Posts Tagged: java


8
Apr 13

Phoenix Exploit Kit Author Arrested In Russia?

The creator of a popular crimeware package known as the Phoenix Exploit Kit was arrested in his native Russia for distributing malicious software and for illegally possessing multiple firearms, according to underground forum posts from the malware author himself.

The last version of the Phoenix Exploit Kit. Source: Xylibox.com

The last version of the Phoenix Exploit Kit. Source: Xylibox.com

The Phoenix Exploit Kit is a commercial crimeware tool that until fairly recently was sold by its maker in the underground for a base price of $2,200. It is designed to booby-trap hacked and malicious Web sites so that they foist drive-by downloads on visitors.

Like other exploit packs, Phoenix probes the visitor’s browser for the presence of outdated and insecure versions of browser plugins like Java, and Adobe Flash and Reader. If the visitor is unlucky enough to have fallen behind in applying updates, the exploit kit will silently install malware of the attacker’s choosing on the victim’s PC (Phoenix targets only Microsoft Windows computers).

The author of Phoenix — a hacker who uses the nickname AlexUdakov on several forums — does not appear to have been overly concerned about covering his tracks or hiding his identity. And as we’ll see in a moment, his online persona has been all-too-willing to discuss his current legal situation with former clients and fellow underground denizens.

Exploit.in forum member AlexUdakov selling his Phoenix Exploit Kit.

Exploit.in forum member AlexUdakov selling his Phoenix Exploit Kit.

For example, AlexUdakov was a member of Darkode.com, a fairly exclusive English-language cybercrime forum that I profiled last week. That post revealed that the administrator accounts for Darkode had been compromised in a recent break-in, and that the intruders were able to gain access to private communications of the administrators. That access included authority to view full profiles of Darkode members, as well as the private email addresses of Darkode members.

AlexUdakov registered at Darkode using the address “nrew89@gmail.com”. That email is tied to a profile at Vkontakte.ru (a Russian version of Facebook) for one Andrey Alexandrov, a 23-year-old male (born May 20, 1989) from Yoshkar-Ola, a historic city of about a quarter-million residents situated on the banks of the Malaya Kokshaga river in Russia, about 450 miles east of Moscow.

ASK-74u rifles. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

AKS-74u rifles. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

That nrew89@gmail.com address also is connected to accounts at several Russian-language forums and Web sites dedicated to discussing guns, including talk.guns.ru and popgun.ru. This is interesting because, as I was searching AlexUdakov’s Phoenix Exploit kit sales postings on various cybercrime forums, I came across him discussing guns on one of his sales threads at exploit.in, a semi-exclusive underground forum. There, a user with the nickname AlexUdakov had been selling Phoenix Exploit Kit for many months, until around July 2012, when customers on exploit.in began complaining that he was no longer responding to sales and support requests. Meanwhile, AlexUdakov account remained silent for many months.

Then, in February 2013, AlexUdakov began posting again, explaining his absence by detailing his arrest by the Federal Security Service (FSB), the Russian equivalent of the FBI. The Phoenix Exploit Kit author explained that he was arrested by FSB officers for distributing malware and the illegal possession of firearms, including two AKS-74U assault rifles, a Glock, a TT (Russian-made pistol), and a PM (also known as a Makarov).

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3
Apr 13

Who Wrote the Flashback OS X Worm?

A year ago today, Apple released a software update to halt the spread of the Flashback worm, a malware strain that infected more than 650,000 Mac OS X systems using a vulnerability in Apple’s version of Java. This somewhat dismal anniversary is probably as good a time as any to publish some clues I’ve gathered over the past year that point to the real-life identity of the Flashback worm’s creator.

mavookiconBefore I delve into the gritty details, a little background on this insidious contagion is in order. A keenly detailed research paper (PDF) published last year by Finnish security firm F-Secure puts the impact and threat from Flashback in perspective, noting that the malware boasted a series of “firsts” for its kind. For starters, Flashback was the first OS X malware to be “VMware aware” — or to know when it was being run in a virtual environment (a trick designed to frustrate security researchers). It also was the first to disable XProtect, OS X’s built-in malware protection program. These features, combined with its ability to spread through a then-unpatched vulnerability in Java made Flashback roughly as common for Macs as the Conficker Worm was for Windows PCs.

“This means Flashback is not only the most advanced, but also the most successful OS X malware we’ve ever seen,” wrote F-Secure’s Broderick Ian Aquilino.

The F-Secure writeup answers an important question not found in other analyses: Namely, what was the apparent intended purpose of Flashback? Put simply: to redirect Google results to third-party advertisers, all for the author’s profit. It’s name was derived from the fact that it spread using a social engineering trick of presenting the OS X user with a bogus Flash Player installation prompt. F-Secure notes that this same behavior — both the Flash social engineering trick and the redirection to fake Google sites that served search results for third-party advertisers that benefited the author — was also found in the QHost malware, suggesting that Flashback may have been the next evolution of the Mac QHost malware.

BLACK SEO

A year ago, I published a series that sought to identify the real-life hackers behind the top spam botnets. Using much the same methodology, I was able to identify and locate a young man in Russia who appears (and privately claims) to be the author of Flashback. As it happens, this individual hangs out on many of the same forums as the world’s top spammers (but more on that at another time).

Given Flashback’s focus on gaming Google’s ad networks, I suspected that the worm’s author probably was a key member of forums that focus on so-called “black hat SEO,” (search engine optimization), or learned in illicit ways to game search engines and manipulate ad revenues. Sure enough, this individual happens to be a very active and founding member of BlackSEO.com, a closely guarded Russian language forum dedicated to this topic.

Below is a screen shot taken from a private message between a “VIP” user named “Mavook” and a top forum member on BlackSEO.com. The conversation took place on July 14, 2012. A rough translation of their conversation is superimposed on the redacted screen grab, but basically it shows Mavook asking the senior member for help in gaining access to Darkode.com, a fairly exclusive English-language cybercrime forum (and one that I profiled in a story earlier this week).

BlackSEO.com VIP member "Mavook" claims responsibility for creating Flashback to a senior forum member.

BlackSEO.com member “Mavook” claims responsibility for creating Flashback to a senior forum member.

Mavook asks the other member to get him an invitation to Darkode, and Mavook is instructed to come up with a brief bio stating his accomplishments, and to select a nickname to use on the forum if he’s invited. Mavook replies that the Darkode nick should be not be easily tied back to his BlackSEO persona, and suggests the nickname “Macbook.” He also states that he is the “Creator of Flashback botnet for Macs,” and that he specializes in “finding exploits and creating bots.”

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2
Apr 13

Fool Me Once…

When you’re lurking in the computer crime underground, it pays to watch your back and to keep your BS meter set to  ‘maximum.’ But when you’ve gained access to an elite black market section of a closely guarded crime forum to which very few have access, it’s easy to let your guard down. That’s what I did earlier this year, and it caused me to chase a false story. This blog post aims to set the record straight on that front, and to offer a cautionary (and possibly entertaining) tale to other would-be cybersleuths.

baitOn Jan. 16, 2013, I published a post titled, “New Java Exploit Fetches $5,000 Per Buyer.” The details in that story came from a sales thread posted to an exclusive subforum of Darkode.com, a secretive underground community that has long served as a bazaar for all manner of cybercriminal wares, including exploit kitsspam services, ransomware programs, and stealthy botnets. I’ve maintained a presence on this forum off and on (mostly on) for the past three years, in large part because Darkode has been a reliable place to find information about zero-days, or highly valuable threats that exploit previously unknown vulnerabilities in software — threats that are shared or used by attackers before the developer of the target software knows about the vulnerability.

I had previously broken several other stories about zero-day exploits for sale on Darkode that later showed up “in-the-wild” and confirmed by the affected vendors, and this sales thread was posted by one of the forum’s most trusted members. The sales thread also was created during a time in which Java’s maker Oracle Corp. was struggling with multiple zero-days in Java.

What I didn’t know at the time was that this particular sales thread was little more than a carefully laid trap by the Darkode administrators to discover which accounts I was using to lurk on their forum. Ironically, I recently learned of this snare after white/grey hat hackers compromised virtually all of the administrator accounts and private messages on Darkode.

“Looks like Krebs swallowed the bait, and i got an idea how to catch him now for the next thread,” wrote Darkode administrator “Mafi” in a Jan. 16 private message to a co-admin who uses the nickname “sp3cial1st”.

Following this post, the administrators compared notes as to which users had viewed the fake Java zero-day sales thread during the brief, two-day period it was live on a restricted portion of Darkode. “I have taken a careful examination of the logs related to the java 0day thread,” sp3cial1st wrote to a Darkode administrator who used the nick “187”.

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20
Feb 13

Critical Security Updates for Adobe Reader, Java

Adobe and Oracle each released updates to fix critical security holes in their software. Adobe’s patch plugs two zero-day holes that hackers have been using to break into computers via Adobe Reader and Acrobat. Separately, Oracle issued updates to correct at least five security issues with Java.

javaiconThe Java update comes amid revelations by Apple, Facebook and Twitter that employees at these organizations were hacked using exploits that attacked Java vulnerabilities on Mac and Windows machines. According to Bloomberg News, at least 40 companies were targeted in malware attacks linked to an Eastern European gang of hackers that has been trying to steal corporate secrets.

Oracle’s update brings Java on Windows systems to Java SE 7 Update 15, and Java 6 Update 41. Most consumers can get by without Java installed, or least not plugged into the browser. Because of the prevalence of threats targeting Java installations, I’d urge these users to remove Java or unplug it from the browser. If this is too much trouble, consider adopting a dual-browser approach, keeping Java unplugged from your main browser, and plugged in to a secondary browser that you only use to visit sites that require the plugin. To find out if you have Java installed, visit java.com and click the “Do I have Java?” link below the big red button. Existing users can update Java from the Java Control Panel, clicking the Update tab and then the “Update Now” button.

Apple has issued an update that brings Java up-to-date on security patches but also disables the Java plugin from Web browsers on the system. Apple also issued a malware removal tool that it said should remove from Macs the most common variants of malware that used the most recent Java exploits. Continue reading →


11
Feb 13

Yahoo! Pushing Java Version Released in 2008

At a time when Apple, Mozilla and other tech giants are taking steps to prevent users from browsing the Web with outdated versions of Java, Yahoo! is pushing many of its users in the other direction: The free tool that it offers users to help build Web sites installs a dangerously insecure version of Java that is more than four years old.

sitebuilderYahoo! users who decide to build a Web site within the Internet firm’s hosting environment are steered toward using a free tool called SiteBuilder, which is designed to make building simple Web sites a point-and-click exercise. Yahoo! has offered SiteBuilder to its millions of users for years, but unfortunately the tool introduces a myriad of security vulnerabilities on host PCs.

SiteBuilder requires Java, but the version of Java that Yahoo!  bundles with it is Java 6 Update 7. It’s not clear if this is just a gross oversight or if their tool really doesn’t work with more recent versions of Java. The company has yet to respond to requests for comment.

But this version of Java was first introduced in the summer of 2008 and is woefully insecure and out-of-date. Oracle just released Java 6, Update 39, meaning that SiteBuilder installs a version of Java that includes hundreds of known, critical security vulnerabilities that can be used to remotely compromise host PCs.

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3
Feb 13

Critical Java Update Fixes 50 Security Holes

Oracle Corp. has issued an update for its Java SE software that plugs at least 50 security holes in the software, including one the company said was actively being exploited in the wild.

javaiconThe original Critical Patch Update for Java SE – February 2013 had been scheduled to be released on February 19th, but Oracle said it decided to accelerate the release of this update because of active exploitation in the wild of one of the vulnerabilities.

“Due to the threat posed by a successful attack, Oracle strongly recommends that customers apply…fixes as soon as possible,” the company wrote in an advisory.

I couldn’t find a definitive account of which zero-day vulnerability in Java had caused Oracle to move up its patch schedule, but recently researchers have uncovered flaws in a mechanism that the company shipped with the previous version of Java that was designed to thwart attacks on the program. With Java 7 Update 10, Oracle introduced a mechanism that would require users to manually allow the execution of Java code not digitally signed by a trusted authority. Some security experts praised Oracle for adding the feature because it promised to drastically reduce the success of attacks that exploit security bugs in Java, but researchers have shown that the new feature can be easily bypassed.

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16
Jan 13

New Java Exploit Fetches $5,000 Per Buyer

Less than 24 hours after Oracle patched a dangerous security hole in its Java software that was being used to seize control over Windows PCs, miscreants in the Underweb were already selling an exploit for a different and apparently still-unpatched zero-day vulnerability in Java, KrebsOnSecurity has learned.

javared

Update, Apr. 2, 2:57 p.m. ET: This sales thread turned out to be an elaborate hoax designed by a cybercrime forum administrator to learn the screen name I was using to browse exclusive sections of his forum. See this story for more information on that.

Original story:

On Sunday, Oracle rushed out a fix for a critical bug in Java that had been folded into exploit kits, crimeware made to automate the exploitation of computers via Web browser vulnerabilities. On Monday, an administrator of an exclusive cybercrime forum posted a message saying he was selling a new Java 0day to a lucky two buyers. The cost: starting at $5,000 each.

The hacker forum admin’s message, portions of which are excerpted below, promised weaponized and source code versions of the exploit. This seller also said his Java 0day — in the latest version of Java (Java 7 Update 11) — was not yet part of any exploit kits, including the Cool Exploit Kit I wrote about last week that rents for $10,000 per month. From his sales pitch:

“New Java 0day, selling to 2 people, 5k$ per person

And you thought Java had epically failed when the last 0day came out. I lol’d. The best part is even-though java has failed once again and let users get compromised… guess what? I think you know what I’m going to say… there is yet another vulnerability in the latest version of java 7. I will not go into any details except with seriously interested buyers.

Code will be sold twice (it has been sold once already). It is not present in any known exploit pack including that very private version of [Blackhole] going for 10$k/month. I will accepting counter bids if you wish to outbid the competition. What you get? Unencrypted source files to the exploit (so you can have recrypted as necessary, I would warn you to be cautious who you allow to encrypt… they might try to steal a copy) Encrypted, weaponized version, simply modify the url in the php page that calls up the jar to your own executable url and you are set. You may pm me.” Continue reading →


12
Jan 13

What You Need to Know About the Java Exploit

On Thursday, the world learned that attackers were breaking into computers using a previously undocumented security hole in Java, a program that is installed on hundreds of millions of computers worldwide. This post aims to answer some of the most frequently asked questions about the vulnerability, and to outline simple steps that users can take to protect themselves.

Update, Jan. 13, 8:14 p.m. ET: Oracle just released a patch to fix this vulnerability. Read more here.

3bjavaQ: What is Java, anyway?
A: Java is a programming language and computing platform that powers programs including utilities, games, and business applications. According to Java maker Oracle Corp., Java runs on more than 850 million personal computers worldwide, and on billions of devices worldwide, including mobile and TV devices. It is required by some Web sites that use it to run interactive games and applications.

Q: So what is all the fuss about?
A: Researchers have discovered that cybercrooks are attacking a previously unknown security hole in Java 7 that can be used to seize control over a computer if a user visits a compromised or malicious Web site.

Q: Yikes. How do I protect my computer?
A: The version of Java that runs on most consumer PCs includes a browser plug-in. According to researchers at Carnegie Mellon University‘s CERT, unplugging the Java plugin from the browser essentially prevents exploitation of the vulnerability. Not long ago, disconnecting Java from the browser was not straightforward, but with the release of the latest version of Java 7 — Update 10 — Oracle included a very simple method for removing Java from the browser. You can find their instructions for doing this here.

Q: How do I know if I have Java installed, and if so, which version?
A: The simplest way is to visit this link and click the “Do I have Java” link, just below the big red “Download Java” button.

Q: I’m using Java 6. Does that mean I don’t have to worry about this?
A: There have been conflicting findings on this front. The description of this bug at the National Vulnerability Database (NVD), for example, states that the vulnerability is present in Java versions going back several years, including version 4 and 5. Analysts at vulnerability research firm Immunity say the bug could impact Java 6 and possibly earlier versions. But Will Dormann, a security expert who’s been examining this flaw closely for CERT, said the NVD’s advisory is incorrect: CERT maintains that this vulnerability stems from a component that Oracle introduced  with Java 7. Dormann points to a detailed technical analysis of the Java flaw by Adam Gowdiak of Security Explorations, a security research team that has alerted Java maker Oracle about a large number of flaws in Java. Gowdiak says Oracle tried to fix this particular flaw in a previous update but failed to address it completely.

Either way, it’s important not to get too hung up on which versions are affected, as this could become a moving target. Also, a new zero-day flaw is discovered in Java several times a year. That’s why I’ve urged readers to either uninstall Java completely or unplug it from the browser no matter what version you’re using.

Q: A site I use often requires the Java plugin to be enabled. What should I do?
A: You could downgrade to Java 6, but that is not a very good solution. Oracle will stop supporting Java 6 at the end of February 2013, and will soon be transitioning Java 6 users to Java 7 anyway. If you need Java for specific Web sites, a better solution is to adopt a two-browser approach. If you normally browse the Web with Firefox, for example, consider disabling the Java plugin in Firefox, and then using an alternative browser (Chrome, IE9, Safari, etc.) with Java enabled to browse only the site(s) that require(s) it.

Q: I am using a Mac, so I should be okay, right?
A: Not exactly. Experts have found that this flaw in Java 7 can be exploited to foist malware on Mac and Linux systems, in addition to Microsoft Windows machines. Java is made to run programs across multiple platforms, which makes it especially dangerous when new flaws in it are discovered. For instance, the Flashback worm that infected more than 600,000 Macs wiggled into OS X systems via a Java flaw. Oracle’s instructions include advice on how to unplug Java from Safari. I should note that Apple has not provided a version of Java for OS X beyond 6, but users can still download and install Java 7 on Mac systems. However, it appears that in response to this threat, Apple has taken steps to block Java from running on OS X systems.

Q: I don’t browse random sites or visit dodgy porn sites, so I shouldn’t have to worry about this, correct?
A: Wrong. This vulnerability is mainly being exploited by exploit packs, which are crimeware tools made to be stitched into Web sites so that when visitors come to the site with vulnerable/outdated browser plugins (like this Java bug), the site can silently install malware on the visitor’s PC. Exploit packs can be just as easily stitched into porn sites as they can be inserted into legitimate, hacked Web sites. All it takes is for the attackers to be able to insert one line of code into a compromised Web site.

Q: I’ve read in several places that this is the first time that the U.S. government has urged computer users to remove or wholesale avoid using a particular piece of software because of a widespread threat. Is this true?
A: Not really. During previous high-alert situations, CERT has advised Windows users to avoid using Internet Explorer. In this case, CERT is not really recommending that users uninstall Java: just that users unplug Java from their Web browser.

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7
Jan 13

Crimeware Author Funds Exploit Buying Spree

The author of Blackhole, an exploit kit that booby-traps hacked Web sites to serve malware, has done so well for himself renting his creation to miscreants that the software has emerged as perhaps the most notorious and ubiquitous crimeware product in the Underweb. Recently, however, the author has begun buying up custom exploits to bundle into a far more closely-held and expensive exploit pack, one that appears to be fueling a wave of increasingly destructive online extortion schemes.

Cool Exploit Kit.

Cool Exploit Kit.

An exploit pack is a software toolkit that gets injected into hacked or malicious sites, allowing the attacker to foist a kitchen sink full of browser exploits on visitors. Those visiting such sites with outdated browser plugins may have malware silently installed. In early October  2012, security researchers began noticing that a new exploit pack called Cool Exploit Kit was showing up repeatedly in attacks from “ransomware,” malicious software that holds PCs hostage in a bid to extract money from users.

Kafeine,” a French researcher and blogger who has been tracking the ties between ransomware gangs and exploit kits, detailed Cool’s novel use of a critical vulnerability in Windows (CVE-2011-3402) that was first discovered earlier in the year in the Duqu computer worm. Duqu is thought to be related to Stuxnet, a sophisticated cyber weapon that experts believe was designed to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program.

About a week after Kafeine highlighted the Duqu exploit’s use in Cool, the same exploit showed up in Blackhole. As Kafeine documented in another blog post, he witnessed the same thing happen in mid-November after he wrote about a never-before-seen exploit developed for a Java vulnerability (CVE-2012-5076) that Oracle patched in October. Kafeine said this pattern prompted him to guess that Blackhole and Cool were the work of the same author or malware team.

“It seems that as soon as it is publicly known [that Cool Exploit Kit] is using a new exploit, that exploit shows up in Blackhole,” Kafeine said in an interview with KrebsOnSecurity.

As detailed in an excellent analysis by security firm Sophos, Blackhole is typically rented to miscreants who pay for the use of the hosted exploit kit for some period of time. A three-month license to use Blackhole runs $700, while a year-long license costs $1,500. Blackhole customers also can take advantage of a hosting solution provided by the exploit kit’s proprietors, which runs $200 a week or $500 per month.

Blackhole is the brainchild of a crimeware gang run by a miscreant who uses the nickname “Paunch.” Reached via instant message, Paunch acknowledged being responsible for the Cool kit, and said his new exploit framework costs a whopping $10,000 a month.

At first I thought Paunch might be pulling my leg, but that price tag was confirmed in a discussion by members of a very exclusive underground forum. Not long after Kafeine first wrote about Cool Exploit Kit, an associate of Paunch posted a message to a semi-private cybercrime forum, announcing that his team had been given an initial budget of $100,000 to buy unique Web browser exploits, as well as information on unpatched software flaws. Here is a portion of that post, professionally translated from Russian:

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17
Oct 12

Critical Java Patch Plugs 30 Security Holes

Oracle on Tuesday pushed out a bevy of security patches for its products, including an update to Java that remedies at least 30 vulnerabilities in the widely-used program.

The latest versions, Java 7 Update 9 and Java 6 Update 37, are available either through the updater built into Java (accessible from the Windows control panel), or by visiting Java.com. If you’re not sure which version you have or whether you’ve got the program installed at all, click the “Do I have Java” link below the red download button on the Java homepage.

Apple maintains supplies its own version of Java. Given the rapidity with which they have followed Oracle’s Java updates (ever since April 2012, when the Flashback worm used an unpatched Java flaw to infect more than 650,000 Macs), I would expect Apple to have an update ready soon. Update: Apple did release an update for Java, one that sees the Java plugin removed from all Mac-compatible browsers installed on the system.

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