace.

All the above leads us to conclude the current offer of the Taiwanese population database is an attempt to resell the same database leaked in the past in Chinese underground platforms. As the asking price for the data sold on the Chinese platform was merely US$ 200, whereas he offered the same database for US$ 2,500, we believe it is highly probable this actor acquired the database on the Chinese marketplace and then tried to make an easy profit from actors operating on other platforms who do not have access to the Chinese marketplace and/or cannot read Chinese.

THE SELLER HAS OTHER ACTIVITIES ON THE DARK WEB

According to our analysis, the seller was seen operating under the same nickname on a Chinese Telegram underground chat group, a Russian Clearnet hacking and fraud forum, and two English-language Darknet forums.

In all instances, he offered credit card user data from China Industrial Bank containing over 460,000 lines. In one of the offers seen below and posted on the English-language forum, the actor quoted a price of US$ 380 for the database.

The China Industrial Bank Credit Card User Database offered on a Chinese Underground Telegram Group
A Similar Offer by the Same Actor Posted on an English-language Darknet Forum for US$ 380
Source: Verint Luminar

BUY IN ONE LANGUAGE, RESELL (FOR A NICE PROFIT) IN ANOTHER

As in the case of the Taiwanese population database, the China Industrial Bank database offered by this actor appeared before in Chinese underground platforms. In March 2020, the offer was posted on a Chinese Darknet marketplace for US$56 (see first screenshot below.) According to this marketplace’s inner data, it was sold 21 times. A month later, in April 2020, it was also offered on a Chinese-language underground Telegram group (see second screenshot below.) This demonstrates a similar modus operandi by this actor, and presumably by many other actors who operate across various, multi-language platforms: acquiring databases in one language (Chinese) and reselling them at higher prices on platforms in other languages.

The Chinese Industrial Bank Database offered on a Chinese Darknet Marketplace, March 2020
The Same Database offered on a Chinese Telegram Group, April 2020. Source: Chinese Darknet Marketplace

DDoS Attacks for Hire: How the Gambling Crave Fuels Cybercrime in China

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The Forbidden Fruit – Gambling in China

Many card and board games are believed to have originated in Ancient China. Some of these games involved betting and gambling and they have been an inherent part of the Chinese leisure culture for centuries.

This changed when the Communist Party seized power in 1949, declaring gambling a “corrupt, feudal practice” and hence strictly banned by law.

When the Reform and Opening-up policy was introduced in China in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, the authorities have somewhat released their strong grip on gambling and card games. Gaming and carding parlors (known in Chinese as 棋牌室, literally meaning “chess and card rooms”) sprang up in every street corner and card games and private betting among groups of friends thrived. Despite this, gambling remained illegal outside the two national lotteries (the China Sports Lottery and the China Welfare Lottery) and these establishments were far from satisfying the crave.

What do you do when your Favorite Pastime is Forbidden by Law?

Travel to Casino Hubs Abroad

A partial solution was found overseas. Chinese gamblers have flocked to casinos around the globe and went to neighboring Hong Kong to participate in horse race betting. And then there was Macau – with the help of the Chinese government, the former Portuguese colony just across the border from Guangdong Province has become the world’s largest casino center, surpassing Las Vegas since 2006.

Another casino hub attracting hordes of Chinese gamblers in recent years is the Philippines, where the hosting and entertainment industry, catering to the needs of the Chinese, was booming until the outburst of Covid-19 pandemic. This is manifested in job openings in the Philippines for Chinese nationals, many of which re published in dubious online platforms, such as QQ and Telegram groups dedicated to gambling and fraud as well as in Chinese-language underground forums. Another negative side to this craze is gambling-related crime, which has escalated in the Philippines over the past years.

However, traveling abroad is not accessible to everyone in China with a crave for gambling and even those who do travel, cannot always travel as often as they’d want to. There was a market rip for solutions, and with travel restrictions following the outburst of Covid-19 pandemic, this market’s potential grew even larger.

From Casino Hubs to Online Gambling Arenas

they satisfied the Chinese gambling community for about a decade. Since then, China has outlawed online gambling as well and the active websites are also situated offshore, on servers located outside the country.

These online casinos, gaming websites and gambling arenas cause a big headache to the Chinese Communist Party. If a decade ago the authorities have largely turned a blind eye to this phenomenon, nowadays, with the clear aim to promote a “civilized, harmonious society”, China sees it as a challenge and tries to fight these online platforms. Of course, these moral considerations, important as they may be, are dwarfed by the financial problem, as online gambling is draining hundreds of millions of yuan out of the country. Yet China is finding it hard to stop websites that are registered and operated abroad, especially when the hosting counties, such as the Philippines, are not so keen on cooperating.

Enter Cybercrime

The size of the market is a huge business incentive, creating more and more actors and fierce competition. These online casinos use various methods in order to lure more gamblers onto their websites. One of these methods, is fraud. For example, one of the common frauds that takes place is when fake gambling websites pretend to be official sites of famous casinos in Macau.

But competition does not stop there. In order to gain bigger chunks of online traffic, gambling websites fight and attack one another, and their weapon is – ironically – online traffic.

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Chinese Gambling Website Posing as Macao’s Venetian Official Online Casino

The DDoS Fighting Ring

Chinese hackers are more than eager to lend a helping hand. As most state-sponsored cyber activities handled by patriotic hacking groups from the early 1990’s until about a decade ago, are now under the wings of the Chinese intelligence apparatus, many idle hackers have turned into cybercrime, looking for easy profit. This type of cybercrime is mostly directed inbounds.

One of the ways in which Chinese hackers are involved in the online gambling industry is by breaching online casinos and gaming websites, stealing their user data and selling it on Darknet marketplaces or offering it on designated QQ and Telegram groups.

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Sample from a Gambling Site Database Leak,
Offered for Sale on a Chinese Darknet Marketplace

Another way, which drives a whole underground sector of cybercrime in China, is by conducting DDoS attacks against competitors. These attacks take the gambling websites down and thus, hopefully, drive their customers to the gambling site that ordered the attack.

DDoS has also become a popular weapon for pornography websites and Darknet marketplaces, who launch DDoS attacks against each other. For example, China’s largest online marketplace on the Darknet, has experienced a large-scale DDoS attack during the summer, disrupting its activity for several weeks.

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Flashing Ads on a Chinese Hacking Forum, Offering Tailor-made DDoS Attacks,
among other Hacking Services

The DDoS Chain

The first step in a DDoS attack is to gain control of a large number of computers and other online devices and to turn them into bots, in order to divert huge traffic to the attacked website and thus shut it down. In Chinese hacking slang, these computers are named “broilers” or “meat chickens” (肉鸡). Members of Chinese underground hacking forums constantly offer tools for detecting these “broilers”, namely scanners that trace vulnerabilities in computers and servers. These tools allow the attacker to penetrate these vulnerable devices, implant trojans in them and hence control them remotely. The tools are referred to in Chinese as “Chicken Catchers” (抓鸡) and hackers who operate on those forums trade them between themselves.

broiler-detection

‘Broiler’ Detection Tool Offered on a Chinese Hacking Forum

In addition to buying tools to detect “broilers”, DDoS attackers can also buy these “broilers” directly, as these are sold in bulks on forums and designated QQ/Telegram groups. Based on the number of messages in forums and chat groups, of people requesting to buy “broilers”, it is quite clear they are in high demand.

The customers of the “broiler” market are in turn becoming the suppliers of DDoS attacks and offer their tailor-made services online. Whoever orders the attack can contact the attacker via private messaging, define the target and agree on a price according to the length of the attack and the nature of the attacked website. According to a report published by the Chinese tech firm Tencent, this is what the chain of custom-made DDoS attacks looks like:

DDOS-diagram-1024x595

The Offer: DDoS as-a-Service

The screenshot below, showing an offer posted on a prominent Chinese Darknet marketplace, can shed light on the how these DDoS as-a-service transactions are conducted. It also demonstrates what kind of websites are legitimate targets and which websites are off-limits, for fear of being prosecuted by the authorities. The post reads:

ddos-as-a-service

DDoS as-a-service Offer Posted on Chinese Darknet

Translation:

ddos-as-a-service-translation

Hunting Down Cybercriminals

Chinese law enforcement authorities are well aware of this problem and are relentlessly trying to crack down these cybercriminals and their activities. In late 2018, a man in his twenties from Suining County, Jiangsu Province, was arrested by local authorities, after discovering he had implanted a malicious code, which allowed him to remotely control a local server. During his investigation, he admitted to being part of a team of at least 20 hackers from all over the country that had used “broilers” in order to conduct DDoS attacks by demand.

The team had been involved in more than a hundred DDoS attacks, harming or controlling more than 200,000 websites and earning more than 10 million yuan along the way. Members of the team were arrested across China, yet this only emphasized the magnitude and popularity of the DDoS and DDoS as-a-Service markets, and the success of taking down this cybercriminal operation was merely a drop in the ocean.

Suspicious Domains Selling Tickets to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics

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As a cloud of uncertainty still hangs over the opening of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics due to the Coronavirus pandemic, cyber criminals are still working (remotely) on finding ways to maliciously profit from the event.

Events at the center of global attention such as major sports events and tournaments are often used by attackers to trick users into phishing scams, malware campaigns and the theft of personal and payment details.

We have been monitoring potential threats to the upcoming Tokyo 2020 Olympics for our customers and we recently discovered two suspicious domains allegedly selling tickets for the Games. In both cases, further investigation led us to find additional suspicious domains allegedly selling tickets to the Euro 2020 tournament. In this blog post you can find a summary of our findings.

tickets-tokyo2020[.]com

The domain tickets-tokyo2020[.]com was created on February 11, 2020 by a private registrant at the NICENIC INTERNATIONAL GROUP domain registrar.

When accessing the domain, the user is presented with a page in Russian where the official logo of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics appears. It is also stated that this website is an “authorized Ticket Reseller” for the Olympics. However, we could not find this domain in the list of authorized resellers on the official website of the 2020 Olympics. The user can change the language of the website to English and the website contains search fields, where the user can search for a specific event in the Olympics, for which they are looking to purchase tickets. At the time of publishing this post, the search option does not appear to function, thus, it is possible the website is still under development. There is also a “cart” banner where the user is supposed to be able to view the selected tickets and pay for them.

tickets-tokyo-1-1024x562

tickets-tokyo2020[.]com

This domain is hosted on the 5.45.72[.]40 IP address, together with only two more domains: ticket-mafia[.]com and euro-2020-tickets[.]com. The ticket-mafia[.]com domain was created on November 2016, and until December 20, 2019, it was registered by a private registrant at the GoDaddy domain registrar. However, on December 20, 2019, its registry was updated by a private registrant and was registered at the same domain registrar as the tickets-tokyo2020[.]com domain, NICENIC INTERNATIONAL GROUP.

The ticket-mafia[.]com domain displays a login page in Russian. It is worth mentioning that when inserting HTTPS:// before the tickets-tokyo2020[.]com domain, we were presented with the same login page of ticket-mafia[.]com. There is no option to sign up and therefore we believe it is designed for a user with preset login credentials, presumably the admin of the websites. We estimate the login page leads to a backend dashboard of some kind, although it remains unknown whether it is used for legitimate purposes or not.

login-window-small

Login Window

The euro-2020-tickets[.]com domain was created on January 6, 2020, by a private registrant and is also registered at the NICENIC INTERNATIONAL GROUP domain registrar. This website resembles the tickets-tokyo2020[.]com: it is also presented in Russian and uses the official UEFA Euro 2020 logo, it enables the user to switch the language to English and it allows users to search for a specific match. However, in this case, the search function does work. Upon selecting a match and a seat, the user can select the “order” function and enter his name, phone number and email address and move on to the payment, yet the “Go to the payment” button does not work, as of the time of publishing this post. Of note, the official UEFA Euro 2020 website specifically states that “Third-party ticketing websites and secondary ticketing platforms are not authorized to sell tickets for UEFA EURO 2020”. Thus, it appears this website is not an official Euro 2020 tickets reseller and is not authorized to offer tickets for the tournament for sale.

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euro-2020-tickets[.]com

In light of these findings, we estimate that the above domains were created by the same actor. Our investigation did not reveal any malicious activity associated with these domains. However, it appears that these are not official resellers of tickets for the two events. In addition, as the search function in the Tokyo 2020 domain and the payment function in the Euro 2020 domain do not work, it appears that these domains are still under development, and thus could materialize into a more serious threat in the future.

olympic2020tickets[.]com

The code of a malicious HTML file recently uploaded to the VirusTotal platform, contained a link to the olympic2020tickets[.]com domain. This domain does not appear in the official website of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics as an official and authorized reseller. The website offers users to buy or sell tickets to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The website also displays the logos of some of the Olympics’ official sponsors, such as Toyota, Panasonic, Visa, Alibaba Group, and more. The use of the logos of the sponsors can increase the credibility of the website in the eyes of visitors, and trick them into thinking the website is a legitimate and official ticket reseller for the Games.

olympic2020tickets-1

olympic2020tickets[.]com

Using an HTML interpreter, we discovered that the above-mentioned malicious file uploaded to VirusTotal, contains the HTML code of the main page of olympic2020tickets[.]com. In addition, the olympic2020tickets[.]com domain itself is identified as malicious by three different anti-virus engines. Our technical analysis of the website’s code did not reveal any use of a malicious JavaScript. The website provides the following phone number for contact: +4402074425560. We identified two additional similar domains, eurosportstickets[.]com and ticketsmarketplace.co[.]uk, which provide the same phone number for contact, and are also dedicated to selling tickets to various sports events and games. As can be seen in the screenshots below, the three domains resemble each other in their structure and design. In addition, eurosportstickets[.]com is identified as a phishing website by two anti-virus engines.

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eurosportstickets[.]com

ticketsmarketplace-1

ticketsmarketplace[.]co.uk

None of the Whois details of the three domains, reveal the identity of the registrant. However, we noticed that two of the domains, olympic2020tickets[.]com and ticketsmarketplace[.]co.uk, are hosted on the same IP address, 77.72.1.20, while eurosportstickets[.]com is hosted on the approximate 77.72.1.21 IP address.

Using the graph function of VirusTotal, we managed to establish connections between the three domains and the IP addresses they are hosted on, as can be seen below. The graph also shows how this infrastructure is related to malicious activity, and how both IP addresses are used for downloading malware, such as the Tofsee backdoor, the Artemis malware or the QRat.

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Connections Between the Domains and Their Surrounding Malicious Infrastructure

 

The Awakening of PoS Malware (or, Has It Really Been Dormant?)

The peak of activity of Point-of-Sale (PoS) malware was in late 2013 (with the disclosure of the notorious Target breach), and over the course of 2014, when we witnessed the development and trade of new PoS malware strains. The vigorous discussions on hacking communities at the time, has led hackers to believe PoS malware would ensure them an easy profit. However, as time passed, Continue reading “The Awakening of PoS Malware (or, Has It Really Been Dormant?)”

What will The Dark Overlord Do Next – a CTI Assessment

On December 31, 2018, a cybercrime group going by the handle The Dark Overlord (hereafter TDO) claimed he had hacked an unnamed company, and exfiltrated a large volume of sensitive documents related to the 9/11 terror attacks-related lawsuits. TDOaims to extort the impacted organizations into paying a Bitcoin ransom and he already published batches of the leakage after creating a public auction system, where anyone can contribute Bitcoins to unlock new documents. Continue reading “What will The Dark Overlord Do Next – a CTI Assessment”

Cybercriminals Integrate Exploit for CVE-2018-8174 into Numerous Attack Tools

The CVE-2018-8174 vulnerability, also dubbed “Double Kill,” was discovered in the beginning of May 2018, when it was exploited as a 0-day in an APT attack leveraging malicious Office files in China. The vulnerability affects users with Internet Explorer installed, either after they browse the web or after they open crafted Office documents – even if the default browser on the victim’s machine is not set to IE. Moreover, it will also affect IE11, even though VBScript is no longer supported by using the compatibility tag for IE10. Microsoft patched the vulnerability on May 8, 2018. Continue reading “Cybercriminals Integrate Exploit for CVE-2018-8174 into Numerous Attack Tools”

Insider Threats – Sometimes it is your Colleagues, and not Remote Attackers

Insiders pose the most substantial threat to organizations everywhere, a recent across-the-board study conducted by IBM demonstrates. Although in the majority of the cases, the insider is an employee of the company, he could also be a third party, such as an external contractor, a consultant or a business partner. An insider generally has all the Continue reading “Insider Threats – Sometimes it is your Colleagues, and not Remote Attackers”

Jihadi Cybercrime (Increasing Interest in Spam and Phishing Methods on Closed Islamic State Platforms)

While monitoring closed platforms that propagate an Islamic State agenda, we detected an initial interest in hacking lessons, focusing on spam and phishing methods. Many discussions in the technical sections of closed platforms affiliated with the Islamic State deal with the implementation of Continue reading “Jihadi Cybercrime (Increasing Interest in Spam and Phishing Methods on Closed Islamic State Platforms)”

The Healthcare Sector is Targeted by Cybercriminals More than Ever

The healthcare sector has recently become a desirable target for cyber crooks. According to Symantec ISTR report statistics, healthcare was the most breached sub-sector in 2015, comprising almost 40% of all the attacks. Hospital security systems are generally less secure than those of financial organizations, as monetary theft has always been perceived as the greatest threat for organizations, and dangers to other sectors were usually underestimated. Moreover, awareness of cyber-attacks against hospitals and medical centers is much lower than it is to financial cybercrime, and as a result, the employees are less well-trained on how to avoid falling victim to a cyber-attack.

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Top 10 Sub-Sectors Breached by Number of Incidents According to Symantec ISTR report

Only lately, this concept has started to be challenged, revealing the potential damage that can be caused by the theft and leakage of patient data. However, the ‘bad guys’ remain one step ahead and during the last few months, we have witnessed a spate of attacks targeting the healthcare industry: ransomware attacks encrypting essential data and demanding payment of a ransom, numerous data leakages revealing confidential patient data, unauthorized access to medical networks and even the hacking of medical devices, such as pumps and X-ray equipment.

Moreover, the healthcare sector is being targeted by hackers not only directly, but also via third-party companies in the supply chain, such as equipment and drug suppliers. These companies usually store some confidential data that originates in the hospitals’ databases and may even have access to the hospital IT systems, but they are far less secure than the hospitals themselves. Thus, they serve as a preferable infiltration point for malicious actors pursuing the theft of medical data and attempting to infiltrate the hospitals’ networks.

The consequences of attacks on the healthcare industry may be extensive, including the impairment of the medical center functioning, which may result in danger to human lives in the worst case scenario. In other cases, personal data will be stolen and sold on underground markets. Cybercriminals will take advantages of these personal details for identity theft or for future cyber-attacks combining social engineering based on the stolen details.

While monitoring closed Deep-Web and Darknet sources, SenseCy analysts recently noticed a growing interest toward the healthcare sector among cyber criminals. Databases of medical institutions are traded on illicit marketplaces and closed forums, along with access to their servers. In the last few months alone, we came across several occurrences indicating extensive trade of medical records and access to servers where this data is stored.

The first case, in May 2016, was the sale of RDP access for a large clinic group with several branches in the central U.S., which was offered for sale on a Darknet closed forum. For a payment of $50,000 Bitcoins, the buyer would receive access to the compromised workstation, with access to 3 GB of data stored on four hard disks. Additionally, the workstation allows access to an aggregate electronical system (EHR) for managing medical records, where data regarding patients, suppliers, payments and more can be exploited.

Although the seller did not mention the origin of the credentials he was selling, he claimed that local administrator privileges could be received on the compromised system. He also specified that 45 users from the medical personnel were logged into the system from the workstation he hacked.

The relatively high price for this offer indicates the high demand for medical information. With RDP access, the potential attackers can perform any action on the compromised workstation: install malware, encrypt the files or erase them, infect other machines in the network and access any data stored in the network. The consequences can be tremendous.

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An excerpt of the sale thread posted on a Darknet forum

 

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Screenshot allegedly taken on the hacked workstation

Just a few weeks later, in June 2016, our analysts detected another cyber-accident related to healthcare. This time, three databases allegedly stolen via an RDP access to a medical organization were offered for sale for more than $500,000 on a dedicated Darknet marketplace. In one of his posts, the seller claimed that one of the databases belongs to a large American health insurer.

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One of the sales posts on a Darknet marketplace

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Screenshot posted by the seller as a proof of hacking into a medical organization

Before long, we again discovered evidence of hacking into a medical-related organization, this time by Russian-speaking hackers. On one of the forums we monitor, a member tried to sell an SSH access to the server of an American company supplying equipment to 130 medical center in the U.S. He uploaded screenshots proving that he accessed the server where personal data of patients is stored.

The conclusions following these findings are concerning. An extensive trade in medical information and compromised workstations and servers is a common sight on underground illegal markets. This business generates hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars annually, ensuring its continuation as long as there are such high profits to those involved. Since the ramifications can be grave, the healthcare sector must take all necessary measures to protect their systems and data:

  1. Implement a strong password policy, because many hacks are a result of brute-force attack. Strong passwords and two-factor authentications to log into organizational systems should be the number one rule for medical organizations.
  2. Deploy suitable security systems.
  3. Instruct the employees to follow cyber security rules – choosing strong and unique passwords, spotting phishing email messages, avoiding clicking on links and downloading files from unknown sources, etc. Consider periodic training for employees on these issues to maintain high awareness and compliance with the rules.
  4. Use Cyber Threat Intelligence (CTI) – to keep up with the times regarding the current most prominent threats to your organization and industry.
  5. Keep all software updated.

ORX-Locker – A Darknet Ransomware That Even Your Grandmother Can Use

Written by Ran L. and Mickael S.

The bar for becoming a cyber-criminal has never been so low. Whether buying off-the-shelf malware or writing your own, with a small investment, anyone can make a profit. Now it seems that the bar has been lowered even further with the creation of a new Darknet site that offers Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS), titled ORX-Locker.

Ransomware-as-a-Service enables a user with no knowledge or cash to create his own stubs and use them to infect systems. If the victim decides to pay, the ransom goes to the service provider, who takes a percent of the payment and forwards the rest to the user. For cyber-criminals, this is a win-win situation. The user who cannot afford to buy the ransomware or does not have the requisite knowledge can acquire it for free, and the creator gets his ransomware spread without any effort from his side.

This is not the first time we have seen this kind of service. McAfee previously (May, 2015) reported on Tox. While Tox was the first ransomware-as-a-service, it seems that ORX has taken the idea one step further, with AV evasion methods and complex communication techniques, and apparently also using universities and other platforms as its infrastructure.

In the “August 2015 IBM Security IBM X-Force Threat Intelligence Quarterly, 3Q 2015,” published on Monday (August 24, 2015), IBM mentioned TOX while predicting: “This simplicity may spread rapidly to more sophisticated but less common ransomware attack paradigms and lead to off-the-shelf offerings in the cloud.” Just one day later, a post was published on a closed Darknet forum regarding the new ORX-Locker service.

ORX – First Appearance

On August 25, 2015, a user dubbed orxteam published a post regarding the new ransomware service. The message, which was part of his introduction post – a mandatory post every new user has to make to be accepted to the forum – described the new ORX-Locker ransomware as a service platform. In the introduction, the user presented himself as Team ORX, a group that provides private locker software (their name for ransomware) and also ransomware-as-a-service platform.

ORX team introduction post in a closed Darknet hacking forum.
ORX Team introduction post in a closed Darknet hacking forum.

ORX Locker Online Platform

Team ORX has built a Darknet website dedicated to the new public service. To enter the site, new users just need to register. No email or other identification details are required. Upon registration, users have the option to enter a referral username, which will earn them three percent from every payment made to the new user. After logging in, the user can move between five sections:

Home – the welcome screen where you users can see statistics on how much system has been locked by their ransom, how many victims decided to pay, how much they earned and their current balance.

Build EXE – Team ORX has made the process of creating a stub so simple that the only thing a user needs to do is to enter an ID number for his stub (5 digits max) and the ransom price (ORX put a minimum of $75). After that, the user clicks on the Build EXE button and the stub is created and presented in a table with all other stubs previously created by the user.

ORX-Locker Darknet platform, which enables every registered user to build his own ransomware stub.
ORX-Locker Darknet platform, which enables every registered user to build his own ransomware stub.

Stats – This section presents the user with information on systems infected with his stub, including the system OS, how many files have been encrypted, time and date of infection, how much profit has been generated by each system, etc.

Wallet – following a successful infection, the user can withdraw his earnings and transfer them to a Bitcoin address of his choosing.

Support – This section provides general information on the service, including more information on how to build the stub and a mail address (orxsupport@safe-mail[.]net) that users can contact if they require support.

Ransomware

When a user downloads the created stub, he gets a zip file containing the stub, in the form of an “.exe” file. Both the zip and the stub names consist of a random string, 20-characters long. Each file has a different name.

Once executed, the ransomware starts communicating with various IP addresses. The following is a sample from our analysis:

  1. 130[.]75[.]81[.]251 – Leibniz University of Hanover
  2. 130[.]149[.]200[.]12 – Technical University of Berlin
  3. 171[.]25[.]193[.]9 – DFRI (Swedish non-profit and non-party organization working for digital rights)
  4. 199[.]254[.]238[.]52 – Riseup (Riseup provides online communication tools for people and groups working on liberatory social change)

As you can see, some of the addresses are related to universities and others to organizations with various agendas.

Upon activation, the ransomware connects to the official TOR project website and downloads the TOR client. The malware then transmits data over this channel. Using hidden services for communication is a trend that has been adopted by most known ransomware tools in the last year, as was the case of Cryptowall 3.0. In our analysis, the communication was over the standard 9050 port and over 49201.

The final piece would be the encryption of files on the victim’s machine. Unlike other, more “target oriented” ransomware, this particular one locks all files, changing the file ending to .LOCKED and deletes the originals.

When the ransomware finishes encrypting the files, a message will popup announcing that all the files were encrypted, and a payment instruction file will be created on the desktop.

After the ransomware finishes encrypting the files, a message will popup announcing that all the files were encrypted
After the ransomware finishes encrypting the files, a message will popup announcing that all the files were encrypted

In the payment instruction file (.html), the victim receives a unique payment ID and a link to the payment website, located on the onion network (rkcgwcsfwhvuvgli[.]onion). After entering the site using the payment ID, the victim receives another set of instructions in order to complete the payment.

ORX-Locker payment platform which has a dedicated site located on the onion network.
ORX-Locker payment platform, which has a dedicated site located on the onion network.

Finally, although some basic persistence and anti-AV mechanisms are present, the malware still has room to “grow.” We are certain that as its popularity grows, more developments and enhancements will follow.

YARA rule:

rule ORXLocker
{
meta:
author = “SenseCy”
date = “30/08/15”
description = “ORXLocker_yara_rule”

strings:
$string0 = {43 61 6e 27 74 20 63 6f 6d 70 6c 65 74 65 20 53 4f 43 4b 53 34 20 63 6f 6e 6e 65 63 74 69 6f 6e 20 74 6f 20 25 64 2e 25 64 2e 25 64 2e 25 64 3a 25 64 2e 20 28 25 64 29 2c 20 72 65 71 75 65 73 74 20 72 65 6a 65 63 74 65 64 20 62 65 63 61 75 73 65 20 74 68 65 20 63 6c 69 65 6e 74 20 70 72 6f 67 72 61 6d 20 61 6e 64 20 69 64 65 6e 74 64 20 72 65 70 6f 72 74 20 64 69 66 66 65 72 65 6e 74 20 75 73 65 72 2d 69 64 73 2e}
$string1 = {43 61 6e 27 74 20 63 6f 6d 70 6c 65 74 65 20 53 4f 43 4b 53 35 20 63 6f 6e 6e 65 63 74 69 6f 6e 20 74 6f 20 25 30 32 78 25 30 32 78 3a 25 30 32 78 25 30 32 78 3a 25 30 32 78 25 30 32 78 3a 25 30 32 78 25 30 32 78 3a 25 30 32 78 25 30 32 78 3a 25 30 32 78 25 30 32 78 3a 25 30 32 78 25 30 32 78 3a 25 30 32 78 25 30 32 78 3a 25 64 2e 20 28 25 64 29}
$string2 = {53 4f 43 4b 53 35 3a 20 73 65 72 76 65 72 20 72 65 73 6f 6c 76 69 6e 67 20 64 69 73 61 62 6c 65 64 20 66 6f 72 20 68 6f 73 74 6e 61 6d 65 73 20 6f 66 20 6c 65 6e 67 74 68 20 3e 20 32 35 35 20 5b 61 63 74 75 61 6c 20 6c 65 6e 3d 25 7a 75 5d}
$string3 = {50 72 6f 78 79 20 43 4f 4e 4e 45 43 54 20 66 6f 6c 6c 6f 77 65 64 20 62 79 20 25 7a 64 20 62 79 74 65 73 20 6f 66 20 6f 70 61 71 75 65 20 64 61 74 61 2e 20 44 61 74 61 20 69 67 6e 6f 72 65 64 20 28 6b 6e 6f 77 6e 20 62 75 67 20 23 33 39 29}
$string4 = {3c 61 20 68 72 65 66 3d 68 74 74 70 73 3a 2f 2f 72 6b 63 67 77 63 73 66 77 68 76 75 76 67 6c 69 2e 74 6f 72 32 77 65 62 2e 6f 72 67 3e 68 74 74 70 73 3a 2f 2f 72 6b 63 67 77 63 73 66 77 68 76 75 76 67 6c 69 2e 74 6f 72 32 77 65 62 2e 6f 72 67 3c 2f 61 3e 3c 62 72 3e}
$string5 = {43 3a 5c 44 65 76 5c 46 69 6e 61 6c 5c 52 65 6c 65 61 73 65 5c 6d 61 69 6e 2e 70 64 62}
$string6 = {2e 3f 41 56 3f 24 62 61 73 69 63 5f 6f 66 73 74 72 65 61 6d 40 44 55 3f 24 63 68 61 72 5f 74 72 61 69 74 73 40 44 40 73 74 64 40 40 40 73 74 64 40 40}
$string7 = {2e 3f 41 56 3f 24 62 61 73 69 63 5f 69 6f 73 40 5f 57 55 3f 24 63 68 61 72 5f 74 72 61 69 74 73 40 5f 57 40 73 74 64 40 40 40 73 74 64 40 40}
$string8 = “ttp://4rhfxsrzmzilheyj.onion/get.php?a=” wide
$string9 = “\\Payment-Instructions.htm” wide

condition:
all of them
}