Today, following an investigation to which the Microsoft Malware Protection Center (MMPC) contributed, the Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit initiated a disruption of the Jenxcus and Bladabindi malware families. These families are believed to have been created by individuals Naser Al Mutairi, aka njQ8, and Mohamed Benabdellah, aka Houdini. These actions are the first steps to stop the people that created, distributed, and assisted the propagation of these malware families.
There are more details about the takedown itself in the latest blog from the Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit.
At the MMPC we have been monitoring both malware families for some time. We have observed the Bladabindi family since at least July 2012. Jenxcus came onto the scene as early as December 2012. During the past year, Microsoft detected more than 7,486,833 instances of computers operating Microsoft Windows with some version of Bladabindi or Jenxcus.
Figure 1: Heat map showing the global impact of Bladabindi and Jenxcus during the past year
Figure 2: Machine encounters per month for Jenxcus
Figure 3: Machine encounters per month for Bladabindi
These families can install backdoor trojans on your computer, which allow criminals to steal your information, such as your passwords, and use your computer to collect other sensitive information. For example, Bladabindi can take snapshots and record videos without your permission. It can also control your system remotely.
These backdoor trojans can also upload new components or malware to your computer to add more malicious functionality. They often communicate with hosts that are typically a Dynamic DNS service such as NO-IP because this makes them more difficult to trace.
Figure 4: An example dashboard showing how an attacker controls infected machines
Figure 5: The possible commands available to the malware writer
These malware families spread primarily through social engineering techniques that try to trick unsuspecting victims into carrying out some action which results in their computer getting infected. For example, Bladabindi can be installed when you:
- Visit a hacked website.
- Click on a malicious link in a social media message.
- Receive and open an email “sent” by friends and family who have been infected with the malware.
Bladabindi also plants files with enticing names and icons on removable media and linked drives to lure new victims. There are more example of these techniques in our blog MSRT January 2014 – Bladabindi.
Most Jenxcus infections occur through torrents and websites when the malware is bundled with other programs or videos. Jenxcus also tries to trick you into installing it by pretending to be a Flash update that you need to install before watching a video. After infecting a computer, Jenxcus leaves enticing shortcut files on removable media that look like songs or other personal files. When opened these files run a copy of the malware.
Through our research we have observed that there is information available in public online forums and group discussions, including tutorials, which allow anyone to download a package and create their own versions of the malware. This makes Bladabindi and Jenxcus a bit different from the previous botnets we have seen. A traditional botnet usually has one command-and-control (CNC) server to control all infected machines. In the case of Bladabinda and Jenxcus there can be a syndicate of botnets and thousands of botnet herders.
Figure 6: The communication method of the CNC and the infected system
Microsoft added Bladabindi to the Malicious Software Removal Tool in January 2014. Jenxcus was added to the MSRT in February 2014. However, with aggressive infection and distribution methods, the malware authors and the distribution system behind them have continued to affect thousands of Microsoft customers every day.
Anyone concerned that their computer is infected with malware should follow the guidance available from the Microsoft Support Virus and Security Center. To help stay protected we also recommend you to install an up-to-date, real-time protection security product such as Microsoft Security Essentials.
Tanmay Ganacharya and Francis Tan Seng