Emails with Malware URLs

It is amazing to me how many malicious emails one can get!

Just today, I got one that purported to be from CNBC, however, the link was not any of the CNBC franchise websites. So I thought, well, maybe I missed one?

I searched Google for the root domain name in email link and it tried to give me real life news channel results which were of course all legitimate websites, not the dangerous one that was in the email.

However, it did give the ability to search on the exact domain again if I really meant it, which of course I did. The only links available — which I was very happy to see — for that domain name were several links to malwareURL.com – (The MalwareURL Team is a group of Internet security experts dedicated to fighting malware, Trojans and a multitude of other web-related threats) that exposed the website in the email as a malware site for a work at home scam:

This web site is a known security risk – Detailed web site security report

Security Category: Work-At-Home scam

The results on the link above about the website stated the following:

Domain matching reallivenewschannel.com were found in our database.

1348 other active domains were found on 707 IP(s) for AS30058 (FDCSERVERS)

Show the report for AS30058 (FDCSERVERS)

Malicious URLs on reallivenewschannel.com
/weeknews/lastnews.php
/weeknews/go.php

Blacklist
Google
Google Diagnostic Page

My WOT
WOT Score Card

hpHosts
hpHosts listing

MalwareDomainList
MDL listing

After the above information, there was information specific to the domain.

Interestingly, the domain appears to be registered in NY, USA.

The name servers are in .RU/Ukranian domain origins.

In addition, this malware link in the email had a prefix that looked like the following, except I changed the numbers in the link:

cf533cb444.reallivenewschannel.com

NOTE: Notice the above is not a live link as we don’t want to visit under any circumstances, unless you are a security researcher preferably using a throwaway Virtual Machine or live CD.

If I had looked at this email in full HTML as it was intended by the malware purveyors, it would have looked somewhat like the following in simple HTML except it would likely have had the look of a CNBC website rather than just the text as it does in simple HTML:

A CNBC Event – Work At Home Mom Makes Almost $10,000/Month, Part-Time

Patricia Feeney of , never thought she’d have a job working at home until she filled out a simple form online, one afternoon. Before she knew it, she had discovered her secret to beating the recession and no longer had worries about being able to provide for her family – and she did all of this by working from home. » Continue reading

CNBC
To unsubscribe to this email click here. If this e-mail was forwarded to you and you’d like to sign up for additional alerts from CNBC click here.

© 2012 CNBC, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 900 Sylvan Avenue, Englewood Cliffs, NJ 07632

See where the Continue reading is? That was the link, totally obfuscated from view to trick users into thinking it was a CNBC link when actually it was linked to the full malware URL I have been discussing in this posting.

Pretty convincing isn’t it? Looks like a legitimate email from CNBC.

If you looked at the email source, you would also have seen that the real Return path is not CNBC, but a user from a .pl domain.

Thankfully, SpamAssassin did give it a 6.5 Spam Status level (required was 5 so it was 1.5 beyond the level required to be considered Spam. X-Spam-Report says the following:

X-Spam-Report: 
*  2.3 FROM_STARTS_WITH_NUMS From: starts with many numbers
*  1.8 URI_HEX URI: URI hostname has long hexadecimal sequence
*  0.0 HTML_MESSAGE BODY: HTML included in message
*  2.3 MIME_HTML_ONLY BODY: Message only has text/html MIME parts
*  0.1 RDNS_NONE Delivered to trusted network by a host with no      rDNS

Sadly, many emails that look like they originate from legitimate sites come in every day and people are often fooled by them. Many times just because they look at emails in HTML.

These types of things would fall by the wayside if everyone was more wary and understood that when they send out millions of emails like this likely every day or every week, it only takes 1.5% of the people to respond to make it well worth while to the spam, malware, phishingspear phishing, or scam (or any combination together) purveyors.

Also check out the Anti-Phishing Workgroup website for more information.

There are many of us who have been using email clients that allow you to view emails as Plain Text such as; Thunderbird (opensource – free – accepts donations), Postbox ($9.95 – based on Thunderbird and by original Thunderbird developers), Pegasus (free but proprietary – accepts donations), and there are many others that allow plain text. Most Linux based email clients give this ability as well.

Oddly, however, although Apple Mail granularly allows you to choose (after already choosing the email message) to read in plain text on an email by email basis — Apple Mail DOES NOT have an option in Preferences that allows you to choose to view emails as Plain Text by default which would prevent many problems with these dangerous types of emails. This is very sad news for Apple users. Microsoft Outlook DOES NOT give users the ability to view emails in Plain Text either (on an email by email or by option in preferences). I would very much like to know why Microsoft and Apple do not give that option to people. These are the two most ubiquitous email clients used in OS X and Windows.

I have read emails in plain text from the very beginning. Intentionally. Simply because I don’t want to be accidentally fooled by this type of  spammalwarephishingspear phishing, or scam.

Email clients like Thunderbird (opensource – free – accepts donations), Postbox ($9.95 based on Thunderbird and by original Thunderbird developers), Pegasus (free but proprietary – accepts donations) give the ability to view in original HTML, simple (non-executable) HTML or Plain text. They also give you the ability to allow or disallow images inline! Very important if you wish not to be tracked by email senders with beacon ads, web beacons, web bugs. These email clients also give an easy way to view the source of an email so you can do your own investigation of information in the headers or body of the email, and to facilitate sending comprehensive email information about spammers, etc. to sites like PayPal, Google, eBay, your bank, etc.

Sadly even many website based email clients, like GMail, Yahoo Mail, Outlook.com, Hotmail, MSN Email, etc, go only half way in regard to these very necessary capabilities … if that.


			
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Dangerous Internet Explorer Flaw Jeopardizes GMail accounts

‘State-sponsored attackers’ using IE zero-day to hijack GMail accounts – ZDNet:

Microsoft’s advisory speaks of “active attacks” and follows a separate note from Google that references the IE flaw “being actively exploited in the wild for targeted attacks.”

IMPORTANT: This is not the MS12-037 that Microsoft just patched this week on Patch Tuesday.

This is a zero-day vulnerability. Both Microsoft and Google have issued warnings regarding it.

There are Twitter warnings all over the place about “Warning: State-Sponsored attackers may be trying to compromise your account or computer“.

In leiu of a patch for Internet Explorer to fix this vulnerability, Microsoft has devised a “FixIt” Tool intended to block the attack vector:

Microsoft Knowledge Base Article 2719615

Also, according to the ZDNet article:

Microsoft also recommends that Windows users deploy the Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET), which helps prevent vulnerabilities in software from successfully being exploited.

However, either way, it makes great sense to use Microsoft’s “FixIt” Tool to mitigate this zero-day Internet Explorer vulnerability whether you use Internet Explorer or not.

If you do not wish to use the “FixIt Tool”, you could also use the pre-advisory instructions under the Suggested Actions section to mitigate the problem by disallowing Active Scripting from automatically running on your system (set it to prompt you to allow).

Certificate Authoritities, DigiNotar, GlobalSign, OSes, Browsers, Adobe, more

[tweetmeme source=”franscomputerservices” only_single=false]DigiNotar Breach Affected 531 Certificates (Tom’s Hardware):

The break-in in Certificate Authority (CA) DigiNotar back in July was much worse than previously thought.

A preliminary analysis of the incident now claims that there have been 531 fraudulent certificates. The hackers may have explored DigiNotar’s servers for the first time in early June and gained control on June 17. The company detected the hack on June 19, but failed to prevent the creation of the first rogue certificate on July 2. The hacker activity apparently ended on July 22.

As a Aryeh Goretsky stated at Scot’s Newsletter Forums noted so succinctly:

DigiNotar, a company which issues digital certificates used to establish cryptographically-secure connections to web sites, was hacked, and over 500 certificates were acquired for high-profile web sites. Amongst other things, this would allow someone* to monitor what would otherwise be secure, private connections to those sites. Passwords, emails, personally-identifiable information and other sensitive data could be viewed by someone* who would otherwise not be able to see that information.

*Such as a government, ISP, or government-owned ISP.

Aryeh, I couldn’t have said it better myself.

And highlighting the fact that it could be a government, ISP, or government-owned ISP is spot on to the concerns.

There was recently an article that suggested that this has already happened in Iran.

Hackers steal SSL certificates for CIA, MI6, Mossad (Computerworld):

Criminals acquired over 500 DigiNotar digital certificates; Mozilla and Google issue ‘death sentence’

Among the affected domains, said Markham, are those for the CIA, MI6, Mossad, Microsoft, Yahoo, Skype, Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft’s Windows Update service.

Google has pointed fingers at Iran, saying that attacks using an ill-gotten certificate for google.com had targeted Iranian users.

Much more in this two page article where a link to Markham’s blog details more about this:

On Monday August 29th at 6.30pm BST Mozilla was informed by Google about a misissued certificate for *.google.com which was being used in active attacks on users in Iran. This certificate was chained to the root of the Dutch CA “DigiNotar”. Since that notification, I have been part of the Mozilla team working on our response.

The CNs concerned were as follows:

*.10million.org
*.balatarin.com
*.google.com
*.logmein.com
*.microsoft.com
*.mossad.gov.il
*.skype.com
*.torproject.org
*.walla.co.il
*.wordpress.com
addons.mozilla.org
azadegi.com
DigiCert Root CA
Equifax Root CA
friends.walla.co.il
login.yahoo.com
Thawte Root CA
twitter.com
VeriSign Root CA
wordpress.com
http://www.cia.gov
http://www.facebook.com
http://www.sis.gov.uk

So much more in Markham’s blog posting.

Delay in disclosing SSL theft put Iranian activists at risk, says researcher (Computerworld)

The delay in disclosing a theft of the digital certificates for some of the Web’s biggest sites, including Google, Skype, Microsoft and Yahoo, put Iranian activists’ lives at risk, a researcher argued Wednesday.

But I think EFF explains the issues best.

Iranian Man-in-the-Middle Attack Against Google Demonstrates Dangerous Weakness of Certificate Authorities (EFF)

What’s worse than finding a worm in your apple? Finding half a worm.

What’s worse than discovering that someone has launched a man-in-the-middle attack against Iranian Google users, silently intercepting everything from email to search results and possibly putting Iranian activists in danger? Discovering that this attack has been active for two months.

People all over the world use Google services for sensitive or private communications every day. Google enables encrypted connections to these services in order to protect users from spying by those who control the network, such as ISPs and governments. Today, the security of this encryption relies entirely on certificates issued by certificate authorities (CAs), which continue to prove vulnerable to attack. When an attacker obtains a fraudulent certificate, he can use it to eavesdrop on the traffic between a user and a website even while the user believes that the connection is secure.

The certificate authority system was created decades ago in an era when the biggest on-line security concern was thought to be protecting users from having their credit card numbers intercepted by petty criminals. Today Internet users rely on this system to protect their privacy against nation-states. We doubt it can bear this burden.

This latest attack was reportedly caught by a user running the Google Chrome browser in Iran who noticed a warning produced by the “public key pinning” feature which Google introduced in May of this year. Basically, Google hard-coded the fingerprints for its own sites’ encryption keys into Chrome, and told the browser to simply ignore contrary information from certificate authorities. That meant that even if an attacker got a hold of a fake certificate for a Google site—as this attacker did—newer versions of the Chrome browser would not be fooled.

Certificate authorities have been caught issuing fraudulent certificates in at least half a dozen high-profile cases in the past two years and EFF has voiced concerns that the problem may be even more widespread. But this is the first time that a fake certificate is known to have been successfully used in the wild. Even worse, the certificate in this attack was issued on July 10th 2011, almost two months ago, and may well have been used to spy on an unknown number of Internet users in Iran from the moment of its issuance until it was revoked earlier today. To be effective, fraudulent certificates do not need to have been issued by the same authority that issued the legitimate certificates. For example, the certificate in question here was issued by a Dutch certificate authority with which Google had no business relationship at all; that didn’t make it any less acceptable to web browsers.

Much more in the article…

This problem is not only related to issues of privacy related to people who’s lives would be in danger, but also, victims of malware purveyors as well.

Cryptographic keys for SSL sites are only as good as the honesty of the holder and issuer of those keys, as well as the honesty and security diligence of the issuer, in this case DigiNotar.

They would like us to think that SSL is extremely safe, but it’s not as safe as those who issue them would like us to believe either. Anyone with money can purchase a SSL certificate, and there have been malware purveyors that have also bought them so folks would ‘feel’ secure. If you see the lock, you think, “Safe”. That’s what they want you to think.

However, just like anyone can purchase what is considered a ‘legitimate’ SSL certificate, good, bad or indifferent, there are worse things.

‘Legitimate’ SSL certificates can be created by site owners as well, good, bad, or indifferent.

The companies that sell SSL certificates and browser makers put out root certificates for their browers and show green or gold with the lock for those obtained by big name sellers of these certificates. So if you are legitimate site owner who creates their own to save money, you are automatically assumed to be ‘not legitimate’ by browsers and it shows as red/dangerous to users.

I don’t see what the solution is, but it really doesn’t matter whether you make your own, or if you buy one, you are still playing craps with SSL certificates in many ways these days.

As Corrine noted in the same topic at Scot’s Newsletter Forums:

Microsoft Security Advisory 2607712 has been updated to revoke the trust of the DigiNotar root certificates by placing them into the Microsoft Untrusted Certificate Store.

The update is available via Automatic Update and applies to all supported releases of Microsoft Windows, including Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows Server 2008, and Windows Server 2008 R2.

Within short order, Mozilla sent out updates to their products including Firefox, Thunderbird, et. revoking the certificates.

Opera has done the same thing yesterday, disabling the root store for DigiNotar.

Because Apple was slow to act, one researcher (thanks Corrine) rapped Apple for not blocking the stolen SSL certificates, and various places on the Internet were trying to help Mac users to take care of disabling and removing the DigiNotar certificates from the KeyChain so Safari and other browsers would be safer online on the Mac. Since then, Apple released an update to revoke DigiNotar from their trusted list:

If you are running an older Mac you can still protect yourself, but you will need to do it manually. You can follow the excellent instructions posted over at the ps | Enable blog.

And most recently, Adobe has posted instructions on how to remove DigiNotar from the Adobe Approved Trust List (AATL) for Adobe Reader.

And here we go again (thanks zlim)…

GlobalSign Stops Issuing Digital Certificates After Hack (PCWorld)

Second firms stops issuing digital certificates (CNET)

How many more will have fallen before it’s all said and done? I am beginning to wonder if we wouldn’t be better off just generating our own SSL certificates, it would likely be as safe as this fiasco has become…