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Banking Trojans, Bitcoins and Espionage Dominate Recent Cyber-threats

In December, Kaspersky published its threat forecast for 2014; three months later, the security firm's experts found that all three of their “end-user forecasts” had already been confirmed
In December, Kaspersky published its threat forecast for 2014; three months later, the security firm's experts found that all three of their “end-user forecasts” had already been confirmed

In December, Kaspersky Lab published its threat forecast for 2014. Three months later, the security firm's experts found that all three of their “end-user forecasts” had already been confirmed.

For instance, Kaspersky had expected cybercriminals to continue developing mobile tools to steal cash – an expectation that was confirmed by the detection of Trojan-SMS.AndroidOS.Waller.a in March. In fact, in the first quarter of 2014, the number of mobile banking trojans almost doubled from 1,321 to 2,503.

“It is capable of stealing money from QIWI electronic wallets belonging to the owners of infected smartphones,” said Kaspersky, in the report. “The Trojan currently only targets Russian users, but it is capable of spreading anywhere e-wallets are managed using text messages.”

Cybercriminals also made use of some standard approaches such as spreading trojans for mobiles that steal money with the help of malicious spam. With these the global reach is much greater, the firm said. The Faketoken mobile banking trojan, for example, has affected users in 55 countries, including Germany, Sweden, France, Italy, the UK and the US.

In February, Kaspersky experts also detected the first Android trojan that uses a domain in the .onion pseudo zone as a command-and-control (C&C). “The number of people turning to the Darknet in an attempt to safeguard their personal data is indeed increasing,” Kaspersky said. “But as well as benevolent users, Tor continues to attract dark forces – anonymous networks can conceal malware activity, trading on illegal sites and money laundering.”

Kaspersky’s Q1 analysis showed that the proportion of threats targeting Android continues to exceed 99% of all mobile malware. Mobile malware increased by 1% over the quarter. At the end of 2013, Kaspersky Lab’s collection of mobile malware stood at 189,626, but in Q1 of 2014 alone 110,324 new malicious programs were added. By the end of the quarter, there were 299,950 samples in the collection.

Meanwhile, Kaspersky experts expected considerable growth in the number of attacks targeting Bitcoin users’ wallets, Bitcoin pools and stock exchanges – a prediction that indeed bore out.

“In the first three months of the year there were lots of incidents that proved this prediction was correct,” it noted. “Among the more newsworthy were the hack of Mt. Gox, one of the biggest bitcoin exchanges, the hacking of the personal blog and Reddit account of Mt Gox CEO, Mark Karpeles, and using them to post the MtGox2014Leak.zip, which actually turned out to be malware capable of searching for and stealing Bitcoin wallet files from victims.”

In a bid to boost their illicit earnings, cybercriminals have also continued to infect computers and use their resources to generate more digital currency. Trojan.Win32.Agent.aduro, the 12th most frequently detected malicious object on the internet in Q1, is an example of a trojan used in this type of process.

The first quarter also saw a major cyber-espionage incident: in February, Kaspersky Lab published a report on one of the most advanced threats, the Mask. The main target was confidential information belonging to state agencies, embassies, energy companies, research institutes and private investment companies, as well as activists from 31 countries. According to the researchers, the complexity of the toolset used by the attackers and several other factors suggest this could be a state-sponsored campaign.

“As well as new incidents, we saw the continuation of campaigns that had seemingly already ended,” said Alexander Gostev, chief security expert for Kaspersky’s global research and analysis team, in a statement. “For instance, after cybercriminals had shut down all the known command servers involved in the Icefog operation, we detected a Java version of the threat. The previous attack had primarily targeted organizations in South Korea and Japan, but the new version, judging by the IP addresses tracked, was only interested in US organizations.”

Also notable for the first quarter, Kaspersky found that 33.2% of user computers worldwide were subjected to at least one web-based attack during the past three months – a decrease of 5.9 percentage points compared to the same period last year.

Thirty-nine percent of neutralized web attacks were carried out using malicious web resources located in the US and Russia; the combined figure for the same two countries was five percentage points higher in Q1 2013. They were followed by the Netherlands (10.8%), Germany (10.5%) and the UK (6.3%).

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