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    Author Archive - Maxim Goncharov (Senior Threat Researcher)

    Cybercriminals leveraging social media is now basically a given, especially with users’ current dedication to social media (specifically on social networks). Actually, we’ve reported quite a few instances that prove how cybercriminals used Twitter for their operation, most especially in spamming.

    Twitter is, of course, fully aware of this. Twitter users have probably even noticed some of the Web page limitations designed to hamper spammers’ efforts. One of the recent developments being the implementation of Twitter’s Link Service.

    But the cybercriminals are definitely not willing to go down without a fight.

    A tool kit that can be used to send Twitter spam is currently being promoted in underground forums. The kit, aptly namedTwitter Kit,” has interesting functions, which include sending messages to thousands of followers using socks5 proxy. The said functionality is especially useful in search engine optimization (SEO) projects. The tool also enables the user to search through other users’ followers and to send Follow invites to them as well as to break account limits set by Twitter.

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    In terms of nature of use, my best guess is that the Twitter Kit is used for distributing pornography-related links, as the tool is actually offered as a bonus for a purchase of 10,000 adult content followers. But then the kit is priced at only US$20, which means that it could be used by many other cybercriminals for several malicious purposes.

    With that, Twitter users are advised to steer clear of suspicious followers and spammy links.

    Posted in Spam | 1 TrackBack »

    Nowadays, hardware have become so cheap that cybercriminals can easily reproduce fake point-of-sale (POS) devices that can be used to skim data from credit and debit cards.

    In an underground forum, a certain “Nikkon” has posted a fake POS device with flash memory for sale. The device is notably identical to a normal-looking POS terminal. Once used, however, it prints out a default receipt informing the counterfeiter’s victim that an error has occurred while reading his/her card, thus, the transaction could not be completed. Of course, at the same time that this receipt is being printed, the data held in the magnetic strip—along with the victim’s personal identification number (PIN) code—have already been uploaded and saved to the onboard flash memory.

    How would this work in the real world? Imagine you are in a restaurant, shop, or café. You would like to pay using your credit or debit card. You are handed a POS device and asked to swipe your card then to enter your PIN code. Moments later, you see that the card is being rejected. You are handed back a receipt as proof. You might dismiss this as a normal failed transaction. What you do not know is that your credit card information has already been stolen until you get your next billing statement.

    The initial price of a fake POS device is set at 1,000 EUR. An additional 200 EUR is charged for its setup and delivery. In addition, 40 percent of the stolen credit/debit card information is taken as usage fee by the seller.


    As the security industry evolves, underground cybercriminals are constantly looking for ways to counter the technology challenges presented to them. I recently found out that the bad guys have begun offering services to track the blacklisting of domain names through reputation checks. The number of “businesses” offering this type of service is growing and the service itself has now become semi-automated.

    This semi-automation can trace the list of requested domain names against the different Web reputation databases. The most recent service I studied is found on www.{BLOCKED}, which offers customers solutions wherein the list of the domain names are regularly checked for blacklisting against Google BlackList (Firefox), ZeuS Tracker,, SpamHaus, and others. The monthly fee for such a service is currently around US$30 for 100 domains.

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    The message above translates to:

    Zeus TRACKER
    Added cheking on ZEUS TRACKER
    Join now!
    Now clients of our service can use jabber bot, which can help in code crypting and check if the  domain is in black list, check your domains in a real time for the black listing.
    Join! It’s easy!
    Added API!
    Now clients of our service can use our algorithms via API.
    This means you can now integrate the algorithms into your software products.

    This service offers a Web-based interface for a manual site by site check and a bulk check mechanism. It utilizes an application programing interface (API) and uses Jabber as a communication protocol. Note that this is not the main business of the said site and it still prioritizes bulky JavaScript obfuscation.

    These new services demonstrate how adept the cybercriminals have become at using new technologies and resources to their advantage. The security industry finally understands the need for and has employed technologies such as reputation checks and the bad guys have already come along and misused the technology to their advantage in order to make even more money.

    Trend Micro protects users from potential attacks via the Smart Protection Network™, which blocks user access to all malicious URLs via the Web reputation service and detects all related malware via the file reputation service.


    Cybercriminals Go to The Cloud

    In an article by Dancho Danchev, he illustrated Trend Micro’s prediction that cloud hosting services such as Amazon EC2M can be easily used for fail-over command and control (C&C) botnet services.

    Just recently, Trend Micro had an issue with some IP ranges from the Amazon EC2 data centers. Based on the procedures of our email reputation database, active spamming IP addresses are automatically blocked.

    Hosting, as always, can be used as a platform for malware distribution. It does not really matter if it is a really small hosting provider with a few racks of hardware boxes or huge infrastructure with tons of hardware offering services in the cloud.

    The legitimate IP addresses of the cloud pool enables cybercriminals to use the malware services as abuse free hosting. If we take EC2 as an example, a client can reserve the pool of IP addresses and can easily manipulate this list by assigning the virtual instance of the existing IPs from the pool or by adding new ones.

    Fraudulent activities in the hosting cloud are difficult to trace. This makes perfect sense for cybercriminals who are trying to take advantage of a reputable organization by using it to hide their malicious business model. With that in mind, it is likely that in 2010, we will see a significant growth in the misuse of cloud hosting services.


    A few days ago, I got access to the source code of the well-known Elite Loader for free. Yes. It was published on one of the Russian underground forums. It even had a detailed description and screenshots showing how to use the application’s command and control (C&C) server.

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    Apart from dropping malicious files on infected machines, Elite Loader also allows malicious users to upload additional software to targeted systems to steal passwords or deploy spam or distributed denial of service (DDoS) modules that other cybercriminals can use.

    The bot’s C&C also contains siginificant statistics and makes use of a log-filtering feature to manage module downloads from the bots in different countries. It can also enable or disable target bots based on their location.

    The bot’s size is only 8kb, making the dropping process relatively hidden. The bot works perfectly well on the Microsoft XP Service Packs 1, 2, and 3 and Vista OSs and supports multiple job instances.

    The malware distribution business seems to have gone public. Elite Loader, for instance, was published by well-known Lonely Wolf—one of the moderators of the underground forum, DaMaGeLaB—with detailed instructions in the archive and even dedicated thread posts. This will make it easy even for script kiddies to create their own malicious code.

    Trend Micro detects the variants of the Elite Loader dropper as part of the DLOADER family of Trojans so product users need not worry about being infected. Trend Micro Smart Protection Network™ blocks the download of all malicious files and access to malicious URLs related to this bot.

    Non-Trend Micro product users who think their systems may have already been infected can clean their PCs using RUBotted.



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