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    It has been said that 2011 is the year of sequels in the movie industry and it seems that malware authors are also taking cues from their Hollywood counterparts. It is only the first quarter of the year but we have already seen a number of revamps of previous well-known malware. The new year started off with the Waledac spin-off Kelihos then ZeuS followed suit with its multiplatform mobile version. Now, recent reports also point to the comeback of a reluctant malware celebrity—QAKBOT.

    QAKBOT never had the same level of notoriety that ZeuS managed to reach. Nevertheless, the damage it inflicted made a great impact on several multinational companies. An RSA report (in PDF) on the impact of attacks involving QAKBOT may be viewed here.

    Our engineers got hold of a new QAKBOT variant in early 2011. Even though its core payload remained the same, several changes were evident. QAKBOT used to be known as a multicomponent malware. Each of its components performs specific routines like information theft, rootkit , anti-emulation, backdoor, and blockage of access to antivirus websites.

    However, with this new variant—third-generation QAKBOT, all of the aforementioned routines have been packaged into one executable file. It seems that its modules were combined to make it more transferrable. Below is an image describing its structure.

    Despite the compression, none of the functions of QAKBOT variants were sacrificed. In fact, we were able to observe improved propagation methods. Like older variants, the new variant also propagates via network shares, removable drives, and peer-to-peer (P2P) networks.

    Whenever a USB drive is plugged in, it will randomly select a file name in the drive and name its dropped copy {malware filename}_{selected filename}.exe. If the drive is empty, it will just append _Documents to its file name (i.e., {malware_filename}_Documents.ex). As for its P2P mechanism, it will attempt to access a certain URL to get its peer list though this is currently inaccessible.

    As more improvements to this already prevalent threat ensue, it will not be surprising if users continue to be affected by QAKBOT unless they get proper protection. Rest assured, however, that we are closely monitoring this threat for any development.

    More information on QAKBOT can be viewed in our comprehensive report “QAKBOT: A Prevalent Info-Stealing Malware.”

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