Feeds

ZeuS variant only infects super-fast PCs

Too tricky for its own bad

Remote control for virtualized desktops

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. ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
Webcam hacker pervs in MASS HOME INVASION
You thought you were all alone? Nope – change your password, says ICO
You really need to do some tech support for Aunty Agnes
Free anti-virus software, expires, stops updating and p0wns the world
Meet OneRNG: a fully-open entropy generator for a paranoid age
Kiwis to seek random investors for crowd-funded randomiser
USB coding anarchy: Consider all sticks licked
Thumb drive design ruled by almighty buck
Attack reveals 81 percent of Tor users but admins call for calm
Cisco Netflow a handy tool for cheapskate attackers
Privacy bods offer GOV SPY VICTIMS a FREE SPYWARE SNIFFER
Looks for gov malware that evades most antivirus
Patch NOW! Microsoft slings emergency bug fix at Windows admins
Vulnerability promotes lusers to domain overlords ... oops
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
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.
Internet Security Threat Report 2014
An overview and analysis of the year in global threat activity: identify, analyze, and provide commentary on emerging trends in the dynamic threat landscape.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.