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Posts Tagged ‘Cyber Weapons’

The 2010 Olympic Games

Two months again and the World will assist to the 2012 London Olympic Games. Unfortunately the same is not true for Information Security Professional for which the Olympic Games have started approximately two years ago in Iran, more exactly during the summer of 2010 when the infamous malware Stuxnet (the first 21st Century Cyber Weapon) became public, unleashing its viral power to the entire World.

Apparently Olympic Games have nothing to deal with Stuxnet… Only apparently since “Olympic Games” is just supposed to be the code-name of the cyber operation,  begun under the Bush administration and accelerated by Mr. Obama, aimed to build the first Cyberweapon targeting the Iranian Nuclear Facilities. This is in few words the genesis of Stuxnet, at least according to a controversial article published by The New York Times, which anticipates a book on the same argument by David E. Sanger (Confront and Conceal, Obama’s Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power), and which is generating a comprehensible turmoil.

Of course many words have been spent on the argument and probably (too) many will be spent as Stuxnet has not proven to be an isolated case. Moreover (is this a coincidence?) these revelations of the NYT came out in the aftermath of the discovery of the Flame Malware which is further fueling the tension in Middle East and, if officially confirmed, could set a potentially dangerous precedent for other countries looking to develop or expand their own clandestine cyber operations.

I think I cannot give any useful contribution to the debate, if not a humble suggestion to read this interesting interview to F-Secure CRO Mykko Hypponen who explains the reason antivirus companies like his failed to catch Flame and Stuxnet… If really the alleged NYT revelations will encourage other countries to enhance their cyber arsenal, there is much to be worried about, even because the 21st century cyber weapons have shown, so far, a clear attitude to escape from the control of their creators.

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Israel Blamed for Fueling the Flame Cyber Weapon in Middle East

The day after its discovery, there are few doubts that the infamous malware dubbed Flame (or sKyWIper) has been developed by a government with significant budget and effort. The complexity of the malware suggests that it has been used for a huge cyber-espionage campaign and, easily predictable, Israel is listed as the main culprit, even if in good company if it is true, as argued by some bloggers, that the malware was created by a strict cooperation coproduction between  CIA and Mossad.

Israeli vice Premier Moshe Ya’alon has contributed to fuel the Flame: speaking in an interview with Army Radio, Ya’alon has hinted that Jerusalem could be behind the cyber attack, saying “Israel is blessed to be a nation possessing superior technology. These achievements of ours open up all kinds of possibilities for us.” In light of this statement, it does not appear a simple coincidence the fact that the main victims of the cyber weapon, as reported by Kaspersky Lab, are nations who may not be just considered in good neighborhood relations with Israel.

Consequantly it is not that surprise the fact that the same interview has been readily reported by the Iranian News Agency Fars (which has interpreted it as a sign of liability and has hence blamed Israel for waging cyber war in Iran) as well as it is not that surprise the tone of several comments to an article posted on the Haaretz newspaper’s Web site (“Nice One Israel, Proud of You!!!!”).

Of course it is too soon to jump to conclusion,in any case, whether Israel (and U.S.) is behind Flame or not, I could not help but wonder how it is possible that a malware has been able to go undetected for at least 5 years. Are endpoint protection technologies really dead, leaving us at the mercy of a (cyber)world ruled by APTs?

If you want to have an idea of how fragile our data are inside the cyberspace, have a look at the timelines of the main Cyber Attacks in 2011 and 2012 (regularly updated), and follow @paulsparrows on Twitter for the latest updates.

A Flame on the Cyberwarfare Horizon

May 28, 2012 6 comments

Irony of fate: not even a day after the publication of a provocative article on the role of Cyber Warfare for maintaining peace, a new cyber threat appears, which is destined to leave an indelible mark on the cyber weapons’ landscape.

Today is one of those days that the Infosec Community will remember for a long time. It looks like the mystery of the malware targeting the Iranian Oil business a month ago has come to a solution, and it is not that kind of conclusion we would have hoped and expected.

Nearly in contemporary Kaspersky Lab, CrySyS Lab and the Iranian Computer Emergency Response Team Coordination Center have unleashed details of what has been defined (arguably) the most complex malware ever found.

The malware, which has been dubbed Flame (Kaspersky), or sKyWIper (CrySyS Lab), or also Flamer (CERTCC), has some unprecedented features that make it one of the most complex threats ever discovered:

  • The Cyber Weapon Malware is a sophisticated attack toolkit, It is a backdoor, a Trojan, and has worm-like features (three in one). According to Kaspersky its development has taken a couple of years and it will probably take year to fully understand the 20MB of code of Flame.
  • According to CrySyS Lab Flame has been in the wild since 2007, having been seen in the following geographical regions: Europe on Dec 5 2007, The United Arab Emirates on Apr 28 2008 and the Islamic Republic of Iran on Mar 1 2010;
  • Flame is controlled via an SSL channel by a C&C infrastructure spread all around the world, ranging from 50 (Kaspersky) to 80 (CrySyS) different domains;
  • Flame owns many capabilities, including sniffing the network traffic, taking screenshots, recording audio conversations, intercepting the keyboard. C&C operators may choose to upload up to about 20 modules, which can expand Flame’s functionality;
  • The complete set of 20 modules is 20 MB in size when fully deployed (about 20 times larger than Stuxnet and maybe it is the reason why it wasn’t discovered for so long);
  • Flame includes a piece of code (about 3000 lines) written in LUA, a not so common occurrence for malware;
  • Top 7 affected countries include Islamic Republic of Iran (189 Samples), Israel/Palestine (98 samples), Sudan (32), Syria (30), Lebanon (18), Saudi Arabia (10), Egypt (5).
  • Flame appears to have two modules designed for infecting USB sticks: “Autorun Infector” (similar to Stuxnet) and “Euphoria” (spread on media using a “junction point” directory that contains malware modules and an LNK file that trigger the infection when this directory is opened);
  • Flame may also replicate via local networks using the following:
    1. The printer vulnerability MS10-061 exploited by Stuxnet – using a special MOF file, executed on the attacked system using WMI;
    2. Remote jobs tasks.
    3. When Flame is executed by a user who has administrative rights to the domain controller, it is also able to attack other machines in the network: it creates backdoor user accounts with a pre-defined password that is then used to copy itself to these machines.
  • So far no 0-day vulnerabilities have been found, despite the fact that some fully-patched Windows 7 installations have been compromised, might indicate the presence of high-risk 0-days.

With no doubt a beautiful piece of malware written with the precise intent of Cyber-Espionage. Besides the resounding features of the malware, I found particularly interesting the same infection mechanism used by Stuxnet, that make me think of (another) possible double agent implanting the first infection.

This (legitimate) suspicion is also reinforced by the disarming conclusions issued by CrySyS Lab:

The results of our technical analysis support the hypotheses that sKyWIper was developed by a government agency of a nation state with significant budget and effort, and it may be related to cyber warfare activities.

Browsing Security Predictions for 2012

January 8, 2012 4 comments

Update 01/11/2012: Year-to-Tear comparison with 2011 Security Predictions

The new year has just come, vacations are over, and, as usually happens in this period, information security professionals use to wonder what the new year will bring them from an infosec perspective. The last year has been rich of events, whose echo is still resounding, and as a consequence, if RSA and Sony breach were not enough, the main (and somehow obvious) question is: will 2012 stop this trend or rather bring it to unprecedented levels, or, in other words, which threat vectors will disturb the (already troubled) administrators’ sleep?

Unfortunately my divination skills are not so developed (in that case I would not be here), but security firms can give a crucial help since they started to unveil their security predictions for 2012, at least since the half of December, so putting them together, and analyzing them is quite a straightforward and amusing task. Maybe even more amusing will be, in twelve years, to see if they were correct or not.

The security prediction that I take into consideration included, at my sole discretion (and in rigorous alphabetical order):

•    Cisco;
•    Fortinet;
•    Kaspersky;
•    McAfee;
•    Sophos;
•    Trend Micro;
•    Websense;

That is the only leader vendors for which I found predictions issued with original documents (feel free to indicate if I missed someone and I will be very glad to include them in the chart).

In any case, the landscape is quite heterogeneous since it encompasses security vendors covering different areas: one vendor, McAfee, covering all the areas (network, endpoint and content security), two vendors and one half focused on network and content security (Cisco, Fortinet and partially Sophos thanks to the Astaro acquisition), and two vendors focused essentially on endpoint security (Kaspersky and Trend Micro).

The following table summarizes their predictions:

In order to correctly understand the chart a premise is needed: as you will probably have already noticed, in several cases the predictions reflect the specific security focus for the analyzed vendor. For instance, Websense is focused on DLP, and that is the reason why the adoption of DLP is one of its predictions. Analogously McAfee is investing huge resources for Security on Silicon, and this implies that embedded systems and Malware Moving Beyond OS are present among its predictions. Same speech could be applied for Trend Micro and its Cloud Prediction and so on.

Some trends for this year are clearly emphasized: easily predictable Hactivism appears on 6 of the 7 vendors, as mobile (with different connotations) does. Social Media is on the spot as well as are SCADA, Embedded Systems and, quite surprisingly in my opinion, cloud. I would have expected a greater impact for APTs, but for a complete and more accurate analysis one should consider them together with threats targeting embedded systems or ICS. Even because according to several security firms, for instance Kasperky, APT Stuxnet-like will be used for tailored campaigns, whilst more “general purpose malware”, including botnets will be used for massive campaigns (this item is summarized as Mass Targeted Campaigns).


Some “old acquaintances” will be with us in 2012: consumerization, at least according to Sophos and Trend Micro (even if consumerization is strictly connected, if not overlapped with mobile) and, if the Comodo and Diginotar affaires were not enough, Rogue Certificates, according to McAfee. Instead some “new entries” are absolutely interesting, such as the threats related to NFC (even if in this case I would have expected a greater impact) or related to Virtual Currency. Besides let us hope that the prediction to adopt DNSSEC be more than a prediction but a consolidated practice.

The most conservative security firm? In my opinion Cisco. The most “visionary”? Maybe Fortinet, I found the “Crime as a Service (CaaS)” absolutely awesome, and most of all not so visionary, since there are already some (even if clumsy) attempts.

In any case with this plenty of Cyber Nightmares is not a surprise the fact the Enterprise security market is going to reach $23 billion worldwide in 2012 with a 8.7% growth year-on-year.


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