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    Archive for November 19th, 2013

    More than a week has passed since Typhoon Haiyan made landfall over the central Philippines, leaving thousands dead or injured, with millions more in need of humanitarian assistance. More than US$248 million in relief has been given both by governments and the private sector to date.

    Unfortunately, many scams have already taken advantage of this disaster. For example, fake Facebook pages (like this one) ask for donations via PayPal, which end up in the hands of would-be scammers rather than the hands of legitimate charities:

    Figure 1. Facebook page for Haiyan-related scam

    This particular Facebook page actually asks users to visit the scammer’s own blog, which asks users to make a “donation” via PayPal. They go so far as to take them to the PayPal payment page – where it becomes clear that the user is sending money to somebody’s personal account and not a legitimate charity.

    Fake Facebook pages aren’t the only type of scam that took advantage of the calamity. We spotted several spammed messages with Typhoon Haiyan as the subject. These messages often required the recipients to give their personal information or send money via wire or bank transfers.

    Figure 2. Typhoon-themed spam

    While it might seem deplorable to take advantage of natural disasters, it’s simply business for cybercriminals. In previous disasters – like the 2011 tsunami/earthquake in Japan – attackers have taken advantage of the tragedy to create phishing pages, spam attacks, and blackhat SEO attacks.

    How can users protect themselves from these scams and make sure that their donations end up in the right hands? Here are some useful tips.

    • Give to organizations you know and/or trust. Some scammers will try to pass themselves off as new charities established expressly for this disaster. Instead, donate to well-known charities that have been around for years. Alternately, smaller organizations that you personally know and trust to be reliable can also be a safe choice.
    • Be careful about appeals from social media and e-mail. Appeals to donate to various charities are spreading both via social media and e-mail messages. While many, if not most, of these are not scams, some will be. Some may be appeals from fake charities; others may just be lures to direct users to malicious websites. In either case, be careful about listening to these appeals. If you do decide to give to an organization whose appeal you saw here, go directly to their site by typing their URL into the address bar or using a search engine. This will help minimize the risks from potentially malicious links.
    • Check the payment site carefully. If you’re making a donation online, check the payment site as carefully as you would any other online payment. Whether it’s entering your credit card information directly, or using some other online payment site (like Amazon, Google, or PayPal,) be aware that these can be phished as well.

    There are many charities that could use your donations, but this is not the time to let your guard down. These tips can help ensure that your donation gets to where it is needed the most. We also note that you can make donations to the American Red Cross from inside Facebook itself; details can be found in their official blog.

    With additional insights from Merianne Polintan

    Posted in Bad Sites | Comments Off on Watching Out For Typhoon Haiyan Scams

    In the past few weeks, we’ve seen drastic and noteworthy increases in the number of health-related spam in the wild. Prior to September, this type of spam was relatively rare. However, as September began, these suddenly increased. Over the next few weeks, health-themed spam constituted 30% of the spam we saw, with an average of more than 2 million samples seen daily.

    These messages use different forms and templates, including online articles about losing weight, high-profile newsletters, and downright email advertisements peddling fake fitness products. Many of these messages claim to be from reputable news organizations like CBS, CNBC, CNN, the New York Times, and USA Today.



    Figures 1 and 2. Medical-themed spam messages

    They contain links that may lead users to a variety of dubious sites, including those selling fake products or involved in survey scams. Our research indicates that these messages were sent from a variety of countries, including India (10%), Spain (8%), Italy (7%) and the United States (6%).

    Overall, we’ve seen that these spam messages link to almost half a million distinct URLs.  However, these multiple URLs resolve to relatively few IP addresses. Two countries – the United States and Japan – accounted for the vast majority of traffic to these IP addresses:

    Figure 3. Distribution of user traffic

    We continue to look for indicators to determine the cause of this increasing traffic. It’s worth noting that this took place right after the Blackhole Exploit kit author’s arrest and the start of the registration period for the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare in the United States.

    Health and fitness is one of the common social engineering themes used by spammers to lure users into their schemes. Aside from the typical pharmaceutical company newsletter and weight-loss types, cybercriminals have tried using topics like Obamacare and even laboratory results.

    The continuous presence of this threat shows that spam is still a crucial part of today’s threat landscape. Users should remain extremely careful when opening messages from unverified sources. Relying on an email’s appearance is no longer an effective method for separating the wheat from the chaff. Trend Micro is continuously working to detect these threats.

    With additional insights from Paul Pajares

    Posted in Spam | Comments Off on Spike in Health-Themed Spam Marks September-October Spam Threats

    6:41 am (UTC-7)   |    by

    Like many security researchers, I see a lot of new malicious sites every week, far too many in fact. One thing that sets security researchers apart is that we can see a top-level domain (TLD) like .cc and recall instantly that it belongs to the Cocos Islands in the Indian Ocean, with a tiny population, and a history of some issues with malicious hosting several years ago.  As superpowers go, it is definitely not getting us into the X-Men anytime soon

    It was quite unusual, then, when we came across the .bit TLD. For starters, it wasn’t on our radar. It was not even assigned by ICANN in the first place. However, that was not stopping malware from communicating using that particular TLD.

    Some further investigations revealed that .bit belongs to a system known as Namecoin. Namecoin is very similar in concept to its more famous big brother Bitcoin (which, unless you have been living under a rock for the last couple of years, you know about). Namecoin serves as a decentralized way to register and control domain names.

    At first glance, Namecoin looks perfect for criminal purposes – it provides a way to anonymously register domain names that is outside of the control of any country or international body. Neither can it be sinkholed at the domain level. My fellow researchers and I wondered – why aren’t all the bad guys using this?

    Digging further into the system, however, revealed some very interesting downsides. To read more of our analysis of the Namecoin/.bit system for use with malware, as well as an investigation into one malware we did find using .bit domains – you can read our latest research paper titled Bitcoin Domains .

    Joint Research carried out with David Sancho

    Posted in Bad Sites, Malware | Comments Off on A .BIT Odd


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