Benjamin Mautner Princeton-New Malware Uses Images of Cats or Sunsets

Benjamin Mautner PrincetonThe security group Trend Micro has identified a new form of malware that utilizes images of cats or sunsets to target and hack certain bank accounts according to this article. The malware is called TSPY_ZBOT.TFZAH and instead of the malware coming through the images, it uses the photos as a way to mask code that might otherwise be easier to identify. The usual channels of arrival are used by the malware such as through other malware or through visiting an infected site. Once the malware is in place, the image will download without your knowledge. Trend Micro explains: “the user does not even see this particular image, but if someone did happen to see it, it would look like an ordinary photo. We encountered an image of a sunset, but other security researchers reported encountering a cat image. This particular photo appears to have been lifted from popular photo-sharing sites, as it appears in these sites if you search for sunset.”

The malware utilizes steganography to conceal information, which usually regards specific banks the malware is intended to target. Steganography is a way of concealing a message within another message or image. Once the image is downloaded, it waits for the user to visit one of the bank websites. Once this happens, the malware intercepts login information and therefore gains access to the bank account.

The images themselves are popular and widespread images with an indeterminate origin. This makes it easier for them to seem like something you might have actually downloaded before. With the current cat photo craze on the Internet, it is even more likely to just be another cute picture you stumbled upon days or weeks ago. A great way of ensuring this infraction of privacy does not happen to you is to keep track of the images you have downloaded. Do not let any image sit on your computer without knowing why it’s there.