Faux Lawsuit Risk Exposes Privnote Phishing Websites – Krebs on Safety


A cybercrook who has been organising web sites that mimic the self-destructing message service privnote.com unintentionally uncovered the breadth of their operations just lately after they threatened to sue a software program firm. The disclosure revealed a worthwhile community of phishing websites that behave and appear like the actual Privnote, besides that any messages containing cryptocurrency addresses shall be robotically altered to incorporate a special fee tackle managed by the scammers.

The true Privnote, at privnote.com.

Launched in 2008, privnote.com employs know-how that encrypts every message in order that even Privnote itself can not learn its contents. And it doesn’t ship or obtain messages. Making a message merely generates a hyperlink. When that hyperlink is clicked or visited, the service warns that the message shall be gone eternally after it’s learn.

Privnote’s ease-of-use and recognition amongst cryptocurrency lovers has made it a perennial goal of phishers, who erect Privnote clones that operate roughly as marketed but in addition quietly inject their very own cryptocurrency fee addresses when a word is created that incorporates crypto wallets.

Final month, a brand new person on GitHub named fory66399 lodged a criticism on the “points” web page for MetaMask, a software program cryptocurrency pockets used to work together with the Ethereum blockchain. Fory66399 insisted that their web site — privnote[.]co — was being wrongly flagged by MetaMask’s “eth-phishing-detect” record as malicious.

“We filed a lawsuit with a lawyer for dishonestly including a website to the block record, damaging fame, in addition to ignoring the moderation division and ignoring solutions!” fory66399 threatened. “Present proof or I’ll demand compensation!”

MetaMask’s lead product supervisor Taylor Monahan replied by posting a number of screenshots of privnote[.]co displaying the location did certainly swap out any cryptocurrency addresses.

After being instructed the place they may ship a replica of their lawsuit, Fory66399 appeared to turn out to be flustered, and proceeded to say a lot of different attention-grabbing domains:

You despatched me screenshots from another website! It’s crimson!!!!
The tornote.io web site has a special coloration altogether
The privatenote,io web site additionally has a special coloration! What’s fallacious?????

A search at DomainTools.com for privatenote[.]io exhibits it has been registered to 2 names over as a few years, together with Andrey Sokol from Moscow and Alexandr Ermakov from Kiev. There isn’t any indication these are the actual names of the phishers, however the names are helpful in pointing to different websites concentrating on Privnote since 2020.

DomainTools says different domains registered to Alexandr Ermakov embrace pirvnota[.]com, privatemessage[.]internet, privatenote[.]io, and tornote[.]io.

A screenshot of the phishing area privatemessage dot internet.

The registration data for pirvnota[.]com at one level have been up to date from Andrey Sokol to “BPW” because the registrant group, and “Tambov district” within the registrant state/province subject. Looking out DomainTools for domains that embrace each of those phrases reveals pirwnote[.]com.

Different Privnote phishing domains that additionally phoned house to the identical Web tackle as pirwnote[.]com embrace privnode[.]com, privnate[.]com, and prevnóte[.]com. Pirwnote[.]com is presently promoting safety cameras made by the Chinese language producer Hikvision, through an Web tackle based mostly in Hong Kong.

It seems somebody has gone to nice lengths to make tornote[.]io seem to be a authentic web site. For instance, this account at Medium has authored greater than a dozen weblog posts prior to now 12 months singing the praises of Tornote as a safe, self-destructing messaging service. Nonetheless, testing exhibits tornote[.]io may also exchange any cryptocurrency addresses in messages with their very own fee tackle.

These malicious word websites appeal to guests by gaming search engine outcomes to make the phishing domains seem prominently in search outcomes for “privnote.” A search in Google for “privnote” presently returns tornote[.]io because the fifth end result. Like different phishing websites tied to this community, Tornote will use the identical cryptocurrency addresses for roughly 5 days, after which rotate in new fee addresses.

Tornote modified the cryptocurrency tackle entered right into a take a look at word to this tackle managed by the phishers.

All through 2023, Tornote was hosted with the Russian supplier DDoS-Guard, on the Web tackle 186.2.163[.]216. A assessment of the passive DNS data tied to this tackle exhibits that aside from subdomains devoted to tornote[.]io, the primary different area at this tackle was hkleaks[.]ml.

In August 2019, a slew of internet sites and social media channels dubbed “HKLEAKS” started doxing the identities and private data of pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong. Based on a report (PDF) from Citizen Lab, hkleaks[.]ml was the second area that appeared because the perpetrators started to increase the record of these doxed.

HKleaks, as listed by The Wayback Machine.

DomainTools exhibits there are greater than 1,000 different domains whose registration data embrace the group title “BPW” and “Tambov District” as the situation. Just about all of these domains have been registered by way of considered one of two registrars — Hong Kong-based Nicenic and Singapore-based WebCC — and virtually all seem like phishing or pill-spam associated.

Amongst these is rustraitor[.]information, a web site erected after Russia invaded Ukraine in early 2022 that doxed Russians perceived to have helped the Ukrainian trigger.

An archive.org copy of Rustraitor.

Consistent with the general theme, these phishing domains seem targeted on stealing usernames and passwords to a number of the cybercrime underground’s busiest outlets, together with Brian’s Membership. What do all of the phished websites have in frequent? All of them settle for fee through digital currencies.

It seems MetaMask’s Monahan made the proper determination in forcing these phishers to tip their hand: Among the many web sites at that DDoS-Guard tackle are a number of MetaMask phishing domains, together with metarrnask[.]com, meternask[.]com, and rnetamask[.]com.

How worthwhile are these personal word phishing websites? Reviewing the 4 malicious cryptocurrency fee addresses that the attackers swapped into notes handed by way of privnote[.]co (as pictured in Monahan’s screenshot above) exhibits that between March 15 and March 19, 2024, these tackle raked in and transferred out almost $18,000 in cryptocurrencies. And that’s simply considered one of their phishing web sites.


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