Some time ago, a Kaspersky Lab customer in Latin America contacted us to say he had visited China and suspected his machine was infected with an unknown, undetected malware. While assisting the customer, we found a very interesting file in the system that is completely unrelated to China and contained no Chinese coding traces. At first look, it pretends to be a Java related application but after a quick analysis, it was obvious this was something more than just a simple Java file. It was a targeted attack we are calling "Machete".What is "Machete"?
"Machete" is a targeted attack campaign with Spanish speaking roots. We believe this campaign started in 2010 and was renewed with an improved infrastructure in 2012. The operation may be still "active".
The malware is capable of the following cyber-espionage operations:
- Logging keystrokes
- Capturing audio from the computer's microphone
- Capturing screenshots
- Capturing geolocation data
- Taking photos from the computer's web camera
- Copying files to a remote server
- Copying files to a special USB device if inserted
- Hijjacking the clipboard and capturing information from the target machine
Most of the victims are located in, Venezuela, Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, Russia, Cuba, and Spain, among others. In some cases, such as Russia, the target appears to be an embassy from one of the countries of this list.
Targets include high-level profiles, including intelligence services, military, embassies and government institutions.How does "Machete" operate?
The malware is distributed via social engineering techniques, which includes spear-phishing emails and infections via Web by a fake Blog website. We have found no evidence of of exploits targeting zero-day vulnerabilities. Both the attackers and the victims appear to be Spanish-speaking.
During this investigation, we also discovered many other the files installing this cyber-espionage tool in what appears to be a dedicated a spear phishing campaign. These files display a PowerPoint presentation that installs the malware on the target system once the file is opened. These are the names of the PowerPoint attachments:
- Hermosa XXX.pps.rar
- El arte de la guerra.rar
- Hot brazilian XXX.rar
These files are in reality Nullsoft Installer self-extracting archives and have compilation dates going back to 2008.
A consequence of the embedded Python code inside the executables is that these installers include all the necessary Python libraries as well as the PowerPoint file shown to the victim during the installation. The result is extremely large files, over 3MB.
Here are some screnshots of the mentioned files:
A technical relevant fact about this campaign is the use of Python embedded into Windows executables of the malware. This is very unusual and does not have any advantage for the attackers except ease of coding. There is no multi-platform support as the code is heavily Windows-oriented (use of libraries). However, we discovered several clues that the attackers prepared the infrastructure for Mac OS X and Unix victims as well. In addition to Windows components, we also found a mobile (Android) component.
Both attackers and victims speak Spanish natively, as we see it consistently in the source code of the client side and in the Python code.Indicators of Compromise Web infections
The following code snippets were found into the HTML of websites used to infect victims:
Note: Thanks to Tyler Hudak from Korelogic who noticed that the above HTML is copy pasted from SET, The Social Engineering Toolkit.
Also the following link to one known infection artifact:
The following are domains found during the infection campaign. Any communication with them must be considered extremely suspicious
blogwhereyou.com (sinkholed by Kaspersky Lab)
grannegral.com (sinkholed by Kaspersky Lab)
Creates the file Java Update.lnk pointing to appdata/Jre6/java.exe
Malware is installed in appdata/ MicroDes/
Running processes Creates Task Microsoft_upHuman part of "Machete" Language
The first evidence is the language used, both for the victims and attackers, is Spanish.
The victims are all Spanish speaking according to the filenames of the stolen documents.
The language is also Spanish for the operators of the campaign, we can find all the server side code written in this language: reportes, ingresar, peso, etc.Conclusion
The "Machete" discovery shows there are many regional players in the world of targeted attacks. Unfortunately, such attacks became a part of the cyber arsenal of many nations located over the world. We can be sure there are other parallel targeted attacks running now in Latin America and other regions.
Kaspersky Lab products detect malicious samples related to this targeted attack as Trojan-Spy.Python.Ragua.
Note: A full analysis of the Machete attacks is available to the Kaspersky Intelligent Services customers. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
In recent times we've been seeing a lot of file-encrypting ransomware activity.
One of the new ones we've seen pop up in the last couple weeks is called ZeroLocker. There's indication the C&C configuration contains some errors which would prevent successful decryption. This is why we urge people not to pay up even more so than normal.
So far we've observed a limited amount of detections through our Kaspersky Security Network. The actors behind ZeroLocker are initially asking $300 worth of BTC for decrypting the files. This goes up to $500 and $1000 as time passes:
ZeroLocker adds a .encrypt extension to all files it encrypts. Unlike most other ransomware ZeroLocker encrypts virtually all files on the system, rather than using a set of pre-defined filetypes to encrypt. It doesn't encrypt files larger than 20MB in size, or files located in directories containing the words "Windows", "WINDOWS", "Program Files", "ZeroLocker" or "Desktop". The malware gets executed at boot from C:\ZeroLocker\ZeroRescue.exe.
Though there's a Bitcoin wallet hardcoded inside the binary the malware tries to fetch a new wallet address from the C&C. This is most likely done to make it more difficult to trace how successful the operation is and where the money goes.
We've gathered several Bitcoin wallet addresses and at the time of writing none had any transactions associated with them. As the C&C server is providing the Bitcoin wallet information it's possible the attackers are able to use a unique wallet for each victim.
The malware generates one random 160-bit AES key to encrypt all the files with. Due to the way the key is generated the key space is somewhat limited, though still large enough to make general brute forcing unfeasible. After encryption the malware runs the cipher.exe utility to remove all unused data from the drive, making file recovery much harder. The encryption key, together with a CRC32 of the computer's MAC address, and the associated Bitcoin wallet is sent to the server.
Interestingly enough, the encryption key along with the other information is sent through a GET request, rather than a POST. This results in a 404 on the server. This could mean that the server is not storing this information. That means victims who pay up may likely not see their files restored.
Several other URLs that the malware tries to get result in 404s as well, which indicates this particular operation may still be in its infancy. When those errors are fixed we may see ZeroLocker deployed on a larger scale. These operations rely on people paying up. Don't do it. Make sure you have backups instead.
We detect current ZeroLocker samples as Trojan-Ransom.MSIL.Agent.uh.
The geopolitical conflicts in the Middle East have deepened in the last few years. Syria is no exception, with the crisis there taking many forms, and the cyberspace conflict is intensifying as sides try to tilt the struggle in their favor by exploiting cyber intelligence and using distortion.
The Global Research & Analysis Team (GReAT) at Kaspersky Lab has discovered new malware attacks in Syria, using some techniques to hide and operate malware, in addition to proficient social engineering tricks to deliver malware by tricking and tempting victims to open and launch malicious files. The malware files were found on activist sites and social networking forums, some other files were also reported by local organizations like CyberArabs and Technicians for Freedom.
The full report detailing the attacks and related activities can be found here.A glance at what was discovered
The number of attacks and malicious files being distributed is constantly increasing as the attackers become more organized and proficient. The samples are all based on Remote Administration Trojan Tools (RATs)
The number of malicious files found: 110
The number of domains linked to the attacks: 20
The number of IP addresses linked to the attacks: 47
Masquerading as a reportedly "Government leaked program" that has the names of all wanted people in Syria, the National Security Program conceals a full featured RAT client to steal all sorts of information under one of its buttons.
برنامج الأمن الوطني.exe (The national security program)Using shockingly disturbing videos to distribute malware
A disturbing video showing injured victims of recent bombings was used on YouTube to appeal to people's fear and prompt them to download a malicious application available on a public file sharing website. After initial analysis, the file named "فضائح.exe" (Scandals.exe) proved to be heavily obfuscated with the commercial utility "MaxToCode" for .NET in order to avoid early detection by antivirus solutions.
If you thought the era of fake antiviruses was over, here comes this newly developed Syrian sample to challenge your beliefs. With the innocent title of "Ammazon Internet Security", this malicious application tries to mimic a security scanner, even including a quite thorough graphical user interface and some interactive functionality.
Total Network Monitor (which is a legitimate application) is inside another sample found, being used with embedded malware for spying purposes. Offering security applications to protect against surveillance is one of the many techniques used by malware writing groups to get users desperate for privacy to execute these dubious programs.
It's also the case with other samples, where social engineering does all the heavy work. Instant messaging applications for desktop operating systems have been used in the past to spread malware and it seems Syrian malware authors have jumped on the bandwagon.
Another of the attacks using social engineering tricks, the sample named Kimawi.exe (Arabic for Chemicals) with a JPG icon, is a RAT file bound to the image Kimawi.jpg. The picture is a previously leaked paper supposedly from the regime in Syria warning military units to prepare for Chemical Attacks. The file is being sent by email to selected victims.
The threat actors are becoming more organized, the number of attacks is increasing and the samples being used are becoming more sophisticated, while also relying extensively on powerful social engineering tricks that many people fall for.Where are the victims and the attackers?
The victims infected when accessing the hacked forums and social networking sites tend to be ordinary users or activistshey were, or specific targets if they receive the malware via email, Skype, or messages on social networking sites.
The victims are also located outside Syria. We have seen victims of Syrian-based malware in:
- Saudi Arabia
- United Arab Emirates
- United States
The attackers' command and control centers were tracked to IP addresses in Syria, Russia, Lebanon, the US and Brazil.How many have fallen victim?
We believe the number of victims exceeds 10,000, with some of the files being downloaded more than 2000 times.
The attackers' malware samples and variations have increased dramatically from only a few in Q1 2013 to around 40 in Q2 2014.What is the impact on victims?
Remote Administration Trojans tools are used to fully compromise the system on victim devices. RATs are capable of stealing user credentials in addition to activating camera and microphone functionalities...Are users protected?
Kaspersky detects and blocks all the samples that have been found. They are detected as follows:
More details and analysis of the attacks and malware samples can be found in the full report here.
- The Internet is Back in Syria and So is Malware Targeting Syrian Activists
- A Call to Harm: New Malware Attacks Target the Syrian Opposition
- Syrian Activists Targeted with BlackShades Spy Software
- How to Find and Protect Yourself Against the Pro-Syrian-Government Malware on Your Computer
- Fake YouTube Site Targets Syrian Activists With Malware
- Quantum of Surveillance: Familiar Actors and Possible False Flags in Syrian Malware Campaigns