01:26 PM

Malware Corrupts Iranian Financial Databases

Iran downplays threat of Narilam financial malware, saying it dates from 2009 to 2010, and doesn't bear comparisons to Stuxnet, Duqu or Flame.

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Symantec is warning that financial malware, dubbed Narilam, is actively targeting financial applications primarily used in Iran.

"In the last couple of years, we have seen highly sophisticated malware used to sabotage the business activities of chosen targets," said Symantec's advisory, released Thursday. "We have seen malware such as W32.Stuxnet designed to tamper with industrial automation systems, and other destructive examples such as W32.Disstrack and W32.Flamer, which can both wiped (sic) out data and files from hard disks. All of these threats can badly disrupt the activities of those affected.

"Following along that theme, we recently came across an interesting threat that has another method of causing chaos, this time, by targeting and modifying corporate databases," said Symantec, noting that the threat has been dubbed Narilam.

[ Read Was U.S. Government's Stuxnet Brag A Mistake? ]

"The threat copies itself to the infected machine, adds registry keys, and spreads through removable drives and network shares. It is even written using Delphi, which is a language that is used to create a lot of other malware threats," said Symantec. The malware also can update Microsoft SQL databases -- for example, to overwrite information stored therein.

In response to Symantec's warning, Iran's Computer Emergency Readiness Team (CERT) Sunday released an advisory confirming that the Narilam malware had targeted Iranian systems. But it downplayed the threat, and suggested that any comparisons to "the previously reported cyber-attacks on Iran's infrastructure like stuxnet, duqu and flame" vastly overstated the malware's capabilities.

"The malware called 'narilam' by Symantec was an old malware, previously detected and reported online in 2010 by some other names," said the Iranian CERT's advisory. "This malware has no sign of a major threat, nor a sophisticated piece of computer malware ... and is only able to corrupt the database of some of the products by an Iranian software company, those products are accounting software for small businesses. The simple nature of the malware looks more like a try to harm the software company reputation among their customers."

Iran's CERT did, however, suggest that all users of the accounting software ensured that they were backing up all related databases, and regularly scanning their systems using antivirus tools.

Narilam's target, according to Kaspersky Lab, is three financial applications by Iranian software development firm TarrahSystem. After Narilam was spotted in the wild, TarrahSystem released an advisory in June 2010 warning that newly discovered malware was targeting Maliran, its integrated financial and industrial applications; Amin, its banking and loans software; and Shahd ("Nectar"), integrated financial/commercial software.

Despite the Iran CERT's statement, could the existence of malware that targets Iranian financial information reveal another cyber-espionage campaign along the lines of Stuxnet, Duqu, Flame or Gauss, which were apparently commissioned by the United States? Gauss, for example, primarily targeted a small number of Lebanese banking customers. Security experts believe the malware was used, at least in part, to track suspected money-laundering operations involving the Lebanese militant group and political party Hezbollah.

In fact, most malware today is designed to steal financial information. As a result, Narilam appears to be simply run-of-the-mill financial malware -- along the lines of Blackhole, Citadel, Crisis, SpyEye, or Zeus, although likely less functional.

Narilam today also doesn't seem to rate as a big threat. "According to Kaspersky Security Network, there are very few reports of this malware at the moment, which means it's probably almost extinct," according to research published by Kaspersky Lab. "The earliest report of the malware is from August 2010; in total about 80 incidents have been recorded during past two years." It said that related infections affected users in Iran (60%) and Afghanistan (40%), but noted that Kaspersky has only seen six related infections in the past month.

Based on a review of how the code was built, Kaspersky Lab sees no connection between Narilam and destructive malware -- namely, Shamoon or Wiper. Furthermore, the malware has no cyber-espionage capabilities, and shares no developmental commonalities with well-known cyber-espionage tools. "Duqu, Stuxnet, Flame and Gauss have all been compiled with versions of Microsoft Visual C, while Narilam was built with Borland C++ Builder 6 (and not Delphi, as other articles seem to suggest), a completely different programming tool," said Kaspersky Lab.

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User Rank: Ninja
12/10/2012 | 4:10:22 PM
re: Malware Corrupts Iranian Financial Databases
Of course Iranian officials are going to downplay the threat, they do not want to appear weak to the general public, or to the threats which I am sure area ware of the damage they can cause. The actual software does sound like it could do some serious damage as far as corrupting and overwriting the database that exists currently. Would Iran admit that their systems have been compromised, if they did not have to?

Paul Sprague
InformationWeek Contributor
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