Security Experts:

Bartalex Malware Used to Deliver Dyre Banking Trojan to Enterprises

Researchers at Trend Micro have spotted thousands of spam emails designed to deliver a piece of malware to organizations.

According to the security firm, the attack starts with a fake email that appears to come from the Automated Clearing House (ACH). The messages inform recipients that their ACH transfer has been declined by the bank and instruct them to click on a link for more details.

The links point to a malicious document hosted on Dropbox. Trend Micro reported seeing over one thousand Dropbox links used in this attack. It’s not uncommon for cybercrooks to leverage Dropbox to host malware, but researchers say this is the first time the file hosting service has been used host macro-based malware.

The malicious documents observed in the recent attacks hide a variant of the Bartalex malware (W2KM_BARTALEX.SMA). The document instructs users to enable macros in order to view its content. Once macros are enabled, the malware downloads a variant of the notorious Dyre banking Trojan to infected systems.

Over the last three months, most of the Bartalex infections spotted by Trend Micro were in the United States (35 percent), followed by Canada (11 percent) and Australia (11 percent).

“We noticed that this attack used an old Microsoft Office 2010 logo. Given that many enterprises do not immediately upgrade to the latest Office versions, it is possible that users within enterprise organizations may fall victim to this technique,” Trend Micro researchers wrote in a blog post.

Dyre is highly popular among cybercriminals. In January, Trend Micro reported that malicious actors had been distributing the threat with the aid of the Upatre downloader and a worm designed to send out malicious emails via Microsoft Outlook. Earlier this month, IBM revealed that a cybercrime ring had stolen more than $1 million from the corporate accounts of US businesses using Dyre.

Using macros to infect computers is an old technique, but it can still be highly efficient for targeting both consumers and enterprises. In the past period, researchers noticed macros being used in operations leveraging pieces of malware such as Dridex, Rovnix and Vawtrak.

“Addressing macro malware in an enterprise (and small and medium-sized business) setting involves reevaluating and revisiting existing security policies. It’s also advisable to decrease the attack surface area by making sure systems within the corporation have the necessary security measures in place: for instance, it may be wise to disable Windows Scripting Host on users’ systems if it serves no substantial purpose,” Trend Micro recommends. “Lastly, user education will go a long way in defending against these types of threats, in particular, those that exploit human error, e.g., enabling malicious macros in Word documents.”

view counter
Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.