The common thread running through the malware trends we’ve seen in recent months is the evolution, maturation and diversification of the attacks and fraud schemes they facilitate. Malware, once purpose-built, is clearly becoming a flexible platform — in many respects, it is now almost a commodity.
Take, for example, the leak of Carberp’s source code in 2013. Carberp joined Zeus as the latest prominent Man-in-the-Browser malware to become “open.” With access to this source code, cyber criminals can quickly implement a wide variety of attacks and fraud schemes aimed at specific targets.
Along with the more traditional and pure in-browser attacks, SMS-stealing attacks are becoming common, researcher evasion is quickly emerging as a malware trend and new approaches to account takeover and remote device control are being encountered more and more frequently.
Not surprisingly, malware is still the most dangerous threat to enterprises, end users and financial institutions. Its success has spawned improved detection and prevention technologies that continue to threaten malware’s existence. This has forced cyber criminals to evolve their own technologies in order to stay ahead of security vendors. They have responded through diversification, by inventing new fraud mechanics to evade existing security solutions, and commoditization, by turning cutting-edge, limited-circulation techniques into mainstream capabilities.
These are indicators that the cyber crime industry is prospering and is able to withstand pressure from advances in security technologies. What’s needed is a disruptive approach to security that addresses the root cause of infections and cyber crime. This approach will need to respond to new cyber crime techniques and malware trends in real time while also providing holistic protection.