Kaspersky Lab Uncovers ‘Operation NetTraveler,’ a Global Cyberespionage Campaign Targeting Government-Affiliated Organizations and Research Institutes
Woburn, MA – June 4, 2013 - Today Kaspersky Lab’s team of experts published a new research report about NetTraveler, which is a family of malicious programs used by APT actors to successfully compromise more than 350 high-profile victims in 40 countries. The NetTraveler group has infected victims across multiple establishments in both the public and private sector including government institutions, embassies, the oil and gas industry, research centers, military contractors and activists.
According to Kaspersky Lab’s report, this threat actor has been active since as early as 2004; however, the highest volume of activity occurred from 2010 – 2013. Most recently, the NetTraveler group’s main domains of interest for cyberespionage activities include space exploration, nanotechnology, energy production, nuclear power, lasers, medicine and communications.
- Attackers infected victims by sending clever spear-phishing emails with malicious Microsoft Office attachments that are rigged with two highly exploited vulnerabilities (CVE-2012-0158 and CVE-2010-3333). Even though Microsoft already issued patches for these vulnerabilities they’re still widely used for exploitation in targeted attacks and have proven to be effective.
- The titles of the malicious attachments in the
spear-phishing emails depict the NetTraveler group’s dogged effort of
customizing their attacks in order to infect high-profile target. Notable
titles of malicious documents include:
- Army Cyber Security Policy 2013.doc
- Report - Asia Defense Spending Boom.doc
- Activity Details.doc
- His Holiness the Dalai Lama's visit to Switzerland day 4
- Freedom of Speech.doc
Data Theft & Exfiltration:
- During Kaspersky Lab’s analysis, its team of experts obtained infection logs from several of NetTraveler’s command and control servers (C&C). C&C servers are used to install additional malware on infected machines and exfiltrate stolen data. Kaspersky Lab’s experts calculated the amount of stolen data stored on NetTraveler’s C&C servers to be more than 22 gigabytes.
- Exfiltrated data from infected machines typically included file system listings, keyloggs, and various types of files including PDFs, excel sheets, word documents and files. In addition, the NetTraveler toolkit was able to install additional info-stealing malware as a backdoor, and it could be customized to steal other types of sensitive information such as configuration details for an application or computer-aided design files.
Global Infection Statistics:
- Based on Kaspersky Lab’s analysis of NetTraveler’s C&C data, there were a total of 350 victims in 40 countries across including the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Russia, Chile, Morocco, Greece, Belgium, Austria, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, China, Mongolia, Iran, Turkey, India, Pakistan, South Korea, Thailand, Qatar, Kazakhstan, and Jordan.
- In conjunction with the C&C data analysis, Kaspersky Lab’s experts used the Kaspersky Security Network (KSN) to identify additional infection statistics. The top ten countries with victims detected by KSN were Mongolia followed by Russia, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, China, Tajikistan, South Korea, Spain and Germany.
- During Kaspersky Lab’s analysis of NetTraveler, the company’s experts identified six victims that had been infected by both NetTraveler and Red October, which was another cyberespionage operation analyzed by Kaspersky Lab in January 2013. Although no direct links between the NetTraveler attackers and the Red October threat actors were observed, the fact that specific victims were infected by both of these campaigns indicates that these high-profile victims are being targeted by multiple threat actors because their information is a valuable commodity to the attackers.
To read Kaspersky Lab’s full research analysis, including indicators of compromise, remediation techniques and details of NetTraveler and its malicious components, please visit Securelist.
Kaspersky Lab’s products detect and neutralize the malicious programs and its variants used by the NetTraveler Toolkit, including Trojan-Spy.Win32.TravNet and Downloader.Win32.NetTraveler. Kaspersky Lab’s products detect the Microsoft Office exploits used in the spear-phishing attacks, including Exploit.MSWord.CVE-2010-333, Exploit.Win32.CVE-2012-0158.
Kaspersky Lab is the world’s largest privately held vendor of endpoint protection solutions. The company is ranked among the world’s top four vendors of security solutions for endpoint users*. Throughout its more than 15-year history Kaspersky Lab has remained an innovator in IT security and provides effective digital security solutions for large enterprises, SMBs and consumers. Kaspersky Lab, with its holding company registered in the United Kingdom, currently operates in almost 200 countries and territories across the globe, providing protection for over 300 million users worldwide. Learn more at www.kaspersky.com.
* The company was rated fourth in the IDC rating Worldwide Endpoint Security Revenue by Vendor, 2011. The rating was published in the IDC report "Worldwide Endpoint Security 2012–2016 Forecast and 2011 Vendor Shares (IDC #235930, July 2012). The report ranked software vendors according to earnings from sales of endpoint security solutions in 2011.
For the latest in-depth information on security threat issues and trends, please visit:
Securelist | Information about Viruses,
Hackers and Spam
Follow @Securelist on Twitter
Threatpost | The First Stop for Security News
Follow @Threatpost on Twitter