IBM Softlayer Discovered to Be Biggest Spam Hosting ISP

Softlayer Rated Biggest Spam Hosting ISP by Spamhaus

According to a new report by the not-for-profit anti-spam organization, Spamhaus, the biggest spam hosting ISP is Softlayer, the IBM-owned cloud computing provider. A reported 42% of the ISP’s outbound emails have been discovered to be spam.

The report, issued on Wednesday, shows the ISP to be the current biggest offender, found to be supporting spammers and hosting numerous malware operations. The extent of the company’s emails found to be spam is astonishing, making it the undisputed champion of spam. Spamhaus has recorded over 685 separate spam issues on Softlayer, almost three times as many as the ISP in second place, Unicom-sc, which has had 232 reported spam issues.

Typically, the biggest web hosting companies and internet service providers do not feature so highly in the spam list, as they tend to employ numerous measures to prevent their servers being used by spammers and internet criminals. While Softlayer has not featured so highly in the past, recently it has been rising up the rankings, even though it does make efforts to fight spammers and implements controls to prevent them from using its servers.

In recent years the company has increased efforts to keep spammers at bay, and has taken firm, decisive action when reports of spamming have been received. But this has not proved to be sufficient.

It would appear that the ISP is now being targeted by Brazilian cybercriminals who are using its services to send out high volumes of spam emails and host numerous malware-infected websites. Softlayer is understood to have relaxed its criteria and vetting processes recently in an effort to attract more business; which does appear to have been successful, albeit for the wrong kind of business.

Spamhaus also pointed out that it has received requests to have Softlayer removed from its listing, but will only do so when it is clear that all of the issues have in fact been resolved. Spamhaus pointed out that cyber-criminals from Brazil were so active that “many listed ranges were being reassigned to the same spam gang immediately after re-entering the pool of available addresses.” The report went on to say, “these specific issues would not be removed until Softlayer was able to get control of the overall problem with these spammers.”

Softlayer has responded to the new number 1 ranking, saying affirmative action is being taken to tackle the issue. Communications Director, Andre Fuochi, recently told Krebsonsecurity, “We are aggressively working with authorities; groups like The Spamhaus Project, and IBM Security analysts to shut down this recent, isolated spike.”

Unfortunately, while action is being taken, it is not fast enough to stop the spammers. As soon as accounts and websites are shut down, more are created. Users are able to provision and de-provision sites and applications cheaply and quickly, which is why the ISP is struggling to stop spam emails from being sent and malware sites from being created.

Cloudmark recently confirmed Spamhaus’s rating, saying the Softlayer network was the largest single source of spam in the world during the third quarter of this year. The spammers and scammers will always find a home somewhere, but to find it at a company owned by IBM must come as a major embarrassment. IBM is, after all, a major player in the software security market.

Bank Phishing Scheme Nets Hackers Over $3.5 Million

A bank phishing scheme operated by a Moldovan man has resulted in $3.55 million being transferred from the bank accounts of a Pennsylvania mining company – the Penneco Oil Company Inc. – according to federal prosecutors.

The perpetrator of the campaign, Andrey Ghinkul, 30, has been charged following his recent arrest in Cyprus. He is awaiting extradition to the United States, with a hearing scheduled for next week.

The phishing campaign was sent out to numerous companies, with a number of recipients reportedly opening the email, only to have their computers infected with Bugat malware. Bugat Malware is a little known form of malware, operating in a similar fashion to the well-known Trojan Zeus.

Bugat malware functions as a SOCKS proxy server, allowing hackers to directly download and execute programs on an infected host’s computer, or upload files to remote servers. In order to escape detection, the malware communicates encrypted data with its command, and by doing so fails to trigger many traffic inspection software warnings.

The malware has been used to log information entered during online banking sessions, with Firefox and Internet Explorer browsers so far exploited. With the information obtained, hackers are able to make fraudulent wire transfers and ACH transactions. So far, small to mid-sized businesses have been most commonly targeted.

While many organizations are now looking out for Zeus infections, this new form of malware can escape detection more easily. The attacks also show how cybercriminals are diversifying their attacks in order to gain access to financial account information and avoid detection.

The phishing campaign was used to send emails to a number of recipients in U.S companies, with the emails appearing to have been sent from medical providers, indicating the recipients had received a positive diagnosis for cancer.

Bugat Malware Bank Phishing Scheme Nest Hackers Over $10 Million

According to the FBI, Bugat malware has resulted in around $10 million in funds being transferred from U.S company accounts to hackers in Russia and Belarus.

The transfers from Penneco Oil’s accounts were made possible by the malware, which recorded bank passwords as they were entered on the infected computer. That information was then used to make the transfers. The first transfer of $2.2 million was made in August 2012, with the funds being received by a bank based in Krasnodar, Russia. A second transfer was made the following month, this time the recipient account was in Minsk, Belarus.

While the transfers did go through, action was swiftly taken by the bank – Indiana, PA-based First Commonwealth – and the funds were rapidly restored. Senior Vice President of Penneco, D. Marc. Jacobs, said the bank “worked to completely restore our funds almost immediately.” In this case, Penneco had all funds restored and the bank had to cover the cost.

Should Ghinkul be extradited, the case will be heard in Pittsburgh where another attempted victim was targeted. Sharon City School District nearly lost $999,000 to a Russian account. Fortunately, that transaction was successfully blocked.

iTunes Email Scam Tricks Users into Revealing Credit Card Numbers

A new iTunes email scam has been uncovered which attempts to trick users into revealing their credit card numbers, according to a recent report issued by Malwarebytes.

The latest iTunes email scam targets users of iTunes and offers them a refund for a purchase that has been made using their iTunes account, indicating they have been affected by an email scam already. In order to receive the refund, the users must provide their Apple ID, password, and credit card details so the refund can be processed.

Emails have been sent to iTunes account holders telling them that their account has been fraudulently used to purchase an app valued at £34.99 ($53), with the emails containing a fake receipt for the purchase. The app is question is provided by CoPilot Premium HD, a supposed navigation service. The receipt contains a link that the recipient of the email must click in order for their refund to be issued, if the purchase is not genuine.

There is of course no such app, and the high price is perhaps a warning that something is amiss. Unfortunately for users looking to protect themselves from fraud, the very actions they take to protect themselves will actually ensure they do become victims.

Not the Only iTunes Email Scam Recently Uncovered

This is not the only email phishing scam to have been sent to Apple users in recent weeks. Another email spam campaign attempts to get users to click a link to update their credit/debit card, which users have been informed in the email is about to expire. Users have been requested to click a link and enter their new card details, including the CSC code on the reverse of their card, as well as the new expiry date.

As with many email scams of this nature, the email is sent with a threat of account suspension if they do not comply. In this case, users have little time to respond. The email link is said to expire in one hour’s time if it is not clicked, reducing the time for users to verify if the email is in fact genuine.

They are provided with a link to which is seemingly genuine; however, hovering over the link will reveal that the link directs them to a different location.

There are other common tell-tale signs that the email is a fake, even though the correspondence does contain seemingly genuine Apple imagery and appears to have been sent from Apple’s customer service department. One of the most telling signs is the volume of spelling mistakes contained in the email. Any email sent by Apple is likely to have at least been run through a spell check before being used as a template for millions of Apple device owners. A sure sign that the email is not genuine.

The email contains spelling and grammatical errors such as informing the recipient that the link will “expire one hours after the email was sent.” iPhone “ore” iPads is another, and feature is spelled “feauter.”

The advice to all Apple users is to take time to carefully read any email sent from Apple, and to attempt to verify any request to provide ID numbers or financial information.

U.S. Postal Service Not Dealing with the Phishing Threat

It has now been over a year since the U.S Postal Service was affected by a phishing campaign that resulted in the exposure of the personal information of 800,000 current and former workers, yet the postal service is still not effectively dealing with the phishing threat. Employees have been tested, and they are not identifying phishing emails.

Postal Service Employees are at Risk of Falling for Phishing Emails

The network data breach of 2014 occurred as a result of employees falling for spear phishing campaigns, which allowed criminals to gain access to postal service networks containing sensitive data. The data thieves were able to gain access to the network and exfiltrate data without meeting much in the way of resistance. It would appear that if a similar campaign was conducted again now, even more data may be exposed.

The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) recently took the decision to put postal service workers to the test, to determine whether lessons have been learned since last year. In total, 3,125 fake phishing emails were sent to employees of the U.S Postal Service to determine whether they were actually able to identify a potential phishing campaign.

There was some good news. 75% of workers were able to resist the temptation to click on the phishing links in the emails. The bad news was 25% did click. Unfortunately, all it takes is for one person to respond to a phishing email for criminals to gain access to data. 780 responses to fake phishing emails shows risk is not being effectively managed.

However, perhaps worse still, was the lack of compliance with policies that had been put in place in the wake of last year’s successful attack. For instance, the postal service’s Computer Incident Response Team should be alerted if a suspicious email is received by workers, yet only 7% of employees did so during the test.

The reason is perhaps quite easy to explain. Only 4% of staff had completed the Postal Service cybersecurity training course, so presumably were unaware of the policy of reporting suspicious emails, if they were in fact able to identify them as suspicious.

OIG Report Shows Postal Service is Not Dealing with the Phishing Threat

The OIG report on the cybersecurity test stated that awareness training does have a positive impact, and can substantially reduce the risk of employees responding to a phishing campaign. Research shows training can reduce security-related risks by as much as 70%.

Policies must of course be turned into procedures, and the staff must receive training. The OIG said, “When management does not require all employees with network access to take annual information security awareness training, users are less likely to appropriately respond to threats.”

One of the main problems for organizations trying to tackle the threat of phishing is the fact that criminal organizations and hackers are developing ever more complex and convincing campaigns to fool users into opening malware-infected attachments and visiting links to malware-infected websites. However, if training is not provided to the staff, even uncomplicated phishing campaigns could well succeed.

At present, only new members of staff and CIO office members are required to undergo annual cybersecurity training: That is not the most effective way of dealing with the phishing threat. However, in response to the OIG report, the Postal Service will be implementing new training policies by April 2016.

FTC Issues Warning over Gaming Email Phishing Scam

The Federal Trade Commission has issued a warning over a new gaming email phishing scam that targets video game players and takes advantage of their love of the games to get them to divulge their account information.

Gamers invest considerable time and money into buying add-ons and developing gaming characters; however, the fear of loss of their gaming account is seeing many fall for the latest scam.

Cyber Criminals Opt for Gaming Phishing Email Scam

Hardcore gamers are not difficult to find, having registered on forums and gaming websites, providing their email addresses and other information about their gaming habits. Once criminals obtain email addresses of gamers, they are sent fake emails from gaming companies suggesting they have been discovered to have sold gaming items or characters for real money, and by doing so have violated the rules of the game.

Consequently, the users are threatened with account suspensions, or in some cases, legal action. A number of emails have been received by gamers with threats that they will be sued for amounts up to $2,700 for repeated violations of gaming rules and regulations. The intention is not to get the users to part with that money, but to get them to reveal details of their bank accounts or credit cards used to make purchases.

Users are often fooled into responding out of fear of losing their accounts or being suspended or banned from their favorite games. The email campaigns can also be highly convincing, using templates that appear legitimate, often including company logos and names the users may be familiar with.

The scammers have been targeting users of some of the most popular online games, such as World of Warcraft and Diablo III, both produced by Blizzard Entertainment, although the scam is not restricted to players of these games. The volume of emails sent to gamers, and complaints received, has resulted in Blizzard emailing users to tip them off to what it called “rampant scams.”

The FTC has also got involved, issuing a warning of its own. According to the FTC warning, targets are advised that they should check the status of their accounts and challenge the suspension if they have done no wrong. They are supplied a link for this purpose and are required to fill in a ‘verification’ form.

They are then asked to enter information in order to confirm their accounts and identities, and must reveal account and financial information. The perpetrators of the scam then empty their accounts.

This is not the only technique used by online fraudsters to get users to reveal their credentials. Gamers are being sent spam emails asking them to login in order to receive free gifts and exclusive game add-ons, with users requested to click a link in the email to login in order to claim their prize.

It is not always essential that account details are entered in the online forms to which the users are directed to. The links contained in the emails can direct the users to malware-infected websites. Malicious software is automatically downloaded to the users’ computers, allowing the perpetrators to gain access to the device and trawl files looking for personal information such as bank account details, login names and passwords.

Gamers have been warned to always try to verify any such emails, and not to click on links, open attachments or use the contact details provided. All requests that are out of the ordinary should be independently verified with the company concerned, using the gaming website’s contact information.