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Wednesday October 25, 2006 JST

Attention - NEW spambot software


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Security experts have discovered new spambot software that installs its own antivirus scanner to eliminate competition, alongside a number of other sophisticated features.

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SecureWorks has described the Trojan, which it calls SpamThru, in detail. Others vendors have come up with different names for the software. One of the signs of its sophistication though is that few antivirus scanners are aware of it, SecureWorks said.

“SpamThru is a money-making operation, and the author takes great care to make sure that detection by the major vendors is avoided by frequently updating the code,” said SecureWorks’ Joe Stewart in the company’s analysis.

SpamThru is a Trojan that turns a system into part of a network of bots designed to send out spam, a type of operation that’s been around for several years. While the Trojan’s network doesn’t seem especially large so far - at a couple of thousand of bots - SpamThru shows that criminals are now able to treat spam software development just like any other commercial development endeavor, Stewart said.

“The complexity and scope of the project rivals some commercial software,” he wrote. “Clearly the spammers have made quite an investment in infrastructure in order to maintain their level of income.” The company has come across previous Trojans that attempt to switch off other malware, in order to maximize system resources, but SpamThru installs a pirated version of Kaspersky AntiVirus for WinGate, customized to skip files known to be part of SpamThru itself, naturally.

“It patches the license signature check in-memory in the Kaspersky DLL in order to avoid having Kaspersky refuse to run due to an invalid or expired license,” Stewart wrote. It uses a custom peer-to-peer protocol to control communication with the network, which makes the bot network harder to kill. “Control is still maintained by a central server, but in case the control server is shut down, the spammer can update the rest of the peers with the location of a new control server, as long as he/she controls at least one peer,” Stewart wrote.

Each client has its own spam engine, creating spam from a template that’s transmitted using AES encryption to avoid giving access to competing spammers, SecureWorks said.

Monday October 23, 2006 JST

W3C wades in on browser security


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The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is taking a swing at the security problem that’s on everybody’s mind these days: Web browser security. In a statement, the group said that its new initiative, dubbed The Secure Browsing Initiative, would seek to build a foundation for a “more secure Web” and “help people make proper trust decisions.” Director Tim Berners-Lee (who invented the Web, after all) was quoted saying:

“There is much deployed and proven security technology, but we now need to connect it all the way through to the Web user. A Web browser acts on my behalf as I surf the Web, and I need more help from it to avoid being spoofed.”

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Lofty goals, indeed. So what does W3C have to offer? Well, they want to create a common understanding of what kinds of information browsers should provide to gauge “security context,” then find ways to display that information and design secure Web browser interfaces that aren’t susceptible to spoofing.

The new initiative grows out of a Workshop on Usability and Transparency of Web Authentication in March 2006 that involved companies like Google, HP, IBM, KDE, Microsoft, Mozilla, Nokia, Opera, Sun Microsystems, VeriSign, Yahoo! with representatives of the online finance community that found interest in secure interfaces and the data required from content providers to enable those interfaces.

W3C is hoping to get participation from leading Web browser vendors and the security, research and financial sectors on this problem, not to mention IETF, OASIS, and Liberty Alliance.

Read the entire entry …

Sunday October 22, 2006 JST

Spam Trojan Installs Own Anti-Virus Scanner


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Veteran malware researcher Joe Stewart was fairly sure he’d seen it all until he started poking at the SpamThru Trojan—a piece of malware designed to send spam from an infected computer.

The Trojan, which uses peer-to-peer technology to send commands to hijacked computers, has been fitted with its own anti-virus scanner—a level of complexity and sophistication that rivals some commercial software.

“This the first time I’ve seen this done. [It] gets points for originality,” says Stewart, senior security researcher at SecureWorks, in Atlanta, Ga.

“It is simply to keep all the system resources for themselves—if they have to compete with, say, a mass-mailer virus, it really puts a damper on how much spam they can send,” he added.

Most viruses and Trojans already attempt to block anti-virus software from downloading updates by tweaking hosts file to the anti-virus update sites to the localhost address.

Malicious hackers battling for control over an infected system have also removed competing malware by killing processes, removing registry keys, or setting up mutexes that fool the other malware into thinking it is already running and then exiting at start.

But, as Stewart discovered during his analysis, SpamThru takes the game to a new level, actually using an anti-virus engine against potential rivals.

At start-up, the Trojan requests and loads a DLL from the author’s command-and-control server.

This then downloads a pirated copy of Kaspersky AntiVirus for WinGate into a concealed directory on the infected system.

It patches the license signature check in-memory in the Kaspersky DLL to avoid having Kaspersky refuse to run due to an invalid or expired license, Stewart said.

Ten minutes after the download of the DLL, it begins to scan the system for malware, skipping files which it detects are part of its own installation.

“Any other malware found on the system is then set up to be deleted by Windows at the next reboot,” he added.

At first, Stewart said he was confused about the purpose of the Kaspersky anti-virus scanner.

“I theorized at first that distributed scanning and morphing of the code before sending the updates via P2P would be a clever way to evade detection indefinitely,” he said, but it wasn’t until he looked closely at the way rival malware files were removed that he realized this was a highly sophisticated operation working hard to make full use of stolen bandwidth for spam runs.

Stewart also found SpamThru using a clever command-and control structure to avoid shutdown.

The Trojan uses a custom P2P protocol to share information with other peers—including the IP addresses and ports and software version of the control server.

“Control is still maintained by a central server, but in case the control server is shut down, the spammer can update the rest of the peers with the location of a new control server, as long as he/she controls at least one peer,” he said.

Stewart found that the network generally consists of one control server (running multiple peer-nets on different ports), several template servers, and around 500 peers per port.

There appears to be a limit to how many peers each port can effectively control, as the overhead in sharing information between hosts is fairly large, he added.

“The estimated number of infected hosts connected to the one control server we looked at was between one and two thousand across all open ports,” Stewart added.

The operation uses template-based spam, setting up a system where each SpamThru client is its own spam engine, downloading a template containing the spam, random phrases to use as hash-busters, random “from” names, and a list of several hundred e-mail addresses to send advertising.

Tuesday October 10, 2006 JST

Microsoft Vista: Wait ’til 2008


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Microsoft’s Vista (see also Vista Downloads) is expected to ship early next year, but companies shouldn’t even think about deploying the new operating system until well into 2008, Gartner analyst Michael Silver says.

Speaking to several hundred IT executives at the Gartner Symposium/ITExpo, Silver said companies need a good 12 to 18 months to plan, test and pilot Vista before they move to a full-blown rollout. He added that virtually every company will migrate to Vista eventually, simply because soon or later they’ll have to.

But he said that there also are attractive new features in Vista, including built-in antispyware protection and data encryption.

Silver said the decision on when to move to Vista depends on what operating system the company is using. Companies running Windows 2000 should start planning and budgeting immediately for a Vista rollout in 2008. Companies running XP should wait until it’s time for a regular hardware refresh, and deploy Vista on the new hardware. If that means rolling out Vista in stages, as different hardware ages out, that’s fine, Silver said.

He recommended rolling out Microsoft Office all at once, however, because of the training that will be required to acquaint users with the new applications.The new version of Office also is expected to ship next year, but Silver recommended companies not deploy Office until they deploy Vista.

Silver said Vista will have some exciting new features, including PDF creation, XML-based document formats and improved collaboration tools.

See also: Microsoft Antivirus

Monday May 15, 2006 JST

Microsoft Antispyware


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Microsoft AntispywareDefender (Beta 2) helps protect your computer from spyware and other unwanted software.
indows Defender (Beta 2) detects and removes known spyware from your computer, which helps make your Internet browsing safer. See more about ANTISPYWARE

The software uses automatic definition updates provided by Microsoft analysts to help detect and remove new threats as the threats are identified.
Improvements in Microsoft Antispyware: Windows Defender (Beta 2)
Microsoft Antispyware Enhanced performance through a new scanning engine.
Microsoft Antispyware Streamlined, simplified user interface and alerts.
Microsoft Antispyware Improved control over programs on your computer using enhanced Software Explorer.
• Multiple language support with globalization and localization features.
• Protection technologies for all users, whether or not they have administrator rights on the computer.
• Support for assistive technology for individuals who have physical or cognitive difficulties, impairments, and disabilities.
Microsoft Antispyware: Windows Defender (Beta 2) Support for Microsoft Windows XP Professional x64 Edition.
Microsoft Antispyware: Windows Defender (Beta 2) Automatic cleaning according to your settings during regularly scheduled scans.
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Benefits of Windows Defender (Beta 2)

Helps detect and remove spyware
• Spyware detection. Windows Defender (Beta 2) quickly and easily finds spyware and other unwanted programs that can slow down your computer, display annoying pop-up ads, change Internet settings, or use your private information without your consent.
• Straightforward operation and thorough removal technology. Eliminates detected spyware easily at your direction. If you inadvertently remove programs that you actually want, it’s easy to get them back.
• Scheduled scanning and removal. Runs these processes when it’s convenient for you, whether it’s on-demand or on a schedule that you set.

Improves Internet browsing safety
• Helps stop spyware before it infiltrates your computer. Offers a continuous safeguard designed to target all the ways that spyware can infiltrate your computer.
• Works without distracting you. Runs in the background and automatically handles spyware based on preferences that you set. You can use your computer with minimal interruption.

Helps stop the latest threats
• Expertise you can rely on. A dedicated team of Microsoft researchers continuously searches the Internet to discover new spyware and develop methods to counteract it.
• Stops new threats quickly. A voluntary, worldwide network of Windows Defender (Beta 2) users helps Microsoft determine which suspicious programs to classify as spyware. Participants help discover new threats quickly and notify Microsoft analysts, so that everyone is better protected. Anyone who uses Windows Defender (Beta 2) can join this network and help report potential spyware to Microsoft.
• Automatically stays up to date. To help protect your computer from the latest threats, you can choose to have updates that counteract new spyware automatically downloaded to your computer.

Windows Defender (Beta 2) detects and removes known spyware from your computer, which helps make your Internet browsing safer.

The software uses automatic definition updates provided by Microsoft analysts to help detect and remove new threats as the threats are identified.

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