Social networking has become so popular that even Trojan horses are doing it these days.
Researchers at RSA's FraudAction Research Lab say they have discovered a new online attack method that uses instant messaging to speed the delivery of compromised online credentials to cybercriminals.
According to RSA's latest fraud report, issued today, research of several Zeus Trojan variants reveals that some online criminals have begun using the Jabber IM open protocol as a quick delivery mechanism of stolen user information. Using Jabber, stolen data is sent to these particular fraudsters as soon as it is collected from computers infected with the Zeus Trojan, RSA says.
"The Jabber IM modules that have been built into these particular Trojans were configured to extract stolen user credentials from the Zeus Trojan's 'drop' server database -- and then immediately send those credentials to the online criminal, wherever he may be," RSA says.
However, stolen credentials that reside on the drop server are not necessarily available in real-time to the online criminal, the researchers say. The criminal may reside within a region in another part of the world, or may not be connected to the server all the time. The Jabber IM module simply lets the criminals automatically forward and receive stolen credentials as soon as they are collected.
"In this case, online criminals use two Jabber accounts; one for sending select, compromised user credentials from the drop server's database; and the other for receiving those credentials," RSA says.
Each of the Jabber IM modules that RSA discovered was configured to perform a different set of actions and was "customized" according to the criminals' preferences, the researchers say. Some Trojans have also been configured to send stolen credentials via email.
The use of IM for receiving notification of newly collected compromised accounts or customers' login attempts is not a new cybercrime technique, RSA observes. The Sinowal gang, for example, was known to have employed a Jabber module as early as 2008.