On his birthday, Uriel Maimon of RSA reflected about a lot of personal things (as most of us do), as well as, how spam and phishing are becoming more sophisticated and dangerous.

One major player in the spam and phishing game are known as the “Rock Phish.” In his birthday post, Uriel gives us a little historical perspective on the group:

The Rock Phish group is a phishing gang believed to be based out of Russia — and, by some accounts, is responsible for roughly 50% of phishing attacks by volume. The Rock gang has also pioneered several new approaches in phishing: in 2004 it was the first (and, for a long time, they were the only) gang to employ bot-nets in its phishing infrastructure in order to make the attacks live longer and be more scalable. It also pioneered new techniques in its spam mails so the mail could more easily evade spam filters.

Apparently, the Rock Phish are now setting up a double whammy for anyone foolish enough to click on a socially engineered link received in a spam e-mail. Counting on the fact that a lot more people go to phishing sites than will actually type in their personal details, the Rock Phish are loading the sites with crimeware that steals personal information, automatically.

More specifically, Uriel describes the phenomenon of “drive by infection” as when:

This is done via a technique called “drive-by infection”, wherein a vulnerability in the victim’s operating system, browser, or software is exploited in order to infect the victim without his/her knowledge (and much less his/her consent, or with the victim having to proactively download software). The vulnerabilities that are exploited in these situations are often unknown to the software vendors and therefore often not addressed, leaving the victims defenseless (just like your humble servant finds himself when in the company of a beautiful woman).

Even worse, it appears that the Rock Phish make this easy for any criminal to mount a pretty sophisticated phising expedition by selling all the “tackle” necessary to do it for a measly $700.00.

Known as the “Zeus kit,” in honor of the Zeus Trojan, the kit is pretty resistant to computer security programs and has the ability to mask itself using a binary generator. The binary generator sends out a unique set of numbers every time it is used, making it hard for security programs to detect since they rely on spotting what is known as a “signature.” Even if a security program recognizes one signature, the binary generator changes it the next time, and the security program will probably fail to recognize it.

For the less technically inclined, the Zeus Kit offers a lot of operational capabilities for the information thief. Some of these capabilities are “the ability to take screenshots of a victim’s machine, or control it remotely, or add additional pages to a website and monitor it, or steal passwords that have been stored by popular programs,” according to Uriel.

There is little doubt that the criminal groups like the Rock Phish are making the Internet more dangerous all the time. So far as getting infected while “driving by” a site, Websense announced today that a mass attack via malicious JavaScript injection is infecting thousands of trusted sites, including government ones. According to report released today, this activity has exploded by a “factor of ten.”

Sophos also mentioned in it’s Q1 Security Threat Report that they are finding infected web pages at a rate of one every five seconds.

In simple terms, all the average web surfer has to do is visit one of these sites to become infected and have all their information stolen from them.

It’s probably a good time to make sure you’ve updated the protection on your computer and to just say delete to any spam getting past whatever filer you are currently using. By the way, has anyone noticed besides me that more and more spam has been getting past these filters in the past couple of weeks?

Blog post at RSA by Uriel Malmon, here.

By the way, I noticed that despite a lot of us commenting on this great post, no one bothered to wish him a Happy Birthday. The post has a lot of good information on it and it would be nice to thank him for educating the rest of us.

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