Vulnerabilities / Threats
10/19/2009
05:31 PM
Connect Directly
Google+
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Botnet Unleashes Variety Of New Phishing Attacks

Attackers use phony messages of system upgrades, Outlook updates, and Microsoft Conficker 'cleanup tool' to spread malware

The massive Zbot botnet that spreads the treacherous Zeus banking Trojan has been launching a wave of relatively convincing phishing attacks during the past few days -- the most recent of which is a phony warning of a mass Conficker infection from Microsoft that comes with a free "cleanup tool."

The wave of attacks began early last week targeting corporations in the form of email messages that alerted victims of a "system upgrade." Email is accompanied by poisoned attachments and links; in some cases it poses as a message from victims' IT departments, including their actual email domains, and alerts them about a "security upgrade" to their email accounts. The message then refers victims to a link to reset their mailbox accounts, and the link takes them to a site that looks a lot like an Outlook Web Access (OWA) page (PDF), but instead infects them with the Zeus Trojan.

Today, researchers at F-Secure spotted the botnet spamming out malware-laden email that tries to trick recipients with a convincing lure messages that says, "On October 22, 2009 server upgrade will take place."

"What we're seeing is an evolving campaign of different lures to see which one works," says Richard Wang, manager of Sophos Labs in the U.S.

The Zbot botnet, which is made up of 3.6 million PCs in the U.S., or 1 percent of all PCs in the country, according to data from Damballa, spreads the deadly Zeus Trojan. Zeus, which steals users' online financial credentials, represents 44 percent of all financial malware infections today, according to Trusteer.

But according to Trend Micro's Paul Ferguson, the Zbot botnet isn't actually behind the latest attacks: it's the fast-flux Avalanche botnet, which is hosting Zeus and Zbot Trojans.

The Shadowserver Foundation has seen multiple versions of Zeus-related attacks lately, including the Conficker "cleanup utility" that poses as an email from Microsoft, according to Andre DiMino, director of Shadowserver. And the targeted Outlook attacks use real domains: "What is also interesting about the recent campaign is that the email comes from the targeted user's own domain with an 'administrator' prefix. The link is disguised to look like it's from an update server on the local domain, but instead points to the malicious location," DiMino says.

Amit Klein, CTO at Trusteer, says the Conficker phishing email was pushing fake antivirus software and, in some cases, also contains Zeus, so he's not convinced that attack is necessarily coming from the same gang behind the Outlook and other phishing campaigns. "I really don't know" if it's the same Zbot botnet behind those two attacks, he says. "But if it's spreading the same malware with a similar concept [of a phishing attack], it does raise suspicion that the two events were by the same gang, or it could be a copycat."

The Outlook attack was the first large-scale Zeus attack against the corporate world, he says, which signals a new strategy for Zbot. "Shifting its focus there makes a lot of sense for financial malware because the typical credentials you can steal from the corporate world are worth a lot more money than credit cards and accounts in the consumer world. To own the company's accountant or finance department's bank account credentials would be a lot more profitable," Klein says.

Zeus traditionally has been one of the more difficult malware variants for some antivirus programs to detect: According to recent data from Trusteer, Zeus is detected only 23 percent of the time by up-to-date antivirus applications. It's also hard to kill because it hides itself so well in the operating system.

Trusteer's Klein says this new wave of phishing attacks from Zbot is just the beginning. "These are new flavors, and we're going to see a lot more of these in the future," he says. "This has proved to be highly effective."

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Discuss" 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
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
Partner Perspectives
What's This?
In a digital world inundated with advanced security threats, Intel Security seeks to transform how we live and work to keep our information secure. Through hardware and software development, Intel Security delivers robust solutions that integrate security into every layer of every digital device. In combining the security expertise of McAfee with the innovation, performance, and trust of Intel, this vision becomes a reality.

As we rely on technology to enhance our everyday and business life, we must too consider the security of the intellectual property and confidential data that is housed on these devices. As we increase the number of devices we use, we increase the number of gateways and opportunity for security threats. Intel Security takes the “security connected” approach to ensure that every device is secure, and that all security solutions are seamlessly integrated.
Featured Writers
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Dark Reading's October Tech Digest
Fast data analysis can stymie attacks and strengthen enterprise security. Does your team have the data smarts?
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2012-2413
Published: 2014-10-20
Cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerability in the ja_purity template for Joomla! 1.5.26 and earlier allows remote attackers to inject arbitrary web script or HTML via the Mod* cookie parameter to html/modules.php.

CVE-2012-5244
Published: 2014-10-20
Multiple SQL injection vulnerabilities in Banana Dance B.2.6 and earlier allow remote attackers to execute arbitrary SQL commands via the (1) return, (2) display, (3) table, or (4) search parameter to functions/suggest.php; (5) the id parameter to functions/widgets.php, (6) the category parameter to...

CVE-2012-5694
Published: 2014-10-20
Multiple SQL injection vulnerabilities in Bulb Security Smartphone Pentest Framework (SPF) before 0.1.3 allow remote attackers to execute arbitrary SQL commands via the (1) agentPhNo, (2) controlPhNo, (3) agentURLPath, (4) agentControlKey, or (5) platformDD1 parameter to frameworkgui/attach2Agents.p...

CVE-2012-5695
Published: 2014-10-20
Multiple cross-site request forgery (CSRF) vulnerabilities in Bulb Security Smartphone Pentest Framework (SPF) 0.1.2 through 0.1.4 allow remote attackers to hijack the authentication of administrators for requests that conduct (1) shell metacharacter or (2) SQL injection attacks or (3) send an SMS m...

CVE-2012-5696
Published: 2014-10-20
Bulb Security Smartphone Pentest Framework (SPF) before 0.1.3 does not properly restrict access to frameworkgui/config, which allows remote attackers to obtain the plaintext database password via a direct request.

Best of the Web
Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Follow Dark Reading editors into the field as they talk with noted experts from the security world.