Feeds

Google frets over Vietnam hacktivist botnet

Not Aurora, still a pain

3 Big data security analytics techniques

Hackers used malware to establish a botnet in Vietnam as part of an apparently politically motivated attack with loose ties to the Operation Aurora attacks that hit Google and many other blue chip firms late last year, according to new research from McAfee and Google.

Unknown miscreants used malware disguised as Vietnamese language support software to create a botnet. The malware masqueraded as a VPSKeys keyboard driver software and was discovered in computers inside a subset of the organisations hit by Aurora. Infected systems were controlled by command and control systems accessed predominantly from IP addresses inside Vietnam.

In a blog posting, Google said that the compromised machines were used in politically motivated attacks.

These infected machines have been used both to spy on their owners as well as participate in distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks against blogs containing messages of political dissent. Specifically, these attacks have tried to squelch opposition to bauxite mining efforts in Vietnam, an important and emotionally charged issue in the country.

Google draws parallels with the Vietnam botnet and operation Aurora attacks, which in part involved the attempted surveillance of Gmail accounts belonging to Chinese human rights activists. The targeted attacks associated with Aurora involved IE 6 exploits and were chiefly aimed at snaffling intellectual property from Google and others.

McAfee reckons efforts to create a botnet in Vietnam probably started in late 2009 at around the same time as the Operation Aurora attacks, but are otherwise unrelated to cyber-espionage attacks on Google and other high-tech firms. "While McAfee Labs identified the malware during our investigation into Operation Aurora, we believe the attacks are not related. The bot code is much less sophisticated than the Operation Aurora attacks," McAfee said.

"Attackers first compromised vps.org, the Web site of the Vietnamese Professionals Society (VPS), and replaced the legitimate keyboard driver with a Trojan horse.  The attackers then sent an e-mail to targeted individuals which pointed them back to the VPS Web site, where they downloaded the Trojan instead."

McAfee classifies the Trojan as Vulcanbot.

Systems infected by the Trojan "phone home" for instructions to a number of domains initially thought to be associated with Operation Aurora; subsequent research debunked this theory. "We have since come to believe that this malware is unrelated to Aurora and uses a different set of Command & Control servers," McAfee reports.

The botnet established by vulcanbot remains active and launching attacks.

McAfee reckons the perpetrators of the attacks are politically motivated and aligned to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (ie the government). ®

3 Big data security analytics techniques

More from The Register

next story
Obama allows NSA to exploit 0-days: report
If the spooks say they need it, they get it
Samsung Galaxy S5 fingerprint scanner hacked in just 4 DAYS
Sammy's newbie cooked slower than iPhone, also costs more to build
Putin tells Snowden: Russia conducts no US-style mass surveillance
Gov't is too broke for that, Russian prez says
Snowden-inspired crypto-email service Lavaboom launches
German service pays tribute to Lavabit
Mounties always get their man: Heartbleed 'hacker', 19, CUFFED
Canadian teen accused of raiding tax computers using OpenSSL bug
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Heartbleed exploit, inoculation, both released
File under 'this is going to hurt you more than it hurts me'
Reddit users discover iOS malware threat
'Unflod Baby Panda' looks to snatch Apple IDs
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.