Friday, 19 January, 2018

Malware creator charged for 13-year spying spree

Phillip Durachinsky Phillip Durachinsky
Kayla Schwartz | 14 January, 2018, 07:12

Early past year, a piece Mac malware came to light that left researchers puzzled.

Durachinsky allegedly first created the malware, which later became known as "Fruitfly", in order to control computers by uploading files, accessing stored data, taking and downloading screenshots, logging user's keystrokes and turning on the user's camera and microphone to secretly record images and audio.

As alleged in the indictment, Durachinsky used the malware to steal the personal data of victims, including their logon credentials, tax records, medical records, photographs, banking records, Internet searches, and potentially embarrassing communications.

Durachinsky spied on thousands of people, plucking millions of photos and other sensitive data from their computers, while keeping "detailed notes of what he observed", according to the indictment.

More disturbingly, the DOJ claims Durachinsky configured Fruitfly to alert him whenever a user typed words associated with pornography.

A 28-year-old OH man was accused Wednesday of running the malware attack on thousands of computers, according to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). He used the malware to learn passwords to other websites and download further private information from those platforms. He was charged with 16 counts in federal court, including violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, plus wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, illegal wiretapping and child pornography.

Fruitfly, which we first heard about in January 2017, consists of just two files created to open a backdoor into the Macs it infects, letting it receive instructions from the hacker's computer.

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The current indictment does not list specific victims, but Durachinsky was arrested a year ago after a series of hacks at Case Western Reserve University were reported.

What piqued their interest was the malware's use of "truly antique system calls", dating back to pre-OS X days, and of a version of the libjpeg library dating back to 1998.

Durachinksy was identified as the hacker behind the Fruitfly virus after the malware infected more than 100 computers at Case Western Reserve University.

More intriguing still at the time, Malwarebytes found Windows-based malware that connected to the same control servers used by Fruitfly.

Durachinsky is also claimed to have watched and listened to victims and intercepted communications in the room where the infected computer was located.

Cleveland FBI chief Stephen Anthony described Durachinsky as possessing "sophisticated skill" that was used to compromise "numerous systems and individual computers". "It is this kind of collaboration that has enabled authorities to bring this cyber hacker to justice".

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