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AmeriGas: US Largest Propane Supplier Suffered a '8-second' Data Breach

 

America's largest propane supplier, AmeriGas, has revealed a data breach that lasted ‘8-second’ but affected 123 employees and one US resident. It serves more than 2 million customers in all 50 US states and has more than 2,500 distribution locations. 

Threat actors exploited networks of J. J. Keller – a vendor responsible for providing Department of Transportation (DOT) compliance services to AmeriGas. On May 10th, J.J. Keller detected anomalous activity on their systems associated with a company email account. The vendor quickly began investigating its network to discover that a J.J. Keller employee had been the victim of a phishing email, causing his account to be compromised.

After resetting the employee’s account credentials, J.J. Keller quickly began its forensic activities to determine the full scope of this breach. It revealed that the eight-second data breach leaked sensitive records of 123 AmeriGas employees.

"According to J.J. Keller, during the 8-second breach, the bad actor had access to an internal email with spreadsheet attachments containing 123 AmeriGas employees' information, including Lab IDs, social security numbers, driver's license numbers, and dates of birth. To date, we are unaware of any actual or attempted misuse of this personal data as a result of this incident," revealed AmeriGas in a sample data breach notification letter dated June 04, 2021.

Apart from 123 AmeriGas employees, the personal details of New Hampshire resident were also exposed, who has since been alerted of the data breach and been provided with free credit monitoring services. Fortunately, there are no indications that any employee information was copied or misused. 

A second data breach involving AmeriGas this year

This latest data breach comes after AmeriGas suffered a data breach in March 2021, when a company customer service agent was fired for potentially misusing customer credit card information. 

According to AmeriGas, some customers who called AmeriGas customer service had verbally revealed their banking details to this representative who may have misused this information to make unauthorized purchases. 

“We recently detected that there were unauthorized disclosures of credit card information to one of our customer service agents. We do not know whether your credit card information was shared but are writing in an abundance of caution. We investigated the issue as a precaution to further secure your information. The agent involved has been terminated and we have already implemented additional safeguards,” the company had revealed at the time.

APT: China-Based Threat Group Attacks Pulse Secure VPNs

 

Several hacker groups that are supposed to support Chinese long-term economic goals continue in the defense, high-tech, public, transportation, and financial services industry networks in the US and Europe. 

Many breaches have taken place wherein attacks by Chinese threat actors penetrated Pulse Secure VPN devices to break into an organization's network and steal confidential material. 

Whereas in several other incidents the attackers took full advantage of the Pulse Connect Secure (PCS) (CVE-2021-22893) authentication bypass vulnerability to enter into the victim's network. The intruders also gained control of the combination of previously known vulnerabilities. Meanwhile, last month, a failure in the bypass authentication was detected and rectified. 

Mandiant issued a warning this week – on China's advanced persistent threat (APT) activity for U.S. and European organizations. In the alert, Mandiant had focused on a battery of malware tools used to address vulnerabilities in Pulse Secure VPN devices on two Chinese-based organizations: UNC2630 and UNC2717. Mandiant said that UNC2630 had targeted US military industry groups and UNC2717 had attacked an EU entity. 

"The exploitation activity we have observed is a mix of targeting unpatched systems with CVEs from 2019 and 2020, as well as a previously unpatched 2021 CVE (CVE-2021-22893)," says Stephen Eckels, a reverse engineer at Mandiant. "Since our original report, Pulse Secure and Mandiant have worked together, and the zero-day has since been patched." 

"At this time, Pulse Secure has patched all known vulnerabilities," Eckels added. 

In certain cases, the attackers had set up their local admin accounts on critical Windows servers to operate freely on the target network. Instead of depending on internal endpoints of the security vulnerabilities, they used exclusivity of Pulse Secure web-shells and malware. 

The UNC2630 and UNC2717, according to Mandiant, are just two of the various groups which threaten Pulse Secure VPNs that seem to work for the interest of the Chinese administration. Many of the groups use the same number of instruments, but their strategies and tactics are different. 

There has been no confirmation so far that the threat actors had acquired American data that would provide economic advantages for Chinese enterprises. In particular, a 2012 agreement between President Barack Obama and a Chinese counterpart Xi prohibits cyber espionage of such data. 

"Right now we're not able to say that they haven't, just that we don't have direct evidence that they have violated [the agreement]," Mandiant says. "Some of the affected entities are private companies that would have commercial intellectual property, the theft of which would violate the agreement. We just have not seen direct evidence of that type of data being staged or exfiltrated." 

Mandiant's assessment of the Chinese ferocious ATP activities is coinciding with this week's alert from Microsoft for Nobellum, the Russian menace actor behind the SolarWinds attack and an extensive e-mail campaign. In both cases, cyber espionage seems to be the major motif in support of national strategic objectives.

Credit Scores of Americans were Exposed Through Experian API

 

According to a researcher, almost every American's credit score was leaked due to an API platform used by the Experian credit bureau that was left accessible on a lender's website without even basic security safeguards. Experian, for its part, dismissed security experts' fears that the problem could be structural. 

The Experian Connect API is a platform that helps lenders to simplify FICO-score queries. According to a published article, Bill Demirkapi, a sophomore at Rochester Institute of Technology, was looking for student loans when he came across a lender who would verify his eligibility with only his name, address, and date of birth. Demirkapi was taken aback and wanted to look into the code, which revealed that the tool was driven by an Experian API, he said.

“No one should be able to perform an Experian credit check with only publicly available information,” Demirkapi told Krebs On Security, which was the first to break the story of the leak. “Experian should mandate non-public information for promotional inquiries, otherwise an attacker who found a single vulnerability in a vendor could easily abuse Experian’s system.” 

Demirkapi said he was able to create a command-line tool called "Bill's Cool Credit Score Lookup Utility" that allowed him to automate lookups even after entering all zeros in the fields for date of birth. Krebs said he was able to use the API link to get “risk factors” from Experian that clarified possible vulnerabilities in a person's credit background, in addition to raw credit scores. He ran a credit check for his buddy "Bill," who had “Too many consumer-finance company accounts,” according to his mid-700s credit score.

Demirkapi refused to reveal the identity of the lender or the website where the API was revealed to Experian. He declined because he believes there are hundreds, if not thousands, of firms using the same API, and that all of those lenders are leaking Experian's customer data in the same way. “If we let them know about the specific endpoint, they can just ban/work with the loan vendor to block these requests on this one case, which doesn’t fix the systemic problem,” he explained. 

“We have been able to confirm a single instance of where this situation has occurred and have taken steps to alert our partner and resolve the matter,” Experian said in a written statement. “While the situation did not implicate or compromise any of Experian’s systems, we take this matter very seriously. Data security has always been, and always will be, our highest priority.”

Concerns Raised as Postal Service of America Monitors Social Media Accounts of the Natives

 

A program that monitors and collects the Social Media posts of the American public even on issues related to planned protest, has secretly been carried out by the U.S. Postal Service law enforcement. 

According to a government report issued by Yahoo News on 16th March, the surveillance technique, classified as the Internet Covert Operations Program (ICOP), tracks social networking operations. Though details of the monitoring effort, known as the ICOP, have not been published before. The work includes making analysts trawl through social media pages to search for the details that the paper identifies as "inflammatory" postings. The software forms part of the activities of USPS, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS). 

The USPIS tracked social media profiles of expected demonstrations domestically and internationally on 20 March, although, as per the bulletin, it was the same date which was expected to hold the World Rally for Freedom and Democracy. The Department of Homeland Security circulated information about protests against lock-up measures. Facebook and other sites used by right-wing terrorist organizations, such as Parler and Telegram, were obtained by the agency. 

“ICOP analysts are currently monitoring these social media channels for any potential threats stemming from the scheduled protests and will disseminate intelligence updates as needed,” reads the bulletin. 

Also, the agency told that ICOP, “assesses threats to Postal Service employees and its infrastructure by monitoring publicly available open-source information.” 

This practice has been discussed by users of social media as a matter of concern. The Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie voiced his concern about the transfer of the USPS via Twitter and said that for several years the USPS had been losing money... But where do they find the money for this monitoring service to run? 

According to their website, The Postal Inspection Service also examines details about illicit drugs, mail theft, identification theft, e-mail fraud, suspicious mail, disaster response, laundering of money, cyber criminality, and abuse of children, though it is not just the Postal Service that extends its social media tracking. 

DHS officials last month discussed its role in tracking social media for threats to domestic terrorism in a background appeal by journalists. “We know that this threat is fuelled mainly by false narratives, conspiracy theories and extremist rhetoric read through social media and other online platforms,” one of the officials said. 

The controversy over government surveillance of Americans' social media pages has been sparked following the Capitol Insurrection. As per a 2017 survey of the International Association of Chief of Police, over 70 percent of participating police forces use social media to collect information and track public opinion. The transparency report on Facebook mentions that somewhere between January and June 2019, the organization obtained more than 60 thousand government data requests.

What is "Sunburst"? A look into the Most Serious Cyberattack in American History

 

A number of organisations have been attacked by what has been chronicled as one of the most severe acts of cyber-espionage in history named "Sunburst", the attackers breached the US Treasury, departments of homeland security, state, defence and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), part of Department of Energy responsible for safeguarding national security via the military application of nuclear science. While 4 out of 5 victims were US organisations, other targets include the UK, the UAE, Mexico, Canada, Spain, Belgium, and Israel. 
 
The attack came in the wake of the recent state-sponsored attack on the US cybersecurity firm FireEye. The company's CEO, Kevin Mandia said in his blog that the attackers primarily sought information pertaining to certain government customers.  
 
FireEye classified the attack as being 'highly sophisticated and customized; on the basis of his 25 years of experience in cybersecurity, Mandia concluded that FireEye has been attacked by a nation with world-class offensive capabilities. 

Similarly, last Sunday, the news of SolarWinds being hacked made headlines for what is being called as one of the most successful cyber attacks yet seen. As the attack crippled SolarWinds, its customers were advised to disengage the Orion Platform, which is one of the principal products of SolarWinds   used to monitor the health and performance of networks.  
 
Gauging the amplitude of the attack, the US Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency (CISA) described the security incident as a "serious threat", while other requesting for anonymity labelled it as the "the most serious hacking incident in the United State's history". The attack is ongoing and the number of affected organisations and nations will unquestionably rise. The espionage has been called as "unusual", even in this digital age.  
 
As experts were assessing how the perpetrator managed to bypass the defences of a networking software company like SolarWinds, Rick Holland came up with a theory, "We do know that SolarWinds, in their filing to the Security and Exchange Commission this week, alluded to Microsoft, which makes me think that the initial access into the SolarWinds environment was through a phishing email. So someone clicked on something they thought was benign - turned out it was not benign." 
 
Meanwhile, certain US government officials have alleged Russia for being behind these supply chain attacks, while Russia has constantly denied the allegations as the Russian Embassy wrote on Facebook, "Malicious activities in the information space contradicts the principles of the Russian foreign policy, national interests and our understanding of interstate relations,".  
 
"Russia does not conduct offensive operations in the cyber domain." The embassy added in its post to the US.

America Vs China! The USA Alleges Huawei to be a Technology Thief and Spy for China?


In view of recent reports, China and the US have taken their technology war to court. Now, the US firms allege that the telecom colossus, Huawei has been planning to rip them off of their technology for “decades”.

Hence, the American organizations decided to expand the premises of their lawsuit against the Chinese mega-company.

The prosecuting attorney mentioned that Huawei did indeed violate the terms of the contract with the companies of the US by stealing robot technology, trade secrets and such.

Per sources, Huawei has straightaway denied all the allegations and has cited that the US is merely threatened by the competition and hence are trying to run down the name of Huawei.

Per newspaper reports, the mega smartphone maker’s chief financial officer and the founder’s daughter are held captive in Canada, struggling against extradition.

According to sources, there are charges of fraud and “sanctions violations” on the founder’s daughter, which she has waved off and denied.

Huawei pretty strong-headedly is maintaining that this lawsuit and the charges on the company are trivial attempts at tarnishing the reputation of their company and attempts at depleting stakes of competition.

Per reports, the fresh accusations of the US against Huawei include trade secret embezzlement, racketeering and even sending spies to obtain confidential information.

Sources reveal, that the persecution attorney also said that Huawei with its stolen data cut both times and cost in the research and development for the company which helped it climb the steps faster than the others.

Per Huawei, the newer charges are just another way of bringing up older claims. Nevertheless, it doesn’t look like the US plan to withdraw their claims or the lawsuit in the near future or at all.

This technological rift has a strong possibility of transforming into a political dispute between America and China. The US is forcing countries like the UK to pull back their support from Huawei, continuing to say that the equipment could be used by China for spying.

Relations between China and the US are down a very flimsy and unpredictable road. All the same, the UK still continues its business ties with Huawei but with possible limits.

Malware Attack! Oregon County's Network Smashed By a Ransomware?


Per local news and reports, allegedly, a cyber-attack shook the Tillamook County of Oregon, USA when it rendered the local government’s services ineffective.

Apparently owing it to the cyber-attack, the county officials are back to basics with all their daily tasks and are working about the crisis.

When the computers in the various departments of the county started misbehaving, that’s when the officials grasped the severity of the situation and immediately warned the IT department.

That is when the IT department comprehended that the systems had been infected with encrypting malware. To contain the infection, all the affected servers and devices were instantly isolated.

There is no sincere evidence to show if the malware was used for a ransomware attack but it sure is being conjectured on the affirmative. Per sources, no request for a ransom has been posted so far.

Allegedly, the Oregon city was recently struck by a cyber-attack of the same nature about a week ago.

The damage is of such a severe type that along with infecting all of the county’s computers and servers it has seriously harmed both the online and offline phone systems given the “VoIP” (Voice over Internet Protocol) that they employ.

Per sources, to rummage the details of the cyber-attack including the source, type, and magnitude of the attack, the county especially engaged a “digital forensic” team from a well-known cyber-security organization.

There is no doubting the fact that the Oregon county systems have been shut by the attack indefinitely and there is no knowing when they’d be back on operations.

With quite a substantial population to be hit by a cyber-attack of such severity, Oregon County has never before experienced a similar attack. Hence they can’t exactly mention their modus operandi to their plan of mitigation.

Sources mention that the county officials have decided to subcontract a few response operations to counter the attack and its repercussions.

The cyber-crisis management team happens to be the best at what they do and are efficiently working towards containing and mending the damages done by the malware.

Hackers Now Allowed to Find Flaws in US Fighter Jets and Security System


The Trusted Aircraft Information Download Station could have been shut down entirely due to a host of flaws discovered by hackers who were challenged to detect vulnerabilities in a system of a U.S military fighter jet known as F-15.

It was unprecedented in the history of the tech world that outside researchers were given physical access to such critical machinery, and were asked to detect vulnerabilities. It was a matter of two days for a group of 7 hackers to come up with a number of exploits which included bugs that were identified by the Air Force itself but they couldn't fix it, according to the Washington Post.

Hackers put the system through numerous attacks which included subjecting it to malware and testing with objects like screwdrivers and pliers, reported the DEF CON 27.

In the context of the vulnerabilities exploited by the hackers, Roper Technologies attributed, “decades of neglect of cybersecurity as a key issue in developing its products, as the Air Force prioritized time, cost and efficiency.”

Usually, outsiders were not allowed such access to military equipment which is highly sensitive in nature and their operation; it came as a massive change in how the military and technological world works in synchronization, the gravity of which can be gauged by the fact that hackers physically approached the machine with tools.

As per Roper, American Air Force is of the belief that if it doesn't allow America's best hackers to find every single vulnerability present in their weapons, machinery and fighter jets, then they are at the risk of being exploited by other adversaries like Iran, Russia and North Korea.