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    Author Archive - Ryan Certeza (Technical Communications)

    Social networking websites have actively been used in different malicious campaigns by cybercriminals in the past –  most of which incorporate techniques such as phishing and spam.  One of these campaigns are the Blackhole Exploit Kit (BHEK) spam campaign, which has been plaguing Internet users for quite a while. BHEK spam campaigns are known to use popular brand names and websites to lure users.

    It’s no surprise, then, that we are now seeing a BHEK spam campaign targeting social networking website Pinterest and its users. Prior to this campaign, the website has also been the target of other threats, such as survey scams and spammed mails that lead to malicious websites.

    We received a sample of the messages being spammed, and upon analysis, discovered how its infection chain goes. Here is the entire infection chain, as follows:

    • The user receives the spammed mail in his inbox. It is tailored to resemble a legitimate mail from Pinterest, and notifies the user about a successful password change. It also presents a link that would allow him to see his new password.
    • Should the user click on the link, he is put through a series of website redirects. This redirection is detected as HTML_IFRAME.USR.
    • HTML_IFRAME.USR then downloads another malware onto the system, TROJ_PIDIEF.USR, which in turn drops BKDR_KRIDEX.KA. This final payload, being backdoor malware, has the ability to perform commands from a remote malicious user, and therefore can compromise a system’s security.

    While there is nothing new in this routine, users are still advised to always perform account-related changes only the websites they subscribe to. We also point towards the usage of CRIDEX as a final payload – a malware family that we’ve written about as one of the two families used in BHEK attacks. Like ZBOT, CRIDEX is used mainly to steal online banking information.

    To further protect themselves from these sort of threats, users should ensure that all software in their systems are updated and patched (namely Java, Adobe Acrobat, Adobe Reader, and Flash). This is because BHEK operates by exploiting vulnerabilities in popular software, and having those software plus their browser of choice updated can help prevent users from becoming victims. Avoiding links presented in suspicious mails and verifying the mail’s content first by contacting the supposed sender through other means (phone call, visitation) can also go a long way.

    The security solutions provided by Trend Micro™  protects users from all the elements of this threat.

    With additional analysis from Threat Response Engineers Alvin Bacani and Anti-Spam Research Engineer Mark Aquino.

    Posted in Bad Sites, Exploits, Malware, Social, Spam | Comments Off on Blackhole Exploit Kit Spam Campaign Hits Pinterest

    One of the biggest issues of the Android OS is its fragmentation problem. We’ve covered this before – about how almost all Android updates have to pass through both device manufacturers and service providers before getting to end users. Unfortunately, this process is not quick or assured, which results in fragmentation: multiple versions of Android are present and in use.

    This results in a many users being stuck with an outdated version of Android that may be riddled with vulnerabilities and security flaws. As of May 1, only 2.3% of Android devices in use are actually on the latest version, with more than a third still using Gingerbread – a version last updated in September 2011, and known to have 3-11 vulnerabilities, with the exact number depending on the specific version.

    Leaving users on older versions of Android has two consequences: vulnerabilities are left unpatched, and new features won’t reach them. At this year’s Google I/O developer conference, Google announced plans to fix at least part of this problem: instead of rolling out a new version, they instead announced updates to core apps. This allows them to add new features to Android, while at the same time not needing to push a completely new version out to users. It does not solve all potential problems due to fragmentation, but it’s a step in the right direction.

    Out latest monthly mobile report looks at this issue in full. It discusses the root of the problem itself, why it’s become a long-standing complaint, and how it may be a problem that may take Google a very long time to straighten out. Find out what you can do to help secure yourself and your device better if you are affected by this problem.  We also have our infographic for an illustrated glance at the issue.

    Posted in Mobile | Comments Off on The Android Fragmentation Problem

    Recent incidents highlight how frequently – and creatively – cybercriminals try to steal data. From “homemade browsers” to million-user data breaches, to the daily theft carried out every day by infostealers and phishing attacks, every day.

    All this stolen information ends up for sale in the underground to the highest bidder. From there, it can be used in many uniformly illegal ways – from identity theft, to credit card fraud, to launching attacks on other users. They can also be used to buy either expensive goods (which are then shipped to the cybercriminals), or pay for “bulletproof” web hosting that is frequently used for malicious sites. These may not cost that much individually, but the losses to users can be significant.

    It’s not just the fruits of cybercrime that are bought and sold in the underground – so are the tools, like exploit kits, vulnerabilities, and malware toolkits as well. Price tags here can reach the thousands of dollars, particularly for more advanced and sophisticated tools.

    There is so much money in the underground that it has become organized and systematic, much like real-world businesses. While the specifics of how the underground has organized itself varies from region to region, the mere fact that it has organized itself is noteworthy – both to allow for more information and tools to be sold, as well as reducing the risks of getting caught.

    Our new infographic – The Cybercriminal Underground: How Cybercriminals Are Getting Better At Stealing Your Money – explores what items are being sold and bought in the cybercrime underground, how the underground is organized, and how users are directly affected. It’s an excellent way to understand what users are up against in securing their information online. It may be viewed by clicking oh the thumbail below:

    To view all infographics from TrendLabs, visit

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    No less than a day or so after we discovered the spam campaign taking advantage of the Boston Marathon bombing, we came upon yet another spam campaign, very similar to the previous one except this time it uses the Texas fertilizer plant explosion as a lure.  The fertilizer plant explosion occurred a mere few days after the tragedy in Boston, with 35 suspected dead and more than 160 people injured.

    What’s disturbing about the discovery of this particular campaign is that not only does it come hot on the heels of the previous one, but the fact that they seem eerily similar to each other. Upon further analysis, we’ve discovered that the malicious URLs that the spammed mails link to have identical structures, right down to the domains. Even their spammed mails are similar to each other.


    Fig 1. The Boston Marathon explosion spammed email


    Fig 2. Texas plant explosion spammed email

    The only thing distinguishing them from each other was the document file name that the URL lead to – i.e. one URL from the Boston spam campaign lead to “boston.html” while the one from Texas lead to “texas.html”. It was as if the cybercriminals chose to capitalize on the latest tragedy by simply switching names.  The malicious URLs, of course, lead to exploit landing pages that could compromise an affected user’s system.

    We’ve also noted certain Twitter accounts spreading links using keywords related to the MIT shooting in Boston. These links redirect users to various websites of dubious reputation (most adware or spam-related). Though we have yet to see these links redirect to any malware-hosting website, users must still be cautious with their social media activities.


    Figure 3. Tweets leading to various dubious sites

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Spam | Comments Off on Cybercriminals Quickly Take Advantage of Texas Fertilizer Plant Blast, MIT Shooting

    Downloading from third-party app sites can be tempting for users – they offer ‘free’ versions of apps you would normally have to pay for. They may also  feature other apps that you may not be able their first-party counterparts.

    But is it really worth putting yourself and your mobile device at risk, considering all the possible dangers?

    In 2012, we uncovered an increase in the number of malicious domain accounts related to Android apps. From approximately 3,000 domains in January 2012, the number jumped to almost 8,000 by the end of the year. These malicious domains host suspicious .APK files or files containing data needed in Android app installation. Just an example of these malicious apps is the recent fake versions of the popular Candy Crush app with features that can be abused by cybercriminals. By using these features, they can get hold of your important data and aggressively push ads onto your device.

    The number of malicious domains, along with the 350,000 high-risk and malicious Android app found in 2012, portrays an alarming mobile threat landscape.

    As the mobile threat landscape unfolds, being informed is still your best defense. In our Mobile Review The Dangers of Third-Party Apps Sites, we reveal the hidden dangers that lurk in third-party app sites. It talks about how cybercriminals have begun to shift from simply tricking mobile users into installing malware-ridden apps to forcing them to visit or connect to malicious URLs.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Mobile | Comments Off on The Hidden Dangers in Third-Party App Sites


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