Posts Tagged: Nmap


15
Jun 17

Inside a Porn-Pimping Spam Botnet

For several months I’ve been poking at a decent-sized spam botnet that appears to be used mainly for promoting adult dating sites. Having hit a wall in my research, I decided it might be good to publish what I’ve unearthed so far to see if this dovetails with any other research out there.

In late October 2016, an anonymous source shared with KrebsOnSecurity.com a list of nearly 100 URLs that — when loaded into a Firefox browser — each displayed what appeared to be a crude but otherwise effective text-based panel designed to report in real time how many “bots” were reporting in for duty.

Here’s a set of archived screenshots of those counters illustrating how these various botnet controllers keep a running tab of how many “activebots” — hacked servers set up to relay spam — are sitting idly by and waiting for instructions.

One of the more than 100 panels linked to the same porn spamming operation. In October 2016, these 100 panels reported a total of 1.2 million active bots operating simultaneously.

At the time, it was unclear to me how this apparent botnet was being used, and since then the total number of bots reporting in each day has shrunk considerably. During the week the above-linked screen shots were taken, this botnet had more than 1.2 million zombie machines or servers reporting each day (that screen shot archive includes roughly half of the panels found). These days, the total number of servers reporting in to this spam network fluctuates between 50,000 and 100,000.

Thanks to a tip from an anti-spam activist who asked not to be named, I was able to see that the botnet appears to be busy promoting a seemingly endless network of adult dating Web sites connected to just two companies: CyberErotica, and Deniro Marketing LLC (a.k.a. AmateurMatch).

As affiliate marketing programs go, CyberErotica stretches way back — perhaps to the beginning. According to TechCrunch, CyberErotica is said to have launched the first online affiliate marketing firm in 1994.

In 2001, CyberErotica’s parent firm Voice Media settled a lawsuit with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, which alleged that the adult affiliate program was misrepresenting its service as free while it dinged subscribers for monthly charges and made it difficult for them to cancel.

In 2010, Deniro Marketing found itself the subject of a class-action lawsuit that alleged the company employed spammers to promote an online dating service that was overrun with automated, fake profiles of young women. Those allegations ended in an undisclosed settlement after the judge in the case tossed out the spamming claim because the statute of limitations on those charges had expired.

What’s unusual (and somewhat lame) about this botnet is that — through a variety of botnet reporting panels that are still displaying data — we can get live, real-time updates about the size and status of this crime machine. No authentication or credentials needed. So much for operational security!

The “mind map” pictured below contains enough information for nearly anyone to duplicate this research, and includes the full Web address of the botnet reporting panels that are currently online and responding with live updates. I was unable to load these panels in a Google Chrome browser (perhaps the XML data on the page is missing some key components), but they loaded fine in Mozilla Firefox.

But a note of caution: I’d strongly encourage anyone interested in following my research to take care before visiting these panels, preferably doing so from a disposable “virtual” machine that runs something other than Microsoft Windows.

That’s because spammers are usually involved in the distribution of malicious software, and spammers who maintain vast networks of apparently compromised systems are almost always involved in creating or at least commissioning the creation of said malware. Worse, porn spammers are some of the lowest of the low, so it’s only prudent to behave as if any and all of their online assets are actively hostile or malicious.

A “mind map” tracing some of the research mentioned in this post.

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19
Jul 13

Styx Crypt Makers Push DDoS, Anti-Antivirus Services

I recently published a piece that examined the role of several Ukrainian men likely responsible for making and marketing the Styx Pack malware exploit kit. Today’s post will show how this same enterprise is linked to a DDoS protection scheme and a sprawling cybercrook-friendly malware scanning service that is bundled with Styx-Crypt.

Anonymous antivirus scanning service -- captain-checker[dot]com -- bundled with the Styx exploit pack.

Anonymous antivirus scanning service — captain-checker.com — bundled with Styx.

As I noted in a graphic accompanying a July 8 analysis of Styx, the $3,000 exploit pack includes a built-in antivirus scanning service that employs at least 17 antivirus products. The scanning service is “anonymous,” in that it alerts Styx customers whenever one of the antivirus tool detects their malware  as such, but the service also prevents the antivirus products from reporting home about the new malware detections.

When Styx customers click on one of these malware scanning reports from within the Styx pack panel itself, the full scanning results are displayed in a new browser window at the domain captain-checker[dot]com (see screenshot above). The Styx panel that I examined earlier this month was based at the Internet address 5.199.167.196, and was reachable only by appending the port number 10665 to the numeric address. At first, I thought this might be a standard port used by Styx installations but that turns out not to be the case, according to interviews with other researchers. I didn’t realize it at the time, but now I’m thinking it’s likely that the panel I examined was actually one run by the Styx Pack curators themselves.

I discovered that although captain-checker[dot]com is hosted at another address (46.21.146.130), it also had this 10665 port open. I noticed then that captain-checker shares that server with 12 other Web sites. All of those sites also respond on port 10665, each revealing a captain-checker login page. Among the 12 is uptimer[dot]biz, one of two sites that led to the identity of Alexander “Nazar” Nazarenko — one of the main marketers and sellers of Styx pack.

styx-reality7-mapNot only are all of these sites on the same server, an Nmap scan of these systems shows that they all are on the same Windows workgroup — “Reality7.” This dovetails nicely with the other domain that I noted in that July 10 story as tied to Nazarenko — reality7solutions[dot]com.

Many of the other domains on the server (see graphic to the left) use some variation of the word “wizard,” and share a Google Analytics code, UA-19307857. According to SameID.net, this code is embedded in the homepage for at least 38 different Web sites.

In my previous story on Nazarenko and his Styx Pack business partner — Max “Ikar” Gavryuk —  I noted that both men were advertising “Reality Guard,” a service to help protect clients from distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks designed to knock sites offline. I had a closer look at their site — reality-guard[dot]com — and learned several interesting things: For starters, the site also responds with a captain-checker[dot]com login page when you append “:10665” to the domain name. It also is on a Microsoft Windows workgroup called “Reality7”. Finally, the reality-guard[dot]com home page includes an icon for virtual currency Webmoney that when hovered over pops up Nazar’s Webmoney account (someone changed the name on this account from “Nazar” to “Lives” within hours after my July 10 story on the Styx Pack purveyors).

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6
Dec 11

Download.com Bundling Toolbars, Trojans?

It wasn’t long ago that I felt comfortable recommending CNET‘s download.com as a reputable and trustworthy place to download software. I’d like to take back that advice: CNET increasingly is bundling invasive and annoying browser toolbars with software on its site, even some open-source titles whose distribution licenses prohibit such activity.

Although this change started this summer, I only first became aware of it after reading a mailing list posting on Monday by Gordon “Fyodor” Lyon, the software developer behind the ever useful and free Nmap network security scanner. Lyon is upset because download.com, which has long hosted his free software for download without any “extras,” recently began distributing Nmap and many other titles with a “download installer” that bundles in browser toolbars like the Babylon toolbar.

CNET’s own installer is detected by many antivirus products as a Trojan horse, even though the company prefaces each download with the assurance that “CNET hosts this file and has scanned it to ensure it is virus and spyware free.” CNET also has long touted download.com’s zero tolerance policy toward all bundled adware.

Lyon said he found his software was bundled with the StartNow Toolbar, which is apparently powered by Microsoft‘s “Bing decision engine.” When I grabbed a copy of the Nmap installer from download.com and ran it on a test Windows XP machine, CNET’s installer offered the Babylon Toolbar, which is a translation toolbar that many Internet users have found challenging to remove.

The CNET download installer that I got for Nmap from download.com was made by CBS Interactive (CNET Networks was acquired by CBS in 2008), and it is detected as malicious by three antivirus products at Virustotal.com. When I unpacked the installer from the Nmap program and scanned just the installer, 10 out of the 39 antivirus products detected the file as either a Trojan horse or adware.

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