03:46 PM

Zeus Malware Anti Piracy Measures Thwarts Competitors, Researchers

Zbot financial malware only works when executed on one specific machine and from one specific path, similar to hardware-based licensing systems employed by major software companies.

Security software vendor Sophos reports that it's discovered a new form of the Zeus -- aka Zbot -- financial malware kit that uses anti-piracy techniques to make it impossible to run the code for uses other than which it was intended.

"These Zbot samples have been crafted to ensure that they only work when executed on one specific machine and from one specific path. Any attempt to execute the sample on a different machine or from a different path will result in early termination of the malware and no impact on the target system," said James Wyke at SophosLabs UK.

"This sophisticated technique is very similar to hardware-based licensing systems employed by major software companies to protect their products from piracy," he said. "But until now I had not seen the technique used to protect malware binaries from analysis."

The advance is likely aimed at preventing rival botnet developers from stealing the Zeus code or exploiting Zeus installations for their own purposes. But it also helps stop security researchers from unraveling precisely how the code works, although many antivirus programs will block it.

Zeus is perhaps the best known of all financially oriented botnets, which aim to exploit individual PCs and harness their power en masse to launch phishing attacks, relay spam, launch denial of service attacks or just steal people's bank account information.

According to managed security services provider SecureWorks, Zeus is available starting at $3,000 on the black market. It can also be customized with a variety of a la carte offerings, including the ability to make financial transactions from zombie PCs, and a plug-in for using instant messaging to send and receive stolen data in real time. According to SohphosLabs' Wyke, the software's creators are nothing if not market-driven. "They appear to respond to customer requests and add new features just like a real software company." For example, Firefox support, formerly a $2,000 add-on by some accounts, is now built in. In addition, the software also allows for multiple infections by different versions of the bot, meaning that "more of the Zeus creators' customers -- the various bot-herders -- can infect the same machine and make money from it," he said.

The prevalence of botnets, as well as the widespread use of spam for distributing botnet-related malware or advertising lucrative online pharmacies, illustrates how most Internet attacks today are after one thing: money. But it's a sign of the times that Zeus's creators may not even be users themselves, but rather distributors.

"This is clear indication of how professional the Zeus operation has become," said Wyke. "The way their business model works -- sell the kit itself and let the buyer worry about getting the bot onto users' machines -- means that they can put all their efforts into development, without spending time and resources on distributing the bot files and infecting machines."

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
Dark Reading, January 2015
To find and fix exploits aimed directly at your business, stop waiting for alerts and become a proactive hunter.
Flash Poll
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
Published: 2014-12-17
Multiple unspecified vulnerabilities in request.c in c-icap 0.2.x allow remote attackers to cause a denial of service (crash) via a crafted ICAP request.

Published: 2014-12-17
Multiple cross-site request forgery (CSRF) vulnerabilities in ARRIS Touchstone TG862G/CT Telephony Gateway with firmware 7.6.59S.CT and earlier allow remote attackers to hijack the authentication of administrators for requests that (1) enable remote management via a request to remote_management.php,...

Published: 2014-12-17
Cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerability in ARRIS Touchstone TG862G/CT Telephony Gateway with firmware 7.6.59S.CT and earlier allows remote authenticated users to inject arbitrary web script or HTML via the computer_name parameter to connected_devices_computers_edit.php.

Published: 2014-12-17
Race condition in Puppet Server 0.2.0 allows local users to obtain sensitive information by accessing it in between package installation or upgrade and the start of the service.

Published: 2014-12-17
The management console on the Symantec Web Gateway (SWG) appliance before 5.2.2 allows remote authenticated users to execute arbitrary OS commands by injecting command strings into unspecified PHP scripts.

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.