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Fireball malware: Over 250 million computers affected worldwide

The malware is run by a Chinese digital marketing agency and has affected 20 percent of corporate networks worldwide.

CHECKPOINT Jun 02nd 2017 A-A+

Check Point Threat Intelligence and research teams recently discovered a high volume Chinese threat operation which has infected over 250 million computers worldwide. The installed malware, Fireball, takes over target browsers and turns them into zombies. Fireball has two main functionalities:  the ability of running any code on victim computers– downloading any file or malware, and hijacking and manipulating infected users’ web-traffic to generate advertisement revenue. 

This operation is run by Rafotech, a large digital marketing agency based in Beijing. Rafotech uses Fireball to manipulate the victims’ browsers and turn their default search engines and home-pages into fake search engines. The fake search engines include tracking pixels used to collect the users’ private information. Fireball has the ability to spy on victims, perform efficient malware dropping, and execute any malicious code in the infected machines, this creates a massive security flaw in targeted machines and networks.

250 million machines and 20 percent of corporate networks worldwide infected.

The scope of the malware distribution is alarming. According to our analysis, over 250 million computers worldwide have been infected: specifically, 25.3 million infections in India (10.1 percent), 24.1 million in Brazil (9.6 percent), 16.1 million in Mexico (6.4 percent), and 13.1 million in Indonesia (5.2 percent). The United States has witnessed 5.5 million infections (2.2 percent).

Based on Check Point’s global sensors, 20 percent of all corporate networks are affected. Hit rates in the US (10.7 percent) and China (4.7 percent) are alarming; but Indonesia (60 percent), India (43 percent) and Brazil (38 percent) have much more dangerous hit rates.

Another indicator of the incredibly high infection rate is the popularity of Rafotech’s fake search engines. According to Alexa’s web traffic data, 14 of these fake search engines are among the top 10000 websites, with some of them occasionally reaching the top 1000.

Ironically, although Rafotech doesn’t admit it produces browser-hijackers and fake search engines, it does declare itself a successful marketing agency, reaching 300 million users worldwide – coincidentally similar to the number of estimated infections.