Elaborate 'pharming' attack targeted 50 banks

Security researchers are working to shut down a hacking attack targeting Internet banking users of at least 50 financial institutions in the U.S. and Europe.

An attack this week that targeted online customers of at least 50 financial institutions in the U.S., Europe and Asia-Pacific has been shut down, a security expert said Thursday.

The attack was notable for the extra effort put into it by the hackers, who constructed a separate look-alike Web site for each financial institution they targeted, said Henry Gonzalez, senior security researcher for Websense.

To be infected, a user had to be lured to a Web site that hosted malicious code exploiting a critical vulnerability revealed last year in Microsoft's software, Websense said.

The vulnerability, for which Microsoft had issued a patch, is particularly dangerous since it requires a user merely to visit a Web site rigged with the malicious code.

Once lured to the Web site, an unpatched computer would download a Trojan horse in a file called "iexplorer.exe," which then downloads five additional files from a server in Russia. The Web sites displayed only an error message and recommended that the user shut off their firewall and antivirus software.

If a user with an infected PC then visited any of the targeted banking sites, they were redirected to a mock-up of the bank's Web site that collected their login credentials and transferred them to the Russian server, Gonzalez said. The user was then passed back to the legitimate site where they were already logged in, making the attack invisible.

The technique is known as a pharming attack. Like phishing attacks, pharming involves the creation of look-alike Web sites that fool people into giving away their personal information. But where phishing attacks encourage victims to click on links in spam messages to lure them to the look-alike site, pharming attacks direct the victim to the look-alike site even if they type the address of the real site into their browser.

"It takes a lot of work but is quite clever," Gonzalez said. "The job is well done."

The Web sites hosting the malicious code, which were located in Germany, Estonia and the U.K., had been shut down by ISPs as of Thursday morning, along with the look-alike Web sites, Gonzalez said.

It was unclear how many people may have fallen victim to the attack, which went on for about three days. Websense did not hear of people losing money from accounts, but "people don't like to make it public if it ever happens," Gonzalez said.

The attack also installed a "bot" on users' PCs, which gave the attacker remote control of the infected machine. Through reverse engineering and other techniques, Websense researchers were able to capture screenshots of the bot controller.

The controller also shows infection statistics. Websense said at least 1,000 machines were being infected per day, mostly in the U.S. and Australia.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jeremy Kirk

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?