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Canada’s broadcasting agency fines company behind the Orcus malware



Canada’s broadcasting agency has fined a company with 115,000 Canadian dollars (roughly 87,000 US dollars) for selling malware.

The fine was imposed by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) on Orcus Technologies, a company that sold a remote access trojan (RAT) named Orcus.

According to an investigation carried out by the CRTC, together with the help of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) cybercrime division, the company was founded in March 2016 by a Toronto-based man named John Paul Revesz (a.k.a. Ciriis McGraw, Armada, Angelis, among other aliases) and a German man named Vincent Leo Griebel (a.k.a. Sorzus).

Griebel developed the malware, and Revesz provided marketing, sales, and support for the software.

Online, the duo claimed to provide a Remote Administration Tool, similar to TeamViewer and other remote management apps.

“Evidence obtained in the course of the investigation allowed the Chief Compliance and Enforcement Officer (CCEO) to conclude that the Orcus RAT was not the typical administration tool Griebel and Revesz claimed, but was, in fact, a Remote Access Trojan (RAT), a known type of malware,” the CRTC said last week.

The CRTC said the duo sold and aided malicious actors to install the Orcus RAT without consent on other people’s computers.

Furthermore, the duo also ran a Dynamic Domain Name Server (DDNS) service that helped the malware to communicate with infected hosts without revealing the hacker’s real IP address.

Criminal investigation also underway

The CRTC fine is just one part of the investigation currently underway in Canada, and most likely the least severe. The RCMP filed criminal charges against Revesz last month, in November.

The RCPM said they started an investigation and have been tracking Orcus Technologies since July 2016, when the Orcus RAT started popping up on the radar of cyber-security experts.

This reporter was the first to publish an article about the malware in July 2016, when the Orcus team began advertising the malware on a hacking forum, and Orcus began being distributed via malspam (malicious email spam) campaigns.

Following the article, Revesz defended the Orcus RAT on Twitter, claiming his tool was a mere remote management app, contrary to all the available evidence.

Revesz’s absurd arguments, the use of a pseudonym (Armada), a penchant for advertising on hacking forums, and a lackadaisical approach to dealing with abuse reports didn’t win him any fans or leniency in the cyber-security industry.

As a result of these Twitter feuds, several cyber-security experts and companies filed complaints with Canadian authorities. Revesz also didn’t get to keep his anonymity. Ten days later, investigative reporter Brian Krebs tracked down Armada (Revesz) and revealed his real name and location to the broader world.

A report from cyber-security firm Palo Alto Networks followed a month later, with a conclusion firmly classifying Orcus as malware, rather than a legitimate app, putting an end to Revesz’s arguments for a legitimate business. We cite:

The individuals behind Orcus are selling the RAT by advertising it as a ‘Remote Administration Tool’ under a supposedly registered business and claiming that this tool is only designed for legitimate business use. However, looking at the feature capabilities, architecture of the tool, and the publishing and selling of the tool in hacker forums, it is clear that Orcus is a malicious tool, and that its target customer is cyber criminals.”


Image: ZDNet

The 2016 complaints against Orcus Technologies, and its tool, resulted in the RCMP opening an investigation. The CRTC, the FBI, and Australia’s Federal Police joined in the following years.

In March 2019, the RCMP executed a warrant at Rivesz’s residence, while Australian police executed separate warrants across Australia, supposedly targeting Orcus RAT buyers.

On HackForums, the place where Revesz primarily advertised the Orcus RAT, users complained about getting raided following the crackdown against buyers in March 2019.


Image: ZDNet

In an NoV [Notice of Violation], the CRTC said that they’ve “obtained a list of Orcus RAT purchasers based in Canada and abroad,” which they and other investigators plan to pursue further.

While Revesz and his German co-conspirator created the Orcus RAT, the malware’s buyers are just as guilty as the two, they being the ones who actually infected victims.

Across the years, cyber-security firms have reported seeing Orcus deployed on the networks of large companies, to aid with data theft, or against regular users, as a form of spyware and stalkerware.

Being a RAT, Orcus provided full access and control over an infected host. Features included:

  • Gaining administrative privileges;
  • Recording keystrokes;
  • Extracting passwords from other apps;
  • Activating the webcam and microphone without notification;
  • Installing other apps;
  • Hiding the malware’s presence on a system, and many other more.

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The Five Pillars of (Azure) Cloud-based Application Security



This 1-hour webinar from GigaOm brings together experts in Azure cloud application migration and security, featuring GigaOm analyst Jon Collins and special guests from Fortinet, Director of Product Marketing for Public Cloud, Daniel Schrader, and Global Director of Public Cloud Architecture and Engineering, Aidan Walden.

These interesting times have accelerated the drive towards digital transformation, application rationalization, and migration to cloud-based architectures. Enterprise organizations are looking to increase efficiency, but without impacting performance or increasing risk, either from infrastructure resilience or end-user behaviors.

Success requires a combination of best practice and appropriate use of technology, depending on where the organization is on its cloud journey. Elements such as zero-trust access and security-driven networking need to be deployed in parallel with security-first operations, breach prevention and response.

If you are looking to migrate applications to the cloud and want to be sure your approach maximizes delivery whilst minimizing risk, this webinar is for you.

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Data Management and Secure Data Storage for the Enterprise



This free 1-hour webinar from GigaOm Research brings together experts in data management and security, featuring GigaOm Analyst Enrico Signoretti and special guest from RackTop Systems, Jonathan Halstuch. The discussion will focus on data storage and how to protect data against cyberattacks.

Most of the recent news coverage and analysis of cyberattacks focus on hackers getting access and control of critical systems. Yet rarely is it mentioned that the most valuable asset for the organizations under attack is the data contained in these systems.

In this webinar, you will learn about the risks and costs of a poor data security management approach, and how to improve your data storage to prevent and mitigate the consequences of a compromised infrastructure.

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CISO Podcast: Talking Anti-Phishing Solutions



Simon Gibson earlier this year published the report, “GigaOm Radar for Phishing Prevention and Detection,” which assessed more than a dozen security solutions focused on detecting and mitigating email-borne threats and vulnerabilities. As Gibson noted in his report, email remains a prime vector for attack, reflecting the strategic role it plays in corporate communications.

Earlier this week, Gibson’s report was a featured topic of discussions on David Spark’s popular CISO Security Vendor Relationship Podcast. In it, Spark interviewed a pair of chief information security officers—Mike Johnson, CISO for SalesForce, and James Dolph, CISO for Guidewire Software—to get their take on the role of anti-phishing solutions.

“I want to first give GigaOm some credit here for really pointing out the need to decide what to do with detections,” Johnson said when asked for his thoughts about selecting an anti-phishing tool. “I think a lot of companies charge into a solution for anti-phishing without thinking about what they are going to do when the thing triggers.”

As Johnson noted, the needs and vulnerabilities of a large organization aligned on Microsoft 365 are very different from those of a smaller outfit working with GSuite. A malicious Excel macro-laden file, for example, poses a credible threat to a Microsoft shop and therefore argues for a detonation solution to detect and neutralize malicious payloads before they can spread and morph. On the other hand, a smaller company is more exposed to business email compromise (BEC) attacks, since spending authority is often spread among many employees in these businesses.

Gibson’s radar report describes both in-line and out-of-band solutions, but Johnson said cloud-aligned infrastructures argue against traditional in-line schemes.

“If you put an in-line solution in front of [Microsoft] 365 or in front of GSuite, you are likely decreasing your reliability, because you’ve now introduced this single point of failure. Google and Microsoft have this massive amount of reliability that is built in,” Johnson said.

So how should IT decision makers go about selecting an anti-phishing solution? Dolph answered that question with a series of questions of his own:

“Does it nail the basics? Does it fit with the technologies we have in place? And then secondarily, is it reliable, is it tunable, is it manageable?” he asked. “Because it can add a lot overhead, especially if you have a small team if these tools are really disruptive to the email flow.”

Dolph concluded by noting that it’s important for solutions to provide insight that can help organizations target their protections, as well as support both training and awareness around threats. Finally, he urged organizations to consider how they can measure the effectiveness of solutions.

“I may look at other solutions in the future and how do I compare those solutions to the benchmark of what we have in place?”

Listen to the Podcast: CISO Podcast

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