Revisiting the SpyEye/ZeuS Merger

In October 2010, I discovered that the authors of the SpyEye and ZeuS banking Trojans — once competitors in the market for botnet creation and management kits — were planning to kill further development of ZeuS and fuse the two malware families into one supertrojan. Initially, I heard some skepticism from folks in the security community about this. But three months later, security experts are starting to catch glimpses of this new hybrid Trojan in the wild, with the author(s) shipping a series of beta releases that include updated features on a nearly-daily basis.

It probably didn’t help that the first report of a blended version of SpyEye/ZeuS (referred to as SpyZeuS for the remainder of this post) — detailed in a McAfee blog post — turned out to be a scam. But a little more a week ago, Trend Micro spotted snapshots and details of SpyZeuS components, noting that the author appears to have received help from other criminals in polishing this latest release; in particular, an add-on that grabs credit card numbers from hacked PCs, and a plugin designed to attack the anti-Trojan tool Rapport from Trusteer. (Trusteer’s Amit Klein addresses this component in a blog post here).

Seculert, a new threat alert service started by former RSA fraud expert Aviv Raff, includes some screen shots of the administrative panel of SpyZeuS that show the author trying to appeal to users of both Trojans, by allowing customers to control and update their botnets using either the traditional ZeuS or SpyEye Web interface.

The hybrid SpyZeuS Trojan lets users interact with bots via the ZeuS control panel (left) or the SpyEye interface.

Raff said the author(s) has been adding new features to both the bot and the control panels nearly every day.

“This is under heavy development at the moment,” Raff said. “That’s why the version we wrote about was called 1.3.05 Beta, because it’s still not the [general availability] version. The author is still trying things out.”

The same day Raff’s post went up, a source forwarded me a link to a video posted to a popular hacker forum by a SpyZeuS customer who was using an even newer version, v. 1.3.09 Beta. The video (which the poster starts with a typo confusing ZeuS and SpyEye) shows how this user managed to hack the protection scheme built into SpyEye that is supposed to prevent buyers from making unauthorized copies of the crimeware package. Very shortly after posting that video, the user who recorded it had his forum account compromised and his personal and financial details posted online.

Update, 10:26 a.m.: Added response from Trusteer. Also, a previous version of this post incorrectly attributed a McAfee blog post to Trend Micro. The above text has been corrected.

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