Woburn, MA October 10, 2016 Kaspersky Lab today announced a stealthy threat actor known as StrongPity, a technically capable Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) interested in encrypted data and communications, according to a paper presented at Virus Bulletin by Kaspersky Lab principal security researcher, Kurt Baumgartner. Users in Italy and Belgium were hardest hit, but people in Turkey, North Africa and the Middle East were also affected.
Over the last few months, Kaspersky Lab observed a significant escalation in its attacks on users looking for two respected encryption tools: WinRAR document and TrueCrypt system encryption. The StrongPity malware includes components that give the attackers complete control of the victims system, enables them to steal disk contents and also to download additional modules to gather up communications and contacts. Kaspersky Lab has so far detected visits to StrongPity sites and the presence of StrongPity components across more than a thousand target systems.
Watering holes and poisoned installers
To trap victims, the attackers built fraudulent websites. In one instance, they transposed two letters in a domain name to fool customers into thinking it was a legitimate installer site for WinRAR software. They then placed a prominent link to this malicious domain on a WinRAR distributor site in Belgium in order to lead unsuspecting users to their poisoned installer. Kaspersky Lab first detected a successful redirection on May 28th, 2016.
At almost the same time, on May 24th, Kaspersky Lab began to spot activity on an Italian WinRAR distributor site. In this instance, however, users were not redirected to a fraudulent website, but were served the malicious StrongPity installer directly from the distributor site.
StrongPity also directed visitors from popular software-sharing sites to its trojanized TrueCrypt installers. This activity was still ongoing at the end of September.
The malicious links from the WinRAR distributor sites have now been removed, but at the end of September the fraudulent TrueCrypt site was still up.
Geography of those affected
Kaspersky Lab data reveals that in the course of a single week, malware delivered from the distributor site in Italy appeared on hundreds of systems throughout Europe and Northern Africa/Middle East, with many more infections likely. Over the entire summer, Italy (87%), Belgium (5%) and Algeria (4%) were most affected. The victim geography from the infected site in Belgium was similar, with users in Belgium accounting for half (54%) of more than 60 successful hits.
Attacks on users through the fraudulent TrueCrypt site ramped up in May 2016, with 95% of victims located in Turkey.
The techniques employed by this threat actor are quite clever. They resemble the approach undertaken in early 2014 by the Crouching Yeti/Energetic Bear APT, which involved trojanizing legitimate IT software installers for industrial control systems and compromising genuine distribution sites, said Kurt Baumgartner, principal security researcher, Kaspersky Lab. These tactics are an unwelcome and dangerous trend that the security industry needs to address. The search for privacy and data integrity should not expose an individual to offensive waterhole damage. Waterhole attacks are inherently imprecise, and we hope to spur discussion around the need for easier and improved verification of encryption tool delivery.
Kaspersky Lab detects all StrongPity components as: HEUR:Trojan.Win32.StrongPity.gen and Trojan.Win32.StrongPity.* and as other generic detections.
To learn more about the StrongPity watering hole attacks, read the blog on Securelist.com.
For information on mitigating threats from infected encryption software, read the blog on Kaspersky Business.
To learn more about Kaspersky Labs APT Intelligence reporting service, please visit. http://www.kaspersky.com/enterprise-security/apt-intelligence-reporting.
About Kaspersky Lab
Kaspersky Lab is a global cybersecurity company founded in 1997. Kaspersky Labs deep threat intelligence and security expertise is constantly transforming into security solutions and services to protect businesses, critical infrastructure, governments and consumers around the globe. The companys comprehensive security portfolio includes leading endpoint protection and a number of specialized security solutions and services to fight sophisticated and evolving digital threats. Over 400 million users are protected by Kaspersky Lab technologies and we help 270,000 corporate clients protect what matters most to them. Learn more at www.kaspersky.com.
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