A new round of greeting card spam that draws users to attack sites relies on a sophisticated multi-pronged, multi-exploit strike force to infect machines, security professionals said late last night.
The quick browser status exam in this attack is somewhat similar to one used in a different exploit tracked by Symantec since Tuesday, but the two are not connected, said Oliver Friedrichs, director of Symantec's security response group. "They're using two different toolkits," said Friedrichs, "but they're both prime examples that exploits against browsers are more and more prevalent."
Thursday's greeting card gambit tries a trio of exploits, moving on to the second if the machine is not vulnerable to the first, then on to the third if necessary. The first is an exploit against a QuickTime vulnerability, the second an attack on the popular WinZip compression utility and the third, dubbed ‘the Hail Mary’ by ISC, is an exploit for the WebViewFolderIcon vulnerability in Windows that Microsoft patched last October.
"Every Storm-infected system is potentially capable of hosting the malware and sending the spam, but only a few will be used in any given run," said the alert, "depending on how many emails they want sent and how many web hits they're expecting."
Hackers haven't abandoned the practice of attaching malware to email, then counting on naive users to open the file, said Friedrichs. But malware hosting sites are the trend. "It's much more difficult to send a full malicious file," he said, because of users' learned reluctance to open suspicious files and filtering and blocking tactics by security software.
"This is widespread, and leads the user to multiple IP addresses," said Shimon Gruper, vice president with Aladdin Knowledge Systems, a security company known for its eSafe antivirus software. "There's not a single server, there are multiple exploits [and the e-mail] has no attachments. This will be very difficult to detect."
Two days ago, a Symantec honeypot captured a similar website-hosted attack that had an arsenal of multiple exploits at its disposal. That attack, however, featured an unusual, if rudimentary, browser detector that sniffed out whether the target computer is running Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) or Mozilla's Firefox. If the attack detects IE, it feeds the machine a Windows animated cursor exploit. If it finds Firefox, however, the sites spits out a QuickTime exploit.