ESET, in collaboration with Microsoft, the FBI, Interpol, Europe, and other stakeholders in cybersecurity – have taken down a major botnet operation known as Gamarue, which has been infecting victims since 2011.
A coordinated take-down started on November 29th, 2017 and as a result of this joint effort, law enforcement agencies across the globe were able to make an arrest and obstruct activity of the malware family responsible for infecting more than 1.1 million systems per month.
ESET and Microsoft researchers shared technical analysis, statistical information, and known command control (C&C) servers’ domains to help disrupt the malicious activity of the group. ESET also shared its historical knowledge of Gamarue, gained from the continual monitoring of the malware and its impact on users over the past few years.
What is Gamarue?
Created by cybercriminals in September 2011, and sold as a crime-kit on the Dark Web in underground forums, the purpose of the Gamarue family was to steal credentials and to download and install additional malware onto users’ systems.
This malware family is a customizable bot, which allows the owner to create and use custom plugins. One such plugin allows the cybercriminal to steal content entered by users in web forms while another enables criminals to connect back and control compromised systems.
Its popularity has resulted in a number of independent Gamarue botnets in the wild. In fact, ESET found that its samples have been distributed across the globe through social media, instant messaging, removable media, spam, and exploit kits.
How did ESET and Microsoft researchers gather intelligence?
Using ESET Threat Intelligence service, ESET researchers were able to build a bot that could communicate with the threat’s C&C server. Consequently, ESET and Microsoft were able to closely track Gamarue’s botnets for the past year and a half, identifying their C&C servers for takedown and monitoring what was installed on victims’ systems. The two companies have since compiled a list of all of the domains used by the cybercriminals as C&C servers.
“In the past, Wauchos has been the most detected malware family amongst ESET users, so when we were approached by Microsoft to take part in a joint disruption effort against it, to better protect our users and the general public at large, it was a no-brainer to agree,” said Jean-Ian Boutin, Senior Malware Research at ESET. “This particular threat has been around for several years now and it is constantly reinventing itself – which can make it hard to monitor. But by using ESET Threat Intelligence and by working collaboratively with Microsoft researchers, we have been able to keep track of changes in the malware’s behavior and consequently provide actionable data which has proven invaluable in these takedown efforts.”
What should users do if they suspect their systems have been compromised?
Cybercriminals have traditionally used Gamarue to target home users to steal credentials from websites through its form grabber plugin. However, ESET researchers have recently seen the malware being used to install various spam bots onto compromised machines in a so-called pay-per-install scheme.
ESET is advising users that fear their Windows system might be compromised to download and use the ESET Online Scanner, which will remove any threats, including Gamarue, found on the system. To learn about a more complex way to protect your devices from botnets, please visit ESET’s dedicated site.
Data journalism takes top prize in revamped awards
The entries to the 2018 Vodacom Journalist of the Year Awards were extraordinarily varied and of an excellent standard, with new categories introduced which are based on content as opposed to platforms. This year, the judges decided that two entries were equally worthy of the coveted Vodacom Journalist of the Year Award.
The first co-winning entry, in the new Data Journalism category, is a set of stories by Alastair Otter and Laura Grant of Media Hack which showed how Data Journalism is shaping the future. The second co-winning entrant is Bongani Fuzile of the Daily Dispatch for his articles in the investigative category on how migrant workers were being ripped off by pension deductions (full citations below).
Convenor of the judging panel Ryland Fisher says: “This year we modernised the 12 categories that journalists could enter their work in and the change was embraced by entrants. In a turbulent time for media, the 2018 entries once again proved that there are excellent South African journalists delivering praiseworthy work, and we commend them for finding new and innovative ways to cover the news.”
Takalani Netshitenzhe, Chief Officer for Corporate Affairs at the Vodacom Group, says: “Vodacom is proud of its 17-year association with these prestigious awards, which make an important contribution to our society through the recognition of journalistic excellence. I’d like to congratulate all of tonight’s winners and, as always, I’d like to pay tribute to our hardworking judges. Ryland Fisher, Mathatha Tsedu, Arthur Goldstuck, Collin Nxumalo, Elna Rossouw, Patricia McCracken, Megan Rusi, Mary Papayya, Albe Grobbelaar and Obed Zilwa: thank you for making these awards a continued success.”
Veteran journalist and media stalwart Ms Amina Frense is the winner of the 2018 Vodacom Journalist of the Year Lifetime Achiever Award. She has spent decades in mainstream media both locally and internationally. She is a former Managing Editor: News and Current Affairs at the SA Broadcasting Corporation. She has worked in many countries abroad as a producer and a foreign correspondent, has written two books and is also a founding member of SANEF where she still serves as a council member (full citation below).
The overall winners share the R100 000 main prize. National winners in the various categories are as follows, with each winner taking home R10 000:
The entries in this category were of an exceptionally high standard. One entrant stood out and became the unanimous winner. This journalist showed an exceptional skill for story-telling and for finding unexpected angles and unknown facts. For his stories about Musangwe’s fight for recognition, Age cheating in SA football, and Hansie Cronje revisited, the winner is Ronald Masinda, and the team of Gift Kganyago, Nceba Ntlanganiso and Charles Lombard from eSAT TV.
Cons exploit Telegram ICO
Kaspersky Lab researchers have uncovered dozens of highly convincing fake websites claiming to be investment sites for an initial coin offering (ICO) by the Telegram messaging service. Many of these websites appear to belong to the same group. In one case alone, tens of thousands of US dollars’ worth of cryptocurrency were stolen from victims believing they were investing in ‘Grams’, Telegram’s rumoured new currency. Telegram has not officially confirmed an ICO and has warned people about fraudulent investor sites.
In late 2017, stories started to circulate that the Telegram messaging service was launching an initial coin offering (ICO) to finance a blockchain platform based on its TON (Telegram Open Network) technology. Unverified technical documentation was posted online, but there appears to have been no confirmation from Telegram itself. The resulting confusion seems to have allowed fraudsters to capitalise on investor interest by creating fake sites and stealing vast sums of money.
Kaspersky Lab researchers have discovered dozens of such sites, possibly belonging to the same group, claiming to sell tokens for ‘Grams’ and inviting investors to pay with cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin, Ethereum, lice litecoin, dash and Bitcoin dash. A record of transactions on one site revealed that the scammers were able to steal at least $35,000 US dollars’ worth of Ethereum from investors.
The researchers found that some of the websites were so convincing that even after Telegram and others began to issue warnings, they were still able to recruit potential investors. Most use a secure connection, require registration and generate a unique online wallet for each new victim, making it harder to track the money.
Judging by the content of the fake websites, it appears they may have common ownership. For example, several have the exactly the same ‘Our Team’ section.
“ICOs are a fairly risky investment and many people don’t yet fully understand how they work, so it is not surprising that high quality fake websites, with seemingly reassuring features such as a secure connection and registration are successful at luring people in. People wishing to invest in an ICO would do well to check with the company behind it and make sure they know exactly who they are giving their money to, or they may never see it again,” said Nadezhda Demidova, Lead Web-Content Analyst, Kaspersky Lab.
Kaspersky Lab offers the following advice for users considering investing in an ICO:
- Check for warning signs: for example, some of the fake Telegram ICO websites had the same wrong image next to the name of Telegram’s Chief Product Officer.
- Do your homework: always check with the brand’s official site to verify the legitimacy of the investment site and, if necessary contact the company’s ICO teams before investing any money or currency.
- Use reliable security solutions such as Kaspersky Internet Security and Kaspersky Internet Security for Android, which will warn you if you try to visit fake internet pages.