April 18, 2024

Code-signing certificates are supposed to assist authenticate the identification 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 capability so as to add stealth and longevity to malicious software program. This put up is a deep dive on “Megatraffer,” a veteran Russian hacker who has virtually cornered the underground marketplace for malware targeted code-signing certificates since 2015.

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

A evaluate of Megatraffer’s posts on Russian crime boards exhibits 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 purposes 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 can be much more interested by unsigned software program, and since signed recordsdata downloaded from the Web don’t are inclined to get blocked by security measures constructed into trendy internet browsers. Moreover, newer variations of Microsoft Home windows will complain with a shiny yellow or purple alert message if customers attempt to set up a program that’s not signed.

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

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 identification vetting of the certificates holder. In accordance with Megatraffer, EV certificates had been a “must-have” in case you wished 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: Ke-la.com.

Megatraffer has continued to supply their code-signing companies throughout greater than a half-dozen different Russian-language cybercrime boards, largely 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 inner 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 accordance 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 deal with [email protected]. That very same e mail deal with 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 [email protected] 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 [email protected].

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

The e-mail deal with [email protected] was used to create a Livejournal blog profile named Fitis that has a big bear as its avatar. In November 2009, Fitis wrote, “I’m the right felony. My fingerprints change past recognition each few days. At the very least my laptop computer is bound of it.”

Fitis’s Livejournal account. Picture: Archive.org.

Fitis’s real-life identification was uncovered in 2010 after two of the largest sponsors of pharmaceutical spam went to conflict with one another, and enormous volumes of inner paperwork, emails and chat data seized from each spam empires had been leaked to this creator. That protracted and public battle fashioned the backdrop of my 2014 e book — “Spam Nation: The Inside Story of Organized Cybercrime, from Global Epidemic to Your Front 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 many of the high Russian botmasters.

That doc exhibits Fitis was one in all 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 obtained paid utilizing a WebMoney account that was created when its proprietor introduced a sound Russian passport for a Konstantin Evgenievich Fetisov, born Nov. 16, 1982 and residing in Moscow. Russian motorcar data present two completely different automobiles are registered to this individual on the identical Moscow deal with.

Probably the most fascinating area title registered to the e-mail deal with [email protected], fittingly sufficient, is fitis[.]ru, which DomainTools.com says was registered in 2005 to a Konstantin E. Fetisov from Moscow.

The Wayback Machine at archive.org has a handful of largely clean pages listed for fitis[.]ru in its early years, however for a brief period in 2007 it seems this web site was inadvertently exposing all of its file directories to the Internet.

One of many uncovered recordsdata — Glavmed.html — is a basic invitation to the notorious Glavmed pharmacy associates program, a now-defunct scheme that paid tens of hundreds of thousands of {dollars} to associates who marketed on-line capsule outlets primarily by hacking web sites and manipulating search engine outcomes. Glavmed was operated by the same 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: Archive.org.

Archive.org exhibits the fitis[.]ru webpage with the Glavmed invitation was repeatedly 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 prompt messenger deal with 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 exhibits 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 applications, 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 client bank cards, insurance coverage insurance policies, and loans.

“Megatraffer’s entrenched presence on cybercrime boards strongly means that malicious means are used to supply not less than a portion of site visitors delivered to HIMBA’s advertisers,” Flashpoint noticed in a risk report on the actor.

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

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

Flashpoint notes that in September 2015, Megatraffer posted a job advert on Exploit looking for 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 areas,” Flashpoint wrote.