Financial phishing, infections down but new strains emerging: Symantec

Proactive efforts to stop the rate of financially-targeted Trojans saw a 53 percent decline in infection rates during 2014 but ever-smarter malware is learning to evade new security measures, Symantec has warned after an analysis that found Australia suffered over 114,000 financial phishing attacks last year.

With concerted takedown efforts delivering significant drops in the infection rates of malware like Shylock, Cridex, Bebloh and Spyeye, some financial fraudsters shifted their efforts to different countries and markets while others have simply tweaked their recipes to pummel financial targets with completely different attacks such as Dyranges and Snifula. Others are targeting banks with weaker security, with an observed spike in attacks against Asian banks.

Australia's total 114,000 infections kept it well down the leaderboard: the US (970,000), UK (372,000), Germany (278,000), Japan (246,000), India (177,000), Italy (149,000), Canada (142,000) all outranked Australia.

“Most financial Trojans nowadays are distributed through exploit kits such as Styx, Angler, and Nuclear,” wrote Symantec Security Response engineer Candid Wueest in a recent company blog.

Wueest's analysis – published as The state of financial Trojans 2014 – looked at 999 recent malware samples and found them targeting customers of 1467 financial institutions in 86 countries.

Many were focused on the largest institutions, with the 9 most targeted institutions targeted by more than 40 percent of analysed Trojans and US banks targeted by 95 percent of the attacks. Only one unnamed Australian bank made it into the list of the top 25 most-targeted institutions, with 33.53 percent of examined configuration files targeting it and putting the bank at number 25 on the list.

The Zbot Trojan infected around 4 million computers in 2014 while Dyranges hit 90,000, Cridex 29,000, Snifula 21,000, Bebloh 11,000, Shylock 9000, Spyeye 6700, Mebroot 5700, and Carberp 500.

Despite the diversity of malware and their targets, overall volumes of financial phishing emails dropped by 74 percent last year – with greater vigilance, backed by effective law-enforcement efforts against high-profile banking Trojans, also credited.

“The drop in detections in 2014 can be partially attributed to a few takedown and arrest operations conducted by different law enforcement agencies in cooperation with the security industry,” he continued.

Read more: Healthcare and banks fall short on spam and phishing protection

“Malware author arrests often lead to an end of support situation for threat families, causing the malware’s usage to drop and shift. Cybercrime won’t disappear overnight, but the continued collaboration efforts between law enforcement and private industry will make it harder for cybercriminals to operate.”

This article is brought to you by Enex TestLab, content directors for CSO Australia.

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