Threat Summaries Volume 2: 2011 - 2007 - F

Threat Summaries Volume 2: 2011 - 2007 - F
2011 - 2007
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This document contains a compilation of all the
Threat Summaries released by F-Secure Labs during
the years 2007 to 2011, in reverse chronological order.
This document is preceded by Threat Summaries
Volume 1: 2002 - 2006.
For threat landscape coverage and malware research
details from the years after 2011, see the Threat Reports
and Mobile Threat Reports available from F-Secure
Labs: Whitepapers.
THREAT SUMMARIES V. 2 2011 - 2007
2011 saw rapid growth and significant shifts in the global smartphone
market, with Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS dominating the battle
between mobile operating systems. Malware threats continued to
proliferate on the Android platform throughout the year.
Despite the increasing visibility and media attention on mobile malware,
desktop machines remain the most targeted devices, and desktop PC
based malware remain the most prevalent threats. This year also saw the
rise of three major forces in online threats – online criminals, hacktivists
and nation-states.
In terms of malware development, the most significant milestone in 2011
is the discovery of Duqu, successor to 2010’s Stuxnet. Also of interest is a
rash of malware on the Mac OS X platform in the later months of the year.
Emergence of major players
Organized criminals continue to use online attacks as money-making
activities, mainly by using malicious programs or online scams to infect
computers, target bank accounts or hijack online transactions. According
to Mikko Hypponen, F-Secure’s Chief Research Officer, “[today], it’s more
likely for any of us to become a victim of crime online than here in the real
world. And it’s very obvious that it’s only going to get worse. In the future,
the majority of crime will be online.”
2011 was the year when ‘hacktivism’ – as performed by the amorphous
Anonymous collective and its counterparts – also proved capable of
organizing significant off-line political protests. Unlike previous outbreaks
of online activism, these groups were able to move beyond attacks
against government or commercial databases to successfully organizing
multiple real-world protests.
Nation-states have also become heavily implicated or suspected actors
in a number of online attacks, in particular sophisticated, targeted
campaigns against perceived ‘dissidents’, ‘rogue nations’ or even simple
corporate espionage.
These trends are presented in more detail in Hypponen’s presentations,
in various public forums:
• [email protected]
• Fight Cybercrime, But Keep The Net Free (CNN)
• Mikko Hypponen: Fighting viruses, defending the net
THREAT SUMMARIES V. 2 2011 - 2007
Duqu follows in Stuxnet’s footsteps
In purely technical terms, the most interesting
development of 2011 is the appearance of Duqu, which
appeared almost one year after its predecessor, Stuxnet,
was discovered.
Given strong code similarities between the two malware,
there is a strong probability that the two malwares were
created by the same party. The similarities between the
two extend to the use of stolen certificates to sign their
driver files, though the details of the certificates differ.
According to Mikko Hypponen, F-Secure’s Chief
Research Officer, “unlike Stuxnet, [Duqu] does not
target automation or PLC gear. Instead, it’s used
for reconnaissance. Duqu collects various types of
information from infected systems for a future attack. It’s
possible we’ll eventually see a new attack based on the
information gathered by Duqu.”
Though speculation is rampant about the origins and
intentions of this new malware, like Stuxnet before it, no
one has claimed responsibility for Duqu.
Windows 7 overtakes XP
2011 is the year when Windows 7 finally overtook Windows
XP[1] as the leading desktop operating systems (OS), with
40.5% of the global web market. Despite the decline in
market share however, at 38.5% market share Windows
XP remains one of the most common operating systems
installed worldwide, particularly for home users, and
as such continues to be the favored target for online
Sean Sullivan, Security Advisor at F-Secure says: “People
seem to be adding new systems without necessarily
abandoning their old XP machines, which is great news
for online criminals, as XP continues to be their favorite
As the increased market share makes the platform a more
attractive target to attackers, a likely development in 2012
will be the development of threats targeting Windows 7.
OS X Lion gains market share and malware
Desktop OS market share figures also shifted to reflect the
release of Mac OS X Lion in July, which rapidly gained over
16% of the Mac user base in the US[4]. For the first time,
Mac OS X machines topped 6% of the worldwide desktop
market, and just over 13% in the US[5].
Perhaps not coincidentally, the latter half of 2011 also saw
the emergence of a number of new threats on the OS X
platform, including the Revir and Flashback trojans, the
Tsunami IRC bot and DevilRobber backdoor.
Of particular technical interest are the Flashback
trojans, which include a routine to abort itself if an
active virtualization environment is found on the
machine. According to the Labs analysts, this behavior
is “a common anti-research technique used within
the Windows ecosystem, but not yet so in Mac’s. It
appears that Mac malware authors are anticipating that
researchers will begin to use virtualized environments
during analysis, and are taking steps to hamper such
While we have seen more threats on the Mac platform this
year than at any time prior, overall it appears that the most
recent run of malware have been ‘testing the waters’, as
these threats mostly used attack strategies, techniques
or even code that have previously proven successful on
other platforms.
No threats on this platform have successfully monetized
their operations so far, with the possible exception of
DevilRobber.A, which took the most direct moneymaking route by using infected computers to mine the
digital Bitcoin currency.
Steve Jobs passes away
The death of Apple founder and former CEO Steve Jobs
in 2011 presents a challenge for Apple, as it must now find
a way to continue its incredible record of innovations
without the charismatic figurehead many saw as both its
driving force and ultimate arbiter.
As on countless previous occasions when a celebrity
passed away, the event triggered a wave of spam and SEO
poisoning attacks capitalizing on users looking for news.
In 2011, tablets became firmly established as a must-have
item for businesses and schools as well as personal use,
which in turn has driven interest in both the consumer
device and application development for it. Apple’s iOS
blazed the trail in this field and still holds the title of the
most sought after platform, for users and developers alike
(iPad 2 currently claims 68.3% of the global market)[2].
THREAT SUMMARIES V. 2 2011 - 2007
That lead is predicted to hold through most of next
year, and most likely even the year beyond, though the
December 2011 launch of the highly anticipated Android
4.0 OS version (Ice Cream Sandwich or ICS) is likely to
drive more shifts in market share in 2012
The new Android OS release promises to solve or
mitigate a range of concerns that has so far stymied app
development for tablets using that platform. If the new
release proves popular with users , Android would finally
become a compelling alternative for app developers,
who have thus far mostly preferred to work within Apple’s
more streamlined development environment.
Other competitors in the tablet OS space have been
struggling to keep up with the two giants and have had
hard year, with HP’s webOS ending 2011 in limbo as all
related hardware development is halted, Microsoft’s
Windows 7 yet to gain significant traction and Blackberry’s
Playbook essentially taking a distant third place in the
competition for market share. Looking forward to 2012,
the development of Windows 8 and its new, ‘Metro’ UI for
tablets is the only new entrant into this market.
Despite the significant growth in tablet usage, a malware
targeting this device type has not yet been discovered.
Though standard online or browser-based attacks–
phishing, spam, click-jacking, social networking worms,
etc – are still viable, these are not actually tablet-specific.
Shifts in the mobile market
2011 also saw Android emerge as the most popular
smartphone platform, with 52.5% of the global market at
the end of Q3, followed by Symbian (16.9%) and iOS (15%)
[3]. The rapid change in market share between the mobile
platforms is also closely tied with another phenomenon
– growth in smartphone ownership, particularly outside
developed markets such as the United States and Europe.
Even though changes in market share currently favor
Android, major developments expected in 2012 may tip
the scales again. Most significant among these changes is
Nokia’s partnership with Microsoft to put Windows Phone
7 as the native OS on its smartphones. It therefore seems
likely users will migrate from Symbian to either one of the
current competitors or to Windows Phone 7, leading to
more shifting in market share.
Following the announcement of the partnership, and
the sharp drop of interest in Symbian app development
that resulted, the eventual demise of Symbian seems
likely and of course with it, Symbian malware, which have
traditionally been the most numerous mobile threats.
Whether a drop in malware activity on Symbian simply
means more malicious attention being transferred to iOS
or Android – or even to Windows Phone 7 – remains to be
Mobile malware development
Growth in smartphone ownership has been particularly
strong in Russia and China, and in the last two years, we
have seen growth in mobile threats specifically targeted
to users in these two markets, including premiumSMS trojans, spyware and grayware (apps that skirt the
boundaries of legitimate usage).
Mobile developments in these two countries is particularly
significant because a number of circumstances specific to
Russia and China – including, among other factors, huge
domestic audiences, relatively strong levels of technical
expertise and uneven law enforcement – have made them
‘development hotbeds’ for mobile malware.
The most prevalent mobile threat we’ve seen targeting
users in these two markets have dealt with premiumSMS trojans. In most cases, these threats have exploited
country-specific or even network-specific issues in order
to monetize their operations. As such, these threats have
been strongly localized and have had little impact on users
beyond their borders or network coverage areas.
It is however a likely possibility that an enterprising
criminal will eventually develop and distribute a ‘kit’ or
utility program that would allow attackers outside these
countries to run similar operations, targeted to users in
their own geographical region.
Though not an absolute certainty, such a development
has strong historic precedence, as we’ve already seen a
number of other attack patterns (spam floods, Distributed
Denial of Service attacks, worm outbreaks, etc) similarly
evolve from a manually-run operation requiring technical
expertise into automated attacks launched using a simple
kit that requires minimal skill.
1. StatCounter: Windows 7 overtakes XP globally for first
time in October;
2. IDC: Media Tablet and eReader Markets Beat
Second Quarter Targets, Forecast Increased for 2011,
According to IDC;
THREAT SUMMARIES V. 2 2011 - 2007
3. Gartner: Gartner Says Sales of Mobile Devices Grew
5.6 Percent in Third Quarter of 2011; Smartphone Sales
Increased 42 Percent;
4.Mikey Campbell, Apple Insider: OS X Lion growth
stagnates at 16% Mac market share;
5. Chris Smith, Apple Insider; Mac OS X install base grows
to over 6% worldwide, 13% in the US;
Copycat attacks based on Stuxnet
Stuxnet may be the most significant malware
development of the last decade.
“Stuxnet can attack factory systems and alter automation
processes, therefore making cyber sabotage a reality by
causing actual real-world damage,” says Mikko Hypponen,
Chief Research Officer at F-Secure.
The financial and R&D investment required combined
with the fact that there’s no obvious money-making
mechanism suggests only a terror group or a nation-state
could have created Stuxnet. And it’s not likely that a terror
group would have such resources.
But now that the proverbial cat is out of the bag,
similar attacks can be engineered with less effort. “And
unfortunately it’s likely that we will see Stuxnet copycats in
the future,” says Hypponen.
More mobile malware targeting the Android
platform and jailbroken iPhones
Android apps do not go through an approval process like
those required by the iPhone App Store or the Signed by
Symbian programs.
In 2010, we saw Android apps that posed as games
while spying on users, apps posed as banking apps
with no official connection to the banks, and apps that
attempted to steal users banking credentials. In 2011,
the assault on Android phones by individuals with an
excellent understanding of mobile applications and social
engineering will only get worse.
Jailbroken iPhones also present a unique opportunity for
malware writers.
In summer of 2010, two vulnerabilities in the iPhone
made it possible for users to “jailbreak” their phone by
simply visiting a website. Jailbroken phones can perform
functions that were not intended by manufacturer—such
as using the still camera on older iPhone models as a video
camera. However, the exploit that made easy jailbreaking
possible could have easily been modified for malicious
“If a worm had infected your iPhone, it could do anything
you can do on your phone, and more. So it could destroy
or steal all of your data. Track your location. Spam your
friends. Listen to your phone calls. Dial the presidents of
every country in the world. Anything. And you would pay
for all the charges it would create, too,” says Hypponen.
Luckily, Apple patched the vulnerabilities before such a
crisis occurred.
A large number of iPhone users have purposely jailbroken
their phones and are opening themselves to increasingly
complex threats. F-Secure does not recommend
jailbreaking any device for any reason. The only iPhone
worms we’ve seen so far only affect infected jailbroken
devices and we expect that trend to continue or get worse
in 2011.
Facebook spam goes global
Amidst news that global email spam levels have fallen
suddenly, there has been an explosion of spam on social
networks. Spam has become so prevalent that many
Facebook users in the United States and United Kingdom
have begun to ignore it.
“As English speakers become increasingly desensitized
towards Facebook spam, the spammers are using
language localization as a way to reach new audiences,”
says Hypponen.
F-Secure Labs has already seen Facebook spam runs
localized into Finnish along with runs that were popular
in Sweden and Malaysia. A recent F-Secure survey found
that as many as 78% of Facebook users think that spam is
a problem on the site. And as Facebook increases its antispam efforts, expect to see the spammers change their
tactics and targets.
For more about the unique scourge of social spam, visit
the F-Secure Labs blog: Social Spam Q&A
THREAT SUMMARIES V. 2 2011 - 2007
Though the security news of the last months of 2010 has been dominated
by Wikileaks and the politically motivated online attacks carried out by
its opponents and supporters, 2010 will be most remembered as the year
when the theoretical threat of cyber sabotage became possible.
Wikileaks and DDoS made easy
During the last months of 2010 Wikileaks and the politically motivated
online attacks carried out by its opponents and supporters made
international news—but the methods the attackers used were far too
familiar to security experts.
Mikko Hypponen, Chief Research Officer at F-Secure, says, "There is
nothing new in the type of distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks
that were used to target companies like Mastercard, Visa and Paypal,
which had dissociated themselves from Wikileaks. But today DDoS attacks
have become so easy to carry out that almost anyone can participate."
The first DDos attacks took place in 2000 and since then technology
has become so simplified that many of those so-called Hacktivists
participating in the attack may be unaware that they are breaking the law.
“Most of the attackers who are part of the so-called Anonymous group
are not really computer experts at all but people who want to participate
in the attack because they believe in the cause,” says Hypponen. “So
they download the tool and let others use their computers to mount the
attack. I'm quite sure most of the people participating in these attacks
don't really realize that these are serious crimes.”
Preventing such attacks is a complex, costly endeavor, and typically
companies don’t think about prevention until the assault is underway.
“These attackers have succeeded in shutting down the online payment
credit card verification systems of both Visa and Mastercard and
disrupted part of the PayPal service, immediately causing losses to credit
card companies,” says Hypponen.
While these attacks certainly have global political significance, they
do not live up to the definition of “cyber war”. "War isn't just nameless
attacks between parties that are not nation-states to begin with," says
Hypponen. "WikiLeaks is not a country. MasterCard is not a country."
THREAT SUMMARIES V. 2 2011 - 2007
Stuxnet: the most significant malware
development of the decade?
The most significant malware development of the year –
and perhaps of the whole decade – has been the highly
sophisticated Stuxnet worm.
“Stuxnet can attack factory systems and alter automation
processes, therefore making cyber sabotage a reality by
causing real world damage,” says Mikko Hypponen.
A Windows worm most likely spread through USB device,
Stuxnet infects a system, hides itself with a rootkit and
sees if the infected computer is connected to a Siemens
Simatic factory system. If it finds a connection, it then
modifies commands sent from the Windows computer to
the PLC Programmable Logic Controllers, i.e. the boxes
that actually control the machinery. Once running on the
PLC, it looks for a specific factory environment. If this is
not found, it does nothing.
Hundreds of thousands of computers around the world
have been hit by Stuxnet. Siemens has announced that
15 factories were known to be infected. But Stuxnet is
not limited to industrial plants. Most of the infected
machines are collateral infections, i.e. normal home and
office computers. But the fact that Stuxnet was designed
to target a very specific facility or facilities points to the
revolutionary nature of the threat.
Unusually large at 1.5 MB, Stuxnet exploited 5
vulnerabilities (4 of which were zero-days—all have been
patched by Microsoft), employed a stolen signature and
installed its own driver. F-Secure Labs estimates that it
would take more than 10 manyears of work to complete
This complexity and the fact that it could be used to
impair the ability of a centrifuge to enrich uranium while
providing no monetary gain suggest that Stuxnet was
probably developed by a government—though which
government is unclear.
For more information about the clues that may suggest
who created Stuxnet, visit the F-Secure Labs weblog:
Stuxnet Redux: Questions and Answers
Best year for arresting cybercriminals
2010 has been the best year ever in terms of the number
of people arrested and convicted for committing online
Malware, which used to be written by hobbyists, became
a vast profit-driven business controlled by criminals
around 2003. However, for years the transition of malware
from an online annoyance to criminal activity was not
reflected by the number of arrests and convictions of the
perpetrators. In the rare cases that people were caught
and prosecuted, the sentences were hardly punitive. But
in 2010 F-Secure saw what we hope is the beginning of a
shift in the ability of law enforcement to identify, capture
and prosecute cybercriminals.
In a landmark case in March 2010, Alfredo Gonzales
received a 20 year jail sentence for being the ringleader
of a gang that hacked tens of millions of credit card
records from TJ Maxx and several other US retailers. This
is the longest sentence ever passed in a cyber crime case.
Gonzales and his gang members gained access into the
authentication systems of the retailers’ cash registers by
hacking into their wi-fi. Millions of credit cards had to be
re-issued as a result.
The FBI revealed in October that it had arrested more than
90 suspected members of an international cyber crime
ring, accused of stealing about $70million from bank
accounts in the United States.
More arrests were also made in the UK and the Ukraine,
from where the operation was directed. The criminals
had gained access to people’s online banking details by
sending infected spam messages. According to the FBI,
the arrests were part of “one of the largest cyber criminal
cases we have ever investigated”.
An interesting case involving spytools installed on mobile
phones was reported by The Register in July, in which
Romanian authorities had arrested 50 people accused
of using off-the-shelf software to monitor the mobile
phone communications of their spouses, competitors and
The Romanian Directorate for Investigating Organized
Crime and Terrorism also arrested Dan Nicolae Oproiu, a
30-year-old IT specialist who allegedly sold the spyware
for handsets running the iPhone, Blackberry, Symbian,
and Windows Mobile operating systems, according to The
Mikko Hypponen says, “Antivirus companies are not the
police but we always provide the material uncovered
by our investigations into cybercrime to the authorities
so they can take action. It’s great to see this is having
an effect and we hope that the new level of arrests and
punitive sentencing represents a permanent shift in the
way cybercrime is tackled.”
THREAT SUMMARIES V. 2 2011 - 2007
Windows XP still the major target
The Windows 7 operating system has been lauded as a
safer operating system than its predecessor Window
Vista. Despite overtaking Vista in terms of market share
this year, Windows 7 is still far behind Windows XP, which
remains the most popular operating system and the
biggest target for malware writers.
"Cybercriminals will always look for the easy targets," says
Mikko Hypponen. "It's likely that XP attacks will still be
around for a number of years.”
In July 2010, Microsoft stopped issuing updates
for Windows XP Service Pack 2. At that time, we
estimated that 10% of our customers were still using
XP SP2, potentially leaving them open to exploitable
The security implications of using outdated operating
systems have been demonstrated by reports that the oil
spill in the Gulf of Mexico could in part have been caused
by the failure of computers that were still using Windows
NT 4 from 1996.
Hypponen says, "It is irresponsible that a billion dollar oil
drilling operation did not bother to keep its computers
up-to-date and as secure as possible."
Mobile security developments
The number of mobile malware has not increased
dramatically in 2010 but this year saw some developments
that may provide insight to future trends.
The year opened with several banking apps being
removed from the Android Marketplace. The applications
were not developed or authorized by the banks
themselves and could not do real online banking from the
Android device. Apparently they only opened the web
interface of the online bank for the user and could have
stolen user credentials.
In April, a trojanized version of the Windows Mobile game
3D Anti-terrorist action was uploaded to several Windows
Mobile freeware download sites. Infected phones made
secret calls to expensive premium rate numbers, resulting
in big phone bills for the victims.
In August, it turned out the Android app Tap Snake
wasn’t just a gamebut a client for a commercial spying
application called GPS SPY. The game looks like an average
"Snake" clone. However, there are two hidden features.
First, the game won't exit. Once installed, it runs in the
background forever, and restarts automatically when you
boot the phone. And secondly, every 15 minutes the game
secretly reports the GPS location of the phone to a server.
For years, F-Secure Labs has been predicting that it was
only a matter of time before some banking trojan focused
on phones. And the year closed with evidence that a ZeuS
variant had been engineered to steal a mobile transaction
authentication number (mTAN) using a Symbian (.sis) or
Blackberry (.jad) component. mTANs are sent via SMS,
and are used by some banks as a form of single use onetime password to authorize an online financial transaction.
An F-Secure Labs analysis of the configuration files
revealed this attack was not a one-off by some hobbyist.
It was developed by individuals with an excellent
understanding of mobile applications and social
engineering. Increasingly complex attacks targeting
mobile banking are inevitable.
THREAT SUMMARIES V. 2 2011 - 2007
Social Networks
F-Secure sees malware and spam in social networks on
the rise
Spam in social networks reached a record high level May
to September 2010. Malware and spam are appearing
more frequently on social media like Twitter and
Facebook. So far, most of the attacks on Twitter have been
made for testing purposes or for fun to see how quickly
they replicate. However, when hobbyists create social
networking worms, profit-driven criminals often try to
adapt them for making money.
“A deal you just can’t refuse!”, “Do not pay for a new
iphone 4, get one for free one for no cost!”, “Whoa,
check this out everyone” – spam on Facebook runs under
numerous creative tag lines. In June the following string
of text tried to lure Facebook fans: “I am shocked!!! The
teacher nearly killed this boy: h t t p:// Worldwide scandal!” People who clicked on the link, were
directed to an application.
We had a closer look at the case and found more than 140
thousand clicks within the first day and the applications
page indicated almost 59 thousand active users. This
means that more than 40% of the users exposed to this
lure were falling for it.
In August we found another, more popular spam about
an unlucky McDonald’s Happy Meal. This spam used
links to spread itself on Facebook. The links lead to
h t t p:// cc and there were just over
32,000 clicks within a few hours. The ‘clicks to likes’
conversion rates were around 40% and about 48%. These
are excellent results for spammers, and much better than
e-mail spam. However, the 32,000 clicks were far less than
similar spam from June when we saw several examples of
viral links that yielded hundreds of thousands of clicks.
Returns are diminishing as people are exposed, develop
a resistance, and recognize Facebook spam for what it
is. In fact, the spammers themselves seem to know this
and are working harder to convince people. This version
of the Happy Meal spam promises “no need to complete
surveys”. But it was the same old spammer lie and the
page had an anti-spam bot “test”, which is just a survey by
another name.
Social networking spammers don’t need to dupe
very many people in order to be rewarded for their
efforts. Many of the surveys lead to SMS subscriptions
(particularly outside of the USA) and there’s good money
to be made. And because the conversion rates are better
than e-mail spam, you can be certain that it won’t be
going away any time soon.
Facebook has actually made things easier for the
spammers and scammers by not implementing the
restrictions on landing pages which it first announced
in May 2010. Unfortunately, it’s a rather simple task to
create a page on Facebook and the bigger problem
is that of “landing tabs”, the first tab that’s shown to
someone who doesn’t already like the page. Originally,
Facebook announced in May to restrict landing pages
to “authenticated pages” or to pages with more than
10,000 fans. One day later Facebook back-pedaled and
didn’t implement the limitations because small businesses
complained. The 10,000 fan requirement was seen as too
difficult to achieve. The major use for landing tabs is to
build the page’s base, so perhaps it was too much to ask.
But having nothing in place opened up a deluge of scams
and spam. Some kind of compromise must be possible.
In early September a clever spammer discovered a
Facebook vulnerability that allows for auto-replicating
links. Until then, a typical Facebook spam required the use
of some social engineering to spread. But clicking on any
of the application spam links is now enough to “share” the
application to the user’s Wall.
Malware in the cloud presents new security problems.
Mikko Hypponen, Chief Research Officer at F-Secure,
says, “When you start using cloud services more and
more, this also means that you are giving up control
over your data. As long as your documents and
communications are on your own computer, it is possible
to encrypt and secure them. Once they are in the cloud,
you can only hope that someone else is doing it on your
Twitter Targeted
Twitter targeted – antibodies fight back
Opportunist spammers have also been quick to pounce
on the newly discovered XSS vulnerabilities in Twitter in
an attempt to lead users to dubious surveys and websites.
Most of the worms are using onmouseover techniques,
meaning it’s enough to simply move your mouse on top of
THREAT SUMMARIES V. 2 2011 - 2007
a malicious (mischievous) Tweet to resend the malicious
message to your followers. Though the XSS vulnerability
has been fixed, we expect problems to continue. It’s
perfectly possible that there will be more malicious
attacks, possibly combining this technique with browser
Mikko Hypponen suggests that Twitter establishes a
bounty for finding major new security vulnerabilities
in their system, as an incentive to potential hackers to
stop breaking into their system. Twitter worms are quite
different from the more sinister trojans we see attacking
the Windows operating system. Most of the Twitter
worms are made just for testing, or for fun. Very few try to
steal information or to make money. They are created by
the same kind of curious tinkerers that 10 years ago would
have been writing Internet worms, just to see how quickly
they would replicate.
While social networks are increasingly attractive to
malware writers because they can spread information
so quickly, this also means that Twitter and Facebook
users can stop the spread of malware faster than before.
Sean Sullivan, Security Advisor at F-Secure, says, “Social
networks have built-in antibodies – their users. Whereas
the malicious attacks of yesteryear took weeks or even
months to develop, the recent Twitter attacks peaked and
ebbed in just two and a half hours.
For more information, here are some posts from the
F-Secure Labs Weblog related to social network spam:
Twitter Attack
Warning on Facebook worm “FBHOLE”
Facebook Spam App Du Jour
All Your Farm Are Belong To Us
Should Facebook limit landing tabs?
Two Steps Away from a Free iPad
Facebook Recommends Spam Profiles
What’s the success rate of Facebook spam?
I May Never Text Again: More Facebook Spam
CPAlead Spam on YouTube
When do 258 tweets equal nearly half a million
Twitter Spam and the OAuthcalypse
New Spam Worm on Facebook
Facebook Spam Worm Links to “Mobile
Twitter onMouseOver Spam
Twitter Antispam: Media not displayed
Voi Paska, Facebook Spam Localized in Finnish
Stuxnet worm targets industrial infrastructure
The Stuxnet Windows worm is one of the most significant
malware cases in recent times. Discovered in June 2010,
Stuxnet is the first malware to target specific industrial
systems. The Stuxnet worm is highly complex and has
required considerable resources to develop it, leading
to speculation that a government or governments are
behind it. Stuxnet has infected hundreds of thousands
of computers around the world but the large number of
infections in Iran suggests that the motive of the people
behind the worm is to attack Iran’s nuclear program.
Stuxnet spreads via USB sticks and can also spread
by copying itself to network shares if they have weak
passwords once it is inside an organization. The LNK
vulnerability used by Stuxnet would still infect your
computer even if AutoRun and AutoPlay are disabled. The
current versions have a “kill date” of June 24, 2012, which
means the worm will stop spreading on this date.
After infecting the system, Stuxnet hides itself with a
rootkit and checks if the infected computer is connected
to a Siemens Simatic (Step7) factory system. Stuxnet can
make complex modifications to the system; for example it
could adjust motors, conveyor belts and pumps. It could
even stop a factory and, with the right modifications,
cause things to explode.
So far only a few factories have been hit and most of the
infected machines are collateral infections of normal
home and office computers that are not connected to
SCADA systems. Stuxnet does not cause any damage
unless it finds the specific factory system it is looking for.
So how can the attackers get a trojan like this into a
secure facility? One method could be by breaking into a
home of an employee, finding his USB sticks and infecting
them. When the employee takes the USB sticks to work,
they infect his work computer and the infection spreads
further inside the secure facility, eventually hitting the
Stuxnet is a very complex and unusually large in size
at 1.5Mb. It uses multiple vulnerabilities and drops its
own driver to the system because the Stuxnet driver
was signed with a certificate stolen from Realtek
Semiconductor Corp. The stolen certificate was been
revoked by Verisign on 16th of July 2010. A modified
variant signed with a certificate stolen from JMicron
Technology Corporation was found on 17th of July.
THREAT SUMMARIES V. 2 2011 - 2007
Stuxnet exploits five different vulnerabilities, four of which
were 0-days:
LNK (MS10-046)
Print Spooler (MS10-061)
Server Service (MS08-067)
Privilege escalation via Keyboard layout file
Privilege escalation via Task Scheduler
The two Privilege escalations have not yet been patched.
There is a reference to “Myrtus” (which is a myrtle plant)
in Stuxnet. “Myrtus” could also mean “My RTUs” – RTU
is an abbreviation for Remote Terminal Units, used in
factory systems. However, the reference is not “hidden”
in the code. It’s an artifact left inside the program when
it was compiled. Basically this tells us where the author
stored the source code in his system. The specific path
in Stuxnet is: \myrtus\src\objfre_w2k_x86\i386\guava.
pdb. The authors probably did not want us to know they
called their project “Myrtus”, but thanks to this artifact we
do. We have seen such artifacts in other malware as well.
The Operation Aurora attack against Google was named
Aurora after this path was found inside one of the binaries:
Stuxnet knows that it has already infected a machine as it
sets a Registry key with a value “19790509” as an infection
marker. This is actually a date: 9th May 1979. This could
be the birthday of the author, or it could refer to the date
that a Jewish-Iranian businessman called Habib Elghanian
was executed in Iran. He was accused of spying for Israel.
Arrests in UK
Arrests in multi-million pound online bank fraud case in
the UK
In September 2010, a police investigation into the theft
of at least £6m from online bank accounts has resulted in
globally more than 100 arrests and charges against ten
people for conspiracy to defraud and money laundering.
According to reports from the BBC and Daily Mail, the
accused used the Zeus trojan to get access to the online
banking login details of at least 600 accounts with HSBC,
the Royal Bank of Scotland, Barclays Bank and Lloyds TSB.
Infecting weakly protected computers, the gang was
able to steal the online credentials and manipulate the
web browsing sessions of their victims by creating an
additional page that requested passwords, PIN and card
numbers. After gaining access to their victims’ accounts,
the gang transferred several thousand pounds at a time
to the accounts of specially recruited money mules,
who allowed their bank accounts to be used for money
laundering in return for payment. The accused are from
the Ukraine, Estonia, and Latvia. According to the charges,
the gang targeted British banks from 13 October 2009
until 28 September 2010.
Zeus Trojan
Zeus trojan used to target online banking
Zeus continues to be one of the most common malware
we run into. There was an interesting Windows+mobile
case in September involving a ZeuS variant that
steals mTANs, using a Symbian (.sis) or Blackberry
(.jad) component. An mTAN is a mobile transaction
authentication number, sent via SMS, and is used by
some banks as a form of single use one-time password
to authorize an online financial transaction. The SMS
message may also include transaction data that allows you
to ensure that nothing has been modified (via a Man-inthe-Browser attack).
Windows OS based online banking is constantly under
attack from phishing, pharming, cross-site scripting, and
password stealing trojans. Adding an “outside” device to
the process is a useful security countermeasure; one that
we thought might be technically challenging enough
to dissuade any would-be attackers. However, online
security is a constant cat-and-mouse game, and we have
often predicted that it is only a matter of time before
some banking trojan is targeting phones.
S21sec, a digital security services company, recently
published information about the ZeuS variants they have
discovered, see ZeuS Mitmo: Man-in-the-mobile. This
malware asks for mobile phone details and then send an
SMS with a download link based on the answers given by
the victim. It is difficult to get the complete picture of
this emerging threat vector as the C&C used by the Zbot.
PUA is no longer online, but based on the analysis and
their configuration files, this attack is not a one-off by
some hobbyist. It has been developed by individuals with
an excellent understanding of mobile applications and
social engineering. We expect that they will continue its
THREAT SUMMARIES V. 2 2011 - 2007
Mobile Security Developments
Mobile security developments – jailbreaks, antiterrorists, snakes and spies
The biggest security story on the mobile front has been
the website, which made it possible to
jailbreak an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch simply by visiting
the website with the device. used an
exploit to execute code on the device. Anyone could
have used the same vulnerability to execute malicious
code on iPhones and iPads, which could have resulted in
the first global mobile worm outbreak. Luckily this did
not happen and Apple released a new version of iOS to
patch the vulnerability on most of their platforms,” says
Mikko Hypponen. The jailbreaking community also put
out their own patch which also closed the security hole for
operating systems not supported by Apple.
Some Windows Mobile smartphone users have been
affected by the 3D Anti-terrorist trojan, which makes
expensive calls to international premium rate numbers,
including countries like Somalia and Antarctica. A Russian
hacker removed copy protection from the 3D Antiterrorist Action game and uploaded the trojanized version
download sites where people search for free games. “It’s a
way of stealing money directly from infected smartphones
and the victims only realise what has happened when they
receive their next phone bills,” says Mikko Hypponen.
Another malicious application has been found from the
Android Market. A game called Tap Snake turns out to be
a client for a commercial spying application called GPS
SPY. The Tap Snake game looks like an average “Snake”
clone. However, it has two hidden features. First, the
game won’t exit. Once installed, it runs in the background
forever, and restarts automatically when you boot the
phone. Secondly, the game secretly reports the GPS
location of the phone to a server every 15 minutes.
GPS SPY is a simple mobile spying tool and only costs
$4.99. When bought, the application advises you to
download and install the “Tap Snake game” to the phone
you want to spy on. During installation, the game is
registered with a keycode to enable spying. This means
that the spy has to have physical access to the phone he
wants to spy on. In many ways, GPS SPY / Tap Snake can be
seen as a little brother of mobile spying tools like FlexiSPY.
GPS SPY is developed by a Russian developer based in
Texas, Mr. Max Lifshin (“Maxicom”). GPS SPY and Tap
Snake are no longer available in the Android Market.
F-Secure expects to see more malware attacks targeting
smartphones. Jarno Niemelä, Senior Researcher at
F-Secure, says, “Since 2004 there have only been 517
families of mobile viruses, worms and trojans, but as
some mobile malware authors have now made money,
we expect to see a lot more activity. Most of the mobile
malware we have seen in 2010 has been profit motivated
rather than hobbyist activity.” So far the malware
monetization methods used by criminals include premium
SMS messages, premium voice calls, subscription scams,
banking attacks, ransomware, and fake applications.
See Mikko Hypponen’s video on mobile security
developments at the FSecure News Video Channel:
Mobile Security Review September 2010
THREAT SUMMARIES V. 2 2011 - 2007
2009’s Worm of the Year: Conficker
Major security developments in 2009 included Conficker, the most pervasive
networking worm in years.
Conficker spread fast in computers using the Windows XP operating system
which had not been patched with a late 2008 Microsoft update. Infection rates
peaked at more than 12 million computers worldwide, causing major problems
for companies, hospitals, airports and other public institutions around the
Unlike many previous worms that were released in the wild for personal
fame, Conficker was designed to call home and create a botnet of infected
computers — a potentially profitable commodity for the authors of the
worm. The Conficker Working Group, composed of several anti-virus
companies including F-Secure, prevented the worm from reporting home
and establishing a powerful botnet. Nevertheless, millions of computers still
remain infected with Conficker at the end of 2009. It is still a mystery who
wrote the Conficker worm.
Conficker Working Group
Windows 7
This year saw the launch of the Windows 7 operating system as a replacement
for Windows Vista and Windows XP, which were both affected by major
security concerns. Windows 7 shows promise as a leaner, more secure
operating system, and also has an improved user security experience
compared to Vista.
The focus on a better user experience and improved security is also one of the
important trends in 2009, coinciding with the emergence of Netbooks.
• Windows 7
Social Networking
Facebook, MySpace, Linked-In, Twitter — social networking sites have been
all the rage in 2009.
On December 1st, Facebook announced that it has 350 million user accounts.
Social Networks have also become a major target for online criminals who
are misusing the high level of trust involved in communities of friends and
contacts to carry out phishing attacks and spread links to malicious websites.
Compromised social networking accounts provide the ideal cover for online
criminals to develop new money-making activities. People are much more
likely to click on a link that seems to be coming from a trusted friend or
relative, than an attachment or a link in an e-mail from someone they don’t
THREAT SUMMARIES V. 2 2011 - 2007
Sites such as Facebook are now working to implement
greater privacy controls and are attempting to simplify the
user experience in an attempt to limit mis-use of trust.
• An Open Letter from Facebook Founder Mark
Mobile Security
Curse – The “Curse of Silence” exploit against
several current versions of Symbian S60 phones was
demonstrated at the end of December, 2008. The exploit
was very easy to utilize and a video demonstrating how
to perform it was quickly distributed on the Web. The
resulting effect of the exploit jams the victim’s SMS
Many network operators reacted quickly and started
filtering their SMS traffic so as to prohibit the exploit
message. Nokia later released a free recovery utility
called “SMS Cleaner”. The exploit was, at best, a potential
nuisance with little profit motive, and has not been widely
reported to have been used.
Latitude – In February, Google Latitude was introduced
for the very popular mobile Google Maps application.
Google Maps has the ability to locate the phone based on
GPS or cell tower positioning. The Latitude add-on allows
users to “broadcast” their location to approved individuals
using their Google account IDs. The service is easy to use
and is a likely forecaster of things to come. Location based
applications are in high demand and many other service
providers seek to offer solutions with a Social Networking
focus. The introduction of Latitude has alarmed some
privacy advocates, but so far users have control over their
own information.
FlexiSpy – A well known Spy Tool began offering an
iPhone version during Q1, 2009. FlexiSpy for iPhone
requires the phone be “jail broken”. The software’s
features include hiding the interface icon as well as hiding
the fact that the phone itself has been jail broken. FlexiSpy
tracks the phone’s usage (SMS, e-mail, GPS, etc.) and
sends the collected data to FlexiSpy’s website from where
the phone’s owner, or another party, can view the logged
Sexy View – Worm:SymbOS/Yxe.A was the most
significant mobile malware case of Q1. The Yxe worm is
the first discovered SMS worm, and is spread largely in
Yxe is also the first malware that is compiled to run on
Symbian S60 3rd Edition phones. The S60 3rd Edition
platform is greatly protected by requiring applications
to be Symbian Signed. In the case of Yxe, a leaked, valid
certificate was used to sign the worm. Thus, very minimal
user interaction was required for installation.
When Yxe infects a phone by sending an SMS message
to the victim that promises a “sexy view” and celebrity
gossip. The SMS links to a website that then prompts
the victim to install the Yxe worm. If the victim does so,
the worm uses the victim’s Contact list to spread itself
further. The victim’s Contact will receive a message
that appears to be coming from their friend, and so the
worm continues to spread via Social Engineering. On
installation, the worm reports the phone number back to
the website from which it was downloaded.
SMS spam is a large problem in China with hundreds of
billions of spam messages reported. This harvesting of
phone numbers is very similar to the harvesting of e-mail
addresses seen on PCs in 2002. Several network operators
have been fined as China works to shut down access
points that allow the sending of SMS spam.
SEO Attacks and Rogue Scareware
Much of the traffic for malicious websites is generated
by search engine optimization (SEO) attacks where the
attackers seed the search engines with popular search
topics like the names of celebrities in the news. When
people end up on these sites their computers are taken
The installation of rogue security products has been a
favorite tactic used by criminals in 2009 and the case
of File Fix Professional is a good example of this. In fact,
the writers of this software do not push the product
themselves and all the work is done by their botnet
master affiliates. File Fix Pro encrypts some of the files in
the My Documents folder and then confronts the user
with what seems like a realistic error message, saying that
Windows is recommending them to download a special
tool to fix the files. When the user clicks on the message
he gets a download of File Fix Pro which does “fix” the files
– in order words decrypts them — if the user pays $49.99
for the product.
THREAT SUMMARIES V. 2 2011 - 2007
It is a clever social engineering trick because the user
does not realize that the files have been taken hostage
and the purchase of the rogue security product is a
ransom payment to recover the files. The user may even
recommend this seemingly useful software to others.
The real software vendor is not actually doing anything
illegal because it is the botnet holders who are encrypting
people’s files and making them purchase the tool.
• YouTube Video: Tiger Woods SEO Attacks
iPhone Worms
In 2009 smartphones have become more popular and
more powerful than ever. Smartphones are increasingly
used for Internet based activity, including social media.
Much of this has been driven by the iPhone and other
touchscreen smartphones. The iPhone already has more
than 10 percent share of the smartphone market and its
popularity is inevitably attracting the attention of malware
At the end of 2009 jailbroken iPhones became a target for
the first profit-motivated malware on this platform. The
speed of the malware evolution for jailbroken iPhones
is a telling sign of the times. The news of a Dutch hacker
exploiting a jailbroken iPhone vulnerability was quickly
followed by an Australian hobbyist writing the Ikee worm
that tried to “teach people a lesson” for not changing
their default SSH password. The worm changed the
wallpaper on infected iPhones to a picture of Rick Astley.
The first profit driven worm for jailbroken iPhones then
emerged almost immediately in the Netherlands, which
was designed to create a mobile botnet and gain access
to online banking details. The worm tried to redirect the
customers of a Dutch bank to a phishing site when they
were trying to access their online bank from the iPhone.
We fully expect this kind of organized criminal activity
involving smartphones to increase next year.
• First iPhone Worm Found
• Malicious iPhone Worm
Cloud Security in 2009
While criminals are busily churning out an unprecedented
volume of malware, the security industry is also
developing ever more sophisticated technologies to
meet the threats. In 2009 “cloud computing” emerged
as an important advance against the constantly evolving
malware threats.
F-Secure has been among the pioneers of developing
antivirus in the cloud. This means that all the information
we have about all the possible malicious programs and all
the possible good programs is now stored “in-the cloud”,
i.e. in our data centers, with no limits to the amount of
The benefits of real-time access to this vast amount
of information are substantial. For example, antivirus
databases no longer eat up the memory and hard drive
space on people’s computers. Protection in the cloud also
means that when we tag a file as “bad”, all our customers
around the world are protected against the threat in a
matter of seconds.
• YouTube Video: Evolution of Security
THREAT SUMMARIES V. 2 2011 - 2007
Leaner Operating Systems
Broadband Internet access continues to increase but
computing resources have not kept pace with software
demands. As a result, lighter software and optimized
performance have become a major focus for the software
industry. Both Microsoft and Apple “realized that the
pile-on-features model is unsustainable” , wrote David
Pogue in the New York Times in August. “Both are
releasing new versions of their operating systems that
are unapologetically billed as cleaned-up, slimmed-down
versions of what came before.”
Apple | The August release of Mac OSX 10.6 Snow Leopard
showed the way with an installation that left 7GB more
free space on the hard drive than its predecessor. It also
included some antivirus functions against trojans.
Microsoft | Microsoft’s Windows 7 operating system,
to be released in October, is also set to be leaner and
more secure than its predecessor Windows Vista. Vista’s
insistent user access control feature actually prompted
many users to turn it off completely.
Google | Google is also developing its own Google
Chrome OS which is an “open source, lightweight
operating system that will initially be targeted at
netbooks”, according to the official Google Blog.
More Secure Browsing
During this quarter, Firefox introduced its new private
browsing feature and Firefox 3.5.3 introduced a
notification for outdated versions of Adobe Flash Player.
According to the Mozilla Security Blog, “Old versions of
plugins can cause crashes and other stability problems,
and can also be a significant security risk.” Mozilla is also
promising to work with other plugin vendors to provide
similar checks for their products in the future.
THREAT SUMMARIES V. 2 2011 - 2007
Search Engine Competition Good for Security
At the end of July Microsoft and Yahoo signed a 10-year
deal whereby the Yahoo search engine will be replaced
by Bing in a bid to challenge Google’s dominance of the
search-based advertising business. Microsoft hopes to
compete with Google by offering new features in Bing,
such as adult content filtering. Safe search results are now
an important feature for consumers.
According to Tom Krazit from CNET, “Microsoft has
tweaked the search filters on its new Bing search engine
following criticism that its smart motion video feature
allowed Web surfers to watch porn without visiting adult
Web sites.”
Search Engine Optimization Attacks
The deaths of Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett and Patrick
Swayze were quickly exploited by criminals through
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) attacks, often pointing
people to rogue antivirus products. The H1N1 flu has also
been used as an emotional “hook” to lead Internet users
to scam sites.
F-Secure’s web analysts saw the first wave of celebrity
spam within hours of the reported death of movie star
Patrick Swayze, which was followed by fake videos that
came up in Google’s search results for his funeral. Clicking
on the ‘video’ took the victim to a different website and
another video, where a click downloaded a rogue AV.
• Labs Weblog: Swayze Spam
• Labs Weblog: More Swayze-Baited Traps
Social Media and Networks Under Attack
Facebook | As Facebook reached 300 million accounts
in September, social networks and social media have
continued to attract criminal and political interest.
Personal networking connections offer trusted
authentication and accounts compromised by criminals
have been used to abuse that powerful trust by linking
to malicious sites. F-Secure reminds Internet users about
the importance of strong passwords and that Facebook
passwords should be different from the primary e-mail
used to logon to Facebook.
Twitter | As Twitter has grown in popularity, it has been
increasingly targeted by worms, spam and account
In August it also emerged that Twitter has been used to
direct botnets. According to a report in The Register, a
security analyst accidentally stumbled across a Twitter
account being used by botherders as a cheap and
effective way of directing infected computers to websites
where they can get further instructions. This appears to
be the first time Twitter has been used as part of a botnet’s
command and control structure.
Twitter accounts are also being used to push rogue AV
products. All the tweets sent by these accounts are autogenerated, either by picking up keywords from Twitter
trends or by repeating real tweets sent by humans. The
links eventually lead to fake websites trying to scare you
into purchasing a product you don’t need.
• Labs Weblog: Mass-Generating Fake Twitter
Accounts for Profit
Politically Motivated DDoS Attacks
In August, the Twitter, Facebook, LiveJournal, Google
Blogger and YouTube accounts of a Georgian blogger
called Cyxymu were jammed by a politically motivated
DDoS attack, as reported by Elinor Mills on CNET.
Launching DDoS attacks against services such as
Facebook is the equivalent of bombing a TV station
because you don’t like one of the newscasters. The
amount of collateral damage is huge. Millions Twitter,
Livejournal and Facebook users experienced problems
because of this attack. Whoever was behind this attack
had significant bandwidth available.
• Labs Weblog: Silence Cyxymu
In another coordinated DDoS attack during Malaysia’s
National Day on August 31st, hackers targeted a
Malaysian-based web host and defaced over 100 websites,
including those belonging to Malaysia’s national institutes,
universities, media and business.
• Labs Weblog: Cyber Attacks on Malaysian Websites
THREAT SUMMARIES V. 2 2011 - 2007
Mobile Threats Make A Comeback
In the world of mobile phone security, this quarter
witnessed the re-emergence of the SMS worm Yxe
(aka Sexy View), now in the form of Sexy Space, which
performs much like the original. The new variant Yxe.D
is Symbian Signed with a certificate from a different
company in China than the earlier version.
• Labs Weblog: Q & A on “Sexy View” SMS worm
The old ‘missed call scam’ is also making a comeback. This
involves a call from an unknown international number
which is immediately dropped when answered. When the
curious person calls back to the number, he hears a ‘busy
tone’ audio file, when in fact the call is being charged
at a premium rate. F-Secure recommends a Google or
WhoCallsMe search on any unusual numbers before
calling back in order to avoid nasty surprises in the phone
• Labs Weblog: Received an SMS message from a
service number with link in it?
• Labs Weblog: Missed Call Scammers Are on the
Securing the Cyber Infrastructure
On May 29th, the President of the United States, Barack
Obama, announced the creation of a new White House
office to be led by a Cybersecurity Coordinator. The
President began his speech by acknowledging the
significance of virtual space.
President Obama:
“It’s long been said that the revolutions in
communications and information technology have
given birth to a virtual world. But make no mistake: This
world — cyberspace — is a world that we depend on
every single day. It’s our hardware and our software, our
desktops and laptops and cell phones and Blackberries
that have become woven into every aspect of our
“So cyberspace is real. And so are the risks that come
with it.”
Cyberspace is indeed real. Corporate information,
personal data, network resources, and virtual
commodities have been under constant attack for
years. The law is only just beginning to catch up with
the criminals and the reality of cyberspace. Most
governments are still catching up to the reality of what
needs to be protected.
President Obama also discussed the costs involved with
“According to one survey, in the past two years alone
cyber crime has cost Americans more than $8 billion.”
“[W]e’ve had to learn a whole new vocabulary just
to stay ahead of the cyber criminals who would do
us harm — spyware and malware and spoofing and
phishing and botnets. Millions of Americans have
been victimized, their privacy violated, their identities
stolen, their lives upended, and their wallets emptied.
According to one survey, in the past two years alone
cyber crime has cost Americans more than $8 billion.”
Eight billion dollars is only a fraction of the global costs.
While it is impressive that President Obama knows terms
such as “malware and spoofing” it remains to be seen
if the United States government is “ahead of the cyber
criminals”. In the constant battle to protect consumer’s
computers, just keeping up with newly emerging threats
is a daily challenge.
THREAT SUMMARIES V. 2 2011 - 2007
On May 29th the Pentagon (United States Department
of Defense) submitted their cyber defense plan to the
White House. On June 23rd, Defense Secretary Robert
M. Gates, announced the creation of Cybercom. The
new organization will be to coordinate the day-to-day
operation of military and Pentagon computer networks.
F-Secure Chief Research Officer Mikko Hyppönen
contributed the following to the New York Times on the
This new effort to secure America’s cyber infrastructure, if
successful, could finally produce the global organization
and cooperation needed to curb the growth of eCrime
and other emerging cyber threats. It will be a daunting
challenge to undertake.
• New York Times: http://roomfordebate.blogs.
• Obama’s speech: Securing Cyberspace
“The creation of a White House office for cyberdefense
is a step in the right direction. Serious cyberthreats
definitely exist — I see evidence of global eCrime daily.
Attack technologies are growing in complexity and
strength, and civilian government efforts will definitely
need to be prepared for an unauthorized breach.
Maybe people shouldn’t be so dependent on Internet
technologies, but the fact is that they are.
Green Dam Youth Escort
In his remarks today, President Obama emphasized the
global nature of the Internet and the security threats
involved. This means that protecting the Internet
cannot be done without international cooperation.
A White House office will also have to address some
important political and military questions. For
example, it’s typical that online attacks are rerouted
through various countries to make it harder to locate
the attacker’s origin. So it will be important to work
with other countries in combating these attacks.
Moreover, because laws differ from country to country,
cooperative enforcement of laws will be crucial.
Response to Green Dam has been diverse. Privacy
advocates state that Green Dam will act as spyware
allowing for the monitoring of millions of Chinese
computers. China has defended Green Dam against
these claims stating that it is nothing more than filtering
Cyberwarfare will certainly be asymmetrical warfare.
The enemy uses compromised computers belonging
to consumers for their dirty work. As a result, the
United States needs to think carefully about whether
it is willing and committed to counterattack malicious
proxies inside the U.S. or inside allied nations. If an
attacker launches a wide attack through thousands of
infected home computers in Asia and Europe, the U.S.
will need to think carefully about how it will protect
itself and what attempts to deal with this situation are
There are no easy answers. But the good news in all
of this is that President Obama has now clearly and
convincingly brought the importance of this matter
into the spotlight. It’s about time.”
China has mandated that all computers sold in China,
including imports, will need to be pre-installed with a
software application called “Green Dam Youth Escort”. The
requirement takes effect on July 1, 2009. The software’s
intended purpose is to filter pornographic or violent
material. Green Dam is designed for Microsoft Windows.
In addition to censorship and monitoring concerns,
there are claims that Green Dam infringes on copyrights
belonging to Solid Oak Software Inc. The Wall Street
Journal has reported that Solid Oak would file injunctions
on U.S. manufacturers to stop them shipping machines
with Green Dam.
On June 11th, researchers from the University of Michigan
published a report called “ Analysis of the Green Dam
Censorware System”. The report demonstrated various
security vulnerabilities in Green Dam Youth Escort that
could allow “malicious sites to steal private data, send
spam, or enlist the computer in a botnet”. At least one of
the reported vulnerabilities was patched on June 13th.
The security implications of millions of computers running
Green Dam cannot be ignored. Vulnerabilities in Green
Dam could suddenly introduce a “low hanging fruit” to be
exploited on July 1st.
• University of Michigan: http://www.cse.umich.
• Internet Storm Center:
THREAT SUMMARIES V. 2 2011 - 2007
June’s Iranian Presidential Election
The Future
The disputed Iranian presidential election of June 12,
2009 has led to large political protests and a wave of
social networking media use. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube
and other sites are being heavily utilized to distribute
information and to circumvent government censorship.
Facebook now offers a Persian language interface. Google
Translate launched a “Persian ALPHA” tool.
has been used to such an extent that the site was asked by
the United States State Department to delay any network
maintenance that might take the site offline.
Technology does not discriminate between just and unjust
causes. Hopefully the move to create a unified defense
of the American cyber infrastructure will help generate
the tools and organizations to maintain a global virtual
world were information can flow freely and yet people will
be defended against cyber attacks. As President Obama
stated, cyberspace has become “woven into every aspect
of our lives.” It must be protected.
This use of social media sites is a favorable development.
Information wants to be free. On the other side of
technology, there are also calls for Distributed Denial of
Service (DDoS) attacks and targeted hacks against Iranian
government servers.
The threat landscape in the first quarter of 2009 was
dominated by the Conficker worm, which has proved to
be the most significant malware outbreak in recent years.
More information from The World Tech Podcast:
Some of these attacks are much like the Estonian DDoS
attacks of two years ago. Those that could not take part
in physical protests turned to cyberspace in order to take
action. In Iran’s case, calls to DDoS government servers
could create collateral damage to the networks being
used by protestors. As cyberspace continues to integrate
itself with our daily real world activities, we will see more
political cyber attacks in the future. These attacks will
not be carried out by military forces but rather by selforganized groups.
Conficker Remains in the Wild
The Conficker Working Group, a multi-vendor effort,
was a great success and is an excellent example of
international cooperation within the Internet security
industry. Conficker created a great deal of media interest
especially around April 1, 2009, at the start of Q2, when
the Conficker C variant was due to modify its behavior.
Nothing significant really changed on or after April
1st. Variant C began “dialing home” larger numbers of
potential domains, but it simply did not have the same
number of vulnerable machines to infect. The success
of Conficker B exposed the problems that needed to
be addressed and variant C did not have enough of a
foothold to expand the worm further.
The Conficker case once again demonstrated the
emotional interest in outbreaks. Despite the subsequent
loss of media interest, the Conficker worm is still out there
and there are no answers as to what it was designed to do.
THREAT SUMMARIES V. 2 2011 - 2007
Millions of unique IP addresses are currently being logged
by the Working Group’s sinkhole project.
• Post April 1st Conficker Q&A
• New Conficker Action
Twitter spam has become a challenging issue for the site. is Twitter’s official response
to the issue.
Search Engine Optimization
Twitter Worms
The popularity of social networking sites continues
to grow in 2009 and sites such as are
transforming the way in which traditional media reports
news and information.
While the mikeyy Twitter worms were largely an
annoyance, the rapid outbreak and subsequent interest
in “mikeyy” did not go unnoticed by cyber criminals. They
quickly seized the opportunity and search engine results
for “twitter worm” or “mikeyy” soon led people to sites
hosting malware.
A Twitter cross-site scripting worm and spam outbreak
occurred in April during the Easter period. Large numbers
of Twitter profiles were affected. The messages initially
read “I love w w w.Stalk!”. The messages
morphed several times to include “Wow… w w w.Stalk” and “Join w w w.Stalk everyone!”.
Malicious search results based on trending news stories
are becoming commonplace. Knowing the reputation
of sites yielded by search is becoming increasingly
Many people followed the links to, as
they believe the messages to be genuine Tweets from
their friends. A cross-site script on the site then caused
new users to start to Tweet the same messages. Not
surprisingly, the entire worm was a publicity stunt by by one Michael Mooney AKA mikeyy.
There were several variants during April 12th and 13th and
a follow up worm on April 17th that Mike Mooney also
admitted to writing.
Targeted attacks continue unabated. Exploits in popular
file types are used.
All these attacks were JavaScript-based. Turning off
JavaScript, or limiting JavaScript to only trusted sites
will mitigate such worms. As social networking tends to
include a level of trust, consumers will increasingly need
new technologies to protect them against an abuse of
In 2008 we identified approximately 1968 targeted attack
files. The most popular file type was DOC, i.e. Microsoft
Word representing 34.55 percent.
Targeted Attacks
We’ve covered targeted attacks many times in the past
and we’ve also covered PDF and vulnerabilities in Adobe
Acrobat/ Adobe Reader being used to install malware. We
decided to take a look at targeted attacks and see which
file types were the most popular during 2008 and if that
has changed at all during 2009.
THREAT SUMMARIES V. 2 2011 - 2007
Targeted Attacks 2009
As of the middle of Q2, 2009 we have discovered 663
targeted attack files and the most popular file type is now
PDF. Why the change? Primarily because there has been
more vulnerabilities in Adobe Acrobat / Adobe Reader
than in the Microsoft Office applications.
Update Cycle
Adobe recognizes that its popularity makes it a target.
During Quarter 2, 2009, Adobe began a Quarterly Update
This is a promising move as it helps to highlight the need
to keep Adobe applications up-to-date. A quartely update
schedule is more likely to be noticed by those that need
to patch.
F-Secure Health Check
Statistics from our Health Check application show that
during the month of May, 1 in 3 computers scanned were
vulnerable to an Adobe Reader flaw reported in the
month of February. It takes time for consumers to security
update their systems. Adobe’s new quarterly schedule
should help to raise attention to the issue.
The Conficker Worm
Quarter 1 of 2009 has been dominated by the Conficker
network worm.
The sustained growth of malicious software (malware)
during the last few years has been driven by crime. Theft
– whether it is of personal information or of computing
resources – is obviously more successful when it is
silent and therefore the majority of today’s computer
threats are designed to be stealthy. Network worms are
relatively “noisy” in comparison to other threats, and they
consume considerable amounts of bandwidth and other
networking resources. Worms spread very aggressively
and can be quite difficult to control. They are not
generally the weapon of choice for today’s eCriminal.
Infamous worms of the past such as Blaster, CodeRed,
Melissa, and Nimda were authored more by hobbyists
than by professional criminals. The Conficker worm, also
known as Downadup, is quite different and may perhaps
be an indication of threats to come. Analysis of its code
reveals that it has in fact been authored by today’s
“professional” class of malware authors. While some
of it is disorganized, the code is clearly not something
that was written by an amateur. It is complex code and
demonstrates a sophisticated understanding of the
security systems that must be circumvented for the worm
to spread. Conficker utilizes server-side polymorphism
and Access Control List (ACL) modifications to make
network disinfection particularly difficult. When Conficker
infiltrates a Local Area Network (LAN), removal can be a
very time consuming and possibly frustrating task.
Conficker exploits vulnerabilities (MS08-067) in the
Windows Server service. (The Windows MS08-067
vulnerability was patched in an out-of-cycle update
in October 2008.) It also does much more than this.
Conficker uses autorun-worm techniques, spreading itself
via removable USB thumb drives. Once it has infected a
computer, it attempts to access Network Shares and also
attempts to crack local account passwords. If Conficker
compromises an administrator account, it uses the
Windows Task Scheduler service to spread itself to noninfected computers. Those computers, having received
the Scheduled Task from an “administrator” account,
proceed to execute and run the worm without question.
THREAT SUMMARIES V. 2 2011 - 2007
Regarding the MS08-067 vulnerability, the Conficker
worm needs to determine what language version of
Windows it is attacking in order to exploit its victim.
Earlier versions of Conficker were somewhat limited in
their ability to make this distinction as they made a GeoIP
location query via the Internet. The responding GeoIP
database then converted the IP addresses, used by all
computers, into a geographic location. When attacking
a computer located in the USA, the worm attempts to
exploit the English language version of Windows. If the IP
address of the computer under attack is located in China,
the worm then attempts to exploit the Chinese language
version of Windows, and so on.
The providers of the GeoIP database being used by
Conficker.A renamed and moved their database in
order to deny Conficker the ability to locate its victims.
Conficker.B responded to this change by integrating a
small GeoIP database within its own code. Other small
improvements in the worm’s code lead to significant
The B variant of the Conficker worm spread rapidly during
the months of January and February, infecting millions
of computers worldwide. Countries such as China, Brazil,
Russia, and India topped the list of infection counts.
During the same period, there were many reported
instances of European networks that were compromised.
The out-of-band Windows MS08-067 vulnerability
October update shortly before December’s holidays
helped contribute to a lack of testing resources, and many
organizations failed to implement the necessary updates
by the time variant B became a serious threat.
With a swiftly growing number of infections and the
potential threat of the worm “calling home” to its authors,
a number of companies within the antivirus industry,
including F-Secure, banded together to form the
“Conficker Working Group”. The group has successfully
worked together with Internet Domain Registars from
many countries to block the domain address to which
Conficker attempts to communicate. Blocking the worm’s
attempts to call home limits the worm’s authors from
using the infected computers for criminal purposes. This
successful monitoring of the worm continues against the
current variant, Conficker.C, which greatly increased the
number of domains to which it attempts to call home.
More information about Conficker is available from our
Security Labs Blog:
MS08-067 Worms
MS08-067 Worm, Downadup/Conflicker
How Big is Downadup? Very Big
Downadup, Good News / Bad News
Conficker Q&A
Post April 1st Conficker Q&A
Social Networking
Facebook has become the leading Social Networking
website, growing to 175 million accounts during Q1 2009.
Estimates project Facebook reaching 300 million accounts
by the end of 2009. As its user audience grows, Facebook
has become a more attractive target to eCriminals and
fraudsters, leading to the development of Facebook
specific threats, such as:
Facebook 419 scams – Numerous incidences of 419
style “advance fee frauds” are being reported. Password
compromised accounts, resulting either from phishing
or password stealing malware, are being used to scam
social networking friends of the victim. Typically the
compromised account sends out a request for help and
assistance, claiming that money is needed. The victim is
supposedly stuck abroad without any cash. There have
been a number of confirmed reports in which friends have
wired money to the scammers.
Error Check System – Some unscrupulous application
developers using Facebook’s API have attempted to trick
users into installing their applications, such as “Error
Check System”. When installed, “Error Check System” sent
messages to the victim’s friends. The notification message
prompted Facebook users to resolve an “Error” by
clicking the notification link. Spam is the likely goal of the
people behind the application, though spreading links to
malicious external sites is another possibility. Facebook’s
recent layout changes appear to have limited this issue.
Group defacements – Facebook began to allow the
changing of Group names during the month of March.
There are already reports of hijacked and defaced groups.
Fox news reported in early April that a Group centered on
Judaism was defaced with a name referencing Adolf Hitler.
There are many other claims of religious focus Groups
being renamed. As websites are defaced, hackers also
attempt to steal the passwords of Group administrators in
order to cause offense.
THREAT SUMMARIES V. 2 2011 - 2007
Other Social Networking sites are emerging and growing
rapidly, such as Twitter. These sites are contributing to a
rapid sharing of links and other information. What remains
to be seen is whether all of the links being shared can be
trusted, or if criminals will attempt to inject malicious links
into such systems.
Data Breaches
Identity theft and credit card fraud issues continue with
two notable database breaches that occurred during Q1.
Monster UK ( was compromised as a result
of malware targeting the corporate recruiters. From
these corporate accounts, the malware was able to access
the applications of those submitting their CVs/resumes.
Tens of thousands of individuals had their personal data
scraped from the job search site.
In January, Heartland Payment Systems Inc. reported
a massive data breach. Heartland processes payments
for a large number of U.S. retailers, thus potentially
compromising an enormous number of accounts.
Mobile Security
Curse – The “Curse of Silence” exploit against
several current versions of Symbian S60 phones was
demonstrated at the end of December, 2008. The exploit
was very easy to utilize and a video demonstrating how
to perform it was quickly distributed on the Web. The
resulting effect of the exploit jams the victim’s SMS
Many network operators reacted quickly and started
filtering their SMS traffic so as to prohibit the exploit
message. Nokia later released a free recovery utility
called “SMS Cleaner”. The exploit was, at best, a potential
nuisance with little profit motive, and has not been widely
reported to have been used.
Latitude – In February, Google Latitude was introduced
for the very popular mobile Google Maps application.
Google Maps has the ability to locate the phone based on
GPS or cell tower positioning. The Latitude add-on allows
users to “broadcast” their location to approved individuals
using their Google account IDs. The service is easy to use
and is a likely forecaster of things to come. Location based
applications are in high demand and many other service
providers seek to offer solutions with a Social Networking
focus. The introduction of Latitude has alarmed some
privacy advocates, but so far users have control over their
own information.
FlexiSpy – A well known Spy Tool began offering an
iPhone version during Q1, 2009. FlexiSpy for iPhone
requires the phone be “jail broken”. The software’s
features include hiding the interface icon as well as hiding
the fact that the phone itself has been jail broken. FlexiSpy
tracks the phone’s usage (SMS, e-mail, GPS, etc.) and
sends the collected data to FlexiSpy’s website from where
the phone’s owner, or another party, can view the logged
Sexy View – Worm:SymbOS/Yxe.A was the most
significant mobile malware case of Q1. The Yxe worm is
the first discovered SMS worm, and is spread largely in
Yxe is also the first malware that is compiled to run on
Symbian S60 3rd Edition phones. The S60 3rd Edition
platform is greatly protected by requiring applications
to be Symbian Signed. In the case of Yxe, a leaked, valid
certificate was used to sign the worm. Thus, very minimal
user interaction was required for installation.
When Yxe infects a phone by sending an SMS message
to the victim that promises a “sexy view” and celebrity
gossip. The SMS links to a website that then prompts
the victim to install the Yxe worm. If the victim does so,
the worm uses the victim’s Contact list to spread itself
further. The victim’s Contact will receive a message
that appears to be coming from their friend, and so the
worm continues to spread via Social Engineering. On
installation, the worm reports the phone number back to
the website from which it was downloaded.
SMS spam is a large problem in China with hundreds of
billions of spam messages reported. This harvesting of
phone numbers is very similar to the harvesting of e-mail
addresses seen on PCs in 2002. Several network operators
have been fined as China works to shut down access
points that allow the sending of SMS spam.
THREAT SUMMARIES V. 2 2011 - 2007
In January, “cracked”, yet fully working copies, of iWork
2009 were distributed on popular file sharing websites.
Those seeking a “free” version of iWork 2009 also
received a nasty surprise included with the installation
package. Downloading and installing the pirated copy
of the software installed a backdoor application called
Installation of software on Mac OSX requires the user
to supply his administrative password. Any malicious
software must therefore provide some kind of social
engineering pretext to trick the user into entering
that password. In this case however, the user is already
prepared to enter the password in order to install the
“free” software. Additionally, the installation does provide
functional software as promised, giving the victim very
little clue that his system has been compromised.
A version of Adobe Photoshop for Mac was also used as
bait by this malware gang.
There is increasing evidence of malware gangs that are
interested in and prefer to target Macs.
• Backdoor:OSX/iWorkServ.A
THREAT SUMMARIES V. 2 2011 - 2007
Another record breaking year in the growth of malicious software
Growth in amounts of malicious software
Growth in infections
Growth in the number of botnets
Growth in criminal profits
Call for growth in punishment
Detection numbers have tripled
The silent acceleration of malicious software (malware) continues and
2008 has been another groundbreaking year. The year 2007 doubled our
overall detection count and that count has now tripled during the year
2008. An additional one million database signatures were added during
the year, bringing our total number of signature based detections to
approximately 1.5 million.
Historical Detection Count
Time Period
1987 - 2006
Total Number
of Detections
Signatures Added
Explosive sample growth
Coupled with the rapid growth of signature detections has been a
corresponding growth in our sample collections. Adding signature
based malware detections to our databases first requires that copies of
the malicious applications be collected for analysis. We have seen vast
amounts of suspicious files discovered during 2008.
Our current malware sample management system contained many
millions of suspicious applications at the end of last year. During this
THREAT SUMMARIES V. 2 2011 - 2007
year, our unique malicious sample totals increased by
almost 350percent. Tens of millions of suspicious samples
have been imported, scanned, indexed, classified and
categorized by our Response Lab systems. There were
well over ten million unique samples collected this year,
and there were tens of millions more redundant samples
that our systems were required to handle. Our Lab
Development team has been very busy maintaining and
enhancing the system infrastructure to handle the load.
This raw number of incoming samples shows no signs of
decreasing anytime soon.
Test file expansion
Such rapid growth of malicious software has demanded an
expansion of our database test collection files. Releasing
quality databases to our customers is one of our most
important responsibilities and we are today testing with
five times the amount of files compared to one year ago.
This trend will definitely continue into 2009 and we fully
expect to expand our test collection by another 500
percent next year.
White list collections
With the introduction of DeepGuard 2.0 into our product
line, our non-malicious (clean) file collection is an
increasing priority. DeepGuard 2.0 moves part of our
security technologies into our cloud based Real-time
Protection Network.
Network lookups now allow our DeepGuard behavioral
engine to query for the reputation of applications that
are being launched on our customers’ computers.
Good applications are allowed to launch and malicious
applications are blocked. Unknown applications undergo
behavioral analysis. This technology has altered our
processes and our Security Labs are now collecting
legitimate files as fast as they are collecting malicious files.
Our aim is to expand our clean file collections by ten times
the current amount during 2009. Having a huge set of
known good applications will allow our behavioral engine
heuristics to act more aggressively against the ever
increasing amounts of unknown malicious threats.
Exponential growth curves
All of our systems, collections, and databases experienced
exponential growth during 2008 and we fully expect this
trend to continue into next year.
Malware 2008
Busy Botnets
2008 saw increasing amounts of botnet activity around
the world. Botnets are a remotely controlled “robot
network” of infected computers, also known as zombies.
Botnets are very typically made up of infected consumer
computers. The infected zombie computers very often
do not display any local symptoms, except possibly lower
performance. Just how many bots are there in existence?
There are no exact measurements but the potential
numbers are staggering.
Worldwide, there are now approximately 1.2 billion
computers in use. One of the largest ISPs in Finland
estimates that one percent of its customer base exhibits
some bot-like behavior. Finland ranks among the safest
countries in the world with very low malware infection
rates. Finnish ISPs actively police their networks and there
are strong regulatory controls provided to authorities.
One percent is an extremely low figure compared to
worldwide infection rates. Applying just a one percent
bot infection rate to 1.2 billion computers yields 12
million potential bots in active operation. This is a very
THREAT SUMMARIES V. 2 2011 - 2007
conservative estimate and we would not be at all surprised
to discover that the actual figure is many times higher.
It is important to note that not all active bots actually have
botmasters (a controlling remote server telling the bot
what to do). Many of the world’s bots are orphans without
a master, their command and control servers having been
discovered, abused, and taken out of service. However,
even without a master, the bots continue to exist and they
do still attempt to call home. They may also attempt to
continuously carry out their last assignment and to defend
themselves. These orphaned bots are a plague of wasted
computing resources and bandwidth.
As for the bots that are still under criminal control - they
are a dangerous and growing threat to consumers and
businesses everywhere.
During 2008 our Response Lab conducted a small
research project focusing on approximately 60 orphaned
botnets. Listening to the communication attempts of
these bots yielded over 200,000 unique IP addresses
within a 24 hour period. We know that 200,000 is just the
tip of the iceberg and are planning for more extensive
research and anti-bot services during 2009.
Recent outbreaks
Three London area hospitals experienced a worm
outbreak this November.
The Register (November 19, 2008):
Computer systems at three major London hospitals
are largely back online on Friday morning, three days
after a major computer virus outbreak forced staff to
disconnect the network.
IT systems at St Bartholomew’s (Barts), the Royal
London Hospital in Whitechapel and the London Chest
Hospital in Bethnal Green were taken down on Tuesday
following infection by the Mytob worm. The three
hospitals make up the Barts and the London NHS Trust.
The US Department of Defense has banned USB drives.
Wired (November 20, 2008):
The decision to terminate use of removable rewritable
media is a key component in the strategy to defend
against attacks and establish a baseline for information
system protection. Memory sticks, thumb drives and
camera flash memory cards have given the adversary
the capability to exploit our poor personal practices
and have provided an avenue of attack,”
the e-mail continues. “Malicious software
(malware) programmed to embed itself in
memory devices has entered our systems.
Only through a layered defense of training,
technology, procedures and personal
recognizance, can we regain the high
THREAT SUMMARIES V. 2 2011 - 2007
Malware even made its way into space during 2008.
BBC News (August 27, 2008):
NASA has confirmed that laptops carried to the ISS in
July were infected with a virus known as Gammima.AG.
Scareware scams on the rise
Rogue security software scams have grown to become a
major consumer issue during 2008. Fake security products
using strong-arm fear tactics have been produced in bulk.
New websites to promote their installation and purchase
appear every day.
Scareware affiliates, who are paid a large percentage of
the sale for each purchase, use very nasty techniques to
ensure installation. Rootkit techniques are common and
variants will attack and uninstall rival affiliates.
The unfortunate consumers who enter into the trap can
spend hours trying to remove the rogues. Many surrender
and attempt to resolve the issue by making the purchase.
The situation has created enough concern that Microsoft
and Washington State are suing scareware pushers in the
United States.
Washington Post (September 29, 2008):
Microsoft Corp. and the state of Washington this week
filed lawsuits against a slew of “scareware” purveyors,
scam artists who use fake security alerts to frighten
consumers into paying for worthless computer security
“We’re absolutely certain that consumers across the
country have been deeply affected by this.”
We know of consumers worldwide that have been
THREAT SUMMARIES V. 2 2011 - 2007
SQL injection attacks targeted Chinese language sites
Our mid-year security summary noted the use of SQL
injection attacks to inject sites with malicious code. As
hosts to the 2008 Olympics, China saw a surge of such
attacks focused on Chinese language sites.
News from the Lab (August 8, 2008):
With all the attention on China these days, especially
in conjunction with the Beijing 2008 Olympics Games,
and with “China” being one of the more popular search
engine keywords at the moment, it makes sense
for malware writers to focus their attention on the
Chinese web - and we’ve been seeing some interesting
examples of SQL injection attacks specifically targeting
websites designed for a Chinese audience, whether
from the mainland or overseas.
Like most SQL injection attacks, these attacks begin with
a compromising script being injected into a legitimate
site, compromising it and redirecting its users to a
malicious website. This website then takes advantage of
the vulnerabilities available on the user’s computer to
download and execute malicious programs.
team. “You have been compromised, and a serious
amount of files have been loaded off your system.
On the morning after Obama’s win, there were massive
amounts of malicious e-mails using the election and
fictitious videos of the President-elect as bait to tempt
people to click on a link and install malware.
Such targeted attacks are not new and are expected to
continue to be carried out in 2009.
Crime and punishment
Cyber Victories
Our earlier security summaries have highlighted the
challenges involved in bringing cyber criminals to justice.
The second half of this year has seen some moderate
successes against the business of online crime.
Malware is driven by profit and we can clearly see that
criminals will focus their efforts on a new audience if it
develops enough of a market presence.
Attacks continue against high profile targets
Our previous security summaries have noted targeted
attacks. During the recent presidential election in the
United States the computer systems of both candidates
were hit by targeted attacks.
Newsweek (November 5, 2008)
At the Obama headquarters in midsummer, technology
experts detected what they initially thought was a
computer virus [...]. But by the next day, both the FBI
and the Secret Service came to the campaign with an
ominous warning: “You have a problem way bigger
than what you understand,” an agent told Obama’s
For several years the Estonian domain registrar
EstDomains was the largest registrar used by online
criminals for their domain name registration needs. In
October, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names
and Numbers (ICANN) pulled the plug on EstDomains,
and started removing EstDomains from the list of ICANNaccredited registrars.
THREAT SUMMARIES V. 2 2011 - 2007
We first encountered EstDomains in 2005, while we were
investigating the infamous WMF vulnerability. Initially the
main site distributing malicious WMF files, unionseek.
com, was registered via this, then new, Estonian registrar.
Since 2005, tens of thousands of malicious domains have
been registered with EstDomains. They included drive-bydownload sites, botnet command-and-control servers,
spammed domains and so on. Many of the recent fake
antivirus tools as well as rogue codecs have been running
via EstDomains.
The EstDomains operation was run by Mr. Vladimir
Tšaštšin, from the EstDomains office in downtown Tartu.
Vladimir Tatin was sentenced earlier this year to six
months of jail for credit card fraud, money laundering,
and related charges.
This conviction allowed ICANN to exercise its authority
and start the termination process. There were some small
interruptions to that process, but at this point EstDomains
is no longer accredited. Certainly there are other
registrars that will be willing to take on dubious domains,
but we at least will not miss EstDomains.
Rogue service providers
In September the criminal enabling ISP Atrivo / Intercage
had its upsteam service access terminated. The result was
a noticeable drop in worldwide spam output.
The take down of Atrivo helped to end the life of the
infamous Storm worm botnet which lost a few key
components during the termination. Storm was a very
successful botnet which utilized an advanced structure
and innovative technologies.
A reporter from the Washington Post, Brian Krebs,
almost singlehandedly got rid of 2/3 of e-mail spam
on the Internet in November. The San Jose (California,
USA) based Internet service provider McColo hosted
the Command and Control (C&C) servers for several
large botnets that were used to send massive amount
of spam to millions of users around the world. Mr. Krebs
gathered evidence against McColo and convinced the
companies providing bandwidth to the ISP to shut down
the connections. In a matter of hours the amount of spam
being distributed worldwide dropped by 66percent.
However, the botnet owners were able to update the
network and change the location of the command and
control servers to an ISP in Russia. The amount of spam
being sent remained at a low level for two weeks but by
the end of November they were back up to 70percent of
the original level.
As noted earlier, killing the botmaster doesn’t disinfect
the bot. The cyber criminals involved are now attempting
to reestablish control or to build new botnets. Spam
volumes will eventually return to previous levels.
Nevertheless, anything that disrupts the operations of
cyber criminals and reduces their profits is a win. More
actions like this should be taken. Investigative journalism
armed with information from security experts pushed
McColo’s upsteam providers to kill its connections.
F-Secure believes that it is time for a professional,
authoritative, investigative group to be established.
Dark Market
In an example of what aggressive law enforcement action
can accomplish, the FBI announced in October the
conclusion of a two-year undercover operation targeting
an online carding forum (a criminal service dealing with
e.g. stolen credit card information), resulting in 56 arrests.
The operation was conducted in cooperation with law
enforcement agencies around the world. The sting also
resulted in over USD 70 million in fraud being prevented.
FBI (October 16, 2008):
The FBI, in conjunction with many partners in
international law enforcement, today announced
the conclusion of a two-year undercover operation
targeting members of the online “carding” forum
known as Dark Market.
Cyber criminals using this forum represented a virtual
transnational criminal network spanning numerous
countries who were involved with the buying and selling
of stolen financial information including credit card data,
login credentials (user names and passwords), as well as
equipment used in carrying out certain financial crimes.
At its peak the Dark Market website had over 2,500
registered members.
With the take down of Dark Market, there have been
numerous arrests, including many in the U.K.
With all of the growth in malware and in online crime, we
would like to see growth in the number of arrests and jail
sentences for cyber criminals during 2009.
THREAT SUMMARIES V. 2 2011 - 2007
There will be continued growth in the quantity of online
threats with a continued incremental evolution of the
malware involved. Crimeware is firmly established. Online
crime is a business and we do not predict radical shifts
in tactics. There are likely to be hundreds of millions
to billions of dollars lost each year to crime. A good
percentage of that is involved with online transactions
in one form or another. With such a record of successful
growth, we don’t expect the formula to change very
The number of smartphones globally has grown from
approximately 300 million in 2007 to approximately
475 million by end of 2008. These figures are expected
to continue growing, meaning there is an increasing
number of people with both personal and business related
information such as contacts, photos or e-mails, stored
on their smartphones. Even thought there has not been
a significant increase in malware for mobile phones, it is
important to secure the data in case the smartphone is
lost or stolen with anti-theft solutions.
We have seen a small but increasing number of Mac OSX
trojans during 2008. The latest, Trojan-Downloader:OSX/
Jahlev.A, includes functionality to install future malware
We predict that we’ll see additional Mac trojans during
2009, and that we will also see new security solutions and
vendors entering the Mac OSX market.
Botnets will grow and will adopt new technologies such
as the Peer to Peer (P2P) functions exhibited by the Storm
worm. Recent successes against rogue ISPs will prompt
malware authors to develop disaster recovery plans.
Additional successes in cutting off command and control
servers could incite an online territory war as online gangs
compete for existing resources.
We predict that authorities will recognize the value in
fighting online crime and the need will increase for the
establishment of an international agency tasked with
enforcement knowledge or investigative assistance.
The call for the establishment of “Internetpol” by Mikko
Hypponen, Chief Research Officer at F-Secure, has been
received with great interest internationally.
THREAT SUMMARIES V. 2 2011 - 2007
Challenge of bringing cyber criminals to justice
• As courts and law enforcement struggle to stem
the mounting Internet crime wave,
• F-Secure’s Chief Research Officer Mikko Hypponen
calls for the establishment of “Internetpol” to
bring online criminals to justice
• Phishers exploiting international banking crisis
• US presidential election spam
• Return of the malicious attachment
During the last quarter there have been several interesting
legal cases involving Internet crime, which highlight the
challenges of bringing cyber criminals to justice.
In the United States, a prolific spammer who had received
a long prison sentence saw his conviction overturned by
the Virginia Supreme Court in September. Jeremy Jaynes
was the first person to be tried and sentenced under
an anti-spam law enacted in 2003. Following an appeal,
Virginia Supreme Court decided that the state Anti-Spam
Law violated the First Amendment to the United States
Constitution concerning the right to free and anonymous
The Court documents show that there was no question
about Jaynes’ guilt. He used several computers, routers
and servers to send over 10,000 e-mails within a 24-hour
period to subscribers of America Online, Inc. (AOL) on
three separate occasions. He intentionally falsified the
header information and sender domain names before
transmitting the e-mails.
While searching Jaynes’ home, police discovered CDs
containing over 176 million full e-mail addresses and 1.3
billion e-mail user names. They also confiscated storage
discs which contained private account information for
millions of AOL subscribers. The AOL user information had
been stolen from AOL by a former employee and was in
Jaynes’ possession.
Just six months ago, the same court upheld the Anti-Spam
Law and determined that there is no First Amendment
right to spam. The latest reversal has provoked many
questions from Internet security commentators.
Teenage Kiwi botmaster has bright future
In New Zealand, Owen Thor Walker, 18, known online as
“AKILL” and dubbed as the “Kiwi botmaster king” in the
international media, escaped a jail sentence in July despite
pleading guilty to developing banking trojans that earned
an estimated USD 15.4 million to a criminal gang.
The court ordered the teenager to pay damages and costs
of about USD 10,800, with the judge describing him as a
young man with a “potentially outstanding future” after he
cooperated with the police. The judge stated that Walker,
who suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome, a mild form of
autism, was hacking from curiosity rather than criminal
Walker was arrested after an 18 month investigation by
New Zealand, Dutch and American authorities. According
to TVNZ, Walker collaborated with an American student
to infect 1.3 million computers, costing the victims around
USD 20 million. Walker is now reportedly being wooed by
major computer companies overseas. Local police also
said that Walker’s “talents” could come in handy.
Lawsuits against scareware merchants
The Attorney General’s Office in Washington, United
States, and Microsoft recently announced that they are
filing new lawsuits targeting scareware purveyors. One
of the cases is against James Reed McCreary IV, who is
accused with sending incessant pop-ups resembling
system warnings to consumers’ personal computers. The
DAMAGED AND CORRUPTED,” and instructed users to
visit a Web site to download Registry Cleaner XP.
“Consumers who visited the Web site were offered a free
scan to check their computer - but the program found
‘critical’ errors every time,” said Senior Counsel Paula Selis,
who leads the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection
High-Tech Unit. “Users were then told to pay USD 39.95 to
repair these dubious problems.” Microsoft has said that 50
percent of its customer support calls related to computer
crashes can be blamed on spyware.
F-Secure notes that Registry Cleaner XP is just one of the
increasing number of rogue security applications which
also include Antivirus 2009, Malwarecore, WinDefender,
WinSpywareProtect and XPDefender.
THREAT SUMMARIES V. 2 2011 - 2007
Call for establishment of “Internetpol”
While applauding efforts by the courts and police forces
of different countries in challenging cyber crime, Mikko
Hypponen, F-Secure’s Chief Research Officer, believes
that there should be an international agency with the
enforcement power to get a grip on the organized online
“The Internet has no borders and online crime is
almost always international, yet local police authorities
often have limited resources for investigations. Even
if the locations of online criminals are discovered, the
investigations rarely uncover the full scope of the crime.
The victims, police, prosecutors and judges cannot see
the full picture and therefore don’t know the true costs of
the crime,” says Hypponen.
“Antivirus and security companies are not law
enforcement, nor should they be. They are protecting
their customers’ computers but little can be done directly
by non-governmental organizations to fight the criminals
at the heart of the matter. We should consider the
creation of an online version of Interpol - ‘Internetpol’ that is specifically tasked with targeting and investigating
the top of the crimeware food chain,” says Hypponen.
Hypponen recognizes that such an organization would
clearly face a number of legal and other challenges. For
example, malicious code is often created from countries
where it is not illegal or not prosecuted. “But if we do not
act now to fight the source of crimeware, it will continue
to grow stronger and threatens to destroy the current
model of Internet business, banking and commerce,” he
US Federal Trade Commission warns about
“Phisher-man’s special”
As the international banking crisis shakes up the world
economy, leaving consumer’s confused as to which bank
might be holding their savings account or mortgage this
week, phishers are taking advantage of the situation to
obtain personal information such as bank account details
or credit card numbers.
The US Federal Trade Commission issued an alert last
week urging Internet users to be on guard against e-mails
that look as if they come from a financial institution that
has recently acquired a consumer’s bank, mortgage
lender or savings and loan association.
“Currently there only seem to be e-mails related to
Wachovia Corporation’s sale to Citibank being used
as bait. The phish is attempting to get the recipient to
download a new ‘certificate’ from a Wachovia phishing
site. However, instead of collecting information, this
attack will also install a banking Trojan,” explains F-Secure
Security Advisor Sean Sullivan.
Presidential election spam
As the presidential election in the United States nears its
climax, criminals are busy devising sensational headlines
related to the candidates in order to persuade people
to click on spam e-mails. A recent spam run has already
set the tone by claiming to reveal a sex scandal involving
Senator Barack Obama, the Democratic candidate. The
e-mail with the fake news contains an attachment that
links to a pornographic video.
In order to conceal the primary intent of the e-mail which is to infect computers with a trojan that collects
information about bank transactions - the video starts
playing when the malicious file is downloaded and
executed. Consequently, every time Internet Explorer
is launched and the user connects to certain banking
sites, especially well-known banks in Germany, the trojan
collects the information and posts it to the website of
a fictional “Medved Hotel” in Finland. The layout of the
website looks convincing to unsuspecting users because it
has been stolen from a real Finnish hotel.
We expect much more spam with a presidential election
theme in the run-up to polling day.
THREAT SUMMARIES V. 2 2011 - 2007
Return of the malicious attachment
During the third quarter of 2008 we saw a sharp increase
in malware being delivered as e-mail attachments. This
was surprising as malicious attachments in e-mails are
usually not successful in reaching the recipient because
they are automatically removed by the Internet Service
Provider or by the e-mail client. As a result, malware
authors stopped using this approach and moved on to
using links in e-mails or automatic downloads via exploits
from websites.
The recent attachments were inside an archive, typically a
ZIP file which unfortunately isn’t filtered by most security
solutions. Some of the archives even required a password,
making it more difficult for anti-virus solutions to scan
The different themes that were used to trick the user into
running the file included bills or receipts from a variety of
companies like JetBlue and UPS and greeting cards. This
approach is not unlike phishing scams where the risk of
losing money is used to trick the user into running the file
and getting infected.
Silent Growth of Malware Accelerates
The number of malware detections seen during the first
half of 2008 has exceeded the growth rate experienced
during 2007. We ended 2007 with 500,000 total
detections. By the end of June 2008 this number is around
900,000. The growth rate has never been faster.
This recent explosion of malware doesn’t necessarily
represent new types of threats. It is largely the packing,
encryption, and obfuscation of existing families of
trojans, backdoors, exploits, and other threats. What the
increasing use of self-defense technologies in malware
represents is the ever growing professionalism within the
crime-ware community.
Criminals are adapting and utilizing enterprise level
systems and code within their operations. The complexity
and quality of their IT infrastructure and systems
continues to increase, providing them with the power to
silently flood the Internet with their menace.
Targeted Attacks
Trend towards More Targeted Attacks
The first half of 2008 has witnessed a growing number of
targeted malware attacks on individuals, companies, and
In a targeted malware attack, the attacker profiles his
victim and sends an e-mail using the recipient’s name,
title, and perhaps references to his job function. The
message’s content is typically something that the
recipient would expect to receive via e-mail.
THREAT SUMMARIES V. 2 2011 - 2007
The content will seem like an ordinary Word or PDF
document, or other common file type, but infects the
recipient’s computer with a hidden payload. Often
this is a backdoor that gives the attacker access to the
information stored on the computer without any outward
sign of infection.
As an example of an attack during the month of May,
high-level executives were targeted with an e-mail
mentioning a supposed complaint made to the Better
Business Bureau (USA) about their company. By
researching their chosen targets, the criminals were able
to use real company and individual names. This made the
approach much more credible to the recipients, who were
then more likely to follow the on-screen instructions and
put their computer at risk. The technique used a high
degree of social engineering and specialized malware to
infect the would-be victims.
In this case the e-mail message linked to w w
com in order to download the “complaint”. The real Better
Business Bureau is located at w w The
supposed complaint allegedly required an Adobe Acrobat
update to be read and the download claimed to require
Internet Explorer and an ActiveX component. Once the
ActiveX application was installed, a backdoor opened the
system and provided access to confidential information.
Targeted Political Motives
Targeted malware attacks are also being used for political
and military motives. During the recent clashes between
Tibetans and the Chinese military, the battles on the
streets were accompanied by political espionage on the
Internet. Human rights groups, pro-Tibet organizations
and individuals supporting the freedom of Tibet were
attacked with a carefully targeted and technically
advanced e-mail campaign that attempted to infect their
computers in order to spy on their actions.
The content of the e-mails was crafted from the real
announcements and messages of the pro-Tibet groups.
Some e-mails purported to include pictures of Tibetans
shot by the Chinese army. The e-mails were forged to
look like they were coming from trusted persons or
organizations, making it more likely that they would be
opened by the recipients. They were sent to mailing lists,
private forums and directly to persons working inside proTibet groups. Some individuals received targeted attacks
several times a month. The attacks used many “trusted”
file types including DOC, XLS, PPT, PDF, and CHM.
For example, one document seemed as if it was sent by
the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization
(UNPO) but the e-mail headers were forged and the
e-mail was coming from somewhere else altogether. The
e-mail issued a statement of solidarity for the people of
Tibet and contained a modified version of a PDF-encoded
vulnerability to exploit Adobe Acrobat. If the recipients
opened the document, they were infected with a
keylogger that collected and sent everything typed on the
affected machine to a server running at a DNS-bouncer
system. The exploit inside the PDF file was even crafted to
evade detection by most antivirus products at the time.
We have seen some of the same malware applications
used for both political and corporate attacks. This
supports the conclusion that those with the political
motives to attack free Tibet groups are also involved
in attacks on businesses, notably businesses within the
defense industry.
Guarding against such personalized attacks requires great
individual vigilance and a strong security culture within
an organization. Most security education is designed to
inform people of online threats directed at millions of
Internet users and is not nearly as effective in protecting
individuals who have been specifically targeted.
F-Secure has developed proactive DeepGuard technology
to fight attacks such as these targeted attacks. DeepGuard
is shipping in all of F-Secure’s current workstation
Spear Phishing
The same tools and information that are helping criminals
to collect data on individuals is also being used to collect
profiles on groups. Phishing a particular group is known
as spear phishing. The attackers only send phishing bait
to those that match the data profile. A spear phishing
attempt may even attempt to address the recipient by
name by analyzing the e-mail address. For example,
“john.smith @” becomes “Dear John”
rather than “Dear Customer” as is used by most generic
Increasingly Sophisticated Malware
Not all of the malware seen during the first half of the year
were repackaged known threats. There were also some
notable developments.
THREAT SUMMARIES V. 2 2011 - 2007
The flexibility of current malware attacks demonstrates
that some criminals have considerable resources and
expertise at hand. Creating advanced backend systems
requires serious time and investment.
This year we have seen a very advanced Master Boot
Record (MBR) rootkit, known as “Mebroot”, which is
probably the stealthiest malware produced so far.
It keeps the amount of system modifications to a
minimum and is very challenging to detect from within
the infected system. The F-Secure team that developed
our defense against Mebroot estimates that it took several
months of development.
The Storm worm has been dubbed malware 2.0 for its
sophisticated sense of timing and social engineering
methods, as well as the complexity of its design. It utilizes
peer-to-peer technologies, creating a decentralized
botnet that fights back against detection.
Storm has played a major role in the evolution of the
online threat towards the current trend of drive by
Microsoft Corporation reported in April that its Malicious
Software Removal Tool (MSRT) has been very successful
in disinfecting Storm’s bots, remotely controlled
components in the criminal Storm gang’s network of
infected computers.
Nevertheless, there has recently been an upswing in
e-mails being sent out attempting to trick people into
visiting Storm websites. The Storm botnet certainly isn’t as
big as it used to be, but it’s unlikely that we have seen the
last of it.
More and more web sites are using database back-ends
to make them faster and more dynamic. From a security
perspective, this means that it’s crucial to verify what
information gets stored in or requested from those
databases — especially if a web site allows users to
upload content themselves which happens all the time
in discussion forums, blogs, feedback forms, and so on.
Unless that data is sanitized before it gets saved, it’s not
possible to control what the web site will show to the
users. SQL injection is all about exploiting weaknesses in
these controls.
Such mass SQL injection attacks are increasing in number
and we’re seeing more domains being injected and used
to host the attack files. Tens of thousands of hacked sites
are actively affected. Millions have been hacked. We
believe that there is now more than one criminal group
using a set of different automated tools to inject malicious
code. There is no longer any such thing as a “trusted site”.
Any site running a vulnerable form is at risk.
The SQL attacks inject IFrames that attempt to use several
exploits to infect visiting computers. Infection by driveby-download is more common than ever before.
Browser Wars
New versions of popular web browser have been released
during the month of June. Firefox version 3 was released
on June 18th with a very large marketing push in the
United States. Millions of copies were downloaded and
installed within the first 24 hours.
Opera 9.5 was released on June 12th. Internet Explorer 8 is
in beta development.
All of these browsers contain enhanced security features
that promise more of a challenge to malware.
Third Party Applications
Criminal Injections
During the first half of 2008 we’ve seen online criminals
using powerful tools to locate websites using SQL servers
hosting insecure pages. The SQL servers themselves
are not insecure; the tools seek out web forms that
allow unchecked/unfiltered malicious input. Using the
vulnerable forms these tools automatically injected the
site with malicious code.
As browsers are become hardened, much of the “lowest
hanging fruit” has become the third party applications
that have a large installed base.
Adobe Flash is one example. Flash is installed on nearly all
Windows based computers. The Response Lab received
sizable numbers of malicious Flash files during May
and June. Such Adobe Flash exploits have been used in
combination with the SQL injection attacks mentioned
above. All but the current version of Flash are at
risk and many, many computers do not have the current
version installed.
THREAT SUMMARIES V. 2 2011 - 2007
The powerful automated tools employed by malware
wielding criminals have made it ever more important to
update all of the application installed on one’s computer.*
Mobile Phone Security
During the first half of 2008 there were no significant
mobile malware outbreaks. There was one new S60 2nd
Edition worm called Beselo, more proof-of-concept type
malware, and new commercial spy tools.
Mobile phone “modding” - the recreational hacking or
modifying of phone hardware/handsets - has been very
dynamic during the January to June period. Mobile phone
enthusiasts are drawn to popular hardware and are eager
to unlock any restrictions that exist. It’s very similar to
the modding culture that exists among the video game
Jailbreak is a UNIX term that refers to the placing of files
outside of a restricted folder structure. Once files have
access to and are located in such restricted folders privileged locations - the operating system can be altered.
The term jailbreak recently entered popular culture
thanks to the Apple iPhone. Enthusiasts have developed
easy to use tools with which to jailbreak the iPhone. The
popularity of the device has led to rapid growth in iPhone
security research.
Perhaps some of this mobile activity has fueled the
Symbian modder community as well. The Symbian
operating system is the market-leading open operating
system for mobile smartphones. Sales and marketshare for Symbian based phones far exceed those of the
iPhone. It is now possible to “Jailbreak” the Symbian S60
3rd Edition operating system with a single easy to use
Recent hacking techniques have targeted Symbian’s
debugging interface, thus giving modders full control of
the device without having to touch the firmware which
can be risky. It also appears that all versions of the current
Symbian operating system may be vulnerable to the
techniques used. A graphical SISX application has only
been developed for S60 3rd Edition however.
The privilege escalation allows the phone’s owner to
install completely unsigned applications. Only signed
or self-signed applications are possible with the security
model intact. The hack limits the launching of new
applications, but combined with another application, the
hack can be toggled on or off at will following the first
It’s possible that Cabir, Commwarrior, or Beselo source
code could be updated to run on S60 3rd Edition phones
and with the addition of this privilege escalation they
could cause similar problems as they do on 2nd Edition
phones. However, Nokia and Symbian have worked
on more S60 security features than just the platform
security capabilities model. Current user interfaces would
present more of a social engineering challenge than
with 2nd Edition phones. We predict that someone will
produce malware for 3rd Edition phones at some point
just to prove that it’s possible, but don’t yet foresee any
widespread threat.
More likely we’ll see a small but growing subset of
enthusiasts running homebrew applications in much the
same way as with the iPhone. Those users who are willing
to risk the security consequences will run free applications
from developers that skip the expense of the Symbian
signing process. This subset of enthusiasts will continue
to grow and will present more and more of a challenge to
IT administrators attempting to enforce security policies
within their organizations.
THREAT SUMMARIES V. 2 2011 - 2007
Windows 7
The amount of new malware has never been higher. Our
labs are receiving an average of 25,000 malware samples
every day, seven days a week. If this trend continues,
the total number of viruses and Trojans will pass the one
million mark by the end of 2008.
While there are more viruses being created than ever
before, people often actually report seeing less of them.
One reason behind this illusion is that malware authors
are once again changing their tactics in how to infect our
A year or two ago, most malware was spread via e-mail
attachments, which resulted in mass outbreaks like
Bagle, Mydoom and Warezov. Nowadays sending .EXE
attachments in e-mail doesn't work so well for the
criminals because almost every company and organization
is filtering out such risky attachments from their e-mail
The criminals’ new preferred way of spreading malware is
by drive-by downloads on the Web. These attacks often
still start with an e-mail spam run but the attachment
in the e-mail has been replaced by a web link, which
takes you to the malicious web site. So instead of getting
infected over SMTP, you get infected over HTTP.
Drive-by downloads
Infection by a drive-by download can happen
automatically just by visiting a web site, unless you
have a fully patched operating system, browser and
browser plug-ins. Unfortunately, most people have some
vulnerabilities in their systems. Infection can also take
place when you are fooled into manually clicking on a
download and running a program from the web page that
contains the malware.
There are several methods criminals use to gather traffic
to these websites. A common approach is to launch an
e-mail spam campaign containing messages that tempt
people to click on a link. Messages like "There is a video of
you on YouTube", or "You have received a greeting card",
or "Thank you for your order" have been popular baits.
Another method used by criminals is to create many web
pages with thousands of different keywords which are
indexed by Google, and then simply wait for people to
visit these sites. So when you do a search for something
innocuous like "knitting mittens" (as a random example),
and click on a search result that looks just like all the
others, you are actually getting your computer infected.
Typically, an infection by an automatic exploit happens
without you realizing it or seeing anything strange on the
computer screen.
The third method of distributing malware involves the
criminals hacking into existing high profile, high traffic
web sites. Unlike the joke defacements that some hackers
played on the front pages of prominent web sites in the
past, today’s criminal hackers don’t change the front page
at all. They simply insert a line of javascript on the front
page which uses an exploit to infect your machine when
you go there. Everything works and looks as normal.
This has happened to the web sites of some popular
magazines which can have a million users every single day.
People trust sites that are part of their daily routine, and
they couldn’t suspect that anything bad could happen
when they go there.
Another vector for drive-by downloads are infiltrated
ad networks. We are seeing more and more advertising
displayed on high-profile websites. By infiltrating the ad
networks, the criminals don’t have to hack a site but their
exploit code will still be shown to millions of users, often
without the knowledge of the webmaster of those sites.
Examples of where this has happened include,
Expedia, NHL, and MLB.
It is important to be aware of this shift from SMTP to
HTTP infections, which can be exploited by the criminals
in many ways. Companies often measure their risk of
getting infected by looking at the amount of stopped
attachments at their e-mail gateway. Those numbers
are definitely going down, but the actual risk of getting
infected probably isn't.
Individuals and companies should therefore be scanning
their web traffic for malware - as well as filtering their FTP
traffic. In parallel to the switch from SMTP to HTTP as a
way of spreading malware, we are now also seeing more
and more malicious e-mails that link to malware via FTP
THREAT SUMMARIES V. 2 2011 - 2007
Advanced rootkit emerges
A MBR rootkit - known as Mebroot - is probably the
stealthiest recent malware we have observed, and has so
far been distributed by drive-by downloads.
Mebroot replaces the infected system's Master Boot
Record (MBR), which is the first physical sector of the hard
drive and contains the first code loaded and executed
from the drive during the boot process. It keeps the
amount of system modifications to a minimum and is very
challenging to detect from within the infected system.
MBR viruses used to be the most common form of viruses
at the time of the DOS operating system about 15 years
ago. Recently there were academic papers published in
conferences discussing whether this kind of MBR stealth
could ever happen in the age of Windows. We have been
very surprised to see it happening for real now in 2008.
This means that the criminals have both the funds and
the high level expertise to develop such complex attacks.
They have succeeded in developing code that loads
from the boot sector of the hard drive, stays alive while
Windows boots up, then loads parts of itself and injects to
the operating system when Windows is up and running,
and manages to hide all this very effectively.
We are likely to see this technique being used by quite a
variety of malware. These first MBR rootkits are banking
Trojans targeting several online banks, where the
criminals are clearly seeing an opportunity to make a
return on their investment.
First mobile ransom Trojan
Making money is what today’s malware is all about and
the first ransom Trojans for smartphones have been
found in China. We have already seen similar Trojans
on the PC side before which infect your computer, take
your data ‘hostage’ or somehow disrupt your computer’s
capabilities, and then offer to restore everything back to
normal if you pay out the ransom money. Typically, the
ransom Trojan first encrypts your hard drive and then
sends you a password after you have sent money to the
criminals via an online money transfer system.
In the case of Kiazha, the first smartphone ransom
Trojan, you get infected by downloading a shareware
lookalike program on your phone, which then drops
several known older viruses on your phone. Next it sends
a message explaining that you can only get the phone
fixed by transferring the equivalent of seven dollars
to the attackers through an online payment system.
Today’s smartphones are so important to many people
that they are prepared to pay a ransom to get back their
phonebook, calendar and mobile emails, so we might well
be seeing much more of this type of malware in the future.
More mobile trouble
The Beselo worms spread via MMS and Bluetooth by
using a novel form of social engineering to trick users
into installing an incoming SIS application installation
file. What makes Beselo interesting is that instead of a
standard SIS extension, the Beselo family uses common
media file extensions. This leads the recipient to believe
that he or she is receiving a picture or sound file instead of
a Symbian application. The recipient is then far more likely
to answer "yes" to any questions the phone prompts after
clicking on such an incoming file.
The filenames used by Beselo are beauty.jpg, sex.mp3, and
love.rm. So if you have a Symbian S60 phone and receive
a media file, answer "no" to any installation prompt that
appears when trying to open the file. There is no reason
for any image file to ask installation questions on the
Symbian platform, so any image or sound file that does
something else than play immediately is definitely not
what it claims to be.
Beselo worms are compiled for S60 2nd Edition phones.
Attempting to open the file on a 3rd Edition phone
will probably cause an error message rather than an
installation prompt.
HatiHati.A is another troublemaker, a worm-like
application that spreads via MMC cards. Once the worm
has copied itself to a new device, it starts sending SMS
messages to a predefined number which can prove very
For a video about mobile threats, please go to our video
THREAT SUMMARIES V. 2 2011 - 2007
What previously took twenty years to accumulate - was now accumulated
in just one year
At the start of 2007 - our number of malware detections equaled a quartermillion. At the end of 2007, the estimates are to be equal to half-a-million.
THREAT SUMMARIES V. 2 2011 - 2007
Using sensationalized versions of real headlines as
a template proved to be a very clever bit of social
engineering and was initially very successful. However,
during H2 the headline technique’s success declined
as it was repeated too often. So the gang behind Storm
adjusted their procedures. During the second half of
2007 (H3), they have continuously updated their social
engineering tactics. Targeting the U.S. - they have used
holidays such as Labor Day and seasonal events such
as the beginning of the National Football League (NFL)
season. Targeting others - the gang keeps up-to-date
with popular trends and sites. One of their tricks was the
promise of seeing “yourself” in a supposed YouTube video
in a message pointing to a fake YouTube site.
Malware 2007
There was a great deal of volume seen during 2007.
Malware authors are producing variants in bulk. Genuine
innovation appears to be on the decline and is currently
being replaced with volume and mass-produced kit
malware. But while new techniques weren’t developed
- the existing techniques were refined and adapted
for much greater effectiveness. There are some very
dangerous faces in the big crowd.
Windows Vista was on the horizon at the end of 2006 and
the question was - would Vista be the end to malware
threats? Not this year at least - The year 2007 ends with
Windows XP still dominating the world’s installed base
leaving Vista little opportunity to make an impact. The
potential strength of Vista has not yet been tested in
full force. And much of the malware in the wild running
on XP machines is stronger than ever. We predict that
the situation will not change very soon looking at Vista’s
current sales.
Storm - Botnet 2007
Our Data Security Wrap-Up for the first half of 2007 (later
referred to as H2) noted the birth of the “Storm Worm”
- Storm being the umbrella name for a collection of
backdoor trojans and e-mail worms.
On Friday, January 19th 2007, e-mail messages with
subject lines based on actual news began to circulate. The
subject line of “230 dead as storm batters Europe” coined
the name Storm. There were in fact dozens of real deaths
related to European storms during that time.
The gang has also altered Storm’s infection vector as
detection of Storm increased and e-mail attachments
were blocked. Instead of attaching the malware to the
e-mail messages as before, they spammed messages
with links to malicious Web pages. When the detection
of the Web pages increased, they cleaned up the pages
and instead linked to the malware from the page. So the
vector evolution moved from e-mail attachments to
Web pages pushing files to Web pages linking to files.
(And those files are modified on the fly…) The evolution
continues and adjusts as needed.
It is interesting to note that we have seen IFrames (inline
frames) used by some Storm sites offering 16 versions of
Storm to U.S. based IP addresses rather than the 9 that
were offered to IP addresses outside the United States.
Storm is produced in Europe but the social engineering
has a definite U.S. agenda. They appear to have agents on
both sides of the Atlantic.
The computers responsible for sending Storm spam and
for the hosting of Storm’s Web pages are they themselves
part of the Storm botnet. And that botnet is rather unique
as it utilizes peer-to-peer (P2P) protocols. Traditional
botnets use a centralized approach. If the server is
located and taken out of service, then the botnet’s head
is decapitated. Storm is a collective with no central point
to shut down. There’s no central command-and-control
point to kill.
September’s Malicious Software Removal Tool, part of
Microsoft’s monthly updates, made a dent in the size of
the Storm botnet - the tool removed a good number of
Storm’s bots during the update process - but the botnet
remains and the dent hasn’t muted its overall strength.
THREAT SUMMARIES V. 2 2011 - 2007
Another special feature of the Storm botnet is that it
protects itself. Repeat requests from a single source of
one particular machine will result in many members of
the botnet retaliating with a Distributed Denial of Service
(DDoS) attack. Researchers must use caution during
investigations or the botnet gets aggressive.
October brought evidence of Storm variations using
unique security keys. The unique keys will allow the
botnet to be segmented allowing “space for rent”. It
looks as if the Storm gang is preparing to sell access to
their botnet. The end of H3 2007 finds Storm in a very
strong position and utilizing only a fraction of its potential
processing power.
Malware Trends During H2
Banking Trojans
While there are greater numbers of phishing sites online,
it is most likely the result of kits such as Rock Phish. It is
as easy to host multitudes of phishing sites as it is to host
one. This ease of creation contributes to saturation and
so there is a gradual reduction in the overall effectiveness.
People are a bit more wary of phishing bait.
So what to do if you want to steal banking information?
Use banking trojans.
Banking trojans sit and patiently wait for any banking
activity. Trojans, by definition, use a decoy or ploy to get
installed. Bank names are not mentioned. If the decoy
uses clever social engineering, the victim may never
realize what they have really installed on their computer.
Monitoring browser activity (URLs) for banking keywords
is the Trojan’s task. When banking is discovered, a number
of different techniques can be employed to steal the data.
Form grabbing
Screenshots and video capture
Injection of fraudulent pages or Form fields
Man-in-the-middle attacks
See The Trojan Money Spinner (PDF file) for additional
details. VB Conference September 2007 .
Banking trojans are not a new phenomenon. But we have
seen definite growth in 2007.
There is growing evidence of banking malware injecting
itself into the browser. This allows some of the techniques
above to be done as Man-in-the-Browser (MitB) attacks.
These types of attacks allow the malware to use the
browser as its platform. Encrypted banking sessions occur
within the browser, so that’s where banking malware
wants to be, before the banking session leaves the
browser. We’ll see more of this trend in 2008.
Trojan Password-Stealers and Online Games
Another segment of interest this year has been Trojan
password-stealers, specifically those that target online
games. Online games continued to grow in popularity
throughout the year 2007. More importantly - revenues
continued to increase. More revenues means customers
are spending more money, that’s the reason online game
customers are increasingly becoming targets.
The economics are relatively straightforward even if the
market is a bit of a novelty. Virtual commodities exist
in the virtual worlds of online games. Many players of
such games are willing to spend real money on these
virtual commodities. So the value of these goods is real
even if they are not physically real. And things of real
value are the targets of theft. The stolen commodities
get auctioned off and the thieves are difficult to identify
because the crime is completely online.
In short, the money being spent within virtual games
and communities has increased - so we’ve seen a
corresponding increase in the growth of this segment
during 2007.
The family Trojan-PSW:W32/OnlineGames was founded
in September 14th, 2006. By the end of that year, we had
around 150 detections. By the end of 2007, we will be near
to having twenty thousand detections for this family. And
there are numerous other families targeting the online
games segment as well.
Zlob - Fake Video Codecs and DNSChangers
One of the most successful pests of 2007 is Zlob. It’s
spyware that often claims to be a needed “video codec”
to view copy-protected media.
Once installed, Zlob variants typically show fake error
messages designed to convince the computer user into
installing and buying rogue antispyware products.
THREAT SUMMARIES V. 2 2011 - 2007
overcome, at least it hasn’t been a challenge for password
protected Windows malware. And we’re seeing a growing
number of Mac DNSChanger variants. The previous lack of
Mac OSX malware could be a distinct disadvantage for its
users. Social engineering can short-circuit a false sense of
Apple Mac’s market share is now significant enough for
the Zlob parasites to target, as malware gangs don’t make
an effort to develop something without the promise of a
profitable return.
Other pests from the Zlob gang such as DNSChanger
silently reconfigure the computer’s DNS server settings.
DNS servers are responsible for converting people
friendly text URLs into computer friendly numeric IP
addresses. Once the DNS settings are changed to their
servers - the Zlob gang is in control of the Web browser’s
They generate money by redirecting Web searches.
Should the victim search for “air fare”, Zlob’s sponsored
revenue-generating link will be put at the top of the
Zlob makes money by acting as a parasite. Stealing data
from their victims is not the goal, and they don’t steal
the computer’s resources to build a botnet either. What
the Zlob gang prefers is to use their victims. As the victim
does not suffer undo harm, many may not even realize
how they are being used.
The Zlob gang expanded their target audience base late
October with the introduction of DNSChangers for the
Mac OSX platform.
Apple Security
The year 2007 was a banner one for Apple - their hardware
is more popular than ever. More Apple hardware equals a
greater installed base of Apple software.
Trojan DNSChangers for Mac OSX
As mentioned above, DNSChangers have started
targeting Mac OSX. Social engineering is used to
persuade users to enter their admin password for the
install - not a big problem for clever social engineering.
Getting a Mac user to type his password for an easily
installed “video codec” isn’t a significant challenge to
Apple’s Safari browser for Windows likely contributed
to this development. Released in mid-June, researchers
seized upon the Safari for Windows Beta and many
security flaws were discovered. Many of those flaws were
mirrored in the Mac version of Safari.
Web sites pushing DNSChangers determine the OS
and the browser version being used by the visitor.
The appropriate version of the malware is dynamically
provided - visit with a Mac and you’ll get Mac malware.
The Apple iPhone boasts an impressive design and a
distinctive user interface. It was released in the U.S. at the
end of June and becomes available to Europe during the
fourth quarter of this year.
In just six months the iPhone has become a very well
understood device.
It uses a version of Mac OSX, which is in turn based
on Unix. If you understand Unix security, then you can
relatively easily “port” your knowledge and understanding
to the iPhone.
The iPhone also comes installed with the Safari browser
and provides full rights to it. With the portability of
understanding and the known Safari flaws mentioned
above, coupled with the excellent hardware design, focus
greatly intensified on the iPhone. Including the fact that
the iPhone is a “locked” device and you have a perfect
combination of factors leading to iPhone exploit research.
H.D. Moore added iPhone support for the Metasploit
framework in September making security and attack
research much easier.
THREAT SUMMARIES V. 2 2011 - 2007
Exploits for the iPhone are sought as a means to unlock
the device. But in revealing those exploits there’s a
security consequence.
Mac OSX 10.5, code-named Leopard, was released at the
end of October. It’s a major release for Apple.
It’s been well received for its features and sales are good
but with increased popularity come increased focus on
security flaws.
There have already been numerous updates made
available. Research has suggested that old security flaws
may have been reintroduced; Leopard’s new Firewall
received criticism for its implementation and and thus
may affect Apple’s aura of perfect security.
QuickTime and iTunes
On the topic of popular Apple applications, there’s iTunes.
The installed based of iTunes reaches far into the Windows
platform. Even those without iPods use the application.
And with iTunes comes QuickTime player .
QuickTime player is one of a growing number of
applications targeted by malware. Previously, third-party
applications were targeted as low hanging fruit as the
Windows OS was hardened.
By the end of 2007 we’re seeing more and more exploits
for third-party applications. Is it because they are the low
hanging fruit? Or perhaps it is because the applications
have reached such popularity as to become as ubiquitous
as Windows itself.
Mobile Security
Symbian S60 3rd Edition has done an excellent job in
curbing malware. Symbian leads the world’s market share
of smartphones. Mobile malware discovered during the
second half of the year affects older S60 2nd Edition
What we continue to see on 3rd Edition platforms are spytools. The application vendors are able to get their spytools signed by submitting them as “back-up” software.
The signed application is then also marketed for dubiously
legal purposes. This trend matches what we saw during H2
and we expect it to continue.
S60 3rd Edition is more tightly controlled than previous
versions and thus the lack of malware so far. However, the
iPhone demonstrates that some users of tightly controlled
devices want to “unlock” those devices. During October
there were Symbian platform “hacks” posted. The hacks
used a bug in the firmware update package software to
completely unsecure Symbian 3rd Edition phones. If more
users opt to unsecure their phones, it will have an effect
on the future of mobile security.
One additional thought, as commercial vendors use what
amounts to social engineering to get their questionable
software signed, can malware authors be far behind? With
a system that relies on humans to sign software, humans
are, as with PC malware, the weak link.
Database Breaches
Reports of database breaches and data losses are
becoming routine. There are massive amounts of personal
data vulnerable to theft stored in databases worldwide.
January started the year with a bang. Reports revealed
that TJX Companies exposed 45.7 million credit card
numbers and transaction details. Poor WiFi security
configurations and outdated WEP encryption was the
November caps off the year nicely in the U.K. with the
HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) losing 25 million names,
addresses, and national insurance numbers. Two CDs
containing information on parents, their children, and
some portion of their bank account information was lost
in the mail.
The use of personal data for ID theft is one obvious
concern. Another newer concern is mass targeted attacks
and mass spear phishing. Targeted attacks and spear
phishing employ very detailed personal information as
part of its social engineering. The target is called by name
and the details of the message match their own personal
Spam addressed to “Dear Customer” is not nearly as
effective as spam addressed to an individual using correct
job titles and locations. Include additional factual details
and the victim lowers their guard exposing themselves to
phishing, trojans, backdoor, and more.
A November 6th letter from
acknowledged the leak of the company’s contact list. The
result of the leak was spear phishing attacks made on their
THREAT SUMMARIES V. 2 2011 - 2007
Late November also brought news of a mass targeted
attack using the U.S. Department of Justice as the bait.
Recipients were addressed by name and their company
name was used. The spam message claimed that the
company had received a DOJ complaint. The supposed
complaint, a trojan-downloader, was attached to the
Personal information available for exploit is everywhere.
With the popularity of social networking sites it’s ever
more readily available to the bad guys.
We’ll see more bulk targeted attacks via spam as database
leaks are used to enhance social engineering during 2008.
Web Exploits
Besides targeted spam, as “spray and pray” spam waves
decrease in effectiveness, there is an increase in Web
based threats. As noted in the Storm section, once Storm
attachments were blocked, the malware executables were
moved to the Web.
There’s an increase in use of ready-made kits for
vulnerabilities such as MPack, IcePack and Neosploit
that include easy to use web-based admin interfaces.
These kits not only target Windows and Internet Explorer
vulnerabilities but also other browsers, QuickTime, Real
Player, WinZip, et cetera. These kits even come with
support packages and updates for the right price.
Some other trends:
• Use of pay ads (Flash exploit) affecting high profile
websites (NHL, MLB).
• Use of search engine manipulation to direct people
to malicious sites.
• Criminals continuously searching for sites to
compromise. (Bank of India, CSIRT in China).
Conclusion and Predictions
What we saw during H3 and the whole of 2007 was
volume. Malware authors are criminals and as time
passes they are becoming increasingly professional at
their “business”. Kits and commodities markets are the
result. The tools of online crime are being produced
professionally. The purchased kits are producing malware
in bulk. The stolen data is traded as commodities on
underground auction sites. It’s easy money with plenty of
cover from law enforcement.
What will we see in 2008? More of the same - lots more of
the same but better, stronger, faster. The criminals have
the technology. Everything will continue in bulk to ensure
broad coverage. And as the bulk increases individual
security awareness, new improved technology powered
social engineering will strip that awareness away again.
2008 will be a challenge of endurance.
THREAT SUMMARIES V. 2 2011 - 2007
The impact of the worm was based on the following types
of shocking “headlines”, often linked to similar real-life
events making news headlines in the media:
230 dead as storm batters Europe
A killer at 11, he’s free at 21 and...
British Muslims Genocide
Naked teens attack home director
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza...
Social engineers attempted to re-orchestrate the
spam run with shocker headlines again throughout the
following months. However, the effectiveness of this
technique seemed to have declined with time and this
time the impact was, luckily, much weaker.
More Secure Microsoft Windows Vista
Challenges Hackers
Spammed by Storm: New Trojan Small.DAM
Spreads (With) Real News
A sophisticated social engineering trick (Storm-Worm)
invited computer users to read breaking news about the
severe January storms that caused havoc in Europe, as
well as several other shocking events around the globe.
The new trojan, Small.DAM, spread the news in significant
volumes via an attachment file. The run of the worm
made a significant appearance on the F-Secure Tracking
System as it reached hundreds of thousands of computers
globally in just one night.
Improved security was Microsoft’s primary design goal
for its new operating system, Windows Vista, released to
consumers on January 30th, 2007. Several new security
and safety features were introduced with its launch.
User Access Control (UAC); Keeping Strangers Away?
For instance, the new User Access Control (UAC) feature
is designed to prompt the user for authorization when
an application tries to perform an administrative task.
In Windows XP, a default user account - often shared
by many users - was granted full administrative rights.
A vast majority of malware applications today employ
administrative level actions when attempting to
compromise a system. When attempting to install itself
on a Windows Vista system, such malware will generate
UAC prompts that would allow the user to deny the
compromising actions.
However, the above is only true if the user understands
the UAC prompts. Resulting from extensive tests, security
researches have redefined the concept of UAC. Microsoft
reintroduced the feature as a “design choice” rather than
a “security mechanism”.
Overall, the new feature is not a bad thing at all, as
implementation of this design choice makes running
a system more practical as the number of users is
limited, and therefore applications run in a restricted
environment. But, as with security in general, UAC
isn’t a silver bullet. Even with the new functionality
enabled, Windows Vista users are still vulnerable to social
engineering tricks.
Video available via YouTube.
THREAT SUMMARIES V. 2 2011 - 2007
Address Space Layout Randomization (ASLR);
Malware Becomes a Guessing Game?
Another new Windows Vista security feature is the
Address Space Layout Randomization (ASLR). This
technique takes key parts of an application’s process
(system code) and places them randomly into a
process’ address space. This feature makes it difficult
for an attacker to predict target addresses, therefore
forcing a malware application to “guess” the location of
To skirt around new security features, such as ASLR,
malware authors are seeking out old exploits that remain
in Vista as part of legacy support.
Windows Vista Security Patches; the
Countdown Begins
The first ever security patch for Windows Vista was an outof-cycle patch, released in January. The patch addressed a
WMF (Windows Metafile) exploit, associated with the way
the operating system deals with graphics. Another similar
exploit occurred in April, addressing a vulnerability in the
animated cursor remote code execution (ANI).
While both the exploits affected Windows Vista, neither
led to any significant compromising of such systems. The
ANI exploit was indeed a more serious threat to Windows
XP users.
As Windows Vista gains more market share, we expect to
see the bad guys pushing to develop more sophisticated
methods of attack. Inevitably, we expect that sooner
or later they will be successful. That said, as web-based
applications are the cool kids of the tech scene today,
operating systems won’t necessarily need to be the
primary focus for hackers. There are softer targets to go
Bank Trojans - a Business Model?
Whatever the commodities, or even the place of trading,
the bad guys continue to focus on separating people from
their money.
As phishing defenses mature, attackers are also increasing
and developing their use of banking trojans that are
equipped with content filters to detect when people
bank online. As soon as banking activity is detected, the
malware begins to capture account details using methods
such as form grabbing, screenshots and video capture,
keylogging, injection of form fields as well as injection
of fraudulent pages to attract more users. Not only are
these trojans capturing data, they are also intercepting
local sessions and changing transactions details - all
unbeknownst to the people just trying to go about their
business and manage their finances.
Food for thought: Trust Your Finances with .bank?
Based on F-Secure’s suggestion to establish a new toplevel domain available exclusively to legitimate financial
institutions, a discussion has emerged recently about
whether such a new domain, for example .bank, could
resolve the wide-spread phishing phenomenon, reaching
more and more people every day via banking scams. So
how would it work?
Put simply, anyone can register a domain name for as
little as about $5. Most banks operate online under the
typical .com, or country-specific domain names such
as .fi, .de, and so on. It is no rocket science, that
authentic-looking domain names that replicate existing
banking domains, are an easy hit for phishing fraudsters
trying to collect financial information from unsuspecting
consumers banking online.
One may wonder why banks and other financial
organizations do indeed operate under typical
commercial domain names. Wouldn’t it make sense if the
Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers,
the body that creates new top-level domains, created a
new, secure domain just for this reason, such as .bank?
THREAT SUMMARIES V. 2 2011 - 2007
Registering new domain names under such a toplevel domain could then be restricted only to bona
fide financial organizations. Instead of a fiver, the cost
of registering such domains could be something like
$50,000. Most fraudsters contributing to the new
malicious economy behind phishing would probably think
(at least) twice, and give up, when faced with such fees.
Banks would love this.
Read more on the topic of .bank at:
• Labs Weblog: Masters of Their Domain
Worms Interrupt More IM Conversations
One of the usual e-mail worm suspects - Warezov - has
expanded its attack vectors. No longer just content for
spam e-mail attachments, the Warezov gang has adopted
a new channel to spread malicious code.
Replicating a method similar to e-mail worms, Skype’s
chat features have proved to be an ideal vehicle for
delivering such content to unaware recipients. Rather
than an e-mail attachment, a Skype user receives a link
in a chat window, which provides a direct gateway to
malicious content.
The most recent variant of such an IM-Worm is crossclient by nature, and thus able to infect multiple Instant
Messaging applications via one contact. Using their new
“friend’s” contact list, such clever IM-Worms can utilize a
social engineering trick and craft messages to appear as
though they’re from a friend.
As web browsers’ defenses are hardened, the bad guys
are shooting for new targets with new, carefully disguised
weapons. In order to equip users with tools to block such
undesirable conversation intruders, user education now
needs to include “do not to click on links”, as well as “do
not open attachments” if you aren’t expecting them.
Declaration of Cyber War I: Distributed Denial
of Service (DDoS) Attacks in Estonia
Coinciding with general unrest and riots throughout
late April and mid-May, 2007, various Estonian websites
(including sites owned by governmental organizations,
banks, and media outlets) were targeted via centralized
Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. A vast
amount of Web traffic, largely originating from Russia,
was directed at the sites. Such traffic made many of them
very slow, and sometimes even unusable. Slate Magazine
coined a new term to describe the phenomenon: “Cyber
War I” had begun (
The general unrest in Tallinn gained worldwide media
attention, seeding the ground for cybercriminals to steal
the limelight. CNN reported:
“Police arrested 600 people and 96 were injured
in a second night of clashes in Estonia’s capital over
the removal of a disputed World War Two Red Army
monument - Russia has reacted furiously to the moving
of the monument - Estonia has said the monument had
become a public order menace as a focus for Estonian
and Russian nationalists.”
The next stage of the riots involved large-scale attacks
against websites run by the Estonian Government. Some
of the sites were rendered unreachable. Others were
up, but did not allow any traffic from foreign/outside IP
The sites that were attacked on Saturday, April 28th at
15:00 GMT, included:
• (Ministry of Economic Affairs and
Communications): unreachable
• (Website of the prime minister): unreachable
• (Estonian Parliament): unreachable
• (Ministry of Internal Affairs): unreachable
• (Estonian Government): unreachable
• (Ministry of Foreign Affairs): unreachable
• (Ministry of Agriculture): reachable
• (Ministry of the Environment): reachable
• (Ministry of Finance): reachable
• (Ministry of Justice): reachable
• (Ministry of Culture): reachable
• (Ministry of Defence): reachable
• (Estonian Police): reachable
• (Party of the prime minister): reachable
• (Ministry of Social Affairs): reachable
THREAT SUMMARIES V. 2 2011 - 2007
Several of the Government websites monitored by the
F-Secure Labs that weekend were still down the following
Monday. Some of the sites were up but they could only
operate in “light-weight” mode. For example, the site of
the Estonian Police had to be maintained via just one textonly page.
And here’s a Russian website, defaced by Estonian
See below for the Netcraft availability stats on the
Estonian Government official home site,
They are fairly alarming.
The Russian Victory Day on the 9th of May was another
key date in the series of riots, both on the ground, as well
as in cyberspace. On many Russian-speaking forums, we
saw discussions about instigating a massive attack. And
sure enough, after three days of calm, just after midnight
on the 9th of May, we saw a large botnet attack against
multiple Estonian targets.
Here’s an example of a Russian hacker site, offering Denial
of Service tools, crafted for these particular attacks:
DDoS attacks have largely been a method of extortion
and, fortunately, the recent trend with the occurrence
of such attacks has been one of decline. However, it now
seems that the latest gimmick in this category is adopting
a new form via political protest.
In addition to DDoS attacks, some defacement activity
also occurred. For an example of an Estonian website,
defaced by Russian hackers, see here:
Although not an ideal teaching method, security lessons
have been widely learnt as a result of the recent DDoS
attacks in Estonia. As a consequence, other countries
will now be better equipped to deal with similar attacks
in a predictive fashion. The other side of the coin,
unfortunately, is that the bad guys will adapt as well.
It is also worthy of mention that besides using botnets
to carry out DDoS attacks, we’ve also seen more and
more evidence that vulnerabilities in P2P applications can
also be exploited to slam websites with unmanageable
amounts of traffic.
THREAT SUMMARIES V. 2 2011 - 2007
The Latest Attempts to Lure us to Expose
Ourselves to Mobile Scammers
The consequences are unpleasant, to say the least.
SMS Spam
The F-Secure lab received many reports of a fairly wellorchestrated SMS Spam campaign in Europe. The SMS
messages arrived with a URL that could only be accessed
via a WAP gateway. Entering the URL into a computer’s
web browser returned a page declaring that the service
was unavailable. The URL in the SMS was also tied to the
phone’s receiving mobile device’s number, implying that
only that particular phone could use the link. Forwarding
the message to another phone rendered it inaccessible.
Immediately after installation, the Viver trojans take
it upon themselves to start sending SMS messages to
premium-rate numbers ($7USD). The messages are sent
with proper international area codes, so they are able
to reach the correct destination, even when activated
outside Russia.
If Viver generates enough profit for its creators, we expect
that there will be plenty more to come.
SMS Phishing
We also saw noteworthy global SMS phishing scams. Many
of our colleagues in Kuala Lumpur, for example, were
“lucky winners” in lotteries organized under the pretense
of local organization. The hefty financial reward could be
collected by contacting a specified telephone number.
The message displayed on the “winning” mobile phone
screens was the following:
“Announcement from PETRONAS MLSY.
CONGRATULATIONS your phone number has won a
prize of RM 11000. (About US$3,200) Please contact
the following number at 0062858853982xx tomorrow
morning at 8.00am. Thank you”.
$M$ Trojans
Our list of text intruders continues. Three new for-profit
SMS trojans that affect mobile devices running Symbian
S60 2nd Edition, as well as older devices, were discovered
in May.
The Viver family of trojans, originating from Russia, masks
itself under the pretense of utility programs for Symbian
phones. A variety of such programs has been uploaded
to at least one popular file sharing site in the hope that
people will, totally unaware, download and install them.
Mobile Spyware for Windows Mobile and Symbian 3rd
Other than the above SMS issues, it has been rather
peaceful on the mobile malware front (touch wood!).
However, mobile spyware and spying tools have been
raising their heads lately. In May, we received samples of
two “interesting” new mobile spying tools - running on
new platforms:
Spy tools have been born for both Windows Mobile and
Symbian S60 3rd Edition devices.
We anticipated these spying tools, rather than malware,
would make an appearance first on these platforms.
Historically, hobbyists of varying skills have been behind
most of the mobile malware that we have seen so far, and
most mobile malware is rather simple. Quite the opposite,
spyware is being developed by commercial companies
that have a lot more resources, skills, and motivation to
get their creations to work.
The recent developments in the mobile arena may be a
further indicator that a whole new malicious economy,
based on a variety of sophisticated Internet and mobilebased crime, is indeed developing towards unexpected
F-Secure is an online security and privacy company from Finland.
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We are here to fight for digital freedom.
Join the movement and switch on freedom.
Founded in 1988, F-Secure is listed on NASDAQ OMX Helsinki Ltd.
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