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Monday, 07 August 2017 08:37

Man jailed for role in spreading Linux malware

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A man who helped spread malware that exploited the OpenSSH software to steal login credentials has been jailed for 46 months and will be deported after serving his term.

Maxim Senakh, a resident of Veliky Novgorod in Russia, was arrested in Finland and extradited to the US in February 2016, according to a statement released in Minneapolis. He pleaded guilty on 28 March to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and violating the US Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.  

OpenSSH is an implementation of the secure shell protocol; it runs on UNIX and Linux systems and is developed by the OpenBSD project.

The malware in question is known as Ebury and is a backdoor that is used to steal OpenSSH credentials and keep access to a compromised server open.

According to the security vendor ESET, Ebury includes a malicious library and a patch to the main OpenSSH binaries.  

"The malicious library is a modified version of libkeyutils.so. This shared library is loaded by all OpenSSH executables files such as ssh, sshd and ssh-agent," the company said in a detailed explanation.

“The defendant and his co-conspirators sought to turn a network of thousands of infected computers in the United States and around the world into their personal cash machines,” said US acting assistant attorney-general Kenneth Blanco.

“But cyber criminals like Senakh should take heed: they are not immune from US prosecution just because they operate from afar or behind a veil of technology. We have the ability and the determination to identify them, find them, and bring them to justice.”

Acting US attorney Gregory Brooker said: “Working within a massive criminal enterprise, Maxim Senakh helped create a sophisticated infrastructure that victimised thousands of Internet users across the world.

“As society becomes more reliant on computers, cyber criminals like Senakh pose a serious threat. This office, along with our law enforcement partners, are committed to detecting and prosecuting cyber criminals no matter where they reside.”

FBI special agent Richard Thornton added: “The sentence handed down today sends a strong message to international cyber criminals who mistakenly believe they can prey on the American people with impunity.

“The FBI is committed to working closely with our global law enforcement partners to investigate criminal enterprises such as this and hold those responsible to account for their crimes wherever they may be.”

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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