Feeds

'India attacked Norwegian telco to get at Pakistan, China' - report

A tale of twisted IP tracks

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Security researchers have uncovered what appears to be a sophisticated targeted attack launched from India and designed to steal information from a range of government and private enterprise victims in Pakistan, China and elsewhere.

What began as an investigation into an attack on Norwegian operator Telenor soon uncovered evidence to show attackers probably hailing from India had been lifting info from business, government, poltical organisations for as long as three years.

Norwegian anti-malware firm Norman AS claimed in its Operation Hangover (PDF) report that although the attack infrastructure appeared “predominantly to be a platform for surveillance against targets of national security interest (such as Pakistan)”, as well as industrial espionage, there is no direct evidence to link it to state-sponsored players.

Attackers used spear phishing techniques, exploiting known Microsoft software vulnerabilities – no zero days – to drop info-stealing malware dubbed "HangOver" onto victims’ machines.

Finding readable folders on a number of C&C servers, the researchers dug deeper to discover several malicious executable digitally signed with a certificate which had been revoked in 2011.

Domains registered by the attackers were almost all privacy protected, while “almost all websites belonging to this attacker has their robots.txt set to ‘disallow’ to stop them from being crawled”, the report continued.

However, the attack is far from advanced, according to security firm Eset, which has also been investigating.

"String obfuscation using simple rotation (a shift cipher), no cryptography used in network communication, persistence achieved through the startup menu and use of existing, publicly-available tools to gather information on infected systems shows that the attackers did not go to great lengths to cover their tracks," the vendor said in a blog post.

The researchers at Norman explained how the initial Telenor attack allowed them to widen the investigation, as follows:

We have direct knowledge of only one attack – the one against Telenor. During this investigation we have obtained malware samples and decoy documents that have provided indications as to whom else would be in the target groups. We have observed the usage of peculiar domain names that are remarkably similar to existing legitimate domains. We have also obtained sinkhole data for a number of domains in question and found open folders with stolen user data in them; enough to identify targets down to IP and machine name/domain level.

These IP addresses hail from a large range of countries globally including China, Russia, France and the US but the vast majority correspond to Pakistan.

Aside from Telenor the report listed other attack targets as energy companies the Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation (ENRC) and Bumi; Porsche Informatik; and Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

“The continued targeting of Pakistani interests and origins suggested that the attacker was of Indian origin,” the report concludes.

Interestingly, an analysis of the project paths for malware creation revealed a highly organised operation in which “multiple developers are tasked with specific malware deliverances”:

There are many diverging project paths which points towards different persons working on separate sub-projects, but apparently not using a centralised source control system. The projects seem to be delegated into tasks, of which some seem to follow a monthly cycle.

The report also points out that the word “Appin” crops up in various contexts and cases, including malware file names, speculating some actor may be deliberately trying to implicate Indian security company Appin Security Group in the attacks.

The company has now issued a warning notice on its home page urging the public “not to be misled by any communication received through fictitious domains which are purportedly being made by, or on behalf of, our company”.

It also sent a strongly worded statement to The Hacker News claiming the reference to Appin in the report was a “marketing gimmick on the part of Norman AS” and that it has already initiated legal proceedings against the Norwegian firm. ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
Regin: The super-spyware the security industry has been silent about
NSA fingered as likely source of complex malware family
Why did it take antivirus giants YEARS to drill into super-scary Regin? Symantec responds...
FYI this isn't just going to target Windows, Linux and OS X fans
Privacy bods offer GOV SPY VICTIMS a FREE SPYWARE SNIFFER
Looks for gov malware that evades most antivirus
Home Office: Fancy flogging us some SECRET SPY GEAR?
If you do, tell NOBODY what it's for or how it works
HACKERS can DELETE SURVEILLANCE DVRS remotely – report
Hikvision devices wide open to hacking, claim securobods
'Regin': The 'New Stuxnet' spook-grade SOFTWARE WEAPON described
'A degree of technical competence rarely seen'
Syrian Electronic Army in news site 'hack' POP-UP MAYHEM
Gigya redirect exploit blamed for pop-rageous ploy
Astro-boffins start opening universe simulation data
Got a supercomputer? Want to simulate a universe? Here you go
prev story

Whitepapers

10 ways wire data helps conquer IT complexity
IT teams can automatically detect problems across the IT environment, spot data theft, select unique pieces of transaction payloads to send to a data source, and more.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
The total economic impact of Druva inSync
Examining the ROI enterprises may realize by implementing inSync, as they look to improve backup and recovery of endpoint data in a cost-effective manner.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.