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GlobalSign revokes cert of rogue security app

Certified malware exposes shortcomings of digital certificates

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

GlobalSign has revoked the digital certificate of a rogue security application, which acquired the veneer of respectability by parading the credentials while trying to scam users.

Antivirus XP 2008, identified as malware by Sunbelt Software and other security firms, was digitally signed by Globalsign. Alerted by The Register on Friday, GlobalSign acted promptly to revoke the certificate, pending an investigation.

In a statement, GlobalSign said that digital code signing only establishes the origin of a piece of software, not whether or not it is malicious.

"Like all CAs [certificate authorities], GlobalSign vets a company within strict guidelines, but we cannot form an opinion on the software they sign with the issued certificate. While we cannot provide a guarantee around the quality of the software, the certificate does provide proof of which company is responsible for the software, and therefore provides traceability to any parties using that software. This traceability allows us to perform an appropriate investigation."

"The concept of code signing certificates from any CA, whoever they are, is designed to provide assurances of origin of the software, but cannot express that it is virus-free, bug-free or malware-free," it added.

XP Antivirus 2008 is a well-known counterfeit antispyware program. Distributed through malware-tainted files, which commonly pose as video codecs, the software generates fake and misleading popup messages in an attempt to scare users into buying the package. The software has been the topic of warnings from the likes of CA (here) and the subject of numerous removal tutorials on the web. There's even a YouTube video (below).

A simple Google search would have revealed something amiss with Antivirus XP 2008. So we can credit GlobalSign ony with moving promptly to nip the problem in the bud. The company told us the steps it took once it was alerted to the misuse of its code signing certificate.

"GlobalSign was made aware of this alleged misuse of a code signing certificate on 15 August at approximately 14:00. The vetting archive was immediately checked to determine what was file for the company LLC AJSBIRI. We were found to have the appropriate company documentation and incorporation documentation needed to vet the origin and existence of a company in line with the practice statement for vetting code signing certificate applicants."

"Within an hour of the reported incident we had attempted to examine the executable. However, the site was no longer live. After an unsuccessful attempt to contact the company by telephone we decided the best course of action in the short term would be to revoke the certificate. The investigation will continue with the company in question to determine why they had potentially been in breach of the subscriber agreement for permitted use of the code signing certificate," it added. ®

Bootnote

A hat tip to Sunbelt for altering us about the appearance of more digitally-signed malware. Previous reported examples of the phenomenon include a certificate from VeriSign for an ActiveX install of 180 Search Assistant, a notorious adware package, that offered "Free Porn Access By 180 Search Tools".

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