Vulnerabilities / Threats
6/10/2014
10:25 AM
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New Commercialized Trojan Takes Fresh Approach To Password-Stealing

Unlike most banking malware of today, new Pandemiya skips the Zeus source code and starts from scratch.

Security researchers with RSA reported today that they found a new commercial Trojan malware program in the wild that is one of the first of its kind in a long while to not be based on source code from common variants of commercialized malware like Zeus or Carberp.

Called Pandemiya, the malware offers features and functionality similar to its predecessors, with one key difference in how it injects code and behaves on infected machines. Its authors have started marketing the Trojan for between $1,500 and $2,000, depending on the plug-in add-ons chosen by black-market customers.

"This one is very interesting because it is written and coded completely from scratch, which is very unusual in our field, because most of the banking Trojans today rely heavily on previously leaked source code," Uri Fleyder, cybercrime research lab manager for RSA Research, told Dark Reading.

According to the researchers at RSA, the new Pandemiya application was the product of a year of coding and contains more than 25,000 lines of original code in C. Where Pandemiya is most different from Zeus variants is in its injection technique.

"This malicious code writer has chosen to use quite a novel technique for injecting its malicious code into every new process in the victim's computer," Fleyder says. "This kind of code injection is not very common in this type of threat."

The software takes advantage of a Windows function that has the operating system forcing every process through the CreateProcess API and loading all of the DLLs under that registry key.

"This way, Pandemiya operates the injection mechanism of itself into every new process opened on the victim's computer post-installation," he says. "I think it is harder for the endpoint-based solutions or security protection solutions to block and detect this new threat, because it has a new behavior. So they need to make new signatures and new behavioral patterns, because it behaves a little bit differently than the usual Trojans, so it is harder for the endpoint solutions to detect it."

As a part of that injection mechanism, the malware assures its persistence on a system by checking to ensure that Explorer.exe is injected with its code each time a new process is initiated. Fleyder says that to eliminate Pandemiya from the system, it must be removed from the registry using a tool such as Regedit.

In spite of the new injection mechanism, the purpose and intent of Pandemiya is similar to other banking malware in that it offers its users the ability to steal data from web forms, login credentials, and other files from the victim's machine. Similarly, it offers anti-detection measures such as encrypted communication to command and control, as well as network analysis, anti-evasion technology. Additionally, the malware can load external plugin DLLs, a modular capability that allows its creator or other developers to add in new features by creating new DLLs.

RSA believes this modularity could help Pandemiya become a major player in the commercialized malware black market.

"The design choice to make this malware modular and easy to expand upon with DLL plugins could make it more pervasive in the near future," wrote Eli Marcus in the RSA Fraud Intelligence blog today. "Only time will tell if its popularity rises."

Ericka Chickowski specializes in coverage of information technology and business innovation. She has focused on information security for the better part of a decade and regularly writes about the security industry as a contributor to Dark Reading.  View Full Bio

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Marilyn Cohodas
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Marilyn Cohodas,
User Rank: Strategist
6/10/2014 | 4:00:05 PM
Re: who's it for?
Definitely opportunistic, dangerous, and at $1,500 and $2,000 -- a tidy sum. Too bad this entreprenurship can't be put to better use!
Sara Peters
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Sara Peters,
User Rank: Author
6/10/2014 | 2:30:39 PM
who's it for?
Hm. This is interesting. It's not a cheap alternative to / replacement for Zeus, which might keep out the amateur criminals. I wonder if the creators of Pandemiya were planning to keep this to themselves and only decided to put it on the market, at a premium, now because of the law enforcement push to oust GOZeus... rather opportunistic.

Or maybe I'm reaching.
Christian Bryant
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Christian Bryant,
User Rank: Ninja
6/10/2014 | 11:42:29 AM
Our Best for Their Best
First, as always, I have that guilty feeling of admiration.  When I was young, when someone rose above "script kiddie" status and wrote something fresh, balancing on that edge between software development and art, we applauded.  Second, it's also scary when that art reaches the disciplined arena of software development and start applying intelligent choices to trojan code.  Back in the early days of CDC and L0pht we saw more of this, and it's a reminder that cyber criminals come in all shapes and sizes, and skill sets – we need our best to counter the best.
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