Space boffins, oil giants, nuke plants 'raided' by MYSTERY code nasty
Spain, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, China, this malware has had quite a trip, we're told
A piece of government-bothering malware called NetTraveler has been active since 2004 - and targets agencies and organisations involved in space exploration, nanotechnology, nuclear power, lasers, medicine, communications and more.
And that's according to researchers at security biz Kaspersky Lab.
More than 350 high-profile outfits in 40 countries have been hit by strains of NetTraveler, we're told. Embassies, oil and gas corporations, research institutes, military contractors and activists have been compromised by the software nasty over the years, it is claimed.
Attackers wielding the Windows malware typically infiltrated their targets with a combination of spear-phishing emails and booby-trapped Microsoft Office documents that exploit software vulnerabilities, specifically CVE-2012-0158 and CVE-2010-3333.
Updates to fix the security bugs were available from Microsoft at the time of the attacks, so delayed or incompetent patch rollouts were a big contributing factor in the spread of NetTraveler.
Researchers at Kaspersky Lab obtained and analysed logs of infections from several of the malware's central command-and-control servers, which remotely control the thing once it is installed on a machine. The files showed that data was harvested from the compromised computers.
The top 10 targeted countries were an odd mix: Mongolia came top of the table, followed by Russia, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, China, Tajikistan, South Korea, Spain and Germany. It is worth noting that the Chinese military has a large training area located in Inner Mongolia, where it practises cyber-warfare techniques.
Six victims were infected by both NetTraveler and Red October, another cyberespionage operation uncovered by Kaspersky Labs. However, no direct links between the NetTraveler attackers and the Red October miscreants was unearthed. More details on NetTraveler can be found in a blog post by threat researchers Securelist. ®