Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.


// // //
09:45 AM
Larry Loeb
Larry Loeb
Larry Loeb

Who Built the 'Taj Mahal'?

While the sophistication of the malware suggests that it is the product of a nation-state, it bears none of the code fingerprints of any known nation-state hacker group.

A new piece of sophisticated malware has been made publicby researchers at Kaspersky. While the complexity and the sophistication of the malware suggest that it is the product of a nation-state, it bears none of the code fingerprints of any known nation-state hacker group.

Indeed, there are no code similarities between that which Kaspersky found -- named Taj Mahal -- with other known malware of any origin. That the entire code base used in the malware is novel is a big deal. One of the ways that analysts figure out where an attack originates is by comparing the code to that which has been seen before. With nothing to compare the code to, Taj Mahal keeps its origins secret.

The malware was found by Kaspersky in late 2018 to be targeting a single Central Asian diplomatic agency, which it will not name. It has two parts, or packages, named "Tokyo" and "Yokohama," which together contain 80 malicious plug-in modules. This is an extremely high number of modules, and the most that Kaspersky has ever seen in an APT tool.

Tokyo is the initial breaching malware and functions as a backdoor. It uses the standard PowerShell tool when it connects to a command-and-control server, and then plants the Yokohama payload spyware.

The sophistication of the malware is evident when file exfiltration is observed. If a USB drive is inserted into an victim's machine, TJ will scan the drive contents and uploads a list of them to the command-and-control server. The threat actors can then decide which files they want to exfiltrate.

But there is some really slick follow-up going on here. Say that the USB drive has been taken out of the machine by the time the actors have made up their mind. The malware can monitor the USB port for the same drive to exfiltrate that file, and send it to the command server the next time it appears. That is some fancy code work going on, making the malware even more dangerous.

The spyware has other modules that allow it to flag files that have been burned to a CD, or put into a printer queue. It can also take screenshots when recording VoiceIP app audio, as well as stealing Internet Explorer, Netscape Navigator, FireFox and RealNetworks cookies.

The stealth aspects of this malware are quite remarkable. The new code that is used is obvious (if it's never been seen before then you can't match signatures on it), as well as the behavioral detection avoidance. Target files are named randomly between reboots, as an another example. It helped the malware avoid detection from August 2013 until April 2018, based on the compile times found in some of the modules.

Kaspersky has published the malware's Indicators of Compromise.

Now that its cover has been blown, the security community may expect whoever is behind this will mount development of a new (and unknown) code base with the same purpose in mind.

— Larry Loeb has written for many of the last century's major "dead tree" computer magazines, having been, among other things, a consulting editor for BYTE magazine and senior editor for the launch of WebWeek.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
I Smell a RAT! New Cybersecurity Threats for the Crypto Industry
David Trepp, Partner, IT Assurance with accounting and advisory firm BPM LLP,  7/9/2021
Attacks on Kaseya Servers Led to Ransomware in Less Than 2 Hours
Robert Lemos, Contributing Writer,  7/7/2021
It's in the Game (but It Shouldn't Be)
Tal Memran, Cybersecurity Expert, CYE,  7/9/2021
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
Black Hat USA 2022 Attendee Report
Black Hat attendees are not sleeping well. Between concerns about attacks against cloud services, ransomware, and the growing risks to the global supply chain, these security pros have a lot to be worried about. Read our 2022 report to hear what they're concerned about now.
Flash Poll
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
PUBLISHED: 2022-08-12
Improper input validation on the `contains` LoopBack filter may allow for arbitrary SQL injection. When the extended filter property `contains` is permitted to be interpreted by the Postgres connector, it is possible to inject arbitrary SQL which may affect the confidentiality and integrity of data ...
PUBLISHED: 2022-08-12
undici is an HTTP/1.1 client, written from scratch for Node.js.`undici` is vulnerable to SSRF (Server-side Request Forgery) when an application takes in **user input** into the `path/pathname` option of `undici.request`. If a user specifies a URL such as `` or `//` ```js con...
PUBLISHED: 2022-08-12
BookWyrm is a social network for tracking your reading, talking about books, writing reviews, and discovering what to read next. Some links in BookWyrm may be vulnerable to tabnabbing, a form of phishing that gives attackers an opportunity to redirect a user to a malicious site. The issue was patche...
PUBLISHED: 2022-08-12
This Rails gem adds two methods to the ActiveRecord::Base class that allow you to update many records on a single database hit, using a case sql statement for it. Before version 0.1.3 `update_by_case` gem used custom sql strings, and it was not sanitized, making it vulnerable to sql injection. Upgra...
PUBLISHED: 2022-08-12
Shield is an authentication and authorization framework for CodeIgniter 4. This vulnerability may allow [SameSite Attackers](https://canitakeyoursubdomain.name/) to bypass the [CodeIgniter4 CSRF protection](https://codeigniter4.github.io/userguide/libraries/security.html) mechanism with CodeIgniter ...