Zeus botnet exploits unpatched PDF flaw
Researchers spot first widespread attack using Reader, Acrobat design flaw
Computerworld - The Zeus botnet is now using an unpatched flaw in Adobe's PDF document format to infect users with malicious code, security researchers said today.
The attacks come less than a week after other experts predicted that hackers would soon exploit the "/Launch" design flaw in PDF documents to install malware on unsuspecting users' computers.
The just-spotted Zeus variant uses a malicious PDF file that embeds the attack code in the document, said Dan Hubbard, CTO of San Diego, Calif.-based security company Websense. When users open the rogue PDF, they're asked to save a PDF file called "Royal_Mail_Delivery_Notice.pdf." That file, however, is actually a Windows executable that when it runs, hijacks the PC.
Zeus is the first major botnet to exploit a PDF's /Launch feature, which is, strictly speaking, not a security vulnerability but actually a by-design function of Adobe's specification. Earlier this month, Belgium researcher Didier Stevens demonstrated how a multistage attack using /Launch could successfully exploit a fully-patched copy of Adobe Reader or Acrobat.
Stevens was not the first to reveal the /Launch vulnerability. In August 2009, a module using the same flaw was added to the open-source Metasploit penetration testing kit, said HD Moore, Metasploit's creator and the chief security officer at Rapid7. "Colin Ames of Attack Research wrote this module as part of his Black Hat USA presentation," said Moore. "Didier's work was independent of what we already had, but uses almost the same method at its core."
Today, Stevens said that the Zeus attack Trojan was actually using the Metasploit module. "From what I can read, the new Zeus PDF actually uses a [Metasploit] Adobe PDF exploit," Stevens said on Twitter, pointing to another description of the new attack by M86 Security of Orange, Calif.
Although Reader and Acrobat display a warning when an executable inside a PDF file is launched, that's not enough to stop users from launching the bogus document, said Websense's Hubbard. "No one is blanket-blocking PDFs at the gateway," he said. "There's so much business value in PDFs, and they're very pervasive." In other words, people trust PDFs, he said -- much more even than some other popular document formats, such as Microsoft Word.
Websense has tracked several thousand Zeus attacks using the embedded malware and /Launch function. "The attacks are still going on," Hubbard said.
While the attack technique may be new, the behind-the-scenes malware and the gang that produces it is standard Zeus fare, Hubbard continued. Zeus is best known for planting identity theft code on victims' PC to steal, for instance, online banking logon usernames and passwords. "The motives aren't any different here," said Hubbard.
- Researcher claims two hacker gangs exploiting unpatched IE bug
- Update: Third of Internet Explorer users at risk from attacks
- Microsoft plans another short patch slate for next week, but finds a few XP bugs to crush
- Target attack shows danger of remotely accessible HVAC systems
- Target hackers try new ways to use stolen card data
- Update: Microsoft to patch just-revealed Windows zero-day tomorrow
- NSA spying prompts open TrueCrypt encryption software audit to go viral
- Microsoft warns of Office zero-day, active hacker exploits
- Hackers move to create next Blackhole after 'Paunch' arrest
- Adobe hack shows subscription software vendors lucrative targets
- Best iPhone, iPad Business Apps for 2014
- 14 Tech Conventions You Should Attend in 2014
- 10 Desktop Apps to Power Your Windows PC
- How to Add New Job Skills Without Going Back to School
- Slideshow: 7 security mistakes people make with their mobile device
- iOS vs. Android: Which is more secure?
- 11 sure signs you've been hacked
- The 12 PCI DSS 3.0 requirements addressed by Peer 1 Hosting This handy quick reference outlines the 12 PCI DSS 3.0 requirements, who needs to be compliant and how Alert Logic solutions address the...
- Defense Throughout the Vulnerability Life Cycle This whitepaper provides insight into how to leverage threat and log management technologies to protect your IT assets throughout their vulnerability life cycle.
- Mobile Policy Checklist Here's what to consider when putting together a mobile policy designed to support a highly productive workforce.
- Securing BYOD Mobile computing is becoming so ubiquitous that people no longer bat an eye seeing someone working two devices simultaneously. Individuals and organizations are...
- Live Webcast 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...
- Live Webcast Endpoint Backup & Restore: Protect Everyone, Everywhere Arek Sokol from the bleeding-edge IT team at Genentech/Roche explains how he leverages cross-platform enterprise endpoint backup in the public cloud as part...
- Streamline Software Asset Management, Compose a software Management Symphony Keeping track of your organization's software is easy with effective software management solutions from CDW. View the videos in our software solutions channel
- Druva inSync: Endpoint Data Protection & Governance CLICK HERE to watch this video about protecting corporate data on laptops and mobile devices, sponsored by Druva. All Security White Papers | Webcasts