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.

Mobile

10/2/2019
03:10 PM
Dark Reading
Dark Reading
Products and Releases
50%
50%

Terrible OpSec Reveals Inner Workings of Hacking Group in Control of Several Million Euros Affecting More than 800,000 People in Russia

Researchers from Czech Technical University, UNCUYO University and Avast dissect the new Geost Android botnet and its handlers at the Virus Bulletin Conference 2019

London, UK – October 2, 2019 – A rare chain of OpSec mistakes led to the discovery of a new Android banking botnet targeting Russian citizens that had been in operation since at least 2016. The Geost botnet, discovered by researchers from Czech Technical University, UNCUYO University, and Avast, infected over 800,000 Android devices (according to researchers’ estimation) and potentially controlled several million Euros. The researchers discovered a more startling story as they began to dissect the unencrypted chat logs found as part of their investigation.

The unusual discovery was made when the botmasters decided to trust a malicious proxy network built using a malware called HtBot. The HtBot malware provides a proxy service that can be rented to give users a pseudo-anonymous communication to the internet. Analysis of the HtBot network communication led to the discovery and disclosure of a large malicious operation infecting more than 800,000 Android-based devices.

In addition to a poor choice of anonymization platform to hide their tracks, the botmasters failed to encrypt their communications, allowing researchers an unprecedented view into their inner workings. The chat logs found revealed how they accessed servers, brought new devices into the botnet, and how they evade antivirus software, but it also contained something more intimate about the social relationships among the botmasters. 

In one conversation, a member of the ring wants to leave the group but the leader encouraged him to stay, saying, “Alexander, really, if we started together we need to finish it. Because for now this is working and we can earn money. Not every day we are getting 100k for promotion.” 

While it is not completely clear what is meant by “promotion,” the leader was also engaged in conversations about money laundering and payments using popular systems among Russian cybercriminals. Further analysis illustrated how the botmasters bring devices into the botnet, and how the delivery of the banking trojan and infiltration of the victim’s banking account follows. 

“We really got an unprecedented view into how an operation like this functions,” said Anna Shirakova, researcher at Avast. “Because this group made some very poor choices in how it tried to hide its actions, we were able to see not just samples of the malware, but also delve deep into how the group works with lower level operatives bringing devices into the botnet and higher level operatives determining how much money was under their control. All told, there were over eight hundred thousand victims and the group potentially controlled millions in currency.”

Geost Botnet and Banking Trojan 

The Geost botnet seems to be a complex infrastructure of infected Android phones. The phones are infected with Android APKs that resemble different fake applications, such as fake banks and fake social networks. Once infected the phones connect to the botnet and are remotely controlled. The usual actions of the attackers seem to be accessing the SMS, sending SMS, communicating with banks, and redirect the traffic of the phone to different sites. The botmasters also access a great deal of personal information from the user.

Following the infection, the command and control stores the complete list of SMS messages of all the victims starting with the moment the device becomes infected. The SMSs were then processed offline in the C&C server to automatically compute the balance of each victim. On subsequent studies, it was possible for the researchers to understand the botmaster’s process for determining which online victims had the largest balance of money. 

The botnet had a complex infrastructure including at least 13 C&C IP addresses, more than 140 domains, and more than 140 APK files. Five banks, mostly from Russia, were the primary targets of the banking trojan, and full details are revealed in the paper of the research. 

Sebastian Garcia, of Czech Technical University, Maria Jose Erquiaga from UNCUYO University, and Anna Shirakova from Avast presented this research at Virus Bulletin 2019 on Wednesday, October 2. The full paper can be found here.

###

-- 

 

Avast logo

     

Leonora Fleming
Public Relations Manager, US
[email protected] | www.avast.com

M: +1.781.974.3549

   

 

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
News
US Formally Attributes SolarWinds Attack to Russian Intelligence Agency
Jai Vijayan, Contributing Writer,  4/15/2021
News
Dependency Problems Increase for Open Source Components
Robert Lemos, Contributing Writer,  4/14/2021
News
FBI Operation Remotely Removes Web Shells From Exchange Servers
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  4/14/2021
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Current Issue
2021 Top Enterprise IT Trends
We've identified the key trends that are poised to impact the IT landscape in 2021. Find out why they're important and how they will affect you today!
Flash Poll
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
Recent breaches of third-party apps are driving many organizations to think harder about the security of their off-the-shelf software as they continue to move left in secure software development practices.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2021-22893
PUBLISHED: 2021-04-23
Pulse Connect Secure 9.0R3/9.1R1 and higher is vulnerable to an authentication bypass vulnerability exposed by the Windows File Share Browser and Pulse Secure Collaboration features of Pulse Connect Secure that can allow an unauthenticated user to perform remote arbitrary code execution on the Pulse...
CVE-2021-31408
PUBLISHED: 2021-04-23
Authentication.logout() helper in com.vaadin:flow-client versions 5.0.0 prior to 6.0.0 (Vaadin 18), and 6.0.0 through 6.0.4 (Vaadin 19.0.0 through 19.0.3) uses incorrect HTTP method, which, in combination with Spring Security CSRF protection, allows local attackers to access Fusion endpoints after t...
CVE-2021-31410
PUBLISHED: 2021-04-23
Overly relaxed configuration of frontend resources server in Vaadin Designer versions 4.3.0 through 4.6.3 allows remote attackers to access project sources via crafted HTTP request.
CVE-2021-31539
PUBLISHED: 2021-04-23
Wowza Streaming Engine through 4.8.5 (in a default installation) has cleartext passwords stored in the conf/admin.password file. A regular local user is able to read usernames and passwords.
CVE-2021-31540
PUBLISHED: 2021-04-23
Wowza Streaming Engine through 4.8.5 (in a default installation) has incorrect file permissions of configuration files in the conf/ directory. A regular local user is able to read and write to all the configuration files, e.g., modify the application server configuration.