Vulnerabilities / Threats
01:29 PM

Counterfeit Windows XP Breeding Malware

Security firm finds that 74% of all rootkit infections can be traced to Windows XP machines.

Black Hat
Beware Windows XP, as 74% of rootkit infections can be traced to PCs running that operating system. By comparison, only 17% of rootkit infections were spotted running on Vista, and 12% on Windows 7.

That finding comes from Avast--a free antivirus software developer based in Prague--and is based on a six-month study the company conducted of 630,000 malware samples encountered by its users.

Interestingly, the prevalence of rootkits running on Windows XP, which debuted in 2001, is greater than the operating system's actual market share, which for Avast users was 49%, compared with Windows 7 (38%) and Vista (13%).

Attackers favor rootkits because they can surreptitiously be used to gain admin-level access to a PC, then silently install additional files and steal data. "Because of the way they attack--and stay concealed--deep in the operating system, rootkits are a perfect weapon for stealing private data," said Przemyslaw Gmerek, Avast's lead researcher, in a statement. He plans to detail his rootkit research in full, this week at the Black Hat USA conference, a UBM TechWeb event, in Las Vegas.

Most often, rootkits attack the master boot record (in 62% of attacks), followed by driver infections (27%). In terms of specific rootkits, Avast said that Alureon botnet--aka the TDL3 and TDL4 rootkit family--accounted for nearly three-quarters of all rootkit infections.

What, however, makes Windows XP such a rootkit magnet? "One issue with Windows XP is the high number of pirated versions, especially as users are often unable to properly update them because the software can't be validated by the Microsoft update," said Gmerek. As a result, he said, numerous Windows XP users aren't using the latest version--SP3--but rather earlier versions, such as SP2, which Microsoft ceased supporting--as well as patching--in July 2010. (Microsoft has said that it will cease supporting Windows XP SP3 in April 2014.)

Attackers also favor Windows XP because even SP3 lacks some of the anti-rootkit and other security features that Microsoft has added to more recent operating systems, including user account control, PatchGuard, and driver signing.

Since Windows XP, Microsoft has continued to boost the security of its operating systems and applications, although developer uptake of the enhancements can lag. Earlier this year, notably, Microsoft called on developers to implement more secure lifecycle software practices, as well as to better avail themselves of newer Microsoft-built mitigation technologies, including data execution prevention (to prevent attackers from executing arbitrary code) and address space layout randomization (to make it difficult for malware to locate known files on a PC that may contain vulnerabilities).

Read our report on how to guard your systems from a SQL attack. Download the report now. (Free registration required.)

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Verdumont Monte
Verdumont Monte,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/11/2012 | 9:01:06 PM
re: Counterfeit Windows XP Breeding Malware
Who knew that using pirated software is bad.. [Pun intended]
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
Dark Reading Tech Digest September 7, 2015
Some security flaws go beyond simple app vulnerabilities. Have you checked for these?
Flash Poll
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
Published: 2015-10-02
Buffer overflow in Canary Labs Trend Web Server before 9.5.2 allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code via a crafted TCP packet.

Published: 2015-10-02
Cisco NX-OS 6.0(2)U6(0.46) on N3K devices allows remote authenticated users to cause a denial of service (temporary SNMP outage) via an SNMP request for an OID that does not exist, aka Bug ID CSCuw36684.

Published: 2015-10-02
Cisco Email Security Appliance (ESA) 8.5.6-106 and 9.6.0-042 allows remote authenticated users to cause a denial of service (file-descriptor consumption and device reload) via crafted HTTP requests, aka Bug ID CSCuw32211.

Published: 2015-10-01
lxc-start in lxc before 1.0.8 and 1.1.x before 1.1.4 allows local container administrators to escape AppArmor confinement via a symlink attack on a (1) mount target or (2) bind mount source.

Published: 2015-10-01
kernel_crashdump in Apport before 2.19 allows local users to cause a denial of service (disk consumption) or possibly gain privileges via a (1) symlink or (2) hard link attack on /var/crash/vmcore.log.

Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
What can the information security industry do to solve the IoT security problem? Learn more and join the conversation on the next episode of Dark Reading Radio.