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Hacker crims plant fake news to discredit security researchers

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Criminal hackers hacked into a specialist news outlet to plant a fabricated story falsely suggesting security researchers Mikko Hypponen and Brian Krebs had been arrested after they were supposedly caught selling stolen credit card details.

The bogus "news item" on fraud-news.com this weekend claimed that Krebs and his "boyfriend" Hypponen had traded 1.5 million compromised accounts causing losses of $75m in the process while all the while operating as respected security researchers. The article included a photoshopped extract from an underground forum featuring a fabricated dialogue between Krebs (AKA BlazinKrabz) and Hypponen (AKA WhiteHippo) discussing the sale of stolen credit card numbers.

All these claims are entirely untrue. In reality the fake article is a modified version of a real article by Krebs he wrote four years ago for the Washington Post. The fake screenshot is based on a doctored extract from a real cybercrime forum, omerta.cc.

"Let me just state it for the record that I'm not arrested and I have not been involved in selling stolen credit cards," Hypponen said, adding that the suggestion of a romantic relationship between himself and Krebs is also codswallop. "I like Brian, but not like that," he writes.

The fake news item was indexed by Google and picked up by a few surfers as a result. Despite its implausibility Krebs and Hypponen have been obliged to set the record straight with a few individuals who took the story at face vale.

The fact that cybercrooks went out of their way to discredit Hypponen and Krebs suggests the duo are hurting black market crooks by publicly exposing their strategies and shady business dealings. This can have a real effect on cybercrime operations.

For example, last Friday Hypponen reported that the authorities has frozen the Swiss bank account of a pair of fake anti-virus (AKA scareware) distributors, Sam Shaileshkumar and Björn Sundin. The duo have each been indicted in the US and placed on the wanted list by Interpol over an scareware operation called Innovative Marketing Ukraine. Shaileshkumar holds a US passport while Sundin is Swedish.

The US indictment against the duo facilitated the freezing of a bank account linked to the pair holding a cool $14.8m, presumed proceeds of IMU's scareware racker, which involves tricking users into buying worthless software on the pretence that its the only way of removing fictions malware from their systems.

Krebs recently named and provided addition information on the business dealings of two Rustock botnet suspects, Vladimir Alexandrovich Shergin and Dmitri Sergeev.

The duo - suspects because Webmoney accounts registered in their name were used to hire servers used as command and control nodes for the Rustock spam distribution botnet - also appear in a leaked database of infamous pharmacy spam outfit SpamIt, Krebs reported. ®

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