Internet threat news
There have been an increasing number of advanced persistent threats (APTs) discovered in recent months. These attacks threaten PC security on a global scale and the people behind these attacks are no slouches either. To create an effective APT campaign, many resources are required that go well beyond the scope of the everyday cybercriminal out looking to make a few fraudulent dollars at the expense of others. In general, a large amount of time, money, and knowledge is required to create the custom malicious programs that are at the heart of any APT campaign. These campaigns are specifically created to carry out specific, targeted attacks against powerful targets – usually government and state-sponsored entities. Recently, a new APT campaign was discovered by security researchers from AlienVault Labs that has been dubbed Operation Lotus Blossom.
One of the most common ways that modern antivirus software uses to detect malicious software is the way in which that malware behaves on the PC. In other words, the way malware acts once installed is usually a sure sign that a malware infection has occurred. Until now… A new type of malware was recently discovered by IT security firm FireEye that actually mimics the behavior of a normal computer user while it’s compromising files on the infected PC. This new malware variant, known as Hammertoss, is so advanced that it can even time itself to work within the victim’s work schedule - making it nearly impossible to detect using the standard detection algorithms that antivirus software has relied on for years to detect malicious activity.
Just one week before Microsoft’s newest operating system is released, a security flaw has already been discovered that affects all current versions of the Windows OS including the company’s latest addition, Windows 10. Microsoft issued an emergency security fix on Monday that has been classified as “critical” due to the severity of the vulnerability. An exploit has been discovered that essentially affords hackers complete access to a victim’s computer. According to an online security bulletin posted by Microsoft on Monday, this vulnerability allows hackers to take “complete control of the affected system.” This particular vulnerability allows hackers to install, view, change, and delete data or create new accounts with full administrative privileges.
Kovter is a Trojan specifically designed to exploit advertising campaigns. Often referred to as click or advertising fraud, the Trojan is used to hijack Web browser sessions in order to simulate a victim’s machine clicking on advertisements to generate advertising revenue for the hackers behind the malware campaign. A well-known malware security researcher who calls himself Kafeine first discovered the latest version of this threat. Kafeine specializes in tracking and studying drive-by download attacks that rely on exploit kits to find vulnerabilities in popular Web browser plug-ins including Adobe Flash Player, Adobe Reader, Microsoft Silverlight, and Java. According to Kafeine, the latest version of Kovter is being distributed using multiple exploit kits that are designed to capitalize on zero day vulnerabilities found within the browser plug-ins mentioned above.
Back in June, security researchers discovered that the source code for both the building tool and control panel of ZeusVM had been leaked to the public. This leak means that anyone can build a Zeus-powered botnet without any programming knowledge. Initially, the leak was kept secret as security researchers from Malware Must Die (MMD) worked to keep these files from becoming widely available. Unfortunately, the leaked source code spread faster than the researchers could have imagined and as a result, MMD made information about the leak publicly available in an effort to alert security professionals around the world about this concerning threat. ZeusVM, sometimes also known as KINS, is a banking Trojan that works by hijacking the Web browser process. Once this process has been hijacked, the Trojan can modify and/or steal information being exchanged between the infected client machine and the server hosting the secure session.
Hackers often rely on compromised websites as a way to host and distribute malicious software via drive-by download attacks. A drive-by download uses an exploit kit to exploit known vulnerabilities in popular Web browser plugins including Java, Silverlight, and Adobe Flash. Recently, security researchers discovered a group of cybercriminals that have chosen to take a different path. By exploiting vulnerable wireless routers, these criminals have found a way to distribute the notorious Dyre malware strain without the need for compromised websites to deliver the payload. Dyre, which is also known as Dyreza and Battdil, is typically installed by a payload-carrying Trojan that modern antivirus software detects as “Upatre.”
As PC users become increasingly vigilant when it comes to protecting themselves from a constant onslaught of malware threats, hackers keep coming up with clever new ways to sneak past antivirus solutions and install malware on PCs around the world. In addition to creating new ways of distributing malware, hackers have also become increasingly adept at preventing security researchers from reverse engineering many new strains of malware by using a series of basic checks on an infected system to ensure it isn’t a sandbox analysis environment. A new form of malware, known as Stegoloader, combines a new way to deliver its malicious payload with anti-detection tools that have made it difficult for security researchers to figure out exactly how it works.
A powerful computer worm known as Duqu 2.0 has been recently discovered in the networks of three hotels used to host the P5+1 negotiations. These negotiations included representatives from the US, UK, France, Germany, China, and Russia and were created to discuss Iranian nuclear capabilities over the last year and a half. Although the official Kaspersky report does not name the hotels in question, it is believed that this worm was deployed by a state-sponsored Israeli campaign in an attempt to gather sensitive intelligence as it relates to the nuclear talks and anything else of relevance that the worm was able to gather in the process. Although a direct link to an Israeli sponsored campaign cannot be proven at the time of this writing, it’s worth pointing out that just this past March, the US Government accused Israel of spying on the negotiations and using the intelligence gathered to persuade Congress to undermine the talks.
The venerable Zeus banking Trojan has been killed off many times; disappearing from the global Internet time and time again only to reappear with new modifications designed to improve the powerful malware’s features while avoiding modern detection software. Zeus has been used by cybercriminals around the world to orchestrate massive malware campaigns that have been responsible for millions of dollars in stolen funds over the last several years.
Ransomware was a big threat to PC users around the world in 2014 and although a few ransomware variants have made headlines this year, there could be a massive increase in the number of ransomware campaigns during the next several months thanks to a new, free tool available for anyone to download. This program, known as Tox, was created and released by a hacker who has yet to be identified. Essentially, Tox is a ransomware-as-a-service kit. While similar kits have been made available to wannabe hackers in the past, most of these kits cost money to get started. Tox, on the other hand, does not charge users for its service - at least not up front. Rather than charge an upfront fee for ransomware creation, the creator of Tox opted to offer the service for free; choosing instead to charge a 20% fee on any success ransom attempts created using Tox.
According to Microsoft, the User Account Control (UAC) security feature built into all modern Windows OS release is designed to help defend your PC against both hackers and malicious software. Whenever a program attempts to make a change to the PC, UAC notifies the user and asks for permission. When this occurs, users can allow the changes, decline the changes, or click a button that displays additional details about the program attempting to make the change and what specific changes the program is attempting to make. Unfortunately, many people simply choose ‘Yes’ without clicking the ‘Show details’ button first and this is exactly how a new proof-of-concept malware known as ShameOnUAC deceives victims. In most cases, UAC works very well. It often stops potential malware threats by not allowing installed malware to make any significant changes to the PC without the consent of the user. Of course, like most other PC security considerations, effectively using UAC means that the user must know when to allow changes via the privilege escalation prompt and when to decline these changes (i.e. when an unknown program attempts to make changes via the UAC prompt).
Over the last several months, there has been a flood of exploits targeting commonly used encryption standards. These standards, which were designed to secure server-client sessions from man-in-the-middle attacks, are used by websites around the world. Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) and Transport Layer Security (TLS) are both cryptographic security measures that were created to protect sensitive data transmissions across computer networks. The Heartbleed bug, which affected millions of websites using the OpenSSL protocol, was the first major cryptographic vulnerability to make headlines. Then it was POODLE. Then came FREAK. All of these vulnerabilities allowed hackers to hijack secure Web sessions – providing these hackers with the opportunity to steal sensitive personal information (often without the victim knowing anything was wrong until it was too late).
Perhaps the most dangerous banking Trojan to emerge since the takedown of the Gameover Zeus botnet last summer, the Dyre banking Trojan has been credited with millions of dollars in losses around the world. Although most modern antivirus suites detect the original version of Dyre as of this writing, hackers have been working to update the banking Trojan in an effort to squeeze additional financial gain out of this powerful malware variant. Security researchers from Seculert recently discovered a new version of Dyre in the wild that is capable of avoiding sandbox detection tools. While this may seem like a complicated programming trick, the mechanics behind this evasion technique are really quite simple. Once installed on a PC, this new version of Dyre checks to see how many processor cores the infected machine is running.
A security researcher from Web security firm Sucuri recently discovered a cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerability present in every default installation of WordPress, a popular content management system (CMS) used by millions of websites around the world. The vulnerability, which is part of the default WordPress Twenty Fifteen theme, is a DOM-based (Document Object Model) flaw. DOM is responsible for the rendering of images, text, links, and headers within a Web browser. The vulnerability is the result of an insecure file within the 'Genericons' package that allows the DOM environment of the victim's browser to be modified by hackers.
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