By Azania Post Reporter
KASPERSKY Lab researchers have uncovered a sophisticated threat used for cyber-espionage in the Middle East and Africa from at least 2012 until February 2018.
So far, researchers have seen around 100 victims of Slingshot and its related modules, located in Kenya, Yemen, Afghanistan, Libya, Congo, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia and Tanzania
Most of the victims appear to be targeted individuals rather than organisations, but there are some government organisations and institutions. Kenya and the Yemen account for most of the victims observed so far.
According to researchers, many of the techniques used by this threat actor are unique and it is extremely effective at stealthy information gathering, hiding its traffic in marked data packets that it can intercept without trace from everyday communications.
The Slingshot operation was discovered after researchers found a suspicious keylogger program and created a behavioural detection signature to see if that code appeared anywhere else.
The most remarkable thing about Slingshot is probably its unusual attack vector. As researchers uncovered more victims, they found that many seemed to have been initially infected through hacked routers.
During these attacks, the group behind Slingshot appears to compromise the routers and place a malicious dynamic link library inside it that is in fact a downloader for other malicious components.
When an administrator logs in to configure the router, the router’s management software downloads and runs the malicious module on the administrator’s computer. The method used to hack the routers in the first place remains unknown.
Slingshot works as a passive backdoor: it does not have a hardcoded command and control (C&C) address but obtains it from the operator by intercepting all network packages in kernel mode and checking to see if there are two hardcoded magic constants in the header.
The malicious samples investigated by the researchers were marked as ‘version 6.x’, which suggests the threat has existed for a considerable length of time. The development time, skill and cost involved in creating Slingshot’s complex toolset is likely to have been extremely high.
“Slingshot is a sophisticated threat, employing a wide range of tools and techniques, including kernel mode modules that have to date only been seen in the most advanced predators.
The functionality is very precious and profitable for the attackers, which could explain why it has been around for at least six years,” said Alexey Shulmin, Lead Malware Analyst, Kaspersky Lab.
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