The Moose is loose: Linux-based worm turns routers into social network bots

A worm that targets cable and DSL modems, home routers, and other embedded computers is turning those devices into a proxy network for launching armies of fraudulent Instagram, Twitter, and Vine accounts as well as fake accounts on other social networks. The new worm can also hijack routers' DNS service to route requests to a malicious server, steal unencrypted social media cookies such as those used by Instagram, and then use those cookies to add "follows" to fraudulent accounts. This allows the worm to spread itself to embedded systems on the local network that use Linux-based operating systems.

The malware, dubbed "Linux/Moose" by Olivier Bilodeau and Thomas Dupuy of the security firm ESET Canada Research, exploits routers open to connections from the Internet via Telnet by performing brute-force login attempts using default or common administrative credentials. Once connected, the worm installs itself on the targeted device.

Moose spreads itself using a file named elan2—"élan" is the French word for moose, Bilodeau and Dupuy explained in their report. Once installed, the malware begins to watch traffic passing through the router for unencrypted cookies from Web browsers and mobile applications, which may be passed to unencrypted sites that leverage social network features:

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