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

9/14/2016
04:35 PM
Connect Directly
Twitter
LinkedIn
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Microsoft Patches Zero Day Flaw Used In Two Massive Malvertising Campaigns

Bug gave attackers a way to identify and avoid systems belonging to security researchers and vendors, Proofpoint says.

Microsoft has patched a zero-day vulnerability in Internet Explorer that at least two threat actor groups have used for some time to serve malicious advertisements to between 1 million and 5 million users daily.

Microsoft was first notified about the so-called information disclosure bug in September 2015, security vendor Proofpoint said in an alert this week. But a patch for it became available only after Trend Micro and Proofpoint reported the bug again to Microsoft more recently when researching a massive malvertising campaign being operated by a group called AdGholas, the alert noted.

Proofpoint describes the vulnerability as one involving a Multipurpose Internet Mail Extension (MIME) type check for filtering systems with certain extensions like .py, .saz, and .pcap.

The bug basically gave AdGholas and another group dubbed GooNky a way to identify and avoid systems belonging to security researchers and vendors while letting them target ordinary users with a high degree of efficiency.  

Patrick Wheeler, director of threat intelligence at Proofpoint describes the vulnerability as one that revealed key system information to unauthorized users and programs.

The flaw let attackers look for file extensions commonly associated with security researcher machines such as .py,.pcap, and .saz.  The operators of the AdGholas and GooNky exploited the IE flaw to also look for systems running traffic capture tools and applications such as Fiddler and Python that are frequently found on endpoints used by researchers, vendors, and developers

At the same time the flaw allowed the threat actors to inspect systems for file types such as .torrent and .skype that would be associated with harmless consumer machines, Wheeler says. “This check was part of a two-tier filtering technique designed to both enhance targeting of end-user systems and evade detection by researchers,” he says.

By assiduously avoiding systems likely used by security researchers, the attackers were able to fly below the radar of researchers for longer than they might have otherwise, Wheeler says.

According to Proofpoint, the AdGholas malvertising network has been operational since at least summer 2015 and possibly as early as 2013. The operation combined sophisticated steganography and filtering techniques to infect up to 1 million users per day.

The operators used advertisements for a hotel in Paris, and for two other domains to lure users to malicious sites and drop geo-focused banking Trojans such as Gozi in Canada, DELoader in Australia and Gootkit in Spain on compromised computers, Proofpoint says.

 “One of the reasons that malvertising is appealing to threat actors is that the ad agency or network itself performs a significant portion of the targeting, including geo, browser and other options” for the attacker Proofpoint had noted in a previous blog post.

According to Wheeler, Microsoft learned of the vulnerability last year but likely did little because of its relatively low severity level. “It is important to keep in mind that these kinds of issues in the past have been low-priority for users and organizations as well as vendors,” he says. “The AdGholas campaign, which we reported in July 2016, shows that attackers have shifted their techniques to capitalize on that, giving these kinds of vulnerabilities new urgency.”

Related Content:

 

Jai Vijayan is a seasoned technology reporter with over 20 years of experience in IT trade journalism. He was most recently a Senior Editor at Computerworld, where he covered information security and data privacy issues for the publication. Over the course of his 20-year ... View Full Bio
 

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Threaded  |  Newest First  |  Oldest First
COVID-19: Latest Security News & Commentary
Dark Reading Staff 8/3/2020
Pen Testers Who Got Arrested Doing Their Jobs Tell All
Kelly Jackson Higgins, Executive Editor at Dark Reading,  8/5/2020
Browsers to Enforce Shorter Certificate Life Spans: What Businesses Should Know
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  7/30/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Current Issue
Special Report: Computing's New Normal, a Dark Reading Perspective
This special report examines how IT security organizations have adapted to the "new normal" of computing and what the long-term effects will be. Read it and get a unique set of perspectives on issues ranging from new threats & vulnerabilities as a result of remote working to how enterprise security strategy will be affected long term.
Flash Poll
The Changing Face of Threat Intelligence
The Changing Face of Threat Intelligence
This special report takes a look at how enterprises are using threat intelligence, as well as emerging best practices for integrating threat intel into security operations and incident response. Download it today!
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-15127
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-05
In Contour ( Ingress controller for Kubernetes) before version 1.7.0, a bad actor can shut down all instances of Envoy, essentially killing the entire ingress data plane. GET requests to /shutdown on port 8090 of the Envoy pod initiate Envoy's shutdown procedure. The shutdown procedure includes flip...
CVE-2020-15132
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-05
In Sulu before versions 1.6.35, 2.0.10, and 2.1.1, when the "Forget password" feature on the login screen is used, Sulu asks the user for a username or email address. If the given string is not found, a response with a `400` error code is returned, along with a error message saying that th...
CVE-2020-7298
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-05
Unexpected behavior violation in McAfee Total Protection (MTP) prior to 16.0.R26 allows local users to turn off real time scanning via a specially crafted object making a specific function call.
CVE-2020-13404
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-05
The ATOS/Sips (aka Atos-Magento) community module 3.0.0 to 3.0.5 for Magento allows command injection.
CVE-2020-15112
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-05
In etcd before versions 3.3.23 and 3.4.10, it is possible to have an entry index greater then the number of entries in the ReadAll method in wal/wal.go. This could cause issues when WAL entries are being read during consensus as an arbitrary etcd consensus participant could go down from a runtime pa...