Hundreds of millions of stolen email accounts for email accounts and other websites are being traded in Russia’s criminal underworld…
Hundreds of millions of stolen email accounts and passwords are being traded in Russia’s criminal underworld. According to Reuters, the latest discovery came after Hold Security researchers found a young Russian hacker bragging in an online forum that he had collected and was ready to give away a far larger number of stolen credentials that ended up totaling 1.17 billion records.
The discovery of 272.3 million stolen email accounts included a majority of users of Mail.ru, Russia’s most popular email service, and smaller fractions of Google, Yahoo and Microsoft email users, said Alex Holden, founder and chief information security officer of Hold Security.
It is one of the biggest stashes of stolen credentials to be uncovered since cyber-attacks hit major U.S. banks and retailers two years ago.
Holden was previously instrumental in uncovering some of the world’s biggest known data breaches, affecting tens of millions of users at Adobe Systems, JPMorgan and Target and exposing them to subsequent cyber-crimes.
After eliminating duplicates, Holden said, the cache contained nearly 57 million Mail.ru accounts – a big chunk of the 64 million monthly active email users Mail.ru said it had at the end of last year. It also included tens of millions of credentials for the world’s three big email providers, Gmail, Microsoft and Yahoo, plus hundreds of thousands of accounts at German and Chinese email providers.
“This information is potent. It is floating around in the underground and this person has shown he’s willing to give the data away to people who are nice to him,” said Holden, the former chief security officer at U.S. brokerage R.W. Baird. “These credentials can be abused multiple times,” he said.
Mysteriously, the hacker asked just 50 roubles – less than $1 – for the entire trove, but gave up the dataset after Hold researchers agreed to post favorable comments about him in hacker forums, Holden said. He said his company’s policy is to refuse to pay for stolen data.
Such large-scale data breaches can be used to engineer further break-ins or phishing attacks by reaching the universe of contacts tied to each compromised account, multiplying the risks of financial theft or reputational damage across the web.
Yahoo Mail credentials numbered 40 million, or 15 percent of the 272 million unique IDs discovered. Meanwhile, 33 million, or 12 percent, were Microsoft Hotmail accounts and 9 percent, or nearly 24 million, were Gmail, according to Holden.
Thousands of other stolen email accounts appear to belong to employees of some of the largest U.S. banking, manufacturing and retail companies, he said. Stolen online account credentials are to blame for 22 percent of big data breaches, according to a recent survey of 325 computer professionals by the Cloud Security Alliance.
“Over the last month we have identified 120 million stolen email accounts. This stolen data consists of information from a major Eastern European communication firm, some medium size online service providers, and mostly unattributed data moved around by hackers in search of easy gains. We’ve invested countless hours into acquiring this data without contributing to the hacker monetizing on his work. Because of this, there is an ever flowing amount of data that falls through the uncompensated grasps of the Deep Web”.