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Dan Goodin

Researchers have uncovered an ongoing cyberespionage campaign targeting more than 30 online video game companies over the past four years.

The companies infected by the malware primarily market so-called massively multiplayer online role-playing games. They're mostly located in South East Asia, but are also in the US, Germany, Japan, China, Russia, Brazil, Peru, and Belarus, according to a release published Thursday by researchers from antivirus provider Kaspersky Lab. The attackers work from computers with Chinese and Korean language configurations. They used their unauthorized access to obtain digital certificates that were later exploited in malware campaigns targeting other industries and political activists.

So far, there's no evidence that customers of the infected game companies were targeted, although in at least one case, malicious code was accidentally installed on gamers' computers by one of the infected victim companies. Kaspersky said there was another case of end users being infected by the malware, which is known as "Winnti." The company didn't rule out the possibility that players could be hit in the future, potentially as a result of collateral damage.

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Malware used to spy on Tibetan activists and other ethnic groups in China is nothing new. But a new Trojan discovered by researchers at Kaspersky Labs has widened the scope of this digital espionage and intimidation. The malware uses a combination of e-mail hacking, "spear phishing," and a Trojan built specifically for Android smartphones. Kaspersky claims this is the first discovery of a targeted attack that uses mobile phone malware.

On March 25, the e-mail account of a Tibetan activist was hacked and then used to distribute Android malware to the activist's contact list. The e-mail's lure was a statement on the recent conference organized by the World Uyghur Congress that brought together Chinese democracy activists and Tibet, Southern Mongolia, and East Turkestan human rights activists. The e-mail claimed to have an attachment that was a joint letter from WUC, the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization, and the Society for Threatened Peoples. If the targets opened the attachment, however, they received malware packaged in an Android APK file.

When opened, the Trojan installs an app called "Conference" on the Android devices' desktops. If the app is launched, it displays a fake message from the chairman of the WUC—while sending back a message to a command and control server to report its successful installation. The malware provides a backdoor to the device via SMS messages sent by the server. On command, it returns the phone's contact lists, call logs, data about the smartphone, its geo-location data, and any SMS messages stored on it to a server via a Web POST upload.

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CrySyS Lab

Researchers have unearthed a decade-long espionage operation that used the popular TeamViewer remote-access program and proprietary malware to target high-level political and industrial figures in Eastern Europe.

TeamSpy, as the shadow group has been dubbed, collected encryption keys and documents marked as "secret" from a variety of high-level targets, according to a report published Wednesday by Hungary-based CrySyS Lab. Targets included a Russia-based Embassy for an undisclosed country belonging to both NATO and the European Union, an industrial manufacturer also located in Russia, multiple research and educational organizations in France and Belgium, and an electronics company located in Iran. CrySyS learned of the attacks after Hungary's National Security Authority disclosed intelligence that TeamSpy had hit an unnamed "Hungarian high-profile governmental victim."

Malware used in the attacks indicates that those responsible may have operated for years and may have also targeted figures in a variety of countries throughout the world. Adding intrigue to the discovery, techniques used in the attacks bear a striking resemblance to an online banking fraud ring known as Sheldon, and a separate analysis from researchers at Kaspersky Lab found similarities to the Red October espionage campaign that the Russia-based security firm discovered earlier this year.

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One of the Twitter feeds MiniDuke-infected machines use to locate a command-and-control server.

Kaspersky Lab

Unidentified attackers have infected government agencies and organizations in 23 countries with highly advanced malware that uses low-level code to stay hidden and Twitter and Google to ensure it always has a way to receive updates.

MiniDuke, as researchers from Kaspersky Lab and Hungary-based CrySyS Lab have dubbed the threat, bears the hallmark of viruses first encountered in the mid-1990s, when shadowy groups such as 29A engineered innovative pieces of malware for fun and then documented them in an E-Zine by the same name. Because MiniDuke is written in assembly language, most of its computer files are tiny. Its use of multiple levels of encryption and clever coding tricks makes the malware hard to detect and reverse engineer. It also employs a method known as steganography, in which updates received from control servers are stashed inside image files.

In another testament to the skill of the attackers, MiniDuke has taken hold of government agencies, think tanks, a US-based healthcare provider, and other high-profile organizations using the first known exploit to pierce the security sandbox in Adobe Systems' Reader application. Adding intrigue to this, the MiniDuke exploit code contained references to Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy and also alluded to 666, the Mark of the Beast discussed in a verse from the Book of Revelation.

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Key parts of the infrastructure supporting an espionage campaign that targeted governments around the world reportedly have been shut down in the days since the five-year operation was exposed.

The so-called Red October campaign came to light on Monday in a report from researchers from antivirus provider Kaspersky Lab. It reported that the then-ongoing operation was targeting embassies as well as governmental and scientific research organizations in a wide variety of countries. The research uncovered more than 60 Internet domain names used to run the sprawling command and control network that funneled malware and received stolen data to and from infected machines. In the hours following the report, many of those domains and servers began shutting down, according to an article posted Friday by Kaspersky news service Threatpost.

"It's clear that the infrastructure is being shut down," Kaspersky Lab researcher Costin Raiu told the service. "Not only the registers killing the domains and the hosting providers killing the command-and-control servers but perhaps the attackers shutting down the whole operation."

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They're calling it "Red October."

On Monday, Russia's Kaspersky Labs reported that they had identified what may be the most comprehensive, global cyber espionage hack in the history of the Internet.

From a CBS News:

Kaspersky's report says "Red October's" configuration rivals the Flame malware that made headlines last year, when it was discovered to have infected computers in Iran.

They discovered the campaign in October 2012 and, after a few months of research, found some truly troubling revelations. Targeted in several countries (listed comprehensively via map below) was proprietary or government classified information in eight sectors:

  1. Government
  2. Diplomatic / embassies
  3. Research institutions
  4. Trade and commerce
  5. Nuclear / energy research
  6. Oil and gas companies
  7. Aerospace
  8. Military

For legal and obvious reasons, Kaspersky doesn't disclose exactly what information or specifically what private, government or diplomatic entities have been breached.

"It's a professional, multi-year cyber-espionage campaign," Kurt Baumgartner, senior security researcher at Kaspersky Labs, told CBSNews.com. Five years, to be exact.

Even scarier: there's no evidence the hack is state-sponsored. The 'insurgent,' decentralized nature of the attack makes it even more difficult for a coalition of governments to use political sway to pressure possible state-level sources of the attacks.

The most Kaspersky can identify is that Chinese speakers designed the "exploit" (like a coded crowbar that pries past security to improve, expand, and/or modify function) and Russian speakers designed the malware (in this case, the program that locates and gleans relevant information, then shoots it to an off-site server).

In other words, no credible targets — and after years of espionage the hack is still very much active.

In short, the operation reeks of a growing cyber-warfare mercenary culture, and the Kaspersky report even quips that sensitive information, private or otherwise, is likely then "sold to the highest bidder."

“The main purpose of the operation appears to be the gathering of classified information and geopolitical intelligence ... that [sic] information-gathering scope is quite wide,” Kaspersky's report states.

The hack targeted cell phones (Nokia, Windows, iPhone), enterprise networks, deleted files and even resurrected once-dead computer hard drives. The espionage ranged from stealing of files to logging every key stroke and taking periodical screengrabs. Sources include everything from diplomatic to infrastructure to military to commerce.

Finally, the information was then sent back through an opaque thicket of proxy servers, mostly located in Germany and Russia, making it impossible to know where it ended up and where "the mothership command and control center is."

"[There are] entire little villages dedicated to malware in Russia, villages in China, very sophisticated very organized, very well-funded," Steve Sacks of Fireeye, a cyber security firm, told Business Insider. "It'll be 50 guys in a room, changing the attack [as it happens]."

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SEE ALSO: Cloud Computing Has Officially Brought The Global Cyber War To The US Doorstep >

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Kaspersky Lab

Researchers have uncovered an ongoing, large-scale computer espionage network that's targeting hundreds of diplomatic, governmental, and scientific organizations in at least 39 countries, including the Russian Federation, Iran, and the United States.

Operation Red October, as researchers from antivirus provider Kaspersky Lab have dubbed the highly coordinated campaign, has been active since 2007, raising the possibility it has already siphoned up hundreds of terabytes of sensitive information. It uses more than 1,000 distinct modules that have never been seen before to customize attack profiles for each victim. Among other things, components target individual PCs, networking equipment from Cisco Systems, and smartphones from Apple, Microsoft, and Nokia. The attack also features a network of command-and-control servers with a complexity that rivals that used by the Flame espionage malware that targeted Iran.

"This is a pretty glaring example of a multiyear cyber espionage campaign," Kaspersky Lab expert Kurt Baumgartner told Ars. "We haven't seen these sorts of modules being distributed, so the customized approach to attacking individual victims is something we haven't seen before at this level."

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A newly discovered form of malware that targets Linux servers acting as Web servers allows an attacker to directly inject code into any page on infected servers—including error pages. The rootkit, which was first publicly discussed on the Full Disclosure security e-mail list on November 13, appears to be crafted for servers running the 64-bit version of Debian Squeeze and NGINX.

An analysis of the rootkit by Kaspersky Labs found that the malware inserts HTML iframe elements into every page served up to Web browsers connecting to the server. It does this by replacing the code that builds TCP/IP packets (tcp_sendmsg) with its own code. The malware then retrieves the code to be inserted into the iframe by connecting, botnet-like, to a command and control network with an encrypted password.

The rootkit, designated as Rootkit.Linux.Snakso.a by Kaspersky, is a new approach to drive-by downloads. They usually are based on PHP script—not code injected into the kernel of the operating system. Because the new rootkit infects the entire server and not just a specific page, the malware could affect dozens or even hundreds of websites at a time if it infects the server of a Web hosting provider.

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An anonymous reader writes "Wired is reporting on a massive, highly sophisticated piece of malware has been newly found infecting systems in Iran and elsewhere and is believed to be part of a well-coordinated, ongoing, state-run cyberespionage operation. Kaspersky Lab, the company that discovered the malware, has a FAQ with more details."


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Security researchers have disabled the latest botnet created with Kelihos malware, stopping a 116,000-bot-strong operation devoted to Bitcoin hacking and other crimes. Announced today, the operation took place last week and was run by Kaspersky Lab, CrowdStrike, Dell SecureWorks, and the Honeynet Project.

While the first Kelihos botnet (also known as "Hlux") was taken down last September, an entirely new botnet using the same code was identified earlier this year.

In addition to spamming and distributed denial-of-service attacks, this latest botnet was capable of both stealing Bitcoin wallets from infected computers, and BitCoin mining, which uses the resources of victimized computers to make new Bitcoins.

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