Trend Micro has discovered a new Russian Trojan that attempts to access the admin consoles of the broadband routers as a prelude to collecting data on other devices using the same network.
Attacks targeting home routers have become more common in recent years but this one still counts as unusually enigmatic in that its ultimate purpose it unclear.
Rather than target the router directly using a known software vulnerability to breach the admin system as have other attacks, Vicepass.a poses as a bogus Flash Player update to launch itself on the user's PC. It then attempts to log into the network router using a common admin names and passwords such as '1234567' as well as less common ones such as 'zaq123wsx'.
If successful, the Trojan looks for the first dozen or so devices by IP address. As well as PCs, it notices IP telephones, games consoles, servers, printers, bridges nd other routers. It even notices Apple devices.
Its final act is to send the information it has collected in encrypted form to a command and control server before deleting itself from the infected PC to erase any trace of the incursion.
Trend believes the attack is most likely a form of reconnaissance, a hunt for low-hanging fruit.
"Based on its routines, the malware might be used by cybercriminals as a 'scout' for bigger campaigns," suggests Trend researcher, Kenney Lu.
"The intelligence gathering could be the first step in more severe attacks. The information could be stored and used for future cross-site request forgery (CSRF) attacks similar to the one discussed here," he said.
"If they have previous log in credentials for specific IPs, the attack would be easier to perform. Of course, we cannot be truly certain but this seems to be the likeliest scenario for malware with this type of routine."
The strange attack is a reminder of the importance of securing home or small business routers as a matter of priority. Although not hugely sophisticated or determined - the password brute-forcing is pretty lame - anyone using a reasonably strong password would be immune to Vicepass or others copying its MO.
Home routers remain an area of security concern with many subject to security flaws that are infrequently fixed by vendors who leave older products to wither. Even when patches become available for known issues home users rarely bother to apply updates.
In February news emerged of a highly-targeted attack on home routers in Brazil that appeared to focus on only a handful of individuals using one of two types of hardware. Routers are becoming the focus of much intrigue.