Feeds

JUST LIKE US: Hackers who work for gov seem almost... ORGANISED

Malware quartermasters dish out exploits on demand, say researchers

The essential guide to IT transformation

State-sponsored hackers are looking less like traditional hacking crews and more like military units as they share infrastructure and adopt strict hierarchies, according to new research.

Infosec firm FireEye has identified links between 11 APT campaigns, including use of the same malware tools, shared code, binaries with the same timestamps, and signed binaries with the same digital certificates.

The 11 APT campaigns targeted a wide swath of industries and appeared unrelated at first, until cyber-sleuths uncovered digital evidence linking the attacks.

The shared development and logistics operation used to support several APT actors in distinct but overlapping campaigns points to the role of a "digital quartermaster". The role of this cyber organiser is different from that occupied by exploit brokers (firms and/or individuals who discovered or re-sell security vulnerabilities and exploits), according to FireEye.

"The main difference between the quartermaster that we identified and exploit-brokers is that we have no evidence to show the quartermaster also develops exploits for known or unknown vulnerabilities," Ned Moran, a senior malware researcher from FireEye, told El Reg. "We know that the quartermaster develops custom remote access tools but we do not know if they also develop and supply operators with exploits."

The emergence of a common development and logistics centre means that attackers are adopting an industrialised approach to cyber-spying, something that defenders of trade secrets and other digital assets are facing more organised and capable adversaries.

The mission of the digital quartermaster is to supply and maintain malware tools and weapons to support cyber espionage. The digital quartermaster also might be a cyber arms dealer, a common supplier of tools used to conduct attacks and establish footholds in targeted systems. However, common features in the campaigns tied together by FireEye suggest it's more likely we're dealing with someone who works exclusively with Chinese hacking groups, rather than the hi-tech equivalent of an arms dealer prepared to supply all and sundry.

"Based on the Chinese language user interface of the 9002 Builder, the tool used to build the 9002 remote access Trojans, we believe the digital quartermaster spoke or read Chinese," Moran told El Reg. "It is also possible that the operators of the 11 different campaigns also spoke or read Chinese."

FireEye's report revealing the emergence of malware cyber arms dealer, entitled Supply Chain Analysis: From Quartermaster to Sunshop, can be found here (PDF). The main findings of the study are summarised in a blog post here. ®

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Ice cream headache as black hat hacks sack Dairy Queen
I scream, you scream, we all scream 'DATA BREACH'!
Goog says patch⁵⁰ your Chrome
64-bit browser loads cat vids FIFTEEN PERCENT faster!
NIST to sysadmins: clean up your SSH mess
Too many keys, too badly managed
Scratched PC-dispatch patch patched, hatched in batch rematch
Windows security update fixed after triggering blue screens (and screams) of death
Researchers camouflage haxxor traps with fake application traffic
Honeypots sweetened to resemble actual workloads, complete with 'secure' logins
Attack flogged through shiny-clicky social media buttons
66,000 users popped by malicious Flash fudging add-on
New Snowden leak: How NSA shared 850-billion-plus metadata records
'Federated search' spaffed info all over Five Eyes chums
Three quarters of South Korea popped in online gaming raids
Records used to plunder game items, sold off to low lifes
Oz fed police in PDF redaction SNAFU
Give us your metadata, we'll publish your data
prev story

Whitepapers

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Backing up Big Data
Solving backup challenges and “protect everything from everywhere,” as we move into the era of big data management and the adoption of BYOD.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?