Cyber thieves piggyback off Stratfor breach, target feds

Crooks are targeting the global research provider's federal customers whose addresses were compromised during a 2011 hack.

Hackers posing as officials from the geopolitical analysis publisher Stratfor are emailing infected links to government subscribers whose email addresses were stolen during an earlier raid on the company's computers, Microsoft researchers say.

To expose the ruse, Stratfor has instituted a temporary no-link policy for all official emails, according to a notice on the company's website. The policy is fallout from the Christmas Day 2011 data breach, when hacker collective Anonymous claimed responsibility for exposing the credit card data and email addresses of federal personnel. Potentially more than 860,000 public and private sector subscribers to Stratfor's online analysis were affected.

Now, cyber crooks are taking financial advantage of the addresses, according to Microsoft research published Monday. The bad guys are employing social engineering to trick Stratfor subscribers into visiting malicious websites. Their messages, which were written on apparent Stratfor letterhead and captured by Microsoft, state, "we strongly discourage you to open emails and attachments from doubtful senders" and "we also warn you about the distribution of harmful software through our website." The messages then direct readers to download software that will infect their computers.

In reality, if wary subscribers ignore the messages and go to the company's website they will see alerts discrediting the senders of these messages.

On Feb. 7, Stratfor, through emails and on its website, warned that individuals are sending spam emails attempting to lead recipients to bogus Stratfor websites and convincing them to provide private information.

The fake Stratfor message described by Microsoft goes on to recommend that readers download, through an external link, an antivirus program that checks for the Win32Azee virus -- a fictional worm. The URL, displayed as http://stratfor.com/av, is embedded with a link to a Web address located in Turkey, according to Microsoft. Stratfor is based in Austin, Texas, a fact even noted in the phony message.

Clicking on the embedded link injects malicious software that steals bank account passwords and other sensitive information, according to Microsoft.

Stratfor earlier this year was publicly embarrassed for not encrypting its clients' credit card information and coming forward after it knew of the infiltration in early December. The firm has since taken steps to be more forthcoming with the public. Stratfor provides an online list of authorized emails sent to customers along with the dates they were sent, a company spokesman noted. And Stratfor.com maintains a news section dedicated to the hack.

"Due to the ongoing law enforcement investigation, we're not commenting beyond those communications," Stratfor spokesman Kyle Rhodes said.

Stratfor's disclosure practices demonstrate the difficulty many companies -- and federal agencies -- face in deciding what kind of information about threats is helpful or harmful to disclose. Congress may make that decision for everyone in forthcoming legislation that is expected to address information sharing between targeted organizations and authorities, organizations and their customers, and among intelligence agencies and potential targets.

In a separate incident during the past week, an Anonymous faction took credit for repeatedly knocking offline the CIA's public-facing website. That episode appears to have been a denial-of-service attack using a barrage of useless traffic, rather than a hack that gained unauthorized access to the U.S. spy agency's computers.

Almost a year ago, CIA.gov and the agency's unclassified email system were down for a few days during a suspected hacker activist onslaught. Experts not involved with the investigation said hacktivists may have executed the outages to show off their skills.

CIA officials would not comment on their site's reliability beyond a statement issued Friday night that said, "we are aware of the problems accessing our website, and are working to resolve them."

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.