Attacks/Breaches

2/26/2014
07:09 PM
Connect Directly
Google+
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

More Than 100 Flavors Of Malware Are Stealing Bitcoins

Specialized form of malware empties electronic wallets of digital currency, and antivirus often misses it

RSA CONFERENCE 2014 -- San Francisco -- For just $35, you can buy a popular, specialized malware tool that steals Bitcoins and other such electronic currency -- and researchers have unearthed more than 100 different malware families that specialize in this form of theft.

RSA Conference 2014
Click here for more articles about the RSA Conference.

Dell SecureWorks researchers Joe Stewart and Pat Litke discovered 80 of those cryptocurrency-stealing malware families in just the past year as thieves clamor to cash in on the growing use of digital currency. Some of the malware variants are custom, while others are cranked out via malware-generator tools, but, either way, the average rate of detection across all antivirus tools is just below 50 percent, the researchers said here this week.

"[Bitcoins and digital currency] are very easy to steal," says Joe Stewart, director of malware research for SecureWorks. While some sophisticated hackers are stealing the currency, many of the thieves are novice "script kiddies" who get the cheap tools to snatch the currency from unsuspecting victims.

"In my opinion, most of them are individual actors. I don't know if you'd want a group of people doing it" due to the challenge of splitting the ruins, he says. "There's definitely big overhead in trying to launder money from credit cards and bank accounts, but there's [no overhead] in Bitcoins, so there's no risk," he says. "And there's been no single case of law enforcement with someone who stole a Bitcoin."

If banks eventually adopt Bitcoin, then law enforcement would be motivated to pursue investigations into cryptocurrency theft. These thefts are happening around the glob, according to SecureWorks, including in the U.S. and Europe.

Bitcoins and other forms of cryptocurrency are getting pilfered via wallet-stealing malware and credential-stealing malware, as well as via man-in-the browser attacks and phony currency with embedded wallet-stealing malware, Stewart and Litke found.

PredatorPain is the most pervasive flavor of this malware. It's a credential- and file-stealing Trojan that was first released in 2009, and goes for about $35 in the hacker underground. Another malware family called SovietMiner steals wallet files and forces the victim's machine to mine alternative coins for the bad guys' profit. This malware goes for about $15 per month.

Stewart says it's difficult to get a handle on the total losses being suffered by cryptocurrency owners, but he saw one case this week where the victim lost to thieves 127 Bitcoins valued at $540 apiece. "They were hacked not through malware, but a vulnerability in a third-party search engine," Stewart says.

It's difficult to assess total losses because "users are their own banks with cryptocurrency," he says. "Every day I go into these forums, someone got robbed. Their wallet was emptied and they don't know what happened. They had the latest antivirus updates," but it still didn't matter, he says.

Wallet-stealing malware is the most popular form of this crimeware, which searches for "wallet.dat" or other known wallet software key storage files. Once that file is found, the wallet gets uploaded to a remote FTP, Web, or SMTP server where the thief extracts the keys and grabs the coins, signing a transaction that transfers them to his account.

Credential-stealing malware go after the Bitcoin user's Bitcoin exchange credentials. "Many exchanges have implemented two-factor authentication using one-time PINs to combat unauthorized logins," Stewart and Litke wrote in a report released today on their findings. "However, more advanced malware can easily bypass OTP-based 2FA, by intercepting the OTP as it is used and creating a second hidden browser window in order to log the thief into the account from the user's own computer."

Man-in-the browser malware intercepts the transaction and changes the recipient address before it's signed. The malware waits for new content hitting the clipboard: If it contains a valid Bitcoin address, the malware injects its own address to get the coins.

The bottom line is that Bitcoins are a risky business. "A lot of people using Bitcoins don't understand what they are doing with them," Stewart says. "And if a Bitcoin is stolen, you don't get it back. There's no bank to back you, no insurance. Our goal with this paper is to get it out there how bit this threat has become ... [people] just have to get better security practices in storing Bitcoin wallets."

There are some ways to protect this digital currency, such as alternative wallets, like Armory and Electrum, that split up key storage. An offline computer stores the private key for signing transactions, while another machine connected to the Internet holds the master key.

Hardware wallets, meanwhile, operate in a key fob style, and transaction integrity verification is an emerging option.

The full report by SecureWorks is available here for download.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Add Your Comment" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message.

Kelly Jackson Higgins is Executive Editor at DarkReading.com. 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

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
mitila
50%
50%
mitila,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/22/2014 | 1:46:26 AM
Thanks
,Malware should be controlled in order to keep free the web sources to access for all of us. it is interesting to see. But people are so much unstable on these decisions. city club
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Current Issue
The Year in Security 2018
This Dark Reading Tech Digest explores the biggest news stories of 2018 that shaped the cybersecurity landscape.
Flash Poll
How Enterprises Are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
How Enterprises Are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
Data breach fears and the need to comply with regulations such as GDPR are two major drivers increased spending on security products and technologies. But other factors are contributing to the trend as well. Find out more about how enterprises are attacking the cybersecurity problem by reading our report today.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2018-19019
PUBLISHED: 2019-01-22
A type confusion vulnerability exists when processing project files in CX-Supervisor (Versions 3.42 and prior). An attacker could use a specially crafted project file to exploit and execute code under the privileges of the application.
CVE-2019-6260
PUBLISHED: 2019-01-22
The ASPEED ast2400 and ast2500 Baseband Management Controller (BMC) hardware and firmware implement Advanced High-performance Bus (AHB) bridges, which allow arbitrary read and write access to the BMC's physical address space from the host (or from the network in unusual cases where the BMC console u...
CVE-2018-19011
PUBLISHED: 2019-01-22
CX-Supervisor (Versions 3.42 and prior) can execute code that has been injected into a project file. An attacker could exploit this to execute code under the privileges of the application.
CVE-2018-19013
PUBLISHED: 2019-01-22
An attacker could inject commands to delete files and/or delete the contents of a file on CX-Supervisor (Versions 3.42 and prior) through a specially crafted project file.
CVE-2018-19017
PUBLISHED: 2019-01-22
Several use after free vulnerabilities have been identified in CX-Supervisor (Versions 3.42 and prior). When processing project files, the application fails to check if it is referencing freed memory. An attacker could use a specially crafted project file to exploit and execute code under the privil...