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Researchers Link Sykipot Trojan to Spear-Phishing Attacks

Researchers at AlienVault believe an updated version of the Sykipot Trojan is being used to target the aerospace industry.

Sykipot was seen back in January targeting ActivIdentity’s ActivClient, which is used by the U.S. Department of Defense as a secure means of authentication. In this case, a variant of the Trojan has been observed being used in emails with links to malicious sites that infected users via drive-by attacks. The campaign has been running for the past several weeks, according to AlienVault.

“There are several changes between the new Sykipot campaigns and the older ones,” blogged Jaime Blasco, labs manager at AlienVault. “The first difference is that in previous campaigns the Sykipot authors mainly used file-format exploits to gain access to the systems through spearphishing mails.”

“Instead of attaching malicious files on e-mails, they send e-mails to the victims with a malicious link,” he added. “Once the victim clicks on the link the malicious server tries to exploit a vulnerability on the user’s browser.”

The drive-by downloads are also a new element, he explained, and are using exploits for vulnerabilities such as CVE-2011-0611, which affects Adobe Flash Player, and CVE-2012-1889, a vulnerability in XML Core Services that Microsoft warned about last month. The Microsoft vulnerability was also linked to warnings from Google about state-sponsored attacks.

Once executed, the malware tries to get a configuration file from a remote server. One of the domains used by Sykipot seems to be linked to a spear-phishing campaign targeting attendees of the IEEE Aerospace Conference (the International Conference for Aerospace Experts, Academics, Military Personnel, and Industry Leaders), according to the company.

“The modus operandi of the group behind these attacks seems to be the same as in the past,” Blasco noted. “The attackers hack US based servers and then install software to serve the malicious content or to redirect the connections to a remote server.”

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