Researchers at FireEye discovered infected machines running both the cyberespionage-linked Gh0st and the so-called Backdoor.ADDNEW malware, with each also phoning home to the same command-and-control (C&C) IP address. "We saw the machines getting infected with Gh0st within one week of them getting infected with ADDNEW. The machines used the "Gh0st" magic keyword to beacon back to their CnCs," wrote Vinay Pidathala, security content researcher for FireEye.
Gh0stNet is best known for widespread cyberespionage attacks targeting high-profile diplomatic, military, political, and economic systems around the world, including in Iran, India, South Korea, Thailand, Germany, and other parts of Asia. One of its main targets was the Dalai Lama and related Tibetan operations, and researchers say signs point to a Chinese connection.
Backdoor.ADDNEW is based on Russian malware called DaRK DDoSer, which can steal stored passwords in the Firefox browser and use the compromised machines in DDoS attacks.
Pidathala says Backdoor uses a custom protocol via TCP in its C&C communications. "The malware also communicates to its CnC about the port it's listening on," he wrote. "We also noticed another type of communication where the malware clearly informs its CnC that it is awaiting further commands for it to take actions on the compromised machine."
FireEye is still studying elements of the commands being issued by the attackers in the malware, but provides several screen shots of how the malware is communicating with the C&C infrastructure in its post.
"More importantly though, there are strings in the binary referencing "DarkDDOSER." One can only speculate if in some way "DarkDdoser" and the Gh0st RAT complement each other," Pidathala said in the blog post today.
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