Darknet updates

All Signs Point to a Law Enforcement Takedown of KickAss Forum

On January 9, the KickAss Forum went offline. On Twitter, user @bitsdigit initially reported that the site was seized by law enforcement, but then said the seizure was not a legitimate notice (remarking that “something is very fishy”) and warned others to stay clear. Though the URL in the initial @bitsdigit reporting correlates to an older KickAss hidden service URL, DarkOwl confirmed the two most recent onion v3 KickAss URLs are indeed down, but do not display the Seized Hidden Service Banner.

On January 7, KickAss moderators started the thread, “KICKASS TOR VERSION 3 URLS”, announcing deactivation of the old v2 hidden service addresses and new v3 URLs would be circulating “for security reasons” - perhaps due to recent publicity relating to forum member TheDarkOverlord. Shortly after, the login page for KickAss changed to PRIVATE, with instructions for members to message a Jabber address using Off-The-Record (OTR) for continued access.

Screenshots from DarkOwl Vision from January 2019, listing new KickAss URLs.

Screenshots from DarkOwl Vision from January 2019, listing new KickAss URLs.

Screenshot from DarkOwl Vision from January 2019, with Jabber contact.

Screenshot from DarkOwl Vision from January 2019, with Jabber contact.

However, according to historical records of the forum in DarkOwl Vision, the ka_apps@jabber.calyxinstitute.org Jabber account from a few days ago does not match Jabber accounts KickAss moderators have ever mentioned. Additionally, an announcement thread from November 2018, captured by DarkOwl Vision, stated that KickAss staff only uses OMEMO for end-to-end encryption, as OTR is not “save” [sic] anymore.

Screenshot from DarkOwl Vision from November 2018, mentioning that Kickass staff only use OMEMO, not OTR.

Screenshot from DarkOwl Vision from November 2018, mentioning that Kickass staff only use OMEMO, not OTR.

Given the abrupt private state of the forum days before it disappeared and use of OTR instead of OMEMO, it seems likely Law Enforcement has seized the KickAss forum, and the Jabber account with OTR was a phishing attempt to garner information about its active members. In the past, Law Enforcement have taken over hidden services and impersonated its moderators in attempt to get information about the sites’ members. Dutch police studied the logs of the real admins of Hansa for weeks and even operated the illegal marketplace, throwing the darknet community into chaos in 2017.

One thing that is consistent on the darknet is that hidden services come and go. On Thursday, members of Torum, another popular Tor-based cybersecurity forum, discuss the disappearance of KickAss and the importance of making the most of what’s online while it’s online.

Screenshot of Torum discussion about the KickAss forum disappearance.

Screenshot of Torum discussion about the KickAss forum disappearance.

DarkOwl will continue to follow this story and report updates as they are available.

Daniel of the Darknet goes Dark

This Week, 6,500 Hidden Services were Ousted from the Darknet    

The name Daniel Winzen may not mean much to the ordinary internet user, but on the darknet @daniel is the legendary nickname for the individual  known for offering free anonymous web hosting, chat, e-mail, and XMPP/Jabber services on Tor for the last 5 years and perhaps longer. He started out humbly - installing a small number of Tor-based hidden services, or websites, on a Raspberry PI 2 - but over the years expanded his presence to hosting upwards of 7,000 hidden services per month for darknet users across Tor and I2P. That is, until last week.

Shortly after 10:00pm UTC on the 15th of November 2018, Daniel Winzen’s server was breached, databases accessed, and accounts deleted, including the root, or administrator account, rendering his services unusable. In less than three hours, the intruders deleted SQL databases for his chat, onion-link list, and hit counter. Hackers initially accessed the main phpMyAdmin and adminer panels using the correct hosting management password, inferring the password may have been harvested via phishing attempt or the server was accessed by someone with access to Daniel’s credentials. Daniel’s popular GitHub account also experienced a failed login for his popular software repository on November 9th, which has not been determined as related as of yet.

Daniel’s updates on his portal indicates that this hack was a “database only” breach.

Other than the root account, no accounts unrelated to the hosting were touched and unrelated files in /home/ weren’t touched either. As of now there is no indication of further system access and I would classify this as a “database only” breach, with no direct access to the system. From the logs it is evident that both, adminer and phpmyadmin have been used to run queries on the database.

According to updates posted to his surface net and darknet portal, Winzen is thoroughly investigating all potential vulnerabilities in his server before restoring services. He has also listed concern over a 0-day exploit, released exactly one day before the attack, in the imap_open() function of PHP that he has since patched.

30% of Online Domains Disappeared Overnight

Over 30% of the operational and active hidden services across Tor and I2P disappeared with the hack of Daniel’s Hosting Services and over 6-Million documents archived in DarkOwl Vision are no longer available on the darknet.

DarkOwl quantified the impact to the size of the darknet, specifically Tor, using its internal “Map the Dark” reporting, which includes statistics from darknet websites indexed over the previous 24-hour period. Our data substantiates the hosting provider’s offline status, with a delta of 4,887 domains going offline between the 15th and 16th of November. DarkOwl has indexed the archives of 5,300 domains from early November and has assessed them to be services that were formerly hosted on Daniel’s server.

Daniel’s previous online-link list advertised that he hosted over 1,500 private hidden services whose domain URLs are unknown at this time. DarkOwl’s estimated total number of domains hosted by Daniel are consistent with the 6,500 offline domains quoted by Daniel on his server portal.

  • 657 of the hidden services have only title “Site Hosted by Daniel’s Hosting Service” and contain no meaningful content worth mentioning. Darknet hidden service domain could have been used for something other than serving web content.  

  • Over 4,900 of the hacked domains are in English and 54 are Russian-language hidden services. Two of the oldest hidden services are interestingly in the Portuguese language.

  • 457 of the hidden services contain content related to hacking and/or malware development, while 136 include drug-specific keywords.

  • 304 of the hidden services have been classified as forums and 148 of them are chatrooms.

  • 109 of the hidden services contain counterfeit related content while 54 specifically mention carding-specific information.

  • Over 20 of the hidden services contain content including weapons & explosive related keywords.

Figure 2: Graph model showing Daniel’s main Tor domain and all the subdomains

Figure 2: Graph model showing Daniel’s main Tor domain and all the subdomains

Daniel’s hosting service, chatroom and online-link list have served as a pillar for the darknet community for years. For example, his online-link list is referenced by nearly 500 other hidden services, making it the second most commonly referred to directory listing (behind Fresh Onions) and providing a foundational starting point for new users navigating Tor.

Given that his services were provided free of charge and generally reliable against attack, there are mixed theories as to who could have wanted to destroy this mainstay of the anonymous online community.

Are Russian Hackers Responsible?

In recent weeks, Russian hackers on a website called www.antichat.com, outlined the technical details of exploiting PHP’s imap_open() function to extract password hashes for privileged accounts, as an alternative to brute force mining. Then, on Thursday (the same day as the attack), antichat.com forum staff member “Big Bear” posted a MEGA.nz link including a PDF, titled, “[RCE] 0-day в imap/c-client на примере PHP” (in English: [RCE] 0-day in imap / c-client using the example of PHP) detailing the imap_open exploit. The same post identifies the authors by the nicknames crlf and Twost, the latter of whom is also known as “Aleksandr.”

DarkOwl Vision shows darknet mentions of the alias Twost dating back to 2016.

Figure 1: Russian Security Forum discusses exploiting imap_open() function

Figure 1: Russian Security Forum discusses exploiting imap_open() function

The Anti Child-Exploitation Community

Daniel’s darknet notoriety increased in 2016 when he ported Lucky Eddy’s perl-CGI LE-Chat script into PHP with mySQL or PostgreSQL backend, optimizing the environment for Tor and decreasing the darknet community’s reliance on Javascript, thus allowing for image sharing inside a chat platform (which is not available via XMPP and IRC) without potentially compromising posters’ identities. As a result, Daniel’s LE-Chat code became a popular platform for the darknet pedophilia community, and the home for many well-known Child Pornography sharing chatrooms such as Tabooless, Camp Fire, and Child Priori.

Individual “pedo-hunters” and anti-pedophilia groups have called for hacking Daniel’s services using large-scale distributed denial of service (DDoS) campaigns, specifically because it was rumored that the principal administrator and some key staff members were active in pedophilia-specific chats.

Figure 3: Anonymous post suggesting the hack was motivated by an anti-pedophilia agenda

Figure 3: Anonymous post suggesting the hack was motivated by an anti-pedophilia agenda

A Potential Law Enforcement Operation

Daniel’s Chat quietly resurfaced this past Saturday with a clean install and backup from early 2017, accompanied by a flurry of confusion over the assignments of administrator, moderators, and members. Without the comforting presence of the  “regular” member database and credentials, users had no way to verify that anyone was who they said they were. Many legitimately feared that popular nicknames of members and staff had been spoofed by trolls trying to capture access to the members-only chat. One user on the darknet social media site Galaxy3 stated that @daniel re-installed the chat and that it “sounded like him,” although with a caveat that everyone should be cautious.

At the same time, others theorized the extreme possibility that @daniel had actually been arrested and the take-down was led by international law enforcement or the German police. Daniel’s hidden services experienced extreme DDoS in the weeks preceding the hack, similar to other law enforcement-led darknet seizure operations.

Figure 4: Galaxy3 Post by user ChatTor (http://galaxy3m2mn5iqtn[.]onion)

Figure 4: Galaxy3 Post by user ChatTor (http://galaxy3m2mn5iqtn[.]onion)

Anti-Syntax Club or an Inside Job

For over a year, the nickname Syntax has been referenced with either extreme love or extreme hate. Hundreds of trolls have posted across forums and paste sites about how this purportedly 17-year-old female teenager is responsible for taking down a number of pedophilia chatrooms and community leaders in recent years. Since early this fall, there has been an increase in the number of anti-Syntax trolls repeatedly calling for attacks against Daniel’s services, more specifically Syntax and her ally ChatTor, since she was promoted to Super Moderator of Daniel’s popular and drama-filled chatroom during the summer and accused of abusing the position.

Other members have suggested the remote possibility the attack on Daniel’s was led by Syntax and ChatTor so that they could take administrative control of the chatroom, although a recent image capture from ChatTor states that it was simply about being at the right place at the right time.

Figure 5: Capture of Le-Chat conversation debating the validity of staff with Daniel's services ( Link )

Figure 5: Capture of Le-Chat conversation debating the validity of staff with Daniel's services (Link)

Looking forward

While the darknet is ever-changing, DarkOwl Vision has the most recent information to support darknet network analytics and capture changes to hidden services. DarkOwl analysts continue to monitor and will publish updates as more information is uncovered.

Nearly seventy thousand healthcare patient records for sale on darknet hacker forum

TheDarkOverlord has resurfaced on Kickass Forum

TheDarkOverLord announces that they are officially back in business ( Source )

TheDarkOverLord announces that they are officially back in business (Source)

TheDarkOverlord, one of the threat actors that DarkOwl analysts routinely monitor, has apparently resurfaced last week. In a recent series of posts, an entity claiming to be TheDarkOverlord is advertising a database of personal health information as well as user information taken from an unnamed gaming site - both of which are being offered for sale to willing buyers.

TheDarkOverlord is a hacker - or potentially a collection of personas - who regularly targets the healthcare industry, leaking thousands to millions of patient records.

TheDarkOverlord claims to have hacked “several medical practices”

In the post (pictured below), TheDarkOverlord advertises that they have over 67,000 patient records for sale, stolen from medical and dental practices in California, Missouri, and New York.

The forum listing advertises that these databases include personal and health information including full names, physical addresses, phone numbers, DOBs, driver’s license numbers, SSNs, medical histories, and much more. A specific price point was not provided; rather, the prices are “negotiable.” Interested buyers were instructed to send TheDarkOverlord an encrypted message using the forum’s private messaging system.

TheDarkOverlord also states that they’d be willing to entertain higher offers for data that “no one else will have,” giving the potential transaction a level of exclusivity that will likely attract a certain type of buyer and grab even more public interest.

Screenshot of TheDarkOverlord posting about medical records on Kickass Forum

Screenshot of TheDarkOverlord posting about medical records on Kickass Forum

Screenshot of TheDarkOverlord posting about medical records on Kickass Forum (as displayed in DarkOwl Vision)

Screenshot of TheDarkOverlord posting about medical records on Kickass Forum (as displayed in DarkOwl Vision)

Also for sale: a stolen database from a gaming website

On the same day, TheDarkOverlord posted a listing on the same Kickass Forum’s marketplace for 131,000 records from an “unnamed gaming website.” As advertised, these records include users’ email addresses, passwords, DOBs, IP addresses, and much more.

So far, it would appear that TheDarkOverlord is taking serious inquiries only. For example, in the comment section for the post below, someone asked for the name of the gaming website in questions, and TheDarkOverlord responded that they would like “proof of funds and intent to purchase” before disclosing any additional information.

Screenshot of TheDarkOverlord posting about gaming user info on Kickass Forum

Screenshot of TheDarkOverlord posting about gaming user info on Kickass Forum

Screenshot of TheDarkOverlord posting about gaming user info on Kickass Forum (as displayed in DarkOwl Vision)

Screenshot of TheDarkOverlord posting about gaming user info on Kickass Forum (as displayed in DarkOwl Vision)

Both postings on Kickass Forum remain live at time of publication. DarkOwl analysts will continue to track TheDarkOverlord and post updates here.

For more coverage on this particular threat actor, check our previous reporting.