Christopher Boyd: June 2006 Archives

Sometimes, I'm amazed at the ease with which it's possible to create a Botnet Empire [Define Botnet]. Don't believe me? Well, check out the screenshot below, obtained by a colleague of mine in a random IRC Chatroom:
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Now, you would hope people wouldn't fall for this.

I am afraid you would be totally, utterly wrong. Check this out, it's the page hosting the infection file. The novel aspect here is, it's a webhosting page that shows how many times the file has been downloaded. Now, it's reasonable to assume that almost all the people who were naive enough to download the file, would also be naive enough to run the thing. Screenshot time:
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Click Image to Enlarge

Downloaded 375 times in 2 days.

Downloaded 380 times in 10 days.

...amazing. That's 375 brand new drones [Define Drone] for some random Botnet owner, in only two days.

The download rates drop sharply after the first few days- why is this? Well, they don't need to keep injecting the link in chatrooms to infect new boxes. They can simply use the drones they have to scan new machines for vulnerabilities instead.

You probably noticed that on the hosting page, they even tell you what the file is likely to do:


EXE (short for 'executable') and COM are the common filename extension for denoting an executable file (a program) in the MS-DOS, Microsoft Windows, and OS/2 operating systems. Generally, "exe" may be used as a noun to refer to such a file.

...and yet, people will still run it. Whoops.

As for the Botnet itself, I imagine you probably want to see it, yes? Well, today is your lucky day. We skipped the boring part where I download and run the file, as that's not particularly interesting to watch. What is interesting, is seeing how these guys use some common tricks of the trade to convince the infected user that there's "nothing to see here".

At this point, I've run the executable and a new folder has "mysteriously" appeared in the System32 folder.

It's movie time...

flmtckr1.jpg Click here to play the movie in new window. (7.00 MB Flash file)
Hit the "Play" button to start video. Close Window to Return to Blog


00:00 to 00:08 seconds: We're looking at the folder dumped onto the system shortly after the Alexander file is let loose on the PC. Check out those file names...svchost.exe? With a mIRC icon? Sorry, that's just too suspicious! Ignoring the other files (which point to the relevant servers hosting the Botnet channel, pre-determined user nicknames and the like), I click the file to open it up. Whoops - it doesn't like that, as you can see. A small, minimised box appears in the extreme top -right hand corner of the screen, before vanishing (blink and you'll miss it!)

Again, I try - doh! We could be at this for a while.

00:10 to 00:12 seconds:Thankfully, this isn't a particularly difficult problem to resolve. See that file, "close.dll"? Think the name is a bit of a major clue? Well, you'd be right. Deleting the file means you can click on svchost.exe and it'll stay open - open it up, and...

00:13 to 00:18 seconds: Ah, a minimised IRC Channel! Shall we open it up? Yeah, let's do this thing. In Mystery Box Number 1, we have...

00:19 to 00:28 seconds: Botnet Central! I love the message:

"Please part because this is a private channel" kidding! Perhaps you shouldn't be dumping people into a Botnet then?

In any case, you can see the channel is packed with people - sorry, drones - and from there, the aspiring Bot Master can do a wide variety of not so lovely things to pretty much anyone he pleases. Remember once they control the computer, what they can do is only limited by their imagination. We are actively working on getting this Botnet shut down...with any luck, it'll be out of the picture within a few days at most. Fingers crossed...

On a side-note my colleague, Wayne Porter and I have been conducting some new "top secret" methods in which to identify and knock out these rogues (that's why we are a lab - remember?) It has extended into a far deeper and more complex research project than we imagined, but it may produce some startling new ways to combat the menace at large...

IMPORTANT UPDATE: Google has reacted very quickly to our concerns, and we have been in discussions with their top engineers. As netizens we are encouraged by their quick reaction to our concerns, and willingness to listen thoughtfully to our feedback. Successful companies like Google understand that one must be a part of the conversation, not stand outside the conversation or try to obscure it. Our hats are off!
Stay tuned for more news...(See Addendum At Bottom)

-Wayne Porter
Sr. Dir. Greynets Research, FaceTime Communications

Back to the entry and analysis from Paperghost....

The idea of problems behind "gated" communities is a pretty interesting one, even more so when the idea regularly rolls around that segregating various parts of the Internet to "keep the bad guys out" would be a great idea. But what happens when those bad-guys are already inside the gates?

From Wikipedia:

(Orkut is) run by Google and named after its creator, Google employee Orkut Buyukkokten. It claims to be designed to help users meet new friends and maintain existing relationships. Similar to Friendster and MySpace, orkut goes a step further by permitting "communities" of users. It is also invitation-only: users must be invited to join the community by someone already there.

So, an interesting concept. But as we saw with Myspace not so long ago, people can (and will) game the system. In this case, the targets are (primarily) Brazilian users of Orkut - because for some reason, something like 70% of all users are from Brazil, and Portuguese is the language of choice right now. Of course, Orkut are not to blame here - nor are social networking sites in general. The sad fact is, large concentrations of end-users in a confined space are like the world's biggest honeypot to a social engineer.

It figures, then, that this particular infection - a variant of an older password stealer, which we dubbed Orc.Malware - should contain a message in Portuguese. Following up a hot tip from this guy (FallenHawk, an extremely resourceful Security Researcher), I was able to get a look at something rather nasty. Something that has apparently been nailing Orkut users for at least a month or so, but (until now) has been ultra-elusive with regards trying to pin it down. The early variants (one or two of which I've since obtained) didn't do very much, and there was no direct tie to Orkut, other than this was where the bad-guys were pushing it. Now, however, the infection will pop up a message telling you your data is being mailed off someplace, before sending you to the Orkut site (as you'll see from the video later on. Bring some popcorn).

The source of the problem are these two nasties (disguised as images), created in the System32 folder by a rogue executable file:


Let's have a look at how these things get on board in the first place. We'll start off with the method of delivery...the infection message. The most common one we've seen so far is this:

"Oi... tudo bom? Como o orkut limita a quantidade de fotos que podem ser publicadas na minha conta, eu criei um slide com algumas fotos minhas, pra ver e so clicar clicar no link!!! [link removed] - Sei que vai gostar"

A (very rough!) translation: "As Orkut limits the amount of photos that can be published in my account, I created a slideshow with some photos of mine, please click to see!"

This message is deposited in an Orkut user's "Scrapbook" (similar to a guestbook), and as the Scrapbooks are public, anyone visiting can see the link and click it. As you probably guessed, that's a real bad idea in this case.

The end-user is presented with what looks like an image file - open it up, and covert ops of the nastiest kind are instigated against the PC. Two more files are installed.

They don't look like much, but they're busy trying to drain your pockets of cash and anything else they can get their hands on. One of the files contains references to a pile of specific login pages for Brazilian banks, as well as a whole section devoted to Orkut and its Friends and Scrapbook pages. On the Orkut help site, they mention how automated Scrap sending isn't allowed:

"If you use other sites to log into orkut or send your friends scraps, you will likely be blocked from performing any actions on for about 15 minutes and you'll see the message "We're sorry...but your query looks similar to automated requests."

However, there are many examples of people abusing the system - Orkut has had lots of problems previously with people creating Spam scripts. And this particular infection does seem to have at least a (very) basic automated functionality. I first tested this on the Eighth of June, and was more interested in the data-theft aspect at that point. I didn't see anything particularly unusual going on (beyond the keylogging, of course!) and yet when I logged in a few days later, I saw this:
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...and this:
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During testing, I had two contacts in my "Friends" network. To my surprise, both of those users now had the infection message sitting in their scrapbooks. As you can see, the time / date of both messages is identical: 09:54 AM, 08/06/2006.

Now that's pretty freaky.

Worse still, this infection seems to be amazingly random. During one round of testing, it even deposited me into an XDCC Botnet:
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Yay, I'm file-sharing pirated content!

As for how the data is actually sent back to the hacker guy, you'll probably want to check this short movie clip out:

flmtckr1.jpg Click here to download movie (2.90 MB)

00:00 to 00:09 seconds: End-user is going about their daily business, logging into Orkut. Note that you could be performing any web-based activity here; it's just a little thing I like to call context. Plus, I don't actually have any Brazilian bank accounts so you'll just have to make do with Orkut.

00:10 to 00:14 seconds: The end-user clicks into "My Computer". Oh dear - an "error message", warning that you have insufficient virtual memory and the application will now close (or words to that effect. I never was very good with Babelfish).

00:17 to 00:27: At this point, the end-user is probably wondering what on Earth is going on, as they see a message telling them their "form has been submitted", and that they will be redirected somewhere in 5 seconds. Can you guess where?

00:28 to 00:34: That's right, Orkut! I mean, he stole all your bank details and website logins, but at least he gives you a chance to get back into Orkut and change your password before he steals that too!
Click image to Enlarge

Make no mistake about it - this infection is a real nasty one. And worse still, it looks like the tip of a very ugly iceberg. I'd insert a really rubbish comment at this point about "how I hope we're not too late to avoid a Spyware-Titanic", but you'd probably hate me for it. Even if it was a nice tie in to the whole iceberg thing. So I'll just leave you with the advice that randomly clicking links to check out pictures, especially when those pictures are from some magical party you've never heard of, is probably not a very good idea.

Many thanks to Peter in our Bangalore office for his incredible sleuth work and the entire team for assisting in pulling this complex case to pieces. Special thanks to Wayne Porter for all night monitoring and revisions.

ADDENDUM: A startling event was discovered during extended testing on an infected machine, which was infected in a lab setting on the 13th of June. The link to the dangerous payload was propogated on the 16th...however the infection message is timestamped as having been sent on the 14th of June:
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ADDENDUM Saturday, 17 2006 Happy Endings for Orkut

From CNET:

Google confirmed the worm. "We are aware of this issue and will have a temporary fix in place within the hour," a company representative said in an e-mailed statement. "We are working on a more permanent solution for users to guard against these malicious efforts."

For their protection, Orkut users, just as users of all online services and applications, should always be careful when opening or clicking on anything suspicious, the Google representative said.

-Wayne Porter
Sr. Dir. Greynets Research, FaceTime Communications

I recently came across an installer file being pushed in a Botnet - nothing new there, but it serves up an interesting take on how Adware companies need to make sure that it's not just their software springing up in hijacks - it's their websites, too.

In this case, the website is popped open on the user's desktop (ignore the box mentioning Poker, that's from a different popup):
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...this is what's known in the trade as "strangeness incarnate". Usually someone will try and install something, so they can make money. Simply popping open the website doesn't seem to point to any financial gain, unless the person behind it gets a cut of the profits from the clips on that page. But that would also be stupid, as it wouldn't be too hard for the Zango people to then find out who stuck what movie files where on their website. Plus, I'm under the impression that Zango themselves are responsible for placing the videoclips on anyway.

I ran the infection again, and who should pop up in the next barrage of adverts but Bestoffers Network (another name for Direct Revenue):
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....whoops. As for what's installed, it's the usual (rather popular) mish-mash of files from WebHancer, Dollar Revenue, SurfSidekick and Toolbar888, which is apparently a Maxifiles variant. I've spoken about Maxifiles in relation to Direct Revenue many times. At any rate, here's a screenshot:
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Nice collection!

Of course, it goes without saying that the PC is hosed shortly after the install:
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...ouch. Still, at least the hijacked end-user will have no shortage of Smileys to play with, pills to take and celebrity videos to watch while smoke starts to pour out the back of their monitor. All in all, I'd say that's a pretty good tradeoff...!

Every now and again, I see people firing URLs into chat-rooms - and this particular link (from an anonymous tipoff) would lead me to rather unusual destination. It's one of the oddest Botnet escapades I've seen in a while.

Our tale begins with me downloading and running an executable I'd been informed about. In case you're wondering (and you probably are), they've cunningly disguised it as a movie file:


...clever, eh? Well, not really. But you'd be amazed how many people will fall for something like this. And seeing how Botnets are flavour of the month around here at the moment, I thought I'd have a poke around this little operation and see what I could find. You'll never guess where this one ends up though...
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...and we're in! Small to average sized net, as you can see from the numbers in the picture. Checking out the first channel didn't really bring up anything interesting - just the usual Botnet channel scanning for vulnerabilities:
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Nothing to see here then, right?

Wrong. Because we still have one channel left, and it's the channel that's going to confirm the relation between the random URL link from my tipoff and this particular Botnet:
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Now, deciding to investigate further, I went and checked out the site that this thing came from. usually it's an otherwise empty "holding page", or a site advertising pills of some description - imagine my surprise, then, when I saw the site hosting this thing was...
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Yep, a popular forum (3,500 or so users!) about Christianity.

Of course, it's entirely possible that the site could have been hacked and a single file has been dumped there, randomly. It happens all the time. However - go back a step and check out the directory that the executable is sitting in:
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Oh noes!

A whole pile of extremely nasty files. In addition, this directory has nothing to do with the Forum, so someone has some pretty high level access going on there.

Worse still, the first file appeared on the 26th December 05...and we know what day comes before the 26th, right? And the files have continued to grow until the 25th May 06.

So, we have a pile of nasty files, all sitting in a directory hidden behind a religious interest forum, with some of the files being used in a mini-Botnet Empire.

Did I mention the files were nasty?

Oh, yes indeed.

Some kick IRC into life in a vaguely obvious "you've been jacked" kind of fashion:
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One of the files completely kills your ability to browse the web - IE? Firefox? Opera? Doesn't matter, it'll break them all. Another slaps you down with a lovely slice of virus pie, and if you're insane enough to run everything there just for laughs, well, don't be surprised when your PC slows to a crawl and demands to be put out of its misery.

As of this moment in time, Wayne Porter has attempted to contact the site owners via Email (it bounced due to the mailbox being full) and via their DNS information - so far, no reply. We'll keep you updated on how this one goes...

About this Archive

This page is a archive of recent entries written by Christopher Boyd in June 2006.

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