Feeds

ZeuS variant only infects super-fast PCs

Too tricky for its own bad

Protecting against web application threats using SSL

Miscreants behind one variant of the ZeuS Trojan have outfoxed themselves in their attempts to outwit anti-virus analysts by releasing a variant of the malware that only infects high-performance PCs.

Security firms use automation and virtualisation technologies to cope with the growing volume of malware spewed out by cybercrooks every day. VXers are well aware of this and use virtual machine detection and anti-debugging code in their creations. The tactic is designed to frustrate security researchers and in so doing increase the time it takes to detect, develop and distribute anti-virus updates.

Users of the ZeuS crimeware toolkit are very much involved in this cat and mouse game between security researchers and cybercriminals.

But one particular group using the crimeware toolkit released a variant whose anti-debugging efforts are so aggressive it effectively assumes any machine whose CPU is running at lower than 2GHz must be running a debugger. As a result the malware only runs its malicious routines on high-performance machines, remaining inert on lower horsepower boxes.

Timo Hirvonen, a security analysis at F-secure, explains: "With a CPU below 2GHz the sample acts as if it is being debugged, aborts execution and does not infect the system. I tested the sample on an IBM T42 (1.86 GHz) notebook and the system was slow enough to avoid being infected."

This particular sample of ZeuS infects only high-speed machines, which might be useful if you wanted to build a premium spec botnet for code-cracking. Variants of ZeuS are much commonly used to capture online banking credentials before sending them off to cybercrooks, however, and from this perspective the sample is a dead loss.

ZeuS is a steadily evolving crimeware toolkit, sold on the black market for a few hundred dollar a licence. The apparent miscalculation with the particular Trojan captured by F-Secure that only infects high-performance machines has no bearing on the hundreds of other variants of ZeuS-spawned Trojans doing the rounds, unfortunately.

Assembly code fans can find a detailed explanation of the high-spec only malware sample's behaviour in a blog posting by F-Secure here. ®

Reducing the cost and complexity of web vulnerability management

More from The Register

next story
Spies would need SUPER POWERS to tap undersea cables
Why mess with armoured 10kV cables when land-based, and legal, snoop tools are easier?
Early result from Scots indyref vote? NAW, Jimmy - it's a SCAM
Anyone claiming to know before tomorrow is telling porkies
Apple Pay is a tidy payday for Apple with 0.15% cut, sources say
Cupertino slurps 15 cents from every $100 purchase
Israeli spies rebel over mass-snooping on innocent Palestinians
'Disciplinary treatment will be sharp and clear' vow spy-chiefs
YouTube, Amazon and Yahoo! caught in malvertising mess
Cisco says 'Kyle and Stan' attack is spreading through compromised ad networks
Hackers pop Brazil newspaper to root home routers
Step One: try default passwords. Step Two: Repeat Step One until success
China hacked US Army transport orgs TWENTY TIMES in ONE YEAR
FBI et al knew of nine hacks - but didn't tell TRANSCOM
Microsoft to patch ASP.NET mess even if you don't
We know what's good for you, because we made the mess says Redmond
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.