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    2:21 am (UTC-7)   |    by

    Much has been said about the DOWNAD worm (a.k.a. Conficker) and its enigmatic payload that will supposedly be unleashed on April 1st. There are two days to go until the moment of truth and the hype isn’t expected to die down. But online threat history tells us that trigger/activation dates of equally hyped malware have come and gone without much fanfare. Whether or not April 1 will play out to be D-Day indeed, the security industry will be keeping an eye out for any malicious activity—like it should.

    What we do know at this point is that the latest variant, which we detect as WORM_DOWNAD.KK (first detected on March 4, 2009), includes an algorithm to generate a list of 50,000 different domains. Five hundred (500) of these will be randomly selected to be contacted by infected PCs beginning April 1, 2009 to receive updated copies, new malware components, or additional functional instructions.

    Figure 1. Routines that WORM_DOWNAD.KK will start performing beginning 1 April 2009

    Trend Micro is part of the Conficker Working Group, also called the Conficker Cabal. As part of this group, we must continue to set straight misconceptions surrounding DOWNAD/Conficker and what it’s set to do on the anticipated date. Allow us to reiterate some facts:

    Q: What will happen on April 1, 2009?
    A: Based on our collective technical analysis, we’ve determined that systems infected with the latest version of Conficker will begin to use a new algorithm to determine what domains to contact. We have
    not identified any other actions scheduled to take place on April 1, 2009.

    Q: Will an updated version of Conficker go out to already-infected systems on April 1?
    A: It is possible that systems with the latest version of Conficker will be updated with a newer version of Conficker on April 1 by contacting domains on the new domain list. However, these systems could
    be updated on any date before or after April 1 as well using the “peer- to-peer” updating channel in the latest version of Conficker.

    Q: Should the general public be alarmed? Why or why not?
    A: No, the general public should not be alarmed. Most home users have been protected by Microsoft Security Update MS08-067 being applied automatically.

    Q: Are there any other changes in the latest version of Conficker?
    A: The latest version of Conficker also introduces a new “peer-to-peer” (P2P) updating capability. This capability could enable a system infected by the latest version of Conficker to receive a new version or
    new instructions by contacting another system infected by Conficker rather than by contacting a domain determined by the domain generation algorithm.

    Q: We hear talk of an impending second phase of attacks from Conficker. What do you anticipate happening next?
    A: There may be a second phase of the threat at some point in time. However, we believe that with a situation like this—which has similarly taken place many times in the past—and given the tremendous
    amount of attention that this worm has received, as well as industry and law enforcement monitoring, these efforts will be a deterrent to a large second wave of attacks. At the end of the day, we can’t
    speculate on the intentions of criminals, but what we can do is work to limit the impact of any second phase.

    Q: Why does Conficker continue to spread even though Microsoft issued the update in October?
    A: There is always some percentage of customers who don’t apply an update at any given time, due to a variety of reasons. While most home users have been protected by the patch being applied automatically, once the worm gets a foothold inside an enterprise, it’s difficult to remove and this is where people are having problems.

    Q: Why is Conficker using domain names? Is this a new trend?
    A: It is trying to download malware from these domains and it also uploads infection counts to these domains, but this is not a new trend.

    Q: What is the Conficker Working Group doing about this new algorithm?
    A: The Conficker Working Group has been working continuously to block access to domains that systems infected by Conficker attempt to contact. We are continuing this work and have expanded this effort to include those domains that will be contacted by the latest version of Conficker starting on April 1, 2009.

    Q: What should people who are worried about April 1 and Conficker do?
    A: We recommend that home users who have not yet enabled automatic updates do so and ensure their security software is up to date with the latest signatures.

    We recommend that enterprises continue to focus on the guidance from experts in industry, academia and governments worldwide and continue to deploy the security update MS08-067, ensure their security software have the latest signatures, clean any systems that are infected with any version of Conficker using the tools and guidance we’ve provided, and evaluate additional security best practices in accordance with their organizations’ policies and procedures.

    Update as of March 31, 2009 8:30 AM, PST:
    Aside from the threat itself, cybercriminals are also leveraging on infected users’ attempts to clean their machines by poisoning searches related to DOWNAD’s removal. Trend Micro Solutions Architect Rik Ferguson reported that searches for strings like nmap conficker and remove conficker generate malicious links. Connecting to these links result to the download of malicious files related to fake AV. The said files are now detected by Trend Micro as TROJ_DLOADER.CXV, TROJ_FAKEAV.AVS, and TROJ_FAKEALER.ES.

    Update as of March 31, 2009 4:00 PM, PST:
    Trend Micro researchers have found a way for users to be able to reach the domains blocked by DOWNAD, especially the security-related ones. This prevention from accessing certain websites is done by cybercriminals through poisoning the DNS cache or modifying the system’s HOSTS file. In order to restore access to sites rendered inaccessible by malware, the user needs to stop the client-side DNS cache service through the procedure given below. Please refer to this page for more details.

    1. Click Start and then Run. (If Run is not in the menu, Right click Start, then choose Properties. Hit Customise, then click on Advanced. Scroll down in the Start Menu Items until you see the check box for Run Command, check the corresponding box then click OK.

    2. Now click the Start button again and choose Run. In the Run window, type CMD then click OK.

    3. In the command prompt that appears, type net stop dnscache then press Enter. Exit the command prompt by typing exit then pressing Enter.

    4. Again, click Start then Run. This time, type services.msc in the window then hit OK.
    5. In the listed services, search for DNS Client then check its status. If it states Started or Automatic, double click on it.

    6. Click the Stop button in the Service status portion.

    4:03 pm (UTC-7)   |    by

    Earlier this week, we realized that part of our public online Virus Encyclopedia (VE) was altered via external hacking.  The redirect placed on our site didn’t work properly so nobody visiting the hacked pages was at risk of infection.  In response to this incident, we shut down the VE for several hours, patched the systems, removed the inserted code, and brought it back to life again.  We have already taken interim measures to further harden the VE system against future attacks.  This incident was part of a wider attack on Web sites around the world.

    InformationWeek, quoting Mike Sweeny, publishes a report on this incident.

    Posted in Malware | 1 TrackBack »

    The very first computer virus did not happen on a Windows machine, or a Mac or an Apple II. The first virus did not travel via the Internet or in an email or in a floppy disk. The first virus was not on a minicomputer, nor was it on a mainframe. That’s because the first computer virus didn’t exist on any computer hardware or software of any kind.

    It was in a work of fiction.

    By the late1970’s, movies books and television shows had given the public a very strong impression of hackers, viruses, and other computer threats.

    Unfortunately, these dramatic ideas have nothing at all to do with reality.

    In the movies, viruses destroy computer hardware, sometimes leaving a trail of smoke and fire. In reality, no virus was ever known to damage any computer hardware. Ever.

    In the movies, a virus or worm always has an immediate and dramatic visual effect. There is always an animated screen (HACKERS) or a warning message (SNEAKERS) or you can actually see the data being destroyed before your very eyes (THE NET). In reality most malware leaves no visible trace of it’s existence.

    On the big screen, malware is used to open bank vault doors, to tip over an oil tanker, to blow up a power plant or even to crash an alien spacecraft. In reality, the most insidious virus ever would locate a spread sheet and randomly change one number.

    Computer geeks (like me) get a real laugh out of movies about hacking and cybercrime. When a “hacker movie” opens you will find theaters in Silicon Valley or other computer tech havens full of people laughing at all the wrong things, and at all the things gotten wrong. To our amusement and dismay, these overblown, crazy overdramatic portrayals of hacking and cybercrime are what sets the public’s understanding of all things cyber. People believe in the world described by these movies. It frequently makes them less safe behind the keyboard.

    So I was very interested by an ad for a movie called UNTRACEABLE. It portrayed a criminal Web site and the FBI effort to bring it down. I got ready to watch another travesty of technical misrepresentation, and talked my boss into letting me watch the very first screening.

    And I was wrong. They got every single technical detail right. When they talk about spoofing, or IP addresses, or keyloggers, they get it exactly right. Now all of those old school movies did research. (One of them sent the screenwriter to talk to me personally, some years ago) and still got it wrong. They couldn’t let go of the idea that in a visual medium, the computers needed to respond with something visual. They couldn’t get over the fact that fighting computer crime is primarily done at a computer keyboard, staring at long columns of numbers.

    But not UNTRACEABLE, they got it all right. The Web page was only used for a limited period of time, and was proxied and mirrored and botnetted all over the place, standard operation in cybercrime. The social engineering used to get a backdoor into the FBI agent’s home Wi-fi network was right out of the real world. None of the computer screens at the FBI headquarters had magic graphics to show where the Web site was hosted. All in all, very very believable — well done to the screenwriters and researchers involved.

    Just one little problem. The movie was about horror porn online, and a serial killer with a need to invent ever escalating and absurdly disgusting ways to kill people, while feeding video to a growing internet spectator crowd. Now I know there is a long tradition of graphic violence in drama (Oedipus Rex, anyone? Romeo and Juliet?) but the modern craft is so convincing that a Grand Guignol fest like this was too much for me. I covered my eyes, I went for a diet soda, coming back to watch the plot. Diane Lane was actually quite good, as was the rest of the cast, and the procedural/plotting of the mystery and denouement were clever and inventive — but the movie has a LOT of problems, and is too preachy. It got a Rotten Tomato score of 14 (out of 100). Notably, Roger Ebert liked it a lot, and pretty much everyone else did not. Several reviewers refused to even see it.

    So we have a movie that is finally getting the tech right (thanks again, guys) and pretty much nobody will see it. Not on my recommendation, anyway.

    I leave with the hope that more movies get the tech right (help is offered if anyone is interested) and the prayer that nothing like this movie ever happens this side of the projector.

    This post was authored by David Perry, Trend Micro’s Director of Global Education.


    2:41 am (UTC-7)   |    by

    The 2007 Internet weather report is in: It was the Stormiest we have seen. The security arena endured a year of Storm — the ever-changing pool of malware with a propensity to keep its calendar busy and rain on the AV parade. This was where its seeds were planted and where it was already noted for its enhanced social engineering, plus its multi-component, complex techniques for profit.

    {timeline on Storm techniques}

    Its dark clouds started to form in October of 2006 when the WORM_NUWAR family first started spreading doomsday messages like the alleged death of the incumbent US president, the Third World War, and an imminent nuclear war.

    It would not be heard from again until January 2007, when it earned its “Storm” stamp for squatting on the real-world European storm Kyrill. The spammed email messages that it sent out contained a Trojan that creates a unique P2P-like botnet and downloads files, including a worm that mass-mails itself. Its use of fake eCards and timely events as social engineering techniques were also observed, as well as its bid for Web world domination as it attacked the STRAT malware family.

    From then on, it lived up to its name by maintaining a year-round bad weather for the Internet and its users. The skies were relatively clear until April 2007, when new worm variants were spammed via email messages with subjects referring to the US-Iran conflict, missile strikes, and World War III being started by the US, Iran, or Israel. After that, it was a series of hitchhikes on whatever big-calendar events passed. Its spam runs often coincided with or anticipated holidays like the Fourth of July, Labor Day, the NFL season, Halloween, Christmas, and the New Year (even managing an early Valentine’s 2008 treat).

    Its arsenal of nifty social engineering techniques also included offering free games, posing as notifications from antivirus companies, or pretending to be a YouTube video file. We have seen it move from an attachment-based attack to one that is Web-based; from its links pointing to a domain instead of single IP addresses; from being one big botnet to a segmented one; and so on.

    It was last October when researchers found reason to believe that there was more than met the eye in its attempts at victimizing users, for it looked like the massive Storm botnet that was already under scrutiny by the security industry is breaking down into smaller segments. Although seemingly counter-intuitive, given that botnets grow stronger with each new addition of infected computers, this tactical move seems to suggest that botnet herders are ready to go into (bigger) business by renting out its bots to other spammers.

    True enough, analysts found phishing pages early this month that were hosted on known Storm-related domains. The difficulty in pinning down these malicious domains lies in the recently observed fast-flux technique. With these subsequent discoveries of clues about the bigger agenda on the minds of Storm’s creators and operators, researchers believe that this 2008, Storm’s armies of botnets will come up with craftier social engineering techniques to more easily evade file scanning and fool automated crawlers used by security companies, making analysis even harder for anti-malware engineers.

    Looking back, like a real natural calamity, Storm’s impact is unforgettable. It has been a year since it first unleashed its power over the computing community and the cyber cyclone is not about to stop. In fact, it may be whipping up new winds of infections at the moment. Clearly, Storm watchers have their work cut out for them as the security industry stands ever more vigilant, creating technologies that continue to protect users from becoming casualties along Storm’s path of destruction.

    “The bad guys behind this resilient Web threat appear to have a knack for knowing just what buttons to push year-long to social-engineer users into getting themselves mired in its wake,” says Trend Micro Research Project Manager Jamz Yaneza. He adds, “The security industry isn’t as near as it would like to be at this point, but we’re getting there. After all, there must be a rainbow after this Storm!”


    6:55 am (UTC-7)   |    by

    Today, the storm malware has changed ways again. They are now spamming an email with a link to a domain, instead of individual IP addresses. The page has been designed to look more real than before so it might fool unaware users. Please, do not believe unexpected emails sending you to a supposed NFL tracker.




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