Feeds

Eastern European banks under attack by next-gen crime app

BlackEnergy 2's one-two punch

Seven Steps to Software Security

Banks in Russia and Ukraine are under continued siege by criminal gangs wielding a sophisticated, next-generation exploitation kit that hacks the financial institutions' authentication system and then hits it with a denial-of-service attack.

The attacks are being carried out with the help of a top-to-bottom revision of BlackEnergy, a popular hack-by-numbers toolkit that until recently was used primarily to launch DDoS, or distributed denial-of-service, attacks. Eastern European criminal gangs are using the expanded capabilities of BlackEnergy 2 to siphon funds out of electronic bank accounts and then assault the financial institutions with more data than they can handle, said Joe Stewart, a researcher with security firm SecureWorks' Counter Threat Unit.

The attacks, which also use a BlackEnergy 2 module to bypass a Java-based application the banks use to authenticate customers online, began near the end of 2009. They show no signs of letting up, said Stewart, who observed the same modus operandi earlier this week.

“Over the months that I've been monitoring this botnet, it's attacked probably a dozen or more banks with the same type of pattern of attacking the java authentication app,” Stewart told The Register. “All we see is, yes, this group has the plug-in that does the banking theft and then we see them also hacking that same banking authentication with the DDoS attack.”

BlackEnergy came to prominence in 2008 when it was reportedly used to disrupt internet communications in Georgia during the armed conflict between the former Soviet republic and Russia. It quickly became a major staple among Eastern European thugs, selling online for about $40 until free, pirated copies became widely available.

BlackEnergy 2, which Stewart first began monitoring in 2009, greatly expands what the software can do. It brings modular functionality to the tool, so separate programmers can write plug-in programs in much the way developers do for the Firefox browser. The gangs Stewart is monitoring are combining BlackEnergy's core DDoS functionality with an add-on to hack the Java authentication application, said Stewart, who presented his findings at this week's FIRST, or Forum of Incident Response and Security Team, conference in Miami.

“It's a good technique to keep [bank employees] distracted while they get the money moved out,” Stewart said. It also “keeps people whose money is in transfer from logging on and seeing what's happening.”

Bank customers victimized in the attacks are being targeted by trojans disguised as pay-per-install applications

In a major break from previous methods, the gangs are exclusively attacking banks in Russia and Ukraine. Previously, they went out of their way to avoid attacking banks in the region, presumably out of fear of attracting attention of law enforcement agents in the criminals' own backyard. Stewart said he's seen at least two unrelated bank fraud scams exclusively targeting banks in Russia and Ukraine, including the Bredavi trojan.

Stewart's report is here. ®

Mobile application security vulnerability report

More from The Register

next story
Yorkshire cops fail to grasp principle behind BT Fon Wi-Fi network
'Prevent people that are passing by to hook up to your network', pleads plod
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
NEW, SINISTER web tracking tech fingerprints your computer by making it draw
Have you been on YouPorn lately, perhaps? White House website?
LibreSSL RNG bug fix: What's all the forking fuss about, ask devs
Blow to bit-spitter 'tis but a flesh wound, claim team
Attackers raid SWISS BANKS with DNS and malware bombs
'Retefe' trojan uses clever spin on old attacks to grant total control of bank accounts
Manic malware Mayhem spreads through Linux, FreeBSD web servers
And how Google could cripple infection rate in a second
Mozilla fixes CRITICAL security holes in Firefox, urges v31 upgrade
Misc memory hazards 'could be exploited' - and guess what, one's a Javascript vuln
Don't look, Snowden: Security biz chases Tails with zero-day flaws alert
Exodus vows not to sell secrets of whistleblower's favorite OS
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.