Rugpull reports in the DeFi jungle

A rising category of cryptocurrency scams called ‘rugpulls’ accounted for 37% of all cryptocurrency scam revenue in 2021. A rugpull is an exit scam in the DeFi (Decentralized Finance) ecosystem where developers abandon a project without fully delivering and run away with investors’ funds. Thodex, a Turkish centralized exchange, ran away with $2 billion from victims. In March 2022, the U.S. Department of Justice charged two defendants for a $1.1 million NFT rugpull scam called Frosties.

In our paper to be presented next week at Financial Cryptography and Data Security 2023, we analyze an updated list of rugpulls from an online discussion forum – This forum provides a platform for everyone to discuss anything on crypto that also attracts scammers to advertise their projects. We observe that since 2020, the number of rugpull threads has increased, while the ones containing exit scams have decreased; the total mention of either of these terms is relatively stable over time. This means that users have started using the term ‘rugpull’ instead of ‘exit scam’ since the DeFi space emerged.

Using keywords to search for threads discussing rugpulls, we found 101 rugpulls from six services, summarised in Table 1. Our dataset is available from the Harvard Dataverse as doi:10.7910/DVN/SMGMW8.

Service Type Definition Observation
Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) Raising money to create a new ERC20 token 73
Yield farms Lending crypto assets to earn interest on the loan 16
Exchanges Platforms for users to buy/sell cryptocurrency 5
Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) Unique, non-interchangeable digital asset that can be bought and sold 5
Initial Dex Offerings (IDOs) Similar to ICO, but on a decentralized exchange 1
Cloud mining Fractional shares of a mining operation 1
Table 1: DeFi service types by quantity of observed rugpulls (N=101)

We find that Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) form the majority of rugpulls, and most of them pulled the rug in less than six months. For example, the SquidGame Token, named after a famous TV show, rugpulled within days in 2021.

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Return of a new version of Drinik Android malware targeting Indian Taxpayers

In October last year, analysts at Cyble published an article on the return of the Drinik malware that was first spotted by CERT-In in 2016. Last month during the tax-paying season of the year, I (Sharad Agarwal), a Ph.D. student at University College London (UCL) researching SMS phishing, found and identified an updated version of the Drinik malware that impersonates the Income Tax Department of India and targets the victim’s UPI (Unified Payment Interface) payment apps.

The iAssist.apk malware was being spread from the URL hxxp://198[.]46[.]177[.]176/IT-R/?id={mobile number} where the user is deceived into downloading a new version of the app, impersonating the Income Tax Department of India. Along with Daniel Arp, I analyzed the malware sample to check for new functionalities compared to previous versions. In the following, we give a brief overview of our findings.


Our analysis found that the malware communicates with the Command & Control (C&C) server hxxp://msr[.]servehttp[.]com, which is hosted on IP 107[.]174[.]45[.]116. It also silently drops another malicious APK file hosted on the C&C to the victim’s mobile that has already been identified and flagged as malware on VirusTotal – “GAnalytics.apk“.

The previous campaign used a different IP for its C&C communication. However, the hosting provider for the IP addresses, “ColoCrossing“, is the same as in the previous campaign. This strongly indicates that the Threat Actor behind both campaigns is also the same and is abusing the same hosting provider again. As has already been reported for previous versions of this malware, also the most recent version of the malware records the screen of the mobile device and sends the recorded data to the C&C server (see Figure 1).

Function to upload recorded videos to external C&C server.
Figure 1: Function to upload recorded videos to external C&C server.

Additionally, we also found the phone numbers used by the criminals to which the SMSs are sent through this malware (see Table 1). The malicious APK asks for READ, WRITE, RECEIVE, and SEND SMS permission during the installation and does not work unless the user accepts all the permissions (see Table 2).

Indicator Type Indicators
MD5 02e0f25d4a715e970cb235f781c855de
SHA256 99422143d1c7c82af73f8fdfbf5a0ce4ff32f899014241be5616a804d2104ebf
C&C hostname hxxp://msr[.]servehttp[.]com
C&C IP Address 107[.]174[.]45[.]116
Dropped APK URL hxxp://107[.]174[.]45[.]116/a/GAnalytics[.]apk
Dropped APK MD5 95adedcdcb650e476bfc1ad76ba09ca1
Dropped APK SHA256 095fde0070e8c1a10342ab0c1edbed659456947a2d4ee9a412f1cd1ff50eb797
UPI Apps targetted Paytm, Phonepe, and GooglePay
SMS sent to Phone numbers +91-7829-806-961 (Vodafone), +91-7414-984-964 (Airtel, Jaora, Madhya Pradesh), and +91-9686-590-728 (Airtel, Karnataka)
Table 1: Indicators of Compromise (IoCs)

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The Acropalypse vulnerability in Windows Snip and Sketch, lessons for developer-centered security

Acropalypse is a vulnerability first identified in the Google Pixel phone screenshot tool, where after cropping an image, the original would be recoverable. Since the part of the image cropped out might contain sensitive information, this was a serious security issue. The problem occurred because the Android API changed behaviour from truncating files by default to leaving existing content in place. Consequently, the beginning of the resulting image file contains the cropped content, but the end of the original file is still present. Image viewers ignore this data and open the file as usual, but with some clever analysis of the compression algorithm used, the original image can (partially) be recovered.

Shortly after the vulnerability was announced, someone noticed that the Windows default screenshot tool, Snip and Sketch, appeared to have the same problem, despite being an entirely unrelated application on a different operating system. I also found a similar problem back in 2004 relating to JPEG thumbnail images. When the same vulnerability keeps re-occurring, it suggests a systemic problem in how we build software, so I set out to understand more about the reasons for the vulnerability existing in Windows Snip and Sketch.

A flawed API

The first problem I found is that the modern Windows API for saving files had a very similar problem to that in Android. Specifically, existing files would not be truncated by default. Arguably the vulnerability was worse because, unlike Android, there is no option to truncate files. The Windows documentation is, at best, unclear on the need to truncate files and what code is needed to achieve the desired result.

This wasn’t always the case. The old Win32 API for saving a file was (roughly) to show a file picker, get the filename the user selected, and then open the file. To open a file, the programmer must specify whether to overwrite the file or not, and example code usually does overwrite the file. However, the new “more secure” Universal Windows Platform (UWP) sandboxes the file picker in a separate process, allowing neat features like capability-based access control. It creates the file if needed and returns a handle which, if the selected file exists, will not overwrite the existing content.

However, from the documentation, a programmer would understandably assume, however, that the file would be empty.

“The file name, extension, and location of this storageFile match those specified by the user, but the file has no content.”

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