Interview with an adware author


Philosecurity has an interview with [Matt Knox], a former coder for Direct Revenue, an adware company which was sued in 2006 by New York governor Eliot Spitzer. The interview contains some interesting details of how the adware code worked internally: it created a Browser Helper Object, then ensured that the Browser Helper Object stayed up by creating a poller to check every ten seconds and regenerate the Browser Helper Object if it had stopped running. The poller ingeniously masked itself partly by exploiting Windows’ Create Remote Thread function to run itself as a series of threads instead of as an executable.

The truly fascinating bit of the interview is how [Knox] defies your initial suspicion that he’s a complete scumbag; he started off writing spam filtering software, was hired by Direct Revenue to do traffic analysis, started writing tiny bits of code to improve the adware, and eventually wound up knee-deep in the code.  [Knox] notes that you can get ordinary people to do incredibly distasteful things if you break those things into small enough chunks and introduce them gradually.

[via Waxy]

[photo: xcaballe]

The Malware Challenge


Our own [Anthony Lineberry] has written up his experience participating in the 2008 Malware Challenge as part of his work for Flexilis. The contest involved taking a piece of provided malware, doing a thorough analysis of its behavior, and reporting the results. This wasn’t just to test the chops of the researchers, but also to demonstrate to network/system administrators how they could get into malware analysis themselves.

[Anthony] gives a good overview of how he created his entry (a more detailed PDF is here). First, he unpacked the malware using Ollydbg. Packers are used to obfuscate the actual malware code so that it’s harder for antivirus to pick it up. After taking a good look at the assembly, he executed the code. He used Wireshark to monitor the network traffic and determine what URL the malware was trying to reach. He changed the hostname to point at an IRC server he controlled. Eventually he would be able to issue botnet control commands directly to the malware. We look forward to seeing what next year’s contest will bring.

Antivirus products still fail on fresh viruses

Many computer users rely on antivirus software from McAfee and Symantec to protect their computers from malware, worms, and viruses. Since the creation of viruses outpaces the protection abilities of the software, antivirus protection lags behind and may not be as secure as you think. [Gary Warner] provides some examples of current malware making the rounds that continue to be unaddressed by anti-virus vendors, including the recent “CNN Alerts: Breaking News” spam, which morphed into MSNBC alert spoofs. Our advice? Keep your antivirus software updated, but don’t believe that it will catch everything for you. Only open files from sources you know and trust.

[via Waxy]

Predictive blacklisting with DShield

The DShield project is hoping to change how we protect our networks from malware with predictive blacklisting. Using a method similar to Google’s PageRank, DShield collects logs from network administrators to help develop a score based on maliciousness. They combine this score with information about where the malware has already hit to determine an overall threat level.

Similar to antivirus programs, the system still relies on networks being attacked to rate the threat level. They have shown though, that the predictive method is consistently more effective than manual blacklisting. The system has been available for free for the past year. Those utilizing the system have been reporting positive results. They do note that there are a few people whose network infrastructure doesn’t match up with the predictions very well. If you would like to participate, go to their site and sign up.

U.S. and China host majority of malware has released their May 2008 Infected Sites Report(PDF). They took their current list of 213K active badware websites and resolved the IP addresses. These addresses were used to determine the network block owner and country. The results could be skewed to networks Google scans more often, but they should give a decent overall picture. China hosts 52% of all the badware sites while the U.S. has 21%. There weren’t any other countries maintaining over 4% of the total. They also calculated the number of infected sites per capita, which China also led. Last year’s report resulted in several AS block maintainers cleaning up to the point that they don’t even make the top 250 this year.