Faster Proliferation of Attacks
The speed at which new vulnerabilities and their exploits spread around the globe has increased due to innovations that attack kit developers have integrated into their products. Attack kits are now fairly easy to update, which allows developers to quickly add exploit code for new vulnerabilities. The result is that some exploits are in the wild just days after the associated vulnerability becomes public. Attackers who can easily update their attack kits with recent exploits are able to target potential victims before they apply necessary patches.
A New Entry Into the Underground Economy
Because attack kits are becoming easier to use, cybercrime is no longer limited to those with advanced programming skills. Participants now include a mix of individuals with computer skills and those with expertise in traditional criminal activities such as money laundering. Symantec expects that this much larger pool of criminals entering the space will lead to an increase in the number of attacks.
“In the past, hackers had to create their own threats from scratch. This complex process limited the number of attackers to a small pool of highly skilled cybercriminals,” said Shantanu Ghosh, Vice President, India Product Operations, Symantec. “Today’s attack toolkits make it relatively easy for even a malicious novice to launch a cyberattack. As a result, we expect to see even more criminal activity in this area and a higher likelihood that the average user will be victimized.”
- Popularity and demand has driven up the cost of attack kits. In 2006, WebAttacker, a popular attack toolkit, sold for $15 on the underground economy. In 2010, ZeuS 2.0 was advertised for up to $8,000.
- Secondary services have emerged to direct unsuspecting users to malicious websites, where their computers can be compromised. Tactics used include spam campaigns, black hat search engine optimization (SEO), the injection of code into legitimate websites, and malicious advertisements.
- Symantec observed more than 310,000 unique domains that were found to be malicious. On average, this resulted in the detection of more than 4.4 million malicious Web pages per month.
- Of the Web-based threat activity detected by Symantec during the reporting period, 61 percent was attributable to attack kits.
- The most prevalent attack kits are MPack, Neosploit, ZeuS, Nukesploit P4ck, and Phoenix.
- The search terms that most commonly resulted in malicious website visits were for adult entertainment websites, making up 44 percent of the search terms.
- Organizations and end users should ensure that all software is up-to-date with vendor patches. Asset and patch management solutions may help to ensure systems are compliant and deploy patches to systems that are not up-to-date.
- Organizations should create policies to limit the use of browser software and browser plug-ins that are not required by the users of the organization. This is especially prudent for ActiveX controls, which may be installed without the knowledge of the user.
- Organizations can also benefit from using website reputation and IP black listing solutions to block outgoing access to sites that are known to host attack toolkits and associated threats.
- Antivirus and intrusion prevention systems can be deployed to detect and prevent exploitation of vulnerabilities and installation of malicious code.
About the Report
The Symantec Report on Attack Toolkits and Malicious Websites (hyperlink), developed by the company’s Security Technology and Response (STAR) organization, is an in-depth analysis of attack toolkits. The report includes an overview of these kits as well as attack methods, kit types, notable attacks, and attack kit evolution. It also includes a discussion of attack kit features, traffic generation, and attack kit activity.