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Malware that hunts for account credentials on adult websites tripled in 2018

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The number of detections for malware strains that hunt for login credentials on adult-themed websites tripled in 2018, while the number of adverts selling access to hacked accounts on porn portals doubled, according to a report published today by Kaspersky Labs.

“In 2018, the number of attacked users doubled, reaching more than 110,000 PCs across the world,” Kaspersky researchers said. “The number of attacks almost tripled, to 850,000 infection attempts.”

There were multiple malware families configured to search for login credentials on adult sites last year, however, according to Kaspersky, the most active was the Jimmy trojan, a lesser known malware family that is spread primarily via email spam.

This was somewhat surprising to researchers when compared to a year before, in 2017, when the most active strains were three very large cybercrime operations –namely the Betabot, Neverquest, and Panda banking trojans.

But this wasn’t the only major change in adult site login harvesting. Another new development was that in 2018 most porn login-hunting malware focused on stealing credentials from only two sites –Pornhub and XNXX.

This was different from the previous year when malware targeted more sites, such as the likes of Brazzers, Chaturbate, Pornhub, Myfreecams, Youporn, Wilshing, Motherless, XNXX, and X-videos.

The reason why cyber-criminal groups bothered collecting these credentials was that they were searching for premium accounts that they could later hijack from legitimate owners and put up for sale on underground forums and Dark Web marketplaces.

Premium accounts on adult portals can cost as much as $30 per month or $150 per year, but crooks are re-selling hacked ones for just a small portion of their original price.

“Regardless of the type of account, the prices vary from $3 to $9 per offer, very rarely exceeding $10 – the same as back in 2017, with the vast majority of prices being limited to $6-$7 or the equal amount in bitcoins, which is 20 times cheaper than the most modest annual memberships” researchers said.


Image: Kaspersky Lab

Kaspersky said they analyzed the top 20 Dark Web marketplaces and found more than 3,000 offers for credentials to adult content websites.

Taking into account websites on the public internet, they found 29 websites hosting more than 15,000 packages for accounts on various adult portals, double the equivalent 2017 figure.

But besides the underground business of stealing and selling credentials of adult sites, the Kaspersky report also looked at other facets of the malware scene that abuses adult-themed lures and topics.

The report’s findings don’t shock anyone in the cyber-security field, where adult content is one of the main lures cyber-criminal groups prefer to use to attract users on malicious sites or trick into opening boobytrapped and malware-laced files. The rest of the Kaspersky findings are below:

  • Searching for pornography online has become safer: in 2018, 650,000 users faced attacks launched from online resources. That is 36% less than in 2017 when more than a million of these attacks were detected.
  • Cybercriminals are actively using popular porn-tags to promote malware in search results. The 20 most popular make up 80% of all malware disguised as porn. Overall, 87,227 unique users downloaded porn-disguised malware in 2018, with 8% of them using a corporate rather than personal network to do this.
  • In 2018, the number of attacks using malware to hunt for credentials that grant access to pornography websites grew almost three-fold compared to 2017, with more than 850,000 attempts to install such malware. The number of users attacked doubled, with 110,000 attacked PCs across the world.
  • The number of unique sales offers of credentials for premium accounts to adult content websites almost doubled to more than 10,000.
  • Porn-themed threats increased in terms of the number of samples, but declined in terms of variety: In 2018, Kaspersky Lab identified at least 642 families of PC threats disguised under one common pornography tag. In terms of their malicious function, these families were distributed between 57 types (76 last year). In most cases they are are Trojan-Downloaders, Trojans and AdWare.
  • 89% of infected files disguised as pornography on Android devices turned out to be AdWare.
  • In Q4 2018, there were 10 times as many attacks coming from phishing websites pretending to be popular adult content resources, compared to Q4 2017 when the overall figure reached 21,902 attacks.

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Cloud Data Security

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Data security has become an immutable part of the technology stack for modern applications. Protecting application assets and data against cybercriminal activities, insider threats, and basic human negligence is no longer an afterthought. It must be addressed early and often, both in the application development cycle and the data analytics stack.

The requirements have grown well beyond the simplistic features provided by data platforms, and as a result a competitive industry has emerged to address the security layer. The capabilities of this layer must be more than thorough, they must also be usable and streamlined, adding a minimum of overhead to existing processes.

To measure the policy management burden, we designed a reproducible test that included a standardized, publicly available dataset and a number of access control policy management scenarios based on real world use cases we have observed for cloud data workloads. We tested two options: Apache Ranger with Apache Atlas and Immuta. This study contrasts the differences between a largely role-based access control model with object tagging (OT-RBAC) to a pure attribute-based access control (ABAC) model using these respective technologies.

This study captures the time and effort involved in managing the ever-evolving access control policies at a modern data-driven enterprise. With this study, we show the impacts of data access control policy management in terms of:

  • Dynamic versus static
  • Scalability
  • Evolvability

In our scenarios, Ranger alone took 76x more policy changes than Immuta to accomplish the same data security objectives, while Ranger with Apache Atlas took 63x more policy changes. For our advanced use cases, Immuta only required one policy change each, while Ranger was not able to fulfill the data security requirement at all.

This study exposed the limitations of extending legacy Hadoop security components into cloud use cases. Apache Ranger uses static policies in an OT-RBAC model for the Hadoop ecosystem with very limited support for attributes. The difference between it and Immuta’s attribute-based access control model (ABAC) became clear. By leveraging dynamic variables, nested attributes, and global row-level policies and row-level security, Immuta can be quickly implemented and updated in comparison with Ranger.

Using Ranger as a data security mechanism creates a high policy-management burden compared to Immuta, as organizations migrate and expand cloud data use—which is shown here to provide scalability, clarity, and evolvability in a complex enterprise’s data security and governance needs.

The chart in Figure 1 reveals the difference in cumulative policy changes required for each platform configuration.

Figure 1. Difference in Cumulative Policy Changes

The assessment and scoring rubric and methodology is detailed in the report. We leave the issue of fairness for the reader to determine. We strongly encourage you, as the reader, to discern for yourself what is of value. We hope this report is informative and helpful in uncovering some of the challenges and nuances of data governance platform selection. You are encouraged to compile your own representative use cases and workflows and review these platforms in a way that is applicable to your requirements.

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GigaOm Radar for Data Loss Prevention

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Data is at the core of modern business: It is our intellectual property, the lifeblood of our interactions with our employees, partners, and customers, and a true business asset. But in a world of increasingly distributed workforces, a growing threat from cybercriminals and bad actors, and ever more stringent regulation, our data is at risk and the impact of losing it, or losing access to it, can be catastrophic.

With this in mind, ensuring a strong data management and security strategy must be high on the agenda of any modern enterprise. Security of our data has to be a primary concern. Ensuring we know how, why, and where our data is used is crucial, as is the need to be sure that data does not leave the organization without appropriate checks and balances.

Keeping ahead of this challenge and mitigating the risk requires a multi-faceted approach. People and processes are key, as, of course, is technology in any data loss prevention (DLP) strategy.

This has led to a reevaluation of both technology and approach to DLP; a recognition that we must evolve an approach that is holistic, intelligent, and able to apply context to our data usage. DLP must form part of a broader risk management strategy.

Within this report, we evaluate the leading vendors who are offering solutions that can form part of your DLP strategy—tools that understand data as well as evaluate insider risk to help mitigate the threat of data loss. This report aims to give enterprise decision-makers an overview of how these offerings can be a part of a wider data security approach.

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Key Criteria for Evaluating Data Loss Prevention Platforms

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Data is a crucial asset for modern businesses and has to be protected in the same way as any other corporate asset, with diligence and care. Loss of data can have catastrophic effects, from reputational damage to significant fines for breaking increasingly stringent regulations.

While the risk of data loss is not new, the landscape we operate in is evolving rapidly. Data can leave data centers in many ways, whether accidental or malicious. The routes for exfiltration also continue to grow, ranging from email, USB sticks, and laptops to ever-more-widely-adopted cloud applications, collaboration tools, and mobile devices. This is driving a resurgence in the enterprise’s need to ensure that no data leaves the organization without appropriate checks and balances in place.

Keeping ahead of this challenge and mitigating the risk requires a multi-faceted approach. Policy, people, and technology are critical components in a data loss prevention (DLP) strategy.

As with any information security strategy, technology plays a significant role. DLP technology has traditionally played a part in helping organizations to mitigate some of the risks of uncontrolled data exfiltration. However, both the technology and threat landscape have shifted significantly, which has led to a reevaluation of DLP tools and strategy.

The modern approach to the challenge needs to be holistic and intelligent, capable of applying context to data usage by building a broader understanding of what the data is, who is using it, and why. Systems in place must also be able to learn when user activity should be classified as unusual so they can better interpret signs of a potential breach.

This advanced approach is also driving new ways of defining the discipline of data loss prevention. Dealing with these risks cannot be viewed in isolation; rather, it must be part of a wider insider risk-management strategy.

Stopping the loss of data, accidental or otherwise, is no small task. This GigaOM Key Criteria Report details DLP solutions and identifies key criteria and evaluation metrics for selecting such a solution. The corresponding GigOm Radar Report identifies vendors and products in this sector that excel. Together, these reports will give decision-makers an overview of the market to help them evaluate existing platforms and decide where to invest.

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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