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.

Attacks/Breaches

Spam Attack Captures Government Data

A Zeus botnet variant disguised as a White House electronic greeting card netted numerous documents from U.S. agencies.

Top 10 Security Stories Of 2010
(click image for larger view)
Slideshow: Top 10 Security Stories Of 2010
A botnet-driven spam attack disguised as an electronic Christmas card from the White House netted data from numerous U.S. government agencies.

The attack was apparently launched a day or two before Christmas. Interestingly, the botnet behind the attack was a variant of the Zeus botnet, known as Kneber, which downloads a Perl script -- converted to an executable file -- that trolls for and copies documents to a server located in Belarus.

Security blogger Brian Krebs gained access to the server used in the attack, and found two gigabytes of PDFs, Word, and Excel documents, apparently from dozens of victims. Among the agencies that fell victim to the attack were the National Science Foundation's Office of Cyber Infrastructure; the Massachusetts State Police; the Moroccan government's Ministry of Industry, Commerce and New Technologies; and the intergovernmental Financial Action Task Force.

Kneber was first seen in February 2010, when security firm NetWitness estimated that the botnet had infected 75,000 PCs, many belonging to government agencies. At the time, the security firm reported that less than 10% of antivirus software were able to spot the advanced attack, and that no intrusion detection systems spotted the malware's peer-to-peer communications component.

Both appearances of Kneber have targeted not just government secrets, but also financial data, including "sites such as eBay, MySpace, and Microsoft, as well as online-payment processors, PayPal, and e-gold," said Alex Cox, principal research analyst for NetWitness, in a blog post.

Cox said the new version of Kneber appeared to be the work of the same attacker, as an analysis of the attack code found that two of the executables and three of the domain names were quite similar to the previous attack, and that the malware code itself was nearly identical in size.

As before, the malware searches for state secrets, as well as banking information and useful Web site credentials. "This evidence shows the continuing convergence of cyber-crime and cyber-espionage activities, and how they occasionally mirror or play off one another," said Cox.

But the attacker's backing or intent remains unclear. "Who is the end consumer of this information?" he asked.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
COVID-19: Latest Security News & Commentary
Dark Reading Staff 5/22/2020
The Problem with Artificial Intelligence in Security
Dr. Leila Powell, Lead Security Data Scientist, Panaseer,  5/26/2020
How an Industry Consortium Can Reinvent Security Solution Testing
Henry Harrison, Co-founder & Chief Technology Officer, Garrison,  5/21/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win a Starbucks Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: This comment is waiting for review by our moderators.
Current Issue
How Cybersecurity Incident Response Programs Work (and Why Some Don't)
This Tech Digest takes a look at the vital role cybersecurity incident response (IR) plays in managing cyber-risk within organizations. Download the Tech Digest today to find out how well-planned IR programs can detect intrusions, contain breaches, and help an organization restore normal operations.
Flash Poll
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-10737
PUBLISHED: 2020-05-27
A race condition was found in the mkhomedir tool shipped with the oddjob package in versions before 0.34.5 and 0.34.6 wherein, during the home creation, mkhomedir copies the /etc/skel directory into the newly created home and changes its ownership to the home's user without properly checking the hom...
CVE-2020-13622
PUBLISHED: 2020-05-27
JerryScript 2.2.0 allows attackers to cause a denial of service (assertion failure) because a property key query for a Proxy object returns unintended data.
CVE-2020-13623
PUBLISHED: 2020-05-27
JerryScript 2.2.0 allows attackers to cause a denial of service (stack consumption) via a proxy operation.
CVE-2020-13616
PUBLISHED: 2020-05-26
The boost ASIO wrapper in net/asio.cpp in Pichi before 1.3.0 lacks TLS hostname verification.
CVE-2020-13614
PUBLISHED: 2020-05-26
An issue was discovered in ssl.c in Axel before 2.17.8. The TLS implementation lacks hostname verification.