Kaspersky Lab Identifies ‘MiniDuke’, a New Malicious Program Designed for Spying on Multiple Government Entities and Institutions Across the World
Threat Actors Combine Sophisticated “Old School” Malware Writing Skills with
Newly Advanced Exploits in Adobe Reader to Collect Geopolitical Intelligence
from High Profile Targets
February 27, 2013 - Woburn, MA - Today
Kaspersky Lab’s team of experts
published a new research report that analyzed a series of security incidents
involving the use of the recently discovered PDF exploit in Adobe Reader
(CVE-2013-6040) and a new, highly customized malicious program known as MiniDuke.
The MiniDuke backdoor was used to attack multiple government entities and
institutions worldwide during the past week. Kaspersky Lab’s experts, in
partnership with CrySys Lab, analyzed the attacks in detail and published their
to Kaspersky Lab’s analysis, a number of high profile targets have already been
compromised by the MiniDuke attacks, including government entities in Ukraine,
Belgium, Portugal, Romania, the Czech Republic and Ireland. In addition, a
research institute, two think tanks, and healthcare provider in the United
States were also compromised, as was a prominent research foundation in
is a very unusual cyberattack,” said Eugene Kaspersky, Founder and CEO of
Kaspersky Lab. “I remember this style of malicious programming from the end of
the 1990s and the beginning of the 2000s. I wonder if these types of malware
writers, who have been in hibernation for more than a decade, have suddenly
awoken and joined the sophisticated group of threat actors active in the
cyberworld. These elite, “old school” malware writers were extremely effective
in the past at creating highly complex viruses, and are now combining these
skills with the newly advanced sandbox-evading exploits to target government
entities or research institutions in several countries.”
highly customized backdoor was written in Assembler and is very small in size,
being only 20kb,” added Kaspersky. “The combination of experienced old school malware
writers using newly discovered exploits and clever social engineering to
compromise high profile targets is extremely dangerous.”
Primary Research Findings:
The MiniDuke attackers
are still active at this time and have created malware as recently as February
20, 2013. To compromise victims, the attackers used extremely effective social
engineering techniques, which involved sending malicious PDF documents to their
targets. The PDFs were highly relevant - with well-crafted content that fabricated
human rights seminar information (ASEM) and Ukraine’s foreign policy and NATO
membership plans. These malicious PDF files were rigged with exploits attacking
Adobe Reader versions 9, 10, and 11, bypassing its sandbox. A toolkit was used
to create these exploits and it appears to be the same toolkit that was used in
the recent attack reported by FireEye. However, the exploits used in the MiniDuke
attacks were for different purposes and had their own customized malware.
Once the system is
exploited, a very small downloader is dropped onto the victim’s disc that’s
only 20kb in size. This downloader is unique per system and contains a customized
backdoor written in Assembler. When loaded at system boot, the downloader uses
a set of mathematical calculations to determine the computer’s unique
fingerprint, and in turn uses this data to uniquely encrypt its communications
later. It is also programmed to avoid analysis by a hardcoded set of tools in
certain environments like VMware. If it finds any of these indicators it will
run idle in the environment instead of moving to another stage and exposing
more of its functionality by decrypting itself further; this indicates the
malware writers know exactly what antivirus and IT security professionals are
doing in order to analyze and identify malware.
If the target’s system
meets the pre-defined requirements, the malware will use Twitter (unbeknownst
to the user) and start looking for specific tweets from pre-made accounts.
These accounts were created by MiniDuke’s Command and Control (C2) operators,
and the tweets maintain specific tags labeling encrypted URLs for the backdoors.
These URLs provide access to the C2s, which then provide potential commands and
encrypted transfers of additional backdoors onto the system via GIF files.
Based on the analysis,
it appears that MiniDuke’s creators provide a dynamic backup system that also
can fly under the radar. If Twitter isn’t working or the accounts are down the
malware can use Google Search to find the encrypted strings to the next
C2. This model is flexible and enables the operators to constantly change
how their backdoors retrieve further commands or malcode as needed.
Once the infected
system locates the C2, it receives encrypted backdoors that are obfuscated within
GIF files and disguised as pictures that appear on a victim’s machine. Once
they are downloaded to the machine they can download a larger backdoor that carries
out several basic actions, such as copy file, move file, remove file, make
directory, kill process, and, of course, download and execute new malware.
The malware backdoor
connects to two servers, one in Panama and one in Turkey, to receive
instructions from the attackers.
the full research report by Kaspersky Lab and the recommendations for
protecting against MiniDuke attacks, please visit Securelist.
CrySys Lab’s report, please visit the following page.
Kaspersky Lab’s system detects and neutralizes the MiniDuke malware,
classified as HEUR:Backdoor.Win32.MiniDuke.gen and Backdoor.Win32.Miniduke. Kaspersky
Lab also detects the exploits used in the PDF documents, classified as
About Kaspersky Lab 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 15-year history Kaspersky Lab has
remained an innovator in IT security and provides effective digital security
solutions for consumers, SMBs and large enterprises. The company 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.
company was rated fourth in the IDC rating Worldwide Endpoint Security Revenue
by Vendor, 2010. The rating was published in the IDC report Worldwide IT
Security Products 2011-2015 Forecast and 2010 Vendor Shares – December 2011.
The report ranked software vendors according to earnings from sales of endpoint
security solutions in 2010.