Zeus resurfaces to steal credit card details

The Zeus malware has re-emerged and is being used by criminals to steal financial information, according to IT security company Trend Micro.

The firm claims the malware has re-appeared amidst a spike in numbers of active threats in the wild and has predicted that this year will be characterised by slightly modified old threats resurfacing, with new features added in order to avoid detection and infect more systems.

Peddling stolen banking information is a lucrative business in the underground market

The Zeus or ZBOT variants began to increase from the beginning of February, according to Trend Micro's Jay Yaneza.

"ZBOTvariants surged in the beginning of February and continued to be active up to this month. It even peaked during the middle of May 2013. The malware is designed to steal online credentials from users, which can be banking information or other personally identifiable information (PII)," said Yaneza in a blog post.

Yaneza warned that this variant of the Zeus malware was now more dangerous as it uses advanced techniques to avoid detection by security systems.

"ZBOTmalware of this generation are found to be mostly either Citadel or GameOver variants. Unlike earlier versions, the mutex name is randomly generated," said Yaneza.

"Both variants send DNS queries to randomised domain names. The difference in GameOver variant is that it opens a random UDP port and sends encrypted packets before sending DNS queries to randomised domain names. Zbot malware connects to a remote site to download its encrypted configuration file."

He said that these configuration files contain banks and other financial institutions that ZBOTs monitor in browsers.

"Since configuration files are downloaded from remote sites, the contents of these files may change any time. Malicious actors can change the list of sites they want to monitor on the affected system."

The firm said that there are ways to stop the Zeus malware in its tracks.

"There are several avenues for detecting ZBOT variants. First, as the malware tries to write to the registry Userinit' entry in HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon. Secondly, detecting the call-back routine to the remote site upon execution, as it acquires its configuration file," he said.

Yaneza said that old threats like ZBOT can always make a comeback because cybercriminals profit from these. "Peddling stolen banking and other personal information from users is a lucrative business in the underground market," he said. "It is important to be careful in opening email messages or clicking links. Bookmark trusted sites and avoid visiting unknown ones."

Rene Millman

Rene Millman is a freelance writer and broadcaster who covers cybersecurity, AI, IoT, and the cloud. He also works as a contributing analyst at GigaOm and has previously worked as an analyst for Gartner covering the infrastructure market. He has made numerous television appearances to give his views and expertise on technology trends and companies that affect and shape our lives. You can follow Rene Millman on Twitter.