NewsJune 2, 2016 @ 8:01 AM

New Zero-Day Exploit Hits the Malware Market

How do black-hat hackers make money from their zero-day exploits?

One method is to come up with some sort of wrapper code that would deliver it. The Angler rootkit, for example, has a history of doing this; last year, it introduced four zero-days as a part of its offering while still constantly refreshing its list of new exploits.

But markets change, and now zero-days will be sold for a profit. Some cybercriminals covet them for their own use, and some brokers will facilitate such a trade.

The Hacking Team decided to test this process. Afterward, Vlad Tsyrklevich conducted an analysis of the emails between the parties, which indicated a high level of distrust between them. It seems that the cybercriminals fear being cheated and as a result won’t often sell their exploits on the underground.

Selling the Exploit

When Trustwave’s SpiderLabs found a zero-day exploit being offered inside a Russian cybercriminal forum, it came as a surprise. The forum in question is usually used as a collaboration platform “where one can hire malware coders, lease an exploit kit, buy web shells for compromised websites or even rent a whole botnet for any purpose,” Trustwave SpiderLabs said.

“However, finding a zero day listed in between these fairly common offerings is definitely an anomaly.”

According to the seller, the zero-day in question is a local privilege escalation (LPE) that works on all current versions of the Windows operating system. It was put on sale at prices above $95,000 and was later reduced to $90,000.

Trustwave asserted it cannot vouch for the claims. While the offer may look real, there’s no foolproof way to guarantee it unless they purchase the exploit — or stumble across it in the wild.

Mitigating the Zero-Day Risk

SpiderLabs offered three thoughts on reducing the risk of zero-day attacks.

First, it advised organizations to keep software up to date. LPE is one component of a successful compromise. For example, your machine may not be patched against the zero-day LPE, but it could be protected against the second portion of an attack.

Second, make sure you have a comprehensive security program that eliminates gaps. Finally, use common sense. Don’t click on unknown links or attachments, and train your employees so they do the same.

The possibility of a zero-day exploit is always there. Someone will always find a way around security. It’s up to the end user to stay safe.

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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 magazine and senior editor for the launch of WebWeek. He wrote for IBM's DeveloperWorks site for seven years and has written a book on the Secure Electronic Transaction Internet protocol. His latest book has the commercially obligatory title of Hack Proofing XML. He's been online since uucp "bang" addressing (where the world existed relative to !decvax), serving as editor of the Macintosh Exchange on BIX and the VARBusiness Exchange.