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...

Chinese Phishers Get On the Fake Codec Bandwagon

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Malware distributors in China have started pushing the same kinds of fake codec scams on unsuspecting Chinese Web surfers that criminals elsewhere in the world have mastered.

I’m not sure how I feel about this. On the one hand, I feel sorry for the Chinese victims, most of whom are probably blissfully unaware of the dangers they now face on the Web. On the other, perhaps this will finally serve as a wake up call to Chinese authorities that they need to do something about homegrown Sino-cybercrime.

In the course of investigating some odd-looking URLs (including one which uses the name of every popular Chinese portal), I stumbled into a maze of Web sites that forcefully urge visitors to download and install software.

The scams start at Chinese porn sites — though, it must be noted, the photos on most of these sites are significantly less racy than what you’d find on your typical college coed’s MySpace page, even before Spring Break. The sites promote streamed video, but warn users that they must download and install a special “video on demand” player in order to watch the videos. Sound familiar?

In the course of a few hours, I pulled down and researched five distinct Trojaned software packages, all of which originated from a “click here to download the player” link on a Web page. At best, the programs attempt to convince users to pay 100 Yuan (about $15) for access to what the program promises is a vast library of TV shows and movies from China and the rest of the world.

At worst, the programs pull down dozens of keylogging Trojans, downloaders, and backdoors at the same time as they install benign Chinese video software, such as the popular (and completely free) QVOD player.
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“OMG! Vuvuzela banned!” Tweets Infect Followers

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Malware authors must have a soft spot in their hearts for the long-maligned South African vuvuzela, because once again, the  most annoying noisemaker in World Cup history is driving people to Web sites which push infections down to their computers. This time, people are retweeting the malicious links attached to a message that reads “OMG! Vuvuzela banned!” along with the hashtags #worldcup and #vuvuzelabanned. At last check in Google, references to the malicious links number over 16,000.

The tweets use a variety of different link shortening services (including bit.ly, tinyurl.com, is.gd, and dr.tl) to mask the fact that their destination is actually a bogus image hosting website hosted on the .in top-level domain (supposedly used by Web sites registered in the country of India, but these sites are all hosted elsewhere). The Web site you eventually land on calls itself Image Sheep, while in the background, your PC is being herded into a botnet.

As an aside, there is a real image hosting service by the same name, but the real Image Sheep is registered elsewhere and hosted in an entirely different network than these fake Image Sheep clones.

Once the victim’s browser loads the fake Image Sheep page, it pushes a Java “image viewer” applet, named target.jar, down to the browser. It’s easy to pick apart the contents of this file, which contains additional Java applets and PHP scripts that push the malicious file (named IMG12523.jpg.exe) down to the victim’s computer. The file itself is a downloader component of an adversary we’ve seen before: Trojan-Backdoor-Protard (aka Gootkit), which retrieves additional malware and retrieves complex instructions.

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Keylogger Poses as Document from Spain’s Central Bank

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An attempt to push down the Trojan-Backdoor-Zbot password thief to Spaniards may signal a new wave of attacks by a crew of attackers who spent the better part of 2009 trying to convince gullible Internet users in different countries to download and execute Zbot installers poorly disguised as transaction records or other important financial documents.

A bogus Banco de España (BdE) Web site came and went quickly last week, but not before we took a deep dive and came up with a mouthful of malware. Believe me, it tasted terrible.

The page, designed to mimic closely the appearance of the Spanish central bank’s Web site, was very much a clone of the previous fake-bank pages used to foist Zbot onto victims.

Previous campaigns of this type targeted, primarily, North American victims by spoofing the Web sites belonging to Visa, Bank of America, the FDIC, the American Bankers Association, NACHA, the IRS (and its equivalent British tax authority), as well as Amazon.com, iTunes, Facebook, MySpace, AOL, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and many others.

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More World Cup Shenanigans: “Anti-Vuvuzela Filter”

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Someone called my attention today to a Web site selling something called an Anti-Vuvuzela Filter that costs €2.95 to download. Only, it’s a complete fraud.

For the twelve other people in the world who haven’t been watching the World Cup matches in South Africa, the Vuvuzela is a South African horn that makes an obnoxious buzzing sound when played.

The noise is said to be so irritating that fans have been watching the matches on television with the sound muted so they don’t have to hear the incessant wasp-like drone of Vuvuzela-toting fans inside the stadium.

If you haven’t experienced the full effect of the vuvuzela, consider yourself lucky. But if you’re wondering what all the fuss is about, you can make your best effort to read this blog in World Cup 2010 style. Just turn down your computer speakers or headphone volume first.

The site claims to be able to “get rid of the Vuvuzela noise through active noise cancellation” but all you get for your money is, apparently, a 45 minute long .mp3 file.

Seriously. Call it a Rogue AV (anti-vuvuzela) of a variety we haven’t seen before.

I should hope that the readers of this blog would be aware that whatever these goofballs are selling, it ain’t anything remotely similar to the active noise cancellation it is being touted to be. In fact, others have come up with a passable, working solution using equalizers and bandpass audio filters. There’s even a free, automatic filtering application you can download. It seems like this audio file would sound a lot more like a 45 minute recording of snake oil slithering. Or the sound of 3 Euros sneaking out of your pocket. Don’t be a sucker: Just reduce the volume on your TV if the vuvuzelas get you down.

Rube Goldberg Trojan Works Hard for the Hijack

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Money drives the motivation for most cybercrime, but it’s been a while since we’ve seen a criminal try to earn their money by driving traffic to a Web site, rather than just taking your cyberwallet.

Some anonymous Trojan creator has taken a bold new approach towards a malware work ethic with his or her new browser hijacker Trojan: It creates an entirely new file suffix, and handling instructions within Windows, so that the new (.nak) file suffix integrates seamlessly into the operating system. The Trojan then replaces just the file suffix on any Shortcut that points to either the IE or Firefox browser, on the desktop or in the Start menu, with the new suffix. You may not even have realized that Shortcut files have file extensions. They’re normally hidden.

The net effect is that, on an infected computer, if you launch IE or Firefox by double-clicking one of the shortcuts on the desktop or in the Start menu, it opens a page to a Chinese portal — regardless of the Home Page settings in either browser.

It sounds more impressive than it turned out to be, even if it was kind of surprising at first, and despite the fact that the creators walked three sides of a square to get there. The only good news is that the changes the Trojan makes to the system are easily reversible. And you can still open IE and Firefox normally by launching them from the command line, navigating to the application itself in Explorer, or by creating new shortcuts to the applications.

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Facebook “Photo Album” Spam Drops Trojans

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A spammed link campaign that spread through Facebook rapidly over the weekend delivered a malicious payload designed to take control of the Facebook account of any infected user, steal passwords, and hijack clicks in the victim’s browser. The messages appear as links sent by a friend, accompanied by the brain-damaged text “You? I find it on Google.

Clicking the link directs recipients to a page on online-photo-albums.org which, at the time, pointed to malware hosted on a server (now offline) based in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

This installer drops no fewer than six payloads, including the “clickjacker” Trojan-Bamital, which redirects the browser to a different site when a user on an infected machine clicks a linked result in a very specific subset of search engine Web sites (such as, for example, results on the South Korean version of Google, Google.kr, but not the main Google.com site itself).

In addition, album.exe file also drops Trojan-Downloader-Suurch, which can download and install additional payloads, and leads hapless Web surfers into the abyss by hijacking searches on a broader set of search engines, and injecting its own code into the search results page. The album.exe installer also drops a DLL which captures passwords and other data entered into Web forms in Internet Explorer, and forwards that data on to a different Web domain (which happens to be hosted at the same IP address in Bosnia that was used for the album.exe download — and remains online as I publish this).

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Spammed Trojan Won’t Run Under Windows XP

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While it is far from the first Trojan ever to simply fail to execute under Windows XP, it definitely caught our eye that a variant of Trojan-Downloader-Tacticlol distributed last week in a spam campaign only fully executed under Windows Vista or newer operating systems. It may have been just a fluke, but repeated tests with both a virtual machine and real hardware running Windows XP at various patch levels showed that the Trojan we received attached to a spam message simply quit when executed in an XP environment, but ran smoothly and did all its planned dirty work on a Windows Vista testbed.

The Trojan, which is capable of causing a devastating malware infection, drops a DLL with an odd name made up of random letters into the system32 folder, then registers the DLL so it loads the next time the computer boots up. After a reboot, it kicks into full swing, pulling down a variety of malware installers.

The spam message (we got a bunch of different variations, all with the same attachment) came from a variety of falsified return addresses. The message, with a subject of Statement of fees 2009/2010 contains an utterly incomprehensible body, which reads, in part: “The accomodation is dealt with by another section and I have passed your request on to them today.” It looks very similar to a message I get from the toll road authority here in Colorado that uses electronic toll collection. The real entity emails a statement every so often with an attached PDF, though the real toll road statement doesn’t appear to come from the domains “reclusivebillionaire.com” or “reelsolutions.com.” Nice try, sparky.

More interestingly, though, is the idea that this Trojan, which is so prevalent and widely distributed, may signal the start of a trend where malware authors begin turning away from XP as the dominant operating system they target.

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Streaming TV Scams Target World Cup Fans

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World Cup soccer fans are in the crosshairs of scammers, and the problem appears to be getting worse in the run-up to the start of the tournament Friday. In a new twist on an old scam, a Web site is selling gullible Internet users what it claims is access to streamed video of every World Cup match. In fact, customers of the Live Sports Network only find that their “membership” provides them with a few links to what would otherwise be freely available streaming video feeds offered by various global TV networks, some of whom may be streaming some of the World Cup matches.

Potential customers are asked to pay $29.97 for the otherwise free content — a merely obscene “last minute discount” off the regular, utterly extortionate price of $69.95. Also pre-selected on the order form are two items, each of which adds another $9.95 to the total, for a grand total of $49.87. Goooooooal!

For that price, the Web site continues, you not only get every World Cup match, but “3,000+ premium TV channels” and “800+ premium movie channels” as well as a “comfortable interface.”

Well that’s a relief. I hate those interfaces with sharp, jabby points that stab you in the wallet.

The sales pitch for the scam, historically, has been used over and over again to sell gullible Internet users free software, such as Adobe Acrobat Reader, the free OpenOffice office suite, and the free peer-to-peer file sharing application Limewire. In fact, the same IP address used to host one Streaming Sports website, live-2010-football.com, also hosts six different Web sites selling something called PDF Pro 2010 (bundled with OpenOffice, something the OpenOffice organization has been actively fighting for more than a year), and three Web sites selling “unlimited access” to Limewire, a free application, for the completely outrageous price of $2.50 a month.

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Phisher Puts Antiphishing Tool in the Crosshairs

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A small-time Trojan has decided to butt heads with a big-time anti-phishing tool, and ended up with dirt on its face. The malware looks like a fairly generic clone of Trojan-Phisher-SABanks, with an extra feature that sounds like it might be a good selling point for cheap cybercrooks intent on stealing a few bank passwords for fun and profit. The trojan attempts to disable or delete parts of Trusteer’s Rapport anti-phishing software.

And fails, miserably.

One version of the Trojan drops, then executes, a batch file that attempts to delete the main application. Another drops a batch which targets a binary file named config.js, buried a few levels below Trusteer’s program folder — four different ways.

Banks use Trusteer as a way to prevent phishers from using falsified Web pages or Trojans from capturing their customers’ passwords when those customers log in.

Unfortunately for the cyberschnooks who wrote this claptrap, and luckily for the rest of us, they didn’t count on Trusteer protecting its components or files in any way. Fortunately, in each of our tests, Rapport handily defeated the meager, unsuccessful attempts by the spy (which we call Trojan-Phisher-Rancor) to delete the application or its configuration file.

Banks contract with Trusteer to use Rapport to handle the security of online banking logins, so you can’t just use the software with any bank Web site, but the list of banks using the service includes some of the banks targeted most frequently by phishers: HSBC, SunTrust, BBVA Compass, Royal Bank of Scotland, and Fifth Third Bank (among others).

While this appears to be an isolated (and, for now, totally inept) incident of an easily defeated phishing Trojan that attempts to disable this particular anti-phishing software, it isn’t a good idea to underestimate the enemy. Clearly this attempt was a failure, but the next one might not be.
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Facebook Spam Leads to Viagra Vendor, Drive-by Download

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Annoying as they are, the spam emails circulating that supposedly come from Facebook don’t merely lead the recipient to one of those so-called Canadian Pharmacy pill-vendor websites. They now come with a bonus: An infection, courtesy of a malicious iframe which attempts a series of exploits against the browser, Adobe Reader, and Adobe Flash in an attempt to push a drive-by download down to the victim’s PC.

The messages, which say they come from a service called Facebook Notify (or, sometimes, just Facebook Service) inform the recipient that they’ve received a message. In order to read the message, the recipient is encouraged to click a link in the email that looks like it leads to Facebook.

It’s a sham: The spammers have hotlinked a Facebook URL so it points to another Web site. That Web site redirects the browser to the Canadian Pharmacy page, but that’s not all: In a few cases, while checking out what happens when one visits the page, I found that the test PC was infected afterwards.

As it turns out, a script embedded within the Canadian Pharmacy page loads an iframe that points to yet another site. And that iframe runs through a number of tricks to push down a Trojan installer we classify to Trojan-PWS-Daonol.

Daonol is an obnoxious thief, because in addition to stealing passwords, the Trojan also prevents the browser from loading certain Web sites; redirects the browser to sites other than the one the user clicks in search result pages on Google, Bing, and Yahoo; and prevents Windows from running some applications.

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Game Phishing Trojan Uses DirectX to Launch Itself

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PC gamers have a new threat to contend with, one that has your personal information in its crosshairs and you can’t dispatch with a sniper rifle or BFG9000: A Trojan designed to steal game passwords that uses Microsoft’s own graphics engine, DirectX, against you.

The Trojan, which appears to have originated in China, modifies one or more of the DirectX driver files — such as DirectSound, Direct3D, or DirectDraw — so it only loads when Windows fires up the modified DirectX driver. Because DirectX is typically used by games, it means this sleeper cell Trojan activates when you fire up a PC game, then terminates when you stop playing. As a result of using this unusual load point to start itself up, instead of a more typical Run key or Services entry in the Windows Registry, the Trojan is unusually low key.

In our tests, the installer drops one or more randomly named DLLs (the keylogger component) in the c:windowssystem directory, then modifies one or more DirectX files. Each modified DirectX file is used to load one keylogger payload, so if the installer happens to drop four keyloggers, it will also modify four DirectX files. It also adds instructions that call functions from another, unmodified, legitimate system file named mscat32.dll. MSCAT32 is completely benign: Windows uses mscat32.dll to create Microsoft Cabinet .cab files, which are similar to .zip archive files. We’ve named this aide-du-vol Trojan-PWS-Cashcab (though some of our competitors call it Kykymber).

As a result of the modifications, the keylogger component loads whenever any program initializes the modified DirectX driver file. Fortunately, it also loads when you run the DirectX Diagnostics program included with DirectX, DxDiag (click Start, Run, then type dxdiag and click OK to start it up). That’s also the easiest way to determine if your PC is infected.

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Fake Amazon.com Order Emails Bring a Trojany “Friend”

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An ongoing campaign where malware distributors use email spam to deliver dangerous programs to unwitting victims has begun to change its tune, switching the scam to incorporate different brands. In the latest scam, the message appears to be an order confirmation from Amazon.com for the purchase of an expensive consumer electronics item, or a contract (spelled, tellingly, “conract“) for expensive home improvement work, purportedly to be done on the recipient’s home.

A few weeks ago, the emails switched from a “shipping confirmation” hook to one which claims the contents of the attachment include a code worth $50 on Apple’s iTunes online store.

The spam messages for several months have included a .Zip compressed attachment. The file inside the .Zip, which looks like a Microsoft Word document, is a malicious program we classify to the definition Trojan-Downloader-Tacticlol.

An extremely dangerous downloader, the Web sites and domains from which Tacticlol (aka Oficla or Sasfis) retrieves its payloads have been remaining online longer than normal. Typically the download site is shut down within a few days, effectively neutralizing the downloader and preventing it from retrieving anything. Recent variants, however, have use Web domains that remain online for weeks or even months.

Malicious sites that remain active only increase the danger that someone who inadvertently opens the attachment a few weeks after the message arrives will still infect their computer.

In addition, the payloads delivered by the download site Tacticlol contacts are being rotated as the days go on. In the initial infection period, within about 36 hours after the spam messages arrive, the download sites deliver a number of different payloads, including the Trojan-Backdoor-Zbot keylogger, the Trojan-Pushu (aka Pushdo) spam bot, and rogue antivirus installers. After a week, the payloads switch to the installers for botnets, which zombify the infected machines and turn them into longer-term hacker workhorses. Recent payloads have included a “dead man switch” which can render the infected computer unbootable.

I’ll discuss the ramifications of opening attachments such as these in an upcoming blog post. Nevertheless, it should be second nature that you avoid opening any attachment that arrives through email unless you can confirm — by telephone, or some other method — that the attached document is legitimate and was deliberately sent to you. Also, train yourself to avoid opening any attachment with an .exe file extension, regardless of its appearance or origin.wordpress blog stats