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Black hats attack popular Russian stock-trading software

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Security researchers have discovered a strain of malware that targets the QUIK stockbroking application.

The malware has been used in a string of attacks since November 2012, according to Russian security firm Group-IB. Cyber-criminals have traditionally targeted private and corporate banking accounts, using malware (such as variants of the ZeuS cybercrime toolkit) to log key-strokes and extract account information.

Online stock trading and brokerage systems have been hacked in the past but scams have been pulled off using through fake profiles and social engineering scams. More recently trading fraudsters have diversified tactics and begun to use malware.

In particular, professional black hat coders have cooked up a strain of malware targeting specialised trading software called QUIK (Quik Broker, Quik Dealer) from Russian software developers ARQA Technologies and FOCUS IVonline from New York-based EGAR Technology, which is used by many banks in the Russian Federation including Sberbank, Alfa-Bank and Promsvyazbank.

Both of the applications are used for trading on MICEX, a leading Russian stock exchange. MICEX offers services including placing and trading stocks, listing securities, and even the facility to set up initial public offerings (IPOs) or company flotations. Exchange clients trade in stocks and shares issued by the likes of Gazprom, VTB Bank, RusHydro, Mobile TeleSystems, and others.

Andrey Komarov of Group-IB told El Reg that the online trading malware was a variation of the Ranbyus spyware normally used to infect Windows machines and target online banking customers.

"It has quite similar functions to Zeus, as it uses a VNC spawning module which helps the hacker to be connected to the infected PC absolutely remotely and to do fraud silently, that's why it won't be detected by anti-fraud filters, as the theft will happen from the same IP address," Komarov explained.

Another Trojan, Broker-J, also targets QUIK, but uses other techniques, stealing encryption keys from the QUIK storage and transferring them to cybercriminals.

"The end customer should use standard methods of antivirus defence if he runs financial software on a computer which is connected to public networks," Vladimir Kurlyandchik, head of business development at ARQA Technologies explained. "I mean antivirus software, firewalls etc. It is our standard recommendation."

"In case of any suspicions of unauthorized  access to an account the end user should immediately initiate procedure of changing access keys. It is also our standard recommendation," he added.

Kurlyandchik also stated that the QUIK platform incorporates several techniques to prevent unauthorized access, including two factor authentications using either RSA SecureID tokens or SMS messages sent to a pre-registered phone.

"The broker has some tools to monitor suspicious activity and to block access to the system from suspicious IP-addresses, hosts etc," he said.

You can read an English-language version of the Group-IB researchers' blog post here. ®

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