Attacks/Breaches
11/1/2016
12:01 PM
Connect Directly
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Google Adwords Malvertising Campaign Targets Apple Macs

Cheeky attackers make their lure an ad for Google Chrome.

Apple Mac owners using the Google search engine may have been infected via malicious ads at the tip-top of their search results last week after attackers launched a malvertising campaign against Google Adwords. In an act of gumption or plain cheek, the attackers' malicious lure of choice was a phony ad for one of Google's own products, Google Chrome.

"I didn't think anyone had the guts to squat on Google's own page," says Cylance security researcher Jeffrey Tang, who discovered the attack while seeking a Chrome downloader for his girlfriend.

Similar to a campaign discovered by Malwarebytes last year, the malvertisers in this attack legitimately paid to bid on popular keywords to so that their ads would appear at the top of the search engine results page when those keywords were used. The campaign found last year used "youtube." This one used the words "google chrome."

Tang did the search, saw the ad for Chrome, and clicked on it - which he confesses was "mindless," but he "had no indication there was something strange." 

The ad itself showed a display URL of www.google.com/chrome. The URL displayed in the lower right-hand corner when scrolling over the link showed the same "legitimate-looking display URL."

Yet, as Tang describes in a blog today: "clicking on the ad takes a user to www(dot)entrack(dot)space and then redirects the user to googlechromelive(dot)com – a page offering a free download of Google Chrome." 

Tang spotted this as "totally not a legitimate page." He found a safe place to download Chrome for his girlfriend, then did more digging.

Black Hat Europe 2016 is coming to London's Business Design Centre November 1 through 4. Click for information on the briefing schedule and to register.

 

The "Chrome" download link will redirect Windows users to a page that delivers an error message that claims there is a DNS failure. Mac users, however, are redirected through a variety of other domains and ultimately infected with a malicious installer for OSX: OSX/InstallMiez, a.k.a. OSX/InstallCore. As Tang explains on his blog today:

"...the malicious download link redirects macOS users through ttb(dot)mysofteir(dot)com, servextrx(dot)com, and www(dot)bundlesconceptssend(dot)com then ultimately downloads a malicious file named FLVPlayer.dmg. The malware hash changes on each download, making it difficult to detect and track.

... Once the installation [of FLV Player] is completed, the browser is redirected to a scareware page at ic-dc(dot)guardtowerstag(dot)com. Clicking on the link takes the user to macpurifier(dot)com – a potentially unwanted program (PUP) claiming to cleanup OS X computers."

Tang describes the attackers as middlemen, installing someone else's malware and paid per install. The fact that the malvertisers have targeted Mac is a sign that attackers have recognized Apple's market share is growing, Tang notes.

But it's also possible that the campaign could have been planned for PCs as well. The fact that Windows users are redirected to a page that returns an error message could mean "either there's a misconfiguration or it's not set up yet," he says. "I'd like to think they're equal opportunity malvertisers," he added, wryly. 

The campaign might have been stopped from the beginning, however, if there had been a more rigorous verification process when creating the ad. If Google AdWords and other ad networks verified that an ad re-directed to the same URL it displayed, it could prevent malvertising threats like this. 

He acknowledges that there is a massive scalability challenge if ad networks need to do this verification with a manual process, but says that he thinks it's "ridiculous" that at least the primary domain isn't matched. 

"It blows my mind," says Tang, "that here we are, it's 2016, and we're still allowing this mischievous behavior."

Related Content:

Sara Peters is Senior Editor at Dark Reading and formerly the editor-in-chief of Enterprise Efficiency. Prior that she was senior editor for the Computer Security Institute, writing and speaking about virtualization, identity management, cybersecurity law, and a myriad ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
5 Security Technologies to Watch in 2017
Emerging tools and services promise to make a difference this year. Are they on your company's list?
Flash Poll
New Best Practices for Secure App Development
New Best Practices for Secure App Development
The transition from DevOps to SecDevOps is combining with the move toward cloud computing to create new challenges - and new opportunities - for the information security team. Download this report, to learn about the new best practices for secure application development.
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2013-7445
Published: 2015-10-15
The Direct Rendering Manager (DRM) subsystem in the Linux kernel through 4.x mishandles requests for Graphics Execution Manager (GEM) objects, which allows context-dependent attackers to cause a denial of service (memory consumption) via an application that processes graphics data, as demonstrated b...

CVE-2015-4948
Published: 2015-10-15
netstat in IBM AIX 5.3, 6.1, and 7.1 and VIOS 2.2.x, when a fibre channel adapter is used, allows local users to gain privileges via unspecified vectors.

CVE-2015-5660
Published: 2015-10-15
Cross-site request forgery (CSRF) vulnerability in eXtplorer before 2.1.8 allows remote attackers to hijack the authentication of arbitrary users for requests that execute PHP code.

CVE-2015-6003
Published: 2015-10-15
Directory traversal vulnerability in QNAP QTS before 4.1.4 build 0910 and 4.2.x before 4.2.0 RC2 build 0910, when AFP is enabled, allows remote attackers to read or write to arbitrary files by leveraging access to an OS X (1) user or (2) guest account.

CVE-2015-6333
Published: 2015-10-15
Cisco Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC) 1.1j allows local users to gain privileges via vectors involving addition of an SSH key, aka Bug ID CSCuw46076.

Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
In past years, security researchers have discovered ways to hack cars, medical devices, automated teller machines, and many other targets. Dark Reading Executive Editor Kelly Jackson Higgins hosts researcher Samy Kamkar and Levi Gundert, vice president of threat intelligence at Recorded Future, to discuss some of 2016's most unusual and creative hacks by white hats, and what these new vulnerabilities might mean for the coming year.