Welcome!

News Feed Item

The Epic Snake: Unraveling the mysteries of the Turla cyber-espionage campaign

Turla, also known as Snake or Uroburos is one of the most sophisticated ongoing cyber-espionage campaigns. When the first research on Turla/Snake/Uroburos was published, it didn’t answer one major question: how do victims get infected?

The latest Kaspersky Lab research on this operation reveals that Epic is the initial stage of the Turla victim infection mechanism.

Turla big picture:

  • Epic Turla / Tavdig: The early-stage infection mechanism.
  • Cobra Carbon system/ Pfinet (+others): Intermediary upgrades and communication plugins.
  • Snake / Uroburos: High-grade malware platform that includes a rootkit and virtual file systems.

Victims:

The “Epic” project has been used since at least 2012, with the highest volume of activity observed in January-February 2014. Most recently, Kaspersky Lab detected this attack against one of its users on August 5, 2014.

Targets of “Epic” belong to the following categories: government entities (Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Trade and Commerce, Ministry of Foreign/External affairs, intelligence agencies), embassies, military, research and education organizations and pharmaceutical companies.

Most of the victims are located in the Middle East and Europe, however, we observed victims in other regions as well, including in the USA. In total, Kaspersky Lab experts counted several hundred victim IPs distributed in more than 45 countries, with France at the top of the list.

The attack. The Kaspersky Lab’s researchers discovered that the Epic Turla attackers use zero-day exploits, social engineering and watering hole techniques attacks to infect victims.

In the past, they used at least two zero-day exploits: one for Escalation of Privileges (EoP) in Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 (CVE-2013-5065) which allows the Epic backdoor to achieve administrator privileges on the system and run unrestricted; and an exploit in Adobe Reader (CVE-2013-3346) that is used in malicious e-mail attachments.

Whenever an unsuspecting user opens a maliciously-crafted PDF file on a vulnerable system, the machine will automatically get infected, allowing the attacker to gain immediate and full control over the target system.

The attackers use both direct spear-phishing e-mails and watering hole attacks to infect victims. The attacks detected in this operation fall into several different categories depending on the initial infection vector used in compromising the victim:

● Spear-phishing e-mails with Adobe PDF exploits (CVE-2013-3346 + CVE-2013-5065)

● Social engineering to trick the user into running malware installers with “.SCR” extension, sometimes packed with RAR

● Watering hole attacks using Java exploits (CVE-2012-1723), Adobe Flash exploits (unknown) or Internet Explorer 6, 7, 8 exploits (unknown)

● Watering hole attacks that rely on social engineering to trick the user into running fake “Flash Player” malware installers

Watering holes are websites commonly visited by potential victims. These websites are compromised in advance by the attackers and injected to serve malicious code. Depending on the visitor’s IP address (for instance, a government organization’s IP), the attackers serve Java or browser exploits, signed fake Adobe Flash Player software or a fake version of Microsoft Security Essentials. In total, we have observed more than 100 injected websites. The choice of the websites reflects specific interest of attackers. For example, many of infected Spanish websites belong to local governments.

Once the user is infected, the Epic backdoor immediately connects to the command-and-control (C&C) server to send a pack with the victim’s system information. The backdoor is also known as “WorldCupSec”, “TadjMakhal”, “Wipbot” or “Tadvig”.

Once a system is compromised, the attackers receive brief summary information from the victim, and based on that, they deliver pre-configured batch files containing a series of commands for execution. In addition to these, the attackers upload custom lateral movement tools. These include a specific keylogger tool, a RAR archiver and standard utilities like a DNS query tool from Microsoft.

Turla’s first stage:

During the analysis, Kaspersky Lab researchers observed the attackers using the Epic malware to deploy a more sophisticated backdoor known as the “Cobra/Carbon system”, also named “Pfinet” by some anti-virus products. After some time, the attackers went further and used the Epic implant to update the “Carbon” configuration file with a different set of C&C servers. The unique knowledge to operate these two backdoors indicates a clear and direct connection between each other.

“The configuration updates for the ‘Carbon system’ malware are interesting, because this is another project from the Turla actor. This indicates that we are dealing with a multi-stage infection that begins with Epic Turla. The Epic Turla is used to gain a foothold and validate the high profile victim. If the victim is interesting, it gets upgraded to the full Turla Carbon system” explains Costin Raiu, Director of the Global Research and Analysis Team at Kaspersky Lab.

Language usage:

The attackers behind Turla are clearly not native English speakers. They commonly misspell words and expressions, such as:

  • Password it’s wrong!
  • File is not exists
  • File is exists for edit

There are other indications which provide a hint at the origin of the attackers. For instance, some of the backdoors have been compiled on a system with Russian language. Additionally, the internal name of one of the Epic backdoors is "Zagruzchik.dll", which means "bootloader" or "load program" in Russian.

Finally, the Epic mothership control panel sets the code page to 1251, which is used for Cyrillic characters.

Links with other threat actors:

Interestingly, possible connections with different cyber-espionage campaigns have been observed. In February 2014, Kaspersky Lab experts observed that the threat actor known as Miniduke were using the same web-shells to manage infected web servers as the Epic team did.

To learn more about the “Epic Turla” operation, please read the blog post available at Securelist.com.

About Kaspersky Lab

Kaspersky Lab is the world’s largest privately held vendor of endpoint protection solutions. The company is ranked among the world’s top four vendors of security solutions for endpoint users*. Throughout its more than 16-year history Kaspersky Lab has remained an innovator in IT security and provides effective digital security solutions for large enterprises, SMBs and consumers. Kaspersky Lab, with its holding company registered in the United Kingdom, currently operates in almost 200 countries and territories across the globe, providing protection for over 300 million users worldwide. Learn more at www.kaspersky.com.

* The company was rated fourth in the IDC rating Worldwide Endpoint Security Revenue by Vendor, 2012. The rating was published in the IDC report "Worldwide Endpoint Security 2013–2017 Forecast and 2012 Vendor Shares (IDC #242618, August 2013). The report ranked software vendors according to earnings from sales of endpoint security solutions in 2012.

For the latest in-depth information on security threat issues and trends, please visit:

Securelist | Information about Viruses, Hackers and Spam

Follow @Securelist on Twitter

Threatpost | The First Stop for Security News

Follow @Threatpost on Twitter

More Stories By Business Wire

Copyright © 2009 Business Wire. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Business Wire content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Business Wire. Business Wire shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.

Latest Stories
The need for greater agility and scalability necessitated the digital transformation in the form of following equation: monolithic to microservices to serverless architecture (FaaS). To keep up with the cut-throat competition, the organisations need to update their technology stack to make software development their differentiating factor. Thus microservices architecture emerged as a potential method to provide development teams with greater flexibility and other advantages, such as the abili...
Product connectivity goes hand and hand these days with increased use of personal data. New IoT devices are becoming more personalized than ever before. In his session at 22nd Cloud Expo | DXWorld Expo, Nicolas Fierro, CEO of MIMIR Blockchain Solutions, will discuss how in order to protect your data and privacy, IoT applications need to embrace Blockchain technology for a new level of product security never before seen - or needed.
Blockchain. A day doesn’t seem to go by without seeing articles and discussions about the technology. According to PwC executive Seamus Cushley, approximately $1.4B has been invested in blockchain just last year. In Gartner’s recent hype cycle for emerging technologies, blockchain is approaching the peak. It is considered by Gartner as one of the ‘Key platform-enabling technologies to track.’ While there is a lot of ‘hype vs reality’ discussions going on, there is no arguing that blockchain is b...
In his keynote at 18th Cloud Expo, Andrew Keys, Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise, provided an overview of the evolution of the Internet and the Database and the future of their combination – the Blockchain. Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life settle...
Leading companies, from the Global Fortune 500 to the smallest companies, are adopting hybrid cloud as the path to business advantage. Hybrid cloud depends on cloud services and on-premises infrastructure working in unison. Successful implementations require new levels of data mobility, enabled by an automated and seamless flow across on-premises and cloud resources. In his general session at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Tevis, an IBM Storage Software Technical Strategist and Customer Solution Architec...
Coca-Cola’s Google powered digital signage system lays the groundwork for a more valuable connection between Coke and its customers. Digital signs pair software with high-resolution displays so that a message can be changed instantly based on what the operator wants to communicate or sell. In their Day 3 Keynote at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Chambers, Global Group Director, Digital Innovation, Coca-Cola, and Vidya Nagarajan, a Senior Product Manager at Google, discussed how from store operations and ...
"As we've gone out into the public cloud we've seen that over time we may have lost a few things - we've lost control, we've given up cost to a certain extent, and then security, flexibility," explained Steve Conner, VP of Sales at Cloudistics,in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
Blockchain is a shared, secure record of exchange that establishes trust, accountability and transparency across business networks. Supported by the Linux Foundation's open source, open-standards based Hyperledger Project, Blockchain has the potential to improve regulatory compliance, reduce cost as well as advance trade. Are you curious about how Blockchain is built for business? In her session at 21st Cloud Expo, René Bostic, Technical VP of the IBM Cloud Unit in North America, discussed the b...
The use of containers by developers -- and now increasingly IT operators -- has grown from infatuation to deep and abiding love. But as with any long-term affair, the honeymoon soon leads to needing to live well together ... and maybe even getting some relationship help along the way. And so it goes with container orchestration and automation solutions, which are rapidly emerging as the means to maintain the bliss between rapid container adoption and broad container use among multiple cloud host...
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Michael Burley, a Senior Business Development Executive in IT Services at NetApp, described how NetApp designed a three-year program of work to migrate 25PB of a major telco's enterprise data to a new STaaS platform, and then secured a long-term contract to manage and operate the platform. This significant program blended the best of NetApp’s solutions and services capabilities to enable this telco’s successful adoption of private cloud storage and launching ...
You know you need the cloud, but you’re hesitant to simply dump everything at Amazon since you know that not all workloads are suitable for cloud. You know that you want the kind of ease of use and scalability that you get with public cloud, but your applications are architected in a way that makes the public cloud a non-starter. You’re looking at private cloud solutions based on hyperconverged infrastructure, but you’re concerned with the limits inherent in those technologies.
Imagine if you will, a retail floor so densely packed with sensors that they can pick up the movements of insects scurrying across a store aisle. Or a component of a piece of factory equipment so well-instrumented that its digital twin provides resolution down to the micrometer.
"Since we launched LinuxONE we learned a lot from our customers. More than anything what they responded to were some very unique security capabilities that we have," explained Mark Figley, Director of LinuxONE Offerings at IBM, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Is advanced scheduling in Kubernetes achievable?Yes, however, how do you properly accommodate every real-life scenario that a Kubernetes user might encounter? How do you leverage advanced scheduling techniques to shape and describe each scenario in easy-to-use rules and configurations? In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 21st Cloud Expo, Oleg Chunikhin, CTO at Kublr, answered these questions and demonstrated techniques for implementing advanced scheduling. For example, using spot instances and co...
A strange thing is happening along the way to the Internet of Things, namely far too many devices to work with and manage. It has become clear that we'll need much higher efficiency user experiences that can allow us to more easily and scalably work with the thousands of devices that will soon be in each of our lives. Enter the conversational interface revolution, combining bots we can literally talk with, gesture to, and even direct with our thoughts, with embedded artificial intelligence, whic...