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Cyber Security

Malware using your computer to make digital money




Reading Time: 4 minutes

Electronic money (e-money) is being used more and more often by people to make online purchases. And sure as night follows day, this means electronic money is also gaining the attention of malware authors who are trying to benefit from it by any means possible. We encountered a malicious sample, whose role is not to steal but to generate (to ‘mine’) digital currency using a Bitcoin ‘mining pool’ (a distributed computational network to generate ‘Bitcoins’). The attack is executed by installing a trojan horse program on a network of victim computers and then use their processing power to generate Bitcoin blocks.

So what is Bitcoin and how does it work? Well, unlike traditional currency, which is generated through a central authority like an issuing bank, Bitcoins are dynamically generated as and when required through a decentralized peer-to-peer network of nodes – or ‘miners’. Each ‘miner’ is a set of computer resources (sometimes just a regular computer like the one on your desktop) that has been devoted to dealing with Bitcoin transactions. Once there have been enough of these transactions, they are grouped into a ‘block’ – and this additional block of transactions is then added to the master ‘block chain’ that is maintained across the greater Bitcoin network. The key thing to note here is that the process of producing a ‘block’ is very hardware intensive and requires a great deal of computing power. So, in return for volunteering their hardware, miners that manage to generate a block are rewarded with a bounty of Bitcoins and given any transaction fees from that block. This system of granting rewards to miners is actually also the mechanism by which the Bitcoin money supply is increased.

As mentioned, the computational demands of producing a block are very high so the more processing power an entity can use, the more transactions they can handle and the more Bitcoins they are liable to receive. And what better source of computational power to a hacker than his own network of zombie PCs relentlessly crunching out Bitcoin transactions?

The trojan that installs the mining components is 80KB in size and, upon execution, it decrypts in memory a PE file located in the .code section, at 0x9400, size 0xAA00. Decryption is a simple byte XOR, with 20 successive byte keys located in .idata section. The installation steps are taken by the new decrypted in-memory process which downloads the necessary components and also contains the mining parameters (like user and password credentials for the mining pool, all encrypted in resources).

The encrypted file is packed with UPX. Important resources present in file:

Encrypted OTR0 resource
malicious binary code

It contains running parameters and credentials for mining pool (“-t 2 -o“. The -t parameter stands for the number of threads used for calculations. The -o parameter specifies the server to connect to.

Decryption reveals address and credentials for pool server
malicious binary code

OTR2 – [7C 6E 6C 63 60 76 25 66 7F 68] – name of the dropped mining file (socket.exe)
OTR8 – [7C 6E 6C 63 60 76 78 2D 62 75 60] – name under which the file self-copies (sockets.exe)
OTR9 – [6F 41 6F 58 45 42 6B 43 47 6D 75 52 46 65 76 51 43] – decrypting key for encrypted resource strings (this will be used to decode the string parameters stored as resources)

The file copies itself to My DocumentsWindowssockets.exe and executes the copy.

binary code

After execution, it downloads the following files:

– – A mining binary saved as “socket.exe”, which seems to be a modification of a known open-source mining application.
– – A plain text file containing hex values of a binary PE will be transformed into “miner.dll”, a dependency of the previous.

Webpage Source code
Binary code

– – A binary file, dependency saved as “usft_ext.dll”.
– – Saved as “phatk.ptx” – assembler instructions for GPUs, which can be used for advanced calculations.
– – Saved as “” – source file designed for GPU calculations.

When all downloads are complete and dependencies are in place, the mining binary is launched with decoded parameters and starts making calculations to generate virtual coins. As predicted, the CPU usage rises, keeping the computer in high load.

Binary code execution
Binary code execution

The malicious binary repeatedly communicates with the pool server upon finishing computational cycles and sends the results of its calculations – the “virtual coins”.

Dropper trojan
Dropper trojan:
Filename: sockets.exe
SHA1: 52647f52912e81e0351b68e30a3b13fe4501bdda
MD5: ba9c16fa419d24c3eadb74e016ad544f
CIS detection name: TrojWare.Win32.Trojan.CoinMiner.k Mining binary:
Filename: socket.exe
SHA1: 1da22ddd904dfa0664a50aa6971ad1ff451651ce
MD5: e82cd32fefb2f009c84c14cec1f13624
CIS detection name: Application.Win32.CoinMiner.b


Cyber Security

Symple implements PwC Protect to catch and weed out loan application fraud




Symple Loans, the Melbourne-based personal lending fintech, today announces the successful implementation of PwC Protect – an innovative SAAS solution developed by PwC Australia for the prevention of loan application fraud in the banking industry.

The cloud-based product leverages PWC’s deep expertise in fraud prevention and forensic analytics to digitally assess documents (such as payslips and bank statements) submitted during the loan application process and then detect with a high degree of accuracy, instances when information may have been manipulated or falsified.

“The merits of integrating PWC Protect were clear to us from the onset” says Bob Belan, Symple’s Co-Founder and CEO. “This sophisticated solution has helped modernise and automate a key part of the loan application process – adding fraud risk protection and also enabling us to deliver a better and faster experience for customers.”

As the shift to digital lending continues to accelerate locally and globally, the most prudent credit providers are taking steps to develop or deploy advanced methods for accurately and efficiently assessing borrower documentation.   PWC Protect has been designed to specifically address this industry-wide challenge facing both fintech and traditional lenders alike.

Belan added, “The collaboration between Symple and PwC has been outstanding and we’re very pleased to be integrating another piece of world-class technology into our state-of-the-art lending platform.  While our fraud losses to date have been very low at around 0.1%, constant vigilance and ongoing investment in innovate solutions like Protect are needed to ensure this is maintained.  This is one of several technology investments that we’ve fast tracked during this Covid-19 period as we prepare to ramp up loan origination growth in the months ahead.”

Thomas Sonderegger, Consulting Financial Services Partner at PwC said, “We are thrilled to be working with the team at Symple – joining forces with them and our other customers who are using Protect to prevent fraud, reduce costs and ultimately improve customer experiences.


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Cyber Security

Interview With John Milburn – Clear Skye




Aviva Zacks of Safety Detectives sat for an interview with John Milburn, CEO of Clear Skye, and asked him about his company’s platform.

Safety Detectives: What got you interested in cybersecurity?

John Milburn: I was working for a large bank in the run-up to Y2K. That was a time of very explosive growth in cybersecurity. This was the first time that IT organizations across all verticals were forced to admit that their businesses were dependent on systems that were vulnerable. No longer were we talking about security in the abstract; instead, the industry came together with a shared goal of ensuring business continuity in the face of a real problem. It was during this period that markets such as firewalls, SEIM, and Identity Management began to come into their own and the innovation happening in these new disciplines caught my attention and never let go.

SD: Tell me about Clear Skye’s platform.

JM: Before I answer that, I would like to first speak about the journey the cybersecurity space has taken over the past 20 years. The IT landscape keeps changing, meaning the attack surfaces keep changing and like any good industry, every new security problem will be met with a new security product. Over time these products get bigger and often become platforms. The result is, while technically we have the tools to make us more secure, there are so many products, platforms, and silos that effectively and securely driving your business forward is incredibly challenging. The Clear Skye team believes that it doesn’t have to be this way. Organizations don’t necessarily need more silos or platforms to be secure, and thus our solution leverages a platform our customers already have, ServiceNow. Specifically, we believe the Now Platform provides a better way to solve the Identity Governance and Administration (IGA) problem. Our approach removes much of the headwinds commonly found in IGA programs, such as:

  • A disconnected user experience – IGA programs depend on non-IT users to interact with the system, requesting or approving application access. If an organization is using ServiceNow, knowledge workers are already using its Service Portal to facilitate similar requests and approval workflows. A standalone IGA solution will require users to learn a new URL, new interfaces, and new workflows which often slows down the engagement and value realization of a well-intentioned program. Clear Skye IGA is native to the Now Platform, meaning that we leverage the same portals, interfaces, and workflow that an organization is already running their business on – resulting in much better speed and effectiveness.
  • Poor integration with other key processes – Identity Governance is a practice that needs to interact with other key IT Security processes such as ITSM, GRC, Incident Management, and HR Management. Historically organizations spend a significant amount of time building integrations between these large solutions, with results that are typically brittle and falling short of the original vision of cross-process interaction. As these workloads are more and more frequently moving into the Now Platform, it only makes sense to add Identity Management to the mix as well. Clear Skye IGA does not merely integrate with these other solutions, they are platform siblings, allowing for the complete sharing of data and security workflows that can easily cross the walls created by former silos of security.
  • The need for expensive specialty resources trained on your specific solution – Part of the IGA product selection process today must include the availability of trained resources, specifically trained on both Identity and Product X, available to get the project going. I have seen the scarcity of skilled hands slow down many IGA programs. As Clear Skye IGA is a native Now application, organizations can leverage the much larger pool of ServiceNow resources to drive and manage their IGA program.

SD: What types of companies use your technology?

JM: Managing who has what access across company applications is something that all organizations should be doing as basic security hygiene, though we see the highest demand in regulated industries such as financial services, healthcare, energy, and government. The Clear Skye target customer also has invested in ServiceNow as an application platform. Many start their journey trying to solve a discrete problem such as ITSM and CMDB, but evolve over time leveraging the platform to drive digital transformation, better enabling the business to adapt to market changes (like the one we are going through now) by quickly automating workflows across departments and silos. Our customers have a vision of the Now Platform becoming the single point of interaction between the knowledge workers and IT. The more IT security workloads that can be managed on this platform the more they will help the CISO have fewer things to integrate and audit, and the knowledge workers spend less time learning new security tools as opposed to driving the organization’s mission. Extending this vision to include Identity Governance both improves their current program and better enables their overall strategic vision.

SD: What is the worst cyberthreat out there?

JM: The scariest cyberthreat is how much we still depend on people to keep us secure. We have spent so much time developing very powerful tools for specific threats, including a recent focus on machine learning and artificial intelligence, and yet it is commonly acknowledged that there is an increasing shortage of security professionals to leverage these solutions. Something doesn’t add up there. I would argue that by focusing so much on building bigger and more powerful solutions for very specific security threats, we have made the CISO’s problem more challenging, not less. There is so much effort spent in integrating processes, that we are running out of skilled hands. Training and education are important to solving these problems, but I think it is just as important to take a long look at the security siloes we have allowed to get bigger and bigger over the last two decades. I don’t think our dependence on more security personnel will decline until we start breaking down some of these walls. We still need ITSM, IGA, and GRC capabilities, for example, but it is debatable whether the value of these solutions continuing to grow as bigger and bigger castles outweighs the management and efficacy problems these separate solutions create. With more alignment, I believe an organization can do more with less skilled people.

SD: How has the Covid-19 pandemic changed cybersecurity forever?

JM: The changes brought about by work from home and increased digital customer interactions will affect the cyber community forever. There will be lots of ongoing impacts but the one I think is most interesting is the increased role of the knowledge worker in cybersecurity. With most employees working remotely, far from their IT security teams, it has become more important than ever that everyone in an organization is security-minded in their daily operations. Much has been written already about this, and most people are focused on the need to increase end-user security skills training. While I do think that is needed, I think this misses the bigger issue. Trained users are great but that doesn’t help much if the daily processes and workflows that they use to do their jobs do not have security embedded in them. It will no longer be acceptable to create a security program that assumes end users will change their business processes to align with security goals. We need to focus on operationalizing security in ways that align with the very business flows that knowledge workers use every day. Where end-users are concerned, effective security protection will require aligning to their daily workflow, not the other way around.


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Cyber Security

Interview With Ernie Anderson – Kudelski Security




Ernie Anderson, Chief U.S. Services Officer of Kudelski Security, was interviewed by Safety Detectives’ Aviva Zacks. She got a chance to ask him about his fascinating journey to cybersecurity.

Safety Detectives: What was your journey to cybersecurity?

Ernie Anderson: I wish I could say that I predicted cybersecurity would be a hot topic when I started my professional career almost 20 years ago, but I just got lucky in choosing my career path. I grew up with technology and computers in the house, having a mother who worked for IBM for over 25 years before retiring. I always knew that I wanted to be in IT and enable businesses to work smarter, faster, and be more connected. Coming out of school at the peak of the dot com era was both exciting and scary. It was exciting because the Internet was connecting people in new ways never thought of before and technology advances were happening in leaps and bounds. It was a scary time because the business models behind companies advancing IT were breaking new ground.  This translates into a lot of change and uncertainty, which included getting laid off from my first “real job” due to a restructuring effort shortly after joining so the business could try to reposition for the emerging economy.

After that, I spent about a year searching for systems administrator jobs and found myself moving across the country from Boston to San Diego. By searching random job boards, I found work at a management consulting firm looking for a system/security administrator to manage all the hardware and software in their web application development environment. The role I filled grew out of a public breach that stemmed from non-security focused developers’ insecurely managed systems, including opening unnecessary firewall ports, deploying misconfigured systems, and a slew of general hygiene matters that would make any of today’s security professionals shake their head. My primary goal was to maintain security configurations of systems and monitor the lab. The funny thing about that job was I learned the most about hardening systems by figuring out how our developers were trying to circumnavigate controls because they didn’t have access to what they needed and doing things they weren’t supposed to. Fast forward 20 years, I’m still in the cybersecurity industry and just as excited about it as when I was a twenty-something out of college.

SD: What is Kudelski Security’s flagship product or service?

EA: Kudelski Security is an innovative, independent provider of cybersecurity solutions for large companies and public sector clients. We support our clients in the development, deployment, and administration of cybersecurity solutions through a combination of advanced managed security services, consulting, and security technologies.

As a managed security services provider (MSSP), we have invested millions of dollars into our experts, our methodologies, and infrastructure. We have honed our capabilities to separate the signal from the noise through our 24x7x365 Cyber Fusion Center (CFC), which provides management of all security devices across all environments – on-prem, cloud, OT, and IIoT. It also fuses contextualized threat intelligence with human analysis of data to rapidly identify, contain, and mitigate threats. We apply the information we gather from one network or system to every network or system we monitor, making our intelligence richer and more complete. For most organizations, the kind of investment such coverage would require makes no business sense.

SD: What industries use your solutions?

EA: Our clients include Fortune 500 enterprises and government organizations in Europe and across the United States. Key industries that use Kudelski Security’s solutions include financial services, energy and utilities, manufacturing, retail and wholesale, and software and internet services.

SD: What is the worst cyber threat today?

EA: People and users pose the greatest cyber risk today. It’s easier to trick someone into giving you the information you need vs. breaking into a system and circumventing controls to get it. In general, people are trusting so it’s easy to prey on them. Additionally, system users don’t always appreciate the risks they’re taking when handling data or collecting information. For example, it’s very simple to accidentally email out employee payroll information to a cached email address in your email client. Or maybe you want to test an application in the cloud, and you need some data to validate that it’s working. It’s easy to drop production/customer sensitive information where it shouldn’t be and have someone stumble across that temporary server that was never hardened. User mistakes and unintentional consequences from seemingly harmless decisions will always pose threats we have to manage.

SD: How is the cybersecurity landscape going to change over the next few years?

EA: The cybersecurity landscape is likely to shift due to two main factors: the increasing complexity of privacy rules and laws and cyber attacks with more catastrophic consequences.

In terms of privacy rules and laws, there will be an increased struggle for businesses to abide by the increasingly complex regulation and maintain a balance between security and privacy rights. We’re seeing a strong trend with a slew of privacy laws coming out like GDPR and CCPA that aim to put control of personal data back into the hands of individuals. We are likely to see more substantial punitive damages and penalties imposed on companies that are negligent in protecting data. These laws will continue to mature, become more stringent, and be more challenging to navigate.

On the other side of this equation, we’re going to see a battle between public health and the right to privacy. Take the COVID pandemic right now – contract tracing could be much more effective if we could track a person’s whereabouts, who they’ve been in contact with in the past 14 days, and where those additional contacts may have traveled. If we could then identify that person and all potentially affected people, we could curb COVID outbreaks much more quickly. While that sounds good in practice, there is the potential for unintended privacy implications that must be considered. There will most likely be a battle around privacy rights that will be much different in a post-COVID world.

In terms of cyber attacks, most of the public breaches and attacks experienced have been conducted for financial gain (e.g., ransomware and credit card theft), intellectual property/information gathering, or hacking for fun/notoriety. Eventually, we’re going to see the proliferation of technology (think IoT and connected everything) used as the vector for state-sponsored or terrorist attacks. Everything is connected and networked these days, and that will only continue to grow from phones and cars to medical equipment and massive operational control (OT) networks. We’re likely to see a cybersecurity attack be tied to a digital terrorist event and/or significant loss of life in our lifetime.


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