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8/21/2013
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Poison Ivy Trojan Just Won't Die

Rash of attacks employing older remote access Trojan Poison Ivy spotted by researchers

A notorious—and relatively old—remote access Trojan (RAT) tool has been seen making a comeback with multiple attacker groups targeting the financial services, healthcare, defense, and telecommunications industries.

The eight-year-old Poison Ivy is most infamous for its use in the 2011 data breach of RSA's SecurID data, as well as in the Nitro targeted attack campaign against chemical, government, defense, and human rights organizations later that year. While other newer RATs since have taken front stage, Poison Ivy is still alive and well, according to new research from FireEye.

FireEye says it has seen cyberespionage actors behind the admin@338, th3bug, and menuPass, campaigns all using Poison Ivy in their attacks. The five-year old admin@338 has mostly been focused on financial service targets; th3bug on higher education and healthcare; and menuPass on U.S. and other defense contractors. Both th3bug and MenuPass were first discovered in 2009, according to FireEye.

Why the resurgence of Poison Ivy? "[Poison Ivy] is simple to use--point and click. Therefore, it's easy for a nation-state threat actor to quickly build a team with lower skill sets to be able to use this tool and accomplish their mission objectives. The attractiveness to PIVY is that it doesn't require a sophisticated operator to use," says Darien Kindlund, manager of threat intelligence at FireEye.

FireEye says Poison Ivy has evolved with different configurations by different threat actors, as well as their various infrastructures to launch its attack. "All of these artifacts can be combined together to form a 'fingerprint' of each threat actor," Kindlund says.

"We know that many more nation-state threat actors are still using PIVY and they are highly successful with it," even though it's an older tool, he says.

Commodity tools like Poison Ivy also make it easier for attackers to mask their activity by hiding in plain sight among other Poison Ivy malware, according to FireEye.

The RAT also uses encryption in its command-and-control traffic, which also makes it more difficult to identify on the wire, Kindlund says.

The security firm today also released a technical report and free tools for detecting and studying Poison Ivy infections called Calamine. "Calamine tools are also helpful for incident responders," he says.

Some indicators of Poison Ivy compromise are available here from FireEye.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Add Your Comment" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message.

Kelly Jackson Higgins is Senior Editor at DarkReading.com. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise Magazine, ... View Full Bio

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