Trojan lurks, waiting to steal admin passwords
Coreflood uses Microsoft admin tool to infect corporate networks, security firm says
IDG News Service - Writers of a password-stealing Trojan horse program have found that a little patience can lead to a lot of infections.
They have managed to infect hundreds of thousands of computers, including more than 14,000 within one unnamed global hotel chain, by waiting for system administrators to log onto infected PCs and then using a Microsoft administration tool to spread their malicious software throughout the network.
The criminals behind the Coreflood Trojan are using the software to steal banking and brokerage account usernames and passwords. They've amassed a 50GB database of this information from the machines they've infected, according to Joe Stewart, director of malware research at security vendor SecureWorks Inc.
"They've been able to spread throughout entire enterprises," he said. "That's something you rarely see these days."
Since Microsoft Corp. shipped its Windows XP Service Pack 2 software with its locked-down security features, hackers have had a hard time finding ways to spread malicious software throughout corporate networks. Widespread worm or virus outbreaks soon dropped off after the software's August 2004 release.
But the Coreflood hackers have been successful, partly because of a Microsoft program called PsExec, which was written to help system administrators run legitimate software on computers across their networks.
For a widespread infection, attackers must first compromise a system on the network by tricking users into downloading their program. Then, when a system administrator logs onto that desktop machine -- to perform routine maintenance, for example -- the malicious software tries to run PsExec and install malware on all other systems on the network.
Often the technique succeeds.
Over the past 16 months, Coreflood's authors have infected more than 378,000 computers. SecureWorks has counted thousands of infections in university networks and has found financial companies, hospitals, law firms and even a U.S. state police agency that have had hundreds of infections. "It's kind of insane how often they are getting on hundreds or thousands of computers at a single company," Stewart said. "They've probably stolen far more accounts than they can use."
The SANS Internet Storm Center reported one of the infections, which affected 600 machines on a 3,000-PC network, on June 25.
Malicious programs have used PsExec for more than five years, said the software's creator, Mark Russinovich, a Microsoft technical fellow. However, this is the first time he had heard of it being used in this fashion. "PsExec doesn't expose anything that a malware author can't code themselves or even accomplish with alternate mechanisms," he said in an e-mail interview. "Once you have credentials that give you local admin rights via remote access, you own that system."
Coreflood, which is also known as the AFcore Trojan, has been around for about six years. It has been used in the past for such things as launching denial-of-service attacks, but not to steal passwords, Stewart said.
- Silicon Valley's 19 Coolest Places to Work
- Is Windows 8 Development Worth the Trouble?
- 8 Books Every IT Leader Should Read This Year
- 10 Hot Hadoop Startups to Watch
- Slideshow: 7 security mistakes people make with their mobile device
- iOS vs. Android: Which is more secure?
- 11 sure signs you've been hacked
- Radicati: Cloud Business Email - Market Quadrant 2013 Google was named the top cloud business email provider in a recent report by research firm Radicati. Out of 14 key players, Google...
- Tablets in the Enterprise: A Checklist for Successful Deployment How can you enterprise manage and secure tablets in order to protect corporate data while providing access to the information and applications employees...
- Enterprise Mobility: A Checklist for Secure Containerization The advantages and disadvantages of the multiple approaches to containerization. Learn More>>
- Enterprise File Sync & Share Checklist File sync and share has changed the way people work and collaborate in today's tech-savvy world. Gone are the email roadblocks, clunky FTP...
- Live Webcast LIVE EVENT: 5/7, The End of Data Protection As We Know It. Introducing a Next Generation Data Protection Architecture. Traditional backup is going away, but where does this leave end-users?
- LIVE EVENT: 5/7, The End of Data Protection As We Know It. Introducing a Next Generation Data Protection Architecture. Traditional backup is going away, but where does this leave end-users?
- On-demand webinar: "Mobility Mayhem: Balancing BYOD with Enterprise Security" Check out this on-demand webinar to hear Sophos senior security expert John Shier deep dive into how BYOD impacts your enterprise security strategy... All Security White Papers | Webcasts