TENERIFE, SPAIN – Kaspersky Security Analyst Summit 2016 – Turns out the infamous spyware program AlienSpy has been traced to a malware-as-a-service platform on the public Web that since 2013 has been used to victimize nearly 450,000 individuals and organizations worldwide by nearly 2,000 different attackers using the tool.
AlienSpy is a relative of what is known as Adwind, a remote access tool that operates across Windows, OS X, Linux, and Android platforms. Adwind -- aka Frutas, Unrecom, Sockrat, and most recently, Jsocket and jRat -- was recently discovered targeting a bank employee in Singapore, according to researchers from Kaspersky Lab, who here today disclosed details of their new investigation into the malware.
Although a report last year by Fidelis Security on Adwind basically killed AlienSpy, the developer behind the malware platform continued his tradition of altering and rebranding the malware. Adwind is a Java-based remote administration tool backdoor. In June of last year — two months after AlienSpy’s domains were suspended by GoDaddy in the wake of that report -- a new version called Jsocket debuted, and at least two updates of the malware platform have been released since then.
Vitaly Kamluk, director of Kaspersky Lab’s global research and analysis team in APAC, says he and his team believe the author is a Spanish-speaking hacker possibly out of Mexico, based on their investigation. He brings in about $200,000 per year with his service, which, via an open website, sells the service for anywhere from $30 for one month to $200 for an unlimited use license.
The researchers studied 150 unique attack samples affecting more than 60,000 targets, which were a combination of targeted attacks against individuals and mass attacks tossing a wide net. Nigeria, the US, Canada, Russia, and Turkey are the top nations with subscriptions to the malware service.
Interestingly, Nigerian scammers have been some of the biggest adopters. “We should also be prepared for a new generation of Nigerian attacks, especially against banks” as well as business email compromises, Kamluk said.
Some 60 companies in manufacturing, finance, engineering, retail, government, shipping, telecommunications, software, education, food production, healthcare, media, and energy were among the top targets Kaspersky researchers have identified thus far.
“I don’t think this platform will go away easily. It has sustainability,” Kamluk says.
Adwind is a far cry from its first iteration, Naranja, from the Frutas malware family, which was available for free. After multiple iterations, the malware author behind it rebranded it as a paid service.
JSocket remains on the market, with the ability to detect anti-malware on a victim’s machine and features such as file transfer and management; video capture from webcam and microphone; a VPN key-stealer; and of course, a keylogger.
The AlienSpy version of Adwind took a chilling turn last year when the malware was found planted on the mobile phone of Argentinian prosecutor Alberto Nisman’s Motorola phone after his suspicious death the day before he was due to testify about a cover-up by the Argentinian president in the case of a bombing decades ago.
But even after that unnerving reminder of how spyware can be used for personal and physical harm, the malware operation has continued to evolve and thrive.
“Expect more cross-platform RATs,” Kamluk said.
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