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Cybercrime Central: VexTrio Operates Massive Criminal Affiliate Program

January 21, 2024

While cybercriminals are often portrayed as gangs of hackers or lone brilliant coders, more often they buy and sell goods and services as part of a larger criminal economy. For example, some actors sell malware services, and malware-as-a-service (MaaS) allows buyers easy access to the infrastructure necessary to commit crimes. These service providers also form strategic partnerships, similar to the way legitimate companies do, in order to extend the limits of their current operations. Such relationships are forged in secret and may include a number of partners, making them difficult to untangle and understand from an outside perspective. Researchers refer to these relationships as affiliations and although they are known to exist, their details largely remain a mystery.

In this paper, we unveil a set of large-scale malicious relationships involving VexTrio, ClearFake, SocGholish, and many other unnamed actors. This research was completed in collaboration with security researcher Randy McEoin, who discovered ClearFake and has studied SocGholish extensively.1 While SocGholish and ClearFake are most associated with malware and fake software update pages, they operate traffic distribution systems (TDSs) that route users based on the victim’s device, operating system, location, and other characteristics. VexTrio also operates a TDS that routes compromised web traffic sourced from affiliates, as well as their own infrastructure, to various forms of malicious content. This paper focuses on the actors’ TDS enterprises. We concluded that these three actors have strategic partnerships in which SocGholish and ClearFake pass victims to VexTrio.

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About the Provider

Infoblox, formerly, is a privately held IT automation and security company based in California’s Silicon Valley. The company focuses on managing and identifying devices connected to networks—specifically for the Domain Name System, Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol, and IP address management.


Cybercriminal, VexTrio