Giant Fireball Hits Enterprise Networks

Goodness, gracious, great Fireball of malware.

Just like clockwork, it seems, a new month brings a new malware outbreak. This time there's no secret about the source or the intent. The only thing that's a real mystery is just how far the outbreak could spread.

Fireball is the malware flavor of the month, and according to the latest estimates it's already living and doing damage on over 250 million computers. Unlike some of the more noticeable recent malware attacks, Fireball has nothing to do with IoT: It's all about the browser.

At first glance, India's users would seem to have gotten the worst of Fireball, but the news becomes far worse when we start to look at enterprise workstations. According to a blog post by Check Point, one fifth of the world's corporate networks are infected. The researchers at Check Point wrote:

"Based on Check Point's global sensors, 20% of all corporate networks are affected. Hit rates in the US (10.7%) and China (4.7%) are alarming; but Indonesia (60%), India (43%) and Brazil (38%) have much more dangerous hit rates."

In many cases, victims and security researchers are left to speculate about the source of a malware infection, but that's not the case for Fireball. Rafotech, a marketing agency based in China, is the admitted (and even somewhat proud) source of Fireball. So what does Fireball do for Rafotech?

Fireball is a browser hijacker that intercepts any search request made to Google or Yahoo and redirects it to Rafotech's search engines where tracking bits, extra cookies and other personalization technologies are inserted in the results so that your current and future activities can be tracked. That's bad, annoying and a serious breach of privacy, but it's not the worst thing about Fireball.

In the same way that WannaCry was novel because of the infection mechanism rather than the specific malware payload, Fireball is an infection mechanism that can do far more than just install tracking codes. The danger of Fireball is that it can use the browser to execute essentially any code on the infected system. Once on the victim's system, Fireball can download any additional software the perpetrator wants, including some that can be incredibly damaging to sensitive files or enterprise infrastructure.

Fireball today is typically loaded onto a workstation as a companion to other software, such as that enabling free WiFi or promising discounts for transactions. The first step in minimizing infection, then, is (as always) educating users. If you believe that systems might have been compromised, the Check Point blog post quoted above also contains instructions for removing the malware and preventing future infection.

We seem to be moving into a new era of highly weaponized malware carriers. How are you raising your defensive posture? I'd like to hear -- share your thoughts with me in our comments below!

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— Curtis Franklin is the editor of Follow him on Twitter @kg4gwa.

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About the Author(s)

Curtis Franklin, Principal Analyst, Omdia

Curtis Franklin Jr. is Principal Analyst at Omdia, focusing on enterprise security management. Previously, he was senior editor of Dark Reading, editor of Light Reading's Security Now, and executive editor, technology, at InformationWeek, where he was also executive producer of InformationWeek's online radio and podcast episodes

Curtis has been writing about technologies and products in computing and networking since the early 1980s. He has been on staff and contributed to technology-industry publications including BYTE, ComputerWorld, CEO, Enterprise Efficiency, ChannelWeb, Network Computing, InfoWorld, PCWorld, Dark Reading, and on subjects ranging from mobile enterprise computing to enterprise security and wireless networking.

Curtis is the author of thousands of articles, the co-author of five books, and has been a frequent speaker at computer and networking industry conferences across North America and Europe. His most recent books, Cloud Computing: Technologies and Strategies of the Ubiquitous Data Center, and Securing the Cloud: Security Strategies for the Ubiquitous Data Center, with co-author Brian Chee, are published by Taylor and Francis.

When he's not writing, Curtis is a painter, photographer, cook, and multi-instrumentalist musician. He is active in running, amateur radio (KG4GWA), the MakerFX maker space in Orlando, FL, and is a certified Florida Master Naturalist.

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