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Israeli cops penetrated by army of fake generals with trojans

Syrian rebels also hit, Iran's name murmured

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Israeli police departments were pulled offline last Thursday following the discovery of a Trojan especially targeted at law enforcement networks in the Jewish state.

The malware was distributed using spammed messages, spoofed so that they appeared to come from the head of the Israel Defense Forces, Benny Gantz. The malicious emails contained the subject line "IDF strikes militants in Gaza Strip following rocket barrage", and a compressed .RAR file was attached. Opening the dodgy attachment on Windows machines leads to infection by the XTRAT-B Trojan (AKA Benny Gantz-59).

Samples of the malware obtained by Trend Micro suggest that the initial target of the attack was systems within the Israeli Customs agency.

"Based on our analysis, this backdoor is an Xtreme remote access Trojan (RAT) that, like all RATs, can be used to steal information and receive commands from a remote attacker," Ivan Macalintal, a threat research manager at Trend Micro explains. "The Xtreme RAT appears to have been used in previous attacks targeting Syrian anti-government activists."

The Trojan features Windows 8 compatibility, improved audio and desktop capture capabilities as well as better routines for grabbing passwords saved in Chrome and Firefox.

Antivirus firms are adding detection for both the spammed message and the malicious file but the damage may already have been done. Roni Bachar, head of Israeli security firm Avnet, told the Times of Israel that police servers might have been compromised for up to a week before the outbreak was detected, and quarantine procedures were applied.

"It was only late Wednesday night that police realized what happened and ordered that computers be taken offline," Bachar said. "Apparently the virus was also distributed to other government departments."

Police forces re-established limited internet connectivity by Sunday but it's unclear when full access will be restored, the Times of Israel adds.

It's also unclear who created the malware or why, although Iran has (unsurprisingly) emerged as a likely suspect.

"Benny Gantz-55 may have been a prank," the DigitalIntifada blog speculates.

"It may also have been generated by Iran's burgeoning cyber warfare centres which have been rapidly expanded since Tehran's nuclear programme was hit by the Stuxnet virus in 2010." ®

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