September, 2011


28
Sep 11

Inside a Modern Mac Trojan

Mac malware is back in the  news again. Last week, security firm F-Secure warned that it had discovered a Trojan built for OS X that was disguised as a PDF document. It’s not clear whether this malware is a present threat — it was apparently created earlier this year — but the mechanics of how it works are worth a closer look because it challenges a widely-held belief among Mac users that malicious software cannot install without explicit user permission.

Image courtesy F-Secure.

F-Secure said the Mac malware, Trojan-Dropper: OSX/Revir.A, may be attempting to copy the technique implemented by Windows malware, which opens a PDF file containing a “.pdf.exe” extension and an accompanying PDF icon. F-Secure was careful to note that the payload installed by the dropper, Backdoor:OSX/Imuler.A, phones home to a placeholder page on the Web that does not appear to be capable of communicating back to the Trojan at the moment.

I wanted to understand a bit more about how this Trojan does its dirty work, so I contacted Broderick Aquilino, the F-Secure researcher who analyzed it. Aquilino said the sample is a plain Mach-O binary — which we’ll call “Binary 1″, that contains PDF file and another Mach-O binary (Binary2). Mach-O, short for Mach object, is a file format for executable files on OS X.

According to Aquilino, when you run Binary1, it will extract the PDF file from its body, drop it in the Mac’s temporary or “tmp” directory, and then open it. This is merely a decoy, as Binary1 continues to extract Binary2 from itself — also into the “tmp” directory — and then runs the file.

Upon execution, Binary2 downloads another binary from [omitted malware download site] and saves it as /tmp/updtdata. For the sake of continuity, we’ll call this latest file “Binary3.” Binary2 then executes and downloads the third binary, which opens up a backdoor on the OS X host designed to allow attackers to administer the machine from afar.

“All of this happens without the user needing to input their password,” Aquilino said.

Continue reading →


26
Sep 11

MySQL.com Sold for $3k, Serves Malware

A security firm revealed today that mysql.com, the central repository for widely-used Web database software, was hacked and booby-trapped to serve visitors with malicious software. The disclosure caught my eye because just a few days ago I saw evidence that administrative access to mysql.com was being sold in the hacker underground for just $3,000.

Web security firm Armorize stated in its blog that mysql.com was poisoned with a script that invisibly redirects visitors to a Web site that uses the BlackHole exploit pack, an automated exploit toolkit that probes visiting browsers for a variety of known security holes.

“It exploits the visitor’s browsing platform (the browser, the browser plugins like Adobe Flash, Adobe PDF, etc, Java, …), and upon successful exploitation, permanently installs a piece of malware into the visitor’s machine, without the visitor’s knowledge,” say the researchers. “The visitor doesn’t need to click or agree to anything; simply visiting mysql.com with a vulnerable browsing platform will result in an infection.”

A screenshot of hacker on an exclusive Russian cybercrime forum selling root access to mysql.com for $3,000

Late last week, I was lurking on a fairly exclusive Russian hacker forum and stumbled upon a member selling root access to mysql.com. As part of his pitch, which was published on the criminal forum Sept. 21, the seller called attention to the site’s daily and monthly stats, and posted screen shots of a root login prompt in a bid to prove his wares.

The seller, ominously using the nickname “sourcec0de,” points out that mysql.com is a prime piece of real estate for anyone looking to plant an exploit kit: It boasts nearly 12 million visitors per month — almost 400,000 per day — and is ranked the 649th most-visited site by Alexa (Alexa currently rates it at 637).

Continue reading →


26
Sep 11

‘Right-to-Left Override’ Aids Email Attacks

Computer crooks and spammers are abusing a little-known encoding method that makes it easy to disguise malicious executable files (.exe) as relatively harmless documents, such as text or Microsoft Word files.

The “right to left override” (RLO) character is a special character within unicode, an encoding system that allows computers to exchange information regardless of the language used. Unicode covers all the characters for all writing systems of the world, modern and ancient. It also includes technical symbols, punctuations, and many other characters used in writing text. For example, a blank space between two letters, numbers or symbols is expressed in unicode as “U+0020″.

The RLO character (U+202e in unicode) is designed to support languages that are written right to left, such as Arabic and Hebrew. The problem is that this override character also can be used to make a malicious file look innocuous.

This threat is not new, and has been known for some time. But an increasing number of email based attacks are taking advantage of the RLO character to trick users who have been trained to be wary of clicking on random .exe files, according to Internet security firm Commtouch.

Take the following file, for example, which is encoded with the RLO character:

“CORP_INVOICE_08.14.2011_Pr.phylexe.doc”

Looks like a Microsoft Word document, right? This was the lure used in a recent attack that downloaded Bredolab malware. The malicious file, CORP_INVOICE_08.14.2011_Pr.phyldoc.exe, was made to display as CORP_INVOICE_08.14.2011_Pr.phylexe.doc by placing the unicode command for right to left override just before the “d” in “doc”.

Continue reading →


23
Sep 11

Arrested LulzSec Suspect Pined for Job at DoD

A 23-year-old Arizona man arrested on Thursday in connection with the hack of Sony Pictures Entertainment last May was a model student who saw himself one day defending networks at the Department of Defense and the National Security Agency.

Wired.com’s Threat Level, the Associated Press, and other news outlets are reporting that Tempe, Ariz. based Cody Andrew Kretsinger is believed to be a member of the LulzSec group, an offshoot of the griefer collective Anonymous. According to the indictment against Kretsinger, he was involved in executing and later promoting the high-profile and costly attack on Sony’s networks. Sony estimates that the breaches would cost it more than $170 million this year.

UAT interview with Kretsinger

Kretsinger is a network security student at Tempe, Ariz. based University of Advancing Technology, according to Robert Wright, director of finance for UAT.  A cached page from UAT’s Web site shows that Kretsinger was named student of the month earlier this year. That page, which indicates Kretsinger was to graduate from the institution in the Fall semester of 2011, includes an interview with the suspected LulzSec member. In it, Kretsinger says he would like to work at the DoD after graduating.

Where do you want to work after graduation?

“I hope that I’ll be able to work for the Department of Defense. From what I hear, they’re pretty good at what I want to do.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

“Traveling, doing Network Security as a profession with the Department of Defense. While I wouldn’t mind being a penetration tester, I think it’s a lot more fun to try to build and secure a network and its devices from the ground up. I suppose I wouldn’t mind being in management, either.”

Continue reading →


21
Sep 11

Flash Player Update Fixes Critical Flaws

Adobe today issued an out-of-band software update to fix dangerous security flaws in its Flash Player products, including at least one that is actively being exploited. Patches are available for versions of Flash on Windows, Mac, Linux, Solaris and Android operating systems.

Adobe said one of the bugs, a cross-site scripting flaw, is being exploited in the wild in targeted attacks to trick users into clicking on a malicious link delivered in an email message. At the moment there isn’t much more information about this vulnerability (other than Adobe credits Google with reporting it). That may soon change if news begin to surface about which organizations were targeted with the help of this flaw.

According to Adobe: “This universal cross-site scripting issue could be used to take actions on a user’s behalf on any website or webmail provider if the user visits a malicious website.”

Continue reading →


20
Sep 11

Gang Used 3D Printers for ATM Skimmers

An ATM skimmer gang stole more than $400,000 using skimming devices built with the help of high-tech 3D printers, federal prosecutors say.

Before I get to the gang, let me explain briefly how ATM skimmers work, and why 3D printing is a noteworthy development in this type of fraud. Many of the ATM skimmers profiled in my skimmer series are carefully hand-made and crafted to blend in with the targeted cash machine in both form and paint color. Some skimmer makers even ask customers for a photo of the targeted cash machine before beginning their work.

The skimmer components typically include a card skimmer that fits over the card acceptance slot and steals the data stored on the card’s magnetic stripe, and a pinhole camera built into a false panel that thieves can fit above or beside the PIN pad. If these components don’t match just-so, they’re more likely to be discovered and removed by customers or bank personnel, leaving the thieves without their stolen card data.

Enter the 3D printer. This fascinating technology, explained succinctly in the video below from 3D printing company i.materialise, takes two dimensional computer images and builds them into three dimensional models by laying down successive layers of powder that are heated, shaped and hardened.

3D printing in action from i.materialise on Vimeo.

Apparently, word is spreading in the cybercrime underworld that 3D printers produce flawless skimmer devices with exacting precision. Last year, i-materialise blogged about receiving a client’s order for building a card skimmer. The company said it denied the request when it became clear the ordered product was a fraud device.

3D printer firm i.materialise received and promptly declined orders for this skimmer device - a card acceptance slot overlay

In June, a federal court indicted four men from South Texas (PDF) whom authorities say had reinvested the profits from skimming scams to purchase a 3D printer. According to statements by the U.S. Secret Service, the gang’s leader, Jason Lall of Houston, was sent to prison for ATM fraud in 2009. Lall was instrumental in obtaining skimming devices, and the gang soon found themselves needing to procure their own skimmers. The trouble is, skimmer kits aren’t cheap: They range from $2,000 to more than $10,000 per kit.

Secret Service agents said in court records that on May 4, 2011, their undercover informer engaged in a secretly taped discussion with the ring’s members about a strategy for obtaining new skimmers. John Paz of Houston, one of the defendants, was allegedly the techie who built the skimming devices using a 3-D printer that the suspects purchased together. The Secret Service allege they have Paz on tape explaining the purchase of the expensive printer.

“When [Lall was] put in jail, we asked, ‘What are we going to do?’ and we had to figure it out and that’s when we came up with this unit,” Paz allegedly told the undercover officer.

Continue reading →


19
Sep 11

Cultural CAPTCHAs

CAPTCHAs, those squiggly and frustrating puzzles that many Web sites require users to solve before registering or leaving comments, are designed to block automated activity and deter spammers. But for some Russian-language forums that cater to spammers and other miscreants, CAPTCHAs may also be part of a vetting process designed to frustrate foreigners and outsiders.

I'm still slogging through Disc 2 of this lengthy Soviet-era spy series.

“Verified,” one of the longest-running Russian-language forums dedicated to Internet scammers of all stripes, uses various methods to check that users aren’t just casual lurkers or law enforcement. It recently began using CAPTCHAs that quiz users about random bits of Russian culture when they register or log in.

Consider this CAPTCHA, from Verified: “Введите пропущенное число ‘… мгнoвeний вeсны.'” That translates to, “Enter the missing number ‘__ moments of spring.'”

But it may not be so simple to decipher “мгнoвeний вeсны,” the “moments of spring” bit. One use of cultural CAPTCHA is to frustrate non-native speakers who are trying to browse forums using tools like Google translate. For example, Google translates мгнoвeний вeсны to the transliteration “mgnoveny vesny.” The answer to this CAPTCHA is “17,” as in Seventeen Moments of Spring, a 1973 Russian television mini-series that was enormously popular during the Soviet Union era, but which is probably unknown to most Westerners.

Continue reading →


13
Sep 11

Adobe, Windows Security Patches

If you use Windows or Adobe Reader/Acrobat, it’s patch time. Microsoft released five updates to fix at least 15 security vulnerabilities, and Adobe issued a quarterly update to eliminate 13 security flaws in its PDF Reader and Acrobat products.

The Microsoft patches, available via Windows Update and Automatic Update, address security holes in Excel, Office, Windows Server and SharePoint. None of the flaws earned Redmond’s most dire “critical” rating, but it’s a mistake to let too much time go by before installing these updates.

Adobe’s patches for Reader and Acrobat correct critical vulnerabilities in the programs that could be exploited by attackers just by convincing users to open a booby-trapped file. Updates are available for Adobe Reader X (10.1) and earlier versions for Windows, Macintosh, Adobe Reader 9.4.2 and earlier versions for UNIX, and Adobe Acrobat X (10.1) and earlier versions for Windows and Macintosh.

Acrobat users should check out the Adobe security advisory. Heads up for users of older versions of Reader and Acrobat: support for Adobe Reader 8.x and Acrobat 8.x for Windows and Macintosh will end on November 3, 2011.

As always, please leave a note in the comments section below if you experience any issues resulting from the installation of these updates.


12
Sep 11

Pharma Wars: Paying for Prosecution

In June 2011, Russian authorities arrested Pavel Vrublevsky, co-founder of ChronoPay, Russia’s largest processor of online payments, for allegedly hiring a hacker to attack his company’s rivals. New evidence suggests that Vrublevsky’s arrest was the product of a bribe paid by Igor Gusev, the other co-founder of ChronoPay and a man wanted by Russian police as a spam kingpin.

Igor Gusev, in an undated photo taken at a family birthday celebration.

Two years after forming ChronoPay in 2003, Gusev and Vrublevsky parted ways. Not long after that breakup, Gusev would launch Glavmed and its sister program SpamIt, affiliate operations that paid the world’s most notorious spammers millions of dollars to promote rogue Internet pharmacies. Not to be outdone, Vrublevsky started his own rogue pharmacy program, Rx-Promotion, in 2007, contracting with some of the same spammers who were working at Gusev’s businesses.

By 2009, the former partners were actively trying to scuttle each others’ businesses. Vrublevsky allegedly paid hackers to break into and leak the contact and earnings data from GlavMed/SpamIt. He also reportedly paid a man named Igor “Engel” Artimovich to launch a volley of distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks against SpamIt.

Gusev told me he long suspected Artimovich was involved in the attacks, and that he had information that Vrublevsky hired Artimovich to attack ChronoPay’s rivals while they were locked in a competition for a lucrative contract to process online payments for Aeroflot, Russia’s biggest airline.

Last month, hundreds of chat conversations apparently between Gusev and his right-hand man, Dmitry Stupin, were leaked online. They indicate that Gusev may have caused Vrublevsky’s arrest by paying Russian law enforcement investigators to go after Artimovich.

Over the past year, Gusev has insisted in numerous phone interviews that the increasingly public conflict between him and Vrublevsky was not a “war,” but more of a personal spat. But if the chat below is accurate, Gusev most certainly viewed the conflict as a war all along.

The following is from a leaked chat, allegedly between Gusev and Stupin, dated Sept. 26, 2010. The two men had already decided to close SpamIt, and were considering whether to do the same with GlavMed. “Red,” mentioned twice in the discussion below, is a reference to Vrublevsky, also known as “RedEye.”

Gusev: $2k from HzMedia to China – it’s mine. We also need to send additional money for salaries plus double bonus to Misha (Michael). I have already paid $50k for Engel’s case (20к – forensics, $30к – to speed up the starting of the criminal case)

Stupin: Why have you paid for Engel’s case ? I was even against paying for the Red’s case. Why pay for Engel’s?  What is the point?

Gusev: To my mind, you do not fully understand what’s been going on for the last year. Paul has a plan to either throw me into jail or end me. His intentions are totally clear. There are only two choices: 1 – do nothing, and pay nothing to nobody, and at the end either go to jail or keep hiding until all the resources are exhausted; 2 – do the same thing, as he is doing, with the same goal.

Continue reading →


7
Sep 11

Who’s Behind the TDSS Botnet?

Yesterday I wrote about the public storefront where anyone can rent access to computers infected with TDSS, widely considered one of the largest and most complex botnets on the planet. Today, I’ll take a closer look at a Russian individual who appears to have close ties to the TDSS operation.

Tuesday’s story got picked up by news-for-nerds site Slashdot, and one of the comments on the piece observed that the storefront for TDSS — awmproxy.net — has a Google Analytics code embedded in the homepage. That code, UA-3816538, is embedded in six other Web sites, including awmproxy.com (a clone of awmproxy.net), according to a lookup at ReverseInternet.com.

Using domaintools.com, I was able to find the historical Web site registration records for awmproxy.com (the historical data for awmproxy.net is hidden). Those records show that the domain was registered on Feb. 27, 2008 to an individual in Russia who used the email address fizot@mail.ru. Another Web site with that same Google Analytics code, pornxplayer.com (hostile site), also includes that email address in its historical records. Awmproxy began offering proxies on March 16, 2008.

WHOIS records also indicate fizot@mail.ru was used to register fizot.com, a site which is no longer active. The name given by the person who registered fizot.com was Galdziev Chingiz in St. Petersburg, Russia. That same name is on the registration records for fizot.org, but fizot.org lists a different contact email address: xtexgroup@gmail.com.

Googling for the fizot@mail.ru address turns up a LiveJournal blog by a user named Fizot who provides a contact email address of xtexcounter@bk.ru. Fizot isn’t the most prolific blogger, but he has 27 journal entries on his page, and discusses everything from life in St. Petersburg to earning millions of dollars.

In one entry, Fizot discusses having bought a sports car with a license plate number that includes the Number of the Beast: “666.” It turns out that there is a Youtube.com channel belonging to a user named Fizot who designates the domain name fizot.com as his personal Web site. Fizot has uploaded just four videos since the account was created in July 2007. Among the videos is a short movie uploaded on Oct. 5, 2007, showing a Porsche car with the license plate H666XK [N666HK in the Cyrillic alphabet] zooming away from the camera in a shopping mall parking lot, before turning around and heading back to the filmmaker. A license plate cover beneath the tags indicates the car’s owner is or was a member of the Moscow Porsche Club.

Fizot’s plates

Fizot may only be tangentially connected to those responsible for building and maintaining the TDSS botnet, but it is likely that he and some of his pals in the SPB and RU Auto clubs know the responsible parties.

Continue reading →