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Windows Crash Reports Reveal New APT, POS Attacks

Researchers discover zero-day attacks after studying the contents of various "Dr. Watson" error reports.

You never know what you'll glean from a Windows crash report. Security researchers recently unearthed a previously unknown advanced persistent threat (APT) campaign, as well as a new point-of-sale system attack, by perusing and analyzing those crash reports also known as Dr. Watson.

Researchers at Websense -- who recently exposed weaknesses in Microsoft's Windows crash reports that could be abused by attackers or spies -- on Wednesday released free source code online for enterprises to use the crash reports to catch potential security breaches in their organizations. Next week at the RSA Conference in San Francisco, the researchers will release indicators of compromise for the two attack campaigns that can be incorporated into intrusion prevention systems.

Alex Watson, director of security research for Websense, says his team spotted a targeted attack waged against a mobile network provider and a government agency, both outside the US, as well as a Zeus-based attack aimed at the point-of-sale system of wholesale retailers. In both cases, the attacks have been suspended and the command-and-control infrastructures disrupted.

"We wanted to prove that we can detect zero-day or unknown [attacks] by a little information in crash reports," Watson says. So he and his team created crash "fingerprints" to filter and search for real-world attack intelligence in Dr. Watson reports.

Read the rest of this story on Dark Reading.

Kelly Jackson Higgins is Executive Editor at She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

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