Russian law enforcement this week said two individuals were arrested for compromising accounts of loyalty program members from popular websites.
The unnamed cybercriminals allegedly compromised around 700,000 accounts from companies such as PayPal, Ulmart, Biglion, KupiKupon, Groupon, and others. They are also said to have put 2,000 of these accounts up for sale for $5 each.
“The detainees admitted on the spot that they had earned at least 500,000 rubles. However, the real amount of damage remains to be determined,” Group-IB, which aided with the investigation, says.
The hackers’ activity stirred interest in November 2015, after the website of a large online store fell to a large-scale cyber-attack in which the personal accounts of the store’s loyalty program members were compromised. Miscreants compromised around 120,000 accounts within a month.
The investigators discovered that the attackers “had collected compromised account information from various Internet services on hacker forums and used special programs to automatically guess passwords of accounts on the website of the online store.”
The miscreants relied on people’s habit of reusing the same login/password on multiple websites. If the logins and passwords were used on the targeted websites, the hackers would access those personal accounts.
The cybercriminals would check the accumulated bonuses on each account and would sell them on hacker forums at $5 per account or 20-30% of the nominal balance of the accounts. The buyers could then abuse the accounts to pay for products with the bonuses.
The hackers, Group-IB says, weren’t only selling compromised accounts, but also offered services for hijacking accounts: they would change the phone number and e-mail on the accounts of the online store. Such services were offered at a price of 10% of the bonus balance on the account.
To hide their tracks, the attackers used anonymizers, launched the attacks from different IP addresses, and also changed the digital fingerprint of the browser (User-Agent). Overall, they sent authorization requests from more than 35,000 unique IP addresses.
Large retailers started checking all orders with payment bonuses in early 2016, which determined the hackers to target lesser-known online stores.
“In addition, the hackers began to work on tips—information about new online stores with bonus programs and coupon services where it was possible to access personal accounts, for which the attackers promised to pay up to 50% of the amount received from the further sale of the compromised accounts,” Group-IB reports.
The leader in these attacks was a resident of Ryazan Region, born in 1998. His partner, born in 1997, who provided technical support for their joint online store, resided in Astrakhan Region.
During a search, investigators seized evidence of the group’s unlawful activities, along with narcotics. The suspects have confessed to the crimes but the investigation is still ongoing.
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