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Websense Security Labs discovers, investigates and reports on advanced Internet threats that traditional security
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Filtered by : Reverse Engineering, Malware

Trojan caught on camera shows CAPTCHA is still a security issue

Posted: 30 Jan 2012 02:00 AM | Elad Sharf


In a series of blogs a few years back, we covered how malware could abuse and circumvent online services that use CAPTCHA tests as part of their security ( 1 2 ). In this blog, we take a look at a recent malware variant from the wild caught on camera that shows CAPTCHA tests used by some online services are still weak and can be broken by malware. The image below (Picture 1) shows this CAPTCHA breaking malware's ecosystem, which we'll describe step by step. Step 1: The starting point of an infection is a banking Trojan variant known as Cridex. This variant is propagated via malicious email messages that hold shortened links leading to exploit kits (see this example ), in our case the Blackhole exploit kit . Step 2: If the exploit is successful, the Cridex variant is downloaded to the machine. Step 3: Cridex runs on the machine. Step 4: Cridex is a data-stealing Trojan that is similar to Zeus in the way it operates: It logs content from Web sessions and alters them to harvest information from the infected user. The Cridex configuration file downloaded by this variant (safe to view and download and shortened here) shows which websites the variant monitors and steals data from, along with Web form injection points (data alteration injected into Web forms to harvest additional data like ATM PIN numbers). We have observed that Facebook, Twitter, and many banking services are targets. A partial list of targeted websites can be found here . Step 5: Any stolen data from the system is uploaded to a command and control server. Picture 1: The Cridex ecosystem: Step 6: One of the components downloaded by Cridex with the configuration file is a propagation module or spamming module that allows the botmaster to send spam/malicious emails to infect other systems and increase the bot size. The spamming module holds backdoor components that allow browsing activities in the name of the user. The module opens Web sessions to online mail services and registers new email accounts that are later used by the bot to send spam/malicious emails. As we know, online mail services hold security checks like CAPTCHA challenges to verify that a human is indeed behind any account registration. Step 7: According to our findings, CAPTCHA challenges in some cases can be broken with the help of a CAPTCHA-breaking server, which allows the bot to register a mail account or address after only a few attempts. This video documents the registration of an online mail account by the bot on an infected machine: Video: Click here to watch the video on Youtube The CAPTCHA-breaking process consists of posting CAPTCHA challenge images harvested from the online email registration form to a remote Web server (the CAPTCHA-breaking server). The request is an HTTP POST with an embedded CAPTCHA image posted to the CAPTCHA-breaking server. Once the server processes the image, it outputs a response in JSON format with the CAPTCHA text result that responds to the submitted image (see Picture 2). The...

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Installation Protection Mechanisms of Phoenix Exploit's Kit

Posted: 27 Dec 2010 12:00 PM | Chris Astacio


As part of my research within Websense Security Labs, I collaborate with a group of researchers tasked with profiling exploit kits.  This helps us refine the analytics used in ACE, our Advanced Classification Engine.  In this post I want to cover the installation of Phoenix Exploit's Kit.  I'm not going to tell you how to install and use it, but I will cover some of the more interesting aspects of installation.  Specifically, I want to cover how the developers protect their code from being reverse engineered and how the developers have attempted to keep researchers from poking around in installed kits. 

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