New 'Hesperbot' bank Trojan targets mobile authentication systems

Hits users in Turkey, Czech Republic, UK and Portugal

Security firm ESET is warning of an ambitious new banking Trojan designed to beat the mobile multi-factor authentication systems rolled out to defeat an older generation of malware.

Named Spy.Hesperbot after its discovery in Mid-August, the Trojan comes with the usual tricks such as keylogging, video capture and html injection but adds cleverness in the form of a remote control VNC server and a mobile app for Symbian, Blackberry or Android smartphones.

The campaign was first detected in the Czech Republic where attackers had used phishing emails impersonating the country's postal service. However, the malware has been operating in Turkey over the summer where it was reported to ESET's malware service hundreds of times; Portugal and the UK were seeing only a handful of infections, so far.

"Analysis of the threat revealed that we were dealing with a banking Trojan, with similar functionality and identical goals to the infamous Zeus and SpyEye, but significant implementation differences indicated that this is a new malware family, not a variant of a previously known Trojan," said ESET malware researcher, Robert Lipovsky.

ESET didn't expand on its mobile module but it appears to be designed to intercept one-time passwords or codes sent to the handset to authenticate logins. Alternatively, it could be used to steal logins from standalone mobile banking sessions.

It's not clear in this instance how the mobile app would be installed, but the general technique has been around for a while. Its stunning effectiveness was demonstrated by the extraordinary Eurograbber campaign from 2012 when $36 million euros was pilfered from a range of European banks after a Zeus-in-the mobile attack against two-factor SMS security.

Attacks on banking systems spiked dramatically around four years ago with the appearance of the Zeus Trojan and have come in waves ever since. In the early days banks seemed completely unprepared for the assault and victims piled up. The situation has improved since then with better defences and prosecutions of gangs using banking malware but new variations on the theme keep turning up.

A refreshed wave of banking attacks has been predicted in the aftermath of the leaking of the Carberp source code earlier this year.

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