Crisis Malware Goes Virtual

Thursday, August 23, 2012 @ 05:08 PM gHale

Crisis, a piece of malware found in July, is capable of infecting VMware virtual machine images, Windows Mobile devices and removable USB drives, said researchers from antivirus vendor Symantec.

Crisis is a Trojan that targets Mac OS and Windows users. Researchers at antivirus provider Intego uncovered the malware July 24 and can record Skype conversations, capture traffic from instant messaging programs like Adium and Microsoft Messenger for Mac and track websites visited in Firefox or Safari.

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Crisis distributes via social engineering attacks that trick users into running a malicious Java applet. The applet identifies the user’s OS — Windows or Mac OS X — and executes the corresponding installer.

“The threat searches for a VMware virtual machine image on the compromised computer and, if it finds an image, it mounts the image and then copies itself onto the image by using a VMware Player tool,” said Symantec researcher Takashi Katsuki. “This may be the first malware that attempts to spread onto a virtual machine.”

“This function allows Morcut to steal and intercept data from virtual machines including financial information used for online shopping,” said Kaspersky Lab malware expert Sergey Golovanov.

Malware authors are putting significant efforts into making sure new variants of their Trojan programs escape detection by antivirus products when they release.

In response, some security conscious users are performing online banking, online shopping and other potentially sensitive activities from virtual machines. This allows them to use an OS installation that remains unaffected malware.

Malware threats contain routines that prevent their own execution inside virtual machines. This occurs to prevent analysis by security researchers, who commonly use virtualized environments to observe what malicious programs do.

Morcut doesn’t do this, Golovanov said. “[Its] aim is to get inside as many systems it can to steal the maximum amount of information.”

“This may be the next leap forward for malware authors,” Katsuki said.

In addition to infecting VMware virtual machines, the Windows version of Crisis also installs rogue modules on Windows Mobile devices connected to compromised systems.

However, the Symantec researchers don’t know what these modules do yet. “We currently do not have copies of these modules and hence we are looking for them so we can analyze them in greater detail,” Katsuki said.

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