Feeds

Storm Worm of a thousand faces

Mutating malware hits cat lovers, music freaks

SANS - Survey on application security programs

Authors of a particularly nasty piece of malware known as Storm Worm have yet again shifted their tactics. They are creating a flood of email hoaxes that try to install a bogus "applet" so victims can redeem membership benefits to clubs related to music, online dating and other interests.

The new emails bear subject headings such as "User info," "Membership support" and "Login information," and contain purported login credentials for sites that offer the gamut of services tailored to online music aficionados, cat lovers and poker players, according to this post by F-Secure.

Just as genetic mutations allow a particular type of caterpillar or breed of dog to better withstand virulent disease, the frequent changes in Storm improve its resiliency against attacks from rival criminal gangs and security providers. The tactical shifts are crucial since the success of Storm relies on the ability to dupe recipients into clicking on links and installing programs.

The most recent strain of Storm lures victims to sites that claim an "applet" needs to be installed so the user can login securely, according to this post by Johannes Ullrich, CTO for SANS Internet Storm Center.

The resulting applet.exe - which installs a backdoor on the user's machine - represents a case study in the benefits of adaptation. The binary morphs about every 30 minutes, making it particularly hard for antivirus programs to identify it as malware. Indeed, earlier on Tuesday, only 14 of 32 anti-virus programs detected a version of the applet Ullrich had downloaded. Later in the day, many of those laggards added definitions to flag the applet, but its ability to change so frequently means it may still be hard to detect.

"A lot of commonly used antivirus tools don't detect" Storm, Ulrich told The Reg. "The traditional signature approach that some of the antivirus vendors use really isn't all that useful anymore."

Programs that have the best chance of identifying the malware are those that use heuristics, or algorithmic rules of thumb, for identifying software that has a high likelihood of containing malware.

Like other Storm-related malware, applet.exe excels at cloaking itself from security researchers. The program actively monitors its host machine for VMware and will refuse to execute correctly if the virtualization software is detected. It also wraps itself in a packing container that makes it difficult to prevent outsiders from peering into the inner workings of the binary.

"You have to run it on a full physical system and that, of course, isn't as easy as running it in VMware," Ullrich said.

Those who scan the ports of machines infected by Storm, or who repeatedly download the Trojan have been subjected to DDoS attacks that have lasted for days.

The malware got its moniker after early versions lured victims to sites promising information about winter storms that were sacking Northern Europe. More recently, it started belching out toxic ecard scams.

Infections have shown a massive increase in recent weeks, being detected in 1.7 million unique hosts, according to internet security provider SecureWorks. That compared with just 2,817 hosts from January to May. The number of attacks blocked by SecureWorks has similarly skyrocketed, from 71,342 for the first five months of the year to 20.2 million since June.

Technically Storm isn't a worm because it doesn't spread automatically.

For all its sophistication, the malware relies on the oldest trick in the book, which is to socially engineer its victims. Let's be careful out there. ®

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

More from The Register

next story
Parent gabfest Mumsnet hit by SSL bug: My heart bleeds, grins hacker
Natter-board tells middle-class Britain to purée its passwords
Obama allows NSA to exploit 0-days: report
If the spooks say they need it, they get it
Web data BLEEDOUT: Users to feel the pain as Heartbleed bug revealed
Vendors and ISPs have work to do updating firmware - if it's possible to fix this
Samsung Galaxy S5 fingerprint scanner hacked in just 4 DAYS
Sammy's newbie cooked slower than iPhone, also costs more to build
Snowden-inspired crypto-email service Lavaboom launches
German service pays tribute to Lavabit
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Call of Duty 'fragged using OpenSSL's Heartbleed exploit'
So it begins ... or maybe not, says one analyst
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a defence for mobile apps
In this whitepaper learn the various considerations for defending mobile applications; from the mobile application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies needed to properly assess mobile applications risk.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.