Spying on users of Google’s Chrome shows new security weakness

A newly discovered spyware effort attacked users through 32 million downloads of extensions to Google’s market-leading Chrome web browser, researchers at Awake Security told Reuters, highlighting the tech industry’s failure to protect browsers as they are used more for email, payroll and other sensitive functions.

Alphabet Inc’s Google said it removed more than 70 of the malicious add-ons from its official Chrome Web Store after being alerted by the researchers last month.

“When we are alerted of extensions in the Web Store that violate our policies, we take action and use those incidents as training material to improve our automated and manual analyses,” Google spokesman Scott Westover told Reuters.

Most of the free extensions purported to warn users about questionable websites or convert files from one format to another. Instead, they siphoned off browsing history and data that provided credentials for access to internal business tools.

Based on the number of downloads, it was the most far-reaching malicious Chrome store campaign to date, according to Awake co-founder and chief scientist Gary Golomb.

Google declined to discuss how the latest spyware compared with prior campaigns, the breadth of the damage, or why it did not detect and remove the bad extensions on its own despite past promises to supervise offerings more closely.

It is unclear who was behind the effort to distribute the malware. Awake said the developers supplied fake contact information when they submitted the extensions to Google.

“Anything that gets you into somebody’s browser or email or other sensitive areas would be a target for national espionage as well as organized crime,” said former National Security Agency engineer Ben Johnson, who founded security companies Carbon Black and Obsidian Security.

The extensions were designed to avoid detection by antivirus companies or security software that evaluates the reputations of web domains, Golomb said.

If someone used the browser to surf the web on a home computer, it would connect to a series of websites and transmit information, the researchers found. Anyone using a corporate network, which would include security services, would not transmit the sensitive information or even reach the malicious versions of the websites.

“This shows how attackers can use extremely simple methods to hide, in this case, thousands of malicious domains,” Golomb said.

After this story’s publication, Awake released its research, including the list of domains and extensions.

All of the domains in question, more than 15,000 linked to each other in total, were purchased from a small registrar in Israel, Galcomm, known formally as CommuniGal Communication.

Awake said Galcomm should have known what was happening.

In an email exchange, Galcomm owner Moshe Fogel told Reuters that his company had done nothing wrong.

“Galcomm is not involved, and not in complicity with any malicious activity whatsoever,” Fogel wrote. “You can say exactly the opposite, we cooperate with law enforcement and security bodies to prevent as much as we can.”

Fogel said there was no record of the inquiries Golomb said he made in April and again in May to the company’s email address for reporting abusive behavior, and he asked for a list of suspect domains.

After publication, Fogel said the majority of those domain names were inactive and that he would continue to investigate the others.

The Internet Corp for Assigned Names and Numbers, which oversees registrars, said it had received few complaints about Galcomm over the years, and none about malware.

While deceptive extensions have been a problem for years, they are getting worse. They initially spewed unwanted advertisements, and now are more likely to install additional malicious programs or track where users are and what they are doing for government or commercial spies.

Malicious developers have been using Google’s Chrome Store as a conduit for a long time. After one in 10 submissions was deemed malicious, Google said in 2018 it would improve security, in part by increasing human review.

But in February, independent researcher Jamila Kaya and Cisco Systems’ Duo Security uncovered a similar Chrome campaign that stole data from about 1.7 million users. Google joined the investigation and found 500 fraudulent extensions.

“We do regular sweeps to find extensions using similar techniques, code and behaviors,” Google’s Westover said, in identical language to what Google gave out after Duo’s report.

Article courtesy: www.itnews.com.au

Widespread Emotet malicious software targeting businesses and individuals

What’s happened?

Emotet is a banking trojan malware program which obtains financial information by injecting computer code into the networking stack of an infected Microsoft Windows computer, allowing sensitive data to be stolen via transmission. Emotet malware also inserts itself into software modules which are then able to steal address book data and perform denial of service attacks on other systems. It also functions as a down-loader or dropper of other banking Trojans.

The Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) is aware of a widespread malicious email virus (malware). Known as ‘Emotet’, targeting Australian businesses and individuals.

Cybercriminals use malware for different reasons. Most commonly to steal personal or valuable information from which they can profit. It hold recipients to ransom or install damaging programs onto devices without your knowledge. Do not pay the ransom if affected by ransomware. There is no guarantee that paying. The ransom will fix your computer, and it could make you vulnerable to further attacks. Restore your files from backup and seek technical advice.

How it works

The Emotet malware appears as a normal or useful file attachment in emails (.doc, .docx, .pdf). But includes hidden code which allows cybercriminals to access and control your devices or computer systems. It can also appear as a website hyperlink in emails.

Emotet malware infects devices or computers if users click on links or open files in these emails. You know, or an organisation you deal with.

The malware forwards itself to all the users’ email contacts, increasing the likelihood of further infection.

Here is an example of one of these emails, but it can come in many different formats.

Example of Emotet phishing email

How do I stay safe?

Always use caution before opening emails and attachments, and clicking on links.

To prevent malware infection, the ACSC recommends you take the following steps immediately:

  • Disable Microsoft Office macros. (Macros are small programs used to automate simple tasks in Microsoft Office documents but can be used maliciously – visit the Microsoft website for information on disabling macros in your version of Office.)
  • Maintain firewalls.
  • Make sure you have an offline backup of your information.

If you run a business. We recommend you also alert your staff to be aware of any emails that look unusual or suspicious. Refer to ACSC advice, www.cyber.gov.au/advice/improving-staff-awareness

The ACSC has also issued advice to help organisations protect systems and customer data.

Organisations that require further assistance or advice about Emotet malware can contact the ACSC by emailing ASD.Assist@defence.gov.au

For more information, please visit: www.staysmartonline.gov.au