Unexpected Side Effects: How COVID-19 Affected our Click Habits

Phishing has been around for ages and continues to be one of the most common threats that businesses and home users face today. But it’s not like we haven’t all been hearing about the dangers of phishing for years. So why do people still click? That’s what we wanted...

Key Considerations When Selecting a Web Classification Vendor

Since launching our web classification service in 2006, we’ve seen tremendous interest in our threat and web classification services, along with an evolution of the types and sizes of cybersecurity vendors and service providers looking to integrate this type of...

4 Ways MSPs Can Fine-Tune Their Cybersecurity Go-To-Market Strategy

Today’s work-from-home environment has created an abundance of opportunities for offering new cybersecurity services in addition to your existing business. With cyberattacks increasing in frequency and sophistication, business owners and managers need protection now...

Ransomware: The Bread and Butter of Cybercriminals

Imagine a thief walks into your home and rummages through your personal belongings. But instead of stealing them, he locks all your valuables into a safe and forces you to pay a ransom for the key to unlock the safe. What choice do you have? Substitute your digital...

New Bank Phisher Brings Added Functionality, Problems

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I didn’t want to let too much time pass before I wrote about a new Zbot-like bank phishing Trojan variant that came across my desk last week. The keylogger started arriving the first week of February as an attachment to a spam email designed to look like it came from United Parcel Service. No, the old malware trope of spammed shipping invoices is not dead yet, Alice, but we’re going to follow this one down the rabbit hole anyhow.

The brief message had a Subject line of “United Parcel Service notification” followed by a random, five-digit number, and a file named USPS_Document.zip attached to the message. Why spammers seem to confuse the US Postal Service with UPS eludes common sense, but I think it has been made abundantly clear by now that, by and large, the people who send these kinds of files around aren’t the sharpest tacks in the box. The HTML body of the message indicated that the .zip file contains a tracking number, but that’s just part of the ruse.

The Trojan is readily identified by its appearance. It uses an old Adobe PDF document icon, but the programmers picked a version of that icon with an X drawn over the top. D’oh. The file also throws an error when run in a virtual machine that forces the VM to bluescreen, but that didn’t affect our ability to analyze the file. We could execute it and observe its behavior without a problem. This new Trojan installs services that remain memory resident after the installer has run, dropped its payloads in the Application Data folder, and deleted the original copy of itself.

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Fishing for Phishers is a Full-Time Job

By Ian Moyse, EMEA Channel Director

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We seem to take phishing attacks for granted these days, in much the same way that we’ve accepted spam as a natural, and inevitable, by-product of email. Some experts believe that one of the best solutions to thwart phishing attacks is end-user training, but I doubt training alone can be a viable solution. Can we really train every computer user to be sufficiently security literate, such that anyone can distinguish a phishing message from a genuine bank email? I doubt that it is possible, especially given how specific the details in spear phishing (phishing targeted at specific people and/or companies) attacks have become.

It used to be that thieves could satiate their hunger for evil (and money) merely through the emulation of a consumer bank or a PayPal login screen. While those low-hanging-fruit scams show no signs of abating, even following some major busts of phishing rings, we’ve seen new types of phishing attacks that wear the mask of a Web security product, persuading users to follow through on fake spam quarantine messages, or security update alerts, sometimes using the name of real vendors. It’s all very plausible.

Unfortunately, the average user is not a trained security expert—and why should he or she be? Criminals lure us into phishing and email scams in much the same way that street cons lure some people into losing their wallet at Three-card Monte. We let our curiosity get the best of us, and at times can be gullible. Like street hustlers, cybercriminals aren’t afraid to experiment with hacking our inclinations (or, as many security experts call it, social engineering). The volume of phishing attacks has increased, as have their variety and sophistication. Even security experts struggle to  identify some of the fakes.

The phishers cast their rods farther and with more efficiency than ever before. They can easily download phishing site creation tools (yes they exist) and produce convincing messages and pages. Expecting an average PC user to beat these guys without any help is tantamount to pitting an average golfer against Tiger Woods (albeit a few years ago; no offense, Tiger). The criminal’s job is to create online scams that work, and the returns on their investments are huge. Why would we expect non-criminally-minded users to be more adept at spotting scams, than scammers are at reeling in the users?

Technology has to step up its game. We need to continue to make it harder and less lucrative for online scammers to do their “jobs.” That’s really the most effective way to stop phishers from attacking our end users.

Malicious PHP Scripts on the Rise

Last week, I gave a talk at the RSA Security Conference about malicious PHP scripts. For those who couldn’t attend the conference, I wanted to give you a glimpse into this world to which, until last year, I hadn’t paid much attention.

My normal week begins with a quick scan of malware lists — URLs that point to new samples — that come from a variety of public sources. I started noticing an increasing number of non-executable PHP and Perl scripts appearing on those lists and decided to dig a little deeper.

In a lot of ways, PHP is an ideal platform for malicious Web pages. For programmers and techies, PHP is easy to learn. Virtually all Web servers run the PHP engine, so there are vast numbers of potential “victims” (though the numbers aren’t anything close to the number of Windows-using potential malware victims). And just like many forms of executable malware that runs on Windows — the type I’m more familiar with — the most successful malicious PHP scripts permit their users (the criminals) to control and manipulate Web servers for their own benefit and, most commonly, profit.

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With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

By Ian Moyse, EMEA Channel Director

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The cloud delivery model gives vendors a great amount of power. It is easier to create, deploy, maintain and enhance a service than it has been at any other point in computing history. Just look at Facebook, which grew to 500 million members in a very short period of time. People readily share within it, many with a limited understanding of the potential risks to their private information.

The ability to make an enhancement and almost instantly put it into the customer’s hands is immensely powerful – and immensely dangerous. If you’re a software vendor and distribute software with a bug, the effect propagates slowly as people install the update. And often, you’ll hear about the problem and get a chance to fix it before many customers even become aware. With cloud technology, however, such mistakes instantly propagate to all users. Because of this ability to quickly affect a wide range of customers, the responsibility for a cloud vendor is greater than we have seen before.

As the industry rushes to capitalize on the cloud delivery model, users are faced with more and more choices, making it harder to distinguish between a robust, reputable vendor and a small, possibly risky, player. Selecting a safe bet vendor is critical. Many are software vendors that are just dipping their toes into cloud technology. But the cloud is a very different world, and there is a different approach and mindset to deliver upon.

It is up to customers and resellers to perform due diligence on cloud vendors so they can deliver success stories to their customers and business associates. As in any market, there are pros and cons and good and bad providers. Customers and resellers need to take the time to make educated decisions to discern the good from the bad, the safe from the risky. And cloud vendors need to invest in the expertise and solutions required to deliver the high quality of service customers expect.

The benefits of cloud technology far outweigh the potential risks, both in terms of power and quality of service. Smaller businesses and individual consumers can now access robust applications that were previously affordable only by larger firms. The risks can be mitigated by performing educated decisions and being diligent in your choices. There are plenty of options, and it is up to you to select a vendor who can responsibly manage the power of the cloud.

A Cryptogram a Day Keeps the Malware Away

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As a child, one of my favorite daily pastimes was solving the cryptogram puzzle published in the LA Times (after my mom finished the crossword puzzle, of course). I used to plow through paperback word puzzle books obsessively, finishing them in days. Appropriately, a Trojan that popped onto my radar last week had me flexing my cryptogram muscles yet again.

The Trojan is a fairly common game password stealer, and it wouldn’t have merited a second look except that it also runs through a few routines to disable various antivirus products sold exclusively in Korea. Most game phishing Trojans we see originate in China and target gamers (and antivirus products sold) in China.

The application is designed to drop a copy of itself into the Windows directory, rename that copy canima.exe, then insert the appropriate registry keys to install itself as a service (with the implausible name “Nationaldddeew Instruments Domain Service” — hasn’t anyone told these game-snarfing saps about the uncanny valley?). It then sits around and wait for someone to enter credentials to log into any of at least seventeen online games popular in Korea, including Maple Story, Aion, WoW, and FIFA Online. The Trojan finally submits the stolen passwords to a Web site, but it doesn’t make that connection until it has something to upload. If you don’t have any games installed (as I don’t on my default testbed), the malware simply waits patiently until you install some.

So, I dumped the running file out of memory and took a look at whatever plain text strings were present. Sometimes you find domain names or other clues that reveal the origin of the attack (or the destination of any exfiltrated data). Several lines of text caught my eye, but they weren’t words, or even legible data. What was most apparent about these strings was that a large group of them began with a pattern that follows the paradigm 1223455 — the actual string in the file that caught my eye was s{{8HSS. If that pattern looks familiar, it should: The http:// prefix follows that same pattern.

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Tips to Avoid Tax Season Scams

By Jeff Horne, Director, Threat Research

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As tax season rolls around again in the US and UK, it seems like a good time to revisit the perils taxpayers face seemingly every year at around this time.

Phishing attacks against taxpayers are already in full swing — not that they haven’t been going continuously since last year. But this is high season for scams involving Web pages that look like the IRS or HMRC’s own Web site.

Scam messages typically contain dire warnings or outrageously large promises for a refund. The messages often are presented as if they originate from a tax authority, but contain links leading to phishing Web pages, or malicious attached files.

These scam pages typically appear to look exactly like a page on the real IRS or HMRC Web site. If you receive such a message, don’t reply to the sender, don’t email any sensitive information, and don’t follow any link in the message.

The pages promise to automatically transfer a tax refund to the recipient’s bank account, if you only would provide the scam artist with your complete banking, credit card, and personal details.

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Google Results Tarnished Again to Push Rogues

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It’s been a few months since Google implemented new ways that it displays search results, and in that time, it’s been difficult to find the kinds of hijacked search results we saw in huge numbers a year ago. But if you thought the search engine manipulators were laying down on the job, you’d be wrong.

A new campaign seems to have hijacked Google search terms of not just products or words, but of people’s names, towns, and phrases in both English and Spanish to lure victims into a trap. One of our Threat Research analysts stumbled upon the new scheme while searching for information about a friend. We were surprised to find that the top four results of that search led directly to that dreaded Sarlaac Pit of malware, the rogue antivirus fakealert.

At first, visiting the four top links in our searches led to the same fakealert. After an hour passed, however, the pages started to shake things up, leading to fakealerts that mix up their appearance. One screen displays something that looks like an alert from the Windows Security Center in Windows Vista; Another generates a dialog that looks like the Security Center alert from Windows 7. Still others take on the now-classic faux-Windows Defender appearance.
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New Year’s Drive-By Brings a Recursive Rogue

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On the morning of January 2nd, still bleary eyed, I checked my email to find a charming notification informing me that I’d received an electronic greeting card. Yay! I thought to myself: The first targeted malware of 2011 plopped right into my lap.

I immediately pulled up my research machine, browsed to the URL in the message (don’t try this at home, kids), and found my test system swamped in malware. After classifying the files and their source URLs into our definitions — I didn’t want this to happen to you, after all — I turned the computer back off and slept until Tuesday, when I resumed my analysis.

As it turns out, the payloads delivered by the drive-by download are as common as sand at the beach, but some of the techniques used by the malware’s distributor to obfuscate the true nature of the executable payload files (which may have been stored on what appears to be a hijacked, legitimate server running Joomla) are fairly novel, and also a bit ridiculous.

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10 Threats from 2010 We’d Prefer Remain History

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With 2010 finally behind us, and an unknown number of cyberattacks likely to come in the new year, I thought I’d run down a brief list of the malicious campaigns criminals pulled off last year that I’d really dread to see anyone repeat. Now that they’re in the past, they should stay there.

Operation Aurora: Google’s accusation (with Adobe, Juniper Networks, Rackspace, Yahoo! and Symantec) that China hacked its servers, allegedly stealing private emails stored on the company’s servers. The big surprise wasn’t that it was happening, but that companies were publicly talking about it.

Abused ccTLDs: 2010 saw lots more malicious content originating from previously un-abused country code top-level domains, which are assigned to national authorities, such as the .in (India) and .cc (Cocos (Keeling) Islands) top-level domains. The Cocos Islands’ .cc domain deserves particular note because the more than 2200 malicious domains (discovered during 2010) hosted under this ccTLD outnumber the approximately 600 human inhabitants of the tiny archipelago by nearly 4-to-1.

Koobface: “the little social network worm that could” employed new URL obfuscation techniques, introduced its own keylogger, and focused efforts on a smaller number of social media sites, while Facebook got more proactive at shutting down the worm’s operations quickly. Maybe this year they’ll disappear altogether.

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Software Channels the Cloud – For the Better

By Ian Moyse, EMEA Channel Director

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I continue to read doom and gloom news about the future of the software distribution channel, in particular, how it’s being impacted by the global recession, by catalogue providers, and most importantly, the cloud security delivery model. We already know that cloud software will change the security landscape as we know it today, and it looks likely to change the software marketplace as well.

In my opinion, this change is long needed, and for the better. Resellers who find the right education and support for transitioning to a mixed world with both traditional and cloud delivery mechanisms will find this a much-needed improvement.

The security landscape is constantly changing. With new attacks coming from far more sophisticated sources and in greater volumes than ever before, channel partners now have an unprecedented opportunity to help their customers protect themselves with cloud-based services, which are far more effective and easier to maintain than traditional, on-premises products.

But two potential roadblocks may stand in the way of progress: Many CIOs or IT administrators and other potential customers may not be well versed in the cloud, and they’ve likely become sensitive to budget constraints during the recession. Naturally, they tend to turn to a balance of price versus relationship and support.

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Christmas IE Zero-Day Thwarted. Ho ho ho.

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Yesterday, two different 0 day exploits against Internet Explorer were published, just in time for the holidays when most of you (and many security researchers as well) are taking time off from work. The exploit, named CVE-2010-3971, is fairly serious, affecting the latest builds of IE versions 6 through 8.

Well, I’d normally get all hot and bothered about the fact that this kind of event might force some of our research team to spend their precious vacation time working the problem and coming up with a comprehensive solution. Normally, but not this time.

This time we headed the Black Hats off at the pass, and put a stop to these shenanigans before they started. Word from the Webroot Web Security Service team — the builders of our very slick cloud protection service for businesses — is that their Javascript heuristics engine is able to block any Web page that’s trying to use the exploits to try to take over your computer. The screenshot above shows what happened when we tried to browse to the proof-of-concept exploit page on a machine protected by the Web Security Service.

Of course, that’s great for corporate folks, but what about our home users running Webroot Antivirus or Internet Security Essentials or Complete? Well, we block it there, too. If you happened to stumble upon a Web page with the exploit running inside it, you might see a popup like the screenshot here, which is just telling you that we’ve prevented the page containing the exploit from loading in your browser. For the people playing at home, please ensure that you’re running the latest version of your antivirus with the most current updates, with the File System Shield and the Execution Shield turned on (and turn Gamer Mode off while you’re surfing).

So, tough luck exploit writer guys. Better luck next time. I know someone is getting a bigger lump of coal than usual in his stocking this year, and I can’t think of anybody who deserves it more.

Fake Firefox Update is a Social Engineering Triple Fail

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Where’s the work ethic, malware geniuses? If this latest example of shenanigans is the best you can deliver, you’re not even trying to generate convincing scams — or even something that makes sense — anymore.

One of our Threat Research Analysts pointed me to a Web page hosting a fake update program for Firefox the other day, and the only thing it was useful for was a pretty good laugh.

In replicating the Firefox “you’re now running…” page, the malware distributor managed only to build something that looks remarkably similar to a more sophisticated, and ultimately more plausible, scam we first described this past summer. But the scam is full of fail.

The malicious page, which had been hosted at firefoxlife.cz.cc (and is now, thankfully, shut down), looks like the page that automatically pops up when you first launch the Firefox browser after you’ve applied an update. Ultimately, it not only fails the smell test, giving the user contradictory information, but also fails at the effective malware test, delivering multiple different samples, all of which crashed when we tried to run them on test systems or in debuggers.
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