Mastermind behind sophisticated, massive botnet outs himself

Enlarge (credit: Investigative Committee of Belarus)

The mastermind behind some of the world’s biggest and longest-running botnets has been jailed and his vast criminal infrastructure taken down, in part because of a careless operational security blunder that allowed authorities to identify his anonymous online persona.

Officials from the Republic of Belarus reported Monday they detained a participant in the sprawling Andromeda botnet network, which was made up of 464 separate botnets that spread more than 80 distinct malware families since 2011. On Tuesday, researchers with security firm Recorded Future published a blog post that said the participant was a 33-year-old Belarusian named Sergey Jarets.

To most people, Jarets was known only as “Ar3s,” the moniker assigned to a highly respected elder in the criminal underground. In online discussions, Ar3s demonstrated expertise in malware development and the reverse-engineering of software. He also acted as a reputable guarantor of deals that were hashed out online. As it turned out, the ICQ number of the figure he used as one of his primary contact methods was registered in several whitehat discussion forums to one Sergey Jaretz.

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100,000-strong botnet built on router 0-day could strike at any time

Enlarge / Bots everywhere! (credit: avatarr8 (old))

Attackers have used an advanced new strain of the Mirai Internet-of-things malware to quietly amass an army of 100,000 home routers that could be used at any moment to wage Internet-paralyzing attacks, a researcher warned Monday.

Botnet operators have been regularly releasing new versions of Mirai since the source code was openly published 14 months ago. Usually, the new versions contain minor tweaks, many of which contain amateur mistakes that prevent the new releases from having the punch of the original Mirai, which played a key role in a series of distributed denial-of-service attacks that debilitated or temporarily took down Twitter, GitHub, the PlayStation Network and other key Internet services.

Sophisticated approach

What sets this latest variant apart is its ability to exploit a recently discovered zeroday vulnerability to infect two widely used lines of home and small-office routers even when they’re secured with strong passwords or have remote administration turned off altogether, Dale Drew, chief security strategist at broadband Internet provider CenturyLink, told Ars. One of the affected Huawei devices is the EchoLife Home Gateway, and the other is the Huawei Home Gateway. Roughly 90,000 of the 100,000 newly infected devices are one of the two Huawei router models. The new malware also has a dictionary of 65,000 username and password combinations to try against other types of devices.

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Apple Daily: ‘Truly Great’ iPhone 6s Reviews, iFixit on Apple TV, XcodeGhost Q&A

If you can’t stop refreshing the UPS website in anticipation of your shiny new iPhone 6s moving closer to home, our Tuesday edition of Apple Daily will point you in the direction of some early reviews to keep your mind occupied for a little bit. We’ve also got a first look at what’s powering the new Apple TV, along with official word from Apple on that XcodeGhost iOS malware that recently affected Chinese App Store customers. 

Early iPhone 6s Reviews Published, Apple Has “Done It Again”

Apple’s latest iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus models are winging their way around the globe and across the country to land on the doorsteps of preorder and retail customers this Friday, September 25, but those hankering for some independent criticism on the new smartphones won’t have to travel very far to find them right now.

iPhone 6s website tumble

Naturally, our first stop is techradar, where the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus have already been lovingly detailed, each with a four-star rating hailing 3D Touch, the “bright, vibrant display” and “fuss-free camera,” while noting the battery life falls a bit short, Live Photos don’t always work, and there’s still room for improvement even after the release of iOS 9.

Next, MacRumors has assembled highlights of other key reviews from tech websites such as The Verge, Mashable, and TechCrunch, and the mid-cycle refresh appears to be worthy of consideration — especially for those interested in the new 3D Touch technology or the expanded capabilities of the dual cameras.

The Verge wasted no time exclaiming that Apple has “done it again” and referring to the iPhone 6s “the best smartphone out there, period,” praising Apple for managing to “do new things better, apply them broadly, and make them seem natural” in reference to the new 3D Touch feature. Mashable also gushed over the iPhone 6s Plus hardware, calling it a “performance beast” whose 12-megapixel camera easily bests both last year’s iPhone 6 Plus as well as its closest rival, the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+.

TechCrunch also summed up the iPhone 6s camera as “truly great” while noting the second-generation Touch ID sensor is “so fast that you can no longer tap the home button to wake your screen, because it will unlock instantly.” Last but not least, Apple’s new 4K video recording and Live Photos feature was also singled out for particular praise in this first round of embargoed reviews.

iFixit Nabs New Apple TV, Promptly Tears It Apart

Last week, a select number of developers began receiving fourth-generation Apple TV units following a lottery to determine who would receive the brand-new hardware before its public release next month. Apparently, one of those developers have handed the unit over to the folks at iFixit, who summarily began tearing it down to see what makes it — and the accompanying Siri-powered remote — tick.

iFixit 2015 Apple TV teardown

Not surprisingly, the little black box is powered by a dual-core, 64-bit A8 chip with 2GB of SDRAM that retains the aging 10/100 Ethernet port found on earlier models. Perhaps contributing to the slightly taller dimensions, the latest Apple TV includes a larger heat sink than previous models, while the Siri Remote features a Broadcom-manufactured touch screen controller also used in iPhone 5s and iPad Air devices.

On a positive note, iFixit has awarded the fourth-gen Apple TV a repairability score of eight out of 10, suggesting that users won’t have a very difficult time trying to fix the media streaming box should anything go wrong with it in the future. Apple TV is scheduled to begin shipping sometime in late October.

Apple Posts XcodeGhost Q&A for Developers

Over the weekend, Apple removed dozens of apps from the Chinese App Store, all of which were infected with a new form of iOS malware dubbed “XcodeGhost.” Apparently, the afflicted developers used a counterfeit version of the developer tool Xcode hosted on third-party servers to compile these apps, but has since acted quickly with instructions on how to fix the problem, which does not affect apps compiled with the official Xcode versions found on the Mac App Store and Apple’s own website.

XcodeGhost

Earlier today, Apple posted a question-and-answer page in both Chinese and English to address any further concerns about the XcodeGhost malware, noting there is no evidence to suggest any malicious intent thus far, nor has any “personally identifiable customer data” been impacted.

Apple plans to list the top 25 most popular apps affected by Xcode Ghost, and will be notifying customers who have downloaded one or more of these apps. Once developers submit an update for the issue, customers will then be able to apply it to the copy on their device. Finally, it’s important to note this issue only affected Chinese customers — those in other regions were not impacted.

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