IT threat evolution Q1 2020. Statistics – 10 minute mail

These statistics are based on detection verdicts for Kaspersky products received from users who consented to providing statistical data.

Quarterly figures

According to Kaspersky Security Network,

  • Kaspersky solutions blocked 726,536,269 attacks launched from online resources in 203 countries across the globe.
  • A total of 442,039,230 unique URLs were recognized as malicious by Web Anti-Virus components.
  • Attempted infections by malware designed to steal money via online access to bank accounts were logged on the computers of 249,748 unique users.
  • Ransomware attacks were defeated on the computers of 178,922 unique users.
  • Our File Anti-Virus detected 164,653,290 unique malicious and potentially unwanted objects.
  • Kaspersky products for mobile devices detected:
    • 1,152,662 malicious installation packages
    • 42,115 installation packages for mobile banking trojans
    • 4339 installation packages for mobile ransomware trojans

Mobile threats

Quarter events

Q1 2020 will be remembered primarily for the coronavirus pandemic and cybercriminals’ exploitation of the topic. In particular, the creators of a new modification of the Ginp banking trojan renamed their malware Coronavirus Finder and then began offering it for €0.75 disguised as an app supposedly capable of detecting nearby people infected with COVID-19. Thus, the cybercriminals tried not only to scam users by exploiting hot topics, but to gain access to their bank card details. And, because the trojan remains on the device after stealing this data, the cybercriminals could intercept text messages containing two-factor authorization codes and use the stolen data without the victim’s knowledge.

Another interesting find this quarter was Cookiethief, a trojan designed to steal cookies from mobile browsers and the Facebook app. In the event of a successful attack, the malware provided its handler with access to the victim’s account, including the ability to perform various actions in their name, such as liking, reposting, etc. To prevent the service from spotting any abnormal activity in the hijacked profile, the trojan contains a proxy module through which the attackers issue commands.

The third piece of malware that caught our attention this reporting quarter was trojan-Dropper.AndroidOS.Shopper.a. It is designed to help cybercriminals to leave fake reviews and drive up ratings on Google Play. The attackers’ goals here are obvious: to increase the changes of their apps getting published and recommended, and to lull the vigilance of potential victims. Note that to rate apps and write reviews, the trojan uses Accessibility Services to gain full control over the other app: in this case, the official Google Play client.

Mobile threat statistics

In Q1 2020, Kaspersky’s mobile products and technologies detected 1,152,662 malicious installation packages, or 171,669 more than in the previous quarter.

Number of malicious installation packages detected, Q1 2019 – Q1 2020 (download)

Starting in Q2 2019, we have seen a steady rise in the number of mobile threats detected. Although it is too early to sound the alarm (2019 saw the lowest number of new threats in recent years), the trend is concerning.

Distribution of detected mobile apps by type

Distribution of newly detected mobile programs by type, Q1 2020 and Q4 2019 (download)

Of all the threats detected in Q1, half were unwanted adware apps (49.9%), their share having increased by 19 p.p. compared to the previous quarter. Most often, we detected members of the HiddenAd and Ewind families, with a combined slice of 40% of all detected adware threats, as well as the FakeAdBlocker family (12%).

Potentially unwanted RiskTool apps (28.24%) took second place; the share of this type of threat remained almost unchanged. The Smsreg (49% of all detected threats of this class), Agent (17%) and Dnotua (11%) families were the biggest contributors. Note that in Q1, the number of detected members of the Smsreg family increased by more than 50 percent.

In third place were Trojan-Dropper-type threats (9.72%). Although their share decreased by 7.63 p.p. against the previous quarter, droppers remain one of the most common classes of mobile threats. Ingopack emerged as Q1’s leading family with a massive 71% of all Trojan-Dropper threats, followed by Waponor (12%) and Hqwar (8%) far behind.

It is worth noting that mobile droppers are most often used for installing financial malware, although some financial threats can spread without their help. The share of these self-sufficient threats is quite substantial: in particular, the share of Trojan-Banker in Q1 increased by 2.1 p.p. to 3.65%.

Top 20 mobile malware programs

Note that this malware rankings do not include potentially dangerous or unwanted programs such as RiskTool or adware.

Verdict %*
1 DangerousObject.Multi.Generic 44.89
2 Trojan.AndroidOS.Boogr.gsh 9.09
3 DangerousObject.AndroidOS.GenericML 7.08
4 Trojan-Downloader.AndroidOS.Necro.d 4.52
5 Trojan.AndroidOS.Hiddapp.ch 2.73
6 Trojan-Downloader.AndroidOS.Helper.a 2.45
7 Trojan.AndroidOS.Handda.san 2.31
8 Trojan-Dropper.AndroidOS.Necro.z 2.30
9 Trojan.AndroidOS.Necro.a 2.19
10 Trojan-Downloader.AndroidOS.Necro.b 1.94
11 Trojan-Dropper.AndroidOS.Hqwar.gen 1.82
12 Trojan-Dropper.AndroidOS.Helper.l 1.50
13 Exploit.AndroidOS.Lotoor.be 1.46
14 Trojan-Dropper.AndroidOS.Lezok.p 1.46
15 Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Rotexy.e 1.43
16 Trojan-Dropper.AndroidOS.Penguin.e 1.42
17 Trojan-SMS.AndroidOS.Prizmes.a 1.39
18 Trojan.AndroidOS.Dvmap.a 1.24
19 Trojan.AndroidOS.Agent.rt 1.21
20 Trojan.AndroidOS.Vdloader.a 1.18

* Unique users attacked by this malware as a percentage of all users of Kaspersky mobile products that were attacked.

First place in our Top 20 as ever went to DangerousObject.Multi.Generic (44.89%), the verdict we use for malware detected using cloud technology. They are triggered when the antivirus databases still lack the data for detecting a malicious program, but the Kaspersky Security Network cloud already contains information about the object. This is basically how the latest malware is detected.

Second and third places were claimed by Trojan.AndroidOS.Boogr.gsh (9.09%) and DangerousObject.AndroidOS.GenericML (7,08%) respectively. These verdicts are assigned to files that are recognized as malicious by our machine-learning systems.

In fourth (Trojan-Downloader.AndroidOS.Necro.d, 4.52%) and tenth (Trojan-Downloader.AndroidOS.Necro.b, 1.94%) places are members of the Necro family, whose main task is to download and install modules from cybercriminal servers. Eighth-placed Trojan-Dropper.AndroidOS.Necro.z (2.30%) acts in a similar way, extracting from itself only those modules that it needs. As for Trojan.AndroidOS.Necro.a, which took ninth place (2.19%), cybercriminals assigned it a different task: the trojan follows advertising links and clicks banner ads in the victim’s name.

Trojan.AndroidOS.Hiddapp.ch (2.73%) claimed fifth spot. As soon as it runs, the malware hides its icon on the list of apps and continues to operate in the background. The trojan’s payload can be other trojan programs or adware apps.

Sixth place went to Trojan-Downloader.AndroidOS.Helper.a (2.45%), which is what Trojan-Downloader.AndroidOS.Necro usually delivers. Helper.a is tasked with downloading arbitrary code from the cybercriminals’ server and running it.

The verdict Trojan.AndroidOS.Handda.san (2.31%) in seventh place is a group of diverse trojans that hide their icons, gain Device Admin rights on the device, and use packers to evade detection.

Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Rotexy.e (1.43%) and Trojan-Dropper.AndroidOS.Penguin.e (1.42%) warrant a special mention. The former is the only banking trojan in the top 20 this past quarter. The Rotexy family is all of six years old, and its members have the functionality to steal bank card details and intercept two-factor payment authorization messages. In turn, the first member of the Penguin dropper family was only detected last July and had gained significant popularity by Q1 2020.

Geography of mobile threats

 

Map of infection attempts by mobile malware, Q1 2020 (download)

Top 10 countries by share of users attacked by mobile threats

Country* %**
1 Iran 39.56
2 Algeria 21.44
3 Bangladesh 18.58
4 Nigeria 15.58
5 Lebanon 15.28
6 Tunisia 14.94
7 Pakistan 13.99
8 Kuwait 13.91
9 Indonesia 13.81
10 Cuba 13.62

* Excluded from the rankings are countries with relatively few users of Kaspersky mobile products (under 10,000).
** Unique users attacked as a percentage of all users of Kaspersky mobile products in the country.

In Q1 2020, the leader by share of attacked users was Iran (39.56%). Inhabitants of this country most frequently encountered adware apps from the Notifyer family, as well as Telegram clone apps. In second place was Algeria (21.44%), where adware apps were also distributed, but this time it was the HiddenAd and FakeAdBlocker families. Third place was taken by Bangladesh (18.58%), where half of the top 10 mobile threats consisted of adware in the HiddenAd family.

Mobile banking trojans

During the reporting period, we detected 42,115 installation packages of mobile banking trojans. This is the highest value in the past 18 months, and more than 2.5 times higher than in Q4 2019. The largest contributions to the statistics came from the Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Agent (42.79% of all installation packages detected), Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Wroba (16.61%), and Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Svpeng (13.66%) families.

Number of installation packages of mobile banking trojans detected by Kaspersky, Q1 2019 – Q1 2020 (download)

Top 10 mobile banking trojans

  Verdict %*
1 Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Rotexy.e 13.11
2 Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Svpeng.q 10.25
3 Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Asacub.snt 7.64
4 Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Asacub.ce 6.31
5 Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Agent.eq 5.70
6 Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Anubis.san 4.68
7 Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Agent.ep 3.65
8 Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Asacub.a 3.50
9 Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Asacub.ar 3.00
10 Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Agent.cf 2.70

* Unique users attacked by this malware as a percentage of all users of Kaspersky mobile products who were attacked by banking threats.

First and second places in our top 10 were claimed by trojans targeted at Russian-speaking mobile users: Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Rotexy.e (13.11%) and Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Svpeng.q (10.25%).

Third, fourth, eighth, and ninth positions in the top 10 mobile banking threats went to members of the Asacub family. The cybercriminals behind this trojan stopped creating new samples, but its distribution channels were still active in Q1.

Geography of mobile banking threats, Q1 2020 (download)

Top 10 countries by share of users attacked by mobile banking trojans

Country* %**
1 Japan 0.57
2 Spain 0.48
3 Italy 0.26
4 Bolivia 0.18
5 Russia 0.17
6 Turkey 0.13
7 Tajikistan 0.13
8 Brazil 0.11
9 Cuba 0.11
10 China 0.10

* Excluded from the rankings are countries with relatively few users of Kaspersky mobile products (under 10,000).
** Unique users attacked by mobile banking trojans as a percentage of all users of Kaspersky mobile products in the country.

In Q1 2020, Japan (0.57%) had the largest share of users attacked by mobile bankers; the vast majority of cases involved Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Agent.eq.

In second place came Spain (0.48%), where in more than half of all cases, we detected malware from the Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Cebruser family, and another quarter of detections were members of the Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Ginp family.

Third place belonged to Italy (0.26%), where, as in Spain, the Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Cebruser family was the most widespread with almost two-thirds of detections.

It is worth saying a bit more about the Cebruser family. Its creators were among the first to exploit the coronavirus topic to spread the malware.

When it runs, the trojan immediately gets down to business: it requests access to Accessibility Services to obtain Device Admin permissions, and then tries to get hold of card details.

The malware is distributed under the Malware-as-a-Service model; its set of functions is standard for such threats, but with one interesting detail — the use of a step-counter for activation so as to bypass dynamic analysis tools (sandbox). Cebruser targets the mobile apps of banks in various countries and popular non-financial apps; its main weapons are phishing windows and interception of two-factor authorization. In addition, the malware can block the screen using a ransomware tool and intercept keystrokes on the virtual keyboard.

Mobile ransomware trojans

In Q2 2020, we detected 4,339 installation packages of mobile trojan ransomware, 1,067 fewer than in the previous quarter.

Number of installation packages of mobile ransomware trojans detected by Kaspersky, Q1 2019 – Q1 2020 (download)

Top 10 mobile ransomware trojans

Verdict %*
1 Trojan-Ransom.AndroidOS.Svpeng.aj 17.08
2 Trojan-Ransom.AndroidOS.Congur.e 12.70
3 Trojan-Ransom.AndroidOS.Small.as 11.41
4 Trojan-Ransom.AndroidOS.Rkor.k 9.88
5 Trojan-Ransom.AndroidOS.Small.as 7.32
6 Trojan-Ransom.AndroidOS.Small.o 4.79
7 Trojan-Ransom.AndroidOS.Svpeng.aj 3.62
8 Trojan-Ransom.AndroidOS.Svpeng.ah 3.55
9 Trojan-Ransom.AndroidOS.Congur.e 3.32
10 Trojan-Ransom.AndroidOS.Fusob.h 3.17

* Unique users attacked by this malware as a percentage of all users of Kaspersky mobile products who were attacked by ransomware trojans.

Over the past few quarters, the number of ransomware trojans detected has been gradually decreasing; all the same, we continue to detect quite a few infection attempts by this class of threats. The main contributors to the statistics were the Svpeng, Congur, and Small ransomware families.

Geography of mobile ransomware trojans, Q1 2020 (download)

Top 10 countries by share of users attacked by mobile ransomware trojans:

Country* %**
1 USA 0.26
2 Kazakhstan 0.25
3 Iran 0.16
4 China 0.09
5 Saudi Arabia 0.08
6 Italy 0.03
7 Mexico 0.03
8 Canada 0.03
9 Indonesia 0.03
10 Switzerland 0.03

* Excluded from the rankings are countries with relatively few users of Kaspersky mobile products (under 10,000).
** Unique users attacked by mobile ransomware trojans as a percentage of all users of Kaspersky mobile products in the country.

The leaders by number of users attacked by mobile ransomware trojans are Syria (0.28%), the United States (0.26%) and Kazakhstan (0.25%)

Attacks on Apple macOS

In Q1 2020, we detected not only new versions of common threats, but one new backdoor family, whose first member was Backdoor.OSX.Capip.a. The malware’s operating principle is simple: it calls the C&C for a shell script, which it then downloads and executes.

Top 20 threats to macOS

Verdict %*
1 Trojan-Downloader.OSX.Shlayer.a 19.27
2 AdWare.OSX.Pirrit.j 10.34
3 AdWare.OSX.Cimpli.k 6.69
4 AdWare.OSX.Ketin.h 6.27
5 AdWare.OSX.Pirrit.aa 5.75
6 AdWare.OSX.Pirrit.o 5.74
7 AdWare.OSX.Pirrit.x 5.18
8 AdWare.OSX.Spc.a 4.56
9 AdWare.OSX.Cimpli.f 4.25
10 AdWare.OSX.Bnodlero.t 4.08
11 AdWare.OSX.Bnodlero.x 3.74
12 Hoax.OSX.SuperClean.gen 3.71
13 AdWare.OSX.Cimpli.h 3.37
14 AdWare.OSX.Pirrit.v 3.30
15 AdWare.OSX.Amc.c 2.98
16 AdWare.OSX.MacSearch.d 2.85
17 RiskTool.OSX.Spigot.a 2.84
18 AdWare.OSX.Pirrit.s 2.80
19 AdWare.OSX.Ketin.d 2.76
20 AdWare.OSX.Bnodlero.aq 2.70

* Unique users attacked by this malware as a percentage of all users of Kaspersky security solutions for macOS who were attacked

The top 20 threats for macOS did not undergo any major changes in Q1 2020. The adware trojan Shlayer.a (19.27%) still tops the leaderboard, followed by objects that Shlayer itself loads into the infected system, in particular, numerous adware apps from the Pirrit family.

Interestingly, the unwanted program Hoax.OSX.SuperClean.gen landed in 12th place on the list. Like other Hoax-type programs, it is distributed under the guise of a system cleanup app, and immediately after installation, scares the user with problems purportedly found in the system, such as gigabytes of trash on the hard drive.

Threat geography

Country* %**
1 Spain 7.14
2 France 6.94
3 Italy 5.94
4 Canada 5.58
5 USA 5.49
6 Russia 5.10
7 India 4.88
8 Mexico 4.78
9 Brazil 4.65
10 Belgium 4.65

* Excluded from the rankings are countries with relatively few users of Kaspersky security solutions for macOS (under 5,000)
** Unique users who encountered macOS threats as a percentage of all users of Kaspersky security solutions for macOS in the country.

The leading countries, as in previous quarters, were Spain (7.14%), France (6.94%) and Italy (5.94%). The main contributors to the number of detections in these countries were the familiar Shlayer trojan and adware apps from the Pirrit family.

IoT attacks

IoT threat statistics

In Q1 2020, the share of IP addresses from which attempts were made to attack Kaspersky telnet traps increased significantly. Their share amounted to 81.1% of all IP addresses from which attacks were carried out, while SSH traps accounted for slightly less than 19%.

Distribution of attacked services by number of unique IP addresses of devices that carried out attacks, Q1 2020

It was a similar situation with control sessions: attackers often controlled infected traps via telnet.

Distribution of cybercriminal working sessions with Kaspersky traps, Q1 2020

Telnet-based attacks

 

Geography of device IP addresses where attacks at Kaspersky telnet traps originated, Q1 2020 (download)

Top 10 countries by location of devices from which attacks were carried out on Kaspersky telnet traps.

Country* %
China 13.04
Egypt 11.65
Brazil 11.33
Vietnam 7.38
Taiwan 6.18
Russia 4.38
Iran 3.96
India 3.14
Turkey 3.00
USA 2.57

 
For several quarters in a row, the leading country by number of attacking bots has been China: in Q1 2020 its share stood at 13.04%. As before, it is followed by Egypt (11.65%) and Brazil (11.33%).

SSH-based attacks

 

Geography of device IP addresses where attacks at Kaspersky SSH traps originated, Q1 2020 (download)

Top 10 countries by location of devices from which attacks were made on Kaspersky SSH traps.

Country* %
China 14.87
Vietnam 11.58
USA 7.03
Egypt 6.82
Brazil 5.79
Russia 4.66
India 4.16
Germany 3.64
Thailand 3.44
France 2.83

In Q1 2020, China (14.87%), Vietnam (11.58%) and the US (7.03%) made up the top three countries by number of unique IPs from which attacks on SSH traps originated.

Threats loaded into honeypots

Verdict %*
Trojan-Downloader.Linux.NyaDrop.b 64.35
Backdoor.Linux.Mirai.b 16.75
Backdoor.Linux.Mirai.ba 6.47
Backdoor.Linux.Gafgyt.a 4.36
Backdoor.Linux.Gafgyt.bj 1.30
Trojan-Downloader.Shell.Agent.p 0.68
Backdoor.Linux.Mirai.c 0.64
Backdoor.Linux.Hajime.b 0.46
Backdoor.Linux.Mirai.h 0.40
Backdoor.Linux.Gafgyt.av 0.35

* Share of malware type in the total amount of malware downloaded to IoT devices following a successful attack.

In Q1 2020, attackers most often downloaded the minimalistic trojan loader NyaDrop (64.35%), whose executable file does not exceed 500 KB. Threats from the Mirai family traditionally dominated: its members claimed four places in our top 10. These malicious programs will continue to rule the world of IoT threats for a long time to come, at least until the appearance of a more advanced (and publicly available) DDoS bot.

Financial threats

Financial threat statistics

In Q1 2020, Kaspersky solutions blocked attempts to launch one or several types of malware designed to steal money from bank accounts on the computers of 249,748 users.

Number of unique users attacked by financial malware, Q1 2020 (download)

Attack geography

To assess and compare the risk of being infected by banking trojans and ATM/POS malware in various countries, for each country we calculated the share of users of Kaspersky products that faced this threat during the reporting period out of all users of our products in that country.

Geography of banking malware attacks, Q1 2020 (download)

Top 10 countries by share of attacked users

Country* %**
1 Uzbekistan 10.5
2 Tajikistan 6.9
3 Turkmenistan 5.5
4 Afghanistan 5.1
5 Yemen 3.1
6 Kazakhstan 3.0
7 Guatemala 2.8
8 Syria 2.4
9 Sudan 2.1
10 Kyrgyzstan 2.1

* Excluded are countries with relatively few Kaspersky product users (under 10,000).
** Unique users whose computers were targeted by financial malware as a percentage of all unique users of Kaspersky products in the country.

Top 10 banking malware families

Name Verdicts %*
1 Emotet Backdoor.Win32.Emotet 21.3
2 Zbot Trojan.Win32.Zbot 20.8
3 CliptoShuffler Trojan-Banker.Win32.CliptoShuffler 17.2
4 RTM Trojan-Banker.Win32.RTM 12.3
5 Nimnul Virus.Win32.Nimnul 3.6
6 Trickster Trojan.Win32.Trickster 3.6
7 Neurevt Trojan.Win32.Neurevt 3.3
8 SpyEye Trojan-Spy.Win32.SpyEye 2.3
9 Danabot Trojan-Banker.Win32.Danabot 2.0
10 Nymaim Trojan.Win32.Nymaim 1.9

** Unique users attacked by this malware family as a percentage of all users attacked by financial malware.

Ransomware programs

Quarterly highlights

Ransomware attacks on organizations, as well as on city and municipal networks, did not ease off. Given how lucrative they are for cybercriminals, there is no reason why this trend of several years should cease.

More and more ransomware is starting to supplement encryption with data theft. To date, this tactic has been adopted by distributors of ransomware families, including Maze, REvil/Sodinokibi, DoppelPaymer and JSWorm/Nemty/Nefilim. If the victim refuses to pay the ransom for decryption (because, say, the data was recovered from a backup copy), the attackers threaten to put the stolen confidential information in the public domain. Such threats are sometimes empty, but not always: the authors of several ransomware programs have set up websites that do indeed publish the data of victim organizations.

Number of new modifications

In Q1 2020, we detected five new ransomware families and 5,225 new modifications of these malware programs.

Number of new ransomware modifications detected, Q1 2019 – Q1 2020 (download)

Number of users attacked by ransomware trojans

In Q1 2020, Kaspersky products and technologies protected 178,922 users from ransomware attacks.

Number of unique users attacked by ransomware trojans, Q1 2020 (download)

Attack geography

 

Geography of attacks by ransomware trojans, Q1 2020 (download)

Top 10 countries attacked by ransomware trojans

Country* %**
1 Bangladesh 6.64
2 Uzbekistan 1.98
3 Mozambique 1.77
4 Ethiopia 1.67
5 Nepal 1.34
6 Afghanistan 1.31
7 Egypt 1.21
8 Ghana 0.83
9 Azerbaijan 0.81
10 Serbia 0.74

* Excluded are countries with relatively few Kaspersky users (under 50,000).
** Unique users whose computers were attacked by ransomware trojans as a percentage of all unique users of Kaspersky products in the country.

Top 10 most common families of ransomware trojans

Name Verdicts %*
1 WannaCry Trojan-Ransom.Win32.Wanna 19.03
2 (generic verdict) Trojan-Ransom.Win32.Gen 16.71
3 (generic verdict) Trojan-Ransom.Win32.Phny 16.22
4 GandCrab Trojan-Ransom.Win32.GandCrypt 7.73
5 Stop Trojan-Ransom.Win32.Stop 6.62
6 (generic verdict) Trojan-Ransom.Win32.Encoder 4.28
7 (generic verdict) Trojan-Ransom.Win32.Crypren 4.15
8 PolyRansom/VirLock Virus.Win32.PolyRansom,

Trojan-Ransom.Win32.PolyRansom

2.96
9 Crysis/Dharma Trojan-Ransom.Win32.Crusis 2.02
10 (generic verdict) Trojan-Ransom.Win32.Generic 1.56

* Unique Kaspersky users attacked by the specified family of ransomware trojans as a percentage of all users attacked by ransomware trojans.

Miners

Number of new modifications

In Q1 2020, Kaspersky solutions detected 192,036 new miner modifications.

Number of new miner modifications, Q1 2020 (download)

Number of users attacked by miners

In Q1, we detected attacks using miners on the computers of 518,857 unique users of Kaspersky Lab products worldwide.

Number of unique users attacked by miners, Q1 2020 (download)

Attack geography

 

Geography of miner attacks, Q1 2020 (download)

Top 10 countries attacked by miners

Country* %**
1 Afghanistan 6.72
2 Ethiopia 4.90
3 Tanzania 3.26
4 Sri Lanka 3.22
5 Uzbekistan 3.10
6 Rwanda 2.56
7 Vietnam 2.54
8 Kazakhstan 2.45
9 Mozambique 1.96
10 Pakistan 1.67

* Excluded are countries with relatively few users of Kaspersky products (under 50,000).
** Unique users whose computers were attacked by miners as a percentage of all unique users of Kaspersky products in the country.

Vulnerable applications used by cybercriminals during cyberattacks

We already noted that Microsoft Office vulnerabilities are the most common ones. Q1 2020 was no exception: the share of exploits for these vulnerabilities grew to 74.83%. The most popular vulnerability in Microsoft Office was CVE-2017-11882, which is related to a stack overflow error in the Equation Editor component. Hard on its heels was CVE-2017-8570, which is used to embed a malicious script in an OLE object inside an Office document. Several other vulnerabilities, such as CVE-2018-0802 and CVE-2017-8759, were also popular with attackers. In the absence of security updates for Microsoft Office, these vulnerabilities are successfully exploited and the user’s system becomes infected.

In second place were exploits for vulnerabilities in Internet browsers (11.06%). In Q1, cybercriminals attacked a whole host of browsers, including Microsoft Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, and Mozilla Firefox. What’s more, some of the vulnerabilities were used in APT attacks, such as CVE-2020-0674, which is associated with the incorrect handling of objects in memory in an outdated version of the JScript scripting engine in Internet Explorer, leading to code execution. Another example is the previously identified CVE-2019-17026, a data type mismatch vulnerability in Mozilla Firefox’s JIT compiler, which also leads to remote code execution. In the event of a successful attack, both browser exploits cause a malware infection. The researchers also detected a targeted attack against Google Chrome exploiting the RCE vulnerability CVE-2020-6418 in the JavaScript engine; in addition, the dangerous RCE vulnerability CVE-2020-0767 was detected in a component of the ChakraCore scripting engine used by Microsoft Edge. Although modern browsers have their own protection mechanisms, cybercriminals are forever finding ways around them, very often using chains of exploits to do so. Therefore, it is vital to keep the operating system and software up to date at all times.

Distribution of exploits used in attacks by type of application attacked, Q1 2020 (download)

This quarter, a wide range of critical vulnerabilities were detected in operating systems and their components.

  • CVE-2020-0601 is a vulnerability that exploits an error in the core cryptographic library of Windows, in a certificate validation algorithm that uses elliptic curves. This vulnerability enables the use of fake certificates that the system recognizes as legitimate.
  • CVE-2020-0729 is a vulnerability in processing LNK files in Windows, which allows remote code execution if the user opens a malicious shortcut.
  • CVE-2020-0688 is the result of a default configuration error in Microsoft Exchange Server, whereby the same cryptographic keys are used to sign and encrypt serialized ASP.NET ViewState data, enabling attackers to execute their own code on the server side with system rights.

Various network attacks on system services and network protocols were as popular as ever with attackers. We continue to detect attempts at exploiting vulnerabilities in the SMB protocol using EternalBlue, EternalRomance and similar sets of exploits. In Q1 2020, the new vulnerability CVE-2020-0796 (SMBGhost) was detected in the SMBv3 network protocol, leading to remote code execution, in which regard the attacker does not even need to know the username/password combination (since the error occurs before the authentication stage); however, it is present only in Windows 10. In Remote Desktop Gateway there were found two critical vulnerabilities (CVE-2020-0609 and CVE-2020-0610) enabling an unauthorized user to execute remote code in the target system. In addition, there were more frequent attempts to brute-force passwords to Remote Desktop Services and Microsoft SQL Server via the SMB protocol as well.

Attacks via web resources

The statistics in this section are based on Web Anti-Virus, which protects users when malicious objects are downloaded from malicious/infected web pages. Malicious websites are specially created by cybercriminals; web resources with user-created content (for example, forums), as well as hacked legitimate resources, can be infected.

Countries that are sources of web-based attacks: Top 10

The following statistics show the distribution by country of the sources of Internet attacks blocked by Kaspersky products on user computers (web pages with redirects to exploits, sites containing exploits and other malicious programs, botnet C&C centers, etc.). Any unique host could be the source of one or more web-based attacks.

To determine the geographical source of web-based attacks, domain names are matched against their actual domain IP addresses, and then the geographical location of a specific IP address (GEOIP) is established.

In Q1 2020, Kaspersky solutions defeated 726,536,269 attacks launched from online resources located in 203 countries worldwide. As many as 442,039,230 unique URLs were recognized as malicious by Web Anti-Virus components.

Distribution of web-based attack sources by country, Q1 2020 (download)

Countries where users faced the greatest risk of online infection

To assess the risk of online infection faced by users in different countries, for each country, we calculated the percentage of Kaspersky users on whose computers Web Anti-Virus was triggered during the quarter. The resulting data provides an indication of the aggressiveness of the environment in which computers operate in different countries.

This rating only includes attacks by malicious programs that fall under the Malware class; it does not include Web Anti-Virus detections of potentially dangerous or unwanted programs such as RiskTool or adware.

Country* % of attacked users**
1 Bulgaria 13.89
2 Tunisia 13.63
3 Algeria 13.15
4 Libya 12.05
5 Bangladesh 9.79
6 Greece 9.66
7 Latvia 9.64
8 Somalia 9.20
9 Philippines 9.11
10 Morocco 9.10
11 Albania 9.09
12 Taiwan, Province of China 9.04
13 Mongolia 9.02
14 Nepal 8.69
15 Indonesia 8.62
16 Egypt 8.61
17 Georgia 8.47
18 France 8.44
19 Palestine 8.34
20 Qatar 8.30

* Excluded are countries with relatively few Kaspersky users (under 10,000).
** Unique users targeted by Malware-class attacks as a percentage of all unique users of Kaspersky products in the country.

These statistics are based on detection verdicts returned by the Web Anti-Virus module that were received from users of Kaspersky products who consented to providing statistical data.

On average, 6.56% of Internet user’ computers worldwide experienced at least one Malware-class attack.

Geography of malicious web-based attacks, Q1 2020 (download)

Local threats

In this section, we analyze statistical data obtained from the OAS and ODS modules in Kaspersky products. It takes into account malicious programs that were found directly on users’ computers or removable media connected to computers (flash drives, camera memory cards, phones, external hard drives), or which initially made their way onto the computer in non-open form (for example, programs in complex installers, encrypted files, etc.).

In Q1 2020, our File Anti-Virus registered 164,653,290 malicious and potentially unwanted objects. 

Countries where users faced the highest risk of local infection

For each country, we calculated the percentage of Kaspersky product users on whose computers File Anti-Virus was triggered during the reporting period. These statistics reflect the level of personal-computer infection in different countries.

Note that this rating only includes attacks by malicious programs that fall under the Malware class; it does not include File Anti-Virus triggers in response to potentially dangerous or unwanted programs, such as RiskTool or adware.

Country* % of attacked users**
1 Afghanistan 52.20
2 Tajikistan 47.14
3 Uzbekistan 45.16
4 Ethiopia 45.06
5 Myanmar 43.14
6 Bangladesh 42.14
7 Kyrgyzstan 41.52
8 Yemen 40.88
9 China 40.67
10 Benin 40.21
11 Mongolia 39.58
12 Algeria 39.55
13 Laos 39.21
14 Burkina Faso 39.09
15 Malawi 38.42
16 Sudan 38.34
17 Rwanda 37.84
18 Iraq 37.82
19 Vietnam 37.42
20 Mauritania 37.26

* Excluded are countries with relatively few Kaspersky users (under 10,000).
** Unique users on whose computers Malware-class local threats were blocked as a percentage of all unique users of Kaspersky products in the country.

Geography of local infection attempts, Q1 2020 (download)

Overall, 19.16% of user computers globally faced at least one Malware-class local threat during Q1.


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IT threat evolution Q1 2020 – 10 minute mail

Targeted attacks and malware campaigns

Operation AppleJeus: the sequel

In 2018, we published a report on Operation AppleJeus, one of the more notable campaigns of the threat actor Lazarus, currently one of the most active and prolific APT groups. One notable feature of this campaign was that it marked the first time Lazarus had targeted macOS targets, with the group inventing a fake company in order to deliver its manipulated application and exploit the high level of trust among potential victims.

Our follow-up research revealed significant changes to the group’s attack methodology. To attack macOS victims, Lazarus has developed homemade macOS malware and added an authentication mechanism to deliver the next stage payload very carefully, as well as loading the next-stage payload without touching the disk. In addition, to attack Windows victims, the group has elaborated a multi-stage infection procedure and made significant changes to the final payload. We believe Lazarus has been more careful in its attacks since the release of Operation AppleJeus and has employed a number of methods to avoid detection.

We identified several victims as part of our ongoing research, in the UK, Poland, Russia and China. Moreover, we were able to confirm that several of the victims are linked to cryptocurrency business organizations.

Roaming Mantis turns to SMiShing and enhances anti-researcher techniques

Kaspersky continues to track the Roaming Mantis campaign. This threat actor was first reported in 2017, when it used SMS to distribute its malware to Android devices in just one country – South Korea. Since then, the scope of the group’s activities has widened considerably. Roaming Mantis now supports 27 languages, targets iOS as well as Android and includes cryptocurrency mining for PCs in its arsenal.

Roaming Mantis is strongly motivated by financial gain and is continuously looking for new targets. The group has also put a lot of effort into evading tracking by researchers, including implementing obfuscation techniques and using whitelisting to avoid infecting researchers who navigate to the malicious landing page. While the group is currently applying whitelisting only to Korean pages, we think it is only a matter of time before Roaming Mantis implements this for other languages.

Roaming Mantis has also added new malware families, including Fakecop and Wroba.j. The actor is still very active in using ‘SMiShing‘ for Android malware distribution. This is particularly alarming, because it means that the attackers could combine infected mobile devices into a botnet for malware delivery, SMiShing, and so on. In one of the more recent methods used by the group, a downloaded malicious APK file contains an icon that impersonates a major courier company brand: the spoofed brand icon is customized for the country it targets – for example, Sagawa Express for Japan, Yamato Transport and FedEx for Taiwan, CJ Logistics for South Korea and Econt Express for Russia.

WildPressure on industrial networks in the Middle East

In March, we reported a targeted campaign to distribute Milum, a Trojan designed to gain remote control of devices in target organizations, some of which operate in the industrial sector. We detected the first signs of this operation, which we have dubbed WildPressure, in August 2019; and the campaign remains active.

The Milum samples that we have seen so far do not share any code similarities with any known APT campaigns. All of them allow the attackers to control infected devices remotely: letting them download and execute commands, collect information from the compromised computer and send it to the C2 server and install upgrades to the malware.

Attacks on industrial targets can be particularly devastating. So far, we haven’t seen evidence that the threat actor behind WildPressure is trying to do anything beyond gathering data from infected networks. However, the campaign is still in development, so we don’t yet know what other functionality might be added.

To avoid becoming a victim of this and other targeted attacks, organizations should do the following.

  • Update all software regularly, especially when a new patch becomes available.
  • Deploy a security solution with a proven track record, such as Kaspersky Endpoint Security, that is equipped with behavior-based protection against known and unknown threats, including exploits.
  • On top of endpoint protection, implement a corporate-grade security solution designed to detect advanced threats against the network, such as Kaspersky Anti Targeted Attack Platform.
  • Ensure staff understand social engineering and other methods used by attackers and develop a security culture within in the organization.
  • Provide your security team with access to comprehensive cyberthreat intelligence, such as Kaspersky APT Intelligence Reporting.

TwoSail Junk

On January 10, we discovered a watering-hole attack that utilized a full remote iOS exploit chain to deploy a feature-rich implant named LightSpy. Judging by the content of the landing page, the site appears to have been designed to target users in Hong Kong.

Since then, we have released two private reports on LightSpy, available to customers of Kaspersky Intelligence Reporting (please contact [email protected] for further information).

We are temporarily calling the APT group behind this implant TwoSail Junk. Currently, we have hints from known backdoor callbacks to infrastructure about clustering this campaign with previous activity. We are also working with fellow researchers to tie LightSpy to prior activity from a well-established Chinese-speaking APT group, previously reported (here and here) as Spring Dragon (aka Lotus Blossom and Billburg(Thrip)), known for its Lotus Elise and Evora backdoors.

As this LightSpy activity was disclosed publicly by fellow researchers from Trend Micro, we wanted to contribute missing information to the story without duplicating content. In addition, in our quest to secure technologies for a better future, we have reported this malware and activity to Apple and other relevant companies.

Our report includes information about the Android implant, including its deployment, spread and support infrastructure.

A sprinkling of Holy Water in Asia

In December, we discovered watering-hole websites that were compromised to selectively trigger a drive-by download attack with fake Adobe Flash update warnings.

This campaign, which has been active since at least May 2019, targets an Asian religious and ethnic group. The threat actor’s unsophisticated but creative toolset, which has evolved greatly and may still be in development, makes use of Sojson obfuscation, NSIS installer, Python, open-source code, GitHub distribution, Go language and Google Drive-based C2 channels.

The threat actor’s operational target is unclear because we haven’t been able to observe many live operations. We have also been unable to identify any overlap with known APT groups.

Threat hunting with Bitscout

In February, Vitaly Kamluk, from the Global Research and Analysis Team at Kaspersky, reported on a new version of Bitscout, based on the upcoming release of Ubuntu 20.04 (scheduled for release in April 2020).

Bitscout is a remote digital forensics tool that we open-sourced about two and a half years ago, when Vitaly was located in the Digital Forensics Lab at INTERPOL. Bitscout has helped us in many cyber-investigations. Based on the widely popular Ubuntu Linux distribution, it incorporates forensics and malware analysis tools created by a large number of excellent developers around the world.

Here’s a summary of the approach we use in Bitscout

  • Bitscout is completely FREE, thereby reducing your forensics budget.
  • It is designed to work remotely, saving time and money that would otherwise be spent on travel. Of course, you can use the same techniques locally.
  • The true value lies not in the toolkit itself, but in the power of all the forensic tools that are included.
  • There’s a steep learning curve involved in mastering Bitscout, which ultimately reinforces the technical foundations of your experts.
  • Bitscout records remote forensics sessions internally, making it perfect for replaying and learning from more experienced practitioners or using as evidential proof of discovery.
  • It is fully open source, so you don’t need to wait for the vendor to implement a patch or feature for you: you are free to reverse-engineer and modify any part of it.

We have launched a project website, bitscout-forensics.info, as the go-to destination for those looking for tips and tricks on remote forensics using Bitscout.

Hunting APTs with YARA

In recent years, we have shared our knowledge and experience of using YARA as a threat hunting tool, mainly through our training course, ‘Hunting APTs with YARA like a GReAT ninja’, delivered during our Security Analyst Summit. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to postpone the forthcoming SAS.

Meanwhile, we have received many requests to make our YARA hands-on training available to more people. This is something we are working on and hope to be able to provide soon as an online training experience. Look out for updates on this by following us on Twitter – @craiu, @kaspersky.

With so many people working from home, and spending even more time online, it is also likely the number of threats and attacks will increase. Therefore, we decided to share some of the YARA experience we have accumulated in recent years, in the hope that all of you will find it useful for keeping threats at bay.

If you weren’t able to join the live presentation, on March 31, you can find the recording here.

We track the activities of hundreds of APT threat actors and regularly highlight the more interesting findings here. However, if you want to know more, please reach out to us at [email protected]

Other security news

Shlayer Trojan attacks macOS users

Although many people consider macOS to be safe, there are cybercriminals who seek to exploit those who use this operating system. One malicious program stands out – the Shlayer Trojan. In 2019, Kaspersky macOS products blocked this Trojan on every tenth device, making this the most widespread threat to people who use macOS.

Shlayer is a smart malware distribution system that spreads via a partner network, entertainment websites and even Wikipedia. This Trojan specializes in the installation of adware – programs that feed victims illicit ads, intercepting and gathering their browser queries and modifying search results to distribute even more advertising messages.

Shlayer accounted for almost one-third of all attacks on macOS devices registered by Kaspersky products between January and November last year – and nearly all other top 10 macOS threats were adware programs that Shlayer installs.

The infection starts with an unwitting victim downloading the malicious program. The criminals behind Shlayer set up a malware distribution system with a number of channels leading their victims to download the malware. Shlayer is offered as a way to monetize websites in a number of file partner programs, with relatively high payment for each malware installation made by users in the US, prompting over 1,000 ‘partner sites’ to distribute Shlayer. This scheme works as follows: a user looks for a TV series episode or a football match, and advertising landing pages redirect them to fake Flash Player update pages. From here, the victim downloads the malware; and for each installation, the partner who distributed links to the malware receives a pay-per-install payment.

Other schemes that we saw led to a fake Adobe Flash update page that redirected victims from various large online services with multi-million audiences, including YouTube, where links to the malicious website were included in video descriptions, and Wikipedia, where such links were hidden in article references. People that clicked on these links would also be redirected to the Shlayer download landing pages. Kaspersky researchers found 700 domains containing malicious content, with links to them on a variety of legitimate websites.

Almost all the websites that led to a fake Flash Player contained content in English. This corresponds to the countries where we have seen most infections – the US (31%), Germany (14%), France (10%) and the UK (10%).

Blast from the past

Although many people still use the term “virus” to mean any malicious program, it actually refers specifically to self-replicating code, i.e., malicious code that copies itself from file to file on the same computer. Viruses, which used to dominate the threat landscape, are now rare. However, there are some interesting exceptions to this trend and we came across one recently – the first real virus we’ve seen in the wild for some time.

The virus, called KBOT, infects the victim’s computer via the internet, a local network, or infected external media. After the infected file is launched, the malware gains a foothold in the system, writing itself to Startup and the Task Scheduler, and then deploys web injects to try to steal the victim’s bank and personal data. KBOT can also download additional stealer modules that harvest and send to the Command-and-Control (C2) server comprehensive information about the victim, including passwords/logins, crypto-wallet data, lists of files and installed applications, and so on. The malware stores all its files and stolen data in a virtual file system, encrypted using the RC6 algorithm, making it hard to detect.

Cybercriminals exploiting fears about data breaches

Phishers are always on the lookout for hot topics that they can use to hook their victims, including sport, politics, romance, shopping, banking, natural disasters and anything else that might entice someone into clicking on a link or malicious file attachment.

Recently, cybercriminals have exploited the theme of data leaks to try to defraud people. Data breaches, and the fines imposed for failing to safeguard data, are now a staple feature of the news. The scammers posed as an organization called the “Personal Data Protection Fund” and claim that the “US Trading Commission” had set up a fund to compensate people whose personal data had been exposed.

However, in order to get the compensation, the victims are asked to provide a social security number. The scammers offer to sell a temporary SSN to those who don’t have one.

Even if the potential victim enters a valid SSN, they are still directed to a page asking them to purchase a temporary SSN.

You can read the full story here.

… and coronavirus

The bigger the hook, the bigger the pool of potential victims. So it’s no surprise that cybercriminals are exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic. We have found malicious PDF, MP4 and DOCX files disguised as information about the coronavirus. The names of the files suggest they contain video instructions on how to protect yourself, updates on the threat and even virus detection procedures. In fact, these files are capable of destroying, blocking, modifying or copying data, as well as interfering with the operation of the computer.

The cybercriminals behind the Ginp banking Trojan recently developed a new campaign related to COVID-19. After receiving a special command, the Trojan opens a web page called Coronavirus Finder. This provides a simple interface that claims to show the number of people nearby who are infected with the virus and asks you to pay a small sum to see their location.

The Trojan then provides a payment form.

Then … nothing else happens – apart from the criminals taking your money. Data from the Kaspersky Security Network suggests that most users who have encountered Ginp are located in Spain. However, this is a new version of Ginp that is tagged “flash-2”, while previous versions were tagged “flash-es12”. So perhaps the lack of “es” in the tag of the newer version means the cybercriminals are planning to expand their campaign beyond Spain.

We have also seen a number of phishing scams where cybercriminals pose as bona fide organizations to trick people into clicking on links to fake sites where the scammers capture their personal information, or even ask them to donate money.

If you’ve ever wanted to know why it’s so easy for phishers to create spoof emails, and what efforts have been made to make it harder for them, you can find a good overview of the problems and potential solutions here.

Cybercriminals are also taking the opportunity to attack the information infrastructure of medical facilities, clearly hoping that the overload on IT services will provide them with an opportunity to break into hospital networks, or are attempting to extort money from clinical research companies. In an effort to ensure that IT security isn’t something that medical teams have to worry about, we’re offering medical institutions free six-month licenses for our core solutions.

In February, we reported an unusual malware campaign in which cybercriminals were spreading the AZORult Trojan as a fake installer for ProtonVPN.

The aim of the campaign is to steal personal information and crypto-currency from the victims.

The attackers created a spoof copy a VPN service’s website, which looks like the original but has a different domain name. The criminals spread links to the domain through advertisements using different banner networks – a practice known as malvertizing. When someone visits a phishing website, they are prompted to download a free VPN installer for Windows. Once launched, this drops a copy of the AZORult botnet implant. This collects the infected device’s environment information and reports it to the server. Finally, the attackers steal crypto-currency from locally available wallets (Electrum, Bitcoin, Etherium and others), FTP logins, and passwords from FileZilla, email credentials, information from locally installed browsers (including cookies), credentials from WinSCP, Pidgin messenger and others.

AZORult is one of the most commonly bought and sold stealers on Russian forums due to its wide range of capabilities. The Trojan is able to harvest a good deal of data, including browser history, login credentials, cookies, files and crypto-wallet files; and can also be used as a loader to download other malware.

Distributing malware under the guise of security certificates

Distributing malware under the guise of legitimate software updates is not new. Typically, cybercriminals invite potential victims to install a new version of a browser or Adobe Flash Player. However, we recently discovered a new approach: visitors to infected sites were informed that some kind of security certificate had expired.

They were offered an update that infected them with malware – specifically the Buerak downloader and Mokes backdoor.

We detected the infection on variously themed websites – from a zoo to a store selling auto parts. The earliest infections that we found date back to January 16.

Mobile malware sending offensive messages

We have seen many mobile malware apps re-invent themselves, adding new layers of functionality over time. The Faketoken Trojan offers a good example of this. Over the last six years, it has developed from an app designed to capture one-time passcodes, to a fully-fledged mobile banking Trojan, to ransomware. By 2017, Faketoken was able to mimic many different apps, including mobile banking apps, e-wallets, taxi service apps and apps used to pay fines and penalties – all in order to steal bank account data.

Recently, we observed 5,000 Android smartphones infected by Faketoken sending offensive text messages. SMS capability is a standard feature of many mobile malware apps, many of which spread by sending links to their victims’ contacts; and banking Trojans typically try to make themselves the default SMS application, in order to intercept one-time passcodes. However, we had not seen one become a mass texting tool.

The messages sent by Faketoken are charged to the owner of the device; and since many of the infected smartphones we saw were texting a foreign number, the cost was quite high. Before sending any messages, the Trojan checks to see if there are sufficient funds in the victim’s bank account. If there are, Faketoken tops up the mobile account sending any messages.

We don’t yet know whether this is a one-off campaign or the start of a trend. To avoid becoming a victim of Faketoken, download apps only from Google Play, disable the downloading of apps from other sources, don’t follow links from messages and protect your device with a reputable mobile security product.

The use and abuse of the Android AccessibilityService

In January, we reported that cybercriminals were using malware to boost the rating of specific apps, to increase the number of installations.

The Shopper.a Trojan also displays advertising messages on infected devices, creates shortcuts to advertising sites and more.

The Trojan opens Google Play (or other app store), installs several programs and writes fake user reviews about them. To prevent the victim noticing, the Trojan conceals the installation window behind an ‘invisible’ window. Shopper.a gives itself the necessary permissions using the Android AccessibilityService. This service is intended to help people with disabilities use a smartphone, but if a malicious app obtains permission to use it, the malware has almost limitless possibilities for interacting with the system interface and apps – including intercepting data displayed on the screen, clicking buttons and emulating user gestures.

Shopper.a was most widespread in Russia, Brazil and India.

You should be wary if an app requests access to the AccessibilityService but doesn’t need it. Even if the only danger posed by such apps comes from automatically written reviews, there is no guarantee that its creators will not change the payload later.

Everyone loves cookies – including cybercriminals

We recently discovered a new malicious Android Trojan, dubbed Cookiethief, designed to acquire root permissions on the victim’s device and transfer cookies used by the browser and the Facebook app to the cybercriminals’ C2 server. Using the stolen cookies, the criminals can gain access to the unique session IDs that websites and online services use to identify someone, thereby allowing the criminals to assume someone’s identity and gain access to online accounts without the need for a login and password.

On the C2 server, we found a page advertising services for distributing spam on social networks and messengers, which we think is the underlying motive in stealing cookies.

From the C2 server addresses and encryption keys used, we were able to link Cookiethief to widespread Trojans such as Sivu, Triada, and Ztorg. Usually, such malware is either planted in the device firmware before purchase, or it gets into system folders through vulnerabilities in the operating system and then downloads various applications onto the system.

Stalkerware: no place to hide

We recently discovered a new sample of stalkerware – commercial software typically used by those who want to monitor a partner, colleague or others – that contains functionality beyond anything we have seen before. You can find more information on stalkerware here and here.

MonitorMinor, goes beyond other stalkerware programs. Primitive stalkerware uses geo-fencing technology, enabling the operator to track the victim’s location, and in most cases intercept SMS and call data. MonitorMinor goes a few steps further: recognizing the importance of messengers as a means of data collection, this app aims to get access to data from all the popular modern communication tools.

Normally, the Android sandbox prevents direct communication between apps. However, if a superuser app has been installed, which grants root access to the system, it overrides the security mechanisms of the device. The developers of MonitorMinor use this to enable full access to data on a variety of popular social media and messaging applications, including Hangouts, Instagram, Skype and Snapchat. They also use root privileges to access screen unlock patterns, enabling the stalkerware operator to unlock the device when it is nearby or when they next have physical access to the device. Kaspersky has not previously seen this feature in any other mobile threat.

Even without root access, the stalkerware can operate effectively by abusing the AccessibilityService API, which is designed to make devices friendly for users with disabilities. Using this API, the stalkerware is able to intercept any events in the applications and broadcast live audio.

Our telemetry indicates that the countries with the largest share of installations of MonitorMinor are India, Mexico, Germany, Saudi Arabia and the UK.

We recommend the following tips to reduce the risk of falling victim to a stalker:

  • Block the installation of apps from unknown sources in your smartphone settings.
  • Never disclose the password or passcode to your mobile device, even with someone you trust.
  • If you are ending a relationship, change security settings on your mobile device, such as passwords and app location access settings.
  • Keep a check on the apps installed on your device, to see if any suspicious apps have been installed without your consent
  • Use a reliable security solution that notifies you about the presence of commercial spyware programs aimed at invading your privacy, such as Kaspersky Internet Security.
  • If you think you are being stalked, reach out to a professional organization for advice.
  • For further guidance, contact the Coalition against Stalkerware
  • There are resources that can assist victims of domestic violence, dating violence, stalking and sexual violence. If you need further help, please contact the Coalition against Stalkerware.


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A look at the ATM/PoS malware landscape from 2017-2019 – 10 minute mail

From remote administration and jackpotting, to malware sold on the Darknet, attacks against ATMs have a long and storied history.  And, much like other areas of cybercrime, attackers only refine and grow their skillset for infecting ATM systems from year-to-year. So what does the ATM landscape look like as of 2020? Let’s take a look.

The world of ATM/PoS malware

ATM attacks aren’t new, and that’s not surprising. After all, what is one of the primary motives driving cyber criminals? Money. And ATMs are cash hubs—one successful attack can net you hundreds of thousands of dollars. In the past, even high-profile threat actors have made ATMs their prime target.

However, attacking ATMs is a bit different from traditional financial-related threats, like phishing emails or spoofed websites. That’s because ATMs operate in a unique space in the tech world: they’re still connected to the corporate networks but at the same time must be accessible to anyone that passes by. The resulting technical differences means the attack methods differ from those used for traditional endpoints.

ATMs also share several common characteristics that make them particularly vulnerable to attacks:

  • Traditional software that is part of the warranty offered by the vendors → If major changes occur that are not approved by the ATM vendor, including installing AV software, then sometimes this warranty is lost.
  • Regular use of outdated operating systems and the apps its runs on
  • Locations chosen in a way that provide access to as many customers as possible, including those in remote regions → These isolated locations often lack any reasonable physical security

Old software means unpatched vulnerabilities—ones criminals can exploit—and isolated areas makes it easier for criminals to gain physical access to the internal ports of the motherboard. This is especially typical for the old ATM machines located in many regions with low resources and no budgets for ATM upgrades.  When combined, ATMs become not only a highly profitable target—but an easy one.

From 2017 to 2019, there has been a marked increase in ATM attacks, due to a few families being particularly active. These target systems around the globe, regardless of the vendor, and have one of two goals: either stealing customers’ information or funneling funds directly from the bank.

Considering all of the above, we decided to delve further into what has been happening in the world of ATM/PoS malware for the last few years.

ATM/oOS malware attacks: by the numbers

To gain a closer look at ATM malware worldwide, we utilized the statistics processed by Kaspersky Security Network (KSN) over the course of the past three years globally.

Number of unique devices that encountered ATM/PoS malware, 2017-2019 (download)

The results showed that the number of unique devices protected by Kaspersky that encountered ATM/PoS (point-of-sale) malware at least once experienced a two-digit growth in 2018—and this number held steady, even increasing slightly, in 2019.

Geography of unique devices that encountered ATM/PoS malware, 2017 (download)

TOP 10 countries by number of unique devices that encountered ATM/PoS malware in 2017

Country Devices
1 Russian Federation 1016
2 Brazil 423
3 Vietnam 281
4 United States 148
5 India 137
6 Turkey 96
7 China 94
8 Germany 58
9 Philippines 53
10 Mexico 51

The ten countries that had the greatest number of unique devices affected by ATM/POS malware were relatively dispersed around the globe, with the highest number in Russia. Russia has had a long history of threat actors targeting financial institutions. For example, it was in 2017 that Kaspersky researchers  uncovered an ATM malware dubbed “ATMitch” that was gaining remote access control over ATMS at Russian banks. In addition, the relatively high rates in both Brazil and Mexico can be partially attributed to Latin and South America’s longstanding history as a hotspot of ATM malware.

Geography of unique devices that encountered ATM/PoS malware, 2018 (download)

TOP 10 countries by number of unique devices that encountered ATM/PoS malware in 2018

Country Devices
1 Russian Federation 1370
2 Brazil 753
3 Italy 537
4 United States 519
5 Vietnam 433
6 India 408
7 Thailand 369
8 Germany 277
9 Turkey 224
10 Iran 198

In 2018, the countries with the greatest number of ATM/PoS malware incidents recorded by unique devices remained distributed worldwide, but the countries remained similar to 2017, with the highest activity recorded in Russia and Brazil.

The overall increase in the number of devices affected can be attributed to both the reappearance of new ATM malware and the development of new families:

  • ATMJackpot first appeared in Taiwan back in 2016. It infects the banks’ internal networks, allowing it to withdraw funds directly from the ATM. ATMJackpot was able to reach thousands of ATMs.
  • WinPot was discovered at the beginning of 2018 in Eastern Europe and was designed to make the infected ATM automatically dispense all cash from its most valuable cassettes. Because of its time counter, its execution is time-dependent: if the targeted system’s time does not fall within the preset period during which the malware was programmed to work (e.g. March), WinPot silently stops operating without showing its interface.
  • Ice5 originated in Latin America. Its engineering tool is written in a scripting language that allows the attackers to achieve a significant level of manipulation over the infected ATMs. The initial infection occurs via the USB port.
  • ATMTest is a multi-stage infection in 2018. It requires console access to the ATM, meaning the attackers have to gain remote access to the bank’s networks. This malware was originally coded to steal money in rubles.
  • Peralta was an evolution of the infamous ATM malware project called Ploutus, which led to losses of $64,864,864.00 across 73,258 compromised ATMs. Both Peralta and Ploutus originated in Latin America.
  • ATMWizX was discovered in the fall of 2018 and dispenses all cash automatically, starting with the most valuable cassettes.
  • ATMDtruck also appeared in the fall of 2018 with indications that the first victims were in India. It collects enough information from the credit cards inputted into the infected ATM that it can actually clone them. It drops the malware “Dtrack”, which is a sophisticated spy tool.

Geography of unique devices that encountered ATM/PoS malware, 2019 (download)

TOP 10 countries by number of unique devices that encountered ATM/PoS malware in 2019

Country Devices
1 Russian Federation 2306
2 Iran 1178
3 Brazil 819
4 Vietnam 416
5 India 353
6 Germany 228
7 United States 220
8 Italy 197
9 Turkey 149
10 Mexico 114

This past year, the ten countries with the highest level of ATM/PoS malware activity remained the same, with only one change: Mexico once again entered the top ten, while Thailand left.

Overall, the total number of devices affected increased once again. In fact, ATM/PoS malware activity reached new levels by the spring of 2019 with a string of operations: ATMqot, ATMqotX, and ATMJaDi. ATMgot operates directly on the ATM using the dispenser to withdraw the maximum number of banknotes allowed; if it cannot do this, it will default to 20 notes. This malware also possesses anti-forensic techniques that allow it to delete traces of the infection from the ATMs, as well as some video files, which could potentially be used as part of video monitoring.

ATMJadi orginated in Latin America and is capable of cashing out ATMs. Since it’s a Java-based project, it’s platform-dependent—and thus highly targeted. In order to be installed, the attackers must gain access to the bank’s network. This suggests the attackers first compromise the bank’s infrastructure. But what’s perhaps most interesting is the false flag section with strings in the Russian language.

The problem of cyberattacks is compounded by the use of outdated and unpatched systems. That means that, even as new 2019 malware families were developed, the old ATM families from the previous years can still be used to launch successful attacks.

A look towards the future

ATM/PoS malware will only continue to evolve, and so, we will continue to monitor the ecosystem closely. We’ve already seen WinPot, first discovered in 2018, active this year in different parts of the world.

Latin America has long been known as a region of innovative cybercriminals who adopt techniques other region uses. It’s not surprising then that a new trend was recently discovered in development: an ATM MaaS project whereby a group in Latin America is attempting to sell ATM malware developed for each major vendor on the market. Projects like these provide further evidence that the world of ATM malware is still evolving, with cybercriminals continuously developing better attack strategies.

Our research has also shown that, beyond Latin America, countries in Europe and the APAC region are of particular interest to ATM attackers, as is the United States. This signifies that ATM malware is a truly global threat. After all, ATMs are located in nearly every country and few systems offer access to such massive amounts of fund.

How, then, can you protect your money? No matter how digital banking has become, ATMs are still an inevitable part of managing your funds. While you can’t control whether or not an ATM machine is attacked, by conscientiously monitoring your accounts and financial transactions, you can make sure suspicious activity is quickly identified and the proper channels duly notified. This should help mitigate the damage caused by any attack.

For financial institutions, staying secure requires a comprehensive, multi-step approach:

  1. Evaluate which attack vectors are more likely to be used and generate a threat model. This will depend, for example, on what network architecture is in place and where the ATM is installed – a place not controlled by your organization, such as a wall on the street, or an office under video surveillance, etc.
  2. Determine which ATMs are outdated or have an OS version that’s reaching the end of its vendor support. If you cannot replace the legacy devices, pay attention to this fact in your threat model and set the appropriate security solution settings, which do not affect the device’s productivity.
  3. Regularly conduct security assessments or pentests of ATMs to find possible cyberattack vectors. Kaspersky’s threat hunting service can also help you find sophisticated cybercriminals.
  4. Regularly review the physical safety of ATMs to detect abnormal elements implemented by attackers.
  1. If ATM configurations permit it, install a security solution that protects the devices from different attack vectors, such as Kaspersky Embedded Systems Security. If the device has extremely low system specs, the Kaspersky solution would still protect it with a Default Deny whitelisting scenario

PoS terminals are in many aspects similar to ATMs, but still possess a number of differences to be mindful of—and tackled accordingly. Apart from the steps mentioned above (which remain applicable), the following must be taken into account:

  1. Often more powerful when compared to an average ATM, Windows-based PoS terminals offer greater spaces for attackers’ maneuvering and are capable of running a broad range of modern malware and hacking tools. This makes implementation of multi-layered protection a must.
  2. While also residing in public spaces, they generally lack ATMs’ heavy armor. Therefore, they are more susceptible to direct attacks using unauthorized devices. This makes properly configured Device Control even more valuable.
  3. As they are frequently involved not only in financial, but also personal, data processing, this adds to their attractiveness for cyberattacks and also subjects them to more legislation. In combination with direct attack scenarios, implementation of file integrity monitoring and log inspection are mandatory, preferably in a way that allows tracking changes offline.
  4. Embedded systems should be protected not only by host-based security, but also by application of network-level security, such as Secure Web Gateways or Next-gen Firewalls capable of detecting and blocking unsolicited communications and other systems both inside and outside of the company’s infrastructure.


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Financial Cyberthreats in 2019 | Securelist – 10 minute mail

Methodology

Financial cyberthreats are malicious programs that target users of services such as online banking, e-money, and cryptocurrency, or that attempt to gain access to financial organizations and their infrastructure. These threats are usually accompanied by spam and phishing activities, with malicious users creating fake financial-themed pages and emails to steal victims’ credentials.

In order to study the threat landscape of the financial sector, our researchers analyzed malicious activity on the devices of individual users of Kaspersky’s security solutions. Statistics for corporate users were collected from corporate security solutions, after the customers agreed to share their data with Kaspersky.

The information obtained was compared with data for the same period in 2018 to monitor the trends in malware development.

Introduction and key findings

In 2019, we witnessed a number of significant changes in the cyberthreat landscape. Cybercriminals started to lose interest in malicious cryptocurrency mining and turned their attention to the broader topic of digital trust and privacy issues.

How did all those changes affect financial security around the world? As our report for the first half of 2019 demonstrated, there is no room for complacency – cyberthreats that aim to steal money are still out there.

Although the financial industry did not witness any major cases in 2019, the statistics show that particular categories of users and businesses are still being targeted by criminals. We have prepared this report to provide a more detailed picture of the situation.

This publication continues our series of Kaspersky reports (see here, here, and here) providing an overview of how the financial threat landscape has evolved over the years. It covers the common phishing threats that users encounter, along with Windows-based and Android-based financial malware.

Phishing:

  • In 2019, the share of financial phishing increased from 44.7% of all phishing detections to 51.4%.
  • Almost every third attempt to visit a phishing page blocked by Kaspersky products is related to banking phishing (27% share).
  • The share of phishing-related attacks on payment systems and online stores accounted for almost 17% and over 7.5% respectively in 2019. This is more or less the same as 2018 levels.
  • The share of financial phishing encountered by Mac users fell slightly from 57.6%, accounting for 54%.

Banking malware (Windows):

  • In 2019, the number of users attacked with banking Trojans was 773,943 – a decrease compared to the 889,452 attacked in 2018.
  • 1% of users attacked with banking malware were corporate users – an increase from 24.1% in 2018.
  • Users in Russia, Germany, and China were attacked most frequently by banking malware.
  • Just four banking malware (ZBot, RTM, Emotet, CliptoShuffler) families accounted for attacks on the vast majority of users (around 87%).

Android banking malware:

  • In 2019, the number of users that encountered Android banking malware dropped to just over 675,000 from around 1.8 million.
  • Russia, South Africa, and Australia were the countries with the highest percentage of users attacked by Android banking malware.

Financial phishing

Financial phishing is one of the most popular ways for criminals to make money. It doesn’t require a lot of investment but if the criminals get the victim’s credentials, they can either be used to steal money or sold.

As our telemetry systems show, this type of activity has accounted for around half of all phishing attacks on Windows users in recent years.

The percentage of financial phishing attacks (from overall phishing attacks) detected by Kaspersky, 2014-2019 (download)

In 2019, the overall number of phishing detections stood at 467,188,119. 51.4% of those were finance-related attacks. That is the second-highest share ever registered by Kaspersky; the highest proportion of financial phishing was 53.8% in 2017.

The distribution of different types of financial phishing detected by Kaspersky in 2019 (download)

Compared to the previous year, bank-related phishing grew from a share of 21.7% to almost 30% in 2019. The other two main finance categories remained more or less at the same level.

Financial phishing on Mac

As is now customary, we also compare the above statistics with those for MacOS: while the latter has traditionally been considered a relatively secure platform when it comes to cybersecurity, nobody knows where the latest threats may strike. Moreover, phishing is an OS-agnostic activity – it is all about social engineering.

In 2018, 57.6% of phishing attacks against Mac users attempted to steal financial data. A third of those were bank-related attacks. In 2019, the overall level was slightly less – just over 54%.

In 2019, the breakdown of categories was as follows:

The distribution of different types of financial phishing detected by Kaspersky on Macs in 2019 (download)

The share of bank phishing actually grew by around 6% compared to 2018. At the same, the E-shop category’s share dropped from around 18% to around 8%. The Payment systems category remained more or less unchanged. Overall, our data shows that the financial share of phishing attacks on Macs is also quite substantial – like that for Windows. Let’s take a closer look at both categories.

Mac vs Windows

In 2017, we discovered an interesting twist when Apple became the most frequently used brand name in the online shopping category both in the MacOS and Windows statistics, pushing Amazon down to second place for the latter platform. Even more interesting is that in 2018 Apple maintained its position in the Windows statistics, but Amazon led the MacOS statistics for the first time since we started tracking this activity. In 2019, the situation was as follows:

  Mac Windows
1 Apple Apple
2 Amazon.com: Online Shopping Amazon.com: Online Shopping
3 eBay eBay
4 groupon Steam
5 Steam Americanas
6 ASOS groupon
7 Americanas MercadoLibre
8 Shopify Alibaba Group
9 Alibaba Group Allegro

The most frequently used brands in the E-shop category of financial phishing activity, 2019

What is most interesting in the table above is that the top three places appear to be OS agnostic and are the same for both Mac and Windows.

When it comes to attacks on users of payment systems, the situation is as follows:

  Mac Windows
1 PayPal Visa Inc.
2 MasterCard International PayPal
3 American Express MasterCard International
4 Visa Inc. American Express
5 Authorize.Net Cielo S.A.
6 Stripe Stripe
7 Cielo S.A. Authorize.Net
8 adyen payment system adyen payment system
9 Neteller Alipay

The most frequently used brands in the Payment systems category of financial phishing activity, 2019

The data above can be viewed as a warning to users of the corresponding systems: they illustrate to what extent malicious users exploit these well-known names to fraudulently obtain payment card details as well as online banking and payment system credentials.

Phishing campaign themes

The list of 2019 phishing campaigns covered below includes the usual suspects: fake versions of online banking and payment systems or web pages mimicking internet stores.

A phishing page masquerading as a payment service

 Phishing pages masquerading as payment service pages

Phishing pages masquerading as an e-store pages

Of course, by clicking a link or entering credentials on pages like these, a user will not be accessing their account – they will be passing on important personal information to the fraudsters.

Some of the most common scams used to trick users include messages that refer to the hacking or blocking of an account or offers of incredible bargains.

Banking malware on PCs

For clarity, when discussing financial malware in this paper we mean typical banking Trojans designed to steal the credentials used to access online banking or payment system accounts and to intercept one-time passwords. Kaspersky has been monitoring this particular type of malware for a number of years:

The number of users attacked with banking malware, 2016-2018 (download)

As we can see, throughout 2016 there was a steady growth in the number of users attacked with bankers – following downward trends in 2014 and 2015. 2017 and the first half of 2018 saw a return to a downward trend. The number of attacked users worldwide fell from 1,088,933 in 2016 to 767,072 in 2017 – a decline of almost 30%.

Below are the figures for 2019.

The number of users attacked with banking malware 2019 (download)

In 2019, the number of users attacked with banking Trojans stood at 773,943 – a slight decrease compared to 889,452 in 2018.

The geography of attacked users

As shown in the charts below, more than half of all users attacked with banking malware in 2018 and 2019 were located in just 10 countries.

The geographic distribution of users attacked with banking malware in 2018 (download)

The geographic distribution of users attacked with banking malware in 2019 (download)

In 2019, Russia’s share increased and accounted for over one-third of attacks. Germany remained in second place, while China ended the year in third place.

The type of users attacked

It is also interesting to look at the consumer/corporate split in victimology.

The distribution of attacked users by type in 2018-2019 (download)

The main actors and developments

For years, the banking malware landscape has been dominated by several major players.

The distribution of the most widespread banking malware families in 2018 (download)

In 2018, we saw the major players decreasing their attacks – Zbot fell to 26.4% and Gozi to a little over 20%.  2019 produced the following situation.

The distribution of the most widespread banking malware families in 2019 (download)

Zbot is still the most widespread malware, while second and the third places are occupied by RTM and Emotet. Gozi dropped out of the top three, ending the year in sixth place.

Mobile banking malware

In 2018, we reviewed the methodology behind the mobile section of this report. We had previously analyzed Android banking malware statistics using KSN data sent by the Kaspersky Internet Security for Android solution. But as Kaspersky developed new mobile security solutions and technologies, the statistics gathered from one product alone became less relevant. That is why we decided to shift to expanded data, gathered from multiple mobile solutions. The data for 2016 and 2017 in this report was recalculated using the new methodology.

The change in the number of users attacked with Android banking malware, 2016-2019 (download)

In 2019 the number of users that encountered Android banking malware dropped to 675,000 from around 1.8 million in 2018.

To get a clearer picture of what is behind these dramatic changes we took a closer look at the landscape and reviewed the most widespread families across the year. In 2018, the situation was as follows:

The most widespread Android banking malware in 2018 (download)

Asacub’s share more than doubled YoY to almost 60%, followed by Agent (14.28%) and Svpeng (13.31%). All three experienced explosive growth in 2018, especially Asacub as it peaked from 146,532 attacked users in 2017 to 1,125,258.

The most widespread Android banking malware in 2019 (download)

In 2019, there was almost no change among the most widespread families. The Asacub family was the only exception – it conceded some of its share to its nearest competitors. However, it still accounted for almost half of all attacks.

Geography of attacked users

In previous reports, we calculated the distribution of users attacked with Android banking Trojans by comparing the overall number of unique users attacked by this type of malware with the overall number of users in a region. There was always one problem – the majority of detections in Russia traditionally came from this malicious software due to the prevalence of SMS banking in the region, which allowed attackers to steal money with a simple text message if an infection was successful. Previously, the same was true for SMS Trojans, but after regulative measures, criminals found a new way to capitalize on victims in Russia.

In 2018, we decided to change the methodology and replaced the overall number of attacked unique users with the share of unique users that faced this threat from the overall number of users registered in the respective region.

The picture for 2018 was as follows:

Percentage of Android users who encountered banking malware by country, 2018 (download)

The top 10 countries with the highest percentage of users that encountered Android banking malware in 2018:

Russia 2.32%
South Africa 1.27%
US 0.82%
Australia 0.71%
Armenia 0.51%
Poland 0.46%
Moldova 0.44%
Kyrgyzstan 0.43%
Azerbaijan 0.43%
Georgia 0.42%

In 2019 it changed to:

Percentage of Android users who encountered banking malware by country, 2019 (download)

The top 10 countries with the highest percentage of users that encountered Android banking malware in 2019:

Russian Federation 0.72%
South Africa 0.66%
Australia 0.59%
Spain 0.29%
Tajikistan 0.21%
Turkey 0.20%
US 0.18%
Italy 0.17%
Ukraine 0.17%
Armenia 0.16%

Australia replaced the US in the top three. Also of interest is the fact that the average percentage fell for all countries – sometimes 2-digit decrease can be seen.

Major changes to the Android banking malware landscape

While the figures tell their own story, there are many more ways to explore the changes and developments in the threat landscape. Our key method is the analysis of actual malware found in the wild.

As this analysis shows, 2019 was a relatively stable year when it comes to malicious mobile software. One point of interest, however, may be a new technique that we recently observed with Ginp and Cerberus Trojans.

At the very beginning of 2020, we found a new version of the Ginp banking Trojan that was first discovered by a Kaspersky analyst in 2019. Apart from the standard functions of an Android banker – the ability to intercept and send text messages, and perform window overlays – the new version involves a highly unconventional function to insert fake text messages in the inbox of a standard SMS app.

These messages are made to look like notifications from reputable app vendors informing users about an undesirable event (blocked account access, for example). In order to resolve the issue, the user is requested to open the application. Once the victim does that, the Trojan overlays the original window and asks the user to enter their credit card or bank account details, which then end up in the hands of cybercriminals.

We subsequently detected a rise in a technique used by the infamous Cerberus banker on Android devices. This malware increasingly produces fake push notifications to users on behalf of several banking applications. The detected messages urge Polish-speaking targets to open applications and check their cards and bank accounts by entering their login credentials. This technique is on the rise with more fake notifications being produced on behalf of more and more banking applications.

Conclusion and advice

2019 has demonstrated that cybercriminals continue to update their malware with new features, investing resources in new distribution methods and techniques to avoid detection. The increase in banking Trojan activity targeting corporate users is also of concern as such attacks could bring more problems than attacks on ordinary users.

This all means that malicious users are still gaining financially from their activities.

As the above threat data shows, there is still plenty of motivation for financial fraud operations involving phishing and specialized banking malware. At the same time, mobile malware regained its ability to jeopardize users across the world.

To avoid losing money as a result of a cyberattack, Kaspersky experts advise the following.

To protect against financial threats, Kaspersky recommends that users:

  • Only install applications from trusted sources such as official stores;
  • Check what access rights and permissions the application requests – if they do not correspond to what the program is designed to do, then it should be questioned;
  • Do not follow links in spam messages and do not open documents attached to them;
  • Install a reliable security solution – such as Kaspersky Security Cloud – that protects against a wide range of threats. The service also incorporates the Permission Checker feature for Android that allows users to see which applications have access to a device’s camera, microphone, location and other private information and restrict them if necessary.

To protect your business from financial malware, Kaspersky security specialists recommend:

  • Introducing cybersecurity awareness training for your employees, particularly those who are responsible for accounting, to teach them how to distinguish phishing attacks: do not open attachments or click on links from unknown or suspicious addresses;
  • Explaining to users the risk of installing programs from unknown sources. For critical user profiles, such as those in financial departments, switch on default-deny mode for web resources to ensure they can only access legitimate sites;
  • Installing the latest updates and patches for all the software you use;
  • Enabling protection at the level of internet gateways as it shields from many financial and other threats even before they reach employee endpoints. Kaspersky Security for Internet Gateways protects all devices in the corporate network from phishing, banking Trojans and other malicious payloads;
  • Using mobile protection solutions or corporate internet traffic protection to ensure employee devices are not exposed to financial and other threats. The latter helps protect even those devices for which antivirus is unavailable;
  • Implementing an EDR solution such as Kaspersky Endpoint Detection and Response for endpoint level detection, investigation and timely remediation of incidents. It can even catch unknown banking malware;
  • Integrating Threat Intelligence into your SIEM and security controls in order to access the most relevant and up-to-date threat data.


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Cyberthreats to financial institutions 2020: Overview and predictions – 10 minute mail

Key events 2019

  • Large-scale anti-fraud bypass: Genesis digital fingerprints market uncovered
  • Multi-factor authentication (MFA) and biometric challenges
  • Targeted attack groups specializing in financial institutions: splitting and globalization
  • ATM malware becomes more targeted
  • Card info theft and reuse: magecarting everywhere and battle of POS malware families in Latin America

Large-scale anti-fraud bypass: Genesis digital fingerprints market uncovered

During the last few years, cybercriminals have invested a lot in methods to bypass anti-fraud systems, because now it’s not enough just to steal the login, password and PII – they now need a digital fingerprint to bypass anti-fraud systems in order to extract money from the bank. During 2019, we identified a huge underground market called Genesis, which sells digital fingerprints of online banking users from around the globe.

From an anti-fraud system perspective, the user’s digital identity is a digital fingerprint – a combination of system attributes that are unique to each device, and the personal behavioral attributes of the user. It includes the IP address (external and local), screen information (screen resolution, window size), firmware version, operating system version, browser plugins installed, time zone, device ID, battery information, fonts, etc. The device may have over 100 attributes used for browsing. The second part of a digital identity is the behavioral analysis.

As criminals are continuously looking for ways to defeat anti-fraud safeguards, they try to substitute the system’s real fingerprint with a fake one, or with existing ones stolen from someone else’s PC.

The Genesis Store is an online invitation-only private cybercriminal market for stolen digital fingerprints. At the time of our research, it offered more than 60 thousand stolen bot profiles. The profiles include browser fingerprints, website user logins and passwords, cookies, credit card information, etc. By uploading this fingerprint to the Tenebris Linken Sphere browser, criminals are able to masquerade as legitimate online banking users from any region, country, state, city, etc.

This type of attack shows that criminals have in-depth knowledge of how internal banking systems work and it’s a real challenge to protect against such attacks. The best option is to always use multi-factor authentication.

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) and biometric challenges

MFA is a challenge for cybercriminals. When MFA is used, they have to come up with techniques to bypass it. The most common methods used during the last year were:

  • Exploiting vulnerabilities and flaws in the configuration of the system. For example, criminals were able to find and exploit several flaws in remote banking systems to bypass OTPs (one time passcodes);
  • Using social engineering, a common method among Russian-speaking cybercriminals and in APAC region;
  • SIM swapping, which is especially popular in regions like Latin America and Africa. In fact, despite SMS no longer being considered a secure 2FA, low operational costs mean it’s the most popular method used by providers.

In theory, biometrics should solve a lot of problems associated with two-factor authentication, but practice has shown that it may not be so simple. Over the past year, several cases have been identified that indicate biometrics technology is still far from perfect.

Firstly, there are quite a few implementation problems. For example, Google Pixel 4 does not check if your eyes are open during the unlocking process using facial characteristics. Another example is the possibility of bypassing fingerprint authentication using the sensor under the screen on smartphones made by various manufacturers, including popular brands such as Samsung.

There is another trick that has been exploited in Latin America: a visual capturing attack. Cybercriminals installed rogue CCTV cameras and used them to record the PINs people used to unlock their phones. Such a simple technique is still very effective for both types of victims: those who use biometrics and those who prefer PINs to fingerprints or facial recognition. This is because, when a device is dusty or greasy (and the same applies to a user’s fingers), the best way to unlock a phone is to use a PIN.

Secondly, there were several high-profile leaks of biometric databases. The most notorious was the leak of the Biostar 2 database that included the biometric data of over 1 million people. The company stored unencrypted data, including names, passwords, home addresses, email addresses and, most importantly, unencrypted biometric data that included fingerprints and facial recognition patterns as well as the actual photos of faces. A similar leak occurred at a US Customs and Border Patrol contractor, where biometric information of over 100,000 people was leaked.

There have already been several proof-of-concept attacks that use biometric data to bypass security controls, but those attacks could still be countered with system updates. With these latest leaks, on the other hand, this won’t work because your biometric data cannot be changed – it stays with you forever.

The cases mentioned above, combined with the high-quality research carried out by cybercriminals to obtain a complete digital fingerprint of a user in order to bypass anti-fraud systems, suggest that relying solely on biometric data will not solve the current problems. Today’s implementations need a lot of effort and more research to make them truly secure.

Targeted attack groups specializing in financial institutions: splitting and globalization

FIN7

In 2018, Europol and the US Department of Justice announced the arrest of the leader of the FIN7 and Carbanak/CobaltGoblin cybercrime groups. Some believed that the arrest would have an impact on the group’s operations, but this does not seem to have been the case. In fact, the number of groups operating under the umbrella of CobaltGoblin and FIN7 has grown: there are several interconnected groups using very similar toolkits and the same infrastructure to conduct their cyberattacks.

The first operating under this umbrella is the now-notorious FIN7 that specializes in attacking various companies to get access to financial data or their PoS infrastructure. It relies on the Griffon JScript backdoor and Cobalt/Meterpreter and, in more recent attacks, PowerShell Empire.

The second is CobaltGoblin/Carbanak/EmpireMonkey. It uses the same toolkit, techniques and a similar infrastructure, but targets only financial institutions and associated software and service providers.

The final group is the newly discovered CopyPaste group, which has targeted financial entities and companies in one African country – leading us to believe that this group is associated with cyber-mercenaries or a training center. The links between CopyPaste and FIN7 are still very weak. It’s possible that the operators of this cluster of activity were influenced by open-source publications and don’t actually have any ties to FIN7.

All of these groups benefit greatly from unpatched systems in corporate environments and continue to use effective spear-phishing campaigns in conjunction with well-known Microsoft Office exploits generated by their exploitation framework. So far, the groups have not used any zero-day exploits. FIN7/Cobalt phishing documents may seem basic, but when combined with their extensive social engineering and focused targeting, they have proved to be quite successful.

In the middle of 2019, FIN7 fell silent, but returned at the end of the year with new attacks and new tools. We suspect that the silent period is connected to their infrastructure shutdown that occurred after closing a bulletproof hosting company in Eastern Europe.

In contrast to FIN7, the activity of the Cobalt Goblin Group was stable throughout the year, which once again proves that these groups are connected, but operate on their own: their toolsets and TTPs are very similar, but operate independently; and only occasionally can we spot overlaps in infrastructure. At the same time, the intensity of attacks is slightly lower than in 2018. Cobalt Goblin’s tactics have remained the same: they use documents with exploits that first load a small downloader and then a Cobalt beacon. The main targets also remain the same: small banks in a variety of countries. Perhaps we have detected a lower number of attacks due to diversification, because some indicators suggest the group could also be engaging in JS sniffing (MageCarting) in order to obtain data about payment cards directly from websites.

JS sniffing was extremely popular throughout the year and we found thousands of e-commerce websites infected with these scripts. The injected scripts act in different ways and the infrastructure of the attackers is very different, which suggests that this type of fraud is used by at least a dozen cybercrime groups.

The Silence group actively expanded its operations into different countries throughout the year. We detected attacks in regions where we have never seen them before. For example, we recorded attacks in Southeast Asia and Latin America. This indicates that they have either expanded their operations themselves or started cooperating with other regionally installed cybercrime groups. However, when we look at the development of their main backdoor, we see that their technologies have barely changed over the last two years.

ATM malware becomes more targeted

When it came to ATM malware, we discovered a number of completely new families in 2019. The most notable were ATMJadi and ATMDtrack.

ATMJadi is an interesting one because it doesn’t use the standard XFS, JXFS or CSC libraries. Instead, it uses the victim bank’s ATM software Java proprietary classes: meaning the malware will only work on a small subset of ATMs. It makes this malware very targeted (towards one specific bank).

This is reminiscent of the FASTcach case from 2018, when criminals targeted servers running AIX OS. With a decrease in the number of general-purpose cashout tools, we can say that ATM malware is becoming rarer and more targeted.

Another interesting piece of malware is ATMDtrack, which was first detected in financial institutions in India and is programmed to cash out ATMs. Using the Kaspersky Targeted Attack Attribution Engine (KTAE), we were able to attribute these attacks to the Lazarus group, which supports our prediction from 2018 that there will be “more nation-state sponsored attacks against financial organizations“. Moreover, similar spyware has been found in research centers, with Lazarus APT group using almost identical tools to steal research results from scientific institutes.

Card info theft and reuse

During the year we saw a lot of malware targeting end users and businesses looking for credit card data. In Brazil, in particular, we saw a couple of malware families fighting it out between themselves to maintain control of infected devices. HydraPOS and ShieldPOS were very active during the year, with new versions that included a lot of new targets; Prilex, meanwhile, reduced its activities in the second half of the year.

ShieldPOS has been active since at least 2017 and, after being malware only, it has finally evolved into a MaaS (malware-as-a-service). This fact shows there’s great interest from Latin American cybercriminals in running their own “business” to steal credit cards. HydraPOS has been mostly focused on stealing money from POS systems in restaurants, parking slot machines and different retail stores.

Compared to ShieldPOS, HydraPOS is an older campaign from an actor we named Maggler, which has been in the credit card business since at least 2016. The main difference is that, unlike ShieldPOS, it doesn’t work as MaaS. In both cases, we suspect that the initial infection vector is a carefully prepared social engineering campaign involving telephone calls to the victims.

Analysis of forecasts for 2019

Before giving our forecasts for 2020, let’s see how accurate our forecasts for 2019 turned out to be:

The emergence of new groups due to the fragmentation of Cobalt/Carbanak and FIN7: new groups and new geography.

  • Yes, we saw CobaltGoblin activity, FIN7 activity, CopyPaste activity and the intersection of IoCs and the Silence group.

The first attacks through the theft and use of biometric data.

  • Yes, hacking of various biometric data databases regularly appeared throughout the year. We also revealed a digital fingerprint market where criminals can buy digital fingerprints, which includes, among other things, behavioral data (component of biometrics).

The emergence of new local groups attacking financial institutions in the Indo-Pakistan region, Southeast Asia and Central Europe.

  • No. It turned out that well-known groups such as Lazarus, Silence and CobaltGoblin took their place and very actively attacked financial institutions in these regions.

Continuation of supply-chain attacks: attacks on small companies that provide their services to financial institutions around the world.

Traditional cybercrime will focus on the easiest targets and bypass anti-fraud solutions: replacement of POS attacks with attacks on systems accepting online payments (Magecarting/JS skimming).

  • Yes, the number of groups that started carrying out attacks on online payment systems grew constantly over the year. We detected thousands of websites that were affected by JS skimming.

The cybersecurity systems of financial institutions will be bypassed using physical devices connected to the internal network.

  • Yes, and not only in financial institutions but even the aerospace industry, namely NASA, has suffered from this type of attack.

Attacks on mobile banking for business users.

Advanced social engineering campaigns targeting operators, secretaries and other internal employees in charge of wire transfers.

  • Yes, BEC (business email compromise) attacks have been on the rise worldwide. We have seen major attacks in Japan, while there have also been campaigns in South America, particularly in Ecuador.
  • Additionally, advanced social attacks have been actively used in Brazil to make POS operators go to a malicious website to download specially crafted remote control modules and run them, for example, in HydraPOS attacks.

Forecast 2020

Attacks against Libra and TON/Gram

The successful launch of cryptocurrencies such as Libra and Gram might lead to the worldwide spread of this type of asset, which naturally will attract the attention of criminals. Given the serious surge in cybercriminal activity during the rapid growth of Bitcoin and altcoins in 2018, we predict that a similar situation will most likely unfold around Gram and Libra. Large players in this market should be especially careful, as there are a number of APT groups, such as WildNeutron and Lazarus, whose interests include crypto assets. They are very likely to exploit these developments.

Reselling bank access

During 2019, we witnessed cases where groups who specialize in targeted attacks on financial institutions appeared in the victims’ networks after intrusions by other groups that specialize in selling rdp/vnc access, such as FXMSP and TA505. These facts are also confirmed by underground forums and chat monitoring.

In 2020, we expect an increase in the activity of groups specializing in the sale of network access in the African and Asian regions, as well as in Eastern Europe. Their prime targets are small banks, as well as financial organizations recently bought by big players who are rebuilding their cybersecurity system in accordance with the standards of their parent companies.

Ransomware attacks against banks

This forecast logically follows from the previous one. As mentioned above, small financial institutions often become the victims of opportunistic cybercriminals. If these criminals cannot resell access, or even if it becomes less likely that they will be able to withdraw money, then the most logical monetization of such access is ransomware. Banks are among those organizations that are more likely to pay a ransom than accept the loss of data, so we expect the number of such targeted ransomware attacks to continue to rise in 2020.

Another ransomware attack vector against small and medium financial institutions will be a “pay-per-install” scheme. Traditional botnets will eventually turn into increasingly popular delivery mechanisms against those financial institutions.

2020: the return of custom tooling

Measures taken by antivirus products to effectively detect open source tools used for pen testing purposes, and the adoption of the latest cyberdefense technologies, will push cybercrime actors to return to custom tooling in 2020 and also invest in new Trojans and exploits.

Global expansion of mobile banking Trojans: result of leaked source

Our research and monitoring of underground forums suggests that the source code of some popular mobile banking Trojans was leaked into the public domain. Given the popularity of such Trojans, we expect a repeat of the situation when the source code of ZeuS and SpyEye Trojans were leaked: the number of attempts to attack users will increase at times, and the geography of attacks will expand to almost every country in the world.

Investment apps on the rise: new target for criminals

Mobile investment apps are becoming more popular among users around the globe. This trend won’t go unnoticed by cybercriminals in 2020. Given the popularity of some fintech companies and exchanges (for both real and virtual money), cybercriminals will realize that not all of them are prepared to deal with massive cyberattacks, as some apps still lack basic protection for customer accounts, and do not offer two-factor authentication or certificate pinning to protect app communication. Several governments are deregulating this area and new players are appearing every day, becoming popular very quickly. In fact, we have already seen attempts by cybercriminals to substitute the interfaces of these apps with their own malicious versions.

Magecarting 3.0: even more attacker groups and cloud apps to become prime targets

Over the past couple of years, JS skimming has gained immense popularity among attackers. Unfortunately, cybercriminals now have a huge attack surface that consists of vulnerable e-commerce websites and extremely cheap JS skimmer tools available for sale on various forums, starting at $200. At the moment we are able to distinguish at least 10 different actors involved in these types of attacks and we believe that their number will continue to grow during the next year. The most dangerous attacks will be on companies that provide services such as e-commerce as a service, which will lead to the compromise of thousands of companies.

Political instability leading to the spread of cybercrime in specific regions

Some countries are experiencing political and social upheaval, resulting in masses of people seeking refugee status in other countries. These waves of immigration include all sorts of people, including cybercriminals. This phenomenon will result in the spread of geographically localized attacks in countries that have not previously been affected by them.


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Kaspersky Security Bulletin 2019. Statistics – 10 minute mail

All the statistics used in this report were obtained using Kaspersky Security Network (KSN), a distributed antivirus network that works with various anti-malware protection components. The data was collected from KSN users who agreed to provide it. Millions of Kaspersky product users from 203 countries and territories worldwide participate in this global exchange of information about malicious activity. All the statistics were collected from November 2018 to October 2019.

The year in figures

  • 19.8% of user computers were subjected to at least one Malware-class web attack over the year.
  • Kaspersky solutions repelled 975 491 360 attacks launched from online resources located all over the world.
  • 273 782 113 unique URLs were recognized as malicious by web antivirus components.
  • Kaspersky’s web antivirus detected 24 610 126 unique malicious objects.
  • 755 485 computers of unique users were targeted by encryptors.
  • 2 259 038 computers of unique users were targeted by miners.
  • Kaspersky solutions blocked attempts to launch malware capable of stealing money via online banking on 766 728 devices.

Fill the form below to download the Kaspersky Security Bulletin 2019. Statistics full report (English, PDF):


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