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SpiderLabs Blog

Large scale malicious spam campaign exploiting Boston bombing

In our latest Global Security Report, we noted malicious spam campaigns were on the increase, and roughly 1 in 10 spam messages were malicious.

There is a large scale malicious spam campaign going on that is shamelessly exploiting the Boston bombing. Subject lines are similar to the following:


The spam messages are simple plain text, with a simple link with an IP address:


The spam is originating from the Kelihos botnet. As I blogged last month, Kelihos has come back from dead with high spam output. However, compared to its usual relatively harmless stock spam, this campaign is downright nasty.

The links lead to many different landing pages, all ostensibly hosting videos of the bombings. Here is an example:


The page however, is not just a series of videos. Hidden at the bottom of the page is an iframe which loads code from another site. Here are some of URLs of these pages that we have seen:


These pages attempt to load a Java applet something like this:


This code is none other than Redkit, an exploit kit that attempts to exploit vulnerabilities on your computer. If the exploit is successful, malware is downloaded onto the PC. One of these pieces of malware, named boston.avi_______.exe is actually a copy of the Kelihos bot itself, which when it is installed, will proceed to spam more of the same Boston-themed spam.

This style of campaign has been seen before. Kelihos's ancestor, Storm, got its name for exploiting storm related news in early 2007, and the payload was more Storm bots. Some things never change, except perhaps the depths that the scumbags behind these campaigns sink to.

Trustwave's Secure Email Gateway customers were protected from this Kelihos spam campaign.

Update 04/22/2013:

The Boston bombing spam campaign has morphed overnight into a "Texas Explosion" spam campaign, with subject lines about the explosion at a Texas chemical factory. Some of the Subject lines seen include:

Texas Explosion Injures Dozens

Video footage of Texas Explosion

Texas plant explosion

Plant Explosion Near Waco, Texas

CAUGHT ON CAMERA: Fertilizer Plant Explosion

The body of the emails is still a single URL with a numeric IP address, only now the web page is labeled "texas.html" instead of "boston.html". Many of the same IPs are being used as the Boston bombing campaign, so these pages are obviously still live.

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