Attacks/Breaches
11/28/2011
11:54 AM
50%
50%

AT&T Hackers Have Terrorism Ties, Police Say

FBI aids in arrests in Philippines of four men who allegedly hacked into AT&T customers' PBXs to generate revenue for Saudi-based militant group.

Four people were arrested in the Philippines last week on charges that they hacked into the trunk lines of multiple U.S. telecommunication companies, including AT&T.

According to the Philippine National Police's Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), the hackers' activities led to losses of almost $2 million for AT&T alone. The director of the CIDG, Samuel D. Pagdilao Jr., said that the raids, conducted by both CIDG and FBI agents in the country's capital city of Manila, had led to the confiscation of computer and telecommunication equipment that authorities believe was used in the attacks.

The CIDG said it launched its investigation into the hackers after being contacted in March 2011 by the FBI, which had said it found evidence that hack attacks were being launched against AT&T from the Philippines. According to a statement from Gilbert Sosa, police senior superintendent for the CIDG's Anti-Transnational and Cyber Crime Division, the FBI had linked the local hacking group--via bank statements--to a "Saudi-based cell whose activities include financing terrorist activities." The hackers allegedly routed the money directly to the militant group, which then paid the hackers a commission via Philippine banks.

[ Industrial control systems are ripe for attack due to inherent security weaknesses. See: Next DIY Stuxnet Attack Should Worry Utilities. ]

Sosa said that the hackers appeared to be working for a group that was created by Muhammad Zamir, a member of Jemaah Islamiyah, a militant group based in Southeast Asia. While Zamir was arrested in 2007 in Italy by "FBI operatives," Sosa said that the FBI has evidence that Zamir's group--not named, but which it said is based in Saudi Arabia--went on to fund the Mumbai terrorist attacks that occurred Nov. 26, 2008, killing 166 people. (Pakistani authorities have said that the attacks were funded by Lashkar-e-Taiba militants operating from inside Pakistan.)

The FBI declined to describe how the hacks would have generated money. But FBI spokeswoman Jenny Shearer said via phone that the hackers didn't break into trunk lines, but rather targeted the PBXs used by AT&T customers. "I'm not sure if other telephone companies' customers were targeted," she said, noting that the FBI's investigation is ongoing.

According to the Guardian, an unnamed person "familiar with the situation" said that the attacks involved hacking into PBXs, then calling international premium-rate services to generate revenue. Interestingly, that scamming technique is also favored by malware developers.

One of the people who was arrested last week in Manila, Paul Michael Kwan, 29, had previously been arrested by Philippine authorities in 2007, on charges that he was helping to fund groups engaged in terrorist activities as part of what Sosa described as an international crackdown on funding for militant groups.

CIDG director Pagdilao said last week's arrests highlighted the need for the country to pass a Cyber Crime Prevention Bill--currently pending in its legislature--which he said would enable authorities to more proactively pursue cyber criminals operating from inside the country.

Read our report on how to guard your systems from a SQL attack. Download the report now. (Free registration required.)

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Threaded  |  Newest First  |  Oldest First
progan01
50%
50%
progan01,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/1/2011 | 2:01:39 AM
re: AT&T Hackers Have Terrorism Ties, Police Say
This is sincerely bad news. At the very least it indicates a level of police involvement with AT&T not previously suspected -- and it raises the question of how hard AT&T and the FBI are looking for similar schemes, since this one apparently was caught by accident. Incidentally, this method of raising illicit cash has been used since at least the 1980s if not earlier. Romanian hackers were among the first I know of to use this method of charging international calls through an unrelated third nation. Thirty years is a long time for this tool to be in criminal hands.
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2014-9710
Published: 2015-05-27
The Btrfs implementation in the Linux kernel before 3.19 does not ensure that the visible xattr state is consistent with a requested replacement, which allows local users to bypass intended ACL settings and gain privileges via standard filesystem operations (1) during an xattr-replacement time windo...

CVE-2014-9715
Published: 2015-05-27
include/net/netfilter/nf_conntrack_extend.h in the netfilter subsystem in the Linux kernel before 3.14.5 uses an insufficiently large data type for certain extension data, which allows local users to cause a denial of service (NULL pointer dereference and OOPS) via outbound network traffic that trig...

CVE-2015-1157
Published: 2015-05-27
CoreText in Apple iOS 8.x through 8.3 allows remote attackers to cause a denial of service (reboot and messaging disruption) via crafted Unicode text that is not properly handled during display truncation in the Notifications feature, as demonstrated by Arabic characters in (1) an SMS message or (2)...

CVE-2015-2666
Published: 2015-05-27
Stack-based buffer overflow in the get_matching_model_microcode function in arch/x86/kernel/cpu/microcode/intel_early.c in the Linux kernel before 4.0 allows context-dependent attackers to gain privileges by constructing a crafted microcode header and leveraging root privileges for write access to t...

CVE-2015-2830
Published: 2015-05-27
arch/x86/kernel/entry_64.S in the Linux kernel before 3.19.2 does not prevent the TS_COMPAT flag from reaching a user-mode task, which might allow local users to bypass the seccomp or audit protection mechanism via a crafted application that uses the (1) fork or (2) close system call, as demonstrate...

Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
After a serious cybersecurity incident, everyone will be looking to you for answers -- but you’ll never have complete information and you’ll never have enough time. So in those heated moments, when a business is on the brink of collapse, how will you and the rest of the board room executives respond?