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4.3M Email Addresses Stolen By Emotet; FBI Uses Service To Alert Victims

Published: June 18, 2021 on our newsletter Security Fraud News & Alerts Newsletter.

In a major takedown event earlier this year, the FBI discovered 4.3 million email addresses harvested by the notorious Emotet malware bot. Emotet is described as “the world’s most dangerous botnet” by Europol. Since 2014, Emotet is responsible for distributing banking trojans, ransomware, and more through email phishing and malware spam. The FBI is now using Have I Been Pwned (HIBP), a widely trusted data breach service, to alert the Emotet victims.

What Is HIBP?

HIBP is a trusted data breach service that has been thoroughly vetted by the FBI for their own use. Run by an Australian security researcher, HIBP currently holds 11 billion email accounts from data breaches over the years. Massive lists from prior credential stuffing attacks were also discovered in the Emotet takedown. Credential stuffing attacks take advantage of accounts using common and reused passwords, some stolen from prior data breaches, to overtake accounts. Account takeovers can lead to serious harm, especially if the accounts are financial or hold other sensitive information.

Anyone can use HIBPs data breach services to check if their email address has been “pwned” (stolen) in most data breaches and tells you what breach involved your data. Some breaches are considered highly sensitive and may not be available for search by the public. Those deemed “sensitive” accounts protect users who may be adversely affected by their presence on a breached site that is somehow incriminating for them. Their definition of “sensitive” is posted on the site. HIBP’s verification procedures allow domain searches and offer a subscription service that alerts a user if their data shows up in a breach.

Tips to Avoid Email Compromise

  • When the FBI puts its faith in any public service, you can bet it’s viewed as 100% legitimate before its even considered for use by them. Helping the FBI alert victims of Emotet, HIBP is among those few elite civilian services offering its website to the public at large. HIBP also provides security advice and more to those individuals and organizations that through their service, find their email data has been compromised by a breach.

  • Should you find your email address has been compromised, it’s at a much greater risk of future abuse including account takeovers. Immediately replace any passwords associated with the account, including your email account password and any security questions for accounts stored in your browser or inbox.

  • Always create long, unique combinations of letters, numbers, and symbols for your passwords, especially for financial accounts. Reusing passwords is never advised.

  • Keep all system software, especially anti-virus software, and all apps updated as soon as they are available. Most updates include fixes for security bugs, and the latest updates always provide the latest security patches for these flaws.

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