Kaspersky Lab researchers today announced the results of a joint-investigation with Seculert, an advanced threat detection company, regarding “Madi,” an active cyber-espionage campaign targeting victims in the Middle East.
Originally discovered by Seculert, Madi is a computer network infiltration campaign that involves a malicious Trojan which is delivered via social engineering schemes to carefully selected targets, the company said.
Kaspersky Lab and Seculert worked together to sinkhole the Madi Command and Control (C&C) servers to monitor the campaign. Kaspersky Lab and Seculert identified more than 800 victims located in Iran, Israel and select countries across the globe connecting to the C&Cs over the past eight months, it was reported. Statistics from the sinkhole revealed that the victims were primarily business people working on Iranian and Israeli critical infrastructure projects, Israeli financial institutions, Middle Eastern engineering students, and various government agencies communicating in the Middle East, representatives added.
In addition, examination of the malware identified an unusual amount of religious and political ‘distraction’ documents and images that were dropped when the initial infection occurred, they said.
“While the malware and infrastructure is very basic compared to other similar projects, the Madi attackers have been able to conduct a sustained surveillance operation against high-profile victims,” said Nicolas Brulez, senior malware researcher, Kaspersky Lab. “Perhaps the amateurish and rudimentary approach helped the operation fly under the radar and evade detection.”
“Interestingly, our joint analysis uncovered a lot of Persian strings littered throughout the malware and the C&C tools, which is unusual to see in malicious code. The attackers were no doubt fluent in this language,” said Aviv Raff, CTO at Seculert.
The Madi info-stealing Trojan enables remote attackers to steal sensitive files from infected Windows computers, monitor sensitive communications such as email and instant messages, record audio, log keystrokes, and take screenshots of victims’ activities, the companies said. Data analysis suggests that multiple gigabytes of data have been uploaded from victims’ computers.
According to reports, common applications and websites that were spied on include accounts on Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo! Mail, ICQ, Skype, Google+, and Facebook. Surveillance is also performed over integrated ERP or CRM systems, business contracts, and financial management systems.