FBI shares with HIBP 4 million email addresses involved in Emotet attacks

Pierluigi Paganini April 27, 2021

The FBI has shared with Have I Been Pwned service 4 million email addresses collected by Emotet botnet and employed in malware campaigns.

Last week, European law enforcement has conducted an operation aimed at performing a mass-sanitization of computers infected with the infamous Emotet Windows malware. The authorities automatically wiped the infamous Emotet malware from infected systems across the world as part of a mass sanitization operation.

Early this year, law enforcement and judicial authorities worldwide conducted a joint operation, named Operation Ladybird, which disrupted the EMOTET botnet. At the time the investigators have taken control of its infrastructure in an international coordinated action. 

This operation was the result of a joint effort between authorities in the Netherlands, Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Lithuania, Canada and Ukraine, with international activity coordinated by Europol and Eurojust.

The law enforcement agency was able to take over at least 700 servers used as part of the Emotet botnet’s infrastructure. The FBI collected millions of email addresses used by Emotet operators in their malware campaigns as part of the cleanup operation. Now the FBI, along with the Dutch National High Technical Crimes Unit (NHTCU), shared with the HIBP service 4,324,770 email addresses collected by Emotet botnet and employed in malware campaigns. To move aims at users to check if their addresses were compromised by Emotet operators.

“Following the takedown, the FBI reached out and asked if Have I Been Pwned (HIBP) might be a viable means of alerting impacted individuals and companies that their accounts had been affected by Emotet. This isn’t the first time HIBP has been used by law enforcement in the wake of criminal activity with the Estonian Central Police using it for similar purposes a few years earlier.” reads the post published by HIBP.

“In all, 4,324,770 email addresses were provided which span a wide range of countries and domains. The addresses are actually sourced from 2 separate corpuses of data obtained by the agencies during the takedown:

  1. Email credentials stored by Emotet for sending spam via victims’ mail providers
  2. Web credentials harvested from browsers that stored them to expedite subsequent logins”

39% of the email addresses provided by law enforcement had already been indexed by the services because they were part of other data breaches.

Subscribers to the HIBP service were already informed if their email addresses were involved in Emotet campaigns.

“I’ve flagged this incident as sensitive in HIBP which means it’s not publicly searchable, rather individuals will either need to verify control of the address via the notification service or perform a domain search to see if they’re impacted. I’ve taken this approach to avoid anyone being targeted as a result of their inclusion in Emotet. All impacted HIBP subscribers have been sent notifications already.” concludes Hunt.

In October 2020, the Italian cybersecurity company TG Soft launched a new service called Have I Been Emotet that allows users and organizations to check if a domain or email address was involved/targeted in Emotet spam campaigns.

TG Soft has monitored Emotet spam emails sent between August and September 23rd, 2020. The experts analyzed more than 700,000 outgoing emails and collected over 2.1 million email addresses.

The use of the service is very simple, the users have to provide a domain or email address, in turn, the platform will report how many times the email address or domain was used as the sender of an email or the recipient.

Querying the Have I Been Emotet service, the email address or domain can be marked as a SENDER (FAKE or REAL), as a RECIPIENT, or any combination of the three. A REAL SENDER suggests that the computer using this email account has been compromised and used to send out spam messages. A FAKE SENDER indicates that the email address provided by the users was compromised and used in spam campaigns. RECIPIENT indicates that the email address provided by the users was the recipient of an Emotet spam email. Watch out, the presence of an email address or domain that has been used as a recipient, does not necessarily mean that the user’s organization has been infected.

A recipient could have been infected in case it has opened the attachments used in the spam email and enabled macros.

If a domain was marked as a ‘REAL’ sender it is suggested to check if it has been compromised.

have i been emotet

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Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – hacking, Emotet)

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