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Energy utilities targeted by Office-spawned recon attack tool

Yet another reason Excel is evil, and yet another reason to get up to date on patches

Malware writers are targeting international energy utilities with a new trojan that creates beachheads to enable subsequent more advanced attacks.

Symantec security boffin Christian Tripputi says the campaign, detected in the first two months of 2015, has a particular focus on creating beachheads on petroleum and gas utilities operating in the Middle East.

Tripputi says Britain and the United States account for a combined 10 per cent of infections by the "Laziok" trojan.

"The [stolen] detailed information enables the attacker to make crucial decisions about how to proceed further with the attack, or to halt the attack," Tripputi says.

"During the course of our research, we found that the majority of the targets were linked to the petroleum, gas and helium industries, suggesting that whoever is behind these attacks may have a strategic interest in the affairs of the companies affected."

Tripputi says trojan beachheads are created through phishing linked to moneytrans[.]eu domains that carry an Excel attachment packed with an exploit (CVE-2012-0158) that has been used in large campaigns including Red October.

Those infected organisations would be examined for their value. If deemed of use, additional trojans and backdoors including backdoor.cyberat are installed. Worthless victims are spared.

Those additional trojans and backdoors are customised based on a victim's computer attributes including antivirus systems, installed software and hardware specs.

Tripputi says the group is not very advanced but does not have to be since most victims have not patched against the 2012 exploit.

"All they need is a bit of help from the user and a lapse in security operations through the failure to patch," he says.

Utilities can be more hamstrung than other sectors in applying patches. Updating operating systems can have significant impacts on industrial control systems, potentially breaking them. Removing infections can have a similar effect if doing so quarantines or destroys core files. ®

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