Last Thursday, engineering and mathematical software firm Maplesoft reported that its administrative database had been breached. While specific details are not yet available, the breach may have been the result of an employee with access rights to the database getting infected with the well-known Zeus banking Trojan or another type of malware with key-logging capabilities, such as Dark Comet and Poison Ivy remote-access tools.

This attack demonstrates the ease with which a corporate network can be compromised. The breach was apparently only discovered because Maplesoft customers reported receiving phishing emails; otherwise, the attack could have gone undetected for an extended period.

In this banking Trojan incident, the attackers seemed primarily interested in conducting banking fraud since reports indicate they only compromised an email database. They then tried to distribute Zeus, which is often used for online banking fraud, to the stolen addresses.

However, they could have easily conducted corporate espionage once inside the network. The criminals may even be planning to steal secrets from companies that fall victim to the subsequent phishing attack they launched against Maplesoft’s customers. Using information loaded from the database, they sent emails that advised customers to install a Maplesoft patch which was, in fact, the Zeus banking Trojan.

This attack illustrates how financial malware is now “crossing over” to silently target enterprises. Using social engineering techniques like the software ploy described above, it is easy to see how criminals can get a toehold inside corporate networks. From there, it is trivial for the malware to steal user credentials that provide unrestricted access to sensitive databases, applications and files. This is a worrisome trend since an attacker with valid user credentials can silently pillage a company’s intellectual assets and be long gone before the compromise is ever discovered — if at all.

Endpoint cyber crime prevention tools such as those being used to protect online banking sessions are the most effective way to secure employee machines against sophisticated malware such as Zeus, SpyEye and others that now target enterprises directly.

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