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Threat Spotlight: The Imperiosus Curse –A Tool of the Dark Arts

Authors: William Largent, Jaeson Schultz, Craig Williams. Special thanks to Richard Harman for his contributions to this post.

As consumers, we are constantly bombarded by advertising, especially on the World Wide Web. There is a lot of money to be made either pushing Internet traffic, or displaying ads to consumers. Total annual Internet advertising revenue from 2013 was over US $117bn, and will approach US $200bn by the year 2018. The online advertising industry field is already awash with many players, each clamoring for a piece of the Internet advertising pie. In fact, so many ad impressions are bought and sold daily, that it’s nearly impossible to keep track of who is buying and selling what. 

On one side of the online advertising spectrum are publishers. These are domains that receive Internet traffic and make money by displaying advertisements. On the other side of the spectrum we find advertisers who wish to sell products. And in the middle are ad-networks/ad-exchanges: marketplaces where publishers and advertisers can come together to wheel-and-deal on ad impressions. The astonishingly large number of online advertising industry middlemen between buyers and sellers creates terrific opportunities for bad actors to hide. The result is malware delivered through the online advertising ecosystem, A.K.A. “malvertising”.

How “bad guys” view the online ad industry.

How do malicious ads actually make it to end users? In our attempt to answer that question, Talos has uncovered a piece of Internet malvertising infrastructure that is both highly robust, and highly anonymized. It has been an Internet fixture for almost a sesquidecade, with redirection domains operating since early 2001. This infrastructure was designed specifically to focus Internet traffic towards advertising endpoints, unfortunately with little regard paid to legitimacy of the final destination. 
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Research Spotlight: Exploiting Use-After-Free Vulnerabilities

This blog post was authored by Earl Carter & Yves Younan.

Talos is constantly researching the ways in which threat actors take advantage of security weaknesses to exploit systems. Yves Younan of Talos will be presenting at CanSecWest on Friday March 20th. The topic of his talk will be FreeSentry, a software-based mitigation technique developed by Talos to protect against exploitation of use-after-free vulnerabilities. Use-after-free vulnerabilities have become an important class of security problems due to the existence of mitigations that protect against other types of vulnerabilities, such as buffer overflows.

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Talos Discovery Spotlight: Hundreds of Thousands of Google Apps Domains’ Private WHOIS Information Disclosed

This post was authored by Nick Biasini, Alex Chiu, Jaeson Schultz, and Craig Williams. Special thanks to William McVey for his contributions to this post.

Table of Contents

Overview
WHOIS Privacy Protection
Why Does This Exist
The Issue
Implications for the Good/Bad Guys
Current State and Mitigations
Disclosure Timeline
Conclusion
Footnotes

Overview

In mid-2013, a problem occurred that slowly began unmasking the hidden registration information for owners’ domains that had opted into WHOIS privacy protection. These domains all appear to be registered via Google App [1], using eNom as a registrar. At the time of writing this blog, there are 305,925 domains registered via Google’s partnership with eNom. 282,867 domains, or roughly 94% appear have been affected [2]. (Google reports that new domains which have not faced a renewal period are not affected and many businesses do not opt into their privacy service.) The information disclosed included full names, addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses for each domain. The information was leaked in the form of WHOIS records.

The graphic above illustrates the drastic shift in domains utilizing privacy protection (dark green) to those with WHOIS information exposed (light green). At its peak at least 90% of the domains registered were utilizing privacy protection which plummeted to less than 1%. The grey circle indicates the initial shift occurring. The arrow notes when resolution had occurred.

The graphic above illustrates the drastic shift in domains utilizing privacy protection (dark green) to those with WHOIS information exposed (light green). At its peak at least 90% of the domains registered were utilizing privacy protection which plummeted to less than 1%. The grey circle indicates the initial shift occurring. The arrow notes when resolution had occurred.

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Microsoft Patch Tuesday for March 2015: 14 Bulletins Released; FREAK Patched

Today, Microsoft has released their monthly set of security bulletins designed to address security vulnerabilities within their products.  This month’s release sees a total of 14 bulletins being released which address 45 CVEs.  The first 5 bulletins are rated critical and address vulnerabilities within Internet Explorer, Office, Windows, and VBScript. The remaining 9 bulletins are rated important and cover vulnerabilities within Windows Kernel Mode Drivers, Exchange, Task Scheduler, Remote Desktop, SChannel, and the Microsoft Graphics component. Read More »

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Threat Spotlight: Angler Lurking in the Domain Shadows

This post was authored by Nick Biasini and edited by Joel Esler

Overview

Over the last several months Talos researchers have been monitoring a massive exploit kit campaign that is utilizing hijacked registrant accounts to create large amounts of subdomains for both initial redirection and exploitation. This campaign has been largely attributed to Angler Exploit Kit with fileless exploits serving various malicious payloads.

The use of hijacked accounts lead to a larger research project into the use of hijacked registrant accounts. During this research the earliest examples were found from a 2011 campaign with sporadic usage until December 2014. Since December 2014 more than 75% of the subdomain activity has occurred indicating a major shift in approach. This behavior has been covered before which discussed some of the older campaigns as well as the hosting indicators (ASN) of the groups making use of the subdomains.

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