Feeds

Trojan armed with hardware-based anti-piracy control

Zeus borrows page from Microsoft

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

The latest version of the Zeus do-it-yourself crimeware kit goes to great lengths to thwart would-be pirates by introducing a hardware-based product activation scheme similar to what's found in Microsoft Windows.

The newest version with bare-bones capabilities starts at $4,000 and additional features can fetch as much as $10,000. The new feature is designed to prevent what Microsoft refers to as "casual copying" by ensuring that only one computer can run a licensed version of the program. After it is installed, users must obtain a key that's good for just that one machine.

"This is the first time we have seen this level of control for malware," according to an analysis of the latest Zeus version published this week by SecureWorks.

The hardware-based licensing system isn't the only page Zeus creators have borrowed from Microsoft. They've also pushed out multiple flavors of the package that vary in price depending on the capabilities it offers. Just as Windows users can choose between the lower-priced Windows 7 Starter or the more costly Windows 7 Business, bot masters have multiple options for Zeus.

For a mere $500 more, users can get a Zeus module that will allow them to received pilfered data in real time using the Jabber instant messaging client. A module that grabs data out of fields typed into Firefox fetches an extra $2,000, and a virtual network computing module that allows users to establish a fully functioning connection to an infected computer costs $10,000.

The VNC functionality fetches such a high price because it allows criminals to bypass some of the most advanced security measures, such as smartcards and other pieces of hardware that are used to authenticate high-value victims to a bank or other financial institution.

The latest version of Zeus is 1.3.3.7, SecureWorks researcher Kevin Stevens told The Reg. But the authors are already busy working on version 1.4, which is being beta tested. It offers polymorphic encryption that allows the trojan to re-encrypt itself each time it infects a victim, giving each one a unique digital fingerprint. As a result, anti-virus programs, which already struggle mightily to recognize Zeus infections, have an even harder time detecting the menace. ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
FYI: OS X Yosemite's Spotlight tells Apple EVERYTHING you're looking for
It's on by default – didn't you read the small print?
Russian hackers exploit 'Sandworm' bug 'to spy on NATO, EU PCs'
Fix imminent from Microsoft for Vista, Server 2008, other stuff
Microsoft pulls another dodgy patch
Redmond makes a hash of hashing add-on
'LulzSec leader Aush0k' found to be naughty boy not worthy of jail
15 months home detention leaves egg on feds' faces as they grab for more power
Kill off SSL 3.0 NOW: HTTPS savaged by vicious POODLE
Pull it out ASAP, it is SWISS CHEESE
Facebook slurps 'paste sites' for STOLEN passwords, sprinkles on hash and salt
Zuck's ad empire DOESN'T see details in plain text. Phew!
China is ALREADY spying on Apple iCloud users, claims watchdog
Attack harvests users' info at iPhone 6 launch
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.