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Kaspersky Lab has observed new waves of attacks that started on the 8th and the 27th of June 2016. These have been highly active in the Middle East region and unveiled ongoing targeted attacks in multiple regions. The attackers try to lure targets through spear phishing emails that include compressed executables. The malware collects all data such as passwords, keystrokes and screenshots, then sends it to the attackers.
#OpGhoul targeting industrial, manufacturing and engineering organizations in 30+ countriesTweet
We found that the group behind this campaign targeted mainly industrial, engineering and manufacturing organizations in more than 30 countries. In total, over 130 organizations have been identified as victims of this campaign. Using the Kaspersky Security Network (KSN) and artifacts from malware files and attack sites, we were able to trace the attacks back to March 2015. Noteworthy is that since the beginning of their activities, the attackers’ motivations are apparently financial, whether through the victims’ banking accounts or through selling their intellectual property to interested parties, most infiltrated victim organizations are considered SMBs (Small to Medium size businesses, 30-300 employees), the utilization of commercial off-the-shelf malware makes the attribution of the attacks more difficult.
In total, over 130 organizations have been identified as victims of Operation Ghoul #OpGhoulTweet
In ancient Folklore, the Ghoul is an evil spirit associated with consuming human flesh and hunting kids, originally a Mesopotamian demon. Today, the term is sometimes used to describe a greedy or materialistic individual.Main infection vector: malicious emails
The following picture represents emails that are being used to deliver malware to the victims, in what looks like a payment document. The e-mails sent by attackers appear to be coming from a bank in the UAE, the Emirates NBD, and include a 7z file with malware. In other cases, victims received phishing links. A quick analysis of the email headers reveals fake sources being utilised to deliver the emails to victims.
In the case of spear phishing emails with an attachment, the 7z does not contain payment instructions but a malware executable (EmiratesNBD_ADVICE.exe). We have observed executables with the following MD5s:
Malware MD5 hashes
Email file MD5 hashes
The spear phishing emails are mostly sent to senior members and executives of targeted organizations, most likely because the attackers hope to get access to core intelligence, controlling accounts and other interesting information from people who have the following positions or similar:
- Chief Executive Officer
- Chief Operations Officer
- General Manager
- General Manager, Sales and Marketing
- Deputy General Manager
- Finance and Admin Manager
- Business Development Manager
- Export manager
- Finance Manager
- Purchase manager
- Head of Logistics
- Sales Executive
The malware is based on the Hawkeye commercial spyware, which provides a variety of tools for the attackers, in addition to malware anonymity from attribution. It initiates by self-deploying and configuring persistence, while using anti-debugging and timeout techniques, then starts collecting interesting data from the victim’s device, including:
- Clipboard data
- FileZilla ftp server credentials
- Account data from local browsers
- Account data from local messaging clients (Paltalk, Google talk, AIM…)
- Account data from local email clients (Outlook, Windows Live mail…)
- License information of some installed applications
#OpGhoul malware collects all data such as #passwords, keystrokes and screenshotsTweet
Data is collected by the attackers using primarily:
Http GET posts
- Sent to hxxp://126.96.36.199
- mail.ozlercelikkapi[.]com (188.8.131.52), mail to info@ozlercelikkapi[.]com
- mail.eminenture[.]com (184.108.40.206), mail to eminfo@eminenture[.]com
Both ozlercelikkapi[.]com and eminenture[.]com seem to belong to compromised organisations operating in manufacturing and technology services.Malware command center
The malware connects to 220.127.116.11 to deliver collected information from the victim’s PC. This information includes passwords, clipboard data, screenshots…
The IP address 18.104.22.168 seems to belong to a compromised device running multiple malware campaigns.Victim information
Victim organizations are distributed in different countries worldwide with attackers focused on certain countries more than others:
Number of Victim Organisations by Country
Countries marked as “others” have less than three victim organizations each, they are: Switzerland, Gibraltar, USA, Sweden, China, France, Azerbaijan, Iraq, Turkey, Romania, Iran, Iraq and Italy.Victim industry information
Victim industry types were also indicators of targeted attacks as attackers were looking to infiltrate organizations that belong to the product life cycle of multiple goods, especially industrial equipment.
#Manufacturing #transportation #travel targets of #OpGhoulTweet
Number of Victim Organizations by Industry Type
Victim industry descriptionIndustrial Petrochemical, naval, military, aerospace, heavy machinery, solar energy, steel, pumps, plastics Engineering Construction, architecture, automation, chemical, transport, water Shipping International freight shipping Pharmaceutical Production/research of pharmaceutical and beauty products Manufacturing Furniture, decor, textiles Trading Industrial, electronics and food trading Education Training centers, universities, academic publishing Tourism Travel agencies Technology/IT Providers of IT technologies and consulting services Unknown Unidentified victims The last attack waves
Kaspersky Lab user statistics indicate the new waves of attacks that started in June 2016 are focused on certain countries more than others.
#opghoul highly active in #MiddleEastTweet
Hundreds of detections have been reported by Kaspersky Lab users; 70% of the attacked users were found in the United Arab Emirates alone, the other 30% were distributed in Russia, Malaysia, India, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Algeria, Germany, Iran, Egypt, Japan, Switzerland, Bahrain and Tunisia.
Phishing pages have also been spotted through 22.214.171.124, and although they are taken down quickly, more than 150 user accounts were identified as victims of the phishing links sent by the attackers. Victims were connecting from the following devices and inserting their credentials, a reminder that phishing attacks do work on all platforms:
- Mac OS X
The malware files are detected using the following heuristic signatures:
Operation Ghoul is one of the many attacks in the wild targeting industrial, manufacturing and engineering organizations, Kaspersky Lab recommends users to be extra cautious while checking and opening emails and attachments. In addition, privileged users need to be well trained and ready to deal with cyber threats; failure in this is, in most cases, the cause behind private or corporate data leakage, reputation and financial loss.Indicators of Compromise
The following are common among the different malware infections; the presence of these is an indication of a possible infection.Filenames and paths related to malware
Malware links observed on 126.96.36.199 dating back to March and April 2016:
For more information on how you can protect your business from similar attacks, please visit this post from Kaspersky Business.
August 13, 2016 saw the beginning of a truly bizarre episode. A new identity going under the name ‘ShadowBrokers’ came onto the scene claiming to possess files belonging to the apex predator of the APT world, the Equation Group [PDF]. In their initial leak, the ShadowBrokers claimed the archive was related to the Equation group, however, they didn’t provide any technical details on the connections.
Along with some non-native rants against ‘Wealthy Elites’, the ShadowBrokers provided links to two PGP-encrypted archives. The first was provided for free as a presumptive show of good faith, the second remains encrypted at the time of writing. The passphrase is being ‘auctioned’, but having set the price at 1 million BTC (or 1/15th of the total amount of bitcoin in circulation), we consider this to be optimistic at best, if not ridiculous at face value.
The first archive contains close to 300MBs of firewall exploits, tools, and scripts under cryptonyms like BANANAUSURPER, BLATSTING, and BUZZDIRECTION. Most files are at least three years old, with change entries pointing to August 2013 the newest timestamp dating to October 2013.
As researchers continue to feast on the release, some have already begun to test the functional capabilities of the exploits with good results.
Having originally uncovered the Equation group in February 2015, we’ve taken a look at the newly released files to check for any connections with the known toolsets used by Equation, such as EQUATIONDRUG, DOUBLEFANTASY, GRAYFISH and FANNY.
While we cannot surmise the attacker’s identity or motivation nor where or how this pilfered trove came to be, we can state that several hundred tools from the leak share a strong connection with our previous findings from the Equation group.The Devil’s in the Crypto
The Equation group uses the RC5 and RC6 encryption algorithms quite extensively throughout their creations. RC5 and RC6 are two encryption algorithms designed by Ronald Rivest in 1994 and 1998. They are very similar to each other, with RC6 introducing an additional multiplication in the cypher to make it more resistant. Both cyphers use the same key setup mechanism and the same magical constants named P and Q.
The particular RC5/6 implementation from Equation group’s malware is interesting and deserves special attention because of its specifics. Inside the Equation group malware, the encryption library uses a subtract operation with the constant 0x61C88647. In most publicly available RC5/6 code, this constant is usually stored as 0x9E3779B9, which is basically -0x61C88647. Since an addition is faster on certain hardware than a subtraction, it makes sense to store the constant in its negative form and adding it instead of subtracting. In total, we’ve identified 20 different compiled versions of the RC5/6 code in the Equation group malware.
Encryption-related code in a DoubleFantasy (actxprxy32.dll) sample
In the screenshot above, one can observe the main loop of a RC6 key setup subroutine extracted from one of the Equation group samples. The ShadowBrokers’ free trove includes 347 different instances of RC5/RC6 implementations. As shown in the screenshot below, the implementation is functionally identical including the subtraction of the inverted constant 0x61C88647.
Specific RC6 implementation from “BUSURPER-2211-611.exe” (md5: 8f137a9100a9fcc8b512b3729878a373
Comparing the older, known Equation RC6 code and the code used in most of the binaries from the new leak we observe that they are functionally identical and share rare specific traits in their implementation.
In case you’re wondering, this specific RC6 implementation has only been seen before with Equation group malware. There are more than 300 files in the Shadowbrokers’ archive which implement this specific variation of RC6 in 24 different forms. The chances of all these being faked or engineered is highly unlikely.
This code similarity makes us believe with a high degree of confidence that the tools from the ShadowBrokers leak are related to the malware from the Equation group. While the ShadowBrokers claimed the data was related to the Equation group, they did not provide any technical evidence of these claims. The highly specific crypto implementation above confirms these allegations.
More details about the ShadowBrokers leak and similarities with Equation group are available to Kaspersky Intelligence Services reports’ subscribers. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org