Cyber spies whip out 'Machete', stride towards Latin America

¡Ay, caramba! Don't open hot Brazilian XXX.rar

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

Security watchers are tracking a new cyber-espionage campaign that appears to be targetting Latin American countries including Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador.

The so-called "Machete" campaign has been zoning in on governments, military and law enforcement agencies and embassies in South America for the last four years, stealing gigabytes of confidential data in the process, according to security researchers at Kaspersky Lab.

Tricks in the toolbox of malware associated with Machete include copying files to a remote server or a special USB device if inserted, hijacking clipboard content, key logging, computer microphone audio capturing, taking screenshots, getting geo-location data, and taking photos using the web camera of infected computers. The attackers are using social engineering techniques – such as spear-phishing and booby-trapping fake blogs with malicious code – to distribute their wares.

One unusual technical feature of the campaign is the use of Python compiled into Windows executable files, but this does not have any advantage for the attackers except ease of coding, according to Kaspersky Lab. Machete was updated with renewed infrastructure in 2012.

The lure files include El arte de la guerra.rar (a reference to Sun Tzu's Art of War and the self-explanatory Hot brazilian XXX.rar, both actually self-extracting archives. The consequence of embedding Python code inside the executables is that these installers include all the necessary Python libraries as well as the PowerPoint file shown to the victim, resulting extremely large files of more than 3MB.

There are no indications of exploits using zero-day vulnerabilities and both the coding and tactics in play are fairly standard. Despite this relative simplicity, Kaspersky Lab experts identified 778 victims around the globe.

“Despite the simplicity of the tools used in this campaign, the results show it was very effective," said Dmitry Bestuzhev, head of Kaspersky Lab’s Latin American research team. "It looks like threat actors in Latin America are adopting techniques of APT campaigns seen around the world."

Attackers behind the campaign appear to be Spanish speaking, with roots somewhere in Latin America. Victims outside Latin America were recorded but they all appeared to have ties back to the continent. For example, a Latin American embassy in Russia was among the victims of the campaign.

More details on Machete can be found in a blog post by Kaspersky Lab here. ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
Russian hackers exploit 'Sandworm' bug 'to spy on NATO, EU PCs'
Fix imminent from Microsoft for Vista, Server 2008, other stuff
Microsoft pulls another dodgy patch
Redmond makes a hash of hashing add-on
FYI: OS X Yosemite's Spotlight tells Apple EVERYTHING you're looking for
It's on by default – didn't you read the small print?
'LulzSec leader Aush0k' found to be naughty boy not worthy of jail
15 months home detention leaves egg on feds' faces as they grab for more power
Forget passwords, let's use SELFIES, says Obama's cyber tsar
Michael Daniel wants to kill passwords dead
FBI boss: We don't want a backdoor, we want the front door to phones
Claims it's what the Founding Fathers would have wanted – catching killers and pedos
Kill off SSL 3.0 NOW: HTTPS savaged by vicious POODLE
Pull it out ASAP, it is SWISS CHEESE
prev story


Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
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.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.