Mutated Exploit Kits Arrive for the New Year

January 11, 2016 @ 11:05 AM
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2 min read

Security researchers at Heimdal Security have found an increase in mutated exploit kits (EK), according to the company’s official blog. The spike has been observed since the beginning of 2016.

Exploit kits showing up on the scans include Neutrino, RIG and Angler. Neutrino, for example, has mutated itself and now spreads ransomware from the Kovter class and the Cryptolocker2 family.

Neutrino Uses Flash Vulnerabilities

This new campaign for Neutrino also comes with new tricks: Google Blackhat SEO-poisoning and using Flash Player vulnerabilities as a distribution vector for ransomware.

According to Heimdal Security and a report in SecurityWeek, this particular campaign involves injecting the malware code into legitimate websites. The website will then redirect a user to a selection of domains that, in turn, are connected to servers controlled by attackers. The payloads that Neutrino pushes are located on these servers, along with other malware.

Smart Exploit Kits

To make matters worse, the payload delivery process now includes a series of tests that can detect whether the browser and Flash Player plugin being used are up to date and whether a debugger is present in memory. Heimdal Security noted that this change was added to the Angler and Nuclear EKs in early November, which was two weeks after Adobe released a patch specifically for the vulnerability.

Virus Total showed that currently, only two out of 38 tools can detect these EK attacks.

More About RIG

The RIG EK is in its third version and is now abusing known vulnerabilities in popular third-party applications such as Adobe Flash, Adobe Reader, Adobe Acrobat and Silverlight to plant malware on outdated Microsoft Windows machines.

It performs drive-by attacks on Google. Heimdal Security said that queries such as Christmas-tree-pull-apart or Capital-one behavioral-fit-interview-questions-3 will give a user results that point to the swarm of compromised websites where the malicious script code has been injected.

The entire server at the IP address 192,185.21 [.] 183 is considered harmful. Besides the drive-by exploit kits, this server also hosts gateways to the command-and-control servers, phishing websites and other malicious content. The delivered payloads vary between one from the Pony family and the TofSee Trojan.

“We have observed that this payload achieves an infection success rate of 56 percent on Windows 7 PCs with Internet Explorer 9,” Heimdal Security’s Andra Zaharia said in the company’s blog. “The security issues lie particularly with Adobe Flash Player and, respectively, with vulnerabilities CVE-2015-5119 and CVE-2015-5122.”


The mediation process is simple, really: Update security patches for Flash. Flash has been shown to be very vulnerable in the past. If established fixes have not been applied, then you are begging for trouble.

Larry Loeb
Principal, PBC Enterprises

Larry Loeb has written for many of the last century's major "dead tree" computer magazines, having been, among other things, a consulting editor for BYTE mag...
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