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.


01:46 PM
Connect Directly

'Lurid' APT-Type Attacks Target Former USSR Region

Researchers uncover a year-long-plus cyberespionage campaign

Another day, another targeted attack campaign: This time, however, the former Soviet Union is in the bull's eye.

At least 50 victim organizations ranging from government ministries and agencies, diplomatic missions, research institutions, and commercial entities have been hit in the former Soviet Union region and other countries. Russia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, and Vietnam have been hit hardest in the apparent industrial espionage campaign that has been going on at least since August 2010.

The advanced persistent threat (APT)-type attacks -- dubbed "Lurid" after the Trojan malware family being used in it -- has infected some 1,465 computers in 61 countries with more than 300 targeted attacks. The attackers deployed a command-and-control (C&C) infrastructure of some 15 domain names and 10 IP addresses to keep their foothold in the victim machines.

"This seems to be a notable attack in that respect: It doesn't target Western countries or states. It seems to be the reverse this time," says Jamz Yaneza, a research director at Trend Micro.

Just who is behind the attack is unclear, but Trend says this is most likely a case of industrial espionage. "It's certainly not out of Russia ... they don't play around in their own backyard," Yaneza says.

The attacks could be out of China or the U.S., notes David Perry, global director of education for Trend Micro, given that some of the IP addresses appeared to be out of the U.S. "But we don't have evidence," Perry says, and attackers can hide their locations by using IP addresses from other regions for their C&C infrastructure.

Yaneza says attackers stole Word files and spreadsheets, not financial information. "A lot of the targets seemed to be government-based," he says. And it also could be the work of hactivists, he says.

Interestingly, the Lurid Trojan downloader, a.k.a. Enfal, has been used before in targeted attacks against U.S. governments and businesses. But Trend says there's no connection between those previous attacks and this one. They were unable to determine just what type of data the attackers are after, but they did see the attackers were trying to pilfer documents and spreadsheets from their victims.

Meanwhile, David Sancho and Nart Villeneuve, senior threat researchers for Trend, said the attackers employed various Adobe Reader exploits and malicious RAR files stuffed with malicious screensavers. "While we still have to locate any samples used in these campaigns that contain zero-day exploits, the campaign identifiers used by the attackers do make reference to the use of such exploits," the researchers wrote.

The fact that the attackers used patched Adobe bugs indicates they were after organizations, not consumers, Trend's Yaneza notes. "It seems to point to organizations with a fixed [application version] policy. If it were after regular [consumer] users, most of them are using auto-patch for PDFs," he says.

Trend discovered two methods the attackers used to maintain their foothold in the victim networks and remain under the radar: One program installed itself under the guise of a Windows service, while another copied itself to the system folder. "It ensures persistence by changing the common start up folder of Windows to a special one it creates. It then copies all the usual auto-start items there, as well as itself," Sancho and Villeneuve blogged.

The malware exfiltrates data from the victim machines via HTTP POST commands with the C&C servers, which also can execute a remote shell on the machines. "The attackers typically retrieve directory listings from the compromised computers and steal data (such as specific .XLS files). Trend Micro researchers have some of the commands, but not the actual files," they blogged.

Russia had 1,063 IP addresses hit in the attacks; Kazakhstan, 325; Ukraine, 102; Vietnam, 93; Uzbekistan; 88; Belarus, 67; India, 66; Kyrgyzstan, 49; Mongolia, 42; and China, 39.

The Trend Micro blog post on Lurid is available here.

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 the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. 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 ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Sodinokibi Ransomware: Where Attackers' Money Goes
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  10/15/2019
Data Privacy Protections for the Most Vulnerable -- Children
Dimitri Sirota, Founder & CEO of BigID,  10/17/2019
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
7 Threats & Disruptive Forces Changing the Face of Cybersecurity
This Dark Reading Tech Digest gives an in-depth look at the biggest emerging threats and disruptive forces that are changing the face of cybersecurity today.
Flash Poll
2019 Online Malware and Threats
2019 Online Malware and Threats
As cyberattacks become more frequent and more sophisticated, enterprise security teams are under unprecedented pressure to respond. Is your organization ready?
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
PUBLISHED: 2019-10-18
In the Linux kernel before 5.3.4, a reference count usage error in the fib6_rule_suppress() function in the fib6 suppression feature of net/ipv6/fib6_rules.c, when handling the FIB_LOOKUP_NOREF flag, can be exploited by a local attacker to corrupt memory, aka CID-ca7a03c41753.
PUBLISHED: 2019-10-18
In xsltCopyText in transform.c in libxslt 1.1.33, a pointer variable isn't reset under certain circumstances. If the relevant memory area happened to be freed and reused in a certain way, a bounds check could fail and memory outside a buffer could be written to, or uninitialized data could be disclo...
PUBLISHED: 2019-10-18
HCL Traveler versions 9.x and earlier are susceptible to cross-site scripting attacks. On the Problem Report page of the Traveler servlet pages, there is a field to specify a file attachment to provide additional problem details. An invalid file name returns an error message that includes the entere...
PUBLISHED: 2019-10-18
In Horner Automation Cscape 9.90 and prior, improper validation of data may cause the system to write outside the intended buffer area, which may allow arbitrary code execution.
PUBLISHED: 2019-10-18
In Horner Automation Cscape 9.90 and prior, an improper input validation vulnerability has been identified that may be exploited by processing files lacking user input validation. This may allow an attacker to access information and remotely execute arbitrary code.