Working with a leading financial institution, IBM recently discovered a disturbing new attack against users of online banking services. It uses a technique analysts have not seen exhibited before by financial malware: It talks. Technically, it writes to you; the attack uses an online customer service tool most of us are familiar with: live chat.

Live Chat With Shylock

The attack is being carried out using the Shylock malware platform, something that is making a comeback lately. This particular Shylock configuration uses a classic Man in the Browser (MitB) structure with plenty of fake HTML page injections and uses complex external Javascript resources. It specifically targets business and commercial online banking customers. When the victim logs in to the online banking application, the session stalls for few minutes and the user is told that security checks are being performed. This is where things get, for lack of a better word, interesting.

The following message is displayed in the victim’s browser:

The system couldn’t identify your PC You will be contacted by a representative of bank to confirm your personality. Please pass the process of additional verification otherwise your account will be locked. Sorry for any inconvenience, we are carrying about security of our clients.

This Web injection is followed by an elaborate Web-chat screen, which is implemented in pure HTML and JavaScript. Within two to three minutes, if the user’s login is valid (presumably), the fraudster engages in a live online chat session with the victim. This exchange is apparently used to gather more information from the victim, and may even be used to perform real-time fraudulent activities by enticing the victim to verify fraudulent transactions that Shylock is initiating in the background.

In 2009, RSA discovered a phishing attack that incorporated live chat. In that attack, victims were lured to a phishing site where they were presented with a fraudulent chat window. In 2012, apparently, fraudsters decided to make house calls by extending this capability from phishing websites and embedding it in malware platforms. By combining MitB techniques with the flexibility of HTML and JavaScript, criminals can now bring live chat right to your browser.

The New Normal

This is yet another example of the ingenuity of fraudsters and their ability to exploit the trusting relationship between users and applications hosted by their online service providers. This attack could conceivably be used against enterprises and their employees, with the attacker posing as an IT help desk technician.

What’s clear now is that the barbarians are taking control of the browser. To prevent malware from getting onto the endpoint in the first place, the browser needs a layer of endpoint security that is on par with the protection afforded to networks, databases, servers and access devices.

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