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Contributing writer

Man-in-the-Browser malware scam goes universal

Oct 04, 20123 mins
Access ControlCybercrimeMalware

Utility lets scammers cull, distribute credit card data in real time

The Man-in-the-Browser has had a makeover: He is now available as the Universal Man-in-the-Browser (uMitB).

The latest utility for a well-established malware scam offers two major improvements, said security vendor Trusteer, whose CTO, Amit Klein, wrote about it in a blog post on Wednesday.

First, it is not limited to targeting specific websites. Instead, it recognizes form fields on any site visited by an infected user, such as those for names, addresses, credit cards or passwords.

Second, George Tubin, senior security strategist at Trusteer, said there is no lag time for “post processing,” which involves parsing the logs to extract the valuable data.

“The log files have a massive amount of information,” he said. And while they are bought and sold in underground marketplaces, “it’s kind of a pain to parse through them and cull out what might be useful. Once you get a log, you don’t know how old it is.”

But the uMitB eliminates post processing and collects the data in real time, Tubin said, making stolen credit card numbers much more valuable on the underground market, since they go “stale” quickly, as victims tend to report the loss or theft within hours or even minutes.

[See also: Malnets lead the cyberattack pack]

“This utility recognizes when a credit card is being entered and captures it in very usable form,” Tubin said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a bank or a merchant or any other kind of online site. Rather than having to sniff through all the data, you get it automatically.”

“You could see how criminal could link that capture directly to a site that sells credit cards,” he said. “And of course there’s a quality aspect that dictates price – things like what the dollar limit is and how fresh it is. Very fresh is better.”

He added: “The other interesting thing is that they’re selling this form-grabbing utility for $450. Of course you have to have a malware platform to use it, but that’s pretty cheap.”

Tubin said the firm discovered the uMitB in late August, and coined the name for it. He said it is still relatively rare in the wild, but expects it to become more popular — there is even a promotional video on YouTube that, while it doesn’t have any sound and only showed 55 views at midday on Wednesday, will likely expand its use.

As usual, Klein wrote in the conclusion of his post that the best protection against such attacks is “to secure the endpoint against the root cause of these problems — malware.”

George Tubin, while he believes education is still worthwhile for end users, said the scams are so sophisticated and convincing that it is not enough. “We’ve pretty much lost that battle,” he said. “It takes technology.”

That, he said, requires a malware prevention solution that works in the background, doesn’t interfere with what the user is trying to do and has the ability to change and update itself constantly, supported by a network “that understands how these things are developed.”