Posts Tagged: mcafee


2
Jun 14

‘Operation Tovar’ Targets ‘Gameover’ ZeuS Botnet, CryptoLocker Scourge

The U.S. Justice Department is expected to announce today an international law enforcement operation to seize control over the Gameover ZeuS botnet, a sprawling network of hacked Microsoft Windows computers that currently infects an estimated 500,000 to 1 million compromised systems globally. Experts say PCs infected with Gameover are being harvested for sensitive financial and personal data, and rented out to an elite cadre of hackers for use in online extortion attacks, spam and other illicit moneymaking schemes.

This graphic, from 2012, shows the decentralized nature of P2P network connectivity of 23,196 PCs infected with Gameover.  Image: Dell SecureWorks

This graphic, from 2012, shows the decentralized nature of P2P network connectivity of 23,196 PCs infected with Gameover. Image: Dell SecureWorks

The sneak attack on Gameover, dubbed “Operation Tovar,” began late last week and is a collaborative effort by investigators at the FBI, Europol, and the UK’s National Crime Agency; security firms CrowdStrike, Dell SecureWorks, SymantecTrend Micro and McAfee; and academic researchers at VU University Amsterdam and Saarland University in Germany. News of the action first came to light in a blog post published briefly on Friday by McAfee, but that post was removed a few hours after it went online.

Gameover is based on code from the ZeuS Trojan, an infamous family of malware that has been used in countless online banking heists. Unlike ZeuS — which was sold as a botnet creation kit to anyone who had a few thousand dollars in virtual currency to spend — Gameover ZeuS has since October 2011 been controlled and maintained by a core group of hackers from Russia and Ukraine.

Those individuals are believed to have used the botnet in high-dollar corporate account takeovers that frequently were punctuated by massive distributed-denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks intended to distract victims from immediately noticing the thefts. According to the Justice Department, Gameover has been implicated in the theft of more than $100 million in account takeovers.

The curators of Gameover also have reportedly loaned out sections of their botnet to vetted third-parties who have used them for a variety of purposes. One of the most popular uses of Gameover has been as a platform for seeding infected systems with CryptoLocker, a nasty strain of malware that locks your most precious files with strong encryption until you pay a ransom demand.

According to a 2012 research paper published by Dell SecureWorks, the Gameover Trojan is principally spread via Cutwail, one of the world’s largest and most notorious spam botnets (for more on Cutwail and its origins and authors, see this post). These junk emails typically spoof trusted brands, including shipping and phone companies, online retailers, social networking sites and financial institutions. The email lures bearing Gameover often come in the form of an invoice, an order confirmation, or a warning about an unpaid bill (usually with a large balance due to increase the likelihood that a victim will click the link). The links in the email have been replaced with those of compromised sites that will silently probe the visitor’s browser for outdated plugins that can be leveraged to install malware.

It will be interesting to hear how the authorities and security researchers involved in this effort managed to gain control over the Gameover botnet, which uses an advanced peer-to-peer (P2P) mechanism to control and update the bot-infected systems. Continue reading →


16
Jan 14

A Closer Look at the Target Malware, Part II

Yesterday’s story about the point-of-sale malware used in the Target attack has prompted a flood of analysis and reporting from antivirus and security vendors about related malware. Buried within those reports are some interesting details that speak to possible actors involved and to the timing and discovery of this breach.

targetsmashAs is the case with many data breaches, the attackers in this attack used a virtual toolbox of crimeware to get the job done. As I noted in a Tweet shortly after filing my story Wednesday, at least one of those malware samples includes the text string “Rescator.” Loyal readers of this blog will probably find this name familiar. That’s because Rescator was the subject of a blog post that I published on Dec. 24, 2013, titled “Who is Selling Cards from Target?“.

In that post, I examined a network of underground cybercrime shops that were selling almost exclusively credit and debit card accounts stolen from Target stores. I showed how those underground stores all traced back to a miscreant who uses the nickname Rescator, and how clues about Rescator’s real-life identity suggested he might be a particular young man in Odessa, Ukraine.

This afternoon, McAfee published a blog post confirming many of the findings in my story yesterday, including that two malware uploaders used in connection with the Target attack contained the Rescator string:

“z:\Projects\Rescator\uploader\Debug\scheck.pdb”.

A private message on cpro[dot]su between Rescator and a member interested in his card shop. Notice the ad for Rescator's email flood service at the bottom.

A private message on cpro[dot]su between Rescator and a member interested in his card shop. Notice the ad for Rescator’s email flood service at the bottom.

Earlier this morning, Seculert posted an analysis that confirmed my reporting that the thieves used a central server within Target to aggregate the data hoovered up by the point-of-sale malware installed at Target. According to Seculert, the attack consisted of two stages.

“First, the malware that infected Target’s checkout counters (PoS) extracted credit numbers and sensitive personal details. Then, after staying undetected for 6 days, the malware started transmitting the stolen data to an external FTP server, using another infected machine within the Target network.”

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26
Jul 13

Security Vendors: Do No Harm, Heal Thyself

Security companies would do well to build their products around the physician’s code: “First, do no harm.” The corollary to that oath borrows from another medical mantra: “Security vendor, heal thyself. And don’t take forever to do it! ”

crackedsymOn Thursday, Symantec quietly released security updates to fix serious vulnerabilities in its Symantec Web Gateway, a popular line of security appliances designed to help “protect organizations against multiple types of Web-borne malware.” Symantec issued the updates more than five months after receiving notice of the flaws from Vienna, Austria based SEC Consult Vulnerability Lab, which said attackers could chain together several of the flaws to completely compromise the appliances.

“An attacker can get unauthorized access to the appliance and plant backdoors or access configuration files containing credentials for other systems (eg. Active Directory/LDAP credentials) which can be used in further attacks,” SEC Consult warned in an advisory published in coordination with the patches from Symantec. “Since all web traffic passes through the appliance, interception of HTTP as well as the plain text form of HTTPS traffic (if SSL Deep Inspection feature in use), including sensitive information like passwords and session cookies is possible.”

Big Yellow almost certainly dodged a bullet with this coordinated disclosure, and it should be glad that the bugs weren’t found by a researcher at NATO, for example; Earlier this month, security vendor McAfee disclosed multiple vulnerabilities in its ePolicy Orchestrator, a centralized security management product. The researcher in that case said he would disclose his findings within 30 days of notifying the company, and McAfee turned around an advisory in less than a week.

Interestingly, Google’s security team is backing a new seven-day security deadline that would allow researchers to make serious vulnerabilities public a week after notifying a company. Google says a week-long disclosure timeline is appropriate for critical vulnerabilities that are under active exploitation, and that its standing recommendation is that companies should fix critical vulnerabilities in 60 days, or, if a  fix is not possible, they should notify the public about the risk and offer workarounds.

Continue reading →


12
Dec 12

New Findings Lend Credence to Project Blitzkrieg

“Project Blitzkrieg,” a brazen Underweb plan for hiring 100 botmasters to fuel a blaze of ebanking heists against 30 U.S. financial institutions in the Spring of 2013, was met with skepticism from some in the security community after news of the scheme came to light in October. Many assumed it was a law enforcement sting, or merely the ramblings of a wannabe criminal mastermind. But new research suggests the crooks who hatched the plan were serious and have painstakingly built up a formidable crime machine in preparation for the project.

McAfee says it tracked hundreds of infections from Gozi Prinimalka since Project Blitzkrieg was announced in early September.

The miscreant who posted the call-to-arms — a bald, stocky guy using the nickname vorVzakone (literally, “thief in law”) — also posted a number of screen shots that he said were taken from a working control panel for the botnet he was building. Those images contained several Internet addresses of PCs that were allegedly part of his botnet. According to RSA Security, the botnet consisted of systems infected with Gozi Prinimalka, a closely-held, custom version of the powerful password-stealing Gozi banking Trojan.

In an analysis (PDF) to be published Dec. 13, security vendor McAfee said it was able to combine the data in those screen shots with malware detections on its own network to correlate both victim PCs and the location of the control server. It found that the version of the Prinimalka Trojan used in the attack has two unique identifiers (“Campaign ID” and “Bot ID”) that identify what variant is being deployed on infected computers. McAfee said that all of the systems it identified from the screen shots posted by vorVzakone carried the Campaign ID 064004, which was discovered in the wild on April 14, 2012.

Ryan Sherstobitoff, a threat researcher at McAfee, said the company’s analysis indicates that Project Blitzkrieg is a credible threat to the financial industry and appears to be moving forward.

“There is much speculation whether Project Blitzkrieg is real or simply a creation of Russian law enforcement as a sting operation. Our analysis suggests it is authentic, though the timing of the fraudulent activity is unknown,” Sherstobitoff said.. “We do know that the thieves have had an active system since April 2012, with at least 500 victims who can be linked to vorVzakone.”

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12
Jul 12

EU to Banks: Assume All PCs Are Infected

An agency of the European Union created to improve network and data security is offering some blunt, timely and refreshing advice for financial institutions as they try to secure the online banking channel: “Assume all PCs are infected.”

Source: zeustracker.abuse.ch

The unusually frank perspective comes from the European Network and Information Security Agency, in response to a recent “High Roller” report (PDF) by McAfee and Guardian Analytics on sophisticated, automated malicious software strains that are increasingly targeting high-balance bank accounts. The report detailed how thieves using custom versions of the ZeuS and SpyEye Trojans have built automated, cloud-based systems capable of defeating multiple layers of security, including hardware tokens, one-time transaction codes, even smartcard readers. These malware variants can be set up to automatically initiate transfers to vetted money mule or prepaid accounts, just as soon as the victim logs in to his account.

“Many online banking systems….work based on the assumption that the customer’s PC is not infected,” ENISA wrote in an advisory issued on Thursday. “Given the current state of PC security, this assumption is dangerous. Banks should instead assume that PCs are infected, and still take steps to protect customers from fraudulent transactions.”

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14
Feb 12

Critical Fixes from Microsoft, Adobe

If you use Microsoft Windows, it’s time again to get patched: Microsoft today issued nine updates to fix at least 21 security holes in its products. Separately, Adobe released a critical update that addresses nine vulnerabilities in its Shockwave Player software.

Four of the patches earned Microsoft’s most dire “critical” rating, meaning that miscreants and malware can leverage the flaws to hijack vulnerable systems remotely without any help from the user.  At least four of the vulnerabilities were publicly disclosed prior to the release of these patches.

The critical patches repair faulty components that can lead to browse-and-get-owned scenarios; among those is a fix for a vulnerability in Microsoft Silverlight, a browser plugin that is required by a number of popular sites — including Netflix — and can affect multiple browsers and even Mac systems. Microsoft believes that attackers are likely to quickly devise reliable exploits to attack at least a dozen of the 21 flaws it is fixing with this month’s release.

Continue reading →


4
Aug 11

Huge Decline in Fake AV Following Credit Card Processing Shakeup

On Wednesday I wrote that many of the top fake antivirus distribution programs had ceased operations, citing difficulty in processing credit card transactions from victims. Others are starting to see the result of this shakeup: Security firm McAfee says it has witnessed a dramatic drop in the number of customers reporting scareware detections in recent weeks.

Image courtesy McAfee

McAfee has tracked more than a 60 percent decrease in the number of customers dealing with fake AV since late May. “From McAfee’s vantage point, we are seeing a significant decline in detections reported from customers as well as the discovery of new FakeAV variants,” said Craig Schmugar, a security threat researcher for McAfee.

These extortion scams persist because criminal hackers get paid between $25-35 each time a victim relents and provides a credit card number. If fake AV distributors can’t get paid for spreading the scam software, they’ll find some other way to make money.

Fake AV bombards victim PCs with misleading alerts about security threats and hijacks the machine until the user pays for bogus security software or figures out how to remove it. For better or worse, it is likely that the dearth of credit card processors serving the fake AV industry has eliminated the first option for many people dealing with infections.


16
May 11

Something Old is New Again: Mac RATs, CrimePacks, Sunspots & ZeuS Leaks

New and novel malware appears with enough regularity to keep security researchers and reporters on their toes. But, often enough, there are seemingly new perils that  really are just old threats that have been repackaged or stubbornly lingering reports that are suddenly discovered by a broader audience. One of the biggest challenges faced by  the information security community is trying to decide which threats are worth investigating and addressing.  To illustrate this dilemma, I’ve analyzed several security news headlines that readers forwarded  to me this week, and added a bit more information from my own investigations.

I received more than two dozen emails and tweets from readers calling my attention to news that the source code for the 2.0.8.9 version of the ZeuS crimekit has been leaked online for anyone to download. At one point last year, a new copy of the ZeuS Trojan with all the bells and whistles was fetching at least $10,000. In February, I reported that the source code for the same version was being sold on underground forums. Reasonably enough, news of the source leak was alarming to some because it suggests that even the most indigent hackers can now afford to build their own botnets.

A hacker offering to host and install a control server for a ZeuS botnet.

We may see an explosion of sites pushing ZeuS as a consequence of this leak, but it hasn’t happened yet. Roman Hüssy, curator of ZeusTracker, said in an online chat, “I didn’t see any significant increase of new ZeuS command and control networks, and I don’t think this will change things.” I tend to agree. It was already ridiculously easy to start your own ZeuS botnet before the source code was leaked. There are a number of established and relatively inexpensive services in the criminal underground that will sell individual ZeuS binaries to help novice hackers set up and establish ZeuS botnets (some will even sell you the bulletproof hosting and related amenities as part of a package), for a fraction of the price of the full ZeuS kit.

My sense is that the only potential danger from the release of the ZeuS source code  is that more advanced coders could use it to improve their current malware offerings. At the very least, it should encourage malware developers to write more clear and concise user guides. Also, there may be key information about the ZeuS author hidden in the code for people who know enough about programming to extract meaning and patterns from it.

Are RATs Running Rampant?

Last week, the McAfee blog included an interesting post about a cross-platform “remote administration tool” (RAT) called IncognitoRAT that is based on Java and can run on Linux, Mac and Windows systems. The blog post featured some good details on the functionality of this commercial crimeware tool, but I wanted to learn more about how well it worked, what it looks like, and some background on the author.

Those additional details, and much more, were surprisingly easy to find. For starters, this RAT has been around in one form or another since last year. The screen shot below shows an earlier version of IncognitoRAT being used to remotely control a Mac system.

IncognitoRAT used to control a Mac from a Windows machine.

The kit also includes an app that allows customers to control botted systems via jailbroken iPhones.

Incognito ships with an app that lets customers control infected computers from an iPhone

The following video shows this malware in action on a Windows system. This video was re-recorded from IncognitoRAT’s YouTube channel (consequently it’s a little blurry), but if you view it full-screen and watch carefully you’ll see a sequence in the video that shows how the RAT can be used to send e-mail alerts to the attacker. The person making this video is using Gmail; we can see a list of his Gchat contacts on the left; and his IP address at the bottom of the screen.  That IP traces back to a Sympatico broadband customer in Toronto, Canada, which matches the hometown displayed in the YouTube profile where this video was hosted. A Gmail user named “Carlo Saquilayan” is included in the Gchat contacts visible in the video.

Continue reading →


14
Dec 10

Microsoft Patches 40 Security Holes

Microsoft today issued 17 software updates to plug a total of 40 security holes in computers running its Windows operating system and other software. December’s bounty of patches means Microsoft fixed a record number of security vulnerabilities this year.

According to Microsoft, the most urgent of the patches is a critical update that fixes at least seven vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer versions 6, 7 and 8, including three that were publicly disclosed prior to today’s update. Microsoft said that at least one of the public flaws is already being actively exploited.

Microsoft also called special attention to the only other critical bulletin in the batch – a vulnerability in the OpenType Font Driver in Windows.  Redmond warns that an attacker could compromise a machine on a network simply by getting a user to open a shared folder containing a malicious OpenType font file.

Continue reading →


27
Oct 10

Firesheep: Baaaaad News for the Unwary

“Firesheep,” a new add-on for Firefox that makes it easier to hijack e-mail and social networking accounts of others who are on the same wired or wireless network, has been getting some rather breathless coverage by the news media, some of whom have characterized this a new threat. In reality, this tool is more of a welcome reminder of some basic but effective steps that Internet users should take to protect their personal information while using public networks.

Most online services use secure sockets layer (SSL) encryption to scramble the initial login — as indicated by the presence of “https://” instead of “http://” in the address field when the user submits his or her user name and password. But with many sites like Twitter and Facebook, subsequent data exchanges between the user and the site are sent unencrypted and in plain text, potentially exposing that information to anyone else on the network who is running a simple Web traffic snooping program.

Why should we care if post-login data is sent in unencrypted plain text? Most Web-based services use “cookies,” usually small, text-based files placed on the user’s computer, to signify that the user has logged in successfully and that he or she will not be asked to log in again for a specified period of time, usually a few days to a few weeks (although some cookies can be valid indefinitely).

The trouble is that the contents of these cookies frequently are sent unencrypted to and from the user’s computer after the user has logged in. That means that an attacker sniffing Web traffic on the local network can intercept those cookies and re-use them in his own Web browser to post unauthorized Tweets or Facebook entries in that user’s name, for example. This attack could also be used to gain access to someone’s e-mail inbox.

Enter Firesheep, a Firefox add-on released this past weekend at the Toorcon hacker conference in San Diego. Eric Butler, the security researcher who co-authored the tool, explains some of the backstory and why he and a fellow researcher decided to release it:

“This is a widely known problem that has been talked about to death, yet very popular websites continue to fail at protecting their users. The only effective fix for this problem is full end-to-end encryption, known on the web as HTTPS or SSL. Facebook is constantly rolling out new ‘privacy’ features in an endless attempt to quell the screams of unhappy users, but what’s the point when someone can just take over an account entirely?”

In his blog post about Firesheep, I believe Butler somewhat overstates the threat posed by this add-on when he says: “After installing the extension you’ll see a new sidebar. Connect to any busy open wifi network and click the big ‘Start Capturing’ button. Then wait.”

Continue reading →