A new worm that spreads via USB sticks is infecting computers in Ukraine and beyond.
The group—known by many names, including Gamaredon, Primitive Bear, ACTINIUM, Armageddon, and Shuckworm—has been active since at least 2014 and has been attributed to Russia’s Federal Security Service by the Security Service of Ukraine. Most Kremlin-backed groups take pains to fly under the radar; Gamaredon doesn’t care to. Its espionage-motivated campaigns targeting large numbers of Ukrainian organizations are easy to detect and tie back to the Russian government. The campaigns typically revolve around malware that aims to obtain as much information from targets as possible.
One of those tools is a computer worm designed to spread from computer to computer through USB drives. Tracked by researchers from Check Point Research as LitterDrifter, the malware is written in the Visual Basic Scripting language. LitterDrifter serves two purposes: to promiscuously spread from USB drive to USB drive and to permanently infect the devices that connect to such drives with malware that permanently communicates with Gamaredon-operated command-and-control servers.
Posted on November 24, 2023 at 7:04 AM •
Turns out that it’s easy to broadcast radio commands that force Polish trains to stop:
…the saboteurs appear to have sent simple so-called “radio-stop” commands via radio frequency to the trains they targeted. Because the trains use a radio system that lacks encryption or authentication for those commands, Olejnik says, anyone with as little as $30 of off-the-shelf radio equipment can broadcast the command to a Polish train—sending a series of three acoustic tones at a 150.100 megahertz frequency—and trigger their emergency stop function.
“It is three tonal messages sent consecutively. Once the radio equipment receives it, the locomotive goes to a halt,” Olejnik says, pointing to a document outlining trains’ different technical standards in the European Union that describes the “radio-stop” command used in the Polish system. In fact, Olejnik says that the ability to send the command has been described in Polish radio and train forums and on YouTube for years. “Everybody could do this. Even teenagers trolling. The frequencies are known. The tones are known. The equipment is cheap.”
Even so, this is being described as a cyberattack.
Posted on August 28, 2023 at 7:05 AM •
Reuters is reporting that the FBI “had identified and disabled malware wielded by Russia’s FSB security service against an undisclosed number of American computers, a move they hoped would deal a death blow to one of Russia’s leading cyber spying programs.”
The headline says that the FBI “sabotaged” the malware, which seems to be wrong.
Presumably we will learn more soon.
EDITED TO ADD: New York Times story.
EDITED TO ADD: Maybe “sabotaged” is the right word. The FBI hacked the malware so that it disabled itself.
Despite the bravado of its developers, Snake is among the most sophisticated pieces of malware ever found, the FBI said. The modular design, custom encryption layers, and high-caliber quality of the code base have made it hard if not impossible for antivirus software to detect. As FBI agents continued to monitor Snake, however, they slowly uncovered some surprising weaknesses. For one, there was a critical cryptographic key with a prime length of just 128 bits, making it vulnerable to factoring attacks that expose the secret key. This weak key was used in Diffie-Hellman key exchanges that allowed each infected machine to have a unique key when communicating with another machine.
Posted on May 10, 2023 at 11:25 AM •
Another nation-state malware, Russian in origin:
In the early stages of the war in Ukraine in 2022, PIPEDREAM, a known malware was quietly on the brink of wiping out a handful of critical U.S. electric and liquid natural gas sites. PIPEDREAM is an attack toolkit with unmatched and unprecedented capabilities developed for use against industrial control systems (ICSs).
The malware was built to manipulate the network communication protocols used by programmable logic controllers (PLCs) leveraged by two critical producers of PLCs for ICSs within the critical infrastructure sector, Schneider Electric and OMRON.
CISA advisory. Wired article.
Posted on May 9, 2023 at 11:20 AM •
Now this is interesting:
Thousands of pages of secret documents reveal how Vulkan’s engineers have worked for Russian military and intelligence agencies to support hacking operations, train operatives before attacks on national infrastructure, spread disinformation and control sections of the internet.
The company’s work is linked to the federal security service or FSB, the domestic spy agency; the operational and intelligence divisions of the armed forces, known as the GOU and GRU; and the SVR, Russia’s foreign intelligence organisation.
Lots more at the link.
The documents are in Russian, so it will be a while before we get translations.
EDITED TO ADD (4/1): More information.
Posted on March 30, 2023 at 6:00 PM •
The Aspen Institute has published a good analysis of the successes, failures, and absences of cyberattacks as part of the current war in Ukraine: “The Cyber Defense Assistance Imperative Lessons from Ukraine.”
Cyber defense assistance in Ukraine is working. The Ukrainian government and Ukrainian critical infrastructure organizations have better defended themselves and achieved higher levels of resiliency due to the efforts of CDAC and many others. But this is not the end of the road—the ability to provide cyber defense assistance will be important in the future. As a result, it is timely to assess how to provide organized, effective cyber defense assistance to safeguard the post-war order from potential aggressors.
The conflict in Ukraine is resetting the table across the globe for geopolitics and international security. The US and its allies have an imperative to strengthen the capabilities necessary to deter and respond to aggression that is ever more present in cyberspace. Lessons learned from the ad hoc conduct of cyber defense assistance in Ukraine can be institutionalized and scaled to provide new approaches and tools for preventing and managing cyber conflicts going forward.
I am often asked why where weren’t more successful cyberattacks by Russia against Ukraine. I generally give four reasons: (1) Cyberattacks are more effective in the “grey zone” between peace and war, and there are better alternatives once the shooting and bombing starts. (2) Setting these attacks up takes time, and Putin was secretive about his plans. (3) Putin was concerned about attacks spilling outside the war zone, and affecting other countries. (4) Ukrainian defenses were good, aided by other countries and companies. This paper gives a fifth reason: they were technically successful, but keeping them out of the news made them operationally unsuccessful.
Posted on February 23, 2023 at 7:27 AM •
They’re using commercial phones, which go through the Ukrainian telecom network:
“You still have a lot of soldiers bringing cellphones to the frontline who want to talk to their families and they are either being intercepted as they go through a Ukrainian telecommunications provider or intercepted over the air,” said Alperovitch. “That doesn’t pose too much difficulty for the Ukrainian security services.”
“Security has always been a mess, both in the army and among defence officials,” the source said. “For example, in 2013 they tried to get all the staff at the ministry of defence to replace our iPhones with Russian-made Yoto smartphones.
“But everyone just kept using the iPhone as a second mobile because it was much better. We would just keep the iPhone in the car’s glove compartment for when we got back from work. In the end, the ministry gave up and stopped caring. If the top doesn’t take security very seriously, how can you expect any discipline in the regular army?”
This isn’t a new problem and it isn’t a Russian problem. Here’s a more general article on the problem from 2020.
Posted on December 21, 2022 at 7:09 AM •
Mandiant is reporting on a trojaned Windows installer that targets Ukrainian users. The installer was left on various torrent sites, presumably ensnaring people downloading pirated copies of the operating system:
Mandiant uncovered a socially engineered supply chain operation focused on Ukrainian government entities that leveraged trojanized ISO files masquerading as legitimate Windows 10 Operating System installers. The trojanized ISOs were hosted on Ukrainian- and Russian-language torrent file sharing sites. Upon installation of the compromised software, the malware gathers information on the compromised system and exfiltrates it. At a subset of victims, additional tools are deployed to enable further intelligence gathering. In some instances, we discovered additional payloads that were likely deployed following initial reconnaissance including the STOWAWAY, BEACON, and SPAREPART backdoors.
One obvious solution would be for Microsoft to give the Ukrainians Windows licenses, so they don’t have to get their software from sketchy torrent sites.
Posted on December 20, 2022 at 7:30 AM •
The Ukrainian army has released an instructional video explaining how Russian soldiers should surrender to a drone:
“Seeing the drone in the field of view, make eye contact with it,” the video instructs. Soldiers should then raise their arms and signal they’re ready to follow.
After that the drone will move up and down a few meters, before heading off at walking pace in the direction of the nearest representatives of Ukraine’s army, it says.
The video also warns that the drone’s battery may run low, in which case it will head back to base and the soldiers should stay put and await a fresh one.
That one, too, should be met with eye contact and arms raised, it says.
Posted on December 19, 2022 at 7:09 AM •
Kaspersky is reporting on a data wiper masquerading as ransomware that is targeting local Russian government networks.
The Trojan corrupts any data that’s not vital for the functioning of the operating system. It doesn’t affect files with extensions .exe, .dll, .lnk, .sys or .msi, and ignores several system folders in the C:\Windows directory. The malware focuses on databases, archives, and user documents.
So far, our experts have seen only pinpoint attacks on targets in the Russian Federation. However, as usual, no one can guarantee that the same code won’t be used against other targets.
Nothing leading to an attribution.
Posted on December 6, 2022 at 7:04 AM •
Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.