Security expert warns on "Clampi"

U.S. cyber security expert Joe Stewart, a director of malware research for the Counter Threat Unitof SecureWorks, warned this week that hundreds of thousands of Windows computers are believed to be infected with a Trojan called "Clampi" that has been stealing banking and other log-in credentials from compromised PCs since 2007.

CNet News reports that the warning comes on the eve of a major security conference in Las Vegas.

Clampi, also known as Ligats, Ilomo, or Rscan, infects computers in drive-by downloads when people visit Web sites hosting malicious code that exploits vulnerabilities in browser plug-ins Flash and ActiveX, said Stewart. When the infected computer is used to access a targeted banking or other site, the log-in and other information is stolen.

Clampi has spread quickly through Microsoft-based networks in a worm-like fashion in recent months, Stewart told CNet News. It uses domain administrator credentials that were either stolen by the Trojan or based on an administrator logging into an infected system. It then uses a Windows executable SysInternals tool, "psexec," to copy itself to all the computers on the domain, he said.

Clampi also serves as a proxy server for criminals to cloak their activity when logging into stolen accounts.

Stewart has identified 1 400 Web sites in 70 different countries out of 4 500 sites being targeted by the Trojan attack. The sites include banks, credit card companies, online casinos, retail sites, utilities, ad networks, stock brokerages, mortgage lenders, and government and military portals.

Based on the techniques they are using, Stewart said criminals in Eastern Europe are believed to be behind Clampi.

Because it can take days or weeks to get a sample of the latest version of the Trojan, antivirus protection is often delayed, arriving after a PC is already infected, according to Stewart.

"This type of Trojan, banking Trojans in general, are the biggest threat to home computer users and businesses doing banking online," he said. "You can't rely on antivirus. At some point you are going to visit the wrong site and they'll get a Trojan on your computer."

Stewart said the Trojan uses three types of encryption and sophisticated virtual machine-based packing technology to disguise itself in order to get through antivirus filters. He recommended that consumer and business Web surfers use a dedicated computer for their banking and other sensitive financial online activities that is separate from the computer where e-mail is accessed and Web surfing is done.

Losses from Clampi are starting to be publicised, CNet News reports. The Trojan was behind the theft of nearly $75 000 from Slack Auto Parts in Gainesville, Georgia according to the Security Fix blog at The Washington Post.

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