The customers of 18 banks in the United Kingdom have been targeted by cybercriminals in a campaign leveraging the latest major version of the Qadars banking Trojan.
Qadars has been around since 2013, but IBM X-Force researchers said the third major version of the malware was only released in the first quarter of 2016. Since 2015, cybercriminals have been using the malware in attacks aimed at Australia, Canada, the United States and the Netherlands, but the latest variant has been set up to target the U.K. as well.
The malware has a modular architecture and provides all the features needed by cybercriminals to steal money from bank accounts, including web injections fetched in real time from a remote server, systems for monitoring and manipulating browser activity, SMS hijacking apps for bypassing 2FA, and automated transfer system (ATS) panels that make it easier to manage operations.
In addition to banks, the Trojan has been used to steal credentials for social networks, sports betting websites, e-commerce platforms and payment services.
Qadars v3 variants bring improved performance for web injection mechanisms, and they are better at evading detection and preventing researchers from analyzing them. Obfuscation has been enhanced, and the Tor network is used for downloading modules and for C&C communications.
In order to gain administrator rights on the targeted machine, the Trojan displays a fake Windows security update, which triggers a user account control (UAC) dialog that keeps popping up until the victim clicks “Yes” and grants Qadars elevated privileges.
“Qadars attack volumes, compared to Trojans like Neverquest or Dridex, are more humble. While it is not one of the top 10 financial malware threats on the global list, however, this Trojan has been flying under the radar for over three years, attacking banks in different regions using advanced features and capabilities,” explained IBM’s Limor Kessem and Hanan Natan. “It’s possible that Qadars attack volumes remain limited because its operators choose to focus on specific countries in each of their infection sprees, likely to keep their operation focused and less visible.”
Based on the Qadars v3 release notes published in May 2016, researchers believe the malware’s author is most likely a Russian-speaking black hat.