Ask Fitis, the Bear: Real Crooks Sign Their Malware

Code-signing certificates are supposed to help authenticate the identity of software publishers, and provide cryptographic assurance that a signed piece of software has not been altered or tampered with. Both of these qualities make stolen or ill-gotten code-signing certificates attractive to cybercriminal groups, who prize their ability to add stealth and longevity to malicious software. This post is a deep dive on “Megatraffer,” a veteran Russian hacker who has practically cornered the underground market for malware focused code-signing certificates since 2015.

One of Megatraffer’s ads on an English-language cybercrime forum.

A review of Megatraffer’s posts on Russian crime forums shows this user began peddling individual stolen code-signing certs in 2015 on the Russian-language forum Exploit, and soon expanded to selling certificates for cryptographically signing applications and files designed to run in Microsoft Windows, Java, Adobe AIR, Mac and Microsoft Office.

Megatraffer explained that malware purveyors need a certificate because many antivirus products will be far more interested in unsigned software, and because signed files downloaded from the Internet don’t tend to get blocked by security features built into modern web browsers. Additionally, newer versions of Microsoft Windows will complain with a bright yellow or red alert message if users try to install a program that is not signed.

“Why do I need a certificate?” Megatraffer asked rhetorically in their Jan. 2016 sales thread on Exploit. “Antivirus software trusts signed programs more. For some types of software, a digital signature is mandatory.”

At the time, Megatraffer was selling unique code-signing certificates for $700 apiece, and charging more than twice that amount ($1,900) for an “extended validation” or EV code-signing cert, which is supposed to only come with additional identi ..

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