Feeds

Network hijacker steals $83,000 in Bitcoin ... and enough Dogecoin for a cup of coffee

Wow. Such hack. Very router. So BGP. Wow.

Website security in corporate America

Researchers at Dell's SecureWorks Counter Threat Unit (CTU) have identified an exploit that can be used to steal cryptocurrency from mining pools – and they claim that at least one unknown miscreant has already used the technique to pilfer tens of thousands of dollars in digital cash.

The heist was achieved by using bogus Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) broadcasts to hijack networks belonging to multiple large hosting companies, including Amazon, Digital Ocean, and OVH, among others.

"In total, CTU researchers documented 51 compromised networks from 19 different Internet service providers (ISPs)," the Dell team wrote in a blog post on Thursday.

By broadcasting malicious network routes via BGP, the attacker was able to redirect traffic from legitimate currency-mining servers on one network to bogus servers on another network that masqueraded as the genuine article.

These spoofed mining servers allowed clients to keep mining cryptocurrency but they never issued any payouts. All proceeds from the mining activity instead went straight into the attacker's pockets.

Diagram of a BGP Bitcoin hijacking heist

Using BGP, attackers diverted traffic from the correct route (left) to a spoofed mining server (right)
Source: Dell SecureWorks (Click to enlarge)

The Dell researchers say these attacks took place over a sustained period between February and May 2014, and by their estimates, the attacker was able to make off with approximately $83,000 in cryptocurrency.

Obviously, most of that was probably Bitcoin, since it's the only crypto-cash with any significant real-world value. As of Thursday, a single Bitcoin was worth around $590. But the Dell team says Bitcoin wasn't the only currency that was skimmed.

"The threat actor hijacked the mining pool, so many cryptocurrencies were impacted," the researchers write. "The protocols make it impossible to identify exactly which ones, but CTU researchers have mapped activity to certain addresses."

One miner the researchers interviewed said he estimates he lost around 8,000 Dogecoins during one hijacking incident toward the end of March. According to Dogepay.com, such a haul would be worth $1.53 in today's real-world dollars.

The Dell researchers eventually traced the bogus BGP broadcasts to a single router at an unnamed Canadian ISP, but no culprit in the attacks has been identified.

While the hijacking attacks were real and victims lost crypto-coins that could be traded for real money, however, the Dell team says the risk of future such attacks is "minimal."

"Unlike network routing protocols that can automatically initiate a connection from one network, both ends of BGP-connected networks (also known as a 'peers') must be manually configured to communicate," the researchers write. "This requirement ensures malicious networks cannot hijack traffic without human intervention from a legitimate network."

In fact, the SecureWorks CTU says two likely possibilities in the attacks they observed are that a rogue employee of the Canadian ISP was responsible, or that a former employee was able to compromise a router using an old password.

The researchers say one way that ISPs can avoid falling prey to malicious BGP broadcasts today is to opt in to the Resource Public Key Infrastructure (RPKI) service, which uses cryptographic certificates to verify the origins of network messages.

Cryptocurrency miners, on the other hand, have an even easier solution available: they can require their mining pool servers to use Secure Socket Layer (SSL) encryption, which prevents connections from being rerouted to another server, even if that server has the same IP address as the legitimate one. ®

Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL

More from The Register

next story
Early result from Scots indyref vote? NAW, Jimmy - it's a SCAM
Anyone claiming to know before tomorrow is telling porkies
TOR users become FBI's No.1 hacking target after legal power grab
Be afeared, me hearties, these scoundrels be spying our signals
Home Depot: 56 million bank cards pwned by malware in our tills
That's about 50 per cent bigger than the Target tills mega-hack
Hackers pop Brazil newspaper to root home routers
Step One: try default passwords. Step Two: Repeat Step One until success
NORKS ban Wi-Fi and satellite internet at embassies
Crackdown on tardy diplomatic sysadmins providing accidental unfiltered internet access
UK.gov lobs another fistful of change at SME infosec nightmares
Senior Lib Dem in 'trying to be relevant' shocker. It's only taxpayers' money, after all
Critical Adobe Reader and Acrobat patches FINALLY make it out
Eight vulns healed, including XSS and DoS paths
Spies would need SUPER POWERS to tap undersea cables
Why mess with armoured 10kV cables when land-based, and legal, snoop tools are easier?
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.