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Cybersecurity Researcher Says Mobile Payment Platforms Are Selling Your Data To Third-Parties

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Mobile Payment Platforms are selling your data to third-parties

Mobile payment and financial platforms are selling your data including your email, location, and transaction details to the highest third-party bidder, a tech researcher and cybersecurity expert said.

One of these mobile payment platforms is Alipay, a China-based company that “sells its customer (transaction) data to third parties for monitoring and marketing purposes.”

According to Victor Gevers, a cybersecurity adviser from GDI. Foundation, companies like Alipay, are selling their customer data to third-party clients with the highest bid and in most cases, these third-party companies cannot handle sensitive information and store them in unsecured databases.

Screenshot from @0xDUDE / Twitter

Gevers discovered one of these databases that came from Alipay. He said that he was able to find one of these databases in an unsecured MongoDB database and noted that anyone with basic training could find others within 30 minutes of trained searches.

“I train journalists, so they investigate data leaks like this themselves. Within 30 minutes, they can do exactly the same we do for investigating and reporting systems. This is too easy to find if you know how to spell company names in a search engine,” Gevers wrote in his Twitter account in response to a Tweet highlighting that anyone can get the said data.

THEY WILL SELL YOU OUT

Gevers raised concerns that financial applications and mobile intermediary like Alipay are selling their customers out.

“Payment providers will always SELL you out,” he exclaimed.

In a Tweet, he explained that Alipay sold data to a third party which uses them to calculate a credit score system to see to who they can sell their service more on another platform.

When asked how did he know that the data was from Alipay and not from some other rightful party to the transaction like the merchant or an e-commerce platform, he said that there is only one “entity who can/has access to all” and that’s Alipay. He added that if they exclude governments as the owners of the breached databases, it is easy to determine that it is the payment provider that use third parties “study/convert their own [money] transfer data into ‘research projects’ which gets sold.”

According to Gevers, one proof to his claim that Alipay owns the database that he uncovered was the rising rate of global financial institutions and payment service providers sharing their transaction data to third parties so they can “enrich” it. Gevers noted that these third parties have poor security implementations and that he and his team keep on finding open databases that have exposed the supposed trend.

The tech expert refers to the Fintech data breach that happened a month ago where 1.9 billion bank transactions from 2018 were discovered to be vulnerable after it was sold to a third-party payment provider.

In a separate tweet, he explained that all the transactions in the Fintech breach were categorized to “study” income and spending behavior of US citizens.

In a tweet he previously made last February, he revealed that 1,933,515,811 bank transactions comprising more than 2.1 TB of data are completely open for anyone to see, edit, and throw away “with a simple instruction.”

Since then, Gevers said that the leaking server had been taken down.

However, a Twitter user with the handle @MoeMoeil, refuted Gevers claims that the data leak was the fault of Alipay citing that there is no proof to that. He postulates that the information in the leak was voluntarily given out to the third party by users.

In China, the user said, many websites and companies are requiring users to submit their personal information like name, ID, phone, bankcard, and even mugshots holding their card. He claimed that he was able to locate the loan credit service provider where the leaked data came from and according the the firm’s documentation, the data was given to them by a “collaboration agency.”

“Now consider this scenario: A user wants to borrow money from a P2P-loan agency. The agency says “I need to check your Alipay transaction history first.” The user gives his Alipay account and password to the agency and the agency downloads the full history of the user… Later, this agency, being a “collaboration agency,” sells the downloaded transaction history to the financial credit investigating company,” wrote Moe Moeil as a response to Victor Gever’s tweets.

“In this case, I think Alipay shall be innocent, since the user himself surrendered the account access.”

The twitter user also noted that there is still a need to investigate how the “collaboration agency” got the data.

Meanwhile, other text experts raised the concern on Chinese cybersecurity problem. While Gevers agreed that indeed a problem is happening in China, he noted that other countries are also unsecured, thus making it a universal problem that needs to be addressed as soon as possible.

“I think the Chinese government is doing a lot to keep its citizens safe seen from their perspective. Also, outside China, many things are not safe. So it is not only a local issue but also a global issue,” he wrote.

As of yesterday, the said breached database was already partially locked down. According to Gevers, the owner of the database locked it down within an hour after he shared the screenshots of his discovery. It is not accessible to the public anymore. /apr

A Consumer Tech and Cybersecurity journalist who does content marketing while daydreaming about having unlimited coffee for life and getting a pet llama.

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Cybersecurity

Indictment Against Hackers Involved In Anthem Data Breach Unsealed

Two men are indicted for allegedly part of a group of hackers from China linked in the Anthem Insurance data breach in 2015. Click To Tweet

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Twor men are indicted for allegedly part of a group of hackers from China linked in the Anthem Insurance data breach in 2015.
The indicted individuals are allegedly part of a group of hackers from China linked in the Anthem Insurance data breach in 2015. Photo: Tim Reckmann | a59.de | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Two men were indicted in the U.S. in connection with the data breach at the health insurance company, Anthem, that siphoned more than 78.8 million customer and employee records between 2014 and 2015.

The Justice Department recently unsealed an indictment against two people who prosecutors say are part of a sophisticated hacking network group, based in China that was behind not only in Anthem data breach, but also the attacks against three other US businesses.

While the Justice Department did not name the said Chinese hacking group victimized the three other businesses who they said, they said that these companies were “data-rich.” One was a technology business, one was in necessary materials, and the third was in communications. They said that all of these three companies store a substantial amount – and some confidential – of data on their servers and data networks.

The suspects are 32-year-old Wang Fujie with the Western name of “Dennis” and another one that until now remained unnamed. The Justice Department could not find the real name of the unnamed man but said that he goes by various online nicknames such as “Daniel Jack,” “Kim Young” and “Zhou Zhihong.”

The charges are one count of conspiracy to commit fraud and related activity in relation to computers and identity theft, one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and two counts of intentional damage to a protected computer.

According to the indictment documents, the hacker group where Dennis and the unnamed man belongs have carried out attacks using “sophisticated techniques” including spearphishing and malware from February 2014 and up until around January 2015.

They allegedly sent tailored spearphishing emails with links to malware and sent them to employees at the target companies. Once the targeted employee opened the email, the system would get affected by the malware that would later plant a backdoor Trojan that gives the hackers remote access via their command and control servers.

Wang is also accused of having set up the servers, hosted in California and Arizona that were used in the Anthem attacks.

The cyber attack suffered by the insurance company has had them cough up large amounts of money as settlement, making it the most significant data breach settlement ever. In 2017, the company agreed to pay $115 million to settle a class action suit over the breach.

The Anthem attack is also the most massive health insurance data breach, and the amount of data lost to the hackers dwarfed the biggest data breaches in the following years with 11 million breached at Premera and 10 million from Excellus.

The DOJ through a press release and Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski called the hacking event as “unprecedented.”

“The allegations in the indictment unsealed today to outline the activities of a brazen China-based computer hacking group that committed one of the worst data breaches in history. These defendants allegedly attacked U.S. businesses operating in four distinct industry sectors and violated the privacy of over 78 million people by stealing their PII. The Department of Justice and our law enforcement partners are committed to protecting PII, and will aggressively prosecute perpetrators of hacking schemes like this, wherever they occur.”

Meanwhile, another set of indictments were released by the Justice Department against European hackers over the hacking of different private and public institutions in the United States. Ten individuals were charged with conspiracy to commit computer fraud, conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

The ten people who were charged were allegedly involved in the malicious software attacks that infected tens of thousands of computers and caused more than $100 million in financial losses, the US and European authorities announced Thursday.

According to the officials who filed the charges, the malware, which enabled cybercriminals and hackers from Eastern Europe infiltrate computer systems remotely and siphon funds from victim’s bank accounts, targeted companies and institutions across all sectors of American life.

The victims of the malware attacks included a Washington law firm, a church in Texas, a furniture business in California and a casino in Mississippi.

The investigation started following the dismantling of a network of computer servers, known as Avalanche, which hosted more than two dozen different types of malware. The Justice Department had successfully taken their operation apart in 2016.

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Cybersecurity

Winnti For Linux: Researchers Found Linux Variant Of Malware Used By Chinese Hackers In 2015

A Linux version of Winnti malware was discovered by tech researchers from Chronicle. The malware was used in 2015 by Chinese hackers. Click To Tweet

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A Linux version of Winnti malware was discovered by tech researchers from Chronicle. The malware was used in 2015 by Chinese hackers.
The discovered Linux malware bears significant similarities with its Windows counterpart. Photo: Christiaan Colen | Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Linux systems are cybersecurity kings, but on a historic first, tech researchers have found a variant of a widespread malware, a favorite of Chinese hackers, have been discovered in a Linux system.

The discovery was made by researchers from the Chronicle, Alphabet’s cybersecurity department. The researchers revealed that they found a Linux variant of the Winnti malware that works as a backdoor on infected hosts, granting attackers access to compromised systems. It was the malware used by Chinese hackers in the high-profile cybercrime against a Vietnamese game company in 2015.

Chronicle researchers said that they discovered the malware following the news that Bayer, one of the biggest pharma company in the world, had been hit by Chinese hackers, and the Winnti malware was discovered on its servers.

After the team scanned Bayer’s system using its VirusTotal platform, they found what appeared to be a Linux variant of the Winnti, dating back to 2015 when it was first used by Chinese hackers to attack a Vietnamese gaming company.

According to the Chronicle, the malware that they have discovered comes in two parts: a rootkit to disguise the malware in the infected host and the actual backdoor Trojan. Further analysis the discovered Linux variant of the Winnti malware bears a lot of similarities to the malware’s Windows version. Other connections with the Windows version also included the similar way in which the Linux variant handled outbound communications with its command-and-control (C&C) server — which was a mixture of multiple protocols (ICMP, HTTP, and custom TCP and UDP protocols).

“As with other versions of Winnti, the core component of the malware doesn’t natively provide the operators with distinct functionality. This component is primarily designed to handle communications and the deployment of modules directly from the command-and-control servers. During our analysis, we were unable to recover any active plugins. However, prior reporting suggests that the operators commonly deploy plugins for remote command execution, file exfiltration, and socks5 proxying on the infected host. We expect similar functionality to be leveraged via additional modules for Linux,” said the researchers in their comprehensive report.

Lastly, the Linux version, just like the Window’s version, also has the ability for Chinese hackers to initiate communication with the infected host without going through the C&C servers – distinct characteristics in Windows Winnti.

“This secondary communication channel may be used by operators when access to the hard-coded control servers is disrupted,” Chronicle researchers said in a report published last week.

While infecting Linux systems is something already done especially by American and Russian hackers, it is also extremely rare, as pointed out by the Chronicle.

“Clusters of Winnti-related activity have become a complex topic in threat intelligence circles, with activity vaguely attributed to different codenamed threat actors. The threat actors utilizing this toolset have repeatedly demonstrated their expertise in compromising Windows-based environments. An expansion into Linux tooling indicates iteration outside of their traditional comfort zone. This may indicate the OS requirements of their intended targets, but it may also be an attempt to take advantage of a security telemetry blindspot in many enterprises, as is with Penquin Turla and APT28’s Linux XAgent variant,” added Chronicle.

Meanwhile, malware have become one of the most common tools to attack computer systems, even those of public institutions. A few days ago, ten Europeans were indicted for the malware attacks that have victimized several businesses and government agencies in the U.S.

The ten people who were charged were allegedly involved in the malicious software attacks that infected tens of thousands of computers and caused more than $100 million in financial losses, the US and European authorities announced Thursday last week.

The victims of the malware attacks included a Washington law firm, a church in Texas, a furniture business in California and a casino in Mississippi.

The charged individuals are now facing conspiracy to commit computer fraud, conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

The investigation started following the dismantling of a network of computer servers, known as Avalanche, which hosted more than two dozen different types of malware. The Justice Department had successfully taken their operation apart in 2016.

Officials reveal that the malware in the current court case has infected more than 41,000 computers by disguising as legitimate messages or invoice and was sent as spam emails. Once the email was opened, hackers will be able to record all keystrokes in the infected computer, sweeping data like baking information and wire money away from the victim’s account.

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Cybersecurity

10 European Cybercriminals Charged For Malware Attacks In The US

European and US Officials collaborated to pin down ten individuals in connection with the ransomware attacks in the US. The charges include facing conspiracy to commit computer fraud, conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud and conspiracy… Click To Tweet

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European and US Officials collaborated to pin down ten individuals in connection with the ransomware attacks in the US.
European and US Officials collaborated to pin down ten individuals in connection with the ransomware attacks in the US. Photo: Christian Cohen | Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

The tech world has agreed that ransomware and malware are becoming one of the most prolific cyber attacks in recent (more…)

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