Feeds

Malware culprit fingered in mysterious Tor traffic spike

Spammy botnet got sneaky

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

Security researchers believe they have identified the botnet responsible for a recent spike in traffic on the anonymizing Tor network, but the exact purpose of the malware remains unclear.

On Friday, security firm Fox-IT called out the culprit as a variant of a botnet sometimes known as "Mevade.A", which has been making the rounds under various names since at least 2009.

According to security analysts at Trend Micro, PCs in the US and Japan are most often infected by Mevade, although it is believed to have originated from a Russian-speaking region. It has occasionally been distributed via a malicious program disguised as the Adobe Flash installer.

Once it takes hold on a PC, Mevade downloads various modules, such as adware and browser toolbars, depending on what the botnet's operators want to achieve. According to Fox-IT, infected systems have recently begun downloading components containing Tor functionality, which Mevade then uses to route command and control information through the anonymizing network (rather than using HTTP and other methods, as it had previously).

"The botnet appears to be massive in size as well as very widespread," Fox-IT researchers observed. "Even prior to the switch to Tor, it consisted of tens of thousands of confirmed infections within a limited amount of networks. When these numbers are extrapolated on a per country and global scale, these are definitely in the same ballpark as the Tor user increase."

Fox-IT says it has also confirmed that the version of Tor currently being used by Mevade is version 0.2.3.25. That jibes with findings by the Tor Project's Roger Dingledine, who observed last week that the influx of new Tor clients weren't using the improved Tor handshaking protocol that debuted with version 0.2.4.

Because of the malware's evasive nature, however, just what the Mevade botnet's operators hope to achieve is not altogether clear, although direct or indirect financial gain is a likely goal.

"It is possible that the purpose of this malware network is to load additional malware onto the system and that the infected systems are for sale. We have however no compelling evidence that this is true, so this assumption is merely based on a combination of small hints," Fox-IT researchers wrote.

Trend Micro, however, went as far as to name specific actors as being behind the botnet, saying they are "part of a well organized and well financed cybercrime gang" operating out of Israel and the Ukraine.

"We strongly associate these actors with installations of adware and hijacking search results," Trend Micro senior threat researcher Feike Hacquebord wrote. "Therefore, we suspect that one of the ways the Mevade botnet is monetized is by installing adware and toolbars onto affected systems."

Hacquebord added that unwanted ads aren't Mevade's only danger, either. The software contains a backdoor that can allow attackers to access infected computers, and it can communicate with remote hosts over encrypted links, which creates all sorts of opportunities for data theft.

Fortunately, because Mevade is not a new malware threat, it can be detected and dealt with by most up-to-date antivirus software. How long it will take to clear its traffic off of the Tor network, however, remains to be seen. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Ice cream headache as black hat hacks sack Dairy Queen
I scream, you scream, we all scream 'DATA BREACH'!
Goog says patch⁵⁰ your Chrome
64-bit browser loads cat vids FIFTEEN PERCENT faster!
NIST to sysadmins: clean up your SSH mess
Too many keys, too badly managed
Scratched PC-dispatch patch patched, hatched in batch rematch
Windows security update fixed after triggering blue screens (and screams) of death
Researchers camouflage haxxor traps with fake application traffic
Honeypots sweetened to resemble actual workloads, complete with 'secure' logins
Attack flogged through shiny-clicky social media buttons
66,000 users popped by malicious Flash fudging add-on
JLaw, Kate Upton exposed in celeb nude pics hack
100 women victimised as Apple iCloud accounts reportedly popped
New Snowden leak: How NSA shared 850-billion-plus metadata records
'Federated search' spaffed info all over Five Eyes chums
Three quarters of South Korea popped in online gaming raids
Records used to plunder game items, sold off to low lifes
Oz fed police in PDF redaction SNAFU
Give us your metadata, we'll publish your data
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Advanced data protection for your virtualized environments
Find a natural fit for optimizing protection for the often resource-constrained data protection process found in virtual environments.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.