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.

Threat Intelligence

7/15/2021
03:54 PM
Connect Directly
Twitter
LinkedIn
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Microsoft: Israeli Firm's Tools Used to Target Activists, Dissidents

Candiru sold spyware that exploited Windows vulnerabilities and had been used in attacks against dissidents, activists, and journalists.

An Israel-based company called Candiru sold spyware that exploited Windows vulnerabilities and has been used in targeted attacks against at least 100 victims across several countries, according to new reports from both Microsoft and the University of Toronto's Citizen Lab.

The tools were being used in "precision attacks" targeting politicians, human rights activists, journalists, academics, embassy workers, and political dissidents, wrote Cristin Goodwin, general manager of Microsoft's Digital Security Unit, in a blog post. Victims were in Palestine, Israel, Iran, Lebanon, Yemen, Spain, United Kingdom, Turkey, Armenia, and Singapore.

Candiru, which Microsoft calls "an Israel-based private sector offensive actor" under the codename Sourgum, sells digital weapons that enable customers – usually government agencies – to break into targets' computers, phones, network infrastructure, and Internet-connected devices, according to Microsoft. The agencies decide who to target and run the operation.

Citizen Lab, an academic research lab focused on technology, human rights, and global security, says the spyware can infect iPhones, Androids, Macs, PCs, and cloud accounts. Researchers with Citizen Lab found Candiru's Windows spyware after detecting a politically active victim in Western Europe.

They alerted the Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center (MSTIC) to analyze the spyware, which led them to discover CVE-2021-31979 and CVE-2021-33771, both elevation of privilege vulnerabilities in the Windows kernel. Microsoft released patches for the flaws earlier this week and has updated its tools with protections against the spyware used in these attacks.

"The protections we issued this week will prevent Sourgum's tools from working on computers that are already infected and prevent new infections on updated computers and those running Microsoft Defender Antivirus as well as those using Microsoft Defender for Endpoint," Goodwin wrote.

While researchers are still reversing most of the spyware's functionality, Citizen Lab reports the Candiru Windows payload appears to contain features for exfiltrating files, exporting messages saved in the Windows version of the Signal encrypted messaging app, and stealing cookies and passwords from Chrome, Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, and Opera, its full report states.

Further analysis from Microsoft revealed the spyware could send messages from logged-in email and social media accounts on the target computer, which could enable an attacker to send malicious messages directly from a victim to additional people, Citizen Lab pointed out.

The findings underscore the danger of private sector organizations selling virtual weapons that can be used against people around the world, Citizen Lab noted.

"Candiru's apparent widespread presence, and the use of its surveillance technology against global civil society, is a potent reminder that the mercenary spyware industry contains many players and is prone to widespread abuse," researchers wrote.

Kelly Sheridan is the Staff Editor at Dark Reading, where she focuses on cybersecurity news and analysis. She is a business technology journalist who previously reported for InformationWeek, where she covered Microsoft, and Insurance & Technology, where she covered financial ... View Full Bio
 

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Edge-DRsplash-10-edge-articles
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
News
Attacks on Kaseya Servers Led to Ransomware in Less Than 2 Hours
Robert Lemos, Contributing Writer,  7/7/2021
Commentary
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
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
How Enterprises are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
Concerns over supply chain vulnerabilities and attack visibility drove some significant changes in enterprise cybersecurity strategies over the past year. Dark Reading's 2021 Strategic Security Survey showed that many organizations are staying the course regarding the use of a mix of attack prevention and threat detection technologies and practices for dealing with cyber threats.
Flash Poll
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
Recent breaches of third-party apps are driving many organizations to think harder about the security of their off-the-shelf software as they continue to move left in secure software development practices.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2021-42258
PUBLISHED: 2021-10-22
BQE BillQuick Web Suite 2018 through 2021 before 22.0.9.1 allows SQL injection for unauthenticated remote code execution, as exploited in the wild in October 2021 for ransomware installation. SQL injection can, for example, use the txtID (aka username) parameter. Successful exploitation can include ...
CVE-2020-28968
PUBLISHED: 2021-10-22
Draytek VigorAP 1000C contains a stored cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerability in the RADIUS Setting - RADIUS Server Configuration module. This vulnerability allows attackers to execute arbitrary web scripts or HTML via a crafted payload in the username input field.
CVE-2020-28969
PUBLISHED: 2021-10-22
Aplioxio PDF ShapingUp 5.0.0.139 contains a buffer overflow which allows attackers to cause a denial of service (DoS) via a crafted PDF file.
CVE-2020-36485
PUBLISHED: 2021-10-22
Portable Ltd Playable v9.18 was discovered to contain an arbitrary file upload vulnerability in the filename parameter of the upload module. This vulnerability allows attackers to execute arbitrary code via a crafted JPEG file.
CVE-2020-36486
PUBLISHED: 2021-10-22
Swift File Transfer Mobile v1.1.2 and below was discovered to contain a cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerability via the 'path' parameter of the 'list' and 'download' exception-handling.