Hackers Spy on US Steel from China, Steal from Facebook Server, and Fiddle with Global Financial System


Just another week in ThreatWatch, our regularly updated index of noteworthy data breaches.

In case you missed our coverage this week in ThreatWatchNextgov’s regularly updated index of cyber breaches

U.S. Steel Blames Chinese Military Hackers for Stealing Trade Secrets

The company, in a complaint filed April 26 with the International Trade Commission, said a computer belonging to a Pittsburgh researcher was hacked in 2011 and plans for developing new steel technology were stolen.

The American steel firm alleges the Chinese government stole the proprietary information on behalf of Chinese steel producers seeking to gain market share in the U.S. automotive industry.

U.S. Steel says its forensic analysis into the 2011 hacking revealed the alleged culprits were based in China, and that the methods were similar to those used by Chinese hackers indicted in 2014 by a grand jury in Western Pennsylvania. 

The hackers in the 2014 case allegedly worked for the Chinese military and stole price information and technological documents from U.S. Steel, Alcoa Inc., the United Steelworkers union and other entities to help companies win contract bids and trade disputes.

While U.S. Steel did not provide evidence of a Chinese government hack, it said the intrusion fit the pattern of previous cyberattacks involving the Chinese government. A program inserted in a U.S. Steel computer “contacted an Internet domain linked to a Chinese hacker group,” according to this week’s complaint. The hackers allegedly then turned over their discoveries to Chinese steelmakers.

Unauthorized Entity Entered Backdoor in Facebook’s Code

One good-guy hacker recently detected a server-side vulnerability that had not only existed for months, but that apparently had been successfully exploited by someone perhaps less nice multiple times.

In a blog post, a self-described "penetration tester" nicknamed Orange Tsai found seven vulnerabilities, a few of which enabled him to take control of Facebook's servers.

In doing so, he found some PHP error messages that seemed to be caused by the unauthorized visitor. The other user apparently created a proxy on the credential page to steal the credentials of Facebook employees.

"And at the time I discovered these, there were around 300 logged credentials dated between Feb. 1 to 7, from Feb. 1, mostly '@fb.com' and '@facebook.com,'" Tsai wrote. "Upon seeing it, I thought it's a pretty serious security incident."

Tsai alerted Facebook's security team to his findings early February, and said he received confirmation Facebook would inspect the vulnerability.

He said he was asked not to disclose the exploit until Facebook completed its investigation April 20.

Someone purportedly from Facebook's security team posted in a forum shortly after Tsai published his post the company was "really glad Orange reported this to us."

Bangladesh Bank Robbers Compromised Global Financial System to Hide Their Tracks

The attackers who, as reported earlier, stole $81 million from the Bangladesh central bank in February probably hacked into software from the SWIFT financial platform at the heart of the global financial system, according to BAE Systems security researchers.

SWIFT says it is aware of malware targeting its client software, called Alliance Access. An organization spokeswoman said SWIFT on April 25 released a software update to block the malware, plus a warning for financial institutions to scrutinize their security procedures.

New evidence suggests hackers manipulated the Alliance software, which banks use to interface with SWIFT's messaging platform, in a bid to cover up fraudulent transfers that had been ordered.

A BAE alert includes some technical indicators that banks can use to thwart similar attacks. Those indicators include the IP address of a server in Egypt the attackers used to monitor use of the SWIFT system by Bangladesh Bank staff.

The malware, named evtdiag.exe, was designed to hide the hacker's tracks by changing information on a SWIFT database at Bangladesh Bank that logs information about transfer requests.

The malware was likely part of a broader attack toolkit that was installed after the attackers obtained administrator credentials. It is still not clear exactly how the hackers ordered the money transfers.

BAE found evtdiag.exe on a public malware repository and had not directly analyzed the infected servers.

The malware was compiled close to the date of the heist, contained detailed information about the bank's operations and was uploaded from Bangladesh.

While that malware was specifically written to attack Bangladesh Bank, the general tools, techniques and procedures used in the attack may allow the gang to strike again.

Once it has established a foothold, the malware can delete records of outgoing transfer requests from the database and also intercept incoming messages confirming transfers ordered by the hackers.

It is able to then manipulate account balances on logs to prevent the heist from being discovered until after the funds have been laundered.

Adrian Nish, BAE's head of threat intelligence, said he had never seen such an elaborate scheme by criminal hackers.

"I can't think of a case where we have seen a criminal go to the level of effort to customize it for the environment they were operating in," he said. "I guess it was the realization that the potential payoff made that effort worthwhile."

Hackers Gut Gold-Mining Firm Goldcorp

A trove of employee and corporate data from the Vancouver-based firm has apparently been dumped online.

After receiving a tip from the hackers on the afternoon of April 26 about the alleged breach, the Daily Dot contacted Goldcorp via email, website contact form, and phone to alert them to the matter. A company employee said they were already aware of the situation.

The firm said in statement April 27: “Goldcorp confirmed today that the company’s network has been compromised and is working to determine the full scope and impact of the incident...The company’s internal IT security team has been working with leading independent IT security firms to rapidly gather facts, provide information to affected employees and ensure a robust action plan is in place, including immediate preventative modifications to its IT processes and increased network security protocols.”

The data breach was part of an attempt to extort money from the third-largest gold mining company.

In a document posted to a public bulletin board, the hackers have provided sample data and a link to a full torrent download, which measured 14.8 GB when uncompressed.

The sample data includes what appears to be correspondence to some employees concerning their 2013 performance and 2014 compensation rates, proprietary information, bank account information (undated), budget information for 2016, international contacts, and directories of employees by location with their names, titles, office and mobile telephone numbers and email addresses. Another file sample contained network information and recovery procedures.

The Daily Dot verified that the names and titles correspond with current employees of Goldcorp. A PDF included in the dump shows the expired passport of a Goldcorp executive. The name and photo on the passport correspond with the man’s LinkedIn profile.