House Passes Long-Sought Email Privacy Bill

The House passed by a voice vote The Email Privacy Act (HR 387). The bill amends the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), a 1986 statute that was originally designed to protect Americans from Big Brother and from government overreach. Unfortunately, the law is now so outdated that it actually provides legal cover for the very sort of overreach it was designed to prevent.

Online messaging was something of a novelty when lawmakers were crafting ECPA, which gave email moving over the network essentially the same protection as a phone call or postal letter. In short, it required the government to obtain a court-approved warrant to gain access to that information.

But the U.S. Justice Department wanted different treatment for stored electronic communications. Congress struck a compromise, decreeing that after 180 days email would no longer be protected by the warrant standard and instead would be available to the government with an administrative subpoena and without requiring the approval of a judge.

HR 387’s sponsor Kevin Yoder (R-Kan.) explained in a speech on the House floor Monday that back in when the bill was passed, hardly anybody stored their personal correspondence “in the cloud.” He said the thinking at the time was that “if an individual was leaving an email on a third-party server it was akin to that person leaving their paper mail in a garbage can at the end of their driveway.”

“Thus, that individual had no reasonable expectation of privacy in regards to that email under the Fourth Amendment,” Yoder said.

Lee Tien, a senior staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), said a simple subpoena also can get law enforcement the following information about communications records (in addition to the content of emails stored at a service provider for more than 180 days):

-name;
-address;
-local and long distance telephone connection records, or records of session times and durations;
-length of service (including start date) and types of service utilized;
-telephone or instrument number or other subscriber number or identity, including any temporarily assigned network address; and
-means and source of payment for such service (including any credit card or bank account number), of a subscriber to or customer of such service when the governmental entity uses an administrative subpoena authorized by a Federal or State statute or a Federal or State grand jury or trial subpoena.

The Email Privacy Act does not force investigators to jump through any additional hoops for accessing so-called “metadata” messaging information about stored communications, such as the Internet address or email address of a message sender. Under ECPA, the “transactional” data associated with communications — such as dialing information showing what numbers you are calling — was treated as less sensitive. ECPA allows the government to use something less than a warrant to obtain this routing and signaling information.

The rules are slightly different in California, thanks to the passage of CalECPA, a law that went into effect in 2016. CalECPA not only requires California government entities to obtain a search warrant before obtaining or accessing electronic information, it also requires a warrant for metadata.

Activists who’ve championed ECPA reform for years are cheering the House vote, but some are concerned that the bill may once again get hung up in the Senate. Last year, the House passed the bill in an unanimous 419-0 vote, but the measure stalled in the upper chambers of the Senate.

The EFF’s Tien said he’s worried that the bill heading to the Senate may not have the support of the Trump administration, which could hinder its chances in a Republican-controlled chamber.

“The Senate is a very different story, and it was a different story last year when Democrats had more votes,” Tien said.

Whether the bill even gets considered by the Senate at all is bound to be an issue again this year.

“I feel a little wounded because it’s been a hard fight,” Tien said. “It hasn’t been an easy fight to get this far.”

The U.S. government is not in the habit of publishing data about subpoenas it has requested and received, but several companies that are frequently on the receiving end of such requests do release aggregate numbers. For example, Apple, FacebookGoogleMicrosoft and Twitter all publish transparency reports. They’re worth a read.

For a primer on protecting your communications from prying eyes and some tools to help preserve your privacy, check out the EFF’s Surveillance Self-Defense guide.
Source: Krebs On Security

InterContinental Confirms Breach at 12 Hotels

InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), the parent company for thousands of hotels worldwide including Holiday Inn, acknowledged Friday that a credit card breach impacted at least a dozen properties. News of the breach was first reported by KrebsOnSecurity more than a month ago.

Top of the Mark, San Francisco, one of the bars impacted by the IHG card breach.

Top of the Mark, San Francisco, one of the bars impacted by the IHG card breach.

In a statement issued late Friday, IHG said it found malicious software installed on point of sale servers at restaurants and bars of 12 IHG-managed properties between August and December 2016. The stolen data included information stored on the magnetic stripe on the backs of customer credit and debit cards — the cardholder name, card number, expiration date, and internal verification code.

A list of the known breached locations is here. IHG said cards used at the front desk of these properties were not affected.

According to IHG, we may not yet know the full scope of this breach: The company advised that its investigation into other properties in the Americas region is ongoing.

Card-stealing cyber thieves have broken into some of the largest hotel chains over the past few years. Hotel brands that have acknowledged card breaches over the last year after prompting by KrebsOnSecurity include Kimpton HotelsTrump Hotels (twice), Hilton, Mandarin Oriental, and White Lodging (twice). Card breaches also have hit hospitality chains Starwood Hotels and Hyatt.

In many of those incidents, thieves planted malicious software on the point-of-sale devices at restaurants and bars inside of the hotel chains. Point-of-sale based malware has driven most of the credit card breaches over the past two years, including intrusions at Target and Home Depot, as well as breaches at a slew of point-of-sale vendors. The malware usually is installed via hacked remote administration tools. Once the attackers have their malware loaded onto the point-of-sale devices, they can remotely capture data from each card swiped at that cash register.

Thieves can then sell that data to crooks who specialize in encoding the stolen data onto any card with a magnetic stripe, and using the cards to purchase high-priced electronics and gift cards from big-box stores like Target and Best Buy.

Readers should remember that they’re not liable for fraudulent charges on their credit or debit cards, but they still have to report the unauthorized transactions. There is no substitute for keeping a close eye on your card statements. Also, consider using credit cards instead of debit cards; having your checking account emptied of cash while your bank sorts out the situation can be a hassle and lead to secondary problems (bounced checks, for instance).


Source: Krebs On Security

How Google Took on Mirai, KrebsOnSecurity

The third week of September 2016 was a dark and stormy one for KrebsOnSecurity. Wave after wave of huge denial-of-service attacks flooded this site, forcing me to pull the plug on it until I could secure protection from further assault. The site resurfaced three days later under the aegis of Google’s Project Shield, an initiative which seeks to protect journalists and news sites from being censored by these crippling digital sieges.

Damian Menscher, a Google security engineer with whom I worked very closely on the migration to Project Shield, spoke this week about the unique challenges involved in protecting a small site like this one from very large, sustained and constantly morphing attacks.

Google Security Reliability Engineer Damian Menscher speaking at the Enigma conference this week. Photo: @mrisher

Google Security Reliability Engineer Damian Menscher speaking at the Enigma conference this week. Photo: @mrisher

Addressing the Enigma 2017 security conference in Oakland, Calif., Menscher said his team only briefly considered whether it was such a good idea to invite a news site that takes frequent swings at the DDoS-for-hire industry.

“What happens if this botnet actually takes down google.com and we lose all of our revenue?” Menscher recalled. “But we considered [that] if the botnet can take us down, we’re probably already at risk anyway. There’s nothing stopping them from attacking us at any time. So we really had nothing to lose here.”

Ars Technica’s Dan Goodin was at the Engima conference and filed this report:

“It took only about an hour for Menscher’s team to arrive at the decision to help Krebs. A much more lengthy process involved actually admitting KrebsOnSecurity into Project Shield…A key requirement for admittance is that the person requesting service proves they have control over the site. Because KrebsOnSecurity was down at that moment, Krebs was unable to satisfy this requirement.

Making matters worse, the domain-name system settings KrebsOnSecurity used had been locked to thwart the attempted domain hijacking attacks that regularly targeted the site. That prevented Krebs from showing he had control of the site’s DNS settings.

Once Project Shield ultimately got KrebsOnSecurity back online, it took just 14 minutes for the attacks to resume.”

For more, check out Dan Goodin’s excellent piece, How Google Fought Back Against a Crippling IoT-Powered Botnet and Won. And a rolling thanks to Damian (a true mensch) and to Project Shield for deflecting the evil bits.

For more background on the botnet responsible for knocking this site offline, see Who is Anna-Senpai, the Mirai Worm Author?


Source: Krebs On Security

IRS: Scam Blends CEO Fraud, W-2 Phishing

Most regular readers here are familiar with CEO fraud — e-mail scams in which the attacker spoofs the boss and tricks an employee at the organization into wiring funds to the fraudster. Loyal readers also have heard an earful about W-2 phishing, in which crooks impersonate the boss and request a copy of all employee tax forms. According to a new “urgent alert” issued by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, scammers are now combining both schemes and targeting a far broader range of organizations than ever before.

athookThe IRS said phishers are off to a much earlier start this year than in tax years past, trying to siphon W-2 data that can be used to file fraudulent refund requests on behalf of taxpayers. The agency warned that thieves also appear to be targeting a wider range of organizations in these W-2 phishing schemes, including school districts, healthcare organizations, chain restaurants, temporary staffing agencies, tribal organizations and nonprofits.

Perhaps because they are already impersonating the boss, the W-2 phishers feel like they’re leaving money on the table if they don’t also try to loot the victim organization’s treasury: According to the IRS, W-2 phishers very often now follow up with an “executive” email to the payroll or comptroller requesting that a wire transfer be made to a certain account.

“This is one of the most dangerous email phishing scams we’ve seen in a long time,” IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said. “Although not tax related, the wire transfer scam is being coupled with the W-2 scam email, and some companies have lost both employees’ W-2s and thousands of dollars.”

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has been keeping a running tally of the financial devastation visited on companies via CEO fraud scams. In June 2016, the FBI estimated that crooks had stolen nearly $3.1 billion from more than 22,000 victims of these wire fraud schemes.

First surfacing in February 2016, the W-2 phishing scams also have netted thieves plenty of victims. At one point last year I was hearing from almost one new W-2 phishing victim each day. Some of the more prominent companies victimized by W-2 scams last year included Seagate Technology, Moneytree, Sprouts Farmer’s Market, and EWTN Global Catholic Network.

As noted earlier this week, scammers also are now selling 2016 employee W-2 forms that were phished or otherwise stolen from victim organizations, peddling individual W-2 tax records for between $4 and $20 apiece.

Tax refund fraud affects hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of U.S. citizens annually. Victims usually first learn of the crime after having their returns rejected because scammers beat them to it. Even those who are not required to file a return can be victims of refund fraud, as can those who are not actually due a refund from the IRS.

The IRS says organizations receiving a W-2 scam email should forward it to phishing@irs.gov and place “W2 Scam” in the subject line. Organizations that receive the scams or fall victim to them should file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3,) operated by the FBI.

Employees whose Forms W-2 have been stolen should review the recommended actions by the Federal Trade Commission at www.identitytheft.gov or the IRS at www.irs.gov/identitytheft. Employees should file a Form 14039 (PDF) Identity Theft Affidavit, if the employee’s own tax return rejects because of a duplicate Social Security number or if instructed to do so by the IRS.

W-2 forms are prized by ID thieves because they feature virtually all of the data needed to file a fraudulent tax refund request with the IRS in a victim’s name, including the employer name, employer ID, address, taxpayer address, Social Security number and information about 2016 wages and taxes withheld.

According to recent stats from the Federal Trade Commission, tax refund fraud was responsible for a nearly 50 percent increase in consumer identity theft complaints in 2015. The best way to avoid becoming a victim of tax refund fraud is to file your taxes before the fraudsters can. 

The FBI urges businesses to adopt two-step or two-factor authentication for email, where available, and to establish other communication channels — such as telephone calls — to verify significant banking transactions. Businesses are also advised to exercise restraint when publishing information about employee activities on their Web sites or through social media, as attackers perpetrating CEO fraud schemes often will try to discover information about when executives at the targeted organization will be traveling or otherwise out of the office.


Source: Krebs On Security

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