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WSL Windows Malware Steals Browser Cookies, Deploys Remote Access Trojan

Guest post by Ryan, reprinted with permission from the original

WSL Windows malware steals browser cookies, deploys Remote Access Trojan.

Microsoft has spent a lot of time and money trying to Embrace, Extend, and Exterminate GNU/Linux. First, they decried it a cancer and Communism.

Then they released seed money for a failing company called SCO to raise all kinds of hell with vexatious litigation, which was the subject of an entire blog following the incident for many years, called Groklaw.

Then they realized that the reason professionals don’t like Windows is that it’s not very technically sound and isn’t powerful enough to actually use for many important tasks.

In fact, even more than a decade ago when I was making my own custom Linux kernels to use on top of Ubuntu, the default number of processors supported by their kernel was 512, and in Windows today, although it supports more than 64 processors today, it becomes such a scheduling disaster, that if you need to run such a system, you probably don’t want to use Windows.

I pared down the Linux kernel because I was just using it on my quad core PC and backporting some graphics code and stuff.

The fundamental reasoning behind the Windows Subsystem for Linux is deeply flawed and shows that Microsoft fundamentally misunderstands the problem that they claim it solves, and maybe they’ve just lost their marbles and don’t realize what decade this is and that they can’t keep trotting out the obsolete Windows battlewagon that’s had its day and isn’t looking so good.

They’ve even lost Paul Thurrott, whose sole income appears to be praising Microsoft on his blog. He’s been writing articles on everything from bashing how pushy their browser Edge is to pointing out what a dog their developer kit for their latest half-assed ARM transition is.

Seriously, they’re trying this again, and it’s barely powerful enough to overcome Windows and run at all (you can look at what people are saying about it running slowly all over the place….too many to list here), so I suppose you can basically forget about x86 software. Some splogs promise Windows on ARM will be “different this time”, but Microsoft seems to be screwing it up the exact same way Windows RT went.

Nobody wanted them because they were wimpy on the specs and didn’t have a strong showing of compatible software.

But back to WSL. Why would anyone use it?

Well, Microsoft’s original botched attempt (retconned as WSL1) was essentially to pay some clowns they have to write a crappy Microsoft approximation of a Linux kernel without really understanding how the Linux kernel worked, and that went as well as it sounds.

So they started over and redid “WSL2” as a real Linux kernel (and a very old one, at that) running on their Hyper-V system. And so it’s basically a virtual machine with integration into the host.

The upsides are that it performs a bit better (but nowhere near as well as GNU/Linux operating systems running natively on the hardware in question) and is more compatible.

The downside is, well, when you implement a “Linux” VM on top of Windows, you don’t give Windows the strengths of “Linux”.

You make a “Linux” system that has the failings of Windows. Namely, that Windows has lousy performance on just about any computer and is absolutely overflowing with malware.

Microsoft is also taking the opportunity to “extend” “Linux” so that applications can use Windows-only technologies that are NOT Linux-compatible.

In this way, it’s basically a rehash of the Microsoft “Java” VM, where they gutted it of all of the cross-platform JAVA stuff and shoved in things that only worked on Windows. But they’ve sharpened their knives a little and they’re doing it in a way where people will not sue them this time.

Whether they comply with the software licenses or not is, at this point, irrelevant, in many cases, because they’ve bought off the foundations that manage major open source infrastructure (and in some cases, rather cheaply. Less than $50,000 got them the Raspberry Pi Foundation cramming Microsoft programs into your Pi…..).

You can’t kill the devil while he’s the one that’s paying the bills.

Microsoft knows this.

So WSL and Influence Peddling are just Phase III of their attack on open source software. This time they say they’re going to “kill us with kindness”. But the emphasis should be on the killing part. Broadly, I group their previous two attempts as trying to pretend it doesn’t exist with the occasional bucket ‘o FUD (Phase I) and then seeding SCO’s meritless lawsuits with a $20 million bailout to a bankrupt company for a “Unixware” license they almost certainly didn’t use anywhere. (Phase II)

Although WSL is a massive new liability for Windows users, as all of these WSL viruses are coming around, Microsoft is trying to “make hay while the sun is shining” from the fact that they’ve added attack surface to their own OS and created a new security nightmare for their own customers, by painting WSL malware as “Linux” and “open source”.

I’ve been using GNU/Linux regularly since Vista came out and chased me away from Windows, but longer than that, and I’ve always felt creeped out when I was running Windows, mainly because there’s so much malware, and not much security other than lip service and theater, and the fact that “SmartScreen” and “Defender”, and “Telemetry” are built-in malware and keyloggers, but I have not felt creeped out when I was running GNU/Linux.

Most of the security problems facing Windows users simply do not affect GNU/Linux unless the user goes through some great effort to install malware through some actions that are both unwise and cautioned against, and as for the “you wake up and it’s just there and all your files are encrypted” issues with Windows, which keep occurring, that also tends not to happen to GNU/Linux for a multitude of reasons.

I’d imagine the fact that there’s 10 times less code in a fully functional GNU/Linux OS, which even comes complete with a freaking office suite that isn’t some idiotic trialware has something to do with that, but it’s also that it’s well documented that open source software has less bugs in general and patches roll out to the users for the critical stuff a lot faster too, and the official package managers check to see that the software you want isn’t tampered with or corrupt, before they install it.

And with Windows, a lot of people go and brick the update system (on purpose) because they never know what broken updates are coming down the pipe, or if their computer will even reboot when it gets done installing them. It happens so often that every month there’s articles about Microsoft pulling back broken updates, in addition to the usual security mess.

Why would anyone trust this company to do something like WSL?

In closing, I’d like to thank Bleeping Computer for calling out Windows and WSL in this. It’s something that just doesn’t happen that often because Microsoft pays “journalists” good money to not have their products and their company associated with the problems they create.

The particular RAT malware that this article talks about displays a pop-up eventually, in Turkish, on the Windows desktop, which translates to “you’re screwed and there’s not much you can do.”.

Well, I hope you have backups.

You can recover from them while you’re installing a different operating system. And then it shouldn’t happen again.

You can do something about this malware today.

You can switch to a robust operating system that is hardened against these kinds of attacks.

But none of those operating systems are from Microsoft.

Windows on ARM is some sort of pipe dream that someone at Microsoft keeps having.

“Wouldn’t it be nice if we could start over on hardware that’s not a complete disaster and get good power efficiency, and not be tied down by this legacy crap?”.

Nice for them maybe, but once you detach Windows from legacy software, there’s no longer any point in running it, and Intel is an inseparable part of that legacy.

The problem for Microsoft is that users are voting with their feet and leaving in droves. Everyone from Statcounter to Pornhub can tell you that.

Calling Windows the future of operating systems is like calling Sears the future of retail.

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