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Malware developers trick Windows with altered certificates

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The tactic is actively used to distribute the OpenSUpdater family of potentially unwanted software.

Malware developers create malformed code signatures that are considered valid in Windows and avoid detection by security software. According to experts from Google, this tactic is actively used by financially motivated criminals to distribute the OpenSUpdater family of riskware. OpenSUpdater injects ads into victims’ browsers and installs other unwanted programs on their devices.

During the malicious campaign, OpenSUpdater operators try to infect as many devices as possible. Most of the targets for these attacks are located in the United States.

According to a team of researchers from the Google Threat Analysis Group (TAG), the OpenSUpdater developers have begun signing their samples with legitimate but deliberately modified certificates. Certificates are accepted by Windows but rejected by OpenSSL.

If the certificate parsing for OpenSSL is broken (which will not be able to decode and verify digital signatures), malicious samples will not be detected by some security solutions that use OpenSSL-based detection rules.

Security solutions that use OpenSSL to analyze digital signatures effectively ignore the malicious nature of the samples as they reject the signature information as invalid, confusing and disrupting the malware scanning process.

Google TAG is currently working with the Google Safe Browsing team to block this family of potentially dangerous software and stop it from spreading to users’ computers.

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Hundreds of malicious Tor nodes are used to de-anonymize users

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Malicious servers were added to the Tor network on an ongoing basis, and there were hundreds of them.

Since at least 2017, a mysterious attacker (or group), tracked by cybersecurity experts as KAX17, has been adding malicious servers to the Tor network, acting as entry, intermediary, and exit nodes. How thinks a security researcher using the pseudonym Nusenu, the campaign aimed to de-anonymize users.

Nusenu, which itself is the Tor node operator, discovered malicious activity in 2019, but says KAX17 has been in effect since at least 2017. According to Nusenu, malicious servers with no contact information were added to the Tor network on an ongoing basis, with hundreds of them. At its peak, the network included over 900 malicious servers.

In general, servers added to the Tor network must contain contact information (such as an email address) so that Tor administrators or law enforcement agencies can contact node operators in the event of misconfiguration or reports of abuse. Despite this rule, servers without contact information are often added to the network, mainly to maintain their numbers.

KAX17 servers are located in data centers around the world and are mostly configured as exit and intermediary nodes, with only a small number of them operating as exit nodes. As Nusenu notes, this is strange enough, since most attackers who manage malicious nodes configure them as exit nodes, which allows them to modify the traffic. For example, the BTCMITM20 group managed a network of thousands of malicious exit nodes to attack users visiting cryptocurrency-related sites.

According to the researcher, KAX17 collects information about users connecting to the Tor network, and then determines their routes. Nusenu reported its findings to the Tor Project last year, and the servers were removed from the network in October 2020. Soon after, another group of exit nodes appeared in Tor with no contact information, but whether it was associated with KAX17 is unclear.

In October and November 2021, the Tor Project also removed hundreds of KAX17 servers. Neither Nusenu nor the Tor Project have speculated yet on who is behind KAX17.

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US State Department employees’ smartphones underwent hacker attack

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The iPhones of at least nine Ugandan US State Department employees have been hacked by spyware from Israel’s NSO Group.

US diplomats in Uganda have been targeted by a software tool developed by the Israeli firm NSO Group. If the fact of espionage against employees of the US State Department is confirmed, serious problems await the developer of the “master keys” for the iPhone.

Spyware, developed by the Israeli company NSO Group, has been used to hack iPhone smartphones by at least nine US foreign policy officials. This was reported by Reuters, citing sources. As the newspaper notes, this is the largest known hacking of the devices of American officials.

According to the agency, the hackers were only interested in department employees who either worked at the US Embassy in Uganda or dealt with issues related to the situation in this country. So far, it has not been possible to find out exactly who hacked the smartphones. In turn, the NSO Group said that they do not have information that their equipment was used for the cyberattack. The company also said that it is interested in cooperation with all governments and is ready to provide the required data.

As reported by Bloomberg, the fact of hacking was confirmed by Apple, which sent appropriate notifications to the victims.

As previously reported, Apple went to court in November and wanted to obtain a permanent injunction against the use of software products, services and devices by the NSO Group.

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Microsoft has recalled changes in Windows 11 that made it difficult to change the default browser

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The new Windows 11 developer build now offers a simple button to switch default browsers.

Microsoft has revoked changes earlier in Windows 11 that made it difficult to change the default browser. As reported by The Verge, a new test build of Windows 11 now allows users to set Chrome, Firefox, and others as their default browser with a single button.

Earlier this week developer Rafael Rivera discovered new changes in Windows 11. Instead of changing individual file extensions or protocol handlers for HTTP, HTTPS, .HTML, and .HTM, Windows 11 now offers a simple button that lets you switch default browsers similar to Windows 10.

Microsoft has confirmed that the changes were intentional and are currently being tested.

“In Windows 11 Insider Preview Build 22509, released through the developer channel on Wednesday, we have optimized the ability for Windows Previewers to set the default browser for apps that register for HTTP, HTTPS, .HTM, and .HTML,” said VP of Marketing for Windows Aaron Woodman.

As previously reported, Microsoft is making a huge effort to increase the number of users on its Edge browser. In the middle of last month, Microsoft blocked certain methods to quickly change the default browser in Windows 11. The blocking was implemented in Windows 11 developer build 22494 and directly affected EdgeDeflector, which is used by hundreds of thousands of people. As Microsoft admitted to The Verge, the blocking was intentional.

Microsoft is still testing new changes in Windows 11 to make it easier to switch the default browser, but when they will become available to users is unknown.

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