Attacks/Breaches
5/1/2012
12:20 PM
50%
50%

Mac Flashback Malware Bags Big Bucks

Analysis of the Flashback malware code estimates that botnet operators are earning $10,000 per day. Users of older Mac operating systems remain at risk.

Anonymous: 10 Facts About The Hacktivist Group
Anonymous: 10 Facts About The Hacktivist Group
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
The Flashback malware that infected hundreds of thousands of Macs was built for a single overriding purpose: profit. In fact, the developers and operators of the malware and related botnet could be raking in a cool $10,000 per day, according to researchers at Symantec, who said they're continuing to unravel what the malware can do.

By some estimates, more than 600,000 Macs were infected with Flashback, which spread using a Java vulnerability. Apple began pushing an update for that Java vulnerability less than two weeks after the Mac malware was discovered, on April 4, 2012. By the end of April, the number of reported Flashback infections had significantly decreased.

Still, Apple users were ensnared because of the six-week delay between knowledge of the Java vulnerability becoming public--owing to attackers reverse-engineering a Windows update in February 2012--and Apple releasing its own Java update that patched the flaw. "This window of opportunity helped the Flashback Trojan to infect Macs on a large scale. The Flashback authors took advantage of the gap between Oracle and Apple's patches by exploiting vulnerable websites using WordPress and Joomla to add malicious code snippets," according to a blog post from Symantec Security Response.

[ Read After Flashback, Apple Walled Gardens Won't Help. ]

Any Mac OS X user visiting a compromised site risked being infected by Flashback. In particular, Symantec said the infected sites would redirect the user's browser to a website hosting multiple Java exploits, which would use the known Java vulnerability to decrypt and install the initial Flashback Java applet. At that point, the applet would install a loader, as well as an ad-clicking component.

The ad-clicking component works with Chrome, Firefox, and Safari, and "can intercept all GET and POST requests from the browser," said Symantec. "Flashback specifically targets search queries made on Google and, depending on the search query, may redirect users to another page of the attacker's choosing, where they receive revenue from the click."

But the intended click would never reach Google. "This ultimately results in lost revenue for Google and untold sums of money for the Flashback gang," Symantec said. How much money? Based on its 2011 study of the Xpaj botnet, Symantec found that 25,000 click-fraud infections could generate up to $450 per day. "Considering the Flashback Trojan [infection] measures in the hundreds of thousands, this figure could sharply rise to the order of $10,000 per day," it said.

Although the number of Flashback infections continues to decline, Russian antivirus vendor Doctor Web, which first discovered the malware, said that older Macs remain at risk.

Overall, 63% of Flashback infections affected Macs running 10.6 (Snow Leopard), while only 11% hit users of 10.7 (Lion), which is the latest Mac operating system and accounts for 40% of all in-use OS X installations, according to NetMarketShare.

But an older Mac operating system, OS X 10.5 (Leopard), which is used by 13% of Mac users, accounted for 25%--the second highest number--of Flashback infections. Although free software can help Leopard users block Flashback, Apple is no longer shipping Leopard security updates. That puts Leopard users at greater risk of being attacked, because the Java vulnerability exploited by Flashback and SabPub will remain unpatched, and thus will likely continue to be targeted by new malware.

InformationWeek is conducting a survey to get a baseline look at where enterprises stand on their IPv6 deployments, with a focus on problem areas, including security, training, budget, and readiness. Upon completion of our survey, you will be eligible to enter a drawing to receive an 16-GB Apple iPad. Take our InformationWeek IPv6 Survey now. Survey ends May 11.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2014-6090
Published: 2015-04-27
Multiple cross-site request forgery (CSRF) vulnerabilities in the (1) DataMappingEditorCommands, (2) DatastoreEditorCommands, and (3) IEGEditorCommands servlets in IBM Curam Social Program Management (SPM) 5.2 SP6 before EP6, 6.0 SP2 before EP26, 6.0.3 before 6.0.3.0 iFix8, 6.0.4 before 6.0.4.5 iFix...

CVE-2014-6092
Published: 2015-04-27
IBM Curam Social Program Management (SPM) 5.2 before SP6 EP6, 6.0 SP2 before EP26, 6.0.4 before 6.0.4.6, and 6.0.5 before 6.0.5.6 requires failed-login handling for web-service accounts to have the same lockout policy as for standard user accounts, which makes it easier for remote attackers to cause...

CVE-2015-0113
Published: 2015-04-27
The Jazz help system in IBM Rational Collaborative Lifecycle Management 4.0 through 5.0.2, Rational Quality Manager 4.0 through 4.0.7 and 5.0 through 5.0.2, Rational Team Concert 4.0 through 4.0.7 and 5.0 through 5.0.2, Rational Requirements Composer 4.0 through 4.0.7, Rational DOORS Next Generation...

CVE-2015-0174
Published: 2015-04-27
The SNMP implementation in IBM WebSphere Application Server (WAS) 8.5 before 8.5.5.5 does not properly handle configuration data, which allows remote authenticated users to obtain sensitive information via unspecified vectors.

CVE-2015-0175
Published: 2015-04-27
IBM WebSphere Application Server (WAS) 8.5 Liberty Profile before 8.5.5.5 does not properly implement authData elements, which allows remote authenticated users to gain privileges via unspecified vectors.

Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Join security and risk expert John Pironti and Dark Reading Editor-in-Chief Tim Wilson for a live online discussion of the sea-changing shift in security strategy and the many ways it is affecting IT and business.