Kaspersky Lab Discovers ‘Gauss’ – A New Complex Cyber-Threat Designed to Monitor Online Banking Accounts
Woburn, MA – August 9, 2012 - Kaspersky
Lab announces the discovery of ‘Gauss’, a new cyber-threat targeting users
in the Middle East. Gauss is a complex, nation-state sponsored cyber-espionage
toolkit designed to steal sensitive data, with a specific focus on browser
passwords, online banking account credentials, cookies, and specific
configurations of infected machines.
The online banking Trojan
functionality found in Gauss is a unique characteristic that was not found in
any previously known cyber-weapons.
was discovered during the course of the ongoing effort initiated by theInternationalTelecommunicationUnion (ITU), following the discovery of Flame. The
effort is aimed at mitigating the risks posed by cyber-weapons, which is a key
component in achieving the overall objective of global cyber-peace.
with expertise provided by Kaspersky Lab, is taking important steps to
strengthen global cyber-security by actively collaborating with all relevant
stakeholders such as governments, the private sector, international
organizations and civil society, in addition to its key partners within the ITU-IMPACT
Kaspersky Lab’s experts
discovered Gauss by identifying commonalities the malicious program share with
Flame. These include similar architectural platforms, module structures, code
bases and means of communication with command & control (C&C) servers.
Analysis indicates that Gauss began operations in the
September 2011 timeframe.
It was first discovered in June 2012, resulting from
the knowledge gained by the in-depth analysis and research conducted on the
This discovery was made possible due to strong
resemblances and correlations between Flame and Gauss.
The Gauss C&C infrastructure was shutdown in July
2012 shortly after its discovery. Currently the malware is in a dormant state,
waiting for its C&C servers to become active.
Since late May 2012, more than 2,500 infections were
recorded by Kaspersky Lab’s cloud-based security system, with the estimated
total number of victims of Gauss probably being in the tens of thousands. This
number is lower compared to the case of Stuxnet but it’s significantly higher
than the number of attacks in Flame and Duqu.
Gauss steals detailed information about infected PCs
including browser history, cookies, passwords, and system configurations. It is
also capable of stealing access credentials for various online banking systems
and payment methods.
Analysis of Gauss shows it was designed to steal data
from several Lebanese banks including the Bank of Beirut, EBLF, BlomBank,
ByblosBank, FransaBank and Credit Libanais. In addition, it targets users of
Citibank and PayPal.
The new malware was discovered by
Kaspersky Lab’s experts in June 2012. Its main module was named by the unknown
creators after the German mathematician Johann Carl Friedrich Gauss. Other components bear the names of famous
mathematicians as well, including Joseph-Louis Lagrange and Kurt Gödel. The
investigation revealed that the first incidents with Gauss date back as early
as September 2011. In July 2012 the command and control servers of Gauss
Multiple modules of Gauss serve
the purpose of collecting information from browsers, which include the history
of visited websites and passwords. Detailed data on the infected machine is
also sent to the attackers, including specifics of network interfaces, the computer’s
drives and BIOS information. The Gauss module is also capable of stealing data
from the clients of several Lebanese banks including the Bank of Beirut, EBLF,
BlomBank, ByblosBank, FransaBank and Credit Libanais. It also targets users of
Citibank and PayPal.
Another key feature of Gauss is
the ability to infect USB thumb drives, using the same LNK vulnerability that was previously used in Stuxnet and Flame.
At the same time, the process of infecting USB sticks is more intelligent.
Gauss is capable of “disinfecting” the drive under certain circumstances, and
uses the removable media to store collected information in a hidden file.
Another activity of the Trojan is the installation of a special font called
Palida Narrow, and the purpose of this action is still unknown.
While Gauss is similar to Flame in
design, the geography of infections is noticeably different. The highest number
of computers hit by Flame was recorded in Iran, while the majority of Gauss
victims were located in Lebanon. The number of infections is also different.
Based on telemetry reported from the Kaspersky Security Network (KSN), Gauss
infected approximately 2,500 machines. In comparison, Flame was significantly
lower, infecting closer to 700 machines.
Although the exact method used to
infect the computers is not yet known, it is clear that Gauss propagates in a
different manner to Flame or Duqu; however, similar to the two previous
cyber-espionage weapons, Gauss’ spreading mechanisms are conducted in a
controlled fashion, which emphasize stealth and secrecy for the operation.
Alexander Gostev, Chief Security
Expert, Kaspersky Lab, commented: “Gauss bears striking resemblances to Flame,
such as its design and code base, which enabled us to discover the malicious
program. Similar to Flame and Duqu, Gauss is a complex cyber-espionage toolkit,
with its design emphasizing stealth and secrecy; however, its purpose was
different to Flame or Duqu. Gauss targets multiple users in select countries to
steal large amounts of data, with a specific focus on banking and financial
At the present time, the Gauss
Trojan is successfully detected, blocked and remediated by Kaspersky Lab’s
products, classified as Trojan-Spy.Win32.Gauss.
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