Gods, Monsters and Pandas – Threats Lurking in the Cyber Realm

With new viruses constantly being developed and new groups being formed all the time, hackers should use their creative minds to come up with original names to distinguish their tools/group from the rest. While some names are rather trite and corny, others are more amusing and curious. Generally speaking, the names usually fall under one of about ten categories. Here are a few examples:

The following are some elaborations on specific names:

Torshammer666: Thor’s hammer, or Mjölnir in Norse mythology, is depicted as one of the most powerful weapons, forged by the skillful hands of the dwarves. However, it seems that one Nordic god was not enough for this specific hacker, so he walked the extra mile and added the ominous number 666 to the tool name, to create an intimidating effect stemming from the thought of a Nordic-Satanic-almighty-weapon.

Fallaga: The famous Tunisian hacker group Fallaga is named after the anti-colonial movement that fought for the independence of Tunisia (there were also Fallaga warriors in Algeria). The character in the group’s logo resembles the original Fallaga fighters.

熊猫烧香 (Panda Burning Incense) – Everybody loves those adorable, chubby, harmless bears called Pandas! They are native to China, and serve as its national animal and mascot. As such, it is no wonder that panda-themed characters and cartoons figure extensively in China in various contexts, often symbolically representing China internationally. And now the pandas have even invaded the virus realm! In 2006-2007 the 熊猫烧香 virus infected millions of computers throughout China and led to the first-ever arrests in the country under virus-spreading charges. The ultimate goal of the virus was to install password-stealing Trojans, but it was its manifestation on the victim’s device that attracted a lot of attention: the virus replaced all infected files icons with a cute image of a panda holding three incense sticks in its hands, hence the name “Panda Burning Incense.”

Bozok (Turkish) – It may refer to one of the two branches (along with Üçok) in Turkish and Turkic legendary history from which three sons of Oghuz Khan (Günhan, Ayhan, and Yıldızhan) and their 12 clans are traced (from Wikipedia.)

推杆熊猫 (Putter Panda, putter=golf stick) – Another Panda-themed name. It is widely recognized that golf is the sport of white collar professionals, usually those on the upper end of the salary ladder. That is why, when these prominent figures travel abroad to a convention or on a business trip (and engage in semi-business/semi-pleasure golf activities), they are sometimes subjected to sophisticated hacker attacks, usually initiated by their host country, as suspected in the case of Putter Panda and its ties with the Chinese government.

As you read these lines, more tools are being written, and we can expect to continue to see more intriguing names. The Chinese idiom 卧虎藏龙 (literally: “crouching tiger, hidden dragon”), which was the inspiration for the successful namesake movie, nowadays actually means “hidden, undiscovered talents.” Maybe it is time the gifted tigers and dragons of the hacker community climbed out of their dark caves, stopped performing illegal activities, and put their pooled talents (be they computing or copywriting) to good use?

 

Chinese Hackers Leverage World-Cup Buzz

On May 14th we brought you a report regarding hacktivists threatening to wage cyber attacks against the Brazilian government and FIFA. This time, we are publishing yet another World-Cup-related post, but from a slightly different angle.

China, the world’s most populous country, is also the world’s leader in terms of number of cellphone users. The smartphone revolution did not skip China, and oh boy did it make an impact! Chinese people love their phones. No, Chinese people are obsessed with their phones might be a more precise choice of words.

As you probably know, Chinese cities are not small (quite an understatement!), and commute time has to be killed somehow. That’s why riding the subway in China, except for being overwhelmingly crowded at times, is also just the perfect timing for many passengers to indulge in intensive game-playing! While some prefer to fiercely ride a digital motorcycle, shoot intruding aliens, or grow vegetables in a farm, others have a liking for sports games, perhaps as a compensation for rotting in front of a computer desk all-day-long. The latter will inevitably come across a bundle of World-Cup related game apps available on all application markets.

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World-Cup is a buzz-word, no doubt about it, and as such, it attracts not only the gamers’ attention, but the hackers’ as well, and the Chinese hackers know their onions, all right. They leverage the buzz and try to con unwary mobile users into downloading and installing infected apps. The hackers use the “repacking” method – they download a legit and innocent game app, plant a malicious code within it, and upload it once again to the app market, or to a forum. The compromised app looks just the same – it has the same icon, its name is almost identical, and the user has virtually no way of noticing any abnormality after having it installed.

Actually, this is not the first time we see this method being practiced – Chinese hackers use just the same mischief whenever a national holiday is being celebrated, a major event (be it national or international) takes place, or just when some application garners a lot of popularity.

There is a famous story in China about a farmer in the Spring and Autumn Period (approx. 771 to 476 BC) who was working in the fields, when a rabbit was running by and suddenly dashed into a tree stump. The joyful farmer brought the dead rabbit home and cooked it for dinner exclaiming that there is no need for him to work any longer, as he can simply sit by that stump and wait for more rabbits to knock dead into it. This story gave birth to the idiom 守株待兔(literally “to watch the stump and wait for rabbits”) meaning “to trust chance and luck rather than go working”. The Chinese hackers who use this “repacking” method are just modern lazy farmers, patiently awaiting unlucky mobile-users to fall prey to their hands.

Even though this post is China-focused, it is important for you to bear in mind that this “repacking” method can be easily implemented anywhere. We urge you to download applications only from official sites and app-markets, and to install an antivirus on your mobile device.

Don’t be a rabbit!

And with all that being said, we wish safe-gaming to all World-Cup enthusiasts, and good luck to all participating countries!