Discovery of Crimeware Server Exposes Breadth of Data Theft

Last month researchers at online security company Finjan uncovered a 1.4 gigabyte cache of stolen data from North America, Europe, the Middle East and India on a Malaysian server that provided command and control functions for malware attacks in addition to being a drop site for data harvested from compromised computers.

"This is a unique example of what we have been talking about for the last year," said Yuval Ben-Itzhak, chief technical officer at Finjan. Online thieves are using sophisticated tools to plant malicious code on legitimate Web pages, compromising visiting PCs and stealing data.

The data included 5,388 unique log files collected in just a three-week period. The files included personal and business e-mails, medical records, and financial log-in and transaction information with not only credit card and account numbers but also passwords and security codes. Although the trend of using Web exploits to steal and market personal data has been identified for some time, the discovery of the cache still was an eye-opener, Ben-Itzhak said.

"When you see a server with the data there, it's the difference between theory and reality," he said. "When you see people's medical records and e-mail in this volume, we were kind of shocked."

Since the discovery in early April, the company's Malicious Code Research Center has discovered two similar servers in different parts world with similar data. They appeared to have been in operation for shorter periods of time.

Finjan reported the discovery today in the latest issue of the "Malicious Page of the Month" bulletin.

The crimeserver was discovered by analysts monitoring outgoing traffic from a Finjan customer's network. Following the traffic to its destination led them to the unprotected server holding the data. The server contained several Trojans and the payload injected into compromised Web sites in addition to command and control software for the attacks and the stolen data.

"It was just waiting for someone to collect it," Ben-Itzhak said. Most of the data was in raw log files, although "in some parts of the server, we found data that had already been processed."

Finjan analysts needed a week to process the 1.4 gigabytes and determine what was there. The log files were traced to 5,878 distinct IP addresses. The number of compromised PCs the data was lifted from has not been determined, but Ben-Itzhak said it could be as high as double the number of IP addresses. Files on the server included 571 log files from the United States, 621 from Germany, 322 from France, 308 from India, 232 from Great Britain, 150 from Spain, 86 from Canada, 58 from Italy, 46 from the Netherlands and 1,037 from Turkey.

The server was registered to a man from Moscow and was hosted in Singapore at the time it was discovered. It has since been shut down.

"About every week he was moving the server," from Russia to China, Hong Kong and finally Singapore, Ben-Itzhak said.

In the online black market for stolen information, raw data can be sold in bulk for $1,000 for about 100 megabytes, but individual credit card numbers with accompanying information can sell for $20 to $50 each. Other files can bring hundreds of dollars, depending on their contents.

Ben-Itzhak said the discovery illustrates the breadth of the data theft threat. It is not just personal financial data at risk but corporate data also. The files included information from what Finjan described as 40 top-tier global businesses and included sensitive corporate e-mails.

"We entered a new era in which criminals just need to log into their 'data supplier' and download any information suitable for them to conduct their crime, be it financial fraud, industrial espionage or identity theft," Ben-Itzhak said.

The company notified more than 40 major international financial institutions in the United States, Europe and India whose customers were compromised in addition to international law enforcement agencies including the FBI.

Ben-Itzhak said the largest financial institutions were not surprised, but smaller banks were. Cooperation was good from law enforcement agencies, with which the company maintains close relationships, he said.

About the Author

William Jackson is the senior writer for Government Computer News (