(But in some cases may remain unknown for up to 2.5 years). A couple of days ago, two Symantec Researchers have published an interesting article (“Before We Knew It: An Empirical Study of Zero-Day Attacks In The Real World”) reporting the study of 0-Day Attacks between 2008 and 2001. They have analyzed 300 million files collected by 11 million hosts (a representative subset of the hosts running Symantec products) between March 2008 and February 2011.
These files were extracted from the the WINE environment (Worldwide Intelligence Network Environment, a platform for repeatable data intensive experiments aimed to share comprehensive field data among the research community) and correlated with three additional sources: the Open Source Vulnerability Database (OSVDB), Symantec’s Threat Explorer (the company database for the known malware samples) and an additional Symantec data set with dynamic analysis results for malware samples.
The purpose of the research was to execute a sort of automatic forensic analysis aimed to go back in time to look for 0-day attacks carried on during the analyzed period. The results are disarming.
The researchers were able to find 18 vulnerabilities exploited before disclosure, among which 11 were not previously known to have been deployed in 0-day attacks. Based on the data, a typical zero-day attack lasts on average 312 days, but in some cases may remain unknown for up to 2.5 years (think to what it means to have the enemy inside the gates for such a long time).
Just to confirm that 0-days are the cradle of targeted attacks, the data show that most zero-day attacks affect few hosts, with the exception of a few high-profile attacks (Do you remember Stuxnet?). Moreover, after vulnerabilities are disclosed, the volume of attacks exploiting them increases by up to 5 orders of magnitude (the number of variants increases “only” by up to 2 orders).
And this is not a mere coincidence since apparently the cyber criminals watch closely the vulnerability landscape, as exploits for 42% of all vulnerabilities employed are detected in field data within 30 days after the disclosure date.
A terribly worrying landscape, even considering a theoretical point of weakness of the research, that is the fact that the sample could be considered self-consistent referring only to malware strains collected by Symantec customers.
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.
Update August 17: More details about Shamoon, the malware targeting Saudi Aramco and other Middle East companies belonging to Energy Sector. Apparently the destructive details unveiled yesterday are confirmed.
Upate August 27: Saudi Aramco Admits 30K workstations affected.
I have just received a couple of tweets from an unknown user @cyberstrikenews providing more details about the latest Cyber Attack in Middle East targeting Saudi Arabian Oil Company (Saudi Aramco).
(@cyberstrikenews) August 16, 2012
The Oil Company declared that “production had not been affected” and even if the virus affected some computers, it did not penetrate key components of the network. The company also said it would return to normal operating mode soon.
From the information I have received (I cannot verify the integrity of the source, so I report the data integrally), the situation appears quite different:
- The company has about 40000 computer clients and about 2000 servers, the destructive virus was known to wipe all information and operation system related files in at least 30000 (75%) of them all data lost permanently.
- Among the servers which (were) destroyed are the company main web server, mail server (smtp and exchange), and the domain controller which as the central part of their network.
- All clients are permanently shut down and they will not be able to recover them in a short period.
- The main company web site ( http://www.aramco.com ) was down during 24 hours and at last they redirected it to an outside country web site called “www.saudiaramco.com”.
Apparently the web site has just been restored to normal operation redirecting the user to Saudi Aramco.
After Stuxnet, Duqu, Flame and Gauss, yet another confirm that there is no cyber peace in middle East!
You-r!-k@n keeps on his personal battle against Iran.
The latest target is the official website of Iran Energy Water (tw.org.ir), which has been defaced, showing, in several sections, of the main page, a message against the Iran Nuclear Program and against the recent event in Bulgaria where five Israeli tourists (and their local driver) were killed in a terrorist attack in the Black Sea city of Burgas. At the time of writing the web site is unavailable, showing the well-familiar IIS7 Splash Screen (in spite of the embargo and the alleged Iranian Cyber Autarchy).
As you know, Israel blamed Iran for the latter event (backed by American Officials), and hence, easily predictable, the dispute between the two states has (once again) crossed the boundaries of the cyber world (but a defacement is quite a simple question in comparison with Stuxnet and The Flame).
The time of the Middle East Cyber War is well behind, nevertheless cyber events targeting both countries, whether state-sponsored or carried on by lone rangers, continue to happen at a constant rate.
I have just received an email from the israeli hacker dubbed you-ri-k@n providing me with some details about a peculiar Cyber Attack against an Iranian news web site. Looks like you-ri-k@n has a kind of predilection for Iran: you will probably remember him for his last cyber attack (nearly a couple of months ago) targeting the Iranian Meteorological Organization.
This time the victim is the Islamic Republic Of Iran Broadcasting World Service, whose main page currently shows a fake news reporting the death of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the sixth and current President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, in a plane crash.
Clicking on the “News” button redirects the user to an image where (few) additional details about the fake incident are provided:
Few days ago, with the flame still burning, Iranian officials claimed to be under the fire of a massive cyber attack. Of course this isolated episode may not be compared with Stuxnet or The Flame, nevertheless it shows that, even if in a microscopic scale, the cyber tension between the two countries is still high.
- A New Beginning For The Middle East Cyberwar? (hackmageddon.com)