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Malware Defense History

by Dr. Nikolai Bezroukov.

Copyright: Dr. Nikolai Bezroukov 1994-2013. Unpublished notes. Version 0.80.October, 2013

Contents : Foreword : Ch01 : Ch02 : Ch03  : Ch04 : Ch05 : Ch06 : Ch07 : Ch08 : Ch09 : Ch10 : Ch11 : Ch12 : Ch13

Chapter 11: Data Stealing Trojans

Zeus toolkit based data stealing Trojans

A typical example examples of data stealing malware currently would be  Win32 Alureon and Zeus-based Trojan, see for example  Zeus is actually a toolkit for writing data stealing Trojans. 

In Oct 2012 Microsoft announced that their free malware cleaning tool has targeted the virus, going so far as to report the removal of Zeus from 275,000 Windows computers in less than 7 days.

After weeks of wreaking financial havoc on web users around the world, the dreaded Zeus Trojan is finally showing signs of weakness. Microsoft this week announced that their free malware cleaning tool has targeted the virus, going so far as to report the removal of Zeus from 275,000 Windows computers in less than 7 days.

Zeus, also referred to as Zbot, is a devious collection of software (a "crimeware kit") that allows hackers to create customized malware that can be used to infect PCs. Zeus is most commonly programmed to target usernames, passwords and other information needed to get at online bank accounts.

Zeus Trojan Infects Charles Schwab Investment Firm

Zeus, which first appeared back in 2007, garnered worldwide attention last month when authorities in the U.S., the U.K. and Ukraine arrested more than 100 members said to be affiliated members of a Zeus gang.

The group that was taken into custody accounted for more than $200 million in stolen cash from consumers and small businesses within a four-year span. (Source:

Notable brokerage and banking company Charles Schwab Corporation was also a recent target for the Zeus gang, who had injected bogus forms into legitimate sessions at the firm's web site in an effort to harvest data.

Zeus Detection Added to Microsoft's Patch Tuesday

The good news, however, is that Microsoft thought enough of the Zeus situation to add a detection application to its Malicious Software Removal Tool (MSRT), a free malware-removal program that the company updates every month as part of its "Patch Tuesday" security fixes.

Since its availability was made public just over a week ago, MSRT has removed 281,491 cases of Zeus from 274,873 PCs. Not surprisingly, those figures have shot the Zeus Trojan into the top spot on MSRT's hit list. (Source:

Since last Tuesday, Zeus infection accounted for a whopping 20.4 per cent of all machine cleanings.

Zeus Prevention An Issue; New Revisions Undetectable

Even with positive outlook, there are some caveats.

First and foremost is that Microsoft's free Malicious Software Removal Tool does not prevent the actual Zeus attack code from getting installed onto a Windows machine. Instead, its "saving powers" are limited to the detection and removal of Zeus from machines already infected with the virus -- and only ones that are recognized by the removal software.

And finally, since the Zeus Trojan continues to be revised by its creators, antivirus and antimalware programs are unable to detect the new signatures, which means that some infections may go unnoticed.

It got some superficial coverage in NYT (New Menace in the War Against Online Crime Jul 13, 2010):

In the battle against online criminals, a new front has emerged involving Zeus, a data-stealing Trojan horse that infects Windows PCs, according to researchers at Dasient, a Web site security firm founded by Google alumni.

The researchers say that beginning last month, Zeus has been staging new targeted attacks on the customers of certain banks, including HSBC and Alliance & Leicester in Britain, and Citibank’s German site. The banks say they have taken steps to protect customers.

The Zeus Trojan, which first appeared in 2007, sells for $3,000 to $4,000 in the online black market and is the most popular tool for financial fraudsters on the Internet, according to SecureWorks, a firm that supplies security services to companies. Criminals have used it to create hundreds of botnets, or networks of infected machines, according to security analysts.

The new Zeus tactic, described by Dasient in a June blog post, allows criminals to detect when an infected PC visits one of the specific online banking sites. Then, in place of the real site, it displays a fake site created  to filch account numbers, login names and passwords.

Although only a few banks are targeted, Neil Daswani, Dasient’s co-founder and chief technology officer, said, “This is an alarm bell for financial institutions.”

Spokesmen for HSBC and Alliance & Leicester said  that they were battling Zeus, but that they did not believe they were being targeted specifically. In addition to behind-the-scenes measures, they said, they both offer customers free security software — Rapport, from Trusteer — which protects online transactions and helps customers make sure they are on the correct Web site. Citibank, which sold its German business to Crédit Mutuel in 2008, said the Web site that was the target of the attack was little used.

Stopping the new Zeus attack can be tricky. Unlike traditional phishing attacks, it does not involve e-mail lures that can be blocked by spam filters or Web domains that can be removed from the Internet.

To infect computers, attackers lace Web sites — 1,027 of them and rising, according to Google — with an invisible malicious link. Visitors are quietly infected with Zeus in what’s known as a drive-by download, most likely after finding one of these malicious site on a search engine. Google, which tracks malicious sites to keep them out of its search results, declined to comment.

In September 2010 FBI arrested several members of Zeus gang (U.S. Busts $3M 'Zeus Trojan' Cyber Crime Ring News & Opinion

The Manhattan U.S. Attorney on Thursday announced charges against 37 individuals for their roles in cyber attacks that logged keystrokes to help the criminal steal $3 million from dozens of U.S. bank accounts.

The cyber-attacks, using malware known as the "Zeus Trojan," started in Eastern Europe. E-mails were sent to computers and U.S. small businesses and municipalities, and if opened, the malware embedded itself in the victims' computers and recorded their keystrokes. Those keystrokes were used to capture bank account numbers, passwords, and other online security codes.

Hackers then used the personal information to take over peoples' bank accounts and transfer money to accounts set up by their co-conspirators. These accounts were set up by a "money mule organization," which recruited people in the U.S. on student visas to set up bank accounts using fake passports. Once the accounts were set up, and the money was transferred in from the victims' accounts, the mules forwarded the cash to the scammers' bank accounts – many of them overseas.

All told, the scammers made off with $3 million.

N.Y. Attorney General Preet Bharara said 37 defendants have been charged in 21 separate cases. Ten people were arrested early Thursday, while an additional 10 were previously arrested. Seventeen people are still being sought in the U.S. and abroad. The defendants charged in Manhattan federal court include managers of and recruiters for the money mule organization, an individual who obtained the false foreign passports for the mules, and money mules.

"The digital age brings with it many benefits, but also many challenges for law enforcement and our financial institutions. As today's arrests show, the modern, high-tech bank heist does not require a gun, a mask, a note, or a getaway car. It requires only the Internet and ingenuity," Bharara said in a statement. "And it can be accomplished in the blink of an eye, with just a click of the mouse. But today's coordinated operation demonstrates that these 21 Century bank robbers are not completely anonymous; they are not invulnerable. Working with our colleagues here and abroad, we will continue to attack this threat, and bring cyber criminals to justice."



Groupthink : Two Party System as Polyarchy : Corruption of Regulators : Bureaucracies : Understanding Micromanagers and Control Freaks : Toxic Managers :   Harvard Mafia : Diplomatic Communication : Surviving a Bad Performance Review : Insufficient Retirement Funds as Immanent Problem of Neoliberal Regime : PseudoScience : Who Rules America : Neoliberalism  : The Iron Law of Oligarchy : Libertarian Philosophy


War and Peace : Skeptical Finance : John Kenneth Galbraith :Talleyrand : Oscar Wilde : Otto Von Bismarck : Keynes : George Carlin : Skeptics : Propaganda  : SE quotes : Language Design and Programming Quotes : Random IT-related quotesSomerset Maugham : Marcus Aurelius : Kurt Vonnegut : Eric Hoffer : Winston Churchill : Napoleon Bonaparte : Ambrose BierceBernard Shaw : Mark Twain Quotes


Vol 25, No.12 (December, 2013) Rational Fools vs. Efficient Crooks The efficient markets hypothesis : Political Skeptic Bulletin, 2013 : Unemployment Bulletin, 2010 :  Vol 23, No.10 (October, 2011) An observation about corporate security departments : Slightly Skeptical Euromaydan Chronicles, June 2014 : Greenspan legacy bulletin, 2008 : Vol 25, No.10 (October, 2013) Cryptolocker Trojan (Win32/Crilock.A) : Vol 25, No.08 (August, 2013) Cloud providers as intelligence collection hubs : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2010 : Inequality Bulletin, 2009 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2008 : Copyleft Problems Bulletin, 2004 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2011 : Energy Bulletin, 2010 : Malware Protection Bulletin, 2010 : Vol 26, No.1 (January, 2013) Object-Oriented Cult : Political Skeptic Bulletin, 2011 : Vol 23, No.11 (November, 2011) Softpanorama classification of sysadmin horror stories : Vol 25, No.05 (May, 2013) Corporate bullshit as a communication method  : Vol 25, No.06 (June, 2013) A Note on the Relationship of Brooks Law and Conway Law


Fifty glorious years (1950-2000): the triumph of the US computer engineering : Donald Knuth : TAoCP and its Influence of Computer Science : Richard Stallman : Linus Torvalds  : Larry Wall  : John K. Ousterhout : CTSS : Multix OS Unix History : Unix shell history : VI editor : History of pipes concept : Solaris : MS DOSProgramming Languages History : PL/1 : Simula 67 : C : History of GCC developmentScripting Languages : Perl history   : OS History : Mail : DNS : SSH : CPU Instruction Sets : SPARC systems 1987-2006 : Norton Commander : Norton Utilities : Norton Ghost : Frontpage history : Malware Defense History : GNU Screen : OSS early history

Classic books:

The Peter Principle : Parkinson Law : 1984 : The Mythical Man-MonthHow to Solve It by George Polya : The Art of Computer Programming : The Elements of Programming Style : The Unix Hater’s Handbook : The Jargon file : The True Believer : Programming Pearls : The Good Soldier Svejk : The Power Elite

Most popular humor pages:

Manifest of the Softpanorama IT Slacker Society : Ten Commandments of the IT Slackers Society : Computer Humor Collection : BSD Logo Story : The Cuckoo's Egg : IT Slang : C++ Humor : ARE YOU A BBS ADDICT? : The Perl Purity Test : Object oriented programmers of all nations : Financial Humor : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2008 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2010 : The Most Comprehensive Collection of Editor-related Humor : Programming Language Humor : Goldman Sachs related humor : Greenspan humor : C Humor : Scripting Humor : Real Programmers Humor : Web Humor : GPL-related Humor : OFM Humor : Politically Incorrect Humor : IDS Humor : "Linux Sucks" Humor : Russian Musical Humor : Best Russian Programmer Humor : Microsoft plans to buy Catholic Church : Richard Stallman Related Humor : Admin Humor : Perl-related Humor : Linus Torvalds Related humor : PseudoScience Related Humor : Networking Humor : Shell Humor : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2011 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2012 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2013 : Java Humor : Software Engineering Humor : Sun Solaris Related Humor : Education Humor : IBM Humor : Assembler-related Humor : VIM Humor : Computer Viruses Humor : Bright tomorrow is rescheduled to a day after tomorrow : Classic Computer Humor

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Last modified: March, 12, 2019