Zeus P2P Variant Exploits Trusted Brands to Steal Debit Card Data

IBM recently discovered a series of attacks being carried out by a P2P variant of the Zeus platform against some of the Internet’s leading online services and websites. The attacks are targeting users of Facebook, Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo, as well as Visa and MasterCard, offering rebates and new security measures. The scams exploit the trust relationship between users and those well-known service providers to steal users’ debit card data.


In the first attack against Facebook, the malware uses a webinject to present the victim with a fraudulent 20 percent cash back incentive to link their Visa or MasterCard debit card to their Facebook account. The scam claims that after registering their card information, the victim will earn cash back when they purchase Facebook points. The fake Web form prompts the victim to enter their debit card number, expiration date, security code and PIN.

Zeus P2P malware webinject presented to Facebook users

Malware webinject presented to Facebook users

Gmail and Yahoo

In the attacks against Gmail and Yahoo users, Zeus offers an allegedly new way of authenticating via the 3D Secure service offered by the Verified by Visa and MasterCard SecureCode programs. To complete an online transaction, many merchants require cardholders to authenticate the transaction using their personal 3D Secure password. Visa and MasterCard cardholders can apply for a 3D Secure password with the bank that issued their debit or credit card.

The scam that targets Gmail and Yahoo users claims that by linking their debit card to their web mail accounts, all future 3D Secure authentication will be performed through Google Checkout and Yahoo Checkout, respectively. The fraudsters allege that by participating in the program the victim’s debit card account will be protected from fraud in the future. The victim is prompted to enter their debit card number, expiration date, security code and PIN. The attack is not compromising the 3D Secure service or authentication mechanism, but rather leveraging the Verified by Visa and MasterCard SecureCode brands to make the scam more credible.

Malware webinject presented to Gmail and Yahoo users, respectively

Zeus P2P malware webinject presented to Yahoo email users

Malware webinject presented to Gmail and Yahoo users, respectively


The attack against Hotmail users is similar to the Gmail and Yahoo scam. It claims that by registering for a free new security service, the victim can set up a 3D Secure-like password to protect their debit card from fraud. The offer states that the service will prevent purchases from being made on the Internet with the card unless the Hotmail account information and additional password are provided. The webinject requests the same debit card data (card number, expiration date, security code and PIN) as the previous two scams.

Zeus P2P malware webinject presented to Microsoft Hotmail email users

Malware webinject presented to Microsoft Hotmail users

This attack is a clever example of how fraudsters are using trusted brands, social networks, email hosts and debit card providers to get victims to lower their guards and surrender their debit card data. These webinjects are well crafted, both from a visual and content perspective, making it difficult to identify them as a fraud. It’s also ironic how in the Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo scams, the fraudsters are using the fear of the very cyber crimes they are committing to prey on their victims.

Share this Article:
Amit Klein

CTO, Trusteer, an IBM company

As Trusteer’s CTO, Amit Klein is responsible for researching and introducing game changing technologies into Trusteer’s products, with particular focus on Turtseer’s enterprise solutions. Prior to that, Mr. Klein established, managed and grew the company’s security group, which is one of the world’s leading financial malware research groups. Prior to Trusteer, Mr. Klein was Chief Scientist at Cyota Inc. (acquired by RSA Security), a leading provider of layered authentication solutions. In this role, Mr. Klein researched technologies that prevent online fraud, phishing, and pharming and filed several patents in those areas. Prior to this, Mr. Klein worked as Director of Security and Research at Sanctum, Inc. (acquired by Watchfire, now part of IBM Security Systems), where he was responsible for the security content of all Sanctum products. Mr. Klein holds a B.Sc. (cum laude) in Mathematics and Physics from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (through IDF’s Talpiot programme). Mr. Klein is a world-renowned security researcher, having published more than thirty articles, papers and technical notes on the topic of Internet security. He was named CTO of the Year by InfoWorld Magazine and has presented at many prestigious conferences including RSA US, FSISAC, OWASP, Microsoft BlueHat, InterOp USA, AusCERT and CertConf.