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UK banks a target for sophisticated Shylock malware

BAE Systems Applied Intelligence : 21 November, 2013  (Technical Article)
BAE Systems Detica explains the threat posed by the Shylock malware and its effects on the UK banking and finance industry
UK banks a target for sophisticated Shylock malware

Cyber criminals are targeting the UK with one of the world’s most sophisticated pieces of malware. The Shylock malware is one of the fastest growing threats posed by cyber criminals today, and its creators have built a platform over the last two years that allows them to commit large scale targeting and theft of sensitive banking data.

The criminal gang operating the malware is currently targeting a small number of geographic regions and worryingly the UK has been a priority target. Detica’s research shows that the malware is being distributed through compromised legitimate websites, and from a sample of over 500 identified, 61% of them were UK websites. Furthermore, over three-quarters (80%) of the banks being targeted over the past two years have been UK banks.

The research, unveiled today, also illustrates the advanced techniques the Shylock malware creators have used to remain undetected by traditional security defences. There are even clues which suggest the operators are working a five-day week, indicating that these are professional and well-organised criminals.

Detica’s analysis of the malware also reveals that its modular framework allows a serious ‘future upgrade’ potential and is consequently likely to return in different guises.

Shylock is typical of the increased shrewdness of cyber attackers over the past year, which has seen a shift towards ‘drive-by’ or ‘watering hole’ attacks rather than conventional phishing e-mails. The shift underlines the agility of cyber attackers to adapt when previously successful avenues are closed off by improved security.

David Bailey, Chief Technical Officer, Cyber Security at BAE Systems Detica said: “Today’s revelations are a reminder of the agility of malicious cyber criminals and the fact that the UK is a prime target for damaging cyber attacks. The Shylock malware is highly sophisticated, and it is only through intuitive threat intelligence work  and the continuing evolution of our cyber security technologies that its exact characteristics have been successfully detected.

“Counteracting the threat posed by Shylock will rely on co-operation from multiple entities including the security research community, industry groups, the finance sector, and international law enforcement. Raising awareness of how the threat actors operate is the first step in this process.”

In order to help raise awareness of the malware, Detica is not just highlighting the criminals’ techniques but also providing actionable intelligence which allows organisations to identify compromises, and law enforcement to pursue the perpetrators.

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