10 Feb The Careto/Mask APT: Frequently Asked Questions GReAT
26 Sep The Icefog APT: A Tale of Cloak and Three Daggers GReAT
11 Sep Kimsuky APT: Operations possible North Korean links uncovered Dmitry Tarakanov
31 Aug 3rd Latin American Security Analysts Summit in Cancun Dmitry Bestuzhev
14 Aug NSAccess Control Lists Roel
09 Aug Securing your Email space GReAT
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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.
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.
For several months, we have been monitoring an ongoing cyber-espionage campaign against South Korean think tanks. There are multiple reasons why this campaign is extraordinary in its execution and logistics. It all started one day when we encountered a somewhat unsophisticated spy program that communicated with its master via a public e-mail server. This approach is rather inherent to many amateur virus-writers.
However, there were a few things that attracted our attention:
The complete path found in the malware presents some of the Korean strings:
The rsh word, by all appearances, means a shortening of Remote Shell and the Korean words can be translated in English as attack and completion, i.e.:
We managed to identify several targets. Here are some of the organizations that the attackers were interested in targeting:
|The Sejong Institute is a non-profit private organization for public interest and a leading think tank in South Korea, conducting research on national security strategy, unification strategy, regional issues, and international political economy.|
Last week, I attended the International Conference on Cyber Security at Fordham University in NYC. This event brought together participants from government, the private sector and academia. The closing session was a panel featuring the directors of the CIA, FBI and NSA which drew a lot of attention.
FBI Director Robert Mueller speaking at the closing panel
Throughout the conference, there was a strong push for more cooperation internationally and between different sectors. While cooperation has come a long way, we still have a long way to go.
The topic of cyber-espionage didn't come up as much as I've been used to in recent times. Instead, there was more talk on cyber-sabotage with several presentations talking about this problem.
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 users password. A detailed description of how the Lavabit technology worked is available here: pastebin.com/rQ1Gvfy0
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
While researching PlugX propagation with the use of Java exploits we stumbled upon one compromised site that hosted and pushed a malicious Java applet exploiting the CVE 2013-0422 vulnerability. The very malicious Java application was detected heuristically with generic verdict for that vulnerability and it would have been hardly possible to spot that particular site between tons of other places where various malicious Java applications were detected with that generic verdict. But it was a very specific search conducted back then and this site appeared in statistics among not so many search results. Well, to be honest it was a false positive in terms of search criteria, but in this case it was a lucky mistake.
The infectious website was an Internet resource named - minjok.com and it turned out to be a news site in Korean and English languages covering mostly political events around the Korean peninsula. We notified an editor of this site about the compromise and although he has not responded, the site got closed after a while.
This is how minjok.com is described at http://www.northkoreatech.org/the-north-korean-website-list/minjok-tongshin/:
Description of minjok.com
During our research on the Winnti group we discovered a considerable amount of Winnti samples targeting different gaming companies. Using this sophisticated malicious program cybercriminals gained remote access to infected workstations and then carried out further activity manually.
Naturally, we were keen to find out how the malicious libraries spread across a local network. To do so, we tracked the attackers- activity on an infected computer.
At the beginning of the investigation we ran the malicious programs on a virtual machine, which worked fairly well - we even spotted some cybercriminal activity. But they quickly realized it wasn-t a computer they wanted to net. Once that was the case, the attackers- servers stopped responding to requests from bots working on virtual machines.
This is what we managed to learn at this stage of our monitoring.
First of all, the perpetrators looked at what was happening on the victim-s desktop. After that they enabled the remote command line and used it to browse the root folder of the current disk, searched for the file winmm.dll, and checked the operating system version. The ListFileManager plugin then came into play. It works with the file system and the attackers used it to browse the folders C:\Windows and C:\Work. Then they tried to restart the computer, but made a mistake in the parameters of the ?shutdown command, having typed ?shutdown /t /r 1 (the computer should have been restarted in 1 second), but after a while they shut the computer down completely with the use of the correct command ?shutdown /s /t 1.
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.