Sunday, July 22, 2018

Porn Extortion Email tied to Password Breach

This weekend I received an email forwarded from a stranger.  They had received a threatening email and had shared it with a former student of mine to ask advice.  Fortunately, the correct advice in this case was "Ignore it."  But they still shared it with me in case we could use it to help others.

The email claims that the sender has planted malware on the recipient's computer and has observed them watching pornography online.   As evidence that they really have control of the computer, the email begins by sharing one of the recipient's former passwords.

They then threaten that they are going to release a video of the recipient recorded from their webcam while they watched the pornography unless they receive $1000 in Bitcoin.  The good news, as my former student knew, was that this was almost certainly an empty threat.   There have dozens of variations on this scheme, but it is based on the concept that if someone knows your password, they COULD know much more about you.  In this case, the password came from a data breach involving a gaming site where the recipient used to hang out online.  So, if you think to yourself "This must be real, they know my password!" just remember that there have been  HUNDREDS of data breaches where email addresses and their corresponding passwords have been leaked.  (The website "Have I Been Pwned?" has collected over 500 Million such email/password pair leaks.  In full disclosure, my personal email is in their database TEN times and my work email is in their database SIX times, which doesn't concern me because I follow the proper password practice of using different passwords on every site I visit.  Sites including Adobe, which asks for you to register before downloading software, and LinkedIn are among some of the giants who have had breaches that revealed passwords.  One list circulating on the dark web has 1.4 BILLION userids and passwords gathered from at least 250 distinct data breaches.)

Knowing that context, even if you happen to be one of those millions of Americans who have watched porn online.  DON'T PANIC!  This email is definitely a fake, using their knowledge of a breached password to try to convince you they have blackmail information about you.

We'll go ahead and share the exact text of the email, replacing only the password with the word YOURPASSWORDHERE.

YOURPASSWORDHERE is one of your passphrase. Lets get directly to the point. There is no one who has paid me to investigate you. You don't know me and you are most likely wondering why you are getting this mail?
In fact, I actually installed a malware on the X video clips (porn) web site and do you know what, you visited this site to experience fun (you know what I mean). When you were watching video clips, your browser initiated functioning as a RDP that has a key logger which provided me accessibility to your display screen and also cam. after that, my software obtained your entire contacts from your Messenger, Facebook, and email . After that I made a double-screen video. 1st part shows the video you were viewing (you've got a nice taste omg), and next part shows the view of your web cam, & its you. 
You have got not one but two alternatives. We will go through these choices in details:
First alternative is to neglect this email message. In such a case, I will send out your very own videotape to all of your contacts and also visualize about the embarrassment you will definitely get. And definitely if you happen to be in a romantic relationship, exactly how this will affect?
Latter solution is to compensate me $1000. Let us describe it as a donation. In such a case, I will asap delete your video. You can go forward your daily life like this never occurred and you surely will never hear back again from me.
You'll make the payment through Bitcoin (if you do not know this, search for "how to buy bitcoin" in Google). 
BTC Address: 192hBrF64LcTQUkQRmRAVgLRC5SQRCWshi[CASE sensitive so copy and paste it]
If you are thinking about going to the law, well, this email can not be traced back to me. I have taken care of my moves. I am not attempting to charge a fee a huge amount, I simply want to be rewarded. You have one day in order to pay. I have a specific pixel in this e-mail, and now I know that you have read through this mail. If I do not receive the BitCoins, I will definately send your video to all of your contacts including family members, co-workers, and so forth. Having said that, if I receive the payment, I'll destroy the video right away. If you really want proof, reply with Yes & I definitely will send out your video recording to your 5 friends. This is the non-negotiable offer and thus don't waste mine time & yours by responding to this message.
This particular scam was first seen in the wild back in December of 2017, though some similar versions predate it.  However, beginning in late May the scam kicked up in prevalence, and in the second week of July, apparently someone's botnet started sending this spam in SERIOUS volumes, as there have been more than a dozen news stories just in the past ten days about the scam.

Here's one such warning article from the Better Business Bureau's Scam Tracker.

One thing to mention is that the Bitcoin address means that we can track whether payments have been made to the criminal.  It seems that this particular botnet is using a very large number of unique bitcoin addresses.  It would be extremely helpful to this investigation if you could share in the comments section what Bitcoin address (the "BTC Address") was seen in your copy of the spam email.

As always, we encourage any victim of a cyber crime to report it to the FBI's Internet Crime and Complaint Center by visiting ic3.gov:



Please feel free to share this note with your friends!
Thank you!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Chinese arrest 20 in major Crypto Currency Mining scam

According to Chinese-language publication Legal Daily police in two districts of China have arrested 20 people for their roles in a major crypto currency mining operation that earned the criminals more than 15 million yuan (currently about $2M USD).

The hackers installed mining software developed by Dalian Yuping Network Technology Company ( 大连昇平网络科技有限 ) that was designed to steal three types of coins.  Digibyte Coins (DGB, currently valued at USD$0.03 each),  Siacoin (SC, currently valued at $0.01 each) and DeCred coins (DCR coins, currently valued at $59.59 each).

It is believed that these currencies were chosen for the dual reason that they are easier to mine, due to less competition, and that they are less likely to be the target of sophisticated blockchain analysis tools.

The Game Cheat Hacker

The investigation began when Tencent detected the presence of a hidden Trojan horse with silent mining capabilities built into a cheat for a popular first person shooter video game. The plug-in provided a variety of cheats for the game, including "automatic aiming", "bullet acceleration", "bullet tracking" and "item display."  
Tencent referred the case to the Wei'an Municipal Public Security Bureau, who handled the case extremely well.  As they learned more about the trojans, they identified first the social media groups and forums where the trojan was being spread, and traced the identity of the person uploading the trojaned game cheat to a criminal named Yang Mobao. Mobao participated as a forum moderator on a site called the "Tianxia Internet Bar Forum" and members who received the cheat from him there widely shared it in other forums and social media sites, including many file shares on Baidu.
Mobao was popularizing the cheat program by encouraging others to make suggestions for new functionality.  The users who were using the tool did not suspect that they were actually mining crypto-currency while using the cheat.  More than 30,000 victims were using his cheat software and secretly mining crypto-currency for him.
Yang Mobao had a strong relationship with gamers from his business of selling gaming video cards to Internet cafes.  He installed at least 5,774 cards in at least 2,465 Internet cafes across the country, preloading the firmware on the cards to perform mining.  It turns out that these cards ALSO were trojaned!  As a major customer of Dalian Yuping, Moubao was offered a split of the mining proceeds from the cards he installed, earning him more than 268,000 yuan.
Yang is described as a self-taught computer programmer who had previously worked management Internet cafes.  After experiencing some profit from the scheme above, he modified the malware embedded in some of the video cards and installed his own miner, mining the HSR coin and transferring the proceeds to a wallet he controlled.

The Video Card Maker

After Yang Mobao confessed to his crimes, the cybercrime task force sent 50 agents to Dalian, in Liaoning Province.  The Task Force learned that Dalian Yuping Network Technology had been approached by advertisers, who paid them embed advertising software on their video cards, which were then installed in 3.89 million computers, mostly high-end gaming systems installed in video cafes.  The company's owner, He Mou, and the company's Financial Controller, his wife Chen Mou, had instructed the company's head of R&D, Zhang Ning, to investigate mining software and to experiment with various mining trojans.  In addition to the illegal advertising software embedded in those 3.89 million video cards, their crypto currency mining software was embedded into 1 million additional video cards which were sold and deployed in Internet cafes across the country.
Each time one of those machines successfully mined a coin, the coin was transferred to a wallet owned by He Mou.  Chen Mou could then cash them out at any time in the future.
 16 suspects at the company were interrogated and 12 criminally detained for the crime of illegally controlling computer information systems.  Zhao was sentenced to four years himself.
(I learned of this story from CoinDesk's Wolfie Zhao, and followed up on it from the Legal Daily story he links to as well as a report in Xinhuanet, by Reporter Xy Peng and correspondent Liu Guizeng Wang Yen.) (记者 徐鹏 通讯员 刘贵增 王艳)

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Dark Markets' Weakness? Cashing out the Bitcoin to USD!

Over the years there has been an on-going battle between law enforcement and those who use technology-based anonymity to perform their illegal deeds.  Some of the FBI's tricks to break through the anonymity have created interesting challenges, such as the "Operation Pacifier" case, where the FBI used court orders to allow them to use hacking tricks to expose the true locations of members of a child sexual exploitation site with 150,000 members, leading to 350 US arrests and 548 international arrests.  In that case the FBI deployed "Network Investigative Techniques" (NITs) to learn the IP addresses of top members of a TOR protected .onion server.  To clarify the legality of that situation, Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Practice and Procedure was amended in 2016 under some controversy, as we blogged about in "Rule 41 Changes: Search and Seizure when you don't know the Computer's location."

In the current case, "Operation: Dark Gold", perhaps as a demonstration that the old "Follow the Money" rule can work even in these modern times, law enforcement posed as cryptocurrency exchangers, offering attractive conversion rates to USD even for those clearly involved in criminal activity.  After Alexander Vinnik's BTC-e exchange was shuttered, with the owner accused of facilitating the laundering of $4 Billion in illicit funds, Dark Market vendors had a real problem!  How do you turn a few million dollars worth of Bitcoin into money that you can spend in "the real world?"



That's just the kind of problem that the Department of Justice's Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section is happy to help criminals solve.  In a major operation, Special Agents from Homeland Security Investigations in New York posed as money launderers on various TOR-protected dark markets.  As the money launderers were able to drive conversations "off platform" they had the opportunity to refer cases around the nation and around the world.  So far, more than 90 cases have been opened, leading to investigations by ICE's HSI, the US Postal Inspection Service, and the US Drug Enforcement Agency.  65 targets were identified and 35 Darknet vendors have been arrested so far.  At least $20 million in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies was seized, as well as 333 bottles of liquid opioids, 100,000 tramadol pills, 100 grams of fentanyl, 24kg of Xanax, 100 firearms, including assault rifles and a grenade launcher, five vehicles, and $3.6 million in cash and gold bars.  They also seized 15 pill presses, and many computers and related equipment.

Powell and Gonzalez (BonnienClyde)


The case against Nicholas Powell and Michael Gonzalez really explains the background of some of these cases well. 

"In or about October 2016, HSI NY, USPIS, the USSS, and the NASA Office of Inspector General, apprehended a Cryptocurrency Exchanger/Unlicensed Money Remitter herein rferred to as Target Subject-1. With TS1's cooperation, agents began investigating TS1's customers.  From the limited subset of customers for whom TS1 saved any kind of personal information (such as the names and addresses to which TS1 had shipped the customers' cash), agents identified a number of vendors selling illegal goods and services on the dark net." (Gar-note: NASA OIG has one of the coolest most proactive cybercrime teams in Federal government.  Little-known FACT!)

"With TS1's permission, agents took control of TS1's online accounts and identity, initiating an undercover operation using that identity to create new accounts (the "UC Vendor Accounts") targeting dark net drug vendors who utilized TS1's services to launder their illicit proceeds.  Since January 2017, agents have advertised the UC Vendor Accounts' services on AlphaBay, HANSA, and other dark net marketplaces, which has led to hundreds of bitcoin-for-cash exchanges.  Because TS1's original business model involved sending cash to physical addresses, each UC Vendor Account transaction has provided agents with leads on the identities and locations of their counterparties.  Individuals who used the UC Vendor Account were charged a fee notably higher than the fee charged by Bitstamp or other exchanges with Know  Your Customer protocols.  This and other evidence helped establish that many of these "customers" were likely dark net vendors or controlled substances or other illicit goods.  Furthermore, and as explained below, in some instances, agents have successfully utilized undercover buyer accounts on dark net marketplaces to conduct undercover drug buys from vendors believed to be the UC Vendor Accounts' customers."

In this case, Law Enforcement first caught up with Michael Gonzalez in Parma, Ohio.  He claimed Nicholas Powell was the mastermind, and the only got paid to help with shipping and packaging of "a few orders."  His job was to measure out 500 gram bags of Xanax powder and handle the shipping.  Powell was found and interviewed in his home at 5283 Bevens Ave, Spring Hill, Florida on May 22, 2018.  Powell confirmed that he had begun selling steroids and weed on the dark net. Later he became a drop shipper, arranging shipments from China to be delivered domestically.  Powell started on Silkroad 2, using the name BCPHARMA, selling steroids and GHB that he purchased from China.  He sold on Agora and AlphaBay as BONNIENCLYDE or BNC.  Later he also used that alias on Evolution Markets.  He also shifted later to selling Xanax and steroids on AlphaBay.  He claimed he physically destroyed the computer he used for this work, and later also destroyed two Apple computers. 

Powell confirmed that he used TS1 to convert between $10,000 and $40,000 in crypto currencies to cash at a time, and would receive the packages via USPS Express.  He claims a Canadian vendor wanted to buy his online identity, and that he made $100,000 by transferring the "BONNIENCLYDE" id to the Canadian. 

Powell willingly signed over to agents $438,000 worth of cryptocurrencies.

TrapGod 

TrapGod was an online vendor alias shared by  Antonio Tirado, 26 and Jeffrey Morales, 32, of Bronx, New York.  An affidavit from Antonio's search warrant shows he was growing marijuana and packaging and shipping both LSD and Cocaine.

Here's a photo of some of TrapGod's goods for sale on one dark market.

The 2050 means that 2,050 people have rated this vendor's services, giving an average review of 4.79 out of 5 stars.  Even the "bad" reviews, show that Trapgod was good to do business with.  One says "Vendor has been top notch. Then got some really sub-par stuff.  Contacted vendor. He said he'll take care of me next time. Will post again..."  Comments include things like "Great shipping, good stealth." and  "Stealth was good, my package was well hidden and secure.  Quality is good, after testing I found that the product is about a 80/20 cut as described!  I like honesty, plus seller put a little extra in my order!!"  "Shipment was delayed, quality not so good. However vendor sent an additional shipment to make up for it.  The price is good, but I'd rather pay more for higher quality."

Unfortunately, Morales and Tirado either weren't the only ones behind the Trapgod alias, or they are continuing to sell while out on bail.  Morales and Tirado's homes both got hit July 20, 2018, but there were fresh reviews posted yesterday (July 3, 2018).

Qu/Wu/Weng/Tseperkas/Akkaya

The next group were worked as a single case (1:18-mj-05193-UA) also in New York, and involved raids on three houses in Flushing and Mt. Sinai, New York.  Charges are brought against Jian Qu, Raymeond Weng, Kai Wu, Dimitri Tseperkas, and Cihad Akkaya.

Kai Wu and Jian Qu were in one home, where $200,000 in cash, 110 kg of marijuana, and "680 grams of unidentified powders" were seized.

Residence-2 yielded 12kg of Alprazolam, 10kg of marijuana vape cartridges, 570 grams of ecstasy, "12kg of unidentified powder" and four pill presses, used to press powders into ecstasy tablets.  There were also at least 2 kg of THC gummies.



Residence-3 was the home of Dimitri Tseperkas and Cihad Akkaya, where law enforcement recovered $195,000 in cash, 30kg of marijuana, and three loaded shotguns and 100 shotgun shells.


Videos recovered from the cell phones of Wu and Weng (who was not home, but has been observed repeatedly at Residence-1) reveal they also have at least two marijuana grow houses.

Farace/Swain

Ryan Farace, who the indictment makes clear "has no known medical education, qualifications, or licensing in the State of Maryland or elsewhere", yet he and his partner were manufacturing and distributing serious amounts of Xanax.  So much so that the indictment calls for them to forfeit $5,665,000 in cash as well as a Lincoln Navigator, a  GMC pick-up truck, and 4,000 Bitcoins (which currently would be the USD equivalent of more than $26 MILLION dollars!

Not bad for the former parking lot attendant of a Home Depot ... according to Ryan's Facebook, where both of the named vehicles are featured:



The indictment charges the pair with "Conspiracy to Manufacture, Distribute, and Possess with Intent to Distribute Alprazolam" (aka Xanax) (21 USC section 846) as well as "Maintaining Drug-involved Premises" (21 USC section 856) and "Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering" (18 USC section 1956).

CANNA_Bars:

Jose Robert Porras III and his girlfriend, Pasia Vue, were selling marijuana and crystal meth, as well as Xanax and Promethazine-codeine cough syrup (Lean).  The HSI agent noticed on their Dream Market account that they shared their rating from Hansa.  Big mistake.  The Dutch High Tech Crimes Unit has the seized servers from Hansa and is happy to do lookups for law enforcement.  This revealed that "CANNA_BARS" had earned about 56 bitcoins on Hansa, selling crystal meth in quantities as large as 1 pound bars!  They described the product there as "this crystal is directly from manufacturers in mexico so it is made with the highest qaulity products that cant be found in the us. expect the highest qaulity on hansa for the cheapest."  The same criminal also couldn't spell "qaulity" right on Dream Market, which was further confirmation this might be the same guy.  From Dream Market "whats up we are canna_bars a vendor of top qaulity weed we offer qps to multiple pounds we are operating out of northern california and have direct relationships with many growers so expect good qaulity for cheap prices."

By searching for this signature typo, "qaulity" for "quality", the agent was also able to confirm that CANNA_BARS was the same person that sold as THEFASTPLUG on Wall Street Market, another dark net marketplace.  They completed 60 orders there between Feb 2018 and May 13, 2018.

One of his loyal customers, y***h,  is apparently wishing him well after learning of the arrest ... in the comments section for THEFASTPLUG on Wall Street Market, they made this July 2, 2018 comment:





In one photograph shared by CANNA_BARS, his hands are shown, palms up, holding marijuana buds.  The fingerprints of the open palms were so clear that they could easily be used to run a fingerprint match:


The HSI Forensic Document Laboratory returned a fingerprint match confirming that the image showed the fingerprints for Jose Robert Porras III, who had prints on file.

CANNA_BARS offered "free samples" of marijuana, which the agent asked for and had shipped to another state.  The package arrived and was confirmed to contain marijuana. (The inner package was wrapped in fabric softener sheets, presumably to stop drug-sniffing dogs?)

HSI surveillance was used to follow Porras and Vue to a US Post Office where they shipped packages, a Bank of America branch where they had accounts, and to a storage unit, where they maintained their inventory.  Undercover purchases from CANNA_BARS of two pounds of marijuana, and THEFASTPLUG of three pounds of "og kush" marijuana were able to be observed in the gathering and shipping end of the surveillance, providing "end-to-end" proof of the identity of the criminals.

Some of the bitcoin that was used by CANNA_BARS was able to be linked via blockchain analysis to accounts that had a bit of KYC information attached.  This revealed four accounts at one exchanger, including one each for VUE (using the email "pasiavue57@gmail.com" and (916) 228-1506) and PORRAS.  These further linked to several bank accounts, two in the name of Pasia Vue, one in the name of Marcos Escobado (a brother(?) of Porras, and another in the name of Julie Hernandez.  Escobado was arrested in Oregon for possession of methamphetamine and had received $11,000 from the bitcoin exchanger in four transactions.

After TS1's money exchanger service was taken over by the feds, the couple did four more transactions, receiving $56,000 in cash shipped from New York to their drops in Live Oak and Sacramento, California.

In addition to the Drugs and Money laundering charges, Porras was charged with Felon Possessing a Firearm:



Sam & Djeneba Bent

Less details are revealed in the Vermont indictment against Sam & Djeneba Bent.  Same used dark markets to sell Ecstasy (MDMA), LSD, marijuana, and cocaine, and used the TS1 money exchanging service to cash out more than $10,000 from bitcoin to USD.


They are charged with using a false return address on a package shipped through the postal service.

(Just joking, I know this got long and I wondered if anyone had read this far, haha.)


Daniel Boyd McMonegal 

McMonegal became a dark market vendor in or around December 2016, which might be how he chose his vendor name, Christmastree.  McMonegal, according to the affidavit by Homeland Security Investigations, incorporated a "medical marijuana delivery dispensary" in December 2, 2016 under the name "West Coast Organix" in San Luis Obispo, California, and almost immediately started selling the drugs via interstate postal delivery via Dream Market using his Christmasstree vendor name.

From June 15, 2017 to May 12, 2018, Christmastree sold 2,800 packages and earned a 4.98 rating on Dream Market!


The rave reviews from buyers make it clear Christmastree really knew his stuff with high ratings on his Blue  Dream, OG Kush, Super Silver Haze, Blackberry Kush, and many others.  

Like the others, McMonegal's downfall was getting his Bitcoin turned into cash.  After the time the federal agents controlled TS1's exchange business, McMonegal used it to cash out at least $91,000 which was shipped to him in Mariposa, California in six shipments between April 2017 and March 2018.



IMMIGRATIONS AND CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT

For all the crap that is in the news recently about ICE, Homeland Security Investigations, the team that was at the lead of many of these investigations, are using technology and brilliant investigators to help shut down some of the worst crimes on the Internet.  If you know an ICE or HSI agent, make sure to let them know you appreciate what they are doing for us all!


(For more of this press conference, please see this YouTube video: "Officers arrest 35 in dark web bust, seize guns and drugs")