Security Experts:

Attack Campaign Targets User Credentials in Persian Gulf

Researchers at McAfee recently uncovered a malware campaign that snared victims in both the private and public sector in the United Arab Emirates, Oman and a host of other countries in the Persian Gulf and Caribbean.

The victims are spread out between local government entities to companies operating in the telecom, IT, natural resources and travel industries. The goal of the attack appears to be to steal user credentials for a number of sites as well as IT systems such as firewall and customer relationship management (CRM) systems.

"The executable that was sent with the email was called emiratesstatement.exe and the pictogram of the executable tried to impersonate itself as a PDF," blogged Christiaan Beek, director of Incident Response and Forensics for the McAfee Foundstone team in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

The key components of the malware include Msnd.exe, a keylogger writing the output to a TMP file; Image.exe, a mail password recovery tool written by SecurityXploded; and Picture viewer.exe, a browser password recovery tool also written by SecurityXploded.

"The malware tries two options to install itself: installing the msnd keylogger and activating the password recovery tools [and] opening the pid.PDF file," he explained. "This PDF will open a PDF reader and the malware will inject itself into this process and activate the password-recovery tools."

During the malware’s installation, it disables the Windows firewall by using two simple .bat scripts. After gathering all the recovered passwords and writing them to output files, these files are converted to files starting with the prefix PIC – followed by the date/time and a numerical indicator, Beek wrote.

After these files are created, an FTP session transfers the files to an FTP server. The credentials the criminals were after included among other things login information for Facebook, Hotmail, news sites, travel reservation systems and e-services for government institutions. Beek did not say how many victims were compromised in the attack.

To prevent these kinds of attacks users should not click on files attached to an email that are sent by unknown persons, block emails at the email gateway/mail server that contain an executable file and use a spam filter that regularly imports up-to-date threat intelligence, Beek advised.

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