The future of cyberattacks

[Dino A. Dai Zovi] gave a talk in the earlier part of 2010 where he shares his thoughts on the future of malicious exploits. You can watch it on Ustream and he’s also posted a set of slides (PDF) that goes along with it. We find the 48 minute video to be quite interested. Instead of going into mundane detail, he covers the broader picture; what has been done in the past, what will happen in the future, and how are we currently ill-equipped to respond to future threats? That last question is covered throughout the video, but seems to come back to the concept that we are stuck in a rut of terminology and past practice that is impeding our ability to innovate security strategies at the same rate that the bad guys are coming up with the next nasty thing to come down the pipeline.

Exploit Bait and Switch

When a new virus or other piece of malware is identified, security researchers attempt to get a hold of the infection toolkit used by malicious users, and then apply this infection into a specially controlled environment in order to study how the virus spreads and communicates. Normally, these toolkits also include some sort of management console commonly used to evaluate successfulness of infection and other factors of the malware application. In the case of the EFTPS Malware campaign however, the admin console had a special trick.

This console was actually a fake, accepting a number of generic passwords and user accounts, and provide fake statistics to whoever looked in to it. All the while, the console would “call home” with as much data about the researcher as possible. By tricking the researchers in this way, the crooks would be able to stay one step ahead of anti-virus tools that would limit the effectiveness of any exploit. Thankfully though, the researchers managed to come out on top this time.

[via boingboing]

Simple, low-tech attack on Credit Unions


The National Credit Union Administration is warning all Credit Unions about malicious hackers and a low tech attack by mailing branches CDs with malware on them.

Using a somewhat dated but still effective Social Engineering attack, a package designed to look as though it was mailed by the NCUA is sent to the branch. The package contains CDs with the attacker’s malware on it, and an accompanying letter (PDF) which informs the branches, ironically, about phishing scams. The letter directs the personnel to review the “training material” on the enclosed CD. Once branch employees proceed as directed, the malware is executed and gives the attackers access to the branch computer systems. Credit Unions seem to be targeted because they tend to be smaller local associations rather then larger banks with higher budgets for computer security.

When people think computer security, they usually envision high tech systems comprising of long passwords, expensive hardware, and updating software with the latest security patches. However, as famed social engineer and hacker Kevin Mitnick once said, “There is no patch for stupidity”.

[via threat post]

Twitter as a botnet command center


The folks over at Arbor Networks were browsing Twitter and discovered something very strange: a Twitter account seemingly posting gibberish. At least, that’s how it appeared at first. Upon closer investigation, they discovered that the profile was posting base64 encoded links to PKZIP archives. When they extracted the contents and unpacked the contained DLL and EXE files, they discovered that the account was posing links to malware that would post user information back to certain URLs. The article was also updated to show that the scheme wasn’t limited to Twitter, but also affected users on Jaiku and Tumblr. It’s a bit scary to see that all malware isn’t as blatantly obvious as we usually would think it to be.

D-Link router captcha broken


We reported last week that D-Link was adding captchas to their routers to prevent automated login by malware. Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t work all time. The team from SourceSec grabbed the new firmware and began poking at it. They found that certain pages don’t require the authentication to be passed for access. One of these is WPS activation. WPS lets you do push button WPA configuration. Once activated, any nearby client can request the WPA key using a tool like WPSpy. Only user level credentials are needed to pull this off, so changing just the admin password won’t prevent it.

[photo: schoschie]

D-Link adds captcha to routers

D-Link is adding captcha support to its line of home routers. While default password lists have been abundant for many years, it was only recently that we started seeing the them implemented in malware. Last year, zlob variants started logging into routers and changing their DNS settings. It’s an interesting situation since the people who need the captcha feature are the ones who will never see it, since they won’t log in to change the default password.

[photo: fbz]

Bios level malware


“Reformat it”. That’s pretty much our default answer when someone calls us complaining of malware and viruses. Though many can be removed, it can sometimes be quicker and less frustrating just to reformat it. Some of us even have specific ways that we organize all of our files just to make the quarterly reformat go smoother.  Unfortunately, reformatting may no longer be the absolute cure. Researchers have developed a piece of malware that infects the BIOS.  It is un affected by reformating or flashing. This means that it is also OS independent. They tested it on Windows and OpenBSD as well as a machine running VMware Player. This is a grim sign for the future.