So, it looks like that the destructive impacts of the cyber attack targeting Aramco, where definitively true. In the same hours in which the first details about the malware were disclosed, Kasperky Lab, McAfee and Symantec have dedicated respectively three blog posts to describe what appears to be the latest example of a large scale cyber attack targeting Middle East (apparently focused on companies belonging to Energy Sector).
Shamoon (or W32/DistTrack), this is the name of the malware, has some points in common (the name of a module) with the infamous Flame, but according to Kaspersky this is the only similarity:
It is more likely that this is a copycat, the work of a script kiddies inspired by the story.
The malware has the same features seen in other “companions” among which the driver signed by a legitimate company “Eidos Corporation”.
According to Symantec, the malware consists of several components:
- Dropper: the main component and source of the original infection. It drops a number of other modules.
- Wiper: this module is responsible for the destructive functionality of the threat.
- Reporter: this module is responsible for reporting infection information back to the attacker.
According to McAfee, machines infected by the malware are made useless as most of the files, the MBR and the partition tables are overwritten with garbage data. The overwritten data is lost and is not recoverable, so this should confirm the destructive details received yesterday.
While, according to Seculert, the malware is a two-stage attack:
Stage 1: The attacker takes control of an internal machine connected directly to the internet, and uses that as a proxy to the external Command & Control server. Through the proxy, the attacker can infect the other internal machines, probably not connected directly to the internet.
Stage 2: Once the intended action on the internal infected machines is complete, the attacker executes the Shamoon malware, wiping all evidence of other malicious software or stolen data from those machines (or also the MBR and the partition table as McAfee Suggested). It then reported back to the external Command & Control Server through the proxy.
So far it is not clear who is behind the attack, although Kaspersky Lab suggests that the term Shamoon:
could be a reference to the Shamoon College of Engineering http://www.sce.ac.il/eng/. Or, it could simply be the name of one of the malware authors. Shamoon is the equivalent of Simon in Arabic.
More details are expected in the next hours.
While the U.S. and Israel keep on mutually claiming the Stuxnet’s paternity, Kaspersky Lab has unveiled further details about Flame that allow to connect it with the infamous malware targeting Iranian Nuclear Plants.
Are the two 21st century Cyber Weapons really correlated? Due to some architectural differences, the first data seemed to exclude any similarities between the two platforms: the so-called Tilded platform which Stuxnet and Duqu are based on, and the brand new platform from which Flame has been developed. In any case never trust appearances, as a small detail dating back to 2012 has unveiled a landscape that seems completely different from what was previously believed, which suggests the hypothesis that the Stuxnet malware had a kind of “proto flame” inside.
The Cyber Spy Story begins in October 2010 when the automated systems by Kaspersky Lab detected a False (Stuxnet) Positive. This sample apparently looked like a new variant (Worm.Win32.Stuxnet.s) but a deeper analysis showed (then) no apparent correlation with Stuxnet so it was subsequently dubbed Tocy.a.
Only two years later, in 2012, after the discovery of Flame, the russian security firm started to compare the brand new malware with previously detected samples to find any similarities. And guess what? The nearly forgotten Tocy.a was nearly identical to Flame. A further check to logs, allowed to discover that the Tocy.a, apparently an early module of Flame, was actually similar to “resource 207” from Stuxnet, and this similarity was the reason why the automatic system had previously classified it as Stuxnet.
Resource 207 is a 520,192 bytes Stuxnet encrypted DLL file that contains another PE file inside (351,768 bytes). It was found in the 2009 version of Stuxnet, despite it was dropped in the 2010 evolution, with its code merged into other modules. The PE file is actually a Flame Plugin, while the purpose of Resource 207 on the 2009 variant of Stuxnet was just to allow the malware propagation to removable USB drives via autorun.inf, as well as to exploit a then-unknown vulnerability (MS09-025) to escalate privileges in the system during the infection from USB drive.
Given the evidences collected, researchers suggests that, although Flame has been discovered a couple of years after Stuxnet, it was already in existence when Stuxnet was created (Jan-Jun 2009), having already a modular structure. The “Resource 207″ module was removed from Stuxnet in 2010 due to the addition of a new method of propagation (vulnerability MS10-046), while the Flame module in Stuxnet exploited a vulnerability which was unknown then, allowing an escalation of privileges, presumably exploiting MS09-025.
Part of the Flame code was used in Stuxnet despite, after 2009, the evolution of the Flame platform continued independently from Stuxnet.
Probably, this is the second important discovery about Flame after the MD5 Collision Attack, which enabled to malware to hide the download of its own modules behind Windows Updates.
Regarding the MD5 Collision Attack, I suggest you to have a look at this very interesting presentation. You will be amazed in discovering that the first successful demonstration of this attack took, in 2008 (the alleged year in which Flame was created), about 2 days on a cluster of 200 PS3s (corresponding to about $20k on Amazon EC2). Together with the complexity of the attack, this aspect is enough to suggest a state-sponsored origin for the malware (i.e. the need of huge resources and know-how). But there’s more: to make the MD5 Collision Attack successful in Flame, the Attackers, had to overcome a huge obstacle corresponding to prediction the Serial Number of the Certificate (which is based on a sequential certificate number and the current time). Nothing strange apparently, except for the fact that they had a 1-millisecond window to get the certificate issued. What does this mean in simple words? A large number of attempts required to get the certificate issued at the right moment, an effort 10-100x more costly that the original MD5 Collision Attack Demonstration.
Now I understand why the Iran Cyber Warfare Budget is estimated to be “only” USD 100 Million…
- Back to Stuxnet: the missing link (securelist.com)
- Researchers Connect Flame to U.S.-Israel Stuxnet Attack (wired.com)
- Discovery of new “zero-day” exploit links developers of Stuxnet, Flame (arstechnica.com)
The fact that ISPs are evaluating an Anti Botnet Conduct Code means their are feeling responsible for what resides inside (and leaves) their networks, and hence are supposed to take technical, organizational and educational countermeasures.
Anyway, in order to be effective, anti-bot controls should be enforced inside the customers’ networks, or at least before any source NAT is performed, otherwise IP addresses of the infected machines would be hidden, making impossible to detect and block them directly. A huge task for an ISP unless one were able to centralize the security enforcement point where the traffic is monitored and compromised endpoints members of a bot detected.
Said in few words I believe that ISPs will soon offer advanced anti-malware (read anti-bot) services in the cloud by routing (or better switching) the customer’s traffic on their data centers where it is checked and the customers notifyed in real time about the presence of bots inside their networks. You may think to the same approach used for URL filtering services on the cloud with the difference that in this scenario the clients should arrive to the ISP’s Data Center with their original IP Address or a statically NATed address so that it could always be possible to recognize the original source. Another difference is also that in this scenario the purpose in not only to protect the customers’ networks from the external world but also (and maybe most of all) to protect the external world from the customers’ (dirty) networks.
Another contribution of the cloud against Botnets that I forgot to mention in the original post.
- I, BOT (Coming To A C&C Server Near You) (hackmageddon.com)
What is a Cyber Weapon? At first glance this seems an immediate question to answer, but should anyone try to analyze the meaning of this term more deeply, probably he would be quite surprised and disappointed in discovering that the answer is not so immediate since an exact definition has not been given (at least so far).
A real paradox in the same days in which The Pentagon, following the Japanese Example, has unveiled its new strategy aimed to dramatically accelerate the development of new Cyber Weapons. And do not think these are isolated, fashion-driven examples (other nations are approaching the same strategy), but rather consider them real needs in the post-Stuxnet age, an age in which more and more government are moving their armies to the fifth domain of war [you will probably remember the (in)famous episode, when F-Secure was able to discover Chinese Government launching online attacks against unidentified U.S. Targets].
Recently Stefano Mele, a friend and a colleague of the Italian Security Professional Group, tried to give an answer to this question in his paper (so far only in Italian but it will be soon translated in English) where he analyzes Cyber Weapons from a legal and strategical perspective.
As he points out “Correctly defining the concept of Cyber Weapon, thus giving a definition also in law, is an urgent and unavoidable task, for being able to assess both the level of threat deriving from a cyber attack, and the consequent political and legal responsibilities attributable to those who performed it”. Maybe this phrase encloses the reason why a coherent definition has not been given so far: a cyber weapon is not only a technological concept, but rather hides behind it complex juridical implications.
Having this in mind, according to Stefano’s definition: a cyber weapon is:
A device or any set of computer instructions intended to unlawfully damage a system acting as a critical infrastructure, its information, the data or programs therein contained or thereto relevant, or even intended to facilitate the interruption, total or partial, or alteration of its operation.
The above definition implies that cyber weapons may span in theory a wide range of possibilities: from (D)DoS attacks (which typically have a low level of penetration since they target the “surface” of their targets), to “tailored” malware like Stuxnet, characterized by a high intrusiveness and a low rate of collateral damages.
One could probably argue whether a cyber weapon must necessarily generate physical damages or not, in which case, probably, Stuxnet, would be the one, so far, to encompass all the requirements. In any case, from my point of view, I believe the effects of a cyber weapon should be evaluated from its domain of relevance, the cyberspace, with the possibility to cross the virtual boundaries and extend to the real world (Stuxnet is a clear example of this, since it inflicted serious damages to Iranian Nuclear Plants, including large-scale accidents and loss of lifes).
With this idea in mind, I tried to build a model to classify the cyber weapons according to four parameters: Precision (that is the capability to target only the specific objective and reduce collateral damages), Intrusion (that is the level of penetration inside the target), Visibility (that is the capability to be undetected), and Easiness to Implement (a measure of the resource needed to develop the specific cyber weapon). The results, ranging from paintball pistols to smart bombs, are summarized in the above chart.
As you may notice, in these terms a DDoS attack is closer to a paintball pistol: the latter has a low level of penetration and the effects are more perceived than real (it shows the holder’s intention to harm the victim rather than constituting a real danger ), nevertheless it may be used to threaten someone, or worst to make a robbery. The same is true for a DDoS, it is often used to threaten the target, its action stops at the surface and usually the effects are more relevant in terms of reputation of the victims than in terms of damages done. Nevertheless, for the targets, it may lead to an interruption of service (albeit with no physical damages) and monetary losses.
On the opposite site there are specific “surgical” APTs: they have a high level of penetration with reduced collateral damages, they are able to go hidden for long time, but require huge investments to be developed, which ultimately make their adoption not so easy.
Of course, in between, there is a broad gray area, where the other Cyber Weapons reside depending on their positioning according to the four classification parameters identified… So, at the end what do you think? Do you agree with this classification?
Find here February 2012 Cyber Attacks Timelime Part I.
With a small delay (my apologies but the end of February has been very busy for me and not only for Cybercrooks as you will soon see), here it is the second part of my compilation with the main Cyber Attacks for February 2012.
Easily Predictable, the Hacktivism is still the main concern for System Administrators, in particular for the ones of Stratfor who suffered a huge leak of 5 million of emails.
On the same front, the threats of the Anonymous for the Friday actions have come true and as a matter of fact Law Enforcement Agencies suffered other remarkable breaches in this month: Infragard for the second time and also Interpol (a new entry) that was taken down after the arrest of 25 members of the collective. Anti ACTA protest also continue to shake Europe as also the delicate economical and social situation in Greece.
Last but not least, this month has also seen an unforgettable leak, affecting potentially more than 1.000.000 Youporn users.
As usual, the chart does not include the events related to Middle East Cyber War Timeline, that you may find at this link, as they “deserve” a dedicated timeline.
Cross Posted from TheAviationist.
2011 has been an annus horribilis for information security, and aviation has not been an exception to this rule: not only in 2011 the corporate networks of several aviation and aerospace industries have been targeted by digital storms (not a surprise in the so-called hackmageddon) but, above all, last year will be probably remembered for the unwelcome record of two alleged hacking events targeting drones (“alleged” because in the RQ-170 Sentinel downed in Iran episode, several doubts surround the theory according to which GPS hacking could have been the real cause of the crash landing).
But, if Information Security professionals are quite familiar with the idea that military contractors could be primary and preferred targets of the current Cyberwar, as the infographic on the left shows, realizing that malware can be used to target a drone is still considered an isolated episode, and even worse, the idea of a malware targeting, for instance, the multirole Joint Strike Fighter is still something hard to accept.
However, things are about change dramatically. And quickly.
The reason is simple: the latest military and civil airplanes are literally full of electronics, which play a primary role in managing avionics, onboard systems, flight surfaces, communcation equipment and armament.
For instance an F-22 Raptor owns about 1.7 millions od line of codes , an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter about 5.7 millions and a Boeing 787 Dreamliner about 6.5 millions. Everything with some built in code may be exploited, therefore, with plenty of code and much current and future vulnerabilities, one may not rule out a priori that these systems will be targeted with specific tailored or generic malware for Cyberwar, Cybercrime, or even hacktivism purposes.
Unfortunately it looks like the latter hypothesis is closer to reality since too often these systems are managed by standard Windows operating systems, and as a matter of fact a generic malware has proven to be capable to infect the most important U.S. robots flying in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, and Indian Ocean: Predator and Reaper Drones.
As a consequence, it should not be surprising, nor it is a coincidence, that McAfee, Sophos and Trend Micro, three leading players for Endpoint Security, consider the embedded systems as one of the main security concerns for 2012.
Making networks more secure (and personnel more educated) to prevent the leak of mission critical documents and costly project plans (as happened in at least a couple of circumstances) will not be aviation and aerospace industry’s information security challenge; the real challenge will be to embrace the security-by-design paradigm and make secure and malware-proof products ab initio.
While you wait to see if an endpoint security solution becomes available for an F-35, scroll down the image below and enjoy the list of aviation and aerospace related cyber attacks occurred since the very first hack targeting the F-35 Lightning II in 2009.
Of course aviation and aerospace industries are not the only targets for hackers and cybercriminals. So, 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) at hackmageddon.com. And follow @pausparrows on Twitter for the latest updates.
As usual the references are after the jump…