21
Jul 16

Canadian Man Behind Popular ‘Orcus RAT’

Far too many otherwise intelligent and talented software developers these days apparently think they can get away with writing, selling and supporting malicious software and then couching their commerce as a purely legitimate enterprise. Here’s the story of how I learned the real-life identity of Canadian man who’s laboring under that same illusion as proprietor of one of the most popular and affordable tools for hacking into someone else’s computer.

Earlier this week I heard from Daniel Gallagher, a security professional who occasionally enjoys analyzing new malicious software samples found in the wild. Gallagher said he and members of @malwrhunterteam and @MalwareTechBlog recently got into a Twitter fight with the author of Orcus RAT, a tool they say was explicitly designed to help users remotely compromise and control computers that don’t belong to them.

A still frame from a Youtube video showing Orcus RAT's keylogging ability to steal passwords from Facebook users and other credentials.

A still frame from a Youtube video demonstrating Orcus RAT’s keylogging ability to steal passwords from Facebook and other sites.

The author of Orcus — a person going by the nickname “Ciriis Mcgraw” a.k.a. “Armada” on Twitter and other social networks — claimed that his RAT was in fact a benign “remote administration tool” designed for use by network administrators and not a “remote access Trojan” as critics charged. Gallagher and others took issue with that claim, pointing out that they were increasingly encountering computers that had been infected with Orcus unbeknownst to the legitimate owners of those machines.

The malware researchers noted another reason that Mcgraw couldn’t so easily distance himself from how his clients used the software: He and his team are providing ongoing technical support and help to customers who have purchased Orcus and are having trouble figuring out how to infect new machines or hide their activities online.

What’s more, the range of features and plugins supported by Armada, they argued, go well beyond what a system administrator would look for in a legitimate remote administration client like Teamviewer, including the ability to launch a keylogger that records the victim’s every computer keystroke, as well as a feature that lets the user peek through a victim’s Web cam and disable the light on the camera that alerts users when the camera is switched on.

A new feature of Orcus announced July 7 lets users configure the RAT so that it evades digital forensics tools used by malware researchers, including an anti-debugger and an option that prevents the RAT from running inside of a virtual machine.

Other plugins offered directly from Orcus’s tech support page (PDF) and authored by the RAT’s support team include a “survey bot” designed to “make all of your clients do surveys for cash;” a “USB/.zip/.doc spreader,” intended to help users “spread a file of your choice to all clients via USB/.zip/.doc macros;” a “Virustotal.com checker” made to “check a file of your choice to see if it had been scanned on VirusTotal;” and an “Adsense Injector,” which will “hijack ads on pages and replace them with your Adsense ads and disable adblocker on Chrome.”

WHO IS ARMADA?

Gallagher said he was so struck by the guy’s “smugness” and sheer chutzpah that he decided to look closer at any clues that Ciriis Mcgraw might have left behind as to his real-world identity and location. Sure enough, he found that Ciriis Mcgraw also has a Youtube account under the same name, and that a video Mcgraw posted in July 2013 pointed to a 33-year-old security guard from Toronto, Canada.

ciriis-youtubeGallagher noticed that the video — a bystander recording on the scene of a police shooting of a Toronto man — included a link to the domain policereview[dot]info. A search of the registration records attached to that Web site name show that the domain was registered to a John Revesz in Toronto and to the email address john.revesz@gmail.com.

A reverse WHOIS lookup ordered from Domaintools.com shows the same john.revesz@gmail.com address was used to register at least 20 other domains, including “thereveszfamily.com,” “johnrevesz.com, revesztechnologies[dot]com,” and — perhaps most tellingly —  “lordarmada.info“.

Johnrevesz[dot]com is no longer online, but this cached copy of the site from the indispensable archive.org includes his personal résumé, which states that John Revesz is a network security administrator whose most recent job in that capacity was as an IT systems administrator for TD Bank. Revesz’s LinkedIn profile indicates that for the past year at least he has served as a security guard for GardaWorld International Protective Services, a private security firm based in Montreal.

Revesz’s CV also says he’s the owner of the aforementioned Revesz Technologies, but it’s unclear whether that business actually exists; the company’s Web site currently redirects visitors to a series of sites promoting spammy and scammy surveys, come-ons and giveaways.

IT’S IN THE EULA, STUPID!

Contacted by KrebsOnSecurity, Revesz seemed surprised that I’d connected the dots, but beyond that did not try to disavow ownership of the Orcus RAT.

“Profit was never the intentional goal, however with the years of professional IT networking experience I have myself, knew that proper correct development and structure to the environment is no free venture either,” Revesz wrote in reply to questions about his software. “Utilizing my 15+ years of IT experience I have helped manage Orcus through its development.”

Revesz continued:

“As for your legalities question.  Orcus Remote Administrator in no ways violates Canadian laws for software development or sale.  We neither endorse, allow or authorize any form of misuse of our software.  Our EULA [end user license agreement] and TOS [terms of service] is very clear in this matter. Further we openly and candidly work with those prudent to malware removal to remove Orcus from unwanted use, and lock out offending users which may misuse our software, just as any other company would.”

Revesz said none of the aforementioned plugins were supported by Orcus, and were all developed by third-party developers, and that “Orcus will never allow implementation of such features, and or plugins would be outright blocked on our part.”

In an apparent contradiction to that claim, plugins that allow Orcus users to disable the Webcam light on a computer running the software and one that enables the RAT to be used as a “stresser” to knock sites and individuals users offline are available directly from Orcus Technologies’ Github page.

Revesz’s also offers a service to help people cover their tracks online. Using his alter ego “Armada” on the hacker forum Hackforums[dot]net, Revesz also sells a “bulletproof dynamic DNS service” that promises not to keep records of customer activity.

Dynamic DNS services allow users to have Web sites hosted on servers that frequently change their Internet addresses. This type of service is useful for people who want to host a Web site on a home-based Internet address that may change from time to time, because dynamic DNS services can be used to easily map the domain name to the user’s new Internet address whenever it happens to change.

armadadyndns

Unfortunately, these dynamic DNS providers are extremely popular in the attacker community, because they allow bad guys to keep their malware and scam sites up even when researchers manage to track the attacking IP address and convince the ISP responsible for that address to disconnect the malefactor. In such cases, dynamic DNS allows the owner of the attacking domain to simply re-route the attack site to another Internet address that he controls.

Free dynamic DNS providers tend to report or block suspicious or outright malicious activity on their networks, and may well share evidence about the activity with law enforcement investigators. In contrast, Armada’s dynamic DNS service is managed solely by him, and he promises in his ad on Hackforums that the service — to which he sells subscriptions of various tiers for between $30-$150 per year — will not log customer usage or report anything to law enforcement.

According to writeups by Kaspersky Lab and Heimdal Security, Revesz’s dynamic DNS service has been seen used in connection with malicious botnet activity by another RAT known as Adwind.  Indeed, Revesz’s service appears to involve the domain “nullroute[dot]pw”, which is one of 21 domains registered to a “Ciriis Mcgraw,” (as well as orcus[dot]pw and orcusrat[dot]pw).

I asked Gallagher (the researcher who originally tipped me off about Revesz’s activities) whether he was persuaded at all by Revesz’s arguments that Orcus was just a tool and that Revesz wasn’t responsible for how it was used.

Gallagher said he and his malware researcher friends had private conversations with Revesz in which he seemed to acknowledge that some aspects of the RAT went too far, and promised to release software updates to remove certain objectionable functionalities. But Gallagher said those promises felt more like the actions of someone trying to cover himself.

“I constantly try to question my assumptions and make sure I’m playing devil’s advocate and not jumping the gun,” Gallagher said. “But I think he’s well aware that what he’s doing is hurting people, it’s just now he knows he’s under the microscope and trying to do and say enough to cover himself if it ever comes down to him being questioned by law enforcement.”

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98 comments

  1. So basically this is a more modern version of back orifice and one other but nearly identical piece or software called sub7 from the 90s.

    I must admit I used both to goof around with my girlfriends parents. It was alot of fun popping up messages and opening the CD drive randomly. Her mother believed in ghosts so I would pretend to be one messing with the PC.

    Never did anything malicious with it but I really see no use for this kind of software beyond practical jokes and straight out malware use like theft.

  2. Gotta say, this small business owner is behaving/responding far more professional than most large business people that freak out when they are in the news. But I’m getting the feeling that the “product”, might become less of a crime ware (although loosing business) than it is now. Especially if Armada decides to provide AV companies with ways to identify it’s stealth features.

    • Since AV software is useless at this point, it wouldn’t matter anyway. One way or the other.

      • AV is not totally useless yet. It certainly should not be the thing you rely on to save your tush from baddies but it does catch an awful lot still. Disable AV and go about checking email and browsing the web and see how life goes for you. Sure it doesn’t catch the latest/greatest and won’t catch something uniquely compiled but there’s plenty it does. It’s still whack-a-mole and if you think about the game, you never get to whack them all, but you get a good chunk and it’s a good base to start from. Layered defense and well trained users are another great layer. AV shouldn’t be relied on by itself but not using it at all is not a fantastic plan either unless maybe you’ve got some crazy whitelisting going on, which isn’t possible for many corporate and most home users.

        • Isn’t possible???

          Oh it’s most certainly possible. It’s more that no one will do it (mainly because it’s someone else’s job).

          • Let me clarify: I wasn’t really saying impossible, I was saying isn’t likely to happen for various reasons (Effort, time, cost, knowlege base, politics) but for whatever the reason it just can’t be done

  3. Anonymous Insider Threat Prevention

    Despite what the author states, there are legitimate uses for keyloggers, and stealth webcam viewing. It’s called preventing Insider Threats from stealing legitimate company secrets or PII. I work for a legitimate company that does this, and our customers specifically ask for some of these features, I have in fact written a keylogger for our customers. You can argue the webcam thing, as I think there are other more beneficial ways to stop insider threats, however, keyloggers are completely legitimate.

  4. “apparently think they can get away with writing, selling and supporting malicious software and then couching their commerce as a purely legitimate enterprise.”

    YEAH? and what law(s) is he breaking? As you well know Brian, trojans AREN’T used by real attackers. That once an attacker gains access to a network, it’s all system tools that are used.

    As for your petty, basic bitch outing of the guy (so you have something to post) he was hardly hiding.

    You could have written this post 20 years ago and probably did haha. Like you it’s nothing.

    • James Russell

      U MAD BRO?

    • Perhaps you could link us to your award-winning blog and best-selling book – just to dot the i’s and cross the t’s on your qualification to refer to Brian as ‘nothing’.

    • “As for your petty, basic bitch outing of the guy (so you have something to post) he was hardly hiding.”

      He found you now you’re mad.

      QQ

  5. How about law requiring software sellers to keep track of their customers, requiring real identities. This would then be available to law enforcement with suspicion and a subpoena. Of course law enforcement doesn’t seem interested in doing anything anyway but maybe this would eliminate the excuse about being legitimate.

  6. Kinda shocking how may cybersecurity professionals moonlight on the dark side. Shouldn’t be surprised, but I am…

    • And network administrators across the globe recognize the not only NEED for remote administrative access, but ease of use.

      Anyone around here who ever use iLo or RiLo knows the struggle.
      RDP is not always suitable for numerous reasons.

      I fail to see how this is “Moonlighting on the dark side” by providing a product which addresses such needs to the Net Admin community.

      • But–how do you explain the following paragraph from the article?
        ———
        Other plugins offered directly from Orcus’s tech support page (PDF) and authored by the RAT’s support team include a “survey bot” designed to “make all of your clients do surveys for cash;” a “USB/.zip/.doc spreader,” intended to help users “spread a file of your choice to all clients via USB/.zip/.doc macros;” a “Virustotal.com checker” made to “check a file of your choice to see if it had been scanned on VirusTotal;” and an “Adsense Injector,” which will “hijack ads on pages and replace them with your Adsense ads and disable adblocker on Chrome.”
        —————-

        So it seems that you also offer survey hijackers, trojan-horse file spreaders, anti-virus defeaters, and ad-space hijackers… explain how these are all legitimate remote admin tools, if you can.

        • I absolutely love how the way one words something can make it appear absolutely different than the truth.

          Firstly, Orcus Technologies offers NONE of those mentioned plugins.

          Any of those mentioned plugins were developed by 3rd party developers using the plugin development platform. A critical feature for the software.

          Never have we authorized such use of these type of plugins, we do not endorse them in any way and in fact discourage anyone from using such types of additions to our software.

          Directly from the same article you quoted:

          “Revesz said none of the aforementioned plugins were supported by Orcus, and were all developed by third-party developers, and that “Orcus will never allow implementation of such features, and or plugins would be outright blocked on our part.”

          Perhaps ask the plugin developers why they created such screwy plugins?

    • Connie, this is not a cyber security professional. This is a criminal mall cop who has skirted on the edge of legitimacy in order to learn more.

      • Is that your professional opinion sir?

        Funny how this “criminal mall cop” was selected to work security at a data center which houses some of North Americas critical infrastructure for fortune 500 companies. So, yea this so called mall cop controls who gets access to the data suites and servers, as well as how. And guess what? I do my job pretty damn well if I do say so myself.

  7. This article has too be written by thee single most butt hurt individual who can’t appreciate the forever ongoing game, giving them the benefit of the doubt they’re aware of such.