Attacks/Breaches

9/14/2016
04:35 PM
Connect Directly
Twitter
LinkedIn
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Microsoft Patches Zero Day Flaw Used In Two Massive Malvertising Campaigns

Bug gave attackers a way to identify and avoid systems belonging to security researchers and vendors, Proofpoint says.

Microsoft has patched a zero-day vulnerability in Internet Explorer that at least two threat actor groups have used for some time to serve malicious advertisements to between 1 million and 5 million users daily.

Microsoft was first notified about the so-called information disclosure bug in September 2015, security vendor Proofpoint said in an alert this week. But a patch for it became available only after Trend Micro and Proofpoint reported the bug again to Microsoft more recently when researching a massive malvertising campaign being operated by a group called AdGholas, the alert noted.

Proofpoint describes the vulnerability as one involving a Multipurpose Internet Mail Extension (MIME) type check for filtering systems with certain extensions like .py, .saz, and .pcap.

The bug basically gave AdGholas and another group dubbed GooNky a way to identify and avoid systems belonging to security researchers and vendors while letting them target ordinary users with a high degree of efficiency.  

Patrick Wheeler, director of threat intelligence at Proofpoint describes the vulnerability as one that revealed key system information to unauthorized users and programs.

The flaw let attackers look for file extensions commonly associated with security researcher machines such as .py,.pcap, and .saz.  The operators of the AdGholas and GooNky exploited the IE flaw to also look for systems running traffic capture tools and applications such as Fiddler and Python that are frequently found on endpoints used by researchers, vendors, and developers

At the same time the flaw allowed the threat actors to inspect systems for file types such as .torrent and .skype that would be associated with harmless consumer machines, Wheeler says. “This check was part of a two-tier filtering technique designed to both enhance targeting of end-user systems and evade detection by researchers,” he says.

By assiduously avoiding systems likely used by security researchers, the attackers were able to fly below the radar of researchers for longer than they might have otherwise, Wheeler says.

According to Proofpoint, the AdGholas malvertising network has been operational since at least summer 2015 and possibly as early as 2013. The operation combined sophisticated steganography and filtering techniques to infect up to 1 million users per day.

The operators used advertisements for a hotel in Paris, and for two other domains to lure users to malicious sites and drop geo-focused banking Trojans such as Gozi in Canada, DELoader in Australia and Gootkit in Spain on compromised computers, Proofpoint says.

 “One of the reasons that malvertising is appealing to threat actors is that the ad agency or network itself performs a significant portion of the targeting, including geo, browser and other options” for the attacker Proofpoint had noted in a previous blog post.

According to Wheeler, Microsoft learned of the vulnerability last year but likely did little because of its relatively low severity level. “It is important to keep in mind that these kinds of issues in the past have been low-priority for users and organizations as well as vendors,” he says. “The AdGholas campaign, which we reported in July 2016, shows that attackers have shifted their techniques to capitalize on that, giving these kinds of vulnerabilities new urgency.”

Related Content:

 

Jai Vijayan is a seasoned technology reporter with over 20 years of experience in IT trade journalism. He was most recently a Senior Editor at Computerworld, where he covered information security and data privacy issues for the publication. Over the course of his 20-year ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Crowdsourced vs. Traditional Pen Testing
Alex Haynes, Chief Information Security Officer, CDL,  3/19/2019
BEC Scammer Pleads Guilty
Dark Reading Staff 3/20/2019
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Current Issue
5 Emerging Cyber Threats to Watch for in 2019
Online attackers are constantly developing new, innovative ways to break into the enterprise. This Dark Reading Tech Digest gives an in-depth look at five emerging attack trends and exploits your security team should look out for, along with helpful recommendations on how you can prevent your organization from falling victim.
Flash Poll
The State of Cyber Security Incident Response
The State of Cyber Security Incident Response
Organizations are responding to new threats with new processes for detecting and mitigating them. Here's a look at how the discipline of incident response is evolving.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2018-15583
PUBLISHED: 2019-03-25
Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) vulnerability in point_list.php in GNUBOARD5 before 5.3.1.6 allows remote attackers to inject arbitrary web script or HTML via the popup title parameter.
CVE-2017-7340
PUBLISHED: 2019-03-25
A Cross-Site Scripting vulnerability in Fortinet FortiPortal versions 4.0.0 and below allows an attacker to execute unauthorized code or commands via the applicationSearch parameter in the FortiView functionality.
CVE-2014-9187
PUBLISHED: 2019-03-25
Multiple heap-based buffer overflow vulnerabilities exist in Honeywell Experion PKS all versions prior to R400.6, all versions prior to R410.6, and all versions prior to R430.2 modules, which could lead to possible remote code execution or denial of service. Honeywell strongly encourages and recomme...
CVE-2014-9189
PUBLISHED: 2019-03-25
Multiple stack-based buffer overflow vulnerabilities were found in Honeywell Experion PKS all versions prior to R400.6, all versions prior to R410.6, and all versions prior to R430.2 modules that could lead to possible remote code execution, dynamic memory corruption, or denial of service. Honeywell...
CVE-2019-10044
PUBLISHED: 2019-03-25
Telegram Desktop before 1.5.12 on Windows, and the Telegram applications for Android, iOS, and Linux, is vulnerable to an IDN homograph attack when displaying messages containing URLs. This occurs because the application produces a clickable link even if (for example) Latin and Cyrillic characters e...