Over the past year, we’ve seen a huge jump in the number of mass downloader spyware. These small executable files have just one job, and they do it very well: They pull down huge numbers of additional installers, which in turn place a large number of password stealing Trojans, ad-clickers, and still more downloaders on the unfortunate victim’s PC.
The trend appears to be that most of the servers from which these phishing Trojans originate are registered within China’s .cn top-level domain, and the phishers themselves target (mostly) the login details for online multiplayer videogames played, primarily, in China, and in some cases, more widely in Asia.
Putting aside the rationale for what the phishers target (the goal may be purely financial, but that’s a discussion for another time), what’s really interesting is how the techniques to massively infect a victim’s PC have evolved, possibly to avoid network-based signature detection techniques that can identify Windows executable files while they’re traveling over the wire. It also seems that the various groups appear to compete with one another, even going so far as to block the domains used by competing groups’ downloaders once they’ve infected the machine.
So not long ago, another interesting mass downloader development seemed to drop into my work queue. These downloaders pull down bitmap images — not just executables with a different file extension, but real graphics files — then convert the color data into binary code, which transforms the data in the picture file into a small executable phisher installer.
We know most adware companies are shameless in their pursuit of revenue, but it’s been a while since we’ve seen anything as bizarre (or hilariously bold) as the sales pitch from a relative neophyte to the world of adware, which calls itself SnappyAds. On its homepage, SnappyAds posits the hypothetical glee of two business-suited online ad men counting the thousands of dollars they’ve allegedly earned from their allegedly lucrative venture.
Behind the SnappyAds facade, however, is an adware client we (and a few other AV companies) call SearchPan. The installer for the adware client application is hosted on SnappyAds’ webserver, and it modifies both the IE and Firefox browsers to add code which redirects searches through a number of search engines of dubious distinction.
There really isn’t a whole lot to discuss technically about SnappyAds. It really only came to our attention because the Threat Research group as a whole just couldn’t stop laughing when we all saw the pictures of the guy leaning back in his cushy leather chair counting out his Benjamins. They do arrive, as SnappyAds claims, by the ton. So make sure you invest in a forklift before you sign up as a SnappyAds affiliate. You’ll need one to move your palette-loads of cash.
Late last year, we read all the buzz about ChromeInject, a malicious DLL that was being billed as the first malware specifically targeting Firefox. It was interesting to see that someone built a phishing Trojan for a different browser platform, but ChromeInject was also clearly an early phase in Firefox malware development: It was fairly obvious, and it was easy to eliminate, because it generated an entry in the Plugins menu called “Basic Example Plugin for Mozilla” which you could simply disable with a single mouse click.
Well now it looks like the bar’s been raised. In the past few weeks, we’ve seen malware writers up the ante in their bets against Firefox. Two new spies came across the transom in the past week, and easily managed to load themselves into a freshly installed copy of Firefox 3.0.7. I should note that this isn’t due to any problem or negligence on Mozilla’s part; once you execute malicious code on your PC, any application is vulnerable. Firefox just happens to be a big target.
By Jesse McCabe
Social media sparked a revolution in how we communicate. From best friends to business owners, more of us every day are using a social networking site to connect with people. Facebook welcomes 700,000 new members daily, and an estimated 4-5 million people are now reading tweets on Twitter.
And cybercriminals are having a field day exploiting the vulnerabilities social networks have exposed in our Internet security practices.
By and large, Internet security at the network level has recently consisted of on-premise URL filtering mechanisms used by organizations to enforce company Internet use policies and improve employee productivity. These solutions also offered protection by blocking access to sites classified as containing malware. For a while, this approached appeared to work.
Welcome, readers. I’m a member of the Threat Research team at Webroot, and I’ve been asked to contribute to Webroot’s new Threat Blog. I’d like to take a moment to introduce myself, tell you a little about what we do, and explain how we plan to use the blog to keep you informed.
Webroot’s threat experts are responsible for defining new malware, and variants of existing malware, that are being introduced every day. We spend the bulk of our time, to summarize in a massively oversimplified manner, breaking PCs by infecting them with Trojan Horse applications, virii, worms, rootkits, password stealers, and other malicious and undesirable software, then figuring out how to fix them again. We infect our PCs, over and over and over again, so you don’t have to; then we make sure Webroot’s products will protect against or remove the infections.
As you can imagine, our perspective on the front lines of Internet security gives us significant insight into the workings of these unwelcome software pests. And we’re now seeing an unprecedented volume of infected PCs and networks, and greater sophistication employed by those doing the infecting. We were compelled to create a vehicle to share that insight with the rest of the world.
My role is to serve as an information conduit between our malware, spam, and Web security experts and you, the reader. I and others will post details about the most dangerous and difficult security threats we encounter, and how to avoid them. We’ll also be sharing trending data we collect about spyware, computer viruses and other infections, and the origins of the infectious agents that propagate them. Our goal is to provide useful information that will, hopefully, help you protect yourselves from what seem — to us, anyway — like wave after wave of increasingly hostile, damaging, and obnoxious malware.
So, thanks for stopping by. We look forward to chronicling the threat landscape for you. Please add us to your RSS feed using the link that looks like a little billboard at the top of the page. And feel free to let us know what you think by sending your comments, questions, or requests to the address on the right side of the page.
Last year, we at Webroot (as well as many other people) saw a huge spike in two specific types of malware: Rogue antispyware products — the ineffective, deceptive kind — and the various tricks the companies that sell rogues use to trick you into downloading (and eventually buying) their bogus products, something we refer to, generally, as Fakealerts.
Here’s usually how the trick works: First, you’re fooled into browsing to a Web site which employs any of a number of tricks to install the Fakealert code onto your PC. The Fakealert then begins popping up messages warning you about some sort of infection in the System Tray, or in dialog boxes, and/or by opening browser windows to pages that look uncannily similar to control panels or dialog boxes used by Windows XP and/or Vista. Later, after you’ve been provided a smoke-and-mirrors “free scan” of your system (which, of course, reports all kinds of salacious and undesirable “detections”), you’re directed to a page where, for just $59 you can be rid of your spyware problems forever.
The tricks these guys employ get more creative with every new iteration. We’ve seen them drop hundreds of junk files on a hard drive, which are then “detected” as infections; install screensavers that look just like your computer is going through Blue Screen of Death convulsions; and run every dirty trick and cheap gimmick to get a sale.
So it came as no surprise when we encountered yet another Fakealert — we decided to call it Adware-Loserbar — that leads, eventually, to a rogue product. What set this one apart was its sheer gall — and a few new tricks we hadn’t seen before.