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.
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.
From an Information Security perspective this 2012 has begun with (too) many meaningful events, among which the most resounding so far, has been the alleged leak of portions of the source code belonging to several consumer and enterprise product by Symantec, a leading security vendor.
@YamaTough, a member of a hacking collective called “The Lords of Dharmaraja” (Dharmaraja is the Lord of Death and Justice in Hinduism) claimed paternity for an attack that, immediately after its execution, has unleashed a complicated story of Cyber Espionage full of twists and mysteries which has raised (and keeps on rising) many (un)resolved questions.
The Indian Mystery
@YamaTough, a member of an hacking group called, the Lords of Dharmaraja, leaks the source code of Symantec Endpoint Protection Enterprise Suite (SAVCE 10.2 and SEP11), approximately 5 years old. The source code was allegedly obtained from The hacking of Indian Military Servers.Symantec has admitted that “a segment of its source code used in two of our older enterprise products has been accessed”.
During the same operation the same hackers also leaked some other documents according to which:
In any case, although the leaked source code is real, it looks like the Lords of Dharmaraja faked the government memo (in order to attract more attention) since some emails there contained (and purportedly obtained by the RINOA backdoors) were allegedly stolen from the Indian Embassy on Paris and appear to have already been leaked on pastebin in December by the same hacker @YamaTough. There are also several doubts on the fact that activities of the USCC could be of any interest to Indian intelligence.
As an announced trail of the controversial Cyber Espionage affair, @YamaTough releases the source code of Norton Utilities. The author claims the leak is in support of the lawsuit between Symantec and Jame Gross, a US resident who is taking the company to court for spreading scareware. The full Source Code of Norton Antivirus is announced for Tuesday, Jan the 17th.
Not only, according to the hackers, the source code has been found on a server belonging to India Military Intelligence, but also, together with the links to the Source Code, the hackers posted an Internal Memo of India Military Intelligence entitled “Tactical Network For Cellular Surveillance”, containing potentially explosive information. According to this controversial memo “in exchange for the Indian market presence” mobile device manufacturers, including RIM, Nokia, and Apple (collectively defined in the document as “RINOA”) have agreed to provide backdoor access on their devices. Moreover it looks like the a CYCADA Team used the backdoors for espionage actions against the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC) and potentially against thousands of US government networks, ranging from those of federal agencies to systems used by state and municipal entities.
Although the implicated manufacturers firmly denied any connection, at first glance the hypothesis of a backdoor on our mobile companions seemed possible, also because it came immediately after another controversial event concerning mobile privacy, the infamous Carrier IQ rootkit found on many mobile devices.
A giant case of Cyber Espionage? Not actually! It looks like the whole story is showing an unpredictable conclusion (?). In the last days evidences are emerging that the Lords Of Dharmaraja faked the memo, maybe in order to obtain a greater attention on their operations. Although, as previously stated, Symantec has recognized parts of the source code on the leaked data, there are too many inconsistencies and incorrect information inside the memo, and also several of the emails allegedly obtained by mean of the RINOA backdoor had already been posted on December after the original attack made by the collective at the Indian Embassy in Paris (where the memo was leaked). Moreover, the letterhead on the memo comes from a military intelligence unit not involved in surveillance.
The mistery deepens, but in the meantime the Lords Of Dharmaraja keep on posting Symantec Code: Saturday Jan 14 the alleged Source Code of the Norton Utilities was released, the next Tuesday Jan 17, will be the turn of the full Norton Antivirus Source Code.
Christmas has just gone and here it is my personal way to wish you a Happy New Year: the second part of my personal chart (first part here) of Main 2011 Cyber Attacks covering the time window from August to November 2011 (December is not yet finished, and featuring remarkable events, so expect an update very soon). This memorable year is nearly over and is time, if you feel nostalgic, to scroll down the second part of the list to review the main Cyber Events that contributed, in my opinion, to change the landscape and the rules of the (information security) game. Many events in this period among whom, IMHO, the most noticeable is the one carried on against Diginotar. Since then our trust in conventional authentication models is not (and will not be) the same anymore.
Of course this is my personal selection. Suggestions are well accepted and if you need more details about the cyber events in 2011, feel free to consult my 2011 Cyber Attacks Master Index. As usual after the page break you find all the references…