India believed to be source of sophisticated surveillance campaigns

Posted by   Virus Bulletin on   May 21, 2013

In-depth investigations find widespread worldwide snooping, Pakistan primary target.

Several reports have emerged recently covering a highly organised campaign of targeted espionage malware that has been seen in many countries around the world and stealing data from many industries. Close investigation has provided strong hints that the campaign originated in India, with Pakistan the most widely hit country, and the defence sector the biggest target.

Separate reports from several anti-malware firms have highlighted the campaign, which some have dubbed 'HangOver'. Norman got on the trail after investigating an infiltration at Norwegian telecoms firm Telenor.

Norman's researchers found evidence of the malware family in countries across Asia, the Middle East, Europe and the US, generally penetrating defences using targeted spear-phishing attacks with spoofed documents dropping malicious code through vulnerabilities (all previously known) in Java, IE and Office.

A large and complex C&C infrastructure was uncovered, and analysis of malware binaries even suggested 'professional product management' and the use of freelance programmers for some tasks. Many features of the campaign led to the conclusion that it was Indian in origin, although there was no implication that it was state-sponsored. An introduction to Norman's findings is in a blog piece here, with a full report and in-depth documentation available here.

Another group of researchers, at ESET, released a report just a few days earlier on the same threat structure. They identified stolen digital keys used to sign some of the binaries, and provided details of how the surveillance operates, harvesting likely documents on the target system as well as using keyloggers and screen-scrapers.

They concurred that the source of the attacks appeared to be in India, and that Pakistan's military and defence industry were major targets, highlighting a number of documents used in the attack relating to local defence issues.

In a further twist, a targeted attack was spotted by researchers at F-Secure, on a Mac system belonging to an Angolan human rights campaigner, which appears to be part of the same campaign. Details on that are at F-Secure's blog here.

India has not generally been considered a major source of malware in the past, especially when compared to its near-neighbours China and Russia, which are similarly enormous in both land mass and population. These are worrying developments, especially given the long-standing political tensions with Pakistan.

Posted on 21 May 2013 by John Hawes

twitter.png
fb.png
linkedin.png
hackernews.png
reddit.png

 

Latest posts:

VB2019 paper: DNS on fire

In a paper presented at VB2019, Cisco Talos researchers Warren Mercer and Paul Rascagneres looked at two recent attacks against DNS infrastructure: DNSpionage and Sea Turtle. Today we publish their paper and the recording of their presentation.

German Dridex spam campaign is unfashionably large

VB has analysed a malicious spam campaign targeting German-speaking users with obfuscated Excel malware that would likely download Dridex but that mostly stood out through its size.

Paper: Dexofuzzy: Android malware similarity clustering method using opcode sequence

We publish a paper by researchers from ESTsecurity in South Korea, who describe a fuzzy hashing algorithm for clustering Android malware datasets.

Emotet continues to bypass many email security products

Having returned from a summer hiatus, Emotet is back targeting inboxes and, as seen in the VBSpam test lab, doing a better job than most other malicious campaigns at bypassing email security products.

VB2019 paper: We need to talk - opening a discussion about ethics in infosec

Those working in the field of infosec are often faced with ethical dilemmas that are impossible to avoid. Today, we publish a VB2019 paper by Kaspersky researcher Ivan Kwiatkowski looking at ethics in infosec as well as the recording of Ivan's…

We have placed cookies on your device in order to improve the functionality of this site, as outlined in our cookies policy. However, you may delete and block all cookies from this site and your use of the site will be unaffected. By continuing to browse this site, you are agreeing to Virus Bulletin's use of data as outlined in our privacy policy.