"Phisher Arms" - Pharming For Script Kiddies

| | Comments (1)
Pharming has been around for a few years now, and most (if not all) pharming attacks I've read about usually involve techniques far beyond your average script kiddie. From Wikipedia:

Pharming (pronounced farming) is a hacker's attack aiming to redirect a website's traffic to another, bogus website. Pharming can be conducted either by changing the hosts file on a victim's computer or by exploitation of a vulnerability in DNS server software. DNS servers are computers responsible for resolving Internet names into their real addresses -- they are the "signposts" of the Internet. Compromised DNS servers are sometimes referred to as "poisoned".

Curiously, one individual seems to be whipping up a frenzy on numerous hacking / cracking boards recently, claiming to have invented a "new, revolutionary form of phishing". It's actually "just" Pharming by another name - "Phisher Arms" (a Phisher Arm being the executable used to alter a computers hosts file) - but while being entirely ignorant of Pharming, he's also promoting a broadening and deepening of the amount of script kiddies happy to adopt such tactics. While there's a certain comedy value to him reinventing the wheel, mass adoption by wannabe pharmers is not a good thing, and there's never been a better time not to click on unknown attachments or run strange files...

In the beginning

On the 30th of April 2009, a new video appeared on exploit database Milw0rm, rather breathlessly called "Desktop Phishing: The New Art of Phishing". Along with the video came lots of graphics:

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

...and a soon to be released E-Book(!), along with an audacious bid for fame in the form of a Wikipedia page which was (unsurprisingly enough) hit with the Banhammer.

In a nutshell, it works like this:

1) Have a random executable file to hand. It can be anything, though obviously you want it to appeal to the victim you intend to send it to.

2) Bind it with a modified hosts file in such a way that it replaces the victims original hosts file when the executable runs.

3) Insert sites such as Paypal, banking sites, Ebay, whatever....into your modified hosts file, and have each of them point to an external IP address for your own computer. I bet you can see where this is going...

4) On your own computer, you host the phishing page using server software such as wampserver.

5) When the victim tries to reach Paypal or a similar site from their computer, they are of course taken to the phish page running on the attackers PC which will still say "Paypal.com" in the address bar. When the victim enters their details, they're actually placing them directly onto the attackers computer - note the URL at the top:



To be fair to our wheel inventing pharmer, it's an interesting technique and will no doubt be adopted en masse by the rank and file of "this is way too hard for me" wannabes out there. His video has already been viewed over 12,000 times - by comparison, most other entries on the Milw0rm frontpage are in the low thousands:

Click to Enlarge

Google "Phisher Arms" or "Desktop Phishing" and you'll already find a lot of hacking forums promoting this as the best thing ever - and they're just the ones publicly viewable.

Whatever you want to call them, there's probably quite a few of these "Phisher Arms" in circulation at the moment given that his video hit a good few weeks ago. As always, be careful what files you download...


Interesting. I have a question though. By using such an attack, is it possible for the phisher to fake the SSL certificate for the domain name at all, or piggyback off of the real site's certificate, or if the victim entered in https:// for the site would this fail?

Also, I am wondering if an attacker did use this if they could override or fake the SSL certificate for the legitimate domain name, especially if they have access to the victim PC anyway via the executable. I have an idea in my mind of how an attacker could potentially fake the SSL Cert for the legitimate domain (unlikely, but may be possible), however I do not want to share this on the open internet. Chris, feel free to email me about this though if you wish.

Leave a comment

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Christopher Boyd published on June 1, 2009 4:15 PM.

Geo-Tagged Twittering was the previous entry in this blog.

A Cure For Swine Flu? is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.