An older malware exploit called Sykipot has recently been reworked to steal data on the civil aviation sector in the United States, researchers say.
According to a new blog from researchers at Trend Micro's TrendLabs, the retooled attack appears to be an intelligence-gathering operation.
"The intentions of this latest round of targeting are unclear, but it represents a change in shift in objectives or mission," the blog states.
Sykipot, which has been used as a backdoor since 2007, traditionally has targeted U.S. defense agencies and related industries, such as telecommunications, computer hardware makers, and government contractors, according to TrendLabs. But now it appears to be going after aviation data.
"Like most targeted attacks, Sykipot uses malicious attachments to spread," the blog says. "Once Sykipot is running on the victim's machine, it establishes an SSL connection to a [command and control] server, where more malicious files are then downloaded and installed on the victim's machine. The capabilities of the Sykipot framework allow for arbitrary code and commands to be run.
"The change -- slowly moving away from file-based exploits and into [the PC's dynamic link library] or process injection -- is a notable observation on the evolution of the campaign," TrendLabs says. "The closed-source intelligence of the most recent attacks shows consistency in methodology, tools and exploited target entity, but examining the targeted data suggests the campaign expanded beyond the typical US [defense industry] and into more civilian sectors and infrastructure."
Sykipot frequently spreads through the use of zero-day versions, so organizations in civil aviation and related industries should seek to patch frequently, TrendLabs says. And since the initial infection often occurs through phishing or other forms of social engineering, a solid end user training program may also help, the blog says.
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