Attacks/Breaches
11/1/2011
02:10 PM
50%
50%

Nitro Malware Targeted Chemical Companies

Symantec finds Trojan launched industrial espionage attacks against chemical compound and advanced material manufacturers.

Multiple Fortune 100 companies have recently been targeted by malware as part of a campaign designed to steal proprietary information. In particular, at least 50 different waves of attacks were launched against businesses involved in the research, development, and manufacture of both chemical compounds and advanced materials.

That revelation comes from a study, "The Nitro Attacks: Stealing Secrets from the Chemical Industry," released Monday by Symantec. According to the study's authors, Eric Chien, technical director of Symantec Security Response, and Symantec threat intelligence officer Gavin O'Gorman, the attack campaign against the chemical industry--which led to their codenaming it "Nitro"--ran from July to mid-September 2011.

But they've found evidence that part of the attack infrastructure was put to use before then. Notably, they said that the command-and-control servers communicating with the remote-access tools used in the attacks first appeared in April 2011, and targeted human-rights-related nonprofit groups. The next month, meanwhile, the infrastructure was employed to attack the motor manufacturing industry. Then, after being dormant for part of June and July, the command-and-control servers were reactivated for the recent chemical industry attack campaign, which lasted for about 10 weeks.

[End users aren't the only people who may be compromising your security. Are Your IT Pros Abusing Admin Passwords?]

So far, Symantec has confirmed that 29 chemical companies and 19 organizations in other industries were targeted by the malware. But it warned that the actual number of businesses targeted--or exploited--by the malware may be much higher. "In a recent two-week period, 101 unique IP addresses contacted a command and control server with traffic consistent with an infected machine. These IPs represented 52 different unique Internet service providers or organizations in 20 countries," said Chien and O'Gorman.

In the case of the chemical industry attacks, the attackers targeted businesses that manufacture chemical compounds or advanced materials used for manufacturing military vehicles, as well as businesses that design and build manufacturing systems for the chemical and advanced material industries. "The purpose of the attacks appears to be industrial espionage, collecting intellectual property for competitive advantage," they said. In particular, the attackers were hunting for "sensitive documents such as proprietary designs, formulas, and manufacturing processes."

Targeted attacks involving remote access tools aren't new. Earlier this year, for example, McAfee published its findings into a series of attacks it dubbed Shady RAT, for remote access tool. But McAfee's report was criticized by some for being unnecessarily alarmist after outside experts studied the malware and found it to be relatively unsophisticated, and far less dangerous than many other botnets currently at large. In contrast to the McAfee study, Symantec's report paints a picture of malware that's only as sophisticated as it needs to be.

In particular, the Nitro malware was emailed to a select--and apparently prescreened group--of recipients, numbering anywhere from just a handful of employees to almost 500 in any given business. The emails, however, really constituted a phishing attack, sent under the pretext of either a meeting invitation from a known business partner or a necessary security update for either Flash Player or an antivirus product.

The email's attachment--a self-extracting executable included in a zipped file, with the password pasted into the email body--was actually a common Trojan malware known as Poison Ivy. But just because the remote administration tool might be common--and free to download--doesn't mean it isn't dangerous or effective. Indeed, the malware, which security researchers say was developed by a Chinese-language speaker, was used both to exploit RSA's SecurID, as well as in the Operation Aurora attack against Google.

Previous
1 of 2
Next
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
5 Reasons the Cybersecurity Labor Shortfall Won't End Soon
Steve Morgan, Founder & CEO, Cybersecurity Ventures,  12/11/2017
Oracle Product Rollout Underscores Need for Trust in the Cloud
Kelly Sheridan, Associate Editor, Dark Reading,  12/11/2017
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win a Starbucks Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: Gee, these virtual reality goggles work great!!! 
Current Issue
The Year in Security: 2017
A look at the biggest news stories (so far) of 2017 that shaped the cybersecurity landscape -- from Russian hacking, ransomware's coming-out party, and voting machine vulnerabilities to the massive data breach of credit-monitoring firm Equifax.
Flash Poll
The State of Ransomware
The State of Ransomware
Ransomware has become one of the most prevalent new cybersecurity threats faced by today's enterprises. This new report from Dark Reading includes feedback from IT and IT security professionals about their organization's ransomware experiences, defense plans, and malware challenges. Find out what they had to say!
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2017-0290
Published: 2017-05-09
NScript in mpengine in Microsoft Malware Protection Engine with Engine Version before 1.1.13704.0, as used in Windows Defender and other products, allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code or cause a denial of service (type confusion and application crash) via crafted JavaScript code within ...

CVE-2016-10369
Published: 2017-05-08
unixsocket.c in lxterminal through 0.3.0 insecurely uses /tmp for a socket file, allowing a local user to cause a denial of service (preventing terminal launch), or possibly have other impact (bypassing terminal access control).

CVE-2016-8202
Published: 2017-05-08
A privilege escalation vulnerability in Brocade Fibre Channel SAN products running Brocade Fabric OS (FOS) releases earlier than v7.4.1d and v8.0.1b could allow an authenticated attacker to elevate the privileges of user accounts accessing the system via command line interface. With affected version...

CVE-2016-8209
Published: 2017-05-08
Improper checks for unusual or exceptional conditions in Brocade NetIron 05.8.00 and later releases up to and including 06.1.00, when the Management Module is continuously scanned on port 22, may allow attackers to cause a denial of service (crash and reload) of the management module.

CVE-2017-0890
Published: 2017-05-08
Nextcloud Server before 11.0.3 is vulnerable to an inadequate escaping leading to a XSS vulnerability in the search module. To be exploitable a user has to write or paste malicious content into the search dialogue.