Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Attacks/Breaches

8/4/2016
10:00 AM
Connect Directly
Google+
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
100%
0%

Nigerian Prince All Grown Up And Bilking Millions From Businesses Via BEC

Researchers discover leader of 'wire-wire' gang that's made millions off by laundering victims' business transactions.

BLACK HAT USA—Las Vegas—The head of a cybercrime gang out of Nigeria was outed by researchers after apparently infecting his machine with his own malware and ultimately leaving a trail of his online information and theft activity and his victims.

The cybercrime leader, dubbed “Mr. X” by SecureWorks researchers, is part of a next-generation Nigerian scam group that use business email compromise (BEC) attacks, stealing legitimate email credentials from businesspeople and then intercepting their business transactions and sending the money to their own accounts in a scam they call “wire-wire,” or “the new G work.” Unlike the traditional Nigerian 419 scams, this new generation of Nigerian scams is employed by not by college-age  scammers but by men in their late 20s to 40s, many of whom are considered pillars of society, active in their churches and communities.

“This is an evolved Nigerian scam. The guys’ personalities are different: they are respected family men and leaders and are devoutly religious,” says James Bettke, a SecureWorks researcher. “They have Bible quotes on their desktops.”

Mr. X’s group, nicknamed WWGI by the researchers, makes some $3 million a year from the cybercrime money-laundering operation, with another $3 million paid out to money mules. Around 40 people work under Mr. X, and he is currently under investigation by the Nigerian authorities.

“We were just looking at malware, trying to attribution, and stumbled across a web server with a wide-open Web directory,” Bettke says. “He had infected himself with his own malware: it could have been a mistake or” a test of the malware, he says.

The server contained screenshots and keystroke logs from the group’s operation. And among those screenshots were Mr. X’s instant messaging, Facebook, and bank accounts. “We saw their day-to-day operations,” he says.

Meanwhile, INTERPOL and Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) this week arrested a BEC mastermind known as “Mike” who had been made some $60 million in his scams. According to the FBI, 17,642 victims this year reported some $2.3 billion in losses to BEC scams.

Not Your Father’s Prince

At the heart of WWGI’s operation is its ability to phish an organization and install malware on the victim’s machine to sniff their email credentials. Once in the email account, the wire-wire attackers looks for emails about the victim organization selling its products or services to a customer, and then redirects the seller’s email to hijack emails from the buyer. The wire-wire attacker spoofs the buyer’s email with modified purchase order, for example, and then sets up a man-in-the middle attack of the online transaction and reroutes payment to his own account.

One victim was a US chemical company, which SecureWorks declined to name. The chemical firm was trying to purchase chemicals from an Indian supplier. But the WWGI had stolen web email credentials from an employee at the Indian company, and hijacked the transaction, netting $400,000. “They didn’t get to sell their stuff to the chemical company, and the customer lost money,” Bettke says.

The SecureWorks team also released a tool today for researchers called Pdfexpose, which detects wire-wire fraud by looking for redacted text in PDF-based invoices. Meanwhile, the researchers are investigating other similar wire-wire groups. “This just scratches the surface of others we are trying to run down,” says Joe Stewart, director of malware research at SecureWorks.

Related Content:

 

 

Kelly Jackson Higgins is Executive Editor at DarkReading.com. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
10 Ways to Keep a Rogue RasPi From Wrecking Your Network
Curtis Franklin Jr., Senior Editor at Dark Reading,  7/10/2019
The Security of Cloud Applications
Hillel Solow, CTO and Co-founder, Protego,  7/11/2019
Where Businesses Waste Endpoint Security Budgets
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  7/15/2019
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Current Issue
Building and Managing an IT Security Operations Program
As cyber threats grow, many organizations are building security operations centers (SOCs) to improve their defenses. In this Tech Digest you will learn tips on how to get the most out of a SOC in your organization - and what to do if you can't afford to build one.
Flash Poll
The State of IT Operations and Cybersecurity Operations
The State of IT Operations and Cybersecurity Operations
Your enterprise's cyber risk may depend upon the relationship between the IT team and the security team. Heres some insight on what's working and what isn't in the data center.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2019-10100
PUBLISHED: 2019-07-16
NASA CFITSIO prior to 3.43 is affected by: Buffer Overflow. The impact is: arbitrary code execution. The component is: over 40 source code files were changed. The attack vector is: remote unauthenticated attacker. The fixed version is: 3.43.
CVE-2019-10100
PUBLISHED: 2019-07-16
BigTree-CMS commit b2eff67e45b90ca26a62e971e8f0d5d0d70f23e6 and earlier is affected by: Improper Neutralization of Script-Related HTML Tags in a Web Page. The impact is: Any Javascript code can be executed. The component is: users management page. The attack vector is: Insert payload into users' pro...
CVE-2019-10100
PUBLISHED: 2019-07-16
PluckCMS 4.7.4 and earlier is affected by: CWE-434 Unrestricted Upload of File with Dangerous Type. The impact is: get webshell. The component is: data/inc/images.php line36. The attack vector is: modify the MIME TYPE on HTTP request to upload a php file. The fixed version is: after commit 09f0ab871...
CVE-2019-13612
PUBLISHED: 2019-07-16
MDaemon Email Server 19 skips SpamAssassin checks by default for e-mail messages larger than 2 MB (and limits checks to 10 MB even with special configuration), which is arguably inconsistent with currently popular message sizes. This might interfere with risk management for malicious e-mail, if a cu...
CVE-2019-10100
PUBLISHED: 2019-07-16
Zammad GmbH Zammad 2.3.0 and earlier is affected by: Cross Site Scripting (XSS) - CWE-80. The impact is: Execute java script code on users browser. The component is: web app. The attack vector is: the victim must open a ticket. The fixed version is: 2.3.1, 2.2.2 and 2.1.3.