Attacks/Breaches
7/26/2012
08:53 AM
Connect Directly
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Mahdi Malware Makers Push Anti-American Update

Spy malware, seemingly built by Iranians, gets update that searches for "USA" and "gov" on targeted machines, security researcher says at Black Hat.

Mounting evidence suggests that the Mahdi malware was built by Iranians, for the primary purpose of spying on people inside Iran.

Notably, while the four command-and-control (C&C) servers controlling Mahdi-infected PCs are based in Canada, the oldest sample of the Mahdi malware discovered thus far--dating from December 2011--interfaced with a C&C server located in Tehran, Iran.

What accounts for the Iran-based C&C server? "I think it was a mistake," said Aviv Raff, CTO of Israel-based Seculert, in an interview at Black Hat 2012 in Las Vegas. That is, whoever developed Mahdi may have inadvertently released into the wild versions which still connected to a test server, rather than production servers that had been set up overseas and meant to disguise the malware's origins.

But the target of Mahdi could be changing. According to Kasperksy, whoever is behind the malware launched a new variant Wednesday, which appeared to have been compiled the same day. "Following the shutdown of the Madi command and control domains last week, we thought the operation is now dead. Looks like we were wrong," said Nicolas Brulez, a security researcher at Kaspersky Lab, in a blog post. (Kaspersky refers to the malware as "Madi.")

[ Strengthen corporate security with tips from the FBI's terrorism-combating campaign. See Black Hat: 6 Lessons To Tighten Enterprise Security. ]

The new malware contains a number of refinements, such as not waiting for instructions from a C&C server. Instead, the malware simply grabs all targeted information and uploads it to a designated server, which, as with previous versions of the malware, is also hosted in Canada. In addition, the malware has been revamped to watch for a number of keywords, including "USA" and "gov."

"The Madi campaign is still ongoing and its perpetrators are busy shipping out new versions with improved features and new tricks," said Brulez. "The additional checks for 'USA' and 'gov' might indicate a shift of focus from targets in Israel to the USA."

Seculert first spotted Mahdi several months ago, as a malicious Trojan application hidden inside a Word document that was distributed via a spear-phishing attack. The email claimed that the attachment contained information about Israel's potential electronic warfare capabilities against Iran. The malware earned its name via a string of text inside the code, spotted by Seculert researchers, that included the word "Mahdi," which in Islamic eschatology is synonymous with Messiah.

After Kaspersky Lab went public last month with its discovery of the Flame malware, Seculert reached out, asking whether Mahdi might in any way relate to Flame, which researchers later linked to Stuxnet. The two companies' researchers then worked together, sinkholing the botnet to study it, and announced their Mahdi-related findings last week.

"The Madi info-stealing Trojan enables remote attackers to steal sensitive files from infected Windows computers, monitor sensitive communications such as email and instant messages, record audio, log keystrokes, and take screenshots of victims' activities," according to Kaspersky. "Common applications and websites that were spied on include accounts on Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo Mail, ICQ, Skype, Google+, and Facebook."

The two security firms found no apparent connections between Mahdi and Flame. "We started sinkholing Mahdi and we found that most of the targeted entities were coming from Iran and Israel, very similar to Flame, but that was it with the similarities," said Raff. "But we didn't find anything specific about the malware itself that would say there was something similar between those campaigns."

Wednesday, Seculert also released a blog post with updated Mahdi research, based on its ongoing teardown of the Mahdi malware and its associated C&C servers, as well as a free tool for spotting whether a PC is infected by the malware.

Previous
1 of 2
Next
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
Partner Perspectives
What's This?
In a digital world inundated with advanced security threats, Intel Security seeks to transform how we live and work to keep our information secure. Through hardware and software development, Intel Security delivers robust solutions that integrate security into every layer of every digital device. In combining the security expertise of McAfee with the innovation, performance, and trust of Intel, this vision becomes a reality.

As we rely on technology to enhance our everyday and business life, we must too consider the security of the intellectual property and confidential data that is housed on these devices. As we increase the number of devices we use, we increase the number of gateways and opportunity for security threats. Intel Security takes the “security connected” approach to ensure that every device is secure, and that all security solutions are seamlessly integrated.
Featured Writers
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Dark Reading's October Tech Digest
Fast data analysis can stymie attacks and strengthen enterprise security. Does your team have the data smarts?
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2014-7484
Published: 2014-10-20
The Coca-Cola FM Guatemala (aka com.enyetech.radio.coca_cola.fm_gu) application 2.0.41725 for Android does not verify X.509 certificates from SSL servers, which allows man-in-the-middle attackers to spoof servers and obtain sensitive information via a crafted certificate.

CVE-2014-7485
Published: 2014-10-20
The Not Lost Just Somewhere Else (aka it.tinytap.attsa.notlost) application 1.6.1 for Android does not verify X.509 certificates from SSL servers, which allows man-in-the-middle attackers to spoof servers and obtain sensitive information via a crafted certificate.

CVE-2014-7486
Published: 2014-10-20
The Mitsubishi Road Assist (aka com.agero.mitsubishi) application 1.0 for Android does not verify X.509 certificates from SSL servers, which allows man-in-the-middle attackers to spoof servers and obtain sensitive information via a crafted certificate.

CVE-2014-7487
Published: 2014-10-20
The ADT Aesthetic Dentistry Today (aka com.magazinecloner.aestheticdentistry) application @7F080181 for Android does not verify X.509 certificates from SSL servers, which allows man-in-the-middle attackers to spoof servers and obtain sensitive information via a crafted certificate.

CVE-2014-7488
Published: 2014-10-20
The Vineyard All In (aka com.wVineyardAllIn) application 0.1 for Android does not verify X.509 certificates from SSL servers, which allows man-in-the-middle attackers to spoof servers and obtain sensitive information via a crafted certificate.

Best of the Web
Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Follow Dark Reading editors into the field as they talk with noted experts from the security world.