#CyberFLASH: Mafiaboy grows up: computer hacking taught him how to protect companies

michael-calce-also-know-as-mafiaboy-thursday-october-9-2Mafiaboy is now a man and he’s on a mission.

As a 15-year-old hacker in 2000, Mafiaboy (real name: Michael Calce) paralyzed the websites of the biggest names in media and e-commerce, including CNN, Amazon and eBay. The RCMP and FBI tracked him down in Île-Bizard. He pleaded guilty to 58 charges and spent eight months in a youth detention centre.

Now 31, Calce recently started a cyber-security company — Optimal Secure — focusing on the financial sector in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. His specialty: “penetration testing.” Companies hire him to try to penetrate their computer defences so they can secure systems before hackers strike.

Computer hacking is a constant threat. In recent weeks alone, hackers have: broken into some of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg’s accounts; forced the University of Calgary to pay a $20,000 ransom after crippling its computer systems; stolen $81 million U.S. from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

The Montreal Gazette sat down with Calce and learned that “spear-phishing email attacks” are among the scary things to fear online today. 

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#CyberFLASH: A spear phishing attack that nearly worked

FEATURE-Phishing-SHUTTERSTOCK-620x250These days determined cyber attackers don’t fire broadsides at organizations they want to infiltrate — they take the time to find out who holds certain sensitive positions and targets them.

If the staff in your enterprise hasn’t got that message yet, there’s news story from the U.S. about a spear phishing attack that nearly tricked a firm’s comptroller CISOs could pass on to all employees so they understand.

The email seemed to come from the CEO about an upcoming acquisition, and asked the comptroller to work closely — in fact, “exclusively” — with a lawyer on the deal. The message was detailed, professional, right down to suggesting the company had already notified the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on the deal.

There was no hyperlink or attachment for the comptroller to click on, which is usually the way malware is delivered. No, this attack was more crafty: The CEO authorized the comptroller to “proceed with any payments that (the lawyer) may request on my behalf. You need to keep this matter extremely confidential as you are the only one currently aware of the situation.”

Had the comptroller fallen for the scheme she likely would have forwarded a sizeable amount of money to who knows where.

Fortunately, the attacker made a mistake: CEO signed the email with his full name, which he doesn’t do. The comptroller was justifiably suspicious and checked.

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#CyberFLASH: Russian cyber group seen preparing to attack banks


n-ONLINE-SPYING-largeA security firm is warning that a group of Russian hackers known for targeting military, government and media organizations is now preparing to attack banks in the U.S. and elsewhere.

The group’s preparations, which have included writing new malware, registering domain names similar to those of intended targets, and setting up command-and-control servers, were discovered by analysts from security firm Root9B.

The group has been active since at least 2007 and is known by various names including APT28 and Pawn Storm. Several security vendors believe it operates out of Russia and has possible ties to that country’s intelligence agencies.

The group’s primary malware tool is a backdoor program called Sednit or Sofacy that it delivers to victims through spear-phishing emails or drive-by downloads launched from compromised websites.

The Root9B analysts came across a phishing domain at the end of April that was similar to that of a Middle Eastern financial institution, according to a report published Tuesday. When they dug deeper they uncovered new Sofacy malware samples and servers and domains that were being set up by the group for an upcoming operation.

Based on the information gathered so far, believes the group’s planned targets include Commercial Bank International in the UAE, Bank of America, TD Canada Trust, the United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF), United Bank for Africa, Regions Bank, and possibly Commerzbank.

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