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In "The anti-virus age is over," Graham Sutherland argues that the targeted, hard-to-stop attacks used by government-level hackers and other "advanced persistent threats" are now so automatable that they have become the domain of everyday script-kiddie creeps. Normally, the advanced techniques are only used against specific, high-value targets -- they're so labor-intensive that it's not worth trying them on millions of people in order to get a few more machines for a spam-sending botnet, or to extract a few credit-card numbers and passwords with a key-logger.

But all attacks tend to migrate from the realm of hand-made, labor-intensive and high-skill techniques to automated techniques that can be deployed with little technical expertise against millions of random targets.

Signature-based analysis, both static (e.g. SHA1 hash) and heuristic (e.g. pattern matching) is useless against polymorphic malware, which is becoming a big concern when you consider how easy it is to write code generators these days. By the time an identifying pattern is found in a particular morphing engine, the bad guys have already written a new one. When you consider that even most browser scripting languages are Turing complete, it becomes evident that the same malware behaviour is almost infinitely re-writeable, with little effort on the developer’s part. Behavioural analysis might provide a low-success-rate detection method, but it’s a weak indicator of malintent at best.

We’ve also seen a huge surge in attacks that fit the Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) model in the last few years. These threats have a specific target and goal, rather than randomly attacking targets to grab the low-hanging fruit. Attacks under the APT model can involve social engineering, custom malware, custom exploits / payloads and undisclosed 0-day vulnerabilities – exactly the threats that anti-malware solutions have difficulty handling.

This was the premise and theme of my novella Knights of the Rainbow Table (also available as a free audiobook). It's a funny old world.

The anti-virus age is over.

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Original author: 
Dan Goodin

Wikipedia

Coordinated attacks used to knock websites offline grew meaner and more powerful in the past three months, with an eight-fold increase in the average amount of junk traffic used to take sites down, according to a company that helps customers weather the so-called distributed denial-of-service campaigns.

The average amount of bandwidth used in DDoS attacks mushroomed to an astounding 48.25 gigabits per second in the first quarter, with peaks as high as 130 Gbps, according to Hollywood, Florida-based Prolexic. During the same period last year, bandwidth in the average attack was 6.1 Gbps and in the fourth quarter of last year it was 5.9 Gbps. The average duration of attacks also grew to 34.5 hours, compared with 28.5 hours last year and 32.2 hours during the fourth quarter of 2012. Earlier this month, Prolexic engineers saw an attack that exceeded 160 Gbps, and officials said they wouldn't be surprised if peaks break the 200 Gbps threshold by the end of June.

The spikes are brought on by new attack techniques that Ars first chronicled in October. Rather than using compromised PCs in homes and small offices to flood websites with torrents of traffic, attackers are relying on Web servers, which often have orders of magnitude more bandwidth at their disposal. As Ars reported last week, an ongoing attack on servers running the WordPress blogging application is actively seeking new recruits that can also be harnessed to form never-before-seen botnets to bring still more firepower.

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Original author: 
Sean Gallagher

Original photo by Michael Kappel / Remixed by Aurich Lawson

Have a plan to steal millions from banks and their customers but can't write a line of code? Want to get rich quick off advertising click fraud but "quick" doesn't include time to learn how to do it? No problem. Everything you need to start a life of cybercrime is just a few clicks (and many more dollars) away.

Building successful malware is an expensive business. It involves putting together teams of developers, coordinating an army of fraudsters to convert ill-gotten gains to hard currency without pointing a digital arrow right back to you. So the biggest names in financial botnets—Zeus, Carberp, Citadel, and SpyEye, to name a few—have all at one point or another decided to shift gears from fraud rings to crimeware vendors, selling their wares to whoever can afford them.

In the process, these big botnet platforms have created a whole ecosystem of software and services in an underground market catering to criminals without the skills to build it themselves. As a result, the tools and techniques used by last years' big professional bank fraud operations, such as the "Operation High Roller" botnet that netted over $70 million last summer, are available off-the-shelf on the Internet. They even come with full technical support to help you get up and running.

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Original author: 
timothy

An anonymous reader writes "A new piece of malware propagating across Skype has been discovered that tries to convince the recipient to click on a link. What makes this particular threat different is that it drops a Bitcoin miner application to make the malware author money. While malware has both spread on Skype and mined Bitcoins before, putting the two together could be an effective new strategy."

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Original author: 
Sean Gallagher

Over a year after the arrest of eight of its members in Russia, the alleged leader of the original Carberp botnet ring that stole millions from bank accounts worldwide has been arrested, along with about 20 other members of the ring who served as its malware development team. The arrests, reported by the news site Kommersant Ukraine, were a collaboration between Russian and Ukrainian security forces. The alleged ringleader, an unnamed 28-year-old Russian citizen, and the others were living throughout Ukraine.

Initially launched in 2010, Carberp primarily targeted the customers of Russian and Ukrainian banks and was novel in the way it doctored Java code used in banking apps to commit its fraud. Spread by the ring through malware planted on popular Russian websites, the Carberp trojan was used to distribute targeted malware that modifies the bytecode in BIFIT's iBank 2 e-banking application, a popular online banking tool used by over 800 Russian banks, according to Aleksandr Matrosov, senior malware researcher at ESET. The botnet that spread the malware, which was a variant of the Zeus botnet framework, also was used to launch distributed denial of service attacks.

In February of 2011 the group put its malware on the market, selling it to would-be cybercriminals for $10,000 per kit—but it pulled the kit a few months later.

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Original author: 
Dan Goodin

Aurich Lawson / Thinkstock

Tens of thousands of websites, some operated by The Los Angeles Times, Seagate, and other reputable companies, have recently come under the spell of "Darkleech," a mysterious exploitation toolkit that exposes visitors to potent malware attacks.

The ongoing attacks, estimated to have infected 20,000 websites in the past few weeks alone, are significant because of their success in targeting Apache, by far the Internet's most popular Web server software. Once it takes hold, Darkleech injects invisible code into webpages, which in turn surreptitiously opens a connection that exposes visitors to malicious third-party websites, researchers said. Although the attacks have been active since at least August, no one has been able to positively identify the weakness attackers are using to commandeer the Apache-based machines. Vulnerabilities in Plesk, Cpanel, or other software used to administer websites is one possibility, but researchers aren't ruling out the possibility of password cracking, social engineering, or attacks that exploit unknown bugs in frequently used applications and OSes.

Researchers also don't know precisely how many sites have been infected by Darkleech. The server malware employs a sophisticated array of conditions to determine when to inject malicious links into the webpages shown to end users. Visitors using IP addresses belonging to security and hosting firms are passed over, as are people who have recently been attacked or who don't access the pages from specific search queries. The ability of Darkleech to inject unique links on the fly is also hindering research into the elusive infection toolkit.

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Original author: 
Sean Gallagher


The Evernote interface for Chinese users—and the gateway to commands for a very sneaky backdoor.

Your average workaday botnet uses a command and control server to give the malware bots on infected PCs their marching orders. But as network security tools begin to block traffic to suspicious domains, some enterprising hackers are turning to communications tools less likely to be blocked by corporate firewalls, using consumer services to deliver their bidding to their digital minions. Today, security researchers at Trend Micro revealed the latest case of the consumerization of botnet IT: malware that uses an Evernote account to communicate.

The backdoor malware, designated as VERNOT.A by Trend Micro, is delivered via an executable file that installs the malware as a dynamic-link library. The installer then ties the DLL into a legitimate running process, hiding it from casual detection. Once up and running, the backdoor starts to collect information about the system it has made its home—the computer's name, the person and organization identified as its registered owners, the operating system version, and its timezone. Then it connects to Evernote—specifically the Chinese interface to the Evernote service—to fetch information from notes saved in an account, including commands to download, run, and rename files on its host system.

According to a blog post by Trend Micro Threat Response Engineer Nikko Tamaña, the backdoor may have also used Evernote as a location to upload stolen data. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it), the account that was hard-coded into the backdoor's channel to home had already been shut down—ironically, because its password was reset after Evernote's recent security breach.

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Aurich Lawson (after Aliens)

In one of the more audacious and ethically questionable research projects in recent memory, an anonymous hacker built a botnet of more than 420,000 Internet-connected devices and used it to perform one of the most comprehensive surveys ever to measure the insecurity of the global network.

In all, the nine-month scanning project found 420 million IPv4 addresses that responded to probes and 36 million more addresses that had one or more ports open. A large percentage of the unsecured devices bore the hallmarks of broadband modems, network routers, and other devices with embedded operating systems that typically aren't intended to be exposed to the outside world. The researcher found a total of 1.3 billion addresses in use, including 141 million that were behind a firewall and 729 million that returned reverse domain name system records. There were no signs of life from the remaining 2.3 billion IPv4 addresses.

Continually scanning almost 4 billion addresses for nine months is a big job. In true guerilla research fashion, the unknown hacker developed a small scanning program that scoured the Internet for devices that could be logged into using no account credentials at all or the usernames and passwords of either "root" or "admin." When the program encountered unsecured devices, it installed itself on them and used them to conduct additional scans. The viral growth of the botnet allowed it to infect about 100,000 devices within a day of the program's release. The critical mass allowed the hacker to scan the Internet quickly and cheaply. With about 4,000 clients, it could scan one port on all 3.6 billion addresses in a single day. Because the project ran 1,000 unique probes on 742 separate ports, and possibly because the binary was uninstalled each time an infected device was restarted, the hacker commandeered a total of 420,000 devices to perform the survey.

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