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What exactly is Careto / "The Mask"?

The Mask is an advanced threat actor that has been involved in cyber-espionage operations since at least 2007.

What makes The Mask special is the complexity of the toolset used by the attackers. This includes an extremely sophisticated piece of malware, a rootkit, a bootkit, Mac OS X and Linux versions and possibly versions for Android and iPad/iPhone (iOS).

The Mask also uses a customized attack against older Kaspersky Lab products in order to hide in the system. This puts it above Duqu in terms of sophistication, making The Mask one of the most advanced threats at the current time. This and several other factors make us believe this could be a state-sponsored operation.

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The world of APTs is a colorful place. In 2012, we uncovered Flame, a massive cyberespionage operation infiltrating computers in the Middle East. Our research indicated a connection with the wellknown Stuxnet cyberweapon, designed to sabotage the Iranian nuclear program.

In early 2013, we announced our research on RedOctober, a cyberespionage operation focusing on diplomatic institutions. In June 2013, we published our research on NetTraveler, and in September, our research on the Kimsuky attacks.

Our analysis of all these different APT operations indicated an unique use of languages, that offer clues regarding some of the people behind these operations. If the comments in the Flame C&C were written in English, artifacts in RedOctober indicated Russian speakers, NetTraveler indicated Chinese natives. Finally, Kimsuky indicated Korean speaking authors, which we linked to North Korea.

During the past months we have been busy analysing yet another sophisticated cyberespionage operation which has been going on at least since 2007, infecting victims in 27 countries. We deemed this operation "The Mask" for reasons to be explained later.

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In 2014 we expect significant growth in the number of threats related to economic and domestic cyber-espionage, with cyber-mercenaries/cyber-detectives playing an active role in such attacks.

The full report is available here

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Companies are increasingly falling victim to cyber-attacks. According to a recent survey conducted by Kaspersky Lab and B2B International, 9% of the organizations polled were the victims of targeted attacks - carefully planned activity aimed at infecting the network infrastructure of specific organization. The extensive use of digital devices in business has created ideal conditions for cyber-espionage and the deployment of malware capable of stealing corporate data.

The full report is available here.

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Webcasts|Top security stories of 2013 - the expert opinion

GReAT
Kaspersky Lab Expert
Posted December 03, 11:03  GMT
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Once again, it's time for us to deliver our customary retrospective of the key events that have defined the threat landscape in 2013. Let's start by looking back at the things we thought would shape the year ahead, based on the trends we observed in the previous year.

The full report is available here.

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Research|Icefog OpenIOC Release

GReAT
Kaspersky Lab Expert
Posted September 26, 13:00  GMT
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Yesterday we published our research on Icefog, a sophisticated cyber-espionage operation. You can read more about it here. We also have a detailed FAQ and in-depth report.

We're sharing Indicators of Compromise based on the OpenIOC framework for Icefog. This way organizations have an alternative way of checking their network for presence of (active) Icefog infections.

You can download the ZIPed IOC file here.

Kaspersky products detect all malicious files associated with Icefog.

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The emergence of small groups of cyber-mercenaries available for hire to perform surgical hit and run operations.

The world of Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs) is well known. Skilled adversaries compromising high-profile victims and stealthily exfiltrating valuable data over the course of many years. Such teams sometimes count tens or even hundreds of people, going through terabytes or even petabytes of exfiltrated data.

Although there has been an increasing focus on attribution and pinpointing the sources of these attacks, not much is known about a new emerging trend: the smaller hit-and-run gangs that are going after the supply chain and compromising targets with surgical precision.

Since 2011 we have been tracking a series of attacks that we link to a threat actor called ‘Icefog’. We believe this is a relatively small group of attackers that are going after the supply chain -- targeting government institutions, military contractors, maritime and ship-building groups, telecom operators, satellite operators, industrial and high technology companies and mass media, mainly in South Korea and Japan.

Opinions|Securing your Email space

GReAT
Kaspersky Lab Expert
Posted August 09, 13:46  GMT
Tags: Website Hacks, Identity Theft, Email, Data leaks, Cyber espionage
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Yesterday, Lavabit - a secure e-mail provider - announced that it's closing down their operations. The official text and the Website looks like this:
 

Lavabit was one of the very few secure e-mail service providers bringing security for its paid customers by encrypting all locally stored e-mail messages with an asymmetric key and AES-256. This means that in order to decrypt the messages, an attacker would need to compromise the server first and then to know your password. There was no way even for Lavabit to decrypt emails without a user’s password. A detailed description of how the Lavabit technology worked is available here: pastebin.com/rQ1Gvfy0

Few hours later, Silent Circle, another secure e-mail provider, announced shutting down its Silent Mail service too.
 
In general in order to make an e-mail server secure there are several criteria to match:

  1. Secure encrypted connections between the user and the e-mail server (it must be encrypted with a strong algorithm and to have a validation process to avoid the risk of a man-in-the-middle attack)
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Over the last few years, we have been monitoring a cyber-espionage campaign that has successfully compromised more than 350 high profile victims in 40 countries. The main tool used by the threat actors during these attacks is NetTraveler, a malicious program used for covert computer surveillance.

The name “NetTraveler” comes from an internal string which is present in early versions of the malware: “NetTraveler Is Running!” This malware is used by APT actors for basic surveillance of their victims. Earliest known samples have a timestamp of 2005, although references exist indicating activity as early as 2004. The largest number of samples we observed were created between 2010 and 2013.


The NetTraveler builder icon

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Today Kaspersky Lab's team of experts published a detailed research report that analyzes a sustained cyberespionage campaign conducted by the cybercriminal organization known as Winnti.

According to report, the Winnti group has been attacking companies in the online video game industry since 2009 and is currently still active.

The group's objectives are stealing digital certificates signed by legitimate software vendors in addition to intellectual property theft, including the source code of online game projects.

The attackers' favorite tool is the malicious program we called "Winnti". It has evolved since its first use, but all variants can be divided into two generations: 1.x and 2.x. Our publication describes both variants of this tool.

In our report we publish an analysis of the first generation of Winnti.

The second generation (2.x) was used in one of the attacks which we investigated during its active stage, helping the victim to interrupt data transfer and isolate infections in the corporate network. The incidents, as well as results of our investigation, are described in the full report (PDF) on the Winnti group.

The Executive Summary is available here.

Is this research about a gaming Trojan from 2011? Why do you think it is significant?

This research is about a set of industrial cyberespionage campaigns and a criminal organization which massively penetrates many software companies and plays a very important role in the success of cyberespionage campaigns of other malicious actors.

It is important to be aware of this threat actor to understand the broader picture of cyberattacks coming from Asia. Having infected gaming companies that do business in the MMORPG space, the attackers potentially get access to millions of users. So far, we don't have data that the attackers stole from common users but we do have at least 2 incidents where the Winnti malware was planted on an online game update servers and these malicious executables were spread among a large number of the online gamers. The samples we observed seemed not to be malware targeting end user gamers, but a malware module which accidentally got into wrong place. Hoever, the potential for attackers to misuse such access to infect hundreds of millions of Internet users creates a major global risk.

It's important to understand that many gaming companies do business not only in gaming, but very often they are also developers or publishers of different other types of software. We have tracked an incident where a compromised company served an update of their software which included a Trojan from the Winnti hacking team. That became an infection vector to penetrate another company, which in turn led to a personal data leak of large number of its customers.

So far, this research is dedicated to a malicious group that not only undermines trust in fair gameplay but has a serious impact on trust in software vendors in general, especially in the regions where the Winnti group is active at the moment.

What are the malicious purposes of this Trojan?

The Trojan, or to be precise, a penetration kit called Winnti includes various modules to provide general purpose remote access to compromised machines. This includes general system information collection, file and process management, creating chains of network port redirection for convenient data exfiltration and remote desktop access.

Is this attack still active?

Yes, despite active steps to stop the attackers by the revocation of digital certificates, detection of the malware and an active investigation, the attackers remain active, with at least several victim companies around the world being actively compromised.