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Why You Shouldn't Completely Trust Files Signed with Digital Certificates

12 hours 34 min ago

A digital certificate with a file is always seen as a token of its security. For users, a digital certificate is an indication that the file does not contain malicious code. Many system administrators develop their corporate security policies by allowing users to launch only those files that are signed with a digital certificate. In addition, some antivirus scanners automatically consider a file to be secure if it is signed with a valid digital certificate.

However, users' absolute trust in files signed with digital certificates encourages cybercriminals to search for various ways to have their malicious files signed with the same trusted digital certificates to help use them in their criminal schemes.

This article looks into the main threats associated with signed files, and suggests practical methods of mitigating the risks associated with launching them.

Creating digital signatures for files

Before we explore the threats associated with using digital certificates, let us first look into the process when a file is signed with a digital certificate:

  1. The software developer compiles the file.
  2. A hash sum (MD5, SHA1, or SHA2) is calculated for the file.
  3. That hash sum is encrypted with the software developer's private key.
  4. The obtained encrypted block of data and the digital certificate are added to the end of the file.

The digital certificate contains the software developer's public key, which can be used to decrypt the message and check the file's integrity. It also contains information with which the software developers' authenticity can be checked.

The authenticity of the file's manufacturer is confirmed with the help of the Certification Authority (CA). This entity certifies to other users that the public key that decrypts the hash sum and checks the file's integrity does indeed belong to the developer in question. To do so, the CA signs the developer's certificate and thus testifies that the unique pair of public and private keys belongs to that particular developer. A certificate from the CA testifying that the file is authentic is also added to the end of the file alongside the developer's certificate.

CA certificates are verified by no one other than these entities. For Windows to trust the certificates issued by a certain CA, that CA's certificate must be placed into the operating system's storage of certificates. The certificates of the most authoritative CAs have undergone an audit and are automatically included into the storage and are delivered to users along with Windows updates. Certificates issued by other CAs can be added to the storage at the discretion of the user.

The use of trusted certificates by cybercriminals

Now let's look at attacks that can be carried out at each stage of signing a file. We are not interested in theoretical attacks based on the weaknesses of the encryption algorithms used to sign the file, but will concentrate instead on the attack methods most often used by cybercriminals in practice.

Planting malicious code at the file compilation stage

In many large software companies, files are signed automatically immediately after the file compilation is complete. File compilation is done centrally on a dedicated Build server.

If cybercriminals gain access to a software manufacturer's corporate network, they can use the corporate Build server to compile a malicious file on it, so it automatically gets signed with the company's digital signature. As a result of this attack, cybercriminals obtain a malicious file signed with a valid digital certificate.

In practice this type of attack is quite rare because large software manufacturers have adequate security in place to protect their Build servers. Nevertheless, there have been identified cases when targeted attacks were successfully conducted and malicious files were signed with a trusted company's certificate.

Stealing a private key

Sometimes, cybercriminals succeed in penetrating a corporate network and gaining access to a private key used to sign files. With that key, they can sign any malicious file and pass it off as a file produced by a legal software manufacturer.

One way to steal a private key is to use specialized malware created specifically for this purpose.

After stealing a private key, the cybercriminal either uses it or sells it to someone else to use. The more famous the software manufacturer from which the key was stolen, the more valuable the key will be among cybercriminals. Software from well-known manufacturers does not attract any suspicion from users and security administrators on corporate networks.

At the same time, large software manufacturer companies keep their private keys in dedicated, well-protected hardware modules, which makes it much more difficult to steal them.  As a result, private keys are typically stolen from smaller companies or private software manufacturers who do not pay enough attention to security.

Vulnerabilities in the algorithms that check executable file signatures

For an operating system to know which part of the file is supposed to contain the information about the presence of a digital certificate, the header of each signed executable file includes 8 bytes of data that contain information about the location and the size of the digital certificate. These 8 bytes are ignored when checking the file's signature. If a block of data is added to the end of the file's signature, and the size of the signature is increased by an appropriate amount, these changes also will also have no effect on the outcome of the signature check. This makes it possible to gain extra space in a signed file where data can be added without affecting the outcome of a signature check.

This algorithm is used actively in legal web installers: software developers who create these web installers modify the size of the digital signature to make room for an additional block of data, so that the digital certificate block includes a link to a file for that installer to download from the software developer's page and install on the users' system. This is a practical approach for software developers because the installer does not have to be re-signed each time the link to the software distribution kit is changed: it is enough to simply change the link stored in the digital signature block.

Cybercriminals, in turn, can use this algorithm for their own purposes. A cybercriminal takes a web installer for legal software, and changes the link so a different distribution kit to be downloaded. The installer then downloads and installs malware on the user's system. After that, the cybercriminal uploads the modified installer to software distribution sites.

To fix this vulnerability, Microsoft released a security update that enforces a rigorous check of each file's digital certificates. However, this update does not apply automatically because many software developers use the above algorithm in their installers, and their software programs would be considered unsigned if this update was applied across the board. The user can enable this update manually, if required.

The use of legally obtained certificates

A few years ago, digital certificates were actively used by large software manufacturers that were legally registered companies. Today, certificates are used increasingly often by individual software developers and small companies. The graph below shows how the number of certificates with which to sign software code known to Kaspersky Lab changed over time. As can be seen, the number of certificates is steadily growing year on year.

The number of certificates verified by CAs and known to Kaspersky Lab

The procedure of purchasing a certificate to sign executable code is quite simple: individuals must present their passport details, and companies must present their registration details. Some certificate-issuing CAs make no further checks into the activities of the companies seeking to purchase the certificate. All a CA does is it issues a certificate entitling the client to sign executable files, and verifies that the certificate has indeed been issued to the specific person or company.

This enables cybercriminals to legally purchase a certificate to sign their malicious and/or potentially unwanted software.

It is companies manufacturing potentially unwanted software that most often purchase certificates. On the one hand these companies do not manufacture malware programs, so they can legally purchase a digital certificate to sign their software. On the other hand, they produce software annoys users. In fact, they get their software signed with digital certificates precisely to encourage users to trust them.

Untrusted certificates

In all cases described above, be it stealing a private key, compromising a company's infrastructure and signing a file with that company's digital certificate, or purchasing a certificate with the intent of signing malware with it, the end result is the same: a trusted certificate is used to sign a malicious file.

Therefore, these certificates cannot be considered trusted in spite of the fact that their authenticity has been verified by a CA, as they were (or continue to be) used to sign malicious files. We will hereafter describe these certificates as 'untrusted'.

If a private key is stolen from a software developer, or a company's infrastructure is compromised and a trusted certificate is used to sign a malicious file, the CAs cease verifying the trustworthiness of the certificate that was earlier issued by them (a process also known as recalling the certificate). The speed of the CA's reaction depends on how soon it becomes known that the certificate has been used by somebody other than the legitimate developer.

However, when a certificate was purchased to sign potentially unwanted software, the CAs do not always recall the certificate. As a result the certificate could remain valid and be used to sign potentially dangerous software.

The following chart shows the proportions of untrusted certificates used to sign malware and potentially unwanted software (Kaspersky Lab data).

Breakdown of untrusted certificate numbers by their type

Methods of protection against launching software programs signed with untrusted certificates

We have discussed the most popular cybercriminals techniques to get files signed with digital certificates. Recently we have seen an increasingly significant problem concerning malicious and potentially unwanted files being signed with digital certificates. In 2008, 1,500 certificates were later used to sign malware; in 2014, there were more than 6,000 of these cases.

The number of untrusted certificates known to Kaspersky Lab

Given the growing number of threats associated with malicious files signed with digital certificates, users and administrator can no longer risk placing blind faith in signed files and just allow them to be launched simply because they have a digital certificate.

Here are a few practical tips to reduce your chances of launching a new malware program that has a valid digital certificate and hasn't yet reached your anti-virus databases:

  1. Only allow the launch of software programs signed by a reputable manufacturer.
  2. You can substantially reduce the risk of infection on your computer by disabling the launch of all software programs signed with digital certificates belonging to unknown software manufacturers. As described above, certificates are most often stolen from smaller software companies.

  3. Only allow programs to be launched after they are identified by their unique digital signature attributes.
  4. Several certificates issued to the same company may be distributed under the same name. If one of these certificates is stolen from a reputable company, a check that automatically trusts well-known publishers would allow a file signed with a stolen certificate.

    To prevent this from happening, before allowing programs signed with known certificates to launch, it is necessary to check other attributes as well as the certificate name. These attributes might be the serial number or certificate fingertip (hash sum). Serial numbers are only unique within the range of certificates issued by a single CA, so we recommend checking this along with the company that issued the certificate in the first place.

  5. Activate the MS13-098 security update.
  6. For experienced users and system administrators, it is advisable to enable update MS13-098 – it fixes an error which enables the inclusion of additional data in a signed file without tampering with the file's signature. To read more about how to activate this update, follow this link to Microsoft Security Center.

  7. Do not install certificates from unknown CAs into your security storage.
  8. It is not a good idea to install root certificates from unknown CAs into your storage. If you do so, any files signed with a certificate confirmed by that specific CA will subsequently be considered trusted.

  9. Use a trusted certificates database from a security software manufacturer.
  10. Some security software manufacturers, including Kaspersky Lab, include a database of trusted and untrusted certificates in their products; this database is updated on a regular basis along with the anti-virus databases. With this database, you will receive prompt updates about as-yet unrecalled certificates used to sign malware and/or potentially unwanted software. Files signed with untrusted certificates from this database require enhanced monitoring by the security product.

    The database of trusted certificates includes certificates from reputable software publishers that were used to sign trusted software programs. If a certificate is listed in this database, it is a strong indicator that corporate application control can allow the application to launch.

    If this kind of database is included in a security product it will help make the administrator's job easier, sparing them the need to create and maintain an in-house database of trusted certificates.

The number of digital certificates used to sign malware and/or potentially unwanted software is doubling every year on average. That is why it is vital that companies exercise ever greater control over signed files with the help of security product tools, and follow the above security policies.

Comparing the Regin module 50251 and the "Qwerty" keylogger

Tue, 01/27/2015 - 06:00

On January 17 2015, published an extensive article based on documents obtained from Edward Snowden. At the same time, they provided a copy of a malicious program codenamed "QWERTY" (, supposedly used by several governments in their CNE operations.

We've obtained a copy of the malicious files published by Der Spiegel and when we analyzed them, they immediately reminded us of Regin. Looking at the code closely, we conclude that the "QWERTY" malware is identical in functionality to the Regin 50251 plugin.


The Qwerty module pack consists of three binaries and accompanying configuration files. One file from the package– 20123.sys – is particularly interesting.

The "20123.sys" is a kernel mode part of the keylogger. As it turns out, it was built from source code that can also be found one Regin module, the "50251" plugin.

Using a binary diff it is easy to spot a significant part of code that is shared between both files:

Most of the shared code belongs to the function that accesses the system keyboard driver:

Most of the "Qwerty" components call plugins from the same pack (with plugin numbers 20121 – 20123), however  there is also one piece code that references plugins from the Regin platform. One particular part of code is used in both the "Qwerty" 20123 module and the Regin's 50251 counterpart, and it addresses the plugin 50225 that can be found in the virtual filesystems of Regin. The Regin's plugin 50225 is reponsible for kernel-mode hooking.

This is a solid proof that the Qwerty plugin can only operate as part of the Regin platform, leveraging the kernel hooking functions from plugin 50225.

As an additional proof that both modules use the same software platform, we can take a look at functions exported by ordinal 1 of both modules. They contain the startup code that can be found in any other plugin of Regin, and include the actual plugin number that is registered within the platform to allow further addressing of the module. This only makes sense if the modules are used with the Regin platform orchestrator.

The reason why the two modules have different plugin IDs is unknown. This is perhaps because they are leveraged by different actors, each one with its own allocated plugin ID ranges.


Our analysis of the QWERTY malware published by Der Spiegel indicates it is a plugin designed to work part of the Regin platform.  The QWERTY keylogger doesn't function as a stand-alone module, it relies on kernel hooking functions which are provided by the Regin module 50225.  Considering the extreme complexity of the Regin platform and little chance that it can be duplicated by somebody without having access to its sourcecodes, we conclude the QWERTY malware developers and the Regin developers are the same or working together.

Another important observation is that Regin plugins are stored inside an encrypted and compressed VFS, meaning they don't exist directly on the victim's machine in "native" format. The platform dispatcher loads and executes there plugins at startup. The only way to catch the keylogger is by scanning the system memory or decoding the VFSes.

The Syrian malware part 2: Who is The Joe?

Tue, 01/27/2015 - 03:00

Kaspersky Lab would like to alert users in the Middle East for new malware attacks being delivered through Syrian news and social networking forums. Malware writers are using multiple techniques to deliver their files and entice the victims to run them, creating an effective infection vector. Mainly depending on social engineering, the attackers exploit Victims' trust in social networking forums, curiosity in following news related to the conflict in Syria, their standing in Syria, in addition to their lack of Cyber Security awareness. Once criminals infect the victim's computer, attackers have full access and control over victim's devices.

In the first report on Syrian malware, Kaspersky Lab detailed many attacks being used in Syria to spy on users, the report included attacks from different teams and many sources.

This post will follow up on one of the domains, seemingly the most active in the last period:

The malware files were found on activist sites and social networking forums, some others were reported by regional organisations like CyberArabs.

Reports that mention "the Joe"

All the files hide under the hood a full-featured variant of a RAT, Remote Administration Trojan (Bitfrose/NjRAT/Shadowtech/Darkcomet...), capable of getting full control over victim machines and devices, monitoring any movements and accessing all files. The domain is related to many samples, here we will focus on the most important and luring, that most probably collected the highest number of targeted victims, estimated in thousands.

There are many factors and entities at play in this event, we will only focus on the malware and the facts that have been found during the analysis, presenting only relevant information, in the hope of setting a clear context for this research.

What is the information we had on theJoe?
What has the Joe been doing in the last period?
Who is the Joe?

What is the information we had on the Joe?

The Joe is one of the most active cyber criminals in Syria and the Middle East, targeting all types of users, following is the information collected on the Joe and his activities.

Domain information ""

The Joe is using a dynamic domain to be able to change his IP address and maintain anonymity:
The domain has been seen using the following IP addresses located in Syria and Russia:


TCP ports used in the attacks: 1234, 1177, 5522.

Malware information

From the malware samples collected, we were able to find strings in the code, from the Windows device used by the Joe.

Folder paths recovered from the malware files:

  • C:\Users\joe\Desktop\2014\WindowsApplication1\WindowsApplication1\obj\Debug\WindowsApplication1.pdb
  • C:\Users\joe\Desktop\Desktop\Syriatel\Syriatel\obj\Debug\Syriatel.pdb
  • C:\Users\joe\Desktop\NJServer\NJServer\obj\Debug\NJServer.pdb
Youtube Channel

The Joe is also using a fake youtube channel where he posts social engineering videos with links to download malware.

The Channel is distributing malware files under the name "Lions of the revolution" or other...

What has the Joe been doing in the last period?

The Joe was busy in the last period; In the below we display some of the most graphical and luring samples collected by the Kaspersky Intelligence services and the Kaspersky Security Network (KSN cloud), detailing their functionalities and how The Joe is able to use the situation in Syria to have the users automatically open the files even if they suspect infected. The most targeted countries are Syria, Turkey, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. The number of victims is estimated around 2000.

6 new stories:

  1. Let us fix your SSL vulnerability
  2. Now Let us clean your Skype!
  3. Did you update to the latest VPN version?
  4. Let's Check if your phone number is among the monitored numbers
  5. The Facebook account encryption application
  6. What's your favourite security product?

1 - Let us fix your SSL vulnerability

MD5 Hash: dc6166005db7487c9a8b32d938fec846
Filename: TheSSL.exe, SSL Cleaner.rar

Following up on the vulnerabilities in the OPENSSL, and the amount of news it reached, the cyber criminals are trying to benefit of the user perception of such news but lack of awareness on how the vulnerabilities could be fixed.

Demonstration video on the Heartbleed vulnerability + Link to download the "Fix" with infection

2 - Now Let us clean your Skype!

MD5 Hash: d6ab8ca6406fefe29e91c0604c812ff9
File Name: Skype.exe

Another social engineering trick used to lure criminals to download and execute a malicious file, the skype cleaner to "protect and encrypt your skype communications".

3 - Did you update to the latest VPN version?

MD5 Hash: 2e07e8622b4e997f6543fc0497452dad
File Name: VPN.exe

Psiphon, a legitimate application used around the world for anonymity protection, is particularly effective and used in Syria for users to protect their traffic from snooping or interception, the application here is bound with malware and delivered to the users as an updated version.

4 - Let's Check if your phone number is among the monitored numbers

MD5 Hash: ad9a18e1db0b43cb38da786eb3bf7c00
File Name: Syriatel.exe

Another one of the popular malware files, is used to fake a tool that is used to check the mobile phone numbers under surveillance and sorted by location, delivered as a "leaked program" to the victims.

5 - The Facebook account encryption application

MD5 Hash: efdaa73e0ac1b045d5f2214cadd77f09
File Name: Rooms.exe

6 - What's your favourite security product?

One of the latest files used to infect users is quite different: a binding of a Kaspersky Lab tool with malware. Developed by Kaspersky Lab, TDSSKiller is a powerful free tool that can detect and remove a specific list of rootkit malware families.

Bound with malware, the Joe is using the Kaspersky name to deliver the malware in an attempt to lure victims to open and trust the files he is sending.

 Who is "The Joe"

Hundreds of samples were analyzed relating to the Syrian malware, one of the samples, extracts to multiple documents, in one of which, we were able to find a metadata slip which extracted to some interesting information.

The metadata slip by the guy using "Joe" as his nickname, revealed his personal email, which using further research leads to his other emails, full identity, social pages...

On Facebook:

On Linkedin:

Indicators of compromise MD5 Hash Name(s) used for the malware file First Seen f62cfd2484ff8c5b1a4751366e914613 Adobe.exe
Card.exe Sept 2013 012f25d09fd53aeeddc11c23902770a7
89e6ae33b170ee712b47449bbbd84784 قائمة الأرهاب .zip ("list of terrorism") file extracts to .JPG and malicious .SCR files Jan 2014 dc6166005db7487c9a8b32d938fec846
62023eb959a79bbdecd5aa167b51541f TheSSL.exe (to "remove SSL weaknesses")
SSL Cleaner.rar April 2014 cc694b1f8f0cd901f65856e419233044 Desktop.exe
Host.exe Mar 2014 d6ab8ca6406fefe29e91c0604c812ff9 Skype.exe
Skypecleaner.exe July 2014 2e07e8622b4e997f6543fc0497452dad VPN.exe Sept 2014 efdaa73e0ac1b045d5f2214cadd77f09 Rooms.exe (to "encrypt your Facebook") Nov 2014 39d0d7e6880652e58b2d4d6e50ca084c Photo.exe Nov 2014 abf3cfecd2e194961fc97dac34f57b24 Ram.exe
Setup.exe Nov 2014 a238f8ab946516b6153816c5fb4307be tdskiler.exe (to "remove malware") Jan 2015 6379afd35285e16df4cb81803fde382c Locker.exe (to "encrypt/decrypt" files) Jan 2015

Kaspersky Lab detects all malicious files used in the attacks.
All files are actively being used by the cybercriminals at the time of this report.


Syrian malware has a strong reliance on social engineering and the active development of malicious variants. Nevertheless, most of them quickly reveal their true nature when inspected carefully; and this is one of the main reasons for urging Syrian users to be extra vigilant about what they download and to implement a layered defense approach. We expect these attacks to evolve both in quality and quantity.

For more details, please contact:

An analysis of Regin's Hopscotch and Legspin

Thu, 01/22/2015 - 04:00

With high profile threats like Regin, mistakes are incredibly rare. However, when it comes to humans writing code, some mistakes are inevitable. Among the most interesting things we observed in the Regin malware operation were the forgotten codenames for some of its modules.

These are:

  • Hopscotch
  • Legspin
  • Willischeck

We decided to analyze two of these modules in more detail - Hopscotch and Legspin.

Despite the overall sophistication (and sometimes even over-engineering) of the Regin platform, these tools are simple, straightforward and provide interactive console interfaces for Regin operators. What makes them interesting is the fact they were developed many years ago and could even have been created before the Regin platform itself.

The Hopscotch module MD5 6c34031d7a5fc2b091b623981a8ae61c Size 36864 bytes Type Win32 EXE Compiled 2006.03.22 19:09:29 (GMT)

This module has another binary inside, stored as resource 103:

MD5 42eaf2ab25c9ead201f25ecbdc96fb60 Size 18432 bytes Type Win32 EXE Compiled 2006.03.22 19:09:29 (GMT)

This executable module was designed as a standalone interactive tool for lateral movement. It does not contain any exploits but instead relies on previously acquired credentials to authenticate itself at the remote machine using standard APIs.

The module receives the name of the target machine and an optional remote file name from the standard input (operator). The attackers can choose from several options at the time of execution and the tool provides human-readable responses and suggestions for possible input.

Here's an example of "Hopscotch" running inside a virtual machine:

Authentication Mechanism (SU or NETUSE) [S]/N: Continue? [n]: A File of the same name was already present on Remote Machine - Not deleting...

The module can use two routines to authenticate itself at the target machine: either connecting to the standard share named "IPC$" (method called "NET USE") or logging on as a local user ("SU", or "switch user") who has enough rights to proceed with further actions.

It then extracts a payload executable from its resources and writes it to a location on the target machine. The default location for the payload is: \\%target%\ADMIN$\SYSTEM32\SVCSTAT.EXE. Once successful, it connects to the remote machine's service manager and creates a new service called "Service Control Manager" to launch the payload. The service is immediately started and then stopped and deleted after one second of execution.

The module establishes a two-way encrypted communication channel with the remote payload SVCSTAT.EXE using two named pipes. One pipe is used to forward input from the operator to the payload and the other writes data from the payload to the standard output. Data is encrypted using the RC4 algorithm and the initial key exchange is protected using asymmetric encryption.


Once completed, the tool deletes the remote file and closes the authenticated sessions, effectively removing all the traces of the operation.

The SVCSTAT.EXE payload module launches its copy in the process dllhost.exe and then prepares the corresponding named pipes on the target machine and waits for incoming data. Once the original module connects to the pipe, it sets up the encryption of the pipe communication and waits for the incoming shellcode.

The executable is injected in a new process of dllhost.exe or svchost.exe and executed, with its input and output handles redirected to the remote plugin that initiated the attack. This allows the operator to control the injected module and interact with it.

The Legspin module MD5 29105f46e4d33f66fee346cfd099d1cc Size 67584 bytes Type Win32 EXE Compiled 2003.03.17 08:33:50 (GMT)

This module was also developed as a standalone command line utility for computer administration. When run remotely it becomes a powerful backdoor. It is worth noting that the program has full console support and features colored output when run locally. It can even distinguish between consoles that support Windows Console API and TTY-compatible terminals that accept escape codes for coloring.

"Legspin" output in a standard console window with color highlighting

In addition to the compilation timestamp found in the PE headers, there are two references that point to 2003 as its true year of compilation. The program prints out two version labels:

  • 2002-09-A, referenced as "lib version"
  • 2003-03-A

In addition the program uses legacy API functions, like "NetBIOS" that was introduced in Windows 2000 and deprecated in Windows Vista.

Once started and initialized, it provides the operator with an interactive command prompt, waiting for incoming commands. The list of available commands is pretty large and allows the operators to perform many administrative actions. Some of the commands require additional information that is requested from the operator, and the commands provide a text description of the available parameters. The program is actually an administrative shell that is intended to be operated manually by the attacker/user.

Command Description cd Change current working directory dir
dirs List files and directories tar Find files matching a given mask and time range, and write their contents to a XOR-encrypted archive tree Print out a directory tree using pseudographics
trash Read and print out the contents of the Windows "Recycle Bin" directory get Retrieve an arbitrary file from the target machine, LZO compressed put Upload an arbitrary file to the target machine, LZO compressed del Delete a file ren
cp Copy or move a file to a new location gtm Get file creation, access, write timestamps and remember the values stm Set file creation, access, write timestamps to the previously retrieved values mtm Modify the previously retrieved file timestamps scan
strings Find and print out all readable strings from a given file more Print out the contents of an arbitrary file access Retrieve and print out DACL entries of files or directories audit Retrieve and print out SACL entries of files or directories finfo Retrieve and print out version information from a given file cs Dump the first 10,000 bytes from an arbitrary file or from several system files:


lnk Search for LNK files, parse and print their contents info Print out general system information:
  • CPU type
  • memory status
  • computer name
  • Windows and Internet Explorer version numbers
  • Windows installation path
  • Codepage
dl Print information about the disks:
  • Type
  • Free/used space
  • List of partitions, their filesystem types
ps List all running processes logdump Unfinished, only displays the parameter description reglist Dump registry information for a local or remote hive windows Enumerate all available desktops and all open windows view List all visible servers in a domain domains List the domain controllers in the network shares List all visible network shares regs Print additional system information from the registry:
  • IE version
  • Outlook Express version
  • Logon default user name
  • System installation date
  • BIOS date
  • CPU frequency
  • System root directory
ips List network adapter information:
  • DHCP/static IP address
  • Default gateway's address
times Obtain the current time from a local or remote machine who List the names of current users and the domains accessed by the machine net
ping Run the corresponding system utility and print the results tel Connect to a given TCP port of a host, send a string provided by the operator, print out the response dns
arps Resolve a host using DNS or ARP requests users List information about all user accounts admins List information about user accounts with administrative privileges groups List information about user groups trusts List information about interdomain trust user accounts packages Print the names of installed software packages sharepw Run a brute-force login attack trying to obtain the password of a remote share sharelist Connect to a remote share srvinfo Retrieve current configuration information for the specified server netuse Connect, disconnect or list network shares netshare Create or remove network shares on the current machine nbstat List NetBIOS LAN adapter information run Create a process and redirect its output to the operator system Run an arbitrary command using WinExec API exit Exit the program set Set various internal variables used in other shell commands su Log on as a different user kill Terminate a process by its PID kpinst Modify the registry value:
[HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon] System
This value should normally point to "lsass.exe". svc
drv Create, modify or remove a system service help
? Print the list of supported commands

The Legspin module we recovered doesn't have a built-in C&C mechanism. Instead, it relies on the Regin platform to redirect the console input/output to/from the operators.


Unlike most other Regin modules, Legspin and Hopscotch appear to be stand-alone tools developed much earlier. The Legspin backdoor in particular dates back to 2003 and perhaps even 2002. It's worth pointing that not all Regin deployments contain the Legspin module; in most cases, the attackers manage their victims through other Regin platform functions.

This means that Legspin could have been used independently from the Regin platform, as a simple backdoor together with an input/output wrapper.

Although more details about Regin are becoming available, there is still a lot that remains unknown. One thing is already clear – what we know about Regin is probably already retired information that has been replaced by new modules and techniques as time passes.

Windows 10 Preview and Security

Wed, 01/21/2015 - 14:25

Microsoft presented a preview of their newest "experience", Windows 10, over a live stream this morning. The release is expected later this year. This isn't envisioned as just an OS for desktops, but it brings support as a truly broad computing platform. They claim to have built Windows 10 with "more personal computing" in mind, and it's an ambitious push into seamlessly bringing together desktop computing, holographic computing (awesome!!!), mobile devices, gaming and IoT, a move to the "Store", productivity applications, big data services and sharing, new hardware partner technologies, and cloud computing for a "mobility of experience". They skimmed over "Trust" only in light of data privacy issues. From what I have seen, pushing aside security is a somewhat disappointing theme for all of the vendors at their previews, not just Microsoft. There is, however, a very long list of enhanced security features developed into this new codebase along with a massive amount of new attack surface introduced with this new platform.

Microsoft is attempting to better tighten down the new version of Windows the operating system by disallowing untrusted applications from installing and verifying their trustworthiness with their digital signature. This trusted signing model is an improvement, however, this active handling is not perfect. APT like Winnti's attacks on major development shops and their multiple, other significant ongoing attack projects demonstrate that digital certificates are readily stolen and re-used in attacks. Not just their core group's winnti attacks, but the certificates are distributed throughout multiple APT actors, sharing these highly valued assets, breaking the trust model itself to further their espionage efforts.

With seamless integration of all these data sharing services across computing resources, authentication and their underlying credentials and tokens cannot be leaked across services, applications, and devices. Pass-the-hash attack techniques frequently used by targeted attackers haunted corporate organizations using Windows for almost a decade. These types of credential theft techniques will have to be better protected against. And Flame introduced a whole new level of credential attack, so we may see Hyper-V and the newest container model for Windows 10 attacked to gain access to and abuse these tokens for lateral movement and data access. Defensive efforts haven't been terribly successful in their responsiveness in the past, and Active Directory continues to see new attacks on organization-wide authentication with "skeleton keys". So, their implementation of credential provisioning and access token handling will deserve security researchers' attention - Hyper-V technologies and components' attack surface will come under a new focus for years to come. And the DLP implementation for sharing corporate data securely is encouraging as well, but how strong can it be across energy constrained mobile hardware?

Considering that 2014 brought with it over 200 patch-worthy vulnerabilities for the various versions of Internet Explorer, a minimalist refresh of this code with the "Project Spartan" browser would be welcome. Simply put, the IE web browser was hammered in 2014 across all Windows platforms, including their latest. Our AEP and other technologies have been protecting against exploitation of these vulnerabilities in high volume this past year. Not only has its model implementing ActiveX components and its design been under heavy review, but the slew of newer code and functionality enabling "use-after-free" vulnerabilities led to critical remote code execution. The new Spartan browser brings with it large amounts of new code for communications and data sharing, which brings with it Microsoft's track record of introducing hundreds of patch-worthy vulnerabilities annually into their browser code. Hopefully their team won't bring that baggage with them, but the load seems pretty heavy with the new functionality. I didn't see any new security features, development practices, or sandboxes described for it and will wait to see what is in store here.


An unusually large amount of time was set aside to present their "intelligent assistant" Cortana, which started with a somewhat disconnected and bizarre conversation between the presenter and the actual Cortana assistant instance onstage. The devil is in the details when implementing security support for access to data across fairly unpredictable services like this one.

Of course, our products will be ready to go. Kaspersky Lab consumer products will support Windows 10 after its official launch. There will be no need for customers to reinstall Kaspersky Lab solutions for migration onto the new platform. All these products will be patched accordingly and will provide the same exceptional level of protection on the new Windows OS.

Microsoft Security Updates January 2015

Wed, 01/14/2015 - 19:34

Microsoft's security team begins 2015 with a minimal set of Security Bulletins, MS15-001 through MS15-008. The set included one critical vulnerability in a service that probably shouldn't be shipped any longer (telnet), and seven bulletins rated "Important" patches for elevation of privilege, DoS, and security bypass issues.

The critical Bulletin effects the telnet service. The telnet service is an ancient piece of software that provides shell access to a system. Only it's over unencrypted, plain text communications, and should not be used. Luckily, this service is not enabled by default on supported windows systems (but it is installed by default on Windows Server 2003). So, this patch effects very few customers. A quick search in shodan shows a pretty reduced set of users, and its presence in our Ksn data is very limited. When installed and enabled, Microsoft's telnet server runs as "Tlntsess.exe" on all Windows systems since Windows Server 2003.

But, if someone didn't install an alternative like OpenSSH, uses the PowerShell facility, WinSCP, or other facilities, and oddly installed this service, they may be running a server vulnerable to remote malformed packet delivery leading to remote code execution. Meaning it's a severe issue that really >shouldn't< effect many users. And it appears to not be exploited on our user base. On a somewhat related note, Ksn shows infected Tlntsess.exe files on systems that need upgrades and cleanup:

It's always surprising to still see the viral stuff, but it's certainly more prevalent than telnet service exploitation at this point.

The other Security Bulletins are rated "Important", and the escalation of privilege issues are somewhat interesting and the kind of thing businesses should be aware of - they are frequently used as a part of target attack activity.

One of these EoP vulnerabilities was reported privately and exposed publicly by Google's Project Zero. The project maintains a database of exploitable vulnerabilities, each of which has a deadline of 90 days from reporting before the bug goes public: "Deadline exceeded - automatically derestricting". This EoP was fixed and the fix released by Microsoft as MS015-003 two days after Google's bug issue was exposed publicly. It's strange that Google would do such a thing, it's not as if Microsoft doesn't commit to reasonable time frames for fixes and proper testing anymore. Microsoft responded with a lengthy writeup on responsible disclosure and cooperation within the industry, and mentioned Google's approach in particular.

The flawed code has yet to be seen as abused in the wild, but it will likely happen. You can find a set of executive summaries for the Bulletins here.

And one last note, the Advanced Notification Service is coming to an end. Microsoft ended their practice of broadcasting advance notice of security updates to all customers, and offers it only to paying Premiere-level customers. For the most part, it seems that this works out just fine and possibly frustrates people less with security maintenance. However, I think that it would be useful for Microsoft to pre-release forecasted download file sizes and reboot requirements for the updates, along with their ratings of critical or not, etc. For example, knowing that I will have to download over 200mb of critical software updates requiring system reboots would be helpful. That information would be useful to their customers both large and small. Time will tell if they bring it back, but likely, they will not need to.

Bitcoin Value Plunges Following $5M Bitstamp Heist

Thu, 01/08/2015 - 10:02

The new year has started rather badly for the Bitcoin world. On January 4th, a cyber-attack against Bitstamp, one of the biggest bitcoin exchanges in the world, resulted in the loss of almost 19,000 BTC - the equivalent of more than $5 million.

While very little is known at the moment about how the attackers managed to pull off this latest bitcoin heist, Bitstamp is assuring their customers that all of their bitcoins remain safe. The company states that "this breach represents a small fraction of Bitstamp's total bitcoin reserves", so hopefully covering the losses shouldn't be a problem for them.

Because of the irreversible nature of bitcoin transactions, the only thing Bitcoin enthusiasts can do right now is to sit and watch how the attackers are emptying the address used to collect the stolen bitcoins.

You can follow the thieves' transactions by yourself here:

Right now, the attackers are most likely trying to move those bitcoins around through as many addresses as possible, and then will proceed to launder the stolen coins by using so-called "mixing" services

Bitstamp seems to have been much better prepared for such an incident compared to Mt. Gox, so while the price of Bitcoin was of course impacted, the impact was not that big. Part of the reason is that bitcoins are currently trading at prices that haven't been seen since the autumn of 2013 anyway, between $250 and $300 for 1 BTC.

Bitcoin price in 2014 - source: ZeroBlock

Taking into account these cyber attacks, we conclude that in 2015 security will continue to remain the most important thing for Bitcoin exchanges and enthusiasts.

Our advice is to diversify and try and minimize the time in which your bitcoins are hosted by anyone else except yourself. Bitcoin exchanges and third party wallet providers seem to act as a magnet for attackers, so it's better to take the security of your bitcoins in your own hands.

Make sure to check out our tips on How to Keep Your Bitcoins Safe.

The second round of CODE BLUE in Japan

Wed, 01/07/2015 - 00:33

CODE BLUE@TOKYO, a cutting-edge IT security conference, was held from 18th -19th December. It was the second round, following its first occurrence in February 2014.

More than 400 people came together from all around the world, including one remotely participating in the conference via a drone. Heated discussions took place among researchers and engineers during intervals, lunchtime and coffee breaks - some were too enthusiastic they almost missed the next presentation (I admit I was one of them).

The concept of the meeting is "an international conference where the world's top class information security specialists gather to give cutting edge talks, and is a place for all participants to exchange information and interact beyond borders and languages." As this states, all the presentations were of high-quality technical research selected from topics submitted from researchers around the world. The security topics include: embedded technologies, penetration testing, vulnerabilities, malware, programming and more. It would be perfect if I could cover all the presentations, but to save my time and yours, I would like to pick up five of them.

  1. A security assessment study and trial of Tricore-powered automotive ECU

Dennis Kengo Oka (ETAS) and Takahiro Matsuki (FFRI) analyzed the behavior of ECU software running on TriCore, to attempt to verify the possibilities of attacks against it. Although they were not able to obtain the actual software itself for their testing, they created a test program on their own to show that the control system of TriCore was at risk of attack. There was a return address in a certain part of memory, and it was possible to transfer processing of the program to an arbitrary address if this was successfully overwritten. They proved the vulnerability by means of four demos, using an evaluation board. They said that they would need to obtain the ECU software actually used by TriCore in order to investigate whether or not the vulnerability could be a real threat.

  1. Physical [In]Security: It's not ALL about Cyber

Inbar Raz (Check Point) presented risks in cinema-ticketing machines, PoS machines and TVs in hospitals. Such devices have USB/LAN ports; and inserting USB keyboards or flash drives with LiveOS into those ports and booting them makes it possible to extract data stored on these devices. Since these devices often store credit card information or private keys for communications, this may pose risks. Through the presentation, Raz pointed out that special devices commonly used in public often lack protection against inappropriate access and could give away confidential data to malicious third parties.


  1. The story of IDA Pro

The keynote for Day 2, by Ilfak Guilfanov, was about the history of IDA from ver. 0.1 to IDA Pro. He outlined how IDA was created; which functionalities had been implemented; what issues have been resolved; and the existence of a pirated version of IDA Pro. Besides the future landscape of IDA Pro, the identity of the icon-lady was also revealed.

IDA Pro is widely used among engineers and malware researchers in their analysis of programs; I am not an exception.


  1. Drone attack by malware and network hacking

Dongcheol Hong (SEWORKS) pointed out the inadequate security settings of a drone system and showed that it was easy to hijack a drone. In his video he demonstrated experiments of malware infection via a smartphone app and an attack from an infected drone to a clean drone. At the end of the presentation, he warned that drones could possibly pose threats to other systems, since it may be possible to conduct a remote attack through PC, AP, or smart devices.


  1. Embedded Security in The Land of the Rising Sun

Ben Schmidt (Narf Industries) and Paul Makowski (Narf Industries) focused on routers commonly used in Japan, outlined which part of their code was vulnerable and demonstrated an attack on a router. According to them, there are a lot of home routers worldwide, which allow access to HTTP and UPnP ports from a WAN – Japan was number four on their worldwide list. They further pointed out that at the time of their presentation there were ~200,000 vulnerable routers which allowed HTTP and UPnP access from a WAN in Japan. Schmidt and Makowski sent me some additional comments after their presentation. They said: "Japanese embedded devices are attractive targets because Japanese Internet links are high bandwidth and low latency." They also emphasized the importance of quick patching of embedded devices.

David Jacoby from Kaspersky Lab GReAT was also a speaker at CODE BLUE. His presentation, entitled "How I Hacked My Home" ,was about the results of him hacking his own devices at home. His blog post is available in Securelist.

Kaspersky Lab Japan was Emerald Sponsor of CODE BLUE, as it had been for the first round.


Chthonic: a New Modification of ZeuS

Thu, 12/18/2014 - 06:00

In the fall of 2014, we discovered a new banking Trojan, which caught our attention for two reasons:

  • First, it is interesting from the technical viewpoint, because it uses a new technique for loading modules.
  • Second, an analysis of its configuration files has shown that the malware targets a large number of online-banking systems: over 150 different banks and 20 payment systems in 15 countries. Banks in the UK, Spain, the US, Russia, Japan and Italy make up the majority of its potential targets.

Kaspersky Lab products detect the new banking malware as Trojan-Banker.Win32.Chthonic.

The Trojan is apparently an evolution of ZeusVM, although it has undergone a number of significant changes. Chthonic uses the same encryptor as Andromeda bots, the same encryption scheme as Zeus AES and Zeus V2 Trojans, and a virtual machine similar to that used in ZeusVM and KINS malware.


We have seen several techniques used to infect victim machines with Trojan-Banker.Win32.Chthonic:

  • sending emails containing exploits;
  • downloading the malware to victim machines using the Andromeda bot (Backdoor.Win32.Androm in Kaspersky Lab classification).

When sending messages containing an exploit, cybercriminals attached a specially crafted RTF document, designed to exploit the CVE-2014-1761 vulnerability in Microsoft Office products. The file has a .DOC extension to make it look less suspicious.

Sample message with CVE-2014-1761 exploit

In the event of successful vulnerability exploitation, a downloader for the Trojan was downloaded to the victim computer. In the example above, the file is downloaded from a compromised site – hxxp://

The Andromeda bot downloaded the downloader from hxxp://

Downloading the Trojan

Once downloaded, the downloader injects its code into the msiexec.exe process. It seems that the downloader is based on the Andromeda bot's source code, although the two use different communication protocols.

Example of common functionality of Andromeda and Chthonic downloaders

Differences in communication protocols used by Andromeda and Chthonic C&C

The Chthonic downloader contains an encrypted configuration file (similar encryption using a virtual machine was used in KINS and ZeusVM). The main data contained in the configuration file includes: a list of С&С servers, a 16-byte key for RC4 encryption, UserAgent, botnet id.

The main procedure of calling virtual machine functions

After decrypting the configuration file, its individual parts are saved in a heap - in the following format:

This is done without passing pointers. The bot finds the necessary values by examining each heap element using the RtlWalkHeap function and matching its initial 4 bytes to the relevant MAGIC VALUE.

The downloader puts together a system data package typical of ZeuS Trojans (local_ip, bot_id, botnet_id, os_info, lang_info, bot_uptime and some others) and encrypts it first using XorWithNextByte and then using RC4. Next, the package is sent to one of the C&C addresses specified in the configuration file.

In response, the malware receives an extended loader – a module in a format typical of ZeuS, i.e., not a standard PE file but a set of sections that are mapped to memory by the loader itself: executable code, relocation table, point of entry, exported functions, import table.

Code with section IDs matching the module structures

It should be noted that the imports section includes only API function hashes. The import table is set up using the Stolen Bytes method, using a disassembler included in the loader for this purpose. Earlier, we saw a similar import setup in Andromeda.

Fragment of the import setup function in Andromeda and Chthonic

Header of a structure with module

The extended loader also contains a configuration file encrypted using the virtual machine. It loads the Trojan's main module, which in turn downloads all the other modules. However, the extended loader itself uses AES for encryption, and some sections are packed using UCL. The main module loads additional modules and sets up import tables in very much the same way as the original Chthonic downloader, i.e. this ZeuS variant has absorbed part of the Andromeda functionality.

The entire sequence in which the malware loads, including the modules that are described below, is as follows:


Trojan-Banker.Win32.Chthonic has a modular structure. To date, we have discovered the following modules:

Name Description Has a 64bit version main Main module (v4.6.15.0 - v4.7.0.0) Yes info Collects system information Yes pony Module that steals saved passwords No klog Keylogger Yes http Web injection and formgrabber module Yes vnc Remote access Yes socks Proxy server Yes cam_recorder Recording video from the web camera Yes

The impressive set of functions enables the malware to steal online banking credentials using a variety of techniques. In addition, VNC and cam recorder modules enable attackers to connect to the infected computer remotely and use it to carry out transactions, as well as recording video and sound if the computer has a webcam and microphone.


Web injections are Chthonic's main weapon: they enable the Trojan to insert its own code and images into the code of pages loaded by the browser. This enables the attackers to obtain the victim's phone number, one-time passwords and PINs, in addition to the login and password entered by the victim.

For example, for one of the Japanese banks the Trojan hides the bank's warnings and injects a script that enables the attackers to carry out various transactions using the victim's account:

Online banking page screenshots before and after the injection

Interesting functions in injected script

The script can also display various fake windows in order to obtain the information needed by the attackers. Below is an example of a window which displays a warning of non-existent identification problems and prompts the user to enter TAN:

Fake TAN entry window

Our analysis of attacks against customers of Russian banks has uncovered an unusual web injection scenario. When opening an online banking web page in the browser, the entire contents of the page is spoofed, not just parts of it as in an ordinary attack. From the technical viewpoint, the Trojan creates an iframe with a phishing copy of the website that has the same size as the original window.

Below is a fragment of injected code, which replaces everything between title and body closing tags with the following text:

And here is the script itself:

Additionally, the bot receives a command to establish a backconnect connection if the injection is successful:


There are several botnets with different configuration files. Overall, the botnets we are aware of target online banking systems of over 150 different banks and 20 payment systems in 15 countries. The cybercriminals seem most interested in banks in the UK, Spain, the US, Russia, Japan and Italy.

Chtonic target distribution by country

It is worth noting that, in spite of the large number of targets on the list, many code fragments used by the Trojan to perform web injections can no longer be used, because banks have changed the structure of their pages and, in some cases, the domains as well. It should also be noted that we saw some of these fragments in other bots' config files (e.g., Zeus V2) a few years back.


We can see that the ZeuS Trojan is still actively evolving and its new implementations take advantage of cutting-edge techniques developed by malware writers. This is significantly helped by the ZeuS source code having been leaked. As a result, it has become a kind of framework for malware writers, which can be used by anyone and can easily be adapted to cybercriminals' new needs. The new Trojan – Chthonic – is the next stage in the evolution of ZeuS: it uses Zeus AES encryption, a virtual machine similar to that used by ZeusVM and KINS, and the Andromeda downloader.

What all of this means is that we will undoubtedly see new variants of ZeuS in the future.

A few md5:


Kaspersky Security Bulletin 2014. A Look into the APT Crystal Ball

Thu, 12/11/2014 - 07:00

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  1. Predictions 2015
  2. Overall statistics for 2014
  3. Malware Evolution
  4. A Look into the APT Crystal Ball

Over the past years, Kaspersky's Global Research and Analysis Team (GReAT) has shed light on some of the biggest APT campaigns, including RedOctober, Flame, NetTraveler, Miniduke, Epic Turla, Careto/Mask and others. While studying these campaigns we have also identified a number of 0-day exploits, including the most recent CVE-2014-0546. We were also among the first to report on emerging trends in the APT world, such as cyber mercenaries who can be contracted to launch lightning attacks or more recently, attacks through unusual vectors such as hotel Wi-Fi. Over the past years, Kaspersky Lab's GReAT team has monitoring more than 60 threat actors responsible for cyber-attacks worldwide, organizations which appear to be fluent in many languages such as Russian, Chinese, German, Spanish, Arabic, Persian and others.

By closely observing these threat actors, we put together a list of what appear to be the emerging threats in the APT world. We think these will play an important role in 2015 and deserve special attention, both from an intelligence point of view but also with technologies designed to stop them.

The merger of cyber-crime and APT

For many years, cyber-criminal gangs focused exclusively on stealing money from end users. An explosion of credit card theft, hijacking of electronic payment accounts or online banking connections led to consumer losses in the worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Maybe this market is no longer so lucrative, or maybe the cybercriminal market is simply overcrowded, but it now seems like there is a struggle being waged for 'survival'. And, as usual, that struggle is leading to evolution.

What to expect: In one incident we recently investigated attackers compromised an accountant's computer and used it to initiate a large transfer with their bank. Although it might seem that this is nothing very unusual, we see a more interesting trend: Targeted attacks directly against banks, not their users.

In a number of incidents investigated by Kaspersky Lab experts from the Global Research and Analysis Team, several banks were breached using methods straight out of the APT playbook. Once the attackers got into the banks' networks, they collected enough information to enable them to steal money directly from the bank in several ways:

  • Remotely commanding ATMs to dispense cash.
  • Performing SWIFT transfers from various customer accounts,
  • Manipulating online banking systems to perform transfers in the background.

These attacks are an indication of a new trend that is embracing APT style attacks in the cybercriminal world. As usual, cybercriminals prefer to keep it simple: they now attack the banks directly because that's where they money is.  We believe this is a noteworthy trend that will become more prominent in 2015.

Fragmentation of bigger APT groups

2014 saw various sources expose APT groups to the public eye. Perhaps the best-known case is the FBI indictment of five hackers on various computer crimes:

This public "naming and shaming" means we expect some of the bigger and "noisier" APT groups to shatter and break into smaller units, operating independently.

What to expect: This will result in a more widespread attack base, meaning more companies will be hit, as smaller groups diversify their attacks. At the same time, it means that bigger companies that were previously compromised by two or three major APT groups (eg. Comments Crew and Wekby) will see more varied attacks from a wider range of sources.

Evolving malware techniques

As computers become more sophisticated and powerful, operating systems also become more complex. Both Apple and Microsoft have spent a lot of time improving the security posture of their respective operating systems. Additionally, special tools such as Microsoft's EMET are now available to help thwart targeted attacks against software vulnerabilities.

With Windows x64 and Apple Yosemite becoming more popular, we expect APT groups to update their toolsets with more powerful backdoors and technologies to evade security solutions.

What to expect: Today, we are already seeing APT groups constantly deploying malware for 64-bit systems, including 64-bit rookits. In 2015, we expect to see more sophisticated malware implants, enhanced evasion techniques and more use of virtual file systems (such as those from Turla and Regin) to conceal precious tools and stolen data.

While we see these increases in advanced techniques, some attackers are moving in the opposite direction. While minimizing the number of exploits and amount of compiled code they introduce to compromised networks altogether, their work continues to require sophisticated code or exploit introduction at a stable entry into the enterprise, script tools and escalation of privilege of all sorts, and stolen access credentials at victim organizations.

As we saw with BlackEnergy 2 (BE2), attackers will actively defend their own presence and identity within victim networks once discovered. Their persistence techniques are becoming more advanced and expansive. These same groups will step up the amount and aggression of destructive last effort components used to cover their tracks, and they include more *nix support, networking equipment, and embedded OS support. We have already seen some expansion from BE2, Yeti, and Winnti actors.

New methods of data exfiltration

The days when attackers would simply activate a backdoor in a corporate network and start siphoning terabytes of information to FTP servers around the world are long gone. Today, more sophisticated groups use SSL on a regular basis alongside custom communication protocols.

Some of the more advanced groups rely on backdooring networking devices and intercepting traffic directly for commands. Other techniques we have seen include exfiltration of data to cloud services, for instance via the WebDAV protocol (facilitates collaboration between users in editing and managing documents and files stored on web servers).

These in turn have resulted in many corporations banning public cloud services such as Dropbox from their networks. However, this remains an effective method of bypassing intrusion detection systems and DNS blacklists.

What to expect: In 2015, more groups to adopt use of cloud services  in order to make exfiltration stealthier and harder to notice.

New APTs from unusual places as more countries join the cyber arms race

In February 2014, we published research into Careto/Mask, an extremely sophisticated threat actor that appears to be fluent in Spanish, a language rarely seen in targeted attacks. In August, we also released a report on Machete, another threat actor using the Spanish language.

Before that, we were accustomed to observing APT actors and operators that are fluent in relatively few languages. Additionally, many professionals do not use their native language, preferring instead to write in perfect English.

In 2014, we observed a lot of nations around the world publicly expressing an interest in developing APT capabilities:

What to expect: Although we haven't yet seen APT attacks in Swedish, we do predict that more nations will join the "cyber-arms" race and develop cyber-espionage capabilities.

Use of false flags in attacks

Attackers make mistakes. In the vast majority of the cases we analyze, we observe artifacts that provide clues about the language spoken by the attackers. For instance, in the case of RedOctober and Epic Turla, we concluded that the attackers were probably fluent in the Russian language. In the case of NetTraveler we came to the conclusion that attackers were fluent in Chinese.

In some cases, experts observe other meta features that could point toward the attackers. For example, performing file timestamp analysis of the files used in an attack may lead to the conclusion in what part of the world most of the samples were compiled.

However attackers are beginning to react to this situation. In 2014 we observed several "false flag" operations where attackers delivered "inactive" malware commonly used by other APT groups. Imagine a threat actor of Western origin dropping a malware commonly used by a "Comment Crew," a known Chinese threat actor. While everyone is familiar with the "Comment Crew" malware implants, few victims could analyze sophisticated new implants. That can easily mislead people into concluding that the victim was hit by the Chinese threat actor.

What to expect: In 2015, with governments increasingly keen to "name and shame" attackers, we believe that APT groups will also carefully adjust their operations and throw false flags into the game.

Threat actors add mobile attacks to their arsenal

Although APT groups have been observed infecting mobile phones, this hasn't yet become a major trend. Perhaps the attackers wish to get data that isn't usually available on mobiles, or maybe not all of them have access to the technologies that can infect Android and iOS devices.

In 2014 we saw several new APT tools designed for infecting mobiles, for instance Hacking Team's Remote Control System mobile modules.

Additionally, during the Hong Kong protests in October 2014, attacks were seen against Android and iOS users which appear to be connected to APT operations.

Although a mobile phone might not have valuable documents and schematics, or geopolitical expansion plans for next 10 years, they can be a valuable source of contacts as well as listening points. We observed this with the RedOctober group, which had the ability to infect mobile phones and turn them into "Zakladka's", mobile bugs.

What to expect: In 2015, we anticipate more mobile-specific malware, with a focus on Android and jailbroken iOS.

APT+Botnet: precise attack + mass surveillance

In general, APT groups are careful to avoid making too much noise with their operations. This is why the malware used in APT attacks is much less widespread than common crimeware such as Zeus, SpyEye and Cryptolocker.

In 2014 we observed two APT groups (Animal Farm and Darkhotel) using botnets in addition to their regular targeted operations. Of course, botnets can prove to be a vital asset in cyberwar and can be used to DDoS hostile countries; this has happened in the past.  We can therefore understand why some APT groups might want to build botnets in addition to their targeted operations.

In addition to DDoS operations, botnets can also offer another advantage - mass surveillance apparatus for a "poor country". For instance, Flame and Gauss, which we discovered in 2012, were designed to work as a mass surveillance tool, automatically collecting information from tens of thousands of victims. The information would have to be analyzed by a supercomputer, indexed and clustered by keywords and topics; most of it would probably be useless. However, among those hundreds of thousands of exfiltrated documents, perhaps one provides key intelligence details, that could make a difference in tricky situations.

What to expect: In 2015 more APT groups will embrace this trend of using precise attacks along with noisy operations and deploy their own botnets.

Targeting of hotel networks

The Darkhotel group is one of the APT actors known to have targeted specific visitors during their stay in hotels in some countries. Actually, hotels provide an excellent way of targeting particular categories of people, such as company executives. Targeting hotels is also highly lucrative because it provides intelligence about the movements of high profile individuals around the world.

Compromising a hotel reservation system is an easy way to conduct reconnaissance on a particular target. It also allows the attackers to know the room where the victim is staying, opening up the possibility of physical attacks as well as cyber-attacks.

It isn't always easy to target a hotel. This is why very few groups, the elite APT operators, have done it in the past and will use it as part of their toolset.

What to expect: In 2015, a few other groups might also embrace these techniques, but it will remain beyond the reach of the vast majority of APT players.

Commercialization of APT and the private sector

Over the last few years, we published extensive research into malware created by companies such as HackingTeam or Gamma International, two of the best known vendors of "legal spyware". Although these companies claim to sell their software only to "trusted government entities", public reports from various sources, including Citizen Lab, have repeatedly shown that spyware sales cannot be controlled. Eventually, these dangerous software products end up in the hands of less trustworthy individuals or nations, who can use them for cyber-espionage against other countries or their own people.

The fact is that such activities are highly profitable for the companies developing the cyber-espionage software. They are also low risk because – so far – we have not seen a single case where one of these companies was convicted in a cyber-espionage case. The developers of these tools are usually out of the reach of the law, because the responsibility falls with the tool users, not the company that develops and facilitates the spying.

What to expect: It's a high-reward, low risk business that will lead to the creation of more software companies entering the "legal surveillance tools" market. In turn, these tools will be used for nation-on-nation cyber-espionage operations, domestic surveillance and maybe even sabotage.


In general, 2014 was a rather sophisticated and diverse year for APT incidents. We discovered several zero-days, for instance CVE-2014-0515 which was used by a group we call "Animal Farm". Another zero-day we discovered was CVE-2014-0487, used by the group known as DarkHotel. In addition to these zero-days, we observed several new persistence and stealth techniques, which in turn resulted in the development and deployment of several new defense mechanisms for our users.

If we can call 2014 "sophisticated", the word for 2015 will be "elusive". We believe that more APT groups will become concerned with exposure and they will take more advanced measures to hide from discovery.

Finally, some of them will deploy false flag operations. We anticipate these developments and, as usual, will document them thoroughly in our reports.

Cloud Atlas: RedOctober APT is back in style

Wed, 12/10/2014 - 05:03

Two years ago, we published our research into RedOctober, a complex cyber-espionage operation targeting diplomatic embassies worldwide. We named it RedOctober because we started this investigation in October 2012, an unusually hot month.

After our announcement in January 2013, the RedOctober operation was promptly shut down and the network of C&Cs was dismantled. As usually happens which these big operations, considering the huge investment and number of resources behind it, they don't just "go away" forever. Normally, the group goes underground for a few months, redesigns the tools and the malware and resume operations.


Since January 2013, we've been on the lookout for a possible RedOctober comeback. One possible hit was triggered when we observed Mevade, an unusual piece of malware that appeared late in 2013. The Mevade C&C name styles as well as some other technical similarities indicated a connection to RedOctober, but the link was weak. It wasn't until August 2014 that we observed something which made us wonder if RedOctober is back for good.

Meet Cloud Atlas

In August 2014, some of our users observed targeted attacks with a variation of CVE-2012-0158 and an unusual set of malware. We did a quick analysis of the malware and it immediately stood out because of certain unusual things that are not very common in the APT world.

Some of the filenames used in the attacks included:

  • FT - Ukraine Russia's new art of war.doc
  • Катастрофа малайзийского лайнера.doc
  • Diplomatic Car for Sale.doc
  • МВКСИ.doc
  • Organigrama Gobierno Rusia.doc
  • Фото.doc
  • Информационное письмо.doc
  • Форма заявки (25-26.09.14).doc
  • Информационное письмо.doc
  • Письмо_Руководителям.doc
  • Прилож.doc
  • Car for sale.doc
  • Af-Pak and Central Asia's security issues.doc

At least one of them immediately reminded us of RedOctober, which used a very similarly named  spearphish: "Diplomatic Car for Sale.doc". As we started digging into the operation, more details emerged which supported this theory.

Perhaps the most unusual fact was that the Microsoft Office exploit didn't directly write a Windows PE backdoor on disk. Instead, it writes an encrypted Visual Basic Script and runs it.

Cloud Atlas exploit payload - VBScript

This VBScript drops a pair of files on disk - a loader and an encrypted payload. The loader appears to be different every time and internal strings indicate it is "polymorphically" generated. The payload is always encrypted with a unique key, making it impossible to decrypt unless the DLL is available.

We observed several different spear-phishing documents that drop uniquely named payloads. For instance, the "qPd0aKJu.vbs" file MD5:

E211C2BAD9A83A6A4247EC3959E2A730 drops the following files:

DECF56296C50BD3AE10A49747573A346 - bicorporate - encrypted payload
D171DB37EF28F42740644F4028BCF727 - ctfmonrn.dll - loader

The VBS also adds a registry key:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run\ setting the key "bookstore" to the value "regsvr32 %path%\ctfmonrn.dll /s", which ensures the malware runs every time at system boot.

Some of the DLL names we observed include:

f4e15c1c2c95c651423dbb4cbe6c8fd5 - bicorporate.dll
649ff144aea6796679f8f9a1e9f51479 - fundamentive.dll
40e70f7f5d9cb1a669f8d8f306113485 - papersaving.dll
58db8f33a9cdd321d9525d1e68c06456 - previliges.dll
f5476728deb53fe2fa98e6a33577a9da - steinheimman.dll

Some of the payload names include:


The payload includes an encrypted configuration block which contains information about the C&C sever:

The information from the config includes a WebDAV URL which is used for connections, a username and password, two folders on the WebDAV server used to store plugins/modules for the malware and where data from the victim should be uploaded.

C&C communication

The Cloud Atlas implants utilize a rather unusual C&C mechanism. All the malware samples we've seen communicate via HTTPS and WebDav with the same server "", a cloud services provider. According to their website, CloudMe is owned and operated by CloudMe AB, a company based in Linköping, Sweden.

(Important note: we do not believe that CloudMe is in any way related to the Cloud Atlas group - the attackers simply create free accounts on this provider and abuse them for command-and-control).

Each malware set we have observed so far communicates with a different CloudMe account though. The attackers upload data to the account, which is downloaded by the implant, decrypted and interpreted. In turn, the malware uploads the replies back to the server via the same mechanism. Of course, it should be possible to reconfigure the malware to use any Cloud-based storage service that supports WebDAV.

Here's a look at one such account from CloudMe:

The data from the account:

The files stored in the randomly named folder were uploaded by the malware and contain various things, such as system information, running processes and current username. The data is compressed with LZMA and encrypted with AES, however, the keys are stored in the malware body which makes it possible to decrypt the information from the C&C.

We previously observed only one other group using a similar method – ItaDuke – that connected to accounts on the cloud provider

Victim statistics: top 5 infected countries CloudAtlas RedOctober Russia 15 35 Kazakhstan 14 21 Belarus 4 5 India 2 14 Czech Republic 2 5 Similarities with RedOctober

Just like with RedOctober, the top target of Cloud Atlas is Russia, followed closely by Kazakhstan, according to data from the Kaspersky Security Network (KSN). Actually, we see an obvious overlap of targets between the two, with subtle differences which closely account for the geopolitical changes in the region that happened during the last two years.

Interestingly, some of the spear-phishing documents between Cloud Atlas and RedOctober seem to exploit the same theme and were used to target the same entity at different times.

Cloud Atlas RedOctober

Both Cloud Atlas and RedOctober malware implants rely on a similar construct, with a loader and the final payload that is stored encrypted and compressed in an external file. There are some important differences though, especially in the encryption algorithms used – RC4 in RedOctober vs AES in Cloud Atlas.

The usage of the compression algorithms in Cloud Altas and RedOctober is another interesting similarity. Both malicious programs share the code for LZMA compression algorithm. In CloudAtlas it is used to compress the logs and to decompress the decrypted payload from the C&C servers, while in Red October the "scheduler" plugin uses it to decompress executable payloads from the C&C.

It turns out that the implementation of the algorithm is identical in both malicious modules, however the way it is invoked is a bit different, with additional input sanity checks added to the CloudAtlas version.

Another interesting similarity between the malware families is the configuration of the build system used to compile the binaries. Every binary created using the Microsoft Visual Studio toolchain has a special header that contains information about the number of input object files and version information of the compilers used to create them, the "Rich" header called so by the magic string that is used to identify it in the file.

We have been able to identify several RedOctober binaries that have "Rich" headers describing exactly the same layout of VC 2010 + VC 2008 object files. Although this doesn't necessarily mean that the binaries were created on the same development computer, they were definitely compiled using the same version of the Microsoft Visual Studio up to the build number version and using similar project configuration.

Number of object files, CloudAtlas loader Number of object files, Red October Office plugin Number of object files,Red October Fileputexec plugin HEX compiler version Decoded compiler version 01 01 01 009D766F VC 2010 (build 30319) 01 01 01 009B766F VC 2010 (build 30319) 22 2E 60 00AB766F VC 2010 (build 30319) 5B 60 A3 00010000 – 05 07 11 00937809 VC 2008 (build 30729) 72 5C AD 00AA766F VC 2010 (build 30319) 20 10 18 009E766F VC 2010 (build 30319)

To summarize the similarities between the two:

Cloud Atlas RedOctober Shellcode marker in spearphished documents PT@T PT@T Top target country Russia Russia Compression algorithm used for C&C communications LZMA LZMA C&C servers claim to be / redirect to BBC (mobile malware) BBC Compiler version VC 2010 (build 30319) VC 2010 (build 30319) (some modules)

Finally, perhaps the strongest connection comes from targeting. Based on observations from KSN, some of the victims of RedOctober are also being targeted by CloudAtlas. In at least one case, the victim's computer was attacked only twice in the last two years, with only two malicious programsRedOctober and Cloud Atlas.

These and other details make us believe that CloudAtlas represents a rebirth of the RedOctober attacks.


Following big announcements and public exposures of targeted attack operations, APT groups behave in a predictable manner. Most Chinese-speaking attackers simply relocate C&C servers to a different place, recompile the malware and carry on as if nothing happened.

Other groups that are more nervous about exposure go in a hibernation mode for months or years. Some may never return using the same tools and techniques.

However, when a major cyber-espionage operation is exposed, the attackers are unlikely to completely shut down everything. They simply go offline for some time, completely reshuffle their tools and return with rejuvenated forces.

We believe this is also the case of RedOctober, which makes a classy return with Cloud Atlas.

Kaspersky products detect the malware from the Cloud Atlas toolset with the following verdicts:



Parallel research:

'Destover' Malware Now Digitally Signed by Sony Certificates

Tue, 12/09/2014 - 14:47

Several days ago, our products detected an unusual sample from the Destover family. The Destover family of trojans has been used in the high profile attacks known as DarkSeoul, in March 2013, and more recently, in the attack against Sony pictures in November 2014. We wrote about it on December 4th, including the possible links with the Shamoon attack from 2012.

The new sample is unusual in the sense it is signed by a valid digital certificate from Sony:

The signed sample has been previously observed in a non signed form, as MD5: 6467c6df4ba4526c7f7a7bc950bd47eb and appears to have been compiled in July 2014.

The new sample has the MD5 e904bf93403c0fb08b9683a9e858c73e and appears to have been signed on December 5th, 2014, just a few days ago.

Functionally, the backdoor contains two C&Cs and will alternately try to connect to both, with delays between connections:

  • 208.105.226[.]235:443 - United States Champlain Time Warner Cable Internet Llc
  • 203.131.222[.]102:443 - Thailand Bangkok Thammasat University

So what does this mean? The stolen Sony certificates (which were also leaked by the attackers) can be used to sign other malicious samples. In turn, these can be further used in other attacks. Because the Sony digital certificates are trusted by security solutions, this makes attacks more effective. We've seen attackers leverage trusted certificates in the past, as a means of bypassing whitelisting software and default-deny policies.

We've already reported the digital certificate to COMODO and Digicert and we hope it will be blacklisted soon. Kaspersky products will still detect the malware samples even if signed by digital certificates.

Stolen certificate serial number:

  • ‎01 e2 b4 f7 59 81 1c 64 37 9f ca 0b e7 6d 2d ce


  •  ‎8d f4 6b 5f da c2 eb 3b 47 57 f9 98 66 c1 99 ff 2b 13 42 7a

Kaspersky Security Bulletin 2014. Malware Evolution

Tue, 12/09/2014 - 04:00

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The end of the year is traditionally a time for reflection – for taking stock of our lives before considering what lies ahead. We'd like to offer our customary retrospective of the key events that shaped the threat landscape in 2014.

1. Targeted attacks and malware campaigns

Targeted attacks are now an established part of the threat landscape, so it's no surprise to see them feature in our yearly review.

The complex cyber-espionage campaign called 'Careto' or 'The Mask' (Careto is Spanish slang for 'ugly face' or 'mask') was designed to steal sensitive data from specific organizations. The victims of the attack included government agencies, embassies, energy companies, research institutions, private equity firms and activists from 31 countries around the world. Careto included a sophisticated backdoor Trojan capable of intercepting all communication channels and of harvesting all kinds of data from infected computers – including encryption keys, VPN configurations, SSH keys, RDP files and some unknown file types that could be related to bespoke military/government-level encryption tools. The code was highly modular, allowing the attackers to add new functionality at will. There are versions of the backdoor for Windows and Mac OS X and we also found references in some modules indicating that there might be versions for Linux, iOS and Android. As with any sophisticated campaign of this sort, attribution is difficult. Use of the Spanish language in the code doesn't help, since Spanish is spoken in many parts of the world. Also, it's possible that its use is an intentional piece of misdirection. However, the very high degree of professionalism of the group behind this attack is unusual for cybercriminal groups – one indicator that Careto could be a state-sponsored campaign. Like previous targeted attack campaigns, the roots of Careto stretch back well before the threat first came to light: we believe that the attackers have been active since 2007.

Early in March there was widespread discussion among security researchers about a cyber-espionage campaign called 'Epic Turla'. Researchers at G-DATA believed the malware may have been created by Russian special services; while research carried out by BAE Systems linked it to malware identified as 'Agent.btz' that dates back to 2007 and was used in 2008 to infect the local networks of US military operations in the Middle East. Our initial analysis of Epic Turla focused on the malware's use of USB flash drives to store stolen data that can't be sent directly over the Internet to the attackers' Command-and-Control (C2) server. The worm writes a file called 'thumb.dd' to all USB flash drives connected to an infected computer. If the flash drive is subsequently inserted into another computer, the 'thumb.dd' file is copied to the new computer. Epic Turla isn't the only malware that is aware of 'thumb.dd'. This is one of the files in the 'USB Stealer module' in Red October. Looking back further, Gauss and miniFlame were aware of 'thumb.dd and looked for the file on USB flash drives. You can find a chart showing the points of comparison here. We think it's likely that there are tens of thousands of USB flash drives around the world containing files called 'thumb.dd' created by this malware.

In our subsequent analysis of Epic Turla we explained how the attackers use social engineering to spread the malware and highlighted the overall structure of the campaign. The attackers use spear-phishing emails to trick their victims into installing a backdoor on their computer. Some of these include zero-day exploits – one affecting Adobe Acrobat Reader and the other a privilege escalation vulnerability in Windows XP and Windows Server 2003. They also use watering-hole attacks that deploy a Java exploit, Adobe Flash exploits and Internet Explorer exploits, or trick victims into running fake 'Flash Player' malware installers. Depending on the IP address of the victim, the attackers serve Java or browser exploits, signed fake Adobe Flash Player software or a fake version of Microsoft Security Essentials. Unsurprisingly, the choice of web sites reflects the specific interests of the attackers (as well as the interests of the victims). However, our analysis showed that the Epic Turla backdoor is just the first stage of the infection. It is used to deploy a more sophisticated backdoor known as the 'Cobra/Carbon system' (named 'Pfinet' by some anti-malware products). The unique knowledge to operate these two backdoors indicates a clear and direct connection between them: one is used to gain a foothold and validate the high-profile victim. If the victim proves to be of interest to the attackers, the compromised computer is upgraded to the full Carbon system. You can find an overview of the Epic Turla campaign here:

In June we reported on our research into an attack on the clients of a large European bank that resulted in the theft of half a million euros in just one week. We named this 'Luuuk', after the path in the administration panel used in the C2 server. Although we were unable to obtain the malware used to infect the victims, we believe the criminals used a banking Trojan that performed 'Man-in-the-Browser' operations to steal the victims' credentials through a malicious web injection. Based on the information available in some of the log files, the malware stole usernames, passwords and one-time passcodes (OTP) in real time. The attackers used the stolen credentials to check the victim's account balance and perform malicious transactions automatically, probably operating in the background of a legitimate banking session. The stolen money was then transferred automatically to pre-defined money mule accounts. The classification of pre-defined money mules used by the attackers was very interesting. There were four different money mule groups, each defined by the amount of money the mules in the group could accept – probably a reflection of the level of trust between them. We identified 190 victims in total, most of them located in Italy and Turkey. The sums stolen from each victim ranged from €1,700 to €39,000; and amounted to €500,000.

Although the attackers removed all sensitive components soon after our investigation started, we believe that this represents a change of infrastructure rather than a complete shutdown of the operation. The cybercriminals behind the campaign are highly professional and very active. They have also shown proactive operational security activities, changing tactics and removing traces when discovered. The investigation into this campaign, which we reported to the bank concerned and to the appropriate law enforcement agencies, is ongoing.

The end of June saw the re-activation of a targeted attack campaign from early 2013, called 'MiniDuke'. The original campaign stood out for several reasons. It included a custom backdoor written in the 'old school' Assembler programming language. The attack was managed using an unusual command-and-control (C2) infrastructure: it made use of multiple redundancy paths, including Twitter accounts. The developers transferred their updated executables hidden inside GIF files.

Targets of the new operation, known as 'CosmicDuke', or 'TinyBaron', include government, diplomatic, energy, military and telecom operators. But unusually the list of victims also includes those involved in the trafficking and reselling of illegal substances, including steroids and hormones. It's not clear why: maybe the customizable backdoor was made available as so-called 'legal spyware', or it was available in the underground market and was purchased by various rivals in the pharmaceutical business to spy on each other.

Victim geography (Miniduke and CosmicDuke)

The malware spoofs popular applications designed to run in the background - including file information, icons and even file size. The backdoor itself is compiled using 'BotGenStudio' - a customizable framework that allows the attackers to enable and disable components when the bot is constructed. The malware not only steals files with specific extensions, but also harvests passwords, history, network information, address books, information displayed on the screen (screenshots are made every five minutes) and other sensitive data. Each victim is assigned a unique ID, making it possible to push specific updates to individual victims.

The malware is protected with a custom obfuscated loader which heavily consumes CPU resources for 3-5 minutes before passing execution to the payload. This makes it hard to analyze. But it also drains the resources needed by security software to emulate the malware's execution. On top of its own obfuscator, the malware makes heavy use of encryption and compression based on the RC4 and LZRW algorithms. They are implemented slightly differently to the standard versions - we believe that this is done deliberately to mislead researchers. The internal configuration of the malware is encrypted, compressed and serialized as a complicated registry-like structure, which has various record types including strings, integers and internal references. Stolen data uploaded to the C2 server is split into small chunks (of around 3KB), which are compressed, encrypted and placed in a container to be uploaded to the server. If it's a large file, it may be placed into several hundred different containers that are all uploaded independently. It's likely that these data chunks are parsed, decrypted, unpacked, extracted and reassembled on the attacker's side. While this method might add an overhead, the layers of additional processing ensure that very few researchers will get to the original data. This method also offers increased reliability against network errors.

In July we published an in-depth analysis of a targeted attack campaign that we dubbed 'Crouching Yeti' – also known as 'Energetic Bear', because researchers from CrowdStrike had suggested that the attackers were located in Russia: we don't think there's enough evidence to confirm this one way or the other. This campaign, active since late 2010, has so far targeted the following sectors: industrial/machinery, manufacturing, pharmaceutical, construction, education and information technology. So far there have been more than 2,800 victims worldwide, and we have been able to identify 101 different victim organizations – mostly in the United States, Spain, Japan, Germany, France, Italy, Turkey, Ireland, Poland and China.

The attackers behind Crouching Yeti use various types of malware (all designed to infect systems running Windows) to infiltrate their victims, extend their reach within the target organizations and steal confidential data, including intellectual property and other strategic information. The malware used includes special modules to collect data from specific industrial IT environments. Infected computers connect to a large network of hacked web sites that host malware modules, hold information about victims and send commands to infected systems. The attackers use three methods to infect their victims. These include a legitimate software installer re-packaged to include a malicious DLL file; spear-phishing e-mails; and watering-hole attacks.

Technology is now an integral part of our lives, so it's hardly surprising to see a cyber-dimension to conflicts around the world. This is especially true of the Middle East, where geo-political conflicts have intensified in recent years. In August we reported on the increase in malware activity in Syria from early 2013. The victims of these attacks are not only located in Syria: the malware has also been seen in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Palestine, the United Arab Emirates, Israel, Morocco, France and the United States. We were able to track the C2 servers of the attackers to IP addresses in Syria, Russia, Lebanon, the United States and Brazil. In total, we found 110 files, 20 domains and 47 IP addresses associated with the attacks.

It's clear that the groups involved in the attacks are well organized. So far the attackers have made use of established malware tools rather than developing their own (although they use a variety of obfuscation methods to bypass simple signature-based detection). However, we think it's likely that the number and sophistication of malware used in the region is likely to increase.

In November we published our analysis of the 'Darkhotel' APT, a campaign that has been operating for almost a decade, targeting thousands of victims across the globe. 90% of the infections we have seen are in Japan, Taiwan, China, Russia and Hong Kong, but we have also seen infections in Germany, the USA, Indonesia, India, and Ireland.

The campaign employs varying degrees of targeting. First, they use spear-phishing e-mails and zero-day exploits to infiltrate organizations from different sectors, including Defense Industrial Base (DIB), government and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs). Second, they spread malware indiscriminately via Japanese P2P (peer-to-peer) file-sharing sites. Third, they specifically target business executives who are traveling overseas and staying at hotels in a number of countries: using a two-step infection process, the attackers first identify their victims and then download further malware to the computers of more significant targets, designed to steal confidential data from the infected computer.

2. Our homes and other vulnerabilities

Exploiting unpatched vulnerabilities remains one of the key mechanisms used by cybercriminals to install malicious code on victims' computers. This relies on the existence of vulnerabilities in widely-used software and the failure of individuals or businesses to patch applications.

This year vulnerabilities were discovered in two widely-used open source protocols, known as 'Heartbleed' and 'Shellshock' respectively. Heartbleed, a flaw in the OpenSSL encryption protocol, lets an attacker read the contents of the memory, and intercept personal data, on systems using vulnerable versions of the protocol. OpenSSL is widely-used to secure Internet-based communications, including web, e-mail, instant messaging and Virtual Private Networks (VPN), so the potential impact of this vulnerability was huge. As often happens when there's a risk that personal data might have been exposed, there was a rush to change passwords. Of course, this could only be effective once an online provider had taken steps to patch OpenSSL and thereby secure their systems – otherwise any new password would be just at risk from attackers trying to exploit the vulnerability. We offered some perspectives on the impact of the flaw two months after its disclosure.

In September, the information security world faced a red alert following the discovery of the Shellshock vulnerability (also known as 'Bash'). The flaw allows an attacker to remotely attach a malicious file to a variable that is executed when the Bash command interpreter is invoked (Bash is the default shell on Linux and Mac OS X systems). The high impact of this vulnerability, coupled with the ease with which it could be exploited, caused considerable concern. Many people compared it to Heartbleed. However, unlike Heartbleed, Shellshock provided full system control – not just the ability to steal data from the memory. It didn't take long for attackers to try and take advantage of the vulnerability – we discussed some early examples soon after it was discovered. In most cases attackers remotely attacked web servers hosting CGI (Common Gateway Interface) scripts that have been written in Bash or pass values to shell scripts. However, it remains possible that the vulnerability could have an impact on a Windows-based infrastructure. Unfortunately, the problem wasn't confined only to web servers. Bash is widely used in the firmware of devices that now take for granted in our everyday lives. This includes routers, home appliances and wireless access points. Some of these devices can be difficult or impossible to patch.

The Internet is becoming woven into the fabric of our lives – literally, in some cases, as connectivity is embedded into everyday objects. This trend, known as the 'Internet of Things', has attracted more and more attention. It can seem very futuristic, but the Internet of Things is actually closer than you may think. The modern home today is likely to have a handful of devices connected to the local network that aren't traditional computers – devices such as a smart TV, a printer, a games console, a network storage device or some kind of media player/satellite receiver.

One of our security researchers investigated his own home, to determine whether it was really cyber-secure. He looked at several pieces of household kit, including network-attached storage (NAS) devices, smart TV, router and satellite receiver, to see if they were vulnerable to attack. The results were striking. He found 14 vulnerabilities in the network-attached storage devices, one in the smart TV and several potentially hidden remote control functions in the router. You can read the full details here. It's important that we all understand the potential risks associated with using network devices – this applies to individuals and businesses alike. We also need to understand that our information is not secure just because we use strong passwords or run software to protect against malicious code. There are many things over which we have no control, and to some degree we are in the hands of software and hardware vendors. For example, not all devices include automated update checks – sometimes consumers are required to download and install new firmware. This is not always an easy task. Worse still, it's not always possible to update a device (most devices investigated during this research had been discontinued more than a year before).

3. The continuing exponential growth of mobile malware

We have seen dramatic growth in the numbers of mobile malware in recent years. In the period from 2004-13 we analyzed almost 200,000 mobile malware code samples. In 2014 alone we analyzed a further 295,539 samples. However, this doesn't give the whole picture. These code samples are re-used and re-packaged: in 2014 we saw 4,643,582 mobile malware installation packs (on top of the 10,000,000 installation packs we had seen in the period 2004-13). The number of mobile malware attacks per month increased tenfold – from 69,000 per month in August 2013 to 644,000 in March 2014 (see Mobile Cyber Threats, Kaspersky Lab and INTERPOL Joint Report, October 2014).

53% of all mobile malware detections are now related to malware capable of stealing money. One of the more notable examples is Svpeng, designed to steal money from customers of three of Russia's biggest banks. The Trojan waits until a customer opens an online banking app and replaces it with its own, to try and obtain the customer's login details. It also tries to steal credit card data by displaying its own window over the Google Play app and asking for card details. Another is Waller which, in addition to behaving like a typical SMS Trojan, steals money from QIWI wallets on infected devices.

Cybercriminals have also diversified their efforts to make money from their victims, using methods that have been well-established on desktops and laptops. This includes ransomware Trojans. Fake anti-virus apps are another example of an established approach now being applied to mobile devices. Finally, this year saw the appearance of the first Trojan that is managed through a C2 server hosted in the Tor network. The Torec backdoor is a modification of the commonly-used Tor client, Orbot. The benefit, of course, is that the C2 server can't be shut down.

Until recently, nearly all malware targeting iOS was designed to exploit 'jailbroken' devices.

However, the recent appearance of the 'WireLurker' malware has shown that iOS is not immune from attack.

Mobile devices are now integrated into the fabric of our lives, so it's hardly surprising that the development of mobile malware is underpinned by a cybercrime business that includes malware writers, testers, app designers, web developers and botnet managers.

4. Your money or your file(s)

The number of ransomware programs has been growing in recent years. Some simply block access to the victim's computer and demand a ransom payment in order to restore normal access. But many go further than this, encrypting data on the computer. One recent example is 'ZeroLocker'. ZeroLocker encrypts nearly all the files on the victim's computer and adds the extension '.encrypt' to encrypted files (although it doesn't encrypt files located in directories containing the words 'Windows', 'WINDOWS', 'Program Files', 'ZeroLocker' or 'Destroy' and doesn't encrypt files larger than 20MB in size). The Trojan uses a 160-bit AES key to encrypt files. Once the files are encrypted, it runs the 'cipher.exe' utility to remove all unused data from the drive. Both these things make file recovery very difficult. The cybercriminals behind ZeroLocker demand an initial $300 worth of Bitcoins to decrypt the file. If the victim does not pay promptly the fee increases to $500 and $1,000 as time goes on.

Another ransomware program that we analyzed this year is Onion. Not only does this Trojan use the Tor network to hide its C2 servers, but it also supports full interaction with Tor without any input from the victim. Other programs like this communicate with the Tor network by launching (sometimes by injecting code into other processes) the legitimate 'tor.exe' file. By contrast Onion implements this communication as part of the malware code itself. Onion also uses an unorthodox cryptographic algorithm that makes file decryption impossible, even if traffic between the Trojan and the C2 server is intercepted. This Trojan not only uses asymmetric encryption, it also uses a cryptographic protocol known as ECDH (Elliptic Curve Diffie-Hellman). This makes decryption impossible without the master private key – which never leaves the cybercriminals' controlled server.

This year the use of ransomware programs has been extended to devices running Android. The first version of Svpeng, for example, discovered early in 2014, blocks the phone, claiming that the victim was viewing child pornography and demanding a 'fine' of $500 to unlock the phone. A subsequent modification of this malware, discovered in June 2014, completely blocks the device, so that it can only be turned off by pressing down the 'Off' button for a long time – and the Trojan loads again as soon as the device has been switched on again. This version was aimed mainly at victims in the US, but we also saw victims in the UK, Switzerland, Germany, India and Russia. This version demands a payment of $200 to unblock the phone, payment to be made using MoneyPak vouchers. The ransom demand screen displays a photograph of the victim, taken using the frontal camera. Another Trojan, called 'Koler', discovered in May 2014, uses the same approach – blocking access to the device and demanding a ransom payment of between $100 and $300 to unblock the phone. Like Svpeng, this Trojan displays a message claiming to be from the police – it targets victims in more than 30 countries around the world, using local 'police' messages.

Koler's distribution infrastructure

The first Android Trojan to encrypt data, called 'Pletor', appeared in May 2014. This Trojan uses the AES encryption algorithm to encrypt the contents of the phone's memory card and then displays a ransom demand on the screen, payable using the victim's QIWI Visa wallet, MoneXy or standard transfer of money to a telephone number. This Trojan mainly targets victims in Russia and Ukraine (although we have seen victims in other former Soviet republics) and demands the equivalent of around $300 in rubles or hryvnia.

Ransomware operations rely on their victims paying up. Don't do it! Instead, make regular backups of your data. That way, if you ever fall victim to a ransomware program (or a hardware problem that stops you accessing your files) you will not lose any of your data.

5. Cha-ching! Using malware to get money from ATMs

Malware for ATMs is not new. The first malware of this kind, called 'Skimer', was found in 2009 – this targeted ATMs in Eastern Europe running a Windows-based operating system. This used undocumented functions to print details of cards inserted in the infected machine and to open cassettes using a master card command. We saw further ATM malware in Brazil, in 2010 ('SPSniffer'): this collected PIN numbers in outdated ATMs using PIN pads that weren't using strong cryptographic protection. Then last year we saw a further family of ATM malware ('Atmer'), designed to steal money from ATMs in Mexico.

This year, at the request of a financial institution, we carried out a forensic investigation into a new attack on ATMs in Asia, Europe and Latin America. The operation was in two stages. The cybercriminals gain physical access to the ATMs and use a bootable CD to install the malware, called 'Tyupkin'; then they reboot the machine to load the malware, putting them in control of the ATM. The malware then runs in an infinite loop, waiting for a command.

To make the scam less obvious, the malware only accepts commands at specific times on Sunday and Monday nights. The attackers can then enter a combination of digits on the ATM keyboard, make a call to the malware operators, enter a further set of numbers and then collect the cash dispensed by the ATM.

Video Footage obtained from security cameras at the infected ATMs showed the methodology used to access cash from the machines. A unique digit combination key based on random numbers is freshly generated for every session: this ensures that no one outside the gang can accidentally profit from the fraud. Then the malicious operator receives instructions by phone from another member of the gang who knows the algorithm and is able to generate a session key based on the number shown: this ensures that the mules collecting the cash do not try to go it alone. When the correct key is entered, the ATM shows how much money is available in each cash cassette, inviting the operator to choose which cassette to rob. Then it dispenses 40 bank notes at a time from the chosen cassette.

The upswing in ATM attacks in recent years is a natural evolution from the more well-established method of using physical skimmers to capture data from cards used in ATMs that have been tampered with. Unfortunately, many ATMs run operating systems with known security weaknesses. This makes physical security even more important; and we would urge all banks to review the physical security of their ATMs.

6. Windows XP: forgotten but not gone?

Support for Windows XP ended on 8 April: this means no new security updates, no security hotfixes, free or paid assisted support options or online technical content updates. Sadly, there are still a lot of people running Windows XP – our data suggests that Windows XP accounts for around 18% of infections. This is a lot of people wide open to attack now that security patches have dried up. Effectively, every vulnerability discovered since April is a zero-day vulnerability – that is, one for which there is no chance of a patch. This problem will be compounded as application vendors stop developing updates for Windows XP. Every unpatched application will become yet another potential point of compromise, further increasing the potential attack surface. In fact, this process has already started: the latest version of Java no longer supports Windows XP.

Every Windows XP vulnerability discovered since April is a zero-day vulnerability #KLReport


It might seem that the simple and obvious solution is to upgrade to a newer operating system. But even though Microsoft gave plenty of notice about the end of support, it's not difficult to see why migration to a new operating system might be difficult for some businesses. On top of the cost of switching, it may also mean investing in new hardware and even trying to replace a bespoke application developed specifically for the company – one that will not run on a later operating system. So it's no surprise see some organizations paying for continued XP support.

Of course, an anti-virus product will provide protection. But this only holds good if by 'anti-virus' we mean a comprehensive Internet security product that makes use of proactive technology to defend against new, unknown threats – in particular, functionality to prevent the use of exploits. A basic anti-virus product, based largely on signature-based scanning for known malware, is insufficient. Remember too that, as times goes by, security vendors will implement new protection technologies that may well not be Windows XP-compatible.

Anyone still running Windows XP should see this as a stop-gap, while they finalize a migration strategy. Malware writers will undoubtedly target Windows XP while significant numbers of people continue to run it, since an un-patched operating system will offer them a much bigger window of opportunity. Any Windows XP-based computer on a network offers a weak point that can be exploited in a targeted attack on the company – if compromised this will become a stepping-stone into the wider network.

There's no question that switching to a newer operating system is inconvenient and costly - for individuals and businesses. But the potential risk of using an increasingly insecure operating system is likely to outweigh the inconvenience and cost.

7. Beneath the layers of the onion

Tor (short for The Onion Router) is software designed to allow someone to remain anonymous when accessing the Internet. It has been around for some time, but for many years was used mainly by experts and enthusiasts. However, use of the Tor network has spiked this year, in large part because of growing concerns about privacy. Tor has become a helpful solution for those who, for any reason, fear surveillance and the leakage of confidential information. However, our investigations highlighted the fact that Tor is also attractive for cybercriminals, who value the anonymity it offers.

We started seeing cybercriminals actively using Tor to host their malicious infrastructure in 2013. In addition to malware, we found many related resources, including C2 servers, administration panels and more. By hosting their servers in the Tor network, cybercriminals make them harder to identify, blacklist and eliminate. There's also a Tor-based underground marketplace, including the buying and selling of malware and stolen personal data – typically paid for using the crypto-currency Bitcoin, enabling cybercriminals to remain untraceable. Tor allows cybercriminals to conceal the operation of the malware they use, to trade in cybercrime services and launder their illegal profits.

In July we published our analysis of a ransomware Trojan, called 'Onion' that broke new ground in its use of Tor.

Developers of Android-based malware have also started to use Tor. The Torec Trojan, a malware variation of the popular Orbot Tor client, uses a domain in the .onion pseudo zone as a C2 server. Some modifications of the Pletor ransomware Trojan also use the Tor network to communicate with the cybercriminals managing the scam.

Cybercriminals can't always operate with impunity, despite using Tor, as demonstrated by the recent global law enforcement operation against a number of Tor-based cybercrime services ('Operation Onymous').

This begs the question of how the police agencies involved were able to compromise a supposedly 'impenetrable' network – because, in theory at least, there's no way of knowing the physical location of a web server behind a hidden service that someone visits. However, there are ways to compromise a hidden service that don't involve attacking the Tor architecture itself, as we discussed here. A Tor-based service can only remain secure if it's properly configured, if it's free from vulnerabilities or configuration errors and the web application doesn't have any flaws.

8. The good, the bad and the ugly

Unfortunately, software isn't neatly divided between good and bad programs. There's always the risk that software developed for legitimate purposes might be misused by cybercriminals. At the Kaspersky Security Analyst Summit 2014 in February we outlined how improper implementation of anti-theft technologies residing in the firmware of commonly used laptops and some desktop computers could become a powerful weapon in the hands of cybercriminals. Our research started when a Kaspersky Lab employee experienced repeated system process crashes on one of his personal laptops, related to instability in modules belonging to the Computrace software developed by Absolute Software. Our colleague hadn't installed the software and didn't even know it was present on the laptop. This caused us concern because, according to an Absolute Software white paper, the installation should be done by the owner of the computer or their IT service. On top of this, while most pre-installed software can be permanently removed or disabled by the owner of the computer, Computrace is designed to survive a professional system cleanup and even a hard disk replacement. Moreover, we couldn't simply dismiss this as a one-off occurrence because we found similar indications of Computrace software running on personal computers belonging to some of our researchers and some enterprise computers. As a result, we decided to carry out an in-depth analysis.

When we first looked at Computrace, we mistakenly thought it was malicious software, because it uses so many tricks that are popular in current malware. Indeed, in the past this software has been detected as malware although at present most anti-malware companies whitelist Computrace executables.

In our view, strong authentication and encryption must be built into a powerful legal surveillance tools #KLReport


We believe that Computrace was designed with good intentions. However, our research shows that vulnerabilities in the software could allow cybercriminals to misuse it. In our view, strong authentication and encryption must be built into such a powerful tool. We found no evidence that Computrace modules had been secretly activated on the computers we analyzed. But it's clear that there are a lot of computers with activated Computrace agents. We believe that it's the responsibility of manufacturers, and Absolute Software, to notify these people and explain how they can deactivate the software if they don't wish to use it. Otherwise, these orphaned agents will continue to run unnoticed and will provide opportunities for remote exploitation.

In June, we published the results of our research into a piece of 'legal' software called Remote Control System (RCS) developed by the Italian company HackingTeam. We discovered a feature that can be used to fingerprint its C2 servers. This allowed us to scan the entire IPv4 space and find all the IP addresses of RCS C2 servers across the globe. We found 326 in total, the greatest number of them located in the US, Kazakhstan and Ecuador. Several IPs were identified as 'government'-related, based on their WHOIS information. Of course, we can't be sure that the servers located in a specific country are being used by law enforcement agencies in that country, but this would make sense: after all, it would avoid cross-border legal problems and avoid the risk of servers being seized by others. We also found a number of mobile malware modules coming from HackingTeam, for Android, iOS, Windows Mobile and BlackBerry. They are all controlled using the same configuration type – a good indication that they are related and belong to the same product family. Unsurprisingly, we were particularly interested in those relating to Android and iOS, because of the popularity of those platforms.

The modules are installed using infectors – special executables for either Windows or Mac OS that run on already-infected computers. The iOS module supports only 'jailbroken' devices. This does limit its ability to spread, but the method of infection used by RCS means that an attacker can run a jailbreaking tool (such as Evasi0n) from the infected computer to which the phone is connected – as long as the device isn't locked. The iOS module allows an attacker to access data on the device (including e-mail, contacts, call history, cached web pages), to secretly activate the microphone and to take regular camera shots. This gives complete control over the whole environment in and around a victim's computer.

We seek to detect and remediate any malware attack, regardless of its origin or purpose #KLReport


The Android module is protected by the DexGuard optimizer/obfuscator, so it was difficult to analyze. But we were able to determine that it matches the functionality of the iOS module, plus offering support for hijacking information from the following applications: '', '', 'android.calendar', 'com.facebook', '' and ''.

This new data highlighted the sophistication of such surveillance tools. Our policy in relation to such tools is very clear. We seek to detect and remediate any malware attack, regardless of its origin or purpose. For us, there's no such thing as 'right' or 'wrong' malware; and we've issued public warnings about the risks of so-called 'legal' spyware in the past. It's imperative that these surveillance tools don't fall into the wrong hands – that's why the IT security industry can't make exceptions when it comes to detecting malware.

9. Privacy and security

The ongoing tension between privacy and security has continued to make headlines.

Among the usual steady stream of security breaches this year, it's not really surprising that the incident that attracted most attention was the theft and subsequent publication of explicit photographs of various Hollywood celebrities. This story highlights the dual responsibility of providers and individuals in securing data stored online. It seems that the theft was made possible by a loophole in iCloud security: the 'Find My iPhone' interface lacked any limitation on the number of password attempts, allowing attackers to brute-force the passwords of the victims. Apple closed up this loophole soon afterwards. However, the attack would not have been possible had the victims not used weak passwords. We increasingly live our lives online. But many of us fail to consider the implications of storing personal data online. The security of a cloud service depends on the provider. The moment we entrust our data to a third-party service, we automatically lose some control over it. It's important to cherry-pick the data we store in the cloud and decide what data is automatically moved from our devices to the cloud.

The issue of passwords is one that keeps surfacing. If we choose a password that is too easy to guess, we leave ourselves wide open to identify theft. The problem is compounded if we recycle the same password across multiple online accounts – if one account is compromised, they're all at risk! This is why many providers, including Apple, Google and Microsoft, now offer two-factor authentication – i.e. requiring customers to enter a code generated by a hardware token, or one sent to a mobile device, in order to access a site, or at least in order to make changes to account settings. Two-factor authentication certainly enhances security – but only if it's required, rather than just being an option.

Two-factor authentication enhances security – but only if it's required, rather than being an option #KLReport


There's always a trade-off between security and ease of use. In an effort to strike this balance, Twitter recently launched its Digits service. Customers no longer need to create a username and password combination in order to sign in to an app. Instead, they simply enter their phone number. They receive a one-time passcode to confirm each transaction – this code is read automatically by the app. Twitter is effectively making itself a go-between, verifying the identity of the customer for the app provider. There are several benefits. Consumers no longer have to worry about creating a login and password combination to set up an account with an app provider; and they don't need to have an e-mail address. App developers don't need to create their own framework for verifying logins; and they won't lose potential customers who don't use e-mail. Twitter gets more visibility into what its customers are interested in. In addition, the fact that no passwords are stored on the app provider's server is also a plus: a breach of an app provider's server will not result in the loss of personal data belonging to customers. However, if someone loses their device, or if it's stolen, the number verification will still work – and anyone with access to the device will be able to access an app in the same way as the legitimate owner. That said, it doesn't represent a step backwards in security compared to the traditional username and password method. Currently, mobile apps don't force a login each time an app is run anyway, so if someone steals a phone, and the owner isn't using a PIN, passcode or fingerprint, the thief has access to everything – e-mail, social networks and apps. In other words, security is dependent on a single-point-of-failure – the PIN, passcode or fingerprint used to access the device itself.

In response to increasing concerns about privacy, the developers of the '' web site created an easy to use interface where people can check to see if their e-mail addresses and passwords have been stolen and published online. This year they have made this a chargeable service.

The response of both Apple and Google to growing fears about loss of privacy was to enable default encryption of data on iOS and Android devices, something that some law enforcement agencies believe plays into the hands of cybercriminals – making it easier for them to evade detection.

10. International law enforcement: co-operation brings results

Cybercrime has become an established part of life, on the back of the ever-increasing online activities we engage in. It's tempting to imaging that cybercriminals are able to operate with impunity, but the actions of law enforcement agencies can have a significant impact on their activities. International co-operation is particularly important, given the global nature of cybercrime. This year there have been some notable police successes.

In June 2014 an operation involving law enforcement agencies of several countries, including the UK's NCA (National Crime Agency) and the FBI, was able to take down the global network of computers responsible for managing the 'GameoverZeus' botnet. The police operation ('Operation Tovar') disrupted the communications underlying the botnet, thereby preventing the cybercriminals from controlling it. GameoverZeus was one of the largest operating botnets based on the code of the Zeus banking Trojan. In addition to infecting computers with the Zeus Trojan and stealing login credentials for online e-mail accounts, social networks, online banking and other online financial services, the botnet also distributed the 'Cryptolocker' ransomware program. The police campaign offered victims a breathing-space in which to clean their computers.

Earlier this year Kaspersky Lab contributed to an alliance of law enforcement and industry organizations, co-ordinated by the NCA, to disrupt the infrastructure behind the 'Shylock' Trojan. The Shylock banking Trojan, so-called because its code contains excerpts from Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, was first discovered in 2011. Like other well-known banking Trojans Shylock is a man-in-the-browser attack designed to steal banking login credentials from the computers of bank customers. The Trojan uses a pre-configured list of target banks, located in different countries around the world.

In November, Operation Onymous resulted in the take-down of dark markets running within the Tor network.

The 'Penquin' Turla

Mon, 12/08/2014 - 14:05

Recently, an interesting malicious sample was uploaded to a multi-scanner service. This immediately triggered our interest because it appears to represent a previously unknown piece of a larger puzzle. That puzzle is "Turla", one of the most complex APTs in the world.

We have written previously about the Turla APT with posts about their Epic Turla operations  and Agent.btz inspiration . So far, every single Turla sample we've encountered was designed for the Microsoft Windows family, 32 and 64 bit operating systems. The newly discovered Turla sample is unusual in the fact that it's the first Turla sample targeting the Linux operating system that we have discovered.

This newly found Turla component supports Linux for broader system support at victim sites. The attack tool takes us further into the set alongside the Snake rootkit and components first associated with this actor a couple years ago. We suspect that this component was running for years at a victim site, but do not have concrete data to support that statement just yet.

The Linux Turla module is a C/C++ executable statically linked against multiple libraries, greatly increasing its file size. It was stripped of symbol information, more likely intended to increase analysis effort than to decrease file size. Its functionality includes hidden network communications, arbitrary remote command execution, and remote management. Much of its code is based on public sources.

Md5 Size Verdict Name 0994d9deb50352e76b0322f48ee576c6 627.2 kb N/A (broken file) 14ecd5e6fc8e501037b54ca263896a11 637.6 kb HEUR:Backdoor.Linux.Turla.gen

General executable characteristics:

ELF 32-bit LSB executable, Intel 80386, version 1 (SYSV), statically linked, for GNU/Linux 2.2.5, stripped

Statically linked libraries:

  • glibc2.3.2 - the GNU C library
  • openssl v0.9.6 - an older OpenSSL library
  • libpcap - tcpdump's network capture library

Hardcoded C&C, known Turla activity: news-bbc.podzone[.]org
The domain has the following pDNS IP: aut-num:        AS30982 announcement: as-name:        CAFENET descr:          CAFE Informatique et telecommunications admin-c:        YN2-AFRINIC tech-c:         AN39-AFRINIC org:            ORG-CIet1-AFRINIC mnt-by:         AFRINIC-HM-MNT mnt-lower:      CAFENET-NOC source:         AFRINIC # Filtered

Note: the C&C domain is currently sinkholed by Kaspersky Lab.

Functional description

The sample is a stealth backdoor based on the cd00r sources.

This Turla cd00r-based malware maintains stealth without requiring elevated privileges while running arbitrary remote commands. It can't be discovered via netstat, a commonly used administrative tool. It uses techniques that don't require root access, which allows it to be more freely run on more victim hosts. Even if a regular user with limited privileges launches it, it can continue to intercept incoming packets and run incoming commands on the system.

Startup and Execution

To start execution, the process requires two parameters: ID (a numeric value used as a part of the "magic packet for authentication") and an existing network interface name. The parameters can be inputted two different ways: from STDIN, or from dropper a launching the sample. This is NOT a command-line parameter, it's a real prompt asking the attacker user to provide the input parameters. After the ID and interface name are entered and the process launched, the backdoor's process PID is returned. Here is a screenshot of this simple interface:

While there is no initial network callback, a section of code maintains a hardcoded c2 string "news-bbc.podzone[.]org". This fully qualified domain name was first set up in 2010, suggesting that this binary is fairly recent in the string of Turla campaigns. Also, while we haven't seen additional file download activity from this server by this tool, it likely participated as a file server of sorts.

Magic Packets for Remote Command Execution

The module statically links PCAP libraries, and uses this code to get a raw socket, applies a filter on it, and captures packets, checking for a specific condition (the *original cd00r first used this method, based on ports and SYN-packets). This condition is expressed here (it is based on the ID value input at startup by the attacker):

ID = 123 Filter = (tcp[8:4] & 0xe007ffff = 0xe003bebe) or (udp[12:4] & 0xe007ffff = 0xe003bebe) ID = 321 Filter = (tcp[8:4] & 0xe007ffff = 0x1bebe) or (udp[12:4] & 0xe007ffff = 0x1bebe)

In simple terms, it checks for an ACK number in the TCP header, or the second byte from the UDP packet body.

If such a packet is received and the condition check is successful, execution jumps to the packet payload contents, and it creates a regular socket. The backdoor handles this socket as a file with read/write operations. It's not the typical recv/send used in this code. It uses this new socket to connect to the source address of the "magic packets". Then it reports its own PID and IP to the remote address, and starts an endless loop for receiving remote commands. When a command arrives, it is executed with a "/bin/sh -c " script.

Unused Code

The sample contains much unused code (at least, it isn't called directly from within the backdoor's code). Also, this sample has duplicate code, for instance - getting IP interface. This unfinished programming again tells us the sample is similar to a debug or beta version.

Much of the unused code is related to file I/O:

  • chdir('/root');
  • parsing('/root/.tmpware') – parsing, syntax check (begin, end, table) – reads (fscanf) file by format "%*s %o %s", where %o %s is mode and pathname. Then these parameters are passed to chmod(pathname, mode). E.g. sample changes format of files, specified in some other structured file.
fd = open('/tmp/.xdfg', "w+")
chmod(fd, 140h) – only owner

The descriptor then is used everywhere in the code for reading and writing various files. The sample writes to available file paths:

PATH=/bin:/usr/bin:/usr/local/bin:/usr/openwin/bin:/usr/ucb/bin:/ usr/ccs/bin
LD_LIBRARY_PATH=/usr/lib:/usr/local/lib:/usr/dt/lib Conclusions

Although Linux variants from the Turla framework were known to exist, we haven't seen any in the wild yet.

This specific module appears to have been put together from public sources with some added functionality from the attackers. Some of the malicious code appears to be inactive, perhaps leftovers from older versions of the implant. Perhaps the most interesting part here is the unusual command and control mechanism based on TCP/UDP packets, as well as the C&C hostname which fits previously known Turla activity.

The discovery of this Turla module rises one big question: how many other unknown Turla variants exist?

Update: Since the publishing of this blogpost, we have discovered another Linux Turla module, which apparently represents a different malware generation than the previously known samples:

The new sample was heuristically detected by our product due to similarities with the previously discovered samples.

Md5 Size Verdict Name 19fbd8cbfb12482e8020a887d6427315 801,561 bytes HEUR:Backdoor.Linux.Turla.gen Related research:

Kaspersky Security Bulletin 2014. Overall statistics for 2014

Mon, 12/08/2014 - 04:00

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All statistics used in this report were obtained using Kaspersky Security Network (KSN) a distributed antivirus network based on the work of various components of Kaspersky Lab's anti-malware protection. The data was collected from KSN users who agreed to transfer it. Millions of Kaspersky Lab products users from 213 countries and territories worldwide participate in the global exchange of information about malicious activity.

The data presented covers the period from November 2013 to October 2014.

The year in figures
  • According to KSN data, Kaspersky Lab products detected and neutralized a total of 6,167,233,068 threats during the reported period.
  • A total of 3,693,936 attempts to infect Mac OS X- based computers were blocked by Kaspersky Lab products.
  • Kaspersky Lab solutions blocked 1,363,549 attacks on Android-based devices.
  • Kaspersky Lab solutions repelled 1,432,660,467 attacks launched from online resources located all over the world.
  • To carry out their attacks, cybercriminals used 9,766,119 unique hosts.
  • 44% of web attacks neutralized by Kaspersky Lab products were carried out using malicious web resources located in the US and Germany.
  • 38% of user computers were subjected to at least one web attack over the year.
  • A total of 1,910,520 attempts to launch banking malware on user computers were neutralized in 2014.
  • Kaspersky Lab's web antivirus detected 123,054,503 unique malicious objects: scripts, exploits, executable files, etc.
  • Kaspersky Lab's antivirus solutions detected a total of 1,849,949 unique malicious and potentially unwanted objects.
Mobile threats

During the reporting period Kaspersky Lab detected the following:

  • 4,643,582 malicious installation packets
  • 295,539 new malicious mobile programs
  • 12,100 mobile banking Trojans

Overall from the beginning of November 2013 to the end of October 2014 Kaspersky Lab warded off 1,363,549 unique attacks.  For the same period in 2012-2013 the figure was 335,000 unique attacks.  There were four times as many attacks on Android devices compared with the previous 12 months.

19% of Android users encountered a mobile threat at least once during the year - nearly one in five users.

53% of Android-attacks used mobile Trojans designed to steal the user's money (SMS Trojans and banking Trojans).

Geography of mobile threats

Attacks by malicious mobile software were recorded in more than 200 countries.

Percentage from total number of attacked users

TOP 10 countries by number of attacked users

  Country %  of attacked users* 1 Russia 45.7% 2 India 6.8% 3 Kazakhstan 4.1% 4 Germany 4.0% 5 Ukraine 3.0% 6 Vietnam 2.7% 7 Iran 2.3% 8 UK 2.2% 9 Malaysia 1.8% 10 Brazil 1.6%

*percentage of attacked users in the country from total number of attacked users

Russia maintained its leading position in terms of the number of users attacked.

The number of recorded attacks greatly depends on the number of users in a country.  To evaluate the danger of infection by mobile malware in various countries we counted the percentage of malicious applications among the total number applications that users tried to install.  This method produced very different results from those shown above.

TOP 10 countries by risk of infection

  Country* % of malicious applications 1 Vietnam 2.34% 2 Poland 1.88% 3 Greece 1.70% 4 Kazakhstan 1.62% 5 Uzbekistan 1.29% 6 Serbia 1.23% 7 Armenia 1.21% 8 Czech Republic 1.02% 9 Morocco 0.97% 10 Malaysia 0.93%

* Countries where the number of downloaded applications was less than 100,000 were excluded from these results

Vietnam leads this rating: 2.34% of all applications that users tried to download were malicious.

Russia, which suffered by far the most attacks, was only 22nd in terms of risk of infection with 0.69%.

In Spain the risk of infection was 0.54%, in Germany 0.18% and in the UK 0.16%, in Italy 0.09% and in the USA 0.07%.  The situation is best of all in Japan, where only 0.01% of all applications that users tried to install proved to be malicious.

TOP 20 mobile threats of 2014   Name % of attacks 1 Trojan-SMS.AndroidOS.Stealer.a 18.0% 2 RiskTool.AndroidOS.MimobSMS.a 7.1% 3 DangerousObject.Multi.Generic 6.9% 4 RiskTool.AndroidOS.SMSreg.gc 6.7% 5 6.4% 6 AdWare.AndroidOS.Viser.a 5.9% 7 Trojan-SMS.AndroidOS.FakeInst.a 5.4% 8 Trojan-SMS.AndroidOS.OpFake.a 5.1% 9 Trojan-SMS.AndroidOS.FakeInst.fb 4.6% 10 Trojan-SMS.AndroidOS.Erop.a 4.0% 11 AdWare.AndroidOS.Ganlet.a 3.8% 12 Trojan-SMS.AndroidOS.Agent.u 3.4% 13 Trojan-SMS.AndroidOS.FakeInst.ff 3.0% 14 RiskTool.AndroidOS.Mobogen.a 3.0% 15 RiskTool.AndroidOS.CallPay.a 2.9% 16 2.5% 17 2.5% 18 Trojan-SMS.AndroidOS.FakeInst.ei 2.4% 19 Backdoor.AndroidOS.Fobus.a 1.9% 20 Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Faketoken.a 1.7%

10 out of the 20 programs in this rating are SMS Trojans from the following families: Stealer, OpFake, FakeInst, Agent and Erop.

Trojan-SMS.AndroidOS.Stealer.a were among the most widespread families throughout the year and finished up on top of the annual ranking by a considerable margin.

This SMS Trojan spread very actively.  After May 2014 the number of Stealer attacks matched the total number of attacks involving all other SMS Trojans.

The number of users attacked with Trojan-SMS.AndroidOS.Stealer.a and all other SMS Trojans (November 2013 - October 2014)

Reduction in attacks by SMS Trojans

As before, SMS Trojans are the single biggest component in the flow of mobile malware; in our figures they have 23.9% of the total.

Distribution of mobile threats by type (Kaspersky Lab collection)

However, as the above diagram shows, in the second half of 2014 there were fewer attacks with SMS Trojans.  As a result for the year their amount reduced by 12.3%.

Let's look in a bit more detail at the change in distribution of the SMS Trojans that are most popular with cybercriminals (other than Stealer.a).

Number of users attacked by popular SMS Trojans (November 2013 — October 2014)

May saw a sharp fall in the number of SMS Trojans detected in Russia, where attacks with the use of SMS Trojans are particularly widespread. The fall was caused by a change in the way paid messages work in Russia.  In May 2014 mobile operators in Russia were forced to use an Advice of Charge (AoC) mechanism. Now when a mobile device sends a message to a paid number the operator must inform the device owner of the cost of the service and get confirmation of the payment.

As a result, SMS Trojans are less profitable and their criminal nature is clearly exposed.  Now the only way to make a profit is to use Trojans that can send an SMS to a premium rate number and then intercept the operator's request and return a confirmation on behalf of the user.

As a result partners in several semi-legal programs, which had earlier distributed applications with SMS Trojan functionality, left this business.  Their operating model had been based on badly explained conditions for the provision of paid services, or subscription and service charges that were simply not indicated.

We can assume that Russian creators of SMS Trojans who found themselves out of work will have to look for new projects.  Some of them might switch to attacking users in other countries and some to working on more serious malware such as banking programs.  Hopefully at least some of them will turn their backs on the underworld and will put their skills to lawful use.

The changes in distribution patterns are clearly visible with once-popular SMS trojans like, FakeInst.a and OpFake.a.  They used to be seen in 10-20,000 attacks a month; now the numbers are 1-2,000.

Mobile banking Trojans

During the period in question we detected 12,100 mobile banking Trojans — nine times as many as than in 2013.

Number of mobile banking Trojans in the Kaspersky Lab collection (November 2013 — October 2014)

45,032 users were attacked with mobile banking Trojans at least once in the course of the year.

And the number of countries under attack is growing: at least one attack using a mobile banking Trojan was recorded in 90 different countries worldwide.

Geography of mobile banking threats (number of attacked users in the period November 2013 — October 2014)

TOP 10 countries for banking Trojan attacks

  Country Number of attacked users % of all attacks* 1 Russia 39,561 87.85% 2 Kazakhstan 1,195 2.65% 3 Ukraine 902 2.00% 4 USA 831 1.85% 5 Belorus 567 1.26% 6 Germany 203 0.45% 7 Lithuania 201 0.45% 8 Azeraijan 194 0.43% 9 Bulgaria 178 0.40% 10 Uzbekistan 125 0.28%

* Perentage of attacked users in each country from the total all attacked users

Russia has retained its place as the leader in this rating.

Threats designed for Mac OS X

In 2014 Kaspersky Lab security products designed to protect Mac OS X-based computers blocked 3,693,936 infection attempts.

Kaspersky Lab experts detected 1,499 new malicious programs for Mac OS X, 200 samples more than in the previous year.

Every second user of Kaspersky Lab products was exposed to a malicious attack.

An average Mac user encountered 9 threats during the year.

TOP 20 threats designed for Mac OS X   Name % of attacks* 1 AdWare.OSX.Geonei.b 9.04% 2 Trojan.Script.Generic 5.85% 3 Trojan.OSX.Vsrch.a 4.42% 4 Trojan.Script.Iframer 3.77% 5 AdWare.OSX.Geonei.d 3.43% 6 DangerousObject.Multi.Generic 2.40% 7 AdWare.OSX.Vsrch.a 2.18% 8 Trojan.Win32.Generic 2.09% 9 AdWare.OSX.FkCodec.b 1.35% 10 Trojan.OSX.Yontoo.i 1.29% 11 Trojan-PSW.Win32.LdPinch.ex 0.84% 12 AdWare.Win32.Yotoon.heur 0.82% 13 Trojan.OSX.Yontoo.j 0.80% 14 Exploit.Script.Generic 0.76% 15 AdWare.OSX.Bnodlero.a 0.58% 16 0.57% 17 Trojan.OSX.Yontoo.h 0.52% 18 Exploit.PDF.Generic 0.51% 19 0.50% 20 Trojan.Win32.AutoRun.gen 0.43%

* The percentage of users attacked by the malicious program of all attacked users

Almost half of our TOP 20 programs, including the one in first place, were occupied by AdWare programs. As a rule, these malicious programs arrive on users' computers alongside legitimate programs if they are downloaded from a software store rather than from the official website of the developer. These legitimate programs might become a carrier for the AdWare-module: once installed on the user's computer it can add advertising links to browser bookmarks, change the default search engine, add contextual advertising, etc.

Interestingly, 8th place is occupied by Trojan.Win32.Generic which affects Windows OS. This is probably because this particular Trojan can penetrate into virtual machines that run under Windows.

In 2014 the experts detected several interesting malicious programs for Mac OS X that should be mentioned separately.

  • Backdoor.OSX.Callme – a backdoor that provides the fraudster with remote access to the system and at the same time steals contact lists, apparently, to find new victims. It is distributed in the body of a specially designed MS Word document: when run it installs the backdoor via the vulnerability in the system.
  • Backdoor.OSX.Laoshu –  a malicious program which makes screenshots every minute. This backdoor is signed by the trusted certificate of the developer which means the creators of the program were about to place it in the AppStore.
  • Backdoor.OSX.Ventir – a multi-module Trojan spy with a hidden remote control function. It includes the keystrokes interception driver logkext, the source code for which is publicly available.
  • Trojan.OSX.IOSinfector – used to install the mobile version of Trojan-Spy.IPhoneOS.Mekir (OSX/Crisis).
  • Trojan-Ransom.OSX.FileCoder – the first file coder for OS X. It is a conditionally working prototype produced by an author who, for whatever reason, decided to abandon malware development.
  • Trojan-Spy.OSX.CoinStealer –  the first malicious program designed to steal bitcoins for OS X. It imitates different bitcoin utilities built from open source code while it installs a malicious browser extension and/or a patched version of bitcoin-qt.
  • Trojan-Downloader.OSX.WireLurker – an unusual piece of malware designed to steal victims' data. It attacks not only Mac-based computers but iOS-based devices connected to them. There is also a Windows-based version of this malicious program. It is distributed via a well-known Chinese store that sells apps for OS X and iOS.
The geography of threats

The geography of attacks on Mac OS X users in 2014 (based on the number of all attacked users)

The TOP 10 of countries under attack

  Country Number of attacked users % of all attacks* 1 USA 98,077 39.14% 2 Germany 31,466 12.56% 3 Japan 13,808 5.51% 4 UK 13,763 5.49% 5 Russia 12,207 4.87% 6 France 9,239 3.69% 7 Switzerland 6,548 2.61% 8 Canada 5,841 2.33% 9 Brazil 5,558 2.22% 10 Italy 5,334 2.13%

* The percentage of users attacked per country

The USA (39.14%) tops this rating, perhaps because of the popularity of Apple computers in the country. Germany (12.56%) came second followed by Japan (5.51%).

Vulnerable applications used by fraudsters

The graph of vulnerable applications shown below is based on information about the exploits blocked by our products. These exploits were used by hackers in Internet attacks and when compromising local applications, including those installed on mobile devices.

The distribution of exploits used by fraudsters, by type of application attacked, 2014

In 2014, the fraudsters most often exploited Oracle Java vulnerabilities. However, the popularity of Java vulnerabilities declined steadily throughout the year, and its overall share was less than half of last year's figure – 45% against 90.5% 12 months ago. This might be due to the closure of old vulnerabilities and a lack of information about any new ones.

Second place was occupied by the Browsers category (42%) which includes exploits for Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, etc. According to the quarterly ratings, for much of 2014 this was the leading category but it didn't quite outstrip the large number of Java exploits in late 2013 and early 2014.

Adobe Reader exploits were in third place (5%). These vulnerabilities are exploited in drive-by attacks via the Internet, and PDF exploits form part of many exploit packs.

During the year, we saw a decrease in the number of attacks using exploit packs. There may be several reasons for this, including the arrests of some of their developers. In addition, many exploit packs have stopped attacking computers protected by Kaspersky Lab products (exploit packs check the victim computer and halt the attack if a Kaspersky Lab solution is installed on it). Despite this, exploitation of vulnerabilities remains one of the main ways to deliver malicious software on the user's computer.

Online threats (Web-based attacks)

The statistics in this section were derived from web antivirus components that protect Windows users when malicious code attempts to download from a malicious/infected website. Malicious websites are deliberately created by cybercriminals; infected sites include those with user-contributed content (such as forums) as well as legitimate resources that have been hacked

In 2014, there were 1,432,660,467 attacks launched from online resources #KLReport


In 2014, there were 1,432,660,467 attacks launched from online resources located all over the world. It means that Kaspersky Lab products protected users an average of 3,925,097 times per day during their Internet sessions.

The main attack method - via exploit packs - gives attackers an almost guaranteed opportunity to infect the user computer if it is not protected with a security solution and if it has at least one popular and vulnerable (not updated) application installed.

Online threats in the banking sector

During the reporting period, Kaspersky Lab solutions blocked 1,910,520 attacks attempting to launch malware capable of stealing money from online banking accounts.

The number of computers attacked by financial malware, November 2013-October 2014

Noticeably, the number of attacks grew considerably in May and June 2014. This might have been be caused by an increase in online banking activity at the beginning of the holiday season as well as by the main sport event of the year – the World Cup-2014 in Brazil – where cybercriminals used financial malware to steal tourists' payment data.

A total of 16,552,498 notifications of malicious activity by programs designed to steal money via online access to bank accounts were registered by Kaspersky Lab security solutions in 2014.

The geography of attacks

The geography of banking malware attacks in 2014

The TOP 20 countries by the number of attacked users:

  Country Number of attacked users 1 Brazil 299,830 2 Russia 251,917 3 Germany 155,773 4 India 98,344 5 USA 92,224 6 Italy 88,756 7 UK 54,618 8 Vietnam 50,040 9 Austria 44,445 10 Algeria 33,640 The TOP 10 banking malware families

The table below shows the programs most commonly used in 2014 to attack online banking users, based on the number of reported infection attempts:

  Name Number of attacked users 1 Trojan-Spy.Win32.Zbot 742,794 2 Trojan-Banker.Win32.ChePro 192,229 3 Trojan-Banker.Win32.Lohmys 121,439 4 Trojan-Banker.Win32.Shiotob 95,236 5 Trojan-Banker.Win32.Agent 83,243 6 Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Faketoken 50,334 7 Trojan-Banker.Win32.Banker 41,665 8 Trojan-Banker.Win32.Banbra 40,836 9 Trojan-Spy.Win32.SpyEyes 36,065 10 Trojan-Banker.HTML.Agent 19,770

Zeus (Trojan-Spy.Win32.Zbot) remained the most widespread banking Trojan. It kept its leading position in quarterly ratings so its 1st place in the TOP 10 for 2014 is not a surprise. Second came Trojan-Banker.Win32.ChePro, followed by Trojan-Banker.Win32.Lohmys. Both families have the same functionality and are spread via spam messages with a theme related to online banking (for example, an invoice from an online banking service). The email includes a Word document with the attached picture: clicking on the picture launches malicious code execution.

Trojan-Banker.Win32.Shiotob was in 4th place. This malicious program is most often spread via spam messages and is designed to monitor traffic in order to intercept payment data.

The majority of the Top 10 malicious programs work by injecting random HTML code in the web page displayed by the browser and intercepting any payment data entered by the user in the original or inserted web forms.

Although three quarters of attacks targeting users' money were carried out with the help of banking malware these are not the only financial threats.

Distribution of attacks targeting user money by malware type, 2014

Bitcoin wallet theft was the second most popular banking threat (14%). Yet another threat related to crypto currency is Bitcoin mining software (10%) which uses computing resources to generate bitcoins.

The TOP 20 malicious objects detected online

In 2014, Kaspersky Lab's web antivirus detected 123,054,503 unique malicious objects: scripts, exploits, executable files, etc.

We identified the 20 malicious programs most actively involved in online attacks launched against computers in 2014. These 20 accounted for 95.8% of all online attacks.

  Name* % of all attacks** 1 Malicious URL 73.70% 2 Trojan.Script.Generic 9.10% 3 AdWare.Script.Generic 4.75% 4 Trojan.Script.Iframer 2.12% 5 Trojan-Downloader.Script.Generic 2.10% 6 AdWare.Win32.BetterSurf.b 0.60% 7 AdWare.Win32.Agent.fflm 0.41% 8 AdWare.Win32.Agent.aiyc 0.38% 9 AdWare.Win32.Agent.allm 0.34% 10 Adware.Win32.Amonetize.heur 0.32% 11 Trojan.Win32.Generic 0.27% 12 0.26% 13 Trojan.Win32.AntiFW.b 0.24% 14 0.23% 15 AdWare.Win32.Agent.ahbx 0.19% 16 AdWare.Win32.Yotoon.heur 0.19% 17 0.18% 18 Trojan-Downloader.Win32.Generic 0.16% 19 0.14% 20 AdWare.Win32.OutBrowse.g 0.11%

* These statistics represent detection verdicts from the web antivirus module. Information was provided by users of Kaspersky Lab products who consented to share their local data
** The percentage of all web attacks recorded on the computers of unique users

As is often the case, the TOP 20 is largely made up of objects used in drive-by attacks, as well as adware programs. 73.7% of all verdicts identified links from these black lists.

Noticeably, in 2014 there was an increase in the number of advertising programs in the TOP 20, up from 5 to 12 compared to the previous year and accounting for 8.2% of all malicious objects detected online (+7.01 percentage points). The growth in the amount of advertising programs, along with their aggressive distribution schemes and their efforts to counteract anti-virus detection, has become the trend of 2014.

In 2014, #Kaspersky Lab's web antivirus detected 123,054,503 unique malicious objects #KLReport


The verdict is also connected to advertising and all sorts of "potentially unwanted" activities. This is how scripts placed on Amazon Cloudfront to redirect users to pages with advertising content are detected. Links to these scripts are inserted by adware and various extensions for browsers, mainly on users' search pages. The scripts can also redirect users to malicious pages containing recommendations to update Adobe Flash and Java - a popular method of spreading malware.

The TOP 10 countries where online resources are seeded with malware

The following stats are based on the physical location of the online resources that were 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 up against their actual domain IP addresses, and then the geographical location of a specific IP address (GEOIP) is established.

In 2014, Kaspersky Lab solutions blocked 1,432,660,467 web-attacks #KLReport


In 2014, Kaspersky Lab solutions blocked 1,432,660,467 attacks launched from web resources located in various countries around the world.  To carry out their attacks, the fraudsters used 9,766,119 unique hosts, 838,154 hosts or 8% fewer than in 2013.

87% of notifications  about attacks blocked by antivirus components were received from online resources located in 10 countries. This is 5 percentage points more than in the previous year.

The distribution of online resources seeded with malicious programs in 2014

In 2014, the TOP 10 rating of countries where online resources are seeded with malware remained largely unchanged from the previous year. However four countries changed places: Germany and Russia swapped, with the Germans climbing to 2nd and Russia dropping to fourth. Ukraine overtook Britain to move up to 5th.

44% of all web attacks came from resources located in the USA and Germany.

Countries where users face the greatest risk of online infection

In order to assess the countries in which users most often face cyber threats, we calculated how often Kaspersky users encountered detection verdicts on their machines in each country. The resulting data characterizes the risk of infection that computers are exposed to in different countries across the globe, providing an indicator of the aggressiveness of the environment facing computers in different parts of the world.

The TOP 20 countries where users face the greatest risk of online infection

  Country* % of unique users** 1 Russia 53.81% 2 Kazakhstan 53.04% 3 Azerbaijan 49.64% 4 Vietnam 49.13% 5 Armenia 48.66% 6 Ukraine 46.70% 7 Mongolia 45.18% 8 Belarus 43.81% 9 Moldova 42.41% 10 Kyrgyzstan 40.06% 11 Germany 39.56% 12 Algeria 39.05% 13 Qatar 38.77% 14 Tadjikistan 38.49% 15 Georgia 37.67% 16 Saudi Arabia 36.01% 17 Austria 35.58% 18 Lithuania 35.44% 19 Sri Lanka 35.42% 20 Turkey 35.40%

These statistics are based on the detection verdicts returned by the web antivirus module, received from users of Kaspersky Lab products who have consented to provide their statistical data.

* We excluded those countries in which the number of Kaspersky Lab product users is relatively small (less than 10,000)
** Unique users whose computers have been targeted by web attacks as a percentage of all unique users of Kaspersky Lab products in the country

The year 2014 saw a change of leader in the TOP 20: the rating was topped by Russia where 53.81% of users faced the risk of online infection.

Last year's leader, Azerbaijan, fell to 3rd position (49.64%).

Uzbekistan, Malaysia, Greece and Italy dropped out of the TOP 20. Among the newcomers were Mongolia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Lithuania.

All countries can be divided into three groups expressing different levels of infection risk.

  1. The high risk group (over 41%)
  2. In 2014, this group includes nine countries from the TOP 20, compared to 15 countries in 2013.

  3. The risk group (21-40%)
  4. This group includes 111 countries; among them are Kyrgyzstan (40.1%), Germany (39.6%), Qatar (38.8%), Tajikistan (38.5%), Georgia (37.7), Saudi Arabia (36%), Turkey (35. 4%), France (34.9%), India (34.8%), Spain (34.4%), USA (33.8%), Canada (33.4%), Australia (32.5% ), Brazil (32.1%), Poland (31.7%), Italy (31.5%), Israel (30.2%), China (30.1%), the UK (30%), Egypt (27.8%), Mexico (27.5%), the Philippines (27.2%), Croatia (26.2%), Pakistan (26.1%), Romania (25.7%), Japan (21. 2%), Argentina (21. 1%).

  5. The low risk group (0-20.9%)
  6. The 39 countries with the safest online surfing environments include Sweden (19.5%), Denmark (19.2%), Uruguay (19.5%) and a number of African countries.

In 2014, 38.3% of computers were attacked at least once while their owners were online.

On average, the risk of being infected while surfing the Internet decreased by 3.3 percentage points over the year. This may be caused several factors:

  • Firstly, developers of browsers and search engines realized the necessity of securing their users and started to contribute to the fight against malicious sites
  • Secondly, many exploit packs have started to check if Kaspersky Lab's product is installed on the user's computer. If it is, the exploits do not even try to attack the computer.
  • Thirdly, users using more and more mobile devices and tablets to surf the Internet.

In addition, the number of attacks using exploit packs slightly decreased: arresting the developers of these packs was not in vain. However there are no grounds to expect some drastic change in the situation with exploits: they are still the main technique used to deliver malware, including for targeted attacks. The Internet remains the major source of malware for users in most countries.

Local threats

Local infection statistics for user computers are a very important indicator. This data points to threats that have penetrated the Windows operating system through something other than the Internet, email, or network ports.

This section contains an analysis of the statistical data obtained based on antivirus scans of files on the hard drive at the moment they are created or accessed, and the results of scanning various removable data storages.

The TOP 20 malicious objects detected on user computers

In 2014, Kaspersky Lab's antivirus solutions detected 1,849,949 unique malicious and potentially unwanted objects.

  Name % of unique attacked users* 1 DangerousObject.Multi.Generic 26.04% 2 Trojan.Win32.Generic 25.32% 3 AdWare.Win32.Agent.ahbx 12.78% 4 Trojan.Win32.AutoRun.gen 8.24% 5 Adware.Win32.Amonetize.heur 7.25% 6 Virus.Win32.Sality.gen 6.69% 7 Worm.VBS.Dinihou.r 5.77% 8 AdWare.MSIL.Kranet.heur 5.46% 9 AdWare.Win32.Yotoon.heur 4.67% 10 Worm.Win32.Debris.a 4.05% 11 AdWare.Win32.BetterSurf.b 3.97% 12 Trojan.Win32.Starter.lgb 3.69% 13 Exploit.Java.Generic 3.66% 14 Trojan.Script.Generic 3.52% 15 Virus.Win32.Nimnul.a 2.80% 16 Trojan-Dropper.Win32.Agent.jkcd 2.78% 17 Worm.Script.Generic 2.61% 18 AdWare.Win32.Agent.aljt 2.53% 19 AdWare.Win32.Kranet.heur 2.52% 20 Trojan.WinLNK.Runner.ea 2.49%

These statistics are compiled from malware detection verdicts generated by the on-access and on-demand scanner modules on the computers of those users running Kaspersky Lab products who consented to submit their statistical data.

* The proportion of individual users on whose computers the antivirus module detected these objects as a percentage of all individual users of Kaspersky Lab products on whose computers a malicious program was detected

The DangerousObject.Multi.Generic verdict, which is used for malware detected with the help of cloud technologies, is in 1st place (26.04%). Cloud technologies work when the antivirus databases do not yet contain either signatures or heuristics to detect a malicious program but the company's cloud antivirus database already includes the information about the object. In fact, this is how the latest malware is detected.

The notorious worm Net-Worm.Win32.Kido dropped out of the TOP 20. In general the proportion of viruses continues to decrease: for example, last year Virus.Win32.Sality.gen affected 13.4% of users while in 2014 – only 6.69%.

Both this rating and the rating of web detections show that advertising programs are becoming more common. In 2014, the number of users who encountered adware doubled from the previous year and reached 25,406,107. At the same time advertising programs are becoming both more intrusive and more dangerous. Some of them "cross the border" into the category of potentially unwanted programs and are assigned a "harsher" verdict. For example, Trojan-Dropper.Win32.Agent.jkcd (16th place), in addition to displaying ads and changing search results, can download malware on the computer.

Countries where users face the highest risk of local infection

For each country we calculated the number of file antivirus detections the users faced during the year. The data includes detections of malicious programs located on users' computers or on removable media connected to the computers, such as flash drives, camera and phone memory cards, or external hard drives.

The TOP 20 countries by the level of infection

  Country* %** 1 Vietnam 69.58% 2 Mongolia 64.24% 3 Nepal 61.03% 4 Bangladesh 60.54% 5 Yemen 59.51% 6 Algeria 58.84% 7 Iraq 57.62% 8 Laos 56.32% 9 India 56.05% 10 Cambodia 55.98% 11 Afghanistan 55.69% 12 Egypt 54.54% 13 Saudi Arabia 54.37% 14 Kazakhstan 54.27% 15 Pakistan 54.00% 16 Syria 53.91% 17 Soudan 53.88% 18 Sri Lanka 53.77% 19 Myanma 53.34% 20 Turkey 52.94%

These statistics are based on the detection verdicts returned by the antivirus module, received from users of Kaspersky Lab products who have consented to provide their statistical data.

* When calculating, we excluded countries where there are fewer than 10,000 Kaspersky Lab users
** The percentage of unique users in the country with computers that blocked local threats as a percentage of all unique users of Kaspersky Lab products

The TOP 4 countries for risk of local infection remained largely unchanged from the previous year: Vietnam was in 1st position; Mongolia and Bangladesh changed places – Bangladesh moved down from 2nd to 4th position while Mongolia climbed from 4th to 2nd place.

Djibouti, Maldives, Mauritania, Indonesia, Rwanda and Angola left the TOP 20. The newcomers were Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan, Syria, Myanmar and Turkey.

Within the TOP 20 countries at least one malicious object was found on an average of 58.7% of computers, hard drives or removable media belonging to KSN users. The 2013 figure was 60.1%.

Countries can be divided into four risk categories for local threats.

  1. Maximum risk (over 60%): four countries including Vietnam (69.6%), Mongolia (64.2%), Nepal (61.0%) and Bangladesh (60.5%).
  2. High risk (41-60%): 83 countries including India (56.0%), Kazakhstan (54.3%), Turkey (52.9%), Russia (52.0%), China (49.7%), Brazil (46.5%), Belarus (45.3%), Mexico (41.6%), the Philippines (48.4%).
  3. Moderate local infection rate (21-40.99%): 70 countries including Spain (40.9%), France (40.3%), Poland (39.5%), Lithuania (39.1%), Greece (37.8%), Portugal (37.7%), Korea (37.4%), Argentina (37.2%), Italy (36.6%), Austria (36.5%), Australia (35.3%), Canada (34.8%), Romania (34. 5%), the US (34.4%), the UK (33.8%), Switzerland (30.8%), Hong Kong (30.4%), Ireland (29.7%), Uruguay (27.8% ), the Netherlands (26.4%), Norway (25.1%), Singapore (23.5%), Japan (22.9%), Sweden (23%), Denmark (21.3%)
  4. Low local infection rate (0- 20.99%): 3 countries including Finland (20%), Cuba (19.1%) and Seychelles (19%).

The 10 safest countries were:

  Country %* 1 Seychelles 19.03% 2 Cuba 19.08% 3 Finland 20.03% 4 Denmark 21.34% 5 Japan 22.89% 6 Sweden 22.98% 7 Czech Republic 23.13% 8 Singapore 23.54% 9 Martinique 25.04% 10 Norway 25.13%

* The percentage of unique users in the country with computers that blocked local threats as a percentage of all unique users of Kaspersky Lab products

In 2014, three new countries appeared in this TOP 10 — Martinique, Singapore and Sweden. Slovakia, Slovenia and Malta dropped out of the rating.

In 2014, on average, 23% of user machines were attacked in the 10 safest countries at least once #KLReport


On average, 23% of user machines were attacked in the 10 safest countries at least once during the year. This is 4.2 percentage points more than last year.

Sony/Destover: Mystery North Korean Actor's Destructive and Past Network Activity

Thu, 12/04/2014 - 14:53

This week, for the first time, the FBI issued a Flash warning about a destructive wiper activity, used in the attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment. Samples of this Destover malware contained configuration files created on systems using Korean language packs.

Since the attack, further information about the malware has surfaced in one form or another, but some details, such as those relating to the previous activity of the prime suspects, are still to be examined.

So, while Sony Pictures silently completes its costly clean-up efforts and prepares to release "The Interview", let's discuss some of the malware functionality, glaring similarities with other wiper events, and some of the suspect group's previous activity.

The first thing to note is that destructive activity targeting the networks of large organizations is clearly becoming more commonplace. Previous major wiper malware is discussed here.  For these, most of the related events occurred in the Middle East and the Korean Peninsula. We also noted a separate Eastern European BE2 ICS environment-related wiping event, covered in more detail here. And it's hard to ignore the complete customer data wipe of Code Spaces in Great Britain by a cybercriminal holding them for ransom, as reported here.

The malware involved in the Sony Entertainment attack is called Trojan Destover and is capable of wiping disk drives and MBR.

Destover Wiper Functionality

The most interesting aspects of the destructive functionality of the malware are related to the selection and storage/delivery of the drivers that are now used repeatedly in these kinds of sabotage attacks.

The Destover droppers install and run EldoS RawDisk drivers to evade NTFS security permissions and overwrite disk data and the MBR itself. There are implications for data recovery in this. In the case of the DarkSeoul malware, the overwritten data could be restored using a method similar to the restoration of the Shamoon 'destroyed' data. Destover data recovery is likely to be the same.

The chain of intermediary components leading to the destructive payload follows multiple stages (which have previously been described elsewhere), with capabilities set to run in several modes, just like Shamoon:

  1. The sample is run on a 32-bit OS for the first time.
  2. The sample is run on a 32-bit OS as a self-installed service, with one of several code paths.
  3. The sample is run on a 64-bit OS as a self-installed service.

On a first run, it creates the 'Backup and Restore Management' Windows brmgmtsvc service, adds its own executable and sets a startup '-i' switch. It also drops several copies of itself and starts each of them with a different switch: -m, -d, and -w.

-m (mbr overwrite):
This attempts to connect with the three IP addresses.  Even if this is unsuccessful, process execution takes place.
It fetches its resource that contains the compressed EldoS RawDisk driver, and writes it out to the temp directory as a 'usbdrv3.sys'.
It then installs the driver as the usbdrv3 service 'USB 3.0 Host Controller'.
After this, it starts the driver service and closes its service handle.
It then creates a filehandle to the driver with write permissions:
and writes to that handle with 64k strings of '0xAAAAAAAA'. ← note that the issue of a  lengthy license key (#99E2428…) is discussed in our Shamoon The Wiper - part ii blogpost.
It then creates new threads, each of which attempts to connect to any possible physical drive letter and overwrite them as well.

-d (data overwrite):
This attempts to connect with the same three IP addresses. Again, process execution takes place regardless of communications.
It gets the logical drives and traverses recursively through them, identifying all data files. If it is not .exe or .dll, the process overwrites file contents with '0x0df0adba' in a 20k chunk. This overwrite is completed from user mode, without the EldoS drivers.
It then attempts to delete the data file using the win32 api 'DeleteFileW'. As it recurses through all the system's directories, it attempts to delete .exe and .dll files.

-w (web server):
This attempts to connect with the same three IP addresses. Again, process execution takes place regardless of communications.
It stops the Windows Terminal Services from the cmd line: 'cmd.exe /c net stop termservice /y'
Then finds resource#85, decompresses and writes contents out to 'c:\windows\iissvr.exe'.
It launches the iissvr.exe process and exits.
iissvr is what it seems to be - a web server that maintains an encoded JPG, HTML and WAV file. It listens on Port 80 and serves these files. The full graphic and scrolling green warning can be found later in the article. The decoded jpg here:

Lastly, after a two hour sleep, the original service restarts the machine with a call to ExitWindowsEx(EWX_REBOOT|EWX_FORCE, 0).   This forces an exit but delays the shutdown itself while system state file creation occurs.

Commonalities Across Wipers

Just like Shamoon, the Destover wiper drivers are commercially available EldoS RawDisk driver files.

Just like Shamoon, the Destover wiper drivers are maintained in the droppers' resource section.

Just like Shamoon, the DarkSeoul wiper event included vague, encoded psuedo-political messages used to overwrite disk data and the master boot record (MBR).

Just like DarkSeoul, the Destover wiper executables were compiled somewhere between 48 hours prior to the attack and the actual day of attack. It is highly unlikely that the attackers spear-phished their way into large numbers of users, and highly likely that they had gained unfettered access to the entire network prior to the attack.

The Shamoon components were compiled in a similarly tight timeframe prior to their deployment. The CompiledOn timestamps all fall within five days of their executables' detonation. Nearly all were compiled on Aug 10, 2012 (between 00:17:23 and 02:46:22) and set to detonate on Aug 15, 2012. That is a tight window to quietly deploy these binaries considering the fact that tens of thousands of machines were destroyed with this payload.

In all three cases: Shamoon, DarkSeoul and Destover, the groups claiming credit for their destructive impact across entire large networks had no history or real identity of their own.  All attempted to disappear following their act, did not make clear statements but did make bizarre and roundabout accusations of criminal conduct, and instigated their destructive acts immediately after a politically-charged event that was suggested as having been at the heart of the matter.

Images from the DarkSeoul 'Whois' and Destover 'GOP' groups included a 'Hacked by' claim, accompanied by a "warning" and threats regarding stolen data.  Both threatened that this was only the beginning and that the group will be back. It appears that original skeletal artwork was also included in both.

Whois team graphics and warning:

GOP team graphics and warning:

Differences between the Destover and DarkSeoul Wiper attacks include Destover's lack of *nix scripts to erase partitions across Linux systems.

The above list of commonalities does not, of course, prove that the crew behind Shamoon is the same as the crew behind both DarkSeoul and Destover. But it should be noted that the reactionary events and the groups' operational and toolset characteristics all carry marked similarities. And, it is extraordinary that such unusual and focused acts of large scale cyber-destruction are being carried out with clearly recognizable similarities.

Network activity

Related beacon destinations were published as:


However, directly related samples perform callbacks to a number of other IP addresses as well. Kaspersky Security Network (KSN) data presents a complete lack of malware being served from any of these addresses in the past:


The connections appear arbitrary and inconsequential to the execution of the malicious package. Some are not currently active. These IPs all appear to be oddly selected.

Some of these addresses are known to have performed RDP Scans in the recent past. In late 2012, was a known RDP brute forcing network scanner. The server is hosted at an IP address in Poland, maintained at that provider since 1996.

In early 2014, was hosted in Italy and served as a 'Hide My Ass' premium and free proxy server over port 443. The malware attempts to connect to that server on ports 8000 and 8080, and currently no resources are available. also previously served as a free SOCKS proxy in 2011 and 2012. Often, these sorts of resources were misused by spammers and blackhat SEO scammers.

Previous Backdoors

The DarkSeoul campaigns have been linked to several families of Trojans and backdoors, all used over the course of several years. Some links are much stronger than others:

  • Concealment Troy
  • DarkSeoul
  • HttpDr0pper
  • HttpTroy
  • TDrop
Destover MD5s


MD5 Size CompiledOn Kaspersky name d1c27ee7ce18675974edf42d4eea25c6 262 kb 2014.11.22 00:06:54 Trojan.Win32.Destover.a 2618dd3e5c59ca851f03df12c0cab3b8 430 kb 2014.11.22 00:05:02 Trojan.Win32.Destover.d 760c35a80d758f032d02cf4db12d3e55 244 kb 2014.11.22 04:11:08 Trojan.Win32.Destover.c b80aa583591eaf758fd95ab4ea7afe39 304 kb 2014.11.24 04:12:55 Trojan.Win32.Destover.b e1864a55d5ccb76af4bf7a0ae16279ba 112 kb 2014.11.13 02:05:35 Backdoor.Win32.DestoverServ.a

Eldos Drivers:

6aeac618e29980b69721158044c2e544 (32-bit), signed by the EldoS Corporation
86e212b7fc20fc406c692400294073ff (64-bit), signed by the EldoS Corporation

Certificate (6aeac618e29980b69721158044c2e544 32-bit and
86e212b7fc20fc406c692400294073ff 64-bit):

Data: Version: 3 (0x2) Serial Number: 01:00:00:00:00:01:10:0c:98:3a:31 Signature Algorithm: sha1WithRSAEncryption Issuer: C=BE, O=GlobalSign nv-sa, OU=ObjectSign CA, CN=GlobalSign ObjectSign CA Validity Not Before: Jan 10 15:20:07 2007 GMT Not After : Jan 10 15:20:07 2010 GMT Subject: C=VG, O=EldoS Corporation, CN=EldoS Corporation/ Subject Public Key Info: Public Key Algorithm: rsaEncryption Public-Key: (1024 bit) Modulus: 00:d7:60:2f:bf:3c:85:1b:f3:a1:19:8c:4d:0e:49: c5:a5:f5:16:15:b6:ea:91:e2:c2:92:7b:d6:e5:2a: 1e:68:8c:7b:28:eb:07:dc:b0:3a:dd:11:ee:84:a9: 8b:6f:04:b0:ae:c2:2d:bc:b7:56:41:61:e1:ae:01: 0d:0e:83:47:00:3a:ca:b5:12:fb:e5:b6:55:ac:e0: 94:00:5b:e0:61:70:24:ba:d9:ef:4a:e2:af:8f:21: 93:9e:8b:83:17:2a:e4:3d:74:e6:07:c8:4a:69:ed: 60:9b:89:6e:5b:85:50:49:52:f9:fa:91:63:9f:61: a7:ea:e2:3e:d7:1b:07:22:a1 Exponent: 65537 (0x10001) X509v3 extensions: Netscape Cert Type: Object Signing X509v3 Key Usage: critical Digital Signature, Non Repudiation, Key Encipherment, Data Encipherment X509v3 Authority Key Identifier: keyid:D2:5B:F3:4B:26:4B:A5:B0:E7:5D:FD:56:7F:F6:F1:2E:38:4E:53:A0 X509v3 CRL Distribution Points: Full Name: URI: Signature Algorithm: sha1WithRSAEncryption 44:0d:5b:2c:f4:c3:c0:91:c0:9f:4d:91:f0:25:5c:79:72:ff: 82:7a:a8:97:fb:08:2b:c2:eb:ae:4b:78:b6:a8:0f:5b:3a:1d: 12:c9:07:81:d0:16:e0:94:1e:69:3c:43:c1:d8:85:b1:4c:1a: 21:84:1c:c8:ed:0a:7e:e4:55:b7:f8:ae:69:a8:b0:8c:10:da: 6e:57:f4:a3:62:5b:2b:4f:06:25:a9:35:f0:63:cc:3f:e0:f6: 4c:ee:1d:d8:9f:d8:ae:d3:fe:de:3b:0b:c5:f3:19:1c:2a:37: ad:0d:5c:87:5e:da:8f:31:02:d3:78:5d:f1:30:28:78:c3:86: f7:b2:f6:6c:2d:d8:45:8a:8b:16:eb:bb:d0:6e:5b:98:68:8e: 9b:cc:7e:77:9d:0d:b3:5f:01:d8:57:26:6d:cf:85:2a:46:52: 0f:79:93:85:f7:19:14:01:73:d5:03:e7:96:1a:16:cd:24:0b: 67:6d:f9:72:55:b8:b9:e9:be:07:58:b3:01:bd:a1:18:57:bb: b3:19:e5:88:0e:f5:96:fe:eb:b8:66:a6:c6:2c:62:b5:21:59: f2:d9:4d:2b:d1:59:20:07:13:78:26:dc:d5:b3:d1:55:47:5e: 2e:cb:cb:cc:04:7c:d5:e2:9d:7c:24:b1:18:70:da:1f:54:5b: 59:88:d1:17

Previous and Parallel Research References

The Art of Finding Cyber-Dinosaur Skeletons

Wed, 12/03/2014 - 10:25

Following the release of our report on the Regin nation-state cyber operation, questions were raised about whether anti-malware companies deliberately withheld information -- and detections -- at the request of governments and customers. A similar question was raised by Bruce Schneier in 2013.

Let's get the most important issue out of the way immediately. We have never been asked by a customer or a government entity to whitelist or stop detecting any specific malware sample. We'd never comply with such a request, no matter the source.

This simply does not happen. In some cases, investigations into advanced targeted attacks include NDAs (non-disclosure agreements) with customers and we are bound to maintain confidentiality but that never affects adding detection and protecting our entire customer base from threats.

So, why did it take two years for us to release a report on Regin? Without proper context, it may appear that researchers kept something really important in the dark for an inordinately long time. However, security research -- not unlike law enforcement investigations -- requires meticulous scrutiny and analysis and in many cases, it's important to watch the crime unfold in real-time to build a proper case.

In our case, without unlimited resources and the fact that we're tracking multiple APT actors simultaneously (Careto/Mask, EpicTurla, Darkhotel, Miniduke/Cosmicduke, to name a few), this becomes a process that takes months, even years, to gain a full understanding of a cyber-operation.

Sean Sullivan from F-Secure provided a perfect description of APT research, comparing it to the work of paleontologists that find some bones of a dinosaur.  Everyone may have a bone but nobody has the full skeleton.

In the case of Regin, what we first discovered in 2012 was a slightly damaged bone from unknown part of a monster living in a mysterious mountain lake.

(courtesy of

Someone finding a bone might discard it and keep traveling, but in security research we collect things. The original discovery went to our collection of things stored in the backyard. We have many of these fractured bones from unseen monsters or maybe harmless creatures. Sometimes we hear about other bone fragments being discovered by others and this pushes us to take a closer look but at the early stages, without enough evidence to draw meaningful conclusions, it doesn't make sense to go public about discoveries until you confirm that the monsters are real, big and dangerous.

We keep working in various channels to collect different artifacts that may or may not match some of the pieces in our collection. Sometimes we join efforts with other "paleontologists" and share our discoveries. Once we collect enough of bones from a monster to understand potential size, danger and possible habitat, we can start the next phase which is a real active investigation that might lead us to the mysterious mountain lake.

A comprehensive APT research project consists of several stages:

  1. Adding detection for known modules
  2. Collecting samples
  3. Reversing the samples
  4. Decrypting sophisticated encryption and compression schemes
  5. Understanding lateral movement
  6. Outlining multiple attack stages in the correct order
  7. Mapping C&C infrastructure
  8. Setting up sinkholes
  9. Analyzing collected traffic and communication protocols
  10. Crawling other hosts that understand the same protocol
  11. Taking down and acquiring images of C&C servers
  12. Identifying victims, sending out notifications to victims and global CERTs
  13. Applying forensic analysis and extracting logs, stolen files, other components
  14. Collecting and analyzing data from KSN, C&C servers, individual victims who are willing to work with us, sinkholes, crawlers, etc.
  15. Writing a comprehensive report

If we are lucky we can find a monster in-the-wild that is the best source for scientific study. In most cases, including Regin, we observe and learn from the behavior of a live monster. We record every single step and intention.

At the same time, we can take it down and study it in a lab like zoologists. However, in many research investigations, we can see only a skeleton of a monster. We have to put everything together and reconstruct how the monster moved, what was it habits, what species it attacked, and how these attacks were coordinated.  Simply put, this requires time and patience.

In addition, when we analyze the characteristics of a certain creature, we understand that the evolution goes on and there are other species like the subject, live and kicking somewhere in a manner that's not visible at all.

While some of the Regin samples got on our radar early and we continued to find additional samples and artifacts during the research, we are convinced there are others that are currently unknown and undiscovered. Little was known about their life and existence in the past but we know they were out there by finding some tiny fragments over time. And we have to refer to paleontology again, because in the overall picture we have discovered just a small part of the entire beast, but have enough to to release a public alert.

Like Regin, sometimes we find that we had been detecting pieces of malware for several years before realizing that it was a part of global cyber-espionage campaign. One good example is the story of RedOctober. We had been detecting components of RedOctober long before we figured out that it was being used in targeted attacks against diplomatic, governmental and scientific research organizations.

At Kaspersky Lab, we are processing hundreds of thousands of samples every day. The art of figuring out which ones are significant and further yet which ones belong together as part of a big APT attack is akin to finding needles in a huge haystack and then figuring out which ones belong to the same knitting set. We are grateful for every needle we discover, because this makes the world a little safer.

Kaspersky Security Bulletin 2014. Predictions 2015

Mon, 12/01/2014 - 04:00

 PDF version
 EPUB version

Cyber-criminals merge with APT

In 2015, we expect to see another stage in the evolution of cyber-criminal activity with the adoption of APT tactics and techniques in financially motivated online criminal activity.

During a recent investigation, we discovered an attack in which an accountant's computer was compromised and used to initiate a large transfer with a financial institution. It represented the emergence of an interesting trend: targeted attacks directly against banks.

We are seeing an upsurge in malware incidents where banks are being breached using methods coming directly from the APT playbook. Once the attackers got into the banks' networks, they siphon enough information to allow them to steal money directly from the bank in several ways:

  • Remotely commanding ATMs to dispose cash.
  • Performing SWIFT transfers from various customers accounts,
  • Manipulating online banking systems to perform transfers in the background.

A new trend is embracing #APT style attacks in the cybercriminal world.


Such attacks are an indication of a new trend that is embracing APT style attacks in the cybercriminal world.

APT groups fragment, diversify attacks

The naming-and-shaming of APT groups in 2014 led to the public exposure and indictment of a hacking group that allegedly carried out cyber-espionage against U.S. businesses.

We expect to see a shift in 2015 where the bigger, noisy #APT groups splinter into smaller units, operating independently of each other.


As security research teams continue to push for exposure of nation-state APT crews, we expect to see a shift in 2015 where the bigger, noisy APT groups splinter into smaller units, operating independently of each other. This in turn will result in a more widespread attack base, meaning more companies will be hit, as the smaller groups diversify their attacks. At the same time it means that bigger companies that were previously compromised by two or three major APT groups (eg. Comment Crew and Webky) will see more diverse attacks, coming from more sources.

Old code, new (dangerous) vulnerabilities

Recent allegations of deliberate tampering and accidental failures in crypto implementations ("goto fail"), and critical vulnerabilities in essential software (Shellshock, Heartbleed, OpenSSL) have left the community suspicious of unaudited software. The reaction has been to either launch independent audits of key software or have security researchers poke them in search of critical vulnerabilities (tantamount to an unofficial audit). This means that 2015 will be another year of new, dangerous vulnerabilities appearing in old code, exposing the Internet infrastructure to menacing attacks.

Escalation of ATM and PoS attacks

Attacks against cash machines (ATM) seemed to explode this year with several public incidents and a rush by law enforcement authorities globally to respond to this crisis. A corollary of this publicity is an awareness that ATMs are ripe for the taking and cybercriminals are sure to notice. As most of these systems are running Windows XP and also suffer from frail physical security, they are incredibly vulnerable by default and, as the impersonal gatekeepers of the financial institutions' cash, cybercriminals are bound to come knocking here first.

The next stage will see attackers compromising the networks of banks and using that level of access to manipulate #ATM #machines in real time.


In 2015, we expect to see further evolution of these ATM attacks with the use of APT techniques to gain access to the "brain" of cash machines.  The next stage will see attackers compromising the networks of banks and using that level of access to manipulate ATM machines in real time.

Mac Attacks: OS X botnets

Despite efforts by Apple to lock down the Mac operating system, we continue to see malicious software being pushed via torrents and pirated software packages. The increasing popularity of Mac OS X devices is turning heads in the criminal world, making it more appealing to develop malware for this platform.

The increasing popularity of #MacOS X devices is turning heads in the criminal world, making it more appealing to develop malware.


The closed-by-default ecosystem makes it harder for this malware to successfully take hold of the platform, but there remains a subsection of users who'll gladly disable Mac OS X security measures – especially people who use pirated software. This means that those looking to hijack OS X systems for a variety of reasons know that they simply need to bundle their malware with desirable software (probably in the form of a key generator) to enjoy widespread success. Due to widespread beliefs about the security of the OS X platform, these systems are also unlikely to have an antimalware solution installed that will flag the infection so once the malware is installed, so it's likely to go unnoticed for a very long time.

Attacks against ticketing machines

Incidents such as the NFC hack on Chilean public transport show an interest in abusing public resources such as transportation systems. Some hackers won't be looking to turn a profit from these types of attacks and will be satisfied to get some free rides and 'stick it to the man' by sharing this ability with others. However, ticketing systems are being shown to be vulnerable (many of them running Windows XP) and in many cities handle credit card transaction data directly. We expect to see bolder attacks on these systems to either game the system or steal credit card data for themselves.

Attacks against virtual payment systems

Conventional wisdom tells us that cybercriminals are looking to monetize their daring exploits as simply and efficiently as possible. What better target than virtual payment systems in their infancy? As some countries like Ecuador rush to adopt virtual payment systems, we expect criminals to leap at every opportunity to exploit these. Whether social engineering the users, attacking the endpoints (cellphones in many cases), or hacking the banks directly, cybercriminals will jump all over directly monetized attacks and virtual payment systems will end up bearing the brunt.

We expect to the appearance of vulnerability warnings about weaknesses in #Apple #Pay, virtual wallets and other virtual payment systems.


These fears can also be extended to the new Apple Pay, which uses NFC (Near Field Communications) to handle wireless consumer transactions.  This is a ripe market for security research and we expect to the appearance of vulnerability warnings about weaknesses in Apple Pay, virtual wallets and other virtual payment systems.

Apple Pay

Previous attacks have focused on NFC payment systems but, thanks to limited adoption, these have reaped limited rewards. Apple Pay is bound to change that. The enthusiasm over this new payment platform is going to drive adoption through the roof and that will inevitably attract many cybercriminals looking to reap the rewards of these transactions. Apple's design possesses and increased focus on security (like virtualized transaction data) but we'll be very curious to see how hackers will exploit the features of this implementation.

Compromising the Internet of Things

Attacks against the Internet of Things (IoT) have been limited to proof-of-concepts and (sometimes overhyped) warnings that smart televisions and refrigerators will be targeted by hackers to create botnets or launch mischievous attacks.

In 2015, there will surely be in-the-wild attacks against networked printers and other #connected #devices.


As more and more of these connected devices become available, we expect to see a wider discussion about security and privacy, especially among businesses in this space.  In 2015, there will surely be in-the-wild attacks against networked printers and other connected devices that can help an advanced attacker to maintain persistence and lateral movement within a corporate network.   We expect to see IoT devices form part of an APT group's arsenal, especially at high-value targets where connectivity is being introduced to the manufacturing and industrial processes. 

On the consumer side, IoT attacks will be limited to demonstrations of weaknesses in protocol implementations and the possibility of embedding advertising (adware/spyware?) into smart TV programming.

Phishing attack to target the clients of a Japanese bank

Fri, 11/28/2014 - 04:00

Most phishing emails that aim to steal bank and e-payment data are written in English. However, we are seeing more and more fraudulent messages written in other languages, suggesting that the number of attacks targeting users in non-English speaking countries is growing. Here is an example of a fake notification in Japanese, supposedly sent on behalf of a major bank of Japan.

The text of the fake message warned users of a possible leak of their personal data. They were also told that the bank system security had been updated to protect their accounts so they had to follow the link and enter their login details and passwords on the bank's site to ensure their accounts weren't blocked. The information entered in the phishing form was sent to the fraudsters who got access to the personal account of the victims and could control their money via the online banking system.

The 'From' field of the email specified an address registered on a well-known free mail service from a Taiwanese (.tw) domain. The address of the phishing page in the body of the message was similar to the official web address of the bank but the real address of the page to which the user was redirected was different. Since the fraudulent page was designed to look like the bank's official page, users could only spot the trick if they paid close attention to the suspicious address in the browser.

A month later our colleagues registered a similar phishing mass mailing.

The sender's address looked genuine. The text informed recipients that the bank had updated its security system and users should follow the link to confirm their account details. That link went to the same phishing link as in the first example but this time the forgery was much more like a genuine link. Only a careful user would spot the difference.

Spam and Phishing in the Q3 of 2014

Thu, 11/27/2014 - 04:00
Spam: features of the quarter Appearance of the iPhone 6

In September there was a significant event in the IT industry - the iPhone 6 smartphone was presented to the public and put on sale. Not surprisingly, this was big news in the cybercriminal and spamming community as well and throughout the quarter we saw a sharp increase in spam about the famous brand. The number of phishing messages claiming to come from popular Apple services also significantly increased around the release date.

Spammers started offering the new smartphone long before its official release - as a prize for participating in questionnaires and special offers, as a gift when purchasing goods or using services offered in spam; the stylish accessory was the prize in various lotteries and featured in many false win notifications. Finally the iPhone 6 was offered for unbelievably low prices (compared to the official price).

Compared to the previous models the design of the iPhone 6 has several noticeable changes - including the size of the screen. This caused a burst of spam from factories producing all manner of accessories, actively offering protective cases and the like in the new size.

This all shows how a single event can trigger an increase in many different kind of spam, both swindles and adverts. In many cases it was also a powerful hook to draw attention to letters; the mere mention of the new iPhone in the subject header greatly increased the chances of the message being read.

Spam as a way to steal mail addresses

The last quarter saw several leaks of account logins and passwords from major mail systems. The data appeared on the net, which worried users and prompted lively discussions about confidentiality. At the same time the companies owning the mail services announced that most of the published data was from long abandoned accounts and the few that were still active were probably hijacked by phishing.

We note that the ID data for an email account doesn't just give wrongdoers access to the owners' personal correspondence and their address books; it also opens up other services provided by the mail host. Logins and passwords for other resources could also fall into unwelcome hands, especially those for social networks and online stores registered to that mailbox. The demand for email logins and passwords is underlined by the volume of phishing communications we have found that were designed specifically for this purpose that. In the third quarter we encountered phishing letters using various methods to con people out of their data. Here are a few examples:

  1. Communications in which a phishing HTML-page is inserted directly into the letter.
  2. Communications with phishing links in the text of the letter. The false link might be tied to a text fragment or shown in the text of the letter. Often the swindlers place phishing pages on specially created third-level domains.

  3. Communications in which an email address and password have to be sent to a specific electronic address.

Among the most popular tricks used for stealing data are warnings about exceeding the size of a mailbox, system updates and blocking mailboxes. And although these phishing letters frequently imitate communications from specific mail services the great majority of them are just general requests to confirm logins and passwords for email addresses. Probably this is because the conmen are sending false warnings to a whole database of addresses at once rather than going through the unprofitably time-consuming process of selecting specific mail services.

Spam is going beyond mail

Offers to conduct marketing campaign that will develop business and attract new clients is a popular and widespread trend in spam. Typically these involve mass mailshots to advertise services. Increasingly, though, these campaigns are moving away from mail services and email addresses and targeting mobiles and smartphones.

In the third quarter of 2014 spammers started offering SMS and instant messaging advertising more often. Does this mean that classic email spam is going to take a back seat and surrender its predominance to SMS spam?  Having analyzed the link between SMS spam and email spam we came to the conclusion that this is unlikely. Firstly, more and more countries are alert to the problem of SMS spam and taking legislative measures banning this type of mass advertising. Secondly there is an obvious connection between all the media platforms used to distribute unwanted adverts and classic email spam.

The fact is, to find customers for their new products spammers continue to use old-fashioned techniques — with the help of spam mailings. There is even a specific type of email sendout in which spammers offer to buy readymade databases of electronic addresses and telephone numbers created using specific criteria to target a specific audience. There are also phishing mailshots aimed at collecting the personal data of users and organizations with the aim of consolidating them into databases for sale or use in mailshots. In this way spam is used to collect data for databases that are then offered for sale or used to send more spam. Spammers continue to use classic email spam to sell telephone numbers for use in SMS spam, and find buyers for their services.

Social networks are another media platform where spam distribution is growing. These have audiences in the millions and are gaining popularity all the time. At the same time hundreds of thousands of these accounts are "dead souls" - bots created specially for sending spam and stealing personal data from real users. In the last quarter we increasingly found spam content in apparently legal formal communications from social networks. What is happening is that almost all accounts in social networks are linked to the email addresses of their owners and messages distributed within the network are sent by email. The contents of such messages are typical spam:  "Nigerian" stories of millions of dollars available to a helpful contact, offers of financial help to start a business or simply adverts for various goods.

This suggests that SMS mailshots and messages in social networks are not new types of spam but new methods that spammers have developed to deliver advertising to users. These are, in one way or another, linked to email spam. Moreover spammers can send the same message by various channels, which creates the impression of an increase in the overall quantity of unwanted adverts being sent.

New developments in "Nigerian" spam

In the third quarter conmen used the political situation in Ukraine and the media storm around the Ebola virus as inspiration for their "Nigerian-style" tales. Politics is a popular topic for this type of conman, as can be seen by the large percentage of letters discussing political themes or well-known public figures. It's not surprising, then, that the situation in Ukraine was actively used during the third quarter. When creating the supposed authors of these messages the conmen didn't just invent Ukrainians in various professions; they also conjured up politicians and businessmen offering cash rewards for help in transferring or investing large sums of money.

Letters concerning the Ebola virus were usually sent in the name of individuals from West Africa infected with the deadly virus. But there were unusual variations, for example invitations to related conferences. Regardless of the author of the letter and the convincing tales within the aim of the conmen does not change from year to year — to relieve the victims of their money.

Malicious email  attachments

Top 10 malicious programs sent by email,
third quarter of 2014

In the third quarter of 2014 Trojan.JS.Redirector.adf was the malicious program most often distributed via email, according to our ranking. It appears as an HTML page which, when opened by users, redirects them to an infected site. There it usually offers to load Binbot — a service for the automatic trading of binary options, which are currently popular on the net. The malware spreads via email in a passwordless ZIP archive.

Next comes Trojan-Spy.HTML.Fraud.gen. This program was top of the list for several previous quarters but has finally been pushed down. Trojan-Spy.HTML.Fraud.gen is a phishing HTML page on which the user is asked to enter their confidential data. All the entered information is then sent to cybercriminals. Compared to the last quarter the figure for this malware has fallen by 0.62 percentage points.

In third place is Trojan.Win32.Yakes.fize, a Trojan loader of the Dofoil type. Its relative, Trojan-Downloader.Win32.Dofoil.dx, is in fourth. Malware programs of this type download another malicious program onto the user's computer, start it and use it to steal assorted user information, especially passwords.

In fifth and ninth places are two members of the universal bot module family Andromeda/Gamarue - Backdoor.Win32.Androm.enji and Backdoor.Win32.Androm.euqt. The main features of these malware programs are the ability to download, store and run executable files, downloading and loading DLL (without saving on disk), downloading plugins and the capability of updating and deleting themselves. The bot's functionality is enhanced with a system of plugins which can be downloded by the cybercriminals whenever necessary.

The sixth and seventh positions are taken by Trojan.Win32.Bublik.clhs and Trojan.Win32.Bublik.bwbx respectively. These are modifications of the well-known Bublik malware— a Trojan-loader that downloads a malicious file onto the user's computer and launches it.

In eighth place is the mail worm The main function of all mail worms is to collect email addresses from infected computers. A mail worm of the Bagle family can also accept remote commands to install other malicious programs.

Our rating is completed by This downloader is created in the form of a CPL-applet (a control panel component) and downloads Trojans designed to steal confidential financial information. Most programs of this type are aimed at Brazilian and Portuguese banks.

Distribution of email malware by family

As regards the most popular families of malicious programs, their email distribution is as follows:

TOP 10 families of malware programs distributed by email,
third quarter of 2014

Heading the rating is the Andromeda family, which accounts for 12.35% of all malware. In second place is ZeuS/Zbot: members of this family are designed for attacks on servers and users' computers and also for capturing data. Although ZeuS/Zbot is capable of carrying out various harmful actions it is most often used to steal banking information. It can also install CryptoLocker - a malicious program that extorts money to decrypt users' data.

Bublik, which often loads Zbot, also made the top 10 most frequently encountered malware families.

Countries targeted by malicious mailshots

Distribution of email antivirus activations by country,
third quarter 2014

In the third quarter there were some changes in the countries targeted by mailshots with malicious contents. Now we see Germany in top spot with 10.11%. Britain drops to second, losing 1.22 percentage points compared to the second quarter. In the third place is the USA, down 1.77 percentage points.

Russia, which in the second quarter was in 19th place with 1.48%, climbed to 6th place this quarter (4.25%); the share of malicious spam directed at the country increased almost threefold.

Special features of malicious spam Ice Bucket Challenge

During the past quarter cybercriminals continued to use high profile events to attract attention to mailshots containing malware. This time around the Ice Bucket Challenge, a hugely popular summer campaign, was one of these events. The aim of this campaign was to raise awareness of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and also to collect funds to research the disease. An enormous number of people took part, many of them famous: actors, politicians, sportsmen and women, businessmen, and musicians poured ice-cold water over themselves, uploading videos of the process and passing the baton on further. At the peak of its popularity conmen got involved, seeing the campaign as a chance to attract attention to their malicious communications.

As a result unsuspecting users began to receive letters with offers to join the ALS association and change their lives, as thousands of others had already done. The recipients were offered an inspiring video to watch, located in an archive attached to the letter. But in place of the promised video a malicious program such as lay in wait. Such programs allow cybercriminals to infect computers, which often become part of botnets.

"Malicious messages" from booking systems

In the third quarter of 2014 cybercriminals sent some seasonal malicious spam tying in with the themes of the summer holidays. Spam traffic featured false messages from hotels, booking services and airlines in English and German. Traditionally the conmen try to convince users that a ZIP archive contains information about hotel bookings or air tickets.

Among others we found false communications from American Airlines; executable files were attached to letters that contained malware from the Net-Worm.Win32.Aspxor family. These net worms can send spam, download and run other programs, collect valuable data from the victim's computer (saved passwords, mail and FTP accounts) and also automatically search for vulnerable sites for further infections to keep spreading the bot.

Forged letters in German, supposedly sent by an Internet portal for booking hotels in Germany, contained the malware Trojan-Spy.Win32.Ursnif. This Trojan steals confidential data and is capable of monitoring net traffic, loading and running other malware programs and also switching off several system applications.

Malware in ARJ archives

In September we detected a major malicious mailout with an unusual attachment for spam letters — an archive in ARJ format. It should be noted that this choice of file archiver was probably made precisely because of the unusual file format. The criminals assumed users would be aware of the potential dangers of ZIP and RAR archive attachments but may be less suspicious of an unfamiliar tag. Furthermore the ARJ archiver allows the file size to be reduced considerably and its source code is available to all for study and modification.

The cybercriminals sent several types of malicious letter within one mailout. These were an announcement about receipt of a fax, an account statement from a specific company and a personal communication with a greeting in the body of the letter. All the letters had an attachment in the form of a malicious program from the family Trojan-Downloader.Win32.Cabby, which distracts victims with an RTF or DOC document and loads a malware program from the ZeuS/Zbot family at the same. All attachment filenames were generated using the same format. To give the letters a unique feel the cybercriminals changed several fragments of the text and the antivirus automatic signature.

Statistics The proportion of spam in email traffic

The proportion of spam in email traffic,
April – September 2014

The proportion of spam in email traffic according to the figures for the third quarter of 2014 was 66.9%, which is 1.7 percentage points lower than in the previous quarter. The greatest amount of spam was sent in August and the least in September.

Spam source countries

Countries that are sources of spam,
third quarter 2014

In the third quarter of 2014 the USA remained the country that was the biggest source of spam, sending almost 14% of unwanted mail. In second place was Russia with 6.1%. Completing the trio of leaders was Vietnam with almost the same amount as Russia at 6% of the world's spam.

The distribution of sources of spam had few surprises. China (5.1%), Argentina (4.1%), and Germany (3.5) made it into the top ten with Brazil in tenth place at 2.9%.

The size of spam letters

The sizes of spam letters,
third quarter 2014

The distribution of spam by size has hardly changed from the second quarter. The leaders remain very short letters of up to 1 Kb, which are quick and easy to handle in mass mailings. The proportion of these letters increased by 4.6 percentage points.

There was a slight reduction in the proportion of letters in the size range 2 Kb — 5 Kb — by 4.8 percentage points. There was also a small reduction in the amount of spam in the 5-10 Kb range, by 2.5 percentage points. However there was a 1.7 percentage point increase in the share of letters with a size of 10-20 Kb.


In the third quarter of 2014 the computers of users of Kaspersky Lab products recorded 71,591,006 instances that triggered the "Antiphishing" system. This is 11.5 million more than in the last quarter.

As in the second quarter, the largest single group of users subjected to phishing attacks was in Brazil — the number was up 3.53 percentage points to 26.73%.

The geography of phishing attacks*,
third quarter of 2014

* The percentage of users on whose computers the "Antiphishing" system was triggered out of the total number of users of Kaspersky Lab products in the country

Top 10 countries by percentage of attacked users:

  Country % of users 1 Brazil 26.73% 2 India 20.08% 3 Australia 19.37% 4 France 18.08% 5 UAE 17.13% 6 Canada 17.08% 7 Kazakhstan 16.09% 8 China 16.05% 9 UK 15.58% 10 Portugal 15.34%

There was a noticeable increase in attacked users in China (+4.74%), Australia (+3.27%), the UAE (+2.83%) and Canada (+1.31%).

Organisations under attack

The statistics on the targets of phishing attacks are based on the triggering of the heuristic component of the "Antiphishing" system. The heuristic component of the "Antiphishing" system is triggered when the user follows a link to a phishing page and there is no information about this page in the Kaspersky Lab databases. For this it is not important how the page was entered, as the result of clicking on a link in a phishing letter, a social network message or, for example, as the result of an action of a malicious program. As a result of the triggering the user sees a warning of the possible threat in the browser.

As before, the "Email and search portals" category (previously known as "Global Internet portals") was the group of organizations most often subject to phishing attacks. However the share for this category has dropped sharply – by 22.15 percentage points – and in the third quarter it stands at 28.54%.

Distribution of organisations subject to phishing attacks,
third quarter of 2014

In the third quarter of 2014 the "Online finance" category saw a 13.39 percentage point rise to 38.23%. Within its sub-categories there were increases for the second quarter in a row for "Banks" (+6.16%), "Payment systems" (+5.85%) and "Online shops" (+3.18%).

Distribution of phishing attacks on payment systems,
third quarter 2014

Phishing attacks on payment systems are particularly attractive because conmen can get their hands directly on their victims' money. Paypal was the most frequently targeted payment system (32.08%) with Visa (31.51%) close behind and American Express in third with 24.83%.

Phishing attacks on the users of payment systems are often conducted by sending false letters, apparently written by representatives of the financial organizations. These letters contain threats to block the account or stop account activity and are designed to startle users into a rash response, which could include transferring confidential information to cybercriminals.

An example of a phishing letter with a threat to block the victim's account

In this example the letter was sent from a suspicious address that didn't match Paypal's usual mailing address. There was a threat to the user that the account would be blocked if account data was not renewed, and a request to follow the link and enter personal data on the page that opened.

Phishing page imitating a Paypal website page

Following the link the user sees a page imitating the layout of the official Paypal website, with a form for the entry of personal data. However the connection to this page is not protected, which is shown by the lack of HTTPS in the address line and the indicated IP address does not belong to Paypal.

Top 3 attacked organizations   Organization % of phishing links 1 Google 10.34% 2 Facebook 10.21% 3 Yahoo! 6.36%

The top three target organizations remain Google, Facebook and Yahoo!, however there have been changes within the top three. The numbers for Google (10.34%) and Facebook (10.21%) have increased slightly: these organizations have gone up a place in step. Yahoo!, which was the undisputed leader in the first half of 2014, has dropped down to third — the figure for the organization decreased by 24.62% to 6.36%.

Hot topics in phishing

Apple was not in the top three, although it climbed in the rating of organizations subject to phishing attacks to reach fourth place with a figure of 1.39% (+0.98%). At the beginning of September the company was involved in a major scandal, connected with leaked photographs of famous people from its iCloud storage servcie. Apple dismissed rumours about the presence of vulnerabilities in the service leading to leaked data; it could be the result of a phishing attack targeting users of Apple products (it is not clear whether this was a targeted attack or if hackers were simply lucky that there were several stars among their victims).

In addition, the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus were announced on 9 September. Major events in a company usually attract additional interest from swindlers so it is not surprising that we recorded a growth in the number of false communications  sent in the name of representatives of Apple services such as iTunes and iCloud.

Conmen used the name of the company to attract users' attention and frequently used the same letter format, changing only the name of the Apple service.

Number of daily phishing attacks imitating pages of Apple resources,
second and third quarters of 2014

Apple uses a two stage check for Apple ID to protect the personal data of users, including the registration of one or several trusted devices. The two stage check eliminates the possibility of unsanctioned access to or alteration of the user's registered details and prevents outsiders from making purchases by using stolen registration details. On 5 September Apple announced that it would soon be taking additional safety measures which would inform users of suspicious activity on their accounts.

Example phishing pages requesting Apple ID data

Among other things, users can improve their safety by attentively studying any page that asks for confidential information. Attention should be paid to the presence of a protected connection and whether the domain belongs to Apple. It is worth considering what information is being requested - conmen frequently ask for information unrelated to what is needed for using Apple ID; they often ask for bank card details under the pretext of linking them to the account. In these cases if the users independently supply the swindlers with financial information Apple's defenses cannot protect them from the consequences.

Example of a phishing page imitating an Apple request for confirmation of personal information


The share of spam in email traffic for the third quarter of 2014 was 66.9%, which is 1.7 percentage points less than in the last quarter.

The topics of spam in the third quarter strongly reflected major news events such as the release of the iPhone 6, political developments in Ukraine, the leak of network passwords from major mail services, the Ice Bucket Challenge campaign and the summer holiday season. Major world events are also actively exploited in "Nigerian" spam.

The three leading source countries for spam sent across the world are the USA (14%), Russia (6.1%) and Vietnam (6%).

The rankings of malware programs sent by email, according to third quarter figures, are headed by Trojan.JS.Redirector.adf (2.8%), which sends users to an infected site. Among the families of malicious programs the Andromeda family was the leader with a 12.35% share of all malware. Users in Germany experience more attacks than those anywhere else.

The third quarter saw spam traffic consisting of phishing letters aimed at trying to steal logins and passwords for email accounts, and the release of the new iPhone saw a flare up of phishing communications apparently sent from the Apple iTunes and iCloud services.

In order to install their malicious programs on users' computers in the third quarter cybercriminals sent out not only false communications from hotel booking services and airlines but also letters with long unused file archivers.

The growth of phishing attacks on organizations involved in online financial operations continued (banks, payment systems, online shops). There was a significant reduction in the number of attacks on organizations from the category "Email and search portals", down to 28.54%. There was also a noticeable reduction in the proportion of attacks directed at Yahoo!, one of the organizations in this category.