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Kaspersky Lab Identifies Operation "Red October," An Advanced Cyber-Espionage Campaign Targeting Diplomatic And Government Institutions Worldwide

To control the network of infected machines, the attackers created more than 60 domain names and several server hosting locations in different countries, with the majority being in Germany and Russia. Kaspersky Lab's analysis of Rocra's Command & Control (C2) infrastructure shows that the chain of servers was actually working as proxies in order to hide the location of the 'mothership' control server.

Information stolen from infected systems includes documents with extensions: txt, csv, eml, doc, vsd, sxw, odt, docx, rtf, pdf, mdb, xls, wab, rst, xps, iau,  cif, key, crt, cer, hse, pgp, gpg, xia, xiu, xis, xio, xig, acidcsa, acidsca, aciddsk, acidpvr, acidppr, acidssa. In particular, the "acid*" extensions appears to refer to the classified software "Acid Cryptofiler", which is used by several entities, from the European Union to NATO.

Infecting Victims

To infect systems, the attackers sent a targeted spear-phishing email to a victim that included a customised Trojan dropper. In order to install the malware and infect the system the malicious email included exploits that were rigged for security vulnerabilities inside Microsoft Office and Microsoft Excel. The exploits from the documents used in the spear-phishing emails were created by other attackers and employed during different cyber attacks including Tibetan activists as well as military and energy sector targets in Asia. The only thing that was changed in the document used by Rocra was the embedded executable, which the attackers replaced with their own code.  Notably, one of the commands in the Trojan dropper changed the default system codepage of the command prompt session to 1251, which is required to render Cyrillic fonts.  

Targeted Victims & Organisations

Kaspersky Lab's experts used two methods to analyse the target victims. First, they used detection statistics from the Kaspersky Security Network (KSN), which is the cloud-based security service used by Kaspersky Lab products to report telemetry and deliver advanced threat protection in the forms of blacklists and heuristic rules. KSN had been detecting the exploit code used in the malware as early as 2011, which enabled Kaspersky Lab's experts to search for similar detections related to Rocra. The second method used by Kaspersky Lab's research team was creating a sinkhole server so they could monitor infected machines connecting to Rocra's C2 servers. The data received during the analysis from both methods provided two independent ways of correlating and confirming their findings.

  • KSN statistics: Several hundred unique infected systems were detected by the data from KSN, with the focus being on multiple embassies, government networks and organisations, scientific research institutes and consulates. According to KSN's data, the majority of infections that were identified were located  primarily in Eastern Europe, but other infections were also identified in North America and countries in Western Europe, as Switzerland and Luxembourg.
  • Sinkhole statistics: Kaspersky Lab's sinkhole analysis took place from November 2 nd, 2012 - January 10th, 2013. During this time more than 55,000 connections from 250 infected IP addresses were registered in 39 countries. The majority of infected IP connections were coming from Switzerland, followed by Kazakhstan and Greece.

Rocra malware: unique architecture and functionality

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