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E-crime gang dumps phishing for Zeus - APWG

21 October 2010  |  11064 views  |  2 ID Fraud

The world's most prolific phishing gang has ditched the technique in favour of the Zeus password-stealing crimeware that does not require the victim to hand over their financial account credentials, according to a report from APWG.

APWG says its researchers have found a change in the methods of criminals behind the Avalanche botnet, which accounted for two-thirds of all phishing attacks observed worldwide in late 2009, leading victims to fake Web sites and tricking them into handing over details.

The Avalanche infrastructure was involved in just four conventional phishing attacks in the month of July 2010. Instead, the syndicate ramped up a concerted campaign of crimeware propagation to fool victims into receiving the Zeus Trojan and infecting their PCs with it.

Avalanche has been sending billions of faked messages from tax authorities such as the IRS, false alerts and updates purporting to be from popular social networking sites, and other lures, says APWG. These lures take victims to drive-by download sites, where the criminals infect vulnerable machines.

Once a machine is infected, the criminals can remotely access it, steal personal information and intercept passwords and online transactions. The criminals can even log into the victim's machine to perform online banking transactions.

Report co-author Rod Rasmussen says: "While the cessation of phishing operations by the Avalanche phishing group is great news for the anti-phishing community, their shift to the nearly exclusive distribution of Zeus malware is an ominous development in the e-crime landscape. Their spamming and other activities to target victims continues at high levels, implying they are finding malware distribution a more effective and profitable tactic than traditional phishing."

Comments: (2)

David Divitt
David Divitt - VocaLink - London | 21 October, 2010, 13:35

This news is very concerning, although it probably isn't surprising. What this means is that we are likely to see a sharp rise in the more sophisticated, and harder to detect forms of internet banking fraud such as man-in-the-browser, which may signal the beginning of a new wave of internet banking fraud globally.

Banks need to ensure they are monitoring customer behaviour and profiling their typical activity. The highest risk patterns such as transfers to a new beneficiary need to be risk ranked and checked using alternative methods of communication such as an SMS message to a mobile phone - even by those banks that employ multi factor authentication as part of the login process.

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A Finextra member
A Finextra member | 01 November, 2010, 14:23

News that APWC researchers found that phishing criminals have ditched the technique in favour of the Zeus password-stealing trojan could spark a huge cyber crime wave affecting millions of individuals. Banks and authorities must go the extra mile in protecting consumers through education on how to identify threats and how it can be prevented through the use of strong authentication devices that are available for online banking.

Phishing scams thrive on a lack of customer knowledge, while trojans silently steal ebanking login and password information without the end user realising it. Strong authentication solutions, already in use by banks such as Nationwide and Barclays, can prevent this type of fraud because they utilise transaction signing as part of their two factor authentication solutions, which allows the banks to detect data tampering by Trojans during man-in-browser style attacks. This strong authentication method has already shown to significantly reduce online fraud in the UK. Going one step further, the use of dynamic signatures could reduce the chances of social engineering attacks on customers drastically.

Cybercriminals are evolving rapidly and are using increasingly more sophisticated technology and the threat is far greater as a result. Banks and governments must work closely together to educate individuals on how best to protect their data while also equipping them with the right tools.


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