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    2014 was a year that was marked with numerous changes in the threat landscape. We saw a lot of improvements in existing malware, either with new evasion techniques or versions. We even saw some old techniques and attacks resurface in the landscape.

    Evasion Tactics

    We are seeing more malware incorporate Tor in their routines as a method of evasion. We have seen ZBOT variants include a Tor component to hide the malware’s communication to its command-and-control (C&C) servers. We have also seen a variant of BIFROSE malware, often used in targeted attacks, include Tor in its communications routine.

    In a span of a few months, we witnessed the malware POWELIKS increase its anti-detection techniques. At first, POWELIKS hid its malicious codes in the Windows Registry, making detection and forensics difficult. We later found new variants employ a new autostart mechanism and removes users’ privileges in viewing the registry’s content.

    Spam also upped the ante by using snippets of current news articles in the body text of the email. This technique, adding random clips of incidents or news that maybe relevant given the date and time, is used by spammers to avoid email filters.

    The Rise of 64-Bit Malware

    In 2014, Google made the observation that majority of Windows users are now using 64-bit operating systems. Unfortunately, attackers are also following suit with 64-bit malware.

    Notorious banking malware ZeuS/ZBOT was found targeting 64-bit systems. This 64-bit version for ZeuS/ZBOT is a progression for the malware. Upon analysis, we found that this new versions has upgraded its antimalware evasion techniques, including execution prevention of certain analysis tools.

    In the 2H 2013 Targeted Attack Trends report, we noted that almost 10% of all malware related to targeted attacks run exclusively on 64-bit platforms. Activity in the threat landscape supports this statistic. We spotted an upgraded 64-bit KIVARS used in targeted attacks. Meanwhile, 64-bit versions of the malware MIRAS was discovered to have been used in data exfiltration stage in a targeted attack. Yet another malware, HAVEX, was also found to have 64-bit versions. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Malware | Comments Off on Notorious Malware Improvements and Enhancements of 2014

    2014 can be remembered as the year when PoS malware attacks became truly widespread. Many retailers and other businesses became victims of these attacks, which resulted in financial losses and embarrassment for their victims. One can ask: how do these organizations become victims of PoS malware in the first place?

    Most of the methods used to compromise a system with PoS malware are broadly similar to those used by any other malware. In our paper titled PoS RAM Scraper Malware, we discussed some possibilities, including:

    • A malicious insider
      Employees of an organization could decide to plant PoS malware on the relevant systems. This is one of the hardest threats to defend against, but as far as PoS malware is concerned, one of the earliest scrapers were first discovered in air-gapped PoS systems. To this day, some PoS malware families will dump stolen data directly to a USB stick.
    • Phishing/social engineering
      Phishing is one of the oldest techniques around to compromise a network, and it’s still very effective. This risk is particularly acute in small businesses, which tend to use a PoS system not just for payment purposes, but for others as well (such as email, browsing, and social media). This increases the risk that various social engineering attacks will prove to be successful.
    • Vulnerability exploitation
      PoS systems are frequently not updated, partially at the behest of terminal vendors who may have something of a “it’s not broke, don’t fix it” mentality. Unfortunately, this means that these systems are vulnerable to many exploits that attackers regularly try to use. This can be a problem particularly in cases where PoS systems are used for other purposes.
    • Non-compliance with PCI DSS guidelines
      The payment industry’s PCI DSS guidelines are supposed to mandate best practices within the industry, but in some cases these are not followed. The causes for non-compliance may vary, but the end result is the same: poor implementation of best practices allows various “small” incidents to leak payment information.
    • Targeted attacks
      More sophisticated attacks may also be used to target a business’s PoS systems. For example, targeting a third-party contractor with access to a company’s network may be easier than targeting the company directly.

    Whatever the threat may be, a variety of technologies can be used to detect these threats. Deep packet inspection tools can help detect the network traffic associated with these attacks. Most importantly, given that the functions performed by PoS systems are sufficiently limited in scope, they represent an ideal situation for application control. This would make launching malware attacks of any kind significantly more difficult.

    The infographic, Protecting Point of Sales Systems from PoS Malware, outlines how a PoS attack takes place, and what steps need to be taken to protect against them.

    Posted in Malware | Comments Off on Protecting Your Money: How Does PoS Malware Get In?

    Last year we saw how the Windows PowerShell® command shell was involved in spreading ROVNIX via malicious macro downloaders. Though the attack seen in November did not directly abuse the PowerShell feature, we’re now seeing the banking malware VAWTRAK abuse this Windows feature, while also employing malicious macros in Microsoft Word.

    The banking malware VAWTRAK is involved with stealing online banking information. Some of the targeted banks include Bank of America, Barclays, Citibank, HSBC, Lloyd’s Bank, and J.P. Morgan. Other variants seen in the past targeted German, British, Swiss, and Japanese banks.

    Arriving via “FedEx” Spam

    The infection chain begins with spammed messages. Most of the messages involved with this infection are made to look like they came from the mailing company FedEx. The emails notify their recipients that a package was delivered to them, and contain a receipt number attached for the supposed “delivery.”

    Figure 1. “FedEx” spam

    Another email we saw came from a fake American Airlines email address, which informs recipients that their credit card has been processed for a transaction. The attached “ticket” is a Microsoft Word file that supposedly contains details of the transaction.

    Figure 2. “American Airlines” email

    Using Macros and PowerShell

    Email recipients who open the document will first see jumbled symbols. The document instructs users to enable the macros, and a security warning on the upper right hand corner leads users to enable the feature.

    Figure 3. Document before and after enabling the macro feature

    Once the macro is enabled, a batch file is dropped into the affected system, along with a .VBS file and a PowerShell script. The batch file is programmed to run the .VBS file, which is then prompted to run the PowerShell file. The PowerShell file finally downloads the VAWTRAK variant, detected as BKDR_VAWTRAK.DOKR.

    Figure 4. Connecting to URLs to download VAWTRAK

    The use of three components (batch file, VBScript, and Windows Powershell file) might be an evasion tactic. The VBS file has “ -ExecutionPolicy bypass” policy flag to bypass execution policies in the affected system. These policies are often seen as a “security” feature by many administrators.  They will not allow scripts to be run unless they meet the requirements of the policy. When the “ -ExecutionPolicy bypass” policy flag is used, “nothing is blocked and there are no warnings or prompts.” This means that the malware infection chain can proceed without any security blocks.

    VAWTRAK Routines

    Once BKDR_VAWTRAK.DOKR is in the computer, it steals information from different sources. For example, it steals email credentials from mail services like Microsoft Outlook and Windows Mail. It also attempts to steal information from different browsers, including Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox. It also steals account information for File Transfer Protocol (FTP) clients or file manager software like FileZilla.

    Additionally, BKDR_VAWTRAK.DOKR can bypass two-factor authentication like one-time password (OTP) tokens and also has functionalities like Automatic Transfer System (ATS).

    The SSL bypass and ATS capabilities of VAWTRAK malware depends on the configuration file it receives. The configuration file contains the script used for ATS and SSL, which is injected into the web browser. The malicious scripts may change depending on the targeted site. SSL bypass and ATS scripts are like automation scripts injected in the client’s web browser. This creates an impression that the transactions are done on the victim’s machine, which minimizes suspicion toward the malware.

    It also performs information theft through methods like form grabbing, screenshots, and site injections. Some the targeted sites include Amazon, Facebook, Farmville, Google, Gmail, Yahoo Mail, and Twitter.

    VAWTRAK, Old and New

    The use of Microsoft Word documents with malicious macro code is a departure from known VAWTRAK arrival vectors. VAWTRAK variants were previously payloads of exploits; and some VAWTRAK infections were part of a chain involving the Angler exploit kit. The routine involving the use of macros is similar to other data-stealing malware, specifically ROVNIX and DRIDEX.

    Another significant change we have seen is the path and file name used by the malware. VAWTRAK variants previously used these path and file name before:

    %All Users Profile%\Application Data\{random file name}.dat

    %Program Data%\{random file name}.dat

    They have since changed to

    %All Users Profile%\Application Data\{random folder name}\{random filename}.{random file extension}

    %Program Data%\{random folder name}\{random filename}.{random file extension}

    The change in path and file name has security implications. The change would affect systems relying on behavior rules. If their rule/s for VAWTRAK is looking for .DAT extension under the %All Users Profile%\Application Data and %Program Data% folder, they need to update to catch these VAWTRAK samples.

    Macros for Evasion

    VAWTRAK is the latest family to use macro-based attacks. Those were popular in the early 2000s but soon faded into relative obscurity. This particular VAWTRAK variant uses a password-protected macro, which makes analyzing the malware difficult since the macro cannot be viewed or opened without the password or a special tool.

    Affected Countries

    We have been monitoring this new wave of VAWTRAK infections since November 2014. Of the affected countries, the United States has the most number of infections, followed by Japan. Previous data from the Trend Micro™ Smart Protection Network™ showed that most of the VAWTRAK infections were found in Japan.

    Figure 5. Top countries affected by this new VAWTRAK variant


    VAWTRAK has gone through some notable improvements since it was first spotted in August 2013 as an attachment to fake shipping notification emails. Coupled with the continuous use and abuse of malicious macros and Windows PowerShell, cybercriminals have come up with the ideal tool for carrying out their data theft routines. The Trend Micro™ Smart Protection Network™ protects users from this threat by blocking all related malicious files, URLs, and spammed emails. It is also advised that users are able to discern fake emails from legitimate ones, and in this case, real airline tickets or receipts from fake ones.

    Related hashes:

    • de9115c65e1ae3694353116e8d16de235001e827 (BKDR_VAWTRAK.DOKR)
    • 1631d05a951f3a2bc7491e1623a090d53d983a50 (W2KM_VLOAD.A)
    • 77332d7bdf99d5ae8a7d5efb33b20652888eea35 (BKDR_VAWTRAK.SM0)

    With analysis and input by Jeffrey Bernardino, Raphael Centeno, Cris Pantanilla, Rhena Inocencio, Cklaudioney Mesa, Chloe Ordonia, and Michael Casayuran

    Posted in Malware | 1 TrackBack »

    7:09 pm (UTC-7)   |    by

    Today, Trend Micro publishes a research report on an ongoing malware campaign that targets Israeli victims and leverages network infrastructure in Germany. The campaign has strong attribution ties to Arab parties located in the Gaza Strip and elsewhere.

    We have uncovered two separate, but heavily interconnected campaigns:

    Operation Arid Viper: This is a highly-targeted attack on high-value Israeli targets that links back to attackers located in Gaza, Palestine. The campaign’s modus operandi involves using spear-phishing emails with an attachment containing malware disguised as a pornographic video. The attached malware carries out data exfiltration routines for a large cache of documents gathered from their victims’ machines in a sort of “smash-and-grab” attack. The first related malware sample was seen in the middle of 2013.

    Operation Advtravel: This is a much less targeted attack with hundreds of victims in Egypt, whose infected systems appear to be personal laptops. This leads us to believe that the campaign is not as sophisticated as that of Operation Arid Viper. The attackers involved with Operation Advtravel can be traced back to Egypt.

    However, what is perhaps even more interesting than either of the attacks on their own is that these two separate campaigns where so closely linked together:

    • Both are hosted on the same servers in Germany
    • The domains for both campaigns have been registered by the same individuals
    • Both campaigns can be tied back to activity from Gaza, Palestine.

    operation-arid-viper-advtravel_thumbOn one hand, we have a sophisticated targeted attack, and on the other a less skilled attack that has all the hallmarks of beginner hackers. So why would these groups be working together?

    Our working theory (and subject of continuing investigation) is that there may be an overarching organization or underground community that helps support Arab hackers fight back against perceived enemies of Islam. They may do this by helping set up infrastructures, suggest targets and so on.

    We predict that there will be an increase of such “Cyber Militia activity” in the Arab world, where non-state actors fight against other organizations that would traditionally be considered enemies – similar to what we discussed about the Russian ties in the CyberBerkut attacks on Germany.

    Our full paper on Operation Arid Viper gives more details on the victims, technical details and details we found on the possible attackers behind these campaigns. You can download the paper from this link: Operation Arid Viper – Bypassing the Iron Dome.


    Analysis by Henry Li and Rajat Kapoor

    Security researcher David Leo has disclosed a new vulnerability in Microsoft Internet Explorer. The vulnerability allows the same origin policy of the browser to be violated. The same-origin policy restricts how a document or script loaded from one origin/website can interact with a resource from another origin.

    Breaking the same-origin policy could allow an attacker to hijack sessions, steal authentication cookies, and launch phishing attacks. This flaw is described as a universal cross-site scripting (UXSS) vulnerability as it renders all websites vulnerable to XSS attacks.

    A UXSS attack does not need any vulnerability on the target website to be present. A user visiting a malicious URL is sufficient for the attack to be carried out. For example, the cookies of any site visited by the user in the past can be easily stolen. In other scenarios, the target site can be “modified” as if it had been compromised by an attacker, with all of these “modifications” taking place within the user’s browser.

    An attacker could potentially use an IFRAME to load a legitimate site for which the victim has an account. Due to the disclosed bug, the attacker now has the ability to run Javascript in the context of the legitimate site, something he should not be able to do due to the Same Origin Policy (a site can only use code to access its own content). The victim would then run the risk of possibly having the data they enter into that legitimate website, or cookies associated with it, stolen by the attacker.

    The researcher has posted a proof of concept that demonstrated the attack on the website of the British newspaper the Daily Mail. The exploit page provides a link to the Daily Mail website, which is opened in a new window. After seven seconds the content of the website is replaced with the page reading “Hacked by Deusen”.

    Websites could protect themselves from this vulnerability by using the HTTP header X-Frame-options with “same-origin” , “deny”, “allow-from” values.

    IE 11 is known to be vulnerable; it was not immediately clear if older versions are at risk. Windows 7, Windows 8.1, and the Windows 10 Technical Preview are all affected by this vulnerability. No patch or workaround is known at this time.

    Analyzing the vulnerability

    So how does this vulnerability work? We looked into this on a Windows 7 32-bit system, with an unpatched version of Internet Explorer 11 (version 11.00.9600.17041 of mshtmll.dll).

    Before explaining this vulnerability, we need to know some details about the data structure within mshtmll.dll.

    Figure 1. mshtml.dll data structure

    As shown in the above image, each IFRAME has a structure CWindow.

    • absid: the security identifier, which is represented by the current domain.

    The abSID is not a member of the CWindow. CWindow can call GetSIDOfDispatch to get the abSID.

    When we refer to a frame, the rendering engine creates a proxy window COmWindowProxy. This contains:

    • pWindow: pointer to the real html Window
    • pbSID: the security identifier, which is represented by the origin which refers to its real window.

    How does the same origin policy work? If we attempt to access the COmWindowProxy resource, it will call the function AccessAllowed. This function compares pbSid and pWindow->abSID. If equal, this access is in the same origin, and it is allowed to proceed. Otherwise, the attempt is rejected.

    In this case, the engine simply forgets to check for this access, allowing the SOP to be bypassed.

    The proof of concept is made up of two files: one an HTML file called poc.html and a PHP file called 1.php. THe HTML file contains two IFRAMES, namely:

    <iframe style="display:none;" width=300 height=300 id=i name=i src="1.php"></iframe><br>

    Example 1. Frame0

    <iframe width=300 height=100 frameBorder=0 src=""></iframe><br>

    Example 2. Frame1

    It also contains a Javascript function:

    function go()
    w.setTimeout("alert(eval('x=top.frames[1];r=confirm(\\'Close this window after 3 seconds...\\');x.location=\\'javascript:%22%3Cscript%3Efunction%20a()%7Bw.document.body.

    Example 3. go function

    The PHP file contains the following code:


    Example 4. PHP code

    The vulnerability is triggered this way:

    1. In the go function, the Frame0 domain is http://serverip, which this being the URL of the malicious site.. Because of the php call sleep(5), the sever response is pending.

    Frame1 domain is, or any target site. The main frame domain is http://serverip.

    The command w=window.frames[0] will create a ComWindowProxy w like so:

    Because pbSID is equal to abSID, w.setTimeout access is allowed by the SOP.

    2. The w.setTimeout timeout fires.

    2.1. The command .x=top.frames[1] will create a COWindowproxy variant x. Its pbSID is serverIP.

    2.2. The confirm message loop processes a redirect message; the frame0 abSID will change to Frame1.

    2.3. JavaScript  engine runs x.location. At this point, the correct approach is to call x.AccessAllowed, because pbSID (the attack server IP ) and abSId ( are not equal and thus, access will fail. However, here, no such check was ever made. The attacker can then run as “normal”.

    The root cause of this vulnerability is simply a forgotten call, leading to an SOP bypass. Interestingly, our tests suggest that Internet Explorer 8 handled this properly but later versions (9 through 11) did not.

    Trend Micro Deep Security provides protection to users via the following rule, which was released to users earlier in the week:

    • 1006472 – Microsoft Internet Explorer Same Origin Policy Bypass Vulnerability


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