2017 in Review: The Year of Business Risk Intelligence
A New Mexico man is facing federal hacking charges for allegedly using the now defunct attack-for-hire service vDOS to launch damaging digital assaults aimed at knocking his former employer’s Web site offline. Prosecutors were able to bring the case in part because vDOS got massively hacked last year, and its customer database of payments and targets leaked to this author and to the FBI.
Prosecutors in Minnesota have charged John Kelsey Gammell, 46, with using vDOS and other online attack services to hurl a year’s worth of attack traffic at the Web sites associated with Washburn Computer Group, a Minnesota-based company where Gammell used to work.
vDOS existed for nearly four years, and was known as one of the most powerful and effective pay-to-play tools for launching distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks. The vDOS owners used a variety of methods to power their service, including at least one massive botnet consisting of tens of thousands of hacked Internet of Things (IoT) devices, such as compromised Internet routers and security cameras. vDOS also was used in numerous DDoS attacks against this site.
Investigators allege that although Gammell used various methods to hide his identity, email addresses traced back to him were found in the hacked user and target databases from vDOS.
More importantly, prosecutors say, someone began taunting Washburn via Yahoo and Gmail messages while the attacks were underway, asking how everything was going at the company and whether the IT department needed any help.
“Also attached to this second email was an image of a mouse laughing,” the Justice Department indictment (PDF) alleges. “Grand jury subpoenas for subscriber information were subsequently served on Google…and Yahoo. Analysis of the results showed information connecting both accounts to an individual named John Gammell. Both email addresses were created using the cell phone number 612-205-8609.”
The complaint notes that the government subpoenaed AT&T for subscriber information and traced that back to Gammell as well, but phone number also is currently listed as the recovery number for a Facebook account tied to John K. Gammell.
That Facebook account features numerous references to the hacker collective known as Anonymous. This is notable because according to the government Gammell used two different accounts at vDOS: One named “AnonCunnilingus” and another called “anonrooster.” The email addresses this user supplied when signing up at vDOS (firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com) include other addresses quite clearly tied to multiple accounts for John K. Gammell.
Below is a snippet from a customer service ticket that the AnonCunnilingus account filed in Aug. 2015
“Dear Colleagues, this is Mr. Cunnilingus. You underestimate your capabilities. Contrary to your statement of “Notice!” It appears from our review that you are trying to stress test a DDoS protected host, vDOS stresser is not capable of taking DDoS protected hosts down which means you will not be able to drop this hosting using vDOS stresser…As they do not have my consent to use my internet, after their site being down for two days, they changed their IP and used rackspace DDoS mitigation and must now be removed from cyberspace. Verified by downbyeveryone. We will do much business. Thank you for your outstanding product We Are Anonymous USA.”
Gammell has pleaded not guilty to the charges. He has not responded to requests for comment. The indictment states that Gammell allegedly attacked at least a half-dozen other companies over a year-long period between mid-2015 and July 2016, including several banks and two other companies at which he either previously worked or with whom he’d interviewed for a job.
In late July 2016, an anonymous security researcher reached out to KrebsOnSecurity to share a copy of the vDOS databases. The databases showed that vDOS made more than $600,000 in just two of the four years it was in operation, helping to launch more than 150,000 DDoS attacks.
Since then, two alleged co-owners of vDOS — two 19-year-old Israeli men — have been arrested and charged with operating an attack-for-hire service. Aside from Gammell’s case, I am not aware of any other public cases involving the prosecution of people who allegedly used vDOS to conduct attacks.
But that will hopefully change soon, as there are countless clues about the identities of other high-volume vDOS users and their targets. Identifying the perpetrators in those cases should not be difficult because at some point vDOS stopped allowing users to log in to the service using a VPN, meaning many users likely logged into vDOS using an Internet address that can be traced back to them either via a home Internet or wireless account.
According to a review of the vDOS database, both accounts allegedly tied to Gammell were banned by vDOS administrators — either because he shared his vDOS username and password with another person, or because he logged on to the accounts with a VPN. Here’s a copy of a notice vDOS sent to AnonCunnilingus on July 28, 2015:
“Dear AnonCunnilingus , We have recently reviewed your account activity, and determined that you are in violation of vDos’s Terms of Service, It appears from our review that you have shared your account (or accessed vDos stresser from several locations and platforms) which is against our Terms of Services. Please refer to the following logs and terms:n- AnonCunnilingus logged in using the following IPs: 22.214.171.124 (US), 126.96.36.199 (XX) date: 06-08-2015 18:05nn- 8) You are not allowed to access vDos stresser using a VPN/VPS/Proxy/RDP/Server Tunnelling and such.n- 3) You may not share your account, if you will, your account will be closed without a warning or a refund!”
What’s most likely limiting prosecutors from pursuing more vDOS users is a lack of DDoS victims coming forward. In an advisory issued last month, the FBI urged DDoS victims to report the attacks.
The FBI requests DDoS victims contact their local FBI field office and/or file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), regardless of dollar loss or timing of incident. Field office contacts can be identified at www.fbi.gov/contact-us/field. IC3 complaints should be filed at www.ic3.govwith the following details (if applicable):
- Traffic protocol used by the DDoS (DNS, NTP, SYN flood, etc)
- Attempt to preserve netflow and/or packet capture of the attack
- Any extortion/threats pertaining to the DDoS attack
- Save any such correspondence in its original, unforwarded format
- Victim information
- Overall losses associated with the DDoS attack
- If a ransom associated with the attack was paid, provide transaction details, the subject’s email address, and/or crypto currency wallet address
- Victim impact statement (e.g., impacted services/operations)
- IP addresses used in the DDoS attack
In May 2013 KrebsOnSecurity wrote about Ragebooter, a service that paying customers can use to launch powerful distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks capable of knocking individuals and Web sites offline. The owner of Ragebooter subsequently was convicted in 2016 of possessing child pornography, but his business somehow lived on while he was in prison. Now just weeks after Poland made probation, a mobile version of the attack-for-hire service has gone up for sale on the Google Play store.
In the story Ragebooter: ‘Legit’ DDoS Service, or Fed Backdoor, I profiled then 19-year-old Justin D. Poland from Memphis — who admitted to installing code on his Ragebooter service that allowed FBI investigators to snoop on his customers.
Last February, Poland was convicted of one felony count of possession of child pornography, after investigators reportedly found 2,600 child pornography images on one of his computers. Before his trial was over, Poland skipped town but his bondsman later located him at his mother’s house. He was sentenced to two years in jail.
Poland did not respond to multiple requests for comment, but on his Facebook account Poland said the images belonged to his former roommate — David Starliper — who’d allegedly used Poland’s computer. Starliper also was convicted of possessing child pornography and sentenced to two years in prison.
In September 2017, Poland began posting on his Facebook account that he had made parole and was getting ready to be released from prison. On Oct. 6, the first version of the Android edition of Ragebooter was put on sale at Google’s Play Store.
Poland’s Facebook page says he is the owner of ragebooter[dot]com, ragebooter[dot]net, and another site called vmdeploy[net]. The advertisement for Ragebooter’s new mobile app on Google Play says the developer’s email address is contact@rageservices[dot]net. The registration details for rageservices[dot]net are hidden, but the Web site lists some useful contact details.
One of them is a phone number registered in Memphis — 901-219-3644 — that is tied to a Facebook account for an Alex Slovak in Memphis. The other domain Poland mentions on his Facebook page — vmdeploy[dot]net — was registered to an Alex Czech from Memphis. It seems likely that Alex has been running Ragebooter while Poland was in prison. Mr. Slovak/Czech did not respond to requests for comment, but it is clear from his Facebook page that he is friends with Poland’s family.
Rageservices[dot]net advertises itself as a store for custom programming and Web site development. Its content is identical to a site called QuantumServices. A small purchase through the rageservices[dot]net site for a simple program generated a response from Quantum Services and an email from firstname.lastname@example.org. The person responding at that email address declined to give his or her name, but said they were not Justin Poland.
Figures posted to the home page of ragebooter[dot]net claim the service has been used to conduct more than 310,000 DDoS attacks. Memberships are sold in packages ranging from $3 per day to $300 a year for an “enterprise” plan. Ragebooter[dot]net includes a notice at the top of the site indicating that rageservices[dot]net is indeed affiliated with Ragebooter.
If Poland still is running Ragebooter, he may well be violating the terms of his parole. According to the FBI, the use of DDoS-for-hire services like Ragebooter is illegal.
In October the FBI released an advisory warning that the use of booter services — also called “stressers” — is punishable under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and may result in arrest and criminal prosecution.
“Booter and stresser services are a form of DDoS-for-hire— advertised in forum communications and available on Dark Web marketplaces— offering malicious actors the ability to anonymously attack any Internet-connected target. These services are obtained through a monetary transaction, usually in the form of online payment services and virtual currency. Criminal actors running booter and stresser services sell access to DDoS botnets, a network of malware-infected computers exploited to make a victim server or network resource unavailable by overloading the device with massive amounts of fake or illegitimate traffic.”Source: KREBS ON SECURITY
A newly discovered ransomware family called “GIBON” is targeting all files on machines that it has managed to infect, except those located in the Windows folder.
The Quackbot and Emotet information stealing Trojans have been showing renewed activity over the past several months and are increasingly targeting enterprises, small and medium businesses, and other organizations, Microsoft says.