Actual Crooks Signal Their Malware – Krebs on Safety

Code-signing certificates are supposed to assist authenticate the id of software program publishers, and supply cryptographic assurance {that a} signed piece of software program has not been altered or tampered with. Each of those qualities make stolen or ill-gotten code-signing certificates enticing to cybercriminal teams, who prize their capacity so as to add stealth and longevity to malicious software program. This publish is a deep dive on “Megatraffer,” a veteran Russian hacker who has virtually cornered the underground marketplace for malware centered code-signing certificates since 2015.

One in every of Megatraffer’s advertisements on an English-language cybercrime discussion board.

A overview of Megatraffer’s posts on Russian crime boards reveals this consumer started peddling particular person stolen code-signing certs in 2015 on the Russian-language discussion board Exploit, and shortly expanded to promoting certificates for cryptographically signing functions and recordsdata designed to run in Microsoft Home windows, Java, Adobe AIR, Mac and Microsoft Workplace.

Megatraffer defined that malware purveyors want a certificates as a result of many antivirus merchandise might be much more all in favour of unsigned software program, and since signed recordsdata downloaded from the Web don’t are inclined to get blocked by safety features constructed into fashionable internet browsers. Moreover, newer variations of Microsoft Home windows will complain with a vivid yellow or pink alert message if customers attempt to set up a program that isn’t signed.

“Why do I want a certificates?” Megatraffer requested rhetorically of their Jan. 2016 gross sales thread on Exploit. “Antivirus software program trusts signed packages extra. For some varieties of software program, a digital signature is necessary.”

On the time, Megatraffer was promoting distinctive code-signing certificates for $700 apiece, and charging greater than twice that quantity ($1,900) for an “prolonged validation” or EV code-signing cert, which is meant to solely include extra id vetting of the certificates holder. In line with Megatraffer, EV certificates have been a “must-have” should you needed to signal malicious software program or {hardware} drivers that will reliably work in newer Home windows working methods.

A part of Megatraffer’s advert. Picture:

Megatraffer has continued to supply their code-signing companies throughout greater than a half-dozen different Russian-language cybercrime boards, principally within the type of sporadically accessible EV and non-EV code-signing certificates from main distributors like Thawte and Comodo.

Extra just lately, it seems Megatraffer has been working with ransomware teams to assist enhance the stealth of their malware. Shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, somebody leaked a number of years of inside chat logs from the Conti ransomware gang, and people logs present Megatraffer was working with the group to assist code-sign their malware between July and October 2020.


In line with cyber intelligence agency Intel 471, Megatraffer has been lively on greater than a half-dozen crime boards from September 2009 to the current day. And on most of those identities, Megatraffer has used the e-mail tackle That very same e mail tackle is also tied to 2 discussion board accounts for a consumer with the deal with “O.R.Z.”

Constella Intelligence, an organization that tracks uncovered databases, finds that was utilized in reference to only a handful of passwords, however most often the password “featar24“. Pivoting off of that password reveals a handful of e mail addresses, together with

Intel 471 reveals was used to register one other O.R.Z. consumer account — this one on Verified[.]ru in 2008. Previous to that, was used as the e-mail tackle for the account “Fitis,” which was lively on Exploit between September 2006 and Might 2007. Constella discovered the password “featar24” additionally was used at the side of the e-mail tackle, which is tied to one more O.R.Z. account on Carder[.]su from 2008.

The e-mail tackle was used to create a Livejournal weblog profile named Fitis that has a big bear as its avatar. In November 2009, Fitis wrote, “I’m the proper prison. My fingerprints change past recognition each few days. A minimum of my laptop computer is bound of it.”

Fitis’s Livejournal account. Picture:

Fitis’s real-life id was uncovered in 2010 after two of the most important sponsors of pharmaceutical spam went to battle with one another, and enormous volumes of inside paperwork, emails and chat data seized from each spam empires have been leaked to this creator. That protracted and public battle shaped the backdrop of my 2014 ebook — “Spam Nation: The Inside Story of Organized Cybercrime, from International Epidemic to Your Entrance Door.

One of many leaked paperwork included a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet containing the true names, addresses, cellphone numbers, emails, road addresses and WebMoney addresses for dozens of high earners in Spamit — on the time probably the most profitable pharmaceutical spam associates program within the Russian hacking scene and one which employed most of the high Russian botmasters.

That doc reveals Fitis was one in every of Spamit’s most prolific recruiters, bringing greater than 75 associates to the Spamit program over a number of years previous to its implosion in 2010 (and incomes commissions on any future gross sales from all 75 associates).

The doc additionally says Fitis acquired paid utilizing a WebMoney account that was created when its proprietor introduced a legitimate Russian passport for a Konstantin Evgenievich Fetisov, born Nov. 16, 1982 and residing in Moscow. Russian motorized vehicle data present two totally different autos are registered to this particular person on the similar Moscow tackle.

Essentially the most fascinating area identify registered to the e-mail tackle, fittingly sufficient, is fitis[.]ru, which says was registered in 2005 to a Konstantin E. Fetisov from Moscow.

The Wayback Machine at has a handful of principally clean pages listed for fitis[.]ru in its early years, however for a quick interval in 2007 it seems this web site was inadvertently exposing all of its file directories to the Web.

One of many uncovered recordsdata — Glavmed.html — is a common invitation to the notorious Glavmed pharmacy associates program, a now-defunct scheme that paid tens of tens of millions of {dollars} to associates who marketed on-line tablet outlets primarily by hacking web sites and manipulating search engine outcomes. Glavmed was operated by the identical Russian cybercriminals who ran the Spamit program.

A Google translated advert circa 2007 recruiting for the pharmacy associates program Glavmed, which advised candidates to contact the ICQ quantity utilized by Fitis, a.okay.a. MegaTraffer. Picture: reveals the fitis[.]ru webpage with the Glavmed invitation was constantly up to date with new invite codes. Of their message to would-be Glavmed associates, this system administrator requested candidates to contact them on the ICQ quantity 165540027, which Intel 471 discovered was an instantaneous messenger tackle beforehand utilized by Fitis on Exploit.

The uncovered recordsdata within the archived model of fitis[.]ru embody supply code for malicious software program, lists of compromised web sites used for pharmacy spam, and a handful of what are apparently private recordsdata and images. Among the many images is a 2007 picture labeled merely “fitis.jpg,” which reveals a bespectacled, bearded younger man with a ponytail standing subsequent to what seems to be a newly-married couple at a marriage ceremony.

Mr. Fetisov didn’t reply to requests for remark.

As a veteran organizer of affiliate packages, Fitis didn’t waste a lot time constructing a brand new moneymaking collective after Spamit closed up store. New York Metropolis-based cyber intelligence agency Flashpoint discovered that Megatraffer’s ICQ was the contact quantity for Himba[.]ru, a cost-per-acquisition (CPA) program launched in 2012 that paid handsomely for accomplished software varieties tied to quite a lot of monetary devices, together with shopper bank cards, insurance coverage insurance policies, and loans.

“Megatraffer’s entrenched presence on cybercrime boards strongly means that malicious means are used to supply at the very least a portion of site visitors delivered to HIMBA’s advertisers,” Flashpoint noticed in a menace report on the actor.

Intel 471 finds that Himba was an lively associates program till round Might 2019, when it stopping paying its associates.

Fitis’s Himba associates program, circa February 2014. Picture:

Flashpoint notes that in September 2015, Megatraffer posted a job advert on Exploit in search of skilled coders to work on browser plugins, installers and “loaders” — principally distant entry trojans (RATs) that set up communication between the attacker and a compromised system.

“The actor specified that he’s searching for full-time, onsite assist both in his Moscow or Kiev places,” Flashpoint wrote.

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