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Neverquest: A global threat targeting Financials

By: ASERT Research Team

On March 31st, Arbor’s Security Engineering & Response Team (ASERT) published a detailed threat brief on the Neverquest malware for Arbor customers. Along with thousands of IOC’s (indicators of compromise), the brief details Neverquest’s current inner workings and describes some reversing techniques ASERT uses to unravel and monitor this stealthy and quickly evolving malware. Applying this research at scale to malware and data acquired by our global ATLAS initiative allows us to develop targeted defenses and security context that enables customers to mitigate advanced threats and enhance their security posture over time [1].

This blog post provides excerpts from the Neverquest threat brief along with some new data that was not available at the time the brief was released to customers. In doing so, it also highlights the results of ASERT research activities that feed Arbor products.

Historical Threat Context and Prior Research

Originally, a malware family known as Ursniff was used to build newer malware called Gozi. After some success and a time of inactivity, Gozi was revitalized as Gozi Prinimalka, which has evolved into the modern Vawtrak/Neverquest (referred to as ‘Neverquest’ herein). Foundational threat analysis work has been performed for years on Continue reading

FCC advised on Remediation of Server-based DDoS Attacks

Yesterday, the Communications Security, Reliability and Interoperability Council (CSRIC), a federal advisory committee to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), submitted its final report on Remediation of Server-based DDoS Attacks.

The CSRIC’s Working Group 5 was tasked with developing recommendations for communications providers to enable them to mitigate the impact of high volume DDoS attacks launched from large data center and hosting environments.

The final report includes a comprehensive look at the DDoS threat landscape, covering everything from the massive size of today’s attacks, to the potential for collateral damage. The report describes how DDoS attacks are becoming increasingly complex, how they are being used as a diversion “to distract security resources while other attacks are being attempted, e.g., fraudulent transactions.” The report also discusses how botnet architectures are becoming more sophisticated and difficult to trace.

Given this complex and challenging threat landscape, we were grateful for the opportunity to contribute. The CSRIC has adapted Arbor Networks best practices for DDoS incident response as the Six Phases for DDoS Attack Preparation & Response.


Roland Dobbins, senior analyst with Arbor’s Security Engineering & Response Team (ASERT), served as the Internet sub-group chairman of CSRIC IV WG5 – Server-Based Continue reading

Snort rules for Etumbot

Since publication of the Etumbot blog on Friday, June 6th, we’ve received numerous requests to publish Snort rules for the network indicators described therein. You can find Snort rules for the Etumbot C&C communications on Arbor’s github at

While we are not Snort syntax experts, we have performed basic testing for the Etumbot communications we’ve been able to observe over the wire. Specifically, the first three Snort rules for Etumbot RC4 Key Request, Etumbot Registration Request, and EtumBot Ping all triggered successfully when the corresponding network traffic was observed.

Remember to change the SIDs as appropriate for your environment. We also anticipate these rules will be incorporated into the EmergingThreats Open feed in the very near term.

Illuminating The Etumbot APT Backdoor

The Arbor Security Engineering Response Team (ASERT) has released a research paper concerning the Etumbot malware.

Etumbot is a backdoor used in targeted attacks since at least March 2011. Indicators suggest that Etumbot is associated with the Numbered Panda group, also known as IXEHSE, DynCalc, and APT12.  Although previous research has covered related malware, little has been publicly discussed regarding Etumbot’s capabilities.

Indicators suggest that the Etumbot dropper is delivered via spear phishing and is contained inside an archive file intended to be of interest to the target. The attackers use the Unicode Right to Left Override technique and document icons to disguise malicious executable content as document files. Once the dropper is executed, the backdoor is activated and a distraction file of interest to the target is opened for viewing.  ASERT has observed several Etumbot samples using distraction documents involving Taiwanese and Japanese topics of interest, and has also observed recent development activity which indicates that attack campaigns are ongoing.

Once installed, the backdoor connects to it’s Command & Control server and receives an encryption key. RC4 encryption, along with HTTP transactions intended to blend in with typical traffic are used for backdoor communications. Etumbot’s core functionality Continue reading