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Brazil is at the forefront of a new type of router attack

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For nearly a year, Brazilian users have been targeted with a new type of router attack that has not been seen anywhere else in the world.

The attacks are nearly invisible to end users and can have disastrous consequences, having the ability to lead to direct financial losses for hacked users.

What’s currently happening to routers in Brazil should be a warning sign for users and ISPs from all over the world, who should take precautions to secure devices before the attacks observed in South American country spread to them as well.

Router DNS-changing attacks

The attacks targeting routers in Brazil started last summer and were first observed by cyber-security firm Radware, and a month later by security researchers from Netlab, a network threat hunting unit of Chinese cyber-security giant Qihoo 360.

At the time, the two companies described how a group of cyber-criminals had infected over 100,000 home routers in Brazil and were modifying their DNS settings.

The modifications made to these routers redirected infected users to malicious clone websites whenever they tried to access e-banking sites for certain Brazilian banks.

Similar attacks were seen a few months later, in April 2019 by threat intel firm Bad Packets, who detailed another wave of attacks, but this time aimed primarily against D-Link routers, also hosted on Brazilian ISPs.

This time around, besides hijacking users visiting Brazilian banks, the hackers were also redirecting users to phishing pages for Netflix, Google, and PayPal, to collect their credentials, according to researchers at Ixia.

But according to a report published by Avast this week, these attacks haven’t stopped. In fact, according to the company, in the first half of 2019, hackers have infected and modified the DNS settings of over 180,000 Brazilian routers.

Brazil router attacks

Attacks blocked by Avast on Brazilian routers


Image: Avast

Furthermore, the complexity of the attacks has increased, and the number of actors involved in the attacks appears to have gone up as well.

How a router hack takes place

According to Avast researchers David Jursa and Alexej Savčin, most Brazilian users are having their home routers hacked while visiting sports and movie streaming sites, or adult portals.

On these sites, malicious ads (malvertising) run special code inside users’ browsers to search and detect the IP address of a home router, the router’s model. When they detect the router’s IP and model, the malicious ads then use a list of default usernames and passwords to log into users’ devices, without their knowledge.

The attacks take a while, but most users won’t notice anything because they’re usually busy watching the video streams on the websites they’ve just accessed.

If the attacks are successful, additional malicious code relayed through the malicious ads will modify the default DNS settings on the victims’ routers, replacing the DNS server IP addresses routers receive from the upstream ISPs with the IP addresses of DNS servers managed by the hackers.

The next time the users’ smartphone or computer connects to the router, it will receive the malicious DNS server IP addresses, and this way, funnel all DNS requests through the attacker’s servers, allowing them to hijack and redirect traffic to malicious clones.

GhostDNS, Navidade, and SonarDNS

Per Avast’s investigation hackers have been using two special kits for these attacks. The first one is called GhostDNS, and is the one that’s been first spotted since last summer, and the botnet described by Radware and Netlab last year.

A variant of GhostDNS, called Navidade, also appeared in February.

Per Avast, “Novidade attempted to infect Avast users’ routers over 2.6 million times in February alone and was spread via three campaigns.”

Furthermore, since mid-April, another player entered the market. Avast calls this new botnet SonarDNS because the attacker appears to have re-purposed a penetration testing framework named Sonar.js as the backbone for their infrastructure.

And Sonar.js is perfect for the router attacks. This JavaScript library is normally used by penetration testers for identifying and launching exploits against internal network hosts, and is ideal for determining a router type and running exploits on the targeted device with just a few lines of code.

Avast says it seen SonarDNS in three different campaigns over the last three months, and its modus operandi appears to be mimicking how GhostDNS operates.

Ad replacing and cryptojacking

But the DNS hijacking attacks aimed at routers in Brazil have not stood still and have also evolved. Besides hijacking traffic and redirecting users to phishing pages, the hacker groups behind these attacks have also added additional tricks to their arsenal.

The first is to intercept user traffic and replace legitimate ads with adverts operated or that generate profit for the attackers.

This tactic isn’t new, per-se. In 2016, Proofpoint researchers spotted an exploit kit which they named DNSChanger EK that did the same thing — replacing legitimate ads with malicious ones — and is most likely the inspiration for what the botnet operators targeting Brazil are doing now.

Second, the operators of GhostDNS, Navidade, and SonarDNS, have also been deploying browser-based cryptojacking scripts. This last tactic has also been seen in Brazil before, last year, when another group hijacked over 200,000 Mikrotik routers and added in-browser cryptocurrency miners to users’ web traffic.

Danger of spreading to other countries

But despite all of this, the DNS-changing attacks are the ones that are the most dangerous of all for end users. This is because the botnet operators are phishing users’ credentials, and hijacking online profiles or stealing money from users’ bank accounts.

With the attacks being so sneaky, hard to detect, and so profitable, it’s still a mystery why they haven’t spread to other countries.

Hacking routers is both cheap and easy. However, most IoT botnets today enslave these devices to perform DDoS attacks or act as proxies for bad traffic, brute-force, or credential stuffing attacks. Using routers for phishing would be way more profitable.

Users who want to stay safe against any IoT botnet that targets routers to modify DNS settings have a few options at their disposal:

  • Use complex router administration passwords
  • Keep routers up to date
  • Use custom DNS settings on their devices, which prevent the device OS from requesting possibly tainted DNS settings from the local router

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Key Criteria for Evaluating Security Information and Event Management Solutions (SIEM)

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Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) solutions consolidate multiple security data streams under a single roof. Initially, SIEM supported early detection of cyberattacks and data breaches by collecting and correlating security event logs. Over time, it evolved into sophisticated systems capable of ingesting huge volumes of data from disparate sources, analyzing data in real time, and gathering additional context from threat intelligence feeds and new sources of security-related data. Next-generation SIEM solutions deliver tight integrations with other security products, advanced analytics, and semi-autonomous incident response.

SIEM solutions can be deployed on-premises, in the cloud, or a mix of the two. Deployment models must be weighed with regard to the environments the SIEM solution will protect. With more and more digital infrastructure and services becoming mission critical to every enterprise, SIEMs must handle higher volumes of data. Vendors and customers are increasingly focused on cloud-based solutions, whether SaaS or cloud-hosted models, for their scalability and flexibility.

The latest developments for SIEM solutions include machine learning capabilities for incident detection, advanced analytics features that include user behavior analytics (UBA), and integrations with other security solutions, such as security orchestration automation and response (SOAR) and endpoint detection and response (EDR) systems. Even though additional capabilities within the SIEM environment are a natural progression, customers are finding it even more difficult to deploy, customize, and operate SIEM solutions.

Other improvements include better user experience and lower time-to-value for new deployments. To achieve this, vendors are working on:

  • Streamlining data onboarding
  • Preloading customizable content—use cases, rulesets, and playbooks
  • Standardizing data formats and labels
  • Mapping incident alerts to common frameworks, such as the MITRE ATT&CK framework

Vendors and service providers are also expanding their offerings beyond managed SIEM solutions to à la carte services, such as content development services and threat hunting-as-a-service.

There is no one-size-fits-all SIEM solution. Each organization will have to evaluate its own requirements and resource constraints to find the right solution. Organizations will weigh factors such as deployment models or integrations with existing applications and security solutions. However, the main decision factor for most customers will revolve around usability, affordability, and return on investment. Fortunately, a wide range of solutions available in the market can almost guarantee a good fit for every customer.

How to Read this Report

This GigaOm report is one of a series of documents that helps IT organizations assess competing solutions in the context of well-defined features and criteria. For a fuller understanding consider reviewing the following reports:

Key Criteria report: A detailed market sector analysis that assesses the impact that key product features and criteria have on top-line solution characteristics—such as scalability, performance, and TCO—that drive purchase decisions.

GigaOm Radar report: A forward-looking analysis that plots the relative value and progression of vendor solutions along multiple axes based on strategy and execution. The Radar report includes a breakdown of each vendor’s offering in the sector.

Solution Profile: An in-depth vendor analysis that builds on the framework developed in the Key Criteria and Radar reports to assess a company’s engagement within a technology sector. This analysis includes forward-looking guidance around both strategy and product.

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Key Criteria for Evaluating Secure Service Access

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Since the inception of large-scale computing, enterprises, organizations, and service providers have protected their digital assets by securing the perimeter of their on-premises data centers. With the advent of cloud computing, the perimeter has dissolved, but—in most cases—the legacy approach to security hasn not. Many corporations still manage the expanded enterprise and remote workforce as an extension of the old headquarters office/branch model serviced by LANs and WANs.

Bolting new security products onto their aging networks increased costs and complexity exponentially, while at the same time severely limiting their ability to meet regulatory compliance mandates, scale elastically, or secure the threat surface of the new any place/any user/any device perimeter.

The result? Patchwork security ill-suited to the demands of the post-COVID distributed enterprise.

Converging networking and security, secure service access (SSA) represents a significant shift in the way organizations consume network security, enabling them to replace multiple security vendors with a single, integrated platform offering full interoperability and end-to-end redundancy. Encompassing secure access service edge (SASE), zero-trust network access (ZTNA), and extended detection and response (XDR), SSA shifts the focus of security consumption from being either data center or edge-centric to being ubiquitous, with an emphasis on securing services irrespective of user identity or resources accessed.

This GigaOm Key Criteria report outlines critical criteria and evaluation metrics for selecting an SSA solution. The corresponding GigaOm Radar Report provides an overview of notable SSA vendors and their offerings available today. Together, these reports are designed to help educate decision-makers, making them aware of various approaches and vendors that are meeting the challenges of the distributed enterprise in the post-pandemic era.

How to Read this Report

This GigaOm report is one of a series of documents that helps IT organizations assess competing solutions in the context of well-defined features and criteria. For a fuller understanding consider reviewing the following reports:

Key Criteria report: A detailed market sector analysis that assesses the impact that key product features and criteria have on top-line solution characteristics—such as scalability, performance, and TCO—that drive purchase decisions.

GigaOm Radar report: A forward-looking analysis that plots the relative value and progression of vendor solutions along multiple axes based on strategy and execution. The Radar report includes a breakdown of each vendor’s offering in the sector.

Solution Profile: An in-depth vendor analysis that builds on the framework developed in the Key Criteria and Radar reports to assess a company’s engagement within a technology sector. This analysis includes forward-looking guidance around both strategy and product.

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Security

Key Criteria for Evaluating Edge Platforms

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Edge platforms leverage distributed infrastructure to deliver content, computing, and security closer to end devices, offloading networks and improving performance. We define edge platforms as the solutions capable of providing end users with millisecond access to processing power, media files, storage, secure connectivity, and related “cloud-like” services.

The key benefit of edge platforms is bringing websites, applications, media, security, and a multitude of virtual infrastructures and services closer to end devices compared to public or private cloud locations.

The need for content proximity started to become more evident in the early 2000s as the web evolved from a read-only service to a read-write experience, and users worldwide began both consuming and creating content. Today, this is even more important, as live and on-demand video streaming at very high resolutions cannot be sustained from a single central location. Content delivery networks (CDNs) helped host these types of media at the edge, and the associated network optimization methods allowed them to provide these new demanding services.

As we moved into the early 2010s, we experienced the rapid cloudification of traditional infrastructure. Roughly speaking, cloud computing takes a server from a user’s office, puts it in a faraway data center, and allows it to be used across the internet. Cloud providers manage the underlying hardware and provide it as a service, allowing users to provision their own virtual infrastructure. There are many operational benefits, but at least one unavoidable downside: the increase in latency. This is especially true in this dawning age of distributed enterprises for which there is not just a single office to optimize. Instead, “the office” is now anywhere and everywhere employees happen to be.

Even so, this centralized, cloud-based compute methodology works very well for most enterprise applications, as long as there is no critical sensitivity to delay. But what about use cases that cannot tolerate latency? Think industrial monitoring and control, real-time machine learning, autonomous vehicles, augmented reality, and gaming. If a cloud data center is a few hundred or even thousands of miles away, the physical limitations of sending an optical or electrical pulse through a cable mean there are no options to lower the latency. The answer to this is leveraging a distributed infrastructure model, which has traditionally been used by content delivery networks.

As CDNs have brought the internet’s content closer to everyone, CDN providers have positioned themselves in the unique space of owning much of the infrastructure required to bring computing and security closer to users and end devices. With servers close to the topological edge of the network, CDN providers can offer processing power and other “cloud-like” services to end devices with only a few milliseconds latency.

While CDN operators are in the right place at the right time to develop edge platforms, we’ve observed a total of four types of vendors that have been building out relevant—and potentially competing—edge infrastructure. These include traditional CDNs, hyperscale cloud providers, telecommunications companies, and new dedicated edge platform operators, purpose-built for this emerging requirement.

How to Read this Report

This GigaOm report is one of a series of documents that helps IT organizations assess competing solutions in the context of well-defined features and criteria. For a fuller understanding consider reviewing the following reports:

Key Criteria report: A detailed market sector analysis that assesses the impact that key product features and criteria have on top-line solution characteristics—such as scalability, performance, and TCO—that drive purchase decisions.

GigaOm Radar report: A forward-looking analysis that plots the relative value and progression of vendor solutions along multiple axes based on strategy and execution. The Radar report includes a breakdown of each vendor’s offering in the sector.

Vendor Profile: An in-depth vendor analysis that builds on the framework developed in the Key Criteria and Radar reports to assess a company’s engagement within a technology sector. This analysis includes forward-looking guidance around both strategy and product.

Continue Reading

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