Avalanche Spam Gang Tap The Power Of ZeuS To Boost Cybercrime Earnings

Reports that the world’s most prolific phishing gang have diversified their operations over from conventional phishing emails to distributing the ZeuS Trojan is another sign that hackers are becoming incredibly sophisticated.

More than anything, the attack vectors used by the Avalanche botnet gang, who have taken two years to migrate to the new fraud architecture, indicate that criminal hackers are now using lateral thinking to develop their fraudulent modus operandi.

What is apparent from research is that the Avalanche cybercrime gang – who were reportedly responsible for two-thirds of the world’s phishing attacks this time last year – are also using advanced programming techniques.

The problem is that the banks, nor the users, are realizing that the client browser is actually under the control of the hacker. So although a user is in fact authenticated to the bank, all transactions are actually being performed from that moment on by the Trojan.

Using a man-in-the-browser attack, similarly to those uncovered in September, enables the electronic criminals to stage automated withdrawals. The problem of detecting this type of fraud is made all the more difficult as the banks are not aware that the initiator of the transaction is not the actual owner of the account but basically, an automated process.

This is why some financial institutions, such as Sainsbury’s Bank, now require users to confirm by mobile phone text message when a new account payee is set up.

Until the banks are able to prevent against this type of complex malware-driven fraud, the cybercriminal gangs will continue to evolve their already sophisticated strategies to beat the banks – and their customers.

Amichai Shulman is Co-Founder and CTO of Imperva, where he heads Imperva's internationally recognised research organisation focused on security and compliance. Prior to Imperva, Amichai was founder and CTO of Edvice Security Services, a consulting group that provided application and database security services to major financial institutions, including Web and database penetration testing and security strategy, design and implementation. Amichai served in the Israel Defense Forces, where he led a team that identified new computer attack and defense techniques. He has B.Sc and Masters Degrees in Computer Science from the Technion, Israel Institute of Technology.