CoolWebSearch is winning Trojan war

Discussion in 'privacy general' started by bobgilles, Jul 7, 2004.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. bobgilles

    bobgilles Registered Member

    Joined:
    May 1, 2004
    Posts:
    12
    CoolWebSearch is winning Trojan war

    Published Tuesday 29th June 2004 09:05 GMT
    Merijn Bellekom has abandoned developing software that removes one of the nastiest browser hijackers on the planet: CoolWebSearch, a trojan that converts your PC into a source of revenue for fly-by-night porn sites not capable of generating legitimate Web traffic. Bill Gates is offering any programmer $10 Million cash that can defeat it, it now infects more than 90 Million computers worldwide.

    The trojan installs dozens of bookmarks to foul porn sites on your desktop; it also adds a toolbar to Internet Explorer and changes your home page without asking. And it significantly slows down the performance of your PC, and introduces some modifications which cause Windows to freeze, crash or randomly reboot.

    It takes a brave Dutch student, Merijn Bellekom, to remove the hijacker effectively; but CWS seems to be winning, leaving users at risk.

    Bellekom has just released the latest version of his CWShredder (1.59), the only antidote to the trojan, but warns that his app won't be updated again: "I have a few bugs to fix, but after that there's not much left to do. I simply do not have the tools to remove the latest variants. They are too aggressive or too complicated to allow for automated removal."

    He has tracked CWS and its modifications ever since it first appeared last summer, claiming that it is "the most complex, invisible and devious hijacker" ever programmed. He is not joking: We run afoul of CWS not too long ago and the only way to remove the sucker was to replace the entire Windows Registry with a previous version. Even MSIE 6 Service Pack 2 (beta) couldn't provide any protection.

    The first modifications weren't even identified as such, according to Bellekom. Users began to report significant slowdowns when they typed messages into text boxes. Merijn believes CoolWebSearch is part of a new strain of trojans that install through the ByteVerify exploit in the MS Java Virtual Machine.

    Fighting CoolWebSearch has become a daunting task. The criminals behind it often engage in Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks against sites that host CWShredder. Some variants try to cripple CWShredder and other spyware removal tools. New versions of CWS are released almost every few weeks. Bellekom's chronicle of variants pretty much reads like a horror story. Merijn calls the latest variants "a living hell".

    Some have already volunteered to update CWShredder, but rather than playing a never-ending cat-and-mouse game, why not hunt for the people behind it? Sites such as Webhelper4u already provide a lot of evidence of their whereabouts.

    The trojan often redirects users to sites affiliated with CoolWebSearch, a Russian pay-per-click search engine where companies can bid for keywords. The site accumulated over 1000 affiliates since last year, all with their own site. CWS itself denies any involvement with the trojan: "We are buying surfers' searches from webmasters all over the world. Maybe some webmasters, who are sending visitor traffic to us, are challenging your system's security," the company says.

    Perhaps. But only if there is money involved. Do largely unknown Russian search sites or their affiliates earn that much money? We doubt it, not without the help of their western counterparts, anyway. Which may be the key to the solution: follow the money trail and you may get some answers. ®
     
  2. optigrab

    optigrab Registered Member

    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2002
    Posts:
    624
    Location:
    Brooklyn/NYC USA
  3. WilliamP

    WilliamP Registered Member

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2003
    Posts:
    2,201
    Location:
    Fayetteville, Ga
    How does someone come in contact with the CWS. I have seen some posts in forums where people were having fits trying to get rid of it. I have a lot of security but I am not interested in testing it. In other words how do you avoid CWS. o_O
     
  4. snowbound

    snowbound Retired Moderator

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2003
    Posts:
    8,723
    Location:
    The Big Smoke
    Hi WilliamP.

    Take a look at this,

    https://www.wilderssecurity.com/showthread.php?t=27971


    snowbound
     
  5. WilliamP

    WilliamP Registered Member

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2003
    Posts:
    2,201
    Location:
    Fayetteville, Ga
    Thank you for the link. Do you have to go to porn sites to encounter CWS?
     
  6. snowbound

    snowbound Retired Moderator

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2003
    Posts:
    8,723
    Location:
    The Big Smoke
    No.

    Here is a link,

    http://www.spywareinfoforum.com/articles/cws/

    with just a short list of some of the domain sites with the CWS Hijacker.

    Some of them, u may recognize.


    snowbound
     
  7. snowbound

    snowbound Retired Moderator

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2003
    Posts:
    8,723
    Location:
    The Big Smoke
  8. Pigman

    Pigman Registered Member

    Joined:
    May 15, 2004
    Posts:
    381
    Is it possible to get this bugger when using FireFox? (Maybe I should get SpywareGuard...)
     
  9. chew

    chew Registered Member

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2004
    Posts:
    515
    Location:
    GeordieLand.
    Snowbound and everyone

    I have just banned / blocked some of those nasty links using my AV.

    I typed them in the Banned URL and Banned access to IP on my McAfee AV Internet Filter.

    D'oh! ... the list is so long.

    Do you think AV companies have automatically blocked / banned those websites so people cannot access them?

    I have been typing into my AV to ban those websites for the last 1 hr.

    :(
     
  10. nick s

    nick s Registered Member

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2002
    Posts:
    1,430
    Managing your hosts file this way might be quicker: http://www.mvps.org/winhelp2002/hosts.htm.

    Nick
     
  11. chew

    chew Registered Member

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2004
    Posts:
    515
    Location:
    GeordieLand.
    Thanks Nick S for the info.

    I am just wondering why the AV just don't simply banned those infected sites automatically ...

    Just saw the list of CWS ... Wow! D'oh! there are tonnes of them really all over. It seems like CWS has covered most of the words from A - Z on the net. i.e. if you search the net using a particular word(s) like Pharmacy etc., ... The chances of you "stepping" on the "CWS booby traps" can be rather high.

    So it looks like the battle with CWS will continue for an unforseeable future ...

    :(
     
  12. nadirah

    nadirah Registered Member

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2003
    Posts:
    3,647
    This crazy war against CWS is like as if we are fighting World War II again!
    Only now that this war uses computers to fight, not bombs and guns.
    Or maybe this is World War III? :eek:
     
  13. Ronin

    Ronin Guest

    No. Unless you somehow hacked MS's Java to run in Firefox :)
     
  14. bgreg

    bgreg Registered Member

    Joined:
    Jul 12, 2004
    Posts:
    4
    Location:
    Colorado
    I run Nod32 w/ every update possible, also ZoneAlarm firewall set up with every imaginable security setting and i got ahold of it. Have no idea how either. 10 million huh ? Might be worth some of our time,lol.
     
  15. Pigman

    Pigman Registered Member

    Joined:
    May 15, 2004
    Posts:
    381
    Do you use IE as your primary browser?

    If you do, you have an enormous, gaping security hole... The number of IE vulnerabilities is very high indeed.
     
  16. Paranoid2000

    Paranoid2000 Registered Member

    Joined:
    May 2, 2004
    Posts:
    2,839
    Location:
    North West, United Kingdom
    Has anyone produced a list of the sites added to Favourites by CWS? (i.e. the ones that pay the authors money to get listed). These would seem prime candidates for some loving from Unsolicited Commando or Form Flooder - note that these need webpages with fields for name/address/credit card number so the "CWS affiliate" lists aren't too much help here.
     
  17. nadirah

    nadirah Registered Member

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2003
    Posts:
    3,647
    A little advice for you: using IE as your primary browser is like wearing a shirt that says "hack my computer" - at some point, someone will.
    STOP using IE, it's horrible.
     
  18. gerardwil

    gerardwil Registered Member

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2004
    Posts:
    4,748
    Location:
    The Netherlands
    I dont think "hackers" are interested in home computers.
     
  19. nadirah

    nadirah Registered Member

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2003
    Posts:
    3,647
    Hackers are only interested in home computers without any protection. ;)
    They won't bother about home computers which are protected.
     
  20. gerardwil

    gerardwil Registered Member

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2004
    Posts:
    4,748
    Location:
    The Netherlands
    I disagree. They are far more interested in protected systems and how to bypass i.e. firewalls etc.
    Dont mix up hackers, viruses, cws etc.
     
  21. nadirah

    nadirah Registered Member

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2003
    Posts:
    3,647
    Ok, now i know.
     
  22. Ronin

    Ronin Guest

    Computers which are wide open pose no challenge and are boring. Unless you are some script kiddie thyat is.
     
Loading...
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.