New Banking Malware Touts Zeus-Like Capabilities

Scylex malware built from scratch for financial theft, according to an ad in infamous underground forum.

3 Min Read

Financial institutions could be in for more trouble of the Zeus-like variety if a new malware kit being promoted in an underground forum is any indication.

The new Scylex malware kit appears designed to enable financial crime on a large scale, a researcher from Heimdal Security of Denmark, said in an alert this week.

An advertisement on Lampeduza, a forum for buying and selling malware, touts Scylex as packing multiple functions including a user-mode root kit, web injects, and a secure socket reverse proxy, Heimdal researcher Andra Zaharia said. So far, there have been no instances of Scylex being actually used anywhere.

The base kit comes at a price tag of $7,500. Those willing to spring an extra $2,000 can get additional functionality such as secure socket support for directing data transfers between a user PC and a malicious server, via a proxy.

The malware kit is also being offered as a premium package for $10,000. For this price, a buyer will get a Hidden Virtual Network Computing (HVNC) module in addition to all of the features available in the other two kits, Zaharia said.

HVNC is a sought-after capability in banking Trojans and basically gives attackers a way to manipulate a victim’s computer remotely to access bank accounts without triggering any alerts.

The purchase price for the malware includes support for up to 8 hours a day and periodic software updates. A new kit that is under development will come with even more functions including capabilities for spreading via  social networks, a DDoS module, and reverse FTP.

“From the looks of it, cybercriminals are trying to engineer the next big thing in financial malware,” Zaharia cautioned. “Their ambition is to replicate the impact that Zeus GameOver had a few years ago,” she said.

The Zeus Trojan first surfaced around 2007 and is believed responsible for infecting tens of millions of computers and draining hundreds of millions of dollars from bank accounts worldwide. The operators of the Zeus Trojan abruptly stopped their campaign about five years ago and released the source code for the malware online prompting scores of me-too banking Trojan in the last few years based on Zeus code.

The authors of Scylex make it clear on their advertisement that the malware is not based on Zeus code. “It is a banking Trojan written 99% from scratch in C++,” they noted in the ad, a copy of which Heimdal posted on its site. “The goal is to bring back to the scene what Zeus/SpyEye, Citadel, ZeroAccess left behind, and introduce a brand new solution as well.”

The malware kit appears designed for those who have solid technical skills, but the authors have made clear that it is available to anyone interested in purchasing it.

This type of malware can usually be bought, with a lifetime license, like in the case of Scylex, or rented for a monthly fee, Zaharia told Dark Reading. The kits “include the malware, a dashboard where the attacker can tweak the settings and tech support,” she said. “Often, the malware comes preloaded with vulnerabilities and targets, but we couldn't say if this is the case or not for Scylex."

“The malware-as-a-service model has been growing in the past years, and with it the marketing efforts as well,” she said. “Since malware is now so readily available, malware creators have to differentiate themselves and present their offer with more transparency than before. Hence the conspicuous advertising.”

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About the Author(s)

Jai Vijayan, Contributing Writer

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 career at Computerworld, Jai also covered a variety of other technology topics, including big data, Hadoop, Internet of Things, e-voting, and data analytics. Prior to Computerworld, Jai covered technology issues for The Economic Times in Bangalore, India. Jai has a Master's degree in Statistics and lives in Naperville, Ill.

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