This time of the year is always interesting. It is the time when Labs looks back on the past half-year to summarize what has happened in the threat landscape. I can proudly announce that the report for H2 2012 has been published and is free for you to download and read!
The report is once again packed with highly interesting reading on the threats that we all face when using the net. And this report is not just a repetition of what has been published in the media. A compilation like this makes it easier to spot the trends and the big picture. Thanks guys for putting it all together! And of course for the continuous research effort that it is based on. (I’m not going to list all the names here, the full list of contributors can be found in the report.)
Here’s some teasers…
Botnets. ZeroAccess was easily the most prevalent botnet we saw in 2012, with infections most visible in France, United States and Sweden. It is also one of the most actively developed and perhaps the most profitable botnet of last year. Read more about ZeroAccess and botnets in general at page 15 – 20.
Exploits. Java was the main target for most of the exploit-based attacks we saw during the past half year. This is aptly demonstrated in the statistics for the top 10 most prevalent detections recorded by our cloud lookup systems. Learn more about exploits at page 25-27.
Banking trojans. With regards to banking-trojans, a botnet known as Zeus—which is also the name for the malware used to infect the user’s machines—is the main story for 2012. Browse to page 21-24 to read how the traditional way to rob a bank has become hopelessly old-fashioned.
The web. Common sense is still important when surfing, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to spot the dangerous places. Ad-networks are integrated in an increasing number of sites and can distribute malware through web portals that should be trustworthy. More about the web’s dangerous places at page 28-31.
Mobile devices. Did you know that there is malware on all commonly used mobile platforms? But Android has the questionable honor to lead the pack, and the others are far behind. The full story is on page 35-37.
The threat report covers all this and a lot more. Why not make sure that you are up to date on the threat scenario by continuing to the report. It is highly recommended reading.
Adblocking made waves last summer after Apple announced that it would bake content blocking capabilities into iOS 9. Content blocking lets users filter out content that they don’t want to load, and in this case, it worked with Apple’s Safari web browser. And there’s one kind of content that typically irritates people more than anything else – ads. So Apple’s content blocking capabilities swiftly lead to adblocking on iOS devices, with many companies developing these apps to help secure and improve people’s web browsing experience. This includes F-Secure, who released a free adblocking app last September. Now, F-Secure Labs has written up a brief whitepaper explaining, in detail, how F-Secure Adblocker works. Without getting into too much detail, F-Secure Adblocker basically checks for information about web traffic with F-Secure Security Cloud (a cloud-based service that powers many of F-Secure’s security products). If F-Secure Security Cloud is able to identify the source of web traffic as an advertising server, it lets Adblocker know, and Adblocker can filter out the advertising content, leaving you with the information about sports, news, business, or whatever else you’re browsing for. Using Adblocker also speeds up your browsing, protects you from malvertising, and saves bandwidth for those of you trying to save money on your data plans. Not bad for a free app. Plus, it all operates in accordance with F-Secure’s Privacy Principles. F-Secure can’t connect the information about your web traffic with anything else about you, so you don’t have to worry about sharing information with companies looking to exploit your personal data. The paper is a quick easy read and gives you a comprehensive breakdown about how Adblocker works, so it’s worth checking out if you’re interested in learning how products being ad free can improve your web browsing experience. [Image by Chris Schmich | Flickr]
Mikko Hypponen is one of the world’s most prominent cyber security experts. Described as a “virus hunter” in a Vanity Fair profile called “The Code Warrior”, Hypponen has spent nearly 25 years with F-Secure protecting people from computer viruses, worms, trojans, and other types of malware. In 2011, Hypponen travelled to Pakistan to meet the men behind the first known PC virus – Brain.A. [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lnedOWfPKT0&w=560&h=315] The Brain virus was released in January of 1986, making January 2016 the 30th anniversary of this milestone in malware history. I thought it would be interesting to reach out to Mikko and ask him about other families of malware that standout as being noteworthy. So here’s Mikko’s list of some of the most infamous malware families (including viruses, worms, trojans, etc) that’ve pestered, frustrated, and even extorted computer users over the past few decades. 1990 Form – Form was a common computer virus identified in 1990, and for several years, was arguably the most prominent computer virus in the world. Spread through 3.5” floppy disks, it infected millions of computers throughout the world, and is possibly one of the most widespread viruses in history. 1992 Michelangelo – Michelangelo earns a place on the list for being the first truly global virus scare. It was named after the famous artist because the virus remained dormant until March 6 (the artist’s birthday), when it would awaken and overwrite sections of infected hard disks, thereby making the information inaccessible and the computer unusable. The virus was never particularly prominent compared to some of its contemporaries, but its destructive nature and subtlety helped spread Michelangelo Madness throughout the globe. 1995 Concept – Concept was the very first macro virus – a type of virus that infects applications such as Microsoft Word. It was a very prominent security concern in the mid-nineties, and even though it was successful in propagating itself organically during this time, it hasn’t been seen in over a decade. As the first macro virus, it was notable in that it spread by hiding itself as a Word doc and then infecting computers as those documents were shared. By using Word, it could use both Windows PCs and Macs to spread infections, as the software could run on both platforms. 1999 Melissa – Melissa, supposedly named after an exotic dancer, was a computer virus that sent infected Word documents to contacts in victims’ Outlook address book. While the virus was not designed to be particularly destructive, its rapid proliferation through the Internet wreaked considerable havoc on corporate servers and infrastructure. Some accounts claim that it infected twenty percent of computers globally, and the man eventually convicted of releasing the virus into the wild admitted to causing eighty million dollars in financial losses. 2000 Loveletter – Loveletter, also widely known as ILOVEYOU, was a prominent email worm that was able to spread itself throughout the globe in a matter of hours by promising victims a little bit of love. Disguising itself as a chain, love-themed email to recipients helped it quickly spread from its Filipino origin through Asia, Europe and North America. To this date, it is one of the largest malware outbreaks of all time, and responsible for an estimated 5.5 billion dollars of damage. 2001 Code Red – Code Red was the first fully-automated network worm for Windows. As in users would not have to interact with a machine in order to spread the infection. Code Red’s most infamous day was July 19th, 2001, when it successfully infected 300,000 servers. The worm was programmed to spread itself on certain days, and then execute distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks on others, and was used against several different targets (including The White House). 2003 Slammer, Lovsan, and Sobig – Ok, so there’s three here and not just one. But they all occurred very close together, and unfortunately, all three were worms responsible for massive, global malware outbreaks. Slammer targeted servers so it’s presence wasn’t readily apparent to end users (save some lagging when they were attempting to access an infected server). Lovesan, however was able to infect end users running Windows ME or Windows XP, and use the infected machines in DDoS attacks. Sobig spread itself through email and network drives, and contained a trojan in order to cause more headaches for infected users. However, it appears that the trojan feature did not function as expected. These three worms infected millions of machines, and made headlines all over the world. 2004 Sasser – A computer worm that can be considered as the last large “hobbyist” outbreak. This is significant as it signaled the end of an era when most malware was written by people who were simply curious to see what the malware could do. Nowadays, malware has a more specific, insidious purpose, such as stealing information or making money. 2006 Warezov – A two-year email worm campaign perpetuated by professional criminals, Warezov gained notoriety for downloading new versions of itself from remote servers – sometimes as frequently as every 30 minutes, according to a 2006 interview with Mikko. 2007 Storm Worm (also called Small.dam) – Storm Worm was a trojan that was spread as an attachment to spam emails. But more importantly, it was a combination of complex and advanced virus techniques that criminals were able to use to make money by using infected machines as part of a botnet. 2013 Cryptolocker – A notorious ransomware family, Cryptolocker was spread through malicious email attachments, as well as the infamous Gameover Zeus botnet. Infected victims would find their hard drives suddenly encrypted, essentially locking them out of their devices and data until they paid a ransom to the perpetrators. While the FBI, in cooperation with other law enforcement agencies and security companies (including F-Secure), were able to disrupt the operation, the perpetrators were able to use Cryptolocker to extort about 3 million dollars from victims before being stopped. Other notable mentions include the 2005 Sony rootkit (for being distributed on Sony BMG CD-ROMs on their behalf), the still prominent Downadup worm from 2008 (for infecting millions, including armed forces of several countries and police departments), and the well-known Stuxnet virus from 2010 (for both its sophistication and its apparent state-sponsorship). If you want to know more about the history of computer viruses, you can check out Computer Invaders: The 25 Most Infamous PC Viruses of All Time!
This TED talk is so hilarious that I just have to share it with you. Watch it! British comedian James Veitch is engaging in the noble art of scam baiting, or scamming the scammers. The same as this site is dedicated to, or when I almost sold my boat to Mexico. I guess most or all of you already know how to spot an advance payment scam, aka. Nigerian scam. But James has some more to offer here. He’s making two important points, in addition to the excellent entertainment value. People often warns about engaging in any kind of conversation with these scammers. They are after all criminals and it’s safest to steer clear of them. I disagree, just like James. The people behind this kind of scams is not exactly the violent drug mafia. As a matter of fact, anyone who can use e-mail and Google Translate can set up a scam like this. And they are located in some poor remote country, typically in Africa. So it’s extremely unlikely that any of them would start hunting down people who play with them. That would disrupt their everyday business and cut profits, cost money and introduce the risk to get caught. But I do discourage people from engaging in scam baiting under their real identity. Set up a new mail account under a false name and never reveal any real contact info to them. You can reply from a different address than where you got the original spam. They are pumping out millions of spam messages and will not even notice the changed address. This adds an additional layer of security. And more important, it keeps your real inbox free of spam. Use their own tactic. Create a false identity with name, address, profession and country of residence. Stick to that story and make sure not a single bit of it is true. Read more about how to scam bait at 419eater.com. The other point is that scam baiting is a good deed. It keeps the scammers busy and ties up their resources. Resources that otherwise would have been used to scam a real victim and cause real damage. A single scam baiter can’t of course save the world, but they would probably shut down if all of us spent an hour a week scam baiting. And it can be fun so why not? A good scam baiter can be a real pain in the a** for the scammers. Be prepared to get some threats and evil language when they realize what is going on. Consider that as a trophy, a proof that you did it right. Don’t feel bad for them. They did after all contact you with the sole purpose to scam you for money. Safe scam baiting, Micke Image: Screenshot from ted.com