ESET research team assists FBI in Windigo case 0 977

First detected in 2011, the malware campaign that later became known as Windigo was able to infiltrate around 25,000 servers over a two-year period (2012-2014), with the malicious gang behind it demonstrating a high level of technical expertise. Operation Windigo is a set of Linux server-side malware tools used to redirect web traffic, send spam and host other malicious content.

At the core of Operation Windigo is Linux/Ebury, an OpenSSH backdoor and credential stealer, using that backdoor, the attackers installed additional malware to perform web traffic redirection (using Linux/Cdorked), send spam (using Perl/Calfbot or SSH tunnels) and, most importantly, steal credentials when the OpenSSH client was used to spread further.

In 2014 ESET published a research report entitled Operation Windigo. This report was awarded the inaugural Péter Szőr Award for best technical research at VB2014 and has also been used by law enforcement to explain exactly what Windigo is to prosecutors, lawyers and judges.

ESET’s collaboration with the FBI

At ESET our job is to protect all internet users and this task often requires collaboration with others such as law enforcement. In the case of Windigo, we have collaborated with the FBI through the sharing of technical details about the malicious operation and the malware components involved. This cooperation resulted in allowing the FBI investigators to better understand the various parts of this very complex scheme.

Maxim Senakh sentenced

The following timeline outlines the occurence of events leading up to the sentencing of Maxim Senakh

  • 2015-01-13: Indictment against Maxim Senakh is produced, charging him with 11 counts.
  • 2015-08-08: Maxim Senakh is arrested by Finnish authorities at its border while returning to Russia after personal travel.
  • 2016-01-05: Finland agrees to the extradition of Senakh.
  • 2016-02-04: Senakh is extradited from Finland to the US, where he pleads not guilty to all charges against him.
  • 2017-03-28: Maxim Senakh enters into a plea agreement with the US Attorney’s Office and pleads guilty to the first count of the indictment, the remaining 10 being dismissed.
  • 2017-08-03: Senakh is sentenced to 46 months in federal prison, without the possibility of parole.

Where are we now?

Not long after Senakh’s arrest in 2015, there was a sharp decrease in the traffic redirected by Cdorked, the component responsible for sending web visitors to exploit kits or unwanted advertisement pages and this activity has not resumed. The FBI had determined that this malicious activity benefited Senakh directly.

Unfortunately, however the sentencing of Senakh has not resulted in the complete shutdown of Windigo as new variants of Win32/Glupteba, a Windows malware that has strong ties with Windigo have been identified.

In addition, the malware component at the core of Windigo, has evolved. Development has continued with changes made to the latest versions, such as evasion of most of the public indicators of compromise, improved precautions against botnet takeover and a new mechanism to hide the malicious files on the filesystem.

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Hacking and targeted cyber-attacks as a result of anti-competitive practices in business 0 92

Targeted Attacks

In ongoing consultations with clients, large companies named targeted attacks and hacking as two of their biggest security challenges since they can seriously impact the continuity of business activities in an organization.

Attackers have many means to infiltrate companies. However, many attacks, don’t require a very high level of technological sophistication. Instead, techniques like targeted social engineering, i.e. spear phishing, or the use of known vulnerabilities for which, patches may have been issued but businesses have not yet deployed, can lead to damaged reputation, revenue and data breaches.

On the other hand, high levels of sophistication can also be utilized as is in the case of a Zero Day attack.  Chief among these was Stuxnet, a recorded attack where malicious code successfully deployed four zero-day vulnerabilities to impede a uranium enrichment program in Iran, and which, according to media, was a state-sponsored attack.

There are many reasons why organizations become repeat targets. Their bank accounts contain more resources than those of an average person or small business and they also have considerable amounts of interesting data that can be monetized. Attacks targeting companies can also be used as a form of competition. Most often, this concerns data hunting, i.e. obtaining interesting information or intellectual property. These attacks can be accompanied by blackmail. For example, a client database is stolen from a company and is later approached by the perpetrators and asked, “what they are going to do about their loss”.

Different ways to monetize attacks bring different consequences

Organizations often find it difficult to admit they have been breached by these types of attacks. Consequently, this may give other companies the false impression that such attacks happen only occasionally. A typical example of targeted attacks, common in recent years, are DDoS as a Service – attacks, which are sponsored by one company to attack the website of another, with the effect of disrupting business and directing customers away from the targeted company and (possibly) towards the attacker’s “employer”. These are criminal tactics, and the attackers know very well which business areas to target for maximum gain.

There are of course other approaches. Take the example of the British National Health Service, which has become a frequent target of ransomware attacks. Digitization of health services has resulted in a situation where the malicious encryption of medical data may lead to a halt in medical interventions and surgeries. Under such conditions, targeted organizations are often more inclined to pay a ransom for the “hijacked” patient data.

In Kenya attackers have been known to target their attacks to banks and financial institutions, with figures of Ksh400 million being reported stolen from an unnamed local bank and Ksh29 million from National Bank of Kenya in 2018 alone.

Innovative approaches to old tricks

In many rural areas worldwide, one quick glance at powerlines will reveal how easy it is to make illegal connections to the power grid. As of late, cyberattackers have followed a similar model, focusing their resources on illegally mining various cryptocurrencies, which have proven to be highly popular in the public’s imagination.

A more complex example was a targeted attack meant to infect StatCounter, which provides a service  very similar to Google Analytics and uses a special script legitimately placed on websites to obtain data about website visitors. In this case, attackers successfully breached StatCounter and subsequently gained access to the service’s end users by injecting JavaScript code in all websites that use Stat Counter’s service.

The problem came to light when visitors navigated to the now compromised websites which contained the infected scrip, and who’s devices then began covertly mining bitcoins for the attackers. During the second stage, the attackers proceeded to steal bitcoins directly from infected devices when they attempted to access a popular cryptocurrency exchange. To get an idea of the scale of such an operation, StatCounter can be found on more than two million websites.

Such an attack means that system resources of infected devices at the company legitimately using the service are additionally tasked to mine. This may not concern only computers, but also mobile devices and especially servers. The subsequent cryptomining accelerates wear and tear on devices and also increases electricity bills. In addition, we should not forget that malicious cryptomining code is usually capable of uploading other types of malicious script onto the network.

Investigations may take months and are looking for a needle in a haystack

When a large company falls victim to such an attack, it is necessary to carry out a complicated investigation of what happened and how the company has been affected. Research shows that it takes about 150-200 days for companies to find out they’ve been infected. Further investigation regarding the method by which the company was infected and where the malicious code originated may take even longer.

Facing such substantial risks, large companies should leverage solutions like ESET Dynamic Threat Defense to detect new, never before seen threats.

To find out more about ESET Dynamic Threat Defense or to request a free in-house cyber security training session for your organisation, please sign up below.

Ransomware Protection Crucial to Enterprise 0 281

Ransomware

Ransomware is by far the biggest threat among Enterprises.  So what is Ransomware? It is a malicious code that blocks or encrypts the contents of a device and demands a ransom to restore access to the data.

According to research done by ESET,  Companies named ransomware their number one concern.

In response to customer needs and concerns, ESET integrated Ransomware Shield into its security solutions. ESET has long been providing its customers with very good behavior-based malware detection and also with Host-based Intrusion Prevention System (HIPS) that allows users to set custom rules for the protection against ransomware. However, should something slip past the 11 other security layers, Ransomware Shield will be automatically activated.

While ransomware infection often starts with clicking a suspicious link or a fictitious invoice, ESET found that email remains the most common distribution method.

To combat these scenarios, enter ESET Dynamic Threat Defense (EDTD). EDTD provides another layer of security for ESET products like Mail Security and Endpoint products. It utilizes a cloud-based sandboxing technology and multiple machine learning models to detect new, never before seen type of threats. In result, attachments that were classified as malicious are stripped off the email and the recipient gets information about the detection.

To learn more about how ESET can protect your business, and to book a FREE in house Cybersecurity Training Session for your employees, please sign up below.

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