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Cisco 2014 Midyear Security Report: Exploit Kit Creators Vying for ‘Market Leader’ Role

Even in the world of cybercrime, when a top “vendor” drops out of the market, competitors will scurry to fill the void with their own products. As reported in the Cisco 2014 Midyear Security Report, when Paunch—the alleged creator and distributor of the Blackhole exploit kit—was arrested in Russia in late 2013, other malware creators wanted to fill the gap.

“Blackhole” and its more expensive brother “Cool” were the most widely used and well-maintained exploit kits. After Paunch’s takedown, we observed that many other exploit kits, including Fiesta and Neutrino, became more active in the market. However, a clear leader has yet to emerge.

While there’s more competition in the exploit kit market, it’s not translating to a greater number of deployed kits, as Cisco research shows. In fact, the total number of active exploit kits has dropped dramatically—by 87 percent—since Paunch’s arrest.

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RIG Exploit Kit Strikes Oil

This post was co-authored by Levi Gundert with contributions from Emmanuel Tacheau and Joel Esler.

In the last month we have observed high levels of traffic consistent with the new “RIG” exploit kit (EK), as identified by Kahu Security. This new EK reportedly began being advertised on criminal forums in April, which coincides with when we first began blocking this traffic on April 24th. Whilst the release of a new EK is not uncommon, RIG’s appearance is significant in three ways. First, because of the sheer amount of traffic we are seeing -- we have so far blocked requests to over 90 domains for more than 17% of our Cloud Web Security (CWS) customers. Second, because we have seen it being used to distribute “Cryptowall”, the latest ransomware to follow in the success of the now infamous “Cryptolocker”. And third, because it continues the trend of an increased reliance upon Silverlight in EKs which we have previously written about for both the Fiesta and Angler kits. Like these other kits, we have seen RIG using malvertising to perform a drive-by attack on visitors to high profile, legitimate websites. This accounts for the high amount of traffic we have seen in the last month. Read More »

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March Madness May Equal to Malware Madness

March 29, 2013 at 8:05 am PST

basketball1Are you excited about March Madness? Turn on a TV and it will be hard to avoid the games, the news, the commentaries, and the jokes about it. If you eavesdrop in any restaurant, bar, or office conversation, I can assure you that you will hear something about it. Even U.S. President Barack Obama filled out a March Madness bracket. Productivity in many offices drops significantly as employees search and watch videos to see how their bracket picks are progressing. At Cisco, we have an open policy and employees can watch and search the scores of their favorite teams. Watch this video posted by CNN where Kip Compton, Cisco’s Video Collaboration Group CTO, talks about March Madness.

During the last couple of years, the industry saw a spike in web malware during the March Madness season. SQL injection attacks, iframe injections, JavaScript, and Java malware were some of the most prevalent. A few months ago, I provided details about some of today’s cyber-criminal tools— exploit kits—and some of the weapons of choice like Blackhole, RedKit, Styx, CrimeBoss, and Cool.

A few things to keep in mind:

  • Legitimate business sites may have vulnerabilities that allow a hostile site to deliver malware.
  • In most drive-by downloads, the victim is willing to dismissively click pop-ups and warnings as they navigate to the desired content. In this case, users may just click on pop-ups or ads to watch videos about their favorite team.
  • Most drive-by downloads can be prevented by keeping software up to date. Read More »

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