The Industrialized Uses of Breached Data

The Industrialized Uses of Breached Data
Rafael Amado
Read More From Rafael Amado
September 21, 2016 | 4 Min Read

In our first blog, we outlined a number of specific factors that can be used to determine a dataset’s desirability, from the perspective of a malicious cyber actor. This second blog looks at the specific ways that threat actors are using this data – referred to as industrialization – and how these factors of desirability undercut their decision-making.

We have defined industrialization as the growing sophistication of criminal business models, characterized by the automation and replication of previously manual processes. This can be achieved by either increasing role specialization (e.g. malware-as-a-service offerings), or by using new technology.

We identified seven key examples of how breached data can currently be industrialized, based on incidents we have detected in the past 24 months:

  1. Botnets – datasets containing email addresses can be used in the operation of botnets, which can subsequently be used to deliver spam or more malicious pieces of malware
  2. Post-breach extortion – the Ashley Madison breach highlighted how highly sensitive, or potentially damaging details can be used to blackmail individuals into paying ransom demands
  3. Credential stuffing – this is a type of brute force attack whereby large sets of credentials are automatically inputted in to websites until a match with an existing account is found
  4. Credential harvesting – malware such as Pony Loader can be used to steal credentials and/or online currency. The malware is available with a control panel, user management, logging features, a database to manage all the data, and password list to conduct brute force style attacks against less-secure cyber assets
  5. Spear-phishing – like botnets, threat actors can use breached data in targeted spear-phishing campaigns in order to distribute malware such as banking trojans and ransomware
  6. Account takeover – although not a new phenomenon, we have repeatedly observed threat actors reusing credentials found in historical breaches to target other accounts using the same passwords
  7. Automated vending cart (AVC) sites – stolen financial data is not always neatly structured, and cybercriminals may have to work through the processes of searching the data for valuable strings and then structuring the data in a format that is either usable or suitable for sale

Below is a diagram showing the flow of stolen data through the seven industrialized ‘services’ listed above and then onwards to other malicious activities:

The multiple potential uses of one breached dataset

Figure 1: The multiple potential uses of one breached dataset

Notably, the graphic above highlights how stolen data that has been used for spear-phishing or in the creation of a botnet can be used to accrue even more data through data-stealing ransomware and banking trojans. This reuse of data creates a “virtuous circle” for the malicious actor where an initial investment in breached data in turn creates a growing pool of stolen information that can be put to a variety of uses.

Looking forward, it not be a stretch to argue that a threat actor could aggregate multiple datasets to build an extensive profile of an individual. Data akin to that exposed in the 2015 Office of Personnel Management breach would reveal an individual’s health, criminal, mental and political background, as well as biometric data such as fingerprints. Ashley Madison data would provide a person’s sexual orientation and behavior, while exposed payment information in other breaches could give the threat actor an understanding of an individual’s financial situation. All this information would provide a threat actor with ample material to exert pressure on that individual – such as for extortion or in the recruitment of a human source.

By taking the perspective of an attacker, we can better understand the risks and threats faced by our clients. This guides our approach towards public data breach incidents, where our analysts consider how attractive and useful a given dataset could be for a malicious actor in order to produce more structured and considered assessments of their severity.

Access Our Threat Intel In Test Drive

Test Drive SearchLight Free for 7 Days
Try It Now

Connect with us

Related Posts

Cybersecurity Awareness Month: Week 2 – Security Devices at Home and Work

Cybersecurity Awareness Month: Week 2 – Security Devices at Home and Work

October 14, 2020 | 7 Min Read

This week, National Cyber Security Awareness...
Clickbait to Checkmate: SMS-based scam targets US smartphones and accesses victim locations

Clickbait to Checkmate: SMS-based scam targets US smartphones and accesses victim locations

October 13, 2020 | 11 Min Read

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic,...
Help your development teams keep their keys safe

Help your development teams keep their keys safe

October 7, 2020 | 3 Min Read

Modern development practices are a blessing...
Four Ways to Validate Credentials in SearchLight

Four Ways to Validate Credentials in SearchLight

September 29, 2020 | 3 Min Read

Amid the billions of credentials that are...
Access Keys Exposed: More Than 40% Are For Database Stores

Access Keys Exposed: More Than 40% Are For Database Stores

September 14, 2020 | 6 Min Read

By now, we’ve all heard news about AWS...
Validate Exposed Credentials with Okta to Save Even More Time

Validate Exposed Credentials with Okta to Save Even More Time

August 24, 2020 | 3 Min Read

SearchLight customers can now automatically...
Account takeover: Expanding on impact

Account takeover: Expanding on impact

July 27, 2020 | 7 Min Read

Digital Shadows has collected over 15 billion...
SearchLight’s Credential Validation: Only Focus on What Matters

SearchLight’s Credential Validation: Only Focus on What Matters

July 14, 2020 | 4 Min Read

Of the many use cases associated with threat...
Reducing technical leakage: Detecting software exposure from the outside-in

Reducing technical leakage: Detecting software exposure from the outside-in

June 16, 2020 | 6 Min Read

Modern Development Practices Leads to...
The 2020 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report: One CISO’s View

The 2020 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report: One CISO’s View

May 19, 2020 | 6 Min Read

Sadly, Marvel’s Black Widow release date was...
A NEW DECADE OF CYBER THREATS: LOOKING BACK AT THE TRENDING CYBER TOPICS OF Q1 2020

A NEW DECADE OF CYBER THREATS: LOOKING BACK AT THE TRENDING CYBER TOPICS OF Q1 2020

May 14, 2020 | 10 Min Read

Q1 2020 was packed full of significant...
How to minimize cybersecurity breaches in 2020

How to minimize cybersecurity breaches in 2020

April 8, 2020 | 9 Min Read

Seriously, don’t click back or close – I...
COVID-19: Third-party risks to businesses

COVID-19: Third-party risks to businesses

March 31, 2020 | 5 Min Read

As social distancing becomes more prevalent...
Threat Model of a Remote Worker

Threat Model of a Remote Worker

March 25, 2020 | 7 Min Read

Threat models are an often discussed but...
Want to Control Your Ever-Changing Perimeter? Focus on Integrations.

Want to Control Your Ever-Changing Perimeter? Focus on Integrations.

March 4, 2020 | 5 Min Read

An ever changing perimeter? Over the past few...
How Digital Shadows Helped Find and Remediate an Exposed Admin Password on Github

How Digital Shadows Helped Find and Remediate an Exposed Admin Password on Github

January 23, 2020 | 5 Min Read

  I often get asked to share examples of...
Third Party Risk: 4 ways to manage your security ecosystem

Third Party Risk: 4 ways to manage your security ecosystem

January 16, 2020 | 5 Min Read

  The digital economy has multiplied the...
2020 Cybersecurity Forecasts: 5 trends and predictions for the new year

2020 Cybersecurity Forecasts: 5 trends and predictions for the new year

December 18, 2019 | 10 Min Read

  If all the holiday fuss isn’t...
2.3 billion files exposed across online file storage technologies

2.3 billion files exposed across online file storage technologies

December 3, 2019 | 17 Min Read

Originally published May 2019 2.3 billion is a...
Understanding the Consequences of Data Leakage through History

Understanding the Consequences of Data Leakage through History

October 24, 2019 | 4 Min Read

One of the most interesting aspects of...
Honeypots: Tracking Attacks Against Misconfigured or Exposed Services

Honeypots: Tracking Attacks Against Misconfigured or Exposed Services

October 17, 2019 | 9 Min Read

Honeypots can be useful tools for gathering...
ANU Breach Report: Mapping to Mitre ATT&CK Framework

ANU Breach Report: Mapping to Mitre ATT&CK Framework

October 11, 2019 | 14 Min Read

Introduction This week, the Australian National...
DevSecOps: Continued Database Exposures Point to Growing Challenges

DevSecOps: Continued Database Exposures Point to Growing Challenges

September 24, 2019 | 5 Min Read

Last week, we learned that millions of...
Your Data at Risk: FBI Cyber Division Shares Top Emerging Cyber Threats to Your Enterprise

Your Data at Risk: FBI Cyber Division Shares Top Emerging Cyber Threats to Your Enterprise

September 17, 2019 | 8 Min Read

Data breaches are not slowing down. Nobody...
Capital One Breach: What we know and what you can do

Capital One Breach: What we know and what you can do

July 31, 2019 | 5 Min Read

Monday blues. It’s a thing. It’s when you...
Harnessing Exposed Data to Enhance Cyber Intelligence

Harnessing Exposed Data to Enhance Cyber Intelligence

July 11, 2019 | 7 Min Read

  An illicit and lucrative trade has...
Leaky SMB File Shares – So Many Bytes!

Leaky SMB File Shares – So Many Bytes!

June 19, 2019 | 5 Min Read

Everyone loves a sequel. If you’re an avid...
Managing Digital Risk: 4 Steps to Take

Managing Digital Risk: 4 Steps to Take

June 18, 2019 | 9 Min Read

Organizations are finding it increasingly...
Enabling Soi Dog’s Digital Transformation: A Case Study

Enabling Soi Dog’s Digital Transformation: A Case Study

May 8, 2019 | 3 Min Read

At the beginning of this year I was introduced to...
Reducing your attack surface

Reducing your attack surface

April 9, 2019 | 4 Min Read

What is an attack surface According to OWASP, an...
Detecting Exposed Company Data: The What, Why, and How

Detecting Exposed Company Data: The What, Why, and How

March 12, 2019 | 3 Min Read

What is data loss detection? A fundamental...
Introducing Our Practical Guide to Reducing Digital Risk

Introducing Our Practical Guide to Reducing Digital Risk

February 12, 2019 | 5 Min Read

Download a copy of A Practical Guide to Reducing...
Understanding Digital Risk Protection

Understanding Digital Risk Protection

February 8, 2019 | 3 Min Read

There has been a lot of talk recently about...
SingHealth Breach Post-mortem: Key Findings

SingHealth Breach Post-mortem: Key Findings

January 29, 2019 | 5 Min Read

On 10 January 2019, Singaporean authorities...
Law Firm Uncovers Exposed Sensitive Details About Top Attorney Online

Law Firm Uncovers Exposed Sensitive Details About Top Attorney Online

November 15, 2018 | 2 Min Read

VIPs and executives who are critical to your...
81,000 Hacked Facebook Accounts for Sale: 5 Things to Know

81,000 Hacked Facebook Accounts for Sale: 5 Things to Know

November 2, 2018 | 5 Min Read

This morning, the British Broadcasting...
Cyber Security Awareness Month: Week 1 – Credential Hygiene

Cyber Security Awareness Month: Week 1 – Credential Hygiene

October 3, 2018 | 5 Min Read

It’s the opening week of the annual National...
GAO’s Equifax Post-mortem Report

GAO’s Equifax Post-mortem Report

September 11, 2018 | 5 Min Read

It’s common for the exciting and novel issues...
Digital Shadows Contributes to Insider Threat Research

Digital Shadows Contributes to Insider Threat Research

August 9, 2018 | 5 Min Read

On July 30, Forrester published its latest...
Reducing Your Attack Surface: From a Firehose to a Straw

Reducing Your Attack Surface: From a Firehose to a Straw

July 5, 2018 | 6 Min Read

What is Attack Surface Reduction? Attack Surface...
Keys to the Kingdom: Exposed Security Assessments

Keys to the Kingdom: Exposed Security Assessments

April 24, 2018 | 4 Min Read

Organizations employ external consultants and...
Out In The Open: Corporate Secrets Exposed Through Misconfigured Services

Out In The Open: Corporate Secrets Exposed Through Misconfigured Services

April 18, 2018 | 4 Min Read

For organizations dealing with proprietary...
When There’s No Need to Hack: Exposed Personal Information

When There’s No Need to Hack: Exposed Personal Information

April 17, 2018 | 4 Min Read

With Equifax‘s breach of 145 million records...
Leveraging the 2018 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report

Leveraging the 2018 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report

April 10, 2018 | 5 Min Read

Today, the 11th edition of the Verizon Data...
When Sharing Is Not Caring: Over 1.5 Billion Files Exposed Through Misconfigured Services

When Sharing Is Not Caring: Over 1.5 Billion Files Exposed Through Misconfigured Services

April 5, 2018 | 4 Min Read

Our recent report “Too Much Information”,...
Ransomware in 2018: 4 Things to Look Out For

Ransomware in 2018: 4 Things to Look Out For

March 8, 2018 | 4 Min Read

Ransomware remains an active threat for...
Data Privacy Day: 8 Key Recommendations for GDPR Readiness

Data Privacy Day: 8 Key Recommendations for GDPR Readiness

January 26, 2018 | 4 Min Read

This Sunday is Data Privacy Day, “an...
Don’t Rely on One Star to Manage Digital Risk, The Key is Total Coverage

Don’t Rely on One Star to Manage Digital Risk, The Key is Total Coverage

January 16, 2018 | 5 Min Read

This post originally appeared on...
GDPR: Why You Need to Consider the Personal Data That Lies Outside of Your Organization

GDPR: Why You Need to Consider the Personal Data That Lies Outside of Your Organization

January 4, 2018 | 3 Min Read

In 2010, reports emerged that the Information...
GDPR – Not Just a European Concern

GDPR – Not Just a European Concern

November 20, 2017 | 6 Min Read

This post originally appeared...
Why “Have a Safe Trip” Is Taking On Greater Meaning

Why “Have a Safe Trip” Is Taking On Greater Meaning

November 14, 2017 | 5 Min Read

This post originally appeared...
equifax research report

2017 Equifax Breach: Impact and Lessons Learned

September 28, 2017 | 3 Min Read

Equifax experienced a data breach that occurred...
equifax breach update

An Update on the Equifax Data Breach

September 13, 2017 | 8 Min Read

The credit reporting agency Equifax...
Equifax Breach Assessment

Equifax Breach: The Impact For Enterprises and Consumers

September 8, 2017 | 9 Min Read

What we know about the Equifax breach On...
Credential Exposure Data Loss Blog

Bitglass: Compromised Credentials are Just One Way Your Corporate Data is Being Exposed

August 18, 2017 | 2 Min Read

A guest blog from Bitglass, read the original...
NIST Authentication

Authentication Nation: 5 Ways NIST is Changing How We Think About Passwords

May 9, 2017 | 4 Min Read

Passwords have taken a beating over the past...
Brand Reputation Digital Risk

The 3 Pillars of Digital Risk Management: Part 3 – The Top 5 Main Risks of Reputational Damage

April 27, 2017 | 2 Min Read

In this 3-part blog series, we discuss how each...
Cyber Threats

The 3 Pillars of Digital Risk Management: Part 1 Understanding Cyber Threats

April 13, 2017 | 3 Min Read

What is Digital Risk Management? The National...
Five Tips To Make Your Passwords Better

Five Tips To Make Your Passwords Better

September 26, 2016 | 4 Min Read

While security is everyone’s responsibility,...
credential compromise

Beauty and the Breach: Leaked Credentials in Context

September 21, 2016 | 4 Min Read

Our analysts recently researched credential...
New report: 97 percent of the top 1,000 companies suffer from credential compromise

New report: 97 percent of the top 1,000 companies suffer from credential compromise

September 20, 2016 | 2 Min Read

Data breaches and credential compromise are not...
Shadow Brokers

Four Things We’ve Learned From the Alleged Equation Group Code Leak

August 22, 2016 | 4 Min Read

The wake of the deeply bizarre auction of...
Wall of Sheep

Gambling with Security in Vegas: Not Your Best Bet

July 27, 2016 | 4 Min Read

With BSides Las Vegas, Black Hat, and DEF CON...
thedarkoverlord

Thedarkoverlord – losing his patients?

July 26, 2016 | 4 Min Read

In late June 2016, we observed a spate of attacks...
breach disclosure

5 Key Lessons From The FDIC’s Breach Disclosure Debacle

July 18, 2016 | 4 Min Read

Last week, the United States House Science, Space...
thedarkoverlord

10 ways to prepare for credential leak incidents

June 30, 2016 | 2 Min Read

From LinkedIn to MySpace, threat actors like...
OpAfrica

Data breaches targeting financial services: 2016 so far

May 26, 2016 | 3 Min Read

It’s been a busy year for data breaches...
Bozkurt Hackers

Bozkurt Hackers continue to leak bank data

May 13, 2016 | 4 Min Read

A threat actor calling itself “Bozkurt...
DBIR

Analyzing the 2016 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report

May 2, 2016 | 4 Min Read

Last week Verizon released the 2016 Data Breach...
Hacking Team

The Hacking Team breach – an attacker’s point of view

April 22, 2016 | 3 Min Read

On 17 April 2016, two posts were added to...
ransomware

Emerging Markets: Online Extortion Matures via DDoS Attacks

November 9, 2015 | 5 Min Read

Unlike scenes from books or movies where shadowy...
TalkTalk

TalkTalk: Avoiding The Hype

October 28, 2015 | 4 Min Read

There has been no shortage of media coverage on...
Adult Friend Finder

The Adult Friend Finder Breach: A Recap

September 7, 2015 | 5 Min Read

27th May 2015: Last week, news quickly...
Al Hayat

Saudi Arabia MOFA Breach

September 7, 2015 | 5 Min Read

Introduction As of April 2015 there were more...