The research (also made on other smaller forums) used the forum’s search engine capabilities to analyze conversations by topic using specific keywords. Unfortunately no details have been provided about the methodology used to collect the data, however the results show that SQL Injection and DDoS are the most discussed topic, both of them with the 19% of discussion volume (I am glad to see that the results are coherent with the findings of my Cyber Attack Statistics).
Of course the data must be taken with the needed caution since the analyzed sample could not be entirely consistent. As Imperva admits: “The site we examined is not a hardcore crime site, but it’s not entirely softcore. New hackers come to this site to learn and,on the other hand, more experienced hackers teach to gain “street cred” and recognition […]. Typically, once hackers have gained enough of a reputation, they go to a more hardcore, invitation-only forum.” This probably means that the incidence of the two attack techniques is overrated since one should expect a beginner hacker to approach the easiest and most common attack methods for which there are many tools available.
Anyway the events of the last months show that an attack does not deserve less attention only because it is carried on by a beginner, nor a beginner worries too much if he uses automated tools without full knowledge and awareness. A look to the infosec chronicles of the last period is sufficient to verify that DDoS and SQLi attacks are always in the first pages.
Sadly, Imperva estimates that only the 5% of the security budget is spent on thwarting SQL Injection attacks.
Other interesting findings of the research are: the fact that social networks pose a major interest for hackers since they are becoming a prominent source of information and potential monetary gain (Facebook was the most discussed social media platform, with 39%, immediately followed by Twitter at 37%), and also the fact that E-whoring is becoming one of the most common methods for beginner cyber criminals to gain easy money (more than 13,000 threads observed).
Law Enforcement Agencies are taking their revenge against the Hacktivists who mostly targeted them during the last months. In a deadly and unexpected sequence, the last 40 days have seen the heads of three infamous hacking crews falling under the blows of FBI and Scotland Yard.
One after the other, the key members of LulzSec, CabinCr3w and Team Poison have been arrested and in all but one case (that is the arrest of the alleged members of Team P0ison for which no details are known so far), the events have unveiled some surprises and unexpected details. Moreover, at least three arrests have been possible since the hackers left behind them a trail of mistakes which allowed the investigators to connect the dots and link their twitter accounts to their real identities.
The following table depicts the facts which may be better summarized from the Criminal Complaints which are reported below for:
As you may notice, in two cases, W0rmer and ItsKahuna, the hackers were betrayed by two familiar technologies which are commonly considered dangerous for users’ privacy and identity: social networks and mobile devices. Sabu was the one who really did a “technical mistake” by connecting to an IRC without protecting his IP address with TOR.
Interesting to say is also the different approach of FBI and Scotland Yard. Once discovered the real identities of the hackers the Feds tried to “enroll” them as informants, at least in one case (Sabu) this strategy was winning. At the opposite the Britons immediately caught the alleged culprits without giving any detail about their identity, maybe hoping the arrest could act as a deterrent for the other hackers. Apparently it looks like this latter strategy was not completely successful since the CabinCr3w survivors are threatening authorities, inviting other Blackhats to join them for the revenge.
Last but not least, I cannot help but notice the tweet below for which I remember to have been particularly impressed when I first saw it since, at that time, I considered it a too much imprudent. Consequently I was not that surprised when I saw it quoted in the Criminal Complaint.
Neighbors thank you for having WEP on your router and amazing dl speeds, im quite enjoying it atm—
Kahuna (@ItsKahuna) January 29, 2012
At the end we are becoming more and more familiar with mobile phones and Social Network, so familiar to forget their level of intrusiveness and the related dangers for our privacy. As an example try to verify how many of you and your friend toggle Geo-Tagging off from their phone cameras. (Un)fortunately, it looks like not even the bad guys are immune from this.
If you think that Facebook’s 600,000 compromised logins per day are not enough, you’d better read an interesting paper issued by a group of researchers from University of British Columbia, concerning the capability to use socialbots, that is software driven fake identities controlled by a bootmaster, to lure real Facebook users with the purpose of stealing sensitive data, and more in general, every kind of information with a potential monetary value.
Social Networks are gaining more and more importance for everyday life, both on a microscopic and on a macroscopic scale. On a microscopic scale they influence the life of a growing number of individuals who concentrate there their personal and professional interests; on a macroscopic scale Social Networks played (and are playing) a crucial role for the Arab Spring, both on a social and military perspective, not only they were the virtual weapons for protesters to witness the events in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Syria (but also for the loyalists with actions of propaganda and misinformation), but they were also used by NATO as real weapons in Libya to identify potentially targets to strike after “strong authentication” with conventional technologies (such as satellites).
Of course this constantly growing influence is attracting attentions from governments (which are evaluating technologies to monitor and eventually counteract the streams of information) but also from individuals who look at the weaknesses of social networks (and more in general at the scarce attention towards privacy by many users) as a mean for stealing money and information, a new form of richness of the Web 2.0 era.
The idea behind this research is not completely new, and takes into consideration two well known risk factors for Social Networks: reputation and privacy. The (fake) social reputation of a malicious individual can lure legitimate users to connect with untrusted contacts, after the connection, the poor attention for privacy settings together with a superficial behavior can bring to users to reveal, through the social channel, personal and classified information. This is the reason why resounding examples of fake profiles (with human beings behind) are not new for social networks, for scientific or amusement purposes: the names of Robin Sage and Primoris Era should sound familiar to many.
On the other hand not even the possibility to develop software-based fake social personas is a completely new, at least in theory and, most of all with military purposes, if it is true that the U.S. Department of Defense is developing software personas for propaganda actions inside the Social Network Battlefield.
What is completely new is the fact that no one so far had been able to show the results of a research done with software based socialbots since, so far, only human fake profiles were used to steal informations.
So what happens when bots, a concept proper of Information Security, meet social networks?
The results, at least for Facebook are frustrating: the above mentioned paper shows that, starting with a socialbotnet of 102 socialbots (49 male profiles and 53 female profiles) controlled by a single botmaster, the researchers were able to infiltrate Facebook, fully automating the operation of the Socialbotnet (including fake accounts creation).
The average success rate was 59.1%, with peaks close to 80%, which in several cases, depending on users’ privacy settings, resulted in privacy breaches (harvested data included email addresses, phone numbers, and other profile information with potential monetary value). Even worst, collected data included also private data of users who had not been infiltrated, but were only “guilty” to be somehow connected to infiltrated users, with an average collection day of 175 new chunks of publicly-unaccessible users’ data per socialbot per day.
The infiltration turned into 8,570 connection requests in a timeframe of 8 weeks with 250 Gb of data collected. Moreover the Social Network Defenses, such as the Facebook Immune System, resulted not effective enough in detecting or stopping the infiltration as it occurs: they were effective only when users were able to recognize the fake profiles and mark them as spam. Curiously this happened only in 20 cases (nearly the 20% of the total), all related to female profiles.
From the users’ side, (an easily predictable statement) the research confirms that most users are not careful enough when accepting connection requests sent by strangers, especially when they have mutual connections (the so called triadic closure principle, one of the foundations of the Social Networks).
Personal and Professional Social Networkers (and organizations that are approaching Social Networks) are advised!
Do you remember Mobile Phishing and the related risks? Well This morning I had a bad surprise and could see it anction with my hands (or better with my fingers on the display of my Android Device).
This morning I woke up early (6 AM) since I previously arranged a travel to my hometown which takes approximately 4 hours. As usual I have the bad habit to check email upon awakening, directly from my Android device. This morning found a strange DM strange DM on my Twitter Account:
This made me laugh so hard when i saw this about you lol hxxp://t.co/AusOXeQ
I already exchanged some DMs in English with this contact, so, the content was not so strange (probably a similar message from an Italian contact would have received a different impact and triggered an alarm bell). Moreover I suppose my neurons were not completely up and running (actually they are rerely in this state), so a little bit for curiosity, a little bit for fun I clicked the link directly from my mobile device.
In the following screenshots you may realize how easy and dangerous for the user, mobile phishing is: as a matter of facts the link points to a bogus Twitter-like site, but, believe me, from a 3.7″ screen is really difficult to discriminate it.
The page is really similar to the real one:
But yes, if you look carefully at the address bar (but at the 6 AM with the sleep fog surrounding you is not so easy) you will notice a misplaced detail and it is the link (currently up): hxxp://www.ltwittier.com/session-verify (but not all the address is visibile on the bar). If you click on the text box the situation is even worse since the address bar, a default beaviour for the Android Browser, disappears.
Needless to say, if you login, your account will be hacked and your contacts will suffer the same fate.
This event shows how easy is to fall victim of phishing in case of mobile devices and, even worse, in case the bait comes from Social Network (and a professional social network how Twitter is for me, in which I trust the reputation of my contacts).
Always remember to check the links and be careful to follow strange links from mobile devices!
If you point to the incomplete link: hxxp://www.ltwittier.com/ there is a clear evidence of the fact that the site is bogus:
http://paulsparrows.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/wronglink.png” alt=”” width=”300″ height=”494″ />
Update: Next Web pointed out that that what has been reported is a standard error message used by MySpace since 2009. I know these are hard times of hoaxes and psychological terrorism driven by the recent hacks by Anonymous and LulzSec but I hope that the lesson will be learned. Probably it would be better, in times like these, to use clearer error messages. At any rate this is only the latest demonstration of what it means to be hacking in the time of Twitter: advertising an attack, too often before performing it, has become even more important than the effect of the attack itself.
As usual the hack was announced with an (Anonymous) tweet:
Following the link (http://www.myspace.com/modules/common/static/html/error.html) leads to a bad surprise, a page whose title is meaningful “All is wrong :(“. By the way www.myspace.com is currently unavailable.
We messed up our code so bad that even puppies and kittens may be in danger. Please turn back …now.
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In this blog I express my personal opinion, which does not necessarily reflects the opinion of my organization, about events and news or interest, concerning information security, winking to mobile world and, why not, to some curious personal event.
Every information is reported with its source.
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