Risk
11/18/2010
01:24 PM
50%
50%

White Hat Hacker Cracks ZeroAccess Rootkit

Analysis may help security firms develop better botnet defenses.

How Firesheep Can Hijack Web Sessions
(click image for larger view)
Slideshow: How Firesheep Can Hijack Web Sessions

What's the best way to stop a botnet? Try taking it apart to see how it works.

At least, that's been the approach undertaken by malware expert Giuseppe Bonfa at InfoSec Institute, an information security services company. He reverse-engineered the ZeroAccess rootkit -- also known as Smiscer or Max++ -- despite its creators safeguarding it with a number of anti-forensic features.

Currently, "the purpose of this rootkit is to set up a stealthy, undetectable, and un-removable platform to deliver malicious software to victim computers," he said. For example, "ZeroAccess is being currently used to deliver FakeAntivirus crimeware applications that trick users into paying $70 to remove the antivirus." But really, it can deliver any malicious application based on the needs of whoever rents it out.

In the past, security researchers suspected that the malware had come from criminals based in Russia or Ireland, but Bonfa narrowed it to a specific gang in Russia. "Analysis and network forensics supports that ZeroAccess is being hosted and originates from the Ecatel Network, which is controlled by the cybercrime syndicate RBN (Russian Business Network)."

According to Symantec, more than 250,000 computers have been infected by the rootkit, which suggests that the gang continues to earn substantial income from the malware. If just 30% of infected users paid the $70 fee required to remove the fake antivirus crimeware, then the criminals involved would have netted $5.3 million.

Bonfa's analysis offers insights into how rootkits work, as well as clues for security companies seeking better ways to stop them. Unfortunately, they'll have their work cut out for them.

That's because ZeroAccess includes hooks into the Windows operating system designed to make it difficult to uninstall without damaging the operating system itself. Once a computer becomes infected with ZeroAccess, the malware pursues a variety of other techniques to stay functional and undetected. For starters, it can use low-level API calls to create new disk volumes for itself, without a user ever seeing suspicious activity. In addition, it can alter system drivers "to allow for kernel-mode delivery of malicious code," said Bonja.

Furthermore, he said, the malware uses low-level disk and file system calls aimed at defeating "popular disk and in-memory forensics tools," and includes defenses against antivirus software detection.

In short, it demonstrates the crimeware state of the art. Next move, antivirus firms.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Dark Reading Tech Digest, Dec. 19, 2014
Software-defined networking can be a net plus for security. The key: Work with the network team to implement gradually, test as you go, and take the opportunity to overhaul your security strategy.
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2014-8142
Published: 2014-12-20
Use-after-free vulnerability in the process_nested_data function in ext/standard/var_unserializer.re in PHP before 5.4.36, 5.5.x before 5.5.20, and 5.6.x before 5.6.4 allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code via a crafted unserialize call that leverages improper handling of duplicate keys w...

CVE-2013-4440
Published: 2014-12-19
Password Generator (aka Pwgen) before 2.07 generates weak non-tty passwords, which makes it easier for context-dependent attackers to guess the password via a brute-force attack.

CVE-2013-4442
Published: 2014-12-19
Password Generator (aka Pwgen) before 2.07 uses weak pseudo generated numbers when /dev/urandom is unavailable, which makes it easier for context-dependent attackers to guess the numbers.

CVE-2013-7401
Published: 2014-12-19
The parse_request function in request.c in c-icap 0.2.x allows remote attackers to cause a denial of service (crash) via a URI without a " " or "?" character in an ICAP request, as demonstrated by use of the OPTIONS method.

CVE-2014-2026
Published: 2014-12-19
Cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerability in the search functionality in United Planet Intrexx Professional before 5.2 Online Update 0905 and 6.x before 6.0 Online Update 10 allows remote attackers to inject arbitrary web script or HTML via the request parameter.

Best of the Web
Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Join us Wednesday, Dec. 17 at 1 p.m. Eastern Time to hear what employers are really looking for in a chief information security officer -- it may not be what you think.