Proofpoint recently discovered a variant of the DNSChanger exploit kit (EK), which is commonly used in malvertising campaigns. The latest version infects physical internet routers through web browsers. But instead of poking holes in a victim’s browser or computer, DNSChanger exploits vulnerabilities in the router itself.
A Router Attack, Rerouted
The attacker then tries to determine whether the victim is using a home or small business network. These networks are commonly attached to many vulnerable routers. If the victim’s IP is already known or exists outside the targeted range, he or she will be sent down a decoy path to view a benign, third-party advertisement. This allows the malware to avoid detection.
The EK uses that image to load an Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) key hidden inside the image via steganography. That AES key is used to hide the next commands sent from the command-and-control (C&C) server. The vulnerable router list is then transferred, along with any suggested exploits. The EK looks for them on the network, infecting as it goes.
Once infected, the router serves malicious ads at will. Regardless of the initial infection vector, the malware changes the router’s Domain Name System (DNS) entries and infects any device that connects to it.
According to Bleeping Computer, targeted routers include Linksys, Netgear, D-Link, Comtrend, Pirelli and Zyxel. Users should upgrade their router firmware to the latest version to begin protecting themselves.
It’s not enough to simply use stronger router passwords, since the attack comes through the browser and bypasses all router security. However, users can also be cautious about the ads they click and work to avoid malvertising.