Is it legal? It appears not, despite being state sponsored....can not only siphon away intimate data but also offers a remote control or backdoor functionality for uploading and executing arbitrary other programs.
And, no matter your opinion of remote PC monitoring and true spy software, there's something very troubling about this trojan according to CCC,
Their analysis isn't just hot air. Further in their report, they go on to say,Significant design and implementation flaws make all of the functionality available to anyone on the internet.[Editor's Note: Emphasis mine.]
These are serious charges being leveled, so what does the antivirus software community's analysis reveal?The analysis also revealed serious security holes that the trojan is tearing into infected systems.
"The screenshots and audio files it sends out are encrypted in an incompetent way, the commands from the control software to the trojan are even completely unencrypted. Neither the commands to the trojan nor its replies are authenticated or have their integrity protected.
"Not only can unauthorized third parties assume control of the infected system, but even attackers of mediocre skill level can connect to the authorities, claim to be a specific instance of the trojan, and upload fake data.
"It is even conceivable that the law enforcement agencies's IT infrastructure could be attacked through this channel.
Both Kaspersky and F-Secure have already done their own analysis. Here's what they each have to say:
F-SecureIn their "News from the Lab" blog on the R2D2 Backdoor Trojan, their report adds,
And now, several German states have admitted to using Backdoor:W32/R2D2.A (a.k.a. "0zapftis"), though they say the backdoor falls within what's allowed.
KasperskyThe Kaspersky blog details their own analysis which uncovered some other interesting details, including:
So what's the point of this trojan? Good question....there are six components in total – each with a different purpose – all of which have been analyzed by us.
"Amongst the new things we found in there are two rather interesting ones: firstly, this version is not only capable of running on 32 bit systems; it also includes support for 64 bit versions of Windows.
"Secondly, the list of target processes to monitor is longer than the one mentioned in the CCC report.
"The number of applications infected by the various components is 15 in total.
The various reports all say it's for monitoring communication from a suspect's computer when they're using several types of software:
- VOIP software (like Skype)
- web browsers
- chat software
|Software Monitored by R2D2 Backdoor Trojan|
|explorer.exe||Internet Explorer web browser|
|firefox.exe||Mozilla Firefox web browser|
|opera.exe||Opera web browser|
|paltalk.exe||Video chat software|
So now, the question is are the antivirus software companies detecting the trojan?
Yes. Kaspersky and F-Secure alike say their software's heuristics (i.e. realtime protection) were capable of detecting the trojan even before they became aware of it and added specific threat definitions to their software.
The 'heuristic' category indicates that our automation flagged the file based on rules that our analysts have created.And Kaspersky says,
All components are detected by Kaspersky as variants of the R2D2 trojan/rootkit. The dropper was previously heuristically detected and blocked by us as an invasive program.
So, the bottom line, if you're running good antivirus software with realtime protection enabled, this trojan is unlikely to be a threat.
And, if you're not, why not?
The most noticeable improvement is in the address bar, which now puts emphasis on the domain name to help thwart phishing attacks.
I've found as I got used to using it, the emphasis was easier to spot.
Personally, I love the feature; I just wish it were even more prominent.
Opera, in their version 11 took a different approach, removing everything but the domain name itself from the address bar. Thus:
While that approach is probably good to some extent, particularly for new users, it's also frustrating because it requires you to click on the address bar to reveal the full website address.
Luckily, you can easily revert to displaying the full website address in Opera through by typing opera:config into the Opera address bar.
Whatever the case, that web browsers are trying through a host of technological means to make it harder for the malware writers to take over peoples' PCs is a good thing.
Bottom line: yes, it's worth upgrading.
Regardless of what antivirus software you're running, keeping your web browser updated is a smart thing to do. After all, most virus and malware attacks do come in via the web, so why not give yourself every technological advantage?
Fans of Internet Explorer, rejoice!
Well, sort of.
NSS Labs, one of the top independent security research labs in the world, just put each of the top web browsers for Microsoft Windows PCs on their test bench to see how they fared against socially engineered malware.
Long lambasted for being insecure and weak in its ability to thwart malware, Internet Explorer actually landed at the front of the pack in this particular test which included:
Their report, "Web Browser Security, Socially Engineered Malware Protection," looked specifically at social engineering malware (SEM) attacks, which
...remains the most common security threat facing Internet users today.
"Recent studies show that users are four times more likely to be tricked into downloading malware than be compromised by an exploit.
How much better did IE fare? At the risk of editorializing, it was an absolute landslide. (Politicians dream of this kind of lopsided victory.)
|Effectiveness of Top Web Browsers at Blocking Social Engineering Malware Attacks|
|Web Browser||Malware Blocking Efficacy|
|Microsoft Internet Explorer 9||99.2%*|
|Google Chrome 12||13.2%|
|Apple Safari 5||7.6%|
|Mozilla Firefox 4||7.6%|
|* With both URL and Application Reputation enabled during testing, which provided 96% and 3.2% of protection respectively.|
Now for the one caveat: this only measured the efficacy of blocking social engineering malware and didn't test any of the browsers abilities (or likelihood) of being attacked through a security exploit.
What does that mean?
For starters, it means stopping viruses and other malware isn't as easy as running one web browser vs. another.
While Internet Explorer 9 might do very well at blocking social engineering malware, other browsers have historically done significantly better at stopping attacks that come through security exploits.
So, what's the best, most secure web browser?
There's no simple answer. I'd really encourage you to take a close look at the NSS Web Browser Security Report.
Another thing not covered is the effectiveness of antivirus software at blocking these types of threats.
In our tests, we consistently saw the software we tested with the best malicious website filtering giving added protection above and beyond what the web browsers themselves provided.
Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water after the last round of security alerts and news on Internet Explorer trojan vulnerabilities, Opera announced they have some bugs of their own to take care of, too, in versions prior to 9.63 of the web browser.
To date Opera has had one of the finest track records of computer security for any web browser. It also has a great reputation for reliable rendering and for overall speed and stability, but as with all software at any price, there are bugs.
In this particular case, there are several Opera security vulnerabilities. They range in severity from "Highly severe" to "Extremely severe" and cover the following issues:
|Manipulating text input contents can allow execution of arbitrary code, as reported by Red XIII.||Extremely Severe||Text input manipulation, ID 920|
|HTML parsing flaw can cause Opera to execute arbitrary code, as reported by Alexios Fakos.||Extremely Severe||HTML parsing, ID 921|
|Long hostnames in file: URLs can cause execution of arbitrary code, as reported by Vitaly McLain.||Highly Severe||Long hostnames in file, ID 922|
|Script injection in feed preview can reveal contents of unrelated news feeds, as reported by David Bloom.||Highly Severe||News feed script injection, ID 923|
|Built-in XSLT templates can allow cross-site scripting, as reported by Robert Swiecki of the Google Security Team.||Highly Severe||Cross-site scripting (XSS), ID 924|
|Fixed an issue that could reveal random data, as reported by Matthew of Hispasec Sistemas. (Details to follow "at a later date".)||N/A||N/A|
We salute Opera for their speedy response and (nearly) full disclosure, and lest it go unsaid, take a second to be certain you're up-to-date on your antivirus firewall software
Here are Opera's complete details of Opera 9.63 fixes.