Feb 22, 2018

Dupe an antivirus program for under $300

A slightly on-the-nose depiction of malware. Photo: ullstein bild / Getty

Researchers at Recorded Future profiled the only two large sellers of fraudulently acquired “software certificates” in a new report. With prices as low as $299, the illicit certificates can evade some digital defenses on the cheap.

Why it matters: Software certificates are essentially a high-tech way for computers to ask a trusted third party, “hey, have you ever heard of this program?” If that system breaks down, unsuspecting users may end up installing malware without any warning.

  • The details: For between $299 (for a low-end certificate from the antivirus firm Comodo, allowing a program to start building a reputation for not being malicious) and $1,599 (for a certificate from Symantec that already has passed those filters) a criminal can purchase certificates through one of the vendors.
  • The nitty-gritty: The vendors both appear to be selling primarily to a Eastern European market through hacker forums.
  • Does it work? It sure seems to. The report found that malware that was caught by eight mostly high-end antivirus programs was only caught by two antivirus programs after adding the fraudulent certificate.
    • “It can effectively be used to obfuscate malware from any antivirus program,” Andrei Barysevich, the researcher behind the report, told Axios.
  • Only two? Recorded Future is a threat intelligence firm that operates like a search engine for the darkest corners of the internet that search engines are unable to access. Their search and consultation with experts only turned up the two major vendors of fake certificates.

Go deeper

World coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

Brazil's Ministry of Health reported Sunday 15,813 new coronavirus cases and 653 more deaths within 24 hours. 362,211 have tested positive for the virus, which has killed 22,666 in the country.

By the numbers: Over 5.4 million people have tested positive for the virus as of Monday, and more than 2.1 million have recovered. The U.S. has reported the most cases in the world (over 1.6 million from 13.7 million tests). The U.K. is reporting over 36,800 deaths from the coronavirus — the most fatalities outside the U.S.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of midnight ET: 5,401,701 — Total deaths: 345,060 — Total recoveries — 2,149,407Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of midnight ET: 1,643,238 — Total deaths: 97,720 — Total recoveries: 366,736 — Total tested: 14,163,195Map.
  3. World: White House announces travel restrictions on Brazil, coronavirus hotspot in Southern Hemisphere Over 100 coronavirus cases in Germany tied to single day of church services — Boris Johnson backs top aide amid reports that he broke U.K. lockdown while exhibiting symptoms.
  4. Public health: Officials are urging Americans to wear masks headed into Memorial Day weekend Report finds "little evidence" coronavirus under control in most statesHurricanes, wildfires, the flu could strain COVID-19 response
  5. Economy: White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett says it's possible the unemployment rate could still be in double digits by November's election — Public employees brace for layoffs.
  6. Federal government: Trump attacks a Columbia University study that suggests earlier lockdown could have saved 36,000 American lives.
  7. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredTraveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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Updated 44 mins ago - Politics & Policy

U.S. coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios. This graphic includes "probable deaths" that New York City began reporting on April 14.

President Trump doubled down on his push to reopen schools, tweeting late Sunday: "Schools in our country should be opened ASAP."

Zoom in: Trump pushed back on NIAD Director Anthony Fauci cautioning against the move earlier this month, calling his concerns "not an acceptable answer."