Apache malware targeting online banking

dangerby Pierre-Marc Bureau

More than half of all web servers on the Internet use Apache, so when we discovered a malicious Apache module in the wild last month, being used to inject malicious content into web pages displayed by compromised web servers, we were understandably concerned. Our concern deepened when we discovered that this malware was being used in a scheme to steal banking credentials.

At first, we wondered if this code might be related to the Linux/Snasko.A rootkit reported to the Full-Disclosure mailing list and then analyzed by CrowdStrike and Kaspersky but it turns out this is a completely different beast.

Drive-by malware infection via malicious Apache moduleThe malicious Apache module we have analyzed is detected by ESET as Linux/Chapro.A. the primary purpose of which is to inject malicious content into web pages served up by the compromised server (as diagrammed on the right where an iframe is injected, but it could be malicious JavaScript or something else).

Although the module can serve any type of content, in this specific case the final payload, achieved via the iframe injection, was installation of a variant of Win32/Zbot, which is commonly used to steal banking information from infected systems.

We also found that this module has a couple of interesting capabilities designed to reduce its chances of being spotted by system administrators. In addition to analyzing the malicious Apache module, we were able to analyze the malicious content it was serving.

In this analysis, we will present the characteristics of Linux/Chapro.A. We will also give an overview of the exploit kit used to install malware, and the final Win32/Zbot payload.

Linux/Chapro.A Characteristics

The Linux/Chapro.A malicious Apache module is an x64 Linux binary. This malware makes use of only one obfuscation technique. It uses an XOR loop with a 12 byte long key to encode most of the strings.

The program has many capabilities to evade detection by system administrators. Before serving malicious content to a visitor, multiple checks will be performed.

First, Linux/Chapro.A checks the web browser’s user agent for known bots as well as web browsers that are not likely to be vulnerable to the exploits used to infect the target system. If the web browser visiting the page has a user agent string that contains keywords known to be used by web crawlers, the malware will not be served the malicious content. The following figure shows some of the keywords used by the bot.

Apache malware Linux/Chapro

Linux/Chapro.A will also inspect all active SSH sessions on the Linux system on which it is running to determine the IP addresses being used by them. If a visitor browses a page using any of the same IPs involved in a SSH connection, it will not be served the malicious content. This helps hide the malicious content from system administrators, web developers and others who might be working on the web server

Before injecting the malicious iframe into the web content sent by the server, Linux/Chapro.A sets a cookie in the visiting web browser. Malicious content will not be served if the visiting browser already had that cookie set. This helps ensure that visitors will not receive malicious content over and over again, making it more difficult to determine how a system was infected.

Finally, Linux/Chapro.A maintains a list of IP addresses that have been served malicious content. If a user visits an infected website twice from the same IP address; it will only receive the malicious content once. This provides a second, additional method to make the path of infection more difficult to determine.

Injected Content

The main purpose of Linux/Chapro.A is to inject iframes into webpages served by the Apache webserver to which it is attached. To do so, the malware sends an HTTP POST request to its command and control server every 10 minutes. The following figure shows one such HTTP POST request.

Apache malware Linux/Chapro

At the time of our analysis, the malicious command and control server was being hosted in Germany. It has recently gone offline.

The request is simple; it only includes the version of the malware and the operating system it is running on.  The command and control server will respond to the query with the iframe to be injected by the malicious apache module. The iframe is encoded using base64 and XOR. If a visitor does not fall into any of the blacklists detailed in the previous section, it is served the iframe downloaded from the command and control server.

The figure below shows the HTML code for an iframe sent by Linux/Chapro.A. The iframe is positioned outside of the usual browser display area in order to avoid being seen by the user.

Apache malware Linux/Chapro

Exploit Kit

Based on our analysis and descriptions from this article, we are confident the iframe injected by Linux/Chapro.A points to a “Sweet Orange” exploit pack landing page. At the time of our analysis, the exploit pack was being hosted in Lithuania. The pack tries to exploit the following vulnerabilities found in modern web browsers and plugins:

If the exploit pack is able to exploit one of the vulnerabilities it has exploits for, the final payload is executed.

Attack Payload

The final purpose of the attack we have investigated is to install a variant of Win32/Zbot, also known as ZeuS, which has been widely used for years to steal banking-related information. In this case, the Win32/Zbot variant targets European and Russian banking institutions. The screenshot below shows a form used by a bank to give customers online access to account information.

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