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Analysts: Shamoon oil biz malware flingers were 'amateurs'

Programming errors ahoy....

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Fresh analysis of the Shamoon malware has concluded that its authors are more likely to be "skilled amateurs" rather than elite cyber-spies.

Shamoon has been linked to recent high-profile malware outbreaks at Saudi Aramco and RasGas, Gulf-based oil and gas firms. Saudi Aramco lost its network for 10 days as a result of the attack, which affected 30,000 workstations. The outbreak was particularly nasty because Shamoon contains file-wiping functionality that can make infected machines inoperable as well as destroying data.

A previously unknown group called Cutting Sword of Justice claimed responsibility for the attack. Reports by Reuters suggest an internal mole may have played a hand in spreading the malware, but this remains unconfirmed.

Security researchers at Kaspersky Labs have taken apart the malware, revealing the details of how Shamoon worked in the process. Dmitry Tarakanov concludes that controversial features, such as planting the image of a burning US flag and compromised PCs and (more damningly) coding errors mean that its more likely to be the work of amateurs than elite coders, such as the developers of either ZeuS or Stuxnet, for example.

Programming errors in the Shamoon communication module mean that the malware is incapable of downloading and running other strains of malware.

"We’ve got other clues that people behind creating the Shamoon malware are not high-profile programmers and the nature of their mistakes suggests that they are amateurs albeit skillful amateurs as they did create a quite practicable piece of self-replicating destructive malware," Tarakanov concludes at the end of his technically detailed analysis. "The fact that they used a picture of a fragment of a burning US flag possibly shows that the motive of Shamoon’s authors is to create and use malware in a politically driven way. Moreover, they wished that their protest which was embedded into the malware would not go unnoticed." ®

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