Hydra-headed 'Storm' attack starts

Hydra-headed 'Storm' attack starts
Hydra-headed 'Storm' attack starts 

By Gregg Keizer
June 28, 2007 

A new round of greeting card spam that draws users to attack sites 
relies on a sophisticated multi-pronged, multi-exploit strike force to 
infect machines, security professionals said late today.

Captured samples of the spam have all borne the same subject line -- 
"You've received a postcard from a family member!" -- and contain links 
to a malicious Web site, where JavaScript determines whether the 
victim's browser has scripting enabled or turned off.

"If JavaScript is disabled, then they provide you a handy link to click 
on to exploit yourself," said an alert posted Thursday afternoon by SANS 
Institute's Internet Storm Center (ISC). Some users turn off scripting 
because it is a frequent attack vector; browsers with JavaScript enabled 
are simply fed a two-part package of downloader and malware.

The quick browser status exam in this attack is somewhat similar to one 
used in a different exploit tracked by Symantec Corp. since Tuesday, but 
the two are not connected, said Oliver Friedrichs, director of 
Symantec's security response group. "They're using two different 
toolkits," said Friedrichs, "but they're both prime examples that 
exploits against browsers are more and more prevalent."

Today's greeting card gambit tries a trio of exploits, moving on to the 
second if the machine is not vulnerable to the first, then on to the 
third if necessary. The first is an exploit against a QuickTime 
vulnerability, the second an attack on the popular WinZip compression 
utility and the third, dubbed "the Hail Mary" by ISC, is an exploit for 
the WebViewFolderIcon vulnerability in Windows that Microsoft Corp. 
patched last October.

ISC said several antivirus vendors had tentatively pegged the executable 
malware -- the file offered to users whose browsers have JavaScript 
disabled -- as a variation of the Storm Trojan, an aggressive piece of 
malware that has been hijacking computers to serve as attacker bots 
since early this year. According to ISC's warning, computers already 
compromised by Storm -- a.k.a. Peacom -- are hosting the malware, and 
the attackers are rotating those machines' IP addresses in the spam 
they're sending.

"Every Storm-infected system is potentially capable of hosting the 
malware and sending the spam, but only a few will be used in any given 
run," said the alert, "depending on how many e-mails they want sent and 
how many Web hits they're expecting."

Hackers haven't abandoned the practice of attaching malware to e-mail, 
then counting on naive users to open the file, said Friedrichs. But 
malware hosting sites are the trend. "It's much more difficult to send a 
full malicious file," he said, because of users' learned reluctance to 
open suspicious files and filtering and blocking tactics by security 

"This is widespread, and leads the user to multiple IP addresses," said 
Shimon Gruper, vice president with Aladdin Knowledge Systems Inc., a 
security company known for its eSafe antivirus software. "There's not a 
single server, there are multiple exploits [and the e-mail] has no 
attachments. This will be very difficult to detect."

Two days ago, a Symantec honeypot captured a similar Web site-hosted 
attack that had an arsenal of multiple exploits at its disposal. That 
attack, however, featured an unusual, if rudimentary, browser detector 
that sniffed out whether the target computer is running Microsoft's 
Internet Explorer (IE) or Mozilla Corp.'s Firefox. If the attack detects 
IE, it feeds the machine a Windows animated cursor exploit. If it finds 
Firefox, however, the sites spits out a QuickTime exploit.

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