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Business on the dark web: deals and regulatory mechanisms

15 Březen, 2023 - 11:00

Download the full version of the report (PDF)

Hundreds of deals are struck on the dark web every day: cybercriminals buy and sell data, provide illegal services to one another, hire other individuals to work as “employees” with their groups, and so on. Large sums of money are often on the table. To protect themselves from significant losses, cybercriminals use regulatory mechanisms, such as escrow services (aka middlemen, intermediaries, or guarantors), and arbitration. Escrow services control the fulfillment of agreements and reduce the risks of fraud in nearly every type of deal; arbiters act as a kind of court of law for cases where one of the parties of the deal tries to deceive the other(s). The administrators of the dark web sites, in turn, enforce arbiters’ decisions and apply penalties to punish cheaters. Most often, these measures consist in blocking, banning, or adding to “fraudster” lists available to any member of community.

Our research

We have studied publications on the dark web about deals involving escrow services for the period from January 2020 through December 2022. The sample includes messages from international forums and marketplaces on the dark web, as well as from publicly available Telegram channels used by cybercriminals. The total number of messages mentioning the use of an escrow agent in one way or another amounted to more than one million, of which almost 313,000 messages were published in 2022.

Dynamics of the number of messages on shadow sites mentioning escrow services in 2022. Source: Kaspersky Digital Footprint Intelligence (download)

We also found and analyzed the rules of operating escrow services on more than ten popular dark web sites. We found that the rules and procedures for conducting transactions protected by escrow on various shadow platforms were almost the same, and the typical transaction pattern that involved escrow services was as follows.

Besides the posts relating to escrow services, we analyzed those relating to arbitration and dispute settlement. We found that the format for arbitration appeals was also standardized. It usually included information about the parties, the value of the deal, a brief description of the situation, and the claimant’s expectations. In addition, parties sent their evidence privately to the appointed arbiter.

What we learned about dark web deal regulation
  • About half of the messages that mention the use of an escrow agent in one way or another in 2022 were posted on a platform specializing in cashing out and associated services.
  • Cybercriminals resort to escrow services—provided by escrow agents, intermediaries who are not interested in the outcome of the deal—not just for one-time deals, but also when looking for long-term partners or hiring “employees”.
  • These days, dark web forums create automated escrow systems to speed up and simplify relatively typical deals between cybercriminals.
  • Any party may sabotage the deal: the seller, the buyer, the escrow agent, and even third parties using fake accounts to impersonate official representatives of popular dark web sites or escrow agents.
  • The main motivation for complying with an agreement and playing fair is the party’s reputation in the cybercriminal community.
  • A deal may involve up to five parties: the seller, the buyer, the escrow agent, the arbiter, and the administrators of the dark web site. Moreover, further arbiters may be involved if a party is not satisfied with the appointed arbiter’s decision and tries to appeal to another.
The reasons to learn how business works on the dark web

Understanding how the dark web community operates, how cybercriminals interact with one another, what kinds of deals there are, how they are made, and what roles exist in them, is important when searching for information on the dark web and subsequently analyzing the data to identify possible threats to companies, government agencies, or certain groups of people. It helps information security experts find information faster and more efficiently without revealing themselves.

Today, regular monitoring of the dark web for various cyberthreats — both attacks in the planning stages and incidents that have already occurred, such as compromise of corporate networks or leakage of confidential documents, is essential for countering threats in time, and mitigating the consequences of fraudulent or malicious activities. As the saying goes, forewarned is forearmed.

Business on the dark web: deals and regulatory mechanisms — download the full version of the report (English, PDF)

Malvertising through search engines

9 Březen, 2023 - 11:00

In recent months, we observed an increase in the number of malicious campaigns that use Google Advertising as a means of distributing and delivering malware. At least two different stealers, Rhadamanthys and RedLine, were abusing the search engine promotion plan in order to deliver malicious payloads to victims’ machines. They seem to use the same technique of mimicking a website associated with well-known software like Notepad++ and Blender 3D.

The treat actors create copies of legit software websites while employing typosquatting (exploiting incorrectly spelled popular brands and company names as URLs) or combosquatting (using popular brands and company names combined with arbitrary words as URLs) to make the sites look like the real thing to the end user—the domain names allude to the original software or vendor. The design and the content of the fake web pages look the same as those of the original ones. Threat actors then pay to promote the website in the search engine in order to push it to the top search results. The technique is called “malvertising”.

Our observations

In the following snapshots, we can see Google ads promoting fake pages for AMD drivers and the Blender 3D software. If we take a closer look at the URLs, we will see that the domain names incorporate the software name but are in fact unrelated to the real AMD or Blender 3D vendors. In most cases, the top-level domains are different from those of the official sites as well. The use of less common TLDs enables the threat actors to register second-level domains that are similar to the real ones. These domains lure victims to click on the link and access the fake website more often than random domains registered in a more common domain zone, such as COM, because they may look more like a legitimate website.

Fake AMD and Blender 3D websites in search results

We visited some of the promoted sites and obtained the malicious payloads they were distributing. In this article, we will focus mainly on the “Blender 3D” fake websites.

Fake Blender 3D web pages

The size of the downloaded file (ZIP archive) is 269 MB, which is close to the original Blender installer size. The size of 257 MB stated on the fake web page matches that of the original Blender 3D installer, but it does not match the size of the fake download.

When the user clicks the “Download” button, the archive blender-3.4.1-windows-x64.zip (E0BDF36E4A7CF1B332DC42FD8914BA8B) is downloaded.

The size of the file (BBA8AA93FCDDA5AC7663E90C0EEFA2E7) extracted from the archive is 657 MB. When launched, it drops two files into the temp directory:

  • The original Blender 3D MSI installer (marked green on the screenshot below), whose size is also 657 MB;
  • A PE file that acts as a next-stage loader for a malicious PE file (marked red), which also has the same size as the original installer: 657 MB.

Dropped files: the original Blender 3D MSI installer and the malicious loader

The size of the dropped malicious loader is this big because it is inflated with junk bytes when the PE file is created. The deflated malicious loader size is about 330 KB, and the rest is junk.

Junk bytes inflating the loader

After the initial installer (extracted from the archive) drops these two files, it runs the malicious PE file using the CMD method (cmd.exe /c [Filename] command) to hide it from the user. Additionally, the initial installer also runs the original Blender 3D MSI to make the victim believe that the desired software is running.

Thus, the threat actors disguise their malicious payload through the installation of another software product by creating a “pre-installer” for the legitimate software, which will put both the malware and the desired genuine software on the victim’s machine.

Blender 3D installer launched by the “pre-installer”

The screenshot above shows the actual software installer running, but if we take a closer look at the processes, we will notice a short-lived sub-process (cmd.exe /c -> “SetupFileProgram”) run by the “pre-installer”. This short-lived process is the loader for the malware.

The loader

The loader is a .NET file protected by an unregistered version of .NET Reactor. It seems to use an anti-debugging technique in order to prevent a debugger from executing and dynamically analyzing the binary. In a nutshell, the loader runs a new powershell.exe process and manipulates it to execute numerous PowerShell commands, which instruct it to access a third-party URL in order to get the payload. The payload is a base64-encoded, AES-encrypted fileless binary. Further commands are related to decoding and decrypting that binary, then running it in memory, within a newly created aspnet_compiler.exe process, a legitimate Windows .NET framework compilation tool.

In this case, we observed two detection evasion tricks during the runtime:

  • The fileless technique, which involves getting a payload from an online source and loading it directly into the memory of a process;
  • LOLBAS (living-off-the-land binaries and scripts), which, in this case, is the use of a .NET compilation tool to run the malicious binary.

Below, we provide a more detailed analysis of the loader execution chain. After passing the loader anti-debugger, we can see that it starts a PowerShell process, so we will put a breakpoint at the CreateProcessW WinAPI call to observe the behavior.

Call of CreateProcessW to spawn a PowerShell process

Since we did not see any command passed to the PowerShell process when initializing it via the CreateProcessW call, we can conclude that it will be passed at some point later, so we can observe the passing of the PowerShell command(s) by putting a breakpoint at WinAPI WriteFile in order to see the command lines for the powershell.exe process.

So, after letting it run and reach the breakpoint, we will check the result in the return of the function call, and we can see in the stack that the first command pushed to the powershell.exe process was #Start-Sleep -seconds 30;.

Observing the pushed command(s)

We can try checking the memory section where the command is stored and searching for other commands that are being kept in the memory for later use by the loader.

Memory address of the pushed PowerShell commands

After taking all the data from this memory section, we will see all the commands passed to the powershell.exe process via the WriteFile WinAPI call.

PowerShell commands

If we read the commands, we will see exactly what the powershell.exe process is about to do. The commands instruct it to perform the following actions:

  1. Download string data, which is part of the following URL, namely the name of the file: http[:]//45.93.201[.]114/docs/[RandomChars].txt. The downloaded data is a Base64-encoded string that is decoded into encrypted data.
  2. Prepare the decryption method, AES-CBC, as can be seen in the screenshot above. We can also easily see and decode the Base64-encoded key and IV (initialization vector) used for decryption in the PowerShell command.
  3. Decrypt the data into a Gzip-compressed binary.
  4. Decompress the binary.
  5. Invoke the binary to run it.

Decrypted binary

The extracted binary (RedLine stealer)

The binary that we obtained is the dropper of known malware, the RedLine stealer. The version of the stealer at hand uses an interesting technique to hide its malicious payload: it is encoded in the least significant bit of images stored in the resource section of the dropper, as well as the key and the IV bytes for its AES decryption.

Embedded images with a malicious payload

Payload decryption routine

After decrypting the payload, the dropper starts a legitimate process named “aspnet_compiler.exe”, which is part of the Microsoft .NET framework, and injects the payload into it.

Injecting a payload routine

Infrastructure

To deploy decoy pages, the malefactors register deceptive domain names, such as blender3d-software[.]net or blender3d-software[.]org. We have found more than fifty similar domains hosted at the same IP address: 91.229.23[.]200. These domain names mimic other software distribution sites as well, for example, afterburner-software[.]org, tradingviews-software[.]org, and unity-download[.]com.

The malicious payload could be stored on the same site (for example, hxxps[://]blahder3dsoft[.]store/Blender[.]rar) as the landing page or on a public service that can be used as the file hosting service (MediaFire or GitHub).

Conclusion

We are seeing an increase in the spread of malware families through Google Ads campaigns, specifically through search ads. Threat actors use fake websites to mimic legitimate software vendor websites to lure victims, and pay for ads to promote these. They use typosquatting and combosquatting for their malicious website domains, which have become common techniques in recent months. In some cases, such as the one described in this article, the threat actors also make sure to install the desired software alongside their malicious payload.

In recent campaigns, we observed mainly stealer-type malware, such as RedLine or the notorious Rhadamanthys, which is also known to use malvertising techniques to reach victims and steal data from their compromised machines.

This kind of distribution suggests that the threat actors are targeting victims, both individual and corporate, all around the world.

Indicators of Compromise IoC Description E0BDF36E4A7CF1B332DC42FD8914BA8B blender-3.4.1-windows-x64.zip BBA8AA93FCDDA5AC7663E90C0EEFA2E7 blender-3.4.1-windows-x64.exe 4b6249bea60eec2d9e6890162a7fca5f Blender.rar 8d709a5ce84504f83303afda88649b24 RedlLine stealer d0915b6057eb60c3878ce88d71efc351 RedlLine stealer hxxps[:]//download2392.mediafire.com/bb289kqoibyg/
1udjwornnpwxlua/blender-3.4.1-windows-x64.zip/
Link to malicious file hxxps[:]//github.com/sup6724/blender3d13/releases/
download/updates/blender-3.4.1-windows-x64.zip
Link to malicious file hxxps[://]blahder3dsoft[.]store/Blender[.]rar Link to malicious file http[:]//45.93.201[.]114/docs/[RandomChars].txt URL with malware data string 91.229.23[.]200 IP address common for some malicious landing pages blahder3dsoft[.]store Fake Blender websites blender3d-download[.]com blender3d-download[.]net blender3d-download[.]org blender3ds-download[.]com blender3ds-download[.]net blender3ds-download[.]org blender3d-software[.]com blender3d-software[.]net blender3d-software[.]org blender3ds-software[.]com blender3ds-software[.]net blender3ds-software[.]org blender-download[.]com blender-download[.]net blender-download[.]org blenders3d-download[.]com blenders3d-download[.]net blenders3d-download[.]org afterburnermsi-download[.]com Other suspicious software-themed domains related through the same IP address afterburner-software[.]net afterburner-software[.]org desktop-tradingview[.]net desktop-tradingview[.]org download-tradingview[.]net download-tradingview[.]org overclock-msi[.]com overclock-msi[.]net overclock-msi[.]org project-obs[.]com project-obs[.]net project-obs[.]org studio-obs[.]com studio-obs[.]net studio-obs[.]org tradingview-software[.]com tradingview-software[.]net tradingview-software[.]org tradingviews-software[.]com tradingviews-software[.]net tradingviews-software[.]org unity-download[.]com unity-download[.]net unity-download[.]org unityhub-download[.]com unityhub-download[.]net unityhub-download[.]org unity-software[.]net unity-software[.]org webull-download[.]com webull-download[.]net webull-download[.]org

The state of stalkerware in 2022

8 Březen, 2023 - 11:00

 The state of stalkerware in 2022 (PDF)

Main findings of 2022

The State of Stalkerware is an annual report by Kaspersky which contributes to a better understanding of how many people in the world are affected by digital stalking. Stalkerware is a commercially available software that can be discretely installed on smartphone devices, enabling perpetrators to monitor an individual’s private life without their knowledge.

Stalkerware can be downloaded and easily installed by anyone with an Internet connection and physical access to a smartphone. A perpetrator violates the victim’s privacy as they can then use the software to monitor huge volumes of personal data. Depending on the type of software, it is usually possible to check device location, text messages, social media chats, photos, browser history and more. Stalkerware works in the background, meaning that most victims will unaware that their every step and action is being monitored.

In most countries around the world, the use of stalkerware software is currently not prohibited but installing such an application on another individual’s smartphone without their consent is illegal and punishable. However, it is the perpetrator who will be held responsible, not the developer of the application.

Along with other related technologies, stalkerware is part of tech-enabled abuse and often used in abusive relationships. As this is part of a wider problem, Kaspersky is working with relevant experts and organizations in the field of domestic violence, ranging from victim support services and perpetrator programs through to research and government agencies, to share knowledge and support professionals and victims alike.

2022 data highlights
  • In 2022, Kaspersky data shows that 29,312 unique individuals around the world were affected by stalkerware. Compared to the downwards trend that has been recorded in previous years, this is similar to the total number of affected users in 2021. Taking into account the developments in digital stalking software over the past few years, the data suggests there is a trend towards stabilization. More broadly, it is important to note that the data covers the affected number of Kaspersky users, with the global number of affected individuals likely to be much higher. Some affected users may use another cybersecurity solution on their devices, while some do not use any solution at all.
  • In addition, the data reveals a stable proliferation of stalkerware over the 12 months of 2022. On average, 3333 users each month were newly affected by stalkerware. The stable detection rate indicates that digital stalking has become a persistent problem that warrants wider societal attention. Members from the Coalition Against Stalkerware estimate that there could be close to one million victims globally affected by stalkerware every year.
  • According to the Kaspersky Security Network, stalkerware is most commonly used in Russia, Brazil, and India, but continues to be a global phenomenon affecting all countries. Regionally, the data reveals that the largest number of affected users can be found in the following countries:
    • Germany, Italy, and France (Europe);
    • Iran, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia (Middle East and Africa);
    • India, Indonesia, and Australia (Asia-Pacific);
    • Brazil, Mexico, and Ecuador (Latin America);
    • United States (North America);
    • Russian Federation, Kazakhstan and Belarus (Eastern Europe (except European Union countries), Russia and Central Asia).
  • Globally, the most commonly used stalkerware app is Reptilicus with 4,065 affected users.
2022 trends observed by Kaspersky Methodology

The data in this report has been taken from aggregated threat statistics obtained from the Kaspersky Security Network. The Kaspersky Security Network is dedicated to processing cybersecurity-related data streams from millions of volunteer participants around the world. All received data is anonymized. To calculate the statistics, the consumer line of Kaspersky’s mobile security solutions has been reviewed according to the Coalition Against Stalkerware’s detection criteria on stalkerware. This means that the affected number of users have been targeted by stalkerware only. Other types of monitoring or spyware apps that fall outside of the Coalition’s definition are not included in the report statistics.

The statistics reflect unique mobile users affected by stalkerware, which is different from the total number of detections. The number of detections can be higher as stalkerware may have been detected several times on the same device of the same unique user if they decided not to remove the app upon receiving a notification.

Finally, the statistics reflect only mobile users using Kaspersky’s IT security solutions. Some users may use another cybersecurity solution on their devices, while some do not use any solution at all.

Global detection figures: affected users

This section compares the global and regional statistics collected by Kaspersky in 2022 with statistics from previous years. In 2022, a total number of 29,312 unique users were affected by stalkerware. Graphic 1, below, shows how this number has varied from year to year since 2018. Figure 2 – 2022 update of Kaspersky’s Privacy Alert to warn about removing stalkerware

Graphic 1 – Evolution of affected users year-on-year since 2018

Graphic 2, below, shows the number of unique affected users per month from 2021 to 2022. In 2022, the situation is almost identical to 2021, indicating that the rate of stalkerware proliferation has stabilized. On average, 3333 users were newly affected by stalkerware every month.

Graphic 2 – Unique affected users per month over the 2021-2022 period

Global and regional detection figures: geography of affected users

Stalkerware continues to be a global problem. In 2022, Kaspersky detected affected users in 176 countries.


Countries most affected by stalkerware in 2022

In 2022, Russia (8,281), Brazil (4,969), and India (1,807) were the top 3 countries with the most affected users. Those three countries remain in leading positions according to Kaspersky statistics since 2019. Compared to previous years, it is noteworthy that the number of affected users in the U.S. has dropped down the ranking and now features in fifth place with 1,295 affected users. Conversely, there has been an increase noted in Iran which has moved up to fourth place with 1,754 affected users.

Compared to 2021, however, only Iran features as a new entrant in the top 5 most affected countries. The other four countries – Russia, Brazil, India, and the U.S. – have traditionally featured at the top of the list. Looking at the other half of the top 10 most affected countries, Turkey, Germany, and Mexico have remained among the countries most affected compared to last year. New entrants into the top 10 most affected countries in 2022 are Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

Country Affected users 1 Russian Federation 8,281 2 Brazil 4,969 3 India 1,807 4 Iran 1,754 5 United States of America 1,295 6 Turkey 755 7 Germany 736 8 Saudi Arabia 612 9 Yemen 527 10 Mexico 474

Table 1 – Top 10 countries most affected by stalkerware in the world in 2022

In Europe, the total number of unique affected users in 2022 was 3,158. The three most affected countries in Europe were Germany (737), Italy (405) and France (365). Compared to 2021, all countries up to including seventh place in the list (the Netherlands) continue to feature as the most affected countries in Europe. New entrants in the list are Switzerland, Austria, and Greece.

Country Affected users 1 Germany 736 2 Italy 405 3 France 365 4 United Kingdom 313 5 Spain 296 6 Poland 220 7 Netherlands 154 8 Switzerland 123 9 Austria 71 10 Greece 70

Table 2 – Top 10 countries most affected by stalkerware in Europe in 2022

In Eastern Europe (excluding European Union countries), Russia, and Central Asia, the total number of unique affected users in 2022 was 9,406. The top three countries were Russia, Kazakhstan, and Belarus.

Country Affected users 1 Russian Federation 8,281 2 Kazakhstan 296 3 Belarus 267 4 Ukraine 258 5 Azerbaijan 130 6 Uzbekistan 76 7 Moldova 34 8 Tajikistan 32 9 Kyrgyzstan 31 10 Armenia 27

Table 3 – Top 10 countries most affected by stalkerware in Eastern Europe (excluding EU countries), Russia and Central Asia in 2022

In the Middle East and Africa region, the total number of affected users was 6,330, slightly higher than in 2021. While Iran with 1,754 affected users features at the top of this list in 2022, Turkey’s 755 affected users has seen the country move up to second in the region, followed closely by Saudi Arabia with 612 affected users.

Country Affected users 1 Iran 1,754 2 Turkey 755 3 Saudi Arabia 612 4 Yemen 527 5 Egypt 469 6 Algeria 407 7 Morocco 168 8 United Arab Emirates 155 9 South Africa 145 10 Kenya 123

Table 4 – Top 10 countries most affected by stalkerware in Middle East & Africa in 2022

In the Asia-Pacific region, the total number of affected users was 3,187. India remains far ahead of the other countries in the region, with 1,807 affected users. Indonesia occupies second place with 269 affected users, while Australia is third with 190 affected users.

Country Affected users 1 India 1,807 2 Indonesia 269 3 Australia 190 4 Philippines 134 5 Malaysia 129 6 Vietnam 109 7 Bangladesh 105 8 Japan 95 9 Thailand 52 10 Pakistan 48

Table 5 – Top 10 countries most affected by stalkerware in Asia-Pacific region in 2022

The Latin America and the Caribbean region is dominated by Brazil with 4,969 affected users. This accounts for approximately 32% of the region’s total number of affected users. Brazil is followed by Mexico and Ecuador in the list, while Colombia has moved into fourth place. A total number of 6,170 affected users were recorded in the region.

Country Affected users 1 Brazil 4,969 2 Mexico 474 3 Ecuador 146 4 Colombia 120 5 Peru 111 6 Argentina 85 7 Chile 49 8 Bolivia 32 9 Venezuela 30 10 Dominican Republic 24

Table 6 – Top 10 countries most affected by stalkerware in Latin America in 2022

Finally, in North America, 87% of all affected users in the region are found in the United States. This is to be expected given the relative size of the population in the United Sates compared to Canada. Across the North America region, 1,585 users were affected in total.

Country Affected users 1 United States of America 1,295 2 Canada 299

Table 7 – Number of users affected by stalkerware in North America in 2022

Global detection figures – stalkerware applications

This section lists the stalkerware applications most commonly used to control smartphones around the world. In 2022, the most popular app was Reptilicus (4,065 affected users). This year, Kaspersky detected 182 different stalkerware apps.

Application name Affected users 1 Reptilicus (aka Vkurse) 4,065 2 Cerberus 2,407 3 KeyLog 1,721 4 MobileTracker 1,633 5 wSpy 1,342 6 SpyPhone 1,211 7 Anlost 1,189 8 Track My Phones 1,137 9 MonitorMinor 864 10 Hovermon 827

Table 8 – Top 10 list of stalkerware applications in 2022

Stalkerware provides a means to gain control over a victim’s life. Their capabilities vary depending on the type of application and whether it has been paid for or obtained freely. Typically, stalkerware masquerades as legitimate anti-theft or parental control apps, when in reality they are very different – most notably due to their installation without consent and notification of the person being tracked, and their operation in stealth mode on smartphone devices,

Below are some of the most common functions that may be present in stalkerware applications:

  • Hiding app icon
  • Reading SMS, MMS and call logs
  • Getting lists of contacts
  • Tracking GPS location
  • Tracking calendar events
  • Reading messages from popular messenger services and social networks, such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Signal, Telegram, Viber, Instagram, Skype, Hangouts, Line, Kik, WeChat, Tinder, IMO, Gmail, Tango, SnapChat, Hike, TikTok, Kwai, Badoo, BBM, TextMe, Tumblr, Weico, Reddit etc.
  • Viewing photos and pictures from phones’ image galleries
  • Taking screenshots
  • Taking front (selfie-mode) camera photos
Are Android OS and iOS devices equally affected by stalkerware?

Stalkerware tools are less frequent on iPhones than on Android devices because iOS is traditionally a closed system. However, perpetrators can work around this limitation on ‘jailbroken’ iPhones, but they still require direct physical access to the phone to jailbreak it. iPhone users fearing surveillance should always keep an eye on their device.

Alternatively, an abuser can offer their victim an iPhone – or any other device – with pre-installed stalkerware. There are many companies that make these services available online, allowing abusers to have these tools installed on new phones, which can then be delivered in factory packaging under the guise of a gift to the intended victim.

Together keeping up the fight against stalkerware

Stalkerware is foremost not a technical problem, but an expression of a problem within society which therefore requires action from all areas of society. Kaspersky is not only actively committed to protecting users from this threat but also maintaining a multilevel dialogue with non-profit organizations, and industry, research and public agencies around the world to work together on solutions that tackle the issue.

In 2019, Kaspersky was the first cybersecurity company in the industry to develop a new attention-grabbing alert that clearly notifies users if stalkerware is found on their device. While Kaspersky’s solutions have been flagging potentially harmful apps that are not malware – including stalkerware – for many years, the new notification alerts the user to the fact that an app has been found on their device that may be able to spy on them.

In 2022, as part of Kaspersky’s launch of a new consumer product portfolio, the Privacy Alert was expanded and now not only informs the user about the presence of stalkerware on the device, but also warns the user that if stalkerware is removed the person who installed the app will be alerted. This may lead to an escalation of the situation. Moreover, the user risks erasing important data or evidence that could be used in a prosecution. Figure 2, below, shows the new warning in the blue box. Kaspersky’s Privacy Alert is included in all of the company’s consumer security solutions to protect against stalkerware.

In 2019, Kaspersky also co-founded the Coalition Against Stalkerware, an international working group against stalkerware and domestic violence that brings together private IT companies, NGOs, research institutions, and law enforcement agencies working to combat cyberstalking and help victims of online abuse. Through a consortium of more than 40 organizations, stakeholders can share expertise and work together to solve the problem of online violence. In addition, the Coalition’s website, which is available in 7 different languages, provides victims with help and guidance in case they may suspect stalkerware is present on their devices.

From 2021-2023, Kaspersky was a consortium partner of the EU project DeStalk, co-funded by the Rights, Equality, and Citizenship Program of the European Union. The five project partners that formed the consortium combined the expertise of the IT Security Community, Research, and Civil Society Organizations, and Public Authorities. As a result, the DeStalk project trained a total of 375 professionals directly working in women’s support services and perpetrator programs, and officials from public authorities on how to effectively tackle stalkerware and other digital forms of gender-based violence, as well as raising public awareness on digital violence and stalkerware.

As part of the project, Kaspersky developed an e-learning course on cyberviolence and stalkerware within its Kaspersky Automated Security Awareness Platform, a freely available online micro learning training platform which can be accessed in five different languages. To date, more than 130 professionals have completed the e-learning course with a further 80 currently participating. Although the DeStalk project has ended, the e-learning course is still available on the DeStalk project website.

In June 2022, Kaspersky launched a website dedicated to TinyCheck to disseminate further information about the tool. TinyCheck is a free, safe and open-source tool that can be used by non-profit organizations and police units to help support victims of digital stalking. In 2020, the tool was created to check devices for stalkerware and monitoring apps without making the perpetrator aware of the check. It does not require installation on a user’s device because it works independently to avoid detection by a stalker. TinyCheck scans a device’s outgoing traffic using a regular Wi-Fi connection and identifies interactions with known sources such as stalkerware-related servers. TinyCheck can also be used to check any device on any platform, including iOS, Android, or any other OS’.

Think you are a victim of stalkerware? Here are a few tips…

Whether or not you are a victim of stalkerware, here are a few tips to better protect yourself:

  • Protect your phone with a strong password that you never share with your partner, friends, or colleagues.
  • Change passwords for all of your accounts periodically and don’t share them with anyone.
  • Only download apps from official sources, such as Google Play or the Apple App Store.
  • Install a reliable IT security solution like Kaspersky for Android on devices and scan them regularly. However, in the case of potentially already installed stalkerware, this should only be done after the risk to the victim has been assessed, as the abuser may notice the use of a cybersecurity solution.

Victims of stalkerware may be victims of a larger cycle of abuse, including physical.

In some cases, the perpetrator is notified if their victim performs a device scan or removes a stalkerware app. If this happens, it can lead to an escalation of the situation and further aggression. This is why it is important to proceed with caution if you think you are being targeted by stalkerware.

  • Reach out to a local support organization: to find one close to you, check the Coalition Against Stalkerware website.
  • Keep an eye out for the following warning signs: these can include a fast-draining battery due to unknown or suspicious apps using up its charge, and newly installed applications with suspicious access to use and track your location, send or receive text messages and other personal activities. Also check if your “unknown sources” setting is enabled, it may be a sign that unwanted software has been installed from a third-party source. However, the above indicators are circumstantial and do not indicate the unequivocal presence of stalkerware on the device.
  • Do not try to erase the stalkerware, change any settings or tamper with your phone: this may alert your potential perpetrator and lead to an escalation of the situation. You also risk erasing important data or evidence that could be used in a prosecution.

For more information about our activities on stalkerware or any other request, please write to us at: ExtR@kaspersky.com.

Threat landscape for industrial automation systems for H2 2022

6 Březen, 2023 - 11:00

Year 2022 in numbers Parameter H1 2022 H2 2022 2022 Percentage of attacked ICS computers globally 31.8% 34.3% 40.6% Main threat sources Internet 16.5% 19.9% 24.0% Email clients 7.0% 6.4% 7.9% Removable devices 3.5% 3.8% 5.2% Network folders 0.6% 0.6% 0.8% Percentage of ICS computers on which malicious objects from different categories were blocked Malicious scripts and phishing pages (JS and HTML) 12.9% 13.5% 17.3% Denylisted internet resources 9.5% 10.1% 13.2% Spy Trojans, backdoors and keyloggers 8.6% 7.1% 9.2% Malicious documents (MSOffice+PDF) 5.5% 4.5% 6.2% Worms 2.8% 2.5% 3.5% Viruses 2.4% 2.4% 3.2% Miners – executable files for Windows 2.3% 1.5% 2.7% Web miners running in browsers 1.8% 1.8% 2.5% Malware for AutoCAD 0.6% 0.6% 0.8% Ransomware 0.6% 0.4% 0.7% Global threat statistics

In H2 2022, the percentage of ICS computers on which malicious objects were blocked increased by 3.5 percentage points compared to the previous six-month period, reaching 34.3%. This was higher than the percentages for 2021 and even 2020.

Percentage of ICS computers on which malicious objects were blocked, 2020 – 2022

In H2 2022 the percentage of ICS computers on which malicious objects were blocked increased in the automotive industry (+4.6 p.p.) and in the energy sector (+1 p.p.). In other industries tracked, the percentage decreased.

Percentage of ICS computers on which malicious objects were blocked in some industries, H2 2022

Geography

In different regions of the world, the percentage of ICS computers on which malicious activity was prevented ranged from 40.1% in Africa and Central Asia, which led the ranking, to 14.2% and 14.3%, respectively, in Western and Northern Europe, which were the most secure regions.

Regions of the world ranked by percentage of ICS computers on which malicious objects were blocked, H2 2022

African and Central Asian countries were prevalent among the 15 countries and territories with the highest percentage of ICS computers on which malicious objects were blocked in H2 2022.

15 countries and territories with the highest percentage of ICS computers on which malicious objects were blocked, H2 2022

In the Top 10 ranking of countries with the lowest percentage of ICS computers on which malicious objects were blocked, all countries, with the exception of Israel, were European.

10 countries and territories with the lowest percentage of ICS computers on which malicious objects were blocked, H2 2022

In H2 2022, the most significant increase among all countries in the percentage of ICS computers on which malicious objects were blocked was observed in Russia, where that percentage increased by 9 p.p.

Russia. Percentage of ICS computers on which malicious objects were blocked, 2020 – 2022

Variety of the malware detected

In H2 2022, Kaspersky security solutions blocked malware from 7,684 different families on industrial automation systems.

Percentage of ICS computers on which the activity of malicious objects from different categories was prevented, H2 2022

Main threat sources

The internet, removable devices and email clients remained the main sources of threats for computers in the operational technology infrastructure of organizations.

Percentage of ICS computers on which malicious objects from different sources were blocked, 2021 – 2022

In H2 2022, a very significant growth in the percentage of ICS computers on which internet threats were blocked – 12 p.p. and 7.8 p.p., respectively – was recorded in the regions of Russia and Central Asia.

Regions ranked by percentage of ICS computers on which internet threats were blocked, H2 2022

As per tradition, Africa topped the ranking of regions based on the percentage of ICS computers on which malware was blocked when removable devices were connected.

Regions ranked by percentage of ICS computers on which malware was blocked when removable devices were connected, H2 2022

Southern Europe topped the ranking of regions based on the percentage of ICS computers on which malicious email attachments and phishing links were blocked. Northern Europe was the only region in which the percentage increased (+0.3 p.p.) in H2 2022.

Regions ranked by percentage of ICS computers on which malicious email attachments and phishing links were blocked, H2 2022

 

The full report has been published on the Kaspersky ICS CERT website.

The mobile malware threat landscape in 2022

27 Únor, 2023 - 11:05

These statistics are based on detection verdicts of Kaspersky products received from users who consented to providing statistical data.

Figures of the year

In 2022, Kaspersky mobile products and technology detected:

  • 1,661,743 malicious installers
  • 196,476 new mobile banking Trojans
  • 10,543 new mobile ransomware Trojans
Trends of the year

Mobile attacks leveled off after decreasing in the second half of 2021 and remained around the same level throughout 2022.

Kaspersky mobile cyberthreat detection dynamics in 2020–2022 (download)

Cybercriminals continued to use legitimate channels to spread malware.

Similarly to 2021, we found a modified WhatsApp build with malicious code inside in 2022. It was notable for spreading via ads inside the popular Snaptube app and through the Vidmate in-app store.

The spread of malware through Google Play continued as well. In particular, we found several mobile Trojan subscribers on Google’s official Android app marketplace in 2022. These secretly signed users up for paid services. In addition to the previously known Jocker and MobOk families, we discovered a new family, named Harly and active since 2020. Harly malware programs were downloaded a total of 2.6 million times from Google Play in 2022. Also last year, fraudsters abused the marketplace to spread various scam apps, which promised welfare payments or lucrative energy investments.

Mobile banking Trojans were not far behind. Despite Europol having shut down the servers of FluBot (also known as Polph or Cabassous, the largest mobile botnet in recent years), users had to stay on guard, as Google Play still contained downloaders for other banking Trojan families, such as Sharkbot, Anatsa/Teaban, Octo/Coper, and Xenomorph, all masquerading as utilities. For instance, the Sharkbot downloader in the screenshot below imitates a file manager. This type of software is capable of requesting permission to install further packages the Trojan needs to function on the unsuspecting user’s device.

The Sharkbot banking Trojan downloader on Google Play

Exploitation of popular game titles, where malware and unwanted software mimicked a pirated version of a game or game cheats, remained a popular mobile spread vector in 2022. The most frequently imitated titles included Minecraft, Roblox, Grand Theft Auto, PUBG, and FIFA. The malware spread primarily through questionable web sites, social media groups, and other unofficial channels.

Mobile cyberthreat statistics Installer numbers

We detected 1,661,743 malware or unwanted software installers in 2022 — 1,803,013 less than we did in 2021. The number had been declining gradually since a 2020 increase.

Number of detected malicious installation packages in 2019–2022 (download)

Distribution of detected mobile malware by type

Distribution of newly detected mobile malware by type in 2021 and 2022 (download)

RiskTool-type potentially unwanted software (27.39%) topped the rankings in 2022, replacing the previous leader, adware (24.05%). That said, the share of RiskTool had decreased by 7.89 percentage points, and the share of adware, by 18.38 percentage points year-on-year.

Various Trojan-type malware was third in the rankings with 15.56%, its cumulative share increasing by 6.7 percentage points.

Geography of mobile threats

TOP 10 countries by share of users attacked by mobile malware

Country* %** 1 China 17.70 2 Syria 15.61 3 Iran 14.53 4 Yemen 14.39 5 Iraq 8.44 6 Saudi Arabia 6.78 7 Kenya 5.52 8 Switzerland 5.44 9 Pakistan 5.21 10 Tanzania 5.15

* Excluded from the rankings are countries with relatively few users of Kaspersky mobile security (under 10,000).
** Unique users attacked as a percentage of all Kaspersky mobile security users in the country.

China had the largest share of users who experienced a mobile malware attack: 17.70%. Of these, 16.06% got hit by SMS-abusing malware that we detected as Trojan.AndroidOS.Najin.a.

Other countries with significant shares of attacked users were Syria (15.61%) and Iran (14.53%), where the most frequently encountered mobile cyberthreat was Trojan-Spy.AndroidOS.Agent.aas, a WhatsApp modification carrying a spy module.

Distribution of attacks by type of software used

Distribution of attacks by type of software used in 2022 (download)

Similarly to previous years, 2022 saw malware used in most mobile attacks (67.78%). The shares of attacks that used Adware- and RiskWare-type applications had increased to 26.91% from 16.92% in 2021 and to 5.31% from 2.38% in 2021, respectively.

Mobile adware

The Adlo family accounted for the largest share of detected installers (22.07%) in 2022. These are useless fake apps that download ads. Adlo replaced the previous leader, the Ewind family, which had a share of 16.46%.

TOP 10 most frequently detected adware families in 2022

Family %* 1 Adlo 22.07 2 Ewind 16.46 3 HiddenAd 15.02 4 MobiDash 11.30 5 Dnotua 5.08 6 FakeAdBlocker 5.02 7 Agent 4.02 8 Fyben 3.94 9 Notifyer 3.19 10 Dowgin 1.38

* The share of the adware-type family in the total number of adware installers detected.

RiskTool-type apps

The SMSreg family retained its lead by number of detected RiskTool-type apps: 36.47%. The applications in this family make payments (for example by transferring cash to other individuals or paying for mobile service subscriptions) by sending text messages without explicitly notifying the user.

TOP 10 most frequently detected RiskTool families, 2022

Family %* 1 SMSreg 36.47 2 Dnotua 26.19 3 Robtes 24.41 4 Resharer 2.67 5 Agent 2.39 6 SmsSend 1.29 7 SpyLoan 1.29 8 Skymobi 1.10 9 SmsPay 0.71 10 Wapron 0.66

* The share of the RiskTool family in the total number of RiskTool installers detected.

TOP 20 most frequently detected mobile malware programs

Note that the malware rankings below exclude riskware or potentially unwanted software, such as RiskTool or adware.

Verdict %* 1 DangerousObject.Multi.Generic 18.97 2 Trojan-SMS.AndroidOS.Fakeapp.d 8.65 3 Trojan.AndroidOS.Generic 6.70 4 Trojan-Spy.AndroidOS.Agent.aas 6.01 5 Trojan.AndroidOS.Fakemoney.d 4.65 6 Trojan.AndroidOS.GriftHorse.l 4.32 7 Trojan-Dropper.AndroidOS.Agent.sl 3.22 8 DangerousObject.AndroidOS.GenericML 2.96 9 Trojan-SMS.AndroidOS.Fakeapp.c 2.37 10 Trojan.AndroidOS.Fakeapp.ed 2.19 11 Trojan.AndroidOS.GriftHorse.ah 2.00 12 Trojan-Downloader.AndroidOS.Agent.kx 1.72 13 Trojan.AndroidOS.Soceng.f 1.67 14 Trojan-Dropper.AndroidOS.Hqwar.hd 1.49 15 Trojan.AndroidOS.Fakeapp.dw 1.43 16 Trojan-Ransom.AndroidOS.Pigetrl.a 1.43 17 Trojan-Downloader.AndroidOS.Necro.d 1.40 18 Trojan-SMS.AndroidOS.Agent.ado 1.36 19 Trojan-Dropper.AndroidOS.Hqwar.gen 1.35 20 Trojan-Spy.AndroidOS.Agent.acq 1.34

* Unique users attacked by the malware as a percentage of all attacked Kaspersky mobile security users.
First and third places went to DangerousObject.Multi.Generic (18.97%) and Trojan.AndroidOS.Generic (6.70%), respectively, which are verdicts we use for malware detected with cloud technology. Cloud technology is triggered whenever the antivirus databases lack data for detecting a piece of malware, but the antivirus company’s cloud already contains information about the object. This is essentially how the latest malware types are detected.

The Trojans in second and ninth places (8.65% and 2.37%) belonged to the Trojan-SMS.AndroidOS.Fakeapp family. This type of malware is capable of sending text messages and calling preset numbers, displaying ads, and hiding its icon on the device.

WhatsApp modifications equipped with a spy module, detected as Trojan-Spy.AndroidOS.Agent.aas (6.01%) and Trojan-Spy.AndroidOS.Agent.acq (1.34%) were in fourth and twentieth positions, respectively.

Scam apps detected as Trojan.AndroidOS.Fakemoney.d (4.65%) were the fifth-largest category. These try to trick users into believing that they are filling out an application for a welfare payout.

Members of the Trojan.AndroidOS.GriftHorse family, which subscribe the user to premium SMS services, took both sixth and eleventh places (4.32% and 2%, respectively).

The banking Trojan dropper Trojan-Dropper.AndroidOS.Agent.sl (3.22%) was seventh.

The verdict of DangerousObject.AndroidOS.GenericML (2.96%) sank to eighth place. The verdict is assigned to files recognized as malicious by our machine-learning systems.

Tenth place was taken by Trojan.AndroidOS.Fakeapp.ed (2.19%). This verdict refers to a category of fraudulent apps which target users in Russia by posing as a stock-trading platform for investing in gas.

Trojan-Downloader.AndroidOS.Agent.kx (1.72%) rose to twelfth position. This type of malware is distributed as part of legitimate software, downloading advertising modules.

Trojan.AndroidOS.Soceng.f (1.67%), in thirteenth place, sends text messages to people on your contact list, deletes files on the SD card, and overlays the interfaces of popular apps with its own window.

Malware from the Trojan-Dropper.AndroidOS.Hqwar family, which unpacks and runs various banking Trojans, occupied fourteenth and nineteenth places (1.49 and 1.35%).

Trojan.AndroidOS.Fakeapp.dw was fifteenth (1.43%). The verdict applies to a variety of scam apps, such as those supposedly offering the user to earn some extra cash.

Trojan-Ransom.AndroidOS.Pigetrl.a (1.43%) took sixteenth place. Unlike classic Trojan-Ransom malware, which typically demands a ransom, it simply locks the screen and asks to enter a code. The application offers no instructions on obtaining the code, which is embedded in the program itself.

Trojan-Downloader.AndroidOS.Necro.d sank to seventeenth position (1.4%). This malware is capable of downloading, installing, and running other applications when commanded by its operators.

Trojan-SMS.AndroidOS.Agent.ado, which sends text messages to shortcodes, was eighteenth (1.36%).

Mobile banking Trojans

We detected 196,476 mobile banking Trojan installers in 2022, a year-on-year increase of 100% and the highest figure in the past six years.

The Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Bray family accounted for two-thirds (66.40%) of all detected banking Trojans. This family attacked mostly users in Japan. It was followed by the Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Fakecalls family (8.27%) and Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Bian (3.25%).

The number of mobile banking Trojan installers detected by Kaspersky in 2019–2022 (download)

Although the number of detected malware installers rose in 2022, mobile banking Trojan attacks had been decreasing since a 2020 rise.

The number of mobile banking Trojan attacks in 2021–2022 (download)

TOP 10 most frequently detected mobile banking Trojans

Verdict %* 1 Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Bian.h 28.74 2 Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Anubis.t 11.50 3 Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Svpeng.q 5.50 4 Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Agent.ep 5.25 5 Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Agent.eq 4.51 6 Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Gustuff.d 3.88 7 Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Asacub.ce 3.54 8 Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Sova.g 2.72 9 Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Faketoken.z 2.01 10 rojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Bray.f 1.71

* Unique users attacked by this malware as a percentage of all Kaspersky mobile security users attacked by banking threats.
Of all mobile banking Trojans that were active in 2022, Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Bian.h (28.74%) accounted for the largest share of attacked users, more than half of those in Spain.

TOP 10 countries by share of users attacked by mobile banking Trojans

Country* %** 1 Spain 1.96 2 Saudi Arabia 1.11 3 Australia 1.09 4 Turkey 0.99 5 China 0.73 6 Switzerland 0.48 7 Japan 0.30 8 Colombia 0.19 9 Italy 0.17 10 India 0.16

* Excluded from the rankings are countries with relatively few users of Kaspersky mobile security (under 10,000).
** Unique users attacked by mobile banking Trojans as a percentage of all Kaspersky mobile security users in the country.

Spain had the largest share of unique users attacked by mobile financial threats in 2022 (1.96%), with 85.90% of the affected users encountering the aforementioned Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Bian.h.

It was followed by Saudi Arabia (1,11%), also due to Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Bian.h, which affected 97.92% of users in that country.

Australia (1.09%) was third, with 98% of the users who encountered banking Trojans there attacked by Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Gustuff.

Mobile ransomware Trojans

We detected 10,543 mobile ransomware Trojan installers in 2022, which was 6,829 less than the 2021 figure.

The number of mobile ransomware Trojan installers detected by Kaspersky in 2019–2022 (download)

The number of mobile ransomware Trojan attacks also continued to decline, a process that started in late 2021.

The number of mobile ransomware Trojan attacks in 2021–2022 (download)

Verdict %* 1 Trojan-Ransom.AndroidOS.Pigetrl.a 75.10 2 Trojan-Ransom.AndroidOS.Rkor.br 3.70 3 Trojan-Ransom.AndroidOS.Small.as 1.81 4 Trojan-Ransom.AndroidOS.Rkor.bs 1.60 5 Trojan-Ransom.AndroidOS.Rkor.bi 1.48 6 Trojan-Ransom.AndroidOS.Rkor.bt 1.19 7 Trojan-Ransom.AndroidOS.Fusob.h 1.05 8 Trojan-Ransom.AndroidOS.Rkor.ch 0.99 9 Trojan-Ransom.AndroidOS.Rkor.bp 0.92 10 Trojan-Ransom.AndroidOS.Congur.cw 0.90

* Unique users attacked by the malware as a percentage of all Kaspersky mobile security users attacked by ransomware Trojans.
Trojan-Ransom.AndroidOS.Pigetrl.a remained the leading ransomware Trojan family in 2022 (75.10%). It was also one of the TOP 20 most frequently detected mobile malware types. Russia accounted for as much as 92.74% of detections.

That malware family was followed by Trojan-Ransom.AndroidOS.Rkor, which blocks the screen and demands the user to pay a fine for some illegal content they had supposedly viewed. Members of this family took six out of ten places in our rankings, with as much as 65.27% attacked users located in Kazakhstan.

TOP 10 countries by share of users attacked by mobile ransomware Trojans

Country* %** 1 China 0.65 2 Yemen 0.49 3 Kazakhstan 0.36 4 Iraq 0.08 5 Azerbaijan 0.05 6 Kyrgyzstan 0.05 7 Switzerland 0.04 8 Saudi Arabia 0.04 9 Lebanon 0.04 10 Egypt 0.03

* Excluded from the rankings are countries with relatively few Kaspersky mobile security users (under 10,000).
** Unique users attacked by mobile ransomware Trojans as a percentage of all Kaspersky mobile security users in the country.

We observed the highest shares of users attacked by mobile ransomware Trojans in 2022 in China (0.65%), Yemen (0.49%), and Kazakhstan (0.36%).

Users in China mostly encountered Trojan-Ransom.AndroidOS.Congur.y, most users in Yemen were affected by Trojan-Ransom.AndroidOS.Pigetrl.a, and a majority of users in Kazakhstan were hit by Trojan-Ransom.AndroidOS.Rkor.br.

Conclusion

The cybercriminal activity leveled off in 2022, with attack numbers remaining steady after a decrease in 2021. That said, cybercriminals are still working on improving both malware functionality and spread vectors. Malware is increasingly spreading through legitimate channels, such as official marketplaces and ads in popular apps. This is true for both scam apps and dangerous mobile banking malware.

Potentially unwanted applications (RiskWare) accounted for a majority of newly detected threats in 2022, replacing the previous leader, adware. Most mobile cyberattacks used malware as before.