By Gregg Keizer
Dec 27, 2006
A Microsoft PowerPoint presentation circulating via e-mail is the latest
example of a 2006 trend in which paid-for-hire Chinese hackers target
Western businesses with malicious Office documents, a security
researcher said Wednesday.
The newest threat, said Ken Dunham, director of VeriSign iDefense's
rapid response team, hides within an apparently innocent PowerPoint
slide show, "Christmas+Blessing-4.ppt," which is attached to an e-mail
message. The PowerPoint file, which circulated sans exploits last year
around Christmas, has been making the rounds since Sunday.
"The reality is that this is a very popular file," said Dunham, "and
poorly detected by most antivirus scanners." However, some security
companies, including F-Secure, have created signatures to sniff out the
More important is that Christmas+Blessing-4 shares characteristics with
the Office document-based attacks that began seven months ago. "This is
very similar to other Office attacks from May and June," Dunham said.
"It's a targeted attack, this time [against a company] in the public
Other Office document exploits--which included ones leveraging zero-day
vulnerabilities in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint--also were limited in
scope. But that doesn't make them less dangerous, said Dunham. "This
kind of attack will be one of the most concerning during 2007. It will
be the one that keeps CEOs up at night."
Unlike those earlier attacks, Christmas+Blessing-4 is not a zero-day
exploit taking advantage of a vulnerability that hasn't been fixed. "It
doesn't work on fully patched computers," Dunham said. After a user
opens the PowerPoint file, a variant of the "Hupigon" backdoor Trojan
horse is installed on the PC. The Trojan then silently adds two
additional files, "msupdate.dll" and "sdfsc.dll," to the system.
IDefense said that the crew responsible for the newest Office attack was
Chinese, another similarity with the summer's Word and Excel exploits.
Calling the writers "hackers for hire," Dunham said that the rapid shift
in China from politically motivated attacks to for-profit hacks is "a
cause for concern."
"They're getting paid a whole lot of money," Dunham said. "The
capitalist attitude is infiltrating Chinese hackers."
Dunham recommends that users patch their systems--Microsoft Office
applications as well as Windows--and refuse to open unsolicited
PowerPoint files, especially any attached to e-mails with the subject of
"Merry Christmas to our hero sons and daughters!"
Warned Dunham, "If you're not patching promptly, you can expect attacks
Subscribe to InfoSec News