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Second hacking crew joins Syrian Electronic Army on Team Assad

Malware Team might even be an offshoot, say researchers

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

A second hacking crew has weighed into the conflict in Syria on the side of embattled Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.

Net security firm FireEye reckons it has identified 11 members of the "Syrian Malware Team" after analysing a strain of malware called BlackWorm. The malware is used by the group to infiltrate targets, say the securobods. The researchers claim the group is active in everything from profiling targets to orchestrating attacks.

FireEye reckons the new group has close ties to the infamous Syrian Electronic Army and may even be an offshoot. What's not in doubt is its loyalty to the Al-Assad regime, as a blog post by FireEye explains.

The Syrian Malware Team is largely pro-Syrian government, as seen in one of their banners featuring Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Based on the sentiments publicly expressed by this group it is likely that they are either directly or indirectly involved with the Syrian government. Further certain members of the Syrian Malware Team have ties to the Syrian Electronic army (SEA) known to be linked to the Syrian government. This indicates that the Syrian Malware Team may also be possibly an offshoot or part of the SEA.

According to Microsoft's Digital Crimes Unit, the original BlackWorm builder was co-authored by a Kuwait-based hacker known by the online moniker "njq8". The hacker's code has since been incorporated into a variety of other Trojans such as Fallaga and Spygate, says FireEye. The original version of BlackWorm was co-authored by another actor, Black Mafia. A third virus writer – Black.Hacker – is credited with adding additional features.

"Within the underground development forums, it’s common for threat actors to collaborate on toolsets. Some write the base tools that other attackers can use, others modify and enhance existing tools," FireEye explains.

The Syrian Malware Team primarily uses a version of BlackWorm called the Dark Edition (v2.1). The group has been active since 2011 - even maintaining a Facebook page - but its profile has been much lower than the more famous SEA, whose high profile hijacking attacks against the Twitter accounts of numerous media outlets have made it infamous over the last three or four years. ®

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