Malware served from NY Times Website

I've gotten two calls from clients (OK, one was a client, the other my mother-in-law) saying they visited the NYTimes website and were attacked by malware.

This is true, they were. My MIL said she was trying to read Maureen Dowd and got hit with a rogue anti-spyware application. I was able to CoPilot in and clean things up. (There didn't seem much to clean up, I killed a running process of IE (she uses Chrome) and the scare-screen went away.

I sparked up an unpatchedWinXP Virtual Machine running IE6 and went to the NYT website, and was prompted immediately to install flash. I opted not to and surfed around the site, fighting the information bar's insistence that I install an ActiveX Control.

So, I gave in and voila! dialog

So, no matter how you answer, you're already stung.

Of course, your instinct is to click "Cancel" and you do, and then you're scared out of your wits when confronted with this page from (don't go there!) and proceeds to make you think you're infected. demo

But, if we take a second to look at the scare box, we see something is amiss...

Local Drive

We don't have an E: drive ... and the optical drive we have is a CD-Rom, not a DVD-RAM drive...

My Computer

The page that pops up is meant to scare you. The infections it reports are false -- the only infection you have (at the moment) is the webpage. If you go into taskmanager and find iexplorer.exe (or firefox.exe if you use Mozilla Firefox) and right-click on it and choose "End Process" that should make the pop-up go away.

If you click ANYWHERE on the page, it will prompt you to download a program:

Malware Downloader

Seems reasonable -- you got a warning you were infected, and you want to download a file called "Scanner-75f_2015.exe" seems legit.


(But you knew that by now, right?)

However, this is a clear indication of how a fully patched system gets compromised. Some buys ad space on a major website. They probably serve a lot of legit ads, but in a few instances, they serve illegitmate ads. In this case, they seem to be using Flash as an attack vector. Flash movie loads and redirects your browser to a rogue site, and they're off to the races.

Since I'm a professional, I downloaded the file -- I didn't run it -- and I submitted it to an online file scanner which tests a file against 37 of the leading anti-virus vendors.

Somewhat sadly, only 5 out of 37 scanners picked this up as malware:

Malware Results

I also ran the file thru which tests against 41 scanners, and 7 scanners turned up a positive on our file: Results

You can see the full report over on VirusTotal's site:

The one thing that surprised me on the results was Microsoft's detection, trumping McAfee, Symantec, AVG and Clam-AV among many others. I've never considered MS a true player in the anti-malware landscape, but perhaps I will re-evaluate.

Kaspersky, and most othersecurity vendors, offers an online scan of your system (requires Java). If you don't have an anti-virus product installed -- or even if you do -- you might want to visit a different security vendor site than the one you have to do a check. Belt and suspenders and all that.

(This piece of spyware also eluded my trustyMalwarebytes Anti-Malware ( which should reinforce that no one piece of software can provide 100% protection.

There is no strong defense for this, as nothing you overtly do can cause it. Make sure your anti-virus is up to date, do regular scans of your computer -- but MOST importantly --keep backups.

As for the clients, one of them uses Norton GoBACK (since superceded in the marketplace by Ghost 14) , so they restored their machine back an hour before the infection occurred, went back to the NY Times site, got re-infected, restored AGAIN using GoBack, and then stayed away from the NY Times site. And my Mother-in-Law has been trained well and as soon as the box popped up, she called me and I was able to CoPilot into her machine and close IE before it did any damage... may you all be as lucky.

Further Info:

[UPDATE: 1:30 PM, Sunday Sept 13 - the NY Times site seems to have stopped serving the ad. Further attempts to get infected have proven unsuccessful.]

1 Comment

  1. When I originally commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and now
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