Trojan zaps banking credentials via IM

Instant gratification


No longer the province of teens and chat-obsessed netizens, instant messaging is being adopted by a growing number of banking malware applications, which zap pilfered credentials to thieves in real time.

The latest entrant is Zeus, a trojan that monitors an infected PC for passwords entered into banking websites and other financial services. Over the past three months, investigators from RSA FraudAction Research Lab have observed the program, which also goes by the name Torpig and Mebroot, using the Jabber IM protocol to make sure the most valuable credentials don't get lost in the shuffle.

The move signals the growing focus on immediacy among scammers as they try to counter the increased use of measures designed to detect and prevent banking fraud.

"One of the things that has definitely changed in recent times is that the half life of a stolen credential is decreasing," said Sean Brady, a senior manager for identity protection and verification at RSA, a division of EMC. "There is definitely a sense of urgency of the part of these fraudsters about using the credential."

Previously, Zeus uploaded the credentials to a drop server database, which scammers periodically checked. The new method employs PHP scripts that automatically send credentials as soon as they're intercepted. That allows thieves to retrieve the information much more quickly than would otherwise be possible. It also allows retrieval even when crooks, many of whom don't always have reliable net connections, don't have access to the server hosing the drop.

As a growing number of banks adopt the use of one-time passwords, the need for speedier delivery mechanisms is growing. Instant messaging makes it possible for thieves to thwart such measures by, in some cases, allowing them to silently make transactions while a victim is still logged in to an online bank. A competing trojan known as Sinowal has used similar methods since last year, RSA researchers said.

The IM scripts are highly customizable. RSA researchers observed one version of Zeus that IMed credentials for customers of a single US-based financial institution that was being targeted. In another case, the trojan sent dispatches for five pre-set institutions. (For convenience, it also emailed the information as well). ®

Broader topics


Other stories you might like

  • Stolen university credentials up for sale by Russian crooks, FBI warns
    Forget dark-web souks, thousands of these are already being traded on public bazaars

    Russian crooks are selling network credentials and virtual private network access for a "multitude" of US universities and colleges on criminal marketplaces, according to the FBI.

    According to a warning issued on Thursday, these stolen credentials sell for thousands of dollars on both dark web and public internet forums, and could lead to subsequent cyberattacks against individual employees or the schools themselves.

    "The exposure of usernames and passwords can lead to brute force credential stuffing computer network attacks, whereby attackers attempt logins across various internet sites or exploit them for subsequent cyber attacks as criminal actors take advantage of users recycling the same credentials across multiple accounts, internet sites, and services," the Feds' alert [PDF] said.

    Continue reading
  • Big Tech loves talking up privacy – while trying to kill privacy legislation
    Study claims Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta, Microsoft work to derail data rules

    Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta, and Microsoft often support privacy in public statements, but behind the scenes they've been working through some common organizations to weaken or kill privacy legislation in US states.

    That's according to a report this week from news non-profit The Markup, which said the corporations hire lobbyists from the same few groups and law firms to defang or drown state privacy bills.

    The report examined 31 states when state legislatures were considering privacy legislation and identified 445 lobbyists and lobbying firms working on behalf of Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta, and Microsoft, along with industry groups like TechNet and the State Privacy and Security Coalition.

    Continue reading
  • SEC probes Musk for not properly disclosing Twitter stake
    Meanwhile, social network's board rejects resignation of one its directors

    America's financial watchdog is investigating whether Elon Musk adequately disclosed his purchase of Twitter shares last month, just as his bid to take over the social media company hangs in the balance. 

    A letter [PDF] from the SEC addressed to the tech billionaire said he "[did] not appear" to have filed the proper form detailing his 9.2 percent stake in Twitter "required 10 days from the date of acquisition," and asked him to provide more information. Musk's shares made him one of Twitter's largest shareholders. The letter is dated April 4, and was shared this week by the regulator.

    Musk quickly moved to try and buy the whole company outright in a deal initially worth over $44 billion. Musk sold a chunk of his shares in Tesla worth $8.4 billion and bagged another $7.14 billion from investors to help finance the $21 billion he promised to put forward for the deal. The remaining $25.5 billion bill was secured via debt financing by Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, Barclays, and others. But the takeover is not going smoothly.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022