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Trend Micro Exposes LURID APT

22
Sep
2011

Trend Micro has discovered an ongoing series of targeted attacks, known as “LURID,” that have successfully compromised 1465 computers in 61 different countries. We have been able to identify 47 victims including diplomatic missions, government ministries, space-related government agencies and other companies and research institutions.

The countries most impacted by this attack are Russia, Kazakhstan and Vietnam, along with numerous other countries – mainly in the CIS (Commonwealth Independent States – or former Soviet Union).

This particular campaign comprised over 300 malicious, targeted attacks, monitored by the attackers using a unique identifier embedded in the associated malware. Our analysis of the campaigns reveals that attackers targeted communities in specific geographic locations as well as campaigns that targeted specific victims. In total, the attackers used a command and control network of 15 domain names associated with the attackers and 10 active IP addresses to maintain persistent control over the 1465 victims.

The “Lurid Downloader,” often referred to as “Enfal,” is a well-known malware family but it is not a publicly available toolkit that can be purchased by aspiring cybercriminals. This malware family has in the past been used to target both the U.S. government and non-governmental organizations (NGO’s). However, there appear to be no direct links between this particular network and the previous ones.

More and more frequently, targeted malware attacks such as these are being described as Advanced Persistent Threats. A target receives an email message that encourages him or her to open an attached file. The files sent by the attackers contain malicious code that exploits vulnerabilities in popular software programs such as Adobe Reader (e.g. .PDFs) and Microsoft Office (e.g. .DOCs). The payload of these exploits is malware that is silently executed on the target’s computer. This allows the attackers to take control of the computer and obtain data. The attackers may then move laterally throughout the target’s network and are often able to maintain control over compromised computers for extended periods of time. Ultimately, the attacks locate and ex-filtrate sensitive information from the victim’s network.

Dissecting the Attack

Advanced: This is a series of ongoing targeted attack campaigns that have made use of a variety of exploits for Adobe Reader including CVE-2009-4324, CVE-2010-2883 as well as compressed RAR files containing malicious screen savers.

Regardless of the attack vector, the “LURID” malware is executed on the victims system, causing it to connect to the same network of command-and-control (C&C) servers. Attackers do not always rely upon “zeroday” exploits but frequently use older, reliable exploits and save their zeroday exploits for hardened targets. While we still have to locate any samples used in these campaigns that contain zeroday exploits, the campaign identifiers used by the attackers do make reference to the use of such exploits.

Persistent: During our research, we found two different persistence mechanisms employed by the malware. While one version maintained persistence by installing itself as a Windows service, the other version copies itself to the system folder and ensures persistence by changing the common start up folder of Windows to a special one it creates. It then copies all the usual auto-start items there, as well as itself. Also we’ve been able to organize the malware & victims by “campaigns” (the malware communicates back a “marker” much like someone would include in an advertising campaign) to keep track of who was infected by which malware.

Threat: The malware collects information from compromised computers and sends it to the C&C server via HTTP POST. Through communication with the command and control servers, the attackers are able to issue a variety of commands to the compromised computers. These commands allow the attackers to send and receive files as well as activate an interactive remote shell on compromised systems. The attackers typically retrieve directory listings from the compromised computers and steal data (such as specific .XLS files). Trend Micro researchers have some of the commands, but not the actual files.

In numbers, based on the information recovered from the C&C servers, we can confirm that there were:

1465 Unique hosts (hostname+mac address as stored by the C&C)
2272 Unique External IP addresses

The top 10 countries of victims (based on the 2272 IP addresses):

RUSSIA 1063
KAZAKHSTAN 325
UKRAINE 102
VIETNAM 93
UZBEKISTAN 88
BELARUS 67
INDIA 66
KYRGYSTAN 49
MONGOLIA 42
CN 39

As is frequently the case, it is difficult to ascertain who is behind this series of attacks because it is easy to manipulate artifacts, e.g. IP addresses and domain name registration, in order to mislead researchers into believing that a particular entity is responsible.

Although our research didn’t reveal precisely which data was being targeted, we were able to determine that, in some cases, the attackers attempted to steal specific documents and spreadsheets.

Through the exposure of the “Lurid” network, we aim to enable a better understanding of the extent and frequency of such attacks as well as the challenges that targeted malware attacks pose for traditional defenses. Defensive strategies can be dramatically improved by understanding how targeted malware attacks work as well as trends in the tools, tactics and procedures of the threat actors behind such attacks. By effectively using threat intelligence derived from external and internal sources combined with security tools that empower human analysts, organizations are better positioned to detect and mitigate such targeted attacks.

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