Trojan.LowZones

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Discovered: March 27, 2005
Updated: April 06, 2005 8:16:31 PM
Type: Trojan
Systems Affected: Windows

Trojan.LowZones is a detection name used by Symantec to identify malicious programs that share the primary functionality of lowering Internet Explorer security settings.

Internet Explorer has a security model that can be configured by assigning websites and accompanying rules to the following zones:

  • Internet
  • Local intranet
  • Trusted sites
  • Restricted sites




The security policy for each zone can be altered to allow, restrict, or prevent access to certain websites, to control user interface and behavioral features, and to allow, restrict, or prevent the use of technologies such as ActiveX and .NET. Programs detected as Trojan.LowZones alter the Internet Explorer zone settings and therefore lower security settings on the compromised computer.

When Internet Explorer security settings have been lowered, a program may be able to perform the following actions:
  • Run malicious or exploit code
  • Display advertisements
  • Download files
  • Steal information
  • Alter user authentication settings

Programs detected as Trojan.LowZones often arrive bundled with other malware. They may also be used in the early stages of a multi-stage attack.

Users should be aware that changes to security settings made by Trojan.LowZones may also affect other programs that use components of Internet Explorer.

If a Symantec antivirus product displays a detection alert for this threat, it means the computer is already protected and the Symantec product will effectively remove this threat from the computer.

Antivirus Protection Dates

  • Initial Rapid Release version March 27, 2005
  • Latest Rapid Release version June 21, 2018 revision 025
  • Initial Daily Certified version March 27, 2005
  • Latest Daily Certified version June 22, 2018 revision 002
  • Initial Weekly Certified release date March 30, 2005

Click here for a more detailed description of Rapid Release and Daily Certified virus definitions.

Writeup By: Henry Bell

Discovered: March 27, 2005
Updated: April 06, 2005 8:16:31 PM
Type: Trojan
Systems Affected: Windows

Trojan.LowZones is a detection name used by Symantec to identify malicious software programs that share the primary functionality of lowering Internet Explorer security settings.


Background information
Since the late 1990s — when it became the Web browser with the largest market share — Internet Explorer has been a target for attackers. Designed with ease-of-use in mind, the browser sought to hide the complexities of browser security from the user. This meant that certain features that could be used by attackers to compromise security were enabled by default. Over the years, however, browser security has been improved, and the default Internet Explorer security settings now block or significantly restrict many avenues of attack. This means that attackers must first lower browser security settings in order to perform further malicious actions, and one way to achieve this objective is to create programs to do so. Symantec uses the detection name Trojan.LowZones for these such programs.


The Internet Explorer security model
Internet Explorer uses four 'zones' for security:

  • Internet
  • Local intranet
  • Trusted sites
  • Restricted sites




Each zone may be assigned a 'security level' from high to low, or alternatively the user may choose to customize the settings for each zone in more detail.

Programs detected as Trojan.LowZones typically perform one or more of the following actions:
  • Alter Internet zone settings to enable or unblock certain Web features and technologies
  • Add certain websites to the Trusted zone
  • Remove certain websites from the Restricted zone

The following sections detail ways in which attackers may alter security settings to achieve certain aims.


Trusted site settings
Programs detected as Trojan.LowZones may add certain websites to the Internet Explorer Trusted sites list, which allows them to perform potentially malicious actions. The websites may be the attacker's own, or alternatively may be run by affiliate groups.


User prompting settings
The Trojans may alter settings so that the user is not prompted when a file is downloaded. The user may then be coerced into clicking on a link to a malicious executable, which results in the file being downloaded on to the compromised computer.


Browser safety feature settings

Attackers may configure programs detected as Trojan.LowZones to disable certain safety features built in to the browser, which may include the following:
  • Pop-up blockers
  • Phishing filters
  • Scripting language restrictions
  • Signed code checks
  • User authentication mechanisms

With these features disabled, users will be vulnerable to the attack vectors that the safety features attempt to guard against.


Browser control settings
Most modern browsers by default do not allow websites to perform certain actions that may confuse, mislead, or annoy the user. Actions such as the creation of windows with no address or status bars may be unblocked by Trojan.LowZones.


Privacy setttings
Programs detected as Trojan.LowZones may alter security settings to allow JavaScript to access the clipboard, which may result in confidential information being made available to attackers.


ActiveX and .NET settings
An attacker may alter ActiveX and .NET settings so that they can load further malicious code on to the compromised computer. The attacker may also attempt to exploit known or unknown vulnerabilities in the browser or its associated plugins, which may lead to the execution of arbitrary code.


Changes to the registry
The Trojans lower security settings by creating and/or modifying registry entries under the following registry subkeys to alter the permissions of the websites in each security zone in Internet Explorer:
  • HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Internet Settings\Zones
  • HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Internet Settings\Lockdown_Zones
  • HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Internet Settings\Zones
  • HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Internet Settings\Lockdown_Zones

Programs detected as Trojan.LowZones may also create and/or modify registry entries under the following registry subkeys to alter the websites that are in each zone:
  • HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Internet Settings\ZoneMap\Domains
  • HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Internet Settings\ZoneMap\Domains


Are there any tell-tale signs?
The following symptoms may be observed on a computer that has been compromised by Trojan.LowZones:
  • Internet Explorer runs slowly or crashes unexpectedly
  • The user is redirected to certain websites
  • Internet Explorer behavior changes without action from the user
  • Advertisements are displayed on the computer
  • The user is able to visit certain websites that previously were blocked, or unable to visit certain websites that previously could be visited

Trojan.LowZones is often the first step of a combined or multi-stage attack and as such the symptoms of other malware may be observed on the compromised computer.


What are the risks?
With the Web browser now used for online shopping, banking, social networking, and entertainment, it has become one of the most popular targets for attackers. Programs detected as Trojan.LowZones seek to compromise browser security, which means that Web browsing is no longer secure.

Lowered security settings mean that attackers may be able to download files and hoist further malware on to compromised computers. The malware may open a back door, steal information, attack other systems, or perform any other action.


What can I do to minimize the risks?
Users may choose to use an alternative browser to Internet Explorer, such as Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, or Opera.

As a general rule, users should always run up-to-date antivirus software with real-time protection such as Norton Antivirus, Norton Internet Security, Norton 360 or Symantec Endpoint Protection . In addition, a firewall -- or better still, an Intrusion Prevention System (IPS) -- will help to block back channel activities initiated by these types of malicious programs. Program controls such as those found in Symantec Endpoint Protection can also help to prevent unknown programs such as these from executing in the first place.


How can I find out more?
Advanced users can submit a sample to Threat Expert to obtain a detailed report of the system and file system changes caused by a threat.

Recommendations

Symantec Security Response encourages all users and administrators to adhere to the following basic security "best practices":

  • Use a firewall to block all incoming connections from the Internet to services that should not be publicly available. By default, you should deny all incoming connections and only allow services you explicitly want to offer to the outside world.
  • Enforce a password policy. Complex passwords make it difficult to crack password files on compromised computers. This helps to prevent or limit damage when a computer is compromised.
  • Ensure that programs and users of the computer use the lowest level of privileges necessary to complete a task. When prompted for a root or UAC password, ensure that the program asking for administration-level access is a legitimate application.
  • Disable AutoPlay to prevent the automatic launching of executable files on network and removable drives, and disconnect the drives when not required. If write access is not required, enable read-only mode if the option is available.
  • Turn off file sharing if not needed. If file sharing is required, use ACLs and password protection to limit access. Disable anonymous access to shared folders. Grant access only to user accounts with strong passwords to folders that must be shared.
  • Turn off and remove unnecessary services. By default, many operating systems install auxiliary services that are not critical. These services are avenues of attack. If they are removed, threats have less avenues of attack.
  • If a threat exploits one or more network services, disable, or block access to, those services until a patch is applied.
  • Always keep your patch levels up-to-date, especially on computers that host public services and are accessible through the firewall, such as HTTP, FTP, mail, and DNS services.
  • Configure your email server to block or remove email that contains file attachments that are commonly used to spread threats, such as .vbs, .bat, .exe, .pif and .scr files.
  • Isolate compromised computers quickly to prevent threats from spreading further. Perform a forensic analysis and restore the computers using trusted media.
  • Train employees not to open attachments unless they are expecting them. Also, do not execute software that is downloaded from the Internet unless it has been scanned for viruses. Simply visiting a compromised Web site can cause infection if certain browser vulnerabilities are not patched.
  • If Bluetooth is not required for mobile devices, it should be turned off. If you require its use, ensure that the device's visibility is set to "Hidden" so that it cannot be scanned by other Bluetooth devices. If device pairing must be used, ensure that all devices are set to "Unauthorized", requiring authorization for each connection request. Do not accept applications that are unsigned or sent from unknown sources.
  • For further information on the terms used in this document, please refer to the Security Response glossary.

Writeup By: Henry Bell

Discovered: March 27, 2005
Updated: April 06, 2005 8:16:31 PM
Type: Trojan
Systems Affected: Windows

You may have arrived at this page either because you have been alerted by your Symantec product about this risk, or you are concerned that your computer has been affected by this risk.

Before proceeding further we recommend that you run a full system scan . If that does not resolve the problem you can try one of the options available below.



FOR NORTON USERS
If you are a Norton product user, we recommend you try the following resources to remove this risk.

Removal Tool


If you have an infected Windows system file, you may need to replace them using from the Windows installation CD .


How to reduce the risk of infection
The following resources provide further information and best practices to help reduce the risk of infection.


FOR BUSINESS USERS
If you are a Symantec business product user, we recommend you try the following resources to remove this risk.

Identifying and submitting suspect files
Submitting suspicious files to Symantec allows us to ensure that our protection capabilities keep up with the ever-changing threat landscape. Submitted files are analyzed by Symantec Security Response and, where necessary, updated definitions are immediately distributed through LiveUpdate™ to all Symantec end points. This ensures that other computers nearby are protected from attack. The following resources may help in identifying suspicious files for submission to Symantec.


Removal Tool

If you have an infected Windows system file, you may need to replace them using from the Windows installation CD .


How to reduce the risk of infection
The following resource provides further information and best practices to help reduce the risk of infection.
Protecting your business network



MANUAL REMOVAL
The following instructions pertain to all current Symantec antivirus products.

1. Performing a full system scan
How to run a full system scan using your Symantec product


2. Restoring settings in the registry
Many risks make modifications to the registry, which could impact the functionality or performance of the compromised computer. While many of these modifications can be restored through various Windows components, it may be necessary to edit the registry. See in the Technical Details of this writeup for information about which registry keys were created or modified. Delete registry subkeys and entries created by the risk and return all modified registry entries to their previous values.

Writeup By: Henry Bell