Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Attacks/Breaches

8/3/2013
11:29 AM
Connect Directly
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Anatomy Of A Russian Cybercrime Ecosystem Targeting Android

Investigation uncovers the main 'service providers' behind lucrative SMS toll fraud

DEF CON 21 – Las Vegas – Ten Russia-based crime gangs are behind the majority of text-messaging toll fraud campaigns that can net affiliate marketers of the scams up to $12,000 a month, researchers said here yesterday.

SMS text messaging is the most prevalent form of cybercrime on mobile phones today, a scam that charges premium SMS messages to the unwitting victim. Researchers from mobile security firm Lookout Security presented a rare inside look at a major chunk of these operations out of Russia, which mainly target Russian and Eastern European Android users and account for more than 60 percent of all mobile malware in that region. The ten main organizations rely on affiliates to market and distribute the malware and provide them with the point-and-click tools to set up the scams.

The ten organizations have thousands of websites and affiliate marketers who distribute their scams. They write the Android malware and offer online tools and support for affiliates to configure the scams that lure victims and to track the success of the scams, says Ryan Smith, senior research and response engineer with Lookout, which has been investigating these attacks since December 2012.

They also manage the business relationships between the affiliates and the SMS short-code registrars, he says.

"They are a service provider," Smith says. "They create the business relationships with these resellers of short codes and they'll handle the finances ... The commoditization of this and how there's such an industry around this [shows] they're building a business model."

Smith says Lookout doesn't have specific evidence of a connection between the SMS scam organizations and traditional Russian cybercriminal syndicates, but it's likely that some of them have other types of cybercrime scams as well based on the sophistication and commoditization of their approach, he says.

"With the sophistication just on the Android code alone, you can see they are spending time and effort trying to add new features and obfuscation techniques, and new distribution channels and themes," he says. "SMS fraud is hot now, but say banking fraud turns out to be [profitable] tomorrow, maybe they shift gears and try to make their money on that.

"These guys are in it for the long-haul," Smith says.

[Using the ability to inject malicious code into applications on Android devices, a researcher demonstrates how to create the infrastructure to spy on mobile users . See Researcher To Demo Spy-Phone At Black Hat .]

The attacks lure mobile users with Tweets and mobile ads for free Angry Birds, Skype and other apps, games, pornography, or MP3s, and once the victim clicks on the link or a mobile ad for the goods, he or she unknowingly gets malware on the device. That malware then allows the bad guys to secretly charge premium SMS text messages to their mobile account.

The researchers found some 50,000 Twitter handles being used for these operations. The malware associated with Russian-based toll fraud made up more than half of all malware detected by Lookout in the first half of this year.

Lookout found that the SMS malware has evolved and become more complex and sophisticated over time, and the organizations behind it release new versions every one- to two weeks. They also employ obfuscation and encrypt their configuration files to evade detection.

The full Lookout report on the scams is available here for download.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Add Your Comment" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message.

Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. 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
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
iLoveOvy
50%
50%
iLoveOvy,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/20/2013 | 2:37:55 PM
re: Anatomy Of A Russian Cybercrime Ecosystem Targeting Android
yes you can with mcafee security mobile for android. it's a good thing to have on android phone today.

You can block unlimited phone # :)
gev
50%
50%
gev,
User Rank: Moderator
8/5/2013 | 5:52:33 PM
re: Anatomy Of A Russian Cybercrime Ecosystem Targeting Android
The problem is not the criminals.
The problem is that phones must come configured to refuse premium messages.
Whoever came up with an idea that I must pay for the unwanted messages was the culpit.
And even though I can black list senders, the black lists have a limited length. So at some point there is nothing I can do but to pay.
With the voice calls, I am granted one minute to figure out that I do not want to talk to the caller. I have no similar protection with sms.
Attackers Leave Stolen Credentials Searchable on Google
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  1/21/2021
How to Better Secure Your Microsoft 365 Environment
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  1/25/2021
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win an Amazon Gift Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: I can't find the back door.
Current Issue
2020: The Year in Security
Download this Tech Digest for a look at the biggest security stories that - so far - have shaped a very strange and stressful year.
Flash Poll
Assessing Cybersecurity Risk in Today's Enterprises
Assessing Cybersecurity Risk in Today's Enterprises
COVID-19 has created a new IT paradigm in the enterprise -- and a new level of cybersecurity risk. This report offers a look at how enterprises are assessing and managing cyber-risk under the new normal.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2021-21275
PUBLISHED: 2021-01-25
The MediaWiki "Report" extension has a Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF) vulnerability. Before fixed version, there was no protection against CSRF checks on Special:Report, so requests to report a revision could be forged. The problem has been fixed in commit f828dc6 by making use of Medi...
CVE-2021-21272
PUBLISHED: 2021-01-25
ORAS is open source software which enables a way to push OCI Artifacts to OCI Conformant registries. ORAS is both a CLI for initial testing and a Go Module. In ORAS from version 0.4.0 and before version 0.9.0, there is a "zip-slip" vulnerability. The directory support feature allows the ...
CVE-2021-23901
PUBLISHED: 2021-01-25
An XML external entity (XXE) injection vulnerability was discovered in the Nutch DmozParser and is known to affect Nutch versions < 1.18. XML external entity injection (also known as XXE) is a web security vulnerability that allows an attacker to interfere with an application's processing of XML ...
CVE-2020-17532
PUBLISHED: 2021-01-25
When handler-router component is enabled in servicecomb-java-chassis, authenticated user may inject some data and cause arbitrary code execution. The problem happens in versions between 2.0.0 ~ 2.1.3 and fixed in Apache ServiceComb-Java-Chassis 2.1.5
CVE-2020-12512
PUBLISHED: 2021-01-22
Pepperl+Fuchs Comtrol IO-Link Master in Version 1.5.48 and below is prone to an authenticated reflected POST Cross-Site Scripting