By Matthew Wade
Security software specialists MicroWorld Technologies and Trend Micro this week warned users about two of the latest threats to their PCs and corporate data - namely a new Skype software worm that shows a picture of a skimpily clad model, and ‘pod slurping’ (a method by which criminals can steal corporate data via an unguarded USB connection).
Security software specialists MicroWorld Technologies and Trend Micro this week warned users about two of the latest threats to their PCs and corporate data - namely a new Skype software worm that shows a picture of a skimpily clad model, and ‘pod slurping’ (a method by which criminals can steal data via an unguarded USB connection).
According to MicroWorld the former worm, named Win32.Pykse.a, spreads through Skype’s popular VoIP and IM software application.
The threat process begins when a Skype IM arrives, detailing a list of links that point to a jpeg image of model Sandra, hosted on various Russian websites. As soon as the user clicks such a link, a Trojan downloader is pushed onto their computer, which goes ahead and brings in the Pykse.a worm.
Once installed, the worm attempts to connect to several websites, most of which are seemingly associated with so-called ‘click fraud’ scams.
“By the look of it, this one seems like a pilot run of the attack as the malware author is checking the extent to which the worm spreads. Next time, the attack could be more dangerous if the websites that the malware points to contain more malicious code that forces its way to user computers by exploiting browser vulnerabilities or by offering allurements,” observed Govind Rammurthy, CEO of MicroWorld Technologies.
‘Pod slurping’ however is quite a different threat and forms part of a growing criminal movement that Trend Micro terms ‘USB-based information theft’.
According to the firm, with 100 million iPods now in use this equates to 100 million potential victims as the humble ‘pod can be used by anyone wishing to steal data or upload malignant software.
“Pod slurping occurs when a portable USB device such as a PDA, flash drive pen or memory stick is used to download large amounts of information without the owner’s consent. Such devices are plugged into a computer in order for the data stored upon them to be copied illicitly,” reads Trend Micro’s latest advisory.
The dangers exist, Trend Micro claims, for two main reasons. Firstly, the USB port and its ‘trident’ logo are almost omnipresent, making the vast majority of computers vulnerable to this practice. Secondly, the devices themselves – such as iPods – are so popular to be nearly as widespread, usually carried by people with perfectly innocent explanations for owning them. Unlike, say, a disk loaded with malware, society has come to accept the fact that people like to have their music on the move.
The danger of pod slurping was first identified less than two years ago, when applications entrepreneur Abe Usher staged a demonstration of the technique by using a mobile storage device to capture 100Mbytes of documentation in under two minutes. Ever since, Trend Micro’s team asserts, the solutions to the problem have varied in sophistication, from bunging up USB ports with epoxy resin to installing software which provides complex removable storage management settings.
“Although there is room for improvement, businesses and individuals in the region are rightly concerned about web-based threats to computer security," said Justin Doo, the managing director of Trend Micro in the Middle East and Africa region. "The scope to abuse popular portable storage devices means that vigilance is also needed for networks accessible through a simple USB port. People are shocked when sensitive data goes missing on lost laptops, but there’s potentially an equally serious problem lurking in music lovers’ pockets.”