Google’s Project Zero has exposed a sophisticated watering-hole attack targeting both Windows and Android:
Some of the exploits were zero-days, meaning they targeted vulnerabilities that at the time were unknown to Google, Microsoft, and most outside researchers (both companies have since patched the security flaws). The hackers delivered the exploits through watering-hole attacks, which compromise sites frequented by the targets of interest and lace the sites with code that installs malware on visitors’ devices. The boobytrapped sites made use of two exploit servers, one for Windows users and the other for users of Android
The use of zero-days and complex infrastructure isn’t in itself a sign of sophistication, but it does show above-average skill by a professional team of hackers. Combined with the robustness of the attack code — which chained together multiple exploits in an efficient manner — the campaign demonstrates it was carried out by a “highly sophisticated actor.”
The modularity of the payloads, the interchangeable exploit chains, and the logging, targeting, and maturity of the operation also set the campaign apart, the researcher said.
No attribution was made, but the list of countries likely to be behind this isn’t very large. If you were to ask me to guess based on available information, I would guess it was the US — specifically, the NSA. It shows a care and precision that it’s known for. But I have no actual evidence for that guess.
All the vulnerabilities were fixed by last April.