Windows zero-day used in targeted attacks

Posted by   Virus Bulletin on   Oct 14, 2014

Vulnerability used to download BlackEnergy trojan - as discussed during VB2014.

Today is going to be a busy day for system administrators: they were already on high alert following a rumoured vulnerability in SSLv3, and now they also know that a zero-day vulnerability has been discovered that affects all currently supported versions of Windows. The vulnerability will be patched as part of today's Patch Tuesday, and is alleged to be easy to exploit.

According to research from iSight Partners, the vulnerability (CVE-2014-4114) has been used as part of a cyber-espionage campaign that goes back at least five years. It was most recently used to download the 'BlackEnergy' trojan.

iSight Partners gave the campaign the name 'Sandworm', as well as a neat logo. The name comes from Frank Herbert's classic science fiction novel Dune, to which a number of references are made in the malware. Despite the name, however, the campaign doesn't appear to use worms.

Among the targets of the campaign are NATO, governments of EU countries and Ukraine, as well as energy, telecommunications and defence firms. It is thus little surprise that the company points its finger at the Russian government as the suspected source of the campaign.

No one should be surprised that the Russian government is involved in such campaigns, for so are governments of other large countries. The explicit finger pointing by iSight Partners probably has a political motive and should be of little relevance to researchers looking to analyse or detect the campaign.

If you think you have heard most of this before, you may be right: many of these details were shared during the VB2014 presentation "Back in BlackEnergy: 2014 targeted attacks in the Ukraine and Poland" by ESET researcher Robert Lipovský.

In his presentation he explained how BlackEnergy has evolved from a DDoS trojan in 2007, via one used for banking fraud and sending spam around 2010, to the current plug-in-based malware family whose information-stealing capabilities makes it very useful in targeted attacks.

Robert has confirmed that the PowerPoint vulnerability he mentioned in his presentation, and that had been reported to Microsoft, is indeed the same CVE-2014-4114.

For more details on BlackEnergy and its use in cyber-espionage campaigns, we suggest you watch Robert's presentation, which we uploaded to our YouTube channel.

On the same day as the VB2014 presentation, F-Secure's Broderick Aquilino published a whitepaper on BlackEnergy, in which you will find more technical details.

Posted on 14 October 2014 by Martijn Grooten

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