Floki Bot Malware Exposed by Cisco Talos and Flashpoint

Cisco Talos and Flashpoint researchers collaborate to determine how the Zeus-based malware variant works, in an effort that benefited from the use of a new open-source tool for security information sharing.

Floki Bot malware is an emerging threat and is based on source code that originally came from the Zeus trojan, according to research published December 7 by Cisco Talos and Flashpoint.

The two security research groups worked together to analyze the Floki Bot malware which was created by a threat adversary that uses the alias flokibot. Cisco Talos Threat Researcher Edmund Brumaghin commented that collaboration is extremely important when it comes to identifying and disrupting the activities of cybercriminals.

"Adversaries frequently work together in their attempt to monetize their malicious activities," Brumaghin told eWEEK. "By collaborating with Flashpoint, Talos was able to quickly gain important insight into the operation behind Floki Bot which allowed us to more effectively protect our customers and the general public."

Floki Bot is based on the Zeus trojan, which had its source code leaked onto the internet back in May 2011.

"Since the Zeus source code was leaked, there have been several variants created using this codebase and many have been marketed within the cybercriminal underground as the next big thing," Brumaghin said. "Anytime a less-sophisticated attacker can leverage an existing codebase to make a quick buck they have and they will continue to do so to try to monetize their efforts."

Flashpoint estimates that Floki Bot is currently used by at least ten distinct cybercriminal gangs. The Floki Bot is being sold in dark web forums for approximately $1,000 US.

"The author offers a malware builder for Floki Bot that can be used to generate Floki Bot infections as well as host the C&C (Command and Control) panels," Vitali Kremez, Senior Analyst, Cybercrime Intelligence for Flashpoint, told eWEEK. "However, the author does not provide full source code of the malware."

Flashpoint's analysis also points to a multi-national sales model for Floki Bot. According to Kremez, the Floki Bot malware is being sold on the Russian underground among others and it attracts Russian, Brazilian, and English-speaking cybercriminals.

The author of Floki Bot is thought to be from Brazil, though Kremez noted that the author used and improved on original source code developed by the Russian national Evgeniy Bogachev. Bogachev was indicted by the U.S Department of Justice in June 2014, for his role in the Gameover Zeus botnet. To date, Bogachev has evaded capture by law enforcement and remains at large.

According to Cisco Talos, the Floki Bot malware makes use of a technique known as a 'trampoline' in order to get access to a system.

"Trampoline code is a common programming technique used by malware authors," Brumaghin explained. "Trampolines are not indicative of the possession of a particular privilege level or the existence of an exploit."

Among the differences between Floki Bot and the Zeus code on which it is based, is that Floki Bot can potentially also make use of the Tor network, to hide its tracks. Tor is a networking platform that aims to help users protect their privacy and maintain a degree of anonymity. Floki Bot also includes additional capabilities that attempt to keep the code hidden and prevent accurate detection by security technologies.

A key part of the analysis of Floki Bot was enabled with the use of the new Function Identification and Recovery Signature Tool (FIRST) technology. Cisco Talos announced FIRST on December 1 as an open-source platform that helps to enable collaboration and information sharing for security analysts and reverse engineers.

"While the same analysis could have been performed without using FIRST, it would have taken more time and effort," Brumaghin said. "This further highlights the need for collaboration within the security research community."

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner is an Internet consultant, strategist, and contributor to several leading IT business web sites.