Russian hackers are targeting Ukraine (again)

27 May, 2018, 06:24 | Author: Regina Silva
  • Russian hackers are targeting Ukraine (again)

It's persistent, modular, and delivered in several stages. This will redirect attempts by stage one of the malware to reinfect the device to an FBI-controlled server, which will capture the Internet Protocol (IP) address of infected devices, pursuant to legal process.

The malware also includes an auto-destruct feature that renders the malware and software on infected devices inoperable.

Researchers say that the VPNFilter-enabled botnet is capable of doing significant harm, including permanently disabling the hacked devices through a method known as "bricking", which could cause thousands of companies to immediately lose internet connection and therefore likely lose business.

The Stage Two VPNFilter malware module does not survive device reboots but relies on the Stage One module to re-download it when the user reboots (and inadvertantly cleans) his device.

"Sniffers included with VPNFilter collect login credentials and possibly supervisory control and data acquisition traffic". Stage 2 covers file collection, command execution, data exfiltration, and device management.

The FBI and Department of Homeland Security said in December 2016 that the Sofacy Group was connected to Russian intelligence services and government officials.

From a global standpoint we saw this malware pretty much distributed evenly across the planet.

Coming back to now infected routers, the devices belong to major companies, including TP-Link, NETGEAR, Linksys, and MikroTik.

Still, based on information provided by Cisco, the sinkholding doesn't automatically stop VPNFilter in its tracks.

"VPNFilter is an expansive, robust, highly capable, and unsafe threat that targets devices that are challenging to defend".

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Cisco said when it revealed VPNFilter that more than 500,000 devices in 54 countries-with a particular focus on Ukraine-had been compromised by the botnet.

The United States Justice Department shortly after announced seizing a domain used in the botnet campaign.

The VPNFilter malware responsible for the attack is particularly concerning as it contains code to steal website credentials and make the infected router unusable.

"While this isn't definitive by any means, we have also observed VPNFilter, a potentially destructive malware, actively infecting Ukrainian hosts at an alarming rate, utilizing a command and control infrastructure dedicated to that country", Talos wrote in a blog post on Wednesday. "Weighing these factors together, we felt it was best to publish our findings so far prior to completing our research".

The Cyber Threat Alliance, which Cisco is a member of, has briefed companies about the destructive malware, calling VPNFilter a "serious threat".

The U.S. government said late on Wednesday that it would seek to wrestle hundreds of thousands of infected routers and storage devices from the control of hackers who security researchers warned were planning to use the "botnet" to attack Ukraine. This challenge is augmented by the fact that most of the affected devices have publicly known vulnerabilities which are not convenient for the average user to patch.

This malware strain is incredibly complex when compared to other IoT malware, and comes with support for boot persistence (the second IoT/router malware to do so), scanning for SCADA components, and a firmware wiper/destructive function to incapacitate affected devices.

Just to be safe, Talos is recommending that owners and administrators of home or small office routers reset the devices and restore to factory default in order to clear potential malware.

But despite not having boot persistence, the Stage Two module is also the most risky, as it contains a self-destruct function that overwrites a critical portion of the device's firmware, and reboots the device.


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