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Watch a bank-raiding ZeuS bot command post get owned in 60 seconds

RC4? Shoddy PHP coding? You VXers should try a little harder

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Vid Web thieves may get more than they bargained for if tech pros follow the lead of one researcher – who demonstrated how to hack the systems remote-controlling the infamous ZeuS crime bot in 60 seconds.

The dangerous Trojan ZeuS infects Windows PCs to, among other things, silently siphon cash from victims' online bank accounts. Each flavour of the software nasty connects to a control server operated by the various crims distributing it; the bots receive their instructions from this particular server.

Crooks can build their own variant of the Trojan from purchased toolkits or from source code leaked on underground forums in 2011.

The bot control code running on the command servers is known by malware researchers to have security holes that allow these central systems to be hijacked – thus enabling white and grey hats to smash cyber-crime networks from within. Security bod Zoltan Balazs has previously pointed out a remote-code execution bug in ZeuS 2.0.8 control panels, for instance.

Now an infosec researcher known as Xylitol has uploaded a video in which he demonstrates how to exploit a flaw in a command centre for Zeus version 2.1.0.1 in less than a minute.

Youtube Video

For the vid, shown above, the French bod picked out a flavour of the Trojan listed on his Cybercrime-tracker.net, which uses the Zbotscan tool to detect copies of the nasty in the wild. Xyl extracted the RC4 keys used to encrypt communications between the bots and their command server, and the URL to the server, and exploited a bug (that appears to be similar to this one) to own the control centre.

He said the purpose of the video, posted over the weekend, was to "show how easy it is to pwn random Zeus panels". The carnage could be sped up further by automating the process, he said.

Symantec's Australian research team said the tool to compromise bot control panels – generic_zeus.php – was likely a combination of PHP-written exploits on cybercrime-tracker.net.

The RC4 key is generated by a Zbot master when setting up a command-and-control (C&C) server, and associated bots that infect computers use the same key. "The key can be extracted from a bot and is used to trick the C&C," Symantec's Australian research team said.

"As ZeuS is one of the most popular botnets, it’s naturally a good hacking target."

Former Westpac security bod Sean Park, who developed the Australian bank's malware detection system, said users should assume the worst if their machines are infected with ZeuS: it can snoop on web browsers to steal passwords and, if a sophisticated inject code is used, manipulate online banking transactions to move victims' cash into money-launderers' hands.

"As ZeuS is a generic code injection platform, it can virtually grab any user credentials off the SSL protected site which includes credit card verification sites," Park said.

"Although it depends on how ZeuS was configured in a campaign, once your computer is infected with ZeuS or its equivalents – notoriously Citadel in Australia – it is safe to assume you pretty much lose all your financial information, or even money in real time."

Most Australian banks have platforms to detect ZeuS infections on customer machines including the system Park developed and implemented in 2011 for Westpac. ®

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