Welcome!

News Feed Item

The Epic Snake: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Turla Cyber-espionage Campaign

LONDON, August 11, 2014 /PRNewswire/ --

The "Epic" operation serves as the first phase in a multi-stage infection of the Turla 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 become 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 organisations and pharmaceutical companies.

Most of the victims are located in the Middle East and Europe, however, we observed victims in other regions, 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.

Distribution of the top 20 affected countries by victim IP 

The attack 

Kaspersky Lab researchers discovered that the Epic Turla attackers use zero-day exploits, social engineering and watering hole technique 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 become 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 are injected to serve malicious code. Depending on the visitor's IP address (for instance, a government organisation'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 the 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 a brief summary of 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 http://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. 

Editorial contact: 

Berkeley PR
Lauren White
kasperskylab@berkeleypr.co.uk
Telephone: +44-(0)118-909-0909
1650 Arlington Business Park
RG7 4SA, Reading

Kaspersky Lab UK
Ruth Knowles
Ruth.Knowles@kasperskylab.co.uk
Telephone: +44-(0)7590-440-433
2 Kingdom Street
W2 6BD, London

SOURCE Kaspersky Lab

More Stories By PR Newswire

Copyright © 2007 PR Newswire. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of PRNewswire content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of PRNewswire. PRNewswire shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.

Latest Stories
Many private cloud projects were built to deliver self-service access to development and test resources. While those clouds delivered faster access to resources, they lacked visibility, control and security needed for production deployments. In their session at 18th Cloud Expo, Steve Anderson, Product Manager at BMC Software, and Rick Lefort, Principal Technical Marketing Consultant at BMC Software, discussed how a cloud designed for production operations not only helps accelerate developer inno...
Almost two-thirds of companies either have or soon will have IoT as the backbone of their business. Though, IoT is far more complex than most firms expected with a majority of IoT projects having failed. How can you not get trapped in the pitfalls? In his session at @ThingsExpo, Tony Shan, Chief IoTologist at Wipro, will introduce a holistic method of IoTification, which is the process of IoTifying the existing technology portfolios and business models to adopt and leverage IoT. He will delve in...
"We host and fully manage cloud data services, whether we store, the data, move the data, or run analytics on the data," stated Kamal Shannak, Senior Development Manager, Cloud Data Services, IBM, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
As cloud adoption continues to transform business, today's global enterprises are challenged with managing a growing amount of information living outside of the data center. The rapid adoption of IoT and increasingly mobile workforce are exacerbating the problem. Ensuring secure data sharing and efficient backup poses capacity and bandwidth considerations as well as policy and regulatory compliance issues.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Conference Guru has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 6–8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. A valuable conference experience generates new contacts, sales leads, potential strategic partners and potential investors; helps gather competitive intelligence and even provides inspiration for new products and services. Conference Guru works with conference organizers to pass great dea...
SYS-CON Events announced today that LeaseWeb USA, a cloud Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) provider, will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. LeaseWeb is one of the world's largest hosting brands. The company helps customers define, develop and deploy IT infrastructure tailored to their exact business needs, by combining various kinds cloud solutions.
"When you think about the data center today, there's constant evolution, The evolution of the data center and the needs of the consumer of technology change, and they change constantly," stated Matt Kalmenson, VP of Sales, Service and Cloud Providers at Veeam Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
Data is the fuel that drives the machine learning algorithmic engines and ultimately provides the business value. In his session at Cloud Expo, Ed Featherston, a director and senior enterprise architect at Collaborative Consulting, discussed the key considerations around quality, volume, timeliness, and pedigree that must be dealt with in order to properly fuel that engine.
Zerto exhibited at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which took place at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, in June 2016. Zerto is committed to keeping enterprise and cloud IT running 24/7 by providing innovative, simple, reliable and scalable business continuity software solutions. Through the Zerto Cloud Continuity Platform™, organizations can seamlessly move and protect virtualized workloads between public, private and hybrid clouds. The company’s flagship product, Zerto Virtual...
WebRTC defines no default signaling protocol, causing fragmentation between WebRTC silos. SIP and XMPP provide possibilities, but come with considerable complexity and are not designed for use in a web environment. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Matthew Hodgson, technical co-founder of the Matrix.org, discussed how Matrix is a new non-profit Open Source Project that defines both a new HTTP-based standard for VoIP & IM signaling and provides reference implementations.
The Internet of Things is clearly many things: data collection and analytics, wearables, Smart Grids and Smart Cities, the Industrial Internet, and more. Cool platforms like Arduino, Raspberry Pi, Intel's Galileo and Edison, and a diverse world of sensors are making the IoT a great toy box for developers in all these areas. In this Power Panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists discussed what things are the most important, which will have the most profound e...
We all know that data growth is exploding and storage budgets are shrinking. Instead of showing you charts on about how much data there is, in his General Session at 17th Cloud Expo, Scott Cleland, Senior Director of Product Marketing at HGST, showed how to capture all of your data in one place. After you have your data under control, you can then analyze it in one place, saving time and resources.
Cognitive Computing is becoming the foundation for a new generation of solutions that have the potential to transform business. Unlike traditional approaches to building solutions, a cognitive computing approach allows the data to help determine the way applications are designed. This contrasts with conventional software development that begins with defining logic based on the current way a business operates. In her session at 18th Cloud Expo, Judith S. Hurwitz, President and CEO of Hurwitz & ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Linux Academy, the foremost online Linux and cloud training platform and community, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Linux Academy was founded on the belief that providing high-quality, in-depth training should be available at an affordable price. Industry leaders in quality training, provided services, and student certification passes, its goal is to c...
910Telecom exhibited at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which took place at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, in November 2016. Housed in the classic Denver Gas & Electric Building, 910 15th St., 910Telecom is a carrier-neutral telecom hotel located in the heart of Denver. Adjacent to CenturyLink, AT&T, and Denver Main, 910Telecom offers connectivity to all major carriers, Internet service providers, Internet backbones and exchanges.