Russian cybercrime group compromised half a million computers

Proofpoint said the group targeted large US and European banks, compromising 800,000 online accounts

Proofpoint says a Russian gang rigged a large number of websites to deliver malware that collects online banking credentials.

Proofpoint says a Russian gang rigged a large number of websites to deliver malware that collects online banking credentials.

A mistake by a suspected Russian-speaking cybercriminal group allowed a security vendor to peep on a campaign that stole login credentials for hundreds of thousands of online bank accounts.

In a new report, Proofpoint said it found a large number of WordPress websites that had been compromised to perform a drive-by download of Qbot, also known as Qakbot, a malicious software program.

Proofpoint analyzed the malware and found an unprotected control panel on a server used by the gang to control the computers, a dumb but not uncommon mistake.

The control panel yielded a wealth of information about the malware campaign, which Proofpoint said collected 800,000 credentials for online bank accounts, many of which were at five of the largest U.S. banks and some in Europe.

Fifty-two percent of the compromised computers were running Windows XP, "a figure that is at once unsurprising -- considering that support for Windows XP, including patches, ended in April 2014," according to the report.

Most of those computers were running Internet Explorer, "which is to be expected given both the size of the Internet Explorer install base and the number and variety of exploits available for this browser," the report said.

Qbot uses a technique called browser "hooking" to steal banking credentials. Online banking sessions are encrypted using SSL/TLS (Secure Sockets Layer/Transport Security Layer) encryption, but Qbot hooks into the browser to read the content after the browser has decrypted the traffic.

Users are infected after they visit a WordPress site or other websites that have been rigged to deliver an attack. Websites running WordPress' platform are often sought after by hackers due to its wide use and because it is not uncommon to find unpatched versions of it running.

"When end users browse the websites compromised by the attackers, the scripts that the attackers added to the compromised site's page will cause the visiting browsers to ultimately load and run unwanted software in a manner that is completely transparent to the end user," the report said.

In addition to stealing online banking credentials, the attackers also appear to be making money from the hacked computers in other ways.

The Qbot malware also has a module called "SocksFabric" for a tunneling network. That network can be rented to other cybercriminals who can use the hacked computers as proxies to shuffle their own data around or mask their activity.

Proofpoint wrote it isn't possible to see how much the group has netted, but the large number of compromised accounts would indicate that "this cybercrime group has the potential for tremendous profits."

Send news tips and comments to Follow me on Twitter: @jeremy_kirk

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags proofpointsecurityExploits / vulnerabilitiesmalware

More about ProofpointTransport

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Jeremy Kirk

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    IDG Live Webinar:The right collaboration strategy will help your business take flight

    Speakers - Mike Harris, Engineering Services Manager, Jetstar - Christopher Johnson, IT Director APAC, 20th Century Fox - Brent Maxwell, Director of Information Systems, THE ICONIC - IDG MC/Moderator Anthony Caruana

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts