Blackhole exploit kit disappearance sends criminals back to basics

Criminals are having trouble finding anything with the capabilities to take its place, security firm Websense has noticed

The Blackhole Exploit kit was good, so good in fact that criminals are having trouble finding anything with the capabilities to take its place, security firm Websense has noticed.

According to the firm's monitoring, phishing campaigns sent via the important Cutwail bot that once made extensive use of the kit have been forced to experiment with a mixture of conventional Zip attachment spam and an alternative exploit kit, Magnitude.

The change happened in October, within days of the arrest of Blackhole's Russian creator, dubbed 'Paunch'. Since then, the gangs have been forced to chop and change new attack strategies, achieving mixed levels of success, Websense said.

It turns out that attachment spam is still effective when it gets past filters as are old-style phishing attacks using traditional lures such as 'work at home' and dieting. Often tactics are what distinguishes one gang form another on Cutwail, for instance the prominent 'Zeus GameOver' operation that specialises in collecting bank logins.

Given that Paunch's arrest was recently confirmed, Blackhole won't be coming back, leaving the way clear for another kit or some new innovation to take its place.

"We predict that in the next months, there will be a return to URL-based email attacks utilizing exploit kits that offer "malware as a service" on a larger scale," concludes Websense.

"The use of exploit kits is simply a more effective delivery mechanism - especially with an increasingly security-aware target audience."

Other firms have reported Blackhole's sudden disappearance as causing a major headaches for criminals. Within days of Paunch's rumoured arrest in October, Dell SecureWorks reorted that it was easy to see that something had happened to the previously hugely popular kit; the much smaller and less effective Magnitude spiked unexpectedly just at the moment Blackhole disappeared.

But the wider significance of Paunch's arrest remains unclear. Given that he was the most important software cybercriminal ever picked up by Russian police, does that bode ill for others in the same business?

Tags: Personal Tech, security, websense

Report: Attackers have their sights set on the cloud

MORE IN Data Protection
Comments are now closed.
CSO Corporate Partners
  • Webroot
  • Trend Micro
  • NetIQ
rhs_login_lockGet exclusive access to CSO, invitation only events, reports & analysis.
CSO Directory

ZENworks® Endpoint Security Management

Secure, identity-based protection for your endpoints

Latest Jobs
Security Awareness Tip

Incident handling is a vast topic, but here are a few tips for you to consider in your incident response. I hope you never have to use them, but the odds are at some point you will and I hope being ready saves you pain (or your job!).

  1. Have an incident response plan.

  2. Pre-define your incident response team 

  3. Define your approach: watch and learn or contain and recover.

  4. Pre-distribute call cards.

  5. Forensic and incident response data capture.

  6. Get your users on-side.

  7. Know how to report crimes and engage law enforcement. 

  8. Practice makes perfect.

For the full breakdown on this article

Security ABC Guides

Warning: Tips for secure mobile holiday shopping

I’m dating myself, but I remember when holiday shopping involved pouring through ads in the Sunday paper, placing actual phone calls from tethered land lines to research product stock and availability, and actually driving places to pick things up. Now, holiday shoppers can do all of that from a smartphone or tablet in a few seconds, but there are some security pitfalls to be aware of.