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    Trend Micro has uncovered a campaign of targeted attacks that have successfully compromised defense industry companies in Japan, Israel, India, and the United States. We have been able to identify eight victims of this attack and are in the process of notifying them. In total, the attackers compromised 32 computers though there were multiple compromises in several locations. This network has been active since July 2011 and continues to send out malicious documents in an attempt to compromise additional targets.

    We have analyzed a sample that connects to the same command-and-control (C&C) server in this targeted attack. We also analyzed the second-stage malware the attackers used that was specifically built for one of the targeted companies as well as a remote access Trojan (RAT).

    Attack Vector

    The attackers sent out email with a malicious .PDF attachment detected by Trend Micro as TROJ_PIDIEF.EED, which exploits a vulnerability in specific versions of Adobe Flash Player and Reader (CVE_2011-0611) to drop malicious files onto the target’s computer. This malicious payload, detected by Trend Micro as BKDR_ZAPCHAST.QZ, accesses a C&C server and communicates some pieces of information about itself as well as awaits further commands.

    The second stage of the attacks involves two components. The attackers issue commands that instruct the compromised computer to report networking information and file names within specified directories back to the server. Certain targets are instructed to download custom DLLs, detected by Trend Micro as BKDR_HUPIG.B, that contain specific functionality related to the compromised entity.

    Once inside the network, the attackers issue commands that cause the compromised computer to download tools that allow them to laterally move throughout the network, including some that enable “pass-the-hash” techniques. They then issue additional commands that cause the compromised computer to download a RAT that allows them to take real-time control of the compromised system. Trend Micro detects this RAT as BKDR_HUPIGON.ZXS and BKDR_HUPIGON.ZUY.

    Remote Access Trojan

    The RAT is called MFC Hunter and has three components:

    • Server: Installed in the victim’s machine and connects to the “hub”
    • Hub: Installed in an intermediary machine and serves as a proxy connection between the victim and the attackers
    • MFC: The RAT client that the attackers use to control a victim’s compromised computer
    Click for larger view

    By staging the attacks this way, the attackers maintain two separate methods of control. The first allows them to schedule commands that will run on the compromised computer when it connects to the C&C server. The second allows attackers to take real-time control of the compromised computer using the RAT.

    While this slew of attacks has managed to compromise a relatively small number of victims, there is a high concentration of defense industry companies among those affected. Moreover, the fact that specific malware components were created for specific victims indicates a level of intentionality with regard to the attacks.

    Trend Micro is continuously monitoring this threat and will post updates on this blog for any noteworthy development.

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