Summarizing August's Threatscape

Following the previous summaries of June’s and July’s threatscape based on all the research published during the month, it’s time to summarize August’s threatscape.

August’s threatscape was dominated by a huge increase of rogue security software domains made possible due to the easily obtainable templates for the sites, several malware campaigns targeting popular social networking sites, Russian’s organized cyberattack against Georgia with evidence on who’s behind it pointing to “everyone” and a few botnets dedicated to the attack making the whole process easy to outsource and turn responsibility into an “open topic”, several new web based botnet management kits and tools found in the wild, evidence that the 76service may in fact be going mainstream since the concept of cybercrime as a service is already emerging, and, of course, a peek at India’s CAPTCHA solving economy, where the best comment I’ve received so far is that every site should embrace reCAPTCHA, so that while solving CAPTCHAs and participating in the abuse of these services in question, they would be also digitizing books. As usual, August was a pretty dynamic month for the middle of summer, with everyone excelling in their own malicious field.

01. McAfee’s Site Advisor Blocking n.runs AG – “for starters”
False positives are rather common, especially when you’re aiming to protect the end user from himself and not let him gain access to “hacking tools”, but you’re flagging security tools as badware and missing over half the SQL injected domains currently in the wild due to the fact that SiteAdvisor’s community still haven’t reviewed them – that’s not good

02. The Twitter Malware Campaign Wants to Bank With You
Twitter, just like every Web 2.0 application, isn’t and shouldn’t be treated as a unique platform for dissemination of malware, since it’s dissemination of malware “as usual”. This particular malware campaign was not just executed by a lone gunman, but also, was taking advantage of a flaw allowing the author to add new followers potentially exposing them to the malicious links serving banker malware. For the the time being, MySpace, Facebook and Twitter accounts are the very last thing a malicious attacker is interesting in puchasing accounting data for, but how come? It’s all due to the oversupply of automatically registered accounts at other popular services, whose ecosystem of Internet properties empower cybercriminals with the ability to launch, host and distribute malware in between abusing the very same company’s services for the blackhat SEO campaign and redirection services. Theoretically, a distributed network build upon the services provided by a single company is faily easy to accomplish due to the single login authentication applied everywhere. A singly bogus Gmail account results in a blackhat SEO hosting blogspot account, flash based redirector hosted at Picasa, and a couple of thousands of spam emails sent automatically sent through Gmail in order to abuse it’s trusted email reputation
03. Compromised Web Servers Serving Fake Flash Players
If aggressiveness matter, this campaign consisting of remotely injected redirection scripts at legitimate sites next to on purposely introduced malware oriented domains, was perhaps the most aggressive one during the month. Fake flash players, fake windows media players and fake youtube players are prone to increase as a social engineering tactic of choice due to the template-ization of malware serving sites for the sake of efficiency

04. Pinch Vulnerable to Remotely Exploitable Flaw
With Zeus vulnerable to a remotely exploitable flaw allowing cybercriminals to hijack other cybercriminal’s Zeus botnet, private exploits targeting the still rather popular at least in respect to usefulness Pinch malware are leaking, allowing everyone including security researchers to take a peek at a particular campaign running unpatched Pinch gateway

05. Phishers Backdooring Phishing Pages to Scam One Another
Backdooring phishing pages is perhaps the most minimalistic approach a cybercriminal wanting to scam another cybercriminal is going to take. The far more beneficial approach that I’ve encountered on a couple of occassions so far, would be to backdoor a proprietary web malware exploitation kit, release it in the wild, let them put the time and efforts into launching the campaigns, then hijack their botnet. In fact, the possibilities for backdooring copycat web malware exploitation kits in order to take advantage of the momentum while introducing a non-existent kit has always been there at the disposal of malicious attackers. One thing’s for sure – there’s no such thing as a free web malware exploitation kit, just like there isn’t such thing as a free phishing page

06. Email Hacking Going Commercial – Part Two
In between the scammers promising the Moon and asking for anything between $20 to $250 to hack into an email account, there are “legitimate” services taking advantage of web email hacking kits consisting of each and every known XSS vulnerability for a particular service in an attempt to increase the chances of the attacker. And given that the majority of these have been patched a long time ago, social engineering comes into play. Do these services have a future? Definitely as more and more people are in fact looking for and requesting such services, in fact, they’re willing to pay a bonus considering how exotic it is for them to have any email that they provide hacked into and the accounting data sent back to them

07. The Russia vs Georgia Cyber Attack
Event of the month? Could be, but just like every “event of the moth” everyone seems to be once again restating their “selective retention” preferences. What is selective retention anyway? Selective retention is basically a situation where once Russian is attacking another country’s infrastructure, you would automatically conclude that it’s Russian FSB behind the attacks and consciously and subconsciously ignore all the research and articles telling you otherwise, namely that the FSB wouldn’t even bother acknowledging Georgia’s online presence, at least not directly. Moreover, talking about the FSB as the agency behind the cyberattacks indicates “selective retention”, talking about FAPSI indicates better understanding of the subject.

In times when cybercrime is getting ever easier to outsource, anyone following the news could basically orchestrate a large scale DDoS attack against a particular country in order to forward the responsibility to any country that they want to. In Russia vs Georgia, you have a combination of a collectivist society that’s possessing the capabilities to launch DDoS attacks, knows where and how to order them, and that in times when your country is engaged in a war conflict drinking beer instead of DDoS-sing the major government sites of the adversary is not an option.

Selective retention when combined with a typical mainstream media’s mentality to “slice the threat on pieces” instead of turning the page as soon as possible, is perhaps the worst possible combination. Furthermore, coming up with Social Network analysis of the cyberattacks would produce nothing more but a few fancy graphs of over enthusiastic Russian netizen’s distributing the static list of the targets. The real conversations, as always, are happening in the “Dark Web” limiting the possibilities for open source intelligence using a data mining software. Things changed, OPSEC is slowly emerging as a concept among malicious parties, whenever some of the “calls for action” in the DDoS attacks were posted at mainstream forums, they were immediately removed so that they don’t show up in such academic initiatives

08. 76Service – Cybercrime as a Service Going Mainstream
The reappearance of the 76Service allowing everyone to log into a web based interface and collect all the accounting and financial data coming from malware infected hosts across the globe for the period of time for which they’ve bought access, indicates that what used to be proprietary services which were supposedly no longer available, are now being operated in a do-it-yourself fashion. Goods and products mature into services, so from a cost-benefit analysis perspective, outsourcing is naturally most beneficial even when it comes to cybercrime

09. Who’s Behind the Georgia Cyber Attacks?
If it’s the botnets used in the attacks, they are known, if it’s about who’s providing the hosting for the command and control, it’s the “usual suspects”, but just like previous discussion of the Russian Business Network, it remains questionable on whether or not they work on a revenue-sharing basis, are simply providing the anti-abuse hosting, or are the shady conspirators that every newly born RBN expert is positioning them to be.

Cheap conversation regarding the RBN ultimately serves the RBN, and just for the record, there’s a RBN alternative in every country, but the only thing that remains the same are the customers, tracking the customers means exposing the RBN and the international franchises of their services, making it harder to identify their international operations. And given that the “tip of the iceberg”, namely RBN’s U.S operations remain in tact, talking about taking actions against their international operations in countries where cybercrime law is still pending, is yet another quality research into the topic building up the pile of research into the very same segments of the very same ISPs.

Just for the record – these “very same ISPs” are regular readers of my blog, and if you analyze their activities, they’re definitely reading yours too, ironically, surfing through gateways residing within their netblock that are so heavily blacklisted due to the guestbook and forum spamming activities that their bad reputation usually ends up in another massive blackhat SEO campaign exposed.

10. Guerilla Marketing for a Conspiracy Site
Conspiracy theorists may in fact have a new wallpaper to show off with

11. Banker Malware Targeting Brazilian Banks in the Wild
When misinformed and not knowing anything about a particular underground segment, a potential cybercriminal would stick to using such primitive compared to the sophisticated banker malware kits currently in the wild. These sophisticated banker malware kits are often coming in a customer-tailored proposition, with their price increasing or decreasing based on the specific module to be included or excluded. For instance, a module targeting all the U.S banks that has been put in a “learning mode” long before it was made available to the customers can be requested and is often available with the business model build around the customer’s wants 

12. Compromised Cpanel Accounts For Sale
Despite the massive SQL injection attacks, accounting data for Cpanel accounts coming from malware infected hosts seems to be once again coming into play, which isn’t surprising given the filtering capabilities and log parsing tools today’s botnet masters are empowered with. These very same compromised Cpanel accounts and the associated domains often end up so heavility abused that it’s tactics like these that are driving the underground multitasking mentality, namely, abusing a single compromised account for each and every malicious online activity you can think of – even hosting banners for their blackhat SEO services

13. A Diverse Portfolio of Fake Security Software – Part Two
In August we saw a peek of fake security software, neatly typosquatted domains whose authors earn revenue each and every time someone installs the software. The vendors behind this software are forwarding the entire process of driving traffic to those excelling in aggregating traffic and abusing it. As anticipated, underground multitasking started taking place within the fake security software domains, with the people behind them introducing client-side exploits in order to improve the monetization of the traffic coming to the sites

14. DIY Botnet Kit Promising Eternal Updates
There’s no such thing as a (quality) free botnet kit. What’s for free is often the leftovers from a single feature of a more sophisticated proprietary botnet kit. This one in particular is however trying to demonstrate that even a plain simple GUI botnet command and control software can achieve the results desired by an average script kiddie, and not necessarily satisfy the needs of the experienced botnet master

15. A Diverse Portfolio of Fake Security Software – Part Three
As far as trends and fads are concerned, the majority of the domains are currently parked at up to four different IPs, with most of them going into a stand by mode once they get detected and reappear back couple of weeks later

16. Fake Celebrity Video Sites Serving Malware – Part Two
Due to the template-ization of fake celebrity video sites, and simple traffic management tools combined with blackhat SEO tactics, these sites are also prone to increase in the next couple of months

17. Web Based Botnet Command and Control Kit 2.0
It’s releases like these that remind us of the amount of time, efforts and personal touch that a malicious attacker would put into such a management kit, currently acting as a personal benchmark as far as complexity and features indicating the coder’s experience with botnets is concerned. What’s he’s failing to anticipate is that this kit is sooner or later going to turn into the “MPack of botnet management”

18. A Diverse Portfolio of Fake Security Software – Part Four
Keep it coming, we’ll keep it exposing until we end up getting down to the “fake software vendor” itself

19. Automatic Email Harvesting 2.0
Email harvesting is slowly maturing into a vertically integrated service provided by vendors of managed spamming services. This email harvesting module is aiming to close the page on text obfuscation in respect to fighting spam, and is successfully recognizing and collecting such publicly available emails. From a psychological perspective though, the end users who bothered to obfuscate their emails are less likely to fall victims into phishing scams, with the obfuscation speaking for a relatively decent situational awareness on how they emails end up in a spammer’s campaign

20. Fake Porn Sites Serving Malware – Part Three
As a firm believer in sampling in order to draw conclusions on the big picture, an approach that has proven highly accurate in modeling historical and upcoming tactics and behavior, a single fake porn site serving malware campaign usually exposes a dozen of misconfigured redirectors, which thanks to their misconfiguration despite the evasive features available within the kits, expose another dozen of malware campaigns

21. Facebook Malware Campaigns Rotating Tactics
With no particular flaw exploited other than the social engineering tactic of using already compromised Facebook accounts who would automatically spam all their friends with links to flash files hosted at legitimate services, the more persistent the campaign is, the higher the chance that it will scale enough. This campaign in particular is mainly relying on rotation of tactics, namely different messages, different services and file extensions used in order to trick someone’s friend into visiting the URL. With the number of users increasing, the most popular social networking sites are naturally going to be permanently under attacks from cybercriminals

22. Fake Security Software Domains Serving Exploits
Despite that it’s a single brand, namely the International Virus Research Lab that’s introducing client-side exploits within it’s portfolio of domains, the opportunity for abuse may be noticed by the rest of the brands pretty fast

23. Exposing India’s CAPTCHA Solving Economy
Taking into consideration the mentality surrounding a particular country’s cybercriminals, how they think, how they operate, what do they define as an opportunity, and how much personal efforts are they willing to put into their campaigns, I wouldn’t be surpised if a Russian vendor offering 100,000 bogus Gmail accounts for sale has in fact outsourcing the account registration process to Indian workers, paid them pocket change and is then reselling them ten to twenty times higher than the price he originally paid for them.

The text based CAPTCHAs used at the major Internet portals and services, are so efficiently abused by this approach that continuing to use is directly undermining the trust these email providers and services often come with as granted

Author: Dancho Danchev

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