eScan warns about Kelihos

Kelihos Botnet
Kelihos botnet was first discovered in 2010 and since then it has been taken-down by various entities a number of times, however it has always managed to surfaced back.

Kelihos is a spam-bot which has a very unique hybrid peer-to-peer structure, wherein all the bots communicate with the Command and Control Servers by routing the requests through other nodes in the botnet and they themselves have the capability to function as a Command and Control Server. Under normal circumstances, a botnet is rendered useless by taking down the Command and Control Server, however, Kelihos, mitigates the risks associated with such take-downs due to its inherent design structure.

A bit about Kelihos:

The root of all Kelihos begins with a spam campaign containing the malware links which trigger the download of a Trojan horse. During its initial days, Kelihos was used for initiating Denial of Service attacks and for sending spams. Later on it also started stealing bitcoins and bitcoin mining. The later versions of Kelihos propagated through Social Networking Sites viz. Facebook.

For the success of any Trojan / Exploit Kit / Botnet, it is imperative for the creators to provide regular updates to their Malware, so as to ensure that they stay ahead of their competitors and the security researchers.

Similar to Ransomware, Malware viz. info stealers, bots, Trojans have a very huge market in the Darkweb and the competition is very tough, since the objective is to ensure that

1: Resiliance – should be able to overcome the take-down and detection by various Security Products.

2: Should be better than their competitors viz. the features and the pricing.

Malwares, be it of any category, are taken-down on regular basis so as to either render it non-functional or to put an end to an on-going campaign. However, it is very rare when the creators / authors of these malwares are apprehended. Way back in December 2013, Paunch – the creator of the infamous Black-Hole Exploit Kit (BHEK) was arrested, which resulted in ensuring that BHEK will never get updated with the latest vulnerabilities.

A couple of days back, the creator of Kelihos, who incidentally is a Russian National, was arrested in Spain and Court Proceedings were initiated against him in the US Courts. The US Government also initiated a take-down of the botnet, which requires the authorities to implement peer-poisoning so as to effectively pull down the entire botnet.

When we take a look at the history, it has been observed that a take-down is successful only after the arrest of the creator. And as of this moment we too expect the same with Kelihos. However, the entire process of arresting the creator is fraught with cross-border legalities, since the jurisdiction of the crime is diversified and the perpetrator might be residing in a different country. In these scenarios, the Law Enforcement Agencies have a crucial role to play since; they have to interact with their counter-parts who are governed by different set of Laws.

For ages, since the advent of Internet and the subsequent rise of cyber-crime, every country has adopted Cyber-Laws in some form or the other and these Laws are applicable for their respective states. However, when cases are International in nature, the only factor which plays an important role in apprehending the perpetrators is the relationship between the two countries vis-à-vis the treaties related to tackling such cases.

Criminals are well aware of these facts and have always tried maintaining their anonymity and most of the times try to operate from countries from where the victim countries would find it impossible to conduct any tangible action.

As most of the cross-border arrests of High Profile Cyber-Criminals have been done by US and many a times, US Law Enforcement has lured the perpetrators to fall into their traps. However, when the perpetrators are state-sponsored then there is nothing that anyone can do.

As long as, borders exist, cyber-criminals would reap huge benefits.

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Banks are boosting investment in cyber security

Banks boost investment cyber security

Banking, Financial services and Insurance (BFSI) sector are gearing up to beef up security systems, since the rise of mobile banking trends are putting IT infrastructure at growing risk.

Security investment is now a high priority for retail banking sector. Currently 64% of banks agree to the growing investment on improved and stronger IT security irrespective of the size of the organizations, their top management and even their customer database. Inspite of banks putting tremendous efforts to safeguard their perimeters against common and evolving cyber-threats, protecting IT infrastructure, ATMs and POS (Point of Sale) terminals have still become challenging. The fast and vast threat landscape, along with the newer challenges of improved security habits of customers, is forcing the criminals to search for vulnerable points.

Emerging risks:

Emerging risks on mobile banking are exposing the banks to newer and emerging threats. 42% of banks predict that most of the customers will use mobile banking in next three years. At the same time, the customers might be casual in their online behavior leading to open avenues for cyber criminals. 46% banks admitted that the customers are frequently victimized with phishing or debit/ credit card frauds leading to huge amount of financial loss.

Rising incidents of phishing are forcing the banks to reassess and restructure their security strategies. 61% of respondents see improvement in the security of apps and websites with introduction of more complex authentication mechanisms and multi-level verification of log-in details.

Persistent threats

The detection of unnatural and potentially malicious activities with the combination of legitimate tools and malware requires an advanced and extended mode. Till today, 59% of financial organizations are in the process of embracing multiple threat preventive measures which help in quick identification and mitigation of major emerging threats. ATM is another vulnerable device considered by banks. Sharing more third party intelligence, in this respect, could help banks prepare for unexpected threats.

ATM protection: Highly vulnerable

Banks have the tendency to show less concern regarding the threat of monetary loss due to ATM attacks. Only 19% banks are worried with attacks on ATM machines, inspite of the growing malware targeting this part of a banks’ infrastructure. This is expected to rise in the coming days if necessary mechanisms are not adopted in time.

According to eScan, a timely reminder of the growing threats faced by financial institutions can save numerous fraudulences. The users or customers need to be equally alert about these concerns. There are several guidelines which can change the scenario:

1) Never disclose/ write your login details anywhere
2) To do any online transaction, never hand over your smart phone to strangers like restaurant staff, supermarket attendant, mall employee, fuel station staff etc.
3) Ensure that you have installed a reputed mobile antivirus and regularly scan your smartphone for the presence of any suspicious app or detect and mitigate any suspicious activity.
4) Lastly, there has to be a regular supervision of your banking statements so that the discrepancies (if any) can be informed to the concerned bank.

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Doxware: The Latest Ransomware


The term “doxware” is coined from the term ‘dox’, meaning searching or posting private information online with any malicious intention. The criminals draw the victims’ attention by stating that their crucial, confidential or personal files would be released online and made them public.

There are some similarities in Doxware and Ransomware. Both encrypt the victims’ files; demand for ransom and are highly automated in nature. In a doxware attack, the compromised files are uploaded to the attacker’s system. It is more focused on choosing the files as per confidentiality or privacy. However, in case of ransomware attack, the files are not removed; they are encrypted.

Doxware has its shortcomings too as below:
• Doxware attacks normally happen with small amount of data. The cyber criminals do not have enough space to save thousands of files, and as a result, uploading huge volume of files increases detection risk.
• Criminals always search for maximum profit on their investment and doxware attacks are too costly to implement. In order to ensure profitability, the criminals do extensive research on the potential victims to decide whether the compromised data would be valuable. They chalk out plans on how to publish the data if the victim denies to pay the ransom.
• The criminals need proper framework to host the compromised data and release them online. It can be easily traceable if it is improper.

IT security professionals estimate that doxware attacks might increase over the next couple of years. Till now the victims have been more from businesses and high-profile individuals comparing to general public. Nevertheless, it might change if the criminals start targeting smartphones or IoT devices. If there is access to more devices, the criminals could improve doxware attacks that are cost-effective and target victims on a larger scale.

Prevent Doxware attacks
Any business which is suffering a doxware attack might think that there is no other way but to pay the ransom. However, the payment never ensures the end of worries. If the criminals find out any particular information that is critical, then further demands might come again. In addition, there is no assurance that the criminals will not release the data even after meeting the demands and the victims cannot confirm whether the stolen files have been removed. Thus, the best way to deal with it is to prevent it.

The below steps can keep Doxware attacks at bay:
• Any Doxware attack starts with a phishing attack. The users should know how to recognize and mitigate phishing attempts in the form of attachments or mysterious links coming from unknown senders in the emails. (please refer to the previous blog posted on detection of phishing e-mails)
• Refrain from keeping all sensitive data in a single hard drive; if that is not possible; at least spread the data in multiple devices/ hard drives.
• Always make sure that the important and sensitive files are encrypted.
• Always keep the anti-virus or anti-malware software (like eScan) updated regularly. It should be capable enough to detect and mitigate newer threats that are emerging every day.
• The users need to be more alert towards malvertising and the websites where malware-infected ads appear. These include social media websites, adult websites and other illegal/ unauthorized online shows.

Doxware attacks are comparatively lesser known than the conventional ransomware attacks. However, eScan, being a security software developer, is of the opinion that, any criminal having opportunity to make money, would definitely take advantage of it. Doxware is nothing but another alarming arrow in the cyber-criminals’ quiver.

Different ways to spot phishing emails

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Different ways to spot phishing emails

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