Pony runs away with 2 million Facebook, Twitter and Gmail accounts

Pony

More than 2 million accounts have been compromised from popular sites such as Google, YahooTwitterFacebook and LinkedIn after malware captured log-in credentials from users worldwide, according to a new report.

 

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According to web security firm Trustwave, hackers have stolen log-in user names and passwords across various sites in the past month with the help of Pony malware, a bit different than a typical breach.

“Although these are accounts for online services such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google, this is not the result of any weakness in those companies networks,” said Abby Ross, a spokesperson for Trustwave. “Individual users had the malware installed on their machines and had their passwords stolen. Pony steals passwords that are stored on the infected users’ computers as well as by capturing them when they are used to log into web services.”

Although the culprit behind the hack remains unknown, Trustwave wrote on its blog that two targets were Russian-speaking social networking sites (vk.com and odnoklassniki.ru), which could hint at the virus’ origin.

“The malware was configured so that the majority of the credential information was sent to a server in the Netherlands,” Ross said. “The server does not show from which countries the information came from so we cannot break down exactly how many users from each country were affected. However, we can confirm the attackers targeted users worldwide including in the US, Germany, Singapore, Thailand and others.”

It’s also important to note that the stolen credentials were never publicly posted online. Trustwave researchers were able to access a command and control server used by the Pony botnet and recovered the passwords from there.

“We have reached out to the major service providers affected and they are taking steps to inform their users or remediate the compromised accounts,” Ross said.

Facebook accounted for about 57 per cent of the compromised accounts, followed by Yahoo (10 per cent), Google (9 per cent) and Twitter (3 per cent).

A Facebook spokesperson said the company has already reached out to those with compromised accounts.

“While details of this case are not yet clear, it appears that people’s computers may have been attacked by hackers using malware to scrape information directly from their web browsers,” a Facebook spokesperson said.

“As a precaution, we’ve initiated a password reset for people whose passwords were exposed.”

Facebook added that its users can protect themselves when using the site by activating log-in approvals and login notifications in their security settings.

“[These users] will be notified when anyone tries to access their account from an unrecognized browser and new logins will require a unique passcode generated on their mobile phone,” the spokesperson said.

The security company also discovered most of the compromised passwords were considered “weak.”

“In our analysis, passwords that use all four character types and are longer than 8 characters are considered ‘excellent’, whereas passwords with four or less characters of only one type are considered ‘terrible’,” Trustwave wrote on its blog. “Unfortunately, there were more terrible passwords than excellent ones, more bad passwords than good, and the majority, as usual, is somewhere in between in the medium category.”

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