Entries Tagged "malware"

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iPhone Malware that Operates Even When the Phone Is Turned Off

Researchers have demonstrated iPhone malware that works even when the phone is fully shut down.

t turns out that the iPhone’s Bluetooth chip­—which is key to making features like Find My work­—has no mechanism for digitally signing or even encrypting the firmware it runs. Academics at Germany’s Technical University of Darmstadt figured out how to exploit this lack of hardening to run malicious firmware that allows the attacker to track the phone’s location or run new features when the device is turned off.

[…]

The research is the first—or at least among the first—to study the risk posed by chips running in low-power mode. Not to be confused with iOS’s low-power mode for conserving battery life, the low-power mode (LPM) in this research allows chips responsible for near-field communication, ultra wideband, and Bluetooth to run in a special mode that can remain on for 24 hours after a device is turned off.

The research is fascinating, but the attack isn’t really feasible. It requires a jailbroken phone, which is hard to pull off in an adversarial setting.

Slashdot thread.

Posted on May 18, 2022 at 6:06 AMView Comments

New Sophisticated Malware

Mandiant is reporting on a new botnet.

The group, which security firm Mandiant is calling UNC3524, has spent the past 18 months burrowing into victims’ networks with unusual stealth. In cases where the group is ejected, it wastes no time reinfecting the victim environment and picking up where things left off. There are many keys to its stealth, including:

  • The use of a unique backdoor Mandiant calls Quietexit, which runs on load balancers, wireless access point controllers, and other types of IoT devices that don’t support antivirus or endpoint detection. This makes detection through traditional means difficult.
  • Customized versions of the backdoor that use file names and creation dates that are similar to legitimate files used on a specific infected device.
  • A live-off-the-land approach that favors common Windows programming interfaces and tools over custom code with the goal of leaving as light a footprint as possible.
  • An unusual way a second-stage backdoor connects to attacker-controlled infrastructure by, in essence, acting as a TLS-encrypted server that proxies data through the SOCKS protocol.

[…]

Unpacking this threat group is difficult. From outward appearances, their focus on corporate transactions suggests a financial interest. But UNC3524’s high-caliber tradecraft, proficiency with sophisticated IoT botnets, and ability to remain undetected for so long suggests something more.

From Mandiant:

Throughout their operations, the threat actor demonstrated sophisticated operational security that we see only a small number of threat actors demonstrate. The threat actor evaded detection by operating from devices in the victim environment’s blind spots, including servers running uncommon versions of Linux and network appliances running opaque OSes. These devices and appliances were running versions of operating systems that were unsupported by agent-based security tools, and often had an expected level of network traffic that allowed the attackers to blend in. The threat actor’s use of the QUIETEXIT tunneler allowed them to largely live off the land, without the need to bring in additional tools, further reducing the opportunity for detection. This allowed UNC3524 to remain undetected in victim environments for, in some cases, upwards of 18 months.

Posted on May 4, 2022 at 6:15 AMView Comments

Zero-Day Vulnerabilities Are on the Rise

Both Google and Mandiant are reporting a significant increase in the number of zero-day vulnerabilities reported in 2021.

Google:

2021 included the detection and disclosure of 58 in-the-wild 0-days, the most ever recorded since Project Zero began tracking in mid-2014. That’s more than double the previous maximum of 28 detected in 2015 and especially stark when you consider that there were only 25 detected in 2020. We’ve tracked publicly known in-the-wild 0-day exploits in this spreadsheet since mid-2014.

While we often talk about the number of 0-day exploits used in-the-wild, what we’re actually discussing is the number of 0-day exploits detected and disclosed as in-the-wild. And that leads into our first conclusion: we believe the large uptick in in-the-wild 0-days in 2021 is due to increased detection and disclosure of these 0-days, rather than simply increased usage of 0-day exploits.

Mandiant:

In 2021, Mandiant Threat Intelligence identified 80 zero-days exploited in the wild, which is more than double the previous record volume in 2019. State-sponsored groups continue to be the primary actors exploiting zero-day vulnerabilities, led by Chinese groups. The proportion of financially motivated actors­—particularly ransomware groups—­deploying zero-day exploits also grew significantly, and nearly 1 in 3 identified actors exploiting zero-days in 2021 was financially motivated. Threat actors exploited zero-days in Microsoft, Apple, and Google products most frequently, likely reflecting the popularity of these vendors. The vast increase in zero-day exploitation in 2021, as well as the diversification of actors using them, expands the risk portfolio for organizations in nearly every industry sector and geography, particularly those that rely on these popular systems.

News article.

Posted on April 27, 2022 at 1:40 PMView Comments

Industrial Control System Malware Discovered

The Department of Energy, CISA, the FBI, and the NSA jointly issued an advisory describing a sophisticated piece of malware called Pipedream that’s designed to attack a wide range of industrial control systems. This is clearly from a government, but no attribution is given. There’s also no indication of how the malware was discovered. It seems not to have been used yet.

More information. News article.

Posted on April 14, 2022 at 10:46 AMView Comments

Russian Cyberattack against Ukrainian Power Grid Prevented

A Russian cyberweapon, similar to the one used in 2016, was detected and removed before it could be used.

Key points:

  • ESET researchers collaborated with CERT-UA to analyze the attack against the Ukrainian energy company
  • The destructive actions were scheduled for 2022-04-08 but artifacts suggest that the attack had been planned for at least two weeks
  • The attack used ICS-capable malware and regular disk wipers for Windows, Linux and Solaris operating systems
  • We assess with high confidence that the attackers used a new version of the Industroyer malware, which was used in 2016 to cut power in Ukraine
  • We assess with high confidence that the APT group Sandworm is responsible for this new attack

News article.

EDITED TO ADD: Better news coverage from Wired.

Posted on April 13, 2022 at 6:32 AMView Comments

US Disrupts Russian Botnet

The Justice Department announced the disruption of a Russian GRU-controlled botnet:

The Justice Department today announced a court-authorized operation, conducted in March 2022, to disrupt a two-tiered global botnet of thousands of infected network hardware devices under the control of a threat actor known to security researchers as Sandworm, which the U.S. government has previously attributed to the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation (the GRU). The operation copied and removed malware from vulnerable internet-connected firewall devices that Sandworm used for command and control (C2) of the underlying botnet. Although the operation did not involve access to the Sandworm malware on the thousands of underlying victim devices worldwide, referred to as “bots,” the disabling of the C2 mechanism severed those bots from the Sandworm C2 devices’ control.

The botnet “targets network devices manufactured by WatchGuard Technologies Inc. (WatchGuard) and ASUSTek Computer Inc. (ASUS).” And note that only the command-and-control mechanism was disrupted. Those devices are still vulnerable.

The Justice Department made a point that they did this before the botnet was used for anything offensive.

Four more news articles. Slashdot post.

EDITED TO ADD (4/13): WatchGuard knew and fixed it nearly a year ago, but tried to keep it hidden. The patches were reverse-engineered.

Posted on April 7, 2022 at 9:31 AMView Comments

Developer Sabotages Open-Source Software Package

This is a big deal:

A developer has been caught adding malicious code to a popular open-source package that wiped files on computers located in Russia and Belarus as part of a protest that has enraged many users and raised concerns about the safety of free and open source software.

The application, node-ipc, adds remote interprocess communication and neural networking capabilities to other open source code libraries. As a dependency, node-ipc is automatically downloaded and incorporated into other libraries, including ones like Vue.js CLI, which has more than 1 million weekly downloads.

[…]

The node-ipc update is just one example of what some researchers are calling protestware. Experts have begun tracking other open source projects that are also releasing updates calling out the brutality of Russia’s war. This spreadsheet lists 21 separate packages that are affected.

One such package is es5-ext, which provides code for the ECMAScript 6 scripting language specification. A new dependency named postinstall.js, which the developer added on March 7, checks to see if the user’s computer has a Russian IP address, in which case the code broadcasts a “call for peace.”

It constantly surprises non-computer people how much critical software is dependent on the whims of random programmers who inconsistently maintain software libraries. Between log4j and this new protestware, it’s becoming a serious vulnerability. The White House tried to start addressing this problem last year, requiring a “software bill of materials” for government software:

…the term “Software Bill of Materials” or “SBOM” means a formal record containing the details and supply chain relationships of various components used in building software. Software developers and vendors often create products by assembling existing open source and commercial software components. The SBOM enumerates these components in a product. It is analogous to a list of ingredients on food packaging. An SBOM is useful to those who develop or manufacture software, those who select or purchase software, and those who operate software. Developers often use available open source and third-party software components to create a product; an SBOM allows the builder to make sure those components are up to date and to respond quickly to new vulnerabilities. Buyers can use an SBOM to perform vulnerability or license analysis, both of which can be used to evaluate risk in a product. Those who operate software can use SBOMs to quickly and easily determine whether they are at potential risk of a newly discovered vulnerability. A widely used, machine-readable SBOM format allows for greater benefits through automation and tool integration. The SBOMs gain greater value when collectively stored in a repository that can be easily queried by other applications and systems. Understanding the supply chain of software, obtaining an SBOM, and using it to analyze known vulnerabilities are crucial in managing risk.

It’s not a solution, but it’s a start.

EDITED TO ADD (3/22): Brian Krebs on protestware.

Posted on March 21, 2022 at 10:22 AMView Comments

Linux-Targeted Malware Increased by 35%

Crowdstrike is reporting that malware targeting Linux has increased considerably in 2021:

Malware targeting Linux systems increased by 35% in 2021 compared to 2020.

XorDDoS, Mirai and Mozi malware families accounted for over 22% of Linux-targeted threats observed by CrowdStrike in 2021.

Ten times more Mozi malware samples were observed in 2021 compared to 2020.

Lots of details in the report.

News article:

The Crowdstrike findings aren’t surprising as they confirm an ongoing trend that emerged in previous years.

For example, an Intezer report analyzing 2020 stats found that Linux malware families increased by 40% in 2020 compared to the previous year.

In the first six months of 2020, a steep rise of 500% in Golang malware was recorded, showing that malware authors were looking for ways to make their code run on multiple platforms.

This programming, and by extension, targeting trend, has already been confirmed in early 2022 cases and is likely to continue unabated.

Slashdot thread.

EDITED TO ADD (2/13): Another article.

Posted on January 24, 2022 at 6:27 AMView Comments

Using EM Waves to Detect Malware

I don’t even know what I think about this. Researchers have developed a malware detection system that uses EM waves: “Obfuscation Revealed: Leveraging Electromagnetic Signals for Obfuscated Malware Classification.”

Abstract: The Internet of Things (IoT) is constituted of devices that are exponentially growing in number and in complexity. They use numerous customized firmware and hardware, without taking into consideration security issues, which make them a target for cybercriminals, especially malware authors.

We will present a novel approach of using side channel information to identify the kinds of threats that are targeting the device. Using our approach, a malware analyst is able to obtain precise knowledge about malware type and identity, even in the presence of obfuscation techniques which may prevent static or symbolic binary analysis. We recorded 100,000 measurement traces from an IoT device infected by various in-the-wild malware samples and realistic benign activity. Our method does not require any modification on the target device. Thus, it can be deployed independently from the resources available without any overhead. Moreover, our approach has the advantage that it can hardly be detected and evaded by the malware authors. In our experiments, we were able to predict three generic malware types (and one benign class) with an accuracy of 99.82%. Even more, our results show that we are able to classify altered malware samples with unseen obfuscation techniques during the training phase, and to determine what kind of obfuscations were applied to the binary, which makes our approach particularly useful for malware analysts.

This seems impossible. It’s research, not a commercial product. But it’s fascinating if true.

Posted on January 14, 2022 at 6:13 AMView Comments

Faking an iPhone Reboot

Researchers have figured how how to intercept and fake an iPhone reboot:

We’ll dissect the iOS system and show how it’s possible to alter a shutdown event, tricking a user that got infected into thinking that the phone has been powered off, but in fact, it’s still running. The “NoReboot” approach simulates a real shutdown. The user cannot feel a difference between a real shutdown and a “fake shutdown.” There is no user-interface or any button feedback until the user turns the phone back “on.”

It’s a complicated hack, but it works.

Uses are obvious:

Historically, when malware infects an iOS device, it can be removed simply by restarting the device, which clears the malware from memory.

However, this technique hooks the shutdown and reboot routines to prevent them from ever happening, allowing malware to achieve persistence as the device is never actually turned off.

I see this as another manifestation of the security problems that stem from all controls becoming software controls. Back when the physical buttons actually did things—like turn the power, the Wi-Fi, or the camera on and off—you could actually know that something was on or off. Now that software controls those functions, you can never be sure.

Posted on January 12, 2022 at 6:15 AMView Comments

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Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.