Another high-profile security company has been breached. Bit9, a leading provider of application whitelisting technology, has admitted to have been attacked by a malicious external third party who was able to illegally gain access to one of their digital code-signing certificates. The attackers did not waste time and the compromised certificate has immediately been used to sign malware infiltrating, according to the company’s investigation, the network of three customers.
The news was initially revealed by Brian Krebs in a blog post, and later confirmed by the security vendor, which also gave additional (scant) details, including the fact that the malicious attackers were able to infiltrate a portion of their internal network not protected by their product.
“We simply did not follow the best practices we recommend to our customers by making certain our product was on all physical and virtual machines within Bit9.“
At first glance the attack has many points in common with the infamous RSA Breach of 2011, including the fact that maybe the real target of the attack was not the company itself, but the protected network of its customers. On the other hand, if it is true, as the company claims, that Bit9 was the only security company capable to stop both the Flame malware and the RSA breach attack, to achieve their target, the attackers had no other chance than attacking the source of their technology.
The latest demonstration, if necessary, that attacks are becoming more and more aggressive and sophisticated, and the protection is not only a matter of technology but even of good procedures and best practice, and not only for the possible victims…
November has gone and it’s time to review this month’s cyber landscape.
From a Cyber Crime perspective, November 2012 will be probably remembered for the breach to Nationwide, one of the largest insurance and financial services providers in the US, a breach that has potentially left up to 1 million users exposed. Unfortunately, in terms of massive breaches, this is not the only remarkable event of the month, just at the end Acer India has suffered a massive cyber attack culminated in the leak of nearly 15,000 records. Not comparable with the breach that affected Nationwide, but for sure of big impact.
Also on the cyber-espionage front this month has been interesting: JAXA, the Japan Space agency has been targeted by yet another targeted attack (after January 2012) and Symantec has discovered W32.Narilam, a new destructive malware targeting several nations in Middle East.
The hacktivist front has been characterized by the dramatic events in Gaza, the attacks have reached a peak around the first half of the month (as in the first part, I did not take into consideration the attacks carried on in name of OpIsrael for which I wrote a dedicated timeline), in any case the Anonymous have found another way to mark this month, leaking 1 Gb of documents from the Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Last but not least, this month has seen three large-scale DNS Poisoning attacks (against the Pakistani Registrar PKNIC, Inc., GoDaddy, and the Romanian Registrar). A very rare occurrence!
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 and the related statistics (regularly updated), and follow @paulsparrows on Twitter for the latest updates.
Also, feel free to submit remarkable incidents that in your opinion deserve to be included in the timelines (and charts).
- 1-15 November 2012 Cyber Attacks Statistics (hackmageddon.com)
- Timeline of Opisrael (hackmageddon.com)
According to the French Magazine “L’Express” earlier in May some computers in the offices of former France’s president Nicolas Sarkozy have been victims of a targeted attack carried via a Flame variant.
What is surprising is not (only) the fact that this is the first known case of a Flame infection out of the Middle East, but most of all the fact that the malware was allegedly implanted by U.S. Hackers.
The attack was successful and, according to the French magazine, the attackers were able to get to the heart of French political power, harvesting the computers of close advisers of Nicolas Sarkozy and obtaining “secret notes” and “strategic plans”.
The attack model resembles a spy story: the attacker crafted a false profile on Facebook (a bogus friend of someone who worked for the president’s office) and successfully used that profile to contact (and compromise) personnel working at the President’s Office (The Elysèe).
After contacting the unaware victims, the attacker sent them a malicious link to a fake Elysée webpage, where they entered their real login and password details that the attacker used to hack into the network and spread the Flame variant.
The reasons of the attack are unknown.
Another day, another revelation inside the (in)visible Cyber War going on Middle East. Today Kaspersky Lab has announced the discovery of another strain of malware derived from the infamous Tilded-Platform family: the little brother of Flame, the so-called miniFlame (or “John”, as named by the corresponding Gauss configuration).
The malware has been discovered while looking closer at the protocol handlers of the Flame C2 Infrastructure. An analysis that had previously revealed four different types of malware clients codenamed SP, SPE, FL and IP, and hence the fragmented evidence of a new family of cyber weapons, where one only element were known at the time the FL client corresponding to Flame.
Exactly one month later, another member of the family has been given a proper name: the SPE element corresponding to miniFlame.
Unlike its elder brother Flame (and its cousin Gauss) miniFlame does not appear to be the element of a massive spy operation, infecting thousands of users, but rather resembles more a small, fully functional espionage module designed for data theft and direct access to infected systems. In few words: a high precision, surgical attack tool created to complement its most devastating relatives for high-profile targeted campaigns. The main purpose of miniFlame is to act as a backdoor on infected systems, allowing direct control by the attackers.
Researchers discovered that miniFlame is based on the Flame platform but is implemented as an independent module. This means that it can operate either independently, without the main modules of Flame in the system, or as a component controlled by Flame.
Furthermore, miniFlame can be used in conjunction Gauss. It has been assumed that Flame and Gauss were parallel projects without any modules or C&C servers in common. The discovery of miniFlame, and the evidence that it can works with both cyber espionage tools, proves that were products of the same ‘cyber-weapon factory’: miniFlame can work as a stand-alone program, or as a Flame or event Gauss plugin.
Although researchers believe that miniFlame is on the wild since 2007, it has infected a significantly smaller number of hosts (~50-60 vs. more than 10,000 systems affected by the Flame/Gauss couple). The distribution of the infections depends on the SPE variant, and spans a heterogeneous sample of countries: from Lebanon and Palestine, to Iran, Kuwait and Qatar; with Lebanon and Iran that appear to concentrate the bigger number of infected hosts.
Another evidence of the ongoing (since 2007) silent Cyber War in Middle East.
The infosec chronicle has offered many interesting events in this first part of October. Upon all, the massive leak against top 100 universities by the infamous Team GhostShell, the Skype worm, and, last but not least, the U.S. congressional report accusing China’s leading telecom equipment makers, Huawei and ZTE, of being a potential security risk.
Inevitably these events are obfuscating what’s going on in Middle East where Iran, on one hand, is facing the latest wave of Cyber Attacks against its internal assets, and on the other hand, claims to have infiltrated the “most sensitive enemy cyber data”.
This hot autumn for the Middle East has begun on September 30 (approximately one week after Iran connected all its government agencies to its secure autarchic domestic internet service). In that circumstance Iranian Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi announced a clamorous cyber strike of his navy’s cyber corps, being able to “infiltrate the enemy’s most sensitive information” and successfully promote “cyberwar code,” i.e. decrypt highly classified data.
Ali Fadavi did not specify the name of any particular enemy, but simply referred to “imperialistic domination,” a clear reference to Iran’s “enmity with America.”
Maybe is a coincidence, or maybe not, but on October 3 Iran has suffered a massive outage of its Internet infrastructure, at least according to what Mehdi Akhavan Behabadi, secretary of the High Council of Cyberspace, has declared to the Iranian Labour News Agency. An outage that the Iranian official has attributed to a heavy organized attack against the country’s nuclear, oil, and information networks, which forced to limit the usage of the Internet.
The latest (?) episode a couple of days ago, on October 8, when Mohammad Reza Golshani, head of information technology for the Iranian Offshore Oil Company, told Iran’s Mehr news agency that an unsuccessful (i.e. repelled by Iranian Experts) cyber attack had targeted the company platforms’ information networks in the past few weeks. I wonder if we are in front of a new Flame. In any case, according to Mr. Golshani there were few doubts about the authors of the attack.
“This attack was planned by the regime occupying Jerusalem (Israel) and a few other countries”.
Few hours later Iran has officially blamed Israel and China for planning and operating the attack.
It is not a mystery that the Stuxnet attack forced Iran to tighten its cyber security, a strategy culminating on the creation of a domestic Internet separated from the outer world (a way to control the access to the Web according to many observers).
For sure it is not a coincidence that the same network separation is the main reason why Iran was able to repel the latest attacks.
My sixth sense (and half) tells me that other occasions to test the cyber security of the Iranian domestic Internet will come soon!
Yesterday Bloomberg reported the news of a new cyber attack in Middle East targeting an Oil Company. The latest victim is Ras Laffan Liquefied Natural Gas Co., a Qatari LNG producer that has shut down part of its computer systems targeted by an unidentified malware since Aug. 27.
According to the scant official information available, desktop computers in company offices were the only affected, while operational systems at onshore and offshore installations were immune, with no impact on production or cargoes.
Of course it is impossible to avoid a parallelism with the cyber attack targeting Saudi Aramco a couple of weeks ago, and the 30,000 workstations that the company admitted to have been targeted (and restored only few days ago) by this malware outbreak. It is also impossible not to mention the infamous Shamoon, the brand new malware discovered in Middle East that information security community immediately connected to the Saudi Aramco cyber incident, furthermore stating (by literally quoting Symantec’s blog):
W32.Disttrack is a new threat that is being used in specific targeted attacks against at least one organization in the energy sector.
The Ras Raffan cyber attack maybe provides a partial answer to the question regarding who else might have been affected by Shamoon (I wonder if we will soon learn of other companies targeted) and even if security researchers have not confirmed, so far, the connection between Shamoon and this latest attack, the first speculations on regard have already appeared. According to the WSJ, the RasGas information technology department identified the virus as Shamoon, stating that:
Following the virus attack, some “computers are completely dead”.
The Middle East is considered the Cradle of Civilization, but I am afraid that, in this 21st century, it is becoming the “Cradle of Cyber War”. And even if you consider Shamoon just an amateurish copycat (with no cyberwar intentions), you cannot ignore that the latest research according to which even Wiper is a son of the so-called Tilded Platform (the same malware platform that originated Stuxnet, Duqu and Flame).
This cannot be considered a mere coincidence.
Apparently the “Psychosis of Targeted Attacks” is plaguing not only the end users but even the security researchers, leading to dangerous collisions and clamorous retractions.
Yesterday the security firm FireEye published a blog post about the well-known Gauss targeted attacks, concluding that there was some sort of relationship between the Gauss and Flame malware actors based on observing C&C communication going to the Flame C&C IP address.
Unfortunately they did not realize they were observing the activities of a sinkhole operated by Kaspersky in which the sinkhole process had been organized to monitor both the Flame and Gauss C&C infrastructure.
Kaspersky Chief Security Expert Alexander Gostev explains the reasons of the misleading conclusions:
After discovering Gauss we started the process of working with several organizations to investigate the C2 servers with sinkholes. Given Flame’s connection with Gauss, the sinkhole process was being organized to monitor both the Flame and Gauss’ C2 infrastructures. It’s important to note that the Gauss C2 infrastructure is completely different than Flame’s. The Gauss C2s were shut down in July by its operators and the servers have been in a dormant state by the operators since then. However, we wanted to monitor any activity on both C2 infrastructures.
During the process of initiating the investigation into Gauss C2s and creating sinkholes we notified trusted members of the security and anti-malware community about the sinkhole IP and operation so that they were aware of any activity. FireEye’s post about the Gauss C2 samples connecting to the same servers as Flame are actually our sinkholes they’re looking at.
With some easy Googling and checking on WhoIs, researchers could have verified all of this.
Since the investigation and sinkhole operation are still in progress we do not have any more information to provide at this time.