According to new research from Recorded Future, Dark Web vendors are creating and selling code signing certificates that mis-use machine identities stolen from corporations. Prices for the certificates range from $299 to $1,599 and each one is unique to the buyer. These certificates are typically delivered within two - to four days.
Code signing certificates are used to verify the authenticity and integrity of computer applications and software. They make up a vital element of internet and enterprise security. Cyber criminals can take advantage of compromised code signing certificates to install malware on enterprise networks and consumer devices.
“All certificates are issued by reputable companies, such as Comodo, Thawte, and Symantec, and have proved to be extremely effective in malware obfuscation,” writes Andrei Barysevich, security researcher for Recorded Future. “We believe that legitimate business owners are unaware that their data was used in the illicit activities.”
Recorded Future notes that the malicious use of stolen code-sign certificates become noticeable in 2011, however, it took until 2015 for them to become widely available on the Dark Web. As time progresses, Barysevich fears that well-funded, actors, such as nation-states, may use fake certificates for more sophisticated and targeted attacks.
Last year, Venafi released a report on a six-month investigation into the sale of code signing certificates on the Dark Web. Like Recorded Future, we found that certificates were readily available for purchase, but expensive, selling for higher prices than counterfeit U.S. passports, stolen credit cards and even handguns.
“Our research proved that code signing certificates are lucrative targets for cyber criminals,” said Kevin Bocek, chief security strategist for Venafi. “With stolen code signing certificates, it’s nearly impossible for organizations to detect malicious software. Any cyber criminal can use them to sign malware, ransomware, and even launch kinetic attacks that are blindly trusted.”
In addition, Bocek points out these assets are used in multiple occurrences. "Code signing certificates can be sold many times over before their value begins to diminish, making them huge money makers for hackers and dark web merchants. All of this is fueling the demand for stolen code signing certificates.”
Want to learn more? Take a look at our infographic to see how much a certificate is worth on the Dark Web, and what else you could buy for the same amount.