‘VPNFilter malware targets more routers and injects code into web traffic’

The VPNFilter malware, of which a command and control server was recently taken over by the FBI, now appears to target more router types. In addition, the malware has new features such as injecting malicious code into network traffic.

Cisco Talos, the security company that VPNFilter noticed in May, writes in a new analysis that it has discovered new modules that can deploy the malware. The malicious software was previously found to consist of three modules or stages, of which only the first can survive a reboot of an infected device. The second module has capabilities such as collecting information and executing commands. The modules of the third stage should be seen as a kind of plug-ins for the second module. The new modules are plug-ins of this kind. For example, a so-called ssler module is able to inject JavaScript into network traffic, while a ‘dstr’ module can render an infected device useless.

The ssler module intercepts http traffic to port 80 through a man-in-the-middle position and can inject code that way. That way, those behind the malware can, for example, perform exploits on connected devices, the Talos researchers said. But stealing information would also be possible. The module attempts to redirect https traffic to http by replacing this prefix with “http://”. The researchers say nothing about the effectiveness of this approach. The dstr module, on the other hand, aims to render an infected device useless by deleting files necessary for normal use. After that, the module removes itself.

Image of Talos

In addition, VPNFilter is now targeting more devices and new manufacturers, including Asus, D-Link, Huawei, and ZTE. These are shown in a table below. Ars Technica spoke with one of the Talos researchers, Craig Williams. He explains that while the FBI was able to take over a command and control server from the individuals behind the malware, it is still possible to communicate with potentially hundreds of thousands of infected devices. The malware’s first module initially uses exif data from Photobucket images to determine the location of the second and third modules. If that doesn’t work, he’s using the c2 server. However, there is also a third way to install those modules, by using special trigger packets.

Williams believes that the FBI has misled users by giving the impression that a reboot of the router is enough to get rid of the malware. Talos, like the Ukrainian SBU, expressed the suspicion that the malware came from Russia. It’s hard to tell if a device is actually infected with the malware, Ars Technica said. Removing them is also cumbersome. For example, for some models it is necessary to reset the device to the factory settings, or to install the latest firmware from the manufacturer after a reboot. In the case of older devices, it would be better to purchase a new model.

Linksys Mikrotik netgear Qnap TP-Link Asus D-Link Huawei ubiquity ZTE
E1200 CCR1016 DGN2200 TS251 R600VPN RT-AC66U DES-1210-08P HG8245 NSM2 ZXHN H108N
E2500 CCR1036 R6400 TS439 Pro TL-WR741ND RT-N10 DIR-300 PBE M5
WRVS4400N CCR1072 R7000 TL-WR841N RT-N10E DIR-300A
E3000 CCR1009 R8000 RT-N10U DSR-250N
E3200 CRS109 WNR1000 RT-N56U DSR-500N
E4200 CRS112 WNR2000 RT-N66U DSR-1000
RV082 CRS125 DG834 DSR-1000N
RB411 DGN1000
RB450 DGN3500
RB750 FVS318N
RB911 MBRN3000
RB921 WNR2200
RB941 WNR4000
RB951 WNDR3700
RB952 WNDR4000
RB960 WNDR4300
RB962 WNDR4300-TN
RB1100 UTM50
RB1200
RB2011
RB3011
RB Groove
RB Omnitik
STX5

Bold = new, data sourced from Cisco Talos. Upvel devices have also been affected, but it is unclear which models are affected.