US DoD staffer with top-secret clearance stole identities from work systems to apply for loans

Plus: Apple patches exploited-in-the-wild bug, White House zero-trust order, and more


In brief A US Department of Defense staffer with top-secret clearance stole the identities of dozens of people from a work SharePoint system to apply for loans totaling nearly a quarter of a million dollars.

Kevin Lee, 41, of Chula Vista, southern California, pleaded guilty on Wednesday to wire fraud.

Lee, who worked for Uncle Sam's Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) as an analyst, raided the organization's Microsoft SharePoint system for people's private data to pull off his nefarious scheme. It's said that he applied for and was able to get as much as $244,500 in loans under other people's names to cover his own debts, personal expenses, and bills.

The IT system was home to files on DCMA staff and those in contact with the agency – including DoD employees and contractors.

Over a two-year period, starting in September 2018, Lee harvested personal information – including social security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and government employment forms – on at least 37 people, according to prosecutors. Lee used these details to create fake IDs, which were in turn used with fabricated pay stubs, bank statements, and tax documents to apply for loans. Lee also created Google email and voice accounts in his victims' names to prop up his scam.

For example, according to prosecutors, Lee created a Gmail account to masquerade as one of his colleagues and, using data pulled from the DCMA 360 SharePoint site, in March 2020 applied for at least eight bank accounts and loans as his victim. Three loans were approved. Lee even crafted a fake Arizona driver's license to support his ruse.

"The identity theft and fraud in this case is particularly egregious because Mr Lee violated that public trust for his own selfish ends," said US Attorney Randy Grossman. "Those who engage in fraud and identity theft will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law."

Lee, who held a Top Secret, Sensitive Compartmentalized Information (TS-SCI) clearance, will be sentenced in April. He faces up to 20 years behind bars.

iOS, macOS security hole reportedly exploited, now patched

Apple this week patched a large number of security vulnerabilities, at least one of which is being exploited in the wild. Here's a summary of what's been fixed:

  • Safari 15.3 – The IndexedDB privacy bug (CVE-2022-22594) that can spill details of sites you've visited to malicious web pages has been fixed, as well as three other holes in the browser's WebKit engine.
  • macOS Big Sur 11.6.3 – Seven flaws, one of which (CVE-2022-22587 in IOMobileFrameBuffer) is reportedly being exploited by malicious applications on some Apple devices to gain kernel-level control.
  • macOS Monterey 12.2 – Thirteen bugs, including CVE-2022-22587 that's been reportedly exploited in the wild, a hole in Crash Reporter that can give apps root-level access (CVE-2022-22578), flaws in Intel and AMD drivers that bad applications can use to get kernel-level control, and the IndexedDB vuln.
  • Security Update 2022-001 Catalina – Five vulnerabilities, including one (CVE-2022-22593) that can be exploited by bad apps to gain kernel-level access to the system.
  • tvOS 15.3 – Nine flaws including the IndexedDB and Crash Reporter vulns.
  • iOS 15.3 and iPadOS 15.3 – Ten flaws, including CVE-2022-22587 and the IndexedDB hole.
  • watchOS 8.4 – Eight bugs, including the IndexedDB hole and CVE-2022-22593.

These updates ought to be installed as soon as possible. In addition, Apple says it has fixed its CloudKit backend that was, as 9to5Mac reported, breaking iCloud syncing.

Also, iPadOS 15.4 and macOS Monterey 12.3 betas released this week include a Universal Control feature that allows you to control multiple Macs and iPads from a single mouse and keyboard. And Face ID in the iOS 15.4 beta will try to work even when you're wearing a mask.

Biden administration moves to beef up government IT security

The US government is on a bit of a cybersecurity spree at the moment. The White House has told federal organizations [PDF] to adopt a zero-trust strategy, in which computer systems should not assume a user or device can be trusted just because it's within a network (see Mr Kevin Lee, above). And stuff outside the network can't be automatically trusted, either. This strategy should be adopted by the end of 2024.

This means US federal government IT departments need to have the necessary authentication mechanisms in place to validate and track everything and everyone using Uncle Sam's computing resources. The Biden administration also said it will extend its Industrial Control Systems Cybersecurity Initiative to the water sector, to give that industry a boost in digital defenses.

Also, NIST has updated its document titled Assessing Security and Privacy Controls in Information Systems and Organizations. As the name suggests, it's useful guidance for anyone auditing the security defenses of IT systems and deploying countermeasures to thwart miscreants.

And finally …

Trend Micro has analyzed the Linux and VMware ESXi variant of the LockBit ransomware that emerged toward the end of last year.

Crowdstrike has taken a look at StellarParticle, an espionage campaign linked to Cozy Bear and the SolarWinds intrusion.

And Microsoft has warned of a device registration trick used by miscreants to infiltrate Azure Active Directory deployments. Basically, intruders break into one account that doesn't have multi-factor authentication enabled – typically by using a stolen password – and then join a device to the Azure AD to drill further into the network. ®


Other stories you might like

  • Lonestar plans to put datacenters in the Moon's lava tubes
    How? Founder tells The Register 'Robots… lots of robots'

    Imagine a future where racks of computer servers hum quietly in darkness below the surface of the Moon.

    Here is where some of the most important data is stored, to be left untouched for as long as can be. The idea sounds like something from science-fiction, but one startup that recently emerged from stealth is trying to turn it into a reality. Lonestar Data Holdings has a unique mission unlike any other cloud provider: to build datacenters on the Moon backing up the world's data.

    "It's inconceivable to me that we are keeping our most precious assets, our knowledge and our data, on Earth, where we're setting off bombs and burning things," Christopher Stott, founder and CEO of Lonestar, told The Register. "We need to put our assets in place off our planet, where we can keep it safe."

    Continue reading
  • Conti: Russian-backed rulers of Costa Rican hacktocracy?
    Also, Chinese IT admin jailed for deleting database, and the NSA promises no more backdoors

    In brief The notorious Russian-aligned Conti ransomware gang has upped the ante in its attack against Costa Rica, threatening to overthrow the government if it doesn't pay a $20 million ransom. 

    Costa Rican president Rodrigo Chaves said that the country is effectively at war with the gang, who in April infiltrated the government's computer systems, gaining a foothold in 27 agencies at various government levels. The US State Department has offered a $15 million reward leading to the capture of Conti's leaders, who it said have made more than $150 million from 1,000+ victims.

    Conti claimed this week that it has insiders in the Costa Rican government, the AP reported, warning that "We are determined to overthrow the government by means of a cyber attack, we have already shown you all the strength and power, you have introduced an emergency." 

    Continue reading
  • China-linked Twisted Panda caught spying on Russian defense R&D
    Because Beijing isn't above covert ops to accomplish its five-year goals

    Chinese cyberspies targeted two Russian defense institutes and possibly another research facility in Belarus, according to Check Point Research.

    The new campaign, dubbed Twisted Panda, is part of a larger, state-sponsored espionage operation that has been ongoing for several months, if not nearly a year, according to the security shop.

    In a technical analysis, the researchers detail the various malicious stages and payloads of the campaign that used sanctions-related phishing emails to attack Russian entities, which are part of the state-owned defense conglomerate Rostec Corporation.

    Continue reading
  • FTC signals crackdown on ed-tech harvesting kid's data
    Trade watchdog, and President, reminds that COPPA can ban ya

    The US Federal Trade Commission on Thursday said it intends to take action against educational technology companies that unlawfully collect data from children using online educational services.

    In a policy statement, the agency said, "Children should not have to needlessly hand over their data and forfeit their privacy in order to do their schoolwork or participate in remote learning, especially given the wide and increasing adoption of ed tech tools."

    The agency says it will scrutinize educational service providers to ensure that they are meeting their legal obligations under COPPA, the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.

    Continue reading
  • Mysterious firm seeks to buy majority stake in Arm China
    Chinese joint venture's ousted CEO tries to hang on - who will get control?

    The saga surrounding Arm's joint venture in China just took another intriguing turn: a mysterious firm named Lotcap Group claims it has signed a letter of intent to buy a 51 percent stake in Arm China from existing investors in the country.

    In a Chinese-language press release posted Wednesday, Lotcap said it has formed a subsidiary, Lotcap Fund, to buy a majority stake in the joint venture. However, reporting by one newspaper suggested that the investment firm still needs the approval of one significant investor to gain 51 percent control of Arm China.

    The development comes a couple of weeks after Arm China said that its former CEO, Allen Wu, was refusing once again to step down from his position, despite the company's board voting in late April to replace Wu with two co-chief executives. SoftBank Group, which owns 49 percent of the Chinese venture, has been trying to unentangle Arm China from Wu as the Japanese tech investment giant plans for an initial public offering of the British parent company.

    Continue reading
  • SmartNICs power the cloud, are enterprise datacenters next?
    High pricing, lack of software make smartNICs a tough sell, despite offload potential

    SmartNICs have the potential to accelerate enterprise workloads, but don't expect to see them bring hyperscale-class efficiency to most datacenters anytime soon, ZK Research's Zeus Kerravala told The Register.

    SmartNICs are widely deployed in cloud and hyperscale datacenters as a means to offload input/output (I/O) intensive network, security, and storage operations from the CPU, freeing it up to run revenue generating tenant workloads. Some more advanced chips even offload the hypervisor to further separate the infrastructure management layer from the rest of the server.

    Despite relative success in the cloud and a flurry of innovation from the still-limited vendor SmartNIC ecosystem, including Mellanox (Nvidia), Intel, Marvell, and Xilinx (AMD), Kerravala argues that the use cases for enterprise datacenters are unlikely to resemble those of the major hyperscalers, at least in the near term.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022