08 July 2010 | 9,797 views

Regional Trojan Threat Targeting Online Banks

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Well it was inevitable really, I’ve noticed in the last couple of years Phishing e-mails have started to use targeted lists especially for banking sites and the next up of course is trojans developed for specific regions.

A security company Trusteer (who makes Rapport) has done some research on this matter which has pin-pointed certain malware which is specifically targeted at UK banking sites and their users. And they actually appear to be using the rather successful Zeus trojan, with 2 botnets targeting the UK.

I would guess that targeting on a per-country basis increases the chances of success hugely as there only limited banks in each country and especially in the small countries like UK there aren’t that many popular ones, especially with all the mergers that took place.

Cybercrooks have developed regionally-targeted banking Trojans that are more likely to slip under the radar of anti-virus defences.

Detection rates for regional malware vary between zero and 20 per cent, according to a study by transaction security firm Trusteer. This company markets browser security add-ons to banks, which offer them to consumers as a way of reducing the risk of malware on PCs resulting in banking fraud.

Trusteer cites two pieces of regional malware targeted at UK banking consumers. Silon.var2, crops up on one in every 500 computers in the UK compared to one in 20,000 in the US. Another strain of malware, dubbed Agent-DBJP, was found on one in 5,000 computers in the UK compared to one in 60,000 in the US.

The Zeus Trojan is the most common agent of financial fraud worldwide. The cybercrime toolkit is highly customisable and widely available through underground carder and cybercrime forums. Trusteer has identified two UK-specific Zeus botnets, designed to infect only UK-based Windows and harvest login credentials of only British banks from these compromised systems.

It seems like a sensible shift in the paradigm for the bot-herders and malware pushers, rather than spraying their malware everywhere they can geolocate the IP addresses they are attacking and send out specific versions of their malware for clients from different countries.

Rather than in the early days when phishing and trojans only targeted the very largest US banking organizations (Citibank, Bank of America etc.).

Plus the fact more and more people are using online banking, micro-payment systems and sharing all kinds of sensitive data with the World online and stored on their computers. This makes it a much richer field for the would-be fraudster.

Trusteer reckons the crooks behind the attack are using UK-centric spam lists and compromised websites to spread the malware while staying under the radar of security firms. It compares this process to the shift from mass assaults to targeted strikes in corporate espionage-motivated attacks such as Operation Aurora, which struck Google and other hit-tech firms last year.

“Unlike known malware kits such as Zeus, Torpig, and Ambler which simultaneously target hundreds of banks and enterprises around the world and are on the radar of all security vendors, regional financial malware such as Silon.var2 and Agent.DBJP are highly targeted,” said Mickey Boodaei, Trusteer’s chief exec.

“In the UK, each campaign would usually focus on three to seven banks and target them for a period of six to nine months and then morph and change the list of targets, using a new more advanced version of the malware.”

Regionally-targeted malware has also cropped up in South Africa and Germany over recent months. A strain of malware called Yaludle, almost unseen outside Germany, has been used to target the online banking credentials of German surfers. Trusteer is urging banks to share information on targeted attacks locally as well as working with regulators and local law enforcement agencies to shut down command and control servers associated with regionally-targeted malware. The firm, naturally enough, also wants to persuade more banks to use its Rapport secure browsing software as a way of providing an extra defence against fraud.

As the report states, it’s started to appear in other countries too such as Germany and South Africa. If you live in a non-major country, I’d imagine it’ll be coming to your shores soon enough. I already started seeing regionally targeted phishing e-mails here last year, I’d expect the location aware trojans to hit soon too.

The trojans were actually identified by Trusteer’s Flashlight service, which is a kind of forensics software for banking. It allows banks to diagnose whether a client’s PC has been infected with malware following incidents of suspected fraud.

Anyway interesting stuff, if you work in the financial sector give those upstairs a heads-up about this, if you have a big user-base – please warn your users too.

Source: The Register



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One Response to “Regional Trojan Threat Targeting Online Banks”

  1. Bogwitch 9 July 2010 at 10:04 am Permalink

    I believe it is well within the remit of the UK banks to address this issue.

    On a recent visit to my bank (Barclays) to request a change of address, I was asked if I am using online banking. I explained to the cashier that I do not, and gave a brief explanation as to why, touching briefly on the insecurity of static passwords etc. I did not expect the cashier to fully understand my concerns and therefore I was amazed when the cashier suggested that she request a device be sent out to me that contained a keypad for PIN entry which generated single-use, 8 digit passcodes for use with the online banking system.

    I did enquire as to why this facility wasn’t being offered more widely and it was explained to me that it is purely related to cost.

    I would urge anyone who uses Barclays to pop in to their local branch to request such a device if they are using online banking, it’s zero cost to you and can only help to increase the security of your online banking transactions.

    Oh, and I don’t work for Barclays even if this did sould a bit like an advert!