Cryptocurrency Theft Involved Traffic Redirection

Aug 13, 2014 5:15 PM PST

LOS ANGELES — With more online companies accepting cryptocurrency as an alternative payment, there have been more reported instances of cybercrimes.

In the latest case, a Dell research team announced that it discovered a scheme to hijack large amounts of network traffic and redirect cryptocurrency miner connections to a hijacker-controlled mining pool, resulting in $83,000 stolen from accounts in four months.

The scheme, Dell researchers said, involved BGP hijacking, which has been discussed for more than 16 years by Internet security experts, to shake cryptocurrency out of the hands of miners.

Hackers in the late 1990s testified to Congress that they could use a BGP attack to take down the Internet in 30 minutes. In 2013, the BGP hijacking scheme redirected a portion of U.S. traffic to Iceland and Belarus.

Border gateway protocol, or BGP, connects networks on the Internet, such as Time Warner and Comcast, to become aware of other networks' existence. Both ends of BGP-connected networks must be manually configured to communicate, ensuring that malicious networks can't hijack traffic without human intervention from a legitimate network.

Dell researchers said the scheme involved bogus BGP broadcasts to redirect traffic to the hijacker's server. In the end, perpetrators were able to steal Bitcoin, Dogecoin, HoboNickels and Worldcoin.

"Hijackers harnessed miners' hashing power by redirecting legitimate mining traffic destined for well-known pools to a malicious server masquerading as the legitimate pool," Dell researchers said.

With cryptocurrency, "mining" is the act of validating transactions listed in the public ledger— also known as the block chain, which entails crunching numbers to satisfy a particular formula while simultaneously agreeing as network that the calculated results are valid.

"Hijackers harnessed miners' hashing power by redirecting legitimate mining traffic destined for well-known pools to a malicious server masquerading as the legitimate pool," Dell researchers said of the scheme uncovered.

In total, Dell researchers documented 51 compromised networks from 19 different ISPs, including Amazon, Digital Ocean, OVH and other large hosting companies between February and May 2014.

"All malicious BGP announcements were traced to a single router at an ISP in Canada. The hijacker likely fits one of the following descriptions: A rogue employee of the ISP,  a rogue ex-employee of the ISP with an unchanged router password, or a malicious hacker," the researchers said.

Online adult companies have come to embrace cryptocurrencies as a substitute for traditional methods of processing transactions. MindGeek, SCORE Group, Naughty America, Wicked Pictures, Porn.com, Grooby.com, DominicFord.com, ClassyCams.com and MetArt.com, among other adult brands, take cryptocurrencies. Internet payment service provider Verotel also accepts bitcoin for transactions.

   

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